It's not a protest without signs, but Occupy Broadway emphasizes the inspirational side of the movement with music, performance art and other entertaining elements.
NEW YORK — Broadway revivals might be old hat, but this weekend saw a reinvigoration of the Occupy Wall Street movement when a raucous mix of performance artists, musicians and even a needle-swallowing carny descended upon the Theater District for a 24-hour guerrilla festival called Occupy Broadway.
“A lot of [the Occupy movement] gets spun as a fight with cops, giving the impression that it’s dangerous to go out into the streets…. We want to use public space to inspire people,” said Claire Lebowitz, one of several organizers of the first Occupy Broadway. “It’s gotta look like a party; it’s gotta look like a shit-ton of fun.”
“Creative resistance,” as some are calling the approach, might be the new face of the Occupy protest. Now that the anchoring attention-getter of the Occupy Wall Street movement — the encampment at Zuccotti Park — is gone, occupiers are searching for ways to keep the discussion alive and growing. There are plenty of indoor meetings and online discussions, but face-to-face interaction with the public is considered crucial, and marches don’t allow for much discourse.
Nobody got arrested, kettled or pepper-sprayed at Occupy Broadway because no rules were broken. Diversionary tactics were used in order to avoid a preemptive shutdown of the site, but the only friction occurred when a stage manager drew a chalk box on the ground to represent the stage. Police moved the initial crowd of between 100 and 200 people back to clear the doorways, put up one line of barricades, and then it was on with the show.
The event took place in Paramount Plaza after a brass band led a group of Occupy Wall Street activists to the privately owned public space, directly across from the Winter Garden Theater and its enormous billboard for Mama Mia. The Rude Mechanical Orchestra kicked off a slate of free public performances, which featured acclaimed monologist Mike Daisey (The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs), performance artist Penny Arcade (Bitch! Dyke! Faghag! Whore!) and scores of others from 6 p.m. Friday to 6 p.m. Saturday.
Every hour, between the carnival acts and the New York City Labor Chorus, between the hula-hoopers and The Yes Men in their inflatable “survivaballs,” between The Living Theatre and Bread and Puppet, there was a group recital of the First Amendment.
“It’s easy for people to dismiss banner-carrying and marches,” said performance activist Ben Cerf, another of the event’s organizers. “But it makes a difference if they have to figure it out and think about it, even if only fleetingly.”