‘Tiny House Plays’ arrive at Boneyard Studios

"Big Bread" in the Pera House.

“Big Bread” in the Pera House. (Ryan Maxwell Photography)

Last weekend, Pinky Swear Productions kicked off the first performance(s) of their Tiny House Plays, five one-act “playlets” staged in the tiny houses and outdoor spaces of Boneyard Studios. Explains the Washington Post:

The bright minds at Pinky Swear Productions thought it would be fun to stage a cycle of brief new plays in the wee homes. Each show is short — 15 minutes or so — and set in one of the often ingeniously efficient little units, several of which are actually being lived in part time. The audience is split into small groups and shepherded from station to station to see playlets about love, death, aging and coping.

On Friday, we had the privilege of joining the actors, playwrights, production crew, and the friends and family of Pinky Swear for a lovely dress rehearsal, hopping from set to set for a wonderfully diverse collection of plays, all developed by local female writers. I can’t really offer an impartial review, of course—how could I not absolutely love seeing the Matchbox transformed into the lovers’ cabin of “Josie, June, and Death,” or be more-than-a-little moved by the break-up taking place in the Minim House’s “For Emma” as we come to terms with a tiny house break-up of our own?

"For Emma" in the Minim House.

“For Emma” in the Minim House. (Ryan Maxwell Photography)

Impartial or not, the quirky, clever plays—”sweet, funny, and sad”—were a treat to witness, and totally worth a three-weekend displacement from my home as the show runs its course. Of course, they’re also a living, breathing example of what we’re all about at Boneyard Studios: awesome events, free space for artists, big silly dreams that always seem to work out.

Oh, and you can check ‘em out yourself for much less than a three-week displacement from your house—just $20, every cent of which goes straight to Pinky Swear and its army of hard-working (and really lovely) actors, playwrights, and the dozens of other people, props, and port-a-pottys they need to make these Tiny House Plays run. Remaining showtimes Saturday & Sunday, 10/4, 10/5, 10/11, and 10/12, 1PM, 3PM, 6PM, and 8PM. Tickets here.

"Josie, June, and Death" in the Matchbox.

“Josie, June, and Death” in the Matchbox. (Ryan Maxwell Photography)

Autumn events!

As the weather (maybe) cools and autumn quickly approaches, here’s a quick roundup of what’s going on at DC’s tiny house community over the next few months—

Near Northeast playing at a recent tiny house concert.

Near Northeast playing at a recent tiny house concert.

NOTE: While all Boneyard Studios events are (as always) free—though donations to support our featured local artists are greatly appreciated—the tiny house workshop and tiny house plays, facilitated by friends of the community, are charging admission to cover production costs.
 
Featuring Boy on the Wall, Takunda Matose, and Just Enough Education to DJ.
Show begins at 7PM. BYOB.
 
Weekend workshop hosted by architects, builders, and designers intimately involved in the creation of Boneyard Studios.
Workshop begins 8:30AM Saturday and takes place at Trinity University (with a visit to Boneyard Studios that afternoon)Limited to 30 participants.
 
Show begins at 6:30PM; BYOB.
 
Six local playwrights, five community-inspired plays, three tiny house stages.
Running 1PM, 3PM, 6PM, and 8PM every Saturday and Sunday. Tickets not yet on sale.
 
Our most popular and long-running event (over 5,000 served). Come tour the tiny houses in person, see the interiors, and chat with the designers and owners.
Houses open at 11AM.
 
Discuss simplicity in an enclave of tiny houses with the new Boneyard Studios book club. First reading: Leo Tolstoy, Family Happiness, available for free online or for Kindle.
Discussion begins at 3PM.
 
Featuring Catriona Sturton.
Show begins at 6PM; BYOB.
 
(All events are also posted to the Boneyard Studios Facebook and Google Calendar.)
 
