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Help us bring our research-based performance about literacy to Learning Centers in NYC!
100 backers pledged $6,082 to help bring this project to life.

About

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$6,082

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THE PROJECT

We’re making a performance. It’s called THE SPACE BETWEEN THE LETTERS.

It is a community-engaged performance piece that takes an in-depth look at literacy and its socio-political implications. 

The Space between the Letters is a gap. 

It is what is invisible, not obvious, what often falls through the cracks. The Space between the Letters is what we want to pull upwards and bring forward into sight. The Space between the Letters is the past that pushes into the present. It is a look at the here and now, and the systems that dominate and displace. It is also a space for opportunity and integration, a glimpse at alternative means of expression and forms of literacy. 

Based on extensive research and interviews conducted with adult students and teachers at local literacy organizations, the piece explores the perspective of adult learners and the ways in which education can provide tools for civic empowerment. 

We are weaving recorded interviews and personal stories, live-drawing and interactive video, music and choreography to translate the wealth of our research into a live, audiovisual experience.   

Work-in-progress performance. Photo: Maria Baranova
Work-in-progress performance. Photo: Maria Baranova

WHY IT MATTERS

Approximately 18% of adults in the US struggle with basic English literacy skills*, meaning that about 44 Million adults in the country have trouble reading and writing. That number is absurdly high and yet bizarrely obscure, and it comes with so many questions that we feel the need to answer. 

Most of all, we are interested in finding out more about the individual stories behind these figures and understand how a struggle with literacy may affect someone’s life in regard to work, health, finances, relationships, and day-to-day decisions.

We want to shed light on these experiences that are largely unseen by mainstream society and are digging in to peel apart the ins and outs of these and other statistics, and investigate links to incarceration, poverty, gender inequality, and systemic racism.

As we do this, we also want to enter into a direct and meaningful exchange with students at Adult Learning Centers, to create a performance that resonates with them as much as people who may know little about the subject. 

*This number is based on a 2012/2014 study by the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC). The study differentiated between 5 literacy levels and the 18% figure represents the number of adults who performed at Level 1 or below. 

Work-in-progress performance. Photo: Maria Baranova
Work-in-progress performance. Photo: Maria Baranova

WHY I AM DOING THIS NOW

I am an immigrant and a recently naturalized citizen. Using literacy as a lens that can not be unlinked from current pressing social justice issues, this project allows me to take a closer look at the complex fabric of this country. It is a way to get to know the communities that surround me through the process of research and sharing the work. 

The project is also my first work of performance in the US that I am completely self-producing. Since I consider NYC my home and I am here to stay, it is time for me to create and share the type of research-based performance work that I have been previously making in Germany.

Work-in-progress performance. Photo: Maria Baranova
Work-in-progress performance. Photo: Maria Baranova
Rehearsal photo
Rehearsal photo

OUR PROCESS

THE SPACE BETWEEN THE LETTERS is being developed in a devising process and through collaboration with a diverse creative and technical team in the rehearsal room. Since Summer 2017, our ensemble has worked together in shifting constellations and over the course of several rehearsal periods.

We’ve had an incredible journey so far: 

  • We developed our first ideas as part of The Civilians’ Research & Development Group in 2017/2018
  • We created our own custom-written live-drawing software as part of the 2018 Harvestworks Artist Residency
  • Lead Artist Eva became a volunteer literacy tutor at Brooklyn Public Library
  • The ensemble visited the Flatbush Learning Center for a workshop with students
  • We performed our first work-in-progress show at JACK Brooklyn in May 2018
  • We got invited to Under the Radar Festival’s Incoming! where we performed our newest development in January 2019
  • We presented a work-in-progress at HERE Arts Center in March 2019 

And this has only been the beginning. 

WHAT'S NEXT

Moving forward, we want to continue involving adult students into the creative process. Our goal is to visit Adult Education Centers across NYC to do workshops with students, during which we will perform sections of the piece and invite their feedback and input to the project. 

