What If?

What If?
What If?- our Musical Concert series at La MaMa E.T.C. - www.BriannaLaRoccoPhotography.com

Thursday, November 11, 2010

"The Timing of a Day" & "Holiday In Hell" find an Off-Broadway home

The Timing of a Day
Holiday In Hell

Mind The Art Entertainment has finalized a contract for these two plays for an Off-Broadway three week run each in Spring 2011 at Center Stage NY

The Timing of a Day by Owen Panettieri & Directed by Joey Brenneman was a hit at the 2010 New York International Fringe Festival, winning the critics award as best Acting Ensemble. The sold-out play garnered rave reviews from NyTheater, Backstage & Playbill and is excited to move into an extension Off-Broadway.

Holiday In Hell by Charles O'Hara and Directed by Jackie Bartone & Christian De Gré will be having its world premiere. Charles O'Hara is a respected playwright with a voice that cannot be equaled, with works that simultaneously deal with sensitive subjects as well as comedic philosophies. Jackie Bartone, a legendary acting teacher and director at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts has trained some of today's best actors and will be co-directing along with Christian De Gré, Artistic Director of Mind The Art Entertainment, and former student of Mrs. Bartone.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Responsible critic, et tu Brute? (Vol. 1)

by Christian De Gré, Artistic Director of Mind The Art Entertainment

Warning: The following article contains creative rantings and ramblings that may offend pretentious critics.

So I just finished composing the music for the renowned theater director Dario D'Ambrosi's new work Bong Bong Bong against the Walls, Ting Ting Ting in our Heads at La MaMa E.T.C.'s 2010 Puppet Festival. It was an incredible project that told the story of the genius of mentally handicapped children in a fairy tale puppet musical fashion. I was thrilled to be working on this piece and once we opened I was looking forward to seeing what the critics thought of this genius work directed by a man who has spent 30 years working with this subject matter. I couldn't have been more naive.

To not get into the gross details I will simply share the highlights of my experience reading these reviews. One reviewer, in the New York Times no less, forgot to mention that there was music in the piece, ignoring that he sat through a one hour musical of which 40 minutes were completely filled with songs and instrumental music. Another reviewer dared say that Mr. D'Ambrosi, who is recognized internationally as the leading authority on theater for the disabled, lacked perspective and insight in his subject matter. (Errr) Another reviewer presumed to build connections between the musical structure and aesthetic choices of the piece that he felt he had a great ear for but anyone with any musical knowledge would know he had no idea of what he was talking about. However the one that wins the award as the most irresponsible and lazy critique must go to the Village Voice who decided that they would publish, in a major city-wide publication, a review in BULLET POINTS with such creative insights as 'the origami frogs appear to be very well folded.' Well, thank you Village Voice for your incredible journalism skills. It is because of this wondrous critical experience that I have decided that it might be time for us artists to question those who question us.

To those who do not know, theater survives largely because of reviews. The shows that make it to Broadway (usually after a painstaking 8 year journey) arrive because along the way someone gave them a star review in a major publication. If a piece gets a bad review it is almost impossible to recover, and ticket sales plunge if a major publication looks down on your work. Because we live in an information obsessed and media saturated society the people look to reviews to choose from the plethora of activities at their fingertips what they should do. They trust these reviews, put faith that these professionals know what they are talking about and then proceed to follow their advice. As artists we recognize the power that the press holds over our careers and futures. To quote the Artistic Director of La MaMa E.T.C. "you get a positive New York Times Review and you get to eat for three years." It is because of this fact that we, as artists and producers, become obsessed with getting press to our shows. So we embark upon a journey, we woo and bribe, we spend thousands of dollars on a pricey PR Manager and a Publicist, we dress up, we walk them to their seat, we almost literally do anything they want but prostitute ourselves (hopefully) in order to get them to our shows and do whatever is in our power to make them happy. These "journalists" then proceed to "evaluate" our piece and then share with the "common" people of the world, who are in theory much more limited in creative endeavors having not made a career of this, their views and recommend what people should or should not spend their hard working money on. We artists then sit ALL DAY and NIGHT by a computer and a newsstand, with coffee, whiskey and cigarettes in hand, waiting anxiously to see what these "trained professionals" have to say about our art. This is an excruciating affair, painful for all involved. Finally we see the listings pop up on Google and in print and we gasp, fear and excitement coursing through our veins, and we read. We read what these "great minds," who make quite a bit of money with the major papers, have to say about our bohemian poverty stricken creative endeavors. This moment for us in a culmination of not just however many years we have worked on a piece, or how many things we have sacrificed to make it come to fruition, but is a culmination of all our dreams and struggles since we were a fetus with a vision. And then we read... What do we get more often than not? We get rewarded with a half assed review written two weeks after they saw the show that talks about nothing in our piece but how well-folded the ORIGAMI FROGS ARE? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

