Wednesday, August 31, 2011

And underneath it all, dignity

Paul, you’ll have to move. Can’t sleep here during the day. So he gathers his things and moves down to the sidewalk again, between the church and Barney Greengrass. I need some help from Reachout here. 
I’m scavenging through what’s left of Borders, trying to find something to use my gift cards on. Never let gift cards go too long. Get a phone call from  Danielle. A man wants to speak to me. What’s  his  name?, I ask. I hear her put the phone down, ask. Jobie, she says, Jobie. I don’t recognize the name. Tell him I’ll be there in 15 minutes. I’m suspicious that it might be a money issue. 
When I get back, they’re sitting in the sanctuary. She has a look of pain on her face matching his look of sadness. She brings him a water. Leaves us alone. He pulls out a piece of paper from his pocket. Just got out of the hospital, he says. Got this diagnosis. And he hands me a paper which shows his test result. HIV/AIDS. Positive. My brother got the same thing, he says, he was dead in three months. 
Doesn’t have to be that way, I say. Doesn’t have to be a death sentence. Lots of people live with it. Look at Magic Johnson.
Got to have the medicine. Can’t get it. 
Anybody to help you?
And he show me has an  appointment card  for an AIDS program, for Thursday, a day and a half away. What can he do until then? I take the card, call the social worker. Want to see what they had in mind. Get an answering  machine
Where’s he been staying? Your steps. And as I look at him, his gold wire frame glasses, he may be the distinguished looking man we saw in the south dorrway the other day. Saturday night, the police come and took us. Got us out a the storm. Today I walked to the Ryan Center, then here. Father, what am I going to do?
He tell me he’s been homeless for  dozen years. His wife let him, he lost everything. Is an alcoholic. But hasn’t drunk in a long time, went to AA meetings. 
It’s got to be hard on you, the people drinking on the steps.
No sir, them people leave me alone. 
I ask what he wants me to do. Pray, he says. And i feel a twinge of guilt over my thoughts that this was about money. 
That I can do. What do you want me to pray for?
My sins. They have me worried...
So looking up to Jesus, I pray for his sins. Want him to feel held like that child in Jesus’ arms in the Tiffany window. Want him to feel forgiven. Accepted. Loved as he is. That he may not get cured, but he can be healed. Tears are srteaming down his face.
Thank you, father. I was a praying man. Back home, back in Montgomery,  Alabama.I ask about his family. They’re a good family, he says. They love me. How long since he’s seen them? Twelve year, he says. They must miss you, I say. I think about calling them. He doesn’t have a number. 
So how bout we find you a place to go to? Off the street? 
Sure, but I’m not goin to no shelter. They beat me up. Rob me. All the time. I feels safer here. I feel safer on the street. His feeling is familiar. The vast majority of homeless people I’ve talked to would rather stay on the street than a shelter. It’s a sad reality. 
No shelter, I say.
We go into my office, call Reachout. They give me some leads. Safe havens. Day centers. One on the east side, another in the west fifties. No place near. And a Roman Catholic shelter in the Bronx.  But you have to act fast, they close at 4PM.
I call them. They have a space. We have a plan. 
I’ll be safe, right? 
Yes, I say.  It’s sisters. You’ll be ok. 
I been to the Good Samaritan place. Up there. In the Bronx. The church places, they’re ok. 
We’ve got 45 minutes. Danielle looks up the address on We’v got a route, 38 minutes. 
But I can’t go in  no subway. I got the claustrophobia.
Alternate plan. The bus. The 7 picks up right outside our door. But it takes an hour twelve. No good. They’ll close the doors. 
Look up how much is a taxi. I say. About eighteen, says Danielle. That’s it, I say. We pool our money. I run outside, grab a cab. The the cab driver sees Jobie, looks at me warily. It’s cool, I say, give him the money, the address. You take him there...
He reads the address. Nods. Jobie approaches, extends his hand. Thank you and God bless you. God bless you too, I say. And they’re off. He left his medical papers on my desk. Danielle calls the sisters Tells them he’s coming. And arrranges to fax his papers. 
The Frog & Peach actors are arriving. We’re done. They’ll be here alone tonight. 
We keep seeing his face. The profound sadness. The pain. Like one of tbe Christ figures in David Michalek’s 14 Stations. Regret. Brokenness. And underneath it all, dignity. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The day after

