Saturday, January 16, 2010

Devoted and Disgruntled NYC

We rise as the first yellow taxi belts its horn. The sun is still sleeping and for now our only light is an orange eco friendly lamp.

By 6.30am we’re on the subway. ‘N’ train to 42nd Street, ‘1’ train to Columbus Circle, coffee and a Panini to go. At 7am I’m on a ladder sticking up the 4 principles of open space. ‘Whoever comes are the right people,’ ‘Whenever it starts is the right time,’ ‘Whatever happens is the only thing that could happen,’ ‘When it’s over it’s over.’ They read more like philosophical quotations. Instructions for dealing with modern life. Rules to help free yourself from the conventions and expectations of others. Tell yourself these four things often enough, and life doesn’t seem so pressured to ‘get it right.’

The first guests arrive at 9.30. Laurence & Tarah from Anderson amongst them. Improbable Artistic Director and leading Open Space practitioner Phelim McDermott opens the space at 10.30. What’s strikingly different about the NYC one over the London D&Ds is that the participants are up in seconds to call their sessions. In London a serene politeness usually settles over the crowd as they wait for the first brave soul to break the silence and call a session. The New Yorkers are queuing at the word ‘go’ to call theirs over the microphone. I decide to call a couple of sessions around Funeral Customs and creating trailers for theatre shows.

The first session I attend, called by Steven Ginsburg of Hartbeat Ensemble discusses Free Theatre. Ginsburg himself runs an activist-based theatre company interested in social change and creating new works that challenge the status quo. He wants to discuss ideas of a ‘free’ theatre model whereby the audience sees the show for free. We discuss various models; pay what you can, complimentary ticket giveaways, but we also discuss how theatre and performance worked in the past. With the noblemen and landowners inviting the travelling gypsies to perform in their manors, and inviting all the peasants along to enjoy the show. Theatre was less ‘institutionalised’ then, without a real industry to call home. It’s great to see so many artists trying to work out models to give the audience something for free, but it’s hard to see how anything can be truly free when we live in an age where time itself has a monetary value.

At lunchtime I go for a walk around the area. I feel a cold coming on and the fresh sun air is light and full of wellbeing. I take a left outside the church and walk along 58th West until I reach the Hudson. I see a kid with nunchucks in his back pocket, at least it’s not a knife I find myself thinking.

The day wraps up at 6pm, and after meeting many fabulous people, including the beautiful Juliet who bakes the best brownies I’ve ever tasted, we retire to Lafayette.

Saturday draws to a close in Little Italy where we’re encouraged to add sambuca to our espressos.

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