Tuesday, November 30, 2010

"They say they don't want the arena... bagel."

Our investigation of the Atlantic Yards brought The Civilians from barbershops to community forums, and one of the places in between was A.R.E.A. Bagel, located at 55 5th Avenue in Park Slope. In an interview, the owner describes a controversy that erupted when he was choosing the name:

"When I was building the store, the news pop out “Arena is coming in”. I did not know, my designer, he say you know, “Arena is coming, is a plus point, name Arena.” I say “No, I’m not sure, I just want to go with Slim’s Bagel, like in Queens.” He say, “No, no, no, go with Arena”. I said “Fine, put the name in.” But then, the people start complaining. They say they don’t want the Arena…Bagel. So in the papers, on the internet. It was about 15 to 20 running sites about this controversy. About the bagels, yes."

- From our interview and IN THE FOOTPRINT

Here's an early report saying that Park Slope residents were going to protest the A.R.E.N.A. Bagel and the owner's response: "'I can’t do anything that goes against the neighborhood because I’m a neighborhood guy. These are my customers and I can’t go against them.'"

Here's the Brooklyn Paper's reporting about when the name changed:
"The good news is that the sign-maker agreed to change the design for free. And Aggarwal says he intends to hang the absent “N” on the wall of his shop, surrounded by newspaper clippings of the controversy."

If anyone has the links to the protest sites, please forward them along!

Here's Park Slope reported today that the name might be CHANGING BACK to A.R.E.N.A. - there's a pic of the new sign in the post, wherein the name includes all the periods as well as the controversial "N." Will Park Slope let this happen, or will the independent business owner rule the day? Is he reclaiming the word ARENA for the people, or playing into Bruce Ratner's hand? Speak, Brooklyn, speak!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

IN THE FOOTPRINT: Featured Video

Composer Michael Friedman performing "The Four Brooklyns" (Matt Dellapina does it in IN THE FOOTPRINT)

Happy Thanksgiving!

PS > Here's a link to the awesome photo slide-show up on Time Out New York documenting our ten years as a company! In honor of Turkey Day, here's the vintage photo they have up from our first show, CANARD, CANARD, GOOSE?

January, 2002 at HERE Arts Center. From left: Damian Baldet, Jennifer R. Morris, Aimee Guillot, Charlie Schroeder, and Aysan Çelik. Photograph: Leslie Lyons

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


The critics have spoken! Here's what they're saying:



“Resonantly staged just blocks from the construction site itself, In the Footprint is that rare combination of theater, politics and community building. The Civilians prove that art can be groundbreaking, too.”

THE L MAGAZINE: “In the Footprint is necessary viewing for every Brooklynite and, really, every American…”

"As director, Cosson proves equally deft at deploying his six-member ensemble in the cleverly chosen space that's not only a stone's throw from the spot where the development is to take place, but also a converted gymnasium ripe for a game of hoops."

THEATERMANIA: "Michael Friedman's songs, including "The Four Brooklyns," which whimsically divides residents into socio-economic groups, and the heartfelt finale, "The Neighborhood," that captures the spirit of what Brooklyn means to the many people who call it home."

Having family over?
Come get some food for thought and fodder for dinnertime conversation!
Shows tonight and tomorrow at 8PM
Use the code TURKEY20 for
$20 tickets (reg. $35).

Purchase here:

Thursday, November 18, 2010

IN THE FOOTPRINT: Featured Video

"I had two ladies, one was a teacher, one was a stockbroker... they were a couple; and the both of 'em were both yellin at me, yelling and screaming, saying how could you be for this project, don't you realize if he builds a sixty story building the trees aren't going to get sunshine. You actually believe that, that the buildings are gonna - how in your right mind you gonna believe that? You can't block the sun! I can't remember how many million miles and it still somehow reaches the flowers even underwater - how you gonna block the sun with a building? Manhattan never woulda been built in with that theory. Am I right or wrong?"

Master Builder, Union Member, and Interviewee

Here is a link to Barclay's press release about the groundbreaking in March. Here's what they say about union jobs: "It is anticipated that Atlantic Yards will generate over $5 billion in new tax revenues for the State and the
City over the next 30 years and will create upwards of 17,000 union construction jobs and up to 8,000 permanent jobs when the entire project is completed."

And here is Norman Oder weighing in on the jobs issue.

Lastly, the earth is 150 million kilometers (93.2 million miles) from the sun.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Our Post-Show Talk-Back Series was announced today! Check out the article here!

Here's the complete schedule:

November 20 at 2PM: Michelle de la Uz, Executive Director of the Fifth Avenue Committee
November 23 at 8PM: Conversation with the Artists
November 29 at 7PM: Brad Lander, New York City Council Member
November 30 at 8PM: Stephen Levin, New York City Council Member
December 2 at 8PM: Tom Angotti, Professor of Urban Studies & Planning at Hunter College
December 4 at 2PM: Daniel Goldstein, Co-founder of DDDB and last resident to leave The Footprint
December 6 at 7PM: Conversation with the Artists
December 7 at 8PM: Letitia James , New York City Council Member (Invited)
December 9 at 8PM: Stacey Sutton, Urban Planning Professor at Columbia's Architecture Grad Dept.

