Lower East Side Biography Project - Stemming The Tide of Cultural Amnesia

Lower East Side Biography Project - Stemming The Tide of Cultural Amnesia The Lower East Side Biography Project is a community media project, a television biography series and video oral history archive.

09/17/2021
Excerpt from Kenneth H. Brown Biography

If you missed our new Kenneth H. Brown biography, here's an excerpt. The entire 45-minute film is on Patreon. https://www.patreon.com/Penny_Arcade

As we have learned through history, we often do not know who our greatest artists are. Kenneth H. Brown is one of those artists. Playwright, novelist, poet, his Pulitzer Prize nominated play, The Brig, was performed by The Living Theatre and changed modern theatre. If the world of literature and theatre survives it will eventually catch up to him, as history always does.

To me, Ken Brown is a towering figure. To give you an idea he reminds me of Henry Miller, Ernest Hemingway, James Baldwin, Edith Wharton, people who wrote the worlds they knew. In this short excerpt, masterfully edited by my collaborator Steve Zehentner, you see the worlds Ken Brown has inhabited - his all American good looks, the kind that turn heads, the pile of scripts and novels he has written, the lives he has led. All available for you to find with a simple Amazon search. His unpublished novels need to be published. I am working on that. Meet the indelibly glamorous and highly achieved Kenneth H Brown. xoPenny

We just uploaded to Patreon, Ira You Are Gone Now. This is the final poem from our 5-day residency at New York Theatre W...
09/17/2021

We just uploaded to Patreon, Ira You Are Gone Now. This is the final poem from our 5-day residency at New York Theatre Workshop in June.

This poem is a piece of elegiac writing for Ira Cohen who died in 2011. Artists like Ira Cohen are 20th century phenomena formed by the lives they led. Poet, photographer, publisher, world traveler, film maker and raconteur, Ira Cohen remains a major figure in the international underground and avant-garde. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ira_Cohen

The video of my performance of this poem is on my Patreon. https://www.patreon.com/Penny_Arcade

Ira, You Are Gone Now
by Penny Arcade


Ira, you are gone now

You have lost that body

That needed so much

No more the urge No more desire

No more your refrigerator of stolen meat

No more, no more the epic poems



You are full now Ira

No more hunger

No more emptiness

“A non-psychedelic can never enlighten a psychedelic”

you always said

And of course that is true as you were true

True to yourself if to no one else

except maybe Lakshmi your red headed daughter



Ira I walk the Lower East Side and everywhere there is you

you were that criminal Sadhu, Ira

in the tradition of Villon, Rimbaud, Genet

No mendicant

You shoplifted thousands of books and thousands of steaks Ira

and you read them all,

And you ate them all Ira

You read all the steaks and ate all the books didn’t you Ira?

You ate them all Ira

One extraordinary person after another

One adventure out on a limb after another

You were so hungry, your appetite for life so big Ira



You outran death for a good long time

Your death was always with you as it is with us all Ira

But you made deals with yours Ira didn’t you?

That warm fuzzy death sitting on your left shoulder

You borrowed from your death Ira

She was your pimp and your lover, Kali

Hoping maybe for a taste of the recognition that eluded you

Just wanting to be heard

Ira till the last second just after you died

You never understood you couldn’t play both sides Ira

The Mylar and the Majoun they blurred those boundaries

See how they played you Ira?

The New York Times Obituary

You didn’t expect so respectful and so grand

They gave you your rightful place in history Ira

The place at the table you helped build

And now your photos will be worth money Ira

But you won’t be there to pay your rent with it

Or to buy a dinner or pack of smokes

That’s the catch Ira

The New York Times never mentioned your poverty

Or how it twisted you to be so unrecognized,

So left out

They didn’t mention your skill at shoplifting

A skill, you said, every poet should have



I remember your mother in the hall

On 106th St. and Broadway

The deaf people signing madly clustered in the doorway

The deaf neighbors of that silent tower of babble that formed

you

And I entered the magic of the wordless world you grew up in

for a little while

your mother’s sweet, silent laughter echoed in yours

Ira I could listen to you for years

but you never let me get a word in

Years of living in that silent world insured you would have to

talk

uninterrupted for decades

But I hear you Ira, like I always did



You channeling the secrets of the Akashic Record for all to hear

If they only listened to you instead of looking at the crumbs in

your beard

I heard you Ira. I listened. I really did,

and

you can talk uninterrupted in my ear forever now

I always wanted to hear every word you said Ira



Oh Ira they never let you read at St Marks

You the real poet

The cruelty of Ginsberg and Burroughs At the PEN Award

When the staff tried to throw you out

because there was no chair for you at the dinner

and Allen and William turned their backs on you

Like you were nobody

And you shrugged you shoulders and said

“Ginsberg wants to be the only beard”

You wanted their approval Ira

But it was you who were the time traveler

You who sat in the dirt with the Nagas

You who smoked chillums with the Sadhus

You who stood in the Atlas with the Berbers

You who went to the Kumbh Mela

How many times?