The latest from

Charlotte is there on the steps, but no Edward.
A guy from Starbucks shows up with a bag of overstocked food from their Irene weekend. So there will be bistro boxes, panini and breakfast muffins for actors and homeless people.
It’s time for Danielle and I to take a deep breath and check out the church and see how we weathered the storm. We inch down into the darkened basement, and to our amazement, it’s dry as a bone. Or at least as dry as these bones can be. The new pipes installed by Clint and the Watson Plumbing guys did the job. Thank God for small miracles. 
Danielle’s inspection of the whole building shows that the roof held up as well. 
When Teddy arrives, he breathes a great sigh of relief. They were prepared for a day of bailing. Later today his crew will come in and begin to unbatten, getting the elcectricity up and running again, getting the yard furniture back out. Much work to be done.
Lynnea comes in to try and find rehearsal space for Frog and Peach. This will not be easy. The next several weeks are really full. And a lot of scheduling is still unclear. It looks like we can find some space for today.
It’s late afternoon. John H and his Dark Lady Players cast are in the sanctuary. I greet them. See some faces I recognize from past productions. Welcome them into our home and talk about our plans for the Center and the open discussion of their production we plan for September 18th. 
In the session room, now the landlord’s apartment, Lynnea and her cast are gathered for their first read through of Two Gentlemen...Again, familiar faces. Welcoming Frog & Peach back for the first time in five years. Lynnea speaks of the Seven Deadly. Asks me to define envy. When you want what I have, I say. And vice versa. Grass is greener, she responds. 
Teddy’s crew is getting organized, ready to put things back in order. I invite all the theatre people to share in the Starbucks buffet. The Dark Lady Players volunteer to  get the food out to our homeless guests.
John comes over. Do you rrealize, he says, that you just had four theatre companies in here simultaneously? Dark Lady, Woodshed, Frog & Peach an a very important company from Los Angeles checking out the space for a possible production. That is really something.
I check out the Starbucks’ box. Pick out a ham and swiss panini and a breakfast sndwich. That’s it for this long day after. Dry, we’re dry.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The New York Times reviews "The Tenant"


Mystery Is Set for a Free-Range Audience

Bring comfortable shoes and a high threshold for frustration to theWoodshed Collective’s sprawling production “The Tenant,” the latest in a proliferating mini-genre of immersive-spookhouse mood pieces.
Emily Fishbaine
The Tenant In the Woodshed Collective's latest, audience members find vignettes in rooms of the West-Park Presbyterian Church. More Photos »


Emily Fishbaine
Michael Crane in “The Tenant,” in which the landmark building is part of the event. More Photos »
As they are at the higher-profile “Sleep No More,” audience members are set loose on multiple stories of a converted building to construct macabre narratives as they see fit, stumbling onto staged vignettes along the way. But unlike “Sleep,” which supplies mandatory white masks, “The Tenant” (originally a 1964 Roland Topor novel, but better known from Roman Polanski’s 1976 film adaptation) allows lurkers and roamers to stare the performers in the face and vice versa, making the voyeuristic kick a bit more complicated. This also makes scuttling out of any given area more awkward when the scripted proceedings grow mannered or banal, but one manages. (“Why did you let them take the baby?” was about all I heard in one room.)
The audience has free rein to explore five floors of the landmark West-Park Presbyterian Church, on West 86th Street in Manhattan, which the directors, Teddy Bergman and Stephen Brackett, have converted into what’s meant to be a down-at-the-heel Paris apartment building. But “The Tenant” has a clear protagonist in its skittish title character, Trelkovsky (Michael Crane), who unravels psychologically shortly after moving into the unit where a suicide had recently taken place. It’s entirely possible to spend the entire two hours tagging along behind Trelkovsky, and Mr. Crane, who has some of Billy Crudup’s compact, cheekbony intensity, is worth the close attention.
But what’s the fun in following a straight narrative when a dramaturgical scavenger hunt awaits? Something interesting — or at least loud — always seems to be happening just barely within earshot, and it’s not just the creepy background music by Duncan Sheik (“Spring Awakening”) and David Van Tieghem. So off we go, in and around the invitingly banged-up building. (The production designer, Gabriel Hainer Evansohn, has worked wonders within with what appears to be a snug budget.)
Here we find some two dozen actors playing out scenes by six emerging writers. (Bekah Brunstetter and Steven Levenson are joined by Sarah Burgess, Paul Cohen, Dylan Dawson and Tommy Smith.) These scenes range from hypnotic to vapid, with the majority falling in a sort of humdrum middle ground. The action inevitably culminates in the sanctuary itself, after the entire cast has corralled the audience for a finale that is more ambitious than successful.
The stronger moments in “The Tenant,” those that make the case for this labor-intensive form of play making and watching, are those that take place in closer quarters. One inhabitant absent-mindedly bakes macaroons while delivering a monologue about videotaping naked men. A tiny room features a painting of Corduroy the Bear on the wall as well as a sad little checkerboard with bottle caps and eggshell fragments filling in as substitute pieces. A lone tooth sits in a bloody basin in Trelkovsky’s room.
You can’t make a fully successful play out of such eye-catching glimpses alone, or at least Woodshed Collective hasn’t. The more interesting stuff always seemed to be happening somewhere else the night I attended. But maybe I just kept missing it. That’s both the problem and the selling point of “The Tenant.”

