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Saturday, July 25, 2015

....and still embraced by grace....

7/24

Martin and I sit down for a long conversation. He has time for a breath before tonight’s  Antigona  performance. It’s been quite a few weeks. Now that the reviews are in, tickets are starting to fly. We think back to our first meeting 3 ½ years ago when he was first relocating from Spain. Looking for a home for his company. The ups and downs and times of being close to making it and when we thought the doors would close but we kept on anyways. We both remember Teddy (Mapes) and how he would have loved this. Martin more than anybody understood the vision of what this place was supposed to be. He tells me that Antigona is here because of that vision. We both take pride in the New York Times reference to downtown vibe. It’s been that way since Woodshed walked in here in 2011 (http://www.playbill.com/multimedia/video/a-walking-tour-of-the-tenants-haunted-apartment-building-223658?r=n ) But we're still just under the radar.  That was our first Times review… http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/07/theater/woodshed-collectives-tenant-at-west-park-presbyterian.html?_r=1 )

The question is of course, how do we keep the momentum going? To have the quality of event and programming that keeps the vision alive and fertile while still paying the bills? Explain how it’s the interaction of space, performer and artist here that produces what gets created here…And how difficult it is for me to explain sometimes how this is ministry, in the meta sense, and that this is not space rental but relationship and out of that relationship magic can happen that has intersection with spiritual and political realms. Which is what art does. Which is, in the end, sacred.

Martin paid me a compliment when he said that after meeting me, Carlos, who plays Oedipus, said El pastor Bob es Tiresias….el ve todo…I appreciate that.

We will see.

A special guest pianist for ETHEL is rehearsing in the sanctuary on the Beckstein before their performance tonight at the Met. Alex F is in the chapel preparing for her gig. Later Mr. Martin  arrives as out of thin air to tune the chapel pianos. Like the work crew arrived unannounced to repair the Mc Alpin Hall floor. So David and Dion are now telling me that there will be no open mic tonight because of the fumes from the glue. I print up signs for RL that say OPEN MIC CLOSED TONIGHT DUE TO CONSTRUCTION…..                                                                                                   

As I’m dealing with that, my guest for the night Junia, from the Brazilian consulate, arrives. We’ll have time for dinner and a chance to catch up before the performance. She goes back to the days before closing when my associate Regi was still here and we had an afternoon multicultural service, Enlace de gracia….(And she's a flutist who played in our Shakespeare Sonnets event which she hopes we can do agin next year.

There will be other guests, clergy friends, others from my writing group…

We still are embraced by grace…



Friday, July 24, 2015

Only one more block to the church

7/23

Crossing Broadway, a neatly dressed older woman with her husband following behind. Approaches me. Birdlike. Sir, do you have any change?
What? I look in disbelief. Do I have change, why?
Well, I’m a little short, that’s why. She says. Insistent. I check my pockets. No, no change.
Well then do you have a dollar?
Still in disbelief, I look until I find a dollar and give it to her. They make their way across the street, him a step behind. 

A man comes out of the subway saying firmly, loudly, but not shouting, Jesus is coming back. Get right with him, repent…Jesus is…Only one more block to the church.

Come to church after the monthly Micah Faith leaders luncheon. Building towards an October meeting to begin the push for a real living wage. Meanwhile there is celebration of the Governors’ endorsement of a $15 an hour wage for fast food workers, a victory they never thought they would win. The mayor has created a new clergy council and appointed a staff person to work with it. And a judge talks about his struggles in mediations around the whole frustrating stop and frisk issue, though change seems to be underway.

Phil is in for a conversation. Former pastor with a lifetime committed to the struggle.  Currently part of the Stop Mass Incarceration Network, that meets at West-Park every Sunday, they’re currently planning a march against police violence for October. I’m wondering about coordination with the Black Lives Matter movement.  And we’re talking about how to make clergy connections, like with the broad based representation who come to the Micah meetings.

Our conversations are interrupted by a steady stream of people walking in wanting to buy tickets to Antigona. That New York Times review has had an impact. I keep directing them to the Noche office inside the 86th street door.

The sisters still on the steps.

Dion has been bringing Krispy Kremes, which is both a blessing and curse.

