Meet Ossining’s Nathan Flower, Co-Producer of Westchester Collaborative Theater’s Inaugural ‘Hudson Valley New Voices’ Festival
“We’re not competing with New York City, we are cultivating our own artistic brand in Westchester where there is so much fertile material,” said Nathan (Nate) Flower, co-producer of Westchester Collaborative Theater (WCT)’s inaugural three-part Hudson Valley New Voices (HVNV) festival, streaming alternate weekends May 20 through June 20. Alan Lutwin, executive director of the Ossining-based theater company, is co-producer.
Flower, associate chair of the drama department at NYU Tisch and an Ossining resident for the past dozen years continued, “While New York City is a global theater hub, Westchester and the Hudson Valley region can centralize and mobilize to create theater that is world class.”
Strong words from a theater professional who lived much of his life in Astoria and has been embedded in the City’s theater for 30+ years first as an actor and, more recently, primarily as an instructor, director and physical performance choreographer.
“I used to think of myself as a City-based theater maker, but this area is ripe for growth and change and capable of producing thoughtful, relevant work. Theater companies in the county have an opportunity, even an obligation to keep elevating the quality of theater making in Westchester,” said Flower who is the artistic director of the Hudson Valley Moving Company (HVMC), a troupe of expressive movement actors who perform county-wide.
During a 2017 lunch with Lutwin, a meeting brokered by Henry Welt, CEO of Ossining Innovates!, Lutwin stressed WCT’s commitment to diversity. Flower, who has long advocated that theater must truthfully reflect society, applauded, noting that inclusivity must be multi-generational.
Flower had become a veteran WCT director/curator when he agreed to co-produce the festival and direct Gen Z Outloud in late 2020. A massive outreach to aspiring playwrights, ages 13-20, from area high schools, colleges, and theater groups resulted in 40 submissions and 14 selections.
“The reading committee couldn’t believe the writers’ ages!” said Flower. In a talk-back, playwright Kat Bellew said, “I write a lot of things that are unsettling. I’m not good at happy endings. I want to leave the audience with an emotional resonance.”
Flower has his own talented Gen Z contingent at home – Son Lowden, 18, is the broadcast technician for HVNV; daughter Addison, 16, has performed as a percussionist with HVMC; son Junot, 13, is a cellist and jazz drummer. Wife Missy Flower has performed with WCT including HVNV.
Vintage Voices, dramatic stories told by seniors, came about thanks to WCT actor Christine Fonsale who began an initiative based on a Life Stories program. She interacted with Ossining Atria residents via Zoom assisted by Atria Engage Life Director Lorraine Festa.
Said Fonsale, “The beauty of the program is that it gives the residents an opportunity to form a community. They are amazing people, and their lives are incredibly rich.” She also created a mini-group through Ossining Arts Council member Bonnie Coe.
Vintage Voices streams online June 4 & 5 at 8 pm and 6 at 3 pm: Vintage Voices-wctvintagevoices.eventbrite.com.
Voices of Color, plays by persons of color, is dedicated to the memory of WCT’s writer/director/actor Joe Albert Lima who died in 2020. Emerging playwright and longtime WCT member Misha Templar Sinclair took up the mantle as director and producer together with co-producer Melissa Nocera.
Says Sinclair, who sought scripts from community groups and places of worship, “The plays are a compilation of lives, values, and experiences ranging from Jim Crow to living as a person of color in contemporary America. They are a bold and poignant reminder of how far we have come and how much farther we can go. They are revelations from the heart.”
Will Hudson Valley New Voices Festival become an annual event?
“Absolutely!” said Flower. “We will be back in person, just as robust and diverse, and grateful that the first one exceeded all our hopes.”
Voices of Color streams Friday, June 18 and Saturday, June 19 at 8 pm and Sunday, June 20 at 3 pm. Visit: wctvoicesofcolor.eventbrite.com or call (914) 263-4953.
Evelyn Mertens is a playwright and PR specialist based in northern Westchester.