We want to make the work as accessible as possible and we believe that we will be able to achieve this by adapting it to non-theatrical spaces that are close to the communities that we're working with. We will invite theater audiences to join us.

Ensemble visit at Brooklyn Public Library! From left: Chris White, Jonelle Robinson, Claire Moodey, Eva von Schweinitz, Paul “P-Funk” Stallings. Photo: Chris White
Ensemble visit at Brooklyn Public Library! From left: Chris White, Jonelle Robinson, Claire Moodey, Eva von Schweinitz, Paul “P-Funk” Stallings. Photo: Chris White

WHY WE NEED YOUR SUPPORT

The reality of making long-term, investigative performance work in NYC is that it is hard! 

THE SPACE BETWEEN THE LETTERS is created through a process of devising and experimenting. It takes time to absorb our research, to translate it onto the stage, and to shape the experience that we want our audiences to have, and this in turn depends on money. Our dedicated ensemble has committed their time for over a year now and they continue to do so, but it requires energy, a long breath, and aligning schedules. 

Our work this year is supported by a grant from Brooklyn Arts Council, but it only covers part of our anticipated production costs and we're depending on your help to fill the gap. 

Your contribution will allow us to give this project the time and love that it deserves. It will help us to take the research further and create stronger connections with local organizations through financing classroom visits with members of the ensemble. 

Our goal is to offer the performance free of charge to all audiences. 

Work-in-progress performance. Photo: Maria Baranova
Work-in-progress performance. Photo: Maria Baranova

CREATIVE TEAM 

We have such an incredible team. I feel lucky to be working with this group. 

Our wonderful ensemble currently consists of performers Lanxing Fu, Claire Moodey, Reynaldo Pieniella, Jonelle Robinson, Paul “P-Funk” Stallings, and Chris White. We’re further blessed with the talents of choreographer KatieRose McLaughlin, Lighting Designer Alejandro Fajardo, Set Designer Dan Daly, Sound Designer Jonah Rosenberg, Costume Designer Karen Boyer, and Stage Manager Violet Tafari.
The live-drawing software was custom-written by creative coder Sebastian Gonzalez Dixon. And not to forget Easel Demon Tyler Caffall who built those beautiful easels for us. 

We should also mention the names of a few others who have put their artistry into the project in its earlier stages: Esther Berman, Lindsay Hockaday, Nicolas Noreña, Sam Silbiger, Eleni Zaharopoulos

The project is led and directed by Eva von Schweinitz.  

Eva von Schweinitz is a German-American interdisciplinary artist who creates films and original performances in collaborative settings. Her work has been presented at Tribeca Film Festival, Under the Radar Festival's Incoming!, Prelude NYC, JACK, Bushwick Starr, The Brick, The Doxsee, Brooklyn Navy Yard, homeless shelters, and festivals across Europe. She was a 2018 Artist-in-Residence at Harvestworks and a member of the Public Theater's 2018/2019 Devised Theater Working Group and the 2017/2018 Civilians' Research & Development Group. As a video and sound designer, Eva has worked with Superhero Clubhouse (NEPTUNE, SATURN, JUPITER), Elevator Repair Service, Piehole, Eliza Bent, and Sarah Hughes. MFA in Performance and Interactive Media Arts from Brooklyn College. BA in Film from International Filmschool Cologne. www.brainhurricano.org 

Work-in-progress performance. Photo: Maria Baranova
Work-in-progress performance. Photo: Maria Baranova

Risks and challenges

Everyone involved in this project has poured unspeakable amounts of love into it. The challenge is to keep going with the same dedication while making it sustainable through adequate compensation!

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    This is a performance for all five senses. Claim an 8 oz bottle of the show’s infamous hot pepper sauce made with Scotch bonnet. Original recipe courtesy of Jonelle’s mother! Plus all of the above.

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Funding period

- (28 days)