They could only write They never lived it

And they knew it, Ira, oh they knew it



Oh Ira You always had one foot in the astral plane

I know you are at home there

And soon the rest of us

The Sweet Return

And we will all be there together in the sweet bye and bye

Ira I know that and I feel you there and I feel you here with me

now

I always will Ira

and I know you will never go away again

We just uploaded to Patreon, Ira You Are Gone Now. This is the final poem from our 5-day residency at New York Theatre Workshop in June.

This poem is a piece of elegiac writing for Ira Cohen who died in 2011. Artists like Ira Cohen are 20th century phenomena formed by the lives they led. Poet, photographer, publisher, world traveler, film maker and raconteur, Ira Cohen remains a major figure in the international underground and avant-garde. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ira_Cohen

The video of my performance of this poem is on my Patreon. https://www.patreon.com/Penny_Arcade

Ira, You Are Gone Now
by Penny Arcade


Ira, you are gone now

You have lost that body

That needed so much

No more the urge No more desire

No more your refrigerator of stolen meat

No more, no more the epic poems



You are full now Ira

No more hunger

No more emptiness

“A non-psychedelic can never enlighten a psychedelic”

you always said

And of course that is true as you were true

True to yourself if to no one else

except maybe Lakshmi your red headed daughter



Ira I walk the Lower East Side and everywhere there is you

you were that criminal Sadhu, Ira

in the tradition of Villon, Rimbaud, Genet

No mendicant

You shoplifted thousands of books and thousands of steaks Ira

and you read them all,

And you ate them all Ira

You read all the steaks and ate all the books didn’t you Ira?

You ate them all Ira

One extraordinary person after another

One adventure out on a limb after another

You were so hungry, your appetite for life so big Ira



You outran death for a good long time

Your death was always with you as it is with us all Ira

But you made deals with yours Ira didn’t you?

That warm fuzzy death sitting on your left shoulder

You borrowed from your death Ira

She was your pimp and your lover, Kali

Hoping maybe for a taste of the recognition that eluded you

Just wanting to be heard

Ira till the last second just after you died

You never understood you couldn’t play both sides Ira

The Mylar and the Majoun they blurred those boundaries

See how they played you Ira?

The New York Times Obituary

You didn’t expect so respectful and so grand

They gave you your rightful place in history Ira

The place at the table you helped build

And now your photos will be worth money Ira

But you won’t be there to pay your rent with it

Or to buy a dinner or pack of smokes

That’s the catch Ira

The New York Times never mentioned your poverty

Or how it twisted you to be so unrecognized,

So left out

They didn’t mention your skill at shoplifting

A skill, you said, every poet should have



I remember your mother in the hall

On 106th St. and Broadway

The deaf people signing madly clustered in the doorway

The deaf neighbors of that silent tower of babble that formed

you

And I entered the magic of the wordless world you grew up in

for a little while

your mother’s sweet, silent laughter echoed in yours

Ira I could listen to you for years

but you never let me get a word in

Years of living in that silent world insured you would have to

talk

uninterrupted for decades

But I hear you Ira, like I always did



You channeling the secrets of the Akashic Record for all to hear

If they only listened to you instead of looking at the crumbs in

your beard

I heard you Ira. I listened. I really did,

and

you can talk uninterrupted in my ear forever now

I always wanted to hear every word you said Ira



Oh Ira they never let you read at St Marks

You the real poet

The cruelty of Ginsberg and Burroughs At the PEN Award

When the staff tried to throw you out

because there was no chair for you at the dinner

and Allen and William turned their backs on you

Like you were nobody

And you shrugged you shoulders and said

“Ginsberg wants to be the only beard”

You wanted their approval Ira

But it was you who were the time traveler

You who sat in the dirt with the Nagas

You who smoked chillums with the Sadhus

You who stood in the Atlas with the Berbers

You who went to the Kumbh Mela

How many times?

They could only write They never lived it

And they knew it, Ira, oh they knew it



Oh Ira You always had one foot in the astral plane

I know you are at home there

And soon the rest of us

The Sweet Return

And we will all be there together in the sweet bye and bye

Ira I know that and I feel you there and I feel you here with me

now

I always will Ira

and I know you will never go away again

Steve Zehentner and Penny Arcade are recipients of this years Innovative Theatre Award for Artistic AchievementWonderful...
09/15/2021
The New York Innovative Theatre Awards Announce Recipients of 2020-21 Honorary Awards

Steve Zehentner and Penny Arcade are recipients of this years Innovative Theatre Award for Artistic Achievement
Wonderful that they recognize our ground breaking work over this 30 year period.

