It is the time of year when the moths die; when, on window sills all over the world, the first chill has laid them, on their powdery sides. A perfect mirror of each other.
This fall I’m performing my play, Stations Lost in Brooklyn, New York. We’re performing it in The Boiler, a performance and exhibition space in the Williamsburg section of North Brooklyn. It is kind of a perfect room for this show. A one-time actual boiler where citizens of this borough worked for 100 years. It is a grimy and hard-scrabble reminder of the hard labor done in this great city back when our country actually MADE things.
There is also an odd juxtaposition in that the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations are occurring just across the East River. I walked through the demonstration on my first days in New York before we started our technical rehearsals. My play is very much about the country we find ourselves in now, with its blighted economy and missed opportunity, greed, and unfocused bigotries. As I walked through Occupy Wall Street, I was amazed that this was no ‘youth’ protest. I saw all kinds of people; firemen, construction workers, teachers, mothers, veterans, and many, many more of the educated and unemployed new underclass created by the greed and mismanagement of our financial institutions. I feel, for maybe the first time, that I have a bit of skin in this argument. I employ eight other artists. I have a gallery and a printmaking shop in Chicago. My partner, Adam Seidel, and I have invested over six figures each to start a fine art company focused on small edition etchings, as well as books and job creation. My other partner, Stan Klein, and I have a theatrical production company and a publishing house. After depositing 100,000 dollars in a business account we found out that even with this capitalization, we’d not be allowed to borrow more money to expand our business and create more jobs. In fact, this deposit did not even avail us to a line of credit.
I seem to recall the President telling the banks that in exchange for their TARP money–their bail-out–they were to lend money and stimulate the economy and, more importantly, create jobs. These little etchings support eight people. And, truth be told? They could support a whole hell of a lot more were we allowed to grow.
Performing this show in Brooklyn has been a lot of fun. Though our houses have been smaller we’ve had great audiences. Last Saturday night while performing the first act, I noticed an elegantly dressed gentleman with white hair in the third row. I took me a few moments to realize it was David Byrne, the true renaissance man of New York–musician, visual artist, activist for biking and all around cultural catalyst. It was cool to see him in the audience.
Our opening night we had the great Lou Reed, and the director of MoMA, Glenn Lowry, as well as a whole host of my fellow Brooklyn artists who’ve been amazingly supportive.
The Boiler is the performance and arts space fostered into existence by Pierogi Gallery, also of Williamsburg. They went through no small amount of bullshit getting this space up to code, so that we could perform this show and I appreciate it. New York audiences are a little different than Chicago; a bit more reserved. . . quieter. They really listen.
I’ve been staying with the painter, Greg Stone, the mordantly funny and exceptionally gifted visual artist who is the best roommate one could imagine. He is in possession of the dryest of wits and has a wise-ass, hard-boiled and no bullshit view of the world. We’ve laughed our asses off.
One of the most lovely things is being in New York for autumn. It is a season that loves this city. Everything that seems timeless and classic about this city only seems more so, preserved in the amber of autumn light. I went to a farmers market in McCarren Park in Brooklyn and the nip in the air, the changing colors of trees and the general goodwill were the ingredients of one of those perfect New York days that keeps people wanting to live here.
There is something to working as an actor in New York , that makes one feel more for real. And that there is more at stake. No matter what theater one works in, you are surrounded by the ghosts of giants. This is one of the places where people come to be measured against the best.