“Sign uP” a benefit concert for Genocide Survivors Support Network w/ performances by Emily Cavanagh, Nick Myers, Deb Oh, and Lionel Loueke!

1 Dec

Who: Emily Cavanagh, Juicebox (featuring Nick Myers), Deb Oh, Lionel Loueke, and MANY MORE!!!

What: “Sign uP” Benefit concert for the Genocide Survivors Support Network

Where: 154 Ludlow St New York (212) 533-7237 (take the F train to 2nd Ave or Delancy, JMZ to Essex St, BD to Grand)

When: Saturday, December 4th, 2011, at 7:00pm

Why: Great music for a great cause!  Need we say more?  Tickets are $15.  Afterward, meet up just a few blocks away with the musicians and friends for some delicious Austrian food at Cafe Katja‎79 Orchard Street NY, NY 10002!


Cultural Karma: Can you explain to us what exactly this fundraiser is for and why this issue may be of particular significance?

Emily Cavanagh: This fundraiser, “Sing uP” is a night of music in honor of The Genocide Survivors Support Network, a non-profit that offers support to survivors of genocide trying to rebuild their lives, through advocacy and education. The night will consist of performances by four different performers, a silent auction, and much more. For more information on GSSN, check out: http://www.genocidesurvivorssupportnetwork.org/.

Cultural Karma: What message(s), if any, do you hope to spread with your music?

Emily Cavanagh: I hope this event will raise awareness of the impact genocide has had on so many people living abroad and locally, as well as highlight the important work the agency, GSSN is doing to assist people in rebuilding their lives after the genocide. I think in music, we have a unique opportunity to bring people together and also have a forum to express the things we sometimes struggle to talk about. For me, this night is about remembering what has been lost, but also about gaining insight to prevent anything like this from happening in the future. As an artist, I hope to write music that is hopeful. And with an event like this, I hope the message too is one of hope.

Cultural Karma: There is a rather musically diverse group of musicians performing at this benefit. How did you bring them all together for one event?

Emily Cavanagh:
When I’m not working as a musician, I work as a social worker and counselor with homeless New Yorkers living with HIV and AIDS. A client of mine who herself is a survivor of the Genocide in Rwanda, brought this agency to my attention for the amazing work they are doing. When I first learned about it, I really believed in its mission of the agency so my good friend, Courtney Parker and I teamed up with the founder of the GSSN and everything just grew from there. We thought a night of music could be a powerful way to bring people together, and the venue(The Living Room) supports causes like this and is one of my very favorite spaces in the city, . We were thrilled when Lionel Loueke ( world renowned jazz guitarist) agreed to be part of the night. The musicians on this bill are so diverse, but each brings great musicianship and something very relevant to this night, so I am grateful to them for lending their talent to such a great cause.

Cultural Karma:
Beyond having a great time at the show, do you hope that your audience takes any message home with them and if so what would that message be?

Emily Cavanagh: We hope that people take away the understanding that for survivors to live meaningful lives after enduring tragedy they need the support of their community, and the access to services that range from psychosocial to medical, including counseling, medical care, housing, and education. With good health, a secure place to live, and an education, survivors have a chance to rebuild their lives. Most of us are fortunate to have these things without having to think too much about them, but we hope this night gives a new perspective to how we can help others find this for themselves.


(from and interview with Nicholas Myers the “creative mastermind” behind Juicebox!)

Cultural Karma: Tell us a little about your band Juicebox and what the concept of the band is. As an improviser to you ever find yourself at odds with anything in the current musical climate?

Nicholas Myers: JuiceBox is all about having a good time. We channel positive vibes so that everyone in the room wants to either get up and dance or simply feel good in the sound of our music. We use organ which is such an uplifting sound to me, it has a joyful energy. I write all the songs on organ so even though I play saxophone in the band, the feeling and type of sound comes from the organ. I simply don’t like negative music right now and so this is my contribution to the positive side (hopefully) and there is plenty of room to improvise within that idea.

Cultural Karma: What message(s), if any, do you hope to spread with your music?

Nicholas Myers: The message that I hope to spread is that music is not depressing! I used to play so many depressing gigs and I don’t want to feel like that or have my audience feel like that. I want them to feel energized and to take away a part of the spirit.

Cultural Karma: What roadblocks have you found living as an artist in New York City, and where do you find inspiration and support?

Nicholas Myers: If you are asking about roadblocks then I’d say living as an artist is like driving down the BQE during rush hour….It would be faster to get out of your car and walk or swim in the east river and I suggest that’s what you do.

Cultural Karma: There is a rather musically diverse group of musicians performing at this benefit. How did you bring them all together for one event?

Nicholas Myers: Emily has brought them all together. I met her when we played the same date at Hiro Ballroom a few months ago. As far as I can tell she has brought them all together based on the fact that she likes our energy and our music regardless of style.

Cultural Karma: Beyond having a great time at the show, do you hope that your audience takes any message home with them and if so what would that message be?

Nicholas Myers The message is that whatever you were thinking about before you came to the gig is not important. I hope you leave with LESS messages then when you came in. Someone the other day told me that they were having a bad day and then they saw the gig. They couldn’t remember what caused the bad day but what they did remember was the good day that happened afterwards. I don’t know what message is better than that.