The New York Innovative Theatre Awards has announced the recipients of the 2020-21 Honorary Awards. The Honorary Awards and recipients are Caffe Cino: The Parsnip Ship; Ellen Stewart: The Indie Theatre Fund/IndieSpace; Artistic Achievement: Penny Arcade/Steve Zehentner; Outstanding Stage Manager: Ra...

09/07/2021

When I Died - a collaboration through the decades with Penny Arcade and the early 20th century poet Elinor Wylie.

In 2014 Steve Zehentner and I were fellows at the MacDowell Residency which has roots all the way back to the turn of the century…as soon as I arrived I felt that in the rustle of the leaves and the sounds of the forests that MacDowell is nestled in, I kept hearing murmuring conversations…at one point it occurred to to me that all the artists who had been to MacDowell had remained there after they died as “artistic inspiration”….in the air one of these was a poet named Elinor Wylie. Elinor Wylie had been the most famous poet in America in 1920 https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/elinor-wylie

I asked the MacDowell library for material on her and I ended up doing a collaboration based on one of her poems.

We recently continued to develop this poem during our residency at New York Theatre Workshop in June of 2021. Here’s the video of me singing this poem - an a capella performance of When I Died. For more videos of my poetry, all my theatre work and biographies from The Lower East Side Biography Project, join my Patreon for as little as $2/month. xoPenny
https://www.patreon.com/Penny_Arcade

When I Died
By Penny Arcade

When I died on Avenue C I remember well.
I had lights at head and feet and a passing bell
Won't you see that my grave is kept clean

When I died in on 6th St I was saying my prayers.
There I died all alone up four flights of stairs.
Well there one kind favor I’ll ask of you
There’s just one kind favor I will ask of you
There’s just one kind favor I will ask of you
There’s just one kind favor I will ask of you
Won’t you see that my grave is kept clean

When I died in on 9th Street in an old house tall.
I know the tapestry was torn and hanging from the wall.
Won’t you see that my grave is kept clean

Well there’s one kind favor I’ll ask of you.
There’s just one kind favor that I’ll ask of you.
There’s just one kind favor that I’ll ask of you.
Won’t you see that my grave is kept clean

When I died on St Mark’s Place, the small gold that I had,
Surrounded me with kith and kin
kith and kin
kith and kin
The small gold that I had
I died stark mad

Have you ever heard that coffin sound?
Have you ever heard that coffin sound?
When they slam that coffin cover down
It means one more soul has gone in the ground

When I died on Stanton Street
In the bend of your arm
There I died merrily
Comforted and warm
Won’t you see that my grave is kept clean

09/06/2021
Excerpt from Kenneth H. Brown Biography

Tonight at 11pm EST on cable TV in Manhattan and streaming everywhere else, our two-part Kenneth H. Brown biography premieres. The film was produced by The Lower East Side Biography Project - Stemming The Tide of Cultural Amnesia. In Manhattan you can watch on FIOS 33, RCN 82, Spectrum 34 & 1995. Streaming link: https://www.mnn.org/watch/channels/community-channel-1

As we have learned through history, we often do not know who our greatest artists are. Kenneth H. Brown is one of those artists. Playwright, novelist, poet, his Pulitzer Prize nominated play, The Brig, was performed by The Living Theatre and changed modern theatre. If the world of literature and theatre survives it will eventually catch up to him, as history always does.

To me, Ken Brown is a towering figure. To give you an idea he reminds me of Henry Miller, Ernest Hemingway, James Baldwin, Edith Wharton, people who wrote the worlds they knew. In this short excerpt, masterfully edited by my collaborator Steve Zehentner, you see the worlds Ken Brown has inhabited - his all American good looks, the kind that turn heads, the pile of scripts and novels he has written, the lives he has led. All available for you to find with a simple Amazon search. His unpublished novels need to be published. I am working on that. Meet the indelibly glamorous and highly achieved Kenneth H Brown. xoPenny

Here's an excerpt from the film. the entire film is also available on my Patreon page. https://www.patreon.com/Penny_Arcade

Steve and I are very excited to announce the WORLD PREMIERE of our new 47-minute biography on Kenneth H. Brown. The film...
08/27/2021

Steve and I are very excited to announce the WORLD PREMIERE of our new 47-minute biography on Kenneth H. Brown. The film was produced by The Lower East Side Biography Project - Stemming The Tide of Cultural Amnesia, our long running video project. Since 1999 Steve and I have pursued this project as a labor of love for our Bohemian world and the amazing, unique people who populate it.

Ken Brown is a writer, playwright and raconteur. For those of you who saw the teaser of this interview which we shot on March 12th 2020, just as the pandemic lockdown went into effect - this finished piece will be exciting news. For those of you who didn’t see the first short on Ken you are in for a treat.

