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About


Vision | Artistic Directors | Staff | Critical Response

 

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About


Vision | Artistic Directors | Staff | Critical Response

 

Above Photo by Starboard Photos

About the Company

Hailed as one of the foremost companies creating site-specific, immersive and experiential dance and theater, Third Rail Projects, led by Artistic Directors Zach Morris, Tom Pearson, and Jennine Willett, is dedicated to re-envisioning ways in which audiences engage with contemporary performance. They have made work in New York, nationally, and abroad since 2000. Their currently running, award-winning immersive hit Then She Fell, was named as one of the “Top Ten Shows of 2012” by Ben Brantley of The New York Times, and acclaimed as one of the best theater experiences of 2013 by Vogue.

In 2016, the company premiered four major works, all of which were met with massive critical and audience recognition: As Time Goes By in St. Petersburg, Russia, Sweet & Lucky with the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Learning Curve with Albany Park Theater Project in Chicago, and The Grand Paradise, in Brooklyn which ran for 11 months and garnered rave reviews and Critic’s Picks from The New York Times and Time Out New York, among others.

The artistic directors and company work nationally on new immersive and site-specific projects and internationally through the newly launched Global Performance Studio (GPS), which combines Third Rail Projects’ creative and educational offerings through a program of cultural listening and exchange. Third Rail Projects has been the recipient of several prestigious awards, including two New York Dance and Performance (Bessie) Awards for Then She Fell (2013) and Vanishing Point (2008), and the artistic directors were recently named among the 100 most influential people in Brooklyn Culture by Brooklyn Magazine.

Fundamental to Third Rail Projects is the notion of re-imagining contexts for presenting contemporary work, as exemplified by a history of creating work sought after by avid dance and theater goers as well as underserved populations and those seeking unique experiences. Collaboration is integral to all of Third Rail Projects’ endeavors, both in the creative process as well as the intersection with each new site, community, and cultural landscape in which they work. This manifests in numerous points of inquiry and programmatic objectives that foster artistic exchange and shared practice across unique communities.

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Artistic Directors


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Artistic Directors


Above Photo by Starboard Photos

Meet The artistic directors

Zach Morris (Third Rail Projects Co-Artistic Director) is co-creator of the immersive theater hits Then She Fell, The Grand Paradise, Sweet & Lucky, and most recently Ghost Light at Lincoln Center Theater’s Claire Tow Theater.  Zach's work includes site-specific performance, multimedia installation art and environments, and experiential performance.  He is particularly interested in creating projects that place contemporary art and performance in non-traditional contexts. 

Zach is fascinated by colliding dream-like, archetypal images with the pedestrian, highly personal realities of everyday life to create juxtapositions and metaphors that resonate on a fundamental, intuitive level and allow us access to more elusive but equally potent ways of understanding ourselves and our world. Critics have described his work as “visually stunning,” “wickedly clever,” and “hauntingly melancholy.” Others have said, “there is no escaping the feeling that you have been doing drugs for the past hour. Good drugs.”

Zach has been honored with numerous awards, including two BESSIE awards, and was recently named as one of the 100 most influential people in Brooklyn culture by Brooklyn Magazine.  His work has been presented nationally and internationally with the support of numerous grants, commissions, and residencies and he has had the pleasure of teaching, mentoring, and creating new platforms to support the work of artists both at home and abroad.  Zach holds a BFA in Directing from Carnegie Mellon University.

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Tom Pearson (Third Rail Projects Co-Artistic Director) is a Bessie award-winning director and choreographer working in a variety of media that includes interactive and immersive theater, contemporary dance, site-specific performance, film, visual art, and large-scale art installations. Each work introduces its own movement and/or visual vocabulary, defined by the parameters of the subject and performance environment. Through the lens of a movement-based vocabulary, he creates dense, evocative worlds that illuminate the transient and the transformational, using images abstracted from and coupled with everyday action. Paired with this is a fierce percussive abandon, often complimented by meditative nuance. Likewise, Pearson uses art installation to achieve rich, multi-dimensional environments, and site-specific explorations seek to mine public spaces for hidden meaning and to capture and engage unwary and unsuspecting passersby. Most recently, he is the co-creator of the popular touring work, Roadside Attraction and the immersive theater hits The Grand Paradise (2016), and Then She Fell, which was chosen as one of the top ten theater works of 2012 by Ben Brantley of The New York Times, and as best in theater for 2013 by Vogue Magazine, hailing it as “… haunting, hallucinatory, and profoundly intimate.” Then She Fell continues its run, surpassing 2,500 performances in early 2017.

