En Garde Arts
En Garde Arts is a New York City-based theatre company, and a pioneer in the field of immersive theater.
Founded in 1985 by Anne Hamburger, the company was New York’s first exclusively site-specific theatre, leading audiences to unexpected locations across the city for innovative, contemporary, highly visual new work. En Garde’s productions earned six Obie Awards, two Drama Desk Awards, the Special Outer Critics Circle Award and the Edwin Booth Award. The company ceased operations in 1999 when Hamburger relocated to the West Coast, first as artistic director of the La Jolla Playhouse, and later to run a global division for the Walt Disney Company. She returned to the East Coast, reformed the company, and re-launched En Garde in the fall of 2014.
En Garde Arts in the 1980s and 1990sEdit
From 1985-1999, Hamburger commissioned playwrights, directors and composers to create theatrical pieces for architectural sites and neighborhoods. The roster of En Garde’s alumni artists includes playwrights Charles L. Mee, Mac Wellman, María Irene Fornés; composers David Van Tieghem, Jonathan Larson; directors Michael Engler, Tina Landau, Anne Bogart, Reza Abdoh, Jim Simpson and Bill Rauch; and actors Carl Hancock Rux, Fiona Shaw, Fisher Stevens, Tyne Daly and Jefferson Mays. Intrepid audiences followed their work to a variety of locations, including Central Park, the Meatpacking District, Penn Yards, East River Park, Pier 25, the Chelsea Hotel, the Victory Theater (New Victory Theatre, and the intersection of Wall and Broad Streets in Lower Manhattan.
In 1989, En Garde produced a series of three plays at the Dairy, Belvedere Castle and Bow Bridge (Central Park) in Central Park to great critical acclaim. Obie Awards for Best New American Play and Best Director were given to Bad Penny playwright Mac Wellman and director Jim Simpson. The New York Times wrote, “Moving environmentally through the streets and buildings of Manhattan, En Garde Arts is an invigorating urban presence.” The following year, Wellman’s play Crowbar became the first legitimate theatrical production to be held in 42nd Street’s Victory Theatre for 60 years. Designed and built for Oscar Hammerstein in 1900, the theatre’s elaborately decorated interior remained intact despite decades of neglect, including 20 years as porn theatre. Crowbar was produced before 42nd Street’s redevelopment, and En Garde Arts could not find a cleaning company willing to take on the job, so a group of volunteers cleaned the interior to make way for Mac Wellman’s new play. Directed by Richard Caliban with music by David Van Tieghem, Crowbar won Obie awards for En Garde Arts and actor Elżbieta Czyżewska, and was granted a special award by the Outer Critics Circle.
Now firmly in league with New York’s most influential and innovative theatre companies, En Garde continued to produce iconoclastic, critically acclaimed, award-winning work throughout the 1990s. Reza Abdoh & Mira-Lani Oglesby’s spectacular, AIDS era cri de coeur, Father Was a Peculiar Man took place over 9 distinct locations through the Meatpacking District, long before its gentrification.
In an abandoned Victorian hospital on West 106th Street, Charles L. Mee’s Another Person Is a Foreign Country confronted the social marginalization of unconventional people; in fact, it was a celebration of difference, played like a beautiful human symphony under a blanket of stars. Director Anne Bogart’s cast included a blind choir with seeing-eye dogs, a group of emotionally disturbed rock musicians, and a man and woman, both 3’ tall, all staged against the Gothic, empty Towers Nursing Home (New York Cancer Hospital). The evening ended with a stunning waterfall cascading down the building’s stone facade.
En Garde would win further Obie Awards for Tina Landau & Charles L. Mee’s Orestes in the Penn Yards, and Trojan Women in East River Park Amphitheatre. Deborah Warner’s adaptation of The Wasteland with Fiona Shaw earned two Drama Desk Awards. Hamburger used the New York Stock Exchange as a backdrop for JP Morgan Saves the Nation by composer Jonathan Larson. On opening night, he slipped her a cassette tape of the work he was just developing; it would become the musical phenomenon RENT. Hamburger was recognized with the Edwin Booth and Lee Reynolds Awards for the impressive body of her work. In 1999, she was offered and accepted the post of artistic director with the La Jolla Playhouse. Within six months of moving to California, she received an offer to establish a new creative division for the Walt Disney Company, where she remained until returning to New York.
