Laissez-Faire | In Love & Free Trade

Tragedy in Transit and for the People

A Tragedy in Three Stations
Photo: Tod Seelie

To New Yorkers, the subway system is intuitive to the everyday commute, like a Benny to his Joon of the city’s urban identity, and now, a theatrical stage that transcends both creative and bureaucratic thresholds.

Drama underground, literally, translates to I.R.T. (Interborough Rapid Transit): A Tragedy in Three Stations on Jan. 29-31 and Feb. 5-7. It is a love story set throughout the subway’s history with eccentric costumes and sets in the vein of Victorian petticoats and gas lanterns.

The play is written and directed by Jeff Stark, writer of New York’s Nonsense List, a weekly newsletter of underground cultural events. Stark was inspired by the idea of public art space – like Mardi Gras in New Orleans or Carnival in Brazil – where everyone can, participate in art, independent of exclusive grants and black box stages.

“I think it’s important for art to meet the people,” Stark said. “I wanted to work in the commons of the subway, and I liked the challenge of creating something linear, that would unfold over time.”

IRT is about August Belmont, Jr. (E. James Ford), a handlebar mustached tycoon who funded the subway in the early 1900s. His daughter, Clara Belmont (Catherine Yeager), falls in love with Thomas Fowler (Tyler Caffall), a carpenter and Union Organizer against the capitalist endeavors surrounding the subway’s construction.

“There’s plenty of guerrilla theatre that I’ve seen but nothing where it’s a full-length play. It’s pretty exciting,” said Yeager, whose character is based on the anarchist, Emma Goldman. “Every single night is going to have a different set of challenges, depending on what the trains do and on how the crowd reacts.”

Passersby took pictures and wore expressions of amazement on their faces, while the audience parted the aisle for commuters and MTA workers on the platforms; a woman from the audience signaled to other members, saying, “Let’s be good citizens”. Despite the premise of the play’s storyline and the DYI nature of the production, Stark maintains that the performance is within the MTA’s guidelines. Robin Lehto (also known as “Robin the ticket girl”) says that the MTA gladly provided “Music Under NY” passes in case the production encountered anyone who mistook the play’s presence.

According to Robbin Gust, an MTA customer service representative, individuals do not need permission to perform in the subway and are protected under the First Amendment, but are subject to certain guidelines by the MTA, none of which prohibit performances.

Crowds for each show were limited to 30. The 180 tickets allotted for all performance dates, which available for $10 via, sold out within 45 minutes.

With elaborate mobile sets and a film aboard the subway cars, timing was everything for the production to run smoothly. The audience hopped on and off trains as an efficient unit led by an outspoken, neo-punk (and real-life) NYC tour guide from Mississippi, named Julie Weiner, who was armed with as much unabashed spunk as encyclopedic knowledge of New York and its epic transit system. Weiner says the production first rehearsed at studios and venues like Rubulad, then moved to the subways for about a month, usually at night to avoid commuters. Without costume, some spectators were puzzled by the performances, for example, during a fight scene on a subway car.

“These two Jamaican guys went up to them and were like, Oh shit, man, you guys are fucking good,” Weiner said. “Are you really fighting for real?”

Weiner is a tour manager for the New York City Water Taxi whose part, unlike the cast’s, was unscripted. She adds that working with Stark was an inspiration because of his sincerity and commitment to his vision of art as a democratic form of culture that belongs to everyone, not just professional artists.

According to audience member, Harry Hunkele, a producer for the public access TV show, “Secrets of New York”, the caliber of the play’s complexity surpassed what he has witnessed in his experience.

“Quite an event isn’t it?” Hunkele said. “The timing, the coordination is amazing. I produce in TV. I know what goes on behind and this is over the top, really amazing what they did – just to get everyone off the train on time.”

