The Exponential Festival continues! Today, we speak with playwright Cameron Stuart who, alongside the Bushwig-based theater company Saints of an Unnamed Country, is presenting Police in the Wilderness. Featuringa sci-fi plot, poetry, magical rituals, shredded-up bits of 20th century philosophy, and psychedelic humor — all tangled up along with some genuine end-of-the-world angst — the new play will run at Patch Works Theatre (98 Moore Street) in East Williamsburg, January 22nd – 25th. To get a sense of play, watch the teaser here, and learn more from Cameron in this week’s Thursday Spotlight!
Greenpointers: For those unfamiliar with your theater company Saints of an Unnamed Country, can you explain a little bit about what you do and what your ethos are?
Cameron Stuart: Started in 2012, Saints of an Unnamed Country is a Bushwick-based theater company. We perform original plays in the neighborhood, mostly in non-traditional spaces for theater, like art galleries, museum bookstores, and DIY spaces . Most of the folks involved in Police in the Wilderness are returning collaborators. The Saints’ foundation is an admiration for trees, especially their root systems, and other hidden networks that rely on collaboration between organisms of different sizes and lifespans.
Your new play takes us into something akin to a police state. Was this at all a reflection of current politics, or something more original?
One of the inspirations for Police was an experience I had while camping in the woods with friends, including folk singer Frank Hurricane. A police officer emerged from the woods and started questioning us about our impromptu music jam. This unreal experience left me imagining scenarios where police would need to venture into the woods. But I also reflected on the vulnerability of an officer out in the wilderness, at the very limit of their authority. The theme continues to be relevant today, as various surveillance initiatives continue to expand.
How did you hear about Exponential and what attracted you to working with that festival?
In 2016, I opened a DIY performance space with my close friends. Located in Bushwick, The Glove hosted all sorts of different types of performances, including my play Germany, 1933. It was one of The Glove’s first shows and launched our iconic stage design. I’ve known Theresa Buchheister since moving to NYC. She asked me if the Glove would like to participate in the 2017 Exponential Festival. I’ve been involved with the festival ever since, mostly through the Glove, but continuing to curate and admin since the Glove has closed.
This play is also further fleshed out in a book. Tell me about composing this story for these two mediums?
I originally wrote and produced this play in 2010–2011 in Atlanta. I wanted to do it in NYC, but after several years had elapsed, the play needed some revising. Instead of just touching it up, I decided to rewrite it from scratch—purely from memory. The result was a very dense and philosophical look at the original plot that works best on the page. I did revise the original, and then the idea of having the two plays available together after a performance seemed fun and original to me.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Saints showcases the talent of many folks from all sorts of disciplines. We have wonderful actors, set designers, artists and artisans, video designers, and more. And we’ve been supported by a beautiful community in Bushwick over the years. You can learn more about our past here. It is equally wonderful to be part of the beautiful community of the Exponential Festival. Please see all the shows that tickle your fancy. It will be fun!
Winter in New York can be rough, but at least there’s the Exponential Festival to get us through. Each year, this pageant of the bold and experimental plays in venues big and small throughout north Brooklyn. One such show is worth checking out thanks to the title alone:Bernie Sanders Wants to Take Away my Fire Island Time Share: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes. The mind behind the hilarity is comedian and performance artist Xalvador Tin-Bradbury, known as I’m Going to Marry Your Dad. A surrealist comedy that satirizes the influence of neoliberalism in gay culture, Xalvador’s play runs January 8 and 9 at Honey’s, the meadery in Bushwick (93 Scott Avenue). Read more about the play and its creator as part of our Thursday Spotlight series!
Greenpointers: Let’s cut right to it — can one be a Fire Island Gay and a Bernie supporter in the soon-to-be year of our lord, 2020? What if the gays want to have a home in the Pines and a socialist in the White House?
Xalvador Tin-Bradbury: The piece actually has less to do with the politics and more to do with the social conditioning that comes from taking about politics online. I try not to preach political views in my art cus everyone’s mind already seems to be made up…but to answer your question: maybe?
