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Old/New complimentary ISSUE 28

Dropping In

Scene Change

The Ascent

Educator Stacey Watson on the oldest trick in the book.

The surprises, lessons and benefits of taking the Road Less Traveled.

Henry Gansevoort learns the value of a hard day’s work.

BCM 28

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TABLE OF CONTENTS TABLE OF CONTENTS

Issue Issue 28 28 OLD/NEW OLD/NEW 12 Contributors Issue Contributors 12 Issue 15 from Letterthe from the Editor 15 Letter Editor The Conversationalists 18 The18Conversationalists by Ben Siegel InterviewInterview by Ben Siegel Nation’s Watson. Drop-InDrop-In Nation’s StaceyStacey Watson. The Hyperglobal 22 The22Hyperglobal VoiceVoice by Margaret InterviewInterview by Margaret Finan Finan Austrailia’s Magazine. Austrailia’s CollectCollect Magazine. 24 Selling Learning for Free 24 Selling Learning for Free Column Kevin Purdy Column by KevinbyPurdy The nature new ideas. The nature of newofideas. 26 Coveted 26 Coveted time the old-fashioned KeepingKeeping time the old-fashioned way.way. 30

30 Humble Pie Co. Humble Pie Co. Lauren Newkirk Maynard By LaurenByNewkirk Maynard An age-old in Britain, a brand An age-old reciperecipe in Britain, a brand new one in South Buffalo. The English new one in South Buffalo. The English Pie Company the cake. Pork PiePork Company takes takes the cake.

38

38 Entertaining Mr. Behrend Entertaining Mr. Behrend By Ben Siegel By Ben Siegel the people, the people, TheaterTheater for thefor people, of theofpeople, and people. by the people. look at Road and by the A lookA at Road Less Traveled Productions. Less Traveled Productions.

48 Henry Gansevoort, The Mole 48 Henry Gansevoort, The Mole Short Scott Mancuso Short fiction byfiction Scott by Mancuso the mountain’s SeekingSeeking the mountain’s otherother side.side. 53 Encounters Brief Encounters 53 Brief Short by Margaret Short fiction byfiction Margaret Finan Finan A napkin. A napkin.

TYPEFACES FEATURED THIS ISSUE TYPEFACES FEATURED IN THISINISSUE Banknote Playtype, Copenhagen, Banknote Playtype, Copenhagen, DK DK Sans Fontfabric Type Foundry, SolomonSolomon Sans Fontfabric Type Foundry, Sofia,Sofia, BG BG Premier Pro Adobe San Diego, GaramondGaramond Premier Pro Adobe Fonts,Fonts, San Diego, CA CA Neue Dharma Type, Nagoya, Bebas Neue Bebas Dharma Type, Nagoya, JPN JPN Abraham Lincoln Frances MacLeod, Chicago, Abraham Lincoln Frances MacLeod, Chicago, IL IL

CONNECT CONNECT SUBSCRIPTIONS SUBSCRIPTIONS blockclubonline.com/subscribe blockclubonline.com/subscribe PASTISSUES ISSUES PAST blockclubonline.com/issues blockclubonline.com/issues DESIGN&&MARKETING MARKETING SERVICES DESIGN SERVICES blockclubcreative.com blockclubcreative.com DESIGN&&OFFICE OFFICE BLOG DESIGN BLOG clubhaus.tumblr.com clubhaus.tumblr.com FACEBOOK FACEBOOK facebook.com/blockclub facebook.com/blockclub TWITTER TWITTER twitter.com/blockclub twitter.com/blockclub #BCM28 #BCM28 VIMEO VIMEO vimeo.com/blockclub vimeo.com/blockclub INQUIRIES,QUESTIONS, QUESTIONS, COMMENTS? INQUIRIES, COMMENTS? ADVERTISING & DISTRIBUTION ADVERTISING DISTRIBUTION advertising@blockclubonline.com advertising@blockclubonline.com EDITORIAL&& CONTENT CONTENT EDITORIAL ben@blockclubonline.com ben@blockclubonline.com DESIGN&&PHOTOGRAPHY PHOTOGRAPHY DESIGN brandon@blockclubonline.com brandon@blockclubonline.com WEWANT WANTBETTER. BETTER. WE BlockClub Club was was founded NYNY Block foundedininBuffalo, Buffalo, 2007. We We are aa design, inin2007. design,marketing marketing and publishing publishing studio and studio with witha ahyperlohyperlocalfocus. focus. We We tell stories better cal storiesabout abouta a better WNYininBlock Block Club Club Magazine. offer WNY Magazine.We We offer creativedesign design and creative andmarketing marketingsolutions solutions withBlock BlockClub Club Creative. locals with Creative.We Wehelp help locals savemoney money with with City WeWe save CityDining DiningCards. Cards. allofofthis this because because we wewe dodoall welove lovewhere where live,and andwe we love love our We dodo live, ourcommunity. community. We thisbecause because we we want this wantbetter. better. ®-cert®-certThismagazine magazine is printed This printedon onFSC FSC ifiedpost-consumer post-consumer and ified andpost-industrial post-industrial recycledpaper. paper. Production brand recycled Productionofofthis this brand paperconsumes consumes five water ofofpaper fivetimes timesless less water thanthe the industry industry average, airair than average,reduces reduces emissions, frees frees up and emissions, up landfill landfillspace, space, and savesthe theworld’s world’s mature saves maturetrees. trees.

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ISSUE CONTRIBUTORS

Margaret Finan pgs. 22, 53 Margaret is a student, writer, and editor of Block Club’s design and creative blog, Clubhaus. She imagines writing a short series based entirely on the premise of Shania Twain visiting an ape preserve (“So you’re Brad Pitt? That don’t impress me much.”). She has a dog and a vitamin D deficiency. Scott Mancuso pg. 48 Scott was born in the 1980s in a sea of Legos, video games, and movies in which children consistently engaged in unreasonably fantastic adventures. He went to Robert Morris Elementary. Among other things, he writes.

BLOCK CLUB MAGAZINE EDITORIAL STAFF

PUBLISHER PATRICK FINAN patrick@blockclubonline.com

EDITOR BEN SIEGEL ben@blockclubonline.com

CREATIVE DIRECTOR BRANDON DAVIS brandon@blockclubonline.com

Lauren Newkirk Maynard pg. 30 Lauren has written about what’s good to eat for a variety of publications, including Artvoice, Buffalo Spree, Edible Buffalo and GO: AirTran Inflight Magazine. She is more than slightly addicted to cheese, bacon, anything with capsaicin— and now, pot pies.

PHOTOGRAPHER STEVE SOROKA steve@blockclubonline.com

DESIGNER JULIE MOLLOY julie@blockclubonline.com

DESIGNER TIM STASZAK

Kevin Purdy

pg. 24 Kevin is a freelance writer for publications including Lifehacker, Fast Company, and Buffalo Spree, and has written books about Android and Google+. He is the organizer of TEDxBuffalo, co-founder of CoworkBuffalo, and co-host of the In Pod Form podcast. 12 BCM 28

tim@blockclubonline.com

EDITORIAL ASSISTANT PATRICK SIMONS patricksimons@blockclubonline.com

COPY EDITOR SCOTT MANCUSO


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LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

Old/New It’s not a competition. Your old manufacturing plant is not better than my new highrise. And our new coffee shops are not better than their old speakeasies. These old ideas don’t make sense anymore, and those new politicians are just like the others. That’s how the conversation always goes: Old is nicer because it’s been around longer. It has a track record. We know what it does and what it’s good for. It’s secure. And new is superior because it’s shinier. It’s fresh and polished. It’s like nothing we’ve ever seen before. It’s what everyone’s talking about. It’s the weakest argument you can make: it is because it is. Our criteria for judging development, things like real estate, job growth, and our cultural identity, are far too superficial, far too often. They’re cosmetic. We obsess over catching up, with comparing, with nitpicking someone else’s strategy, when in reality it’s their willingness to take risk that gets our goat. Safety net or not, no one ever said change wasn’t hard, or scary. They just never told you how amazing it was.

So how do we reconcile this? How do we compare the merits of the old with the hope of the new? We don’t. We let innate value stand on its own. If it’s worth saving, then we save it. And we save it big, with room to succeed independent of its memories. And if it’s worth building, then we build it right. We build it so well that some day, after we’re long gone, it will still have value. We can be old and new at the same time, in the same city, without settling for either. It’s always been about attitude. Your report card always ranked effort alongside skill. Your paycheck will always be worth what you contribute, not just what you do. There’s no way around it: We want better, whatever it takes. And damn it, we’re going to get it.

