Categories
ART ARCHIVES CULTURE ARCHIVES Datebook Events Listings Living NYC ARCHIVES Theater

To Preach His Own: Reverend Billy at Joe’s Pub

The Information Age has something it won’t say/Climate change kills the poor every day.” Thus begins one of the bluesy hymns in Monsanto Is the Devil, a musical revue now at Joe’s Pub, led by the singular Reverend Billy (Bill Talen). Boosted by the Stop Shopping Choir (decked out as queer pilgrims in holiday spirit) and backed by the Not Buying It Band, the activist-performer preaches and croons with eccentric flair. Today, he tells us, the sins of a global capitalist state have spread far and wide, so “there are any number of devils to choose from.” Among the scourges: Mindless
consumerism. The destruction of the planet. Bankers’ greed. Police brutality. Duane Reade. Blighted, forgotten communities. And, of course, GMO food and a certain multinational giant.

When our white-suited pastor — recently returned from protests in Ferguson and Detroit — gives us the gospel truth, calling on America to get radical again, it’s hard not to feel that this is one essential act. But it’s not a great choice for the soulless Joe’s Pub, where patrons are served drinks and gaze at these rollicking activists as if they’re merely a diversion. Despite rousing calls to action (“Joe Papp–ellujah!”), the room and its hovering waiters position us in the very
consumer spirit the choir warns against. Our sin-sick nation needs Reverend Billy and his flock more than ever right now — but on the front lines, not in a cabaret.

Categories
CULTURE ARCHIVES Datebook FOOD ARCHIVES Listings NEW YORK CITY ARCHIVES NEWS & POLITICS ARCHIVES NYC ARCHIVES THE FRONT ARCHIVES Theater VOICE CHOICES ARCHIVES Where To

BEE-IN

Reverend Billy is no longer occupying Wall Street, but now he’s occupying the stage. Today, he brings his Stop Shopping Choir to the Public Theater for a new production about the financiers of climate change and a rapidly approaching ecological apocalypse seen through the many-faceted eyes of a honey bee in peril. Don’t miss this chance to see the radical performance collective in a theater that’s not also a bank lobby or operational Starbucks. New songs will rock your world…in a good way.

Sun., Nov. 23, 2 p.m., 2014

Categories
FOOD ARCHIVES NYC ARCHIVES VOICE CHOICES ARCHIVES Where To

Reverend Billy & the Life After Shopping Gospel Choir

Now ten years into his act, William Talen is a convincing performer; he embodies his religious garb so realistically, you’d be forgiven for not knowing that he isn’t ordained. His crusade against consumerism has taken him across the country and the world, leading to arrests over his stances against Disney, Starbucks, and other huge corporations. As opposed to his street performances, the confines of a club make for a setting of less dramatic action, but his spirit will move you nonetheless.

Sun., April 18, 1 p.m., 2010

Categories
Neighborhoods NEW YORK CITY ARCHIVES NYC ARCHIVES VOICE CHOICES ARCHIVES Where To

ATTACK OF THE MERFOLK!

With Disney’s latest Broadway musical not quite floundering at the box office, the Great White Way features its own Mermaid Parade nightly. But not even Disney’s imagineers could dream up some of the looks at Coney Island’s art parade. For the 25th year, scantily clad sea creatures will traipse through the beach town’s streets and mug for infinite flashbulbs, then shimmy away the night as best as one can without the complete use of legs at the Mermaid Parade Ball. King Neptune Reverend Billy and Queen Mermaid Savitri D preside over the festivities. Anyone can register to join the walk, but seriously, work a look that would make Ariel proud—or cringe. Parade: At 2, Coney Island, West 10th Street and Boardwalk, coneyisland.com, free; Ball: Childs Restaurant Building, West 21st Street and Boardwalk, $10–$50.

Sat., June 21, 2 p.m., 2008

Categories
Neighborhoods NEW YORK CITY ARCHIVES NEWS & POLITICS ARCHIVES NYC ARCHIVES THE FRONT ARCHIVES

Leading Reverend Billy Into Sin

“Let’s face our contradictions right up front! We all sin and we all forgive each other,” Reverend Billy, founder of the Church of Stop Shopping, preaches to me outside the Voice building, where we are meeting because the reverend has agreed to join me for, believe it or not, an afternoon of shopping.

