By Tanay Warerkar
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
At 11 a.m. on a December morning, Nasrene Haj, 22, met an actor, a dancer and a poet in the lobby of the NU hotel in Downtown Brooklyn. She made introductions, got a key at the front desk, and escorted them to Room 410. She ushered them inside, then shut the door behind them, leaving the three alone.
She would return seven hours later expecting one thing: art.
Dec. 1 was the opening night for The Creators Collective, an interdisciplinary art group created by Haj and her partner, Mila Pinigin, 22. The concept is simple: put three artists in a room together, see what they come up with, then put it on stage that night. The idea is to allow audience members to enter the room, observe, and participate in the creation of a final product the artists would present the following morning over brunch.
“I fell in love with this idea that you have 24 hours to make something,” said Pinigin. “It’s like an artsy one-night stand.”
The three-hour show took place on two stages in the hotel, the lobby and room 410.
In the lobby, a video of the action in the hotel room was projected on the wall. Groups of six to eight were then escorted by women dressed in clothes made of scraps of paper -- created by Joseph Quintela, a poet-sculptor -- to the room upstairs throughout the show.
Upstairs, guests were led to the hotel room door, where it was opened and left slightly ajar. The woman pushed through and ushered the audience in.
“It’s like a haunted house,” said one of the audience members.
A man dressed in a hat, sunglasses and a black overcoat sat on a chair adjacent to the table in the room. Suddenly the man bolted toward the bathroom. Curious, audience members followed him. In the shower stall, a woman, with scraps of toilet paper tied to her hands, was dancing from side to side on a bed of torn-up old newspapers.
A man sat on the toilet, mumbling to himself. Meanwhile, the man in the sunglasses vigorously wiped the sink counter top, and with each turn made a tally mark on a chalkboard right above it.
Ten minutes into the performance, the three performers, Nick Trotta, 24; Melissa Alexis, 36; and Joseph Quintela, 32, made their way to the center of the room, signaling the end to the performance.
The creators then asked for audience feedback, with the final product in mind.
“I liked the scenes in the bathroom,” said one of the audience members. “It had this take it or leave it sense. You could either watch it or not.”
“Yes, we were trying to explore the sense of privacy, and ritual in a private space like a hotel room,” replied Quintela.
“Next time you should leave at the end and let the people interact themselves with the space for a bit,” suggested an audience member to the performers, just as the group was being escorted back to the lobby.
The elevator buzzed with excitement as the audience rode back to the lobby. “I thought it was really innovative,” said Alison Rosenblatt, 22. “At first I didn’t know what was going on, but then I became a part of the art project.”
Pinigin and Haj launched the collective in October 2012, just four months after they graduated from Sarah Lawrence College with bachelor’s degrees in liberal arts, majoring in visual arts and dance respectively. The idea for the collective was germinated two years ago at a restaurant in Florence, where the two were studying for the semester.
“We were sort of working in the hamster wheel of the art world, and not really being able to move forward,” said Pinigin, who worked art internships over summer breaks. “We thought that we would really like to work for ourselves. Now that we have graduated we are tired of working at internships and for other people.”
Pinigin, in addition to working internships, had been hosting at a restaurant to pay the bills, but quit when the company was officially launched. Haj is supported by her parents, and has been using savings from her jobs working at the BEAT festival and Celebrate Brooklyn to support the company. They hope the company will change all that.
In the months since graduation, Pinigin and Haj launched their website, raised money from their friends, including a check from a professor at Sarah Lawrence College. They applied for and received fiscal sponsorship from Fractured Atlas, a national non-profit organization that provides services to independent art groups, in exchange for 6 percent of revenue.
The Collective charged $15 for the performance, attracting about 50 people.
The morning after the performance, the audience was invited back to the hotel to watch a final performance created with input from audience members.
“It is has been a real fertile ground for creativity,” said Alexis. “Being with a theater artist who has a range of amazing skills, and then being with a poet, we all sort of have an eye toward being inter-disciplinary.”
Plans for their next event – A poetry and book slam in January – are already underway. Pinigin and Haj will use the footage from the show to launch a campaign on Indiegogo, an international crowd-funding website for the arts, to market and promote their future events.
“I would just be happy if our projects can sustain themselves,” said Pinigin. “That would be the main goal for now.”