Surely this must be a one off event. This can't be the norm can it? Well, let us take another example. I spent 9 years of my life with my good friend and co-writer Paul Deakin, creating a musical Spellbound- A Musical Adventure. We opened this summer at the Ellen Stewart Theater as part of the 2010 New York International Fringe Festival and the show was produced with the Executive Producer of the Drama Desk Awards, Robert R. Blume with a Broadway cast. I have spent more than a third of my life on this piece and Paul, Robert, Mind The Art and I gave everything we had to the success of the show. We then, of course, proceeded to seek reviewers to evaluate the piece so we could move forward with our baby. At this time we were also locking an Investor who was willing to give us $25,000 to help cover the ever mounting Fringe Productions costs as well as put aside some future development money... Then the first review came out... The review, which tore the piece apart, was written by what I can only assume is a very bitter man. Now understand I have no problem if you hate my show, if you don’t like it, then don’t, that’s fine, write about it as the objective third party you claim to be and let me see through your eyes what I really have. What this man did however was an insult to art and social etiquette. The review written was nasty, mean, offensive and outright cruel to everyone working on the show. It was not enough to say that he didn’t like the piece or some performances, no it was necessary for him to tear it apart offensively, call some performances "nothing more than a wicked audition," and compare the piece to ridiculous and unrelated things like "Mountain Dew" (this last reference I still fail to comprehend, and I co-wrote the thing.) Well I was very angry at not this man's take on our piece but in the way that he "elegantly expressed" his opinion. I thought to myself, "Who is this beacon of knowledge that has the audacity to tear down actors as if they were community theater amateurs even though they have been in 6 Broadway shows? Who is this great thinker that has the balls to write in the most condescending manner available in the English language?" So I looked him up. First thing I see on his webpage is his face, blown up to fill the entire screen, in a pretentious looking sweater by a river. His head is tilted back arrogantly laughing at his surroundings. I kid you not he looked like a classic Disney Villain. Next I see his bio, and I quote "(Reviewer name) has been a frustrated out of work actor for the last 6 years. As a playwright his work has been on a number of regional stages and he now spends his time as a reviewer for (publication) where he also serves as their Human Resources Manager." Surely this must be in jest. I cannot conceive that I am having my life's work reviewed by a Human Resources Manager who hasn't worked creatively in 6 years. I have done 13 productions in the last year working in all aspects of the arts and I am being judged by someone who hasn't landed a job in 6 years?!? This is the highly skilled aesthetic eye that is evaluating my work. Well the story gets better. After I provided our Investor the account information for the wire transfer we are chatting and he suddenly says "I just looked up your show, and look here is a review..." Well after much useless pleading and reasoning on my part I could not convince this Wall Street Tycoon that this reviewer was not an entirely objective, impartial and reasonable journalist. Mr. Investor, or as we call them in our artist meetings this "Food Stamp Angel," pulled his money and left us because of this Disney Villains’ take on our piece. We now face a $16,000 deficit on the piece thanks to this sweater wearing laughing man by the river. Wonderful, thank you for your help Mr. Reviewer.

