As a golden sun begins to disappear on the area’s surrounding hilltops, a chorus of chuckles rings out before a makeshift stage on Ryder Farm in Brewster. Reading from pages propped up against old books on a small table sits Isaac Oliver, an up-and-coming playwright New York Magazine recently dubbed a “monstrous new talent.”
“In theater it’s bad to hear crickets, but when you’re on a farm I guess it’s good,” Jahn Sood jokes as he performs selections from his musical “The Disappearing Man.”
Both Oliver and Sood had been artists-in-residence at SPACE on Ryder Farm, a nonprofit that provides actors, playwrights, and other artists of various disciplines a reprieve from New York City (a place that essentially never sleeps isn’t always conducive to the creative process.)
“I’m aggressively an indoors person, but every minute of my time on Ryder Farm was charmed and delightful,” Oliver says. “I was able to sit and read and think, which is something you rarely feel like you have permission to do in the rush of New York.”
On this particular Aug. 11 evening, the artists are back to showcase some of their work as part of the organization’s “Sharing SPACE” series.
“It was a lovely evening, and the crowd could not have been friendlier,” Oliver says. “And how nice to see members of the community coming out to support what’s becoming a real cultural hub and resource in the area, and I hope more do so with each event.”
In its third season of operation, SPACE has been successful in attracting a diverse crowd of newcomers and returnees to Ryder Farm, with about 300 applicants in 2013 alone. The next step to success, according to executive director Emily Simoness, is to somehow unify such an inward concept with the community at large.
That’s where a performance such as Oliver’s and Sood’s come in.
“The format [of Sharing SPACE] is essentially that we bring in the community to see what our artists in residence have been working on in a very pre-manicured way—it’s a very rough sketch of what their work might be,” Simoness says.
The Brooklyn-based artist and seventh generation Ryder initially conceived SPACE to give those of various artistic backgrounds a home away from home. Now in its third year, Simoness hopes to raise a larger awareness of the farm’s second calling with residents of Southeast, Brewster, Putnam and beyond.
“By coming and supporting the artists, you’re really giving them invaluable feedback,” Simoness says. “The litmus test is putting [work] in front of a varied audience—if you have a myriad of people to perform in front of, you’re going to get a better sense of what’s working and not working.”
The second installment of Sharing SPACE is set for Aug. 25 on Ryder Farm. From 7 to 10 p.m., the public can listen the eclectic sounds of Miko and the Musket or experience installation theater courtesy of Woodshed Collective. There is a suggested donation of $10, with fare available for purchase (cash only.)
“I still feel like the community is going to inform me more than I’m going to inform the community, at least in the beginning,” Simoness says. “And we’re eager to be part of it, and that’s what Sharing SPACE is all about.
We acknowledge and absorb certain unfortunate truths. But truth cannot be boiled down to one absolute. There are layers. There is history. There are stories. There is beauty, and often and most definitely there is pain.
It’s how we decide to move on from a mess that brews below that determines how fast we move forward, or for some, how long we stay behind.