By Donna Schaper
Larry Kornfeld, Founder and Director of the Poet’s Theater, long at Judson Memorial Church, turns 90 on May 21. He lives in California with his wife, Margaret and his daughter Sarah. Sarah has written a very fine book about growing up with nudity in plays in a church. Front row seat, age seven. The Kornfeld family represents the village of yore—Bohemian, edgy, irreverent. Judson maintains that brand as well as we can but truth to tell, we lost some of it to Brooklyn a couple decades ago. Manhattan, people say, is now a suburb of Brooklyn. Brooklyn is where the action is and a few of us aging hippies hang on in the Village, while wondering how to stay Avant while aging. Here I poke at that subject, in honor of Larry, who left NYC because of air pollution when he was 80 or so. Many left the village because of the high rents. It is WONDERFUL HERE but also terrifying, simultaneously.
Just recently, as we are all morning towards virtuality and virtual life, I came across something genuinely hip that the Brooklyn Rail is doing. Thursday lunches with unusual conversations promote ideas you’re not supposed to think and showcase thoughts very few people have. Curiosity is its theme. Judson’s main worship service has also gone online, and we have quadrupled our usual 200 or so worshippers in the “real” space to averaging 800 now, including lots of the people who have moved to Brooklyn (www.Judson YouTube). We are also doing Sunday School online at 10 a.m., worship following at 11, coffee hour by Zoom on Sunday following worship and then Q and A about the virus led by Dr. Allison Stokes from NYU nursing school. Wednesday nights we are doing virtual Judson Arts Wednesday. We really regret we can’t serve the free food online. Can you be hip and avant while on a Zoom call or facing a screen? Stay tuned. We don’t know yet but we are trying. How can we be Bohemian on line?
What is Bohemian? It is the permission giving, judgement free zone where things that are normally discouraged are encouraged. Ordinary motion that dances. Nudity. Free Thoughts. Conversations. Stories that disrupt. Art that thinks. Thoughts that find music or movement or paint or canvas. Bohemian is also something that can’t get too cozy with history as it is much too flirty with the future. Its orientation is forward, not back. It may have a history and even have books written about it. But it leans young and forward and new and next.
I just read The Greenwich Village Reader and got to the poem written by John Reed called “The Day in Bohemia.” He called Judson the “purest of hostelries this side of the Hudson.”
Bohemians need hostelries and we don’t mind crossing the East River to get to them either. What’s a boundary to a Bohemian?
So, here is my conclusion—Brooklyn needs Greenwich Village and Greenwich Village needs Brooklyn. We wouldn’t mind the cheaper rents either but that is the subject of another article. And virtual worlds, where you don’t have to cross rivers or ride subways, can find each other much more easily.
Bohemians are fundamentally folk who host. They don’t behave as guests in the universe. They behave as hosts, glad to be here, now, with. We can also host virtually or so it appears. Thank you, Brooklyn Rail. Thank you, Judson. Thank you Internet. Happy Birthday Larry. Some Bohemians are even in California.
The Rev. Dr. Donna Schaper is Senior Minister at Judson Memorial Church and writes under the pen name of Dolly Mama.
Brooklyn Rail is doing it. You can see a few examples of our conversations below, and can view all of them on the Rail’s Youtube page:
- Noam Chomsky with Paul Mattick
- Dorothea Rockburne with Phyllis Tuchman
- Peter Brook with Karen Brooks Hopkins and Bryan Doerries
- Stanley Whitney with Tom McGlynn
- William D. Adams with myself
- Lyle Ashton Harris with McKenzie Wark
- Penny Arcade with Nick Bennett
- Erica Hunt with Charles Bernstein
- Lauren Bon with Phong Bui
- Julian Schnabel with Phong Bui