Katy Rubin, Theater of the Oppressed, and “El Circo De La Inmigracion”

23 Oct

Who: Katy Rubin (Theater Artist)

What: El Circo De La Inmigracion: The Immigration Circus

Where: 4157 Broadway, New York, NY 10032 (take the A train to 175th, or the 1 to 181st)

When: Friday, November 11th, 2011, at 7:30pm

Why: Art and activism meet in this groundbreaking use of theater to explore important social issues…Theater of the Oppressed NYC and The People’s Theatre Project take an in-depth look at immigration and deportation through theatrical story-telling.  Afterward, meet up with Theater of the Oppressed NYC director Katy Rubin for food and drink at Manolo tapas, a cool tapas bar in Washington Heights!

Other useful tidbits of info that do not begin with “w’: This show is “pay-what-you-can”…remember that the theme of this group is $10 or less, so use your judgment when supporting your fellow artists 🙂

RSVP: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/viewform?formkey=dElyVWpXMmZOM2steUFGNWdnQ2pnTUE6MQ


Cultural Karma: Give us a little insight into the life of a theater artist in NYC…was it what you imagined it would be when you first began your professional career?

Katy Rubin: Definitely not! I went to acting school and started out to build the career of a professional, traditional actor in NYC, landing parts in a string of mediocre plays in the first couple of years out of school. But at the same time, I knew that just being an actor according to other people’s schedules and agendas wouldn’t be enough. So I got a grant to go to Brazil and train with the founder of Theatre of the Oppressed, Augusto Boal. That utterly changed my path–I saw that I could facilitate hundreds or thousands of other people in acting more effectively–in their lives and on the stage. Now I am a director and the founder of my own arts organization, Theatre of the Oppressed NYC (www.theatreoftheoppressednyc.org). That comes with all of its own challenges…the key benefit being that I can create art that asks questions and seeks answers, alongside scores of New Yorkers every day.

CK: How did the Immigration Circus come about?

KR: The collaboration with People’s Theatre Project was an obvious one. They are based in Washington Heights, offering free bilingual theatre programs to residents of all ages, with the goals of peace- and community-building. I met the directors at a workshop I led in NYC in fall 2009 and it turned out that one of the two founders graduated from my conservatory program at BU three years before I did! They knew about Theatre of the Oppressed and wanted to learn more. And PTP has an incredible base in their community, which helps us find actors, venues, audience and simply spread the word! I happen to live uptown as well, so I deeply believe in their vision. Immigration Circus is a chance for us to give back to our own neighborhood.

CK: How long did it take you to go from idea to complete performance?

KR: We started planning this project in the spring, did outreach to find actors in the summer, and didn’t have our first rehearsal till Sept 7. We will have rehearsed once weekly for ten weeks before our opening–and some of the performers have never performed before. Urgency is the name of the game!

CK: Was there a particular reason you move around to different locations on all three night? Going with the theme of the project?

KR: Yes, we are intentionally echoing the theme of an immigration circus by traveling with our suitcase of props from venue to venue and even boro to boro. But even more, we want to reach various audiences that have experiences with immigration and deportation issues–so that we can have the most lively and challenging interactive forums onstage after each show!

CK: What were some challenges in making this project come to life?

KR: Funding is always a challenge. Cliche but true. We get funding from small grants so that we can make the performances accessible by donation to all–but paying ourselves, the directors/producers, is always a struggle! Also, building bilingual plays with actors who sometimes don’t speak each other’s language is a very exciting challenge. We try to minimize the power of language, and focus on the images that speak to all of us.

CK: What kind of experience do you hope the audience will walk away from this performance with?

KR: We hope the audience will laugh and feel touched, be entertained and provoked– and most importantly, experience solidarity with the actors who have created and performed in these plays. We hope that audiences will leave with a belief in new possibilities, and a new understanding of the immigrant experience. Katy Rubin


(Re)Introducing Cultural Karma

23 Oct

What is Cultural Karma?  It’s how real people support real artists and have fun while doing it.

We start with this premise:  Most great art begins in obscurity, and new directions are usually advanced by artists far out of the spot light.  And it’s hard work, with years of effort or countless hours of rehearsal often resulting in a performance to an empty house, or producing a work that no one sees or hears.  As heartbreaking as a poor turnout can be, an unexpectedly great audience can turn around an artist’s career, give them more opportunities, make new connections, and convince them that the struggle is worthwhile.  That’s where we come in.

Once a [week/month/every 2 weeks/356.7 hours], we select one of these artists and bring them the audience they deserve.  25, 50, or even more of us will show up to the artist’s performance informed, enthusiastic, and ready to experience a new and exciting creation.  Before the show, the coordinator will post an interview with that artist on our blog so that members can have some context in advance.  And afterward, we’ll all go out to a local bar or restaurant to talk to that artist about the show (or anything else you want to talk about).

The group has a few simple “rules” to keep us on track.

1) Every show will be less than $10.  We are philanthropists on a collective, not individual, level.

2) Every member will coordinate at least one event.  That means choosing an art event or artist that you want to expose to the rest of the group.  It also means picking a place for us to meet after (we’ll help you with that, including finding groupons and the like ;-)), and interviewing the artist beforehand and posting that on our blog (we’ll help you with that as well!)

3) Events need to take place on a Friday or Saturday night.  Lesser-known artists are usually forced to hold their events on off-nights to make room for more commercial acts.  We want to help move them into prime-time…and if you’re not willing to give up a Friday or Saturday night to do so, you’re in the wrong group.  Bring your friends, dates, or significant others if you want…

4) Have fun.  Did we mention that already?  This is a chance to change people’s lives by banding together, meet new artists and fellow art lovers, see new venues and neighborhoods, and on a budget.  Can’t wait to meet you!

The Cultural Karma Team

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