Billy McEntee has been fortunate to work for arts non-profits in Boston, Denver, Berkeley, and now New York. His writing has appeared in The Brooklyn Rail, Vanity Fair, American Theatre, HowlRound, Observer, and others. He's usually getting wine at Dandelion or eating cookies at Archestratus.
The experimental theater group Title:Point has been bopping around Brooklyn (and beyond) for well over a decade, and Ryan William Downeyhas, in many ways, been at the center of its zany, beating heart. As co-Artistc Director of the company, Ryan is a consummate multi-hyphenate theater artist: an actor, playwright, and all-around theatermaker. Now, he prepares for the world premiere of his new play, Sleeping Car Porters, a “pitch black comedy that explores western masculine myth through a phantasmagoria of power, violence, and mystery.” The play comes to The Brick December 5–14, a venue helmed by Theresa Buchheister, a former Thursday Spotlight artist and an actor in the play. (She portrays Billy the Kid, which should be worth the price of admission alone.)
Here, we catch up with Ryan the week of the performances to learn about Title:Point, his playwriting path, and more.
Greenpointers: For those unfamiliar with Title:Point, could you describe that theater company a little? And how did you come to be involved?
Ryan William Downey: Title:Point is the type of theater company that frightens you into laughter. A Title:Point play should be equal parts slapstick comedy, abject horror, and pure existential dread.
I’ve been involved with Title:Point for about a decade, but its history precedes me. It was started by Theresa Buchheister and Samara Naeymi a few years before that. Theresa and I met while working at The Strand bookstore. She invited me to join her writer’s group and from there I joined Title:Point as an actor/writer. Over the years we earned each other’s trust where now we run the company together and have expanded to many other creative endeavors (Exponential Festival, ?!: New Works, Vital Joint, and beginning in January 2020, The Brick).
What was the genesis of Sleeping Car Porters?
I began writing Sleeping Car Porters in 2015, though it took a long time for the ideas to crystallize into something resembling where the play is now. I originally conceived it to be an intimate two-person show that would be easy for us to tour and present in any space. Which is hilarious given where we have ended up. Our production at The Brick has as big a creative team and as ambitious a technical design as any show Title:Point has ever produced.
This piece plays on American myths and Western masculinity, incorporating Billy the Kid. Why use that figure, and is the other main role, Zodiac, an original character?
Billy the Kid and Zodiac are both based, rather loosely, on their historical counterpoints. In this case, Zodiac is some version of the Zodiac Killer who terrorized Northern California in the 60s and 70s. History is a tricky thing with both of them. Folks can’t seem to settle on where Billy the Kid was born or buried, for instance (he has two graves!), and the Zodiac remains un-apprehended or definitively identified so he has become a kind of black hole in the damaged American psyche for the last 50 years. They both provided a jumping off point to delve into the themes I was interested in exploring with this script, how killers become folk heroes or confounding mysteries, how they change in our collective memory over time. Sometimes the more you read on the subject the further you get away from the truth of the thing. Our take on both characters is prismatic and kaleidoscopic in nature. They are at times unrecognizable.
Talk a little about your work and trajectory: we get a lot of creatives in our Thursday Spotlight series, but it’s rare we get to speak with a playwright!
I’ve been writing drama in one form or another since I was a teenager but most of the work we have produced in the last decade has been collaboratively written. A typical Title:Point show may have two to ten writers on it, depending on the development process. I wanted to write Sleeping Car Porters all by my lonesome to get back in the practice of climbing the mountain and telling the story. I am working on a play that operates like a slasher film and have several screenplays in development, mostly working in the horror genre for the foreseeable future.
What has your partnership been like with Theresa?
Theresa drags me into every bad idea she’s ever had and I just keep hopping in the hand basket headed straight to hell. We can out-argue any creative team in the American theater. Don’t believe a single word Theresa says about me.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I’d like to say that the creative team behind this production have been invaluable to its coming into existence. In most cases the parts were written with the actors in mind and the technical team has exceeded all of my expectations profoundly. I am so proud of the strange thing we have built together. If it’s a failure it’s my fault because they have given the production everything it needs to be successful. I love them all to death.
A ragtag crew of formertheatermajors will convene and carol around the neighborhood on Friday, December 20. Soprano Sharon Gladstone has dubbed the crew the “Evergreenpoint Carolers,” and their evolving songbook features a smattering of yuletide tunes from timeless classics (“Silent Night”) to secular goodies (“Deck the Halls”).