Irene, goodnight

For the first time in my 33 years in ministry, we cancel church. Feels very strange.
I’ve called our members who live downtown to make sure they’re ok. No problems. 
The worst is past. And the worst wasn’t. I go out to see what happened over night. Wind is swirling. Some drops of rain. A quiet, eerie feeling. Not much is open. The corner delis and bodegas. A kosher steak house. The Greek diner on 86th. And curiously, two Korean nail spas. Closed signs on all the churches. Runners are out runnning. Of course. If I could, I'd be running too, checking out the park.
The buses are running! A day early...
Things seem ok at the church. I  see Edward in the north doorway, wearing a  yellow slicker pulled up over his head. He’s asleep. I wonder about waking him or not. An ambulance roars by, sirens wailing. He looks up.
Edward, did you spend the night here?, I ask. 
Nah, I slept in the train station last night. Outa the rain, the storm. 
(Knowing that the subways were shut down, I wonder how be did that, but...)
So, just wanted to make sure you’re ok. 
I’m ok, ok.
I decide to wait until tomorrow to go inside and see how the new pipes managed, how things held up.
The worst is over. People are sitting outside at Gabriela’s, drinking margaritas.
Irene, goodnight.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

A rain with a name

Danielle’s visit to the scaffolding showed a number of corrugated metal sheets and other various items that could blow away and be dangerous. We need to get these things secured before the storm hits. 
On the way to the church, things are strange. Whole Foods closed at 9 AM. But our neighborhood Mani Market is open. And the line stretches around the bloc. As I head to Ace Hardware, I wonder which lines are longest, grocery store or hardware store? The lines are long. There’s been a serious run on duct tape. I buy a large tarp and industrial staple gun and staples.  The corner sanitation trash barrells have all been turned upside down. And I see that even Starbucks is closed. 
At the church, the Woodshed folks brought all the tables and chairs in. Pumps at ready. Sandbags near by. All windows secured. John H has come by to help. We bring the ladder down and outside so we can go up on the scaffolding. But once its up, it’s clear. John can’t go up and me neither. I think about going up, but it’s starting to rain and just one slip and I’m done. I  call my son Dan who grabs a cab and comes down to help out. 
On the corner, two special police have been stationed in neon yellow vests. I walk over and talk to them. This is considered a strategic corner, transportationwise. Need to make sure there’s coverage in case of power outage and traffic lights going out. There’s round the clock coverage until 9 pm tomorrow. 
The one cop tells me he’s got two years to go to retirement. Normally just gets to drive higher ranking officers around. Wants to make sure if he’s here extended time he can get home  to get his medications. But it’s not bad, y’know? he says and laughs. I’m glad they’re there.
Danielle goes up and over the scaffolding facing. Dan goes up behind her with the tarp and staple gun. They tie the tarp down over the metal sheets, staple it to the bridge. They clear off stray items: metal rods, a chair, a screen. It’s raining harder. That’s all we can do.
Heading home, I see a homeless person has come under the scaffolding. I wonder what will happen to them. I hope that the police are prepared. 
There’s a sense of breathless anticipation. Half anxious. Half excited. About half the people seem panicked. Others are mixing drinks. (How are the liquour store lines?) Our neighborhood Mexican restaurant moves the outdoor tables closer in and continue serving food and Tequila.  Some people  have this apocalyptic sense and others, ah, we’ll deal with it. That’s who we are. So we’ll wait. See what happens.
My friends in New Orleans say that, after Katrina, when a rain storm comes up, little kids say, does this rain have a name? They've learned, a rain with a name, beware. This one does. This one’s Irene.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Storm Warnings

