It’s the polar bear in the room!
The creators of a surreal new play about the working people of Bushwick were hoping to avoid discussing gentrification, but found that topic on everyone’s lips. “Bamboo in Bushwick,” which starts performances on April 13, may feature polar bears in a few fantasy sequences, but the real threat is rich people moving in, the show’s writer discovered.
“No matter whom we would talk to, the gentrification was always there, in the middle of the conversation, the one thing on everyone’s mind, the one concern everyone shared, from the hip film festival director to the hot dog street vendor,” said Ed Cardona, Jr. “We soon realized if we wanted to talk about this particular community, then the gentrification had to be the subject.”
Cardona and director Ana Margineanu began crafting their piece by approaching everyday Bushwickians to ask about their lives.
“Getting to know people on the streets or in the park and learning their stories was a unique and deeply moving experience,” said Margineanu. “We were met with a lot of kindness, and we hope our show has something to give back to this community.”
They cast as wide a net as possible in order to build a picture of the neighborhood, said Cardona.
“We spoke to teens hanging out in Maria Hernandez Park at one end and a group of homeless men and women at the other end, food vendors on Knickerbocker Avenue, artist and musicians outside Tortilleria Mexicana Los Hermanos, muralists and street artists,” said Cardona.
The resulting show follows a group of locals who play a weekly game of dominoes and react to the neighborhood’s changes. The play also spotlights the neighborhood’s iconic graffiti and murals, bringing the oversized artwork to life in what Cardona refers to as “mural-verse.”
“In our play, the murals become the crude, raw, psychedelic take on gentrification,” explained Margineanu, with scenes set in an icy tundra inhabited by giant bears.
The show will launch in Bushwick, and the creators hope their piece will speak to neighborhood residents old and new.
“I hope the people will see this show for what it is — a tribute to them and to their life,” said Margineanu.
“Bamboo in Bushwick” at Ridgewood Bushwick Youth Center (1474 Gates Ave. between Knickerbocker and Irving avenues in Bushwick, www.thewo