rec room home

one year birthday party | april 06 2005

the performers (with photos) | on the birth of rec room | the exquisite corpse

the performers | photo gallery

Eric Blank
Chris Bower
Olivia Cronk
Vida Cross
Idris Goodwin
Elizabeth Graettinger
Gwynne Kizer
Kirk Lanzone
Megan Martin
El Roy Red

Kathy Regina
Andrea Rexilius
Amber Smock
Erin Teegarden
Prescott Tolk
Melissa Walker
Della Watson
John Wright
Sara Zubroff

I think it’s so groovy now, that people are finally getting together *

Some notes on the birth of rec room

About one year ago, just before the birth of rec room, I was depressed -- “closed for biz” as I called it -- and living with a bad haircut and two nasty roommates in an apartment right across the street from Black Rock. I would go to the bar with a group of my Pittsburgh friends (now living with me in Chicago) and we’d drink and sometimes think. We brought books and read poems (our own and others) there. Sometimes I went alone and sat at the bar, writing in my diary, affecting despair.

Eric liked the place, and that was rare, because he usually hates what he considers “straight bars” unless they’re total hard-luck dives. That’s just the way he is. But, for some reason, he dug the space (other than the animal heads on the walls). I think he was drawn to the darkness of Black Rock, the red. Most likely he thought the steaming masculinity of the place was a gross overcompensation -- probably indicative of repressed homosexuality, or at least…tendencies. I’m sure he found that funny -- as funny as our presence within it.

So, one day, we’re drinking and thinking there, and without warning, Della saunters up to the owner and asks about the back room and if we could have a reading series there. That’s just the way Della is.

He said yes.

And suddenly, there was spring, and something to live for. Eric and Della and I had a new “baby”, a new project, something bigger than ourselves to build up. We called it “the reconstruction room” (rec room for short) because, initially that’s what we thought the name of the back room at black rock actually was. (It’s a long story.)

We wrote the mission statement for the series and began working to fulfill it. We all had experience running reading series/community groups in the past, but these had often been tied to universities. We knew we wanted rec room to be independent of any Organization. We wanted to have freedom with it. We wanted to let the performers and audience dictate the limits of any given show. We didn’t want to charge admission; we didn’t want to work in a rigid, predictable format. We wanted rec room to be an open space – not a competitive “scene” or torturous two hours. We wanted to include more than just poetry; we wanted to be more than just an open mic. We wanted to have music, performance, audience participation, activities -- puppet shows and aura readings and sound art – whatever people could think of to try. We wanted to keep good archives of all of it. To create bulletins and save set lists and write essays, compose group poems. This is how you make a revolution, we thought.

As for an audience, we hoped to attract those who had a respect and appreciation for art and activism. People who would pay attention to the performers and take them seriously. We wanted everyone who came for the show to walk away with something. An instinct, a feeling. Additionally, we hoped to draw a group of people who would be up for whatever. Who would be open to experimentation and fun. (Yes, you get my double entendre.)

If you look at our new website over the coming weeks, you will be able to see the spirit of rec room -- in photos, essays and poetic collaborations. You’ll be able to see how we continue to meet our mission. Eric, Della and I have put a lot of love and hard work into rec room. We’ve thought a lot, worried a lot about it. Eric brought the strongest political element. Della brought a social element – a sense of funship and play and crafting. I suppose I was the project manager; I provided the professional element (if being the professional one means “getting the most stressed out”). At any rate, I knew the most about computers. And I had the car.

Della, Eric and I have changed quite a bit over the past year – as people, as friends, as organizers of this series, thanks to various life circumstances. We have learned, grown and challenged ourselves to work outside our respective comfort zones. Although we have changed, the basic values of rec room have not. And I’m proud of that. I’m proud of us for keeping up with rec room, even when the world (at times, quite literally -- think: outcome of the election) seemed against us. Among all the things rec room stands for, I am most interested in it as a reflection of all of us as friends. I want rec room to be a place where we can get together and share work/art/thoughts in a supportive, smart and entertaining environment. This doesn’t necessarily have to be a physical space. Sometimes rec room is just a state of mind. When I’m being romantic, I envision rec room as a bi-monthly astonishment, encouragement -- a place where we impress each other with our talents, where we use our art to peacefully conspire against the dirty, dominant forces that try to hold us down.

Though Eric moved away a few months ago, he promises to maintain a long-distance involvement in the series. Della and I have instituted a new mantra (wwetcd – what would eric t cressley do) to remind us to always consider the political and radical elements of rec room that Eric inspired. Also, in Eric’s place, Elizabeth has generously stepped up and volunteered to make rr bulletins. Her presence at rec room is wonderful -- so imaginative, supportive and diligent. We are grateful for her. We’re also grateful for those (you know who you are) who have hooked us up with performers, donated time and/or money and/or talent to come see the show this year and help us out of various pinches. We really do heart you. You are truly what rec room’s all about.

Though the name for the series came to us by accident, I liked the idea of a room where things can be reconstructed. I was feeling really dismantled in Chicago about one year ago today. I was unsure about the possibilities for truth beauty art loyalty love hope poetry inspiration – all the great abstractions. Sometimes, I get like that. It’s just the way I am. Thankfully, the reconstruction room has helped me put myself back together. It has given me hope, and something to look forward to, a reason. A twinkling light of revolution. Sometimes, I am not sure whether we are building it, or it is building us. Either way, we’re doing it, Chicago. We’re finally getting together. I think it’s so groovy now.

-- Erin Teegarden

p.s. If you’ve read this all the way through, consider yourself a true blue rec roomer!

*title from a line in a song by “Friend and Lover” as well as a line used in one of the first rec room audience participation activities.


the exquisite corpse

Thank you for being here. I just want to say. . .
I wish I could write the appropriate line for a tampax ad.
The cat refuses to share her litter box with me.
Felt that folding would be below his comfort level/ so that
I have the undivided attention of the page let’s talk about
All the summers cutting grass on edmunton drive in that x-tra large shirt.
Although inside the act they found a thought, and inside the thought, an act
Goose you big stud—take me to bed or lose me forever.
In other words, Brenda K. Larson is a sex pervert, and I am gay.
If you have a trust fund or your parents pay your rent or gave you a credit card even
If it’s just for emergencies, you are not allowed to say you’re broke or complain about $.
On your birthday, it’s not the wish or the candles, but the fire.
Your [sic] all classist sluts!!
Zucchini is not a food, it is practice for
If I was given one more chance
I’d spend my time masturbating to a J.C. Penny’s Catalogue, at least that way I wouldn’t bother anyone.
And No, I don’t wanna stick around and just be your friend.
I don’t understand? Why am I here.
Take the van, go to wicker park, put the hipsters in the van, drop them off in rogers park
What the fuck are you doing?!!!

That girl’s got an enormous knee. Enflamed?
This big hat will gobble you
I’m making a list of things to confront you with
Hot en-tot, her stockings were around her ankles.
It was a night of birds and beauty, dark hair and hands
And these blocks make me want to play jenga.
400 hours later, out on the bayou. . .
Her fingers were nice and slippery
I’m out of room
“Every man for himself!”
What to say when the words stop coming
Even after we paled and dried.