Saturday, March 19, 2011

Ninth day of Lent: The decay. The ruin...we can use that

An even more beautiful day that the one before. But things piling up. Progress frustrating. And with each just one more thing, I want to announce, “ok, it’s official. I’m overwhelmed. I surrendur.” I find a broom on the steps. Wonder if Deacon James left it there. Turns out he did. It broke.  He’ll get a new one. 
As John and I are waiting for the Woodshed theatre people to arrive, another neighbor who’s never seen the doors open (sigh) comes in for a look around. I give him the whole architectural run down. The social history. Turns out he’s from the La Farge family, as in John La Farge the late  19th Century stained glass artist. Our guest can actually read and understand our glass. He had been involved in an effort to save a church in Rhode Island, but it didn’t succeed. I tell him the depths of the challenges financial and otherwise we face in this journey. Take down his name to keep him informed. 
John and the Woodshed folk are already underway. They’re going room to room deciding what they want to paint or change for their immersive (using the whole building) production  of the Tenant, a dramatization of the novel by Roland Topor (and Polanski’s movie of the book). Over and over looking at torn away ceiling, exposed skeletal parts, peeling paint, I hear, “wow. The decay. The ruin. I love it. We can use that...” At one point we joke about the church house  being an ideal set  for a sequel in the Saw series. 
Then a funny thing happens. In the old children’s room, the guys start noticing the characters in the murals painted by Abie Nedelka years ago.  ‘Look, there’s the hungry hungry caterpillar...” “And look there’s bear and his umbrellas.” “And, there, my God, it’s Paddington..” So one by one our young male theatre guys are namechecking their childhood friends. “And there, Curious George, though in those stripes that one looks like Curious George goes to prison.” And soon enough, someone namechecks the Brooklyn punk group, Furious George. John seems somewhat puzzled by all this. We all agree the murals need to be photographed and saved before being painted over. 
While we’re in the chapel, I get a phone call from Gary about another annoying “fall down”  law suit. Complicated by our insurance company having gone  bankrupt.  They just don’t stop. When I come back from the phone call, everyone seems to be gone. 
So I head to Starbucks to do some internet and there are  the Woodshed guys. We talk about the ruin. The decay. How it’s not just post apocalyptic chic. It’s about doing a production rooted in a place. Specific to that place. The layers of exposed paint showing layers of history, years. A production that’s in dialogue with  its surrounding  space and with the space’s history. Of course,I say, and recall my last visit to Berlin. The exposed layers of Weimar, World War II bombings, DDR social realism all open in conversation with each other and with those who encounter the spaces. . The amazing performances held in such places. Yes. My vision again. It’s right here, right beyond my  grasp.
I compliment Teddy on his Ruth era Yankees hat. Point out out that I’m wearing  a Negro League Crawfords hat from the same era. We shake hands. We can already see the production happening. John calls to tell me  he forgot to turn out the lights. OK, I’ll go back....

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