Stereolab, Monade, Le Loup @ Irving Plaza
October 8, 2008, 8:43 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , ,


Photo: Stereolab

Stereolab was the ticket in town this past week for three back-to-back shows (Oct 2-4) headlining at Irving Plaza. Saturday’s show, openers by Monade (who share Stereolab’s lead) and Le Loup, was unsurprisingly tight. While the live sounds of some bands can be a somewhat perverse variation of their recorded versions, the clarity of Laetitia Sadier’s ambient voice was perfect. “French Disko”, pulsing with prolonged strobe lighting, was met with unison head-bopping from the ground floor for a psychedelic effect. Equally intense was an ecstatic fan towards the middle of the crowd who throughout the show continuously fist pumped and head banged just a bit harder than everyone else – as if it was Woodstock or, perhaps, Wolfmother. Though the set list changed per night, Stereolab also performed the catchy “Three Women” – a song that was oddly not on Saturday’s official set list.

Stereolab’s appearance in New York was also the first with the band’s new keyboardist, Julien Gasc, who visually stood out on stage not just for his youthful good looks but also the basic fact that he wore a yellow graphic tee against the subdued attire of his bandmates. I had the pleasure of dining with Gasc prior to the show at a nearby sushi restaurant, joined by April March’s Elinor Baker (her song “Chick Habit” was featured in Tarantino’s “Death Proof”). Gasc, also of the group Aquaserge, had a heavy French accent that was every Francophile groupie’s dream, while Baker among varied things spoke of her three children – which I thought was a surreal concept for an unabashed pop siren.

At the venue Gasc went for a smoke break before the show. Mistakenly, he had a drink in hand while leaving approaching the door to outside and was confronted by security. The possibilities were that he would either have to surrender the beer or the bud. Gasc did neither. Consequently, the security guard moved towards Gasc, who retreated backward, then led us past the entrance towards the back of the venue. Neither of us knew where we were going. Would he be reprimanded? We ended up at a short hall where one had to bend over to enter. The guard opened the door, which led to a private courtyard where Gasc could smoke – with booze in hand. In the scheme of rock ‘n roll’s little luxuries, what a way to have your cake.

Stereolab’s original set list (Oct. 4):

Valley Hi
Eye Volcano
2 Finger Symph
Ping Pong
Double Rocker
Lo Boob
Silver Sands
Neon Beanbag
French Disko
Emergency Kisses
John Cage


Week Wrap Up

michelle williams


About A Boy: Michelle Williams graces the blog page of Boy, a designer for preppy basics (T blog)

The economic turmoil does not apply to New York Magazine (Folio)

A Journalist’s Worst Fear (Boston Phoenix)

How Coca-Cola Can Influence Foreign Aid (Treehugger)

The East Village of the ’80s (NYT)

Finally, a textbook that reinvents medical procedure for war surgeons (NYT)

In Search of Zen: How One Woman Became A Buddhist Nun (Guardian UK)

Week Wrap Up

andre zucca

“Springtime for Hitler” by Richard Brody (New Yorker)

A Hitler era photo exhibition in France incites controversy.


Steve Aoki’s Father Passed Away (NYT)


Clay Felker: The cover star and renowned founder of New York Magazine

“Felkerism” by Kurt Andersen (NY Mag)

Tight writing style for an iconic subject.

Men’s Cut Off Shorts (NYT) 

Pencil Skirts On the Street by Bill Cunningham (NYT)

NY Newsstands (NYT)


“How Leona Helmsley’s Dog Got Stiffed” (NY Mag)

What happened to the rest of her fortune?

The Ultimate Nostalgic Vice: Chocolate Chip Cookies! (NYT)

can a war photographer change the world?
July 9, 2008, 9:53 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

W. Eugene Smith

In June 1944, during the Pacific War in Saipan, a US Marine pulls an infant – barely alive and naked – from underneath a rock. The scene was captured on black and white film by W. Eugene Smith, who wrote the following caption: “The baby’s head was under a rock. Its head was pushed in and its eyes were full of pus. We hoped it would die.”

W. Eugene Smith: The Art of History at Silverstein Photography through Aug 1.

*Paul Rudd at McCarren *

paul rudd

Last night, The L Magazine screened “Wet Hot American Summer” for its Summerscreen series at McCarren Pool. In attendance to introduce the film were Joe Lo Truglio, Michael Showalter and, yes, Paul Rudd. I’m bummed that I had obligations and couldn’t make the event. Luckily, my friend Adam Au was there to capture it all.

*However (however), I did spot Paul Rudd with the director of “The Shape of Things” in my college town a while back. Rudd had attended The University of Kansas in Lawrence for a year.