Rock WILK: PRESS & THANK'S
Some people workshop shows in theaters or classes. Others use writers groups or showcases. Musician-poet turned playwright Rock Wilk used the City of New York.
Perhaps you haven't heard of Rock Wilk's journey from musician, to slam poet, to actor/playwright. Perhaps you haven't heard of his new play Broke Wide Open, which started as an album and evolved into a full-fledged theater production. Perhaps you haven't heard of a good one man show. That's because often, one-man shows are unending monologues. Rock Wilk's work is a play, with vision, structure, and development.
The road of Broke Wide Open from album, to poetry, to Off-Broadway play produced by Rain Pryor (daughter of comedian Richard Pryor and herself an actress) is one of evolution and hard work. First conceived six years ago as music, the story of one man's search for both identity and his birth mother spilled over into performance art.
"It's been an evolving process," said Mr. Wilk in interview with producer Ms. Pryor last week. The story even continues to evolve: the play didn't have an official ending until it started its Off-Broadway run at the 45th Street Theater, October 6.
Perhaps the winding road the play took had to do with the fact that previously, Mr. Wilk had never acted. When he started to write Broke Wide Open, and realized it would have to be performed, he knew he would have to get used to acting in front of an audience. To prepare he began frequenting poetry clubs, narrating his script and other works at places such as Nuyorican Poets Cafe and The Bowery Poetry Club.
Most of all, he performed in front of New York City itself.
"I would perform in parks, subways, and sidewalks," Mr. Wilk explained. "I would practice in front of people, sometimes up to groups of 30 or more. I would ask for their feedback, and I would take it into account as I wrote the script."
Once the play was in its final stages, he had a short run at P.S. 122. But for Mr. Wilk, that performance didn't feel quite right.
"I had a full fledge production and everything over at P.S. , but it wasn't what I wanted it to be," he said. "So I stripped it down and took it on the road, performing at different venues, mostly art galleries. Whenever I was in a different city, I'd still also work on it in parks and city streets."
Before coming to Off-Broadway, he was even able to take it abroad to England, performing at the Camden Fringe Festival. He arrived right in the middle of the 2011 Camden riots.
"It was crazy, man," he remembered.
I got off, not knowing where I was going, and I was in the middle of all the riots. Finally some guy helped me out and showed me where to go. We had to go via side streets, through people's backyards. And that first night or so, we had like one person in the audience. But once things calmed down, we had packed houses.
After returning from the festival, he wanted to continue with the play. That's when Ms. Pryor became involved.
"We met on the set of a film. Our trailers were right next to each other," said Ms. Pryor. "One day he asked me to look at something he was working on. I did, and I was blown away. Most one man shows suck, but this was something different."
"Play," corrected Mr. Wilk. "Not one-man show."
"Right, play," Ms. Pryor agreed.
Even though she already had plenty on her plate, performing in her own Off-Broadway play, Fried Chicken and Latkes, in addition to helming the Artistic Directorship of The Strand Theater in Baltimore, and "being a mother," (as she put it wryly), she approached the challenge with enthusiasm and a strong belief in Rock's story.
From the start, the two planned to take the show Off-Broadway. After adding director Stephen Bishop Seely (who, according to Mr. Wilk was always there in an "unofficial" capacity), they turned to funding. Initial start-up money was raised by a Kickstarter campaign labeled 500 Names, where each person donated in the name of someone. The number and people who donated, and continue to, has astounded Rock, and has gone beyond five hundred.
"These were people who believed in it, and me, and they had all these stories behind the names," he said. "It was when that started happening that I was like, wow. This goes way beyond me."
When Broke Wide Open finally premiered Off-Broadway, the house was packed. The show was such a success that the 45th Street Theater has extended its initial run through to February.
A mix of music, poetry and prose, the action of the play takes place on a bare stage. The only set is a large mural backdrop of New York by two artists (who also happen to be brothers and Mr. Wilk's friends), Jason Sisino and Lee Alston. The only "prop" is an old piece of scaffolding, the brainchild of his director and purchased by Rock on Craigslist.
More than anything, this play is a story of New York. Born in New York, and raised by his adoptive parents in Brooklyn, Rock Wilk has always been a city boy. New York is integral to his being: it's in his words, his writing, his thoughts, the way he walks, talks, even breathes. As the play relates, every time he tries to transplant, it's a disaster.
It's fitting then, that a beat up piece of scaffolding is Mr. Wilk's partner as he spins his tale. With an electrifying stage presence and a grace that escapes many a seasoned Broadway performer, he tells of his life search for identity and home simply and eloquently. Like the piece of scaffolding he pushes, climbs on, and spins, he builds his life up only to have it tumble back down. Then he simply picks up the pieces and builds again, each time searching, hoping, and experiencing life with a resilient bravura.
Every-changing, every-building, ever-reaching. That's scaffolding. That's New York. That's Rock Wilk in Broke Wide Open.
For more information on the show and Rock Wilk, you can visit the website www.brokewideopen.com. Tickets for the show may also be purchased via the website.
Follow Lisa Bernier on Twitter: www.twitter.com/pilrimkim
Broke Wide Open
Written and composed by Rock Wilk
Directed by Stephen Bishop Seely
Music Direction Rock Wilk
Artist Design/ Canvas creators Jason Sisino and Lee Alston
Lighting Design Omayra Garriga Casiano
Stage Manager Nivia Marrero Rolon
The 45th Street Theater
New York, New York
Thru December 15, 2013
Rock Wilk is mesmerizing in his monodrama “Broke Wide Open.” The image of his arm pumped up in a power gesture immediately gives hope to a bleak beginning. Wilk was turned over by his birth mother to be passed from foster home to foster home, and finally settled in a wonderful Jewish family, where he was treasured.
Love or no love, he grapples with identity as he tries to find home. Who was his mother? He finds it difficult to cast himself as a Jew when he enters college on a football scholarship, not a match for the usual Jewish profile.
A sense of discomfort emanates from Wilk. Yet, as he exuberantly attacks his story, Wilk has a magical ability to switch emotional registers. The piece is never predictable. In lifelike sprawl and choppiness, Wilk often seems on the verge of breaking down, but soldiers forward.
His technique of time travel gives us the rich characters fundamental to his life. Wilk seamlessly moves from his voice to that of his adoptive grandmother, mother and father, all near the end of life. You feel Wilk’s confusion and the loving emanations of the family that chose him. Only the wife who lived with him for seven years in the country, where his adoptive mother died, does not emerge, perhaps because she has not yet been anchored by Wilk.
Wilk proceeds like a tornado, and uses the sole stage prop, a metal double decker bed on wheels, to twirl outside the way he feels inside. The stylistic aggression matches a wonderfully healthy, but driven, search. Stephen Bishop Seely directs to help keep us riveted throughout the evening.
The stage backdrop contains portraits of the rainbow of characters from Wilk’s life. A spurting fire hydrant gushes down the backdrop like Roy Lichtenstein’s Mural with a Blue Brushstroke. The image is strongest and suggests a life flowing bountifully.
In each moment Wilk intrigues, creating an intimate picture of need and searching. Wilk uses language like a composer uses notes. It is not surprising to find that he is a musician. He said in a post-performance conversation that he regards this work as a ‘symphony’, divided into movements within which themes and subjects are repeated and rewoven. Textures, gestures, and verbal styles switch from moment to moment, but all are apt for the character Wilk is inhabiting, and those he is revealing.
While Wilk considers himself a stranger, his journey is not strange at all. We live in a country of deep loneliness. The world outside often seems chaotic and unrelenting. At the heart of the matter Wilk frantically fights disconnection.
Care taken for each detail bespeaks a passion for the theatrical form. He does not elicit sympathy, but rather astonishment, urgency, and precision.
Is there a revelation? The possibility lurks throughout the play, which ends with a hopeful question mark. Wilk’s heart is not in a desert, but engorged in a rich pool of lives who have pulled together to provide his foundation in the present moment.
Wilk says, “This story started as ‘all about me,’ but is really ‘all about us.’ This fabulous actor will convince you.
Coming Home, Broke Wide Open
Alison Beth Levy
Our time calls for heart-openings, forgiveness, depth, and authenticity. We need art that shows us what this looks like. Rock Wilk channels his personal story through storytelling and music, two mediums which can be incredibly open and communal for an audience. The Broke Wide Open experience is an intense and entertaining body of work. It is ultimately about a survivor who is not letting anything, fate nor past mistakes, keep him from soaring. He is able to translate his journey into a universal work of transformation. In his play, the audience gets everything from Rock, and he has got a ton to give. The impetus for the show is Rock's adoption as a baby, and his subsequent search for himself, rather than his birth parents. Rock started writing BWO in 2006, and made it into a full length recording in 2007. Naturally, it became a play after a million re-writes, tours, and workshops. It's been open since October in midtown, Manhattan.
Rock has had many accomplishments in his career, such as signing with the legendary Patti LaBelle. He continually gives props to his director, the theater crew, his mural artists Lee Alston and Jason Sisino, his audience/fans who are 500 Names, so far raising $27,638, and his new producer Rain Pryor, daughter of Richard Pryor. Rain is an amazing force herself; she currently stars in Fried Chicken and Latkas, and works to promote theater education in Baltimore. Rock Wilk, Rain Pryor, and the brothers who made the mural, Lee and Jason, share a background in the search for self-identity and the break from cultural expectations, as well as stories of parental loss. They are the part of the family that is Broke Wide Open.
The play's current reincarnation at The New 45th Street Theater features a 25 foot high mural, which encapsulates the important aspects of BWO: a NYC vibe expressing humanity through a community (depicted by various larger-than-life portraits). BWO and its mural are about deep storytelling, and the search for home – a lasting sense of inner peace.
LEE AND JASON ARE LIVING HERE FOR A WHILE, AND IT'S MY HONOR AND PRIVILEGE TO HAVE THEM... DEVOUR THIS WEBSITE AND SEE WHAT'S GOING ON, A MIRACLE IN PROGRESS, A REAL LIFE MISSION, A FORCE OF COMMUNITY, BROKE WIDE OPEN IS GOING TO TAKE OVER THE WORLD, CHECK IT AND BE A PART OF IT, BE ONE OF THE 500 NAMES!!!!!!!!
~Rock Wilk's Facebook Status Jan 29, 2012
Rock first met Jason Sisino, and Jason got his brother Lee Alston involved. However, it was Lee that had first showed Jason how to paint years ago. When Rock needed a mural made for his current theater run, and after a call for artists to make the BWO backdrop, he reached out to Jason, who he had met around 2006-2007 in Asbury Park, one of Rock's favorite haunts, one of his homes. Rock knew Jason was the artist for the job. Jason says Rock just asked for diversity in the portraits, without giving them photos. “Coming together is what BWO is about.” Rock allowed the brothers to bring themselves to the theater's mural and collaborate using Rock's figures from his life. Jason liked working with Rock because it was clear he trusted them. Rock says that the creation of the mural is one of the proudest moments of his life: “Brothers working together for first time. They truly are a crucial part of the play. I want everyone to know who they are. Amazing people."
At 25 feet high, the mural was a huge project, which resulted in exactly what was in Rock's brain. The creative process was a very interesting and new one to the brothers. They passed images back and forth, until the items were all tied together in one place in the final sketch. Jason Sisino, who was a poet and writer, found a suitable medium in visual art through his brother's teaching. He began as a realistic painter at first, and then moved toward abstraction. He wasn't sure how returning to portraiture would pan out for the BWO mural. His fluid style fit for the cityscape parts of the mural, which connect the faces, building a diverse audience, reminiscent of the memorial portraits throughout the streets of NYC, which encounters the seated theater audience. It is clear that Rock's play is for everyone he meets, and that he will never forget those that have touched his life. The mural solidifies Rock's creative purpose.
In Jason's personal work, he uses all different blends and types of paint. He likes to make abstract paintings that allow the viewer to fill in the rest of the meaning. “I try to make someone feel something.” Jason's true artistic value challenges the viewer, offering more upon repeat viewings, and hopefully makes someone feel something. He is currently making work out of metal, which he calls cog-works, relates to the faces/audience/cityscape in the BWO mural. “They will outlast canvas, wood and bone, they are essentially timeless. Durable. The cogs themselves, small parts working together to create a whole -- just like life. If they do not work together the machine will not function. These cog-works combine the micro and macro, simultaneously. It is my ultimate goal to create works of true integration; combining the strength of eternal materials with passionate organic emotion.”