So these horror stories, and I have hundreds, are just the beginning of a larger set of questions. What does it take to be a reviewer? I have been asked by two publications if I would like to review, and while I now see that I am probably more qualified (I actually work in the arts) to do so I have declined because I don't see myself as a "responsible, trained and qualified objective journalist." Also what has happened in our modern day and age that we have given so much power to the reviewer? Why did we do this? Why must art be funded based upon the opinion of those who have more of an inclination to write a satirical or unnecessarily mean review over a proper critical analysis? Now there are a few responsible ones out there, of course, but even the best of them fall to this exaggerated hyperbolized tabloid style of writing quite often. My favorite quotes from these fine, established fellows include "the cast often performs with disillusion, as if they are attending a terrible Halloween party, dressed only in straightjackets and are forced to stay against their wishes," and "you could go down to your basement, eat two packs of cheese puffs in darkness and vomit, or you could watch this piece, the end result would be the same" and my favorite from the great Ben Brantley "You will have the occasion to learn that Romeo is not circumcised." Bravo! Is this the responsible, objective journalism we have all been waiting for? No! It's irony, satire, comedy, vulgarity and scandalized explosive commentary meant to amuse rather than inform. The great Joe Papp, founder of the Public Theater, comes to mind, screaming down the phone at a reviewer of A Chorus Line decades ago "Are you trying to fuck me? Why are you doing this? You will never set foot in my theater again, you pretentious dick! You fuck me again and I'll kill you."

So what is to be done? Is it too much to hope for someone to attend my show and see things objectively and whether they like it or not write appropriate thought out criticism? I guess it is. Meanwhile I guess I have no choice but to keep feeding the machine and keep searching for my New York Times Review that will feed me for 3 years. I suppose I just have to keep gambling and throwing up shows and eventually I'll get lucky. As you see I have realized it’s just a matter of luck, seeing as I see no logical way to put art up and expect constructive feedback in this modern age.

Hmmm... maybe if I give them cheese puffs and mountain dew at their seats they'll like my work more.

“Asking a working writer what he thinks about critics is like asking a lamppost what it feels about dogs”- John Osborne (Playwright/Producer)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Board of Mind The Art Announces their upcoming Season!

Mind The Art Entertainment Proudly Announces

2011-2012 Season Plan

as approved by the Board on Oct 25th, 2010

December 2010

A Thousand Words Part 3

Created by R. Patrick Alberty & Free-Write NYC

(Literary Project)

January 2011

A Mind The Art Anthology

Featuring: A Woman in Progress

By Keelie Sheridan (One Woman play)

Directed by Alessio Cappelletti


Story Time with Mr. Buttermen

(that disturbed man that lives in the park):

Fables for Adults Living in a Modern World

Conceived & Directed by Christian De Gré

Written by Mind The Art's Poetry Division

(Performance Art Poetry Show)

@ La MaMa E.T.C.

Gods & Dolls

By Luis Cordero (Short Film Distribution)

1st Submission to International Film Festivals

February 2011

Holiday In Hell

By Charles O’Hara (Play)

Directed by Jackie Bartone & Christian De Gré

World Premiere

March 2011


Written and Directed by Phillip James

(Short Film Partnership with ‘Gypsy Caravan Productions’)

North Carolina Shoot

Mind The Art Visual Arts Exhibit

Fountain Art Fair (Art Exhibit)

April 2011

The Timing Of A Day

By Owen Panettieri (Play)

Directed by Joey Brenneman

Off Broadway Extension of Fringe 2010Award winning Production

May 2011

What If?- The Band Series (Musical Theater & Music Concert)

Created by Christian De Gré

June 2011

Mind The Art begins conversion of a warehouse into a theater

Williamsburg, Brooklyn

July 2011

Mind The Art Opens New Theater


By Joe Kurtz (Existential Comedy)

Directed by Christian De Gré

Year Long Multi Arts Festival Officially Launches

with Photography Exhibit

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

45 Bleecker Street Theater- A great loss to Off-Off Broadway

(In a letter to the Operations Manager of 45 Bleecker St. Theater, Christian De Gré, President & Artistic Director of Mind The Art Entertainment wrote the following on October 20th, 2010)

Dear Ms. Gagnon,
It is with great sadness that we hear news of your theater. 45 Bleecker Street is an important cultural symbol in the Off Broadway community and it is very disconcerting that you have been faced with these problems.

