TOWN STAGES Welcomes Chie Morita as Deputy Director

 Chie Morita, photo by  Michael Kushner

Chie Morita, photo by Michael Kushner

At her core, and in all her artistic endeavors, Chie seeks creative solutions to everyday debacles. With a wide variety of experiences in the New York City arts scene, Chie is dedicated to generating resources, kindling conversation and connectivity, and creating educational opportunities for artists to work smarter. Already with TOWN, she, in partnership with Sokoloff Arts, has launched a Fellowship Program that will offer artists, and makers of all kinds, the opportunity to claim highly subsidized space at TOWN STAGES, while building a cohort for discussion, feedback, and creative growth.  

“At the end of the day, one of NYC’s largest (and ever growing) resources is its wealth of talented artists and storytellers. I am dedicated to their stories and their success. I am dedicated to their health and happiness. And I am dedicated to allowing them every freedom to make the work they are compelled to make, for they are what make this city great,” says Morita.

After graduating with a theater degree from Northern Arizona University, Chie bought a one-way ticket to New York City, and looked to sink or swim. She began with an internship with The Wings Theatre, which grew to an associate producer role within 6 months. Next, she held positions in the Casting, Production, and Executive offices at The Public Theater, after which she tried her hand on the Great White Way with Broadway Producer Joey Parnes.

While at the Public, she had the pleasure of working on such hits as Here Lies Love, Fun Home, several seasons of Emerging Writers Group readings and Shakespeare in the Park adventures, and a very early experiment called Straight White Men. With the Parnes Office, Chie’s work began with assisting Tracie Bennett (then playing Judy Garland in End of the Rainbow), and after a comical conversation about how neither of them knew what personal assistants were supposed to do, Chie helped coordinate a lot of press events, managed a lot of timing fiascos, and spent more time in Tiffany’s than she ever had before, or has since. She also developed a taste for Cosmos. It was an excellent year. Also with Parnes, she helped to produce End of the Rainbow, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder, and several years worth of Drama Desk Awards ceremonies. Most recently, Chie proudly served as the Managing Director of the 3-time-Drama-Desk-Nominated New York Neo-Futurists and General Managed their January 2017 Prime Time production, The Great American Drama.

TOWN’s Executive Director, Robin Sokoloff, is thrilled to have Chie onboard as Deputy Director, to formalize and expand the services they’ve been providing for the past 5 years at Loft227. “Chie is an outstanding artist and community leader with an incredible mind for operations, logistics, and finance. She’s that rare combination of what I call left brain - right brain - heart brain, that can hold space for those of us who may only excel in one or the other. For all those that we will be supporting under our new roof at Town Stages, Chie Morita is going to be an extraordinary resource in helping shape the lifecycle of their endeavor.”

Chie recalls “Robin and I have been orbiting each other for several years now. I was introduced to her (and Loft227), through Dave Thomas Brown, who chose her venue to shoot some headshots for me. I am not an actor, and being in front of a camera for that long I find mildly terrifying, but between Dave’s professional ease and Robin’s casual banter, we were soon relaxed and having a great time. I immediately knew that Robin was my kind of people.”

In 2016, Chie and her long-time collaborator Greg Taubman began an arts consultancy called FORGE. FORGE is dedicated to helping arts companies and independent artists take the next step with their work, whatever that next step might be. Recently, they have guided performers into self producing roles, helped arts administrators consider long term plans, time management strategies, and burnout prevention, and advised organizations on company longevity and vision. They are also advising The Barn Arts Collective (in Bar Harbor, ME) on how to become and maintain a 501(c)3, and are a resource for theater companies statewide through the 2017 NYSCA-A.R.T./NEW YORK Creative Opportunity Fund. FORGE also runs a monthly writing retreat, called FORGE FUEL, at an idyllic farm house in Danbury, CT, and are in the midst of a capital campaign to renovate the barn on property into a residency space, called the Howard Taubman Playhouse, for artists and their work.

“In the months following meeting Robin, I kept finding myself back at Loft… I would attend a friend’s new musical production, and I would find myself staring up at the memorable silver “227”; I would go to a company launch party, and there I was again; I would drop by a colleagues graduation party, and… you guessed it. Finally taking the universe’s hints, I organized an awards party, produced a reading for The NY Neo-Futurists, and launched my consulting company, FORGE, all out of Loft227 with Robin’s help. It became my go-to venue when I needed somewhere that felt like home, and the first place I would suggest when friends sought a venue to make their work come to life.”

Sokoloff has a habit of recruiting dynamic lady bosses to run her shop, while they are building remarkable companies of their own. Now, Chie splits her time between TOWN STAGES and FORGE, and finds that the amount of crossover that occurs between thinking about the two organizations is astronomical, and very exciting.

Sokoloff explains, “Call me crazy, but I want a company full of experienced and talented thought leaders who are passionately engaged on many fronts. I’m looking for people who know exactly how it feels to be all-in on their own dream, where the stakes have been as high as mine are here. Women with fresh ideas and pathways forward who have a proven track record of executing on them; no matter the challenges ahead. When Chie said she’s also building a home for artists upstate and in Connecticut, I got chills. We have similar goals, and so much overlap in our approach, and plenty of areas we excel in outside of each other’s scope. More women making strides and making space means more opportunities for our creative community that’s suffered a shocking rent hike in recent years, and rapidly changing political landscape. Opening a new storefront arts institution in New York City’s risky and competitive real estate market will not be without it’s challenges, but the long term impact on those young artists and innovators we are supporting will be felt for generations to come. They are what’s important and we’re gonna rise to the occasion for them. Town’s success will be everyone’s success; and it will take a team of world-class, hard-working visionaries like Chie Morita: Someone who can both dream big and expertly navigate the very real complexities on the ground.”