I’m surprised to hear the sound of an ambulance siren and then have two EMT personnel walk into my office. Did you call 911?
No.
It came from inside the church..

So I get up and take them into the sanctuary. One of Noche’s key crew people is on the floor, surrounded by dancers and singers and Martin. Seems he tried to lift a massive light and heard something crack. Then his legs went out from under him. We all hold our collective breath. But he seems OK. Maybe a pulled muscle, maybe a hernia. He’ll know in the morning. So it’s all back to preshow preparations.

The box office is open and the line forming as I leave to meet Beppe for conversation.


Thursday, July 23, 2015

And here's what the New Yorker said....

7/22





All week long, Geoffrey has been sitting out front in a  sombrero and African skirt with a cup, shaking it as people pass by. He doesn’t usually do that. But then he doesn’t normally wear a sombrero either. The two sisters are camping out on the steps every day until the doors open for Antigona. I went with Pat and Steve B to play a show at a youth hostel in Queens. Got back in time for the last half of Antigona and to meet my son Nate and his friend. Nate is amazed at how the show has grown since he saw them at the Joyce. This is something else, for sure.

Last night, Elise recalled Woodshed’s The Tenant at West-Park (.http://west-parkpress.blogspot.com/search?q=The+Tenant) And Carman recalled the residency of Bread and Puppet theatre.(http://west-parkpress.blogspot.com/2013/11/paper-mache-religion.html )There have been some amazing things here at West-Park. I loved what the New York Times said about a downtown vibe. We’ve had that for years. Maybe now it will be seen by more….

Here is what the New Yorker had to say:




CREDITILLUSTRATION BY DADU SHIN

The grand scale of Greek tragedy suits the passionate flamenco of Soledad Barrio.
For many years, Spaniards have been agitating for the mass graves left over from the Spanish Civil War to be opened up and DNA tests done, in the hope that people who disappeared during those years—the poet Federico García Lorca is only the most famous case—might be identified and properly buried. In 2008, Baltasar Garzón, one of the country’s most prominent investigating magistrates, ordered the exhumations. A month later, the case was removed from Garzón’s jurisdiction, with some saying that, whatever the crimes involved, they were covered by an amnesty passed in 1977. Two years later, Garzón was suspended from judicial activity in Spain—a great victory for the country’s right wing.
“I read that in the paper,” Martín Santangelo, the artistic director of New York’s Noche Flamenca, says, “and I thought, It’s ‘Antigone’—demagogues not just killing people but leaving them in the dirt, dishonoring them.” And that, he says, was the genesis of his “Antigona,” a flamenco version of Sophocles’ play, which opens at the West Park Presbyterian Church on July 21, and will play through August 8. It has eight dancers (a hip-hop specialist as well as flamencos), four musicians, and song lyrics adapted from Dudley Fitts and Robert Fitzgerald’s translation of “Antigone.” In the role of Creon, the king of Thebes, is the singer Manuel Gago, suitably self-important, in big black boots. Creon’s niece Antigone, whom he tries to prevent from burying her brother Polyneices, because Polyneices warred against him, is played by New York’s greatest flamenco dancer—indeed, one of the city’s greatest theatre artists—Soledad Barrio. Barrio is also Santangelo’s wife. He built Noche Flamenca around her.
Greek tragedy and flamenco, it turns out, are well matched, both dealing with grief and defiance on an unashamedly grand scale. And flamenco, with its music and dance, supplies the ritual element that we are told was essential to Greek tragedy but which is often absent from modern productions of it. Never, until I saw Santangelo’s ensemble, their heels stamping, their arms cutting through the air, had I seen a chorus whose physical force could support the fate-heavy songs that Sophocles wrote for his plays. As for Barrio, though she spoke rarely, dancing seemed better than words: no rhetoric, no explanations, but just passion, majesty, absorption. At the end, Antigone, sealed up in a cave by Creon—she did manage to bury her brother—performs a long, nearly demented solo, as she tries to muster the courage to hang herself. She succeeds. Then her fiancé, Creon’s son, finds her and kills himself over her body. His mother, Creon’s wife, enters and, drawing a knife, tops off the pile. “There is no happiness where there is no wisdom,” the blind prophet Tiresias says. Poor Creon falls to the floor. ♦

Tuesday night with Noche

7/21

My friend Elise has joined me for tonight’s performance of Antigona, as has Carman Moore, Guggenheim award winning composer and friend of West-Park. Elise has traveled to Argentina and Andalusia. One time in conversation about Noche, she said that she preferred the darkness of the tango to the joyous frivolity of flamenco. I took a deep breath, Ohhhhhh…I said, but that is not flamenco. (Later Martin would explain about the bubbly version offered up to tourists, soda pop instead of dark, rich sherry.)


