Downtown Dramatics IX: St. Ann’s Warehouse

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Image via marvelarchitects.com

By Emma Gold, Highlighter Staff Columnist

St. Ann’s Warehouse seems to be full of contradictions. It’s currently in its inaugural season, yet has been producing work since the 1980’s; it has always been rooted in New York, but fills its seasons with shows from around the country and around the world; and it constantly oscillates between old and new content. However, in its new home nestled under the Brooklyn Bridge, St. Ann’s is already comfortably situated as an incubator for all kinds of work.

St. Ann’s history hasn’t always included theater. In its first iteration, Arts at St. Ann’s was headquartered at the Church of St. Ann and the Holy Trinity in Brooklyn Heights. Hosting artistic events in the church’s sanctuary, it became an innovator for multi-disciplinary theatrical works and themed musical events, as well as a home for puppet theatre. Most of its initial programming was classical, but some of their works in the 1980’s included a puppet opera and a commissioned song cycle celebrating Andy Warhol.

On its 10th anniversary, Rolling Stone called St. Ann’s “the guiding light in New York’s avant-rock scene,” and the 90’s ushered in more themed music concerts. These concerts centered around and included artists such as Edgar Allen Poe, Elvis Costello, Debbie Harry, and Art Spiegelman. St. Ann’s moved out of its eponymous church in 2000 and into their first Dumbo location: a converted spice milling factory. They began to blend their theatrical and rock-and roll-histories, welcoming works by the likes of The Wooster Group (a New York theatre collective), alongside appearances by David Bowie, Lou Reed, and Aimee Mann. Still. It continued to find room for puppet opera, Hamlet, and Oscar Wilde.

Other features in the 2000’s included the American premiere of Sarah Kane’s “4.48 Psychosis” and sound plays in collaboration with Sirius XM radio, Charlie Kaufman, and the Coen Brothers called “Theater of the New Ear.” One of these plays, “Anomalisa,” would eventually become a much-heralded stop-motion film in 2015. In the 2010’s, St. Ann’s has continued to develop works with the aforementioned groups, as well as the with National Theatre of Scotland, and UK performance collectives like The Tiger Lillies, Druid Ireland, and Kneehigh Theatre. Solo works in the past few years have derived from performance artist Cynthia Hopkins, British poet Kate Tempest, and Yeah Yeah Yeahs singer Karen O.

Now, they’ve opened a permanent location in a converted tobacco warehouse in Brooklyn Bridge Park. The interior is a gorgeous, brand-new convertible space that can seat up to 700, and their inaugural season has been impressive. November welcomed an all-female production of “Henry IV,” which had previously premiered in London’s Donmar Warehouse. January saw a three-week run of a new Irish opera featuring Enda Walsh as a collaborator, as well as a puppet theatre festival. In February, the American Repertory Theater’s “Nice Fish” premiered with a hefty amount of buzz, and during its run, co-writer and star Mark Rylance won an Academy Award.

Currently, the Young Vic’s 2014 production of Tennessee Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire” is running until June 4th. I’ve been lucky enough to see this production twice, as National Theatre Live broadcasted the Young Vic production to movie theaters in America last year. Starring Gillian Anderson, this modern adaptation of Williams is seamless and striking, using minimalistic and pointedly modern theatrical devices. Superbly acted, elegantly directed, and featuring especially unique design features, I highly recommend this production to anyone who has enjoyed (or missed) Ivo van Hove’s works on Broadway this season, or has had a view of “Streetcar” colored by Marlon Brando or studies of the play in school. This production will shatter and exceed those expectations. Also, as if the season couldn’t be more jam-packed, a circus tent has popped up outside of the warehouse, which will open the circus “Bianco” on May 3rd.

TodayTix has a digital rush for St. Ann’s productions, but it’s nearly impossible to get tickets that way. Their standby policy is more reliable, which begins an hour before the show and is $20 cash.

St. Ann’s Warehouse is located at 45 Water Street in Dumbo, Brooklyn. From Manhattan, I recommend walking the Brooklyn Bridge to get there.

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