“Collaboration: it’s like yoga. If it hurts, you’re probably doing it wrong,” Cameron Jefts of Paper Kraine.
Paper Kraine is an NYC-based space for artists who do not fit into the development structures of established theatrical institutions. With a deep commitment to artistic discovery, their fellow collaborators, and joy, they ask themselves when considering a potential collaboration, “Is this piece brought to us in the spirit of adventurous discovery?”
I heard about them through a friend of a friend. When they sent out a call for pieces, I pitched an idea for music and haiku. They invited me to be part of their online show in early May, and as we got ready, their enthusiasm caught me off guard. Me…I KNOW!
I was moved by the quality of the artistic work, struck by the variety of disciplines, and impressed with their commitment to trust, risk and destigmatizing failure.
In this Collaboration blog, Paper Kraine’s four producers, Brittany Crowell, Cameron Jefts, Lizzy Lincoln, and Paul Purvine share their thoughts on their beloved company, the collaborative process, and another topic that is dear to my heart, charitable giving. Seek them out! More information: https://www.paperkraine.com/
"What is Paper Kraine?
CAMERON: Paper Kraine is a forum for artists to develop and present new work, and to engage with a community of curious, excited artists and audience members.
LIZZY: Paper Kraine is a show that encourages risk, failure, and learning the seventy ways we can’t make a lightbulb. The joy in that is that often, in learning how NOT to make a lightbulb, we learn how to make a time machine instead.
BRITTANY: The team at Paper Kraine has done a wonderful job of carefully creating a structure that leaves space for failure and relies heavily on audience support and participation. From our mission, to our submission form, to the structure of the shows, we keep everything incredibly open and collaborative.
How does the Paper Kraine team (a four-producer entity) collaborate? What are any challenges or hurdles that you have overcome?
BRITTANY: Paper Kraine is all about trying new things and destigmatizing failure. This extends also into process. It has been amazing being part of a supportive and accepting team that focuses on celebrating differences and learning.
LIZZY: Each member of the team has their own unique superpowers, and the team’s ability to collectively listen to and embrace those unique contributions has been key to making this a sustainable producing collaboration.
BRITTANY: As the newest member of the producing team, I was excited to join a community that exhibited so much generosity in curation and presentation. Our taste in art varies, but I think it’s that difference that makes us such a dynamic team and has greatly opened my artistic sensibilities to new possibilities.
CAMERON: I think collaboration is like yoga: if it hurts, you’re probably doing it wrong. Of course, it takes a lot of practice to collaborate in this way with someone, just like it takes a lot of practice to fly in a challenging yoga pose.
LIZZY: In this weird Rona Moment, I’ve felt so supported not only as an art-maker, but as a human being by this team. I can come into a meeting, be totally real about bandwidth, and about how things are going, and the team never fails to make room to figure out how we can make things happen while honoring where we all actually are as humans.
CAMERON: The key to development is listening. Listen to your collaborators with an open heart, make adjustments as needed, and you’ll find a way to create together. Something that I love about the Paper Kraine team is that everything always seems to come back to a real commitment to joy, which I think reflects back in the artists and audiences that comprise our community.
What is the importance of failure and a space that authentically embraces failure?
PAUL: As artists, we rehearse, practice, and fine tune our skills and learn from our mistakes along the way to a finished piece of art. We can’t learn from those mistakes if we don’t make them.
LIZZY: Some spaces in NYC seem to thrive on failure, not as a part of dramaturgical practice, but in a way that defines in and out groups. In curating a space for indie and early-career artists to fail authentically and in a way that is supportive, means that we can start disentangling our egos from our “success” or artistic reception. Art is deeply personal: it comes from a deep place within a human being, but that doesn’t mean that its failure is your failure!
BRITTANY: I think it’s a beautiful gift that the hosts are open to and embrace their own moments of failure, and it is actually a very intentional and generous offering to the performers, giving them room to feel open to taking the risks that we encourage them to take and that lead to the exciting art they want to present.
PAUL: I’m a firm believer that the best art comes from taking big risks. The bigger the risk, the more likely you’ll fail at some point. By embracing this, it removes some of the stigma. Failure is an important step in the process of creating. Sometimes you just have to run into walls.
What kind of art and/or artists are you looking for at the Paper Kraine?
BRITTANY: Paper Kraine has created an incubatory space for artists who may not fit quite as easily into the structures or limitations of more established theatrical institutions. We want to meet the needs of the artist and support communities that may not have the resources to seek other incubatory opportunities.
CAMERON: I have a particular fondness for things that might be overlooked by other channels because they don’t quite fit into traditional genres or forms, or because they blend those forms in new and unique ways.
