the next service is in Los Angeles on June 11

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.

It was a very stylish day…

Sunday was an amazing service!! The theme was STYLE, and who doesn’t like that? Above is one of the amazing Sesame Truffles made for the food offering by Genevieve LuLoup. The experience of eating one of these was a true adventure, such complexity. And they were beautiful, too. Here’s two whole trays of ’em, served by the lovely Coloff sisters:

We heard the epigrams of Oscar Wilde, looked at the collages of Isa Catto Shaw, and held the Second Annual secret City Fashion Show! Here are some highlights:

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STYLE!!

Join us on Sunday, February 28th for our service on STYLE!

The last stretch of winter encourages us to think about what we are going to be when spring comes, how are we going to feel when the snow is gone, and what are we going to wear when this damn weather is over. But really STYLE is a metaphor for all the larger questions we face in life, questions that THE SECRET CITY joyfully asks over and over again, “HOW AM I GOING TO SPEND MY TIME?”

We’re putting together an amazing service, featuring handmade chocolates by Genevieve LuLoup, beautiful visuals by Isa Catto Shaw, performance by Butt Kapinski and Sarah ‘SNAPS” Alden, live music provided by The Secret City Singers, a tribute to Alexander McQueen, the Second Annual Secret City Fashion Show and a few special stylish surprises.

It’s going to be a beautiful thing, made more beautiful by your presence. Oh, and feel free to dress up.

See you there!!

The Secret City
STYLE!
Sunday, February 28th
11:30a.m.
@ Theatrelab
137 W. 14th St.

And remember, we provide FREE CHILDCARE!!

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SECRET ADMIRERS…with Rosanne Cash


Oh me oh my what an AMAZING night we had…our first big benefit and it was a lovely, smashing night!!

The image above is of a few Valenteenies — beautiful handmade valentines by Bridget Carpenter, custom-made for our event.

The incredible Rosanne Cash was our guest star, and she put on a perfect and touching set of love songs. Here she is with my cousin Maddy Weeks and me:


We had our party at the amazingly beautiful and cool Norwood Club, and it was a sexy, charming and successful night: we had a nice full room, and a lot of new people who were introduced to the Secret City for the first time, and a lot of our most loyal members of The Secret City in attendance. Here are a few party pics. This is Mary Cunney and Martha Brantley:

Here’s Bobby Lucy and Sarah Alden, with their megawatt smiles!!

 

A portrait of two Joannas; Heimbold on the left, Adler on the right.

Jim Caruso, Michael Hayes and Jamie Brickhouse:

The lovely Myra Scheer, the lovely Graciella Meltzer and the lovely Jim Caruso:

We had tshirts donated by Rogue’s Gallery, possibly the hippest tshirt company in the WORLD. An original silk-screen was made just for The Secret City, and a limited run was made for our benefit. They are fantastic and super-cute! AND, we have a few left over…


Here’s Secret City music director, Jeremy Bass. He played a set of Brazilian tunes during cocktail hour, and anchored the whole evening in great musical style.

This is our raffle table, which was co-ordinated by Jamie Brickhouse. We had a great collection of stuff donated by Secret City artists, including Bobby Lucy (that’s his drawing of Doris Day), Isa Catto Shaw, Heather Phelps-Lipton, Lucy Smith, Leah Coloff,  Joanna Heimbold, as well as three autographed books from Harper Collins authors.

Here are a few more of Bridget Carpenters valenteenies:

This is Rosanne and me, singing Something Stupid, as an encore to her amazing set. SO fun to sing with Rosanne — maybe we’ll put an act together!! And there’s Jeremy backing us up brilliantly.  Thanks, JB.

Here’s Lucy Smith, one of the first members of The Secret City, with Caitlin Shann, who co-chaired the event. So happy to have them involved — they’re both incredible additions to The Secret City.

Here’s Taylor Barton-Smith and G.E. Smith, sweet supporters of The Secret City. Great to have them at the party.

Our amazing volunteers!! TRULY could NOT have done it without them. Caitlin on the left, with Andrea Thome, Ana Perea and Fiona Creed. THANK YOU THANK YOU for all of your gracious help. And, for the fabulous outfits!