I would like to offer our full support in any way that we can to help your organization keep its doors open. If there is anything we can do please do not hesitate to ask. If there were to be a fundraiser of some kind or a petition, etc, we will gladly throw the weight of our members in support. Theater must survive these hardships, and artists, in all mediums, must unite to overcome these struggles.

I hope that some good news come soon but in the meantime I am at your disposal should you require anything.

Our support goes out to you.
- Mind The Art Entertainment and its 300 working artists, producers, designers, administrators and its Board.

Kindest Regards,
Christian De Gré
President & Artistic Director- Mind The Art Entertainment

(Then in a letter to the creative staff of Mind the Art Entertainment, Christian De Gré wrote the following)

The sad news came to us today and I just wanted to share them. Mind The Art was in negotiations with the 45 Bleecker street theater to take over part of their bookings for our productions in their late night slots. As you can see in this article below from the New York Times, the theater is dying. Its a very horrible state of events that also follows the fall of 6 other Off-Bway theaters this Summer & Fall including the fall of the Cheery Lane's structure and support. Let us be reminded how difficult it is to support art in an expensive metropolitan city and also learn the lessons of these great organizations that have now fallen.

Please take a moment to read and do share your thoughts.

Our correspondence with them ended with this unfortunate statement.

"If we do not find or create an entity to take over the lease here, we will dismantle the two theatres down to the four walls. In closing, if you or your colleagues have any ideas or input, we are listening to everyone and anyone at this point. "

This is very sad indeed.

We must remember that this is not 45 Bleecker's problem alone but a problem for all working Artists in New York. Arts Venues are closing left and right and it is in this time that we must unite on our common goal, to create art. Only in number's can we all survive these struggles. I leave you with our Mission to contemplate, and remember this is a fight that we are all in together.

"Art is, and must remain, a collaborative and ever evolving medium. In order to truly fulfill ones own potential, one must surround him or herself with like minded individuals. Only then, with meticulous tenacity and an ability to work together can an artist and his/her colleagues grow, inspire and ultimately succeed."

Why I Do What I Do

Why I Do What I Do by Ariana Paganetti, Projects Manager, Mind The Art Entertainment, Oct 11th, 2011

I am reminded everyday why I do what I do. I have to tell you. I would be alright with a little less reminders. Today I read an article about a young man who took his own life due to cyber bullying. This bullying was in relation to his sexual orientation. In the past two weeks he is the fifth human being between the ages of 13 and 18 who has decided to take his own life due to homosexual related bullying in the United States alone. I am heartbroken for these young men and those that loved them. I am even more heartbroken for our society. These five deaths are tragic, but every day another five children think they are all alone in this world and have no other option. Every day someone hears a word that defines who they are attached with a negative connotation. It doesn't matter what you believe, or whose side of the debate you are on, no one should feel like their existence isn't valid.

There are times when I struggle with my decisions in life. I chose a life in the arts, more often in social theatre, and sometimes that makes life a little more unconventional and difficult. I began my day this morning feeling financially and creatively dejected, and then I read this article. I was inflamed with active anger, and passion and a need to stand up. I believe that theatre can elicit change. If not change in action, at least a change in thought. If not a change in thought, at least a change in perspective. If not in a change of perspective at least it provides that opportunity.