Like what we’re offering and want to see more? Consider making a (much-appreciated!) donation to support Boneyard Studio’s expansion to bring even more local and creative and arts, architecture, and agriculture to the District. Or, bring your own creativity to Boneyard Studios: let us know if you’d like your art featured amongst the tiny houses, or are looking to use the space for a book reading, concert, poetry recital, seminar, or whatever else you can think of … it’s there for you to enjoy.
 
JAY_2948

Dee Williams discussing her ‘The Big Tiny’ memoir at a springtime book reading.

Tiny House Plays: coming Fall 2014 to a tiny house community near you

A few weeks back, we hinted at a big surprise coming to Boneyard Studios this fall. Here’s a little peek at what we have in store (be sure to follow Pinky Swear Productions to get the latest):

Six Playwrights. Five Plays. Three Tiny Houses. One Community. Pinky Swear Productions takes over Boneyard Studios this fall with Tiny House Plays.

Pinky Swear Productions is excited to announce a partnership with Boneyard Studios to produce Tiny House Plays, a series of short plays by six talented local playwrights.

Pinky Swear has long discussed the idea of producing site-​specific theatre in an alternative space. So when company member and veteran Pinky Swear director Jessica Aimone read an article about Boneyard Studios, she reached out to the tiny home owners. To our delight, they have enthusiastically embraced the opportunity to turn their tiny houses into tiny stages—and come fall 2014, audience members will join us on a journey from tiny house to tiny house, watching life unfold inside (and sometimes outside) each space.

For Tiny House Plays, Pinky Swear reached out to several local women playwrights and one brother/​sister team to pen short pieces on the theme of community, inspired by Boneyard Studios and the surrounding neighborhood. We are excited and proud to now announce our playwrights for Tiny House Plays: Thembi Duncan, Ann and Shawn Fraistat, Danielle Mohlman, Donna Reinhold, and Laura Zam. Together, they will create a shared world in which the characters’ stories are revealed simultaneously in each space.

Learn more at pinkyswear-productions.com. Tickets not available just yet, but stay tuned!

(As always, Boneyard Studios isn’t making any money from this partnership; we’re just looking to do what we can to promote local arts. To support our mission and our plans to expand to a new location where we can do even wilder and crazier things than bringing five plays to three tiny houses for twenty-five plus performances next month, consider donating here. Thanks!)

Boneyard Studios is expanding (and needs your help!)

Two years ago, three tiny house enthusiasts got together on a crumbling alley lot in Northeast DC and built the first intentional tiny house community in America. Since its humble beginnings in early 2012, Boneyard Studios has grown to more than just a few tiny homes: it has become a showcase, a music venue, a garden, a bike-in movie theater, and much more. Over the past two years, we’ve welcomed nearly 6,000 visitors to our lot for tiny house tours, tiny house concerts, tiny house book readings, and community work days, and we’ve kept them always—and forever—free. We want to keep fostering that community, to keep providing a free place for people to create and share, a place for more tiny houses, a place for local art, agriculture, and architecture.  We’re going to need more space.

So this year, the Pera House and the Matchbox (and any other tiny houses interested in coming along for the ride) are hitching up and traveling to lands unknown (somewhere in DC; we’re just not yet sure where) to repurpose another unused urban space, and to make it available for everyone to enjoy. But to make that happen (and to keep things free), we could really use your help. Here’s how:

Donate. Here’s a link. Please—if you’ve ever made it out to Boneyard Studios or if you haven’t and just want to support what we’re doing—consider clicking it and donating whatever you can to help us out. As a token of our appreciation, we’re offering the following to supporters:

  • Any amount: tons and tons of love and gratitude
  • $25: a personal thank-you card from Lee and Jay
  • $50: your name (or message) forever enshrined at our new space
  • $100: a personal tour of the houses for you and your friends or family (or both!)
  • $200: a night in one of our world-famous tiny houses (the Pera House or the Matchbox)

Help us find land. We’re looking for land within DC to lease or buy under a cooperative or land trust model—community land owned by the community. So please, keep an eye out for empty, unsightly lots that could use a little creative energy, or if you already have one in mind (or if you just so happen to own one), let us know.

