Arts Incubator Celebrates 20th Anniversary
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Z Space in San Francisco is a rare arts organization.
It’s an incubator for new theater, dance, and visual arts, but also a survivor despite the recession - despite the challenges of finding audiences and funding for original work. Z Space is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2013. “It’s about taking great risks," said Lisa Steindler, artistic director at Z Space. "The work we do under this roof.”
Z Space got its name, Steindler said, from its founders, a group of employees from San Francisco’s Zuni Café. “They got together after their shifts at 2 o’clock in the morning, and started creating the type of work they wanted to do.”
The founders have moved on, but the organization is thriving in a former American Can Company factory in the Mission, with the artists’ collective Project Artaud as the landlord.
And there’s lots of different work in Z Space’s small theater, with its open bleachers and minimalist stage. There’s an art gallery, and Z Space produces or co-produces work by composer Paul Dresher, the choreographer Joe Goode and his troupe, the theater company Mugwumpin, and resident company Word for Word, known for adapting short stories for the stage with actors performing the stories, as the company’s name implies, word for word.
In 2009, Word for Word co-founder JoAnne Winter moved her company to Z Space from an office building, partly to be in a more fertile environment. “Just having a place where we can bump into each other and share ideas,” Winters said. “You may be able to sit in on somebody’s rehearsal and you say 'Oh my God that was such a great moment, and that inspired me to think about this, could we work together sometime.' That happens all the time.”
Z Space has grown into a $1.5 million organization, despite the recession, Steindler said. "We’re healthy, and we’re very aware of not growing too quickly. I’d much rather stay small and healthy and mighty.”
And still ambitious. Word for Word’s new play, You Know When The Men Are Gone, opened to glowing reviews last week, and Z Space will showcase other world premieres into 2014.