Pound Sign

New York City, pop culture, art and nightlife. Because nobody else is blogging about those things.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Triumph over adversity: New York is not closed!

Wednesday, January 14: 2009 is off to a beautiful start. Yesterday I made a date with our terrific photographer Ted D'Ottavio to design the postcard for our next show at the Zipper Factory, on March 7th. On Monday we'd had a script read-through for Pinchbottom Burlesque's first show of their new season, at their new home, the Zipper Factory, where they successfully moved after losing their previous venue last year. A spoof of old-school "suspects in a house" style murder mysteries; a hilarious script, performers working on new numbers, even a genius video intro based on the old PBS 'Mystery" credits by Edward Gorey. I know, right? Anyway, feelin' good.

So, mid-afternoon: the owner of the Zipper Factory, with no advance warning, announces that the theater has permanently closed its doors. As of right now. Most of the staff find out that day they're out of a job. Every producer with shows booked there, from that night to months in advance like us, find out they no longer have a home. For the record, almost all of us find out second-hand, on Facebook, forwarded emails, urgent cell phone calls, almost none of us ever receive any official notice. The doors are padlocked. Show's over. No explanation, no nothing. The City's performing and theater community is in shock.

This is bad enough for us, months in advance. But Pinchbottom has its biggest show ever there, in three days. Shelly Watson's Inter-Arts Variety Show is the early show at the Zipper that night. They're fucked.

Everybody starts pitching ideas for new homes for Pinchbottom. They're down, but they pick themselves up and get to work. God dammit, we are putting on a fucking show!

Thursday, January 15: Pinchbottom co-producer Jonny Porkpie calls; the 45 Bleecker Street Theater will present the show that Saturday night. It's a lovely Off-Broadway house, the same size as the Zipper, that is miraculously dark that night, and the Managing Partner says, "what the hell!"

Saturday, January 17: Pinchbottom's "Murder Most Naked: Or, the Strange Affair at Pinchbottom Manor" takes the stage. the house is packed. the show is fantastic. I muster up a British accent to play Constable Neil O'Fortune without incident. It's a huge hit.

So, that story has a happy ending. Having now lost two venues with nearly no notice in less then a year, Pinchbottom is once again looking for a permanent home. But it was a triumph of adversity for independent producers who refused to have the show they love be destroyed by greedy corporate bullshit--especially when they have their friends and fellow creative artists ready to back them up. As these things always go in New York, the Zipper came down to a face-off between the theater's owner and a landlord who demanded an immediate and astronomical rent increase, and who showed up with the Sheriff and padlocks in tow when they didn't get their way. So, a triumph for Pinchbottom in a great venue; but meanwhile, New York's coolest theater space, with a great stage, a fabulous bar and atmosphere, beautiful lighting, roomy dressing room, lovely, hardworking and professional staff, and a long lineup of shows that was really creating a distinctive and exciting place for it in the New York entertainment scene...sits closed. A great and successful theater, home to a growing number of artists and shows, closed for no reason other then the demand for more money from someone already making tons of money. It is without a doubt a serious blow to New York's performers, and we're still mourning the loss. Meanwhile, we like so many producers are scrambling to find a replacement venue for our rapidly approaching shows!

It's turned out to be a tough couple of weeks; on the 13th, the Cutting Room closed. While certainly not a beloved institution, it was the home to, among many other cabaret and musical evenings, Bonnie Dunn's long-running burlesque/cabaret show Le Scandal. It was also the stage where Clams Casino made her debut five years ago. The reason was the same, an intolerable demand for a rent hike. The Knitting Factory will close this month in Tribeca, for the other ubiqituous New York reason: complaints from the neighbors, who moved into the newly residential neighborhood long after the club had already been there. Luckily the Knitting Factory will move to Williamsburg, a neighborhood that, while it certainly deserves much of its irritating hipster reputation, at least continues to support night life!

This could be the beginning of a crisis. There have got to be mid-sized venues for performers, of all kinds, who have graduated from producing on the tiny stages of dive bars (not that there's anything wrong with that, I love those places) but aren't competing for the 4-500 seat houses. Those places continue to close. New places must take their place, and if all of those places have to open in Brooklyn, so be it. It's still going to be a great year, but it's going to be tough work ahead. Meanwhile, I remain grateful for the opportunities I had to produce, perform and enjoy shows at the Zipper Factory, New York's best theater space, now presumably destined to be a Walgreen's, or something.


Post a Comment

<< Home