Horse Trade Theater Group

A Theasy Interview with Managing Director Erez Ziv and Artistic Director Heidi Grumelot

If you're a theatre practitioner in New York City, chances are you've either worked with Horse Trade yourself or you know someone who has. This constantly busy company has been an off off Broadway staple for over a decade, maintaining several spaces on East 4th Street and ensuring that those spaces are always showing new and thoughtful work. From their own productions to supporting their resident companies, Horse Trade is consistently presenting theatre from new and emerging artists around town, while bridging the gap between artists all over the world. Read more about the company from its superiors who know best, Managing Director Erez Ziv and Artistic Director Heidi Grumelot. And then donate to their campaign to save UNDER St. Marks from its real estate fate. For more information about Horse Trade and its upcoming schedule, visit

When did Horse Trade begin?  What was the impetus to start the company?

Erez: Horse Trade was started in 1998 in the Red Room Theater and quickly expanded to encompass The Kraine Theater downstairs. Horse Trade was created to be a theater production and space management company that produces in its own venues as well as providing well-maintained and affordable space to other companies in NYC.


What are Horse Trade’s overall objectives as a New York theatre company?

Erez: Our goal is to provide a springboard for plays, playwrights, directors, actors, designers and other theater professionals. To help turn new work and young emerging artists into proven work and established artists.

Heidi: Horse Trade’s continuing mission is to seek out new art, new artists, and new audiences. To create an accessible community of varied voices that values collaboration, resourcefulness, and innovation. To provide a home for independent theater artists by nurturing their development and helping them to establish their artistic careers. To expose their work and promote it to local, national, and international audiences.


What makes Horse Trade different from other theatre companies?

Erez: We present a season that promotes the work of as many as six resident companies in addition to our own productions, as well as a whole host of monthly shows and guest artists. In addition to this we make our spaces available to outside companies for rental. Our three spaces are constantly busy ensuring that no precious performance space and time is wasted. With so many theater venues’ having closed in recent years we feel it is important to ensure that the ones still around are put to good use!

Heidi: I think we are very pro artist. We love self-producing artists and we love thinking outside the box. This has lead to many wonderful collaborations on stage. Off stage, I think starting with a self-sustained business model has put us ahead of the game. Now that the economy is so rough, everyone is talking about how to be self-sustained; we've been doing it for 12 seasons. It is good to have the ability to support ourselves and ask for help for worthwhile projects. This makes Horse Trade a good investment.


It seems like Horse Trade is always producing theatre.  How involved are you in the work you produce?  How do you manage such a full schedule?

Erez: We select our resident companies very carefully to ensure that we do not have to micromanage their productions. We have a great deal of faith in our resident artists and trust them to put on good work. We check in with them regularly as they are in the office at least once a week.  We help with anything they ask for help with but allow them to let their voice be heard in each of their productions as loudly as we want our voices heard in our own.

Heidi: We are very busy and we have a very small staff. Our involvement with each project we produce ranges from functioning as a presenter to mounting the entire production from start to finish. Right now we are about to open Lines by Terence Patrick Hughes in rep with Breakfast by Yusef Miller and Ambrosia by Kelley Girod. We have been producing, casting, directing, promoting, building, and managing all aspects of these productions. 


What is your resident program all about?

Erez: Our Resident Artist program provides a stable and secure home and a playground for up to 6 companies a year. Removing from their production concerns such worries as acquiring space, finding a publicist, setting up and running a box office, etc. We also provide them with years of experience in scheduling, season composition, marketing, and other fields that aid in creating a successful run. In exchange the residents help us by shutting down or opening the space one day a week. This helps to keep them up to date about changes in the venues, and for some residents who really do a good job of paying attention to what happens in the spaces, it can also help them to see what other companies are doing right and wrong and implement these lessons in their own productions.

Heidi: Our goal is to give young companies a home, a place to grow. We provide a community and resources so that each company can focus on the work they are creating. Residents help sustain Horse Trade by covering box office shifts, manning our office, and helping keep our spaces clean and functional. Having a theater to call home, sustained work with the same press rep, and being a part of a network of other artists locally and across the country seems to facilitate wonderful work from our residents.


What’s happening with your UNDER St. Marks initiative?  Can you explain a little about the space and the circumstances?

