The Spinning Wheel Festival, Part I

Dig it, man! On Friday night at BRIC, I was thrilled to attend the opening of both the interactive exhibition and the multimedia performance of The Spinning Wheel, based on the life of steve ben israel and The Living Theater.  The Spinning Wheel Festival was brilliantly conceived by steve’s son, hip hop theater artist Baba Israel. Joining forces with UK director Leo Kay and musician Yako 440, Baba has created a fascinating, joyful, poignant tribute to his father — as well as to The Living Theater’s countercultural roots, and the collective energy of the times. It was wonderful to mingle with fellow audience members of all ages — many of them past and present Living Theater collaborators — enjoying the art exhibit in the gallery (which included prints by Eric Drooker), spontaneous conversation, and even a delicious vegetarian pre-show soup generously offered up on stage by talented musician Yako 440! The performance itself was tightly crafted (dramaturgy by Talvin Wilks) and immediately engaging. Not only were the life and talents of his dad superbly showcased, but also Baba’s own considerable talents as a musician and performer stood out. The video design by Richard Ramchurn was compelling, and the entire evening felt like such a community event — such a happening! I could feel myself lightening up, and I grinned as I saw Wavy Gravy in the front row, unmistakeable in tie-dye and clown nose. Walking out into the chilly night air after this magical evening, there was a bounce in my step. I felt so alive! So connected!

Two days later, I am back at BRIC, and so is Wavy Gravy and his wife! Saint Misbehavin’: The Wavy Gravy Movie is showing. Director Michelle Esrick is there too, and a lively Q&A follows the screening. I am so inspired by Wavy, his wife, Jahanara, and members of The Hog Farm for their life-long dedication to peace and social-justice. Camp Winnarainbow (a performing arts camp) and Seva  (a global foundation to eradicate blindness) are just two of the myriad ways they have sought to better the world throughout their lives. When asked if he feels pessimistic about the future, Wavy said that his work with the children heartens him. Indeed, he said he feels “nostalgic for the future.” His wife echoed that sentiment. When she sees all the wonderful young activists so engaged in their work in the world, she feels she no longer has to carry the burden. She can die knowing the causes she’s dedicated her life to can carry on. After the Q&A I had a deeply moving chat and hug with a wonderful older woman I had just met. A soul connection was made and I left BRIC once again feeling optimistic and alive — Wavy Gravy’s positive energy and laughter radiating in my heart. He kind of does that to you. You’ll see when you watch the movie. I hope you do.

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