First up is this Saturday at 2PM - MICHELLE DE LA UZ, the Executive Director of the Fifth Avenue Committee. Here's the Fifth Avenue Committee's mission:
The mission of Fifth Avenue Committee, Inc. (FAC) is to advance social and economic justice in South Brooklyn principally by developing and managing affordable housing and community facilities, creating economic opportunities, organizing residents and workers, providing student-centered adult education, and combating displacement caused by gentrification.
More on their website including information about all of their amazing accomplishments for the community!

We're super excited about these speakers! Hope you'll come to listen, ask questions, and enjoy!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


So, first of all, all y'all need to vote for The Civilians on Forbes.com as a "name you need to know in 2011." Because it IS a name that everyone will need to know in 2011. Both as a non-profit business and as a group supporting, developing, commissioning, presenting some of the most exciting and interesting theater in the country! So keep democracy alive, support the company, vote HERE. Or share on Facebook, or Tweet about it. Just make some noise, and the powers that be will listen.

The author, Larry Reibstein, brought up an interesting question in the comments section. In the movie version of In the Footprint (first Neighborhood Night tonight! $20 tickets using the code "Neighborhood" HERE or at the box office for Brooklyn residents and workers), who should the cast be? (That is, assuming that our AMAZING cast for In the Footprint all have scheduling conflicts... )

We all know Marty Markowitz would like to be played by George Clooney.

Here are some thoughts. Leave yours in the comments!
Marty Markowtiz: Brian Dennehy? Ned Beatty?
Bruce Ratner: Tom Hanks? Robert Deniro? John Doman?
Bertha Lewis: Loretta Devine?
Patti Hagan: Sissy Spacek, maybe?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Meet the R&D: Writer Alix Lambert and her project CRIME, USA

Before becoming a playwright , essayist, and journalist, Joe Loya robbed banks for a living. His memoir, The Man Who Outgrew His Prison Cell, was published in 2004. Joe has been a friend of mine for many years and I have interviewed him at length. He will be one of the characters represented in my play CRIME, USA. I spent a day with Joe going to five of the banks that he robbed and photographing him coming out of those locations. As you can see, two of the banks no longer exist (one is a tamale place, the other is a computer store) ... but I took the pictures anyway. Here are the resulting pictures.

Post and Photos by Alix Lambert

Saturday, November 13, 2010

IN THE FOOTPRINT First Preview Tonight!

Tonight is the first performance of IN THE FOOTPRINT! Come out to the Irondale Center in Fort Greene (85 South Oxford Street) and use the code "FOOTPRINT" for $25 tickets! Purchase online HERE!

See you tonight! And performers, break a leg!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

IN THE FOOTPRINT: Featured Video


"I remember when Time Out NY did their thing about Fort Greene and the best block to live in NYC was uh- South Portland between Lafayette and DeKalb and at first I was like, no it's not! And then I was like, "Oh shit, they just blew up our spot," So the ironic thing to me is that I’ve now become a gentrifier of Bed Stuy. So that's the sort of weird situation that I find myself in. Sorta like pushed out of one neighborhood into another."

Here's the more recent NY Mag ranking of New York neighborhoods. Park Slope is Number 1; Fort Greene is ranked Number 18.

What do you think the best place is to live in NYC?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

IN THE FOOTPRINT in the New York Times!

This is a fantastic article with great photos about In the Footprint! Here are a few tidbits:

"The songs in “In the Footprint: The Battle Over Atlantic Yards” (the creators call them blogosongs) serve not as emotional showstoppers but as commentary and explanation — the Greek chorus of the digital age."

"'Being an investigative theater company where we try to engage in important stories, this seemed like the most important local story that we could take on,' Mr. Cosson said recently over brunch in a cafe in Fort Greene."

"Forest City Ratner declined to be interviewed for the show, but Mr. Ratner and his colleagues are represented in others’ interviews and through public statements. (A spokesman for Forest City Ratner declined to comment for this article. The company was also the development partner for The New York Times Company headquarters in Manhattan.)"

Click HERE for the whole article (and to find out what Marty Markowitz has to say about the show)!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


The first preview for IN THE FOOTPRINT is on Saturday! - which means that we are officially into tech week. The cast and crew is back from rehearsing in Boston at Emerson College through the ArtsEmerson program, headed by Rob Orchard.

Here's a link to his blog, wherein he talks about the show!

Here's a photo from the rehearsal room that ArtsEmerson tweeted:

Also, here's the latest Atlantic Yards news. Norman Oder calls Justice Friedman's decision today the "first clear-cut victory" for Atlantic Yards opponents and critics. The decision is posted at the bottom of his post. Check it out!

Saturday, November 6, 2010


At our cabaret at Joe's Pub on Thursday, Let Me Ascertain You: Crime, USA, we asked our audience,


Here are the most criminal responses:

"I'm a queer lady and I stole a keychain from a gay store in Northampton, MA - the lesbianist town of all. Not so criminal, but I was raised Catholic and oh, the GUILT!"

