I recently saw my friend performing down in DUMBO in a show called “Stop the Virgens” featuring the lead singer of the Ya Ya Ya’s at a space called St. Ann’s Warehouse. Of course, I wasn’t really aware of any of these specifics when I was heading down there last night. All I could recall was “Dress rehearsal…free ticket…I swear it’s not a mosh pit…DUMBO…don’t bring Aunt Carlotta…” So, in the spirit of exploration, I made the journey down the A train decked out in my Brooklyn uniform. This consists of any plaid piece in my closet paired with ironic jewelry (in this instance it was clock earrings denoting the unavoidable passage of time and eventual mortality that we all must face) and some type of shoe that says I don’t care (in this case my brown boots with a slightly western flare that remain permanently attached to my feet from October to March). I think you could call the overall outfit lumberjack chic. So, decked out to blend in, I made my way to Brooklyn ready to explore.
I was a DUMBO “virgen”.
I definitely had the impression that I’d arrived at Brooklyn Disney as I wandered the streets with names like “Cranberry” munching on a piece of Frescati’s Pizza and guiltily averting my eyes from the Vegan restaurants on each block. I found a street called “Poplar Street” that greatly perplexed me as it had actual oil burning street lamps (the kind only found in New Orleans to my knowledge) and a woman casually walking home dressed in a sort of Mary Poppins outfit from puffy sleeves to a real bustle. For a moment, I was convinced that DUMBO was magical and I was actually going to walk to the end of the street and end up in Brooklyn circa 1890. Unfortunately, I just found the BQE (Brooklyn-Queens Expressway for all you outta townas).
So, I trudged on. The newly refurbished industrial buildings took on hulking comic book proportions and the Brooklyn Bridge sat perched like some gigantic creature with legs rooted into the street in unexpected places. There was a babble of voices growing as I approached, and I noticed that other young people were trudging beneath the freeway in the same direction as me. Suddenly, I saw a long snake of a line wrapping around a building. It looked like there was some sort of rock concert. I planned to continue walking to find some shadowy little theatre, and then I saw the words “St. Ann’s Warehouse” painted quite clearly on the side of the building.
Luckily, I happened upon a theatre company I know (yes, I now have acquaintances that are not one person, but twenty – all connected in my mind like the double helix nerds in “Never Been Kissed”). I deftly slipped into the line with them. We waited in the lobby for a long time, allowing the room to grow uncomfortably stuffy with the combined body heat and everybody’s hot air. The group was very young, very cool, and very Brooklyn. Again, I couldn’t help but appreciate my choice of dress. We were finally herded, cattle-like, through sort of haunted house meets the Alexander McQueen exhibit, full of unpaid actors writhing and moaning in all white behind mosquito nets. We ended up in the performance space where we waited another half hour in an inferno filled with even hotter, stuffier air and loud grinding and crunching sounds.
Karen O came on stage at long last and sang a sad, world-weary song surrounded by moaning, writhing girls in white. Essentially, that was the show – about eight ten-minute long sad, world-weary songs with Karen O in different costumes wearing the same expression and the girls either physically exploding with ecstasy or crumbling with rage and sadness. Fans of Karen O seemed to eat it up. As I stood staring at the haunting tableaux, I admired her for getting up there and seeing her vision through. Less so as my feet started to hurt, my mind started to wander, and I realized how many fans she had who would eat anything she produced out of the palm of her hand. The girls who were her greek chorus, the Virgens, I admired much more. The main 7 were working long hours and throwing there bodies around willy-nilly for a small stipend. The actresses who played the other 30 virgens were doing this for no pay at all. As I watched this one woman rock concert in experimental theatre clothing, I got a little worked up about the Actor Abuse taking place here. Especially when I saw the incredibly expensive movie quality cameras that were swooping over our heads on hydraulic, robotic dollies…and the 20 foot digital screen showing an array of beautiful and cheesy images…And the mirror-clear, black stage that reflected Karen O in all her Gaga-like glory. And they couldn’t find the money to pay their actors?