OP Performance Lab (2021) | The Orchard Project
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About the OP Performance Lab

The Orchard Project Performance Lab is a self directed lab for theatre-makers, writers, composers, teams, companies, and ensembles looking for support on one or more projects in development.

Our oldest program, the Performance Lab has historically been a form-fitting residency in which companies and artists join the Orchard Project for overlapping residencies, during which they are provided with free rehearsal space, room and board, and support from fellow artists. The collaborative component of this lab makes it unique from our other lab offerings insofar as it provides a communal space in which participants can check in with one another on projects, and facilitated space is created for those working on projects at any stage of their development. Throughout the residencies, open rehearsals invite peers and industry members from around the country to play an active role in the development of new works.

In normal years, lab participants are invited to Saratoga Springs, NY for overlapping residencies, during which they are provided with free rehearsal space, room and board, and support from fellow artists. Throughout the residencies, open rehearsals invite peers and industry members from around the country to play an active role in the development of new works. In the 2020 iteration of this lab, eight teams and projects shared virtual space, ranging from new plays to circus pieces to musicals.

Due to the nature of COVID and our decision to move all of our works online again in 2021, the 2021 Performance Lab will once again be held virtually. In the 2021 version of the lab, small cohorts of diverse makers will convene for weekly meetings to review progress, share work, and interrogate common questions. One might describe it as a uniquely Orchard Project-ian Writers’ Room, including not just writers in the traditional sense, but makers of all kinds. Outside of these meetings, lab members will be provided with support and resources to iterate through their project in a self directed manner. The Orchard Project will also provide exclusive panel, webinar, and class opportunities specifically for lab members, depending on the unique needs of the cohort. 

In 2021, participants in the Performance Lab will be encouraged to think of traditional theatre form as only one of the possible forms a project might be able to take, and priority will be given to projects that have given ample thought as to how a project could manifest itself in current and near future circumstances. Work that had been iterated in our 2020 Liveness Lab should and could see the Performance Lab as a home for future development. Makers of digital live work, transmedia work, and environmental work are all encouraged to apply

The selected participants are individuals, teams, and companies who are excited and committed to the development of their work with an appetite for feedback in a group of diverse and similarly passionate peers. They are curious about understanding and developing their own work and world building with the goal of innovative creativity. 

The selected participants are chosen through a rigorous outreach and selection process, open to the public. As with all the Orchard Project labs, participants will join with varying degrees of professional experience, but will likely have some history of manifesting their creative work in public before joining the Orchard Project community. Anyone can apply, there is no age requirement, and applicants can be either represented by an agent or not. To honor the history of the Orchard Project and the constituency it serves, the program will aim to include at least some with a live performance interest or background.

Within this lab, the Orchard Project has supported companies big and small, established and emerging. Each summer, it normally supports more than 100 artists, working on more than 30 separate projects. Past resident companies have included The Royal Court, the Public Theater, Tectonic Theatre Project, The Atlantic Theater Company, Pig Iron, The Rude Mechs, American Repertory Theater, Paines Plough, The TEAM, Mabou Mines, and more. Shows developed at the Orchard Project have later been produced at stages including the Royal Court in London, The Public Theater in New York City, the Humana Festival of New American Plays in Louisville, American Repertory Theater at Harvard, Yale Repertory Theatre, The Atlantic Theater Company in New York City, Center Theater Group in Los Angeles, Playwrights Horizons in New York City, The National Theatre in London, Theatre Di Roma in Rome, Philadelphia Live Arts, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and many other theaters across America and Europe. Lab-born shows include TONY®-winning 33 Variations on Broadway; The Royal Court’s Posh (also on the West End); Obie-winning The Aliens, The Shipment, and Architecting; and Robert Schenkkan’s TONY®, Steinberg, and Kennedy-winning Broadway hit All the Way.

The 2021 Performance Lab will take place in July/August 2021. Exact dates to be determined.

All of our programming is planned to exist virtually until such time as it is safe for us to convene in Saratoga Springs once again.

The 2021 Performance Lab will take place over 5-6 weeks, with group lab meetings occurring once a week for 2 hours. There will be other opportunities for focused time outside of these meetings, constructed in a form fitting way.

All Orchard Project Lab participants begin their labs with a group orientation in Orchard Project Creative Vocabulary, outlining both the process and facilitation vocabulary that serves as a foundation for artists and work during their Orchard Project experience. 

Lab participants will also be able to sign up for individual office hours with OP staff and facilitators as needed.

  • The Orchard Project Performance Lab is free for invited artists to participate in.

  • The Orchard Project’s 2021 Performance Lab will require each artist to agree to both the Orchard Project’s general code of conduct policies, and an agreement that, while not providing any royalty or compensation to the Orchard Project, allows projects developed through the program to credit their participation in it. This agreement is available for review here

  • While we generally continue to support work developed in our labs in an ad hoc manner after each lab, the focus of our labs is on the creation of self directed progress, peer and industry community. The Orchard Project, however, does have particular resources that it allocates to work after labs. We know that these resources/options are not an ideal match for all participants, but in certain circumstances, the Orchard Project and artist may continue to work together on the development and advocacy of their work after the program, in which case other arrangements will be made on a case by case basis.

All artists and participants in the 2021 Orchard Project will be invited to participate in the 2021 Community Learning events, a series of weekly panels and conversations with leading artists, practitioners, and industry working in all the various forms. From discussions about television writing rooms, case studies in digital performance, best practices for collaboration (both in the room and in a contract), to pitching workshops, these events will provide all OP artists - across all our labs - to join in a community wide conversation about where storytelling will be heading in 2021 and beyond.

Full information about the application process for the 2021 Orchard Project are available here.

In addition to project description and biographical information asked for in our new common application, we are asking applicants to provide an understanding of what technical or dramaturgical needs they have for their project or projects that would make measurable difference.