Jason loves drawing now, as did Lee when he was younger, Jason freestyles and has turned his art into a business, incorporating digital graphics and making his own prints. Lee was always a visual artist and showed Jason how to paint. They influenced each other but kept their own thing going, which led to them collaborating on commissions. Through conversation, arguments and restarts, breathing room and talk, feedback not criticism they found their ability to work well together.
Having lost their loving parents in their early 20s, art was a way for Lee to vent positively. He transferred this knowledge into his 14 year career in youth corrections, using the arts to bring out the inner angels of the kids. Drawing and painting became the way to help people, anyone, Lee says. Lee remarked that he witnessed the very challenging home lives of the kids, with violence, drug dealing, and all kinds of abuse and gangs. Yet, in the time and space he had for rehabilitation it was all about having art class. The kids thought it was cool, even kids who had no inclination. He also brought in jazz music, and through the music they would draw the most beautiful things. Lee says art “helps everyone that gets involved. It helps you learn to speak a different way. Try something different, sing, paint, talk more. Its important to talk about how you feel.” He shared with the kids that he was there helping them because of all the stuff he went through with his family.
With a black dad from NJ, all American and into sports, and a Sicilian mother born in NY, who grew up in foster homes, Lee and Jason didn't know where they belonged or fit in. Because no one knew what or who they were, they could be popular with everyone and every culture. They still constantly miss their parents and say they received their strong work ethics from their parents. Their mother committed suicide and father died from complications of angioplasty. The connections between the BWO team go very deep, as Rain Pryor also has also dealt with her mother attempting suicide as an adult.
On where he wants to go, Lee states: “NYC is where I want to be. I have a lot of super powers with me – my brother and friends, and my wife is great. That support level is something I can't explain. I plan to be with great galleries in the next 5 years. With Rock and Rain in Broadway is so much different than the visual arts, in theater you are creating big. I could see us doing really large group works. I think we hit something there. We are waiting to hear from Rain's investors about the mural we planned with her – which no-one has seen anything like yet. I just want to be able to paint and I couldn't do this without my brother.”
Theater is ephemeral; you could watch a video of Rock but it is not the same as the live experience. The BWO mural represents Rock's past, present and future. It is a touchstone for him of his memory. It comes alive during the show, and can serve as a document of his show for posterity. Rock gets very interactive with the painting, meeting and reflecting with the eyes and faces during the show. Being surrounded by people gives him energy and each night is a different experience. It just keeps growing, though the script stays the same as he takes the audience deeper and deeper in an exhausting experience that leaves him spent after the show. On working 8 shows a week, Rock says, “Staying in the script is like staying in a relationship -- staying and facing it -- dealing with THIS right here, all the time. Process of creating this is my life work. It is kinda intangible, something has happened to take the performance to a new level, so vulnerable, dangerous- what we performers look for- It is on the edge.”
Press is growing for Broke Wide Open, including Sway in the Morning, PIX 11 and Huffington Post, and the forces of Rock and Rain, with their loving source of supporters, will not stop till Broadway.
For me, it will always be about making the best piece of theater, what is best for the play for telling the story, to take people on a journey, to have a beautiful, shared experience, that is the point.
If you want to see what YOU built, from the ground up, you better bring yo' ass to The New Theatre at 45th Street on any Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday night from tomorrow thru January 11th, and let's feel all of this together, I promise you, you will never forget the experience, I remember every one of mine, for sure. All beautiful shared experiences.
~recent Rock Wilk status updates
Rock WILK BROKE WIDE OPEN
Directed by Stephen Bishop Seely
The 45 Street Theatre
354 W 45 St., NYC
Don't miss BROKE WIDE OPEN closing January 11, 2013
The New 45th Street Theater in NY :
Buy tickets http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/250252
Lee Alston/ L.A. Creations Art LLC
www.jasonsisino.com and stay tuned to his first gallery show coming up in Spring of 2013 at New Jersey's Knowledge Bennett Gallery.
Rain Pryor's Indiegogo campaign http://igg.me/p/276333
Be a Founding Donor and help Rain Pryor launch Baltimore TheatreWorks to increase performance opportunities for students in grades 6-12.
Facebook: Rock Wilk
Broke Wide Open
45th Street Theater
354 West 45th St (between eighth and ninth Avenues)
New York, NY 10036
Once upon a time, in a land far away, aka New York, Rock Wilk was born and what followed was a journey unlike any other. The story starts in a hospital quickly followed by an adoption agency and a portrait that would become the highlight of his production. He searches for answers that define his existence while using his experiences in the current moment of his life to mend the past.
We all come from different places and even though we think we know ourselves, we sometimes forget or deny that the past plays a crucial role in shaping our future. This is why Broke Wide Open is a must see for everyone struggling through adversity or complexes which inhibit self growth. Rock does a magnificent job in helping to alleviate the daily crutches that prohibit us to move forward in life.7082 300x198 Broke Wide Open
Rock, a Jewish Hip Hop artist who enjoys using the NYC subways to expand and find enlightenment and inspiration for his work, injects incredible poetic justice through bold and intense statements and actions to intensify the passion to re-claim his identity. Additionally as we travel back and forth within the past and present, he sprinkles and creates unexpected yet outstanding metaphors and surprises in between each segment.
Rock Wilk, with the help of Rain Pryor and donations from people who once were strangers, came together to help Broke Wide Open manifest and unleash its potential to the world. When you see Rock perform, it feels as if you are the one within the story. Because he is a muse and incredible storyteller, he encourages the desire to dissect our personal lives deeper than before and help find our middle ground in this world. After the show, it was an honor to speak with Rock and share his ambitions to conquer Broadway, international streets and venues as his portal to motivate humanity to respect the past and people with diverse backgrounds. Broke Wide Open will be running until January 11 2013. Don’t forget to check out: http://www.brokewideopen.com/home.html to stay updated on Rock’s next tour.
The inimitable Rain Pryor, actress, singer, comedian, director and author of Jokes My Father Never Taught Me, Life Love and Loss with Richard Pryor, is lead producer of BROKE WIDE OPEN, a play about spoken-word artist Rock WILK’s emotionally-charged search for his biological mother. This autobiographical solo play, punctuated by WILK’S own hip-hop compositions, is also presented by "500 Names,” a grass-roots social media and fundraising effort which is responsible for its New York City premiere coming to fruition. The show currently has an open run at the 45th Street Theatre (354 West 45th Street; Tuesday through Sunday at 8pm). Tickets can be purchased through Brown Paper Tickets HERE.
Over the past six years, Rock WILK performed BROKE WIDE OPEN in parks, art galleries and on the streets and subways of New York City. BROKE WIDE OPEN is the story of WILK's life in the foster-care system, his subsequent adoption into a Jewish household and his hesitant search for his biological mother. It really is a touching story of love, loss, family, relationships, and discovering one’s identity and place in the world. It’s an urban “Wizard of Oz” per say.
Pryor notes in the promotional material, "The first time I first saw BROKE WIDE OPEN I was hooked by Rock WILK's prolific poetry and storytelling. I felt as if I was watching a symphony of words and a transformation of the soul. His story and in his signature style of rapid-fire monologue is a powerful must-see." I agree. This is an authentically New York story. It’s gritty. It’s fast, yet extremely thoughtful and kind hearted. Mr. WILK’s story is one you can relate to, one you want to know.
BROKE WIDE OPEN is high-energy, honest and unforgettable. It sticks with you, especially the story about losing his adopted father – the only father figure he ever had in his life. BROKE WIDE OPEN is a poetic unveiling of truth. Not to be glib, but it’s “Def Poetry Jam” at its best. BROKE WIDE OPEN takes its viewers on a haunting ride. WILK recounts a life full of impactful decisions and the resulting consequences. A cyclone of well-intentioned chaos, he tests the limits of every relationship in his life. Who doesn’t? However, WILK creates a spellbinding wave of emotion as he explores who he is and where he belongs. He is pretty inspiring to his audience to do the same.
I have to say that the bravery to open your soul in a one-person piece is pretty profound. I come into the review rooting for you to win. WILK definitely comes through. In all truthfulness, the show probably could have used to cut the intermission as well as a song or two to pick up the pace but BROKE WIDE OPEN is a wonderful show.
The show’s biggest problem is that not enough people know about it. However, if this run keeps going at least through the holidays as it’s scheduled to do, that hopefully should change.
Producer Rain Pryor is currently starring in her own critically acclaimed, solo autobiographical show “Fried Chicken and Latkes” and joins director Stephen Bishop Seely (“8 Million Protagonists”) on the project. Rock WILK wrote and composed BROKE WIDE OPEN. The design team behind BROKE WIDE OPEN includes: Jason Sisino and Lee Alston (art design), Omayra Garriga Casiano (lighting design), Rock WILK (sound design), and Nivia Marrero Rolon (stage manager). For more information about BROKE WIDE OPEN, visit brokewideopen.com.
Finding Home on the Inside With Broke Wide Open
Rock WILK is a white Jewish hip hop artist whose major external claim to diversity was that he was among the many who are adopted and feel perennially estranged, ill at ease in his skin, and in search for his birth mother who may have had some answers for him. Or may not. At a moment in time when many of us are celebrating the presidential victory of Barack Obama, the emphasis has been on embracing diversity, mostly from the outside perspective of who and how we are and how we differ.
The question of inner diversity may be far from the political podiums but is one many of us struggle with on a day to day basis. How is one part of us different from the other part of us? How can Rock deal with his feeling Jewish but not feeling Jewish because he is told by many others that his athleticism makes him unlike Jews. How does he deal with looking for the home that will complete him when there are other parts that make him uniquely blessed and courageous enough to be himself, to speak and write and sing and spark his story with poetry. He does so as he puts some pieces together as he lets people in an audience identify with multiple stories, the adoption issue being but one. It is but one because in his case and that of many of us, and as he comes to realize, there is a level of estrangement not easily explained by or fixed by a kiss on the boo boo or the right person we have in our fantasy.
This thing about being known, being gotten is not Rock WILK's alone. And so it is the connection with others that ultimately helps him get to the home and the love within him. You can partake of this journey of his and of your own by joining him at his one-man show Broke Wide Open at the 45th Street Theater at 354 W. 45th Street in Manhattan, which opens Friday November 9. 2012.
Storytelling is a way of understanding and being understood, but it's also a way in which those same stories can evolve and even change with different awareness that we didn't have at the start. To make the part of this that is lonely or mysterious at ease, an enormous gift we need much more of, is a sense of community, big or small of people who can care, who can get it. Rock has found what I told him seemed like a kind of midwife in his director Stephen Bishop who, he said, has let him get to his own truths at his own pace.
And then, and now there is the recent partnering with Rain Pryor who has come on as producer. No stranger to feelings of being estranged and juggling emotions and events from her wild and glorious and confusing and overwhelming and lonely past as the daughter of comic genius Richard Pryor and a Jewish mother, fierce and shaky, Rain knew what she had needed to get off the ground with the sustaining recognition from her own producer. She saw Rock WILK in his performance of his show and she saw a kindred spirit: She was mesmerized, haunted, thrilled, and in some way at home.
Those of us who wander in the realms of identities, who seek the "real" us beyond the magical longings that make knowing our birth mother the answer to who we are, or to finding the right partner as completing our everything, have to ultimately confront the loneliness of giving up those fantasies. This isn't the concrete problem of employment or not, but it is the problem of how human we feel, how much belonging we can know, and even ask for. This isn't about begging, but about putting our truth out there, coming out of our individual and collective closets and telling our inconvenient truths.
Our culture has been ambivalent about that search to find the real self, which in truth doesn't always stay static for long. For some, Broke Wide Open could seem self indulgent, whining, too prolonged and Rock as ungrateful to his beautiful adoptive family. Or it could seem like the perfect vehicle that adoption activists who are less in favor of adoption, in fact adopt. But the play and Rock will really have none of that, because his seeking is what many of us can sense as a deeply human journey which may not duplicate our own but gives us one version of what it can be like to put pieces together of what can at times seem to us as the impossibly broken parts of Humpty Dumpty.
Rain Pryor is no small talent herself. Her continuing voyage of her own story in Fried Chicken and Latkes, which is itself a brilliant multi-accented collage of her, her parents' and her -- once again -- unique and and universal story, can itself be a blessing for those who get to see it. The fact that she caught on to Rock will hopefully help them both become themselves on their way.
To evolve ourselves we need to get closer to ourselves and our truths, to another truth as well: We need to open ways to tell our truths to each other, more often. Not all the time for all of us, and not always in a theater to an audience, but to someone so we can begin to belong more deeply in this life.
Never to diminish the pain of those who struggle with poverty and illness, but hurt from within can destroy a life or help it begin to be. See Broke Wide Open if you can. And share it as well. It's the beginning of conversations we all need.
