“New Paradise Laboratories (NPL) was founded to create surprising, meticulous, spiritually challenging, and wholly distinctive experimental theatre productions that investigate physical expression, on-stage and in life. These productions are assembled using collaborative creative processes developed by the company. The work tends to value wild humor, shock, a concern for history, a muscular visual sensibility, and a fascination with the utopian impulse. Furthermore, NPL uses the fruits of its experimentation to benefit the artistic and audience community as a whole.
“Founded in 1996, NPL is comprised of six actor/designers, a roster of guest artists, and Whit MacLaughlin, the founding Artistic Director. NPL has undertaken a sustained series of activities with a company of performers who have worked and trained together for fourteen years. All members share a common theatrical vocabulary born of the pedagogy that MacLaughlin has developed. NPL has created at least one, wholly original theatre piece each year since its founding, presenting 3 to 4-week runs of 12 to 25 performances each. At the same time, we have two to three new pieces in the pipeline for development. Typically, each new theatre work is the product of one to three years of research, development, and rehearsal, and premieres in Philadelphia. Included in the list of these works are the OBIE-award winning THE FAB 4 REACH THE PEARLY GATES, STUPOR, two pieces about life in Philadelphia—RROSE SELAVY TAKES A LOVER IN PHILADELPHIA and PLANETARY ENZYME BLUES—and commissions from nationally prominent theatre organizations—PROM, which premiered at the Children’s Theatre Company of Minneapolis and BATCH, which was commissioned by the Humana Festival of New
American Plays in Louisville, Kentucky. FATEBOOK (2009), NPL’s first in a trilogy of cyber-space/real-space works, received national and international attention and represented a major expansion in the scope of NPL’s artistic work. NPL was recognized for this with an Engage 2020 Grant from the Philadelphia & Wallace Foundations to explore building an online performance platform, which is planned as part all new works created by the company. FATEBOOK will be included in the US exhibition at the Prague Quadrennial 2011. NPL completed an artistic collaboration with playwright Adriano Shaplin and his company The Riot Group to create FREEDOM CLUB, which premiered in September 2010 and received attention for national publications and critics. The design for this piece wasl be profiled in the December 2010 issue of American Theatre magazine and the script will be published in The Drama Review in Spring 2011.
The actors who comprise the company have become an integral part of the Philadelphia artistic community, performing at the Arden, Wilma, InterAct, and Philadelphia Theatre Company, among many others. They have been recognized as artists in their own right and work as actors, directors, designers, and writers at theatres throughout the region. The past fourteen years have been marked by two residencies in prominent venues in New York, Barrymore and OBIE awards, a Pew Charitable Trusts Fellowship for MacLaughlin, PCA fellowships for the entire company, MAP Fund awards, NEA grants, and national tours and commissions. NPL was deemed Best Theatre Company of the Year by Philadelphia Magazine in 2002 and 2006, Ensemble of the Year by the Philadelphia Inquirer in 2000, and given a Best of Philly listing by the Philadelphia City Paper in 2002 and 2003. In addition, for the 2007 F. Otto Haas Emerging Artist Award, three of the five nominees were NPL company members. Company Member Matt Saunders won this award. Company member Jorge Cousineau was named Artist of the Year by Philadelphia Weekly magazine in 2010.
In addition, NPL’s core value of sharing the fruits of its experimentation with the artistic community as a whole has led to a residency program that takes a systematic but personalized approach to teaching students and pre-professional artists the techniques used to devise new work. Several new companies and countless professional artists have been launched through NPL’s residency programs. NPL has begun mentoring solo artists in developing their own work, and is assisting with productions and runs of these works. This year will see the production and tour of THE WORD, a solo piece by Brian Osborne, and the development and workshop phase of THE JOANS, featuring music and text by performer Annie Enneking.
Finally, NPL has been recognized as a nimble company administratively, able to weather the economic crises with agility. We believe NPL represents a new kind of model for nonprofits, once that fits into the ecosystem of performing arts communities. We focus on low infrastructure, the ability to expand and contract with projects, paying artists and production staff well relative to other similarly sized companies, and acting as a think tank in the service of larger institutions and organizations. This while remaining dedicated to producing only original new works that redefine theatre form allow us to sustain our operations and create world-class work.”