featured photo
The Kitchen
Brought to you by
Body Wrappers;
New York Flash Review Sponsor
the New York manufacturer of fine dance apparel for women and girls. Click here to see a sample of our products and a list of web sites for purchasing.
With Body Wrappers it's always
performance at its best.

Go back to Flash Reviews
Go Home


By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2003 The Dance Insider

New! Sponsor a Flash!

Mark Russell, who single-handedly changed the Downtown cultural landscape and the national cultural context, midwifing not just new artists but new theatrical forms from a converted New York City public schoolhouse, has resigned as artistic and executive director of Performance Space 122 after 20 years, effective next June, the vaunted East Village venue announced yesterday.

"It is with mixed emotions that I leave P.S. 122," said Russell in a prepared statement released by the theater. "P.S. 122 is a terrific institution that has seen world-class artists cross its doors before they became household names. I am gratified and proud to have been a part of this important part of performance history. However, the time has come for me to look for new challenges and I leave the Space with a committed staff and board to carry on."

Coming a year after David White resigned as chief of Dance Theater Workshop after three decades, Russell's departure will leave the city and thus the nation without two of its major cultural rudders.

Founded in 1979 by a collective of performers, P.S. 122 has been called a "petri dish" of downtown culture. To Russell, that he could provide a theater to host the experiment often seemed more important than whether the experiment succeeded. "It's a little rough" was a typical admission he could sometimes be heard to whisper after a performance debut, even to a critic and always with pride.

John Leguizamo, the Blue Man Group, Eric Bogosian, Ben Munisteri, Ron K. Brown, Danny Hoch, Sarah Jones, Doug Varone, Tim Miller, Elevator Repair Service, and Ann Carlson are among the artists whose careers P.S. 122 helped launch. Because of the audience Russell cultivated and taught to appreciate the experiment as much as the results, P.S. was a place where established artists like Leguizamo, Spalding Gray and Karen Finley were comfortable workshopping.

But more important than the artists P.S. introduced were the incipient art forms (and arts publications, including this one) it nourished. Those forms ranged from puppetry, with P.S. 122 serving as the anchor of the Jim Henson International Puppet Festival, to porn-ography, and the bio-performance work of Annie Sprinkles. In the area of dance-theater (or theater-dance), Russell cultivated ongoing relationships with Jane Comfort and Shapiro & Smith, who knew they could bring work to this theater without worrying whether there was enough of a dance quotient, and fostered the development of artists like David Neumann, ERS, Tory Vasquez, Andrea Klein, and Headlong Dance Theater. Russell was also the first to welcome the burgeoning new burlesque scene to the concert stage at the end of the 1990s, programming Akim Funk Buddha, among others. When Funk Buddha proclaimed, during his 2001 "Urban Mythological Musical," "This is not television!" the declaration could have applied to the theater hosting his show as well as the performance.

For the often-insular world of dance, P.S. 122, which doesn't really market by niche, introduced the art to a broader audience, more likely to be filled with P.S. 122 loyalists than dance insiders, thus making it part of the broader avant-garde cultural mix.

Go back to Flash Reviews
Go Home