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Monday, April 21, 2014

Saturday: day of preparation


Flowers waiting for tomorrow

As I get to the church, there’s a crowd outside the 86th street door. What’s going on here? It’s the Frog & Peach cast of King John anxiously awaiting the arrival of their director for rehearsal to begin.

Shortly after I open the doors, the flower delivery truck arrives with a load of lilies and tulips from MIm. They will be there to brighten our Easter morning.

Don offers to help clean up and set up but since no one else is there, I decide we can get by. But just as soon as I’m ready to leave, Marsha arrives and we set to work. Clearing out the narthex. Throwing out accumulated unnecessary stuff. Marsha starts to vacuum and I get the broom and dust pan and head to the steps, the sidewalk, to sweep. Amazing what can accumulate just overnight. We place two pair of women or children’s leather shoes/boots on the steps and they are gone within the hour.

I make a run for supplies. Return and finish. The restrooms will wait until tomorrow morning, the King John crew is still here.  It is two hours later. Much has been accomplished. I feel a good kind of tired.

Just after Marsha leaves, Leila arrives, looks around. Looks good, she says. The flowers are there, already to be set on the steps in the morning. To say, we are here. You are welcome. Happy Easter.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

This Good Friday


Theatre Group Dzieci
A Passion

Good Friday. 

There are four cans of liquid nutritional supplement on the steps. And a beautiful long apparently cashmere coat that I drape over the scaffolding railing. By afternoon, all these items are gone .

Geoffrey comes in early, stakes out a space in the back of the sanctuary. Goes to sleep. Earlier Martin had called to say that Soli had seen him downstairs near the restrooms. Yes, that happens. He’s respectful and harmless, though eccentric. Geoffrey, that is.

Karen is playing her music in the sanctuary when  Jean comes in with her work crew of kids from Sacramento, all in  their familiar Presbyterian Disaster Relief t-shirts. They are young. They’ve been working all week rebuilding homes in the Rockaways. RDA is building six. The total needed is 27,000.

Jean and the Sacramento PDA workgroup
I tell the crew the history of the church. It’s struggles. It’s witness. Ending with the ceramic baptismal font cover Dan’s mom Sheryl made. Occupy Wall Street over Tiffany Victoriana. The contractor Don has special interest in the architectural history and is eying things carefully, making mental notes.

They head off to Central Park while I try and get ready for Easter. Danielle places a beautiful cable knit sweater and a straw hat on the steps. Soon, only the hat is left. Late in the day, I decide to head down to the Gate to give RL a head’s up about the kids. But I run into the crew. Jeanie says that she already saw him. So I join them at Caesar’s for pizza. And Don has ideas for a work group to come work on West-Park.

After dinner, they just have a little while to chill before Dzieci’s A Passion. As this is the day we commemorate the passion of Christ, the timing is right. The play begins. It’s evening dark this time. Some blocking has been changed since last week. But again, I’m drawn into their story. I’m watching closely, wanting  to understand how it works. It’s like a community gathered for ritual. One that has happened over and again. Perhaps at a scheduled time every year. Familiar and yet new.  Trading well known, familiar roles  around. And in the midst of telling the  story, it becomes real and present and we are in the midst of it as a real time reality.

As the dance to a lively Hinay ma tov reaches its peak, they are inviting audience members  to join in. One does. It’s former Dzieci Isis, back for this performance in a dance she knows so well with old friends. Hinay ma tov

It’s that song that will bring us back together after the scroll has been left, tied up as in a burial shroud but at the same time an object of respect and veneration. And we all go out together. Later, in conversation, Jean will say, I have never been so moved by a passion and Matt says, Let me take that down. Rev. Jean from Sacramento? And Jean is immediately trying to figure out how to get them to Sacramento. Somewhere in there we notice Geoffrey is still here. 

The Dzieci want to talk with the kids. And this is where things start to go awry. They are already in the chapel where Open Mic is getting ready to begin. So there’s a moment of confusion and then the Dzieci thank the kids and exit.

A couple of the kids are planning on performing. RL opens. Then Dion with his good hearted stand up. Then a female comedian announces she wants to work hard. Or let’s say blue. And awkward uncertainty sets in until Jean decides to lead them all out. In the hall, they encounter Joel and Jean
A hug with Joel
persuades him to do an impromptu improve. Which he does.

Then they are out the door.  One of the kids brings a message that the blue comedian is done and please come back. Just for one song. Jean hesitates a minute but has already made her exit s the crew is on their way to the subway and back to Jamaica.

Halfway down the block, I want to run after them and yell come back, come back. I think I know what RL has in mind. Another 10 minutes won’t matter. Opportunities come once and vanish. For every second chance I’ve had there’s an equal number of never to come agains. You never know. By the time I think this through, they’re an avenue block away.

I’m kicking myself for not having insisted when RL steps outside. I’m sorry, I say. I am too, he says. And then, you’re out of practice. I look at him, a question on my face. …. dealing with rational people, he says. And I appreciate that.Trying to make me feel better. But I’m going to brood on this awhile. So I’m lost in my head while the comedian’s boyfriend Chris lays down a solid electric guitar set which RL compares to Nelson Eddy. And I barely notice another stand up guy who seems to be off in his own stream of consciousness without a paddle.
Chris plays a mean guitar solo

But I snap out of it in the middle of Joel’s performance when he enters into a riff on his encounter with Jean and the crew and he just lays me out. He weaves his emotions about their work, their faces. Luckily, his videographer friend caught the performance. It sort of healed the night for me. Sort of.

