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Awkward, Amusing Dance of Sitting In and Falling in Love

Pasulka3Nicole Pasulka A recent dress rehearsal.

While developing “Micro-Mini Maxi Mystery Theater: En Total,” Jessica Dellecave asked the five dancers in the cast to recall their most embarrassing protest moments. With their help, she created a show that explores the often cringe-inducing intersection between activist fervor and queer young love.

The work, premiering tomorrow tonight at Dixon Place, grew out of three 10- to 15-minute studies the playwright, who goes by J. Dellecave, wrote between 1999 and 2010: one was about her experiences as a young, queer activist in the late ’90s, another about her frustrations with activism in 2005, and the other dealing with her mixed feelings about the Occupy Wall Street movement.

In a controlled frenzy, Ms. Dellecave and her “pod” of dancers travel to space, find love at the protest march, and belt out Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Ms. Dellecave humps the floor in a pink mini skirt while delivering a monologue on love and activism. “Isn’t this romantic, going out in the street and smashing the state?” she asks.

It’s not romantic at all, but it is familiar. Like love, first experiences of activism can be both nostalgic and awkward to remember ten years, or even ten hours, later. Ms. Dellecave, whose full first name is Jessica, pokes fun at her history as a queer activist and, in doing so, pushes audiences to examine their own experiences. Read more…

Renovation of PS 122 Clears Another Hurdle

Credit: Melvin FelixMelvin Felix PS 122 at 150 First Avenue.

After months of delays, the overhaul of Performance Space 122 is moving forward.

A work order filed last week and pending approval by Department of Buildings paves the way for construction of two brand-new performance spaces in the venerable theater, which will cost an estimated $15.1 million. The plans call for more than 9,000 additional square feet to be added to the building at 150 First Avenue, all paid for by the city.

PS 122’s artistic director, Vallejo Gantner, said Wednesday that he was “delighted” that work will soon be underway. Since the city has already funded work on the building’s facade, replaced old energy-inefficient windows, and gotten rid of asbestos and lead paint, he estimated that the project’s full cost will be more than $20 million. He’s thankful for every penny.

“I think the city is kind of amazing that, in a time like this, they’re investing in cultural activities,” Mr. Gantner said. “The fact that it’s happening at all is such an amazing thing.”
Read more…

This Weekend, Last Chance to See ‘Worst Director’s’ Movies On Stage

ed wood bride of monsterCourtesy DMT Lt. Dick Craig (Joshua Schwartz) and
Janet Lawton (Lindsey Carter) in “Bride of
the Monster”

This weekend, you’ll want to jump on your last chance to catch Frank Cwiklik’s madcap stage adaptations of the works of Ed Wood, widely hailed as the worst director of all-time.

Using minimal sets in the Red Room theater, Mr. Cwiklik ingeniously deploys music, dance, projections, video screens and many entrances and exits to elaborately block his very skillful actors through Wood’s unintentionally bad dialogue. They seamlessly carry the plots and garner many laughs along the way.

“Downtown Theater is all about motion in small spaces, with limitations and low budgets just like Ed Wood did,” said Mr. Cwiklik, a prolific writer, director, and producer who is drawn to Wood’s works along with those of Shakespeare. “They tackle every genre,” he said of the two auteurs. “They come from the heart and are concerned with entertaining their audiences first.“

Mr. Cwiklik previously wrote and directed a popular S&M version of “Macbeth” called “Bitch Macbeth.” Since 1999, his company, DMTheatrics, has staged more productions than most put out in decades. Which, of course, brings Wood to mind. Read more…

Back From the Brink, Living Theatre Hosts Fest Celebrating Survival

"Cho H Cho" featuring Daniel IrizarryErica Min “Cho H Cho” featuring Daniel Irizarry.

With arts funding getting slashed and donors pinching pennies, 11 downtown theater companies have joined forces for an avant garde festival next month. What space will serve as host? The Living Theatre, of course, which narrowly avoided shutting down weeks ago.

The month-long undergroundzero festival will open June 29 with a sit-down interview with Judith Malina, the revered founder of The Living Theatre. Ms. Malina will also fill the role of Mary in a production of “The Gospel of St Matthew” — a victory lap of sorts for the 85-year-old woman who nearly saw her life’s work come to an end due to debt.

“This is part of preserving one of the city’s treasures: Judith,” said Brad Burgess, who cares for Ms. Malina and helps run the theater. “If she’s not supported — the founder of the movement — what do the rest of us have? If she’s taken care of then there’s hope.”