The door catches as I try to open it. Something’s there. I push harder. There’s a heavy sleeping bag in front. I suspect that someone might be there as well, but no. I look ot the right. No one there. And then to my left. And there it is. The largest, rankest, pile of fly covered shit I’ve ever seen here.
And I lose it. Just lose it. Not this. Not today. I cannot deal with this. I explode. Goddammit. And mean it. Feel like I’m done.
Go inside. Danielle wants to know what's going on. I call her outside to the steps. She looks right. And then left. And then her jaw drops. Look, I say, I need a cup of coffee, then we’ll deal with it. Gotta find a way to move this from an anger management issue to a logisitcal problem.
Go into Barney Greengrass. Get my iced coffee. Gary’s back. Welcome back, Gary, I say. Thank you Reverend. Howya doin? I tell him about my herniated disc. He winces. Tell ya what, I’ll do a brucha on my end, you do one on yours that should fix it, ok? I laugh, say thanks, head back.
Danielle’s gone for water. I examine the situation. I will not leave this to Danielle alone. Get my yellow gloves. Remove the sleeeping bag, the waste ruined crumpled newspaper. Gather pieces of cardboard. Then scrape and scoop. My stomach turns. Danielle arrives with water. That’s done. She tells me when she did this with Hope she got the dry heaves. 
I drag off the bag of bottles and cans Edward didn’t help me with. To the corner. The Ready, Willing and Able guys are out and about. An independent environmental entrepreneur picks up the bag and carries it off. 
During all this, a distinguished looking older Upperwestside Couple comes into the church to look around. I haven’t been in here in so long, she says. I always forget how beautiful it is. Turns out she’s an architectural historian. We cared so much about this buiding, she says, worked so hard...
I’m thinking that they walked in right past the still not quite cleaned up steps. And left, too. There is, a deep romance with the building that doesn’t always see the busted pipes, dead boiler, pigeon commandeered space, urban reality. We need to find a way to capture that reservoir of romance and turn it into support to bring about real change, restoration, project by project.
Clint and the Watson Plumbing guys have arrived carrying heavy pipe. There will be a big push to get those rusted out pipes replaced and drains ready before the storm hits. It’s the last chance.
Teddy comes in and we put our heads together about battening down the hatches, so to speak. Woodshed has already cancelled their Saturday night performance. The city’s public transit will shut down by noon Saturday. So they’ll cut the aftershow short tonight. Enlist everyone in bringing all the tables and chairs in from the backyard, not wanting to see them tossed around. Sump pumps, sand bags, at the ready and waiting.
Out on the steps, Edward and Charlotte are sprawled out, drinking beers. Mess around. Edward, Charlotte, this isn’t going to work, I say. I ain’t sleepin’, says Edward. And that’s not the point, I say. Open containers? can’t do that. Not good for you, not good for me. 
Let’s go, let’s go, says Charlotte, otha sida the street. Over there. Otha side.
I continue to stand there. Edward looks up, drunk and surly. So much for detox. Don’t you be standin over me. Standin over me like my father. Don’t need no father. I’m 53 years old. Don’t be standin over me. 
That’s not what it’s about, Edward. It’s about respect. Mutual respect. This is our home. It’s a church. It’s not respectful to have a mess here all day. We welcome you. But there are rules. 
He starts to gather up his things, Charlotte already gone. Sullen look on his face. I’ll have to clean up again. Later. Danielle sees how upset I am when I come back in. Edward. Charlotte. Drinking,I say.
The scaffolding company is cruising the city, checking their installations. Danielle will have to go up the ladder and check ours. I ask Teddy to give her a hand.

I talk with my friend John S in Brigantine, a barrier island off Atlantic City. His whole island's been evacuated. You know its serious when the WaWa's closed, he says, referring to his neighborhood convenience store.  His family's gone to his daughter's house on the mainland. Whole we're on the phone, the police come through the neighborhood. Everyone must leave. So they'll head further inland. 

Marty sees me. Asks about storm preparations. He's clearly back to himself. I tell him about the drain pipes. He asks how much it costs. I tell him around $3000. He tells me that Oral Roberts never had any trouble raising money. I tell him I actually knew Oral Roberts, back in my Oklahoma days. Even worked as an adjunct professor at his seminary. (One of my secrets) He doesn't understand adjunct. I explain, just one course. We talk about how Oral overextended. Lost his hospital, his medical school, his law school. And how his son Richard almost lost it all. No Oral, Richard. ( Lots more stories there to tell.) More preparations to make. Time to move on. We wish each other well for the coming storm. 