One man alone on a stage, working through his abandonment issues, and a quest to find out what home means to him.
Currently playing at the 45th Street Theater, ROCK Wilk's BROKE WIDE OPEN is a journey to find his place, in a world that may not always be kind. Told through music, rapid fire monologues, and poetry, BROKE WIDE OPEN explores Wilk's quest to find his home.
View slideshow: BROKE WIDE OPEN
BROKE WIDE OPEN traces Wilk's life from infancy when he was adopted, to his failed relationships, and personal issues through characters that passed through Wilk's life including his parents, grandmother, girlfriends, and his ex wife. Wilk's portrayal evokes a type of honesty that one rarely sees on stage. While Wilk's story may be that of his own journey to find out where be belongs, but what makes BROKE WIDE OPEN, so great is that there are universal themes that the audience can relate to. Themes like questioning your purpose in life and where you fit in, these feelings are feelings that most people have felt.
Set designer Marbellus Silverio's stark set is centered around a large canvas (painted with faces inspired by people who have passed through Wilk's life during the 6 years of the play's development), and a piece of scaffolding on an otherwise bare stage, is a perfect representation of Wilk baring his soul and being emotionally vulnerable throughout the show.
Omayra Garriga Casiano's light design meshed well with Stephen Bishop Seely's fast paced direction, transitioning seamlessly from character to character, and scene to scene. Both complimented Wilk's high energy performance.
As a whole, BROKE WIDE OPEN is an excellent piece of theater, blending music and vivid storytelling techniques. If there is one complaint about this show, is that the intermission broke the energy and pace of the show and took the audience out of Wilk's world.
BROKE WIDE OPEN is currently playing at the 45th Street Theater located at 345 W 45th St., New York, NY. Tickets are $35 and may be purchased from Brown Paper Tickets.
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Broke Wide Open by Rock Wilk at the SoulSWEET Sanctuary in the Bronx | by Ebony Brown
After seeing Rock Wilk perform at Urban Voices Heard Write Out Loud 2-Year Anniversary event held at El Fogon Center for the Arts in the Bronx, I was officially 'fiend-out' for a second serving of his verbal gumbo soup. Considering the place from which it was concocted, I knew that his words would get stuck in my teeth, making them harder to digest. Words like, "she, nine, repeated, acts, shame, and grown man" had certainly turned my stomach but not my head. To some extent, I knew what I was getting into when I decided to see Broke Wide Open, but I wasn't fully prepared for the story that unfolded.
Broke Wide Open is an utterly engaging, one-man show performed by Rock Wilk, one of New York City's most committed orators and prolific writers. Independent of Purchase College SUNY, Broke Wide Open was recently held at the SoulSWEET Sanctuary in the Bronx; an unlikely tourist locale with a reach that extends beyond the arts and into the community – providing support for young mothers and parents in need. Currently a traveling show, paralleling the main character’s journey, Broke Wide Open tactfully spews its ‘ejaculative’ ooze on the good-old, common wishful thinking associated with the better life a child is hoped to experience post adoption. From the perspective of the adopted, Broke Wide Open beautifully unveils the mind flogging pandemonium that crescendos with age as the main character, Rock Wilk searches for the woman whose womb he had been conceived but yet consoled.
Rock’s performance was comprised of the stuff that people often contain, mask or manage in order to evade the fear of judgment, rejection or self-fulfilling, prophetic abandonment. My senses were immediately courted by the wonderfully balanced entourage of literal and metaphoric allusions – euphemisms excluded. Whether on a set designed stage or a ‘hole in the wall Rock’s life is both the venue and the play. Do yourself a favor and indulge!
Debuted in September 2010 at the Medicine Show Theater, Broke Wide Open continues to develop as Rock considers the feedback of his audience – perfecting one of the most honest and powerfully delivered, one-man shows on the road.
Broke Wide Open is an example of the raw creative expression and cultural enrichment that exists off-campus, easily serving as a priceless addition to the college experience, especially for students in the performing arts conservatories at Purchase College or elsewhere. Students seriously pursuing their craft would not only have much to gain in witnessing a true performance artist in motion - they would also have the opportunity to give and take full advantage of the question and answer session held at the end of the show.
Audience members at the SoulSWEET Sanctuary shared their own personal struggles and triumphs with adoption. In retrospect, I remember thinking about how you never know of someone's burdens or blessing, especially those we passively encounter until they express the least imagined. Both Rock and the audience attested to this.
In the unglorified and often underfunded arts spaces of the Bronx, there lie pockets of soul, truth and penetrating artistry to be experienced, appreciated and supported. Although Broke Wide Open isn't scheduled to take place at the SoulSWEET Sanctuary anytime soon, spoken word and open mic events are usually held every Saturday.The SoulSWEET Sanctuary is located only 35-45 minutes from Purchase College SUNY.
Broke Wide Open
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
BROKE WIDE OPEN "unplugged" @7:30pm
78th Street Theatre Lab
236 W 78th St
New York, NY 10024
Follow the Broke Wide Open unplugged tour for more show dates and news!
Official Broke Wide Open Website:
835 Dawson Avenue
Bronx, NY 10459
Rock Wilk Wants to Play With You
May 3, 2011
We knew him when: Performance poet, playwright, producer, musician and mad original Rock Wilk has BROKE WIDE OPEN on an international scale — and he’s coming to a major stage festival, legit theater, public library, street corner or living room near you.
Some of our Fa(r)cebook Frenz send us breathless dispatches concerning cups of coffee and sunrises viewed from the deck. Others link to some article we first saw on The Onion in 2003, and even we have not been immune to the cutely photoshopped cat pix. But when Rock WILK comes a-postin’, it goes something like this:
Rock WILK is… out of the box renegade, not part of the club, without invitation & so he is throw his own party intriguing, THINK it PLAN it DO it FEARLESS, he just wants to play with you, share with you. Watch him fly. High. He won’t stop. He’s all a that…
Who is this Rock Wilk anyway? We’d endeavor to peg him as a sought-after singer and vocal arranger (for Nile Rodgers and Patti Labelle among many others), a composer of soundtrack music, a “spoken word sensei,” a producer, a playwright, a performance poet…and we get the feeling we’d run out of push pins long before we got to “a puppet, a pirate, a pawn and a king.”
Just precisely who “Rock WILK is” remains unresolved by Wilk himself, since the Boy from NYC has made matters of identity — the adoptee’s search for his birth parents; the artist’s almost obsessive need to constantly reinvent oneself — the tectonically tumultuous foundation for Broke Wide Open, the solo performance piece that began life circa 2007 as a self-released CD of intensely personal and/or autobiographical songs.
Several years after very small audiences here on the Upper Wet Side were first exposed to Wilk’s live renditions of BWO (at offbeat venues like the Crane House, The Showroom, SICA and even a suburban stripmall bookstore), the work has morphed from a songs-and-stories slideshow into a powerhouse presentation supercharged by word-high energy; a candidly confessional, relentlessly rhythmic state-of-the-state that sizzles with everything from a scared little kid’s search for a hand to hold, to an angry young runner’s attempts to stay a step ahead of the fury that both inspires and threatens to overtake him.
To call Broke Wide Open a “memoir” is to do it a disservice in this “me”-O.D. marketplace. Is it even a play? An epic poem NuMythology? A “road” novel or a rant? A gum, a candy, a breath mint? Not to be too terribly arch about it, Broke Wide Open might just be that Whole New Thing we didn’t even know we were looking for; that place we’re being drawn to for the first time as things warp and splinter, as our notions of how anything at all is conceived or created (or delivered, distributed, owned and consumed) gasp their last, and we try to figure out What Just Happened and what we’re supposed to do next, and wonder just what or who is going to come along and make perfect sense of (and in) this new context.
After honing his act to a Wilkinson-sword edge at venues like NYC’s Theater Lab, Wilk took Broke Wide Open on its first coast-to-coast tour this spring — and later this summer, he brings the stage production to Europe for a major festival engagement and possible world domination.
Until then, Rock Wilk continues to workshop new material in public parks and on moving subway cars — and rides the NJ Transit rails down the Shore, where he spends time in and around Asbury Park, and maintains a regular presence as the host of the monthly series of “iPoet” student-writer showcases at the Long Branch Free Public Library. On the afternoon of Saturday, May 14, Wilk will be joined by Springsteen singer (and solo songwriter) Lisa Lowell for an iPoet session that pairs the area’s newest poetic voices with some veteran vocalizers of the Shore music scene — and upperWETside caught up with the renegade somewhere outside the box.
So since the last time we talked you’ve gone nationwide; done a little Manifest Destiny with your one-man show. How’s it play out in the hinterlands? Are audiences in different towns reacting differently?
It was the first time that I really took the show outside my little area — New York, New Jersey, Boston, Philadelphia — basically the Northeast. I went to places like Chicago, Seattle — some of the Q and A’s last as long as two hours…very open, very raw…I’m givin’ people a forum to talk about the things they don’t always want to talk about.
I went to LA, where I happen to know a lot of people, and where I’d get all these industry people making comments about structure, transitions, things like that. I also went to Denver, which was quite a new experience for me.
The Denver audience was very conservative, mostly older crowd, probably all Republican…not at all the sort of crowd you see in New York or Asbury. But the response I got was almost religious…I didn’t change a thing about the show, and the reaction I got was for me a confirmation that I’m telling a story that resonates with any kind of audience. Something that’s not all about me; that’s transformed into something where people can see things about their own lives.
Kindly reiterate the exciting news that you shared with your email friends the other day.
I’m going to London, to do The Camden Fringe Festival — six shows between August 9th and 14th. Then in December I’m goin’ to Paris, at the invitation of a theater company there. They’re gonna have me do Broke Wide Open to a French-speaking audience, with subtitles.
And in between all this, you’re still finding the time to host the iPoet events at the Long Branch Library, where I can tell you everybody’s just thrilled to have you on board. The people from the Arts Council, the young kids, are all digging what you’re doing…you tie the room together, like the rug in THE BIG LEBOWSKI.
I love doing the iPoet thing…it’s something different every month, and I’m grateful that Robyn, Gabe and everyone keep askin’ me back. As far as the next event goes, I had planned to mix things up with song when I heard that it was going to be incorporating some singers and songwriters.
It wasn’t too long ago…2008 I think…when I saw you perform your show for the first time; a presentation with slide projections and recorded music inside the tiny parlor of the Stephen Crane House in Asbury.
At that time it was called Ma’Plej’ , and it was more of a songs and stories format, based on the album of songs called Broke Wide Open. And each time you saw it after that, I’m sure it had evolved into something different…that was a period of time when I was kind of traveling inside my own head; I didn’t know exactly how I wanted to tell this story, and a friend kind of pushed me in the direction of spoken word.
You were still known primarily as a musician, a singer, an arranger at that time. Was this more or less the first time you tapped into the spoken word thing? When you took the show to places like the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, did it still have the musical component, or did you just reinvent it altogether?
It wasn’t easy at first…I really humiliated myself in front of the audience. It can be very painful to perform in those clubs, but I figured that this pain was something I could use; just dive into it, learn from it, write about what I was going through.
Well, the show’s obviously morphed constantly and considerably through the years…I know you’ve always solicited feedback from the audiences, and I’m wondering if there ever was a time that somebody said or suggested something that really caused you to rethink what you’d been doing at that point…
I think Broke Wide Open was a very angry show at one point, and now it’s much more vulnerable, even funny. Nothing has ever really thrown a wrench into things, but I have to say that Broke Wide Open has been shaped to a great extent by a lot of the people who’ve come out to see it over the years — people from the adoption community especially.
The show is still about being adopted, being given away, living in foster homes…back in the 1960s, you had babies taken away from their mothers, kids placed in foster care with no way of ever connecting with their birth mothers.
The earliest version of the show pretty much ended with me talking about how I’m grateful for my adoptive parents. I’d get people coming up to me, telling me that I wasn’t happy, that this wasn’t a happy ending, and that I should be taking a stand and finding my mother. That’s something I’ve always wrestled with. I mean, what if my mother’s some racist asshole; what if I find out about some disease I’m just waiting to get?
When I performed it at The Showroom, this one adopted guy brought his father; you could see he was very moved by it…another guy wrote online that the show made him pledge to call his father every day, to tell him that he loved him.
I’ve had directors and other industry people try to tell me what to do with the show; try to change it something that it wasn’t — but you have to understand that even if I make one little change, it affects the whole work. It’s not just one word; it could be ten pages.
In a way you’re still just getting started with BROKE WIDE OPEN, but what happens after that? Do you have a sequel in the works?
