Thursday, August 18, 2011

West-Park Takes Center Stage in Upcoming Theater Production

West-Park Presbyterian Church

Starting next Wednesday, August 24th, West-Park Presbyterian Church* will make its acting debut!

The landmark church will play host to
"The Tenant", a site-specific performance produced by theater company Woodshed Collective. But don't relegate West-Park to that of mere scenery. As we learned via Alexis Soloski's recent New York Times article, West-Park "is a character in the show, it's a collaborator, it gets a seat at the table."

Interviews with the cast and crew of
Woodshed Collective reveal the process of staging this theatrical experience, in which no less than eight separate plays slowly weave themselves together across five different floors of the West-Park parish house.

As Soloski writes, "Creating site-specific theater poses challenges: securing spaces, making them safe for audiences, adapting sound and lighting equipment to fit untraditional environments." Luckily for the Collective, volunteer manpower and donated clean-up services, as well as LANDMARK WEST!-sponsored electrical updates, have taken place in the past year, helping to ready West-Park for precisely this kind of inspired adaptive reuse (more below).

West-Park has donated use of the space to Woodshed Collective for the run of "The Tenant". Rev. Robert Brashear, in an interview with the West Side Spirit, noted that "... the work that Woodshed is doing helps us further down the [restorative] path. We'll have the benefit of significat parts of our restoration accomplished." West-Park has a long history supporting theatrical expression, having long been home to both Riverside Shakespeare and Frog and Peach Theater Companies. Now, thanks to Woodshed Collect, West-Park takes center stage! For regular updates by Rev. Brashear, visit the West-Park Press blog.

Read on for more information
about Woodshed Collective's production of "The Tenant", as well as a recap of progress since the designation of West-Park!

* West-Park Presbyterian Church is located on Amsterdam Avenue at West 86th Street. Architect Leopold Eidlitz designed the original chapel in 1884, followed by architect Henry F. Kilburn's church addition in 1890.

Woodshed Collective presents "The Tenant" at West-Park

Members of the Woodshed Collective, rehearsing in the West-Park parish house.
Image: New York Times.
"I grew up in New York, and I have a sort of essential curiosity about what's going on in the apartment next to you," co-artistic director of Woodshed Collective Teddy Bergman (far left in the above photo) recently told the West Side Spirit. "The story kind of illustrates the sort of breakdown of the modular society in this building, and all the flaws inherent in it ...That story, to me, is a very exciting one to tell in an installation context. When we're asking people to walk around and look and explore, it's a fun mirror to hold up to the organism of the audience."

From Woodshed Collective:

Set in Paris and inspired by Roland Topor's book, which was famously adapted into a film by Roman Polanski, The Tenant is a thrilling, haunting, and grotesquely hilarious investigation into the relationship between who we are and where we live. When Monsieur Trelkovsky rents a room recently vacated by a woman who fell from her window, he soon finds his world changing in bizarre ways. Haunted by images of the previous tenant's apparent suicide and terrorized by his new neighbors, Trelkovsky begins a slow decent into paranoia and delirium. Learn more!

"The Tenant" will unfold in the Parish House of the West-Park Presbyterian Church,
165 West 86th Street (northeast corner of Amsterdam Avenue, entrance on West 86th Street). Thanks to press and old-fashioned word of mouth, the current run of shows through September 17th have already sold out! With the overwhelming popularity of the production (FREE to the public, with reservations!), we certainly hope the run will be extended! Email Woodshed Collective to show your support for additional shows!

Preserving West-Park: Looking Back to Move Forward

A 20-year community effort was thankfully rewarded on May 12, 2010, when the New York City Council affirmed the designation of the West-Park Presbyterian Church* as a NYC Individual Landmark (click here to read the designation report). The victory kickstarted a new chapter in the life of West-Park.

Here's just a snapshot at some of the recent activity of LW!, the West-Park congregants, our local elected officials, and preservation colleagues, including the New York Landmarks Conservancy, Friends of West-Park, and Preservation Alumni:

  • Long-time West-Park congregant and West Sider Jim Wadsworth secured a generous $5,000 donation from the Lois G. Roy Dickerman Fund as seed money towards replacing West-Park's failing boiler. "The boiler must be in place in order to secure the development partners and renters necessary to fulfill our emerging business plan," Rev. Brashear shared. Funding for this project has been estimated at around $42,500 and the Dickerman Fund gift--made in honor of Mr. Wadsworth's late wife, Carol--is the first dedicated donation.

  • City Council Member Gale Brewer organized a fundraiser to collect starter funds for bricks-and-mortar restoration of West-Park. The fund, managed by the New York Landmarks Conservancy, was recently put to work with roof repairs to West-Park's sanctuary and chapel. At the same time, the Conservancy spent $10,000 from a special Rockefeller Foundation grant to initiate architectural services to establish a phased exterior restoration plan. The plan will be completed this month, with a priority to facade work that will allow the removal of the sidewalk bridge at long last. A significant step in the long process of West-Park's physical rejuvenation!

    The West-Park restoration fund remains open for contributions! Checks can be made payable to "New York Landmarks Conservancy," with "WPPC" as the memo, and mailed to:

    New York Landmarks Conservancy
    ATTN: Peg Breen, President
    1 Whitehall Street
    New York, NY 10044  
  • Members of the West-Park congregation teamed with Preservation Alumni, the alumni organization for graduates of Columbia University's Historic Preservation Masters Program, LANDMARK WEST!, Friends of West-Park, and the generous team of Jack Pontes Brownstone Restorations for a day-long interior clean up of the church's sanctuary. Dusting, vacuuming, buffing, scrubbing ... you name it! Dozens of volunteers turned out to put their muscles to work for the preservation of West-Park.

  • LANDMARK WEST! worked with architects and an electrician to upgrade the church's wiring and emergency exit lighting to help make it possible for the congregation to open its doors for public events, such as a holiday craft fair in December and this summer's Bridge Concert Series.
The all-volunteer crew celebrates the successful clean-up of West-Park in December 2010.

Designation was only the beginning of what must continue to be a robust, sustained, community-wide effort. Full restoration of West-Park Presbyterian Church will be a major undertaking, but we must begin with manageable goals, such as the ongoing development of a strategic plan.

Woodshed Collective's production of "The Tenant" i
s a wonderful opportunity to see the changes that have already taken place at West-park for yourself! We'll see you at the show!

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