the next service is in NYC on March 26

Posts In From our Grand Poobah

From our Grand Poobah | POP

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POP – what the hell is it? Well, it’s a modern art term, describing the work of such 20th century titans as Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg, Claes Oldenberg and others. It was a movement that embraced commercial art as a viable entry into the category of fine art…a celebration of things mechanized, reproduced and made for pleasure and consumption. POP is also a sound – a pop of a gun or a a sonic boom. POP makes me think of surprises, which I used to love as a kid. How do I feel about surprises now? Ok, I guess…I’m not completely controlling, after all. POP is also a term of endearment for father – I call my dad Pops sometimes. Feels affectionate. POP is also what certain folks in our fair nation called soft drinks, as in soda pop. I think it’s three states that are known for that term – maybe Michigan and two others? Think I read that somewhere recently. POP – of course, popcorn, a beloved snack. Mostly associated with the movies – isn’t that funny? How one activity is so identified with one specific food item. I love popcorn, with salt and butter – I also love the movies. Oh, I know, I almost forgot – POP music. I love that, too. I’ve been thinking a lot about POP music and other things – Madonna, Michael Jackson, George Michael, Miley Cyrus, Elvis, Britney, Cher, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, The Beatles, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby…all HUGE pop stars of their day. Mozart could even be considered a pop star, I guess. Princess Diana? The Duchess of Devonshire? Lady Godiva? Maybe.

At the library the other day I looked at a book on POP, where philosophers were discussing popular culture – many of them have a great disdain for it, of course, but several were saying, Pop Culture can contain subversive ideas, and this they were all for. And I thought about Elvis’ hips, Madonna’s crucifixes, Sinatra’s ties to the mob…Warhol’s movies…nothing is simple, is it? Even POP has layers, though it often asserts that it only celebrates the surface, a life without affectation. I can tell you that pop music and pop culture have been a huge part of my liberation, of freeing me from the past, or whatever held me back. Driving in my car screaming along to Top 40 radio. Pop can signify a break from tradition and the assertion that “the way things are” doesn’t have to be. I’m excited for this Sunday’s celebration of POP – to see what happens, how the world might change in the moment, watching someone dance, seeing someone’s colorful art, listening to the choir sing Prince, tasting the delicious caramel corn. POP POP POP POP POP, little explosions signifying the constant arrival of the new.

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From our Grand Poobah | Can You Feel It?

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Ok! Summer’s on the way and what a beautiful season’s it’s been. We have just started to wind things down with our services BUT NOT BEFORE A BIG, BOFFO finish and end to the season. We had our final NYC service this past Sunday – the theme was MEMORY. The next will be in LA on Sunday, June 22nd – the theme will be ADVENTURE. We already have a great line-up of performers and presenters and, as usually, I’m really excited for a trip to wonderful Los Angeles. Right after that, we’ll be back in NYC for our benefit – Monday, June 30th at Dixon Place. This is the annual benefit that was supposed to happen in February but got snowed out! So, it’s going to be a summer benefit instead and, who knows, maybe it’ll be a new annual tradition. Fewer blizzards in June. At the end of July, we’ll be bringing the whole show to Woodstock at the historic Byrdcliffe Theater – how exciting to start branching out to other towns. Someday, we’ll be all over the country with our green fueled bus and a big tent – bringing the magic of The Secret City to the people everywhere. In the meantime – join us wherever and whenever you can. And, if this connection via the website is all we’ve got right now – well, then that’s just fine, too. We’re connected regardless of where we are in the world.

Oh, one more piece of news – in addition to the benefit, we’ll also be launching our annual online fund-drive. Watch out for news about that – mid-June.

So, lots of excitement in the air – in the immortal words of The Jacksons – Can You Feel It?

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From Our Grand Poobah | Greetings from Cleveland, Ohio!

