Born of Grief, a Couple’s Off Broadway Incubator Marks 20 Years

In 2002 Jenny and John Steingart founded the Off-Broadway Incubator. Ars Nova As a way to honor Jenny’s brother, Gabriel Wiener, who died of a brain aneurysm in 1997 at the age of 26. Now, as the nonprofit theater approaches its 20th anniversary, the couple faces another struggle. John has ALS, a severe neurological disorder also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

In a recent interview at her home, Jenny Steingart said, “Every hard experience in my life, if I have to live through it, I’ve learned the other side with a lesson and a way to give back in some way.” It’s on the Upper West Side. “Because any meaningless loss is really intolerable.”

So on this anniversary, which will be celebrated with a gala on Monday, Steingarts takes great satisfaction in creating an institution that has played a key role in the professional development of so many artists in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. I also understand that there are .

Among those who have worked at Ars Nova are Lin-Manuel Miranda of “Hamilton” fame, Thomas Kyle, Christopher Jackson and Philippa Sue. She is Bridget Everett, an actress and cabaret performer on the acclaimed HBO series Somebody Somewhere. Dave Malloy, who created “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812” in Ars Nova.

Most recently, Ars Nova staged Heather Christian’s widely acclaimed music-drama, Oratorio for the Living, after being postponed due to shutdowns due to the pandemic.

“This theater has done a good job of cultivating extraordinary artists,” said Jeffrey Sellar, producer of “Hamilton,” who designed the backdrops for “Sweeney Todd,” which is currently on Broadway. Mimi Liang, who is in charge, added that she won a Tony Award for “The Great Comet.” – Came out of Ars Nova. “A lot of people make things, but in 20 years most of them will matter.”

When Ars Nova gave Everett a creative home, she was performing at a karaoke bar. With that support, she developed her daring solo exhibition, At Least It’s Pink, at her Ars Nova in 2007. “I was blown away by their enthusiasm because I didn’t get anything,” Everett said. “If they hadn’t seen something in me, I wouldn’t have had a career.”

The impromptu rap night “Freestyle Love Supreme” started with Ars Nova and helped give birth to the musical “KPOP”.

Director Alex Timbers (Moulin Rouge! The Musical, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson) began his career with Peter Sin Naktlieb’s post-apocalyptic comedy Boom at Ars Nova. “It was the first time I was professionally hired to direct and give access to a designer I would never have worked with on my own,” he said. But it was also a leap of faith.”

At the gala, Ars Nova will announce a financial pledge from Steingarts that will allow for a more consistent presentation of comedy in addition to its current variety show.showgasmFor example, citing Ars Nova’s “Creation Nation,” a popular live variety show featuring comedian Billy Eichner, Jon Steingart argues that not only music but comedy is “the youth culture of today.” Where is it?” he said.

Manhattan native Jenny Steingart, 55, says her parents—Michael A. Wiener, who helped found the Infinity Broadcasting chain of radio stations, and Xena, a music teacher and singer—encouraged her to follow her passion. He said he encouraged me. “‘What do you agree with?'” she remembered them asking. “‘What inspires you?'”

John, now 54, grew up in Southern California and was a producer on the Broadway show Julia Sweeney’s God Said ‘Ha! I have a child.

After the death of her brother, who produced recordings of early music, Jenny said she and John “let his legacy inspire the creation of new art.”

In the early days, Steingartz would go out night after night in search of talent with theater founder Jason Egan. This approach continues to this day. “We’re looking at artists with potential, not artists with resumes,” Egan said.

Flagged on West 54th Street, Ars Nova has quickly established itself as a space where artists can seize big opportunities. Company Producer Her Executive Her Director Renee Blinkwolt, referring to the Tony Award-winning “Great Comet” for lighting and landscape design, said: (In 2016, the show’s commercial her producer agreed to amend the way Arsnova’s contribution to Playbill’s “Great Comet” was credited.)

Ars Nova, which opened its second theater in the village’s Greenwich House in 2019, has cemented itself as a staple of the New York theatrical landscape, with an annual operating budget of about $4 million and a staff of 14 people. , remains relatively poor. The company has a ticket subsidy program in place to keep prices low and is offering payouts as desired this season.

The company provides both salaries and benefits to its in-house playwrights. And no employees were laid off, thanks in part to the Paycheck Protection Program, which covers about 10% of the funds needed to keep artists and staff paid during the pandemic.

These days, Steingarts is less involved in the organization’s operations, but continues to play a strong supportive role. John spends most of his time researching his own illness. “I will not quit,” he said. He recognizes he is lucky to be alive five years after his diagnosis. Sitting in a wheelchair at the kitchen table, John explained that he was “pretty nervous about accepting” himself.

“I’m not the kind of person who spends a lot of time asking me why, win or lose.He said.

But while Jenny does her best to keep it together, it’s a little unacceptable.

“I don’t want to be Debbie Downer, nor do I want to be Pollyanna,” she said. It’s really important to me.”

Ars Nova’s close-knit family has had to adjust to the prospect of missing one of their parents, but the artists are always trying to do what they’ve been doing: stay positive. .

“The tragedy of losing a brother and what John is going through is the brutality of life,” Everett said. “But I’m really happy that what Ars Nova has given me will endure. To keep people on track and to give them a chance, there is no greater gift.”

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