Brunch Theatre: Serving the NYC Millennial What They Love Best
On a mission to develop the voice of the millennial generation and inspire hope, activism, and art through autonomous theatre, Brunch Theatre Company, a collective of young artists, serves up what the NYC millennial loves best: fresh entertainment, and fresh brunch!
Catering to Your Stomach and Your Short Attention Span
Founded in the Winter of 2015, Brunch Theatre Company is back this fall with their fourth show, “Deviled Eggs: 7 Plays for when the Country is Up in Flames.” This millennial arts nonprofit is as delicious as it sounds! Following the success of their previous shows, Buttered Biscuits: 8 Plays Guaranteed to Make Your Dough Rise, Sticky Buns: 7 Plays to Chew Before you Swallow, and Bangerz & Mash: 7 Plays that Don’t Mind Their Manners, Brunch Theatre is serving up freshly baked plays spiced with politics. Think life and love in the age of Trump and Tinder.
Deviled Eggs caters to a specific audience of millennial New Yorkers. “You come for the food and the laughs, but you stay because we show you yourself onstage,” said Artistic Director, Haley Jakobson.
A New Platform for Millennial Artists who are Hungry to Work
With an entire cast, crew, and creative team between the ages of 20 and 30, “Deviled Eggs: 7 Plays for when the Country is Up in Flames” provides not only spicy, thought-provoking, comedic plays, but also $6 drinks, a breakfast food truck, and live original music performed throughout by Lydia Granered and Kerri George!
Good Vibes, Eggcelent Artists
This is Brunch Theatre’s fourth show at NYC’s Nuyorican Poets Cafe, a multicultural and multi-arts institution that has been showcasing a diverse group of rising poets, actors, filmmakers, and musicians since 1973. Hailed by Allen Ginsberg as “the most integrated place on the planet,” the Cafe champions the use of poetry, jazz, theatre, hip-hop, and spoken word as means of social empowerment for minority and underprivileged artists. With select performances running through December 10th, 2017, $25 tickets to “Deviled Eggs” at the Nuyorican are available here (avocado is extra).
Come and Get it While it’s Hot
There are four more chances to see this deliciously humorous show at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, so be sure to get your fill! The Nuyorican is located at 236 East 3rd Street, between Avenues B and C in Manhattan. Audience members are encouraged to come at 1pm for brunch (hosted by the Superlicious Food Truck) before the1:30pm performance. Along with brand new plays and a live band, there will be a boozy intermission at every performance. Performance dates below, buy tickets here.
Saturday, December 2nd: 1pm brunch, 1:30 show
Sunday, December 3rd: 1pm brunch, 1:30 show
Saturday, December 9th: 1pm brunch, 1:30 show
Sunday, December 10th: 1pm brunch, 1:30 show
Art Makes the World a Butter Place
Capturing the essence of life in 2017, these brand new plays combine a current political topic with a millennial situation. Choosing a theme for this season’s show was a no-brainer, “The 2016 Presidential election and the many events that have taken place since then have really brought to light how divided our country is and I find myself struggling with how to contribute in a meaningful way as a millennial,” said Resident Company Director, Elizabeth Rogers. “Deviled Eggs is an opportunity for millennials to speak conversations with each other in hopes of keeping ourselves present and aware and always looking for new ways to make a difference.”
Recipe for Success
I sat down with Brunch Theatre Company’s founders Haley Jakobson (Artistic Director) and Philip Sieverding (Creative Director) to discuss the history of Brunch Theatre. They describe it as a platform for young actors, playwrights, and directors to showcase their talent, as well as an opportunity to bring millennials back to the theatre to gain awareness through storytelling. Don't ditch your weekend brunch plans, make them an experience.
Q: How did you get started with Brunch Theatre?
Haley: During our college breaks, Philip and I would meet each other at our town's beloved diner, and talk for hours about the kind of art we wanted to make. The heart of our artistry was born out of a similar pursuit: to bring people together, tell impactful stories, and keep the magic of theatre alive.
Philip: We knew we wanted to work together. So when Haley brought a full-length play she wrote for her senior thesis to NYC, I came on as set designer. I studied both acting and architecture at NYU, and Haley studied a mix of acting, playwriting, and directing at BU. Both of our educations focused on producing theatre while wearing many hats, which is much of the reason we are able to run our own company.