Singing in SATB choir arrangement, the a capella ensemble will don scarves and shake sleigh bells starting at 7 PM. The troupe of self-described “vocally trained, but formally lax” singers will perform in three locations over the course of the evening: first at the Greenpoint Avenue subway station (off of India Street — don’t accidentally go to Greenpoint Ave’s entrance and miss the magic), followed by outside WORD bookstore (126 Franklin Street), and ending at The Springs (224 Franklin Street) at about 8:30 PM. The carolers say they may go door to door if they’re feeling frisky.
Community-oriented and organized by Greenpointers Art Editor Billy McEntee, the carolers hope to spread holiday cheer in one of Brooklyn’s most spirited and decorated neighborhoods. To donate or learn more, please email Billy at [email protected].
Ever the seasonal environment, The Springs (224 Franklin Street) is outdoorsy and breezy in summer, spooky and haunted come fall, and soon its halls will be decked out for the holidays. Bringing back its iconic take on a winter wonderland, The Springs will transform into its Ho Ho Holiday Lounge from December 5 through January 1.
The pop-up lounge will get visitors and barflies into the holiday spirit with its colorful decorations, cozy fireplaces, and festive cocktails. Greg’s Treeswill be located in the famous and expansive backyard, which will also become a Santa Land complete with a magical sled that is Instagram ready.
If you need to tell Santa your wish list, Mr. Claus will be swinging by on December 5 from 5 –8 PM. Greg’s tree owner Greg Walsh will bring his complete line of holiday goodies, including the largest variety of Christmas trees in the city with Fraser Fir, Noble Fir, Nordmann Fir, Balsam Fir, and the exquisite Silver Fir. Later in the month, on December 20 at approximately 8:30 PM, the Evergreenpoint Carolers will sing at The Springs to ring in the season.
Atlas Oscura is hosting another local event, this time entertaining lovers of all things New Yorky and antique-y: unlock special after-hours access to the City Reliquary (370 Metropolitan Ave) in Williamsburg with a tour by its founder, Dave Herman! Enjoy this exclusive and intimate tour that maxes out at 12 people for $25 each on November 18 from 6 to 8 PM.
The City Reliquary is a not-for-profit museum in Williamsburg that connects visitors to the past and present of New York. On this exclusive tour, you’ll come to know our collection of obscure ephemera, containing anything that might tell you about the past and present of daily life in New York, from Greek coffee cups to terracotta fragments of landmark buildings. You’ll learn about city infrastructure, prize-winning locals, historic scams, and landmarks both iconic and obscure, as well as how these collections came to be.
Afterwards, enjoy local beer in our treehouse bar (weather permitting).
Tickets are $25 — to book and learn more, visit here.
The Greenpoint artist collective Lost Retainer(171 Calyer Street) is hosting an art exhibition from November 9th through 25th.
The secret weapon? All ten of the featured artists will be members of the Greenpoint community. Its show “$99 3 Month Special”, curated by Rebecca Rau, will be unique in it will be Lost Retainer’s final show in 171 Calyer St. before the building is knocked down.
Just off of Manhattan Avenue, this sprawling space is an impressive 9600 square-feet studio that’s covered in mirrors.
An opening reception will be held Saturday, November 9th to kick off the show’s two-week run. The reception is sponsored by local favorites Brooklyn Brewery and Grapepoint Wine. Enjoy some bevs while supporting local art this weekend.
There are lots of galleries and art spaces in Greenpoint; this is no secret. But HACO is attempting something fresher, bolder, and — most inherently — communal. In today’s Thursday Spotlight, we speak with HACO’s managing director Yoko Suetsugu about her work and pursuits, HACO’s current show Drench, and the art of building community. Located at 31 Grand street and open Wednesdays to Sundays from 1 to 6 PM, HACO is now celebrating its two-year anniversary and will have a closing party for its current show on Saturday at 5 PM. Catch the show before then, and learn more here!Continue reading →
Ever the home to backyard shenanigans and yummy snacks, Greenpoint’s sprawling bar The Springs(224 Franklin St) will now exclusively serve food from Forninothis fall and winter. Fornino‘s Executive Chef and owner Michael Ayoub will serve his signature Italian dishes nightly at the Greenpoint bar. Fornino has been in the pizza-making business since 2004, with locations at 849 Manhattan Avenue in Greenpoint, and Pier 6 at Brooklyn Bridge Park in the spring and summer.
