Interview: Jonny Goodman

(Pictured: Jonny Goodman of Bailout Theater and Judson Memorial Church)

Flux has now collaborated with Judson Memorial Church and Bailout Theater on Hearts Like Fists; Lickspittles, Buttonholers, and Damned Pernicious Go-Betweens; and ForePlay-Divine Reckonings. Several Fluxers are contributing to Judson’s next Bailout on the Living Wage. And these collaborations are, we hope, just the beginning.

To give you a sense of why this relationship makes sense, I interviewed one of Bailout’s maestros, Jonny Goodman (his compatriot, Micah Bucey, is playing Joe’s Pub with his band, The Gay Agenda, Monday, November 1st). Jonny talks not only about Bailout and Judson, but about his own work as an artist.

1. What is Bailout Theater, and how did it come about?

Bailout Theater is one of those things that would lose its magic if everybody could see its plate tectonics. In declining order of obviousness, it is a pop-avant garde open space for the arts; a gathering place and dinner both for its own homegrown community and that of the city at large; a highly personal point of connection for those who could use extra support in their lives that doesn’t come from a food pantry or soup kitchen; and a tool for Judson to keep its ear to the ground in this city that we use as our “home office”. It is all of those things in a swaying balance – and also much more that even those of us who work on it every week don’t see now.

2. How did you get hooked up with Judson?

Despite my lifelong commitment to being a secularist Jew with a big chip on my shoulder about organized religion, I have a weird fascination with church marquees and Judson’s is just the best. The first time I passed it, it had a quote from Calvin and Hobbes that said “It is hard to be religious when certain people are just never incinerated by bolts of lightning”. I used to check it every week after that and, eventually, during a long-form essay-writing phase, I decided to attach myself to Judson as a voyeur. Not long after, I met the associate pastor for coffee and fell into a conversation about alternative community spaces, underground economies and Judson’s potential as a venue for both. Conversations of that nature amongst a small group of Judsonites are actually what birthed Bailout Theater. Initially, I started working for Judson via a 9-month stint under its “Community Ministry” program (check out for more info, if you’re curious). I have stuck around since, enjoying the delightfully weird ride! Come visit.

3. You’re also a musician – do you rock, and if so, how hard?

For better or for worse, I don’t rock at self-promotion and am self conscious about tooting my own horn (except for my literal horn, which I’m happy to toot). Talking about how hard you can rock an audience feels a little bit like kissing-and-telling to me, which I’m suddenly pretending to be above. Nonetheless, I like to think my band and I rock a decent roll! One time, the day of my current band’s first show ever, I was recovering from laryngitis and still had no voice when we found out we were supposed to play for 4 hours instead of 45 minutes. We didn’t have that much material, so I wrote 2 new songs, which we learned in addition to a few covers. It took probably 8 liters of water, but we played a pretty damn good first show to a happy audience of bar-folk for four whole hours… With a sick frontman and almost no rehearsal time, I guess I’m pretty proud of that as a benchmark in my personal rock book!

4. What is Judson’s history with the arts?

Multi-pronged, exciting, beautiful, sometimes bizarre. For many years, the church’s former associate pastor wrote musicals for the church, some of the songs from which are now used during services. One of Judson’s very talented new community ministers is now reviving that tradition! For about 20 years, Judson housed the “Judson Poet’s Theater”, which was one of the first three off-off Broadway venues, along with Cafe Chino and La Mama. It also was home to the “Judson Dance Theater” and the Fluxus Art Movement, which formed the basis of what is now commonly called performance art. The company “Movement Research” continues to innovate post-modern dance in our space. In the 60s, the church famously offered sanctuary to the “Folk Rioters”, who were harassed by police while protesting a short-lived city ordinance banning folk music in the parks. A few major pop concerts have come through over the years, including Alanis Morissette and the debut of the Arcade Fire’s “Neon Bible“. The CMJ Music Marathon also calls Judson “home” every October. More recently, Bailout Theater has grown into a venue for all kinds of arts and is re-energizing parts of the scene here. And of course, we’re so excited to have Flux being a part of all this!

5. What is coming up on Judson’s calendar that we should know about?

So much! This fall is a big one for us… check out for the details of our official Bailout Theater nights, which are every 1st and 3rd Wednesday of the month, plus a host of special events on off-weeks. In addition to that, on October 29th and 30th, we’ll be having a huge Judson Dance Theater retrospective with Yvonne Rainer, Aileen Passloff, Elaine Summers and many others to commemorate the opening of a very exciting exhibit opening about the Judson arts at the NYU Fales Library. Read more at !!! In December, we have an extremely exciting show coming to Judson, which will be revealed soon, so keep your ears perked. You really, really, REALLY won’t want to miss it (this secret is still fun, because eventually we will tell everyone). There will also be a lot going on with Flux Theatre, so if all you fans keep reading this blog and checking the Judson website, I’m sure we’ll all be hangin’ out soon!

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