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Burrow Theater to Open in Former Williamsburg Garage

WILLIAMSBURG — Standing on the calm Powers Street sidewalk, Jesse Kane-Hartnett grinned at his performance mecca in-the-making concealed on the other side of a dull garage door.

"After you go see a play in Midtown . . . and you get thinking about life, you don't want to be in Midtown traffic," said Kane-Hartnett, 26, one recent afternoon.

"Brooklyn should be the place to see theater . . . After, you can walk it off, grab beer at some dive bar and think it over."

So Kane-Hartnett feels he has found the perfect spot to open his future "Burrow Theater" — just three blocks from his apartment, in a neighborhood he said is lacking traditional venues for plays.

"There are so many performance spaces in Brooklyn for dance and for music," he said, "but this has a focus on theater."

The young thespian-director, who studied acting at Emerson College and currently serves as associate director for the non-profit performance company A Festival of Fools, hopes to open his 45-seat venue in September for his own group's shows as well as those of any companies that want to rent the space.

"I don't have a mission statement, so I'm pretty open," he said about the plays he envisioned hosting. "I just want to make relevant stuff."

Kane-Hartnett, who found the spot on Craigslist when it was being used as a photography studio a year ago, said his inspiration to open a theater came from Tim Bungeroth, who started a Festival of Fools with all its shows' scripts based in verse.

Bungeroth, Kane-Hartnett said, enacted the philosophy of famous playwright David Mamet about producing your own work and not "playing by other people's rules."

"He did that with his company," Kane-Hartnett said of Bungeroth, "self producing and self promoting so you reap all the benefits. But the missing piece is the place . . . The main problem in New York City is always space."

So while Kane-Hartnett was directing A Festival of Fools' shows in Manhattan's Looking Glass Theater, at Williamsburg's Center for Performance Research, and in the Brooklyn Academy of Music's Bric Studio, he yearned to start his own theater, which he decided to call "The Burrow."

"I chose the name because of the wordplay of 'burrow,' to dig — remnicent of the Diggers, a 1960's street theater group," he explained. He was referring to a radical performance community in San Francisco.

He also linked the name to the poet William S. Burroughs, and noted the word's clearest connection to the space, "a small hole in the wall."

Now, the first-time entrepreneur said he's already been approached by numerous companies who hope to perform shows on his future 450-square-foot stage — but he gets to pick the lineup.

"I really want to do "Romeo and Juliet" as one of the first shows, probably with Festival of Fools," he said. "I've been so worried about the business side [of the theater], now this will be like the dessert."