Help us find people. If you can’t give money or land or tips about space in the city, maybe you know someone who can. We’d love to borrow your social network—if you wouldn’t mind facebooking, tweeting, or whatever-ing this page to your friends, that’d be awesome. Or if you know someone who might want to be more closely involved in our Boneyard Studios expansion, please put us in touch.

Expect much more in the coming months, and many thanks for two great years of support thus far.

<3,
Lee and Jay
Boneyard Studios

Fine print: Every dollar donated will be spent toward furtherance of DC’s tiny house community, and not a cent will be spent on the tiny houses themselves or kept by the tiny house owners. Instead, we’ll be using the money for things like community-accessible furniture, firepits, tool workshops, art installations, city permits, and—depending on the land we settle on—cooperative land leasing or ownership. For questions about donating, let us know.

CALLING ALL ARTISTS: Free exhibition time and space at Boneyard Studios

Boneyard Studios isn’t just about tiny houses; it’s about bringing together community, a space for builders and artists to create and construct. We do a bit of that through our popular concert series—featuring local musicians playing sets in, on, or outside of the tiny housesand a bit more with our budding film series (oh, and we also have a big surprise coming this fall). But between these events, we’d like to give youthe artists among or within youanother way to have your work seen and heard.

Roughly once a month, we host a free open house to show folks the tiny house community, and between 10AM and 1PM on those monthly Sundays, over two hundred enthusiasts from DC and beyond descend on the little lot with excitement and curiosity: a (semi-)captive audience. That’s where you come in.

Musician looking to share your songs? Come on by with a tip jar and do your thing while hundreds wander about the lot. Painter? Pull up an easel and get to work, and see if you can’t find someone amongst the visitors who likes your style and wants a commissioned canvas. Sculptor with some outdoor pieces? We’d be more than happy to display your art at the Boneyard during the tour, or leave it around for those who pass by outside of open house hours for however long you’d like. Local coffee, beer, kombucha brewer? People love free samples, and our guests are all yours.

We’re not asking anything in return for a little corner of the lot; just a heads up as early as possible beforehand so we know whom and what to expect. We just, y’know, want to support good art, local ventures, and you.

Click here for upcoming tour dates, and here to let us know if you’d like us to feature you or your work during the next open house.

Fine print: Boneyard Studios is residentially zoned, so we can’t have any open selling of goods or services on the lot. But donations are just fine, as is exchanging contact information with visitors for business later on.

A beginner’s guide to downsizing, part 3: Oh, the utility

“Cultivate poverty like a garden herb, like sage. Do not trouble yourself much to get new things … Turn the old; return to them. Things do not change; we change. Sell your clothes and keep your thoughts.” — Henry David Thoreau, Walden; Or, Life in the Woods 

We’ve already discussed two kinds of junk—just-in-case junk and component junk—that we keep around because we think we’ll use it in the future. But what about junk you simply know you’ll never use, yet keep around anyway?

#3: Sunk-cost junk (stuff that hasn’t yet earned its value, and never will)

That sweater you bought that ended up looking better on the mannequin than it does on you. The Vitamix you splurged on when you were committing to a life of kale smoothies for breakfast, before you realized you don’t like kale—liquefied or not—and never leave yourself enough time for breakfast anyway. Or those heels that go so exceptionally well with your favorite summer dress, spare the minor detail that you physically cannot walk in them. Sunk-cost junk is a microeconomic quagmire we all find ourselves in at one point or another: we paid money (often a lot) for something we deemed worth it, before later realizing the purchase wasn’t worth it, and because we spent so much money to begin with, we refuse to give up the good and swallow the sunk cost.