"Georgia, 1995. Certain sexual acts were still illegal then. Not trying to brag or anything. It was no big deal."

"I was arrested two weeks before my Bar Mitzvah with $200 worth of baseball cards and silly string in my pockets."

"You decide: a) Moved loads of pot through my 1957 Champion trailer. b) Smuggled tapes of Baloch insurgency out of Pakistan."

"Drunk driving to Vegas in an overpacked car - got pulled over but escaped unscathed due to $50 bribe!"

Congratulations to our winner, and a big thank you to all of our criminal audience members, and to the performers, Scrapomatic, and Alix Lambert! Thanks for a great evening!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Meet the R&D: Writer Tommy Smith and his project FORTH

FORTH is about artists or philosophers who have taken or been addicted to drugs and wrote about it in a journal never meant to be published. It is supposed to be a documentary on the phenomenon of drug-taking in general -- why human beings do it. It also records the philosophic and imagistic landscape of the different mental terrains fostered by various ingested substances. You hear chronicles of hash eating, heroin injection, opium smoking. The goal I guess is to use the text to induce the audience into a similar trance -- an intoxication of language and stage imagery.

To kick my ass to write this thing I already booked a weekend of shows in Fall 2011 at New York's The Tank. The space downstairs in the Tank is amazing. Ask to poke your head in when you're on 45th and 9th. It's one of these old theaters with a huge cavernous space where the dark gets lost high up.

I bought a bike earlier this year. I've been riding it around New York. It's a good way to catch ideas. On the west side highway the other day I had to stop by the side of the path. I pulled out my notepad and drew a diagram of the stage configuration. I shot a picture of the page with my phone and sent it to myself, something that was impossible when I was a child.

FORTH is in the form of a radio play. The audience will be laying on their backs onstage for the duration of the show, facing upward. (I'm hoping to date someone from Ikea so I can get a cheap deal on 30-40 new foam mattresses.) A horizontal screen will rest seven feet from the ground. The basic effect, then, is that the audience will be watching a screen as if they were sitting up.

As the lights darken, video starts to appear on the screen. Amplified text will accompany the on-screen imagery, which will largely be non-literal. At some point, though, the audience will realize that the screen is actually a scrim, as the performers who have been speaking the text will be slowly revealed behind the screen, essentially hanging in the air above the audience on harnesses. But again, the perspective from the audience's point-of-view will simulate the effect of just seeing performers floating on a screen as if the members were sitting in a chair or a sofa.

Don't hold me to any of this, It might all change but that's what I've got in my head right now. One of the best parts about creating a play is that process allows for a lot of benign destruction.

I realize I talked almost nothing about the actual content of the play, but sometimes you have to work from the outside in. More soon.

Post by Tommy Smith. Click HERE for more!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

IN THE FOOTPRINT: Featured Video

How about a blog post about bloggers?

"Norman Oder - do you know him? He does the Atlantic Yards Report blog. He has a theory, that Brooklyn would be a large city in another place in the United States, it would have one or two papers, and they would have fully staffed newsrooms. He, he quotes another media person who says nowhere else in the United States are more people served by so little media. But we do have a lot of bloggers. One thing I think of as like the bloggers, I kinda think of - we're like a Greek chorus, basically. We tell people what's really going on. You could do like a Greek chorus in your show!"

Click here for an article by Norman Oder in his blog about the recent Atlantic Yards reporting.

More Atlantic Yards-related blog links to the right of this entry in "My Blog List."

Can you handle all the meta happening in this post?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

When was the first time you held a gun? - LET ME ASCERTAIN YOU: CRIME, USA

"So, I’m in first grade, and I’m talking shit to three, four dudes in the class – 'I’ll take all of you on.' You know, I’ve got that Kung Fu movie I just watched on Saturday in my brain and anyone from the east coast knows about the Kung Fu movies back in the day, Saturdays at three o’clock, channel 5, so, you see that – you beating up everybody on the block. So, here I am – I’m talking mad shit now to these dudes, and after school, like I’m thinking they’re going to come at me like in the Kung Fu movies – one at a time. All three of them jumped on my little ass and I just felt it, just raining on me. So I came home, and I was crying, man, I wanted revenge, I wanted to get a knife from my mom’s kitchen and all this shit. And she said, 'What happened?' I said, 'Well, you know – these boys they jumped on me...' What ever. And she said 'Why?' And I said, 'Well, I told them I could fight ‘em.' And she said, 'Well, that’s what your ass gets.' So I learned what happens in the movies and what happens in reality is a whole different thing.

I can remember the first time I carried a gun, I walked with a gun. I was fourteen. I was fourteen, I had held guns when I was like ten, eleven, twelve – but like when I had my own gun, I was fourteen. And that is a very paranoid – like you’re so paranoid having a gun in your hand. It’s one thing when you see like all the older dudes carrying around, when you have it – it’s like, ok – you think the whole world knows that you have this on you. You build up that attitude of like, 'Ok, I’ve got a fucking gun.'"

-Former gang member and interviewee

For more info about LET ME ASCERTAIN YOU: CRIME, USA (this Thursday at Joe's Pub!), click here!