A Theremin, a Claviola, and a One of a Kind Hanukah Party!

This Sunday, LABA Kids celebrates Hanukah with Quirk-Rock Band One Ring Zero.

We sat down with band leader Michael Hearst to learn a little bit more about about the band, and Sunday’s event.

Tell us a little about One Ring Zero- what makes you different?

We play unusual instruments, we write unusual-sounding songs, and we often work on unusual collaborations. Joshua Camp and I formed the band in 1997. We both lived in Richmond, VA at the time, and we both worked at the Hohner harmonica and accordion distribution and repair center. Josh was the accordion tech, and I was a harmonica tech.

Seriously! Hohner also makes some odd-ball instruments, such as the claviola (only about 50 were ever made—it looks like something you’ve seen in the cantina scene of StarWars). We essentially started One Ring Zero because of the claviola. The idea was to incorporate as many strange instruments as we could find. We relocated to NYC in 2000/2001, and this led to the release of our “lit-rock” album As Smart As We Are, in which lots of amazing authors wrote lyrics for us. In 2008 we released an album called Planets … an album of song for each planet … sort of, but not entirely, in honor of Gustav Holst’s similarly titled orchestral suite. We made sure to include Pluto, simply because … well, we love Pluto!

What gave you the idea for the Recipe Project?

We thought it would be fun to ask people like Mario Batali, David Chang, Isa Chandra Moskowitz, and Mark Kurlasnki to provide recipes for us (as well as musical style suggestions), and see if we could come up with a song where we would sing the recipe word for word. It turned out to be incredibly tricky, but quite fun.

What makes this LABA Kids program different from other kid’s concerts? 

I’m not sure how often kids get a chance to dance and spin dreidels to recipe songs performed live on theremins and claviolas.

It’s gonna be fuuuunnnn!


Sunday, December 16th, 11am – 1pm,
The Theater at the 14th Street Y

Open to the whole family: $25/family for members of the Y; $30/family for non-members. 

Tickets are available at  http://14streety.interticket.com.
Tickets are available at the door, but buying tickets in advance  is recommended.  

Questions?  Call Becky at 646-395-4322 or email Artists@14streety.org.

This event is designed for children ages 2-8.  Of course, parents are the best judge
on age appropriateness for their families- all are welcome!

Pretzels and the People- A Story From Our Afterschool Program

All around the world, people are embracing a commitment towards a greener, more sustainable planet. Even in the United States, where climate change skeptics have often derailed the conversation with cries of false science and a nefarious liberal agenda, recent extreme weather events like the summer droughts, raging fires, and hurricane Sandy are causing people across party lines to sit up and take note. But what does it mean for our Jewish community—individuals, institutions, movements, etc.—to truly embrace a commitment to tikkun olam and start repairing the world? With many of our natural resources exploited, wildlife populations threatened, and an ever-growing sense of futility in the face of a dire yet abstract crisis, where should we even start?

How about with a room full of energetic K-5th graders in afterschool at the 14th Street Y in New York City? Let’s start with something tangible and mundane, like that small bag of pretzels we eat for snack. And let’s start with a question: how do those pretzels get to us, and where do they go when we’re done?

Since Oct. 5, the kids, afterschool director Chloe Markowitz, and I have been in hot pursuit of the answer. We know that everything starts with the earth and goes back to the earth in the end. We know that, somewhere in the middle, those earth-products pass through our mouths and hands. And we are beginning to uncover many of the untold stories lying latent inside the cellophane—from the farmers growing wheat to the factories assembling the package, to the landfills and sewage works, and all the pilots, conductors and drivers who earn their wages connecting the dots.

On paper, “sustainability” is incredibly simple and instinctually obvious. All we have to do is live in balance with our natural habitat, avoiding unnecessary damage, and only taking that which can be replenished. In the real world, however, our attempts to live sustainably get caught up in a tangled and complex web of pre-existing, enveloping, and often unsustainable systems.

A bag of pretzels is not just a bag of pretzels. The ingredients represent a farm bill that subsidizes industrial monoculture, highly processed foods, and underpaid, overworked laborers. The bag denotes our dependance on oil for disposable, sanitary packaging, and an underlying assumption that we can afford to waste. Its physical existence and near instant evaporation embodies big rigs lumbering down long stretches of freeway, and delivering gratuitously high asthma rates to New York City’s disenfranchised outer boroughs, where most warehouses, waste transfer stations, and unsightly sewage treatment works are located. Etc., etc., and so forth.