There is a lot of bemoaning the present in how our world has changed. In the face of corporate art school reality, artists like Ken Brown are a pre-21st century phenomena. Bay Ridge Brooklyn working class native, his life showed him to the highs and lows of human experience. From Japanese whorehouses and military prison to the Copacabana, from Max’s Kansas City 1960’s Bohemian culture to the racetrack, from Frank Sinatra to Bobby Kennedy, from The Living Theatre to the world's stage. His 1963 Pulitzer Prize nominated play The Brig, changed American theatre and threw a never before seen light on the sadomasochistic practices of the American War Machine.

Ken’s entire life has been lived on the tilt-a-whirl of keen observation. Tip: Never met an artist who is not “arty”? Here’s your chance! The film is on my Patreon page. You can watch for as little as $2. https://www.patreon.com/Penny_Arcade Enjoy. xoPenny

Steve and I are very excited to announce the WORLD PREMIERE of our new 47-minute biography on Kenneth H. Brown. The film was produced by The Lower East Side Biography Project - Stemming The Tide of Cultural Amnesia, our long running video project. Since 1999 Steve and I have pursued this project as a labor of love for our Bohemian world and the amazing, unique people who populate it.

Ken Brown is a writer, playwright and raconteur. For those of you who saw the teaser of this interview which we shot on March 12th 2020, just as the pandemic lockdown went into effect - this finished piece will be exciting news. For those of you who didn’t see the first short on Ken you are in for a treat.

There is a lot of bemoaning the present in how our world has changed. In the face of corporate art school reality, artists like Ken Brown are a pre-21st century phenomena. Bay Ridge Brooklyn working class native, his life showed him to the highs and lows of human experience. From Japanese whorehouses and military prison to the Copacabana, from Max’s Kansas City 1960’s Bohemian culture to the racetrack, from Frank Sinatra to Bobby Kennedy, from The Living Theatre to the world's stage. His 1963 Pulitzer Prize nominated play The Brig, changed American theatre and threw a never before seen light on the sadomasochistic practices of the American War Machine.

Ken’s entire life has been lived on the tilt-a-whirl of keen observation. Tip: Never met an artist who is not “arty”? Here’s your chance! The film is on my Patreon page. You can watch for as little as $2. https://www.patreon.com/Penny_Arcade Enjoy. xoPenny

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The Lower East Side Biography Project is a community media project, a television biography series and video oral history archive begun by performance artist Penny Arcade and video producer Steve Zehentner, who have collaborated on creating theatre projects, video and sound installations and social practice since 1992.

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While everyone is patting themselves on the back for their activism and organizing, check out our Lower East Biography Project profile of veteran activist, the late Carmen Pabon who was fighting for the LES for decades. Airing and streaming tonight, Monday, July 6 at 11 pm. Details below. SarahJackPeeweeJackieKenRickyMarciaJeffTed
After 20 years I am just angry and sad that Lincoln Anderson who allowed so many of us to use the Villager as a publication resource for articles and for me especially photos of major national events has been fired by a family of greedy NY pissant scumbags who have destroyed a vital and long, long time source of community news unlike any other publication in the city.
In case you need to see a clip...
Thanks for the introduction
If you didn't have plans for tonight... (And if you did, there are two more performances before Penny and Steve retire "Longing Lasts Longer," Tuesdays Aug. 20 and Aug. 27. StaceyAnneOrinEllenSima
Come to HOWL! Happening tonight, Thu., June 13, 7 pm to see David Weissman's film about Eugene N. Fedorko followed by a panel about Gay Elders. And while you're there, check out my show "Mourn the Dead. Fight Like Hell for the Living" which will be up through Sun., June 16. There will be a CLOSING RECEPTION for the show at 4:00-6:00 at which time you can sign up to march with HOWL in Reclaim Pride on June 30. HOWL! Happening 6 E. 1st St. (bet. 2nd Ave. and Bowery) Gallery Hours: 11-6.
Penny Arcade will be in Woodbridge this week! Enjoy and please share!
This is great, congrats and good luck to all! I wish I could participate, maybe next time. I lived on the LES thru the 80s, and had the lowest and highest points of that experience, saw the noeveau riche embrace the "starving artists" and turn them into nouveau somethings, and then saw everyone else do the million things that we all did after the 80s.
Some time ago LESBP interviewed an artist named Kasoundra Kasoundra that I’ve quite lost track of. She may no longer be alive. If she is OK, please let me know. Here’s a relevant youtube: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=AQqoGJxBAU0.
Nov. 15, Bristol, UK, one time only screening of DOPE (1968) by Sheldon Rochlin and Diane Rochlin (now Flame Schon). Pass it on to anyone in the area.
This poster for upcoming screening of DOPE just arrived this moment-- Nov.15th - Bristol, UK pass it on to anyone in the area
Please upload the full video of this, thanx in advance: Jayne County, The Lower East Side Biography Project, excerpt from 28 minute biography