A permanent neighborhood presence is a logical next step for the experimental theater, puppetry and dance space that’s served as an incubator for the work of the Tony-nominated playwright Jeremy O. Harris (“Slave Play”), and Daniel Fish, who directed the recent Tony-winning Broadway revival of “Oklahoma!”
Kessler and Allain had been renting the Starr Street loft, which they converted to a black box theater, since 2001, when it served their now-defunct experimental theater company Fovea Floods. “There was no money,” Allain told The New York Times in 2014, and the neighborhood “looked like a war zone.”
It “was desperate, adventurous and maybe a little naïve,” Kessler added.
But the Bushwick Starr — which opened several years before the neighborhood acquired its next-big-thing status and kombucha-on-tap bars — became home. The metal front door, painted brick and wooden support columns were dingy, yet elegant — and curiously welcoming. By 2010-11, it was a bright spot on the Off Off Broadway map.
Now Kessler and Allain, who began working at the theater full time around 2012, can finally afford their own space. (Though Kessler says there are a couple of things she’ll miss about the Starr Street loft: The “glorious” city views and hydroponic garden on the roof deck.)
The theater, which anticipates operating with an annual budget of about $1.5 million, has announced a three-year, $10 million capital campaign to raise funds to support the acquisition and renovation of the space, as well as for expanded programming. Allain said they have $6 million already committed from the city, private foundations and individual donors, but are relying on the campaign to raise the remaining $4 million.
In the meantime, Allain and Kessler have a full season of shows planned for 2021-22, including four productions, all of which will be staged at other venues while the Eldert Street space is under construction.