Re-launch (2014 – present)Edit
Hamburger re-launched En Garde Arts in 2014 with Basetrack Live, a multimedia fusion of music, film, photojournalism and performance, that explores the impact of war on veterans and their families. The show was developed in collaboration with the corpsmen and families of the 1st Battalion 8th Marines and inspired by the website One-Eight Basetrack (a citizen journalism project featuring the work of Teru Kuwayama, Balazs Gardi and Tivadar Domaniczky). The production premiered in Austin, TX in September 2014, and toured to over 40 cities nationally with a New York premiere at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on Veterans Day of 2014. Basetrack Live was invited to Fort Hood Military Base in Killeen, TX at the invitation of the Commanding General to encourage active duty soldiers to avail themselves of mental health services. The production served as a resiliency program to prepare soon to deploy soldiers, highlight existing challenges and raise awareness of Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury warning signs for senior leaders and their soldiers. In talk back sessions held after each performance, the producer, actors, and medical treatment facility treatment subject matter experts answered audience questions, discussed global treatment approaches, and described available services for treatment. Six months of research (three pre- and three post-performance) by the Intrepid Behavioral Health Center on base determined a 36% reduction in stigma surrounding seeking services for mental health issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder. Basetrack was also named Best Theatre of 2014 in The New York Times.
BOSSS (Big Outdoor Site Specific Stuff)
En Garde Arts continued to grow, creating the highly anticipated Emerging Arts Festival BOSSS (Big Outdoor Site Specific Stuff) in the fall of 2015. Beginning in early 2015, Hamburger gathered multiple artists together once a week to brainstorm ideas. Hamburger mentored the artists as pieces began to take shape, working with the Hudson River Park as a performance space. Completely free to the public, BOSSS programming included Given The Present, The Future Does Not Depend On The Past (written by Sam Alper, composed and lyricized by Deepali Gupta, and directed by Jimmy Maize), The Visitors (written and directed by Barbara Cassidy and choreographed by Johari Mayfield, with Jessica Corbin as Choral Leader), Moms (written by Sarah Delappe [playwright of The Wolves] and directed by Morgan Green), The Queer Garden (written by Kenny Finkle, directed by Jessie Geiger, and produced by Louise English), We Were Wild Once Episode 6: Talks With A Drunk (directed by Sanaz Ghajarrahimi), Night, Janitor, Carousel (directed by Ellie Heyman), An Evening With Bina48 (directed by Andrew Scoville, designed by David Tennant and Kate Freer), This Place (directed by Lee Sunday Evans), Gnomads of the Garden (written by Stephanie Okun), Long Time (conceived by PopUP Theatrics, written by Peca Ștefan, and directed by Tamilla Woodard), and Ghost Card (choreographed by Megan Weaver and Hassan Christopher).
In 2016, En Garde Arts premiered Wilderness at the Abrons Arts Center in New York, NY. This multimedia documentary theatre piece speaks to the search for connection between parents and children in families amongst the complexities that accompany life in the 21st century, including mental health, addiction, and gender and sexual identity. Inspired by co-writer and executive producer Anne Hamburger’s own experiences with her son, this piece compiled real-life interviews, research, and the blending of documentary and fiction to portray the complex journey that parents and children embark in seeking therapy and communication. Wilderness toured across the country, was published by Dramatists Play Service and is now being licensed by colleges and universities around the world. In 2014, Wilderness was named Critics’ Pick in The New York Times.