I won’t talk about this variety of junk as much as the others because it’s less pervasive and often more obvious, both in its physical form and in its solution. It’s not difficult to find your sunk-cost goods: just check the closet for anything with a tag still on it, explore the drawers for any items still in their original packaging after way too long. Sunk-cost junk and just-in-case junk may manifest themselves in the very same form depending on the intentions of the owner. Whereas one person may view their untouched skis as just-in-case junk they haven’t yet put to use but hope they someday will, another may be stashing their own set of skis because they spent so very much on them and would hate for that money to go to waste—that they have sworn off snow and never want to hit the slopes again is besides the point.

As for the solution? Sunk-cost junk is just like sunk-cost anything: holding onto it, more often that not, will only increase the cost, whether in the form of fiscally-taxing storage space or mentally-taxing clutter. So swallow the cost once and for all and be done with it.

#4: Filler junk (stuff that is, frankly, entirely useless)

We acquire sunk-cost junk because we misjudge our intentions: we think we’ll use something we’ve decided to buy, and then things change. Yet sometimes, we buy things already knowing that we’ll never use them … because they’re inherently useless.

A ceramic bowl of wicker spheres. Anything non-edible in a bowl, really. A tabletop statue of Buddha purchased at a local Target, or a stack of old Washingtonians, or a little bubbling fountain of superglued pebbles. Filler junk often goes by another name—decor—which makes it sound cultured and necessary and regal, though it’s often anything but.

Because we generally live in dwellings larger than those we need, we inherently have surplus surface area: bare plateaus of oak and pine, an archipelago of coffee tables and endtables and accent tables and mantles, vacant corners and even vacant rooms, all which need “filling,” lest we look like squatters or fugitives.

And so we buy, not for function, but for fill. We need something to go on that table over there—doesn’t really matter what it is. Volume over value. We buy books we’ll never read (“coffee table books”), candles we’ll never light (“show candles”), and wicker balls we’ll never use for anything because, well, they’re wicker balls.

To be fair, decor does serve a function—decoration—these accessories, we think, make our homes look warm and inviting and full of cultured character. Here lies a copy of the latest New Yorker, look how learned I am! Oh, this chessboard with its pieces arranged in a mid-game configuration? Yes, our family is a chess family and we must have just left it just that way, midgame and all. Ah, these wicker balls: yes, I wickered them myself, because I like to work with my hands.

Decor that tells tales of who you really are is good: souvenirs from your travels, your adventures, your life. We keep these by the bedside not because they fill up space but because they fill up us. Decor doesn’t give our homes character, we give our homes character, and our homes are but a reflection of us, character and all. As such, purchased decor, mass-produced decor, is often—not always, but often—not a reflection of who we are, but a deception of what we hope to present to the world, to our house guests, to ourselves.

There’s a beauty in the bare surface, the unshelved wall, the clean hard lines of simplicity. Were your house burning to the ground, this filler junk is likely the last thing you’d think to save from the inferno, valueless as it is, so rather than spend money buying it, time dusting it, energy flipping through catalogs searching for just the perfect thing to go in-that-corner-over-there, let the filler come to you. Accumulate accidentally, possess passively, obtain unintentionally and you’ll find, in time, that those spaces will fill themselves: not with all the latest from Pottery Barn’s spring line, but with all the most cherished from your life’s fondest memories.

This post is the third of a series on living simply. More to come soon.
Cross-posted at Adventures in Simplicity.

A beginner’s guide to downsizing, part 1: Junk in the trunk(s)

“A lady once offered me a mat, but as I had no room to spare within the house, nor time to spare within or without to shake it, I declined it, preferring to wipe my feet on the sod before my door. It is best to avoid the beginnings of evil.” — Henry David Thoreau, Walden; Or, Life in the Woods

Living simply means living with less—not less happiness, or less comfort, or less company: just less stuff. For a tiny house dweller, it’s an imperative; for others, it’s still an invaluable journey. Possessions weigh us down—physically, financially, mentally—and for all the good the right device or gadget might do, we all have scores more widgets that are simply junk.

