Month: March, 2007

Napalm & Cheerios

Tuesday, March 27th, 2007 | All Things, Arts

The terraNOVA Collective is comprised of writers, actors, directors, designers, musicians, poets, dancers and visual artists, whose mission it is to support and develop original theatrical works. The collective hosts a weekly developmental lab where writers submit scripts of plays or solo shows in progress for a readthrough to solicit feedback from terraNOVA members. Scripts are chosen to advance to the next level of development: a ten day rehearsal period and public staged reading. One play from the selected readings receives a full-fledged stage production. In fact, every production terraNOVA mounts emerges from these so-titled Groundbreakers Sessions, as do many of the solo shows presented in terraNOVA’s annual Solo Arts Festival — now in its fourth year.

Tonight, the final developmental staged reading of a Napalm & Cheerios, a new work by R.A. Carlsen. Carlsen lives in New York City and works for the NYC Board of Education as an elementary school special education teacher. His first play, Patpong Street, about a father-teenage son trip to Bangkok, won the John Golden Playwriting Award from Hunter College, and as did his second, The Word of God, about a retired missionary who moves in with her brother and sister. This latest play arose from his Theater Arts master’s thesis at Hunter.

The story follows three generations of women (a hippie heroin addict, her God-fearing, suburban mother, and her love child), in two segments; the first half of the story is set a quarter-century after the second. I liked the unconventional, reversed framing of time, which offered a perspective one almost never gets in real life: What combination of decisions, large and small, brings us to where we are today? Is it impossible to escape the influence of our mothers — for better or worse?

Terranova Collective

Center Stage is located on the fourth floor of a mixed use building on West 21st Street that also houses Gotham City Improv, the school and sister company of the famed Los Angeles-based comedy improv troupe, The Groundlings. Perhaps conveniently, given the unfortunate compulsions of some comedians, the building also houses the New York offices of Cocaine Anonymous.

On the second floor, the Natural Gourmet School hosts a weekly dinner where chef instructors and students of the Chef’s Training Program prepare a prix fixe four-course vegetarian dinner on Friday nights — $34.00 per person, BYOB. (Similar, I suppose, to the set-up at The French Culinary Institute’s L’Ecole.)

7th Avenue

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Breathing uneasy

Tuesday, March 27th, 2007 | All Things, Books, NYC History

Back at the castle-like Jefferson Market Branch of the New York Public Library for a book club discussion of Noxious New York: The Racial Politics of Urban Health and Environmental Justice.

Jefferson Market

Jefferson Market

Julie Sze’s book studies how racial minority and low-income communities often disproportionately suffer the adverse effects of urban environmental problems. The Environmental Justice Movement, rooted in both the civil rights and environmental movements, endeavors to bring and sustain environmental quality to these neighborhoods, which often lack the political clout to effect change on their own.

Cecil Corbin-Mark, the first and current Program Director of the West Harlem Environmental Action (WE ACT) led the talk. In addition to his work with WE ACT, Corbin-Mark is an active board member of a number of environmental justice, parks and planning organizations. WE ACT is dedicated to protecting environmental quality, improving environmental health and combatting “environmental racism.” The organization was founded in March 1988 to address ongoing community struggles around the poor management of the North River Sewer (or “Wastewater”) Treatment Plant and the Manhattanville Bus Depot in Harlem.

According to WE ACT, the 7.5 mile area that comprises Harlem is densely populated by half a million residents, yet carries a disproportionate number of the city’s environmental burdens. Above 96th Street (which shares what’s known as an “air corridor” with the South Bronx), there are six of the seven bus depots in Manhattan, the city’s largest sewage treatment plant, and miles of truck-trafficked expressways. Each of these sites is a source of diesel fuel combustion; the toxic emissions are a known health hazard: possibly carcinogenic, according to a 2002 Environmental Protection Agency report, and an asthma irritant.

The diesel particulates have long contributed to increased rates of respiratory illness among neighborhood children, degrading the public health and quality of life in that area. According to Corbin-Mark, Harlem is in the midst of an asthma epidemic; a study conducted in 2003 cited that one in four children in central Harlem has tested positive for asthma — four times the national average of one in sixteen children. The air pollution has also been linked to lower birth weights in Upper Manhattan and South Bronx.

Author Sze, who received her doctorate in American Studies from NYU’s Graduate School of Arts and Science, will talk about her new book at the school on Wednesday evening April 11 in an event co-presented by Transportation Alternatives and UPROSE.

The Jefferson Market Garden, to the south of the library:

Jefferson Greening

Jefferson Greening

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I am not a trekkie

Sunday, March 25th, 2007 | All Things, Arts

At the 92nd Street Y (not just for New Yorkers) for a talk on art collecting by Leonard and Susan Bay-Nimoy (not just for trekkies/trekkers). The conversation was moderated by writer and Parsons School of Design professor Anastasia Aukeman.

92nd Street Y

Busy night at the Y: on my way in, I passed by Gene Wilder who would be appearing across the hall to talk about his debut novel.

Nimoy and his wife spoke about how they came to become avid art collectors — their interaction was sweetly and sincerely affectionate, underscoring their shared passion and hands-on approach to their acquisitions. The two spend hours personally touring artists’ galleries, selecting and compiling pieces for their private collection (presented in slideshow photos of their home) guided primarily by how the work resonates with them, rather than by adhering to any specific trends, style or genre.

The couple are longtime supporters of the arts: Bay-Nimoy is on the MASS MoCA Director’s Advisory Council. Nimoy is an emerging art photographer himself, and the experience inspired him and his wife to think about the difficulties new artists usually have in getting their work recognized by the public and in museums. In 2002, the couple set up a $1 million endowment fund for young artists at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. In 2003, Nimoy and his wife established the Nimoy Foundation as president and vice president, respectively, to fund and encourage the work of artists who thrive in residency programs throughout the United States. Since
its inception in 2003 the Nimoy Foundation has distributed over $1.7 million. The Nimoys are also major financial supporters of the recent renovation and expansion of the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, and of Symphony Space in New York, where the Leonard Nimoy Thalia reopened in 2002 after years of neglect.

But of course, Nimoy is best known as the man/humanoid behind the Vulcan Salute, so inevitably there were a few men in the audience who seemed suspiciously uninterested in either art or collecting. Nimoy seemed to notice, but took it all in good stride; no doubt he’s used to such a following by now.

For the fan boys — and I think there are at least a couple of you reading this — a blurry photo of Spock:

Leonard Nimoy

The post-discussion dessert reception was a rather elaborate spread, featuring two of my favorite treats: Linzer Tortes and Crème Brûlée. And dark chocolate-dipped strawberries… so make that three of my favorites. Those chocolate brownies looked tempting, too.

I probably should have eaten dinner first.

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