When our modern society began, theatre was a venue for community forum. It was where the ancient Greeks discussed politics, community leaders, fiscal and industrialized change and the effects of various human emotions on the basic fabric of society. We haven't strayed to far from that original goal, but the message has changed. We now live in a world where entertainment and information is instantaneously available. Our entertainment is universally open for everyone and anyone to create and distribute. This is a wonderful thing, it can help in sparking the necessary conversations, but at the risk of sounding cliche a brilliant man once wrote that "with great power comes great responsibility." We have given our children, ourselves this amazing power but we haven't taught the lessons.

We have forgotten that there are people involved in these conversations. We look at our little silver boxes,our hand held communication meccas and feel detached. Anything we do on this technology is null and void of consequences. We have taken the humanity out of art. We have replaced humanity with a scary sense of invincibility. The result of which is bullying that can reach the world in the beat of a heart. Instead of using this technology to make art more readily available, we have made hate more readily available.

I am aware that there are artists out there trying to change this. I am not saying that technology is bad for art, in fact I think multi-media is one of the most exciting aspects to modern theatre. My friends at Better Left Unsaid are wonderful examples of using life stream media effectively in theatre. I see them using technology to engage an audience in a conversation. We need to teach our children this. We need to talk to them. They have forgotten to talk to each other.

Proposition 8 is shaping my generation. It is our call to arms. It is one of the final unprotected human rights. I feel that gay marriage should be legal, but that isn't the point here. Healthy debate is what charges this country. Needing to fight and struggle for something is what gives us as human beings the drive to change something. It is our medicine for apathy. I do not tolerate hate though. I have heard people tell me that homosexuality is socially acceptable now, yet I hear tales about teens being disowned, beaten and mocked. Not every homosexual male likes to dress like a woman. Not every heterosexual male doesn't. There is no excuse for making someone feel like their right to a lifestyle or privacy is null. This is why I will continue to hold a mirror up to ourselves. This is why we need a catalyst that can compete with YouTube and MTV to spark conversation. We need to get our youth talking to each other.

Our society is quickly blurring the line between reality and virtual reality. The ability to determine consequences and actual human emotional responses is quickly fading in our youth. For anyone who thinks the issues of coming out and sexual orientation is a thing of the past needs to be informed. As more people live on their own, and the concept of "community" dwindles before our eyes, we as artists need to continue our work creating opportunities for a forum.

Late Night, New York True Stories 1- "If Tarkovsky were a cabby..."

By Alessio Cappelletti, Director of Mind The Art Entertainment's Filmmaking Division on Tuesday, October 26, 2010-

I just got in. its 2am. I had this in my mind for awhile now, writing down people Ive crossed life paths with, only for a moment, who've touched me on those often late empty surreal streets of the Big City. I think its important. Like strength in numbers. If I write my stories and send them out to people- stories about the magic and mystery of life, about people really reaching out and connecting....maybe more people will believe in it and reach out to and that magic will get stonger. This isn't about practicality, its not about getting in a cab, spitting out a destination and then putting on headphones or burying ones face in their phone....Why is it always the destination that is so important to us....this is about the journey and taking advantage of every moment life gives you. This isn't about me arriving at my apartment...its about the journey, en route to it....that in life, Im slowly realizing, is important.

