Category Archives: Tribeca

Urban Observations with Wickham Boyle

New York journalist and writer Wickham Boyle has lived in the Manhattan neighborhood of TriBeCa for more than 30 years. In this portrait, she speaks about how the city has changed throughout the years, about the horrible events of 9/11, which happened literally in front of her door, and why after all those years she is still in love with New York City.
C. Janosch Delcker. © 2010


>Rocky Racoon

>Last night was so rocky that what I said to composer Doug when the lights finally went out and the 3 people in the audience (OK that is an exaggeration but sparse yes) finally left was “WHEW…that was Rocky Raccoon!!!!!”

It was awful to watch for me, not because the cast was so bad, but the energy to get the show going was flat and scary at the same time.

Here we go.

I get a call that there has been a fire in the dimmer board, the thing that runs the lights.

All the programming is gone.

Then they say ”Oh, we think we can fix, it don’t worry.” But when I arrive it is bad and the poor tech director is in the hospital attending to a dying friend. Hard to say, “Hey fix our lights, friendship be damned.” I didn’t say that. I hugged him and let him cry.

Lights can go on and off. And believe me, last night they seemed to flicker in a random not good way, leaving the cast in darkness in the middle of one aria. Even LaMama is not that experimental.

There is a very sparse crowd expected for the rest of the weekend, I think sometimes folks think, “Oh a good review in the Times we won’t be able to get tickets,” and then no one comes.

So last night tonight. Let me not list the things that went wrong, but for the rest of the weekend hardly a soul is on the books.

And more about last night, the stage manager again at 5 minutes before the show is to start. That’s what happens when you pay nothing, again really nothing, when they are paying to transport themselves even.

We had an understudy who did super well, but still it was a different energy.

And that was me today unable to get my ass to the gym, although I promised, unable to go to pottery. I thought that might make a good diversion. A little phone time trying to get a manager for the future of this show and butts in seats or a recording.

And then the tasks to secure the REAL JOB, the biggest something called, Assessment Testing. It is supposed to take between five and eight hours. I did the one part, 350 questions where you either AGREE or DISAGREE. Crazy stuff like:

* I like to re-measure my rulers to make sure they are correct.
* I feel everyone is out to get me
* I always want to eat ice cream
* I am never depressed

Sp weird, so I just motored through them. At first, I tried to read them out loud to Zac, to say look this could be fun right? But he was mad I was putting myself through this and left for a walk. In his words, what manager would do this?

I don’t know that I am in my good sport phase, wanting this job for tons of reasons: it is a very cool job and it would allow me to contribute to my neighborhood AND the economy is tanking and we have no health insurance. So from broad-based to specific, needs based stuff.

I have lots of other parts to tackle, but for now I am one foot in front of the other. Eat an egg, get some soup, go back do more test. Go to the show; take a fabulous shower, AHHHHHHHH clean hair… so fluffy.

More to come.

>Seven Years Later

>It seems as if it was yesterday and eons ago.

A part is the weather; it is not the scrubbed blue September 11 sky that helps me to not go there to that day as deeply. But we all hear the bells and the sirens and the bagpipes at fire stations intoning our grief, the mournful wails tears at us.

And then tonight I open this opera about September 11 and my family’s little personal involvement in it. The New Yorker says that it ”harkens back to “Our Town” in its communitarian ethos.” That says it just fine for me.

And so, in praise of that spirit of community being celebrated on the stage and really is the only reason we made it here today and will play for three weeks, I want to attempt to chronicle a little bit of how my neighborhood, TriBeCa, reached out to support this project and by extension me.

I started to write this while sitting on the steps of David Bouley’s newest culinary creation on Hudson Street. I love these steps surrounded by planters with wild flowers and herbs. I sit often and drink iced coffee, laced with extra espresso. Crazy, but I feel calm here.

David Bouley generously helped this opera with food and donations and a feeling that even a big swell, a real star like him, feels the community spirit. His wife, Nicole, is always ready to give us handouts, as are the folks at Bubbys, who fed pie to the entire cast at dress rehearsal. The pie was washed down by cider from the Greenwich Street Green Market. I am grateful especially to Pat and Stan and their farm stand as they sold the book on which the opera is based years back and continue to stuff post cards about the performance into bags of green beans or tomatoes.

Every where I go I see support for CALLING: An Opera of Forgiveness:
Erika at Myoptics hands out post cards and last week told me that now her friend’s grandson is in the show. One of our best chorus members works in Design Beyond Reach, Tribbles the design store on West Broadway loaned us the owner’s daughter to be my stage manager. ALL FOR FREE, no less!!