Erez: A few months ago we found out that the building that houses one of our theaters [UNDER St. Marks at 94 St. Marks Place] is on the market. Since this information came to light we have been busy figuring out the best way to approach the situation. Clearly we would like to purchase the building ourselves to ensure that UNDER St. Marks, which has been a theater since the 1960’s, remains a theater forever. At present the price the real estate broker has it listed at is ridiculously high. We do not feel it is worth opening a dialogue when the starting point is so unrealistic. At present no serious offers have been made and we are waiting things out until this fall when we can start negotiating a new lease and potentially even a purchase, but as purchasing the building regardless of the price will take some time a new lease and a secure space is our first objective. We have a team put together working on plans that will demonstrate what we might do with the building if we had it, give us a better idea of how much it would cost to create the plan, and how long it will take. Once we have a better idea of all these other factors we will be able to figure out how much we need to raise and how much we could afford to pay for the building. This is a long process and we don’t expect to be able to raise the needed funds very quickly, but the response so far has been great. We have been getting small donations from all over the country and certainly from our friends here in NYC. Old renters, artists we have worked with in the past, and friends and family have all pitched in and this has provided us with the funds needed to begin our work.


What shows do you have lined up in August?

Erez: This August we will be extending Radiotheatre’s 2nd installment of the HP Lovecraft Festival, which has been a great success so far. We are also embarking on what we believe will be a great new tradition, a small festival called Made at Horse Trade, composed of three plays, one full length and two one acts, to be performed at two programs throughout the last three weeks of August. Both evenings will share a set and a lighting plot, which will allow us to pool resources and provide each show with better production values than we would normally have access to in our rep spaces.

Heidi: Lines by Terence Patrick Hughes, August 11th-27th, and Breakfast and Ambrosia, August 10th-29th, both in The Red Room.


What fun stuff can we expect in the fall?

Erez: This fall is going to be great, we are opening the season with Eightythree Down from Hard Sparks run by a wonderful new playwright J. Stephen Brantley. I met J. Stephen a long time ago, when he made a home for himself in our electrics room at UNDER St. Marks, when his life was on a less than ideal trajectory. We met him again a couple of years ago after he had got things back on track and had reemerged as a terrific actor that we cast in a punk rock version of Shakespeare’s Loves Labors Lost called PunkRock/LoveSong at The Brick Theater in Brooklyn. We are also proud to welcome back the Dysfunctional Theatre Company with their first full season in two years. We are very excited to have them back in full swing and look forward to their November show, Brew of the Dead II. The Pumpkin Pie Show (which was just nominated for two New York Innovative Theatre Awards) is also back with a show that is very different from past Pumpkin Pie shows. Should be very interesting and a great deal of fun for both long time fans and Pumpkin Pie virgins.

Heidi: EightyThree Down (Hard Sparks), Tenderpits (Animal Parts), The Pumpkin Pie Show, Brew of the Dead 2: Oktoberflesh (Dysfunctional Theater Company), Long Shotz (aMios), The Big Flower Eater (Direct Arts), The 2011 Burlesque Blitz, Sinking Hearts (The Management), and Unlicensed (Dysfunctional). Not to mention our new monthly shows Supercute!, The Skinny, Blogologues, and The Wasabassco Hellfire Club. They are joining our solid line up of TOLD, The BTK Band, Adam Wade, Shotz, Sketch Block, Beaches 2, KL's Teaparty, Legends of a Feather, God Tastes Like Chicken, Thank You Robot, and Penny's Open Mic.


What are the ultimate goals for the company?  Where do you hope to be in 10 years?

Erez: In recent years we have embarked on a new project and have made touring a part of our mission. We have taken some of the great work that we put up here in New York to Orlando, Indianapolis, Montreal, Winnipeg, Edmonton and have dates currently booked for the fall in San Francisco, Virginia, Pennsylvania and upstate. We hope to spread our work to every corner of the US, Canada and beyond over the coming years to ensure that the brilliant work we encounter here in the creative hotbed that is NYC reaches the largest possible live audience we can muster up.

Heidi: In ten years we want to continue doing what we are doing and expand. We would like to be able to provide more resources and better-funded projects. We would love to facilitate artist exchanges around the world. We think the work we are doing today will foster the theater classics of the next fifty years.