So tonight she would see the depth of flamenco as Noche pushed it to the edges. And beyond. Now after a week, the second half of the Antigona story builds and builds until Soledad Barrios final solo where she comes to a seeming climax at least twice before one more final explosion where you feel she could almost burst into flame.

After the performance, we were almost as breathless as the dancers. Carman gave the first musical review I’ve heard. He spoke of the seamlessness of the transitions, the crossing of boundaries (which Carman does) and the careful mixing of voices, sung and otherwise. He spoke of complexity and layers, all true.

The night was perhaps inspired by the review from the New York Times that came on line late in the day, for tomorrow’s print edition.

Review: ‘Antigona,’ From Noche Flamenca, Pairs Rhythmic Dance With Greek Drama

Soledad Barrio and Noche Flamenca: Antigona

By LAURA COLLINS-HUGHESJULY 22, 2015



Antigona Soledad Barrio in the title role, with Eugenio Iglesias on guitar, in this dance drama at West Park Presbyterian Church. CreditZarmik Moqtaderi

Flamenco paired with ancient Greek tragedy? It’s the kind of idea that makes the brow furrow. But in Soledad Barrio and Noche Flamenca’sdark and explosive “Antigona,” this odd-couple match makes an “Aha!” kind of sense, uniting two fierce and stylized forms to tell the story of a sister’s defiance of a king in defense of her dead brother.
A haunting, distant classicism coexists with sweaty, unmediated corporeality in this dance drama, adapted by Martín Santangelo, Noche Flamenca’s artistic director, from Sophocles’ “Antigone.” Displaying the same allegiance to dance as the earliest Greek dramas, it mines the martial, confrontational qualities of flamenco, and the mournful ones as well.

Sophocles’ narrative is not the easiest to follow, and “Antigona” takes pains to provide context amid the dance and song, almost all of it performed in Spanish with clear, well designed English supertitles. “Meet the family,” the gregarious Master of Ceremonies (Emilio Florido) says, introducing us to Oedipus and Jocasta; their sons, Polyneices and Eteocles; their daughters, Antigona and Ismene; and Jocasta’s brother, Creon.

The crown of Thebes passes among the men of the family, and Creon takes it after his nephews kill each other. When he refuses burial to Polyneices, a traitor to the city, Antigona buries him anyway.
Directed by Mr. Santangelo and choreographed by Ms. Barrio, who plays the title role with arresting intensity, “Antigona” takes atmospheric advantage of the arched space in West Park Presbyterian Church, on the Upper West Side, yet this production — which boasts Lee Breuer as consulting director — has a distinctly downtown vibe.
Sophocles liked a big chorus, and the group of eight here is a bit small by his standards, but it’s complemented by an excellent onstage band: Eugenio Iglesias and Salva de Maria on guitar, David Rodriguez on percussion, and Hamed Traore on electric guitar and bass. Together, the company reaches critical mass, no more so than when the astonishing Juan Ogalla, as Haemon, Antigona’s betrothed, nearly lights the floor ablaze with his dancing.
Like all discipline-straddling works, “Antigona” raises questions of category. It could be labeled theater or dance, and last fall, when it was a work in progress at the Joyce Theater, several segments from the piecewere reviewed as dance. Developed and expanded since then, the show sometimes feels like opera, and for a couple of moments — especially during a face-off between the brothers, Eteocles and Polyneices — even like rock opera.
A reasonably expansive definition of musical theater would embrace this show, even if Ms. Barrio, eloquent in Antigona’s anger and sorrow, is just about the only performer who’s doing as much acting as dancing.
“Antigona” continues through Aug. 8 at West Park Presbyterian Church, Manhattan; 866-811-4111, nocheflamenca.com.


