for May 15, 2002

Sold! To The Guy With $24 Worth Of Shiny Objects
by Your Diva, Robin Pastorio-Newman

Your Darling, Your Diva, Your One True Love might - just this once - be in a bad mood. We have arrived at a funny moment, a confluence of events, in which local history parallels American cultural history. A quick list of elephants sitting in your living room:
1. The New Brunswick, NJ City Council unveiled its new proposal for the city's development and surprise! A parking facility and office complex sit on the corner of Church and Spring. [For those outside the area: In other words, right on top of the extremely worthy local venue, the Court Tavern. - Ed.] Actually, it's no surprise. After the shouts of "Save the Court Tavern!" died down, the council was free to do as it pleased. The city will proceed with its longstanding practice of giving the (well-funded and extremely-picky-about-its-neighbors) hospital everything the hospital wants, and what the hospital doesn't want, developers buy.
2. Showcased in the Home News Tribune the day after the above article: the Alexander Library's Special Collections Department's exhibits called "The Changing Landscapes of New Brunswick" and "Who Built New Brunswick?" It is in two rooms, to offer balance and objectivity. One room discusses development in terms of progress. The other looks at the work of hod carriers, bricklayers and builders whose predecessors' work is the target of arsonists and wrecking balls all over the city.
3. A dear friend took moi to see the George Street Playhouse's "Public Ghosts - Private Stories". (It's hard to know where lay off complaining and pick up with the Bond gadgets. My Sweet, pass the poisoned lipstick, there's a playwright to kiss.) The GSP's effort to recognize the city it sits in was called "the Bridge Project." It involved bringing artists from California - because apparently there aren't any here - and conducting workshops all over town in which residents told their stories.
(Before we jeté into trouble, a disclosure: news of these workshops was in the air, but it sounded suspiciously like thievery. Your Egg Drop Soup did not speak to these tomb raiders about Italian people in New Brunswick, but it's hard to believe no one did. So. Your Orange Slice was perturbed that her people were missing, but no way, Giuseppi, was she handing over her great-grandparents' bones to strangers. Wanting to have things both ways is so messy.)
The playwright listened to these stories, put some together and added some fluffy filler. Some of the play was genuinely affecting. Some performances were delivered with authority, warmth and respect. Actors were better on the whole than in many plays at the GSP. Problems begin with the first mention of Joyce Kilmer and that tree of which we're so sick we cut it down decades ago. The play concludes with a saccharine homage to the people of New Brunswick, as if a gentle pat on the head by people who do not live here or love this place meant anything, and a brush with "all the poems unwritten" in this place.
Begging your pardon. How did someone slip me the Ipecac mickey?
The assertion that residents of New Brunswick, people who actually live here and don't sprint to the train station at 5:30, are simple savages with no art or culture beyond whatever the GSP deigns to bring in is so wildly insulting Your Dragon and Phoenix left the theater in a teary snit. No. Really. At great risk of mascara failure, even. The fact that Your Beef with Snow Peas' corporeal counterpart Rob Pastorio-Newman has been a working artist in town for years, has known dozens and dozens of brilliant working artists in New Brunswick all her life contributed to this outburst. The real insult, though, is that this message was brought to you by the same people who are eating the city, demolishing neighborhoods and erecting soulless, characterless hospital buildings and chain stores in their place. Look at the GSP's sponsor organizations list. Every hand is dirty.
Well, that was a long list for three little events, wasn't it?
New Brunswick's losses parallel American culture's. Every time you see another Britney or Christina or Jessica, a corporate monoculture committee decided what you are, what you're worth, and when you should be discarded. Every boy band means you have been commodified. Further, what you don't get to see has also been decided. Your Spare Rib knows she is not this gelatinous goo Tommy Motolla and the George Street Playhouse spoon out. She hopes you know it, about you.


©2002 Robin Pastorio-Newman