Outside, the actor who plays Maman is coming in. She's the only "older" member of the cast. She tells me what it has meant to her being in our church everyday. Then, almost conspirationally she says, And I like just sitting in there with the angels. Turns out she works in a food program at Ascension Church where my good friend Father John Duffell is the parish priest. She loves watching him work the streets. (As do I.) I tell her of our friendships, shared study and social time with neighborhood clergy. That's good she says, that's the way it should be.  Then she goes in to get ready for this evening's performance. 
A phone call comes in. A couple has a Sunday wedding. On the shore. The caterer has cancelled. The officiant cancelled. Family has flown in from Israel and Ecuador. Could I come tonight,before the storm? To Park Slope in Brooklyn? I think about my back. Then I call back and say, if you get me there and back by car service, I’ll do it.  Done deal. After all this, they deserve a night to remember. It’ll be backyard. But a tux, a gown, a wedding. 
On the way to the wedding, I drop off my son Dan at the door to see the Tenant. I introduce him to Teddy. Tell him, if you need someone to help batten down the hatches, he’s yours. 
And now off to Brooklyn. Before the storm.

Friday, August 26, 2011

The New York Press on West-Park and Woodshed

Thursday, August 25,2011

Tale of Madness at West-Park Presbyterian

Woodshed Collective uses historic church as backdrop for re-imagining of Polanski’s ‘The Tenant’

By Mark Peikert
Photo by Emily Fishbaine/ Subletting Theater
The final installment of director Roman Polanski’s so-called “Apartment Trilogy,” 1976’s The Tenant, isn’t as well known as Polanski’s earlier films Repulsion orRosemary’s Baby. Starring Polanski himself as Trelkowski, a newcomer to a Paris apartment house who gradually goes insane under the scrutiny of his mysterious neighbors, The Tenant is enigmatic, haunting and sometime frustratingly oblique. So what better way to experience it than live, as part of Woodshed Collective’s ongoing love affair with installation theater?
An elaborate and intricate project, The Tenant, which opened Aug. 24 and is performed free of charge, boasts a script written by no fewer than six up-and-coming playwrights and original scoring from Duncan Sheik and David Van Tieghem, and is spread out over five floors of the historic West-Park Presbyterian Church parish house.
Woodshed Collective takes over West-Park Presbyterian Church for their production of The Tenant.
“I grew up in New York, and I have a sort of essential curiosity about what’s going on in the apartment next to you,” said Teddy Bergman, who, along with Gabriel Hainer Evansohn and Stephen Squibb, serves as Woodshed Collective’s artistic director. “And the source material represents a sort of nightmarish sense of that reality.”
The total immersion theatrical experience has been growing in popularity (and critical acclaim) since Woodshed Collective first started its installations with 2008’s 12 Ophelias, staged in McCarren Park Pool. In 2010, The Transport Group scored a massive success with their revival of The Boys in the Band, performed in an actual apartment; last year saw productions in buildings as varied as the Goethe-Institut (Hotel Savoy) and Hudson Hotel (Green Eyes). And, of course, there was this past spring’s site-specific breakthrough, Punchdrunk’s critical and popular hit Sleep No More, a disorienting immersion into the world of Hamlet staged in a Meatpacking District warehouse.
Far from being envious or feeling territorial, Bergman and company are rooting for more experiences like that.
“It’s exciting that there’s more installation and site-specific work going on here,” Bergman said. He praised companies that “try to invest new spaces with theatrical power, and then try to reclaim theatrical power for a new audience and put them in touch with what’s remarkable about the form.”
Surely Woodshed Collective’s The Tenant is one of the more appropriate pieces with which to experience the full force of theatrical power. Just as The Boys in the Band put audience members in the same room as the sozzled characters, so, too, do Bergman and his playwrights include the audience in the increasingly fragmented world of Trelkowski and his neighbors.
“The story kind of illustrates the sort of breakdown of the modular society of this building, and all of the flaws inherent in it,” Bergman said, harshly highlighting “people’s essential mistrust of one another and people’s lesser instincts hiding just below the surface. That story, to me, is a very exciting one to tell in an installation context. When we’re asking people to walk around and look and explore, it’s a fun mirror to hold up to the organism of the audience.”
Mounting a show written by six different playwrights, all with different voices, was not the headache it might at first seem. “The starting point for most of the writers was in the source material,” Bergman said—material that included the original novella by Roland Topor that Polanski adapted for his film. None of the playwrights was given an assignment; instead, they were asked to list the characters they’d prefer to write.
“And there was some crossover, but it kind of worked out wonderfully,” Bergman said with a laugh. “Of course, we were prepared for everyone to fight over the landlord character.”
The worry that half a dozen different voices might clash instead of mesh is rendered moot by what those half-dozen voices are working on. “Some of that got ironed out over the course of drafts and the course of the process,” Bergman said. “There is a sort of sense about genre that they’re all tapping into but, I think, in certain ways, where stylistic divergences appear makes sense in the piece. Each character is invested with an author’s point of view. It’s form following content. It’s set in an apartment building with many lives being led, and we want to give a distinct voice to all those lives. I just think it’s so thrilling to encounter multiple voices in that context, which to me, in certain ways, is a more accurate representation of those lives.”
Telling a story as layered and complex as that of The Tenant needed just the right space, and Woodshed Collective hit the jackpot with West-Park Presbyterian Church. “We wanted something with multiple floors and the ability to see from one room to another with a kind of circuitous traffic pattern, so you feel kind of in the maze of the building,” Bergman said. “This building really has it.”
West-Park is no stranger to the theater, either. Long a home to Upper West Side theater companies like Riverside Shakespeare Company and Frog and Peach, West-Park’s pastor, Robert Brashear, felt no qualms about hosting such a sprawling theatrical endeavor. “When they approached us, we were really in a pretty empty state,” Brashear said. “We were closed for approximately three years, and came back here and were reclaiming what was some seriously damaged space. After landmarking last year, we had to do this ourselves. And with a parish house with significant water damage, the work that Woodshed is doing helps us further down the path. We’ll have the benefit of significant parts of our restoration accomplished.”
The arts have provided a major stepping stone for the restoration of West-Park’s buildings. In addition to the repair work that Woodshed Collective has necessitated, a June concert for victims of the Japanese tsunami helped restore some of the church’s bathrooms, and a Three Graces production prompted the church to bring the space up to code for Actors’ Equity.
That rough-around-the-edges aesthetic of West-Park is a perfect match for both Woodshed’s immersive aesthetic and the tone of The Tenant. As Bergman said, “Because both metaphorical and actual urban decay are topics in the piece, an historical building like this, and one that definitely shows its wear and tear on the surface, was essential.” Also essential, no doubt, will be return trips to West-Park for the chance to follow another strand in the web that Bergman and company have so carefully woven.

