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Peacock feathers talent nest at N.Y. arts center

Thesps to sign first-look deals at free theater

NBC, which in the 1970s gave birth to the Not Ready For Primetime Players of “Saturday Night Live,” is creating a public performance space designed to groom budding stars.

The Peacock has pacted with the HERE Arts Center in downtown Gotham to establish Performance Space NBC (PS NBC), a dedicated 99-seat Equity-waiver theater where scribes, comics and other thesps can develop, rehearse and otherwise tweak their acts for free. In exchange, NBC will require talent to sign first-look deals guaranteeing the web dibs on projects developed at the workshop.

“New York has an enormous pool of talent without the resources to develop their work,” said NBC exec veep of casting Mark Hirschfeld, who spearheaded the creation of PS NBC. “The creativity is there, but there are fewer and fewer places in New York where an actor, writer or comedian can develop their work without taking on a huge financial burden in order to reach an audience.”

While HBO has a similar workspace in Los Angeles, NBC is the first broadcast web to create a theater for emerging talent.

NBC will sked performances of various acts Mondays through Thursdays and distribute a calendar of those events to agents, casting directors and even execs from other nets and studios. The network will also give the artists tech support via a lighting designer, stage manager and booker.

The first performances at PS NBC are skedded for Jan. 6, with all events free and open to the public. Hirschfeld’s plan is to create several theme evenings devoted to standups, alternative comedy, one-act plays and the like.

“We want artists to know that NBC is in the business of finding new talent and nurturing new voices,” said Hirschfeld, noting that the first-look contract talent will have to sign should be interpreted as “a vote of confidence to the artist that NBC will give each piece developed at PS NBC serious consideration.”

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