Daniella Topol of Rattlestick Theater’s New Calling: Nursing

There’s been a variety of 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 turn into a nurse.

The weird 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, situated 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 linked 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 a variety of reflection round, ‘The place are we as a area?’ ‘The place are we as a metropolis?’ ‘The place are we as a rustic?’ ‘The place are we going?’ ‘What function can we play or not play?’ ‘How do I as white girl maintain energy and privilege?’ ‘How don’t I?’ ‘The place do I slot in a constellation in a approach that’s productive?’” she mentioned. “I’ve been doing, clearly, a variety of reflection about my very own private life, and significant and difficult experiences that I’ve had, on a really private degree, and plenty of of them have centered inside maternal care complexities, and so it kind of felt prefer it was aligning with the celebrities.”

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

So now, whereas making ready to direct a ultimate play for Rattlestick this fall and dealing on different theater tasks, she is taking prerequisite programs and volunteering at a hospital; Rattlestick is starting a seek for her successor, and he or she hopes that she’s going to overlap with that individual after which depart someday subsequent yr, earlier than beginning nursing faculty subsequent summer season or fall.

“I’ve solely been a theater individual,” she mentioned. “Right here I’m, I’m waking up at 4:30 a.m. to review science and memorize muscle mass and bones and I’m dissecting a pig. It’s every kind of issues I by no means thought I’d do.”

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

“There are different fantastic artists who can take over Rattlestick and do an attractive 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 by highlighting the theater’s survival and development, and its dedication to a easy transition.

The corporate, based in 1994, is small — its annual prepandemic finances was $1.2 million, of which 80 % 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 jot down 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 large unaffordable area — we’re like a motorbike, not a cruise ship,” Topol mentioned. “You don’t get the posh of the cruise ship — you get the scrappy journey of the bike — however you get the flexibleness to have the ability to twist and switch as issues go.”

Topol mentioned 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 situated since 1999, has had two critical challenges: The one method to get there’s to climb a slim stairway, which suggests the theater shouldn’t be accessible to those that can’t navigate these stairs; and the one approach to make use of the toilet is to traverse the stage.

Rattlestick has now raised the $4 million — about half from town — to finance a venture that can, at its most simple, add an elevator and patron bogs, however may 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 mentioned. “It appears 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 turn into a really dear space, however is the neighborhood the place the theater has lengthy been situated and is decided to stay. Rattlestick additionally shares a rehearsal area on Gansevoort Avenue with three different theater organizations. “It’s vital to take care of locations for artists in our neighborhoods,” mentioned the renovation’s architect, Marta Sanders.

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

The chairman of the theater’s board, Jeff Thamkittikasem, acknowledged shock at Topol’s transfer, however mentioned he had turn 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 approach,” he mentioned. “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 mentioned 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’ve got good connections to foundations and funders, we’ve got an energetic board and a stable workers, and our fame has grown.”

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