Per usual, I had barely eaten today...why? Most of MTAE and my and roommates could answer that. I often lose myself in my work and the hustle and bustle that is New York City (in terms of Rhode Island pace of life- "Toto, we sure as shit ain't in Kansas anymore"). We had just finished an amazing board meeting with the MTAE (Mind The Art Entertainment Crew- which I am a member of), filled with the silly antics, cut with decisive business planning that is our get togethers. They ate authentic Puerto Rican Food (thank you Authentic Puerto Rican Restaurant on 122nd) and I munched on crackers, and raw cashews, and a shake- I brought in my bag. After words myself, President- Christian De Gre, and VP Ashley Williams decided to stop by a dim little surreal spot in the village for a night cap, catch up, and discuss plans further...It was here, I realized how amazing we had it....for all our struggle and strife, we were doing what we love and making major headway- my feature film, plays we have going up (all of us involved in either-directing, acting, producing,etc.), a bar/theater/ varied entertainment space that we are in the midst of securing, designing, then opening as our own, so many amazing things...Life is good...It aint perfect, It aint ever perfect but it, in that moment, in the company of not just friends but family, talking of fears and dreams, was beautiful...truly...and we came to this conclusion (a conclusion to a question that over my life so far has brought much pain and confusion)...why do we do it all...why? For money, success, fame- why? Why do we kill ourselves, work 50 plus hours a week, risk our social lives, relationships, our mental and physical health...Because we love...with all our heart...not just our projects (those are a means to the end)...we love making people realize that they arent alone, that the pain or joy or fear that is in their hearts, shakes their souls, takes their breath has also been in ours... because we want to touch people, we want to support eachother, we want to connect...we want that for everyone...we want everyone to do that with each other, everywhere.

We paid the bill, and they helped me find a cab going toward my own part of the universe (the other side of the concrete rainbow)...and when every cab sign seemed dark...Ashley pointed- "Alessio, there's one!"...and there it sat, waiting for me on a perpendicular street. The barely noticeable driver, shrouded in shadows and slashes of light from sleepy street lamps, over head, softly motioned me over.

After we said our goodbyes and gave our warm hugs, with equally warm beer and whiskey in our bellies...we separated from our paths intersecting to continue into the crisp quiet autumn night on our journeys, alone....

I jumped in and slammed the door so he would know that I didnt care if he didnt usually travel to Pluto, we were about to push his rocket ship to its limits and I wasn't about to get out for Jesus Christ, himself.

Cabby (with a gentle accent)- "So where in Brooklyn are we going?"

Me:"....Um...How did you know I was going to Brooklyn?"

Cabby (tiredly smiles): You look like you live in Brooklyn, where you goin?

I laughed hard and warm, then gave him my address.

Me: You know most cabbies dont seem to like to go into deep Brooklyn at 1am.

Cabby: I don't see why, it's nice.

We sat in silence for a few moments and ofcourse my first reaction was to start to reach for my ipod-

Cabby: So how was your night?

I stopped. Did he just ask me what I think he did? That's strange most cabbys are usually quiet or listening to music or on their phones, speaking languages that I can only imagine are as exotic as the lullabys they are spinning to their sleepy children on the other end. Maybe he was just trying to make small talk in hopes of finding more bills in his hand, when all was said and done. But it didn't feel like that. So I decided to be sincere.

Me: "It was good...really good. I just got out of a meeting and am tired but am happy...I didn't eat anything all day I got so wound up in my schedule"

Cabby: Are you hungry? You wanna stop and get something?

Okay totally unusual...no cabby has ever offered me that but he sincerely did.

Me: No...but thank you...

We were quiet for another moment. Then-

Cabby: How many roommates do you have?

Me (happily intrigued): Okay...how do you know I have roommates?

Cabby (Laughs): Cmon...I know these things, I drive cabs all day. I know people. All night I should say.


Me: Do you like it?

Cabby:....Yes....more than day...its quieter and less traffic.

Me:....Two...I have two roommates...girls.

He turned around with a big grin and a raised eyebrow that reminded me of the way Id imagine my uncle would've reacted when annually playing Santa Clause at Christmas as I sat on his lap and told him I'd been a good boy all year. It made me laugh and sad at the same time...because I miss him. But it felt good, we werent just going from one place to another, point A to B, project to profit...we were living...

Cabby: Do they have boyfirends?

Me: (Laughing) One does, I dated the other- we're all very close.

Cabby: Thats good.

Me: How about you?

Cabby: I live with my family?

Me: Where?

Cabby: In New Jersey.

Me: I don't think I could ever stay in the city, raise a family here, I come from up north- Rhode Island?

