The Meaning of Meat

This weekend we open our new musical in the streets – THE GREAT STRUGGLE FOR CHEAP MEAT – another Lower East Side story told with original music.  This time we’re telling the passionate, comic, heartfelt saga of the 1902 Kosher Meat Boycott.

Passionate because the Jewish housewives that led it were in earnest – and they ventured beyond the roles assigned to them as women.  Comic because at the same time that it was high-minded it was very earthy.  (Think food fights in the streets.)

And heartfelt because, though its not as easy to feel worked up about being deprived of eating meat these days – for immigrants new to America, the abundance of food, and especially the affordability of meat which could suddenly be enjoyed a few times a week on the family table – was a key sign that in coming to America they had actually improved their lives.

With so many struggles still ahead, Jewish families had one proof right there on the table that life had taken a step up — and to see that slipping away as the price of meat went up galvanized mothers and wives into taking on a fight they’d never tried before.

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No respect for law

“Your honor, I stood between two ladies… one had bought her man some meat.. so I gave her cover but the other hit me full upon the cheek… with a slab of liver!  Liver!  No respect for law!!!”

– police officer, in “The Great Struggle for Cheap Meat”
(all based on true events from the 1902 Kosher Meat Boycott.)

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New Season!

In 2012/13, Downtown Art will produce two original works: ‘The Snow Queen’ and ‘The Meat Rebellion.’ (These are working titles for the projects and may be updated.) In addition, Downtown Art will present staged readings of plays developed by The Writers Project.

Note – First round of auditions for actors ages 12-19 is Sept. 14 at 4:30pm.  Go to for more info.

THE SNOW QUEEN is inspired by the fairytale by Hans Christian Andersen, and follows the journey of a young girl as she sets out across the northern wastelands to rescue her adopted brother from the fortress of the Snow Queen. It’s a quest of magic, adventure, and courage. Written and directed by Ryan Gilliam, original music by Alice Quinn Makwaia.

THE MEAT REBELLION is an original musical comedy based on the 1902 Kosher Meat Strike led by housewives from the Lower East Side. Outraged by the sudden increase in the price of meat, women organized and took to the streets in ways that made jaws drop. A mini revolution of song and dance, with rock music and costumes inspired by the 1970’s (which saw its own female revolt) ‘The Meat Rebellion’ will be performed on the streets of the East Village/Lower East Side. Music by Michael Hickey, written and directed by Ryan Gilliam.

A group of young writers will each develop an original play or musical over the course of the season, to be presented in a staged reading in May or June. Writers will meet Mondays 4-6pm twice a month in the fall and winter; beginning late Feb., writers will meet weekly on Mondays.

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Stage Combat Workshop at DTA, starting July 16

Jose Perez IV

Jose Perez IV - who will be leading DTA's Stage Combat Workshop in July



Here’s a photo of Jose, our stage combat workshop leader – performing in one of his recent works.  Gives you a nice sense of how much fun this workshop’s gonna be!  Check out the details on our ‘Workshops and Classes’ page.

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the warrior inside – intro to stage combat

When I was 18, I got introduced to ‘stage combat’ through my theater training program at NYU.  It was the most fun I’d ever had.  Suddenly, I was no longer a 5’3″ small female person but a force to be reckoned with.  Without hurting anyone, my classmates and I could punch, kick, strangle, and fight each other to the last gasp through the power of illusion and skill.  I’d found a safe outlet for the warrior in my heart.

Seeing my bliss, my teacher B.H. Barry staged some sequences in which I got to ‘beat up’ guys twice my size, single handedly defeating a full posse out to get me.  It was something I never forgot.

Jose Perez IV is a recent graduate from NYU himself – and a brilliant young fight director.  He’s gathered a entire crew of actors around him and they are making some beautiful, fierce theater together.  I’m so happy that Jose is here to spend a week sharing his skills and love of fight choreography with teens at Downtown Art.

Pass the word – this is a unique opportunity – and a total blast as well.  For more info on the workshop starting July 16, go to our WORKSHOPS page.

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“Why see work by a teen playwright?” – FAQ

I’m afraid this will be like a school exercise.
It won’t.  Downtown Art is a theater known for our inventive imagination, our creativity.  There’s nothing dull or institutional about us or our young writers.

How can it be good when they’re just beginning?  
Depends on how you define ‘good.’  ‘Good’ doesn’t only mean practiced — good can mean original, insightful, and having an outsider (ie non-adult) viewpoint on life that can be delightfully surprising.

What are the chances I’ll actually be entertained?
Adult audiences are often caught completely off guard by how much pleasure they have at our readings.  The one consistent element has always been how incredibly entertaining our young writers are.

Is this set of readings funny?
Yes.  And more than funny.

I’m not a parent.  Will this have any meaning for me?
All of us were once young.  And you might remember how much you had to say to the adult world and how often you were dismissed.  Being interested in what young people have to say is a way of looking through different eyes at the culture we all share.

I am a parent.  But these aren’t my kids.  Will this have any meaning for me?
Yes.  Maybe even more.  See above.

Isn’t going out a lot of work?
Maybe.  But how much Netflix do you want to watch?

Where is it again?
Downtown Art.  61 East 4th Street between Second Ave and Bowery.  NYC.

7:30 this Friday 6/8 and Saturday 6/9.  Two staged readings of original plays by India Kotis and Alyssa Burgos.  $5 Students/$10 Adults.  For a reservation, email with your request.

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My testimony to the City Council on ‘naturally occurring cultural districts’

As part of the ‘Naturally Occurring Cultural Districts’ Working Group, I gave testimony last week on how FABnyc has made a difference in our own community.  It was a nice opportunity to speak personally to the council (many of my colleagues had to do the facts and figures speech) and one of the small rewards was having Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, who Chairs the Cultural Committee, say to me at the closing ‘That was beautiful.’   : ).  FABnyc posted it on their blog – East Village Arts.

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