In 2018, En Garde premiered Red Hills (written by Asiimwe Deborah Kawe and Sean Christopher Lewis, directed by Katie Pearl) in New York, NY. Red Hills was a site-specific piece exploring the questions of “Who has the right to tell a story?” and “Whose story is it?” through the lens of the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. Red Hills tells the story of an American missionary named David and a Rwandan tour guide named God’s Blessing who meet as teenagers during the Genocide. Back in the U.S., David writes a book called Dogs of Rwanda that becomes famous but is riddled with lies and omissions. When God’s Blessing happens upon the book 20 years later, this propels David to return to Rwanda, reconnect with God’s Blessing to relive the past and learn the meaning of forgiveness. The production took over a 20,000 square foot empty and raw floor of a downtown office building located at 101 Greenwich Street, transforming it into multiple sites, including an NGO-headquarters, the Kigali airport, Nyamata Genocide Memorial and the red hills of Rwanda. One of the most meaningful responses to the production came from a Genocide survivor who was so moved by the show that she asked if she could bring in a photograph of her own family to add to the altar of remembrance in the set.
En Garde Arts’ Community Engagement Coordinator Heather Cohn, along with Red Hills Community Engagement Facilitator Channie Waites, crafted post-show panel discussions with experts on Rwanda and healing trauma. On June 20, 2018, audiences were treated to a Rwandan dinner prior to a benefit performance and encouraged to talk about their reactions to the play, their thoughts on what stories need to be heard & who should tell them, what communities, groups, and/or perspectives they least understood, and whose stories they wished to open themselves to hearing.
1985: The Ritual Project (Central Park) This collaboration included writer, Nancy Beckett and composer, Kim Sherman and sculptor, Michael Berkowicz. Directed by Michael Engler, performed by Kate Fugeli as the Girl, and sung by three opera singers
1989: At the Chelsea (Hotel Chelsea) including A Quiet Evening with Sid and Nancy starring Penny Arcade (performer) and Steven Wastell; The Room with David Van Tieghem and Tina Dudek; Embedded by Ann Carlson; Letters From Dead People by Frank Maya; and John Kelly performing as Joni Mitchell
1991: Occasional Grace (Universalist Church at Central Park West & 76th St) directed by Bill Rauch
1994: Marathon Dancing (Grand Ballroom, Masonic Grand Lodge at 71 West 23rd St.) written by Laura Harrington, directed by Anne Bogart, music by Christopher Drobny, choreography by Alison Shafer
1994: Stonewall: Night Variations (Pier 25 on the Hudson River) directed by Tina Landau
1995: J.P. Morgan Saves the Nation (outside Federal Hall National Memorial at the intersection of Wall and Broad Streets, Lower Manhattan) book and lyrics by Jeffrey M. Jones, music by Jonathan Larson, directed by Jean Randich, choreography by Doug Elkins
1998: Mystery School (Angel Orensanz Foundation Center for the Arts, 172 Norfolk St., SoHo) written by Paul Selig, directed by Doug Hughes, music and sound design by David Van Tieghem, starring Tyne Daly
2014: Basetrack Live (Brooklyn Academy of Music), created by Edward Bilous, co-adapted by Jason Grote & Seth Bockley & Anne Hamburger, Directed by Seth Bockley, Music Composed by Michelle DiBucci, Edward Bilous and Greg Kalember. (Inspired by the website One-Eight Basetrack, a citizen journalism project featuring the work of Teru Kuwayama, Balazs Gardi and Tivadar Domaniczky)
2016: Wilderness (Abrons Arts Center), Written by Seth Bockley & Anne Hamburger, Directed by Seth Bockley, Movement by Devon DeMayo & Patrick McCollum, Music by Kyle Miller & Towr’s, Kyle Henderson & Desert, Noises and Gregory Alan Isakov, Video by Michael Tutaj, Sound by Mikhail Fiksel, Lighting by Scott Bolman.