Since I am a member of my own personal Church of Never Stop Shopping and Billy is famous for his bombastic anti-consumerist proselytizing, I suspect he will view me with a combination of contempt and disgust, but how wrong am I. He may believe fervently that, in his words, “the shopocalypse is upon us. . . . Who will be $aved?” and he may spend every minute of his waking life organizing anti-spending crusades at places like Macy’s and Victoria’s Secret, but today Billy himself is exactly like the weakest, most craven among us—he really, really wants to buy something.

Maybe this is because it’s freezing and he’s just not bundled up enough. “I’m missing a layer,” he says. “When you buy things in thrift stores, it’s hard to control the kinds of items you’ll find.” He’s wearing a shirt and sweater covered by a very nice gray wool jacket that he admits he appropriated last summer when he found it draped over a motorcycle in the West Village. You stole it, Billy? “In our church, everyone is a sinner and we forgive each other!” he thunders cheerfully.

It’s been a big year for the reverend—he’s got a book out (Kurt Vonnegut gave him a blurb, he tells me proudly when we stop by St. Marks Books, where Billy begs the clerk, without much success, to display the book more prominently), and he’s the subject of a documentary entitled What Would Jesus Buy?, which chronicles Billy and his Stop Shopping Gospel Choir on a national bus tour. It’s a long way from Bill Talen, East Village performance artist and poet, to tongue-in-cheek anti-capitalist faux-clergyman. Or maybe not.

Where are we headed? Not to the Astor Place Kmart, surely, though when I admit that I have made friends with that behemoth and now venture in frequently for Martha Stewart towels and three-packs of Hanes panties, Billy says sadly, “I go there, too. They’ve got better prices—but you know it’s that old conundrum: It’s cheaper because the stuff is made in sweatshops.”

Though not everyone loves Billy—Starbucks has banned him from its stores following his frequent raucous visits, during which he has placed his hand on the cash register and tried to exorcise “the beast of the evil within it”—he’s quite the star in the East Village. “Hey, Billy, saw you last year at the Continental! I have you as a MySpace friend,” one guy says. Another fellow introduces his little daughter, who is carrying Anya Hindmarch’s “I’m Not a Plastic Bag” tote. Inside Loves Saves the Day, a vintage store that has somehow resisted waves of gentrification and survived on the corner of 7th and Second, another side of Billy fully emerges.

“This place excites my memories,” he says, gleefully pawing though the racks of old clothes. I tell him I feel the same way about Saks Fifth Avenue, and he is stunned: “You’ve got something on your body from Saks?” (Gee, guess it doesn’t look it.) Ignoring the pirate hats and Howdy Doody night lights, the reverend makes a beeline for a double-breasted ’70s-era jacket. “What do you call this color, Lynn?” Ocher? Mustard? I venture, adding that the back vents are still stitched, an indication that no lounge lizard has ever worn this garment. “Wow, I’m lucky to be shopping with a fashion editor. Hallelujah, amen!” Billy booms. (He’s been studying with an opera singer so he can really crank up the volume, since the cops keep confiscating his bullhorns.) Spying a looming Mickey Mouse doll, Billy explodes. “Mickey Mouse is the Antichrist! Mickey Mouse is Satan!”

Why does he hate the rodent with such virulence? Is it because this whole Reverend Billy business has its roots in the Disneyfication of Times Square, where Billy first set up his pulpit in the late ’90s? “A therapist once told me Mickey Mouse is really my father, and my dad does have a big grin and prominent ears,” he says. “Actually, I like my dad, but we’re very different. He’s a Dutch Calvinist from the Midwest.” Like many parents with truly wacky children, the reverend’s dad appears to have come around: “When my picture was in The New Yorker, he sent a copy to me, laminated.”

In the end, we have no luck at Love Saves the Day. We head east, past the Chase bank where the Second Avenue Deli used to be. “I blame myself for this!” he says. “We should have been all over it, protesting, but it went up so fast. We have to enact anti-chain-store legislation.”