I’m working on another play — it’s about Sean Bell, who you might remember from a news story a few years back, and it’s based on a poem which I performed at the last iPoet in Long Branch. It’s not a monologue this time; it’ll have a few characters, although I may wind up doing it as a one-man show with different parts to play.
One of the things I’ve had to teach myself is the theater scene; who the directors are, and who might be the best director to work with. I’ve been watching a lot of movies, studying those directors also — I like the Coen Brothers a lot, and I especially love Spike Lee, and the way he tells his stories.
One of the things I’m most impressed with is how you’ve engineered your show to really work in any available space…a black-box theater, a bookstore, a coffeehouse, and I even remember you doing it out on the street in Asbury Park. How big and how small are you willing to go with this thing in its current state?
I live in Washington Heights, and I rehearse in a little park there. I’ve had people stop and watch and listen while I run through the show…one group of people sat there for the entire two hours, and stayed to talk about it afterward.
I definitely think Broke Wide Open is Broadway worthy. It’s something that’s good enough for the Taper Forum, for Steppenwolf in Chicago. It’s something that can hold a big audience, and it’s something I can do on a street corner for passersby. I’ve even done it for a friend and her daughter, the entire show, in their living room.
So that stands as the most intimate performance you’ve ever done?
No, that would be when I went to my parents’ graves and did it there, just for them. I made some changes to the show after I did that, so you can say that they had their own contribution to make to it also.
So yes, everybody who’s ever seen Broke Wide Open has been part of the evolution of the work. It’s a cliche, but it’s all about the journey. I want us to do this together — to be part of this wonderful shared experience.
A shared experience, maybe, but one in which you yourself are still doing all the heavy lifting.
This is hard work. It absolutely is, and if you’re not workin’ like I’m workin’, you ain’t doin’ nothin’. I’m my own promoter, booking agent, tour manager, whatever it takes — there are no shortcuts, and when something positive goes your way, you really feel that you earned it.
I’ve been called a “shameless self promoter” — sometimes in a friendly way; other times by people who are jealous of what I’ve managed to do — but I’m squeezing every drop out of everything I am with my work. For the first time I feel I’m doin’ exactly what I want to be doing…I feel filled up when I do this work. Like I’m not just takin’ up space; I’m contributing something.
Pure Poetry #19: Rock WILK is a F*cking Experience
I sat sipping a Bud Light at a square table waiting for the show to begin. The small crowd consisted mostly of poets waiting to perform their pieces. The host asked me to sign up because some of her performers had dropped out. I agreed and wrote my name on a list right above someone named “Rock WILK.”
I dropped some new poems and did my thing. Another Bud Light was calling my name as they announced Rock WILK on stage. I discreetly attempted to head to the bar when I heard his voice. His voice was even more powerful than my desire for a fresh beer.
I stopped, immediately and felt literally spellbound and frozen in place.
Rock WILK is a fucking experience. His spoken word performances are life changing. With a soft voice and rapid fire-delivery, Rock solemnly refuses to release you back into your comfort zone until he’s good and finished — until his words have cracked open your ribcage and slipped into your beating heart and his face is forever embedded in your mind — then, and only then, will you be set free.
Rock WILK is a NYC based multi-talented artist with a divine given gift for performing in front of an audience. And I’m not saying you gotta believe in God or anything, but go see Rock WILK perform and then tell me if you didn’t feel the heavens shift slightly.
Ok, enough of me gushing — here’s a video of Rock WILK performing a piece at the Nuyorican Poets Café about Sean Bell. The New York Pigs, oopse I mean Police, Department gunned him down in the parking lot of club. It was the night of Sean’s bachelor party. Instead of walking down the aisle the next day, Sean Bell was laid to rest after 50 shots took his life.
Rock WILK is currently on tour with his one-man show Broke Wide Open. Check it out
For a taste of Broke Wide Open, check out Rock’s performance of “My Grandmother.”
Rock WILK shares his life through music, acting and performing spoken word. Join the Rock movement. Fall in to Broke Wide Open:
I’m BROKE WIDE OPEN
sometimes I hate cryptic
someone said that I am a love poem
maybe that means I’m a metaphor
I am gunshots on 125th St in the summer
right after saying so
you are nervous
a quiet window of opportunity
we’re getting closer
and so you let me take you
Trust me, you will not regret it.
For more info on Rock WILK and to find out if Broke Wide Open is coming to your town, check out http://www.brokewideopen.com/
Let me start off by saying that, with many in the poetry community, I’ve gotten a reputation for my honesty and borderline snobbery when it comes to writing. I don’t intend it that way; I just have a certain quality of writing I ask for. Whether it’s morose or uproarious, I ask for few things, but they’re all important and centered around this idea of “care.” I got a fair amount of criticism when I first brought this up a while back, but it’s true. Qualities like taking one’s time with a piece, working extra hard on refining one’s craft, and having a sense of earnest in the things you say, no matter how outlandish. It’s those qualities above elements like verbal dexterity and hyperbole I truly appreciate.
This past Saturday, I witnessed a great example of this idea, seeing Rock Wilk’s one-man show, Broke Wide Open. As is typical with one-person shows, he tries to convey a whole life’s story in a matter of a couple of hours and a couple of acts. The difference between his show and others I’ve seen is that, as effortlessly as he skated across the stage, dancing in the projected images around him, he obviously worked really hard to give the illusion of simplicity.
With him, I also started toying with the idea of why I like an artist of any craft, in levels:
1. They try to convey their message, and we’re meant to hear it and like it.
2. They convey the message, hoping we’ll sympathize with them.
3. They convey the message well, and get us to empathize with them.
That last level is so critical too. I feel like the closer you feel like you’re in the person’s shoes when the person’s in their “art avatar”, the better the artist is for me, no matter how reserved they are when doing interviews or in normal conversation. Ignore that I’m not Jewish, I’ve never been adopted or married, never lived in Los Angeles, and haven’t had so many of my close relatives die within a few years of each other.
I didn’t just feel Rock; by the end, I almost felt like Rock himself.
And that’s an awesome feeling. I’ve had the privilege of seeing Marc Anthony dance and sing with us on the floor of Madison Square Garden, Jay-Z and Eminem at Yankee Stadium where we were shoulder-to-shoulder on the field all bopping along, and now in a small black box theatre where a man was practicing this thing we call performance poetry, a different animal than slam poetry. (All of them from pretty close range, too). In all these instances, the artist has this way of captivating the audience because they don’t just ask you to join them in their stream of consciousness; they lend you their shoes and ask you to strap in.
The quiet man in the corner of our poetry workshop had all these words to share with us, and so many of us knew it, too. While a friend and I sat there thinking of poets who emote this sort of feeling to us (and we came up with about 4), I said, “This is what poetry should feel like.”
Like we were him, and our hearts were broke wide open.
Open; Broken and Wide
For much of my life, I have always been attracted to art that brings you in, that makes you think and reflect on yourself. Because of this, I have a very particular taste in what I will watch, listen to and read…which makes me a little bit of a art snob. It is what it is. I know what I like.
I was given the chance to go see Rock Wilk’s one-man show, “Broke Wide Open” this past Saturday. I didn’t know what to expect, other than all the reviews I’ve seen from my peers on how amazing the performance was. It’s hard to impress me when it comes to poetry. I can count on less than both my hands who I could listen to endlessly recite poetry and be stricken profoundly by their words. This show made it on that list.
There was no gimmick. No trying to be something it wasn’t. It was raw, unfiltered emotions on this man’s life and all the tribulations he went through. I found myself beginning to feel what he was feeling, regardless of the fact that I have no idea what being adopted feels like. Things I had been feeling last week came to the surface as I began to examine them from the mirror this show held up for me.
I thought about my own family and parents. I thought about the places I’ve sought to find acceptance and love & the desperation that it came with. There was so much busted open inside me. I had to sit there after the show and absorb what I had just seen; it was impossible to just get up and move along my night as though something in me hadn’t been touched.
This show led me to reach out to a sister that I hadn’t spoken to in some time. I had a good conversation with her, and trying to put into words the things changing in me. She told me that one day I will tell him what he did was wrong and be completely fearless in doing so; that what he did is his shit and I don’t have to carry it. We realized that obsessing about someone calling you is merely a distraction to your own life (What are you doing? What are you accomplishing? Is your to-do list done?). I finally figured out that I can’t make a special someone pay for all the transgressions of those before him, and that I was thisclose to doing so.
Shows like this make you open yourself up. Whether you take the chance to do so is your issue, but this helped me in so many ways, I can’t even begin to thank Mr. Rock Wilk for what he’s doing. It just inspires me to continue my introspective journey within.
Searching For Himself, And His Birth Mother
Is any human need deeper than the need to know where we came from? In Rock Wilk’s one-man show, “Broke Wide Open,” directed by Stephen Bishop Seely, the poet and performance artist explores his conflicted identity about the time he was given away at birth and then adopted by Jewish parents. The play opens this weekend at the 45th Street Theatre for a month-long run.
Wilk was born to a Bronx woman who had had a two-year affair with her boss. Within the first six months of his life, he was transferred to three different foster homes, and then finally adopted. His new parents named him Alan Wilk and raised him in Spring Valley, in Rockland County. After an unsuccessful stint at Colorado State University, Wilk returned to New York and began performing in both poetry and music clubs.
He found an invaluable mentor in Jack Rollins, the manager of Woody Allen. Rollins encouraged him to record the raw, pulsing album that became the springboard for “Broke Wide Open,” a show that unites the performer’s experience in spoken word poetry with his penchant for street theater. It was written entirely on New York subway trains, where Wilk was inspired by the jangling rhythms of the city, and presented in London last summer, at a time when nightly riots provided an eerie counterpoint to Wilk’s tale of a turbulent, divided soul.
In an interview, Wilk, who is tall, bald and muscular with silver hoops in both ears, recalled that his childhood was marred by lacerating self-doubt. “I had a lot of self-loathing because I was an athlete and a singer, and I was Jewish, and nobody seemed to understand me or know anything about me. And I didn’t know who I was either.” He ultimately determined to find his birth mother, a quest that he describes in “Broke Wide Open.”
While at first he resisted Jewish stereotypes being imposed upon him, ones that seemed so much at odds with his personality, Wilk eventually embraced his Jewish heritage as a “source of comfort and pride,” especially after the deaths of his parents and grandmother.
Because of his frequent appearances at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe and other poetry slams, Wilk noted that he has attracted a following of young people, many of the from housing projects, who would not otherwise attend live theater. He is pleased that these non-Jewish kids, when they come to see “Broke Wide Open,” will “get to see my grandmother talking Yiddish to me, get to see me dealing with my issues about my Jewish identity.”
Even more importantly, Wilk is moved and gratified to see, through the free-wheeling post-performance Q&A’s that have become the show’s trademark, his urban audiences finding resonances in their own lives to a show that he poignantly sums up as “a love letter to New York” and as an “urban ‘Wizard of Oz,’ a searching for home.”
WILK, WIDE OPEN AND READY
Profile of the artist: He’s not posing for his face on a silver dollar just yet, but when Rock Wilk returns to The Showroom this Friday night, he’ll be commemorating the end of one chapter — and the beginning of an exciting new phase — in the evolution of his performance piece BROKE WIDE OPEN.
By TOM CHESEK
Maybe you caught a glimpse of a GOT WILK? sticker on a street sign and wondered vaguely what that was all about. Maybe you found yourself riding the G line of the NYC subway one night and didn’t know what to make of that intense character sitting across from you; taking down notes and talk-singing to himself not from insanity but inspiration. Or maybe you were just put in position to encounter him in guerrilla performance mode — be it on the streets of Asbury Park, at a coffeehouse in Long Branch, even the Borders bookstore in Eatontown.
If you’ve ever so much as dipped occasionally into our oRBit, you’ve probably encountered some mention of Rock Wilk, the Brooklyn-based “singer, scribe and spoken-word sensei” who’s likely racking up some new categories even as we write this. For the past couple of years, this seriously driven artist has staked out a second base of operations “down the Shore” in and around Asbury town, where the veteran studio musician — credits include recordings by such pop eminences as Nile Rodgers and Patti Labelle — went to hone and define the live performance piece that came to be known as Broke Wide Open. Taking its name from Wilk’s self-released 2008 CD — a sober set of songs rooted in anger, personal pain and a broader social anguish — the work has transcended its source material; morphing into a fully fleshed theatrical presentation that centers around its creator’s real-life search for his biological parents, and his consequent struggle with his own sense of self.
