the next service is in Los Angeles on June 11

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Philip Levine (January 10, 1928 – February 14, 2015)


The great poet Philip Levine died this weekend. The poet Jeremy Bass, who’s also the music director of The Secret City, wrote a brief appreciation. We also include Levine’s iconic work: They Feed They Lion. RIP to a celebrated American poet.

I met Philip Levine at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference a few summers ago. I’d heard of him, I’d read his iconic poem “They Feed They Lion,” but hadn’t delved into his poetry beyond that. His reading that summer, made up of poems from his last collection, was intensely and joyfully moving. He wrote about working people, their lives and suffering, he wrote about family and the poets of the Spanish Civil War, he wrote about childhood and how the ghost of his dead friend Larry Levis appeared in his dreams complete with black motorcycle jacket and faded jeans, he wrote about travel and California and the Black Wine of Alicante. I immediately rushed out to purchase copies of “What Work Is” and “The Simple Truth” (for which he was awarded the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize, respectively) and found that these themes ran consistently throughout all of his work. His writing was always directed toward increasing the clarity of our awareness of being alive, and even at 85, a slight man, hunched at the podium, you could sense that generosity and brilliance of purpose. I never knew him personally, but he was considered to be one of the most dedicated and supportive teachers by all who studied with him–at times combative and fierce, but always in pursuit of nurturing the next great poem that would speak to the human condition. – Jeremy Bass


Out of burlap sacks, out of bearing butter,
Out of black bean and wet slate bread,
Out of the acids of rage, the candor of tar,
Out of creosote, gasoline, drive shafts, wooden dollies,
They Lion grow.

Out of the gray hills
Of industrial barns, out of rain, out of bus ride,
West Virginia to Kiss My Ass, out of buried aunties,
Mothers hardening like pounded stumps, out of stumps,
Out of the bones’ need to sharpen and the muscles’ to stretch,
They Lion grow.

Earth is eating trees, fence posts,
Gutted cars, earth is calling in her little ones,
“Come home, Come home!” From pig balls,
From the ferocity of pig driven to holiness,
From the furred ear and the full jowl come
The repose of the hung belly, from the purpose
They Lion grow.

From the sweet glues of the trotters
Come the sweet kinks of the fist, from the full flower
Of the hams the thorax of caves,
From “Bow Down” come “Rise Up,”
Come they Lion from the reeds of shovels,
The grained arm that pulls the hands,
They Lion grow.

From my five arms and all my hands,
From all my white sins forgiven, they feed,
From my car passing under the stars,
They Lion, from my children inherit,
From the oak turned to a wall, they Lion,
From they sack and they belly opened
And all that was hidden burning on the oil-stained earth
They feed they Lion and he comes.

Philip Levine 1968




As part of our desire to support people with kids, we provide free childcare, we have for years now. We are always looking for ways to improve that service. So, we’ve just recently partnered with SmartSitting – a childcare referral agency in New York City. We are now using their sitters who will be watching the kids and also leading them in an art-making activity. We ask that parents sign in their kids and leave a cell phone number – even though the child care room is right around the corner from the performance space, it’s good to be able to track you down if the sitter needs to. We’ll be posting more about the specific activities we have coming up this season. For now, come, bring your kids, leave them with the sitter and enjoy the service.


Our 4th Annual Food-Drive is ON


This month marks our 4th annual food drive, benefiting Food Bank for New York City. We started doing this when we had our service dedicated to SUSTENANCE – and we collected about 50 pounds of food. This year, we’re hoping to collect 200 pounds of food. We have bins at Dixon Place all week, so you can stop by to make a food donation anytime this week. And, we’ll be accepting donations this Sunday, at our monthly gathering, also at Dixon Place.

As you probably know – there’s a real need for food right now. Food prices have gone up, and food stamps have been cut for a lot of people in the past month.

Here are some facts about the Food Bank:

1. The Food Bank For New York City feeds 400,000 hungry New Yorkers daily. Of the 400,000,

  • 1/3 are children under the age of 18.  A majority of these children are eligible for free or reduced lunch, Statistics show that over 90% of children receiving a free or reduced lunch rate at school are at risk of not eating again that day.
  • 1/3 are elderly/ senior citizens, who have worked all their lives and upon retirement cannot afford food after expenses.
  • 1/3 are working poor, or single parent homes. Hard working taxpayers who unfortunately cannot afford food after all other expenses.

2. The Food Bank distributes food to over 1000 agencies within the five boroughs (soup kitchens, pantries, mobile pantries at school cafeterias, homeless shelters, schools, community centers, etc.)

3. Due to our ability to purchase below wholesale price, for every $1.00 donated, the FB can help provide 5 meals.

4. The Food Bank has distributed a little over 1 million lbs of pet food, for low income families throughout the 5 boroughs

5.  For every $1.00 donated $.91 are used for our programs (purchasing food, etc.) $.9 for administrative fees.

So, whether you can give a can or a case of food, please give.  It’s a really great thing to do – just in time for Thanksgiving.

