On Stage, Coca Crystal Gets an East Village Other

Coca Crystal -Magic Garden - If I Cant Dance You Can Keep Your Revolution 7.20.03 PM Coca Crystal

Coca Crystal lives outside of Woodstock, N.Y. these days but next week she’ll return to her old neighborhood for a once-in-a-lifetime meeting – with herself.

Danielle Quisenberry, an actress, dancer, and writer, is playing the former East Village Other secretary and scribe as part of “Alphabet City VIII.” The series, itself part of the East Village Theater Festival at Metropolitan Playhouse, consists of six solo performances based on the lives of East Villagers.

Full disclosure: Ms. Quisenberry discovered Coca Crystal (born Jackie Diamond) via The Local’s story about her physically and mentally disabled nephew, whom she cares for as a son while also battling cancer, and she tracked her down by reaching out to Sasha Von Oldershausen, the author of the piece. As research material, she used a recording of Ms. Von Oldershausen’s interview as well as YouTube clips of Ms. Crystal’s cult cable-access program, “If I Can’t Dance … Keep Your Revolution.” Eventually, she met Ms. Crystal herself.

It’s the spirit of that first meeting that the playwright hopes to capture in her one-woman show, which imagines Ms. Crystal hosting a reunion of her long-running program (spoiler alert: the taping ends up being more about the TV show’s host than her guests). “You want the audience to feel like they were there with you on the day of the meeting,” said Ms. Quisenberry, later adding, “She really is a very interesting lady and very resilient – and fun.”

Danielle Quisenberry talks about the play.

Aside from being charismatic and multi-talented, Ms. Quisenberry has a couple of things in common with her subject: in college, the actress worked in a group home for developmentally disabled young men, and now she lives at 225 East Sixth Street, where a plaque commemorates the former site of the Fillmore East, above which The East Village Other’s offices were once located.

Ms. Quinseberry said she had received notes on the script from Ms. Crystal and had talked to her over the phone, partly to absorb the cadences of her “distinctive voice.” On Tuesday, the onetime “Slum Goddess” will travel into the city to watch her life story come alive. “It’s always an amazing thing, the night that your portrait shows up,” said Ms. Quisenberry, “because how many of us get the chance to see our lives through someone else’s lens? It’s a very brave thing to do and I think that’s consistent with Jackie’s life – she’s been very brave.”

Continues June 24 at 3 p.m., June 26 at 7:30 p.m., and July 1 at 7:30 p.m. at the Metropolitan Playhouse, 220 East Fourth Street between Avenues A and B, (212) 995-5302