But not everything is so bleak. In fact, suddenly Billy’s message seems to be captivating all kinds of people, a turn of events that has left him frankly astonished. “I started out talking to entrenched ironists about forgiveness and gratitude.” But then his words—campy and over-the-top as they may be—began reaching a different audience. In one burst of interviews, he recalls, a questioner from a right-wing apocalyptic magazine was followed by a writer from Hustler and then a reporter from CNN. He shrugs. “If committed evangelical Christians are buying less,” he says, “then that’s a good thing.”

Well, I’m certainly not buying less, I think to myself. Since Billy is getting colder by the minute (plus, though he doesn’t say so, I sense he is dying to buy something), we go over to 10th between First and A, where a brand-new consignment shop called Matiell opened 11 days ago.

“This is the spot!” Billy says as soon as we enter. Two seconds later, he is on his knees, not praying but rifling thoughtfully through a low rack of sweaters. When he finds a knitted polo with a Barneys label, he pops it on and loves what he sees. “Wow, jeesh, wow! This is from one of those yuppies I’m always badmouthing from the pulpit. Wow, only $20!” He fingers another pullover and I notice him sneaking a glimpse at its Boss label. “I can’t stop—I can’t stop shopping!” he wails at the top of his lungs. “I’m glad Spurlock, who produced my movie, isn’t in this store! I can confess to you, Lynn, but I don’t want it on the silver screen!”

He takes another gander at the mirror and proclaims, “Woo-hoo—it’s Billy time on the avenue! What we are seeing here is depraved sin.” Alas, the Boss garment is three times as much as the Barneys sweater. Billy wants both but buys only the cheaper one, planning to discuss the situation with his wife, who is the director of the Church of Stop Shopping. “I’m gonna talk to Savitri about this one. It’s such a beauty,” he says. “It’s so handsome.”

We’re about to leave when Billy notices a pair of thick, soft trousers. “Wow, lemme try these on!” He drops his pants—he’s not a shy guy—and says, “I think I’ve got permission to get a good warm pair of pants.”

Yeah, but do they have to be Versace? I say, eyeing the label.

“They’re a perfect fit! Oh my God, I have to buy these,” he says. “I just don’t care about my reputation. You think they’re warm? Oh, man, feel that—it’s brilliant—I gotta have them. I’m wearing them! Oh, it’s terrible! Eighty bucks! Wait, I can’t get them over my boots.” He tucks them in, then checks the mirror like the most hardened fashionista and sighs, “OK, I’m vain. It’s a different look, but it’s good.”

When the owner asks him if he’d like a shopping bag for his purchases, Billy is horrified—it probably wouldn’t do for the head of the Church of Stop Shopping to be seen in the East Village with bags of new clothes. As we head out into the chilly twilight, I ask Billy, now snug in his Versace pants, his Barneys sweater secretly sequestered in his backpack, if he is having the best time ever. I mean the whole season, what with the book and the movie and all, but he misunderstands. “Oh, yes!” he crows. “The fun of shopping!”

Categories
CULTURE ARCHIVES FILM ARCHIVES NEW YORK CITY ARCHIVES NYC ARCHIVES TV ARCHIVES VOICE CHOICES ARCHIVES

What Would Jesus Buy?

Although What Would Jesus Buy? was directed by Rob VanAlkemade, it bears the unmistakable imprimatur of its producer, Morgan Spurlock. Much like Spurlock’s hit Super Size Me, this production is slick, well-paced, and tremendously entertaining. It follows a group called Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping on a pre-Christmas tour through an endless parade of dreary Midwestern malls. According to his press bio, Reverend Billy is “an officiant of the rites of marriage in New York City, and a lifelong lover of birds of prey.” More to the point, he’s a performance artist riffing on the persona of an evangelical minister in order to drive home to Americans just how in thrall we are to the church of consumerism. Unfortunately, WWJB never pushes past the surface of this shtick to explore the deeper forces behind our impulse to buy. It could use more interviews with the free-trade experts and anti-sweatshop activists, and fewer shots of the Stop Shopping Gospel Choir exhorting Wal-Mart shoppers to, well, stop shopping, no matter what they’re buying and why they need it.

