New York theater may be in a bit of trouble right now--but on the night of October 2, there will be so much theater on the Lower East Side, it'll take three buildings and four hours to contain it: A cavalcade of artists corralled by Horse Trade Theater Group, DMTheatrics, and Mountebanks will present Hero Worship, a benefit for widows and orphans of rescue workers who died trying to save lives following the attack on the World Trade Center.
Announced participants in Hero Worship so far include Clay McLeod Chapman (of the wild-eyed Pumpkin Pie Show), comedienne Carmen Mofongo, the Gypsy Bellhops, the Surf Reality All-Stars, the Dysfunctional Theater Company...it's a long list, growing daily. The fee is 10 bucks for access to all venues, plus a one-dollar surcharge each time a patron moves from one theater to another. One hundred percent of donations will go to the survivors' fund.
Co-organizer Frank Cwiklik of DMTheatrics says that the goal of Hero Worship is to raise not only funds, but spirits. "I'm hoping that this will be something very celebratory," he says. "Something to take people's minds off of what's happened. I think it will bring the Lower East Side theater community together to make them feel a little less alone." To that end, Cwiklik and his cohorts have been careful in booking acts for the show. "We don't want heavily political or maudlin piece," he explains. "We want something joyous--comedy, burlesque, a really funny evening." The message is "not just that life is going to go on, but that there's a reason for it to go on. We're glad to be here."
There's certainly nothing maudlin or political about Spooky Dog and the Teenage Gang Mysteries, a goofy Scooby Doo parody that's been an Off-Off Broadway favorite since winning hearts at the 1999 Fringe Festival. And there's certainly nothing too serious about vaudevillian/magician/mammal-of-all-trades Scott the Blue Bunny, who will also be strutting his furry stuff at the benefit. "With Broadway especially seeming to struggle under the weight of this, it's up to [Off- and Off-Off-Broadway artists] to take up the slack," muses Cwiklik. "I know that sounds pretentious, but it's up to us to keep on being artists, to keep people's minds on living and on joy and what we have to be thankful for."
The plan is for four hours of continuous entertainment from 8pm to midnight, with short readings and plays in the Kraine Theater on Fourth Street, comedy and burlesque next door at the Red Room, and music over at the St. Mark's. Not to mention the booze, the DJs, and the dancing. Oh, and rumor has it that sexy cigarette girls--and boys--will be prowling the premises to drum up extra donations.
Cwiklik hopes to raise an amount of money somewhere "in the five figures"--nothing to match what was garnered in the TV networks' recent all-star telethon, but more than enough to show solidarity with those directly affected by the tragedy. "The thing is, most of the audiences that [our theaters] have, our following--they're not rich. But they can give what they can. I don't want people not to come because they can only give $10 or $15. That's money that wasn't there before. God knows, these guys' families need it right now."