    Not abandoned, not vacant

    Edward and Charlotte are on the steps as I arrive.  Things are a bit of a mess around them. He’s clearly spent the night. Good morning Edward, Charlotte. Y’know we gotta get things cleaned up here. 
    Yeah, I know, I know...
    Charlotte screws up her eyes at me. Raises her hand, fingers splayed. You go, she says, you go now..Yesterday’s gentleness is gone. 
    Ah don’t pay her no mind, says Edward, she’s ok.
    I know, Edward, I know. And look, if you don’t mind, I need that bag cleared out. And I point to a large bag of bottles and cans near the south doorway.
    I ain’t got nothin to do with that. That ain’t my mess...
    I know that. Didn’t say it was. I’m asking you for help.
    OK, OK...
    You go, you go now....
    Edward, Charlotte, take care, ok? And I go inside the church. Danielle is there. She to has had a convesation with them. They are a fascinating couple. Danielle's learned that Charlotte is around 70. It looks pretty equal to me. We call to let Reachout know Edward’s back. 
    Jeremy comes in. I ask him how its going with the Sacred   Center. We talk about his own writing. And then my desire on the tenth anniveersary of 9-11 to recreate some of the special music we did the first Sunday after. I sing settings of Not by might (Zechariah 4:6, the words above our door)....and the 23rd Psalm chant we created. He’s up for it. Thinks we can do it. 
    Marc comes in to do another media interview training session with Hope and I. He does an Anderson Cooper on us. Then an aggressive Bill O’ Reilly. One interview goes well. The other, well, not s well.  And before we start the next one, an actual live journalist, Leslie Albrecht of DNA Info has walked in.
    I go off with Leslie. She’s covered us before. Wants to do a story on West-Park and Woodshed from our perspective. I share my frustration with our having been labeled abandoned and vacant in the mainstream press. We are most definitely not.  I walk her through the whole  building. She’s never seen anything like it. I try to explain how it works. And how its more than a rental, a relationship. 
    Back in the sanctuary, Sarah has joined Marc for a debriefing of our session. Have to get our message down.  Get the sound bytes straight. Time to run to the doctor’s for another evaluation.
    On the way home, stop back to check in with Danielle. It’s an offday for Woodshed. A bit strange without them around. Out on the steps, Paul has settled into the north doorway. Another man, tall, bald, wireframes, almost distinguished looking, has settled into the south.