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For years, Sokoloff successfully ran Loft227 at capacity, without seeking outside funding and non-profit support services of any kind. All the while, her inbox flooded with more and more requests from local creators to expand into a larger location with a larger audience size. She was hesitant at first on how to move forward, knowing that with more space comes exponentially greater responsibilities. She explains, “We took our first 5 years to learn all we could, and be sure our non-traditional model performed as well as we hoped. We are proud to be growing so quickly, and in Chie we’ve now found the kind of unparalleled leadership that’s both been in the trenches with their fellow creatives, and has the institutional non-profit background to carry us into this new territory at Town Stages. It takes a truly unique individual to navigate New York City’s complex artistic ecosystem from all sides. If you give Chie a puzzle, she’ll find you three solutions and keep working on a fourth. We are so pleased to have Chie at our helm as we take this leap, keeping the trains on the tracks, and building even more opportunities for artistic engagement as we nearly quadruple in size and scope of what we offer.”

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As a freelance theater professional executing roles in both the commercial and DIY artist space, Chie has also cast, produced, general managed, and made movement (for theater, film, and the occasional circus piece) with such institutions, independent artists, and ensembles as Ars Nova, Heather Christian and the Arbornauts, Extant Arts Company, UglyRhino, Panicked Productions, Fresh Ground Pepper, art.party.theater.company, Kelly Zen-Yie Tsai, Sal Bardo, Emilie McDonald, Sarah Jenkins and Ashley Alexander. She is also a proud board member for The Musical Theatre Factory.

Looking forward to announcing the inaugural fellowship recipients with Sokoloff Arts, the renovation of the Howard Taubman Studio in Connecticut, and the opening of Town’s doors this Fall, Morita says, “I am thrilled to be on a team of powerhouse women whose personal missions align so closely to my own, and I cannot wait for what we will be able to build together. At the end of the day, I think, it’s all about belonging, and the legacy of home. Everyone remembers their childhood space. The place they grew up and defined themselves as people. Going home, back to our roots, instills a sense of comfort and safety in all of us. The smell of the varnished wood cabinets… the terrible shag carpet between your toes… your grandmother's perfume… we all have those sensory cues that say ‘you’re good’. These days, we are all so used to the disappointed sigh that comes with ‘I have nowhere to go. I have nowhere to make my work and hang my hat. Nobody wants me’. We are building Town Stages to solve this lostness, and to say “Come home, take off your shoes, and wiggle your toes in our carpet. Take off your coat, stay a while, and dream.”

Check out Chie and FORGE’s capital campaign for the Howard Taubman Playhouse here, and follow FORGE on Facebook and Instagram at @forge_nyc.

Robin Sokoloff

Robin Sokoloff is a lifelong dancer, theater professional, and activist: Passionate about building platforms for women and minority voices.

Combining her craft talents as a producer, casting director, and choreographer, Robin Sokoloff spent her twenties developing interactive entertainment concepts for venues, record labels, and big brand events nationwide. Her high-profile rock show “Spotlight Live” ran for two years in the heart of Times Square on Broadway; featured on Good Morning America, The Today Show, The Whoopi Show, The Montel Williams Show, Fox 5 News, WPIX Channel 11 News, Good Day NY, and NY 1.

After starting up Data Insights and Analytics Firm SolvedByData (Freelancers Union, Microsoft, Mobile Commons, Heineken, Forbes), Robin set her sights on solving the problem of access to minority friendly and affordable creative space in New York City for artists and entrepreneurs. By leveraging her industry techspertise in building and lighting design, Robin built Loft227: A performance and event venue providing enterprise level production resources that supports new works that inspire, enlighten, and strengthen communities through interactive entertainment and political action.

As Executive Director of Loft227, Robin has grown the organization to encompass 20,000 emerging artists, entrepreneurs, and their supporters, with an emphasis on the advancement of young women, minorities, and LGBTQ voices. For over 5 years, Sokoloff has leveraged her space to donate over $215,000 each year in sponsorship, rehearsal hours, and production dollars to the best and brightest innovators New York City has to offer.  Robin and her team have supported over 600 live events in under 5 years, directly creating jobs for over 54 local freelance artists, and enabling an additional 1,800 freelance supporting jobs for various organizations and events. In all, Loft227 has seen 68,000 unique visitors through it’s doors. 

Loft227 is set to expand into a location 5X it's current size in Summer 2017, to meet the city's overwhelming demand for dynamic space and mentorship in NYC. 

Most recently, Robin Sokoloff fully produced “Queer Composers For Orlando”, “The Lost” – A New Play By Keelay Gipson, “The Giants” – A New Play By Matthew Jellison, “Bun In The Oven” – A Film By Jono Freedrix, and launched Hong Kong’s smash hit, “The Easy Hour” in New York City (I AM Concepts). She is currently choreographing Pasek and Paul's award-winning musical "DOGFIGHT" for 5th Floor Theater Company at The Hudson Guild Theater. 

Robin serves on the Board of The Musical Theater Factory: Developing of over 90 new musicals with more than 900 volunteers contributing over 15,000 combined hours of service. 

Robin holds a BA in Sociology from New York University’s College of Arts and Sciences, she is a graduate of NEW (Non-Traditional Employment For Women), and a member of The United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America w/ Local 157; proud to have built this city she loves. Robin is a certified NYS Rape Crisis Advocate for the Crime Victims Treatment Center; volunteering overnights at St. Luke’s/ Roosevelt and Lenox Hill Hospitals supporting victims of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. She’s also an advocate mentor for CVTC, training new volunteers each year.

Robin is a sanctioned athlete with The United Skates Figure Skating Association.