P R E S S R E L E A S E S 2004
July 27, 2004
Famed Anti-Consumerism Street Preacher Brings His Antics (and his Choir) to MASS MoCA
(North Adams, Mass.) -- On Friday, August 27, at 8 P.M, MASS MoCA’s Courtyard C becomes the site for a religious revivial with Reverend Billy and his Stop Shopping Choir. With the zeal and rhetoric of a street-corner preacher and the schmaltz of a street-corner Santa, the Reverend Billy (a.k.a. Bill Talen) performs on stages as well as in Disney stores, Starbucks coffee shops, and Main Streets across the country preaching a gospel of anti-consumerism. Talen has been compared to Fahrenheit 9/11’s Michael Moore in his commitment to using his talents to advance a social and political agenda: "Like Moore, Reverend Billy puts himself on the line, exposing corporate pomposity wherever he finds it," according to the San Francisco Independent Film Festival.
Talen is an actor/performance artist and a leading figure in the anti-globalization movement. His work combines the forces of social and political change with the means of theater arts to counteract media cul-ture. His artistic and political work is influenced by various concepts of "street theater." His disruptions or "shopping interventions" in public spaces are in the tradition of the Living Theater, José Bové, Lenny Bruce, and The Yippies. He made his first formal appearance at the Disney store in Times Square in 1998 and was driven away in a police cruiser, his wrists still cuffed to a large statue of Mickey Mouse.
His staged performances take the form of religious revivals with the Reverend preaching about how we’ve lost the connection between the shirt on our back or the food we consume and the people that created them. His 40-person Stop Shopping Choir chimes in with “hymns” and “Shop-a-lujahs” throughout his sermons. He says we show little resistance to the media messages that encourage round-the-clock con-sumption and that the meaning of individual existence has vanished in a fog of wanting, buying, and own-ing too many things. Child labor, environmental damage, and evidence of union-busting by big retail chains provide plenty of material for his “pulpit.”
Raised by what he calls "strict Dutch Calvinists" in Rochester, Minnesota, Reverend Billy made his way to New York in the early 1990's. He had his epiphany in 1999, when protesters disrupted the World Trade Organization meetings in Seattle and he discovered drama’s potential to send a political message. Talen, even before he developed the character of Reverend Billy, says he admired the cadence and the poetry of good fire and brimstone.
Talen may be best known for his Starbucks interventions which sometimes involve at least a dozen actors dressed as upwardly mobile careerists. They enter the Starbucks in ones and twos, each carrying a brief-case, gym bag, or large purse. No one makes a purchase but rather they take places in the shop until at least one person is seated at every table, and others are standing by the various counters – every flat sur-face has a nearby interventionist. The “action manager” makes a signal and the participants open their bags taking out empty paper Starbucks cups retrieved from the trash. They do this slowly, without ex-pression, and soon the tables are crowded with Starbucks cups, and there is no more room for anything else. The actors become still, sitting in their forest of upright trash, every item sporting the Starbucks logo. According to Reverend Billy, “At this moment the Starbucks becomes its objective self, a box-like room with dozens of graphic decisions from café society history, with world music turned muzak, and — it is a shop that creates tons and tons of trash. All the interventionists sit in this place and observe it.”
Tickets for Reverend Billy & the Stop Shopping Choir are $13 in advance or $16 the day of the show. MASS MoCA members receive a 10% discount. Tickets are available through the MASS MoCA Box Office located off Marshall Street in North Adams from 10 – 6 every day. Tickets can also be charged by phone by calling 413.662.2111 during Box Office hours or purchased on line any time at www.massmoca.org. Lickety Split will be open at prior to the show for dinner and drinks.
MASS MoCA, the largest center for contemporary visual and performing arts in the United States, is located off Marshall St. in North Adams on a 13-acre campus of renovated 19th-century factory buildings.
For Immediate Release