Our first blog entry! I'm happy to be sharing this with all of you.
My name is Jazmyn Arroyo, and I am the Founder / Artistic Director / Director of Everything for Step1 Theatre Project. (That's me on the left! Feeling awkward in front of a camera. I prefer the stage; it's not a secret.) Pictured on the right is Janelle Zapata, Co-Founder / Artistic Director / Director of Everything. Right now, Step1 Theatre Project is just the two of us--which is why we felt it appropriate that our titles included, "Director(s) of Everything". We're very lucky to also have the help of some amazing friends helping us make this all possible.
I feel that it's important to share with you all where Step1 Theatre Project came from. (Sit tight, guys. I promise the future blogs won't be as meaty as this one. But this one's important.)
I'm originally from New Jersey with parents from Puerto Rico. Now, I don't exactly want to get into too many sappy details about why my parents are the source of a lot of my inspiration, but I'll say this: they worked very hard to get me to a place where I could have the education and opportunities that I have now. All of my work is possible because of them--otherwise, I wouldn't have made it to college after high school, let alone graduate. It was at Rutgers University in Newark where I met Janelle Zapata, my fellow 'Rican and artistic soulmate.
During fall of 2014, on past advice from a friend, I moved to Brooklyn with 2 of my lovely roommates. At first, I was thrilled to be in the thick of it all. Working in the city, on staff for a great theatre organization, and pretty much living the dream. I'd always had fantasies of starting a theatre company, but I thought, "Let me get more administrative experience first, then later in the future, I can start a company." But when I had these thoughts last year, I was thinking much later. I hadn't imagined I would jump in the following year.
Nearing the end of my first year living in NYC, I started developing a depression. Now, anyone who knows me well knows I'm a pretty optimistic person; I highly value my spirituality and positive outlook on life. But working in retail, feeling emotionally and mentally exhausted and unfulfilled was starting to catch up with me. I ended up losing my retail job. Though this wouldn't be considered ideal at first, quite frankly, I didn't want the job anymore! So I spent a little over a month unemployed, gathering myself. (...And binge-watching the entire Star Wars series, which I'm totally convinced also helped to inspire me.)
One day during my (f)unemployment, a friend of mine sat with me and had a conversation with me about what I wanted to do. That's a deep question, but I answered with, get some administrative experience, so I can start a company someday in the future. He asked me about this company... What would I do? Who would I help? Are we addressing a problem? And then finally... Why not start now?
I went home, opened a notebook, and began writing out answers to these questions. It was as if a floodgate somewhere inside of me opened up. I scribbled ideas of a company that presented our own artwork--anything we wanted--that we felt was important. I scribbled about a company that was designed to assist other similarly-sized theatre companies rather than compete with them. I wrote about a company that one day would be big enough to hold workshops, seminars, and panels for artists; that would be able to donate performance space and rehearsal space; that would actively promote the work of other artists in the community; that would share information about helpful resources like books, articles, companies, people, and places that are designed to help artists like all of us. I scribbled pages and pages of ideas of a company that is not just about OUR work, because we recognize that the success of independent theatre in New York City--the one city in the world that should have a thriving indie theatre scene--depends on ALL of us... not just the success one or two companies.
I immediately contacted Janelle about all of these things, feeling uplifted, inspired, like somehow the biding spell of my developing depression had immediately began to break. She jumped on board with absolutely no hesitation. (Without her right at my side, I can't imagine how any of what's happening now could be even close to the reality it currently is!) And since then, we've been actively working every day toward the development of this company. While thinking of (many) names for the company, I was eventually brought back to that initial conversation with my friend who once asked, "why not now"? (Because honestly, that's the only question I didn't have a good answer for. The only thing stopping me was myself.) And I heard somewhere that sometimes, when you've got something big on your mind, the hardest part can be getting past step 1. Thus, the birth of our company.
We're looking forward to sharing so much with all of you. We're not hiding behind some kind of online persona--this blog is just us, sharing our thoughts and feelings with you.
You made it to the end? Thanks! Stay tuned!
With love for our art & fellow artists,