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Posts Tagged ‘Jonathan Larson’

Jonathan Larson Bench Donated to Adelphi University

July 18, 2012

This is the first installment of “Life Cafe New York On Tour”.

The Jonathan Larson Bench is lifted into the Adelphi Univ. truck

It was a special day today. The Jonathan Larson Bench left Life Cafe for good.

Three strong, young men from Adelphi University came to the now closed Life Cafe 983 in Bushwick Brooklyn and removed the Jonathan Larson Bench where it stood temporarily after it left the East Village Life Cafe in September 2011. With the closing of the Bushwick Life the end of June, it was time to find a permanent home elsewhere for it. So I emailed Al Larson, Jonathan’s father, to see if he had any suggestions.

Al and Julie Larson with Kathy Life and John Sunderland at the Finale B Video Contest at Life Cafe right after the dedication of the mahogany bench (where Jonathan wrote RENT) as the “Jonathan Larson Bench”.

He certainly did. We first contacted New York Theater Workshop, home of the original production of RENT and very close to the original Life Cafe. Unfortunately, as much as they would have liked to have it, they simply had no room. Next Al hooked me up with Robert Scott, President of Adelphi University in Garden City, New York on Long Island. Jonathan attended Adelphi on a four-year scholarship as an acting Academic major. Bob was delighted with my offer and didn’t hesitate to accept. Fortunately, he arranged immediate pick-up as the owners of the new business at 983 Flushing Avenue wanted it moved by Thursday when they were to begin renovations. Again, the Universe has provided.

Adelphi University helpers pick up Life Cafe artifacts

Along with the Bench I donated a 4′ x 6′ wall panel I preserved from Life Cafe, two other Life Magazine collaged panels, the wooden “Thank You Jonathan” plaque hand-carved for me by Jonathan’s uncle Gene and a large panel from the original RENT stage set at the Nederlander Theatre given to me by a friend in the theater design business.

Pieces of Life Cafe history

Wall Panel from original Life Cafe

Panel from original RENT production at Nederlander Theatre

I felt a heaviness in my heart as I watched the boys lift the bench into the truck. It felt like a big part of my life was being taken away. But it was heart-lifting to think of its new home at Jonathan’s alma mater. When I think of how many more people will see the Bench and get a sense of Jonathan’s life and work, I am elated. My hope is there will be a re-creation of a corner of Life Cafe where Jonathan sat and drank tea while researching and writing RENT. Moving the bench to Adelphi to their new Theater complex is the right thing to do. I’m grateful that Bob was eager to give the Bench a new home.

Kathy Kirkpatrick ponders Life’s changes

There hasn’t been time to make definitive plans, but Bob Scott and I are in regular contact. Jonathan Martin, Director of Education and Public Awareness for the National Marfan Foundation in Port Washington, New York, is thrilled with the Bench’s new home. We discussed a January or February 2013 event which would coincide with the original off-Broadway opening anniversary, the anniversary of Jonathan’s death AND his birthday. And February is National Marfan Awareness Month. Sadly, Jonathan Larson is a perfect example of why early diagnosis is critical.

Thank You Jonathan plaque hand-carved by Gene Larson. The original plaque hung back stage at the Nederlander Theatre where each cast member touched it before going on stage.

We’ll keep you posted here as I report on LIFE CAFE NEW YORK ON TOUR. Next installment: COLD SOUP IN HOT NEW HAMPSHIRE – WATERMELON GAZPACHO. Check back in to get the recipe and the story.

Photographs of moving Life Cafe artifacts by John Sunderland



A ROOM WITH A PEW

A ROOM WITH A PEW

 

Jonathan Larson Bench-East Village

By John Sunderland

 

Regulars to Life Café Bushwick may notice that there’s an elephant in the room, in the shape, well not of an actual elephant, but a large, wooden well-worn pew.  On it is an inscribed brass plate, which reads, “The Jonathan Larson Bench”.

 

So what’s the point of mentioning this, after all, we don’t write about bar stools, though several are still warm with amazing stories. No, we mention the arrival of the bench from our original East Village Café because we’re closed there at the moment. The building has to have remedial structural work done and whatever it is they will do and whenever they do it, we want the bench to be safe from harm.

 

Jonathan Larson Bench

Kath’s first husband, David, brought the bench from their hometown in Michigan to the original café in the East Village in 1982. It sat there in the exact same place until yesterday, October 26, 2011, during which time it was host to God knows how many geniuses and dreamers, lovers and dribblers. Then, awakened from it’s cozy rest, it was jumped on, pulled outside and U-Hauled over the Willy B Bridge and into the sweating, straining arms of our unfortunate staff who, man and woman, handled it into the café, much to the surprise of the customers, who were temporarily moved and piled into a corner, whilst the bench was placed in its new home.

 

Jonathan Larson's Bench in its new home

So, why the effort? Because the bench to many people is a quasi-sacred object. It was where Jonathan Larson, creator of the Broadway musical hit RENT, sat with his friends whilst crafting the show.

 

Life Café in the East Village was at the epicenter of the world that he describes in RENT and duly gets its place immortalized in the production as the café where the

characters meet and perform the showstopper, “La Vie Boehme”.

 

So that’s the story.  Sit on it, move your bum back and forth; there’s just a chance the bench sparks genius!

 


Jonathan Larson Peasant Feasts at Life Cafe

We always welcome RENTheads at the East Village Life Cafe.

We just got an email from some good folks from the Liva Arts Company at the University of Scranton.  That’s Scranton, PA.  http://www.scranton.edu/liva

They just recently finished performing RENT as their Spring review and as a treat for their club they’re planning a trip to Manhattan and wanted to do something at Life Cafe. They wondered what kind of RENT themed pilgramage we do.

What we usually offer for groups like this is something we like to call our Jonathan Larson RENT Peasant Feast served family style. We seat you in the Jonathan Larson “Snug” in and among the Jonathan Larson Bench. During the meal we play the  soundtrack from RENT while you enjoy your food, browse through and sign the RENThead Registers and look around at the memorabilia on the walls. If Kathy Life is around, she’ll be happy to answer questions and talk a little bit about the old East Village and the RENT connection. And we have posters, t-shirts, caps and tote bags for sale so you can take home a memento of the event.

We call the meal a “Peasant Feast” after the “potluck” dinners Jonathan used to have with his friends back in the late 80s and early 90s. Everyone was pretty broke, so when they’d get together for a special event, everyone brought something to share to eat. And then they’d share a bit of what they’ve been working on creatively.

Below is a sample menu we’ve come up with. The pricing is $20 per person exclusive of tax and gratuity. And we are definitely able to make arrangements for vegetarians.

FAMILY STYLE PASSED PLATTERS

Fried Chicken  Platter
Roasted Herb Potato / Sweet Yams
Spaghetti and Meatballs
Steamed  Garlic Vegetables
Mixed Salad and House Dressing
Assorted Bread Rolls Basket

All RENTheads truly enjoy this experience. Please let us know when you’d like to come down and how many you are. We look forward to having you!

When you call ask for Paul or Darin, if you call after 1 pm. They’ll take care of you.