We first caught a very early version of this work in the historic parlor of the Crane House in Asbury, under the name Ma’Plej’ (the odd name roughly translates as “my pledge” and is composed of letters corresponding to the names of Wilk’s extended family members). The artist subsequently would show up at venues ranging from Asbury Park High School to SICA in Long Branch, to that aforementioned suburban bookstore — and along the line, the melodic vocals of the original album gave way to a new, more raw (but no less rhythmic) spoken-word-with-music attack that Wilk would mark with a second word-based CD (Valentine’s Day) and a second MySpace page dedicated to this developing aspect of his art and craft.
Wilk would continue to workshop his ever-evolving work at performance venues in NYC — but it was at The Showroom, that savvy storefront screening space in downtown Asbury Park, where Broke Wide Open took a quantum leap forward toward a new life as a real-deal stage play last year. This Friday night, the Wilkman returneth to Mike and Nancy’s place on Cookman Avenue for an occasion that marks the end of one chapter — it will be the last time he’ll be performing the one-man “staged reading” version of BWO — and the first step toward the project’s next logical phase; that being a fully staged New York production.
Red Bank oRBit rang up the Rock at this exciting career crossroads — Continue Reading for best results............
RED BANK oRBit: So, I’m understanding that this weekend’s performance at The Showroom represents a kind of closing one chapter in your project called BROKE WIDE OPEN. Is it more of a beginning or an end? Would it be the last time we get to see you perform down here for the time being?
ROCK WILK: This is the last staged reading of Broke Wide Open that I’ll be doing in this form. I’ve been workshopping it now with various directors; working with people who can confirm that I’ve been going in the right direction. I’ve been working on the script for about a year now — I feel like I’ve been in school for the past year or so.
I’ve also been performing it as much as five times a week in places like the Theater Lab in Manhattan,which is just an amazing place, and the Nuyorican Poets Cafe. But down here is where I first performed it as Broke Wide Open, and when I first did it at The Showroom, I had an intermission for the first time; I did a Q&A with the audience for the first time, which was just ridiculously amazing.
Having seen what you’ve been doing as sort of a multimedia slide show; as a scaled-down reading for bookstores and coffeehouses, and as a more polished piece — how far has this thing evolved from what you first did at the Crane House in 2008?
Oh, it’s radically different from how it started out. Ma’Plej’ was more of a presentation piece, based on my album, with some other spoken material that explained the songs. It’s evolved into a two-hour play with intermission.
Basically, it’s about the search for my biological mother — I think of it as sort of an urban Wizard of Oz; you meet all sorts of characters along the way. I’ve taken actual things that have happened over the years; included people that I’ve known in my life.
When you first saw it in its original form, it was kind of an angry piece — there was personal anger in there, but also anger directed at broad themes like racism, prejudice. Now I look at it as a celebration of every experience I’ve had in my life
Anger sometimes comes off as honesty — you know, it’s easy to be angry, and harder to deal with truth and be balanced about it. So as far as being angry — I’ve evolved, definitely. I feel that I convey the same intensity, but at the same time I feel more secure in myself.
I’m aware of your famous method of writing on the subway, but would you say that the time you’ve spent down in our neck of the weeds has really had a big impact on shaping your work?
Going down to Asbury Park, which I did a while back for personal reasons and just to get away, was crucial to the development of this play. To me it was like exploring Roman ruins. I couldn’t have done what I’ve done if I didn’t leave the city — I’m a self-professed New York City snob, but it’s important to get out and see different places.
When I got to Asbury Park I didn’t know anybody; I had to learn about the city and the people who lived there. Like, I got interested in what the Arts Coalition of Asbury Park was doing, although to me there was a real disconnect between one side of the town and the west side; my intention was to kind of work with people to get things happening all over town, to kind of bridge the gap a little bit.
But I wanted to finish this stage of the project down here — partly as a way to thank the people who’ve had a lot to do with this project evolving the way it has.
Who are some of the people down here that have really taken an active interest in your project?
The people from The Showroom — I love those guys! I kept going over there before they opened; as soon as I saw the place I knew it would be perfect for what I was doing. And Stephen Bishop Seely, who you probably remember from ReVision Theatre Company, was the person who more than anyone else helped me to turn it into a real play. He’s one of the smartest people I’ve ever met — he got me to go deeper and deeper with this work; prompted me to make the choices I had to make. I’d be thinking I was being brutally honest and he’d be telling me, ‘I think you’re hiding.’
Stephen’s left ReVision to concentrate on his acting career again, but he put me in touch with some important people at Disney and at the Public Theater. And I’ve done a lot of community outreach with ReVision; I’d like to continue my association with them.
During the time that you spent around Asbury Park and the surrounding area, you got yourself involved in a few other events — for instance, you had something to do with a performance at The Showroom by the spoken word artist Tylik “TIGGA” Railey, which got cancelled a month or two back.
Yeah, Tigga’s show had to be postponed when he got sick, but they’re looking to get it together again, possibly later in February. As soon as I saw Tigga perform I knew that he was just the sort of artist who could help make the kind of connections I was talking about; he comes from Asbury Park, from a family of social activists, and I hope that ArtsCAP can work together with him.
Another local endeavor that you took an active role in was the Long Branch Poetry Festival, specifically the Young Poets portion of the event…
It was really great to host that program, and to work with those kids from the local schools — a great experience, and anytime the Arts Council people want to to do something together, I’d be into it. I was impressed that they had a political panel discussion on poetry, right there in the council chambers at the municipal building.
Well, thanks to Brian Unger, Long Branch is one of the few towns that can boast a published poet on the City Council.
Yeah, Brian’s a good guy, and so are Gabe Barabas and Robyn Ellenbogen from the Arts Council. And I got to know Long Branch a little better; I think the downtown, around where SICA is, is a nice area — the architecture’s really cool, which is something I’m always interested in. But there’s a definite sense of isolation from the beach, from all the new things that have opened up on that side of the city.
Yeah, downtown Long Branch is very much a work in progress, and if we all ever get out from under the economic nasties it’ll definitely be a place to watch in years to come. Evolving, just like you — it wasn’t so very long ago that I knew you as a singer, an arranger and a musician.
I come from the music business; it was my frame of reference for a long time, and I still have stuff going on musically with MTV and other things. But in order to make this project happen I had to abandon a lot of what I did in the past. I had to commit 100 percent to developing this work — and it was like public humiliation for the first six months! But now, when I’m introduced to people, I’m introduced as an actor and a playwright. I’m completely immersed in that world, when just a couple of years ago I would never have imagined such a thing.
Well, here’s a question to take this thing out — having put so much of yourself out there, when you meet someone for the first time, do you get the sense that they kind of feel they’ve got the drop on you; like they think they know all about you and you don’t know jackshit about them?
A lot of people think they know me, but I’m changing every day. I’m actually very shy, very private — at a party I’m the one who’s standing there not talking to anybody. So while there’s a lot of me in this work, I’ve made sure that it’s not just all about me.
You know, I never did get to meet my biological mother, so after all the searching I still don’t have the answers necessarily. But through that exploration, I feel like I have closure. For me, this whole thing has been a cathartic experience — although I want people to know they won’t be attending someone’s therapy session. It’s still entertainment!
Tickets for Friday’s 8pm show are $10 in advance ($15 at the door) and can be reserved online right here.
Rock Wilk at The Showroom. For a guy who’s notorious for doing his best writing while riding the subway back and forth all night long, the search often takes precedence over the destination. And, while we would never be so presumptuous as to suggest we “discovered” him in any way/shape/form, we’ve been pleased and proud to have brought you early ink on the artist known as Rock Wilk — singer, poet, producer, spoken word artist and compelling performer whose own personal quest for a sense of identity has resulted in an arresting body of work that’s raw, confessional and way beyond the realm of “Journey to Me” jackoffery. Wilk has also been searching for the perfect venue in which to feature his one-man multimedia performances, and his activities in and around Asbury Park — whether at the Crane House, Core Restore, SICA in Long Branch or even the Borders bookstore in Eatontown — arguably found their finest forum in his previous appearances at The Showroom, the storefront screening space that first hosted him and his program Ma’Plej back in May. This Saturday night, the Rock returns to Mike and Nancy’s place with Broke Wide Open, a presentation that takes its name from his autobiographical CD of songs (lest we forget, the man’s an accomplished arranger who’s worked with the likes of Nile Rodgers) and includes some new material that illuminates and transcends the personal stories within. The 8pm show’s on the verge of a sellout as we post this, but if nothing else make a note to investigate the work of this rare artist wherever and whenever you can in the future. Saturday, 8pm/ $10
Many of us have had the pleasure of witnessing the magic of a one-person show: John Leguizamo, Caridad (La Bruja) de la Luz, Helena D. Lewis, to name a few, have all been outstanding in this genre. But how many of us can say we have actually taken part in the development of such a masterpiece? For quite some time, Rock Wilk has been working on bringing us the play of a lifetime – his lifetime. Broke Wide Open has been described as a verbal opera guiding us through the journey of one man’s search for his biological mother, his identity, his home. The pure, raw honesty of his performance is undeniable as Wilk invites us to embark on his soul-searching expedition while leaving his heart on the stage. The play is a perfect blend of his talents (actor, playwright, poet, socially and politically charged vocalist) guaranteeing a myriad of emotions as we not only join him, but feel as though we are him. Through unfiltered emotions we become one, evolving and overcoming trials and tribulations mapped out before us. Through his Unplugged tour, Wilk encourages audience members to stay after the show and provide feedback/constructive criticism so he may file any rough edges and polish his gem with the viewer’s best interest in mind. His ultimate goal? To share his story, his life, with as many people as he can from small venues to Broadway and beyond.
This past September, Broke Wide Open was brought to the stage of The Medicine Show Theatre in NYC where it was run as a 3 week, 12 performance workshop. The play has received rave reviews from peers, colleagues and audiences via virtual pages and print (up to and including The New York Times). So far, the Unplugged Tour has graced the stages of The Showroom Theatre of Asbury Park, NJ and the Nyack Village Theatre in Nyack, NY. Next stop is the SoulSweet Sanctuary in Bronx, NY. How often do you get the chance to experience an amazing piece of art? The kind that gently takes you by the hand, leads you to a tunnel heading towards the unknown, swoops you up into a tsunami of emotion before gently lulling you to serenity? How often does one get to witness a stage in the metamorphosis of an unpolished masterpiece? Not many can say they have. If you are amongst them, you certainly owe it to yourself to find out. Come join the crowd this Saturday, December 18th, 8pm (9PM show time) at the SoulSweet Sanctuary in the Bronx. Share Rock’s experience – it is guaranteed to change you!
Street poet, sweet singer and spoken word artist Rock Wilk returns Shoreside for a handful of live appearances.
Last summer in the virtual pages of Red Bank oRBit, we introduced you to Rock Wilk, a seriously skilled guy from Brooklyn who we described as “a veteran of the recording studio and a chronicler of stories. A poet who works in the cadences of the hip-hop tradition, and a character who claims to do his best writing while riding the subways.” Rock spent some time down Asbury way last year, where he spread the love via his GOT WILK? stickers and brought a multimedia show of songs and stories to the historic Stephen Crane House.
“The subway is the place where I feel most creative,” said Wilk, who in our profile had some refreshingly contrary things to say about the local state of the arts — and the distances we all need to travel to truly make this system hum. “I feel private when I’m there…sometimes I just ride the trains, all day and all night.”
Well, riding the pedal-car jitney up and down the boardwalk all night just doesn’t have the same kind of cachet, so Wilk took it back to the tubes to work on some different projects, including a whole new set of spoken-word with music compositions represented on his latest self-released drop, Valentine’s Day. He’s even started a second MySpace page, dedicated to this developing aspect of his art and craft.
“The work is something I’m very proud of, a result of a real evolution of my art,” writes the music veteran who’s lent his backup vocals and arrangements to the likes of Nile Rodgers and Patti Labelle.
“I’ve been living in these spoken word clubs since just before Thanksgiving, performing all over the place doing poetry slams and finally finding my OWN voice in this genre, perhaps creating a new genre, somewhere between hip hop/music/spoken word.”
Wilk has uploaded several examples of his recent work to the page (as well as edited snippets appearing on his official website), and we think they’re a savvy synthesis of musical language and a forceful, yet conversational style of writing-out-loud. In “22 Stops to 198th Street,” Wilk wonders “who the fuck am I?” as he pieces together snapshots of the birth parents with his self-realizations as “my own little man” in a culture that still views the adopted kid as The Other. He’s that guy sitting across from you on the G line, suddenly shouting out not in subway-craziness but in epiphany. Think much-maligned Eminem in his his most devastatingly personal moments, minus the mawkish victim trip.
