I have a show opening next Monday, June 6 at 7:30pm; The Last Dream of Arky Malarkey will be in evening A of the East Village Chronicles, Vol 7, along with Bitter Fruit from the Bowery, by Larry R. Yates, The Pretty Young Girl by Claudia Barnett, and Three Rooms. Inspired by a Totally True Story. Or Three. by Michael Ian Walker, all four plays are directed by Laura Livingston.
The festival runs through June 26 at the Metropolitan Playhouse in the (wait for it) lovely & fragrant East Village on 220 E. 4th St., almost right across the street from Kate’s Joint, which is a vegetarian bar. Beer & fried tofu things! Tickets range from $10 to $20 and you can get a festival pass for $40 here.
Evening B of the festival includes The Philosophers by Robert Anthony; Stained Glass by Lawrence DuKore; Baby Marty by Bryce Richardson; and Big Black Mexican Woman by Alberto Bonilla, directed by Andrew Firda.
And the third leg of the festival (what? You’ve never heard of a 3-legged festival?) is Alphabet City VII, six solo shows based on the lives of real people, who are East Village Residents. That’s directed by my EAT colleague Derek Jamison, Evening A features Abraham Sparrow as Alex Sanders, a Hondler (A guy who makes things happen -Yiddish) Retired? Age 85; Jane O’Leary as Patricio Jardines, colorist/stylist, former drag queen; Me’Lisa Sellers as Frances Goldin, human rights activist, radical literary agent. Evening B is Clare Barron as James Tigger! Ferguson, "The Godfather of Boylesque" & "The Original King of Boylesque”, Joel Putnam as Danny Cornyetz, Video Jockey; From a little home studio came one of the first hip-hop music videos at the dawn of a national sensation; and Keri Setaro as Miss Aurora Cenzia, MA, Director, Virginia Day Nursery Episcopal Social Service, impacts the lives of up to 5,000 New Yorker annually.
Each year, the Metropolitan Playhouse (and its handsome artistic director, who has exquisite taste) Alex Roe, send out a call for short plays about their neighborhood. This year, I pulled out “Arky,” which I wrote for the last festival, but it didn’t get in. I am nothing if not stubborn. (It’s actually my second play about a dying poet, but the other one is set in the West Village, so it’s not eligible. Also, it’s published.
The bio helped me figure out my poet’s timeline, and as I worked out his age, and how old and where he might have been from birth to death, the story took shape. He became a kind of East Village Zelig, crossing paths with the great and the subway grate, rubbing elbows with people I wish I’d met. I liked the bio so much, I put it in the stage directions. It’s not performed or read in the play, though it could be a program note. It was for me and for the actors and director, so they’d know just who this man is. But since I have a blog, I thought I’d share it here.
If there were an entry for Arky Malarkey in A Guide to Modern American Poets, this is what it would be:
ARKADY (“ARKY”) MALARKEY: (1918-1988) b. New York City. The poet known as Arky Malarkey was born on the Lower East Side of New York City in a tenement on East 7th Street. His parents were Sofia Gorki Malarkey (b. 1900, Uglich, Russia, d. 1933, New York City) and Francis X. Malarkey (b. 1895, Limerick, Ireland, d. 1918, New York City). Francis Malarkey died in the 1918 Spanish Influenza epidemic, and Sofia worked as a seamstress in a garment factory to support herself and her son. The factory closed in 1930, and Arkady, known as Arky, left school. He held a variety of jobs, from newsboy to dishwasher to theater usher. He also sang songs and told stories in the saloons of the Lower East Side. He began selling “Poems for a Penny,” then a nickel, then a dime, impromptu verse he made up, and sometimes wrote down. He’s mentioned in a Joseph Mitchell “Talk of the Town” piece in the New Yorker ca. 1940. It’s thought Arky Malarkey introduced Mitchell to his fellow street poet, Joe Gould (see Joe Gould’s Secret by Joseph Mitchell). When Irina Malarkey died in 1933, leaving her son on his own at the age of 15, he claimed never to have had a fixed address again, except for “U.S. Army” from 1942-46. After his discharge following WWII (where he case of malaria, which recurred throughout his life), Malarkey returned to the streets of New York, and was on the periphery of several Postwar literary, theater and social movements, including the Beats, and off-off Broadway. In the early 1960s, he gravitated to the experimental theater scene in Greenwich Village, and he performed his poetry at Café La Mama, the Caffe Cino and Judson Poets Theatre. The Rev. Al Carmines, Jr. staged a series of Malarkey’s poems as a dance piece, with music by David Amram. Diane Arbus photographed him with his shopping bags of poems, in front of the offices of The Village Voice, which occasionally published his poems, and to which he often wrote letters to the editor. Malarkey lived in a series of abandoned buildings and squats on the Lower East Side through the ‘70s and ‘80s. Several early punk bands embraced him as a mascot and inspiration, and he was sometimes seen outside of CBGB and Max’s Kansas City with the likes of Patti Smith and Jim Carroll. He spent most of his summers in Tompkins Square Park, where he was present for the Tompkins Square Riots in August, 1988. Witnesses report that Malarkey sustained a head injury when he was trampled by a police horse. He broke into an apartment in the building where he was born. The tenant called for medical help, but Malarkey collapsed and died before assistance arrived. The city coroner ruled he died of traumatic brain injury. No charges were filed.
You better hold on
Something's happening here
You better hold on
Meet you in Tompkins Square
--Lou Reed, “Hold On”
See you in the East Village.