Categories
Neighborhoods NEW YORK CITY ARCHIVES NEWS & POLITICS ARCHIVES NYC ARCHIVES THE FRONT ARCHIVES

Call Any Vegetable

The weatherman threatened the city with rain on Saturday but there seems little menace in the featherweight clouds shuffling across the pale May sky. Eventually, the growing heat of the afternoon sun coerces me into Tompkins Square Park, where I sprawl out on a newborn patch of green amid the usual splay of warm-weather humanity: gutter punks rolling cheap tobacco under the trees; neo-folkies twiddling guitars, drums, and Hacky Sacks; rambunctious schoolgirls practicing for dance squad; old men playing chess; young men playing Frisbee; dog walkers of every shape, size, color, and temperament; and sallow street prophets murmuring stories about abduction, redemption, and psoriasis. Before I am able to lament the absence of my favorite one-man band, a giant sunflower lopes across the park, followed by a bright pink faerie carrying a hula hoop, and a large brown-and-red pinstriped bird on a skateboard.

“What’s that?” asks an eager young parent, pointing at a large gray insect with long papier-mâché pincers.

“A bug,” sniffs two-year-old Katlin Sasoma, immediately returning her attention to the wide-mouth bottle she is filling with dirt.

Despite her wholehearted lack of interest, a notable crowd begins to gather in the sylvan shade of Tompkins Square: people draped in springtime hues of pink, yellow, blue, lilac, and green, with garlands of flowers in their hair or animal masks on their heads. A stilt walker, dressed like a stripling bird, stretches out and does a precarious little jig. A few pedicabs roll up bearing hand-painted signs and swaths of cloth silk-screened with the Time’s Up emblem: A fist growing out of the earth like a tree characterizes the 15-year-old environmental activist group. The pastel wings of a giant gossamer bird are unfurled, revealing the words “More Gardens!,” the name of a support group committed to cultivating fallow land in urban environments.

A loose-limbed man with sunlight in his eyes hands me a flyer that reads, “It’s a roving garden party! A musical, dancing parade to celebrate our gardens!”

As if on cue, the Rude Mechanical Orchestra strikes up a song, and the people in the growing garden party bob their flowery heads. From amid the throng, Reverend Billy of the Church of Stop Shopping smiles beatifically.

“We are here to celebrate,” explains Time’s Up member Ben Shepard as he inadvertently strafes people with his giant cardboard sunflower petals. “Saving half the city’s community gardens from development is a victory. There are still more than 60 gardens in danger of development, but today, we can celebrate what we’ve accomplished.”

“Garden-elujah!” bellows Reverend Billy, cutting a dazzling image in his snow-white suit and shellacked blond pompadour.

“Garden-elujah!” the crowd replies, lifting hands in jubilation.

Quick introductory speeches are given by activists, with pleas to support local plots in peril, especially the Harlem community garden encampment currently protecting the Nuevo Esperanza Community Garden, from bulldozers. Despite knowing nods and furrowed brows, the Tompkins Square congregation remains festive.

“Please spare us from being arrested!” entreats Reverend Billy in his high-flying churchly cadence as the crowd begins its procession out of the park, gathering revelers as it goes.

“Seems like a nice way to spend the afternoon,” says 21-year-old
Simon Wagreich
, grabbing his skateboard and his best friend off a nearby bench.

“It’s important,” says 46-year-old Sonya Peña, a striking Dominican woman in a long blue dress and matching sun hat wrapped from head to hem in fresh flowers. “The gardens help those of us who are far from home to feel connected. . . . Being there helps me to feel alive so I want to support the city garden community, to celebrate my love of the city.”

Sprites, woodland animals, and an elf in an orange fun-fur vest follow the marching band onto 9th Street. By the time we pass Trinity Garden on Avenue B, the police have arrived.

“If you don’t get back on the side-walk you are risking arrest,” warns Chuck Reinhardt, whose friendly demeanor and orange-felt armband (marked “Lawyer”) provide him with enough authority to gently shunt partygoers out of the street. On the sidewalk, a large cardboard tractor wielded by 29-year-old Daniel Gillmor chases down a human flower.

“There’s a lot of power in being the evil guy,” snickers Gillmor.

When we reach La Plaza Cultural Armando Perez, the mood is nothing short of jubilant. As at all the gardens, a volunteer offers historical information about the garden and other remarks, giving us time to admire the outdoor sculptures and ample performance space used during La Plaza’s much lauded Springfest. We move on, stopping at 7th Street to pay tribute to the fallen Esperanza Garden, which was bulldozed in February 2000 after 31 protesters were arrested.