Here’s the amazing Leah Coloff, playing for folks as they were arriving to the reception.

Martin Tandler, Gael Towey and Rosanne Cash.

Ann Tenenbaum and Debbie Wolff:

Pete and Katie Heimbold (with unborn baby!!)

It really was an extraordinary night — beyond my wildest dreams. Who could imagine we’d have such an event at this stage in our development. Felt like a whole new level of support and presence for The Secret City — and a real testament to the way our community and our mission is unfolding into the world. IMPACT!! And, a party that people didn’t want to leave. Thanks all for a beautiful night. And especially to Rosanne, a class act, a beautiful performer, and a true friend.

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IT WORKED!

We had a wonderful gathering at the end of January. Our theme was WORK, and it was rich and deep and good. Above is one of the results of the service…sculptor/installation artist Julia Nitsberg brought in these simple paper bags, which she had stamped and dated. We all made our own unique works of art out of them. I love the way the letters look on the bags. Here’s Julia with one of the bags:

Sarah Alden, Jeremy Bass and Leah Coloff worked magic with their instruments on Jeremy’s song, WORK.

Our visual art was photography taken by artists working for the Farm Security Administration, part of the New Deal: in particular we featured the work of Dorothea Lang, Walker Evans and Arthur Rothstein. Here are Caitlin Shann and Rachel Coloff doing their best women-of-the-depression faces.

But don’t be fooled! IT was a joyful and glorious day == just look at these smiling faces:


that’s the lovely Ana Perea and Andrea Thome. Here’s Lucy Smith and Jen Taher:


Other highlights of the service included Rosemary Walnuts as the food offering (Thanks to Marissa Copeland for that, and for her amazing set-up and introduction), Daniel Zaitchik performed his song BEEKEEPING, a beautiful rumination of the fruits of one’s labors. Kelly Coffield read excerpts from job interviews and resumes (yikes!) and the deep notion of living with intention was revealed throughout it all.

Thanks for coming out! It’s amazing to watch the Secret City grow, every month there are new people and lots of love…it’s a real community that’s happening. Love to you, and see you next mont — our theme will be STYLE!! xoxoxo

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WORKERS OF THE WORLD, UNITE!!

Our next service is this Sunday, and our theme is WORK, inspired by the new year.

Join us as we celebrate the ideas of productivity, industry, fabrication, manufacturing, and ART MAKING. We have an amazing roster of guest artists:

  • Jeremy Bass (guitar), Sarah Alden (fiddle) and Leah Coloff (cello) will play music for us
  • We’ll look at photographs of the WPA
  • Kelly Coffield will read from actual cover letters and resumes
  • Marissa Copeland is making Rosemary Walnuts for the food offering
  • Daniel Zaitchik will perform his song Beekeeping
  • Jen Taher will read the Cultural Calendar
    • Sculptor Julia Nitsberg will lead us in a piece of collaborative art making

We’ll also have our usual features: The Mingling Ritual, Meditation, and The Reciting of Our Gratitudes. And I’ll be reading my latest sermon, THE WORK OF WONDERING, about being mistaken for a running back for Ohio State.

Please come join us.

And remember, we always have FREE CHILDCARE!!

Chris

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THE SECOND SHORTEST DAY OF THE YEAR

We celebrated the DARKNESS last month. The service was the 20th, the day before the Solstice. It was an amazing, bright, snowy day outside, and the pre-winter light filled the room.

Those things in the picture above are mushrooms, which grow in the dark, of course. Marinated button mushrooms were the food offering in the middle of this incredible gathering.

This is the wonderful Evie Peck, who was visiting from LA. Evie read a piece of hers called The Art of the Blind Date, a riotous exploration of a truly terrifying ritual. Talk about darkness.

Here someone is looking at a photograph by Steve Giovinco, our featured artist for December. Steve makes amazing images that really play with the notions of light and dark, literally and figuratively.

