Ben Spatz is Founder and Artistic Director of Urban Research Theater, a New York based company that develops original interdisciplinary works out of long-term embodied research at the borders of song, movement, and text. Ben’s work is firmly grounded in the embodied craft of performance and the desire to create new spaces for sharing the value of practice-based knowledge. His solo opera RITE OF THE BUTCHER (Movement Research at Judson Church 2011; United Solo Festival 2011; Soak Festival 2012) is a visceral fable about power, fantasy, and exile, as told by the Butcher—refugee, criminal, shaman—through poetry, martial dance, and folk songs in an invented language. Rite of the Butcher will be performed in a new multimedia version at the Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center on June 13th, 2013. With Italian actor-director Maximilian Balduzzi, Ben created and performed in PLAYWAR (Medicine Show Theatre 2010; Movement Research Festival 2011; Abrons Arts Center, 2012) and THEATRICALE: A TRAGEDY (The Living Theatre 2011; Lincoln Center Rubenstein Atrium 2011). His work has also been seen at HERE Arts Center, the Center for Performance Research, Occupy Broadway, and elsewhere in New York City and beyond. Ben is currently in the early stages of developing a new ensemble project called TALES, in which traditional Jewish songs and stories will become the basis for an iconoclastic, personal, spiritual, and political engagement with notions of heritage and tradition.
From 2003-2005, Ben lived and worked with the Gardzienice Theatre Company of Poland, performing in ELEKTRA and METAMORFOZY at venues including the Hebbel Theater (Berlin, Germany) and the Merlin Shinhaz Theater (Budapest, Hungary) under the direction of Wlodzimierz Staniewski. The following year he was a Fulbright Fellow at the Grotowski Institute in Wroclaw, where he experienced transformative encounters with the work and teachings of Eugenio Barba, Peter Brook, Thomas Richards and Mario Biagini, Rena Mirecka, Zygmunt Molik, and other artists linked to Grotowski’s legacy. Since that time, Ben has continually searched for ways to make rigorous explorations of performance craft relevant in a twenty-first century urban context. Ben was an Artist-in-Residence at Movement Research (2010-2012) and is currently in residence at CAVE-LEIMAY in Brooklyn. He recently joined the Commons Choir under the direction of Daria Faïn and Robert Kocik, and performed in the somatic opera E-V-E-R-Y-O-N-E at New York Live Arts. Ben teaches acting, theatre, and performance at the City University of New York, where he is also an advanced doctoral candidate writing on actor training as embodied technique. He has also taught advanced workshops and guest classes at Yale University, New York University, Earthdance, Theaterlab, The Institute for Arts and Psychotherapy, the Genesis Project, and elsewhere in New York, Philadelphia, Washington DC, and New England.
Ben's scholarly work and publications are deeply connected to his artistic practice, and one of his goals is to build bridges between academia and performing arts institutions. Ben has presented both scholarly and artistic work at major academic conferences (ASTR, ATHE, MATC, CORD, PSi) and is critically engaged with the concept of “practice as research” and associated issues of performance documentation, assessment, and epistemology. Ben’s writing has been published in both academic and artistic journals, including NEW YORK THEATRE REVIEW, THEATRE JOURNAL, THEATRE TOPICS, TDR, and ECUMENICA. He was a member of the Grotowski Institute's Project to Support Young Scholars and has recieved several grants and fellowships, including the Manhattan Community Arts Fund administered by Lower Manhattan Cultural Council.