“There’s green space in my soul,” sings the heavenly Stop Shopping Choir
under the window of the garden’s founder, Alicia Torres. After a time, a small Puerto Rican woman with a gold-trimmed tooth leans out of the window.

“Happy Mother’s Day!” shouts the crowd.

“I love all of you,” says Torres, her eyes glittering. “You are my people. You have to fight. Always.”

“Viva Esperanza!” shouts the crowd.

We move past the L.E.S. Ecology Garden Center with its community compost buckets and the Creative Little Garden
on 6th and B, where cool, pebble-lined walkways and ivy-covered walls create a jewel-like harbor.

“This garden was established by Françoise Cachelin,” explains a garden volunteer. “She was a member of the French Resistance during World War II and she ran an underground abortion clinic in New York before abortion was legalized. Protecting and establishing community gardens were her final acts of activism.”

“She was also a pioneering squatter in the Lower East Side,” adds a man in a crown of flowers. “She homesteaded in a building not far from here until she died.”

“La lutte continue,” shouts the crowd, repeating her favored phrase, “The struggle continues.”

Rude Mechanical Orchestra launches into a marching-band treatment of “The Tide Is High” as we make our way to the endangered Children’s Magical Garden on Norfolk and Stanton.

Under the sweet-smelling trees, amid piles of toys and a fleet of Big Wheels, members of the Stop Shopping Choir amuse themselves on teeter-totters while everyone else partakes of free ice cream offered by a bicycle-driven mobile refrigerator.

At the Peach Tree Garden, Aresh Javadi, founder of More Gardens,lifts his wolf’s mask and reminds us to “hydrate our heads.” Our water break is accompanied by a riotous dance routine by the Rude Mechanical Orchestra. Happily watered, we make our way to Le Petit Versailles and Orchard Alley, where we are invited to fruity tea amid fruit trees.

At El Jardín de Paradiso, we flop down in a sea of tall grass, relishing the musky odor of mushrooms and a full day of arboreal delights. Children young and old leap into the trees, perching in branches and holding court on a tree house platform that overlooks the garden.

“The weatherman told us there would be rain,” shouts Reverend Billy, “but the sky decided to bless us and our carnival of gardens with sunlight and a little shade, and at the end of the day, this consoling wind. We are grateful for the mystery and the wisdom of the sky . . . Sky-elujah!”

“Sky-elujah!” shouts the crowd, joining hands for a spiral dance while three police officers stare from the asphalt outside.

Categories
FOOD ARCHIVES Living Neighborhoods NEW YORK CITY ARCHIVES NEWS & POLITICS ARCHIVES NYC ARCHIVES THE FRONT ARCHIVES

No More Coffee Talk

Four years ago, theatrical provocateur Reverend Billy launched his crusade against Starbucks. The New York–based performance activist told The Village Voice (“Rage Against the Caffeine,” April 25, 2000) that it was his intention to preach against corporate greed in Starbucks cafés all across Manhattan. In response, the company issued an internal memo to its NYC stores, establishing a protocol on how to handle one of the Reverend’s “interventions.”

Bill Talen, a/k/a Reverend Billy, has delivered on his promise, having done hundreds of political pieces inside the chain’s many locations worldwide. But Starbucks, at least for the time being, doesn’t have to worry about any more of Talen’s impromptu teach-ins of the Tazo set.

A California brew-haha led to the Reverend’s temporary exile from the latte kingdom. On April 19, 2004, Reverend Billy performed his usual Starbucks ritual upon entering one of the chain’s locations on Reseda Boulevard in Northridge, California. He prayed for the healing of the store’s computerized cash register, asking for the bills that lay safely locked inside to make their way into the pockets of the families who work for low wages to harvest the coffee beans. One can rest assured that he was not praying for more of that money to go to the corporation’s billionaire founder, Howard Schultz, or to aid its union-busting operations, or, in all probability, to help the chain reach its goal of expansion to 30,000 stores worldwide.