“A Letter” works a similar theme of Wilk’s thoughts on finally meeting his bio-mom, set against a jazzy upright-bass plunk that for once isn’t some corny hip-hop hybrid. This is a guy who knows words and music and the ways in which they either cooperate or compete. And best of all, there’s not a vein of vanilla ice running through it.
“The material is born of a lot of pain that I’ve been thru recently,” says Wilk. “So some of the material is brutal, but honest to say the least.”
The Wilkman cometh again to the Shore for a handful of appearances spotlighting his new projects, beginning this Thursday with a school show at Asbury Park High. On Friday, March 13, he’ll perform for the first time at the interesting setting of the Borders store on Route 35 in Eatontown, and one week later on March 20 he’ll be at Core Restore, that rather unique space devoted to both art and physical therapy, on Mattison Avenue in Asbury Park.
A ROCK AND A HISTORIC PLACE
Wilk to power: Singer, poet, spoken word artist Rock Wilk offers the Shore audience a look at his “work in progress” known as “Ma’Plej’.”
By TOM CHESEK
At first glance, it’s a matchup of vocalist and venue that’s simply strange — the kind of idea that just seems “too true to be good.”
At center stage, you’ve got the man known as Rock Wilk, a lifelong New Yorker recently (temporarily?) transplanted to the Shore. A veteran of the recording studio and a chronicler of stories. A poet who works in the cadences of the hip-hop tradition, and a character who claims to do his best writing while riding the subways.
Hovering above it all, you’ve got Stephen Crane (1871-1900), the renowned 19th century author whose Civil War novel The Red Badge of Courage has been taught in high schools for generations. A war correspondent and prolific journalist who served as an early editor of the Asbury Park (Shore) Press.
It’s at Crane’s house on Fourth Avenue in Asbury Park that Rock Wilk will be standing in the modestly scaled parlor on Thursday night; addressing visitors to the historic Victorian-era home with a program entitled Ma’Plej’, a “work in progress” that’s built upon a foundation of tracks from his self-released CD Broke Wide Open.
A collection of songs inspired by personal travail, current events and other messy aspects of life — yeah, real songs, with the veteran vocal arranger multi-tracking his vocals into the tight harmonies of millennial R&B sounds — the CD was performed and produced in its entirely by Wilk, inside his Bedford-Stuyvesant apartment. A look here brings you a telling of the artist’s life story, the making of the album, and a sharing of the view from his window.
There’s more to Ma’Plej’ — the title’s an acronym of Wilk family member names, as well as a representation of the author’s “pledge” to use his musical gifts for the betterment of the world — than a run-through of album cuts. It’s a performance piece that uses spoken word interludes and visual elements as well, to convey “a show that’s socially and politically charged.”
A serious guy whose steely-eyed intensity brings to mind the younger work of actor Vincent D’Onofrio, Wilk has a background that has allowed him to work on records by some of the era’s pre-eminent purveyors of pop — including Nile Rodgers and Patti Labelle, to name a couple. But, as the singer says, “I try not to be the kind of guy who drops names…I’ve always rather been the guy who speaks out against injustice.”
On closer examination, the Wilk-Crane connection starts to make a lot more sense. The impassioned observer giving voice to the souls in transit beneath the streets of the city. The dynamic young reporter whose sympathetic studies of “women of the streets” enhanced his legacy, even as they jeopardized his professional standing. Together these guys are destined to create a wild duet.
Red Bank oRBit slipped away from a family barbecue to talk with Rock Wilk about his ever-evolving work, his strange new surroundings, and the things that remain constant through good times and bad.
Underground artist: Rock Wilk, pictured in the setting from which he draws his greatest inspiration.
RED BANK ORBIT: I guess the obvious question here would be to wonder just how your presentation traveled from Brooklyn to the Stephen Crane House — you can’t take the subway to the Crane House, and a boardwalk pedal-car jitney just doesn’t mean the same thing. Did you get a look at the place?
ROCK WILK: I did, yeah, and I thought it was great. I open Ma’Plej’ at a theater in Manhattan in a couple of months, and I was looking for a unique place to do the piece down here. Somebody from ArtsCAP introduced me to (Crane House owner/curator) Frank D’Alessandro, who’s a really good guy — I walked in there and said, “I wanna do it here.” I really like the vibe in there.
It’s a room that’s certainly never seen anything like you’re planning to bring there. Not sure what Crane himself would’ve made of it. But it’s also a very intimate space, so aren’t you thinking that you’re gonna need a bigger boat, as they say?
I’ve done this material for five people out in the street, and I’ll do it for a crowded theater. As long as I’m connecting with somebody, its a piece that will work on any level.
So what exactly is Ma’Plej’, compared to the album Broke Wide Open? Does it utilize all the songs from the album?
It’s a combination of music from my album, including remixes of things on the album, along with a lot of spoken word, and some visuals. It’s personal stories; my life story basically. I’m running the whole thing off my computer.
What kind of visuals?
Believe it or not, a lot of photos that I took with my cell phone. Sometimes I just have it as a background; the visuals together with the music gets the point across.
And you did the whole album yourself at home; tracking all the vocals, playing all the instruments.
Anybody can record a great album now on a laptop. You can do better than Earth, Wind and Fire did back in the 80s. But it’s really not so much what you do with the technology, it’s who you are.
You’re not an unknown quantity, though. You’ve worked with a lot of well known people in the business, so do you think that gives the project a higher profile from the start, no matter how small and personal it may be?
I’m a background singer; I’ve been in bands, I worked with some of the best singers in the world — people who probably appear on about half the records that ever get released. But if you don’t have the funding, you just can’t be part of the mainstream.
Like most new artists these days, you’re savvy enough to know that there’s not going to be a record label looking after the promotional details for you; you’ve got to be versed in all of the alternative methods of getting the word out.
I did very well with MySpace. The MySpace site exploded when I put it up after the album came out. I actually got jobs off of MySpace — I did vocal arrangements for someone in Australia!
I’ve been lucky, doing what I can to make a living. And I’m a pop music freak — Justin Timberlake, Stevie Wonder, Jay-Z, Eminem — but I’m also influenced by Pete Seeger, Gil Scott-Heron, anybody who has something to say.
And you do all of your writing on the subway.
The subway is the place where I feel most creative. I feel private when I’m there. Sometimes I just ride the trains, all day and all night.
You’re a lifelong Brooklynite?
The Bronx, Manhattan, where I lived for twenty years, and Brooklyn — Bed-Sty. But I’ve actually been down here in Asbury Park for the past eight months. I locked myself in an apartment for all this time, just working.
When I came to town, I didn’t know anybody down here. And when I saw what was going on around town, I said damn.
So you like what you see happening in Asbury?
Well, the west side of town is not part of what’s going on — not a lot of people want to talk about it. It reminds me of Williamsburg about 15 years ago. There was no rhyme or reason to it; people just started coming in and forcing the older people out. Living in Bed-Sty, it’s like — people stayed there, weathered the storm for years, and when the money starts coming into the neighborhood, things start opening up, they’re not in a position to take advantage of the new stuff. They can no longer afford to live there.
I went to one of the First Night events in the downtown, and I didn’t see one person of color. And this is a town that’s been majority African-American for years. Then I met a bar owner over on the west side, and he had never heard of the First Night thing. So, I really appreciate what ArtsCAP is doing, but there’s still a lot that needs to be done, to get people working together.
And you’re thinking that music, or the arts in general, can play a big role in that?
Well, we were talking about influences a moment ago, and the thing that had the single biggest influence on me was this one event; after 9/11 I went to Yankee Stadium to see this program with all of these spiritual leaders coming together. All of these different singers, working together. I said, that’s what music is for. And anything I do from now on, should be along those lines.
Which brings us back to Ma’Plej’ and songs like “New Orleans, a Warning.”
I’m the guy who can’t keep his mouth shut. This is perfect for me!
Rock Wilk is scheduled to perform at the Crane House at 8pm Thursday; tickets are $10 each and can be reserved here. Seating, however, is extremely limited, so if you’re unable to attend in Asbury Park, check the link for some upcoming opportunities to catch Rock in Brooklyn and Manhattan.
Intimate workshop with Rock WILK
Rock Wilk, the breathing force behind the Off Broadway show “Broke wide open” possesses many talents. Anyone that has seen him perform or shared a word with him can attest to this.
Today among his arsenal of singing, acting, and spoken word performance, he displayed yet another great talent, the ability to help people open up and express themselves.
Rock’s 5 hour workshop was nothing short of amazing. Very powerful and touching for all that participated. We shared tears, laughter, seriousness, and most important ourselves. The individual stories behind the pieces we heard today were amazing, truly amazing. I will not touch on individual stories as those are very personal, and may be private, but it was amazing.
This experience was so much different than a traditional open mic, we got to hear the pieces multiple times, answered provocative questions about the pieces, and spoke in depth about what the pieces meant to us. It was really special and I enjoyed it very much. 5 hours sounds like a long time, but you become so engaged and engulfed within each other’s amazing stories that the time flies by.
There is no set format, we kind of just flowed with each other. Rock did have us each read a piece, then together with the group and his exploring guidance we sought the truth behind our words. No pressure, no script, Rock took the time to dig, the group members also asked questions and chimed in, then upon attaining the true meanings behind our metaphors and cryptic words, he helped us more accurately express our meaning.
He listened, but was always there to coach us and guide the conversation. Rock is a very intense, powerful individual, he believes strongly in each and everyone of us connecting with ourselves and people in life overall, as well as our audience and really getting the message across. He stated and I quote:
“After a show, at times I weep for up to 20 minutes, I give everything, I leave it all out here each and everytime.”
I believe him. Rock believes that to truly be amazing, we have to be felt and connect. This workshop and the experience has caused me to completely rethink my poetry writing methods. He demonstrated to us how much was left unsaid because of metaphors, or mechanical reading or using a meter to time. He explained how much more of the message could be delivered if you are truly there with the piece, if you connect with your audience and make them feel you.
After this workshop I’ve decided I’m going to explore and focus on my current pieces. If something new comes to me, I will acknowledge and write it, but I will be focusing on connecting and building my current body of work according to this philosophy.
If you ever have a chance to work with Rock in this type of setting, absolutely take advantage of it, he’s an amazing human being. I am thankful I was able to work with Rock.
I look forward to seeing his show off Broadway. If you’d like more information or to purchase tickets to “Broke Wide Open” check out www.brokewideopen.com or go to http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/250252.
As a side note, Rock said that my piece “Dear Momma“, which he saw me perform at Bronx Stories for my mom helped him complete his play. I am honored that one of my pieces contributed in the slightest to this masterpiece. I can’t wait to see it, and I wish Rock all the success in the world.
Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Broke Wide Open
For the past couple of years, I have been following this phenomenal adoptee, playwright, and poet, by the name of Rock Wilk. His story is like no other adoptee I have interviewed. What makes him different? I feel the story, his life, behind every word he speaks. I can follow his journey with just the tone that I hear in his speech from his passion. It makes me feel like I have been there. It makes me feel like I was riding with him in the subways where he creates all of his art. He lives this moment every day, he is...BROKE WIDE OPEN for the world to see.
BROKE WIDE OPEN is performed by Rock Wilk. He shares about the search for his biological mother, and his incredibly loving and generous adoptive parents he had. Wilk states:
"BROKE WIDE OPEN is about how fortunate I was in my life, despite the fact that the first significant moment of my life was that I was given away, this is a story of realization, a "coming of age", of finally being comfortable in my own skin, of loving myself, and releasing all of the obstructions that existed, including the ones that I created, in my life to keep me "separated" from my own happiness for most of my existence. And so BROKE WIDE OPEN, much like The Wizard of OZ, is the story of me trying to get HOME.
After interviewing Wilk, I cannot even say that I was surprised that he is performing BROKE WIDE OPEN eight times a week at 2 hours a show! This man has an incredible passion and relentless spirit that commands that his story be told to the world, and not to those that are only affected by adoption. Everyone and anyone will be moved by this performance.
What touched me most while interviewing Wilk is when he opened up and shared that he cries for about 20 minutes after every show. "The performance in itself takes a toll on my body and my spirit", Wilk said. He also shared that he receives many hugs after his shows, and he once was not a hugger. You cannot resist this man's spirit when you are around him. People want to be a part of this movement, a part of his life.
