Wartime Canteen for a New Era

Cabaret In the Streets

By Marcina Zaccaria

Cabaret was alive and sounding great at the outdoor Wartime Canteen for a New Era, with Creator and Performer David Greenspan, accompanied by Jamie Lawrence. 

Through a brisk and sunny day on a Brooklyn Sunday afternoon in the Boerum Hill area, a socially distanced crowd stood to hear David Greenspan in front of a microphone, bringing cabaret standards to those who may have felt war-torn from the Covid crisis.  Greenspan strolled among the crowd at the top of the show, connecting with associates through this troubled time.  It felt nothing like war, and a lot like peace, with melodic songs and recognizable tunes like “I Hear Music”/”Zing Went the Strings of My Heart,” and more that included “Quiet Night” and “There’ll Be BlueBirds Over (The White Cliffs of Dover.” No two drink minimum here, standing in the middle of the block on chalk circles with an “X” in the center.  

Creating a place to gather with friends, six-time Obie Award Winner David Greenspan, known for solo plays, The Argument (Target Margin) and The Myopia (The Foundry), created an alternative for those feeling drained from the doldrums of virtual performance.  The through-line was held with anecdote after anecdote, and speeches about the days of the Stage Door Canteen and the Hollywood Canteen that kept the military singing through World War II.  Too bad, this team finally didn’t get the permit to sing inside.  At first advertised as a performance that would take place in front of windows, Creator and Performer David Greenspan had to hold his own outside on the stoop, with smooth rehearsed songs that sounded great with Arranger, Performer, and Music Director Jamie Lawrence on keyboard.  

With a police car parked on the street, and the entire block closed to traffic, the audience, looking near capacity at around the 50 person mark, spoke with friends and ignored men on bicycles freely going past.  Every word of the cabaret tunes swept through the rustle of the trees overhead.  

En Garde Arts has brought site-specific performances to the streets of New York, though the years.  Wartime Canteen for a New Era is part of Uncommon Voices: Unexpected Places.

The only thing that was missing was a singalong at the end. 

Wartime Canteen for a New Era was held on October 17 & 18 outside 109 Bergen Street in Brooklyn. www.engardearts.org

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