That’s one of the reasons I thought Steve would be a great fit for the theme of Darkness, but also because Steve usually ‘in the dark’ when he’s shooting…meaning, he doesn’t pose the shots, he’s shooting with a remote, and he doesn’t know what he’s shooting. So he’s working intuitively, and capturing intimate moments that reveal themselves only after he’s shot them.

This is one of his ‘psychological portraits’ of him and his wife, Dru Arstark.


Here are some new faces from the service–on the left is Daniel Zaitchik, who performed with part of his band, Blue Bottle Collection. They were AMAZING! They sang one of Daniel’s songs, entitled  The Dark.
It was a lovely moment, everyone sat-up in their seats when they started, and didn’t sit back until it was over. On the right is Ryan, a new-comer. We LOVE newcomers!

Here are some sweet pals, having a grand ol time at The Secret City. Dan Parker, Lonny Price and Evie Peck.

Look at that lovely winter light flooding into the room.


There was a lot of music, Katie Barrett sang a song called The History of Fire, and Jeremy played his lute for us. How great is that?

An amazing gathering, a theme that was deep and revelatory. I love the idea of celebrating the dark heart of the year, the moment when we all go underground together, and look for what lies beneath the sunlit surface of our lives. It’s a great thing that art and artists do naturally, and it’s really wonderful to do it together. Here’s to the dark, among its many offerings is the place where light is born, over and over again.

 

 

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DARKNESS tomorrow–

Hey there–Our next service is tomorrow! The theme is DARKNESS. It’s really starting to come down outside-that’s right, our first big storm of the year, and they’re predicting 12 to 22 inches of snow today and tonight. We’ll be gathering tomorrow at 11:30 in the morning, to celebrate the winter solstice, which is Monday, the 21st. We have some amazing folks coming to do their thing–

  • Daniel Zaitchik and Co will sing their song THE DARK
  • Evie Peck will share THE ART OF THE BLIND DATE
  • Katie Barrett will perform THE HISTORY OF FIRE
  • Steve Giovinco will have some new photos for us to see. Oh, and
  • Steve and Kelly Park are doing the food offering–MUSHROOMS!!
  • Jeremy Bass will play his LUTE for us–songs of the Renaissance 
  • What else? Oh, all sorts of usual, juicy stuff- MINGLING, SINGING, and MORE
  • Oh, and I’m going to share my latest ‘sermon’ about my STAGE FRIGHT!

Come out in the snow, celebrate the re-birth of the sun. It’ll be all toasty warm inside THE SECRET CITY.

The Secret City
137 W. 14th St
11:30 a.m.
FREE CHILDCARE!!

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GRACE.

Lovely lovely lovely was the service yesterday. Our theme was GRACE, and it was a grace-filled, graceful, and gracious affair. Our featured visual artist was Juliana Francis-Kelly. Here she is installing her work before the service.


Her SAINTS, which are paper dolls made of Marcal napkins and Elmer’s Glue, were the perfect thing. They lined the walls.

Yehuda Hyman created a dance piece for the service entitled Sometimes it Happens So Quickly. He danced for us with, and on top of, his kitchen Stool. Grace is found in everyday objects and unlikely settings, and in moments when we think it is undeserved. Here’s Yehuda in motion.


Charlotte Booker wrote a piece in honor of the birthday of Geraldine Page, who would have been 85 yesterday; it was called, ’11 Things I Know For Sure About Geraldine Page.’ Here’s Charlotte.

Rachel Coloff made an exquisite panna cotta, pure milk, honey and cream, with a perfect piece of raspberry on top. Jeremy played Vivaldi for us on guitar–amazing to hear Vivaldi LIVE, in such an intimate setting.

It was a packed crowd. So many new people! And so many dear pals. We really are gonna need that new space, and soon. Here’s Yehuda with the Sisters Coloff — Rachel and Leah.


KATIE BARRETT!!!


Steve Park, Lee Ann Brown, Tony Torn and Miranda Torn.

Newcomers Amber and Lynette, who found out about The Secret City from nonsensenyc, the best and coolest list-serve in the city. Thanks nonsense!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s Annika and Caitlin. Do they look happy, or what?

Here’s Richard and Rick.

Here’s Wayne, looking protective of his panna cotta.