The Church Street School, who was an early recipient of the funds raised by the original book, helped with audiences and child singers. They sent us to the Trinity Church Choir, whose master, Robert Ridgell rehearsed some kids. Businesses all over downtown have taped up our posters including Paul Blaustein the plumber who put up a poster and gave me a check to “help pay singers.”

The folks at Mail Boxes Etc Avery, Wendy and Joe, copied all our fliers, mailed out post cards so folks across the country could have real snail mail to stick onto bulletin boards or their fridges. To the downtown papers, the Battery Park Broadsheet and Tribeca Trib who covered us generously, to Cheryl Hazen and her gallery, all the guys at the Tribeca Wine store, the wait staffs at Walkers and Bubbys, to the brokers at Douglas Elliman, all who gave out post cards, to all these and more an enormous thank you for showing that community spirit is more than alive and well, it is thriving in TriBeCa.

>Lights In The Sky

Last night as I rode home . . . WAIT, do all these blog entries start this way?

Okay, how about this lead in: During rehearsal I received a phone call from the costume chick, my new girlfriend from across the street in TriBeCa, Liz Pierce. Liz is still a Catholic–don’t hold it against her–she is also very spiritual, so let her hold on to whatever floats her boat. Liz called breathlessly saying, “I am looking out the window of the loft working on design stuff and the LIGHTS are on again.”

I knew exactly what she meant. Liz was telling me that while I toiled in the dark confines of the LaMaMa Theater, the tribute at Ground Zero, the twin towers of light, has been switched on again. I suppose they will stay on for the entire week, as a memorial.

I love the lights, and sort of wish they were always on. They do what I hope this opera may do, they portray the presence of an absence and they do it with elegance and wonder that covers all religions and spiritual bases. I don’t know how the families feel, but as a resident I love them.

Riding home last night (there I go again, but listen it is huge leaving hours of rehearsal, in darkness and frustration and peddling home on my own power, alone, feeling strong and released into a world of soft air and possibility. So let me have me endless thought patterns that begin) there was this wonderful ice white column of light. Hard to describe the texture of white light, but there is clarity and poignancy and a place where these light towers cut right to my emotional well-being.

I followed them home like a beacon. It has been a while since I followed anything home. And I realized that when I worked at LaMaMa in the late eighties and early nineties and rode home to my babies, I rode home to the presence of that light as it came from the World Trade Towers. It was different then, I didn’t revere it or even often hold them in good stead, but they were an undeniable part of my life and I rode toward them every night to find home.

We are about to cut out the section where the mother and children sing, “Find home, find safety” as another kind of mantra. Oh, why are we going to cut it? Well, lots of reasons, time, rhythms, the need for everyone one of the creative team: words, music and movement to make concessions, meaning usually to take cuts. And this section seems to lag or drag or both. So it will be trimmed or totally cut.

But last night I took that sweet ride after work with my head swimming with the strains of “ Find home, find safety.” And now, for the next week my ride will be illuminated with towers of light and it warms and saddens me that they have to be there, and that I take some comfort in their cool white presence guiding me home.

>Keep Yur Friggin’ Chin Up

>Thirty days to go.

OK yeah, so I actually counted them putting one stubby finger on each day for August and September.

Last night was the first rehearsal and it did go well. Lots of energy and the incredible, really genius, Edisa Weeks whose calm, choreographic leadership is a rock and wings to all of us. We had kids and chorus and some leads and some musicians. Just the way I knew it would be when folks are not being paid to be present at your beck and call.

The good thing, and here is a silver-lining moment, about not having money to pay people, and they participate anyway, the great thing really, is that you know they are there because it is also a passion project for them.

We have all done money jobs, but Calling is now a labor of love for all of us. Not just Doug and his music, or Wicki and her wacky ideas and non-linear words, but the idea of recreating a community that thrives and soars. And that was the big take away lesson of September 11 Downtown. That we were all in it together and in order to rebuild, we had to be friends, neighbors and cohorts in a totally different way.

So yesterday we were turned down by more foundations and even Nintendo whose silly electronic Wiiiiiii machines Doug electronic wizard boy turned into hand bells or didgeridoos, amazing instruments of joy and celebration for our finale. But they turned us down. As if they are getting any better sponsorships idea. So the doors of money closed, and closed until there we were, alone with our $17,000 bucks in total to commission, mount, light and dance our way into folk’s hearts and minds. And we will not stop.

Oh please… sounds good right? As if I am Princess Pluck. Let’s see the back scene: couldn’t sleep last night because I knew I had to jettison more that 75% of the set, and I love the designer, one of my oldest friends. And I knew we would suck it up and move on and when the audience arrived it wouldn’t know that this minimalist design wasn’t exactly what we had in mind from the get-go. But I thrashed the night away, doing crossword puzzles and reading politics.

