House of Yes is nearing rebirth, and co-founder Anya Sapozhnikova (who along with her partner Kae Burke was dubbed a member of the Brooklyn Establishment) promised that a “next level” venture is on the horizon. “Everything here has to be really fucking awesome,” she explained. When we dropped by the new House of Yes today, just steps away from the Jefferson stop in Bushwick, it was hard to believe the place was part of the craziness of Bushwick Open Studios last weekend. “It was so packed, like wall-to-wall, people couldn’t even get in,” Anya recalled. For now, the place has once again kicked up the sawdust and instead of performers, aerialists, and burlesque babes, we were met with sweaty construction workers. But Anya– who’s been through a fire, police raids, and evictions– seemed intent on forging through the final weeks of wood saws, drills, and hammers.
“Last weekend was amazing, it gave us fuel for the next couple of months, it was a great reminder that people haven’t forgotten about us,” she said. “It’s been really difficult not having a home, because the kind of work we create really needs a space like this.”
The success of last weekend’s variety show — complete with an outdoor market, DJ-fueled dance party, and live music — hints at a lively future. This time around, House of Yes will be pumping out performances seven days a week with a fully functioning restaurant and two bars to boot. The ability of Anya and Kae to balance an array of different happenings simultaneously is a testament to their acrobatic skills as event organizers. But they also have the help of Ilan Telmont and Justin Ahiyon who will be in charge of the restaurant and bar side of things. But before the place can officially open sometime between September and October they’ll be navigating a tangle of permits and city red tape, ironing out the details with the reorganization of their theatre company, interviewing chefs for the restaurant, and starting rehearsals. Oh, and making sure each and every bathroom in their new digs is nothing less than awesome.
It’s been a long road since House of Yes in East Williamsburg was raided by the police and subsequently evicted. But last summer, a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign changed everything. “We were going for $60,000 and then we hit some sort of viral place,” Anya explained. “It just skyrocketed.” Eventually, they managed to raise $90,000 through the fundraising site.
Kickstarter donors have been treated with some pretty awesome prizes. Of course there’s the requisite dinner and show comps, but of the 1,084 people who contributed, the donors who managed to scrape up $5,000 will be treated to private bachelor parties. “We’re pretty squared off when it comes to prizes. Well, only about half of the Octopus Massage packages are out — goddesses will come to your house and massage you for an hour,” Anya explained. “People have loved it, but it’s hard to coordinate the availability of the backer and getting the four goddesses together all in one room.”
Understandable, goddesses are a busy bunch.
Even more money came by way of investors, and things started to look really real once House of Yes landed the lease on a former industrial laundromat in February. Since then, they’ve undertaken a massive remodeling project to transform it into a fantastical theater space. It’s borderline dreamy to see hints of what this place is going to look like in a few months — animal heads, sparkly mosaics, and vintage instruments are the decorative trappings of DIY spaces on steroids (i.e. a pure cash regimen). It’s fascinating to see imaginations that rarely have access to this kind of funding — but that clearly deserve it — finally be given the fodder they need to make something as ambitious as this iteration of House of Yes.
And did we mention we’re pretty sure they’re going to have the finest bathrooms in Brooklyn? The women’s toilet stalls, covered in sparkling tiles and glittering mosaics, are like nothing you’ve ever seen, we promise.
House of Yes has put a great deal of effort into the details — they’ve built two greenrooms, one easily accessible from a Wyckoff entrance, and a massive, soundproof door as a means of separating the restaurant and bar area from the theater when necessary, and making the two a seamless space when appropriate. “We’re making sure this place will be as fun for performers to perform in as it will be for an audience to see a show here,” Anya explained.
Whereas some shows will have a cabaret setup allowing audience members can have dinner and drinks along with the show, others will have a more traditional theater setup. “Late night Fridays and Saturdays, those big doors will open and the theater will turn into a dance floor,” Anya explained. “The restaurant will transform into a lounge where you can chill and have a conversation with the sexy person you just met on the dance floor.”
House of Yes is also evolving away from being an educational institution by cutting back on classes to clear the way for more performances. Instead of offering a full spectrum of courses from amateur to professional level, they’re sticking with “master-level” classes for people already working in performance. “It’s a big step up from the old venue in a lot of ways,” Anya said. Though beginner classes will continue to be held at the Om Factory.
The restaurant will serve affordable food (entrees for $10-$12) “with either a Morrocan or Israeli twist,” Anya explained. “No one will have to compromise, there will be great food for vegetarians and if you want a great burger or something, you can have that too.” The restaurant and two bars (one of which will be located in the theater area and another outside) will function as a financial support system for the theater company.
House of Yes has also cordoned off a small corner of the building to serve as a take-out place, Queen of Falafel, which will be an “exciting partnership” with a local chef, the details of which are forthcoming.
“This is the third iteration of the House of Yes, and it’s the real deal this time,” Anya said. “We’re here to stay.”