BRITTANY: We encourage artists to make the art that they want, rather than asking them to fit into any standard mold or meet certain pre-requisites or expectations.
LIZZY: In an early Kraine meeting, someone on the team asked, “Is this piece brought to us in the spirit of adventurous discovery?” and that really stuck with me. If the piece wants to explore, discover, and really throw some spaghetti at the wall, then absolutely we want to host that piece.
BRITTANY: You dream it, we will work to find a way to present it for you.
Can you talk a little bit about your charitable giving?
LIZZY: Charitable giving became a part of the show right after the 2016 election when, I think for a lot of artists, the producing team of the show had a real, “Oh man, what are we even doing making art right now?” moment. We produced a show in support of the ACLU, and afterwards a couple of our artists expressed that the donation aspect helped them orient their own artistic practice in that moment: they donated their time and talent, and in that way, even though they could not give financially themselves, they were helping.
PAUL: We have championed and raised money for over 17 charities and non-profits since then, including: Planned Parenthood, The Trevor Project, Violence Intervention Program, All Hands Volunteers, RAINN, TLDEF, March for Our Lives, UNRWA, The Ali Forney Center, Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts, Sylvia Rivera Law Project, The Climate Mobilization, Spread the Vote (pending)], Natural Resource Defense Council, ACLU, RAICES Texas, and recently, our brick-and-mortar home at Frigid NYC.
LIZZY: Charitable giving has grown to be a part of our curation process, but it started as a way to figure out what indie art could mean, and what the community around it can accomplish, in a charged moment.
Lizzy/Cameron - How do you see your role as HOST in the show?
LIZZY: Hosting feels like helping show the bones in the skeleton of each piece. We ask questions the artist wants the audience to bear in mind, share a little about the development, and remind everyone attending that their feedback, support, and joyful engagement with the piece actually IS vital to its development.
CAMERON: I also think hosting is about cultivating a vibe. Lizzy and I try to keep things fun and affirming, to encourage the audience to feel vital and included, and to celebrate the fact that our artists are usually presenting something new, which—whether they see it this way or not—is brave and exciting. Together, this all creates an atmosphere of community, spontaneity, and possibility.
LIZZY: Even if you’re not the artist on stage, you have a job to do as part of the artistic community: be present, and let’s learn together.
How has the loss of a live performance venue affected the work that you present? How has it affected your artists and your show?
PAUL: The lack of immediate feedback is jarring. Having an audience has always been part of the development process. With an audience in the Kraine theater you can tell if a joke lands, or when a moment has truly touched someone, or if a song brings people out of their seats to dance, or even feel the uncomfortable silences hang in the air when a performance misses the intended mark. With our focus on new works in the infancy of their development, that kind of information is vital.
LIZZY: I’ve been so inspired by how our artist community and online audience has challenged themselves to see the constraints of online broadcast as their own creative gift, rather than an impediment: they reach out, comment, and get in touch with performers to give feedback and to celebrate the continued development process. That support in this moment is indispensable.
You supported Frigid in your show last Wednesday, can you tell us more about who the folks at Frigid NYC are and how we can continue to support them?
LIZZY: I will talk your ear off about how much I love FRIGID. Erez and the team are authentic, passionate supporters of the NYC independent arts scene and have been since 1996.
The Kraine, run by FRIGID NYC, is an incredible hub of creation for the larger NYC indie scene, and there’s a lot of uncertainty in the air for small venues like that which support early-career artists and which are, in my opinion, the real lifeblood of the theater scene. If we want to keep learning, gathering, and supporting art as a community endeavor, we have to have to support these venues.
For direct financial support: they’re on Patreon with a bunch of incredible perks for monthly donors at all levels! Go to FRIGIDNYC.com/donate to donate directly, or to get rain checks for tickets when we can all be back in person!
If you can’t support financially right now, consider signal boosting them. Check out their social media channels, their website, and get to know the amazing programming they have hosted for decades, and support by tuning in to see the programming lineups they have on now.
More than anything: get engaged and get active! Write your elected reps about rent relief on commercial and cultural spaces. These venues will continue to face uncertainty as health and safety measures reduce their capacities, and they do not have the reserves to make it unless sensible social and fiscal support for the arts is passed into legislation.
Any upcoming shows or presentations we should know about!?
We have a sister show FEAST: A Performance Series
Mondays @ 7 EDT on facebook
And there’s full online programing from FRIGID (Kraine Theater)
More information at https://www.paperkraine.com/" - Brittany Crowell, Cameron Jefts, Lizzy Lincoln, and Paul Purvine