Martin brought some friends along==always happy to have more dashing gentlemen in our midst.

Here are Jeffrey and Emily and Wayne taking part in the Mingling Ritual.

it was a wonderful day–community, art, sanctuary, beauty, tenderness and joy. All in the heart of the city, on a Sunday morning in November. Thanks to all the incredible artists who make it happen, and those who show up, and the new friends…and for those of you who’ve never been before, we hope you’ll be able to visit sometime soon. And, who knows, we might visit your neck of the woods in the future, as The Secret City continues to GROW! With love, and gratitude. xo Chris

Oh, and here’s a quote from Tennessee Williams that I want to share, on the subject of GRACE:

“A high station in life is earned by
the gallantry with which appalling experiences are survived with grace.”

And now I’ll leave you with more of Juliana’s SAINTS–enjoy. And Happy Thanksgiving!


 

 

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ANCESTORS!!

We celebrated our ancestors this past Sunday. We started with some incredible music from Appalachia, performed by the lovely Sarah Alden and Rima Fand.

The walls were lined with images of our ancestors, some found, some sent in from Secret City members around the country. Some images were literally brought in on the body of the desendant herself, as evidenced here by our dear Anne Moore, who is wearing her grandmother’s locket.

Some of our guests were photographed for posterity so that they may be the future ancestors in some other Secret City ceremony years and years from now.

It was a deep and glorious service, with the mysterious past swimming all around us. A perfect rite for the fall, featuring a taste of two cheddars, stories about people descended from the stars and lots of wonderful humans.

Here are Jamie and Erin:

And Ismael and Donnie:

Alex and Joanie:

And, last but certainly not least, our own dear Bobby Lucy, whose birthday we celebrated.

It was a lovely day, and The Secret City is growing. We’re on the lookout for a new space, and our fundraising campaign continues. The services are full of more guest artists, more music, more visual art than ever. And folks come away with a deep sense of peace, of being restored, reset with intention. To make art in this world, to make art of this world.

One of the ancestors we had on the wall during the service was sent in by our friend Brian McGuire in Los Angeles. It was that great picture of Albert Einstein riding a bike. With it was a quote of his, which we also put on the wall and read aloud during the service. It captures what I think The Secret City celebrates,

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious.” Albert Einstein

Thanks to all who came out this past Sunday, and especially those who helped make the service happen. More to come. Next month, GRACE, inspired by Thanksgiving.

 

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TASTE!

We had a beautiful and joyful service last Sunday, September 27th. The theme was TASTE, inspired by the new cultural season. It was our biggest one yet, with a whole new batch of amazing guest artists, and more musicians than ever. This is Larry Krone, installing his work, entitled THEN AND NOW


Larry is an artist and entertainer. His website is larrykrone.com. Check out his site for info about him,a nd if you ever have a chance to catch a show of his, do it. He makes beautiful country music with his friends and family. And he sews his own underwear. This is a close-up of some of Larry’s work, which looked beautiful in the space…

This was the first service of our third year…incredible. And there were new folks, old pals and great music.


That’s the lovely Rachel Coloff on the left, who sang a duet with me, with PIANO accompaniment! Rachel’s a great performer, a Broadway baby, and a delight to watch. Sunday was the first time we’ve had piano music in one of our services. In the middle is Sarah Alden (sarahalden.com) who played violin for us. Incredible to have her music and spirit as part of the service. Sarah plays a lot of folk music of all kinds–American, Gypsy, Scandinavian and more. She’s also a part of the band Luminescent Orchestri, http://www.lumii.org/, who specialize in ‘MUSIC TO MAKE YOU DANCE, KISS AND SCREAM. Marilyn Perez is on the right, a newcomer to The Secret City. “Hi Marilyn!”

We had a lot of newcomers, and a lot of folks in general. Look at this sweet crowd!

This is Paul and Anna:

Daniela and Willie:

Ed and Annie:

And one more piece of Larry’s, this is one is a fish–see it?

A great day. And a great start to our third year. Thanks to all who came out, and to all who helped out.
Looking forward to a beautiful new year of services. And more art, more artists, more connecting. 

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