Lower East Side Story

As exciting as it was to hear that Dragon's Breath was accepted into the New York International Fringe Festival, there was still an element of unreality to it.  A theater festival can be such a vague concept, after all - in this case, spread out over two weeks and many different theaters south of 14th Street.  It wasn't possible to point to a specific place and know, that at such and such a specific time, this play would be performed.

Well, although the specific performance dates are still to be determined, it's now possible to point to that specific place.  I'm happy to announce that Dragon's Breath will be performing at Teatro La Tea, at 107 Suffolk Street.  As a performance space, Teatro La Tea is perfect for what I've written, and what Mikaela has envisioned.  But there is so much more to this venue than the details of the performance space.  It's one of four theaters contained within the Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center, which also houses rehearsal space and facilities for untold numbers of arts and other community groups.  It's an authentic bastion of downtown culture, holding out against the encroachment of gentrification, and it has served the arts community in New York for as long as I've been a part of it.  Every single artist I know has some magnificent story to tell in which CSV somehow plays a part.

And this being a blog, I shall now regale you with mine.

Some years ago, I was finishing up a long day of auditions by heading to a callback at CSV.  As I was walking there, I was surprised to bump into a co-worker from a job significantly far from the Lower East Side.  It turned out that his band was playing in a dive bar directly across the street from CSV, and he invited me to come see them play.  And since I was there anyway, I happily obliged.

My friend's band played, they were excellent, and the process of breaking down from one band to the other began.  The band set to follow my friend's was called Bravo Silva, which struck me as the greatest band name I'd ever heard.  It's a reference to Chekhov's The Seagull, you see - a story one of the characters tells about talent revealing itself in the most unlikely of places (not an inappropriate story for the Fringe).  My friend back from his set, I proceeded to complement him on his performance and explain the significance of the next band's name.  As I did so, I noticed a woman at the other end of the bar.  I remember being intrigued by how the glasses she was wearing somehow made her look like Meryl Streep.

I then realized she actually was Meryl Streep.

I turned back to my friend asked how we'd come to be sitting in a Lower East Side dive bar with Meryl Streep.  He explained that her son was a musician in Bravo Silva.  This made sense to me, since he had played a laborer in the Shakespeare in the Park production of The Seagull in which Ms. Streep had appeared (along with Kevin Kline, Natalie Portman, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman).  My curiosity satisfied, I proceeded to behave as nonchalantly as New Yorkers are supposed to behave when in the presence of celebrities (we have a code about these things).  However, once the band took the stage, there was a mass shifting of traffic within the bar, and in the rush of people, I found myself face to face with Meryl Streep.

It was obvious that I knew who she was, and it was obvious that she knew that I knew.  It was impossible not to say something, and nearly impossible to say anything that wouldn't be inappropriate or embarrassing.  So I asked the only question I could think to ask.

I asked if she had named the band.

And that is the story of how I made Meryl Streep laugh.  Quite heartily, in fact.

I hope that some day, some years hence, people will have their own magnificent stories to tell about 107 Suffolk Street, about CSV and Teatro La Tea, that involve Dragon's Breath, even if only tangentially.  It would be an honor to be a part of the ongoing legend.  (And Meryl - if by some remote chance you're reading this, please consider coming to see the show!  I'd like to think there's a couple more good laughs in the script.)