Last week, I gave a talk about living simply that relied on a taxonomy of junk I began creating several years back but never actually got around to posting, but which might present some value to the fledgling minimalist looking to downsize—to downsize perhaps just a little, perhaps a whole lot, perhaps enough to fit comfortably into a tiny house. And the first step to downsizing is recognizing one’s junk, so let’s get started: a (multi-part) categorization of the various species of junk one may find in their closets, drawers, chests, cabinets, and trunks.

The first step to getting rid of junk is recognizing it.

#1: Just-in-case junk (stuff you’re holding onto just in case you ever need it)

That sabre you’ve held onto just in case you ever decide to take up fencing, the denim jacket you’ve been stashing in the back of your closet just in case you get invited to another 80s party, those ice skates you eagerly purchased because they were such a steal at that garage sale that (though you don’t know how to skate) you couldn’t pass up, just in case you one day decided to switch careers and become a professional ice skater. Just-in-case junk is the most pervasive form of clutter, and we hold onto it so dearly due to a psychological trait known as loss aversion: the tendency for humans to feel twice as bad about losing something they might have used than the relative joy they felt in receiving that item in the first place.

Just-in-case junk comes from everywhere—old gifts, act-now deals and discounts, emerging hobbies quickly forgotten. We don’t use this junk often, and typically not ever, but because we have—rather, because we think we have—the space to store it, we don’t mind holding onto itjust in case our circumstances change.

And change they might. For a hundred just-in-case possessions, a good few—maybe a dozen—will be proudly used again some day, not just justifying their existence and earning their storage, but seeming to validate the entire notion of just-in-case junk, the other 88 items that will never be used but just very will might be.

We keep just-in-case junk because we think we have the room for it. Yet we often forget that we chose our present house or condo or apartment because in addition to housing us, it came with all this room for all our stuff!—walk-in closets and under-stair cupboards and overflow storage in the basement. We typically think of our storage space as extra, surplus, more space thrown into an already attractive deal, yet as we shop for our space, our belongings come with us, and hey, they want a room of their own.

And sometimes our (growing) spaces still can’t contain our just-in-case junk. Americans pay $25 billion each year for nearly three billion square feet of self-storage space—indeed, the industry has grown nearly 800 percent in the past two decades—with a tenth of all US families now trekking out to an oversized cinderblock villa, a Public Storage or U-Haul or CubeSmart, to establish a tiny colony of additional just-in-case junk, junk that is so just-in-case that it can be sealed up in a steel container thirty miles from home with anyone yearning for it for the great majority of the year.

Every year, about 25 million Americans spend $25 billion on 2.5 billion square feet of storage space.

The financial, the consumerist, and the environmental arguments for doing away with just-in-case junk (and the storage demands that come with it) are strong, but perhaps not as immediately pertinent as the utilitarian one: for every good we have tucked away under a bed or in a trunk or out in our self-storage container, there’s probably someone who can make much better use of it than we presently are. That sabre? You might need it if you take up fencing, but there’s certainly some aspiring swordsman out there who could do wonders with it right now. That denim jacket? You might get a chance to rock it once more next Halloween, but placed in the right thrift store or donation box, some young retrofashionista can undoubtedly give it more wear than you ever will (perhaps even unironically). And those ice skates? No doubt a nearby skating rink could put them to good use as a trusty rental.

In an age where it’s hard to perceive scarcity—where money buys goods, no questions asked—it’s easy to forget that every object we have is an object someone else doesn’t have, that it creates a need for us to further tax our overtaxed planet and further expend our overexpended resources and further work our overworked selves to create yet another, and that by putting our just-in-case junk in the hands of those who do have a case for it—a case, a use, a need, a real want, right here and right now—we can help not only ourselves on our path to simplicity, but others on their path to pursuing whatever passion or adventure they may be after. As the old saying (sort of) goes: one man’s junk is another man’s treasure.

This post is the first part of a series on living simply. More to come soon.
Cross-posted at Adventures in Simplicity.

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