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FRIEZEFRAMES

FACE A FACE

MYKITA

LINDBERG

BRUNO CHAUSSIGNAND

PAUL SMITH

OLIVER PEOPLES

LUNOR


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THE CONVERSATIONALISTS

A REAL-LIFE GAME

CHANGER TEACHING BUFFALO’S YOUTH, ONE DROP-OUT AT A TIME. A CONVERSATION WITH STACEY WATSON.

S

Interview by BEN SIEGEL

tacey Watson co-founded Drop-In Nation for Buffalo’s lost children. Dropouts, she says, whom the adults in their lives have abandoned. Practically all of them are poor. Some don’t have food to eat, beds to sleep in. That’s where Watson and her faculty step in, with hearts, arms and ears open. BCM Tell me about the model for Drop-In Nation.

STACEY Drop-In Nation was built around the fact that there is a large percentage of youth that aren’t graduating. In the City of Buffalo, there is a 50 to 75 percent dropout rate, and that’s unacceptable. We serve the needs of those youth who, through state funding, have really no other resources, other than incarceration, in order to graduate.

There are other not-for-profits that do this, however most of them are built out of an adult education model [that] isn’t really designed for 16- to 24-year-olds, who are still very young and need a lot of guidance. BCM How is your curriculum different? STACEY We’re dealing with the emotional intelligence of our youth, and then focusing on the fractions, or the algebra, or the geometry, or the trigonometry, or the things that we commonly think of as education. Because what we’ve learned is that education is not just those testable skills. Education is being a well-rounded human being who understands yourself and how you fit in the world.

of developing human beings. So that’s where we differ. We don’t have that pressure. Yes, they have to pass the GED, but to me that’s just their first step in hopefully a long line of learning steps. BCM What do you want for your students? STACEY I want them to be comfortable in their community and comfortable in the world, and free to express themselves in healthy ways, and to understand why, maybe in the past, whether it be a significant separation of understanding between classes, whether it be a very race-based oppression, I want my kids to surpass all of that, and Drop-In Nation sees that our youth can surpass all of that. Their resilience makes them incredible leaders once they get through all of these, sort of, areas of life that need to get dealt with in a healthy way. BCM Is there a common thread among all of your kids? STACEY A hundred percent of my students are living in poverty. Below the poverty line. In urban areas, you find that students of color, whether they are Hispanic students, or African-American students, or Native American students, are struggling in the traditional education setting. Our student population is extremely diverse, and the only common theme, absolute common theme, is poverty amongst our students. And I’m talking poverty like, can’teat poverty, many times. Clothing is an issue, many times. Transportation. I mean, really basic needs.

BCM And there’s no time for that in the classroom? STACEY Schools [say they] don’t have time to deal with that, but they do have time. I don’t believe that schools don’t have time for that. However, the pressure to perform on standardized testing has overwhelmed the importance 18 BCM 28

Stacey Watson outlined the Drop-In Nation philosophy and curriculum in her TEDxBuffalo speech, given last October at Canisius College. Watch her presentation at tinyurl.com/bcm28watson.


photo by STEVE SOROK A

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BCM What role do parents play? STACEY Generally, education in the family is a high priority. Every family wants [their children] to graduate. Every family wants that; that’s a nice ideal to hold. However in real life, you have to pay the bills, and you have to eat, and you have to keep a roof over your head. Often times my kids are coming from situations where that’s not able to happen, for whatever reason.

There’s not just bad parents. There’s a lot of really good parents that are working really hard. BCM How else can we define this hurt? STACEY Hurt means adults have left them, in whatever way.

And whether that be on the parental side, or the educational side, or on the emotional side; adults on the whole have left them to deal with growing up on their own. And what they see on the street. I have young people who have seen someone get shot when they were nine years old, and then that never gets dealt with in a mental health setting. When a soldier experiences that, it’s [called] Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. When one of our kids experiences that, then they just become “behaviorally challenged” and “special needs” and nobody wants to deal with them. That sort of hurt. These are children. Our children. They will come in and tell me they’re not intelligent. It’s not the truth at all. They are so intelligent. They are more intelligent than most adults I know. And they can look at somebody in the eye and know in a second if they’re for real. BCM How is the education system a culprit in this failure? STACEY In urban areas, practically nobody’s graduating. If you look at suburban areas, people are graduating at mass rates. And a lot of people will say that’s the cost-per-student breakdown, that suburban areas have more money. That’s not it at all. It’s that our education system wasn’t created for everybody. Our education system was not created for women even, it was not created for people of color, for people who are outside the dominant ideology of 300 years ago. Not the dominant ideology of today. And it has not evolved as we have evolved. BCM Where do the teachers rank in all of this? STACEY Teachers, as a whole, go into teaching because they love kids. Really. Somewhere along the line I think teachers get their ass beat by the system. Their expertise is devalued. 20 BCM 28

I look at what happens to teachers as the same thing that happens to youth. They are devalued, and so therefore they emotionally drop out. The teachers and the students are way more aligned than they think they are. Teachers are the last people that are accessed for knowledge, that are given the opportunity to define what happens with education. It’s a horrific situation, because they are the experts, and they go to work every day, and have all of these kids around them, and they do want to do a good job and they’re doing it without the tools and support they need. They don’t have the freedom. I think educators should be in charge of education. Bottom line. I think that educators should be the ones making legislation around education. BCM How does your holistic approach line up with the way students learn? STACEY I started to look at the cultures of people who aren’t successful in the traditional education system. And the kids that drop out as a result of bullying, or the kids who drop out because they don’t feel like anybody understands them. And I started to look at who it is that’s dropping out, and a lot of times it’s students of color, girls with low self-esteem, gay students, poor students, students that aren’t fitting into whatever the understood religion of their school culture is.

And then I started to look at storytelling, and the idea that almost every culture has a tradition of oral storytelling. I looked at the Eurocentric, linear form of storytelling in our schools. It works in a very simple formula: it’s rising action, climax, dénouement, which is very A-B-C. That’s how we learn stories, that’s how we teach stories, that’s how we write stories. Our entire culture is based on this. [But] there are whole other cultures in the world that are not. Our school system is very linear: if we’re lucky we have pre-school, and then we have K-12, and then we have college, and grad school. These are all very defined areas, and you have to get from one to get to the other. It’s just a very straight line. [In] cultures of poverty, people weren’t writing things down, but in African-American cultures, stories were passed down; and in Native American storytelling [stories were passed down]. All of the cultures that are not successful in our linear school model are also cultures that were not historically brought through the Eurocentric model of storytelling; instead it was the oral tradition of storytelling, which is circular.


Adults used to give kids the answers. Now the game has changed.

BCM Is one better than the other? STACEY One’s not better than the other. However, life is not linear. I mean we might want it to be. We might want it so that we get married, have a baby, get a house, get a dog. But when there are no boots, and no food, and no roof over your head, that line goes completely out the window. BCM It reflects the reality of a survivor. STACEY In order to survive, we think in a circular fashion naturally. If you have to get food, it will not matter what you have to do. You will use circular reasoning, not linear. Not, ‘I’m going to go to the store, I’m going to buy my food, I’m going to go home, I’m going to cook it.’ You will get it however you need to get it. Survival is circular. So my kids are using circular reasoning to survive. BCM It’s meeting them where they are. STACEY Adults used to give kids the answers, and now we

expect kids to give kids the answers, and then when they get things wrong, or when they don’t respect authority, or when they don’t understand that there’s a rite of passage to everything, then we question why that is. We say, ‘Why is that child so disrespectful?’ Well because we never taught them to respect. So now the game has changed. BCM I think to many, this will sound like a revolution, a whole new approach to education. Do you see it that way? STACEY I say it’s the oldest way of thinking. We’ve forgotten that our core of what we’re doing is raising a village. We’re not teaching robots. Our kids are not computers. We’re teaching people. It’s the oldest way of existing: teaching another human being. Leading another human being. Being a guide and a mentor. It’s the oldest way.

So I guess I’m using “new, innovative ways” to reach what other people refer to as the high-risk population, when really all I’m doing is providing a framework of love.

STACEY There’s no bullshit here about what they’re facing. However, I cannot cripple them by allowing them to wallow in self-pity. I can love them through it. I can give them the skills that they need to build self-esteem. I can encourage them and support them, but what we want most is for them to recognize that obstacles never stop. There’s not this wonderland of easy life that suddenly hits us, no matter how successful we are.