By the time I came on, we were down to close friends and associates. So RL decides to take a different approach to stay awhile. Kind of slow, reflective. And that’s how it ends.

This Good Friday.

for more Good Fridays:

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Maundy Thursday


Ready for Easter

Maundy Thursday. The day we remember the last supper of Jesus, possibly a Passover seder. Or the night before.

Marina is taking on a business discussions role with Noche. Hmmm. I’ve enjoyed watching her become more and more integral to the company.

The Frog & Peach cast is putting in long hours preparing for King John.

Berik raising a banner
Berik and Leila have arrived to hang the Bread & Puppet banners that they gave to us as parting gifts.  We bring in David S to help with the project because a tall man is needed. And after some time in negotiating and strategizing, the banners are hung. The bring back to me the sense of spirit and life that the company brought to us during their residency. There is a simple, affirming funkiness to their cheap art that somehow conjures that time known as the sixties and a down home rural rootsy America at the same time. (Although that always was part of the sixties ethos). It makes me happy to see the banners up. Proclaiming spring. The renewal time of Easter. And reminding me of the joy of having B&P with us.

At the end of the day, RL stops in, just because.

The speak for themselves

For past Maundy Thursdays, see

Thursday, April 17, 2014

What Mario wrote in his press release about the Work Center's residency at West-Park

....It was delightful, inspiring, and intriguing to meet Reverend Robert Brashear (or simply Bob), Danielle Smith, and the West Park Presbyterian Church. We understand the reasons which led you to embrace our presence and efforts in West-Park. One of our members was told by her mother and grandmother that the church is God's house, and that every human being is also Gods house. These days this may sound confusing, but then, different though we all may seem or be, if we are all part of a shared existence we call to be human, then it is only just that God's house is a space for the manifestation and celebration of different aspects of this search to be human. We thank you heartily for offering your space for the performances I Am America, The Hidden Sayings, and Not History 's Bones - A Poetry Concert, as well as for making the Church available for the sessions of the Open Choir and the meetings of the Seed Group. Our relationship with you never felt like, and never became, an exchange in business. We wish especially to highlight the fact that you gave, and are currently giving, this church as a free space to use for many new possibilities to evolve and grow. We witnessed that during these performances and shared times together there was a great interest on the part of so many people to know this human work, this work to be human, and we are sure that we can attempt and develop this together as many seemed to enjoy it, felt some special connection to it, or had some specific memory which fostered a desire to participate in this work. The truth is you always encouraged us not simply to use the space but to create a shared space with others, and what transpired was truly something to build upon towards a new kind of future. We are grateful to have begun something special there with you. Your generosity is profound, and we wish to continue these fruitful conversations and our mutual efforts.

Midweek Holy Week: Quick, cheap and good. Pick two.


Joe and La Toya back to pressing the limits again. I swing open the doors. They say, I know, I know…

It’s a cold day.Geoffrey arrives early and stays late in the sanctuary. Stops in to say thank you sir.

Jeremy is back …briefly…from Switzerland. He has brought me his CD to give to Jean. And is excited to show me his new music video for his song, Let’s waste this year. Unfortunately, I can’t share it until it’s official release. His record company is looking for the right roll out strategy. But I love his shout out to me in the credits. He and Priska are hanging out in Berne, Switzerland while her show continues. To make money while he’s home, Jeremy’s made one  deal with the devil, he says, for a TV show. I’m anxious for him to get back so that we can start working together again.

Cool thing about his video. It was shot immediately after his interview with Zeljko. The same crew from the School for Visual Arts. (Hooked up by Zoran?) He invited them down to his meeting with the Hungarian puppet people. And they went along just for the fun of it. It’s taken 18 months to get the video done. Like my father said, he says. You’ve got quick, cheap and good. Pick two….And then he asks about Zeljko’s shooting and project.

Karen is in and playing the piano until Pat O arrives and we go into the sanctuary to review last Sunday’s congregational meeting and talk about next steps. We talk about the two work groups again and what it will take to move forward. It’s my job to inspire and sustain the will to move forward in spite of the frustration.

A young woman comes in. Asks if Teddy’s still here. If we know where he is. Danielle and I look at each other. He’s dead, I say, died a year ago Christmas. We had a memorial service in February. Like 200 people here . All kinds of people, he was well loved.
Did he die here?
Heart attack.
I had a feeling that he was gone…or, not here. I had a feeling.
How did you know him?
I’m a photographer. I was following
Occupy Wall Street. I took pictures of him. He came to me this week. I mean, to my mind. I didn’t now where to look. I knew he came here. So I thought I’d start here.
I have pictures. I know he had children. A daughter. Daughters. A son?
Do you have their addresses? I’d like to send them…
Yes. But there’s someone else. The love of his life. You’ve got to send her, too.
She looks at me puzzled. I give her the link to Zeljko’s film about Teddy.(
Watch this, the story’s there. Well, not the story, but, you know? 
She takes down all the information. We exchange contact info.
He got to me, you know?
Yeah, I do. He was well loved here.

And that’s the second time Zeljko came up today.

A Brazilian is in looking for a place to teach capoeira, that hot mix of martial arts and ritual, beautiful movement, movement accompanied by the berimbau. Capoeira.

Marsha and I meet. Talk about doing something. Talk through what should be done first. Decide to make a proposal lot do that. To begin.

Coming home on 86th after the Yankee game, it felt like fall, like playoff weather. I run into Lynnea and her King John. They open soon. They’ve been in rehearsal in the church. She’s feeling good.