The What & The Why Now
Women actors are, historically, the least empowered cohort on any given theatrical project. The traditional theater model asks women actors to fit themselves into roles overwhelmingly written by men and in service of men characters. Women-centric stories, when produced, are often still relegated to the second stage theaters, lower budget productions, and fringe scenes.
The Muse Project is an experimental project that upends the traditional theatrical structures. We're interested in flipping power. We wonder what will happen if we take the person with, traditionally and historically, the least amount of power and give them the torch. We know there’s a guarantee of a woman’s story when the person at the helm, from the outset, is an actress. And we know that more women's stories are necessary for the health and balance of the theatrical ecosystem.
In fraught political times, leadership from unique angles and underrepresented communities is the key to our evolution. The Muse Project comes at a critical moment; there is no other model like it in the American theater (as far as we know!). Now, The Muse Project overtly propels women’s stories forward, and the world is hungry for them. We need you to join our mission so we can illuminate the profound power of approaching theater from an actress driven perspective, together. If all the world's a stage, we should not settle for women actors being mere players - we should rebuild the stage, make space, and ask women where they want to stand.
“This is not a time of mere change. This is a time of transformation, and transformation comes not out of scarcity but out of the context of possibility, responsibility, and sufficiency.” -Lynn Twist, The Soul of Money
The Muse Project asks actresses, “What role have you always wanted to play? What story have you always wanted to tell? What do you need to create that role & tell that story?”
With The Muse Project, actresses choose the role they want to play and the story they want to tell, and then a creative team is built around the actress’s vision. The Muse Project’s staff and volunteers work with the actress to discern which collaborators would best fit her project. Sometimes an actress is paired with a director, or a playwright, or a dramaturge, or all; sometimes she is paired with another actor, a musician, a choreographer. The team can vary enormously, depending on the project and the goals of the actress. Once initial collaborators are established, the actress and her team begin the process of fleshing out the actress’s ideas in a workshop format called the Mini Muse.
The Muse Project plans to develop 5 Mini Muse projects this fall. Our work with our artists will culminate in a weeklong festival of presentations at The Flea Theater as part of our Anchor Partnership, a resident program for small or emerging companies looking to up their game.
Additionally, we are starting a community engagement program known as Tea-Times, where women actors will be able to gather and network with noted, veteran stage actresses and share experiences. Our first test of this program will happen at The Flea this fall.
Coming This Fall
- The Muse Project plans to develop 5 Mini Muse projects. We plan to develop two brand new Mini Muse projects (Mini Muse Phase 1) with two new Muse artists: actors Vanessa Aspillaga and Kyra Miller. We are also continuing development (Mini Muse Phase 2) on the works created in 2017 with our Muse artists Lynn Cohen, Déa Julien, and Jessica Frances Dukes.
- Our work with our artists from 2017 and 2018 will culminate in a weeklong festival of presentations at The Flea Theater as part of our Anchor Partnership.
- Additionally, we are starting a community engagement program known as Tea-Times, where women actors will be able to gather and network with noted, veteran stage actresses and share experiences. Our first test of this program will happen at The Flea this fall.
This year, we are investigating the two phases of the Mini Muse through an Anchor Partnership with The Flea Theater in October.
Your dollars will fund our women actors and the stories they want to tell. Your bucks go to them!
Here are a few of the costs we’re covering with this campaign...
- Actresses: $500 each, 5 phenomenal Muses!
- Actress Collaborators: $500 each, ~9 collaborators!
- Scenic, Lighting and Costume: $500 each, to bring aesthetic value and beauty to the brainchildren of these women actors.
- Theater: As part of our Anchor Partnership, we contribute $2,000 for The Flea’s ground floor theater, named The Pete, honoring the late, great playwright A. R. Gurney. A super unique space for our very unique actresses - its adjacent garden and theater spaces create an open feel and offer a huge range of performance possibilities.
The Company/The History
The first test of The Muse Project model took place in the spring of 2013, with space granted by The New Group. The selected actor was Tina Benko, and Ms. Benko presented a searing one woman collage about her life as an actress. She collaborated with director Mia Rovegno.
In October 2015, The Muse Project officially launched as a brand new, woman-focused theater company.
To kick us into high gear, Jocelyn Kuritsky, our founder, started work on her own Muse Project in June 2015. Her collaborators were playwright Kim Davies and director Tony Speciale. Kuritsky’s Muse Project culminated in a world premiere production in June 2016. STET premiered at Abingdon Theatre Company in 2016 and enjoyed a successful, extended Off Broadway run.