I want them to know that they always have an adult that knows their name. I want them to know that the obstacles are what are going to make them successful, not break them. That they’ll never be given more than they can handle. That they have been charged with a difficult life for a reason, and that now they have the responsibility to pay it forward. BCM Where do gangs fit into their story? STACEY This is something I feel very strongly about. I do not try to talk kids out of gangs. It’s not a fight I’m going to win. Because the second I say that, one of the things we have to understand is we’re telling them their family doesn’t matter. For many of my kids—and this sounds trite and clichéd—their gang is their family. So what are you doing to improve the lives of the people in your family? I cannot tell you how many of my young men have brought in a younger member of their gang and said, ‘You have to graduate.’ BCM How do you resist setting them free from that life? STACEY I can’t break down that structure. Nor do I know for certain that it’s always negative. Because what I do know for certain is that I have kids that, at nine years old, would have been left absolutely alone to starve to death had there not been a gang. And if I disrespect that, then I’ve immediately lost credibility. There are ways to evolve out of the lifestyle, but I have no right to disrespect sometimes the only people that have loved them along the way. And that’s a hard thing to come to. Because of course all you want to do is wrap your arms around them and say, ‘No I just want to help you make life perfect,’ but that’s not real. It’s not real. BCM That feeling must not go away. STACEY For me to think that I have the answer to the future for all of them is unrealistic and unfair. They have the answers in them. There is no voice for our youth. No cohesive voice. And I don’t know what, other than their love, has made me decide that I can’t stop talking about them. But I can’t.

BCM They won’t always be in your nest here. BCM 28 21


CASE STUDY

Adelaide’s hyperglobal voice

C

Interview by MARGARET FINAN

ollect Magazine champions things done well. Based in Adelaide, South Australia, the magazine explores the idea of neighborhoods, both geographical and ideological, celebrating “what humans do and how they do it.” With an emphasis on community, Collect focuses on big issues in the small scale, speaking about ideas that extend far beyond Adelaide’s city limits and Australia’s borders. The company previously published Merge, a magazine that spoke to the city’s youth about social and political topics. It covered topics in art, music, fashion, creative writing and local creative culture. Collect picks up where Merge left off, speaking about the people who make these ideas worthwhile—the ways that we connect and collect our lives. We recently spoke with Collect editors Josh Fanning and Farrin Foster about their magazine’s place in the Australian media, their competition, and what it means to make a print magazine in 2012. 22 BCM 28

NAME

Collect Magazine

LOCATION

Adelaide, Australia

DEBUT

December 2010

IN CHARGE

Josh Fanning, Editor Adam Johnson, Creative Director Farrin Foster, Sub-Editor

REACH

5,000 print circulation, bi-monthly

WEBSITE

collectmag.com.au

MISSION “Collect is a magazine about taking pride in what we do. It shines a spotlight on things done well and explores ways that we might be able to do things better. We believe the future is small. Worldwide, hyperlocal is gaining importance. Small cities—and the small cities within cities—are re-emphasizing the importance of community. People are returning to the corner store—and that’s where you’ll find us.”


illustration by TIM STASZAK

Why does Collect resonate with you? JOSH The reason for [Collect] as I see it, from an editorial

point of view, is to ensure our readers get information about the good things that are happening on a very small scale. The entire team at Collect feels very passionately about our local world and celebrating the people in our day-to-day who make life worth living. A good coffee is more than a drink—it’s a five minute conversation, a check-up, an affirmation that you are alive, that someone knows your name and cares about the way you take your drink.

one-horse town, with News Limited (the Australian branch of News International) dominating the landscape. There’s a couple of other smaller companies: one does an online newspaper and the other does free press, and we also have a fantastic book publishing firm called Wakefield Press here. But really, Adelaide’s media landscape is pretty one dimensional, and remains so. How did you arrive at your name, “Collect?” FARRIN We had a previous magazine called Merge. We

didn’t like the way it made your face ‘frown’ when you sounded it out. “Collect” on the other hand is rather upbeat and perfectly describes who we are and what we do ple aren’t actually disconnected. We have always had com- as journalists. Something worth collecting is usually a lot mon interests and feelings as humans, and we can still see more interesting than something that’s disposable and even those shining through even when we’re all attempting to be the most ordinary of objects and people become incredibly friends through the internet and other strange devices like interesting if you ask the right questions. We simply hate that. We started the magazine because we knew about lots ‘disposable’ culture and believe wholeheartedly that it’s betof individuals and things we thought were amazing, and we ter to pay more for something that’s built to last. assumed others would be interested in them too. Seems a lot of people are interested, so I think we all have a lot in You are based in Adelaide, but speak about ideas common, which is a relief. that resonate with everybody. Is there challenge

Why the disconnect between people today? FARRIN I think Collect is relevant precisely because peo-

What interests you as a reader and consumer? JOSH [I’m motivated] by the editorial direction of main-

stream news sources. They protect and affirm the status quo—the interests of their advertisers and the upper echelons of society. Big papers and big magazines don’t support community because community doesn’t advertise [in that media]. What we do at Collect is constantly put the focus on tangible world-changers—the people who activate and make a city useful: the shop front. Describe your competition. FARRIN I don’t know if we have any competition. There’s

lots of magazines out there which we think are amazing, and that do great things, but I don’t know if they’re our competition because hopefully there’s always room for more great magazines in the world. We’re inspired by some of the best magazines like Monocle, Apartamento, GOOD, Utne Reader, and indirectly by publications like Diner Journal, and even the excellent kids’ magazine Anorak. What did the publishing market in Adelaide look like before Collect? What does it look like now? FARRIN Adelaide’s publishing market has always been

in balancing your audiences? FARRIN The audiences are the same. People in Adelaide

are as happy to read about something interesting happening in Stockholm as they are to read about something interesting happening in their own backyard. Equally, just because your audience is in Buffalo, hopefully they’re happy to hear about what we’re doing from Adelaide because the philosophy makes sense to them. Our audience is a niche audience, but they’re a very curious and engaged bunch who are seeking out good people, good business and good ideas from all around the world. So, we can speak to a reader in Adelaide and a reader in Portugal, and the story will make the same amount of sense to both people. What have you learned from your magazine? JOSH I’ve learnt that the entire world is yearning for a

good neighbour. Not in a clichéd sense, but in the real, oldfashioned way our grandparents used to have it. We started Collect as an international magazine for our hometown audience. What we’ve become is an internationally distributed magazine based in two separate neighbourhoods of a small city, reporting on neighbourhoods all over the world. In this D-I-Y era, people are making their future right now, and that’s incredibly exciting.

very small. In terms of media owners we’re pretty much a BCM 28 23


VIEWS

Selling learning for free TALKING NEW AT TEDxBUFFALO. by KEVIN PURDY

T

he biggest uncertainty about the first ever TEDxBuffalo event wasn’t about venue, video quality, or how we’d feed a room full of people on schedule. It wasn’t about holding a first-time event nobody had ever heard of, either. It wasn’t even about making sure the speakers knew where to point the slideshow clicker. The biggest uncertainty was whether anybody would actually get anything from a speaking event where there wasn’t one definitive topic, or even one certain field, but nearly a dozen disparate ideas brought to the stage under a very loose theme of “No Permission Necessary.” It terrified me. I had waking nightmares about being branded as The Most Unrealistic Man in Buffalo, which is truly an achievement in these parts. Allow me to explain, briefly, how I, and a team of equally nervous organizers, crew and volunteers, arrived at such a moment at 8:59 a.m. on Oct. 11, 2011. TED is a series of conferences that happen around the world. Influential and inspirational people are invited to attend, and even more influential and inspirational people are invited to speak. Each TED Talk lasts a maximum of 18 minutes. They provide what TED has coined “Ideas Worth Spreading.” Bill Gates released mosquitoes into the crowd during his talk to illustrate a point about mosquitoes, malaria, and tackling big problems. Malcolm Gladwell stops by every few TEDs to drop some new surprising idea that changes everything you think about something you only think about at bookstores. Al Gore, the Google founders, and folks with gigantic CVs share drinks and trenchant insights at TED conferences. TEDxBuffalo is licensed by TED and is carried out on a much smaller and more D-I-Y scale. It’s kind of a farm team 24 BCM 28