Your show seems to pitch vapid gay culture against the ethics of our neoliberal era. What made you want to write about this?
One day I was on the Facebook echo chamber and Bernie Sanders had posted a video about Medicare for All. Some corporate gay I was friends with had commented “go away” on the post. I laughed so hard and thought, Bernie Sanders wants to take away his Fire Island timeshare.
How does creating from a place of social critique or satire empower your work?
I am such a fan of political Facebook posts, they are so stupid and pointless because they don’t really accomplish anything. People confidently talking about things they actually know nothing about is so beautiful and these are the people who’s stories must be told.
How did you come to learn about/get involved with the Exponential Festival?
I caught a performance of Lily Chambers and Hannah Kallenbach’s show Two Girls One Hot Dog at the Glove (RIP) as part of the Exponential Festival a couple years ago and it was so gross and weird and beautiful — I thought to myself, this is probably something I should be a part of.
Important Q: will Robyn’s latest album be blasted at Honey’s?
I can’t promise any Robyn, but we will have a special rendition of the High High Hopes Pete Buttiegeg dance available on a never ending nightmarish loop.
Did Tony Kushner authorize the rights to your subtitle, and do you care?
We actually had to fight to keep the subtitle in. We thought corporate gays who are scared of socialism is the modern fantasia of national themes. Also, we don’t care.
You’ve been living and working in and around Brooklyn for a number of years as a performance artist. What has this community meant to you? What are you looking forward to in the new year?
Making art with your friends is definitely the secret to happiness. I have some fun projects coming up next year — a lot to do with memes.
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.
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 →
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.
It’s hard to not be beguiled by an art show entitled You’re Doing Amazing Sweetie — now on view at Launch F18 until October 19th — and it’s even harder to not fall in love with the whimsical, colorful ceramic shoes created by Didi Rojas for the show. Rojas uniquely combines her day job work with her craft, elevating seemingly simple creations into something creative and singular. Learn more about this week’s Thursday Spotlight below!
Greenpointers: You live and work in Greenpoint, right? Any favorite spots in the neighborhood?
Didi Rojas: I live in Bed-Stuy but my studio space is in Greenpoint. There are so many good spots in the neighborhood. One of my favorite spots in Greenpoint, and probably all Brooklyn, is McCarren Park. I love walking my dog, Charlie, around the park whenever I bring her to the studio with me. Other favorite spots include the McCarren Deli (I usually get the Smoky Jack sandwich for lunch here), Five Leaves (whenever I want to treat myself) and Bernie’s (martinis and mozzarella sticks)!
Your day job is at Grouppartner Ceramic Studio, but you also create some of your work there, yes? I feel artists don’t always talk about their day job, but yours seems to be one that also feeds your work. How does that relationship balance?
I started working at the Grouppartner Studio when I was still in college and I eventually was able to get my own studio space in the same building. I’m really grateful for the relationship I’ve built with the studio and with the people I work with there. The space has changed so much over the years and it’s been fun getting to be a part of its growth. It’s a space I feel very comfortable in so it’s pretty great to be able do both my practice and day job in the same building. The Grouppartner Studio feels like home to me and I feel extremely lucky to be able to have a job that also helps inform my practice.
I love the shoes you crafted for you Launch F18 show! What are they made of, and how did they come to be?
Thank you! The sculptures are ceramic. I made my very first ceramic shoe over three years ago. I had been working at the studio and had a pair of Nike Air Force sneakers that were covered in clay from wearing them there daily. They looked like they could have been made out of ceramic so I had to try making one. I haven’t stopped making ceramic shoes since then. Fast forwarding a bit, the shoes for the show You’re Doing Amazing Sweetie at Launch F18 are similar to my previous bodies of work. There are over 40 included in the show and all but a few were made this year.
Silly question, but are the shoes in any way wearable? If not, what do you want to do with them when the show is done?