Of course, The Living Theatre’s financial woes are far from unique. According to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, 50 of New York City’s 200 performance venues with 99 seats or fewer closed between 2003 and 2010. Read more…

Go See ‘Claire Went to France’? Abso-arfin-lutely!

claireChris Caporlingua Aliee Chan (l) as the Real Girl, Scott Cagney (c)
as the Dog, and Tony K. Knotts (r) as Johnathon.

“Well. At least I can always kill myself,” says Johnathon, the everyman protagonist of “Claire Went to France,” at the beginning of Ben Clawson’s new play. His anthropomorphic dog ignores the comment and keeps watching TV, and his grandpa continues to play solitaire after complaining about “jokes about things that aren’t funny.”

Much of this play, which turns the cellar-like Under St. Mark’s into Johnathon’s living room and the prism through which we view his dreary life, is exactly that: Johnathon’s ex-girlfriend barrages him with spectacular insults from the closet, his dog tries to convince him to masturbate to waste time, and the grandpa, like some Judge of History, spews grand truths which contradict from moment to moment. Read more…

Not Going to the Beach This Weekend? Dip Into ‘Pool (No Water)’

Richard Saudek in OYLs pool-no waterCourtesy OYL. Richard Saudek

“Pool (no water),” by British actor, playwright, and journalist Mark Ravenhill, ends its run at the 9th Space this weekend. If you’re in town, you may want to make your out-of-town friends jealous by catching One Year Lease Theater Company’s production of the 2006 play tonight or tomorrow.

Envy, after all, is what this excellent work is all about. In it, a group of artists divulge the story of a friend who, having found the critical and commercial success they haven’t, invites them to her new mansion to party like old times. This friendship is called into question when she gravely injures herself from jumping into a pool with, well, no water.

The group sees artistic potential in their friend’s condition, which leads to thoughts of profit. They photograph her discolored body, even moving it into the light of the hospital window. Yet they insist (and not without credibility) that they still love her. Most shockingly, she starts to recover — and says she’d love to work with their photographs. Read more…

The Day | Lakeside Remembered, and 20 Other Morning Reads

UntitledPhillip Kalantzis-Cope

Good morning, East Village.

The Times looks back on what made Lakeside Lounge so special (“once, while Joey and Dee Dee Ramone played, audience members watched the police raid a nearby crack house and line suspects up against the picture window beside the stage”) and gives a clue as to why it’s closing at the end of the month: “[Owner Eric] Ambel said rent and expenses had more than quadrupled since the mid-1990s, forcing him and Mr. Marshall to face the prospect of deviating from the formula that had served Lakeside, its musicians and its patrons so well.” According to WNYC, the rent was $9,000 a month.

Flaming Pablum uses the closing of Lakeside as an excuse to look back on five other bygone dive bars, including Alcatraz on St. Marks Place, an “endearingly seedy joint that catered to acolytes of all things loud, boozy and rude.”

With the average rent in Manhattan at $3,418 a month and the vacancy rent at just 1 percent despite the lagging economy, The Times lays down some real talk: “For those who find buying a home in New York City is not an option — whether because of bad credit, tougher lending standards or lack of a down payment — the choices are limited and often unappealing.” If you are buying, the Daily News points out that there are still deals to be found in the Lower East Side. Read more…

‘Bike Shop’ Sings Cycling’s Praises on the Stage

Elizabeth Barkan in Bike ShopTheater For The New City Elizabeth Barkan as Bobby in “Bike Shop.”

Who knew cycling could be so liberating — and devoid of controversy?

In “Bike Shop,” a one-woman musical showing at The Theater for the New City, Bobby, a bike messenger and mechanic, sings odes to the freedom of the streets. For her, the bicycle is an escape — even a vehicle for feminine liberation.

Set in 1993, this bit of cycling nostalgia takes place in a purer time, before every hipster had a neglected fixed gear hanging in his loft, new bike lanes led to lawsuits, business owners blamed cycling for declining customers and passersby won’t even stop a brazen bike thief.

The songs are campy and catchy, and the writing often amusing to the biker-friendly audience. However, non-cyclists likely won’t find the storyline of two-wheeled redemption as touching.

A charming Elizabeth Barkan, the show’s creator and star, plays Bobby, who works at her family’s bike store in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Her grandmother, also played by Ms. Barkan, opened the store 30 years prior. The final character onstage is an Uncle Rabbi, and at times the exertion required of the multiple rolls and onstage cycling while singing seems to wear the star of the show down. Occasionally Ms. Barkan would start a song strongly, but by the end had lost her momentum.
Read more…

Cycling in the Spotlight, Literally


A new play at Theater for the New City about a bicycle shop encourages the audience to arrive by bike and then park their rides on the stage. “Bike Shop” is a one-woman musical about Bobby, a bike mechanic who tries to get back on her ride after a nasty cycling accident. According to the theater, Bobby “builds and fixes real bicycles onstage while backed up by a four-piece ‘Bicycle Band.'” If you do end up riding to the show, which premieres on Thursday, just be careful when you make turns out of the bike lane. You don’t want to end up getting a ticket like cyclist Evan Neumann, who was so outraged by the citation he received while riding in the Lower East Side that he is suing the state Department of Motor Vehicles.

