After eight months of organizing and planning, Brooklyn’s newest and timeliest cultural creation, The Brooklyn International Theatre Company, debuted in mid-June.
The borough already hosts various theater and dance companies but this new endeavor is noteworthy because of its founders: The author/screenwriter/journalist Nelson George, whose most recent project was the documentary, “Brooklyn Boheme” about how gentrification has affected the Fort Green neighborhood I call home, and the painter, poet, philanthropist Danny Simmons, who co-produced HBO’s “Def Comedy Jam” and recently published a book of erotic poetry titled, “Deep in Your Best Reflection.”
After they’d put their heads together to conceptualize the project, they pulled in actress Annabella Sciorra, best known for her role in Spike Lee’s “Jungle Fever,” and writer/documentary filmmaker Alix Lambert—all of whom are long-time Brooklyn residents—and the team was complete.
The mission was clear: “We want to give exposure to Brooklyn stories and artists while developing Brooklyn talent. Ultimately, we want to tell the story of Brooklyn through the eyes of different cultures,” explained Danny Simmons.
As for the Brooklyn International Theatre Company’s name, it also speaks to the theater’s goal and mission. With the moniker “international” in the title, I had to wonder if the founders intend to present productions overseas or seek work from artists living and working elsewhere. But Mr. Simmons quickly shut that notion down.
“Brooklyn is the international place,” he said. “Writers and actors from all over the world settle here, so it’s an international spot.”
The theater started small with a reading of Nelson George’s original play “Our BK” (think Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town” placed in an urban setting) held at the Brooklyn Museum. The founders have big plans, though, and intend to eventually offer resources for writers and actors.
But first they have to find a permanent home. “We are currently in negotiations with Brooklyn Philharmonic and Restoration Plaza,” revealed an excited Mr. Simmons, who confirmed that the company intends to ultimately present original works and produce full-out theater productions. They will be taking submissions from writers in the future but are not quite there yet.
“We’re about a year away from all of that,” Mr. Simmons said.
In the meantime, they are preparing for the next event. “Brooklyn Literary Mashup” is a series of readings of literature about Brooklyn — from Walt Whitman to Touré — set to music. It will be held at Brooklyn Academy of Music in December. In the spirit of keeping art accessible, tickets are $20 and can be purchased online at BAM.org.
Watching the landscape of Brooklyn literally change before my eyes (The Barclay’s Center is being built a few blocks from my home. The brand new stadium will open in September 2012 and be the home to Jay-Z’s Brooklyn Nets.), it’s reassuring to know that those who recall the Brooklyn I once knew have a hand in creating something not only for the Brooklyn that is here now, but for the Brooklyn that is to come.