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Greetings from Cleveland, Ohio! A little acting gig fell in my lap this week – I’m working on a new play by Heidi Schreck, directed by Kip Fagan. It’s part of a new works festival here at Cleveland Playhouse which is a really amazing place – a regional theater that will celebrate in 100th anniversary next year. Anyway, I flew in on Tuesday and we’ve been working in the rehearsal room – doing table work – one of my all-time favorite things to do. There will be a staged reading on Saturday and then, bam, fly back home on Sunday.

It’s been years since I’ve worked on a play – the thing I dedicated so much of my life to. When I started The Secret City, I put that part of my life on hold, I guess, and dedicated myself to building the organization and planning and producing our monthly events. It feels great to be back in the room with actors and theater folk – to be in the midst of a company. And, to play a character – I’ve been playing the Chris Wells character pretty exclusively for several years now and it’s fun to slip back into someone else. And, it’s a great part – an erudite homeless man and recovering addict named Frog, who visits this soup kitchen in the Bronx, where the play is set. It’s called GRAND CONCOURSE.

Other highlights of the week will be a visit to the Cleveland Museum of Art tomorrow night and, two other shows here at the festival, compliments of the Playhouse: Grounded by George Brant and Informed Consent by Deborah Zoe Laufer.

I skipped going to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – admission is $22…I don’t know, I really wanted to check it out but, I’m on a budget! And 22 bucks seems steep to me…

I still can change my mind, here till Sunday. If anyone out there thinks I should just go for it, let me know. Would be nice to supplement the theater and fine art with some ROCK AND ROLL energy. It’s just that rock n roll has gotten expensive…

Ok, off to rehearsal. I love saying those words.

Then it’s back to NY and prepping for our next service on May 18th, our annual celebration of MEMORY, what life is full of all the time, swirling all around.

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From Our Grand Poobah | THE FOOL

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April is here and it’s the time of THE FOOL – that hapless creature who can’t help but begin another magnificent misadventure. This month we celebrate the trickster, the clown, the one who points at our foolishness and takes the piss out of life.

It’s also something we see in the daffodils trying to break through the soil just to be snowed on yesterday. Fools!

Join us for our service – it’s already gearing up to be a wild, fun, lively event – we’ve got a troupe of actors/fools to make a mess of everything. I think they might even carry me in – talk about a dumb idea. There’s a short film by India Kotis, an expert presentation by a noted professional in his field, live music on the ukulele and more. Oh, and the food is going to be some fresh sprouts from the farm. More details to come.

In the meantime, I leave you with this image of Russian folk art – it’s apparently a FOOL of some kind, riding a purple boar. I shared it with some people and said I wish I could read the text. One of the people said, “Oh, it’s old slavonic writing, and one of the things it says it RED NOSES.” Well, there you have it.

Fools everywhere.

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From Our Grand Poobah

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our latest trip to LA was fantastic. we were filled to capacity and had to turn people away! so sorry to the folks who couldn’t get in – we might be adding a closed circuit tv to the lobby at the bootleg. someone suggested we do two services out there but I’m afraid it might kill me. i’m pretty bushed after one…maybe a new space, something bigger? i’d hate to leave the bootleg, tho, it’s such a perfect spot for us. anyway, these are, as they say, luxury problems.
the crowd was great, the art was wonderful, the performers lively. the image i’m using here is from paul august bruins slot’s series, 6 sphinxes and a peacock, which he painted just for the event, inspired by the theme of PASSION. so great – it’s always been my hope that the artists would be creating to the theme of the month – wendy ortiz’s poem was made for the theme of passion, too. we’ve included it on here, too – you can find it on the slider, linked to her tumblr page.
now, we’re back in woodstock – still some remnants of snow on the ground. funny after spending a week in venice out by the beach – taking bike rides down the strand and wearing shorts to get coffee at groundworks over on rose avenue. it’s still sort of winter here – BUT, spring is on its way. i’m so excited for the green and the buds and the grass and the trees; to have the windows and doors open.
just in time for spring, we’re gearing up for our next service in NYC – the theme will be GENDER! a first for us – and, we’ve got some really great guests, including the wonderful taylor mac, who’ll be singing a song for us.
feeling blessed with art and community right now. and, there are birds singing outside – they must have just come back from someplace warm, too.