BROKE WIDE OPEN is more than just a story about Rock Wilk, an adoptee. This is about the ability of one person beating the odds, that life is what you make of it, and all things are possible. One of the most important messages I feel when speaking to Wilk is that just because you were placed for adoption or abandoned, you STILL have a purpose! It is in your heart, you have to dig deep and find it. And it is okay if you have to go through a few bump roads on your journey, YOU can and WILL get there!
I encourage all of you that read this to donate to BROKE WIDE OPEN.
Rock WILK BROKE WIDE OPEN
Directed by Stephen Bishop Seely
The 45 Street Theatre
354 W 45 St., NYC
Rock Wilk’s play coming to Trenton
By JOAN GALLER
firstname.lastname@example.org Posted: 03/16/12 12:01 am
Updated: 03/16/12 12:55 am
Rock Wilk performs his one-may musical play “Broke Wide Open.” He’ll perform the show Sunday at 3 p.m. at the Mill Hill Playhouse on Front and Montgomery streets.
TRENTON — For every kid who’s been abandoned, dumped into foster care or given up for adoption — and sentenced to a lifetime of wondering why — this story is yours.
Actor-singer-playwright Rock Wilk has lived just such a life and examines all those life-changing decisions that impacted his life in his one-man musical play “Broke Wide Open,” which he will perform this Sunday at 3 p.m. at the Mill Hill Playhouse in Trenton. This marks the second time Wilk is performing “Broke Wide Open” as part of Passage Theatre’s 11th annual Solo Flights Festival in New Jersey’s capital. He opened the festival on March 2 and received a standing ovation on the final leg of his six-year artistic journey that will culminate Oct. 5 with his play’s debut on Broadway.
Wilk — who was born in New York City’s Mount Sinai Hospital and spent 10 weeks in three foster care homes before he was adopted and renamed Alan Wilk — has been writing, revising and performing his play since 2006. He set out on his birthright quest in 2003, searching for his birth mother, and later started writing his autobiographical music after his parents and grandmother died and his marriage broke up, leaving him feeling utterly alone and searching for answers. “I wasn’t sure I wanted to meet my birth mother. I just became curious when my family started to die and I started to think about my medical history,” Wilk began. New York State’s adoption records are sealed by law, so it took him a year to track down his original birth certificate with his original name and where he was born. What little he discovered in the records and at the now-defunct adoption agency brought him no comfort. His birth mother had a two-year affair with her boss — his father, who was married with three children. When she found out she was pregnant, she left and never told him about his baby. She was 27 when Wilk was born. “They wouldn’t give me her name, it’s illegal, but I presume (based on her name that) she was Jewish,” Wilk says. Wilk has managed to learn that his birth mother was orphaned at age 3 when both her parents died. “Now I believe she was completely confused, felt that she could never be a mother, and I’ve come to understand her pain,” he said. As for his father, Wilk says “I don’t understand how he could not know there’s part of himself running around out there.” Wilk was adopted by a loving Jewish couple Phyllis and Leon Wilk, who also adopted two other children, a boy and girl. “We weren’t religious, just observed just Yom Kippur and Passover, and I made my bar mitzvah by faking the Hebrew.” In his search, Wilk found three women with his original last name who might be his mother, and he called the only one with a listed phone number. “She was not the right one.” Today, in “Broke Wide Open,” Wilk recounts and relives all those decisions by others and their impact on his life. The play’s blunt title is taken from a term that means “being revealing, raw, naked as possible,” says Wilk. It came from his initial work, an independently produced album of songs that he wrote over two months in 2006 while riding New York’s subways. Wilk sings on this album and calls it “a popular R&B sound. My voice has been compared to Justin Timberlake. I play guitar, piano and drums, this album’s all me.” It was produced with help from Jack Rollins, now 96, a longtime personal friend who was a film producer and manager for Woody Allen, Billy Crystal, David Letterman and Robert Klein,” says Wlik. “Jack’s daughter was one of my early girlfriends, she’s still one of my best friends.” As Wilk tells his story, Rollins “heard some of my work and thought I should do an album, said I had a lot to say and needed to get this out of me, but he advised me to be completely revealing -- open, raw, naked as possible that’s where the art lies. “He inspired me to do that at a difficult time in my life when my mom had just died and my marriage crumbled,” Wilk said. Others felt the album was a performance play, but there were so many themes. Wilk was urged to choose just one story line. “I chose the adoption theme.” Every day for nearly six years, Wilk has worked on his play. “I’ve traveled the world after developing it in the streets, performing in the parks.” And he has used the audience’s feedback in the play’s “ongoing development.” His search for identity and answers last year took him all over the U.S. and on to London, where he performed “during the riots” in the Camden Fringe Festival. Other adoptees relate to adoption’s impact on Wilk’s life: his ambivalent search for his mother, his sense of loss following the deaths of his parents and grandmother and lost friendships. “Everything fueled my search for personal identity because I have no idea about my real identity,” he notes. Wilk’s play chronicles his non-stop search for “home” because he always felt out of place, even as a young and sometimes “difficult” child, whose his family and friends started calling him “Rock” and by 13 “Alan was gone.” From audience feedback, Wilk has learned “my issues are the same as anyone else’s, not knowing who I was or having anyone looking like me always had me confused.” “My play is about all the complexities of not knowing where you come from,” Wilk sums up. “After two hours of watching me perform with all this frantic energy, the audience and I find out who I am — I am just like anyone else, an accumulation of all these people in my past, of all my experiences and all the choices I have made.” Today, says Wilk, “I know who I am, I am my mother and father and grandmother, my relationships, travels, challenges, that’s who I am. It’s a constant search for all of us to know who we are.” Wilk takes heart from the message in “The Wizard of Oz.” “I always think of Dorothy, She’s always been ‘home,’ it’s inside you.” Wilk, who lives in Washington Heights, is looking forward to performing his one-man play at the 45th Street Theatre in New York. Using his brokewideopen.com website, Wilk has raised $11,300 to date to mount the production. He’s hoping to reach the $30,000 mark with his “500 Names” campaign, supporters who are helping him mount the production, pay his collaborators and hire a publicist. Contributions have ranged from $5 to $500. “I wept the day I delivered a $10,000 check to rent the theater for one month,” Wilk said. “It had 300 signatures on it. This has always been a community-based project, performing in the streets and parks,” Wilk added. “I’m so grateful for this (500 Names) list.” Wilk says the “adoption community has found me and comes to all my shows but is not supporting” his fundraising efforts. Donors are mostly people who relate to the story because everyone has dealt with love, loss, relationships and family issues, says Wilk. Feedback, good and not so good, comes from all quarters after performances and via email. “Some people call adoption ‘child trafficking,’ that they ‘took me’ from my mother, and one adoption advocate actually told me the most significant fact in my life is that I was given away,” Wilk said. “I had a woman send me a negative e-mail that I promote child trafficking, but I have a lot of friends who grew up in group homes without anything. I feel very healthy today, I am willing to deal with everything about me. I’ve experienced very difficult, painful things in the past six years. I have completely reinvented my life while working on this play.” The New York show will use animation, video, a magnificent two-story mural. “I want them to see what I see ... which captures the diverse people I’ve encountered all over the world as I’ve performed ‘Broke Wide Open’,” WIlk explained. Wilk is planning a gala New York opening night with a celebratory dinner after the show. Twenty percent of proceeds, at $125 per ticket, will be donated to the Children’s Aid Society adoption and foster care program. General admission will be $35 for the rest of the run, which he hopes to extend beyond one month. Tickets are $20 for the Sunday performance at 3 o’clock at the Mill Hill Playhouse, Front and Montgomery streets. Passage Theatre is Trenton’s only independent resident theater company dedicated to presenting new talent and one-person shows.
Categorized | Featured Poets
Rock Wilk – Get To Know The Man Who Is “Broke Wide Open”
Posted on 03 January 2011 by Nicole
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If you’ve never heard of Rock WILK – the Poet; the Playwright; the Actor; the Instrumentalist: the Man with a warming spirit that can touch you via any medium; or the voice of reason for the socially and politically incorrect – it’s time you sat back and gained a bit of knowledge into who is going to be bringing you the HOTTEST off-Broadway (for now) play you’ve ever seen.
Rock WILK is the creator and one-man sensation behind the critically acclaimed play “Broke Wide Open.” A play that has set the stage for expression through art. A traveling Unplugged play that has received rave reviews by many sources. “Broke Wide Open” is a play that cinematic-ally describes the journey of a young man seeking what most of us take for granted – belonging. It expresses a young man’s longing desire to find his biological mother; his true identity and the belonging to something more than just a name. This is a play that will take you on an emotional roller coaster and leave you at the edge of your seat; ready to take the ride again and again. Each time feeling more satisfied than the last.
Lets get to know the man behind all of the talent. Join me while I get inside the mind of the masterful Rock WILK and share with you a few secrets behind what makes him do that thing he does so well. ~ Nicole S. Ross
SWNY – Rock, what exactly do you do and how did you get started?
Rock – I’m an actor, a playwright, singer and musician. Actually, singers are musicians, but most people don’t look at it that way, so I say both. I play guitar, piano and drums, as well.
SWNY – When did you know you wanted to become an artist?
Rock - I’ve been an artist since the day I was born. The first time I performed in public was singing for my first grade class, playing The Beatles and Bob Dylan on a guitar my Grandmother had bought for me.
SWNY – What/Who inspired you to become an artist…your influences?
Rock – My biggest influence was Michael Jackson, but there are SO many influences, Hmmmmmmmm…Theater and film people who do interesting work like Elaine Stritch, Spike Lee, Lily Tomlin, Whoopi Goldberg, Anna Deavere Smith, John Leguizamo, almost every documentary HBO does, Music people… wow, there are so many……..I’m a jazz head, so John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Wes Montgomery, Bobby McFerrin, Keith Jarrett, Bill Evans, Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway, James Brown, Aretha, Chaka, Justin Timberlake, Eminem, Jay Z, George Benson, Tony Bennett, I could go on and on because, to be honest, I could walk into a place like The Cherry Lane Theater or The Public Theatre or Theaterlab, or even the platform walking to the 2 Train at Times Square and see a performance that inspires me so much that it makes my head explode, so my influences are never ending, thankfully. But the one who made me want to be an artist was definitely Michael Jackson. The other major influence in my creative life is Jack Rollins. He is a legend in the entertainment business – managed artists like Woody Allen, Billy Crystal, Robin Williams and David Letterman. He’s 95 now, and I have been so fortunate to be able to call him my friend. He says things and I devour them, digest them and use them like good nutrition.
SWNY – When you perform, to whom do you favor the most…do you have a target audience?
Rock – Nope. Each time I perform, no matter where it is, I say to myself just before I get on stage, “Let’s have a beautiful shared experience with these people.” I don’t care who they are, what they look like, what language they speak, I want to feel something with them. It’s an exchange of energy, a collaborative experience for me, so I have no targets. Just whoever is nice enough to come see me perform. I want them to feel me and I want to feel them.
SWNY – You are a writer, poet, actor, playwright, musician and spoken word artist. What have you accomplished since you began your career?
Rock – I’ve been fortunate to have accomplished quite a bit in a few different areas. My play, BROKE WIDE OPEN was presented in “The Undergroundzero Festival” as part of “The Playgroundzero Festival” this past summer at PS 122. Then it was fully mounted as a workshop at The Medicine Show Theatre in Manhattan a few months after that. I have music playing on shows like The Real World and Making The Band, among other shows on MTV and VH1. I have a commercially released album out called BROKE WIDE OPEN [yes, the music is in my play], I’ve worked as a producer, instrumentalist and background vocalist in the music business, most recently with Patti LaBelle, and as a poet, I’ve been a Nuyorican semifinalist, performed for Amnesty International – I’m gonna stop now. ;-)
SWNY – You have a highly-acclaimed musical/poetry show that you have been doing for the past 4 years called “Broke Wide Open.” Tell us about that?
Rock – BROKE WIDE OPEN, first of all is a play. It is the true story of my search for my biological mother, my identity, my “home”. That’s basically it. It’s this frantic search for my beginnings. I weave monologues into poems into songs and back into monologues, it’s a very high energy show, very intense, and a lot of fun. Here is a blurb that was used to describe the show recently…..
BROKE WIDE OPEN is a musical and poetic avalanche of words dramatically cascading into the compelling journey of one man’s search for his biological mother, his identity, his home. Best described as a verbal opera, “Rock WILK is a one person symphony, conducting a dynamic movement of language weaved into a beautiful theatrical experience.”
That’s a pretty good description. ;-)
SWNY – What have you learned throughout your life about this business?
Rock – I’m not sure how to answer that, I approach my art as art. The business takes care of itself. One thing I DO know, though, is that you need to create opportunities for yourself. Don’t wait for anything to “happen” to, or for you. Just do what you want to do and do it well. And make it happen.