for TED, playing the sport of ideas. We give around a dozen of our region’s most innovative thinkers and doers 18 minutes on the beautiful Montante Center stage at Canisius College, train a camera on them, and send their video to TED headquarters. Even if TED doesn’t pick up their talk for its uber-popular global channel, our speakers get an HD YouTube video they can point at and say, “That’s what I care about. That’s my idea.” But how do you sell an event of revolutionary ideas to speakers who aren’t getting paid, and an audience that has to take the day off from work? How do you pitch an entire day of non-professional learning to sponsors, your volunteers, and the media? I took comfort in knowing that this question was asked more than 100 years ago, about 80 miles south of here, by a group of similarly interested and engaged citizens. The Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle was launched in 1878 as a four-year correspondence course to small-town teachers and others who wanted a college education but could not leave their towns for a full undergraduate study. There was a wider implication, however. Americans in the Industrial Age, especially those working at more regulated jobs with improving conditions, were starting to experience “free time,” or “leisure time.” There wasn’t a whole lot of it, but enough of it that the CLSC founders were concerned that drinking, gambling, and associated activities would eat up the time that wasn’t absolutely necessary to the people’s survival. Chautauqua grew at a remarkable rate, picking up traveling roadshow versions and eventually becoming the lakeside embodiment of higher-minded recreation that it is today. The Chautauqua Institution today educates more than 8,000 students in their summer courses in the arts and culture. It attracts the world’s cultural and political thoughtleaders, people who walk the walk before they talk the talk. This is the kind of forward-thinking atmosphere that inspires the TED brand, and that TEDxBuffalo was able to pull off for one day: create an intimate one-shot Chautauqua in a theater (and live-streaming on the web, and shown at remote viewing sites), and start talking. I don’t think we could have sold any audience member on a daylong conference about “Saving Buffalo” or “New Ideas in Eco-Conscious Living”; at the least, I wouldn’t have been able to sell any volunteers on it. I think people are far more willing to learn when they know that somebody who’s passionate about something is going to talk just enough about one particular aspect of that thing. It means someone has done the heavy lifting, and respects them enough to assume


illustration by TIM STASZAK

There are ideas in Buffalo we can’t bring ourselves to engage in. that if they want more, they can find it, rather than hold them captive and lecture them about it for an hour. Our first five talk topics were, in order: beer as a booster of metropolitan culture; researching and recognizing Buffalo’s unknown African-American leaders and heroes; hacking open data projects, escaping the machinery of modern dairy farming; and the science of converting waste plastic to fuel-ready oil. To me, it sounded like such an amazingly cool lineup, an opportunity to eavesdrop on what our neighbors, colleagues, and business owners are working on, to expand one’s interests in their local and at-large communities. It was not a small day to put together. We somehow roped the speakers into donating their valuable time. The audience invitations came back slowly at first, but our space was eventually more than filled. The TEDxBuffalo team pored hour after hour into every detail and email and panic attack we could think of, and then when the day came, we all woke up really early, got to work, and heard the fruits of everyone’s labor. (You can watch the day’s videos at youtube.com/tedxbuffalo). To me, the day felt a bit like when an energetic friend comes over on a Saturday for which you otherwise had no plans. That friend grabs every book you’ve bought or obtained as a gift but never even cracked open and demands you read just one chapter—maybe the introduction, maybe the most interesting part, maybe the glossy pages in the middle with the archival photos. After 15 minutes or so, they grab the next untouched book. No skimming Wiki-

pedia summaries, no complaining that you’ve already read a book very similar to this one. Just read, for 15 minutes, for the enjoyment of a new take on something. You might substitute the books for the more ambitious side of your Netflix queue, or the audiobooks you’ve never finished on the road. The point is, there are ideas and movements in Buffalo that we’ve heard about, acknowledged in a skim of headlines, half-noticed on community pin boards, but that we can’t bring ourselves to engage in beyond these glancing encounters. And it gets worse as you go on, really. The more things you’re interested in and line up for eventual consumption, the more intimidating it feels to try and pick one, just one, and give it time and an open mind. Most often, we don’t do this ourselves out of nagging doubts. What if an idea turns out not that appealing? What if it takes a while to find the people and projects you’re most passionate about? You’ll feel terrible, you tell yourself, wasting that exploratory time instead of improving your house, getting ahead at work, or cleaning out your godforsaken inbox. Judging from the audience surveys, the social media reactions, and the spontaneous mingling I was able to spy around the venue, I think we learned that you can actually sell learning on its own merits, as long as you deliver on it. Not film, not academia, not a conference with drink-ups and panels and bad coffee, but learning—intriguing ideas from passionate people.

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photos by STEVE SOROK A

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TUCKED AWAY

in

SOUTH BUFFALO

THE ENGLISH POR K PIE COMPA N Y IS M AK ING OLD-WOR LD COMFORT FOOD W ITH NEW-WOR LD A MBITIONS .

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D

amian Parker darts out from behind the long counter and rounds a corner, disappearing into the dark. His wife Vicky, sitting a few feet away at a small café table, bounces her son, 7-month-old Ethan, on her knee as he jams a fist into his grinning mouth. Moments later, Damian returns with his arms full of small, neat packages wrapped in white paper. They swap places as she takes a turn behind the counter to help a tall, eager woman with an English accent. Damian cradles Ethan, slight and blond, as he drops into a chair and says, “Okay, where were we,” his thick Yorkshire accent rushed as he catches his breath. Where, indeed? The small room we’re in is large enough for three or four tables, and also serves as the takeout counter for the English Pork Pie Company, the Parkers’ 37,000-square-foot factory on South Park Avenue, just south of the Buffalo River.

every few months, delivering pies in time for Christmas and Boxing Day. This weekend, it’s the eve of St. George’s Day, the ancient English feast holiday celebrated in late April by hungry Brits. The Parkers recently launched a “pie and mash” takeout lunch menu featuring their signature steak and ale pie (made with beer brewed by Vicky’s father), sausage rolls and egg custard tarts. After the customer leaves, Vicky returns to our table and takes Ethan from her husband. It dawns on me that it’s just the three of them here in this sprawling facility (their seven employees have the day off). Damian and Vicky have been up for hours, baking pies and taking care of their little boy. “He’s the toughest thing we’ve ever done,” Damian says proudly as Ethan cracks another smile. The Parkers are hard workers and smart businesspeople, and it shows. They moved to the United States four years ago to start EPPC, bringing trade secrets from the United Kingdom and producing some outrageously tasty pork, beef and chicken pot pies. They also sell English-style streaky

THE WOM AN PEERS INTO THE CASE, OOHING AND A AHHING, PLACES HER OR DER AND ASKS VICKI CHEER FULLY, “YOU HAVE THE PIE AND M ASH R EADY?” A chilly and decidedly English spring rain is falling outside, but in here the air is warm and filled with the rich scent of roasted meat and baked pastry dough. Today’s freshly baked savory pies includes chicken and mushroom (“quite popular back home,” says Vicky), sausage rolls, and handmade Cornish pasties—the classic turnover from Cornwall, England consisting of a chopped meat-andpotato filling inside a short-crust pastry shell. It’s 9:30 in the morning, and I’m suddenly starving. The “pie shop” opens at nine on Saturdays, and this current customer isn’t the first. The woman peers into the case, oohing and aahhing, places her order and asks Vicky cheerfully, “You have the pie and mash ready?” She nods at a stack of brown cardboard cartons by the cash register. “Oh, yeah, we’re heading out,” says Vicky, referring to the steak pies and mashed potatoes that she and Damian will pack up and drive out to Rochester later today to the Old Toad Pub, a favorite of British expats. They head there 32 BCM 28

bacon and make authentic pork sausages and pasties (pronounced PASS-tees). Landing in Vermont and armed only with a small hand pie press, they crossed their fingers and began making batches of pork pies in Vicky’s dad’s garage, renovated into a makeshift kitchen. They sold out faster than they could be made. Quickly outgrowing the garage, the Parkers headed to Western New York, following Vicky’s family again. They moved in and out of two increasingly larger facilities, in West Seneca and Cheektowaga, before landing in South Buffalo. The company has grown so fast that its photocopied menus still bear the previous address on Broadway. Those accomplishments in such a short period of time, along with the Parkers’ determination to stay true to quality and tradition as they grow, are impressive. But the real question is what drew a young, modern couple abroad to sell this Old World pub grub.