Tom has received commissions to create original work by Danspace Project; Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts; the Hong Kong Youth Arts Foundation; Arts Brookfield; and the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (LMCC), among others. Additionally, his work has been presented in New York by Dance Theater Workshop (DTW); La Mama E.T.C.; the National Museum of the American Indian; Dixon Place; with The Thunderbird Indian Dancers at Theater for the New City; The New York International Fringe Festival; and Dance New Amsterdam, to name a few. Tom has been supported with residencies from LMCC; Arts Brookfield, the 92nd Street Y Harkness Dance Center; DTW; Topaz Arts; Epiphany Theater Company; and Swarthmore College. He has received the Ford Foundation’s IllumiNation Grant (2009) from the Museum of the American Indian, and is the recipient of two New York Dance and Performance (Bessie) awards for Vanishing Point (2008) and Then She Fell (2013), and an award for excellence in choreography from the Present Company.

Tom helms the international programs for Third Rail Projects and is Director of the Global Performance Studio, and works with artist populations in a variety of international communities to develop innovative site-specific and immersive works and to share creative methods. He received his MA in Performance Studies from New York University/Tisch School of the Arts, and his BFA in Dance and BA in Literature from Florida State University. He has taught as a faculty member and guest artist at the Florida School of the Arts; as a movement instructor for Opera Workshop at LaGuardia High School for the Performing Arts (through New York City Opera’s Arts-in-Education program); as the Dance Program Coordinator at the Award-winning LEVELS teen center in Long Island; through master classes at Swarthmore College, through Town Hall Foundation Arts-in-Education, for the Hong Kong Youth Arts Foundation, through CEC Artslink and the Trust for Mutual Understanding in Kazakhstan, Kyrgystan, and Russia, and in a variety of other programs. He teaches his own methods and those of Third Rail Projects through ongoing company workshops. He has also served as an adjunct faculty member of the Florida State University Dance Department from 2009–2013, teaching a choreography lab (with Zach Morris and Jennine Willett) for the FSU in NYC program under the direction of Sally Sommer.

Tom’s writings on performance have been published in Dance MagazineDance SpiritTime Out New York Kids, online as Editor for the Public Theater’s Native Theater Journal and the former New York Dance Journal, and as an interviewer for NYU’s Hemispheric Institute; his photos have appeared in The New York Times and others; and his creative writing has received both the Cody Harris Allen and Kingsbury Fellowship awards from Florida State University. In addition to his work and writings in the contemporary arts, Tom also participates in traditional American Indian events as a dancer and singer; is a PADI certified Scuba Diver, and an amateur botanist who has worked for and holds a Certificate in Horticulture from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

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Jennine Willett (Third Rail Projects Co-Artistic Director) is co-creator of the Brooklyn immersive theater hits Then She Fell (2012), currently running in its fourth year, and The Grand Paradise (2016,) as well as the popular touring work, Roadside Attraction, a traveling time-capsule created for a vintage 70s era pop-up camper.  She led a two-year collaboration between Third Rail Projects and Chicago’s Albany Park Theater Project, culminating in the production of Learning Curve, an immersive journey into a Chicago public high school. Performed by 33 youth artists, Learning Curve was named one of the Top Ten shows of 2016 by the Chicago Tribune, Time-Out, and the Chicago Sun-Times, who called it “an altogether wondrous, one-of-a-kind, ‘immersive’ masterwork.”.  Most recently, Jennine co-created Ghost Light, a performance about performance at Lincoln Center Theater’s Claire Tow Theater.

Jennine’s work takes shape in many forms including staged dance pieces, site-specific works in public spaces, and immersive performances — where the edges between performer and audience are blurred and the narrative is encountered from inside of the story itself. She looks for ways to both transport and connect to audiences by exploring relatable life experiences, with the hopes of building human connections.

Jennine leads Third Rail Projects’ education initiatives, engaging with artists of all disciplines in a learning environment that encourages experimentation and collaboration, both of which are an integral part of Third Rail’s work. She has worked with numerous academic institutions and arts organizations, most recently with Lincoln Center Theater, Columbia Teachers’ College, Gibney Dance, and Princeton University. She has been honored with two BESSIE awards, and was named as one of the 100 most influential people in Brooklyn culture by Brooklyn Magazine.  Jennine holds an MFA degree from Florida State University in Performance and Choreography.

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Company Staff


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Company Staff


Above Photo by Starboard Photos

Who we are

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Press


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Press


Above Photo by Starboard Photos

Features + Reviews

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Other Critical Response


MEDIA

FOX5 NY - The Grand Paradise

American Theatre Wing

Off Book from PBS

Brooklyn Independent TV

NBC NY - Niteside