the next service is in LA on March 12

About Chris Wells

Chris Wells

CHRIS WELLS is an Obie award-winning writer, actor, singer, cabaret performer, lyricist, teacher and arts activist who has made original theatre, music and performance for many years.

Grand Poobah | Celebrating The Solstice

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CELEBRATING THE SOLSTICE/From Our Grand Poobah

It’s that time of year again—and I couldn’t be more excited. This Sunday is our 2nd Annual Winter Solstice celebration at Judson Church. We had such a big, glorious celebration last year and I’m excited to see what will happen this year as we apply what we learned from the year before. It was our first evening service ever and our biggest service ever, too. This year’s theme is SPACE and, in characteristic Secret City fashion, we aim to explore the theme in all of its many dimensions—outer space, personal space, performance space, the space between people, safe space. It’s a rich, rich theme. Our colors are Silver and White and, my outfit is being finished as I type—I promise to deliver sequins and platforms and spectacle. And, my hope is that we will create an evening that brings people together, providing joy to all in these scary times. A service that focuses on community and kindness, creating a tonic against the darkness. I know I take solace and great comfort from knowing the Secret City exists—and happiness in knowing we will all gather together in just a few days, to celebrate the greatest aspects of being human: art, cooperation, kindness, community, creativity, music, food—I hope to see you there.

Sunday, December 18th at 6:30 at Judson Memorial Church, 55 Washington Square South. Bring a treat to share for coffee hour afterward, dress up in silver and white if you like. There’s a $20 suggested donation. No one is turned away.

The Secret City. We worship art.

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Featured Performer | Clayton Dean Smith

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CLAYTON DEAN SMITH/Featured Performer

This Sunday, December 18th we have a 2nd Annual Winter Solstice celebration. The theme is SPACE and, to read the Cultural Calendar, we have one of my favorite actors—and, he’s now an award winning filmmaker as well. Clayton Dean Smith is a lovely, talented guy and I’m always happy to have him in our midst. Join us Sunday, December 18th at 6:30pm at Judson Memorial Church for SPACE.

Here’s Clayton’s bio:

Clayton Dean Smith is an actor and director, known for 30 Rock (2006), Louie (2010) and Off Track Betty (2016).

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Food Offering | Cassie McDuffie

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CASSIE MCDUFFIE/Food Offering

This Sunday is our 2nd Annual Winter Solstice celebration at Judson Church. The theme is SPACE. And, we have a delicious treat for the occasion. Our dear pal, master chef and fantastic baker is contributing her glitter truffles! We had these truffles at last year’s event so—looks like we have a tradition on our hands! Not only are these sparkly orbs beautiful and celestial but, they are DELICIOUS! Join us this Sunday, December 18th at 6:30pm at Judson Memorial Church for SPACE and get your glitter truffle on! Thanks to Cassie for this incredible treat.

Here’s Cassie’s bio:

Cassandra Meaux (pronounced Mo) McDuffie. Cajun-born, brown-eyed girl observes and experiences cooking and food as a celebration of life in all of its funky and glorious forms……even, and especially, in the low rice/high sugar cane fields of Southern Louisiana. She leaves home early (and often) to explore. She discovers cooking and food as an art form and yet it’s still a funky, glorious celebration! She mustn’t and can’t resist. She cooks. She celebrates. She can’t help it.

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Featured Performer | Simi Stone

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SIMI STONE/Featured Performer

Ok, friends, prepare yourself for the magic, joy and sparkle that is Ms. Simi Stone. Simi’s a wonderful singer, performer and songwriter and she’s someone we met when we moved to Woodstock—she was our neighbor for the first three years and we just adore her. She performed at the first Woodstock gathering of The Secret City and, when I was putting together the Solstice service, I immediately thought of her to be our featured musician. We’re putting together a special number that is right up her alley, and I know it will be right up yours, too. Join us for our 2nd Annual Winter Solstice Celebration this Sunday, December 18th at 6:30pm at Judson Memorial Church on Washington Square. The theme is SPACE.

