Daniella Topol of Rattlestick Theater’s New Calling: Nursing

The creative director of Rattlestick Playwrights Theater is making an uncommon profession change after getting ready the corporate for a serious renovation.

There’s been loads of turnover in theater management currently. 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 develop 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 house, 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 “Value of Residing.”

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Three years later, one other manufacturing Topol directed at Rattlestick altered her trajectory. Whereas engaged on “Novenas for a Lost 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 loads of reflection round, ‘The place are we as a discipline?’ ‘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 means that’s productive?’” she mentioned. “I’ve been doing, clearly, loads of reflection about my very own private life, and significant and difficult experiences that I’ve had, on a really private stage, 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 will not be positive precisely what she needs to do as a nurse, however she plans to remain in New York, and mentioned that maternal well being and delivery fairness — a time period used to explain efforts to cut back racial and sophistication inequities for brand spanking new moms and their infants — have develop into specific 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 toddler,” mentioned Topol, who lives in Brooklyn together with her husband and 10-year-old daughter. “I really feel prefer it’s a solution to maintain the loss and let that assist inform my subsequent steps on a really private stage.”

Sara Krulwich/The New York Occasions

So now, whereas getting 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 is going to overlap with that individual after which go away someday subsequent yr, earlier than beginning nursing college subsequent summer time 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 effectively. She mentioned 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 working firms, 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 great artists who can take over Rattlestick and do a fantastic job main it and picture issues I haven’t been in a position to think about,” she added.

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

Sara Krulwich/The New York Occasions

The corporate, based in 1994, is small — its annual prepandemic funds 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 put in writing a follow-up.

“What I’ve beloved about Rattlestick is we’re small and scrappy and genuine and take possibilities and aren’t burdened by enormous institutional problems with large unaffordable house — we’re like a bike, not a cruise ship,” Topol mentioned. “You don’t get the luxurious of the cruise ship — you get the scrappy journey of the motorbike — however you get the pliability 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 totally financed plan to redo its efficiency house, which it rents harmoniously from St. John’s in the Village, an Episcopal church. The theater house, the place it has been positioned since 1999, has had two critical challenges: The one solution to get there’s to climb a slender stairway, which suggests the theater will not be accessible to those that can’t navigate these stairs; and the one means to make use of the lavatory is to traverse the stage.

Rattlestick has now raised the $4 million — about half from town — to finance a undertaking that may, at its most simple, add an elevator and patron bogs, however can 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 have the ability to seat as much as 93 individuals — about the identical because it does now. “It’s not ‘larger is best,’” Topol mentioned. “It appears like we’re actually right-sized for the work that we’re doing.”

Dana Golan for The New York Occasions

The renovation will enable Rattlestick to remain within the West Village, which has develop into a really expensive space, however is the neighborhood the place the theater has lengthy been positioned and is decided to stay. Rattlestick additionally shares a rehearsal house 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 time, pending metropolis approval, and would final a yr; throughout development, the theater would current work at different areas. The theater is constant to lift cash for programming and operations.

The chairman of the theater’s board, Jeff Thamkittikasem, acknowledged shock at Topol’s transfer, however mentioned he had develop 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 means,” 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 have now good connections to foundations and funders, we have now an energetic board and a strong employees, and our fame has grown.”

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