I just found out via Scrappy Jack's blog that there is a new building going up on the site where the Theatorium used to be. A converted garage (auto body shop? Shit, how could I not know this?) at 198 Stanton Street, between Attorney and Ridge, it was, from 1998 til 2003, a lot of people's artistic home and now it's gone gone gone for good.
I'm full of all kinds of mixed feelings about this turn of events, compounded and confused by my not very mixed feelings about what is happening to my old East Village/LES neighborhood. The Present Company gave up the Theatorium in early 2003, understandably really, as it was a huge drain, both financially and in other ways. I try not to wax nostalgic what with my punk rock upbringing and all. The building has stood empty for five years. But still.
Buildings have memories, what goes on inside of them seeps into the walls. That building absorbed so much sweat and hilarity and frustration and blood and here and there, genius, pure genius.
The early years of FringeNYC (for which the Theatorium was Command Central) changed my life. I spent hours and hours and hours working for the festival while simultaneously and unwittingly creating what would become the rest of my life from the people I met and the theater I saw. Nothing I would subsequently do would ever be more difficult, maddening, frustrating or completely and utterly magical. I was going to tell a funny, funny anecdote about filing a stack of cash under M for Money, but figured Elena would not be pleased. I'll tell this instead:
A friend and I had this longstanding theatrical goal, that we would one day be involved in a performance where audience members would would be so shocked and horrified, they would jump out of their seats and run for the door. In the Theatorium, on a deathly cold night in (I think) 1999 our wish came true! We were involved in a performance/art/music extravaganza called Safety Can. It began at midnight and went until 3 or 4am and was hosted by Bill Talen. One piece involved this pagan offering-up of salad ingredients which were thrown by us into a huge, rubber vat. Then someone (I can't for the life of me remember who) came out with a weed-whacker and made salad, which we subsequently served to the audience (yes, the salad was precisely as disgusting as you might think). We had packed the Theatorium to the rafters with extra folding chairs in front. As the weed-whacker roughly pureed our ingredients (including dressing), salad was flung toward the (now much closer due to the added rows of seats) front row. Several people leaped to their feet and ran to the exit. We managed to stagger off stage before literally collapsing with laughter. Goal attained!
I have mentioned LIT in previous posts, and one thing being discussed is a sort of LIT seal of approval for venues and rehearsal spaces. So that audience members and theater-folk would know that the spaces are clean, air-conditioned, etc. Needless to say, the Theatorium would have failed on every single point. Un-airconditioned, largely unheated, leaky-ceilinged and oh, yeah, rats. But the alchemy of spaces put to artistic uses is strange indeed, and the old Theatorium for all its faults and assorted horrors (rats, sewage explosions- I'm looking at you!) was possessed of certain grubby magic that will be fondly remembered, maybe best remembered rather than re-experienced, by me and I'm sure lots of others. I lift a glass to all the lost sacred spaces that live only in our thoughts, dreams and art! Let the myth-making begin apace!
Me, in front of the Theatorium, 2002
*I am fully aware that the correct Latin is "memoriam". Memorium looks better, so no need to comment. God, I'm such a fucking pedant.