Haley: I had interned at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe when I was 18, and it made the most sense to bring my first play to them. After an amazing experience with that production, Phil and I had a strong relationship with the Nuyo. After the show closed, the Nuyorican came to us and said, “Produce something!”
Phil: So we started brainstorming about what would be the scrappiest and easiest thing we could make together.
Haley: We immediately thought of performing ten minute plays, which is a very particular niche in theatre culture, and something that Phil and I both loved in college. We reached out to our playwright friends, assembled a team of directors, got our actors, and put a crew together. Our opening was set for three evenings in March 2016.
Philip: And then we got notice we had been kicked out of our time slots. They venue said we could either change our show dates entirely, or have matinee performances. But we couldn’t switch it because we were coordinating with twenty people’s schedules! We were so freaked out. I started ranting to Haley over the phone, " So now what? What are we going to do, do a daytime show that no one will come to because they'll all be at brunch? What are we gonna do, bake fresh biscuits in the theatre so it smells like biscuits when you walk in? And then call it, I don't know, Brunch Theatre?"
Haley: We got very silent. It dawned on us that perhaps we had tapped into an entirely new theatre market. A spin on dinner theatre! Brunch Theatre! So we called our show Buttered Biscuits: 8 Plays Guaranteed to Make Your Dough Rise. And the rest is history.
Phil: It was a really happy accident.
Q: Entertainment and brunch, the two best things. How did the first show go?
Haley: Shockingly well. We had an amazing turnout, and we had no clue if this idea would work at all, but it really did. We had stumbled upon something incredible and we had the time of our lives doing it. We were hungry to work and ready to do it, and so were all of our friends. The thing about being an artist in New York City is that space is the biggest commodity of all. So if we could get the space, then we knew we would have the product. We didn’t doubt our skill or talent, let alone the talent of our company members.
Philip: A passion that we aligned on very early in our friendship was the desire to make a theatre home and foster community. We had found that in Brunch Theatre. So when we closed Buttered Biscuits, we immediately began planning the next show. In November 2016, we premiered Sticky Buns: 7 New Plays to Chew Before You Swallow.
Haley: And the ball has kept rolling from there. Our 3rd show, Bangerz & Mash, performed in March 2017 and we sold out for every performance.
Q: How did you get the word out at first?
Haley: At first, word of mouth. We had no idea what the turnout would be for that first show, but it was really solid. Now we have so many people come that we've had to turn people away! We just couldn’t fit everyone in the space. But there has been a slow and steady element to our growth. The first two shows, we did one weekend. As the word spread and as our company members told their friends who told their friends, we got more confident that we could do two weekends. And all the people who came the first weekend told everybody else that they knew, who then came the second weekend. So, for Deviled Eggs, we have three weekends of shows.
Q: What are your goals with Deviled Eggs as a political piece geared towards millennials?
Haley: I think the most important thing that we champion is giving a platform for millennial artists to do what they’re meant to do. The second part of that is to use that platform for the greater good. It's important to us to include the current millennial audience in our conversations to get them engaged, because we believe they have the most power to incite change. Our goal is to bring young people back to the theatre. We are starting a conversation about what’s going on in our current world and reflecting the millennial lifestyle back to those who are actually living it. I think we’re successful in doing that because we take a lot of the stereotypes about millennials and we turn them on their heads. We definitely poke fun at our generation, but at the same time we are shedding light on the important things we have to say, and there are some brilliant playwrights writing about really important issues. This is the first show we’ve done where the prompt was political, because this is our company's call to action.
Philip: And probably will be our most specific show to date. Creating our company and giving in the container that it lives in asks us to constantly redefine what it means to really represent the millennial, and keep asking ourselves what millennial theatre is. Has it been defined? Are we currently defining it? Something that Haley always says when representing our company is that art is needed now more than ever. We needed to create a political show because it is our job as artists to comment on the world we are living in.
Haley: Yes, and it’s our job to use art to incite change, and we can do that by inspiring hope. And the way to inspire hope is to get people together in a room to connect with each other and eat and laugh and to learn from one another.
Q: How would you describe these new political plays?
Haley: We asked our playwrights to choose a politically influential day between 2016 and 2017 and pair it with a millennial situation. We gave everyone a list of ingredients; a recipe to follow, and we got the best plays that I think we’ve ever had. They’re ballsy, unafraid and real. They are not light or fluffy or bland, they are spicy as hell and pack a punch.
