Theater in Asylum (TIA) is a New York-based theater company founded in 2010 to provide asylum to highly charged subjects and characters. With an ensemble-driven process and performance, we investigate to inspire curiosity, empathy, and action. We seek a freer world and believe theater is both the means and the ends.
Co-artistic directors Paul Bedard and Katie Palmer founded TIA simultaneously with their first production, Nijinsky in Asylum, in 2010. This dance piece unpacks the story of Vaslav Nijinsky, famed dancer and choreographer of the Ballet Russes. He spent the first 30 years of his life dancing and choreographing, and he spent the last 30 years in an insane asylum. We focused not on the asylum he was kept in, but on the asylum we could offer him. Just as countries provide political asylum to whistleblowers, dissidents, and refugees, we seek to provide asylum through theater. We seek to use the stage as a safe space for unsafe ideas.
For the next three years we worked at a rapid pace. 2011’s Frankenstein brought Ray Kurzweil’s theories on the Singularity in conversation with Mary Shelley’s tale of creator and creation. 2012’s Revolution in 1, a meditation on the cyclical nature of revolution, and 2013’s #Coriolanus, a Twitter-filled investigation of Shakespeare’s play of populism vs. elitism, both questioned the nature of leadership and popular uprise.
Also in 2013, we premiered ¡Olé!, a flamenco-infused piece about an affair between Federico García Lorca and Salvador Dalí. ¡Olé! toured to the Chicago Fringe where it won the Audience Favorite Award, to the Rochester Fringe where it won Best Touring Production, and overseas to the Czech Republic. The Prague Fringe Review acclaimed, "Boldly offering the right kind of asylum to two significantly edgy masters, this is essential theater, and it is beautiful."
In 2014 we began working on our first original musical, a biographical piece on the Brontë sisters. While their novels were criticized for being “corse” and unfeminine, they blazed a trail for how women could be portrayed in literature. After three busy years of research and writing, we premiered a workshop production of The Brontës at The Old Stone House in Park Slope, Brooklyn in 2017. We continue to work on this piece and look forward to its first fully produced presentation.
During the 2016 presidential election, TIA created a process and series of shows entitled The Debates. This iterating adaptation of the presidential debates performed around New York and surrounding states in the lead up to primary elections. NY City Lens wrote that, "Not only was The Debates—a play that amused and educated a full house at the Kraine Theater on the eve of the primary elections—about politics. It was politics." After a successful run of The Debates 2016, we look ahead to an expanded The Debates 2020.