The ceramic shoes are not wearable, but I like to pretend. I often take photos of me pretending to wear them. The idea for them also somewhat originated from a “fake it till you make it” kind of playful mentality.
I’ll be keeping the sculptures that don’t sell from the show as part of my own collection.
Are there any upcoming projects you’re excited about/want to share?
My sculptures are being featured monthly in Vogue Italia’s magazine. It’s really crazy and cool getting to see the pieces in print. I’m also currently working on a couple photography and video projects as well as a book featuring the pieces from the show at Launch F18. More ceramic shoes are also in the works!
We’ve profiled myriad artists in our Thursday Spotlight series, but it’s rare we get the pleasure of speaking with a podcaster, especially one whose comedic prowess is as fierce as Stewart Fullerton’s. New to Greenpoint (but not the city), Stewart has been hosting a weekly podcast Stayin’ Humble with Stew for almost six months where she rebels against, celebrates, and (per the title) humbles pop culture and those who stir it.
The podcast is nihilistic with a life-affirming, souther gothic spin, and is rich in millennial upspeak without an ounce of irony. Stayin’ Humble with Stew highlights how New York rains on each of our parades when we step outside in Ray Bans, high on Kimmy Schmidt levels of hopeful and entrepreneurial spirit. Personal recounts pepper the episodes (a funny one follows our hostess through the Pride parade, forgetting her wallet in the gay shuffle while dizzy on stolen treats from Slack’s Narnia closet full of expensive snacks), as do tips on Venmo etiquette (it’s not that hard), how to feel about Taylor Swift (sentiments change like the weather), and who should be the face of the Me Too movement (spoiler: it’s Brad Pitt). Follow her on Insta here, and dive into her saucy responses below!
Greenpointers: She’s new to the nabe! How has it treated you? Any fave spots yet? Stewart Fullerton: I am absolutely loving this neighborhood. Everyone here is SO hot and the girls here wear the most creative flats I’ve ever seen. The second I moved all my stuff in I needed to go shopping for trendier clothes and a pair of clogs. I live right around the corner from Goldie’s Bar which is where I’m currently spending my paycheck. I also LOVE Three’s Brewing, best beer/ burger combo in the game. For my margaritas: Calexico, great happy hour. And shout out to Variety Coffee.
This pod has been going strong for a couple months now, I believe. What was the impetus for creating Stayin’ Humble with Stew? People have always told me I have the perfect face for podcasting. JK. As a comedian, you have to think of yourself as your own business and do anything you can do to get your name out there. Once I realized I wanted to start a podcast I knew I wanted it to be about celebrity culture in some way. Celebrities are not from the same planet as us mere mortals and I have always been obsessed with that. I also wanted my podcast to feel like a slumber party where I am catching up with my listeners. So I just combined my two favorite things, talking bad about celebrities and updating people on the humbling things that happen in my life. Also, starting a podcast is the new gluten free: everyone’s doing it!
Theresa Buchheisteris a successful artist because she is a generous one; through multiple festivals and off-the-beaten-path venues, clandestine locales and dive hives, she has created myriad opportunities for creators of various stripes to express themselves and their craft. How fitting that she should rise to be The Brick’s new Artistic Director.
The Brick (579 Metropolitan Avenue) has long been a haven for comediennes, interpreters of classics, and everything in between. Now, Theresa — founder of the lauded and Brooklyn-based Exponential Festival — takes her vast producorial and artistic know-how to Williamsburg’s vital and ever-evolving destination for cutting-edge theatrical experience. Get to know this indefatigable artist in this week’s Thursday Spotlight!
Greenpointers: We cover artists in Greenpoint, Bushwick, and Williamsburg — but it’s certainly not uncommon for folks to move in and out of the boroughs. If memory serves, you’ve moved around quite a bit during your time in New York, but so much of your work has touched these neighborhoods, right?