PHOTOS BY STEVE SOROK A BCM 28 33


WHY PIE? Despite the Parkers’ lack of culinary backgrounds, their decision to go into the pork pie business was relatively easy. The two met at the University of Bradford in West Yorkshire, where Damian grew up. They both have degrees in accounting and law—training that would come in handy later. Damian hunted game to make a little money and took his venison and grouse to local butchers. He eventually met Tony Woods, a butcher outside Leeds whom he considers to be one of England’s top piemakers. Damian was soon hooked on butchering and began learning how to make sausage, pie pastry and meat fillings— using methods dating back to the 18th century or earlier— from Woods’ wife and son. Meantime, Vicky worked as an accountant at Morrisons, a UK supermarket chain. At first the Parkers considered staying in England and opening a local “farm shop”—a cross between a farm stand, butchery, restaurant and bakery—but the market was already glutted. Both of them enjoyed food, and there was Damian’s pie obsession, so in the end it came down to making the decision of where, not what. “We took a long walk one day and talked about it, and that was about it,” he remembers. “Two weeks later, we quit our desk jobs.” Soon they were on the road, touring the UK to learn local techniques and recipes. “Butchering families traditionally are the ones who make and sell pies from the leftover bits,” Damian explains. They often kept their pie recipes under lock and key, but Damian’s butchering experience opened doors. The dry seasonings, types and cuts of meat, and pie pastry differ from village to village and are passed down through the generations. Like lasagna or matzo ball soup, no two pie recipes are alike. They are time-tested variations on a theme. The Cornish pasty, for example, has such a fiercely guarded provenance that in 2011 it was granted Protected Geographical Indication status by the European Commission, which dictates how and where regional food items are made (like Champagne from that region in France, a true Cornish pasty must be prepared, if not actually sourced, in Cornwall). The Melton Mowbray pork pie, a classic recipe offered by EPPC, has its own trade association in Leicestershire lobbying for the same distinction. Although Damian won’t disclose what exact seasonings he uses, he does import dry English mustard and herbs, and spent two years trying to find the right kind of UK-sourced, enriched wheat flour (they’ve since switched to a U.S. brand that works well). In addition to ingredients like “mushy” 34 BCM 28

peas, a popular chutney called Branston pickle and Stilton cheese, EPPC’s pork pies also contain “jelly,” a gelatin extracted from pig trotters that tells a Brit they’re the real deal.

PIE-ONEERS By the fall of 2007, the Parkers had nailed the recipes and built their business plan. With Vicky’s green card (days before the move, Damian was approved for a tricky business investor’s visa), the couple followed her parents across the pond to Vermont. “It was hard at first, because we had a tiny space and could only make a handful of pies a day,” Damian recalls. Since then, the Parkers have invested four exhausting years of working 16-hour days, six days a week. They commute from their apartment in East Aurora to the factory, where Damian does most of the cooking, recipe development and shipping while Vicky handles the customer service, sales, bookkeeping and purchasing. And like most startups, their finances are incredibly tight. After several Buffalo banks rejected them, they finally got a First Niagara Bank loan, but are still without a bank card or line of credit. They pay for everything in cash and reinvest every pie sale back into the business. All signs, however, point to a company on the verge. They hired their first employees midway through 2010, a banner year. EPPC was named “Best British Shop in America,” and later that summer was granted the same title for the entire world by The Telegraph’s annual readers’ contest for top expat outposts. Wholesale orders began rolling in, pushing the business out of the West Seneca bakery and into a 6,000 square-foot factory two miles away in Cheektowaga. Here on South Park, the pie pastry base is pressed into tinfoil trays, filled, capped and baked before being flashfrozen and shipped around the world. EPPC sells wholesale to British pie shops and pubs, to Publix supermarkets down south in the U.S., and online to everyone. Most of their American orders are shipped out of state to expat centers as far away as California and Florida, but some customers have driven in from Chicago, Ohio, and Canada. The Parkers estimate that the local British community is about 300 families. They get regular visits from employees at HSBC, Dunlop, Praxair and Cameron. As word has gotten out, local foodies and retail shops have dropped by, too. Premier Gourmet carries them, and they are talking to Buffalo Brew Pub and Gene McCarthy’s in the Old First Ward. “We want people to know us and see our pies in local pubs and restaurants,” Vicky says.


Requests have also come from Australia, for catered parties at American Airlines and Fox Studios, and their pies appeared at the opening of the Harry Potter ride at Universal Studios in Orlando. One couple even requested a threetiered wedding cake made entirely of pork pies. “One little old lady from Canada once ordered 100 pounds of bacon,” Damian says, smiling. “Customers go crazy. They say it’s the taste of home, that this is the real deal.”

AMERICAN PIE Authenticity is the secret behind the “humble pie,” as Damian calls it. Pot pies are a comforting taste of childhood for many, and delicious to boot. Its British roots go back to the 18th and 19th centuries, when Cornish factory workers headed to the tin mines in the mornings with a freshly baked sausage roll or pasty under their arms. Brits easily lapse into pie frenzies (“especially during Jubilee years,” Vicky laughs), but the Parkers hope that these from-scratch recipes will catch on in the States as well. “We’re trying to bring the boring, American pot pie out of the drab 1970s, to modernize it and make it new,” Damian explains, stressing that theirs are a world apart from the generic peas-and-chicken pies made by Banquet or Marie Callender’s. “We want to be a Ben and Jerry’s, a national company making a singular product the right way.” Damian never stops tinkering with his recipes, the product sourcing and the latest marketing concepts. In fact, his obsession with flavors has turned into a new product line called “Pie Mad,” launching this year. Geared toward college students and younger professionals in need of a satisfying snack, the American-style pot pies will capitalize on variety, convenience and a recessionfriendly price (about $4 to $5 for the small pies). Damian says he has 90 recipes so far, including the “Buffalonian,” a soon-to-be local favorite with chicken in a spicy hot sauce; a Philly steak-and-cheese pie; “Paddy’s Pie,” with beef, potato and gravy; and other varieties like Memphisstyle pulled pork; Mexican rice and beans; and jerk chicken (the “Reggae”). All aim to celebrate the ethnic diversity of American foods. What Damian calls the “English Pie Company” will soon produce 400,000 pie fillings every 2.5 hours for the traditional and Pie Mad product lines. They’re expanding their freezer capacity to attract wholesalers, adding a line of sweet dessert pies and tarts, and hope to begin nationwide distribution in supermarkets, bars and specialty food shops. The USDA certification, full of endless legal paperwork

The steak and ale variety is among customers’ favorites.

and daily inspections (enter that accounting and law training), will allow them to distribute in Canada and eventually hire up to 50 employees on three shifts. Despite the growth, the Parkers want to build their brand in Buffalo, too. They get their shipping and packaging boxes from Lancaster and Buffalo, with the goal of sourcing all supplies and ingredients from within 50 miles. There are also plans to start an on-site brewery, host “Pie Fridays” and bonfire parties at their pie shop, and to sell pies to Bills and Sabres fans. Someday, Damian dreams aloud, they’ll expand the brewery into an English pub, and the factory will become a kind of farm shop of the future. And yes, there’s even a pie truck in the works—Damian has his eye on a sweet little green number. No tacos are planned. Given Buffalo’s propensity to pooh-pooh itself as a mom-and-pop haven, why does the English Pork Pie Company work here, tucked away on seven acres of brownfield along a bumpy stretch of South Park Avenue? “We love it here,” says Vicky, adding happily that they will close on a house in Hamburg in a matter of weeks. For Damian, the local sourcing saves him money, the business community has been friendly and welcoming, and the logistical advantages of being close to Canada and the Great Lake trucking routes, are far too good to pass up. “We’re not going anywhere,” he says firmly as more hopeful pie-eaters wander in. This isn’t entirely true, of course. The Parkers’ ambitious little company is definitely going somewhere, and fast.

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The first thing you notice about Scott Behrend is his ego. ENTERTAINING MR. BEHREND

By Ben Siegel 38 BCM 28


I

t’s in check; no worries there. Sizable, healthily so, but not epic. There’s no hair pulling, diva walkouts, or screaming matches. Not that those tendencies would be foreign in the theater. You notice it when he tells you what he’s accomplished in the last 10 years. If it sounds boastful, it’s because he’s boasting. But when you listen to what he’s saying, when you hear the context he puts his theater’s relative success in, you begin to understand the mountain he has had to climb. He says these things only to prove that they could be done. That ego, judiciously at work: “I’d like to think that we are an example, a pioneer. Maybe people started to see that [we could] make something happen. That maybe there is a market for more work like this,” says Behrend. “The risk-taking now, in most of the smaller companies, is a lot greater than when we got started.” As artistic and executive director of Road Less Traveled Productions, the theater company he co-founded with playwright Jon Elston in 2002, Behrend works against the grain. His business decisions are unconventional, though fruitful. His creative vision is jolting, jarring, sometimes of another reality. It is entirely unreasonable, in the very best sense. To put this into relative terms, the Theatre Alliance of Buffalo counted 20 full-time professional theaters at the close of the 2011-2012 season. (A handful of other theaters exist outside of the Theatre Alliance, but are not included based on membership eligibility.) Of these 20 theaters, some produce four or five-show seasons, while others produce two or three a year. Some have their own theater house, others rent shared community spaces, and a few are true gypsies, doing what they can, when they can, wherever they can. Some employ a staff of full-time employees, including an artistic and/or managing director, and some work out of the confines of their own pockets. Ten years ago, Buffalo theater was an available cultural offering, staying afloat, though difficultly, in the paltry shadow of its fabled marquee-lighted ancestors. Eyes were stuck on the past, to a time when downtown was dotted with grand theaters, and the vaudeville and nightclub circuits drew household names to our stages. Ten years ago, there were few theaters that were looking forward. The theatrical trade, like most cultural industries, is one of steadfast impermanence. On the books, it means insecure forecasts and unproven investments. On the stage, it means—most proverbially of all the theater-world mantras— that every performance is your last. It is nothing if not risky. For Behrend, that is a fuel. “I think there’s a lot of people who don’t want to take things to the next level. They’re very happy with the level that they’re working at,” he says. “I want to be somewhere BCM 28 39