Here’s Simi’s bio:

Simi is a violinist, guitarist, pianist, composer, and singer. Born and raised in Woodstock – the magic of the mountains is in her blood. She has performed and toured with Simone Felice, Connor Oberst, Dan Zanes, Elizabeth Mitchell, Natalie Merchant, Amy Helm, and Duke and the King. Her album

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Featured Performer | Carson Elrod

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CARSON ELROD/Featured Performer

This Sunday at Judson Memorial Church we hold our 2nd Annual Winter Solstice Celebration. And, we have a beautiful group of artists and performers taking part. For the reader portion of our program, we have the dynamic, charming and talented Carson Elrod, who’s been a member of our community for some time now. Carson’s a celebrated actor and a beautiful guy and I’m always delighted to have him in our midst and I’m thrilled he’s going to read a piece by Carl Sagan in honor of the theme of SPACE. That’s Sunday, December 18th at 6:30pm at Judson Memorial Church.

Carson’s Bio:

Carson Elrod was born in Kansas. He went to school at Potwin Elementary, Robinson Middle School, Topeka High School, University of Kansas and NYU’s Graduate Acting Program.

He was called to acting in college when, in the midst of taking on a truly enormous amount of activities (DJ, columnist, classes, etc.) I auditioned for Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins. The magnanimous Ron Willis cast me in the play and from the moment he first felt the supernatural glow of the white spotlight, that was it. I was in.I believe that acting in film, television, and theatre is the most visceral and relatable form of storytelling the planet has. His many titles include Talented Actor, Improvisor, Teacher,Coach, Director, and Writer.

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Featured Performers | BATALA

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BATALA/Featured Performers

I am SO EXCITED! About this Solstice service in general, all of the wonderful performers AND, that Batala is going to be part of it all! I first heard Batala at an outdoor event on the pier in the city—I think it was Christopher Street in the village? I didn’t know who they were but when one of our community members suggested them I looked at video on YouTube and said, “That’s the drum corps I heard! I love them!” One of their members has been coming to our services for a while now and we’ve talked about connecting. For those who don’t know, Batala is a fantastic Brazilian drum corps made up of mostly women and they’re fierce and wonderful. We’ve been wanting to get them to be part of The Secret City for some time now and I am so happy that it’s going to happen for our Solstice celebration. Join us for the explosive, joyful rhythms of Batala—Sunday, December 18th at 6:30 pm at Judson Memorial Church.

Here’s their bio:

Batalá New York is a chapter of the global arts project known as Batalá Mundo, made up of over 30 mostly co-ed bands around the world. Led by Musical Directors Laura Torell and Deinya Phenix, the ladies of Batalá New York play music written by the project’s Maestro Giba Gonçalves and heard in Salvador, the capital of the state of Bahia, in northeastern Brazil. Batalá has maintained a presence in New York since 2012; the current band was formed in September of 2016 of 49 players who chose to continue the Batalá Mundo tradition locally, restructuring as a non-profit to better serve and access the community. Many of our drummers have traveled internationally to perform in carnaval in Salvador and have played for the Rolling Stones 50th Anniversary Tour, at the Mayoral Reception for the US Women’s National Team, on Saturday Night Live performing with Disclosure and Lorde and as extras in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows. More information can be found at our website http://batalanewyork.love/ We can be found on Facebook under www.facebook.com/batalanewyork/ and on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and Snapchat as @batalanewyork

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Featured Artist | Jeanne Fleming

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For this Sunday’s event—our 2nd Annual Winter Solstice celebration—the theme is SPACE. And, our featured visual artist is someone who works in space on a large scale. Jeanne Fleming is a Celebration Artist and Producer who’s been the artistic director of the West Village Halloween parade for the past 30 years. A puppeteer and community organizer whose work has engaged and inspired millions of people—in addition to the annual parade, Jeanne has created festivals and happenings all over the world. She was the producer of the Centennial Celebration of The Statue of Liberty, and Walking on Air, the festival of the opening of the Walkway Over the Hudson. For SPACE, Jeanne will be displaying some key pieces from her Sinterklass Festival, an annual holiday event in the Mid Hudson Valley, inspired by the Dutch holiday tradition. Join us and experience this legendary art maker as she shares her work and her thoughts on making large-scale spectacles. Sunday, December 18th at 6:30pm at Judson Church.

