Get to Know TEDxBroadway 2015 Speaker … Emily Simoness

Before we once again ask, “What Is the Best Broadway Can Be?” on Monday, February 23, 2015, at New World Stages, we’re asking our TEDxBroadway 2015 speakers to tell us a little more about themselves.

E SimonessEmily Simoness is the founder and executive director of SPACE on Ryder Farm, a nonprofit artist residency program committed to supporting and developing artists and their work. Housed on 130 acres of organic farmland in Brewster, NY, SPACE has quickly become one of the premier centers for new play development in the country. Follow SPACE on Ryder Farm on Twitter @SPACEonRyder.

Where are you originally from?
I was born in Minneapolis and raised in a suburb called Apple Valley, Minn.

What do you do for a living, and how did you get into that field?
I am the co-founder and executive director of SPACE on Ryder Farm, housed on Ryder Farm in Brewster, NY. The farm has been in my family since 1795 and was one of the first organic farms in New York state.

I know, I know, it’s perplexing that I didn’t grow up in New York State.

Some context: My mother is the Ryder and her branch of the tree moved to the Midwest in 1970. I heard a tale about the farm as a kid — this folkloric place on the East Coast — but didn’t step foot on the property until 2009. It was then that I cold-called my fourth cousin once removed and asked if I could pay a visit.

I suppose that visit is how I first “got into my field.” I showed up and my life changed. Sounds reductive, but it’s true. At the time, I was in the middle of a community of artists that I didn’t believe had proper resources to create and develop new work.

While I love NYC, and throngs of astonishing artists live there, I didn’t feel like the city itself was the most supportive place for artists and their work. When I visited the farm, I saw an incredible place, one that the same family had managed to hold onto since 1795. That said, it needed (and still needs) a tremendous amount of TLC. Those two things were individually rattling around in my brain until they crashed together and SPACE on Ryder Farm was conceived.

Do you have a favorite Broadway show?
Of course I have a favorite Broadway show. In fact, I have 10 favorites!

That said, I vividly remembering seeing the one-man play I Am My Own Wife by Doug Wright, not once but twice! The play tracks the conversations of German Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, born Lothar Berfelde, who killed her father when she was a young child and survived the Nazi and Communist regimes in East Berlin as a transgender person. Jefferson Mays was a tour de force, starring in the production and playing 40 roles.

It. Was. Astonishing.

What book are you reading now?
If only my attention span was long enough to allow me to read one book at a time! I am currently reading The Lean Startup by Eric Ries, The Art of Possibility by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander, and I just cracked open The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. I fear The Goldfinch will only be consumed at home as it adds about three pounds to my subway commute.

If you had a motto, what would it be?
For better or for worse, my motto is “START. Don’t wait. Start.”

For more details about TEDxBroadway 2015, check out TEDxBroadway.com or click here to buy tickets.

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