where we can tell a story with topical issues. Stuff that’s important. Stuff that’s going on. People that speak [differently].” For the last decade, the theater—“RLTP” in familiar terms—has built a rapt audience largely around its dedication to new work. But while there are other theaters in town that see the value in that offering, if only on a special or incidental basis, RLTP makes it a pillar of its outlook: find local playwrights, develop their storytelling through workshops and master classes, produce the best from those sessions, and export the work to national festivals, regional theaters and publishing houses. If they’re lucky, those plays will make a homecoming down the road, on RLTP’s stage or another, and re-invest in the theater scene of the moment. And if a playwright’s name gets noticed on the national stage, well that’s good news too. It is not a complicated logic, Behrend points out. It focuses on the work, the artists, and most centrally, the audience. If his confidence in his creative team and audience is solid, that’s because he honors their authenticity. “Road Less Traveled [has an audience of] lifelong learners. That’s who we are. I believe that wholeheartedly,” says Behrend. “People who like stuff. People who want to learn stuff.”

LEARNING THE CURVE

he says. He seized an opportunity at a smaller theater. Their creative mission gave him hope. His first job was directing Joe Orton’s “Entertaining Mr. Sloane.” He got the job on the condition that he would design the set, too. It was not a complete success. He credits his youth, ever ambitious, with at least some of its failure. “Part of it was me. I was forced to work on material that I wasn’t ready to. At 24, you’re not ready to direct Joe Orton. You’re just not, unless you’re British and from 1960,” he says. “Directing is partially life experience. When you’re 22 or 24 you think that’s bullshit. But that’s not inaccurate. You have to have some tools. Directing people who are older than you, who have a lot more experience than you, takes a whole ’nother bag of tools.” It wasn’t long before directing for other companies would parlay itself into directing for his own. “I started to think about the economics of where we live, and building an audience. It felt that there was a need in our community at that time for a re-energized, hard-hitting, intellectual theater that was going to be centered around new plays,” he says. “I wanted to treat new plays as product that we could take and ship out of here. That was the goal from the beginning. We were going to develop plays in Buffalo because it’s so cheap to do things here, and there’s so much talent here. And then export the talent, and bring it back. And then see what happens.”

It wasn’t that long ago that Behrend was going to quit the theater. After graduating from Syracuse University in theater design and technology, Behrend moved back to Western New York to pursue professional opportunities. THE CLASS SYSTEM Eventually he worked as a set designer, creating sets for The health of the talent pool at the time was steady. There stages as varied as the underground-ish New Phoenix was an ambitious class of young faces on area stages, thanks Theatre, the larger-budgeted Irish Classical Theatre Com- in part to the region’s active college and university theater pany, and the now-closed Studio Arena Theatre, Buffalo’s departments, all of which had been pumping out wide-eyed long-running and only Equity union stage. theater students, like Behrend, for decades. The area’s seaHe applied to graduate schools in order to expand his soned professionals had strong fan followings and estabeducation and hopefully secure more stable employment in lished stage personas. the field. He was told to re-apply when he was older, a preThey were also fiercely loyal. In a town where few who dicament that left him with doubts. work in theater makes a living doing so, where competition “I thought about leaving the theater. I was really for parts can be severe, if not predictable, the pool of unclose to saying, I’m tired of this. I just want to make discovered talent was getting smaller. Behrend seized the more money. Just enough so that I can leave my par- moment. ents’ house. And I didn’t know what was going to hap“I had my little black book of people I wanted to work pen next, but this isn’t where I wanted to be,” says with,” he says. “People who were not part of the mainstream. Behrend. I had worked with everybody, but I had to start a whole new What he really wanted to do was direct. thing. I always wanted to work with the best people.” “Nobody wanted to give me a job. Because for the upperHe assembled the team for his first production, Elston’s level theaters to give somebody a job right out of college, “Project.” Elston, a screenwriter with a bent towards horror, [their] first time out like that, you’re risking $20,000 to would be his playwright. He would cast four actor friends— $40,000 in somebody who doesn’t have that experience,” Tim Newell, Brian Riggs, Phil Knoerzer and Todd Benzin. 40 BCM 28


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“I knew instinctively that we had to come out the door really hot if we were going to have a shot at this. If it isn’t good the first time out, you’re screwed in terms of people’s perception.” The play was hot. It did not make the company any money. In fact, they lost money. But the seeds were planted. Plus, a six-performance run at the 2004 New York City International Fringe Festival didn’t hurt. The second production of the season, “Interrogation Room,” also by Elston, won a national award, the National Literary Prize from the Source Theater Festival in Washington, D.C., before it was even produced. Back home, it would earn four Artvoice Artie nominations, including one for Behrend’s direction and another for Elston’s script. The successes were stacking up, and it was only their first season, of two produced plays, no less. But success like this, as with most freshman endeavors, comes with a cost. Producing new work means audiences need to know what they’re buying a ticket to, differently than they would going to see Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller or William Shakespeare. But as Behrend sees it, there’s value in going out on that limb. For it’s not just what’s on the stage, but what’s off the stage, that matters. “The regional theaters that are successful have also been the ones that have turned the corner with their audiences, the ones who are not just relegated to the over-70 crowd. It’s the theaters that have made a conscious, hard decision to say, ‘We’re going to be integrated into the fabric of our community.’ That’s what we have to do,” says Behrend.

TERMS AND CONDITIONS A major turning point in local theater history was the closing of Studio Arena in 2008 amid bankruptcy woes. Many pointed fingers at the theater’s artistic leadership for producing plays that lacked a creative stretch, and for doing so with hyperactive production budgets. “One of the biggest problems with that organization was that they lost the connection to that audience in a way, and they made poor decisions because of it. One of the things they were not good at, that maybe in the end could have saved them, was their role in the community. You’re the biggest theater in Buffalo. You better be important. You better be important to the people,” says Behrend. “Why are you important though—because you entertain a bunch of people? Are you only entertaining to [one kind of audience, though]? Buffalo is a hugely segregated town.” It was at this road fork that Behrend went on a quest for answers. He wanted to know why certain people go to the theater and why others don’t. Why some pack in and 42 BCM 28

why some flee. He spoke with colleagues, asked friends and polled audiences. Three ideas came to the surface in his conversations: diversity, universality and outreach. “It’s not about marketing. It’s not about advertising. It’s about outreach,” says Behrend. “That idea is big. It is about letting people know that it’s okay to come to their theater.” Behrend considered the challenge presented with producing work for audiences that were unaccustomed to buying theater tickets at RLTP—or anywhere. “I think there’s a misconception that [different races] don’t want to be in the room together, that there’s going to be some weird juxtaposition. I don’t think that’s true at all. I don’t think they care. I believe diversity is our common humanity. We need everyone in the room together to experience these stories together. That’s the power of theater.” But it’s also good business. “Diversity is a business model. You know why? You just brought in a whole huge segment of the population that you’re going to sell tickets to that nobody else has got. You could just think about it in straight-up business terms. You’re stupid not to do that,” says Behrend. “Diversity is a no-brainer.” For most companies in town, the issue of diversity has to do with age and not race. Among the roughly two dozen companies, only two are predominantly African-American. Where as almost all of them sell tickets to a predominantly older audience, a loyal but diminishing group of arts patrons accustomed to patronizing performance art as a source of entertainment. While this may still be statistically true—and in some cases is a mere generalization—Behrend sees other factors in why people buy tickets. “I think a lot of theatergoers now are paying attention to the brand of the company, a general style of the work. Are you giving people something to chew on? Or is it merely entertainment?” asks Behrend. “After the first season, I knew that our role was going to be a place where new voices were heard. We decided that we were going to develop playwrights. Nobody was doing that. Nobody was producing local work on a regular basis.” In short time, a playwriting workshop was developed. The Emanuel Fried New Play Workshop, named for the late local playwright Manny Fried, would workshop drafts of scripts by local playwrights, using local actors and directors to cultivate ideas for improvement, a sounding board that often goes missing in the playwright’s writing process. The public would be invited to watch and comment, offering glimpses into future world premieres. Plays regularly reflect the voices of their community, tell-


Directing is about life experience. When you’re 22 or 24 you think that’s bullshit. ing stories of various ethnic groups, performed by actors from parts of town heretofore unseen on a local professional stage. To date, more than 40 plays have been developed through the workshop. Eight of them have been given world premiere productions in the RLTP regular season. Three of those have won the Artie Award for Best New Play.

