Super Secret Arts, a brand-new theater in Gowanus is striving to break the mold of conventional live theater, with a jam-packed calendar of theater, comedy, and music — plus a new way to fill their seats.
The theater, which opened on Third Avenue earlier this year, isn’t focused on selling tickets to individual shows. Instead, patrons sign up as members, paying $25 per month to gain access to the theater’s whole line-up that month, usually around 25 shows per month.
“Streaming platforms have democratized the television and film industry by leveraging monthly, recurring revenue across a huge user base,” said Toby Singer, Super Secret’s artistic director, in a statement.“This spreads the risk across millions of subscribers and enables a diverse array of projects to flourish while reducing the individual pressure to succeed. Super Secret Arts is essentially taking that model and superimposing it on live theatrical arts.”
While New York City is best known for Broadway, it’s also the home of hundreds of smaller theaters, often hosting up-and-coming or experimental works — be they plays, musicals, or comedy shows — with less funding and more risk for the artists and the venue.
Lower ticket prices, fewer seats to sell and no promise of a large crowd makes launching or hosting those new works precarious. Super Secret Arts’ subscription model, hopefully, makes it a little less so.
The theater opened, with its membership model in place, last November. Its doors were quickly forced closed by the rise of the Omicron variant, and they stayed closed until late February, when it “officially” opened. Since then, more than 300 people have become members of the theater.
Members, with their $25 payments, can reserve their place at an unlimited number of that month’s performances, if there’s space. They can bring guests along, too, who can purchase one-time tickets for $15.
Soon, members will also be able to peruse a selection of online content, from digital-only installations to exclusive audio and video
Each show also has a limited number of $30-39 tickets available at the door for non-members.
This month, Super Secret is hosting a weekly Monday night Cabaret show, emceed by actor Jake McKenna and accompanied by pianist Julian Chin. Playwright and actor Bonita Jackson debuts her one-woman show “This Soil, These Seeds…” for a limited 13-performance run. Artists Megan Sherrod and Kiki Mikkelsen perform their fully-improvised musical, “Working Title,” and comedian Gio Naardendorp hosts a one-night comedy variety show called “Night Boy.”
Putting on a mix of theater, musical and comedy performances is one of Super Secret’s hallmarks, and something they intend to continue.
“Super Secret Arts is both a place where audiences experience thought-provoking art across many genres and also a place where they feel connected to a community with a greater purpose,” Singer said. “We’re creating an artistic environment where adventurous art has a chance to breathe, a place that is safe for everyone to express themselves in the way they wish, and perhaps more than anything else — a place that is kind.”
Upcoming shows include a musical performance by Brooklyn-based band Brass Queens alongside The Climactics and an evening from experimental or in-progress artwork of all kinds — part of a series called “Kill ‘Em With Kindness.”
Super Secret joins a thriving arts community in Gowanus, whose canal-side streets are home to visual artists at Arts Gowanus, comedians at Littlefield, and all kinds of performing artists at The Bell House.
“We like to say that we’re making a theater company as if theater was just invented,” Singer said. “Part of that is creating a place that centers the artist, their well-being, and supports their joy.”