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From Our Grand Poobah

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Hello world! From the snowy northeast I bring you tidings of good cheer and the firm belief that someday spring WILL come and these huge piles of frozen whiteness will melt. In the meantime, enough about the weather – we’ve got events to plan and people to see and music to make and art to worship and community to build. It’s been a long winter break for us – we took off the month of January so that we could prepare for our annual benefit – only, last week’s huge storm meant we had to cancel. So, we’re really itching to get together and see friends. Our benefit is going to be rescheduled – we’ll alert everyone once we have the date nailed down. For now, we’re gearing up for our two upcoming services. This Sunday, February 23rd, we’ll be in NYC at Dixon Place for our celebration of THE SHADOW. Perfect for this last final stretch of winter – as usual, we’ve got a lovely array of art and performance lined up. I’m excited to see folks and to make our beautiful community art event – and to mix and mingle after. Then, a few weeks later we’ll be back in LA for PASSION. It’ll be nice to get some sun and heat and to see our pals in LA.

What else can I tell you – I’ve been seeing a lot of movies, the movie I’ve loved recently is The Great Beauty – beautiful Italian film that’s a sort of updated take on/homage to La Dolce Vita, incredible to look and, I could have watched hours more of that. And, in the documentary front, The Act of Killing – unimaginable look at genocide, ambition, power and memory – a brave, radical work of art. Also in the doc field – The Square, about the recent uprisings in Egypt – powerful story of revolution and oppression, told by some of the people who made it happen. With all of this delicious snow it’s also been a great time to do some reading – The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt made my December – and sent me back to her previous books – The Secret History and The Little Friend – what an incredible talent. Now I’m into the historical fiction of Hilary Mantel – just finishing up Wolf Hall and ready to dive into Bring Up The Bodies – by the time I emerge from 16th century England it will be close to spring. What an amazing explosion of color and life awaits us.

 

Here’s to art – here’s to life. And, hope to see you soon.

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From Our Grand Poobah | What a whirlwind!

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What a whirlwind! We were in LA last weekend, celebrating LIGHT, and had an amazing time with friends, artists, community – and, we had The Secret City’s first mini-rave! A fabulous, 6 minute dance jam together. Really good and juicy. What else? Oh, the band was jammin – really great house band, and The Secret City Singers were in rare form, too. They did a Todd Rundgren song called LOVE IS THE ANSWER. The whole day was beautiful and light-filled. Something about California in the winter – the clear skies, the views of the mountains, the sparkling light. I’m so lucky to have this job where I get to travel to LA four times a year and hang out with amazing artists and friends and collaborators.
Oh, also, I bought a disco-ball hoodie, which really sparkles. I think it might become the basis of all future outfits FOREVER. It’s really great to feel like you’re reflecting light and joy into the world.
Now, I’m back in Woodstock – there’s snow on the ground and it’s cold, maybe low 20s? We’re gearing up for the NYC version of LIGHT, which will be Sunday, December 22nd, the day after the solstice. Really looking forward to seeing NY friends, and presenting a great new set of guest artists. Rumor has it that we’ll be having ballet and opera this month – firsts for us. Really excited about that.
So, put on your disco-ball hoodies and join us.
LIGHT LIGHT LIGHT.

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I’m beginning to see the light

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I’m really enjoying living in the woods. Every morning the sun comes in my bedroom – it’s not a harsh light, but these beautiful sunrises through the trees. Living in the city the past 10 years I really became out of synch with the light. Our small one-bedroom was sandwiched between towering buildings on every side, and the apartment was at the back of the building. For 25 minutes each day, like a small, cubed shape sun-dial, the sunlight would traverse the apartment – sweeping through the living room and then into the bedroom and then, poof, gone. It’s as if, for those brief moments, you could see how the place was originally conceived – a house, with windows, allowing the sun to brighten its rooms.

