The scenic Gowanus Canal, one of New York City's most popular tourist attractions, will become even more of a hotspot if one Brooklyn artist's Kickstarter meets its goal. Jeff Stark, the ingenious creative force behind some of the city's coolest site-specific theater and guerilla parties, is in the last two weeks of a fundraiser for an intriguing performance on the Gowanus. It's called The Dreary Coast; here's how Stark describes it:
The Dreary Coast is an original site-specific immersive work that takes place on the Gowanus Canal. Imagine the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at night in the middle of a crumbling industrial neighborhood. Our story centers on the character Charon, the boatman on the River Styx. It's got elements from Greek and Roman myths, pieces of Dante's Inferno, and blasts of black metal.
Two small audiences will see our show every night, encountering actors and performers at bridges, docks, and buildings along the canal and throughout the neighborhood. Our crew will blur the edge between landmarks in the neighborhood and the mythic locations of our story. Audiences will complete that transformation themselves.
Stark, who co-produced that illegal party in an abandoned subway station last year, warns that "there's so much that could go wrong with a show like this. It takes place in public space. On a boat. Along one of America's most polluted waterways—a superfund site with a much-needed clean-up in progress." Yes, so much could go wrong, but so much could go right, starting with falling into the canal and developing mutant superpowers. Stark himself has fallen in, and as you can see from this video, he's doing just fine:
"I've lived around the Gowanus Canal for about 15 years, and i've always known it to be a pretty lawless place—in good ways and bad," Stark says via email. "I mean, the good part is that you could shut down a street so that two of your friends could get married on a bridge. And the bad part is that people dumped benzene into the canal.
"The neighborhood is changing so fast, and i'm glad that you can't get away with throwing benzene in the canal anymore. But it's important to me that in this neighborhood, that some of that sense of possibility and wildness remains for the artists, the creative people, and the weirdoes who have always lived around here.
"Our new play is a celebration and a reminder that these kinds of places still exist in New York, and we need to use them in order to keep them open and free and just a little wild. if we give up, they'll just lose them forever."
Stark is trying to raise $24,000 to produce the show through Kickstarter; the fundraiser ends September 19th. Rewards for donating include a personal framed portrait from amazing photographer Tod Seelie, a tree house picnic for you and five friends, and "Scum. Limited-edition handmade representations of real-life Gowanus filth. Crocheted by hand by prop-master Chelsea Wagner." Priceless.