Here’s Jeanne’s bio:

Jeanne Fleming has been the artistic director and producer of the Village Halloween Parade in New York City since 1981. A renowned celebration artist, she has also designed and directed numerous rituals, ceremonies, and events in New York and internationally, including the centennial of the Statue of Liberty and New York’s River to River Festival.

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Featured Artist | Alicia Vogl Saenz

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It’s time to gather in Los Angeles once again! And, our theme is HAIR–great, right? And a blast to curate around. It turns out that one of our friends and a fantastic Los Angeles poet has a series of poems about HAIR. Alicia Vogl Saenz is a great writer and has shared her work with us before–I’m delighted to have her back with us again, esp for HAIR. Join us Sunday, December 4th for poetry, food tasting, performance and a great community interaction. Bootleg Theater at noon.

Here’s Alicia’s bio:

Alicia’s poem have appeared in lots of journals and online, like this here: http://writersatwork.wordpress.com/2013/09/05/september-poem-of-the-month-alicia-vogl-saenz/
Alicia’s also a member of Macondo, a writing community founded by Sandra Cisneros and teaches contemplative writing at the Los Angeles Shambhala Meditation Center. Her work is rich and sexy and often located in the landscape of Los Angeles.

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Featured Performer | JoNell Kennedy

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This Sunday for our next gathering we’ll be in Los Angeles celebrating HAIR. I’m delighted to have one of our favorite collaborators and performers come by to read the calendar for us. JoNell Kennedy is a wonderful actress and it’s always a pleasure to have her in the mix. Join us Sunday for another lovely installment of Secret City LA–this time for HAIR.

Here’s JoNell’s bio:

JoNell Kennedy was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. Her father is retired Federal Government Employee (Labor Dept.) and mother was a vocalist with 1960s group “The Dixi Kups”. JoNell is a graduate of Southern Methodist University where she majored in theatre. She is a recipient of a Joseph Jefferson Theatre Award Sings with Rock/Soul Band “The Soul Of John Black” She was awarded the 1992 Joseph Jefferson Award for Actress in a Revue for “Spunk-Three Tales by Zora Neale Hurston” at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago, Illinois. Recent TV appearances: The Mentalist, Southland, NCIS and Shameless.

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Featured Performer | Karen “Curly” Schleifer

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For our service this Sunday in LA–Sunday, December 4th at 12noon at Bootleg Theater–the theme is HAIR and so we have a wonderful, curly headed performer as our featured musical guest. Curly Karen Schleifer is a powerhouse entertainer with years in musical theater and a career as a singer songwriter. She is a member of both our New York and LA communities and I’m delighted she’s going to perform for us–one of the great songs from the musical HAIR.

Here’s her bio:

Curly’s credits include being an orphan in the original cast of Broadway’s ANNIE (Kate, u/s Molly). She later performed the title role of Annie at Lincoln Center. Her favorite musical theatre roles include playing Fanny Zucchiatti in Off Broadway’s My Big Gay Italian Funeral, Chiffon in Little Shop of Horrors, Winnifred in Once Upon a Mattress, Mary Magdalene in Jesus Christ Superstar and performing in the National Tour of Tony & Tina’s Wedding, where she played Donna. After many years of professional theatre, she took her talents to the rock and roll stage. Now a recording artist, she has performed solo and with her band on both coasts at many notable venues from NYC to L.A. and everywhere in between. Her first album “Only the Ocean” was recently released for digital distribution by Essential Media Group, LLC. (Miami, FL) her third studio album is due out spring of 2017! Check out www.curlykaren.com for all details.

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