Now, I live in a cottage in the woods and the light is spectacular. Not just the bedroom, but all the rooms of the house have large windows and the light pours in – right now I’m sitting on the couch in the living room and the afternoon sun is bright on the table before me. It’s such a primal thing, the light – no wonder it has such dramatic impact on people’s psyches and moods and productivity levels. Coming from California, I am wired to want the light. And so, now I have it.
We celebrate the LIGHT every winter, in honor of the Winter Solstice, that moment when, once a year, the sun seems to stop and sit low on the horizon and then, voila, reverses its course. It’s all an illusion, it’s our own planet making it’s annual changes in course, but the effect is real – the light begins to come back.
I fly to California tomorrow – I love landing in LA, and feeling the dry air, and those incredible winter sunsets out west. I’m sure it will make me think of this place in the woods, where the cold is just coming on – and our bedroom, with its beautiful sunrises. Connections everywhere. Like our celebration of the LIGHT, even as the darkest time of year approaches.

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The Wild Side

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After yesterday’s service on MONSTERS, at the coffee hour, with a really lovely gathering of community and friends, we sang happy birthday to our own Bobby Lucy, co-founder of The Secret City and the visual arts curator. Alex Avans made THE BEST CHOCOLATE CAKE EVER. Damn.

Anyway, while we were all chatting, chewing and charming, someone said, “I think Lou Reed died!” And everyone said, “What?” “Lou Reed is dead…yes, it looks like it…” They were reading their facebook thread, then a lot of other people were, too. And, as we all know, it’s true. Lou Reed died over the weekend. What a huge loss to the culture of New York City, Rock and Roll and American Music. Last year, for our service on New York, the choir performed, Take A Walk On The Wild Side – one of the greatest rock and roll songs ever.

Here’s an amazing video of the song, featuring Andy Warhol and a lot of the original Superstars. Art matters. Life is beautiful. And, fleeting.

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Autumn Leaves

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I’m sitting in the living room of our new place in Woodstock, looking out at the trees and the autumn color. Can’t believe we live here now – after being in LA and New York for the past 25 years, it’s amazing to call such a quiet, beautiful place home. And, these woods are filled with artists! This morning I met with Martha Frankel who runs The Woodstock Writer’s Festival talking about how to include The Secret City in next year’s festival – exciting to think about The Secret City happening up here next year. At one point, Martha asked me if I had met Susan Brown – she’s a writer/editor who lives up near me, but I hadn’t met her yet. Then, just a few minutes ago, when I got back to the house, I heard a woman’s voice through the trees, “Hi, neighbor!” she cried out, welcoming me. Her dog’s been visiting us for the past few days, anyway, turns out that’s Susan Brown  and she lives right down the hill. Small world, right? Everyone also keeps asking me if I’ve met Simi, who’s a great singer in the area – she’s my next-door neighbor! Her name is Simi Stone and I can’t wait to have her perform at The Secret City sometime.

Speaking of performers – we’re gathering a great line-up of folks for upcoming NY service! Rachelle Garniez is going to play for us – I’ve loved her for a long time, and this is the first time she’ll be performing at The Secret City and I’m thrilled. And, our old pal, genius/master sound maker, Sxip Shirey will be making stuff for and with us, too. Oh, and Anastasia Cole Plakas with Brooklyn Grange  is going to present the food offering!

Lots more great folks taking part – I’ll write more about them soon. So grateful for all the amazing artists and community surrounding me right now. Life feels miraculous – and right outside there are so many falling leaves! Magical.

Birch Mood by Antonín Slavíček. 1897.

Birch Mood by Antonín Slavíček. 1897.

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