Movement music: a recording session



7/21

Singing songs of liberation


                                                       Samuel L. Jackson



A long and beautiful day. Jeremy is producing an album for the Peace Poets, urban young adults from the Bronx who have been the soundtrack of the Black Lives Matter movement. Their most well known song, I Can’t Breathe….became the song for the Samuel L. Jackson challenge,  and no, he didn’t create it, Luke Nephew did.

We’ve got an eclectic group for the recording session, Poets, special friends, the entire Siegelbaum family (parents with a history of Nicaraguan solidarity), Jeremy’s father and his partner, special guest Stephanie Johnstone of Love Songs for the Rest of Us (http://lovesongsfortherestofus.com/). Oh. And me. 
Luke and Jeremy get ready


We gather in the top floor gym, where ETHEL once recorded. It’s got that kind of studio acoustic. Jeremy sets up the mics and we begin to learn the songs, one by one. 
Luke teaches a song

We start with The Voice of My Great Grand Daughter, a song that started with the Climate March last fall.; 


(KEY: F#, TEMPO: 79)



THE PEOPLE GONNA RISE LIKE

THE WATER

WE GONNA FACE THIS CRISIS NOW

I HEAR THE VOICE OF MY GREAT GRAND DAUGHTER

SINGING SHUT THIS SYSTEM DOWN!



I’m fascinated by Jeremy’s process, the way he’ll record different arrangements of people at different times. A core group in front, secondary singers in back. Over and over multiple times. The real work will be in his editing.
Jeremy conducts


Then the song we all know, ) I CAN’T BREATHE.

HOOK:

I STILL HEAR MY BROTHER CRYING: I CAN’T BREATHE

SO NOW I’M IN THIS STRUGGLE SINGING: I CAN’T LEAVE

WE CALLING OUT THE VIOLENCE OF THESE RACIST POLICE

AND WE AIN’T GONNA STOP – TIL OUR PEOPLE ARE FREE (2x)

The Liberation – of All

Black Women Leading– the Call

The change we making is about to be born

HOOK

BRIDGE:

Ain’t Nobody Free, Til Everybody Free!

-Sing that!-

Ain’t Nobody Free, Till Everybody Free!

So if you know that Black Lives Matter

People Sing it with me… HOOK



The songs we sing include :

OUR LIBERATION (F, 85), RIGHT ON TIME / BLM (F, 85), HOW CAN WE NOT REBEL?, a song about mass incarceration,(F, 117) SPIRITS OF THE ONES WE LOVE (C minor, 88) and finally, WHY I WAS MADE (F, 80).

Luke introduced each song. And here’s what he had to say about the spirit and purpose of the music:

The goal is to record songs that have been used in the streets and will be used in the streets in the struggle for Justice and Collective Liberation. We want to do a version of each song that can be taught and shared for other people to use. We want to use the power of the group to build the song and arrive together at the power and beauty of the most precious voice in the world: The People’s Voice. It is also our goal to enter into the feeling of these songs the same way we do instinctually when we take the streets and sacrifice our safely out of love for the people. This music is made to dissolve our fear and reveal the transformative power of our love. Lets enter into that. Let’s sing with the spirits of those locked up, those mourning, those loving, those hoping, those dying, those who have passed and the many more who have not yet arrived. Yes.
Double checking lyrics

And that’s what happens as we work on each song. They’re part song, part chant. A new from fit to the day taking the place of the old Pete Seeger songs that sustained generations of people in the struggle. It’s music that emerged from streets, easily memorized, simple, but with hip hop ethos, hip hop attitude. Usually unison but with occasionally room for gospel harmonies.

It comes from the people who are making this movement. We can accompany. We can march and sing along. Even add a harmony here and there. But in the end, then music, like the movement, is theirs.

LYRICS

OUR LIBERATION – Key: F, Tempo: 85

(Slow and Powerful)

MY LIBERATION

IS YOUR LIBERATION

AND YOUR LIBERATION

IS MY LIBERATION

LET ME HEAR THE PEOPLE SAY:

LET’S GET FREE,

LET’S GET FREE


RIGHT ON TIME

KEY: F TEMPO 85



FROM THE BRONX TO THE BAY AND

YOU KNOW WE NOT PLAYING

WE STAMPING OUT HATE

RIGHT ON TIME



THAT GOOD BLACK MAGIC

YOU KNOW WE BE ABOUT IT

SINGING BLACK LIVES MATTER

WE RIGHT ON TIME!


