December 4, 2011

Theater-world supporters of Occupy Wall Street conceived and executed a 24-hour performance/ action that began Friday December 2 at 6 pm and ran continuously until the same hour Saturday December 3.

The action took place in the open area between 50th and 51st Streets on Broadway, which had been dubbed the People’s Performance Plaza for the occasion I showed up in time to catch the last half-hour. When I arrived, an a cappella chorus of rather good singers was belting out a song on the theme of “We Are the 99 PerCent.” They were apparently the last in a long string of music, dance, and spoken-word performances that played to anywhere from a couple of dozen (in the middle of the chilly night) to a several hundred (during the day).

A well-spoken young woman in a long red dress seemed to be facilitating things at this point, and she invited the crowd to form a circle around the plaza holding hands. She said there had been a request for some chanting. Spontaneously, someone called out “All night, all day/Occupy Broadway!” We all chanted that for a while, and the tall guy next to me improvised a Rockette-style kick to go with it, which the entire circle adopted. Then there were a few minutes of “Our movement is unstoppable!/Another world is possible!”

If you’ve ever tuned in to the OWS Livestream and wondered how it’s done, here’s how it works — this dude with his laptop and webcam strolling through the crowd.

Next Red Dress Lady proposed that we break up into small groups and have a conversation about our experience with Occupy Broadway. My group consisted of Patrick, a longtime Occupier whose group Gravity performed at 1:00 AM; two Chinese-American brothers, Kevin and James; and a woman named Rebecca. People who only know of Occupy Wall Street from reading or watching news accounts of clashes with police might be surprised at how intimate and communal these actions are. Call it new age-y or call it civilized, it prompts strangers to talk to each other, on whatever shallow or deep level they choose. The diversity of OWS supporters delights me — from Radical Faeries (above) to multiple people in motorized wheelchairs (below).

And of course this is New York City, this is the theater district, so there is the cosmic absurdity of this action taking place across the street from the Winter Garden, with Mamma Mia! bestowing her Abba-fied blessing.

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