Sunday, December 7, 2008

Brooklyn at Eye Level

It's been somewhat quiet over here, both on this blog and on this block. The two are not unrelated. Also I've been in and out of town. Now I'm in town, and I just engaged in the surreal experience of watching a play about Atlantic Yards put on by community theater group The Civilians at the Brooklyn Lyceum. As the lights dimmed and the show began, the significance of what I was watching began to dawn on me. Is that actor portraying Daniel Goldstein? Was that Patti Hagan? And holy crap, is that Cheryl, Kima's partner on The Wire, playing Tish James and Bertha Lewis? What the hell is going on here? Sitting there, watching these actors portray my neighbors and telling this story I've known so intimately the last few years was deeply surreal but also emotional and validating.

The play is a work in progress and at times that showed. But what came through was the scope and complexity of this saga, and the story's tendency to evoke strong emotional responses from the community. This is a "which side are you on" kind of issue, and it made for a natural transition to the stage. From the project's website:

"BROOKLYN AT EYE LEVEL is a project of the acclaimed theater company The Civilians in collaboration with Urban Bush Women and Michael Hill’s Blues Mob, along with local youth from the Atlantic Terminal Community Center, Brooklyn Tech, Hip-Hop Theater Festival’s Affiliate High School Brooklyn Community Arts and Media and more."

The run at the Lyceum is up but my understanding is that the company will continue to interview the community and build upon the performance I saw this weekend. They've encouraged people to be in touch with them to be interviewed. Find that info on their website.

As the Atlantic Yards saga plods on, it will be interesting to see what gets added to the next version of this piece. Now that the construction has halted, leaving the neighborhood much more in the "destroyed" category than the "developed" one, a new list of concerns has arisen. The Carlton Ave. bridge is closed indefinitely and where I once had neighbors and neighborhood shops, I now have vacant lots. See this slideshow by AY photographer Tracy Collins originally posted on NoLandGrab to see what we're facing:

So, kudos to The Civilians for their work. And I hope everyone who didn't get a chance to see their production this time around, gets to see it the next...