THE BIG GUNS Development runs deep in any arts not-for-profit. The depth of those pockets is as deep as your constituents. In 2006, Behrend was hired to assistant direct the Roundabout Theatre’s off-Broadway production of “Entertaining Mr. Sloane”—coincidentally the same play Behrend directed in Buffalo—starring the estimable Alec Baldwin. He earned the job through old-fashioned networking, the generous offer from a father’s friend (the stage and screen actor James Rebhorn) who had worked with the Roundabout, a prominent not-for-profit theater with stages on and offBroadway. The job earned him an impressive New York City credit, but of more benefit to his company, a friend in Baldwin. The actor offered a helping hand to RLTP. “First of all, he loves the theater,” Behrend says of Baldwin. “He sees people who are trying to perpetuate the theater— live theater—as being important. I think if I had been doing [this] in New York, he wouldn’t care.” The offer to come to Buffalo and do a one-night-only staged reading, a benefit for the theater, was unexpected and warmly received. “I did not ask. He said, ‘I’m coming.’” To date, Baldwin has been back twice more, most recently in a sold-out reading of Clifford Odets’ “The Big Knife” at the UB Center for the Arts. Other celebrities have come to town, like esteemed playwrights Edward Albee, Eric Bogosian and Buffalo boy A.R. Gurney.

AROUND THE CORNER The proof of these successes has given Behrend and RLTP good reason to think he’s doing something right. The theater regularly sells out performances, including closing weekends. Weekly talkbacks, sponsored by Mighty Taco, bring in audiences eager to discuss the play they just saw with members of the cast (and eat tacos). Late-night performances, usually held in bars like Rohall’s Corner in Black Rock, extend their theatrical offering to include darker comedy and offbeat content. This summer they debut their “Celebrity Autobiography” readings. Where youth got in Behrend’s way as a novice director, it is affording his company room to flourish; to test out ideas, to succeed, to fail, and to produce. In the new chapters of Buffalo’s theater history books, RLTP is drafting a new benchmark for WNY’s next generation of theater artists, producers and patrons. If it challenges norms, smashes expectations, even if it offends the old boys club, Behrend seems wholly uninterested in apologizing. “The establishment would have never thought that [this] was possible. And that establishment was very good at thinking that it was this ruling class of theater,” says Behrend. “I didn’t set out to change that. I just did my own thing, and didn’t care.” At the end of the day, it’s about the work. “It’s still a Darwinian system out there,” says Behrend. “It’s still about the work on stage. If the work isn’t good on stage, nobody’s going to come. You can throw as much money as you want on it, or not spend any money on it; nobody’s going to come if it isn’t good.” “If you have an experience in our theater, come back. If not, well you can be soulless somewhere else,” says Behrend, half-laughing. BCM 28 43


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SHORTS

Henry Gansevoort, the Mole “You’re not that different from the Gansevoorts,” Henry said. “You’re still just digging, always digging, digging to the center of the earth probably.” by SCOTT MANCUSO

ACT I: HENRY GETS TIRED Henry stopped working and sat down in the dirt. It was not time to stop working and it was not time to sit down in the dirt. The other moles kept digging and Henry’s grandfather walked up next to Henry and smiled. “How’s The Excavator?” Henry’s grandfather asked. Henry’s grandfather called Henry The Excavator because Henry was very good at digging. It made Henry’s brothers and cousins work harder because they wanted to be The Excavator too. Henry sighed into his blackened hands. “I’m tired,” Henry said. Henry’s grandfather laughed. “You are not,” he said. “I’ve seen you work ten-hour shifts without breaking a sweat. It’s not even noon. The Excavator doesn’t get tired.” “I don’t mean my arms and legs are tired,” Henry said. “You stay up too late? That’s not like you. You’re a Gansevoort, not a barn owl. Go get some rest.” Henry didn’t say anything. He looked down the tunnel at his father methodically digging and removing and piling. Everyone was just digging and they would keep digging, with their hands, until they reached the other side of the mountain. Every night Henry’s little brother Robert would ask him, “Did you reach the other side today?” and every night Henry would say “no, not yet, but soon.” BCM 28 28 48 48 BCM

ACT II: HENRY MEETS THOMAS Henry wandered out of the tunnel and saw his friend Sam in the Larder, where the moles gathered to eat and drink, and talked about digging techniques. “Henry, you look exhausted. You’ve been working too hard,” Sam said. “No,” Henry said. “I’m just tired.” “Tired of working your fingers to the bone probably,” Sam said. “Come see the tunnel Thomas Adams started on the East End. They’re using tools. If you lent them some of your strength I bet they’d be to the other side by tomorrow morning.” Henry followed Sam to the East End where several moles were digging with tools and several were sitting and talking. Thomas Adams was sitting and talking. The moles there were digging much faster than the moles on the Main. Thomas jumped to his feet. “Henry Gansevoort!” Thomas yelled. Everyone stopped working and cheered. “Welcome to the future my friend. We all knew you’d come around eventually. Maybe bring some of those brothers and cousins over with you as well?” “I’m just here to see,” Henry said. “I’ve never seen these tools before.” “Well take a closer look then,” Thomas said. “We have spades and pick axes that can do five times the work of one


illustrations by JULIE MOLLOY

mole in the same amount of time. Ten times for someone like you.” Thomas handed Henry a shovel. It felt clumsy and unnatural. “Thanks,” Henry said. “I’m just tired right now.” “Of course you are,” Thomas said. “No one should have to work so hard. Come back when you’re feeling rested… though we might beat you to the other side by then.” ACT III: HENRY GOES OUTSIDE Henry left the East End tunnel and began walking toward the surface. He climbed out into the mid-morning air and fought the brightness, blinking and shielding. The mountain stretched east and west forever and Henry began walking along its base dwarfed in immensity. He walked until afternoon, further away from his home tunnel than he had ever traveled but the mountain did not stop being. It was and was and never seemed to not be. Henry was about to turn back when he saw several small stones falling down the mountain between two very tall trees. Henry cautiously walked forward and saw a dirt path stretching up the side of the mountain. The path was flanked on either side by ancient pines and the sun shone through a canopy of needles, making slivers of light and dark up and up until the path ended in the sky. Henry put one foot on the path, warm, when an old goat jumped out from behind a rock. “You’re far from home, mole,” the goat said.

“When this path ends at the sky… where does it go?” “The other side of the mountain… I think.” “You don’t know for sure?” “Who knows anything for sure?” the goat said. “We’ve been trying to reach the other side of this mountain my whole life. Digging with our hands, using tools now.” “Which do you prefer?” Both. Neither. “I don’t know what I prefer. Whatever will get me there I guess. But I’m not sure what that is.” “This way might not be any better,” the goat said. “Lovely, lonely… uncertain. And you’re tiny and half blind.” “All that digging. This path is just sitting here.” “If you’re up for it, I’ll take you as far as I’ve been,” the goat said, “but I’m leaving tonight.” ACT IV: HENRY RE-VISITS THOMAS Henry returned to the East End and heard very loud noises. A few moles, including Sam, were operating some strange machine that seemed to run on fire and steam. It ate the dirt in the tunnel and spit it out into smaller pieces. Everyone else was sitting, drinking tea and talking about what they would do when they reached the other side. Thomas was wearing a three-cornered hat and writing furiously in a small black book. “What is this?” Henry asked Sam. Henry needed to yell because the machine was very loud. “It’s Thomas’ latest invention,” Sam said. “It’s brilliant. It BCM 28 49