SWNY – Throughout your career as an artist, what have you taken away from it that you’d like others to experience as well?
Rock – I’ve experienced the joys and love of doing it; of working hard; of committing. I wish for all to wake up every day and give all of yourself to your art; TRULY share yourself with an audience. Nothing feels better than that.
SWNY – With all of your talents, if you could only practice and share one with the world, which would it be and why?
Rock – I’d have to say, telling stories. That is when I feel most connected to the audience. It feels like a genuine exchange for me.
SWNY – What advice would you give to your followers/fans that may help them throughout their own personal aspirations?
Rock - Work hard, be honest. Be brave. Be generous with your work. Reveal yourself.
SWNY – What projects are you working on…what are your future plans?
Rock – The only thing I’m working on at the moment is BROKE WIDE OPEN and I am committed to taking it to the highest level that I can. I’m all about the journey, so I am WIDE OPEN to the possibilities. But you KNOW I will be doing everything in my power to make it the most amazing piece of work that I can and make sure that as many people see it as possible. The Public Theatre, The Mark Taper Forum, Berkeley Rep and Broadway – can you hear me?????
SWNY – How can your followers/fans see more of your work and keep track of your performing schedule?
Rock – People can go to: www.brokewideopen.com. Check the entire site, it’s updated constantly. There is a blog there; videos all over the place AND, of course, Facebook me at Rock WILK or BROKE WIDE OPEN.
***To learn more about Rock WILK and of his play “Broke Wide Open,” visit: http://www.rockwilk.com/home.html
***For bookings and interviews, contact Rock at: rock[at]wilkmusic.com
Tags | Broke Wide Open, Rock Wilk
5 Questions With undergroundzero Participant Rock WILK
By Byrne Harrison
Name: Rock WILK
Play: Broke Wide Open
Relationship to play: Writer and performer
An actor, playwright and poet, New York City's own Rock WILK is also a socially and politically charged vocalist and an accomplished multi-instrumentalist. He creates all of this art while riding the subways of NYC. Along with being a 2009 Nuyorican Poet's semifinalist and 2010 runoffs qualifier for The Nuyorican's national team, Rock has worked as a studio and touring background vocalist for many years, most recently singing with the legendary Patti LaBelle and contributing vocal and horn arrangements to the Grammy Award winning Les Paul compilation album, "Les Paul and Friends."
Rock's music can also be heard on such TV shows as MTV's "The Real World" and "Making The Band," among others.
You have a very interesting bio. What would you consider your best performance moments so far?
Hmm... that's a tough one because all of my performances are special in their own way. Lemme see... hmm.... well, I'm just gonna go with a relatively recent staged reading of Broke Wide Open. It was at a beautiful small theater down in Asbury Park, NJ called The Showroom, and it was going to be my last reading for a while because I was, at that time, in the process of workshopping with a number of directors, in the midst of trying to find the perfect person to continue this journey with. And so the day came for this performance, and there was a pretty big snowstorm, and I thought, "Damn, nobody's gonna come." To make a long story short, the theater was full, there were a few directors in the house, and the performance was profound for me, I felt like I found a lot of new things in my words that night, and we had a Q&A after the performance that was so deeeeeeeep. A man walked up to me after the performance with his son, who was about 20 years old, and they both looked kinda dazed. This guy had seen me perform at The Nuyorican Poets Cafe one Friday night and when he saw I was performing in his area, he decided to come see me and bring his father, not really knowing what to expect. I'm not sure he even knew that he was coming to see a play, that perhaps he thought he was going to see a night of poetry. Cool thing was this... he was adopted, was bringing the man who had adopted him, his father, and my play REALLY affected both of them. [Broke Wide Open is the true story of my search for my biological mother] They came up to talk to me after the Q&A, both in tears, and his father said to me, "I heard so much in your play that I have heard out of my sons mouth over the years. We have had some issues." The son said to me, "Yeah, we've had some issues. I've had some problems dealing with this 'being adopted' thing." It was very intimate, and so without getting into the details of our conversation, that experience really hit home with me, made me realize that there were people I was seriously connecting with, made me feel the power of the theater. Truthfully, I was humbled by that, everything changed for me that day. I have always felt like people go to the theater or to concerts or to any type of performance to FEEL something... that night I REALLY felt that, like this was a beautiful shared experience for me and the people who came out to see my show. So from that day on, every time I get on stage, I say to myself, "Tonight.. all I want is to have this beautiful shared experience with these people. Tonight is never going to happen again, so let's do something special together." And it seems like it always works out that way, I appreciate each opportunity to perform, but that night is one that I will never forget. Oh... and about a week later, I decided that my director was going to be the amazing Tamilla Woodard, and thankfully, she said yes!
As you mentioned, Broke Wide Open is a very personal piece. Tell me a little bit about how it came to be.
Broke Wide Open actually started as an album. Music. A collection of songs. My very close friend Jack Rollins, who was the long time manager of Woody Allen, Robin Williams, Billy Crystal, David Letterman, and who also happens to be the father of my old girlfriend, who now happens to be my best friend, [whew! I digress]... Mr. Rollins encouraged me to embark on this journey of revealing myself in this collection of songs, to create an album that would, in a sense, be my legacy. He kept saying to me, "Rock, I feel like you NEED to do this, you have this interesting life story that people will want to hear, and if you are willing to REALLY open up, they will love you as much as I do." Damn, THAT stopped me, I took that moment in, we were sitting together in Riverside Park on a bench at 83rd Street that day. Anyway, he was talking about doing this for the sake of the art, like I said, he felt it was IMPORTANT for me to do this, and I respect Mr Rollins so much, and so after going back and forth for a while, thinking about whether or not I really had anything to say that anyone would find remotely interesting, I decided to take the opportunity to do this album. So I got on the subways and started to write songs. That's where I write, on the trains, just riding and riding, that environment is inspiring for me, it's where I feel most creative. Then when my little digital recorder was full, when the songs were written, I locked myself in my small studio in my apartment in Bed Stuy, Brooklyn and recorded the album in a few months. Then everyone who heard the album said, "Damn, this sounds like a play", and so I created this performance piece called Ma'Plej, each letter standing for someone in my family. At a performance of Ma'Plej, I met Stephen Bishop Seely, who was at that time the creative artistic director of The Revision Theatre in Asbury Park, NJ, and he said, "This is great, but it's about 14 plays, so you need to choose one, and write it." I chose the portion of Ma'Plej that was my search for my biological mother, my search for home, my identity, and so then this cathartic journey began, and Ma'Plej found it's way back to the beginning of this process and so Broke Wide Open, the play, was born, and here we are now.
I like that you call it a "verbal opera." What exactly does that phrase mean to you?
My director, Tamilla Woodard came up with that. And when she said it one day, it really hit home with me, felt like the perfect description of Broke Wide Open. There are A LOT of words in my play, and sometimes I say them REALLY FAST. They feel like a "movement" or almost like an opera or symphony. The play moves dynamically, with parts that are quiet and somewhat serene and then there are crescendos. We journey up and down, high and low, it feels like there is this beautiful motion, or EMOTION. So when Tamilla said that one day, "Rock, this is a verbal opera", my approach became like I was a conductor moving through this story like music, and it really feels that way for me, only verbally. There IS, literally, plenty of music in the play, along with these monologues and all of this poetry, all of these words are being weaved in and out of each other... yeah, Tamilla found the perfect way to describe Broke Wide Open.
What are your hopes for this production?
To serve the work, to really explore this and make it a beautiful work of art. To give it real opportunity to grow, to continue, for Broke Wide Open to have a long life. And to be REALLY honest... the first day I sat with Stephen Bishop Seely when we first began talking about what I was doing with this project, he asked me, "Where do you want to go with this? Where do you want to do it?" I immediately said, "The Public Theater." That was my dream from the beginning, my intention, and so I would like to see Broke Wide Open keep progressing, and yes, I'm saying it out loud, I WANT TO DO THIS AT THE PUBLIC, THE MARK TAPER FORUM, BERKELEY REP, BROKE WIDE OPEN ON BROADWAY!!!!!!!!!! I would love the opportunity to share this work everywhere and anywhere. And I visualize all of that, every day, seriously. But having said all of that, truthfully, it's all about the work for me, I am completely in love with this process, and we will just continue to attend to this work, to stay open to learning, I'm very grateful to be here at this particular moment.
What is next for you after undergroundzero?
We are fortunate enough to be doing a full workshop in September at The Medicine Show Theatre on 52nd Street in Manhattan, directed by and developed with Tamilla Woodard. We will have the full production being workshopped, collaborators included, lighting and set design, the video and music elements, I am VERY EXCITED to get this on. We open that on September 9th and will run Thursdays through Sundays until September 26th. After that, who knows? We are rolling!
Broke Wide Open
Written & Performed by Rock WILK
Directed by Tamilla Woodard
150 First Ave at 9th St.
Sat July 24 @ 2pm - Downstairs Venue
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Times Topics: New Jersey Arts Listings | New Jersey Arts
THE seven-man band Monkeyworks has been performing around New Jersey and New York for 20 years, but its members are hardly deluged with invitations, they said. Its jazz-meets-African-meets-electronic music is not especially accessible or easily explained.
So when the chance to play at the ShowRoom movie house in Asbury Park cropped up in July, the band quickly accepted.
Before an audience of 52 — there are only 50 seats, so a pair of extra chairs were dragged out — Monkeyworks spontaneously concocted scores to six silent films. The bandmates’ eyes roamed from one another to their instruments to the 14-foot screen. By the time the oldies — including the 1915 Charlie Chaplin short “Work” and a 1922 “Felix the Cat” animated short — had run their course, the group had skillfully worked up an original soundtrack.
It was exactly the kind of borderline-weird performance that the ShowRoom, which opened April 1, is proud of bringing to the Jersey Shore.
The goal is “to present a different slant on culture for the community and the surrounding area,” said Michael Sodano, the co-owner with his partner, Nancy Sabino; the couple moved to Asbury Park from North Caldwell in early 2008.
“Yes, it’s a movie theater, but it also has all these other functions,” he said.
In its brief history, those functions have included hosting the Jersey Shore Film Festival; staging a multimedia poetry slam featuring the Brooklyn artist Rock Wilk, who will return Aug. 15; and presenting “Get Naked,” a slide show of nude men, a collaboration with the nearby Parlor Gallery.
Mr. Sodano and Ms. Sabino, both 57, together run Eventure, a company based in North Caldwell that handles the audio-visual element of business meetings for major corporations. They also have made two documentaries together, “Rock and a Heart Place,” a 2007 film about volunteering that centers on the charity Holiday Express, based in Red Bank, and “Greetings From the Parking Lot,” a 1999 film about Bruce Springsteen fans.
Someone Mr. Sodano met during the filming of “Rock and a Heart Place” told him about the dearth of cinema in Asbury Park.
“He recommended Asbury Park as a place to come down to — there was no movie theater here,” Mr. Sodano said. “And I said, Asbury Park? I remember Asbury Park as having this not-great reputation.”
The town’s reputation as a hotbed of live music, of course, was legendary, he said, but when local promoters did try to show films, Ms. Sabino said, the setting wasn’t right.
“Everything used to work out of the Paramount, which is a beautiful theater. But it’s got 1,600 seats, so it’s seldom filled. No matter what you have there, it looks partially empty,” she said. For small screenings, “there hasn’t been a real, devoted space for projection.”
Not one as intimate as Mr. Sodano and Ms. Sabino envisioned, anyway. At 2,200 square feet, the ShowRoom is sparsely appointed but invitingly dark. Its décor is classic — dark red carpet, heavy curtain. Its straight-backed lightly padded chairs are not bolted to the floor, though. Candy comes from local outlets like Candyteria. And Twisted Tree Cafe, a local vegetarian spot, supplies vegan cookies, which sell for $2.
The ShowRoom’s most important attribute, though, according to its owners, is its open-mindedness toward what goes on inside. In addition to regularly screening art-house, classic and independent films like “Outrage,” the recent documentary about closeted gay politicians, and the 1964 film “Umbrellas of Cherbourg,” Ms. Sabino and Mr. Sodano plan to continue recruiting acts like Monkeyworks for out-there performances.
If Monkeyworks is representative, fellow recruits will be appreciative.
“Improvised music can be quite a high-wire act,” said Jim Stagnitto, Monkeyworks’ trumpeter. His bandmate, Steve Peckman, the group’s woodwind player, said, “We’re incredibly grateful for people like Mike and Nancy, who are willing to take a chance.”