    Thursday, August 25, 2011

    Opening night

    Our new guest, the balding man is named Paul. Marty is sitting on the steps, his hand extended, collecting, as he puts it, tips. I say Good morning Marty, he looks up in that anxious way and scurries off, relocating in front of Barney Greengrass.
    Danielle has returned. Time to catch up, plan out the next month, decide priorities. Plumber first on the list, grate second. Money  issues to figure out. Master schedule. Where to begin?
    Sustainability consultants from Solar 1 and EME come for a walk through and exploration of how we can do an urban green restoration project, beginning with the  boiler. 
    Marc has come to do a pr training session. We have a social action campaign brewing that could be controversial. Wants me to be prepared. I’ve been doing this for thirty years, but it doesn’t hurt. Knowing my message, staying on it. Doing ok, just a little long.
    Head down Amsterdam to talk with RL about bathrooms and a P&G memorial concert with all the old performers. Run into John H who’s wondering what we can retain after Woodshed leaves, lights, etc. He's got someone to help us think about that.  And he’s got another Shakespeare idea.
    Back to the church to see if New York 1 TV is there. Stephen has just arrived. Seems like they’ve taken their footage, spoken with Teddy and left.
    There’s Bon Iver coming on again. I need to go home and change before opening night. Edward is on the steps with his lady. A cast on his hand. I asked him what happened. Hit the wrong thing, he says, don’t worry, not a human being. Behind the alcohol, messin with me, I lost it. I ask how he’s doing with Reachout. Spent a week in detox. I look at the 40 in the paper bag his lady is holding. I tell him he still looks good, he’s got a chance. Not a touch of gray in that Afro, like a young Michael Jackson, I say.
    Nah, old, he says.
    No, young, it’s that Afro..
    You still good honey, you still good, his lady says, patting his leg gently. 
    My moms has 73 years and barely 2-3 gray hairs if that, he says.  I wonder about his mom, where she is. 
    He figures he ‘s got two shots, starting with uncollected VA benefits. Didn’t serve long, honorable though...
    He gives her a kiss. 
    I got mail for you honey, she says.
    Proabably a bill.
    Nah, a ticket, and she laughs. 
    I ask her name. Charlotte, she says. I look at her. She’s got a good ten years or more on Edward. Beyond the cackle, there's a gentleness. Lives at Capital Hall, our SRO neighbor. Along with Marty. And Deacon James. All part of our extended community.
    Edward, Charlotte, take care. See you later.
    Those sweet ethereal sounds of Bon Iver. And homeless on the steps.
                                                            * * * * * 
    The crowd is lining up 86th Street, waiting for the doors to open. There’s Marsha with two young men from South Africa, one a concert pianist. It will be tight, but I will try to get them in. She’s got three other friends coming too. I go down to the bar with the South Africans. Soon Marsha  is there, too. Got them all in.
    I point to the full rooms, the buzz, the people. How alive this formerly dead or at least dormant space is. This makes me happy, Marsha. I say. She smiles, I know. I love seeing my space, my church, this way.
    This night I decide to follow Trekovski. I watched the movie last weekend. This time I see the funeral, the scene in the cinema. And much of the movie’s best dialogue. But all the up and down is still tough on me. And the finale, close....but still not quite...But the audience cheers and applauds loudly when the word FIN appears on the screen. 
    The two South Africans are amazed. Awesome, they say. Exactly the kind of New York experience they were looking for. Marsha and her friends also impressed. They decide to head of for dessert. I stay for the party. 
    Up in Mc Alpin, the courtyard and cafe, people are buzzing. Many of the Woodshed women have worn black dresses. Jillian is sparkling. Stephen,Teddy, Gabe exhausted but good to have the opening successfully done. Now to wait for the reviews...
    I look around. Remember our parties after the Bridge concert series. Life. Here.