2018: Red Hills (101 Greenwich Street), Written by Asiimwe Deborah Kawe and Sean Christopher Lewis, directed by Katie Pearl; with actors Christopher McLinden and Patrick J. Ssenjovu; composition and live music by Farai Malianga and singer Sifiso Mabena; set design by Adam Rigg; lighting design by Brian Aldous & Adam Macks; costume design by Angela M. Fludd; and dramaturgy by Morgan Jenness.
Obie Awards (6): Bad Penny (Best New American Play: Mac Wellman) 1990; Bad Penny (Best Direction: Jim Simpson 1990; Crowbar (Performance: Elzbieta Czyzewska) 1990; En Garde Arts (Obie Grant) 1991; Orestes (Performance: Jefferson Mays) 1994; The Trojan Women (Performance: Sharon Scruggs) 1997
Edwin Booth Award, 1995
En Garde Arts 2014 to present
Official Website  New York Times Review on Wilderness  New York Times Feature on Wilderness  Georgetowner Review on Wilderness  Village Voice Review on Wilderness  MD Theatre Guide Review on Wilderness  Theater Pizzazz Review on Wilderness  Metro Weekly Feature on Wilderness  Washington Post Feature on Wilderness  NBC Feature on Wilderness 
New York Times Review on Basetrack Live  New York Times Feature on Basetrack Live  New York Times Feature on Basetrack Live  The Daily Texan Review on Basetrack Live  Daily Bruin Review on Basetrack Live  Theater Mania Review on Basetrack Live  Broadway World Feature on Basetrack Live  BAM Feature on Basetrack Live  American Theatre Feature on Basetrack Live 
En Garde Arts 1985 to 1999
- Gussow, M. (10/1/1987) “Critic’s Notebook; The World on Windows, in ‘Site-Specific’ Drama”, New York Times. 
- Gussow, M. (5/20/1988) “Review/Theater; Peripatetic Double Bill By En Garde Arts”, New York Times. 
- Artforum, May 1989
- Gussow, M. (6/20/1989) “Review/Theater; 3 Site-Specific Plays in Central Park”, New York Times. 
- Gussow, M. (12/17/1989) “Review/Theater; Reflections of Despair In a Sardonic ‘Krapp’”, New York Times. 
- Gussow, M. (2/20/1990) “Review/Theater; Lead Role for a Theater, With the Audience on Stage”, New York Times. 
- Collins, G. (7/19/1990) “Street Theater Audience Must Make a Choice”, New York Times. 
- Holden, S. (9/10/1991) “In Decayed, Empty Nursing Home, A Pageant of the Lame and Hurt”, New York Times. 
- Gussow, M. (6/17/1992) “Theater in Review”, New York Times
- Sommers, P. (2/27/1993) “Performance; Small-Scale ‘Strange Feet’”, Washington Post.
- Bruckner, D. (6/30/1993) “Theater in Review”, New York Times
- Canby, V. (3/20/1994) “Theater in Review; They’re Dancing as Fast as They Can”, New York Times. 
- Canby, V. (7/3/1994) “Celebrating a Birthday and a Battle”, New York Times. 
- Brantley, B. (6/16/1995) “Theater Review; ‘J.P. Morgan’ and Some Heavy Site-Specificity”, New York Times. 
- Brantley, B. (7/3/1996) “Theater Review; An Epic War Resolved With a Gershwin Ditty”, New York Times. 
- Brantley, B. (11/18/1996) “Memory and Desire: Hearing Eliot’s Passion”, New York Times. 
- Fuchs, E. (3/2/1997) “A Mordant Tale of the Holocaust”, New York Times
- Marks, P. (3/13/1998) “Theater Review; Tyne Daly Re-Emerges as a New Age Totem Pole”, New York Times. 
- Gates, A. (9/21/1998) “Theater Review; On a Roof, Vignettes That Get Around”, New York Times. 
- The Village Voice
- Drama Desk Awards’ History
- "Outer Critics Circle Archive". Archived from the original on 2009-04-23. Retrieved 2009-04-21.
Information from The New York Times online archives and the En Garde Arts archives.