The 2017 Season saw three additional women actors become Muse artists. These actors were Lynn Cohen, Déa Julien, and Jessica Frances Dukes. The New Group and New Georges continued to provide administrative, logistical, and mentorship support to The Muse Project during the 2017 Season.
Lynn presented a personal pastiche of famous monologues at Torn Page, the historic home of Rip Torn and Geraldine Page. She collaborated with dramaturge Jolene Noelle.
Déa Julien presented one scene from her new full-length play exploring a Syrian refugee’s struggle to adapt to her new life while navigating her relationship with her sponsor. Déa presented at Theaterlab. She collaborated with director Adrienne Campbell-Holt and actor Birgit Huppuch.
Jessica Frances Dukes presented the first full draft of her solo show exploring a complex familial lineage of race, class, and identity in America. She presented at Theaterlab. She collaborated with playwright-mentor Nathan Alan Davis and dramaturge Anna Lathrop.
2018 has also seen the addition of a team of young, innovative women theater-makers and producers as supporters of our women actors. Actress Kyra Miller continues her collaboration with The Muse Project to interview Muse actresses for her ongoing series, I Interview Actresses.
The 2018 Muses
Our 2018 Muses will be presenting new work this fall at The Flea.
Vanessa Aspillaga has appeared on Broadway, Off Broadway, in television & in film. She is a New York Theatre Workshop Usual Suspect, and she is a member of LAByrinth Theater Company. She was nominated for a 2018 Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play.
Lynn Cohen has appeared on Broadway, Off Broadway, regionally, in television & in film. She is best known for playing Magda in the HBO series Sex and the City and Mags in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.
Jessica Frances Dukes has appeared Off Broadway, regionally, in television & in film. She hails from Washington D.C., where she is a company member at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company. She is an Obie Award recipient, as well as a Helen Hayes Award nominee.
Déa Julien has appeared in the Broadway National Tour of West Side Story, Off Broadway, and regionally. In 2012 she was a recipient of Glamour Magazine's Top Ten College Women Competition.
Kyra Miller has appeared at Joe's Pub and an array of storytelling & music venues, as well as regionally. Kyra also narrates audiobooks. She was nominated for a 2018 San Francisco/Bay Area Critics Circle Award for Principal Actress in a Musical.
Chelsea Dee & Zainab Musa are our 2018 Muse Alternates, and future Muses.
Chelsea Dee is a multi-hyphenate creative of color. Since graduating from NYU/Tisch School of the Arts, she has pursued a multidisciplinary career in the performing arts: writing, performing, and directing new works of theater that challenge stereotypes and dominant narratives.
Zainab Musa is a first generation Nigerian storyteller. She acts, writes and makes collaborative theater. Her stage and screen performances have spanned over a decade between Canada and the United States.
Actor Jocelyn Kuritsky is the founder of The Muse Project.
Jocelyn Kuritsky is the Producing Artistic Director of The Muse Project. She is also the founder of the new initiative, Staging Film, and she is a founder and the actor-in-residence of the Lucille Lortel Award winning immersive theater company, Woodshed Collective.
The 2018 Muse Ambassadors
Our Muse Ambassadors are artists and professionals who are going online throughout the campaign via Facebook Live & other social media to explain why they, personally, believe in The Muse Project. They are our army of allies. This is our running list:
Blair Baker - Pepper Binkley - Nadia Bowers - Geneva Carr - Michael Citriniti - Winslow Corbett - Alek Deva - Jessica Dukatt - Jamie Effros - Jack Fellows - Alyssa May Gold - Bob Gower - Emily Grill - Jenny Turner Hall - Bob Jaffe - Alex Jamieson - Landen Jones - Olivia Kasten - Zac Kline - Louise Lasser - Florencia Lozano - Robert Emmet Lunney - Rebecca Louise Miller - Anna O'Donoghue - David Poe - Erin Reynolds - Sheetal Sheth - Sherri Sutton - RJ Tolan - Claire Ramsay Wan
You can read about our Ambassadors here: www.themuseprojectnyc.com/18-campaign. More to be announced!
Risks and challenges
Producing new theater work in NYC is always risky and challenging. It can be financially and emotionally draining. We know this because, as theater professionals, we've slogged through the battlefield. Creating a whole paradigm shift, in addition to simply putting up a performance, is mildly insane. But! We've also paved the way before. AND NOW IS THE TIME. We are certain that this is the right moment to be making work that not only celebrates women's stories but catapults them forward within a new structure. We are humbled by the talent we've corralled. We know this is an ambitious proposition, but we are invigorated by the heights of this mountain, and we are so ready to share this inspired work with you, and everyone. Thank you for being our champions.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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