Cabby: Youd be surprised, this city is very addictive and after awhile it gets in your blood changes your way of thinking. How long have you been living here?

Me: almost 7 years....How about you?

Cabby: 20.

Me: Do you like it?

Cabby:...I did the first ten (he laughed hard. As did I)...if I could, Id like to live on an island...

Me: So you like warm weather? Where are you from?

Cabby: Russia...I dont know, I like-

Me (completing his thought): The quiet, the nature...

Cabby (laughed): Yes...but you get addicted to this place.

Me:...I know...I know...Its tough, its a city of industry- Im in the film industry...

Cabby: Really?

Me: Yeah, Im a writer/Director.

Cabby: What Kind of movies?

Me: Dramas, I guess...Im in the midst of trying to get financing for my feature length project...(then I filled him in on my meetings with MTAE and my connection with them)

Cabby: But you look young, very young to be doing this stuff....How old are you-27, 28

Me: 24, gonna be 25 in November.

Cabby: My God...well its all business with those people...everything in life is business...

Me:...I know...

I was getting this weird warm itch. Like, a feeling like I wanted divulge my whole life to this man, we were so much alike and even though that had yet to established...I could feel it...I had two choices, I could hold back and just be a normal passerby...or I could open up with him, try to connect and see hat would happen...be sincere...two guys traveling over a lonesome bridge, both on a journey, both could be dead at any moment or any moment after...whats the risk?

Me: Ya know, one of my favorite directors come from your country?

Cabby (kind of excited): Who?

Me: Tarkovsky.

Cabby: Great filmmaker. How about Fellini?

Me (Laughin hard): He's my favorite filmmaker of all time! Him, Bergman, Kurosawa_

Cabby: All amazing. My favorite is Charlie Chaplin. I feel he is the greatest- he is to movies, what the Beatles are to music.

Me: My father loves Charlie Caplin, he used to show me all his movies when I was a child...its so weird because Charlie Chaplin can be so funny but his films have such heavy messages.

Cabby: Well, Charlie Chaplin is really not comedy...

Me: Really?

Cabby: Yes (I see a smile creep across his face n the corner of the rear view)...he is seriousness for people who don't understand seriousness.

That blew me away I mean, really blew me away. It reminded me of a quote my father used to say, that was published in his articles on the great Italian playwright, Pirandello and also why he loved Fellini and Chaplin so much- "The greatest tragedies aren't ones that bring us to tears but ones that bring us to laughter."

Me: So is that what you are passionate about?

He seemed to understand what I said and looked confused.

Me: I mean, in your spare time are you passionate about movies, music...do you love to listen or watch them whenb you arent driving.

After a moment of him pondering and searching, the look on his face changed and became one of deep serious thought- now, looking back, I feel it was the same face I must've made when choosing to open myself to him...but maybe this one was deeper, the risk actually, present.

Cabby: No....I have...um (searching for the word)....depression? I can't bring myself to do anything, I work because I have to but, I have no passion. Its the pills I take, they leave me without a want or passion for movies, or music or even women.

I was floored. I could not believe how open and naked this guy was presenting his soul to me. I didn't know what to say...or I did...but now my risk had presented itself...at a crossroads again, two options:

Me: I used to suffer from that too. I was also on the meds and they do that. If you don't mind me asking, why are you depressed?

Cabby: Well...(he struggled with this)...you're young 24/ 25....Im 45... I used to smoke, ya know?

Me: Marijuana, you-you mean?

Cabby: Yeah, drink all night, go to clubs, do Ecstasy, go with lots of girls. When you are young, you can stay out all night, drink, do these things and they wont hurt you...you could be out in the cold and the temperature doesnt hurt you...your immune system is fine.. But when you do that for so many years, it fills your body with the- the poison. And so I had to get the poison out of my body.

Finally I understood what we was saying.

Me: You had to detox...

Cabby: Yes...and I have to take these pills for depression, ya know. I don't really wanna to go to clubs and dance anymore.

