When you think of Broadway theater impresarios, classic names like Shubert or Nederlander come to mind. But in the off-off-Broadway world, you're more likely to hear about Erez Ziv, who manages both The Red Room, The Kraine and the basement theater space at Under St. Mark's, just east of First Ave. His Horse Trade Theater Group, founded in 1998, sponsors a half-dozen resident theater companies, which stage three dozen new shows a year at these same venues. Not a week goes by that these spaces are dark, for Ziv provides affordable rent to a large number of other alternative shows and performance acts.
Ziv, a congenial man, who looks even younger than his 34 years, is a native Israeli, who spent his childhood years there before moving to Minnesota in 1984. In 1994 he moved to New York and took a job driving carriages in Central Park. (Hence the Horse Trade Theater Group.) When he and a fellow driver started their business in June, 1998, Ziv recalls, "I was young and stupid. But," he adds, "I still haven't found anything that isn't possible."
Ziv began his Resident Artists Project in 1999 with The Pumpkin Pie Show, and followed in 2001 with the creation of The Dysfunctional Theatre Company. Currently there are five other resident theater companies overseen by Ziv: The Management Company (Chalk Boy, Scandal); Counting Squares (Woyzeck); No Tea Productions, (Hat Full of Plays); Black Door Theatre Company (Ecstasy in January); and Rising Sun Performance Company, which is working on a show for next summer. Each resident company helps out in the office once a week, and is expected to produce two quality shows a season. Pumpkin Pie's Hostage Song, which ran in the spring of 2008, was a gutsy and unlikely musical that has been the program's biggest critical hit to date.
Another project of Ziv's is the once-a-year FRIGID Festival, which will be held this year from Feb. 25 - Mar. 9. Featuring 30 different shows from around the world, FRIGID's productions are unique in that they are all totally uncensored and 100 percent of the proceeds go back to the artists.
As for the future of his empire, Ziv says, "I would like to have our own complex, a building that was our own," adding, "My goal is to create a building that is alive all day long, starting in the morning with coffee and day care. Then turning that space into a bar/performance area and the playroom into a rehearsal space. And then the rehearsal spaces during the day would operate as theaters during the night."