New York City’s Greenwich Village has been a cultural and countercultural epicenter of American art and thought for over a hundred years – and continues to be cherished as “a spiritual zone of mind”, a place of creativity and experimentation that knows no boundaries.
The Village Trip (TVT) will be a community-wide Happening, a month-long, multi-venue celebration of the glory days of Greenwich Village past – and an invitation to the exciting beauty of Greenwich Village future: honoring the people and the places of this unique American neighborhood; the art, literature, dance, poetry, politics, film, theater and music that have been and will be created here.
Our portable festival will be centered at the Washington Square Hotel – formerly the Hotel Earle – whose fabled history spans a wealth of bohemian scenes: From the theater and poetry days of Eugene O’Neill and Edna St Vincent Millay in the 1910s and ‘20s to the wealth of jazz artists and clubs (Billie Holiday at Café Society, et al) and experimental dance studios (Martha Graham, et al) in the ‘30s; to the first era of folk, blues and protest singers (Woody Guthrie, Lead Belly, Pete Seeger, Cisco Houston, et al) of the 1940s to the beat poets (Ginsberg, Kerouac, and Bleecker Street-born Gregory Corso) of the ‘50s; to the second generation folkies (Dylan, Ochs, Richie Havens, Buffy St Marie, and so many more) in the 1960s, and on through to Patti Smith and the punk life of the ‘70s.
Folk City: a celebration of Woody Guthrie’s music and life
Back to the Basement (Tapes): a musical rediscovery of Bob Dylan’s much bootlegged “Dwarf Music Demos,” with a half-dozen current folk and anti-folk artists interpreting their favorite tracks as if the songs had never been heard before
Village Songs: 100 or so of the great traditional and original songs that are the roots of the Village folk scene, to be performed at coffee houses, old and new, around the Square
Mingus/Ballet: a reconstruction of the only ballet composed by Charles Mingus (a Village habitué) – the Frankie & Johnny story, portrayed in music, dance and words
Starsailing: a tribute to singer/songwriter Tim Buckley (a regular at The Night Owl Café on West 3rd Street), reassembling his landmark Starsailor album with the help of avant-garde artists trained in the experimental vocal works of Cathy Berberian and Luciano Berio, who greatly influenced Buckley’s musical explorations
Beat(itude)s: readings (with music and dance) of works by an eclectic trio of Village poets – Corso, cummings & Millay (w/ dashes of Ginsberg, Kerouac and a French horn)
Cowboy Mouth: a staging of the 1971 play by Sam Shepard and Patti Smith
Being Different: tributes to dissent in the Village, from Thomas Paine to Dorothy Day to the Stonewall Uprising – with special attention to the personal and creative experiences of artists such as James Baldwin, Janis Ian, Buffy St Marie, et al
Downtown is for the people: an hommage to the living legacy of activist Jane Jacobs
Photo-makers: an exhibition of Village-centric photographic artworks, with a focus on the traditions of photographers such as David Gahr.
Arch Conspirators: a commemoration of the 1917 invasion of the Washington Square archway by poet Gertrude Drick, artists Marcel Duchamp and John Sloan and three Provincetown Playhouse actors who climbed to the top of the arch one auspicious night, celebrated their takeover with bread and wine, released a bouquet of red balloons and declared that the Village was seceding from the United States and would henceforth live on as the “Free and Independent Republic of Washington Square”
An Evening of Words and Music with Maeve Brennan and Friends took place in the Lounge at the Washington Square Hotel, a boutique family business in the heart of Greenwich Village which Brennan – who John Updike said “put New York back into the New Yorker” – would have known as the Hotel Earle when she lived there in the 1950s and ‘60s. Dylan Thomas, Ernest Hemingway, Barbra Streisand, Chuck Berry, the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan all spent time at the Earle, which Joan Baez immortalised in “Diamonds and Rust” as “that crummy hotel over Washington Square”. “That was our funky period,” joked CEO Judy Paul, whose family bought the Earle in 1973, by which time it was something of a dive, enabling young artists to crash there cheaply.
Dublin-based jazz singer Emilie Conway offered snatches of Baez’s poignant reflection on her affair with Dylan, which began in room 305, and of “California Dreamin’”, which legend has it was written at the Earle “on a winter’s day” in 1963 by John Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas. Conway, and keyboard player Darragh Hennessy, also from Dublin, and bass player Marcos Varela, very much a local, dipped further back in time, to the 1950s, with a set that Maeve Brennan – a fan of Billie Holiday – might have heard, had she stopped by the Bon Soir club, located on Eighth Street, just at the back of the Hotel. In the early 1960s, Streisand made her debut there, staying at the Earle.
RADA-trained Irish-American actress Kelly Letourneau, surely born to play Maeve, brought Brennan to life once more, reading three of her celebrated New Yorker columns, written under the soubriquet The Long-Winded Lady. Among them: “From the Hotel Earle”. Angela Bourke, Brennan’s biographer, put the writer’s life in context, quoting her statement “Home is a place in the heart: when it is empty, it frets”.
The evening’s special guest was singer-guitarist Richard Barone. Drawn from Florida to Greenwich Village by the very history the Village Trip will celebrate, he sang “Changes” by Phil Ochs, another of the great sixties’ singer-songwriters who honed his craft in Village coffeehouses. Barone’s latest album, Sorrows and Promises, celebrates Greenwich Village in the 1960s.