The Fornino menu at The Springs features Eggplant Parmesan, Anna Rosé’s Meatballs, Arancini, and Fried Smashed Potatoes. Salads include the Chopped, Arugula, Kale, and Caesar. The pizza offerings include the Marinara, made with tomato, oregano, garlic and olive oil; and the Margherita Classica, topped with tomato, mozzarella, basil, olive oil and parmesan. Additional pizza options include the Genovese, Monzese, Pugliese, Calabrese, Salsiccia Di Pollo, Tre-Carni, and the famous Al Roker, made with sopressata picante, fontina, caramelized onion, roast pepper, tomato, mozzarella and rosemary.
And GF friends, delight! Any pizza can be made gluten-free. The menu will be offered from 4 to 10 PM on weekdays and 4 to 11 PM on weekends. Warm up at The Springs with some Italian goodies!
The Other Art Fair returns to Brooklyn where it runs biannually in the spring and fall in Greenpoint’s Brooklyn Expo Center (72 Noble Street). The Fair returns for its next spectacular edition from Thursday, November 7 through Sunday, November 10.
Presented by Saatchi Art, in partnership with Bombay Sapphire, The Other Art Fair showcases work by 130 talented independent artists with artworks starting from $150, each hand picked by a selection committee of art world experts. Art lovers can visit the fair with the confidence that they are buying from the very best and most promising emerging artists in a unique and immersive experience. Time Out calls it “a festival for discovering mind blowing work by emerging artists.”
New York City’s scariest film festival, FEARnyc, will conclude its 2019 festival tonight at Film Noir Cinema (122 Meserole Ave) with a tingly, sensational, and sneakily immersive screening. But who’s the man behind the madness? Get to know festival founder, advocate, and horror film fanatic John Capo in this week’s Thursday Spotlight. And remember, if you’re looking to join the spooky fun, Greenpointers get a 20% discount on tonight’s Halloween Night Tingler Event with code GREENPOINTERS20.
Greenpointers: I see that this is your third FEARnyc; how long have you been affiliated with Film Noir Cinema?
John Capo: I founded the festival in 2016 but we took 2018 off to reassess our model. This is our first year at Film Noir Cinema! We were previously in Manhattan but we moved to Greenpoint this year because I love the neighborhood’s vibrant community. We love Greenpoint.
Are all of the film entries original ones? I love that you are spotlighting underrepresented groups in your programming.
We’ve had over 60 films, events, and other activities over the past eight days. Most of them are premieres although we did show some retrospectives including the 35th anniversary screening of A Nightmare on Elm Street, Fritz Lang’s M, a program of surreal short films by David Lynch, and the premiere of the new 4K restoration of George A.Romero and Dario Argento’s Two Evil Eyes. We always spotlight underrepresented groups in our programming. That’s a big part of our mission. This year we focused on queer horror with a discussion on queer themes and characters in horror films curated by The New York Times‘ Erik Piepenburg and the world premiere of the LGBT thriller Hurricane Aaron. We also had films centering on the Native American and Latinx communities.
Now in its fourth year, how do you think FEARnyc has evolved?
We’ve matured just as horror filmmaking has matured. Almost all of our films this year focused on the horrors of real life, whether that’s the dark underbelly of Instagram culture, beauty obsession, conversion therapy, Grindr hookups gone deadly. We even had a film about a mass shooting. I know these topics sound dark, but they really show that horror filmmakers are focusing on relevant issues and moving away from the stereotypical “let’s kill a bunch of pretty girls” tropes that have defined the genre.
Tonight’s the Tingler event! What can audiences expect?
It’s going to be insane. So when The Tingler came out in 1959 its producer William Castle knew that even thought it was a Vincent Price movie it wasn’t the greatest film so he marketed it by staging all these gimmicks in the theater. Buzzers on seats to jolt people, fainting audience members being carried out on stretchers, a monster jumping off the screen and into the theater. We’re recreating that experience at Film Noir Cinema just like it happened in the ’50s. We have showings tonight at 7pm and 9pm. People can get tickets in advance at FEARnyc.com or at the door.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Just a big thank you to the people of Greenpoint for embracing our festival and to all our filmmakers who’ve come from everywhere from Brooklyn to LA to Germany who’ve made this experience incredible.