Philip: This show has grit. Has texture. Something to chew on. It’s been such a roller coaster of a year and Deviled Eggs is going to take audience members back through that year. It’s set chronologically, so audience members are going to be able to trace their own steps back to 2016.
Haley: We’ve had an amazing opportunity with these plays to comment on current political occurrences as they’ve happened, so our playwrights have been in conversation with these plays since they went into rehearsal. So when different things have come up in the news and media, we’ve been able to workshop them into these plays. What is great about having brand new plays that are going to be performed for the first time is that we still have the opportunity to edit and them to include the hard-hitting issues that we’re facing now, which have changed since May when we gave out the prompt. We're excited to see how these plays change with an audience to interact with, and more excited to talk with that audience afterwards. For me, the experience of a Brunch Theatre show is unlike anything else. It’s one of those rare things that you can do with a group of people in our generation, to sit in a space for an hour and a half, convene over food and drink, and be off your cell phone. Although we highly encourage boomerangs.
Philip: I mean, it's millennial theatre.
Q: And there’s actually brunch?
Philip: There’s actually brunch! We always serve the food the show is named after. In the past we've had buttered biscuits, sticky buns, bangerz & mash, and now we will have deviled eggs! For the first time ever, we are partnered with a breakfast food truck called Superlicious.
Haley: This is the first time I will not be cooking 80 sausages in my kitchen the morning before a show!
Q: Does Deviled Eggs feature the same playwrights as your previous shows?
Haley: Our network is broadening a lot, and open to anyone, anywhere. We get 40 or 50 submissions and we narrow it down to six or seven plays. We have veteran playwrights and brand new ones, too.
Philip: We want to showcase new work, and give opportunities to baby playwrights too. We have playwrights who are still sophomores in college.
Haley: We are giving writers the opportunity to see their work come to life. It was so important to me that we feature new work, especially by young writers who haven’t gotten a chance to get their fingers dirty yet. That sentiment rings true for everyone on our team. We work with a lot of people who are just coming to the city or are still in that hustle and grind. There are magnificent actors in this city who are going to auditions everyday to do one liners for toothpaste commercials. It's soul crushing. Sure, that’s how they are going to make their livelihood but that’s not how they’re going to get energetic compensation. Brunch Theatre gives gives millennials artists something that they don't usually get, which is the right to be taken seriously. You can call us lazy, make fun of us for eating avocado toast, but when push comes to shove millennials have something to say and now we have a show to prove it.
Q: When you were starting out was it more volunteer-based and then now it’s gone beyond energetic compensation?
Philip: Absolutely. We started off with a group of friends pulling favors and energy exchanges and now we are non-profit company, fiscally sponsored by Fractured Atlas. We couldn't have done any of this without Viviana Vargas, a soon to be MFA grad at Brooklyn College, who is our arts consultant manager and our literal angel from heaven. Adelaide Burich, Assistant to the Artistic Director, also came on board to complete our admin team. Now we offer tax deductible donations so that we can pay our whole company. Every part of Brunch Theatre is growing!
Haley: In the past 6 months everything has absolutely skyrocketed. Which is a testament of all the hard work we’ve been putting in over the past two years. I don’t even know where we’ll be like in another six months. It is truly all thanks to people who come aboard our team and who share the drive that we have. The thing that makes Brunch Theatre work is passion.
Philip: And we see that passion in our audience members, too. They love the show, and love supporting our work. Something that consistently surprises me about Brunch Theatre is that we draw an audience not typically seen at a theatre. People who have not gone to see a play in the last year, or ever. For me that says goal accomplished, we've brought people back to the theatre. Theatre is an ancient art form, and it's still relevant in today’s context.
Haley: And when people ask what you did this weekend you get to say, "oh, you know, saw 7 plays, had brunch, met some really cool people, got a little day-drunk, and I supported young artists, too."
Q: Is Brunch Theatre specifically catered to NYC millennials?
Philip: We aim to portray the millennial New Yorker on stage. We’re speaking to the location where our play exists, it would be different somewhere else.
Haley: We’ve got a lot of plays about the subway and--
Philip: The rats in my apartment--
Haley: Your weekend bodega and all of that. It feels like home and that feels really good.
Philip: But don't worry, when we bring Brunch Theatre to your city, we'll make sure you feel at home, too. There's always room at the table.