For over 15 years, Ildiko Nemeth and the New Stage Theatre Company have developed a reputation as one of New York City’s most exciting alternative performance groups.
Nemeth, who founded New Stage Theatre Company in 2002, in March raised the metaphorical curtain on the New Stage Performance Space located in the basement of the Jazz on the Park Hostel at 36 W. 106th St. The space, which has a legal capacity of 74, is typically being configured to seat around 40-50.
“It’s a luxury for a theater company in New York City to have a home where you can rehearse, where you can create your pieces, at your own pace,” Nemeth said. “That’s definitely something that supports the artistic process. Knowing the space where you stage your piece is a huge advantage.”
She was offered the space by a longtime supporter and now board member, Moish Ziv, owner of Jazz on the Park Hostel.
“I was fortunate,” she said of Ziv, who attended shows regularly before joining the board. “He always loved it. He offered the space for rehearsals, and I turned it into a performance space by doing everything from electrical work to painting.”
Now Nemeth has something new that presents myriad opportunities for the company and its audiences: After years of presenting work at venues such as Theater for the New City, LaMama and Dixon Place, she has a theater of her own.
Their shows are distinguished by a style that combines images, music, movement, light and story to create an immersive effect. Their material is often daring and dark as well as funny. They’ve won numerous awards along the way.
She sees her shows as theatrical compositions that draw from an eclectic array of influences. The pieces merge text, sound, visuals, movement, and technology to create an all-encompassing experience that communicates its message through what she calls “the instinct-driven channels of the senses as well as explicit language.
At once part of the New York City and international theater scene, Nemeth immigrated from Hungary in 1998 after gaining her foothold in the craft there. “In Hungary, I had an extensive theater background. We traveled in Europe with our productions,” she said. “I did not speak English when I came here, so it was a challenging period to figure out how to continue my career.”
Nemeth graduated from the Actors Studio, familiarized herself with the structurally very different “American theater system” and met performers who became part of her original group. “I was certain during my years at the Actors Studio that I wanted to form a theater company, creating a platform to develop ideas and create my shows,” she said.
The New Stage Theatre Company was born and has retained an international feel, frequently presenting European plays, and employing a diverse ensemble of artists from different countries and cultural backgrounds.
She said that “this is part of its mission” and the company is also “dedicated to valuing different artistic elements in productions” as part of its vision.
“I’m coming from a movement theater background. Movement is always part of my theater, and physicality plays an important role as far as expression in my pieces,” Nemeth said. “The visuals are also very important for me. I can be inspired by an image and use it as base for the inquiry to create the piece. Same with a piece of music or a few lines of text.”
Nemeth and her group have been nominated for more than 20 Innovative Theater Awards in categories such as Outstanding Director, Outstanding Ensemble and Innovative Theater Design.
In 2016 they won the IT award for outstanding performance art production for Night, a play by Charles Mee presented at Theater for the New City. She and the group this year were nominated again for outstanding production for Rules.
Nemeth and her group, which receives funds from the New York State Council on the Arts and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, last year received a Caffé Cino Fellowship Award, given annually to a company that consistently produces outstanding work.
“There are so many people doing theater, under less then desirable circumstances in the off-off circles. The city gets more and more expensive. It is getting harder to find affordable venues to do your productions,” she said. “I believe Theater for the New City, LaMama, Dixon Place are places that give opportunities to a variety of artists with diverse voices and provide affordable theater spaces, which is so important to keep the city’s vibrant theater scene alive.”
Now that she has an uptown venue of her own, she can present her work as well as other artists’, showcasing her and others’ vision.
“It is in a wonderful, diverse community,” Nemeth said of the neighborhood. “I think there is definitely a need for more cultural venues there. I am excited about this place and the opportunity to engage a diverse group of artists to present their work independently or in collaboration with NSTC’s artists at New Stage Performance Space.”