Artistic director Tim Habeger explains that economics partly drove the decision to relinquish New Street Arts, given the company’s financial reliance on rental shows. “We realized that our rental stuff was causing trickle up poverty. We were getting about 60 percent of our income by providing rental space for homeless groups, and that breaks even, it doesn’t actually make money.” Giving up the space seemed like a relatively painless option. “We’re not in debt now. We can make this move and do it nice. One thing that scared us is that the AC went out on a 106-degree day — if we had a show going on that day, would’ve been terrible.”
From the administrative perspective, PushPush will be moving literally across the street, opening new offices and larger rehearsal hall at 114 New Street. Monthly performances like ISMprov, Syllabus, Naked City and Write Club Atlanta will be held at 627 East College Avenue, and the company has several productions planned for locations to be announced, including co-artistic director Shelby Hofer’s one-woman show, The Interview Show.
Some of PushPush’s work may not have a traditional, physical location as the company explores the relationship between film, theater and digital media. “Where will PushPush be if it’s digital? And the answer is that it lives in the story. That’s where our grant comes in.”
In April the National Endowment of the Arts announced that PushPush would receive a $75,000 Arts in New Media grant for the production of GRFX (pronounced “graphics”), an online mixed-media series about creating art in the 21st century. Habeger explains, “The story of GRFX is how this young man inherits a German-American comic book company called Dresher’s Publishing, founded by his grandfather in World War II. It begins on the day of the founder’s death, and instead of passing it onto his son, who’s a much more pragmatic businessman, he passes it to the ne’er-do-well grandson, Paul, who has to coalesce a bunch of people to do a creative endeavor in the 21st century.”
As a web series, each installment of GRFX will follow a day in the life of Dresher’s employees. Habeger explains, “Each day sets up a problem, which we follow through even. Each day will feature two different graphic novel styles. The first will be a historical style, like, say, a comic book involving a superheroine with a domintrax-style costume. The women characters at the company would say 'This is such bullshit.’ Almost every episode has a problem of 'This is what exists now: can we rewrite our story?’ So it would shift to a cutting-edge or avant-garde style in the second half.”
The web site for the fictional graphic novel publishing company will provide a hub for PushPush’s creative endeavors. “Dresher’s will become our avatar. You can come to our site and go upstairs and find out that there’s a play reading tonight, and watch it. During part of one story, the characters go through Piedmont Park and see a dance performance by Zoetic and GloATL. So you can see the dance, and then follow the dancers as one part of the story. In the same what that you might see an artist at PushPush and want to follow their work, you can follow them here.”
It’ll be interesting to see how GRFX develops over the next two years. Habeger says that the grant doesn’t require GRFX’ completion, but adds, “We would love to have distribution and beginning of the series shot by the end of the two-year period.”
I have to say that I’ll miss seeing shows at New Street Arts, which was probably the scruffiest, least “slick” performing venue in Atlanta. PushPush’s home since 2003, New Street Arts also proved to be one of the most relaxed and welcoming place to see a play, whether a hilarious, top-notch work like Hofer’s 101 Humiliating Stories or a rowdy work of audience interaction like Write Club. Going to New Street was like hanging out at this era’s equivalent of a beatnik club and feeling like part of the community, not just a spectator.
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