OPENING NIGHT OF MACBETH AT DUMBO’S TOBACCO WAREHOUSE Thursday went off with nary a hitch, despite, as St. Ann’s Warehouse Creative Director SUSAN FELDMAN reminded the expectant crowd, the myriad superstitions surrounding the play. The opportunity for technical mishap was there aplenty, with fiery special effects, a headset per guest and a mesmerizing, two-story, open air set. But the sky stayed dry, and technical flourishes appeared to be spot on — and were striking. Feldman said that for everything that had to fall into place for this Polish production to be reproduced in DUMBO — the many, many “yeses” they needed to secure along the three-year, $700,000 journey — the production seemed meant to be.
The production is the work of threater ensemble TR Warszawa, adapted and directed by GRZEGORZ JARZYNA, a boyish 40-year-old who sported a leather jacket and soul-patch. The story goes that the moment Feldman saw the production in Poland, three years ago, she wanted to find a way to bring it to Brooklyn. That process entailed much hurdle-leaping, space usage clearance and financial support from both local and Polish governments, the Polish Cultural Institute and a long list of key people. The show is presented almost exactly as it appeared in Poland, set and cast included, with the addition of English supertitles.
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THE MONTAGUE STREET BUSINESS IMPROVEMENT DISTRICT (BID) held its annual meeting on Thursday afternoon, convened by TIM KING, BID president, and CHELSEA MAULDIN, BID executive director, at Eamonn Doran. The Irish restaurant’s owner, SEAMUS O’TOOLE, is a member of the BID. A review of activities from the past year included the development of a new web site (www.montaguebid.com) and a revamping of the beautification program, including the watercolor street banners, tree holiday lights and solar lanterns.
The most exciting new BID project is the Summer Space pilot program planned for Sundays in July. A temporary piazza with French-café-style chairs will be set up to draw shoppers and encourage foot traffic to stay and explore the three street blocks that comprise the BID. Mauldin said that by conducting polls, the BID learned that 91 percent of shoppers to the area arrive by foot, bike or public transport. In addition, sidewalks will be regularly power-washed to minimize summer-weather stench.
Councilman DAVID YASSKY spoke to the meeting about the challenges facing mom-and-pop shops — namely, high rent, coupled with landlords who may be tempted to trade-in an owner-operated joint for Duane Reade’s rent check — and what can be done to retain them. He presented a few ideas he has gathered for approaching the issue.
One idea is to change the tax code to give owner-operated stores a break. Another is to allow property owners to build another floor if they reserve the ground floor for an owner-operated shop. (Yassky acknowledged the opposition that might face either idea; neither has been put into play.) Another was to change zoning codes to limit ground-floor occupancy to owner-operated shops and require banks and drug stores, which don’t rely on foot traffic, to take second floor leases. The last would be to have city investment to preserve retail space, in a model similar to the one used to retain manufacturing space, as in the Brooklyn Navy Yard and the Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center.
Most simply and directly, said Yassky, we can all patronize local mom-and-pop shops, as Park Slope has made an effort to do on its Seventh Avenue. Marty Markman of the Heights Café seconded that this is the best plan for preserving the shops that give a neighborhood character, because it doesn’t rely on the government to succeed.
BROOKLYN ARTS EXCHANGE (BAX) has announced its 2008/09 Artists in Residence: Dancers SAM KIM and ANDREW DINWIDDIE are starting their second year. VICTORIA LIBERTORE and ABIGAIL BROWDE have been welcomed as the new theater artists. BAX has also welcomed the new season of Space Grantees: choreographers LEVI GONZALEZ, NICKI MARSHALL and HELEN TOCCI, and IVY BALDWIN, and theater artists KEVIN AUGUSTINE, ANDREW GILCHRIST and Red Terror Squad BAX’s own Education Director PENE McCOURTY, a Crown Heights resident, has been recognized for her enormous talents and will be a NYSCA/Empire State Partnership Program seminar fellow this summer IRENE LEON, principal of Cypress Hills Community School, P.S. 89 in Brooklyn, will receive the 2008 MetLife Foundation Ambassadors In Education Award, recognizing her as one of the nation’s most “collaborative public school principals” in 25 cities. In her honor, her school will receive a $5,000 grant.