Theresa Buchheister: Indeed. The first shows I did in the early 2000s were more in the East Village and LES, as that is where weird and wild stuff was still happening. But, as that started to really really change around 2008, I found myself more and more in Brooklyn doing shows in the backs of CC Rentals (as part of the Night Market), on boats on the Gowanus Canal (with Jeff Stark), and in DIY music venues (RIP Silent Barn, Secret Project Robot, Shea Stadium, soon The Glove), as well as lovely theatrical spaces, like The Brick.
Title:Point was a part of Silent Barn for almost four years, and that was the first home we ever had. It really taught us a lot about what is possible when you have even a little patch of land to build on. Vital Joint is in East Williamsburg and we started doing things there almost three years ago, which has also been a great home base, especially being on the same block as Panoply Performance Lab, now called Parallel. There is a vibrance that comes from relentlessly working with artists of all practices and learning from them and also struggling to make things work — I have dealt with more dead rats and sewage and toilets than I ever predicted I would.
I love Brooklyn. It is my home. It is where amazing people live and venues come and go. But we all still keep finding ways.
Brooklyn celebrates artists of all stripes, but it’s rare you get one as versatile as Josh Craig. A professional DJ and, now, also a zine publisher, Josh has been a staple in the Brooklyn community for a few years. Now, he’s pulling double duty as he paves the way for his new publication, 11-18. Get to know this disk-spinning neighbor in this week’s Thursday Spotlight!
Greenpointers: Do you live in the neighborhood, and if so for how long? How’s it treated you?
Josh Craig: Currently I’m residing in Mallorca, Spain but I’ve been in Greenpoint for a good three years now. It’s treated me well. I’ve made some solid relationships, leveled up as a creator here and built my 1st home recording studio.
How did you get your start as a DJ, and what advice would you share with young artists getting their start?
I got my start DJing as a kid in New Jersey going to DMS parties on Fulton Street in Newark and making mix CDs for my friends with the Jersey Club tracks everyone loved at the raves we attended. Those mix CDs were my first stab at DJing. It wasn’t until I moved to Bushwick like six, seven years ago that I started playing records in clubs. Shouts to KLIENFELD of Suavehaus who put me on game.
The advice I have for any young artists getting started is to play what you feel in ya heart. Play your friends music not just top 40. Support only what is real and invest in some turntables. Vinyl helps too.
Carri Skoczek has enjoyed a decades-spanning career, in which time she has shown from everywhere from the Coney Island Mermaid Parade to Clem’s Bar. Now, she’s enjoying the dedication and regiment of #DrawingADay, using social media as a vehicle to exhibit (and often sell) her works. She also has a show now at Figureworks (168 North 6th Street) where her interest in dolls of all shapes and sizes is on full display. Get to know this local artist and her versatile craft in today’s Thursday Spotlight!
Greenpointers: You’ve had a number of shows in Brooklyn and have lived here for a bit. Can you briefly describe your trajectory and how you came to live in the borough?
Carri Skoczek: I moved to Brooklyn when i was 40 in 1997, a year after meeting my New York-born and bred partner in crime, David Hurd, in New Orleans at Jazz Fest. It was magical. We discovered we had the same friends.
Kerry Smith from the Right Bank Cafe insisted I run his gallery, which I did from 1997 to 2001. It was the perfect way to meet local artists and gallerists in the heyday of the Williamsburg art scene.
My first solo show in Brooklyn was at the Williamsburg Art and Historical Society in 1997. I curated an annual mermaid show celebrating the Coney Island Mermaid Parade for 10 years. I was also an award-winning participant in the parade. (I was a costume designer in Milwaukee for 12 years and that satisfied my urge to play dress up and design costumes for my friends.) I’ve shown at Holland Tunnel Gallery since the beginning. Participated in every annual epic group show Ritchie Timperio put on at sideshow gallery. I also had a solo show there in 2016. I was represented by Causey Contemporary from 1999 until she closed the gallery doors in 2015.
I’ve been in funky group shows in the local bars. I did a drunk girl show at Clem’s Bar in the late 90s. Two drunk girl chalkboard drawings are still in the window.