The Artists Are in Charge. Step 1: Upend the Status Quo.


She and Ms. Michelson convened a “think tank” of about 15 artists from a range of backgrounds, who gathered over three days last spring to discuss the idea. (At Ms. Michelson’s request, Ms. Schlenzka attended only briefly, so that participants could speak freely and not worry about pleasing someone in a position of power.) Ultimately, Ms. Schlenzka said, everyone agreed that the “02020” concept was worth pursuing.

Among the think tank participants was the veteran choreographer Ishmael Houston-Jones, who has known Performance Space since its beginnings as an abandoned school building taken over by a group of artists. (He is now on the board of directors.) He said in a phone interview that while he doesn’t feel nostalgic for the grittiness of the early PS122 — the lack of heat in the winters, the boombox as a sound system — those years had a certain artistic electricity.

“It would be interesting to see if we could revisit the excitement of that time with the resources we have today,” he said.

Since moving into Performance Space in January, the “02020” cohort has been gradually rolling out its plans. One of its first initiatives, Open Movement, recalls a PS122 tradition in both name and intent. Two days a week, theater space is free for use; anyone can come to work on anything, no reservations necessary.

In late March, rotating teachers and facilitators will offer “permission slipping,” a series of workshops in “movement and mental practice,” open to all, according to Performance Space’s email newsletter. Brujas has started what it calls “an experimental union for cultural producers” — Brujas World Syndicate, also open to all — and a radio station, Radio Bonita, which streams from the newly decked-out Performance Space lobby. The cohort will hold its first public news conference on March 16.

“The space feels alive,” Ms. Schlenzka said. She is still at work organizing the 2021 season and the annual gala, which will go on as usual in May, hosted this year by the playwright Jeremy O. Harris. She said she hopes that by the end of the year the board will restructure Performance Space’s mission statement, informed by the presence of the “02020” cohort.


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