Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Civilians @ Eye Level

On April 17, New York-based theater company The Civilians host a benefit at DUMBO's Galapagos Art Space.

Does that name ring a bell? Last winter, the group put on "Brooklyn @ Eye Level" at the Brooklyn Lyceum, a performance piece tha gave voice to the different interests surrounding the $4 billion Atlantic Yards project.

If you missed the weekend of performances, or want a refresher, clips can be found here.

More on the benefit after the jump.

Join The Civilians fo a special night in DUMBO

By Meredith Deliso

(Published in the 4.9.09 issue of 24/Seven)

There’s no place like home at Galapagos Art Space on April 17, when The Civilians host their annual benefit at the DUMBO performance center.

The theme of home was an apt one for the New York-based theater company, whose most recent productions include “Brooklyn @ Eye Level” and “A Beautiful City,” where the company investigated the idea of community in Brooklyn and Colorado Springs respectively.

In addition to performing excerpts from those two shows, the night will also feature an original Civilians piece put together from the audiences’ personal insights on what home means to them.
Soliciting responses as people purchase tickets for the benefit in the weeks leading up to the show, the Civilians will be putting together a mix of cabaret, theater and music based on the responses at the DUMBO space.

“Galapagos has a really wonderful nightclub atmosphere,” said The Civilians’ Artistic Director Steve Cosson. “The performance space is big enough to hold all the various performers we’re going to bring but still has that intimate nightclub feeling, which is great for a special one-night event like this.”

Brooklyn was another ideal location for the company’s benefit, following their production of “Brooklyn @ Eye Level” at the Brooklyn Lyceum in Park Slope this past winter, as they explore the theme of “home.”

“We’ve been spending a lot of attention the past few years looking at community, looking at how people live with each other, next to each other with varying degrees of success,” said Cosson. “For our benefit, we wanted to open that theme up to our patrons.”

The company will take inspiration from the sentences, quotes and pictures that patrons submit, creating an original piece, as well as performing excerpts from “Brooklyn @ Eye Level” and “This Beautiful City.”

Traveling to Colorado Springs, considered the evangelical capital of America, the company interviewed residents and created a show performed in New York, as well as in Kentucky, Washington, DC, and Louisiana that investigated the Evangelical Christian Political Movement through the complex mountain town that is its headquarters.

Closer to home, the company also put their lens on the residents and community affected by the proposed Atlantic Yards project, working with composer Michael Friedman, blues musician Michael Hill, the dance company Urban Bush Women, and the playwrights Lucy Thurber and Carl Hancock Rux to explore the changing face of Brooklyn from all sides and interests.

“I think I was certainly drawn to the idea largely because I live in Brooklyn and have been aware of how rapidly the borough is changing,” said Cosson, who lives in Bedford-Stuyvesant. “In terms of public attention it’s looked at in a certain way, largely in terms of real estate and the economics of it all. As a theater company, we wanted to look at what was happening in Brooklyn on a much more human scale and to really hear from the people who live in these neighborhoods what these changes mean to them.”

After a week of sold-out performances at the Brooklyn Lyceum in the first phase of the production of “Brooklyn @ Eye Level,” The Civilians are currently finalizing a commission of a playwright for a play to be produced in a couple seasons. They are also putting up clips of the initial performance on their Web site.

Proceeds from the benefit will help The Civilians in their next endeavors, only works in progress at the moment, but including project on divorce, another interviewing people working in the porn industry in Los Angeles, and a collaboration with Princeton University on climate change.
And as “Brooklyn @ Eye Level” evolves, the Manhattan-based company also has their eye on a Brooklyn home.

“If we can we’d like to relocate our offices to Brooklyn,” says Cosson. “As we move into the future we hope to have a more regular relationship with the community.”

“There’s No Place Like Home,” The Civilians’ annual benefit, is April 17 at Galapagos Art Space (16 Main Street). Complimentary cocktails and hors d’oeuvres start at 8 p.m., followed by an original performance by Civilians associate artists at 9 p.m. and an after party at 10 p.m. Tickets range from $75 to $1,200, with $25 ones for the after party only. Audience members can submit their ideas of home on their RSVP card or the blog at The Civilians’ Web site. To RSVP, call 212-730-2019.


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