does the work of 30 moles and it only takes three to operate.” loud noise and saw a flash of light. Unnatural howling rang “What happened to the tools from before?” Henry asked. out behind him. “We might as well use our hands and crawl around in the When he turned around he saw Thomas’ invention was dirt like the moles back on the Main,” Thomas said. Everyone in pieces and the fragments had exploded in many different laughed. “How about you Henry? Are you with us?” directions and Sam did not have any legs. “Actually, that’s what I came here to tell you,” Henry said. ACT V: HENRY RE-VISITS THE GANSEVOORTS “I found a new path. Above ground. It’s already there and we Henry walked back to the Larder in a daze. The moles wouldn’t have to dig or use tools.” from the Main, sore and muddy from working all day, looked “That’s not new,” Thomas said, barely looking up from his book. “A path can’t be new. A path by its name means that at Henry like he was a stranger. Henry’s brother William barked at him from across the room. somebody else already made it.” “What was that noise just now?” “Well I had never seen it before,” Henry said. “I don’t know,” Henry said. Sam’s eyes had closed but “No, it’s true,” said Thomas’ friend Oliver. “My grandfather Thomas’ eyes had grown wide and Thomas said yes, this is it, used to tell a story about how when he was a kid a group of this is it, and thanked his noble compatriot for his sacrifice. moles went up that path and no one ever heard from them “You smell like the sky,” Henry’s grandfather said loudly again. Probably died up there everyone says.” and everyone stopped to hear Henry’s response. “You see?” Thomas said. “It’s already been done and it “I found a path that goes over the mountain,” Henry said. doesn’t work. Just like digging with your hands. We have “No digging. No tools. It’s already there.” more innovation now. More free time. And we’ll be heroes A low groaning sound rumbled in the distance and the when we reach the other side.” walls of the Larder shook with loose dirt. The moles looked Henry looked at the machine and realized for the first at each other, worried. Henry’s grandfather ignored the time that he had no idea whether any of the tunnels that they sound, dropped his cigarette, and stamped it out with his had been digging were going straight through to the other boot. side of the mountain. They could be digging sideways, or up, “So… too tired to dig but not too tired to go prancing or straight down and it would be impossible to tell without around up top-side, huh?” the sky for reference. Henry began to speak but the rumbling, again, louder “You’re not that different from the Gansevoorts,” Henry said. “You’re still just digging, always digging, digging to the than thunder, drowned out his words. Someone in the crowd called out to the Gansevoorts. center of the earth probably.” “What is that sound?” Henry turned and began to walk away when he heard a BCM 28 28 50 50 BCM


“There is no sound!” Henry’s grandfather roared into the sudden silence. “I couldn’t hear you Henry. You think you’re too good for this? You think you can just walk up the mountain and slide down the other side into a pile of flowers?” “I just said I feel very tired at the moment,” Henry said. Henry’s grandfather snorted. “So tired, this one. Tired of being respected and successful and loved? You are a Gansevoort, damn it, start acting like it.” “And that will get me to the other side?” Henry asked. “You want to go die on that path? I have friends who live on that trail. If you’re so tired, go sleep with their skeletons.” The rumbling became shaking and then a tremendous blast shook the Larder, breaking dishes and filling the room with cacophonous sound. Some moles knocked to their knees. Some ran. The rest looked to the Gansevoorts to tell them what to do. “There’s nothing to be scared of !” Henry’s grandfather yelled into the deafness surrounding them. “We don’t hear anything! You don’t hear anything, do you Henry?” Henry stared at his father voicelessly mouthing to his brothers and cousins. “I can’t hear anything,” Henry said. ACT VI: HENRY RE-VISITS THE GOAT Henry re-visited the goat that night. The goat spoke but it was all ringing in his ears. Henry picked up a handful of dirt, the same dirt between his toes, in his den, and Henry spoke but it was all ringing in his ears. Henry shook his head and calmly walked back to the tunnels. ACT VII: HENRY GOES BACK TO WORK Henry did not sleep that night. He went straight to work the next morning. The explosions had stopped overnight, and he could hear again, but the moles on the Main were disquieted and moved cautiously. Restlessness pervaded the atmosphere of the tunnel but Henry paid it no mind. He spoke to no one and dug twice as much as anyone else that morning. The explosions started again around noon. Every few minutes, another. The other moles slowed down, hesitant, but Henry worked through it, digging until his fingers bled and his arms were numb. Henry’s grandfather nodded in approval, refusing to acknowledge that anything was amiss. Henry’s cousin Arthur clutched his chest gasping for breath, panicking as the dirt from the ceiling sprinkled into his eyes. Henry’s father looked at him stoically and did not move at all. ACT VIII: HENRY MEETS THE EXPLOSIVES At the end of the workday Henry returned to the East End. It had become a giant cavern stretching into darkness in every direction. There were half as many moles as before and

the ones that remained wore white lab coats with cotton in their ears. “Henry.” Thomas barely seemed to recognize him. He was wearing wire-rim glasses and working on what looked to be a combination of sticks and strings. “You see what we’re capable of now, Henry? That explosion from yesterday… it gave me the idea. If we could only magnify and control it we could blast through… straight to the other side. Isn’t that what you wanted, Henry?” “I don’t know what I wanted,” Henry said. The smell of my home, new clothes, to be loved, to not work, to reach the other side. “I don’t see how it all fits together.” “Like this Henry, like this! You want to be one of a hundred mewling in the dark, dirt caked in your fur, picking grubs out from under your fingernails while it’s never, and the next day it’s never and again and again? Or do you want your precious path up the mountain riding on the back of some blackguard goat who will sell you to the vultures for two kernels of corn and drop you on the other side when it’s an ocean, Henry!” Thomas stumbled forward, his hands shaking and his eyes red and unblinking. “No one needs to work or get dirty, Henry! No digging like worms Henry, no worms! And the explosions, bigger and bigger all day until we bring the other side to us. Until I bring this mountain to its knees and it says, “thank you Thomas Adams! Thank you for turning me into the other side so Henry Gansevoort could kiss my meadow daughters and have everything he ever wanted without lifting a finger!” Henry walked up to Thomas, hugged his skinny, quivering shoulders, said “thank you,” and walked out of the tunnels and back up to the path. ACT IX: HENRY FALLS ASLEEP It was late and cold and the moon sat above the pines standing guard on either side. Henry was very tired. An explosion far beneath the earth shook the birds out of the trees. Henry could see the goat’s hoof prints leading up and up but he was too tired to move. Henry lay down in the mouth of the path with his ear to the ground and the explosions became louder and shook the blisters on his hands and shook the pinecones off of the trees. Henry focused on the point where the path disappeared into the sky. All of it and none of it. He couldn’t fit it all together. He clutched a handful of soil and whispered, no not yet but soon, and finally fell asleep to the sound of explosions closer and closer under the dirt and pine needles raining into his hair.

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A DESIGN, MARKETING AND PUBLISHING STUDIO WITH A HYPERLOCAL FOCUS.


BRIEF ENCOUNTERS

A Napkin by MARGARET FINAN

Oh, wow, hello. Hello. I’m sorry—excuse me—would you mind smoothing me out? Yes, all right, thank you. Well. I can’t pretend it’s not embarrassing to be seen like this—good God, my heart is racing. Did you see that? Did you see that seagull accost me? Pea-eyed savage! You couldn’t hear me, but I was screaming for a full three minutes. If only my mother were here to see this. “No paper product of mine will be seen with a Red Lobster bib!” Ha. Well, I don’t blame her, you know. She was a two-ply, making the rounds between the recycled pulp processing plant and the grade school cafeterias, the Hard Rock Cafés (where she met my father, ended up in the same trash bin! “Thrown here often?” he teased, reeking of red sauce). And all for what? Look at me. I had dreams, you know! Big dreams. I used to want to be in an indie band. Something synthy maybe, far-away feeling, sort of wispy and papery and spindly wristed. I’d like that. I could be good at hitting buttons. But here I am, a drifter in the lull of the post-packaging

milieu. In these times. In this economy. Paper is dying, you know. I could have been a novel, I think. I could have been something so much bigger than this. Put your hand to me. Touch me, please. Do you know what it feels like, to be this light? Like the world could just sigh and send your whole life spinning? You humans have wished for it, I’m sure. To be swept off in the wind before you’re quite ready, ride it to the coast until you taste the metal and the salt and the sun. But I think it should be better, maybe, to have that weight, to have that choice, to have to want something so badly that you would carry your entire being to it yourself. And how rare, to ever find that perfect wind. No. I tumble through fast food parking lots, past crooked neon buzzing bar lights. I’ve watched a dog vomit up my own brother on these muddy picnic grounds. This is not… (sighs). I want my children to be half cloth. I do. I know it’s bigoted, maybe, or perpetuating the problem, but it’s just how I feel. Life is hard enough as it is without—

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Issue 28: Old/New