Photos: Reverend Billy
NEW YORK — As a follow-up to Climate Week, Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Choir will perform “Welcome to the Earthchxrch!” a protean hour of rousing song and moving political satire, each Sunday in October (10/1, 8, 15, 22, 29) at 3:00 PM in Earthchxrch, their Lower East Side performance space–a converted bank located at 36 Avenue C (Loisaida Ave., at E. 3rd Street). Each performance will be a one-of-a-kind show aimed at confronting climate grief, inspiring activism and building community. The ensemble is winner of numerous awards. The shows are directed by Savitri D.
“Welcome to the Earthchxrch!” combines activism and highly responsive entertainment. The show includes songs, rituals, testimonials from the audience, and a 15-minute sermon by Bill Talen as the energetic, charismatic revivalist preacher Reverend Billy. Each show is different but all are motivated by a profound imperative – to strengthen individual connection to the Earth, develop pathways to social change and hold financial institutions and policy makers accountable for their role in the Climate Crisis.
Talen, as Reverend Billy, engages humor and radical politics to critique the excesses of consumer culture and the influence of large corporations. He playfully mimics religious rituals to convey an activist message. The concept is funny, but also deadly serious.
The company’s list of awards and honors includes an Obie Award, the Alpert Award in Theater, the Edwin Booth Award in Theater, the Ethical Humanist Award, and The Impact Award from the Center for Constitutional Rights among others.
Performances are distinguished by their musical score, which has been dubbed “radical devotional music for the Age of Extinction.” A vast original repertoire has been developed collaboratively over two decades. Musicians in residence are Ali Dineen, Joshua Kawan Nelson, Leila Adu, Francisca Benitez and Sunder Ganglani. Current compositions draw on multiple musical traditions, creating a unique harmonic landscape. Gospel and folk influences can be heard in their complex contemporary riffing and polyphony.
The ensemble is known for its creative and sometimes disruptive acts of resistance. They have exorcised cash registers in shopping malls, performed street theater outside of corporate headquarters, and engaged in various forms of civil disobedience, for which they are frequently arrested. They have been closely involved with numerous activist movements (Fight for $15, Amazon Labor Union, BLM, Occupy Wall Street) and are widely known as pioneers of Art as Social Practice.
William Talen invented the character Reverend Billy in the late 1990s with his teacher, Rev. Sidney Lanier, who co-founded The American Place Theater with Wynn Handman in 1963. Reverend Billy debuted on the sidewalk at Times Square in 1998, outside the Disney Store, where he proclaimed Mickey Mouse to be the anti-Christ. He was arrested multiple times inside the store, where he duct-tapped Mickey Mouse to a cross. Reverend Billy’s sermons decried the evils of consumerism, the racism of sweatshop labor, and what Talen saw as the loss of Culture in Rudolph Giuliani’s New York. Over the years, more arrest-risking “direct actions” evolved. Causes moved from sweatshops and gentrification to poisoning of the Earth, with Bayer and Monsanto replacing Walmart and Starbucks in the panoply of evil. Now the Devil is JP Morgan Chase, the leading American source of capital for fossil fuel extraction. Chase’s branches are a frequent target of “trespassing while singing.”
Savitri D (director) has staged direct actions, interventions and public spectacles in contested spaces all over the world and collaborated with communities to create paths of resistance and resilience. She has lectured and led workshops on the topic of creative resistance at universities and festivals for more than 15 years and frequently offers trainings for activists in New York City. She is the creator of the weekly podcast and radio show “Earth Riot Radio.”
The Stop Shopping Choir is a radical performance community of singing New Yorkers who stage creative actions around the world. Over the years, they have performed in the lobbies of countless banks, The United States Congress, The Christmas Parade at Disneyland, and Monsanto’s corporate HQ as well as many popular theater, music and festival spaces. They are scientists, artists, dog walkers, builders, teachers, lawyers and students (to name a few). They move fluidly between protest and art, and have performed with punk squatters, in museums and on stage with Neil Young. They are the subject of multiple documentaries including Morgan Spurlock’s “What Would Jesus Buy?” The ensemble’s most recent album, “Change Without Us,” is accessible on the company’s website, www.revbilly.com.
Bill Talen and Savitri D have a weekly radio show & podcast , “Earth Riot Radio.” He is the author of “What Should I Do if Reverend Billy is in My Store?” “The End of the World” and “The Earth Wants You.” Talen is a frequent guest of news media, having appeared on The Today Show, CBS Evening News, Nightline, Fox News, Al-Jazeera, Glenn Beck, Hannity & Colmes, Democracy Now, NPR’s All Things Considered and Marketplace, CNN, The Tavis Smiley Show, The BBC World Service, BBC 1 and numerous other local and regional affiliates and International print outlets.
Rev & The Choir have performed at festivals and venues around the world including Edinburgh Fringe, Sterischer Herbst, Spektakel Zurich, Battersea London, Impulse!, Adelaide Fringe, World Social Forum and Donau.
For the 8th year in a row they will be in residence at Joe’s Pub November 26, December 10 and 17.