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In the Footprint
Remember that girl came jogging down Myrtle avenue?
It was like 11 o' clock at night!
Jogging down Myrtle in her short shorts.
Um, is Myrtle Avenue that way?
And I was like 'It's that way but I don't think you want to jog down Myrtle Avenue.'
—lyrics, sung by Esther Kelly and Kyiesha Kelly
Fact: Brooklyn, even more so than Manhattan, has been experiencing rising gentrification and commercialization. Over the past six years, a major centerpiece of Brooklyn's changing face is the Nets basketball stadium and complex poised for the downtown Brooklyn/ Prospect Heights/ Clinton Hill crux. A multi-acre area that's mostly mundane railyards, the plans also encompass a handful of blocks with apartments and businesses — many of whose owners did not want to leave. For those of us living in Brooklyn, the Atlantic Yards drama seemed never-ending, but construction on some of the complex finally began this year.
(l-r): Greg McFadden & Donnetta Lavinia Grays
(Photo: Carol Rosegg)
In The Footprint is the story of the Railyards — The Civilians style. The theater troupe picks a topic, does research and records interviews, and creates a performance from their culled information. They also include pop-inflected songs along the way, keeping up the energy level. In The Footprint is no exception to this format and the presentation is engaging, humorous, and informative — although, the show's perspective often feels one-sided, and unevenly researched and flushed out. Luckily, by the end, this subjectivity — and its motivations — are thoughtfully questioned.
Walking into the Irondale Center's theater in Fort Greene, Brooklyn (blocks from the construction), the set is bare-bones. It's almost as if the audience, placed on parallel sides a la sports stadium, creates the playing space, and acts as the set. The half-dozen actors are dressed as civilians, with an article or two of clothing change to represent a new character.
The group launches into the history of this Forest City Ratner development project, starting at what was the beginning for the public, the press conference announcing the project. All language in the performance is verbatim — from interviews conducted by the civilians, or public records such as meetings, articles and blogs. A majority of the script is in monologue, but a good portion is done as faux-dialogue— individual interviews cleverly pieced together to sound like a discussion, possible because of the multitude of overlapping issues, communities, and political groups involved in the Railyards project.
The performers are all commendable, providing each of their characters a feel of consistency as well. Special praise should go to Greg McFadden and Billy Eugene Jones, who convey the vulnerability of their characters honorably. The musical numbers add a layer of humor and aresupported by a single acoustic piano.
The Atlantic Railyards project and the issues surrounding it is fascinating. However, the literal facts of the story are seemingly endless (a New York Times article cites the first script for this project being over six hours long), and leaves not so much time for the larger, more universal issues at hand; for example, eminent domain, gentrification, and racial divides. For Brooklyn, and New York City generally , these are not new topics. But revisiting them, however briefly, allows us the chance to see how we have changed as a community — and how we haven't.
In the Footprint: The Battle Over Atlantic Yards |
Written and directed by Steven Cosson
Music and lyrics by Michael Friedman
Cast: Matthew Dellapina (Ken Fisher/Sal Zarzana/Scott Turner), Donnetta Lavinia Grays (Bertha Lewis/Shabnam Merchant/Esther Kelly), Billy Eugene Jones (James Caldwell/Jerry Campbell/Tracy Collins), Greg McFadden (Jim Vogel/Daniel Goldstein/Jonathan Lethem), Simone Moore (Tish James/Kyiesha Kelly) and Colleen Werthmann (Patti Hagen/Jezra Kaye).
Sets by Andromache Chalfant
Costumes by Chloe Chapin
Lighting by Lucrecia Briceño
Sound by Shane Rettig
Video and projections by Jeanette Yew
Music direction by Kris Kukul
Stage manager: , Terri Kohler
. Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes.
The Civilians at
The Irondale Center 85 South Oxford Street Brooklyn, NY 866-811-4111
From 11/12/10; opening 11/24/10 closing 12/11/10
Tuesday - Saturday at 8PM, Monday: November 22, 29 & December 6 at 7PM, Saturday Matinees: November 20 & December 4 at 2PM.
Ticket Price: $35
Reviewed by Amanda Cooper on 11/18/10
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