Take A ‘Bow’

Written by Paulette Safdieh on . Posted in Posts, Theater.

THE TEENAGERS HANGING out on the corner of Lafayette and Jersey streets this week might not be up to what you expect. Chances are, they’re part of the theater company Downtown Art, which is performin g its latest work, Bowery Wars Part I, beginning April 30.

The most recent installment of the organization’s Inheritance Series, which included last year’s The Waistmaker’s Opera and House of Dreams, will evoke the history of Lower East Side gangs on the neighborhood’s own streets. For the performance’s first act, audience members will follow the silent actors down narrow sidewalks and across intersections, listening to the action and sound score on individual MP3 players; act two will take place in an empty lot on East 3rd Street.

In Bowery Wars, the year is 1903 and New York’s most powerful gangs, the Eastmans and the Five Pointers, are fighting for control of the Bowery, its saloons, dance halls and gambling dens. Tammany Hall is reorganized and attempting to take over City Hall after being exposed for graft and corruption two years prior. "New York was a crazy town filled with greed during the age of the sweatshops," says Bowery’s artistic director and playwright Ryan Gilliam. "With all of these immigrants trying to survive, New York was in an upheaval. This time period between the Civil War and 1910 is vague for so many people, and I’ve always been so interested in it," she says of her inspiration for the show.

Gilliam, who also designed the costumes, took six months to write the historical—and sometimes romantic— script. She worked together with composer Michael Hickey, who wrote the performance’s original music. The plot follows the fictional love story of two immigrants trying to make it in the big city. They’re named, of course, Romeo and Juliet, and are played by 13-year-old Tati Jorio and 15-year-old Jarrett Jung.

The outdoors, in-the-streets performance is an exciting shift from traditional theater. "Our company is homeless," says Gilliam of her 19-member team, which rehearses at East 4th Street’s WOW Café. "Instead of renting a new space, I figured, let’s perform on the streets." The innovative venue poses challenges for the show’s performers, however. "We’ve been mistaken for mimes," says performer Lily Abedin. "People will ask us if we’re doing a form of tai-chi." India Kotis, 13, admits she’s afraid of getting lost; the other actors laugh at the idea of her performing her solo two blocks away.

The troupe is relying heavily on social media and postcards to spread word of the upcoming shows, where 40 to 50 audience members are expected for each performance. "Tourists will go to Broadway," says Gilliam, who aims to draw a small, local crowd. Some people the performers know will be attending are the homeless men from the shelter adjacent to the East 3rd lot. Having watched months of rehearsals through the windows, "the people there really got to know us," says Gilliam. "The men even yelled away an ice cream truck that parked in front of the lot during practice!" 

>>BOWERY WARS PART I Begins April 30. For information, visit downtownart.org.

Take a Bow

Written by Danny Gold on . Posted in Arts & Film, Posts.

SOMETHING SHINY HAS caught Rosson Crow’s eye. “This is amazing!” the artist exclaims, holding up a sparkly dress in the Patricia Field store on the Bowery. Lured in by a Keith Haring print dress, she’s found another that doesn’t skimp on the sequins. “I like to play up the ideas of feminine glamour,” she says, “almost so much that I’m like a tranny.”


Crow’s fashion choices starkly contrast with her work, which is constantly being described as masculine. “A lot of people who don’t know me think I’m a man.” she explains. “For my first show in Paris, they wrote up a review and referred to me as a man.”

She laments the challenges facing a young female artist, of dealers who don’t want to take her seriously and art-world types who expect her to behave a certain way. That boy’s club attitude is one of the main focuses of her latest show, opening Mar. 4 at Deitch Projects. A collection of large-scale oil paintings meant to represent “the history of bad boys in underground art and as an agent of culture in New York City,” the show is titled Bowery Boys after the 19th-century street gang that roamed the fabled thoroughfare where Eurotrash now holds court.

“I didn’t come into the art scene thinking it was a boys club,” says Crow, explaining her fascination with the phenomenon. “I’m from Texas, if a guy is an artist people are like, ‘Why don’t you shoot something?’ Art isn’t seen as something manly.”

Crow is warm and ebullient, her sentences frequently punctuated with laughter. Dressed in an understated manner except for a bright red shirt and elegant pea coat, she’s alarmingly friendly, the Southern charm still noticeable despite stints in New York City, Paris and Los Angeles. “My friends say I should be more of a diva,” she laughs.

The past four months have seen her back in New York painting a variety of somewhat seedy, iconic New York scenes. Among them are an 1880s opium den, a graffiti-covered subway train pulling into a station in the 1980s and an image of infamous sex club Plato’s Retreat paired with The Boom Boom Room, the club on the 18th floor of André Balazs’ Standard Hotel.

Crow touts her love of history as her biggest influence. “Low Life was one of the main inspirations for my paintings,” she says, referring to Luc Sante’s non-fiction account of criminals in 19th-century New York. “I wish I could time travel,” she says. “At least I get to create this environment and live out all these fantasies.”

Another one of her paintings is a recreation of Dash Snow and Dan Colen’s famous nest exhibit, arguably the most well known contemporary example of bad boy art, which was also shown at Deitch. After Snow’s death of a heroin overdose in 2009, there was a heavy backlash against the freewheeling Downtown scene, and Crow was incredulous at some of the harsh criticism of Snow after he died.

Crow is intent on capturing the aura of cool, the phenomenon and power that comes with it instead of living it, although she’s not caught up in the scene and recognizes the inherent silliness and triviality in all of it. She informs me that she is the girl who’s usually home by midnight. It’s refreshing, but at the same time frustrating, to see someone who should enjoy the perks of being anointed by Jeffery Deitch do the opposite.

“I’d gone to The Boom Boom Room with friends and they didn’t let me in,” she says. “I had to beg some of my famous friends to take me along so I could photograph it.”

Bowery Boys will be one of the last shows at Deitch Projects, which itself has been a Downtown clubhouse for bad-boy artists. Crow was unaware that the gallery would be closing this year when she started preparing for the show, but she enjoys the self-referential aspect and is quick to defend Deitch against those who question his decision to leave Soho for the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art. “He’s been so supportive for so many years, he doesn’t owe it to anyone [to stay],“ she says. “He’s not abandoning it, it’s life. Everybody has a right to do whatever the fuck they want.”

BOWERY BOYS Opens Mar. 4, Deitch Projects, 18 Wooster St. (betw. Canal & Grand Sts.), 212-941-9475.