Five Must-See Shows At This Year’s Frigid Festival

Poe Dunk Photo by Kevin P. Hale Kevin P. Hale A moment from “Poe-Dunk.”

The East Village has Fringe Festival (applications for next summer’s are due next week), and in the winter it has Frigid Festival. Founded in 2007 by San Francisco’s Exit Theatre and our own Horse Trade Theater Group, it runs from Feb. 22 to March 4 this year. Earlier this week, “snapshots” of 13 of the festival’s 30 shows – all produced by independent theater companies – debuted at Under St. Marks. Five of them stood out.

“Rabbit Island
Chris Harcum was without his cast, but if his charisma is any indication, his play in which a talkative Canadian mime navigates New York will be one to watch. Of Frigid, Mr, Harcum said, “I think it’s better than the New York Fringe festival, personally, because you get to see five shows each night and all the money goes back to the artists.” Many in the room echoed his sentiments. Read more…

‘Once’ Heads Uptown, ‘An Iliad’ Opens Downtown

“Once,” the well-received musical that recently ended its run at the New York Theatre Workshop, is headed for Broadway, but the cast hasn’t left the East Village far behind: A video posted to YouTube shows a photo shoot and hootenanny at Swift Hibernian Lounge. If you missed the show’s local run, tickets for the Broadway reprise, starting Feb. 28, can be purchased here.

And if you’d rather keep it local, the New York Theatre Workshop’s next production, “An Iliad,” opens Feb. 15. The adaptation of Homer’s classic, by Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare, will feature Mr. O’Hare (“True Blood,” “American Horror Story”) and Stephen Spinella (“Angels in America”) in alternating performances. More information here.

Under St. Marks Given New Life

The entrance to Under St. MarksIan Duncan The entrance to the theater at 94 St. Marks Place.

One of the neighborhood’s bastions of avant garde theater has been pulled back from the brink and will remain open for at least the next seven years.

Under St. Marks, the basement theater that hosts offbeat productions like “Naked Girls Reading,” “Basterdpiece Theatre,” “God Tastes Like Chicken” and “Thank You Robot,” has signed a new lease — allaying fears that the venue would be given the boot after its landlord put the five-story building on the market for $5.75 million.

“We are so happy and relieved to have come to this agreement,” said Heidi Grumelot, the artistic director for Horse Trade Theater Group, which operates the theater. “We doubt that any other basement in this city enjoys as much continual creative activity as Under St. Marks.”
Read more…

‘The Select’ Offers Lushes, But Loses Hemingway’s Lush Symbolism

theselectMark Burton Mike Iveson, Frank Boyd and Ben Williams

After their highly acclaimed production of “Gatz” (based on “The Great Gatsby”) at the Public Theater last year, Elevator Repair Service has returned to the stage with Ernest Hemingway’s “The Select (The Sun Also Rises)” at New York Theatre Workshop. The group’s third adaptations of a classic of American literature (William Faulkner’s “The Sound and The Fury” was the first) tells the story of expatriates living in Europe after World War I. They’re members of Gertrude Stein’s “lost generation” – left numb by the atrocities of war. Read more…

Hear The Raw Reactions of New Yorkers in the Days Following 9/11

fiery the angels fell.jdx View from the East Village, September 11, 2001.

Last week Susan Keyloun reviewed “nine/twelve tapes,” a play that reenacted man-on-the-street interviews conducted in the days following September 11, 2001. Now The Local has acquired clips from the tapes, which you can listen to for the first time below. Collin Daniels, 40, had been living in New York City for just three months when the World Trade Center attacks occurred – he had moved here along with eight other Ohio University theater-program graduates, and was working a temp job in publishing. “I was feeling out of place and alienated,” said Mr. Daniels over the telephone today, “and when 9/11 happened, it heightened my sense that I didn’t belong to this city yet and I wanted to do something to heal and process this.” Read more…

Fringe Festival Standouts

If “Lines” doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, ArtsBeat has posted reviews of a couple of other local productions. Andy Webster ponders “Le Gourmand, or Gluttony!”, a “fanciful operetta about the 18th- and 19th-century food critic Grimod de la Reynière”; and Jason Zinoman thinks that, owing to the “majestically silly” performance of Harriet Harris, “Yeast Nation (the triumph of life)” could be the Fringe Festival‘s next breakthrough hit à la “Urinetown.”

