Thursday, August 1, 2013

Grotowski's children

There’s someone all covered up asleep. I check and it’s a homeless woman I’ve seen on the streets ever since I’ve been here. Usually over on Broadway. But never here. What’s going on? I speak to her. Are you OK? Do you need me to call someone? 
No, I’m fine.
Can you get it together?
(Indignantly) Of course I can get it together...
And soon she is gone.
Fact: since New York City ended it’s rent subsidy program last year, there are over 19,000 more homeless. There are now over 20,000 homeless children in the city. The average rent subsidy was $300 a month. It costs $3000 per person for month in the shelters. It is crazy. They push the lower level homeless out to the street, the steps, where it costs nothing I guess. The private providers are a racket...As the prophet Amos said, That we may buy the poor for silver, and the needy for a pair of shoes...
Later I go outside. Two men are sitting on the steps. Blocking the main door. I am asking them to move. An older affluent woman walks up to me. Excuse me, what is the problem?
I just found them here, asking to get the doorway clear.
Are they causing any harm?
No we need the doorway open.
There’s plenty of room for people walk around them...
You don’t understand...
It’s not right to be jumping on people just because they are down and out. Not right. I find that a very disturbing attitude for a church. And she is on her way. I think of continuing the conversation. Think better of it. 
She probably lives across the street in the apartment building where people call all day long complaining about the people on the steps. Who want them not to be seen. Anyway you look at this you lose...
Jeremy G (Alivewire..) comes in with his friend Mario, a theatre guy from Italy. Wants me to meet him. I listen to his story about his work. At places like Yale in New Haven. The students blank, the kitchen workers joining in their song and dance. Working with music from the African diaspora. The American south. And beginning to discover the connections with Appalachian white. Of small church services in the Bronx and as he describes the people, we almost say simultaneously, Garifonos, the Afro-Caribbean population tha stretches along the coast of Central America. Honduras, Nicaragua...
As he talks, I can feel he is another of the children of Jerzy Grotowski. I’ve never studied him, but I know him by his children, Martin, Dzieci, Jeremy, Mario. I can see the connections, the same ethos at work. Theatre as lived experience within a context. Appreciation for ritual and ancient forms and  practice regardless of specific religion. The desire for performance to engage, involve, move beyond words. With concrete spiritual and social content and a commitment to service. To be performed in connection with and in the midst of the mentally ill, the aged, infirm, poor, oppressed. It is a theatrical practice as a way of life. Separated  from values, it has evolved into elitist performance art. True to its roots it has revolutionary power. And we are somehow becoming a home for Grotowski' s children.
I give Mario the full tour. Let him feel the place. Seeds are planted. We’ll see what can grow. Among these, Jeremy is the youngest. I can see he gets it. I can also see it has not yet become fully realized in his work. The movement from head to gut is visible.And admirable. I want to encourage him on that journey. Having seen his last work, he’s getting close. 
Stephen is in from Queens, where he's now living. He’s just begun a new job. We’ll have to  figure out how to use his time efficiently now. While we’re talking, Thatcher, our friend from the Gate comes in. His specialty is cost and time efficient web sites for non-profits. We talk about how he could solve our problem. Our web presence has become a sore spot. And an embarrassment. The number of demonic twists and turns in the story too complicated to tell. But he seems to have some thoughts. (Yes friends, the long dead website may rise again....) 
I head upstairs. Stop to see RL in his studio. His work crew is still at it, reclaiming space on the 4th floor. We’ll take it a floor at a time.  Our stowaway, that’s a nautical term, but I don’t know a land bound version, is still lurking about in the shadows. The locksmith arrives tomorrow.
Off to another candidates’ forum. When I get back, Marc wants to know what I’m doing here so late. I tell him I’m writing what you’ve just finished reading.

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