Theater

Secrets & Lies @ Caveat

"There's a manhole cover in Brooklyn that leads to an underground world if you're daring enough to pick it up and climb down." - Emerie Snyder

Secrets & Lies

Caveat, NYC

June 18, 2018

So, you want a crazy story about New York City? How about the time I took a dance class in a basement from a former Rockette before dressing up and riding bicycles to perform and protest? How about the time I ate a roasted pig's eyeball at Belle Shoals (now closed) and had the entire experience captured on camera? How about the time I spent 24 hours at St. Ann's Warehouse watching a life-changing performance by drag legend Taylor Mac?

I wish my crazy stories could even scratch the surface of secrets this city holds. Behind the layers of grime, gum stains, cigarette butts, and urine lie some of the most remarkable stories (n)ever told. Silent skyscrapers stand sentinel to our success. Benches, bars, and broken bottles bear witness to our failure.

The city is full of secrets, featuring both charm and decline. Uncovering them is one of my greatest joys, and a primary reason I seek out strange and experimental theater. It's my attempt to run a fingernail down the spine of New York and feel her shiver.

So when Christa Avampato invited me to tell a story at her August Secrets & Lies show at Caveat, I crumpled to discover I would be out of town. "Alas," thought I, "I'll miss a chance to perform at my favorite LES bar telling stories about my favorite little island in the world! Maybe I won't do that MBA after all in favor of one performance...".

Unfortunately my brain got the better of me and decided that'd be kind of a stupid idea, so I went along as an audience member to the June show instead.

Here's the gist: Five expert storytellers spin incredible tales about the secret pasts of NYC locations you walk by every day. All the stories are true except one.

We had a story about banned pinball machines, a secret manhole cover leading to a hidden subway tunnel, the first woman in NYC to own land, and how three newspaper publishers claimed the same fabricated identity.

The false one? "The wildest rent control story in NYC." I should have known. Things could get much wilder than a tiger cub.

What surprised me most, however, were not the stories themselves. Instead, knowing one would be false, I listened with fine-tuned attention to them all. I scrutinized dates in my mind. I recalled historical context not uncovered since high school history class. I conversed with myself about the merits of storytelling and how easy it is to fabricate truth.

It made me wonder whether the New York Times should come with a caption: 10% of our stories this week are completely false. Would people start paying attention to more than just headlines?

On the other hand, if I listen to everyone as if they're lying, won't I become the world's most bitter cynic?

Though the conceit of Secrets & Lies is simple, it's a remarkably effective approach to encouraging listening. If we take everything with a grain of salt - and a healthy dose of humor - perhaps we'll pay a little more attention, become a little smarter, and learn something in the process.

Image courtesy Caveat website

Full ticket price: $12 ($15 at the door)

My ticket price: $7 (with code SKINT)

Make sure you bookmark August 8th for the next one! There might be a very special guest, shhhhh, I know who it is in advance!

Hosted by Christa Avampato

Storytellers:
Hannah Frishberg
Sabrina McMillin
Tija MIttal
Cynthia Mullock
Emerie Snyder

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