All of which left the Village Trippers time to enjoy another delicious Barr Hill vodka or gin – generously supplied by Caledonia Farms and Blueprint Distribution – while Darragh Hennesy and Marcos Varela closed the evening with a set inspired by Bill Evans’ legendary gigs at the nearby Village Vanguard in 1961.
The evening itself was ajudged a success, raising both money and profile, and the response to the Village Trip has been positive indeed. Peter Yarrow and Noel Paul Stookey sent goodwill messages, and local business and cultural alliances have stated their wish to be involved with the project. NYC&Company is aboard and we will shortly reveal a significant partnership.
See Maeve Brennan is feted in her adopted homeland in the Irish Times
The Village Trip will pay tribute to the glories of the past without being a slave to them. The focus period of our extended festival will be the years 1945 to 1975 – from the end of World War II to the end of the Vietnam War; from Woody Guthrie to Patti Smith. Our aim is to cultivate TVT into an annual event, supported by, and embracing, the local community and businesses; a perennial festival that will engage the neighborhood itself, while bringing in visitors from across the city, the state and, in the fullness of time, the nation and the world: the countless many who have been touched, often without even knowing it, by the bohemian citizens of the Free and Independent Republic of Washington Square.
LIZ THOMSON, born and raised in London, has long been fascinated by Greenwich Village, an area she has come to know well over two decades of visiting, always staying at the Washington Square Hotel. The idea for The Village Trip sprang from her work on the restoration of the late New York Times journalist Robert Shelton’s biography of Bob Dylan, No Direction Home (2011), which chronicles in vivid detail the 1960s Village scene. She is a widely published journalist, author and broadcaster and has appeared on platforms at literary festivals around the world as an interviewer. A contributor to The New Grove Dictionary of Music & Musicians, Liz is the co-editor of critical anthologies on John Lennon, Bob Dylan and David Bowie and the author of An Awfully Big Adventure, a 40-year celebration of Chicken Shed, the ground-breaking inclusive theatre company. She has lectured at Liverpool University’s Institute of Popular Music and been a Visiting Fellow of the Open University Sixties Research Group. She is the co-founder of Square Roots Productions, a UK-based charity celebrating the folk music heritage which connects the British Isles with North America, and a founding trustee of the Desmond Elliott Prize for first novelists. Find out more about Liz at www.lizthomson.co.uk
JOHN SORENSEN is the creator and director of the Jumble Shop Theater of Greenwich Village. His JST productions include Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Sophocles’ Electra, Chekhov’s Swan Song, Ionesco’s The Chairs, George Axelrod’s Goodbye Charlie, Robert Herridge’s The Emily Dickinson Suite, Zeami Motokiyo’s Kagekiyo and Dream/Cage (a John Cage performance collage). He was the assistant director of the Broadway plays Tru (Tony Award for Best Actor) and The Big Love, starring Tracey Ulmann. His film work as writer/director includes The Quilted Conscience (for Public Television), The Andy Warhol Robot (for the Carnegie Museum) and Midsummer (a silent film adaptation of Strindberg’s Miss Julie). For Public Radio he has written and directed dramatic works concerning social justice pioneer Grace Abbott, author Willa Cather and violinist Yehudi Menuhin. John is the creator and founding director of the New York Public Library’s Four Corners world culture series (with stage, film, music, dance and art exhibit programs) and he has presented a wide-range of arts and social service programs for the US Department of State, New York University, Columbia University, Paley Center for Media, Anthology Film Archives, the DuSable Museum of African American History, the Chicago Humanities Festival and others. His most recent books are The Mystical Filmmaker (with Peter Whitehead, 2015) and A Sister’s Memories, which won the Nebraska Book Award.
JUDY PAUL and MARC GARRETT are a husband and wife team who own the Washington Square Hotel. Judy is a third-generation hotelier and her love of food and entertaining grew out of a childhood spent at her grandfather’s Manhattan Beach Hotel in Brooklyn.
A proud Villager for more than 35 years, Judy has developed a very strong attachment to the community where she now lives and works. She served as an appointed member of Community Board #2 for nearly 15 years, and as an executive member of the Washington Square Association.
Marc joined the Washington Square Hotel team in 2002 after 25 years as sales and marketing executive for the Bertelsmann Music Group. The son of well-known Hollywood photographer and author Murray Garrett, Marc was born and raised in Los Angeles, California and lived just steps off the famed Venice Beach boardwalk. He immediately felt at home when he moved to New York in 1997, settling into yet another bohemian neighborhood, Greenwich Village. He embraced its diversity, the great restaurants, and its unique mix of artists, actors, musicians and businesspeople.
For enquiries, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Liz Thomson: Executive Producer (London): LizThomson@thevillagetrip.com
John Sorenson: Artistic Director (Greenwich Village)
Judy Paul: Associate Producer (Business Liaison)
Marc Garrett: Associate Producer (Marketing Co-ordinator)
Liz Law: Business Development Manager (New York) LizLaw@thevillagetrip.com
Washington Square Hotel
103 Waverly Place,
New York, NY 10011
Website: Madeleine Parkyn at Envoy
Fractured Atlas will receive grants for the charitable purposes of The Village Trip, provide oversight to ensure grants are used in accordance with grant agreements, and provide reports as required by the grantor. Contributions for the charitable purposes of The Village Trip must be made payable to Fractured Atlas and are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.
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