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Daniella Topol of Rattlestick Theater’s New Calling: Nursing

There’s been numerous turnover in theater management recently. Some have been drummed out of their jobs. Others have stop to do one thing else within the arts. Many have retired.

Daniella Topol, the creative director of Rattlestick Playwrights Theater and a career-long theater director, is leaving to change into a nurse.

The bizarre transfer arrives at a pivotal time for Rattlestick, a small Off Broadway firm that, along with rejuvenating following the lengthy pandemic shutdown, is about to embark on a much-needed renovation of its cozy however imperfect West Village dwelling, positioned in a Nineteenth-century church parish home.

Topol, 47, has been main Rattlestick since 2016, succeeding David Van Asselt, who co-founded the corporate. Simply earlier than assuming the management place, she directed at Rattlestick a manufacturing of “Ironbound” by Martyna Majok, who went on to win a Pulitzer Prize for “Price of Dwelling.”

Three years later, one other manufacturing Topol directed at Rattlestick altered her trajectory. Whereas engaged on “Novenas for a Misplaced Hospital,” a play that each chronicled and mourned the demise of St. Vincent’s Hospital in Greenwich Village as patrons moved from location to location related to the story, she consulted with nurses and nursing college students, and one thing sparked.

“A seed was planted after which we continued ahead — a pandemic occurred six months after that, and there was numerous reflection round, ‘The place are we as a subject?’ ‘The place are we as a metropolis?’ ‘The place are we as a rustic?’ ‘The place are we going?’ ‘What position can we play or not play?’ ‘How do I as white lady maintain energy and privilege?’ ‘How don’t I?’ ‘The place do I slot in a constellation in a manner that’s productive?’” she stated. “I’ve been doing, clearly, numerous reflection about my very own private life, and significant and difficult experiences that I’ve had, on a really private stage, and lots of of them have centered inside maternal care complexities, and so it kind of felt prefer it was aligning with the celebs.”

She stated she shouldn’t be positive precisely what she needs to do as a nurse, however she plans to remain in New York, and stated that maternal well being and delivery fairness — a time period used to explain efforts to scale back racial and sophistication inequities for brand new moms and their infants — have change into explicit pursuits, intensified by the overturning of Roe v. Wade. “I’ve been pregnant many occasions — I’ve had a late-term loss, early time period losses, and I’ve a baby,” stated Topol, who lives in Brooklyn along with her husband and 10-year-old daughter. “I really feel prefer it’s a approach to maintain the loss and let that assist inform my subsequent steps on a really private stage.”

So now, whereas getting ready to direct a remaining play for Rattlestick this fall and dealing on different theater initiatives, she is taking prerequisite programs and volunteering at a hospital; Rattlestick is starting a seek for her successor, and she or he hopes that she’s going to overlap with that particular person after which go away someday subsequent 12 months, earlier than beginning nursing college subsequent summer season or fall.

“I’ve solely been a theater particular person,” she stated. “Right here I’m, I’m waking up at 4:30 a.m. to check science and memorize muscle tissues and bones and I’m dissecting a pig. It’s every kind of issues I by no means thought I might do.”

Topol stated there have been different elements as nicely. She stated that she has considered “how lengthy ought to anyone keep in any sort of management place,” and that the civil rights unrest of 2020 had intensified that pondering: “A part of the reckoning was about who’s operating firms, the place does energy lay, and the way a lot energy sharing is there — defining what the trajectory of the sphere is.”

“There are different fantastic artists who can take over Rattlestick and do a fantastic job main it and picture issues I haven’t been capable of think about,” she added.

Because the paths of Topol and Rattlestick diverge, she’s excited about highlighting the theater’s survival and progress, and its dedication to a easy transition.

The corporate, based in 1994, is small — its annual prepandemic funds was $1.2 million, of which 80 p.c was raised from foundations and donors — however has persistently attracted consideration for its formidable work, together with not solely Majok’s early play, but in addition work by Annie Baker, Samuel D. Hunter, Dael Orlandersmith and Heidi Schreck. The theater describes its mission, partially, as prompting “social change,” and far of its programming displays that; its first post-shutdown play was “Ni Mi Madre,” a much-praised autobiographical examination of tradition and sexuality by Arturo Luís Soria, whom the theater has now commissioned to put in writing a follow-up.

“What I’ve beloved about Rattlestick is we’re small and scrappy and genuine and take probabilities and aren’t burdened by large institutional problems with huge unaffordable area — we’re like a motorbike, not a cruise ship,” Topol stated. “You don’t get the luxurious of the cruise ship — you get the scrappy experience of the motorbike — however you get the pliability to have the ability to twist and switch as issues go.”

Topol stated she feels comfy leaving partially as a result of the theater now has a completely financed plan to redo its efficiency area, which it rents harmoniously from St. John’s within the Village, an Episcopal church. The theater area, the place it has been positioned since 1999, has had two critical challenges: The one approach to get there may be to climb a slim stairway, which implies the theater shouldn’t be accessible to those that can’t navigate these stairs; and the one manner to make use of the toilet is to traverse the stage.

Rattlestick has now raised the $4 million — about half from the town — to finance a undertaking that may, at its most simple, add an elevator and patron loos, however will even modernize the doorway and the theater itself by relocating the entrance door, including a field workplace and a small foyer, and eradicating the raised stage in order that the efficiency and seating areas are versatile, in addition to accessible. The theater will be capable to seat as much as 93 individuals — about the identical because it does now. “It’s not ‘greater is best,’” Topol stated. “It seems like we’re actually right-sized for the work that we’re doing.”

The renovation will permit Rattlestick to remain within the West Village, which has change into a really dear space, however is the neighborhood the place the theater has lengthy been positioned and is decided to stay. Rattlestick additionally shares a rehearsal area on Gansevoort Road with three different theater organizations. “It’s vital to take care of locations for artists in our neighborhoods,” stated the renovation’s architect, Marta Sanders.

Development, Topol hopes, will start subsequent summer season, pending metropolis approval, and would final a 12 months; throughout building, the theater would current work at different places. The theater is continuous to boost cash for programming and operations.

The chairman of the theater’s board, Jeff Thamkittikasem, acknowledged shock at Topol’s transfer, however stated he had change into supportive.

“After I first heard about it, I attempted to speak her out of it, however my mother is a nurse, and in some unspecified time in the future it switched for me and I noticed that connection about eager to take care of others in a way more direct, bodily manner,” he stated. “I used to be shocked, but in addition, as I considered it, I noticed the place there was a reference to who she was.”

Thamkittikasem stated the group is wholesome and that the board has retained a search agency to search for Topol’s successor. He added, “Rattlestick is in a really robust place since Daniella took over — we’re stronger financially, we now have good connections to foundations and funders, we now have an lively board and a stable workers, and our status has grown.”

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