Theater company unveils PUSH Forward Project

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Ashley Jones, left, Darren Stevenson and Hassiem Muhammad are behind "You Know Me," the first project for the PUSH Forward Project.

The shut-down of all but essential services in mid-March due to COVID-19 rendered PUSH Physical Theatre jobless. Forced to cancel nearly $50,000 in contracted performances at festivals and theaters, as well as its annual summer intensive that draws students from around the world, the 20-year-old company has no live bookings in sight.

Actors are creating training videos during this time, a YouTube series that now contains a dozen lessons from “Partnering WIthout a Partner” to “Harder Than it Looks.” The nonprofit arts organization also created the PUSH Forward Project.

“The PUSH Forward Project supports our company’s mission to create and perform physical stories that inspire change,” said Darren Stevenson, PUSH co-founder and co-director. “These are especially needed now as we deal with the current upheaval created by COVID-19, as well as social issues like Black Lives Matter.”

The project’s first program is “You Know Me,” which will explore gender, race, religion and generational differences. The plan is for Stevenson, company member Ashley Jones and guest artist Hassiem Muhammad to quarantine for two weeks and conduct brainstorming Zoom sessions. In September, they will create, rehearse and film the results, which will premiere at the KeyBank Rochester Fringe Festival.

The PUSH Forward Project is under consideration by several funders for a grant. PUSH also is launching a crowd fundraiser to help underwrite expenses.

“The performing arts are really struggling right now and will continue to do so until it’s safe to gather again,” Stevenson said. “We’re all very grateful for any support that allows us to continue our work.”