In a recent phone interview, Talen described how, as he prayed with “one hand in the air, and one hand on the thing that needs to be healed,” he was grabbed from behind by an aggravated Starbucks customer, who witnesses claim was an ex-marine. Some say he was “tackled”; Talen himself describes it as a “bear hug.” Either way, the Reverend was going down. After a few chaotic minutes, both Talen and the computerized cash register came away anything but healed. Talen walked away with a bleeding palm, which he and his Church of Stop Shopping choir dubbed the “Cash Register Stigmata,” and the cash register’s plastic guard was apparently torn.

Talen has made a career out of provoking strange scenes in chain stores. As early as 1999, he was agitating with his crucified Mickey Mouses and evangelical gesticulations at the Disney Store in Times Square. His message then was one of communal salvation: the preservation of neighborhood uniqueness and spontaneous culture in the face of what some members of the Reverend Billy project call corporations’ “colonization.” According to one Church of Stop Shopping choir member, “It’s not usually an upsetting experience for the customers.”

Nothing in the past has come close to the response that Reverend Billy and his choir received on Reseda Boulevard. Aside from being jumped for his theatrical antics, the reaction was unusual in that a police report was filed with the LAPD, resulting in the first ever trial by jury for Talen (slated to begin in a Los Angeles criminal court on November 1).

In addition, the court issued a temporary restraining order on Talen, stipulating that he refrain from coming within 250 yards of any of California’s over 1,500 Starbucks. He is also barred from entering any Starbucks in the U.S. until this injunction expires in July of 2007. Ironically, the first judge assigned to the case had to recuse himself from the upcoming trial because of his shareholder status in Starbucks Corporation.

Talen was arrested for his theatrical protests during last November’s Buy Nothing Day festivities in New York, though he was dismissed without charges. (For Talen, a night in the Tombs in defense of free speech is nothing to be ashamed of.) But the misdemeanor charges filed against him in California—destruction of property and obstruction of business—are something totally new.

Art Goldberg, Talen’s attorney from the Working People’s Law Center in Los Angeles, says that the security camera tape of the event is in Talen’s favor: “After seeing the video, [it was clear that] he didn’t disrupt much. The other person was an aggressor.”

Professor Tony Perucci, who had invited Talen to teach his communications students at Cal State Northridge, was also at Starbucks that day. He feels that the prosecution of this activist could only happen “outside the spotlight of New York, where he’s so well known.”

While Starbucks is not bringing the suit against Talen, as would happen in a civil case, it is the corporation that is named as “victim” in the proceedings. Ever alert to corporate ironies, those in Reverend Billy’s camp are quick to point out that the “victim,” in their reading of the temporary restraining order, is the “computerized cash register itself.”

Talen hopes to use the trial as a springboard to air the concerns of Starbucks workers, and to highlight the company’s lack of real commitment to fair-trade practices. Though he has difficulty seeing the cash register as a victim, he still would like to heal it.

Categories
ART ARCHIVES CULTURE ARCHIVES Media NEW YORK CITY ARCHIVES NEWS & POLITICS ARCHIVES NYC ARCHIVES THE FRONT ARCHIVES Theater Washington, D.C.

Theater

Congress shall make no law . . .

It’s just one sentence, but it guarantees five freedoms. Or at least the First Amendment used to, before the swelling of post-9-11 alarm started shredding your rights. For 30 glorious minutes every Tuesday, those constitutional protections are revivified as a random bunch of New Yorkers joins Reverend Billy (the performance artist Bill Talen) at the WTC PATH Station from 6:30 to 7 p.m. for what theater theorists would term a performative act—an utterance that calls into being what it names—but what the Reverend dubs “ritual resistance.”

Using cell phones as decoys, participants repeat those heady lines as they lean against a pillar, pace about as if awaiting a friend, fall into step behind commuters, or find some other way to not quite make a spectacle of themselves. The acoustics in the all-concrete top level of the station leave words hovering, so folks rushing for trains can catch whole phrases—”the right to freedom of speech or of the press,” “petition the government for a redress of grievances.” And the long escalator ride down to the turnstiles provides ample time for all 45 words to sink in.