My best,



Are You a Fan of The Secret City?


If You’re a Fan…
We Want Your Video!


Are you a fan of The Secret City? Then, prove it!

We’re in the middle of our annual fund-drive, to raise $45K by July 2nd. In our first week we made $2,000. Huge thanks to all who contributed so far!! Of course, the first thing you can do to help out is make a contribution to the cause – any amount would be a big help. It’s important that we increase the number of donors as well as the amount of money. So, $5, $10, $25 – it really makes an impact.

And, here’s another great way you can help:
Make a video of yourself saying you’re a fan of The Secret City.

Here’s an example:

(It’s the darling India Kotis at Coney Island! With special thanks to Ayun Halliday for the fantastic camera work.)

So, make a video of yourself, no more than 30 seconds long.
Maybe you’re doing something crazy or at rehearsal or traveling to far off lands, feel free to be as creative as you want, even show off, if you feel like it. Then, include some kind of fan in the video (if you have a Secret City Fan, that’s great, but don’t let it stop you if you don’t) and please include your name, and the phrase,
“I’m a fan of The Secret City.”

Email your video to; we’ll post them to our youtube account, share them on social media, and the best ones we’ll use in the fund-drive announcements, like India’s above.

And, who knows, maybe some of our li’l fan videos will go viral and attract all sorts of new people to our fund-drive and the ever expanding community of The Secret City.

So, make a video, will ya? Pretty please?



The Secret City

We worship art.

PS – we’re heading back to LA for our next gathering on Sunday, June 16th. The theme will be OBSESSION. Click this link for details.


A Call for Singers

The Obie Award winning Secret City is looking for singers to join their choir. The Secret City Singers perform at our monthly services in downtown Manhattan – these gatherings are part cabaret, part salon, part ceremony, and the live music and the choir are an integral part of each event. Rehearsals are one Thursday night a month from 6 – 8 in Manhattan, and the Sunday mornings of our events, at 10am. We sing a mix of popular music and original songs – and typically perform with piano, sometimes with the 4 piece band and occasionally a cappella. It’s a great opportunity to sing regularly with a group of people – to enhance performance skills, learn new music and harmonies, and to make some beautiful music together. Some singing experience is helpful.We are looking for folks to join us immediately in time for our next service on December 16th. For more information about us, please visit our website at To join us, simply email


A Lovely Bit of Press from The 22 MAGAZINE


Cat Gilbert over at The 22 Magazine is what they used to call a class act. She has put together a sweet little feature about The Secret City and our fund-drive. She writes beautifully about our organization, and what it is that we do. Please check out her blog here.

Thanks, Cat!! Really appreciate the love and support, especially as we head into the final stretch of our fund-drive. We love our supporters!! XOXO




Thanks for visiting our blog. I wonder, did you get here by reading the New York Times article about us in this weekend’s Arts and Leisure section? If so, we’d like to welcome you to our website—where you’ll be able to find out even more about us, and sign up for our mailing list, too, if you want.

You might like to look at some of the pictures from past services, and see what an amazing community of artists and creative people we are.

Regardless, Welcome to The Secret City. I hope you’ll visit us in person someday.


SEPT 26th: A new season, a new home.


We’re getting ready to kick off our fourth season, and we’re delighted to announce that we’ve found a new home for our burgeoning community. We’re moving to the fabulous Dixon Place!! Dixon Place, for those of you who don’t know, is a downtown institution — a laboratory for daring new work, radical live events and rich, creative community. We’re thrilled to be moving into their new space, allowing us to welcome more visitors, and to display and curate art and performance at a bigger level.

SO, join us, won’t you?? The theme for this month’s service is TRANSFORMATION; we’re going to celebrate these ever-changing, creative and beautiful lives of ours.

The Secret City
Sunday September 26th 11:30
Dixon Place
161A Chrystie St.
Btwn Houston and Delancey
NYC 10002
Suggested Donation: $10
Free Childcare!!



On Monday, May 17th, Chris Wells (me) and The Secret City won and OBIE AWARD! So incredible…an amazing, surprising and wonderful honor. Had absoLUTEly no idea, and well, maybe that was for the best.

Can’t believe that after only two and a half short years we would get this kind of recognition and validation, and it’s a huge game changer for our organization, as we build our board and fundraise and work to make the foundation strong so that our monthly services can continue to thrive, and our community can continue to flourish and grow. And to be able to continue to provide the place for all creative people to come and reconnect, reinvest and restore themselves and their purpose. It’s such a beautiful thing to be a part of, and I’m truly grateful.

Thanks to everyone who is a part of this great adventure, and to the Obie committee for their wonderful support, and for the community of dedicated and gorgeous people who make the Secret City the incredible and vital and NECESSARY thing that it is.


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