Expanded Arts was founded by Jennifer Pias and Robert Spahr in February of 1995, at 85 Ludlow St. NYC. The critically acclaimed theatre company produced numerous productions in its "Storefront Theatre."
The successful off-broadway "Shakespeare's R&J" was first produced by Expanded Arts in September of 1997. It is now the longest running Romeo & Juliet in the history of Broadway.
Every summer Expanded Arts produced "94 plays in 94 days" the marathon production of original plays presented over the 94 days of summer! Over 300 productions during the 3 years I was involved with the theatre company as the artistic director.
Shakespeare in the Park(ing) Lot
Since it's very first summer, Expanded Arts presented "Free Shakespeare in the Park(ing) Lot" in the Municipal Lot across the street from the theatre. Later Expanded Arts was hired by the Hudson River Park Conservancy to present Free Shakespeare on the west side piers of Manhattan.
Classic's Reworked and Original Plays
As the co-founder of Expanded Arts, I directed many plays, among my favorites were William Shakespeare's; "King Lear", "Macbeth" & "Midsummer Night's Dream"; Jean Genet's, "The Balcony"; Howard Brenton's, "Christie in Love"; an original adaptation of several Edgar Allen Poe's "Short Stories" (for Halloween); an original adaptation of Charles Dicken's, "A Christmas Carol", (my ghost of Christmas past had 200 blinking christmas tree lights sewn into his costume and he carried his own extension cord); Euripide's, "Medea"; an original adaptation of Lewis Carroll's, "Alice in Wonderland"; Bertolt Brecht's, "The Elephant Calf" and Eugene Ionesco's, "The Lesson."
The Expanded Art's "Romeo & Juliet" is by far the shrewdest of the three current
The New York Times
A film version of their successful play Sharmy the Scab-- ...Expanded Arts is an odd combination of high-tech and grunge."
I think Expanded Arts is succeeding in creating a theatre that will be around for a long while."
The Expanded Arts ensemble uses wit and imagination."
Time Out, New York
The single most exciting theatre event of the year took place at Expanded Arts on Ludlow Street...An evening such as this revives the joys of those first moments you discovered how truly magical theatre can be."
An enterprising free production of Taming of the Shrew ...They have adapted the play admirably to its urban setting..."
The London Sunday Times
If Quentin Tarantino had no money and an interest in theatre, he might come up with a production of Edward the Second quite like the one currently at Expanded Arts...So maybe it's a little surreal, but that's the atmosphere in which this strangely riveting Edward comes to life"
Time Out New York
A sight to behold: Shakespeare in the park(ing) Lot...The Walt Disney company may be moving in to revitalize 42nd Street, but on the Lower East Side it's Shakespeare who's turning the cultural life of the area around."
The New York Post
You've heard of Shakespeare in the Park well now its Shakespeare in the Parking Lot. Believe me this is something that you don't want to miss."
Fox 5- TV
So, some praise to Expanded Arts...The Half modernized production is fine Pop Shakespeare, smart and relaxed, able to hold your attention despite all the amusing distractions."
Edward The Second, ripe for a revision rendering, the play has enough sexual deviance, hip drugs, and fashion disasters to make the low-Rent setting ideal."
New York Magazine
Time Out New York chose Expanded Arts' Shakespeare in a Parking Lot as "Essential to New York".
...in a production as mod-decadent as "Rent"...(Edward the Second) was always inventive and often powerful."
David A. Rosenberg
...Edward the Second was remarkably potent and even thrilling in Expanded Arts' minuscule storefront Stage...Expanded Arts have turned every limitation into an innovative asset which, in many ways, is what theatre is all about."
Check in around 2020 to see which of the current off-off Broadway companies will be the Manhattan Theatre Club of tomorrow ...Maybe Expanded Arts will be the one."
Its Shakespeare in the Municipal Parking Lot...a production that the populist Bard himself might well have appreciated."
Time Out , NY
Some highlights from'96 included Expanded Arts' ambitious "94 Plays in 94 Days"..."
Expanded Arts has been featured in the Arts and Leasure section of the The New York Sunday Times, WPLJ, WBAI-Radio and WNYC-Radio.