The Covid-19 crisis has been devastating for New York City and the world. At The Barrow Group, we believe that until there is a vaccine or treatment for Covid-19, it will not be possible to safely offer in-person performing arts classes or theatrical productions. However, we look to turn this moment in time into an opportunity to better serve you.
To that end, we are letting go of our lease at our current space at 312 West 36 St (a building we had outgrown years ago) and will move to all virtual programming for the immediate future. We plan to assume a new, safer space that better reflects the excellence of our programming on the other side of this pandemic.
We want to assure you that we have every intention of physically re-opening. In addition to letting go of our space, we have made the even more difficult decision to downsize our staff to cut down on our expenses. However, with these changes, as well as company-wide pay cuts, we will weather this storm. We have a robust and supportive board of trustees and are well-positioned to jump into a new space. We have spent the past year assembling a top-notch real estate team, speaking with City officials, and exploring new space opportunities. We are leaning into the future and are confident that these choices will lead to a new, better Barrow Group performing arts space for you to return to next year.
Please find below a letter from Seth Barrish and Lee Brock, about The Barrow Group’s past and future, that we hope will inspire you all.
If you have any questions, please do get in touch. We look forward to seeing you online—in a class or at one of our free community events, as well as celebrating with you all in person in a new, beautiful space.
Thank you all!
Executive Director, The Barrow Group
A Familiar Story
We were nomads from the start, meeting regularly at different locales: the 28th Street Lab, Harlequin Studios, First Run Studios, La Mama e.t.c.’s rehearsal studios, Ripley Grier, The Working Theater, Michael Warren Powell’s apartment, Marcia DeBonis’ apartment, Lee and Seth’s 400 square foot apartment at 45th and 8th Avenue.
We met, at first, weekly. Ten actors dedicated to making performances more real and more impactful. Forming a bond and creating the eternal flame—the touchstone for all we would ever hope to do. Inside those walls, we grew.
We turned towards performance. Ever the nomads, we moved from theater to theater: The Perry Street Theater, The Corner Loft; Space 603, The basement of The Ohio Theater, One Dream, La Mama e.t.c., Circle in the Square’s downtown theatre, Playhouse 91, The Promenade, The John Houseman Studio Theater. Inside those walls, we grew.
Then our first landing points: The Garrett at 687 8th Avenue, where, due to the kind sponsorship of Hannes Krarup, we built the TBG School and staged workshops; HBO & the Time/Life building, where, due to the kindness of Gill Schreiber and Tia Kummerfeld, we housed our offices and stored our junk; and the La Mama e.t.c. Rehearsal Building at 47 Great Jones Street, where, due to the kindness of Frank Carucci, David Diamond, and Ellen Stewart, we ran our central office.
Then, in 1999, the unthinkable happened: In the same year we were evicted from the Time/Life building who needed the space back, we were evicted from The Garret as the building was sold to a porn business, and the ceiling at 47 Great Jones collapsed and the side of the building that housed our office was condemned. We were homeless again.
We considered our fate. Do we shrink? Do we die? Or do we grow?
Led by Eric Paeper and a bunch of intrepid members of TBG’s extended community— hundreds of actors, directors, designers, and writers—we chose to grow.
Christina Denzinger and Jenny Eakes walked by an abandoned building in the midst of a gut renovation that sported a small sign with a phone number that read, “Space for Rent”. A phone call was made, and we began to rent space at 312 W. 36th Street.
And then the world collapsed… 9/11.
Through the aftermath, the economic challenges, the subsequent wars, the spiritual hurdles, The Barrow Group community huddled together, and did the only thing we knew how to do—We grew.
Under the leadership of Eric Paeper and Porter Pickard, an army of TBG community members built a 99-Seat theater, an office, and several rehearsal studios. Then twenty years of building, training, producing, performing. And then exponential growth. Hundreds of artists became thousands of artists.
Robert Serrell led the way as we expanded the Training Program and the Production Company, growing from sixteen classes a week to eighty-five classes a week, growing from workshop productions to three Mainstage Productions a year, plus weekly performances of developmental programming.
We built a staff of incredible artists and visionaries who led the way through a growth spurt that defied all odds. Season after season of plays and performances that would significantly impact New Yorkers and people across the world. Shows were developed that moved to Broadway and Off-Broadway, and toured the country and the world. We were felt in India, South Africa, Poland, Ireland, Australia—The Little Engine That Could.
And now, we sit in the middle of one of the biggest transformations the world has ever faced collectively. And we are, once again, nomads. But this is something we know well. It is in our DNA. We were nomads from the start.
What will we do?
We will stay true to the eternal flame that fueled us from the start. We will contract for a bit and build some sort of chrysalis that will serve as a temporary home while we adapt and participate in the fundamental transformation that each of us, every member of this world, is engaged in. We will grow.
And we have no doubt, that—being the nomads we are—we will emerge, find a new home, settle for a bit, spread our newly formed wings and… fly.
Seth Barrish and Lee Brock
TBG Co-Artistic Director