HOW CAN WE NOT REBEL?

Key: F Tempo: 117



MY BROTHER(SISTER)IS LOCKED IN A CELL, SO TELL ME HOW CAN WE

NOT REBEL?

AS LONG AS THESE PRISONS EXIST

WE’RE GONNA BE HERE TO RESIST!


THE SPIRITS OF THE ONES WE LOVE (Cm, 88)



THESE GUNS CAN’T STOP US

THESE GUNS CAN’T STOP US


WE GUIDED BY THE SPIRITS OF THE ONES WE LOVE

NO GUN GONNA STOP US NOW



(COPS, JAILS, LIES)



8. WHY I WAS MADE (F, 80)



I AM NOT AFRAID

I AM NOT AFRAID

I WOULD DIE FOR LIBERATION


CUZ I KNOW WHY I WAS MADE



As many as the stars in the sky: mythic history and Genesis 15-17

7/20

The Noche cast has been here since at least 4 PM, going through their individual warm ups in preparation for tonight’s performance of Antigona. Meanwhile, Marsha, Russ and I are in the chapel, where Dion is handling the FARMIGO  food distribution, to study Genesis 15-17.

Lots to cover tonight. Lot and Abram have split up, deciding this place is not big enough for the two of them. Lot, dazzled by the well watered, irrigated plains of Sodom has gone that direction. Knowing what Russ Howard-Brook has to say about agriculture  vs. taking what God has provided, bad choice. No wonder then that when hostilities break out, (where did all these people come from? Where do all thee kings come from?) No wonder then that Lot gets taken captive.

So Uncle Abram has to put together a guerrilla force to win Lot back. When be succeeds, the king of Sodom offers Abram all kinds of riches (he’s played this game before and won) if we will turn over the people he has accumulated in this campaign. This time, even though he got over on Pharaoh, Abram refuses. Sure, the king of Sodom is B list compared to pharaoh, but nevertheless, Abram has stood his ground, refused to capitulate. Refused to become a mercenary. And as Marsha pointed out, these kings stay in his debt

Lot and Abram exchange no words. And Lot, apparently a slow learner, goes back to Sodom. (You know that’s not going to end well…) . So far we’re seeing more how the empire operates.

Abram starts to worry about succession, about offspring. Like is all of this going to go to the offspring of Eliezer of Damascus? (We didn’t know either...an ironic reference to his chief of staff. ) There’s the touching scene where God takes him outside and show him the stars of the sky and tells him that’s how many offspring he will have.

Sarai comes up with the wise idea that Abram get together with their slave girl from Egypt, Hagar. When  she gets pregnant, apparently Hagar smirks at Sarai and gets sent away. An angel to the rescue. Clearly God cares for Hagar. She is part of his plan. And soon enough, she gives birth to Ishmael (Ismail).  Who apparently will have countless descendants. And will be a wild ass of a man with hands against everyone and everyone’s hands against him, living at odds with all his kin.  Ismail will be claimed as the ancestor of the Muslims. 

The God cuts a covenant with Abram. After a lot of animals are literally cut, comes this verse, source of so much trouble when applied to real life situations:

When the sun was down and it was dark, a smoking firepot and a flaming torch moved between the split carcasses. That’s when God made a covenant with Abram: “I’m giving this land to your children, from the Nile River in Egypt to the River Euphrates in Assyria—the country of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaim, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites, and Jebusites.

The maximalist Zionist dream.

Marsha wonders why Sarai and Hagar couldn’t have gotten together. Why did it all have to all be about Abram? And we discuss how this is not written as factual history, but as mythic history, to support an established empire. Marsha wonders what alternate stories were told around campfires that never got written down. And how all this mythic history continues to play a role in ideology.

As we leave, we pass through the backstage area for Antigona, the dancers and singers ready to go onstage.

Russ and I will head to the gate to continue the conversation.

Later, I'll find RL watching the Leverage where the team helps prevent an old church from being stolen by a developer. Hmmm. Mythic history....