Some commuters stiffen and hurry away when they suddenly realize that the person chattering behind them is not simply another bellowing cell-phone jerk, but worse: a pro-Bill of Rights subversive. A few turn and smile. For participants, the words acquire an incantatory power, intensified at 7 p.m. when declaimed in unison. The mantra might not make John Ashcroft melt into an unctuous goo like the Wicked Witch of the West Wing, but here—where the wound of the WTC gapes across the plaza and cops dash up to demand a permit for demonstrating on the Port Authority’s “private property” when the group recitation gains momentum—it creates a verbal force field that embraces all speakers in their own portable free-speech zones. As Reverend Billy preaches, “The First Amendment is our permit.”


Take some elephants to the circus

“What better way to give delegates the quintessential New York experience,” asks RNC host committee spokesperson Paul Elliott, “than to treat them to a night on Broadway?” Quintessential? How about stuffing them into an 110-degree A train and stalling it between Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn for 20 minutes? Or hiring them to wash dishes to support a family on the minimum wage Governor Pataki just refused to raise? But if it’s going to be Broadway, couldn’t the committee have done better than herd Republicans to mega-musicals that have already toured their towns?

Elliott insists that the relentlessly cheery shows that avoid queer characters, racial controversy, and real questions—42nd Street, Aida, Beauty and the Beast, Bombay Dreams, Fiddler on the Roof, The Lion King, The Phantom of the Opera, and Wonderful Town—made the cut because their houses are big enough to accommodate California-size delegations and producers were willing to offer discounts of 25 percent or more and to dedicate every single seat to the cause. (Oh no, they weren’t trying to keep potential hecklers from buying tix for the same night. Who but Dick Cheney would expect an audience to sign a loyalty oath?)

So GOP faithful from Louisiana have been spared the challenges of Caroline, or Change and gay-marriage-banning Missourians will not be scandalized by the homo puppets of Avenue Q. The $1 million price tag for the 14,000 tickets is being picked up by The New York Times. Not to be outdone, the Voice will treat any Republican takers to Stage Left’s A-list (at least, that is, to the free stuff): Circus Amok, the West Indian Day Parade, Karen Finley’s Free Martha cabaret (in the Howl festival), Bread and Puppet’s Insurrection Mass With Funeral March for a Rotten Idea, Sophocles’ Antigone (National Asian-American Theatre Company), Wallace Shawn’s The Fever (part of the UnConvention: An American Theater Festival) and likely Fringe Festival highlights Mossadegh: A Rock Opera and Queer Theory, the first ever NYC performance of San Francisco’s Theatre Rhinoceros, the country’s oldest LGBT troupe.


Of mice and mischief in Times Square

Meanwhile, an activist e-mail calls for a “Mouse Bloc” outside the GOP-packing Broadway shows at 4 p.m. on August 29 “to remind the forgetful old elephants that they . . . will not be able to have fun at our expense without facing thousands of pissed-off mice in the streets.” Those rad rodents could find themselves trapped by metal barriers or smacked with batons before they get close to the theaters. But hey, a post-protest night in the pens at 1 Police Plaza: It’s a quintessential New York experience.



stageleft@villagevoice.com

Categories
Calendar Datebook Events NEW YORK CITY ARCHIVES NEWS & POLITICS ARCHIVES NYC ARCHIVES THE FRONT ARCHIVES

Dollars and sense: Finally, a day for those who are flat broke

November 28 is the busiest shopping day of the year. It’s also the seventh annual Buy Nothing Day, a worldwide campaign of theatrical interventions in chain stores and shopping malls to protest sweatshop labor and the spiritual vacuum left by hyper-consumerism. BND is prompted and loosely organized by Adbusters magazine. Hook up with a group planning mischief in NYC by checking adbusters.org/campaigns/bnd/.

Maybe the most entertaining event of the day will be Reverend Billy’s sermon outside the Plaza Hotel at 1 p.m., in which he’ll preach, in Southern Baptist-style, about the “mindbending pornography of the free market.” He’ll be joined by members of his Church of Stop Shopping, who sing uplifting anti-consumerist gospels, one of which goes “Come happy/Leave hungry.” Then the Rev and his flock will infiltrate the “transnational flagship battalions” on Fifth Avenue and proselytize about sweatshop labor and banal interior decoration.

Ironically, Reverend Billy, a/k/a Bill Talen, has a book coming out on Buy Nothing Day, called What Should I Do If Reverend Billy Is in My Store? (The New Press). Just wait a day to buy it.