At The Red Room, ‘Lines’ Tangles With Race, Religion, and Football

Emily Bennett, Jeff Sproul, Annelise Rains, & John Hardin Photo by KL ThomasK.L. ThomasEmily Bennett, Jeff Sproul, Annelise Rains and John Hardin in The Horse Trade Theatre Group’s “Lines”

When was the last time you went to a play where you were asked to sign a petition to release a political prisoner before getting to your seat? “The play deals with human rights, so it makes sense that we would be here,” the woman from Amnesty International explained to me. “The script is very powerful.” With these words and director Heidi Grumelot’s introduction emphasizing the play’s interest in social justice, “Lines” was framed: I was ready to have my mind blown by some political theater.

And yet, if I hadn’t been told the play was about human rights, I’m not sure I would have known.

“Lines” is set in an imaginary country where an actual line has been drawn, segregating blacks from whites. On one side of the line is white funeral director Doc; on the other is Bullet, a black football coach. Their lives get intertwined in scandal when a young black man, Keys, dies on the “white” side. Doc’s decision to bury Keys, which breaks the town’s segregation laws, leads to a series of mix-ups and subplots — some funny, some somber. Read more…

Two Plays Get Away From ‘Black Theater’ Clichés

Harriet & GlenChristina Jean Chambers A scene from “Ambrosia” by Kelley Nicole Girod.

A pair of upcoming plays at the Red Room aim to turn notions of “black theater” upside down.

“Ambrosia” (about an elderly southern woman deciding to die happy) and “Breakfast” (about a middle-class black family dealing with a gay son) will run as a double feature starting August 10.

Both playwrights said that they sought to avoid the clichés of their genre. Read more…

Want to See Your Facebook Updates Performed Live? Tell These People!

Blogologues production teamCourtesy of “Blogologues” The “Blogologues” production team from left to right: Assistant director Meredith Hackman, director Megan Loughran, co-producers Allison Goldberg and Jen Jamula, and stage manager Jim Armstrong

When an online phenomenon escapes the bounds of the digital world and emerges IRL (in real life), bloggers are fond of proclaiming “the intertubes are leaking.” “Blogologues,” an upcoming show at Under St. Marks, will turn the spigot and let Internet culture gush out at full flow.

Each month, “Blogologues” will take real Internet postings on a theme and turn them into a stage show. And get this: The producers are taking suggestions from readers of The Local. Have any recommendable tweets, blog posts, even Craigslist ads? Don’t be shy. Leave them in the comments and they may end up being enacted on stage. Read more…

A Theater Turns Hardship Into Hope

DSC_0745Ian Duncan When 94 St. Marks Place was put up for sale, owners of the basement theater launched a campaign to buy the building. Below, Heidi Grumelot and Erez Ziv of Horsetrade, the theater’s owner.
Heidi Grumelot and Erez Ziv at Under St Marks

It was an e-mail message from the blogger EV Grieve that first alerted the Horse Trade performance group that a building that served as the home to one of its theaters was up for sale. The news was a shock to co-founder Erez Ziv and artistic director Heidi Grumelot — and apparently to the landlord, who, they say, was not expecting the brokers to move so quickly. The asking price was just shy of $6 million.

Grieve asked darkly whether the sale would mean the end for the 45-seat theater, but Mr. Ziv sprang into action and Horse Trade is now running a campaign to buy the building for itself and turn it into a haven for theater people — a sort of off-off Broadway bed and breakfast for companies from around the world. There, actors, performers and writers could collaborate, sharing ideas and hatching new projects.

The plan shows the ambition of Horse Trade, a company with influence across New York’s theater world, but which is also in a precarious position shared by many independent theaters in the neighborhood. In the last few years, a number of venues have closed down, shutting off opportunities for new performers and writers to test ideas. But the East Village shows some signs of health — a 2008 study found it was home to only 14 percent of New York’s independent theaters, but 27 percent of the city’s performances.
Read more…

“Earthalujah!” Shouts Reverend Billy

Ian Duncan

With huge facial features, a mane of dyed blond hair and an immaculate white suit, Bill Talen looks every bit the televangelist. But he is not offering eternal salvation.

Mr. Talen is the leader of the Church of Earthalujah. Styling himself Reverend Billy , he delivers environmental rhetoric in the manner of a charismatic evangelical preacher.

Each Sunday through June, Mr. Talen will be lending his theatrical services at Theater 80 on St. Mark’s Place . Mr. Talen is supported by the Stop Shopping Gospel Choir, who belt out songs Mr. Talen has written that relate to the church’s themes – the evils of capitalism, impending environmental disaster and the decline of neighborhoods.

That last will have particular resonance in the East Village. Read more…