The Flea Theater

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The Flea Theater

The Flea Theater, founded in 1996, is a theatre in the TriBeCa section of New York City. It presents primarily new American theatre, and provides a venue for film stars to act on a very small (74-seat) stage, as well as a smaller black box theater for experimental and new works. The theater was founded by distinguished downtown theater artists: director Jim Simpson, playwright Mac Wellman, and designer Kyle Chepulis. The Flea earned early acclaim for original productions of post-9-11 play "The Guys" and political works by A. R. Gurney. “Since its inception in 1996, The Flea has presented over 100 plays and numerous dance and live music performances. Under Artistic Director Jim Simpson and Producing Director Carol Ostrow, The Flea is one of New York’s leading off-off-Broadway companies."[1]


Founded in 1996, the award-winning[citation needed] Flea Theater was originally formed out of the purely artistic impulse to create “a joyful hell in a small space”.[citation needed] "Soon thereafter a more formal mission was born: to present distinctive work that raises the standards of Off-Off-Broadway for artists & audiences alike…Non-institutional and resolutely noncommercial, The Flea embodies the spirit of adventure and experimentation that has defined Off-Off-Broadway since its inception. Despite its tiny capacity, more than 17,000 adventurous New Yorkers make their way to The Flea each year. Because of the huge variety, the Flea draws students, uptown residents, downtown enthusiasts—in short, as diverse a group in age, interests, and ethnicity as lives in the city itself. And while its primary service area is Lower Manhattan, in recent years their burgeoning reputation has brought audiences and patrons from throughout the tri-state area.”[citation needed] In March of 2015, The Flea announced that Niegel Smith would be taking over for Jim Simpson as its new artistic director.[2]

Production highlights include "Oh the Humanity and Other Exclamations", by Pulitzer finalist Will Eno, starring Marisa Tomei and Brian Hutchison. This transcendent collection of five short plays extended through winter 2008. Another recent Flea hit was "Mrs. Farnsworth", a timely political comedy written specially for The Flea by renowned playwright A.R. Gurney. Performed by the incomparable duo of Sigourney Weaver and John Lithgow, Mrs. Farnsworth won rave reviews and returned to The Flea for a special encore in the fall. For two years in a row, The New York Times named a Flea production as one of the best Off-Broadway shows of the season—"Mrs. Farnsworth" in 2004 and "O Jerusalem" in 2003. Recent productions include "The Great Recession", six plays commissioned by The Flea exploring the impact of the current economic crisis on the younger generation by Thomas Bradshaw, Sheila Callaghan, Erin Courtney, Will Eno, Itamar Moses and Adam Rapp, Jonathan Reynold’s "Girls in Trouble" and Bathsheba Doran’s "Parents’ Evening".

New Works[edit]

The Flea produces several original major productions each year, along with new work by the most iconoclastic, imaginative, and talented artists. Each year The Flea presents and produces dozens of new works in an environment that is professional, welcoming, and intimate. Flea artists have been honored with two OBIE Awards, an Otto Award and, in May 2004, The Flea was given a Drama Desk Award for Distinguished Achievement commending its dedication to adventurous theater. With the continued participation of its founders and an ever-growing community of diverse and creative talents, The Flea strives to represent the wide range of what is possible Off-Off-Broadway.

Awards and Recognition[edit]

In 2010, The Flea was awarded the American Theatre Wing's National Theatre Company Grant.[3]

The BATS[edit]

The Bats are the resident acting company of The Flea Theater. Each year over a thousand actors audition for a place in this unique company. The Bats perform in extended runs of challenging classic and new plays. Not a school, but a repertory company, the Bats also work to support all the visiting performing artists at The Flea Theater.

Past Bat productions include: "Benten Kozo", an Obie award winning production that played for over 6 months, "The Great Recession" by Thomas Bradshaw, "These Seven Sicknesses" by Sean Graney, and "Future Anxiety" by Laurel Haines.

“The performances by the Bats, the Flea’s young resident company, are all well thought out and fresh. The Bats are most definitely a talented group of young artists.” –

Resident Director Program[edit]

Modeled after The Flea Theater’s successful resident company of actors, The Bats (now in its 16th season), this intensive residency program allow a small team of young directors to work, train and direct in support of The Flea’s season under the supervision of Artistic Director Jim Simpson and The Flea Theater staff. Applicants must be ready to roll up their sleeves and get involved with all aspects of theater production- dilettantes need not apply.


Created by Dominic Spillane and Stephen Stout #serials@theflea is a raucous late night play competition featuring The Bats and some of NYC’s hottest young playwrights and directors. This event, which runs Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 11pm, includes 1 FREE beer with the purchase of a ticket. All tickets are only $12. In #serials@theflea, five teams of Bats perform original ten-minute episodic plays. The audience votes for its three favorite plays, which return the next week with a new installment. The teams with the two least popular stories must likewise come back the following week, but with entirely different serialized plays.

Participating #serials playwrights have included Robert Askins, Alex Borinsky, Patrick Barrett, Chad Beckim, Nikole Beckwith, Rachel Bonds, Sarah Burgess, Jonathan Caren, Joshua Conkel, Stacy Davidowitz, Dylan Dawson, Chris Dimond, Tim Drucker & Randy Blair, Olivia Dufault, Brett Epstein, Edith Freni, Jonathan Goldberg, Tasha Gordon-Solomon, Sevan K. Greene, Dipika Guha, Angela Hanks, Jessica Hinds, Dave Holstein, Nick Jones, Lucas Kavner, Krista Knight, Nathan Leigh, Sam Marks, Tony Meneses, Eric John Meyer, Charlotte Miller, Seth Moore, Willie Orbison, Frank Paiva, Christopher Oscar Peña, Donaldo Prescod, Vickie Ramirez, Jeff Ronan, Sharyn Rothstein, Alan Schmuckler, Daniella Shoshan, Crystal Skillman, Zach Smilovitz, Alena Smith, Tommy Smith, Dominic Spillane, Susan Soon He Stanton, Christopher Sullivan, Adam Szymkowicz, Joe Tracz, Emily Chadwick Weiss, Leah Nanako Winkler, Brenton Lengel[4] and many more.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Flea Theater Gets A Place To Call Home, New York Times 12/8/2013 The New York Times, Retrieved April 25, 2014
  2. ^ Paulson, Michael (29 March 2015). "Flea Theater Names Niegel Smith as Next Artistic Director".
  3. ^ Desk, BWW News. "American Theatre Wing Announces 2010 National Theatre Company Grants". Retrieved 2017-12-01.
  4. ^ Joffred. "The Flea Theater — Theater is my first love. An interview with..." The Flea Theater. Retrieved 2016-04-26.[permanent dead link]

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