Me: yes I do...I used to have depression. Sometimes I still get down, Im 25 but sometimes feel like Ive missed out on my youth bec. of all the work Ive put into my career like I'm-

Cabby (this time he finished my thought): 45.

We both smiled.

Cabby:...I read...its the only thing I still have a want to do?

Me: What kind of books?

Cabby: Everything...anything...Im reading a lot of books on religion, spirits...

Me: You mean "spirituality"

Cabby: Yes...Thats the weird side of depression, it can make you wanna look for ways to feel better.

Me: I read a pretty good book on spirituallity- its called "The Power of Now" by Eckhart Tolle

Cabby: Whats it about?

Me: Living in the present...Tolle feels all religions are connected and highly unified in message...that they key to peace is living in the the "Now" or the present moment. That all pain comes from fear of the future (which doesn't exist because it hasn't happened yet) or the same for the past (which you can no longer reach cause its gone)...Peace is being here now. And our mind will try to convince us otherwise but the mind is the cause of depression, anxiety (which I suffer from), and if we treat our mind as a machine who's thoughts do not define who we are then thats another way to peace and slowly the mind will quiet.

Cabby: I totally agree, I feel there are no real differences in the core message of any religion- they all point at the same things. You should check out Hinduism...thats what Im reading...its also very interesting.

Me: That's amazing my roommate is Hindu and has taught some about it!...You know what I think...All religion s the same...they have the same meanings.

Cabby: Yes, I totally agree.

Me: Well, you understand these great concepts...why are you sad?

He paused again and this time seemed to really fight with what he was about to say:

Cabby:...our potential....I feel like we have all this potential if life, to live life and do things but we only use 2%...I only use 2%...and nobody cares...look at all these people on the sidewalk, in 100 years they'll all be dead...in 200 years no one will remember Fellini or Bergman...no one will remember you nor me...so

Me (I finished his sentence): What's the point?

He paused then looked in rear-view and nodded at me.

Me:...I feel like the point isn't whether their is an after life or not or how successful you are here...we can die at any moment and what car we had, what work we were doing that day, won't matter...what matters is how we use every moment to love and touch people...go out of our way for no personal gain, just to love people...If I can do that everyday, then I feel I am using all of my life's potential in those single acts of kindness...We all come into this world alone and leave alone...but the paradox is that we are all united in how alone we are, so...we're really not alone...

He took it all in then nodded. We pulled up to my apartment. After I paid him:

Me: Listen, the conversation we had...that was you using a ton of potential and you gotta keep doing that because it touches people- to be reached out to. No cab driver does that, never mind most people-

Cabby: No, it doesnt mean anything...it was ordinary.

Me: No it wasn't...it was special. What you're doing is making the world a better place.

Cabby: No, Im just a cab driver...that's all.

Me: No...you're a good person, who cares about connecting with another....and thats rare...I will remember you.

He smiled then turned to reach his hand through the plate glass opening, for me. I smiled and firmly shook it.

Wherever he is, right at this moment, struggling with the feelings in his heart and pain from the restrictions of the body, mouth, and mind's inability to come up with a form of expression to reward him with peace; picking up transient body after transient body- all wearing headphones, all buried in cellphones-till his eyes are heavy and he must wander back to his own point B, his own destination. I pray he finds his potential, his peace. I pray he finds more pick ups that want to hear and speak. I hope if you get anything from this story you get that. Open yourself to another and write about it to others so they can believe that perfect strangers can within minutes become the closest of friends, bearing souls. And if they can do it in a matter of minutes, from a completely different backgrounds, of completely different ages and occupations...why can't the rest of the world? What are we afraid of?

Ill tell you what Im afraid of...wasted time.

I watched him drive off into that same crisp autumn night...we separated from our paths intersecting to continue on our journeys....

...but not alone...connected.

-Alessio Cappelletti

Brooklyn, NY

October 26, 2010