What's The Eternal Space about?
On October 28, 1963, Pennsylvania Station’s demolition begins. The wrecking crews work outside in the morning drizzle to dismantle a fifty-three-year-old architectural marvel. Inside, a construction worker turned photographer is running away from his past while an aging English teacher can’t let his go. Their coincidental meeting begins a three-year debate over progress, preservation, and posterity, as one man fights to keep the station standing while the other is instrumental in taking it down.
The Story Behind the Show
In spring of 2002, combing the aisles of my local bookstore, I found The Destruction of Penn Station, Peter Moore's haunting photo-documentation of Penn’s demolition. As a 22-year-old New Yorker trying to make sense of 9-11, Moore’s photos made a crucial connection for me: Throughout its history, New York City had lost many magnificent buildings either by force or transaction, and I was certain those structural fatalities affected the city's collective psyche. In short, we miss great buildings when they are taken from us.
I thought of the tremendous ache New Yorkers felt over the Twin Towers' destruction and wondered if people experienced something similar when Penn Station was demolished. Did they stand off to the side and shake their heads unable to look? Did they miss that defining New York institution when it was taken from them? Did they take Penn Station for granted the way I did the Twin Towers?
The play instantly took form. Because of Moore's book, I decided the demolition photography would have to be central to the show. I put the script through a few drafts and found some interest from a couple of theaters but nothing solidified. My teaching career was taking up most of my time, so I packed the script away and let it sit for eight years. Fast forward to January 2012. I got a call from a director who said I sent the show to her seven years prior, and she had been waiting for the right moment to produce it. The interest was instantly renewed.
Since then the play has had four developmental workshops and readings, one of which was at Manhattan’s Center for Architecture/AIANY as part of the demolition’s 50th anniversary remembrance. Rick Bell, Executive Director of AIANY, called the play’s dialogue “scintillating” and went on to say, “The Eternal Space dramatizes the conflicts between those who would replace our architectural legacy in the name of progress, and those whose frame of reference carries heavy intellectual baggage. Is reconciliation possible?” Bell finished by saying The Eternal Space is a play “that makes you think twice about what we take for granted." Additional readings were held at Fordham Lincoln Center and The Tank over the past two and a half years.
Penn Station's Demolition Photography
Since The Eternal Space centers on a photographer who is documenting the demolition of Penn Station, photography is a critical element of the planned stage production. The photos don’t merely provide the scenic background for the play’s dialogue. They communicate so much in their own right that they become the third character on stage.
Our team has spent hundreds of hours amassing a catalog with more than 1000 never-before published or exhibited photos from New York-based photographers.
Norman McGrath is a renowned professional architectural photographer whose long career includes a wide variety of work for many well-known architects and designers. Every major architectural publication has featured his images, and his book, Photographing Buildings Inside and Out, has sold more than 46,000 copies. Norman has been an awesome contributor, partner, and supporter of our show drawing from his Penn Station catalogue the most. We also have the great privilege of sharing his work with our backers.
Our collection also includes contributions from:
- Peter Moore, a professional photographer known for his documentation of the Fluxus movement in New York City.
- Alexander Hatos, a career employee of The Pennsylvania Railroad whose photographic catalog offers the unique perspective that comes with employee access.
- Ron Ziel, an internationally acclaimed railroad historian and Long Island native. His collection documents the station’s entire lifespan and includes images from his perspective as a LIRR commuter in the 1960s.
Aaron Rose, an accomplished photographer whose images, the New York Times declares, “seem to caress the world.” He was virtually unknown until 1997, when four of his photos were exhibited at the Whitney Biennial.
Finding these photographers and their collections has been a fascinating process in its own right and there are so many stories to tell, some of which we intend to share in our campaign updates. Keep checking in with us!
All Peter Moore photos used in video are Estate of Peter Moore/Licensed by VAGA, NY
What Your Help Makes Possible
From the beginning this show has been a collaboration of so many people's passions and talents. Now we want it to be a full-fledged production supported and funded by you. With your help we can raise the seed money to launch an Off-Broadway showcase run in New York City during the spring of 2015. Your support will make it possible to rent the proper theater space, pay rights and fees to the amazing photographers with whom we’ve partnered, and fund publicity.
What Our Backers Will Get Out of the Deal
The Eternal Space deals with the themes of progress and preservation, but it has one very solid conclusion: no matter how magnificent a building, it’s the people that come in and out of it that matter the most. We feel the same way about this project: it's the people who collaborate with us that matter the most. We hope you'll join us!
Backers of The Eternal Space will be treated to distinctive gifts created exclusively for this project by talented photographers and historians who are authorities on the old Penn Station as well as New York City-based artists who passionately believe in our project.
- Photographer, Norman McGrath is offering signed, original prints direct from his impressive Penn Station catalogue.
The urban-enthusiast’s blog Untapped Cities will host a Penn Station walking tour exclusively for our Kickstarter
backers. Attendees with have the chance to discover first-hand old Penn Station
remnants scattered throughout the current station. Included is a gathering
after the tour for a drink and conversation with the tour leaders and the
- Etsy needlepoint sensation Carsonzickersham has designed and crafted limited edition Penn Station Eagle samplers. Since there were 22 eagles removed from the station’s facade, the designer is making 22-framed samplers and breaking the mold.
- Comic and letterpress artist Courtney Zell will be designing a production poster using Norman McGrath’s contact sheets from his Penn Station collection. The poster will be used for the showcase run, but Kickstarter backers will have the chance to get their own limited-edition poster first. The poster will be signed by the playwright.
Also this won’t just be a back-this-project-and-stand-aside type of campaign. This will become your show! As a backer you’ll be invited to be part of the production process from table reads to opening night celebrations, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Risks and challenges
In theater there are always challenges. With a cast and team in place we feel we are more than ready to mount a full production. The one challenge will be finding a proper home by the spring. We have begun negotiations with three possible theaters and our production timelines may shift depending on our success with this campaign, so your support, in more ways than one, will ensure that the show goes up in 2015.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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