A Williamsburg Neverland: Straight on Til Morning
Like many of us, Trish Harnetiaux has been watching Williamsburg change—as warehouses become condos, new bars crop up overnight like mushrooms, and Bedford has swelled from a trickling stream to a healthy river of ever-younger hipsters, artists, poseurs and scene-seekers. And also like many of us, she’s conflicted about the place and where she fits into this gentrification. "I love it. My first two years here, I was really feeling excited about the caliber of the people I met—passionate and intelligent and smart. But it also became a playground, and Neverland really came to mind," she said, explaining her impetus for setting her new adaptation of Peter Pan here. It’s a story about a boy who doesn’t want to grow up, and it hits close to home. "It’s really a prevalent feeling between me and my friends," she said. "I mean, do we have to leave Williamsburg at a certain point?"
"Second star to the right, and straight on ’til morning," is author J.M. Barrie’s direction to Neverland in his classic stage play Peter Pan. Harnetiaux’s Straight on ’Til Morning takes Barrie’s story in her own direction. Peter is now an indie-rock recruiter, hugely charming, intensely popular, and recklessly selfish. Tinkerbell becomes Isabel, a "cool chick" bass player who moves from band to band and is Peter’s long-time best friend. And the pirate ship of Neverland? Why McCarren Pool, of course. "It’s a sacred place," explains Harnetiaux, who discovered and fell for the wild, abandoned wasteland soon after she moved to the neighborhood five years ago. "They hang out there and drink and watch the sun rise."
The pool is indeed the fulcrum of the play, which is very much about gentrification. The Captain Hook character—who now goes by the name of Hoard, and is a Polish real estate developer—wants to turn the whole thing into condos. While Peter has a dream of preserving the sacred atmosphere of the ruins by making it a raw concert space. (Of course the ideal option of reclaiming it as a public space had the kibosh put on it, for the meantime at least, when earmarked funds dried up in the wake of 9/11). And the sub-theme is the love story. Over the course of the play, Peter blocks off all opportunities to grow up, and is ultimately hurtful to everyone around him, particularly to Wendy, now a modern-day Moira. "He’s cruel like children can be cruel," explains Harnetiaux: "because they’re unaware."
Harnetiaux was looking to write a play about Williamsburg, when she came across Peter Pan, now celebrating the 100th anniversary of its first production. The more she read about Barrie’s life, and discovered the dark undertones of the piece, the more she saw the story as a way to delve into contemporary Williamsburg: "It’s really not a light story, and Barrie is pretty skewed in his telling of it, which is lovely and delicious." Barrie’s fascination with "immortalized youth" is particularly deep, a fixation brought about by the childhood drowning of his eldest brother. It was a theme that haunted Barrie, personally and artistically, throughout his life.
So what exactly is it that stunts our growth? What keeps us paying the escalating rents, all the while struggling for authenticity in an upscaling landscape? Why don’t we leave Williamsburg? Is it fear of responsibility? A passion for the neighborhood? For community preservation? Well, yes, all of it. But actually, says Harnetiaux, like everything in Williamsburg, it all comes back to drinking: "I wonder sometimes…Is it just that we’re too fucking drunk to grow up?"
Appropriately, the play is being sponsored by Rheingold beer. Harnetiaux and director Jude Domski are not only both Williamsburg residents; they are also both very into revitalizing the theater experience to something more natural, "where I can have a drink and it’s not four hours long." The performance will run 90 minutes, and the Rheingolds are free.
Straight on ’Til Morning runs September 7-25 at 78th Street Theater Lab
(236 West 78th Street), Wednesdays–Saturdays at 8pm, with an additional
performance on Monday, 9/20. Tickets: $15, www.smarttix.com or 212-868-4444.
60. (Pier 34, Hudson River)By Raphael Rubinstein
JUNE 2021 | The Miraculous
One day a man in his late 20s who has still not found himself in the world hears about some unusual activities on an abandoned Hudson River pier a few blocks from his home. Apparently artists have been sneaking into the vast decaying structure and filling it with unauthorized murals and sculptures. Curious, and a little nervous (trespassing is a crime, after all, and in early 1980s New York wandering around an abandoned pier is not a particularly safe thing to do), he finds himself one afternoon stepping through a broken-into entryway and penetrating into a vast decrepit domain.
Will Bruno: Midnight RiverBy Nicholas Heskes
APRIL 2023 | ArtSeen
For the European Impressionists, the method of plein air painting was meant to be an interpretation rather than an attempt at faithful reproductiona dramatic shift from earlier approaches to landscape painting which relied on preliminary sketches, in-studio techniques, and the work of other painters to create a convincing imitation of nature. Will Bruno finds himself situated somewhere between these two approaches to the landscape in Midnight River, his current exhibition at Europa Gallery.
A Language Cairn: Artists on Their PracticeBy Charlotte Kent
MAY 2023 | Art and Technology
Because this month I had the honor of acting as Guest Editor for the Critics Page, where I invited global curators and scholars to contribute a word theyd like to see or never see again in the discourse around art and technology, I thought I would develop this months column around the words that artists use and encounter about their practiceacross media. So I asked them what silly, uncomfortable, or productive term they encountered. It could be something said to them or something they say to themselves. Leaving aside the linguistic debates around performative utterances, words act around art as a network of ideas, a system if you will, or a kind of scatterplot of imaginative relations.
Erika Doss’s Spiritual Moderns: Twentieth-Century American Artists and ReligionBy Daniel Kraft
MARCH 2023 | Art Books
Through case studies investigating the role of religion in the lives and works of four 20th century American artistsJoseph Cornell, Mark Tobey, Agnes Pelton, and Andy Warholand through a short closing chapter discussing Christian imagery in more recent art, Doss demonstrates how reductive this dismissal of spirituality really is.