In 2016, parent and volunteer of Chickenshed in London, Elaine Finkletaub, relocated with her husband and two children to New York. Having been part of the Chickenshed community since her children were born she was keen to enrol them in a like-minded inclusive theatrical company and was disappointed to discover that there was not a comparable model in NYC.
Elaine took matters into her own hands and connected with Elliot Fishman, a Broadway producer and Secretary to the Royal Shakespeare Company America. Elliot immediately jumped on the idea of bringing Chickenshed to the US. Together they agreed that their first task was to give New York a ‘taste’ of what Chickenshed and its inclusive approach to theatre was all about. Adding Cyndi Steele-Harrod, Artistic Director of studio programming at Shuffles, Broadway Tap and Musical Theater School, the project began to take shape.
With the financial support and help from Shari Sapp, a founding member of the American Friends of Chickenshed (aka Chickenshed NYC) and parent of children who had been part of the Chickenshed community in the UK, they worked hard over the next 18 months to present a pilot demonstration week in NYC. Along with a newly formed and dedicated New York based team and experienced company members from London, they conducted workshops with students, adults and potential teaching artists; performed in pre-schools, and held a week of workshops and rehearsals with 120 children and teens from a number of New York city schools, culminating in a Showcase performance at Symphony Space in front of an audience of over 600 people.
It was a huge success and confirmed that Chickenshed was welcome and needed in New York.
The next challenge was to find a home. Natasha Boucai, financial supporter and now a member of the Chickenshed NYC board, introduced Elaine to Wetherby-Pembridge, a newly-arrived British school on the Upper East side who were eager to partner with us. They donated their space from which we launched our Tales from The Shed programming in the Fall of 2018. Chickenshed NYC was born!
In the Fall of 2019, we began the core of our work, the creation of a theatre community we call Chickenshed Players. These children and teens meet to learn, share, move and create artistic endeavors while being guided and nurtured by more than ten professional Teaching Artists.
One year on, thanks to the generous support of Backstage Theatre Trust and the Arcadia Fund, we have been able to continue our efforts by creating online immersive theatrical experiences for both our Chickenshed Players and Tales audiences during the COVID-19 crisis.
As we grow, we hope that every member, supporter, performer, and parent--whether they remain with us or move on --will have the belief in the power of inclusion to change the world for the better.