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Dear Secular-humanist-artist-types. Welcome to Art Church.

Janaki Ranpura hosted a cabaret this past Sunday morning in the same humble garage venue where she staged her fabulous puppet show, UBUBU, this past spring. She invited a talented, intimate group of theater makers—Molly Van Avery, Rachel Jendrzejewski, Sarah Myers, Sarah Saltwick, and Theo Goodell—to share works in progress, ramblings, or small pieces and share a breakfast together. I joined with the hopes of testing my impulse to evangelize MORE BELIEF's secular sacred agenda in this kind of community.

After a few conversations with Janaki, where I described my odd obsession to live out my post-adolescent dream to become a pastor, and thanks to Molly Van Avery's clever title, Art Church  was born. Cabaret style.

As the other participants were all well-acquainted, and had agreed to a masochistic all night work party, my social anxiety piqued, so I seized the opportunity to provide them breakfast the next morning. I showed up at 8 am dressed in a 60s Sear-Sucker suit, carrying groceries. Then Molly, Sarah Saltwick, and I whipped up fritattas with Collards from my garden (fritatas can be flipped!). 

When we sat down, I asked if I could bless the meal. I stood up, shaking from coffee, and gurgled out this odd semblance of a secular prayer of gratitude:

This is our breakfast. It is specific. It is these eggs from these chickens. These collards, this bit of butter. This picked fruit. It is unique, miraculous, and thankless.
Until now. Because we are grateful. This is all of us being grateful right now.
Let’s eat this food and use it for some good. Can I get a Hot damn?!

During the blessing, I watched the uncomfortable awkward smiles (are we praying right now? YIKES!) slowly relax as the sentimentality—the ultimate sin of us artist-types—was effectively forgiven, and the genuine feeling of gratitude pervaded. 

Still acting the minister, I asked everyone to introduce themselves by saying what they believe in. We talked about pleasure, heartbreak, wedding planning, moving for love, loss and how it all leads to compassion. The Last Unicorn came up, if you’re looking for a reference point.

photo of the Congregation by Rachel Jendrzejewski

We reconvened in the garage theater. I set the tone for Art Church Cabaret with a short homily about using earplugs to practice clair-audience (see my post about clair-audience here) The performers moved from the nostalgia for real dictionaries, to spontaneous typing with call-and-response accompaniment, to the draft of a play read with a flashlight as the central character. Janaki closed by assembling us as salmon to her fishing story. She hooked us with her masterful storytelling, only to release us back into the noisy light of midday, liberated by our willingness to be touched. (oooh. my description sounds sentimental. It's my fault not hers. Forgive me, fellow artists, for I have sinned.)

Regardless of my flawed nature (or because of it?), MORE BELIEF is committed to more Sunday morning Art Church to come. Stay tuned.

You are all welcome. Please bow your heads. Fold your hands.

Now let us play.