And this morning I made lists and was worried. But when I spoke to the force of nature who is our volunteer development director, Hattie Elliot, about the Benefit and my fears, and uncertainties, she pulled herself to a full maybe five feet and screamed at me, “You keep yur friggin’ chin up!” I think she is maybe 26 years old, blond, fierce and how does one wimp out in the face of that force?

If she is undaunted, who I am to lose heart?

So chin up and out into the sunshine to copy schedules, and a contact sheets and letters of agreement and of course all for free at the local Mail Boxes Etc on Greenwich Street because the goodness doesn’t stop. Even if I sometimes forget.

>Hearing the passion in Obama’s Downtown supporters


I have lived in Tribeca for over 30 years and certainly in its graying, last decade, when its residents either got just older, or older and riche, it has seemed as if my neighborhood was a very indifferent place, politically.

Many of us who came of age in the Mark Rudd, S.D.S. anit-war protests of the ’60s and ’70s, of late have tread the road more taken. The political apathy of the generation formerly known as activist, rabble rousers is renowned — as we are more often cited for parenting vigor or traveling aggressively. But on Monday night, the official observance of Martin Luther King’s birthday, and the same night that three Democratic candidates were slinging mud in a debate, there was a political meeting in Tribeca.

It was the brain child of an unlikely foursome: Downtown resident Ruth Charney who offered her big loft in the old Bob DeNiro, Harvey Keitel building on Hudson St.; activist comedian Reno who is the resident celebrity in my building on North Moore St.; long time Obama friend, and supporter, the lawyer David Carden; and the final member being economist Jeffrey Shafer, currently the head economist and political strategist at Citigroup’s global banking division. These four had met at a previous Obama rally, and Jeffrey Shafer and Reno concluded that if the Obama movement could bring together souls as disparate as they are, then there must be something more happening. And so they endeavored to set up a Tribeca meeting designed to allow undecided voters to gather information about Barack Obama, the man and candidate.

Reno acted as the emcee managing the crowd of over 75, who took chairs, leaned against walls or lounged with kids or dogs on the loft floor. She took pot shots at the current administration and other politicians, as well as herself referencing her well-known lesbian activist roots: “I thought I had to be for Hillary because, well she is a woman and I am a woman, at least ‘menza menza’ I am a woman. But we asked people to come and hear about Obama, people who might be on the fence.” The meeting took off when Jeffrey Shafer, under secretary of international affairs in the Clinton administration’s Treasury Dept., told why he was supporting Obama. The distillate of Shafer’s path to Obama involved reading Obama’s books and simultaneously writing to the Hillary Clinton campaign with ideas, and getting no response from her advisors. In a 20-minute presentation involving great quotes, and personal stories, the essence emerged. Shafer came to the conclusion that, “Obama understands how other people see the world. He understands that unity is the great need of the hour.”

David Carden followed; a thin man, brimming over with facts, experience and information all strung together with an intelligence that heated the room. Carden unfolded his path toward supporting Obama and recounted how strongly he feels that we must have inspiration and real intelligence in out next president if we are to in any way redeem our country in the eyes of the world. Carden said, “If you had asked me 22 years ago, when my wife was working at the MacArthur Foundation in Chicago and Obama was organizing on the South Side of Chicago, if this man could be president, I would have said, yes. Let me tell you why. He is the best listener I have ever seen. He emits empathy and intelligence. This is what led Obama to stay in the business of other people’s business, which is what politics is.”

The formal presentations ended and the questions, queries and worries from the audience began to pour out. A variety of neighbors questioned electability, experience and even specific votes for both Hillary and Obama. There was a sense from some attendees that the evening had turned from fact finding to a rally for Obama. And it certainly was difficult not to be caught up in the passion evinced by Shafer, Carden and some other guests who had been in Iowa canvassing for Obama. Carden’s retelling of the Iowa trip was moving as he recounted the personal stories of those he met. He concluded with this: “We need a shared mythology. We are the stories we tell and we are also the stories others tell us.”

Certainly this evening, when dozens of neighbors rallied to share their thoughts, ideas and stories, had gone a long way to providing the assembled with both facts and the effect surrounding Barack Obama. It also had perhaps the unintended effect of uniting us as a community. We forget that we have to listen to our neighbors, know their stories, as well as our own and respect our differences and the vibrant similarities.

Yes, information was shared, but the energy, the belief that we can still be passionate was the most important byproduct for this too often apathetic voter.