But we are not just the sum of a system. We create and shape our society every day in innumerable actions both pedestrian and profound. Who we vote for, how we spend our money, the ideologies and policies we promote in our companies—almost every engagement with the larger world serves to sustain the status quo or forge a path towards greener pastures.

The key word, however, is “we.” There’s really very little that the average person can do. Even a CEO, who may cast a wider net when she takes her company green, represents only one link in a global chain. Yet those links are all connected, and seven billion average people maintain what already is, even when we can’t see them doing it.

Our after school kids now know that the tables they sit at for snack don’t set themselves up. Sami sets them up. They know that they are warm in the winter because there are radiators. They took pictures when Conrad, the Super, brought them to what he calles “the heart of the building,” turned on the boiler, and pointed out the pipes that carry steam up, up and away. They understand that every plastic wrapper means more waste into the large dumpster Jane showed them out back, and more trips to our out-of-state landfill.

And then Jane opened the compost bin so they could look inside.

We can’t just talk about change; ideas are only one link in the chain. We have to support new paradigms with concrete action. Our afterschool “Green Friday” program is only one piece of the 14th Street Y’s greater commitment to sustainability  under Executive Director Stephen Hazan Arnoff. From a pedagogical perspective, it’s important that our kids can talk about industrial food systems with me, and also taste local produce from the Hazon CSA on Thursdays. From an institutional perspective, it’s critical that their commitment expresses itself holistically—from the way their physical structure is maintained and improved, to the supplies ordered and materials produced, their egagements with stakeholders and the greater community, etc. Otherwise the change itself is not sustainable.

It’s not always obvious or easy. In just one bag of pretzels, we found a whole Pandora’s box. But if there’s one thing the kids have taught me so far, it’s that we can’t see the forest until we’ve seen the trees. If we want to get closer to the earth, we have to know just how far we’ve come from it. Only then, piece by piece, can change begin to ripple from the farmer to the factory, to the front desk, to us, and right back out again.

  The 14th Street Y sang about going GREEN last Spring with this original song by Nathan Tysen

Shawn Shafner is the Founder of The POOP Project and Green Educator for the 14th Street Y Afterschool Program.

Now Dancing in the 14th Street Y Theater

This week we are thrilled to welcome Sokolow Theatre Dance Ensemble to the Theater at the 14th Street Y.  Anna Sokolow was a revolutionary dancer and choreographer, and she performed here with her ensemble 50 years ago.  Now, Sokolow returns to the Y with a celebration of her work.








Tell us a little about Sokolow.  What makes you unique?


Sokolow Theatre Dance Ensemble, under the artistic direction of Jim May, is the professional company who serve as guardians of the choreographic masterpieces of Anna Sokolow.  Ms. Sokolow is considered the mother of theatre/dance and the range of her work is truly formidable. Each piece of choreography is bound only to her commitment to her idea, so her repertory is vast and varied.  Famous for intense choreography that tackles both important social and personal issues, the one common theme in all of Ms. Sokolow’s work is her belief in the triumph of the human spirit.


We understand that years ago, Sokolow performed at the 14th Street Y, and now you are returning after a long absence.  Tell us a little of our shared history, and what brought you back here? 


The 14th Street Y was certainly part of the whole dance scene on the lower east side, where Ms. Sokolow lived, and she did present various work here during the course of her early career.   Sokolow Theatre Dance Ensemble is thrilled to be back.  Ms. Sokolow grew up on Saint Marks place, and her attachment to the neighborhood never wavered. Even after she moved to the West Village, Anna would constantly walk the streets of the Lower East Side, because she felt at home. Ms. Sokolow’s Jewish upbringing, and her devotion to Israel, make performing her work at a Jewish community center especially important.


What can you tell us about this week’s performances?


This week we are presenting two Sokolow pieces from the mid 1950’s.  A Short Lecture and Demonstration on the Evolution of Ragtime, a tongue in cheek jaunt through the evolution of social dance during the rag era set to narration written by Mr. Jelly Roll Morton. And for the first time in 20 years, the company presents Lyric Suite danced to the music of Alban Berg.  Lyric Suite marks what Ms. Sokolow herself deemed the beginning of major works in her career.  The dancers perform by seamlessly interweaving drama, movement and musicality to present Ms. Sokolow’s first seminal work.  Also on the program is Jim May’s striking duet: Empty Nest.


Wednesday evening at 7:30, Jim May will present a lecture on Ms. Sokolow’s career and works.  Rarely seen footage of her work will be shown.


How can Y members learn more?


Go to www.sokolowtheatredance.org for more information

Click Here for tickets or call 1-800-838-3006