Sunday, February 2, 2014



I am America

Dealing with the last man standing, one man band,  here alone reality. Three things happening at once. One: the plumber called in to deal with non-flushing toilets. We’ve got a performance tonight.
Two: Martin sees the plumber and needs to tell me that if the gas is being turned back on, he’s getting out. Yesterday was truly serious. The carbon monoxide got to Soli. His friend with the FDNY said it was very dangerous. I get defensive. The plumber is staring at us. He leaves. I go outside and apologize for getting defensive. Affirm that I find carbon monoxide scary too and we’re doing our best. And the guy fixing toilets is not turning any gas back on. Not until Monday. Well, just let me know, OK? He insists. And I agree.

Three: While all this is going on, the Workcenter is now rehearsing in the dark in the balcony theatre because the lighting they put in has popped a breaker. So I call Danielle to find the breaker box and head upstairs with flashlight. Find the box. Flip the switch. Lights back on.

Yesterday, John H was telling Danielle he used to fantasize being a pastor. Reading in the morning. Theological discussions with parishioners in the afternoon. Finishing the day with evening prayer. Nothing about boilers, fuse boxes, crazy people with shopping carts and toilets. What intro to ministry really needs to have. Basic economics. And building maintenance. Like basic flushometer. That’s ministry. Well not all, but more than you ever thought or anyone ever told you.

Finally it’s evening. Time for The Workcenter’s performance of I am America. A dramatic performance of poetry by Alan Ginsburg. A look at America through the eyes of a beat poet through the eyes of a European artist in the tradition of Grotowski.

Mario actually has a rootsy rationale for the use of southern American and black work song music to accompany Ginsburg. Ginsburg was rooted in beat which was rooted in jazz which was rooted in the African-American music tradition so take it back beyond jazz to the roots and there you are.

It’s cold. The performance is in the balcony theatre. The old Papp theatre. Last used by Jeremy G and his Alivewire theatre group. And Jeremy G is here working with Mario. Yes it’s cold.  But there’s a full house. Katherine and Mim are here. And several Noche folks. We’re packed in tight. That will help keep us warm.

I give a welcome and the performance begins. It unfolds. Like the American flag. Immigrants. Slaves. All who wound  up on this shore. Translated through Ginsburg’s incantatory poetry. Venturing into Bread & Puppet territory prophetic critique but never losing the beat throughline. The audience transfixed. Not always clear. But present. So this was our evening prayer. Our vespers.
The applause is long and sustained.

In the tradition of West-Park we carry on heat or no. Back to our first rebirth beginnings in the freezing cold of winter three years ago. Wanting to be on the verge of a real rebirth. Now.

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