Theater, Business, And More at Navy Yard
The survival of the iconic Brooklyn Navy Yard as an industrial center over two centuries is an achievement that requires reflection on the journey we’ve taken as Americans and New Yorkers from colonialists, slaves, and immigrants to patriots, revolutionists and speculators. That reflection is the mission of BLDG 92 at the Brooklyn Navy Yard Center.
BLDG 92 is a dynamic tribute to “The Can Do Yard” – nicknamed after the “We Can Do It” slogan that roused American spirits during World War II – which describes how thousands of New Yorkers labored around the clock to deliver a succession of feats that would propel a young country’s global ambitions.
From lightning quick steam transport and fearsome ironclad battle ships to life-saving anesthesia and voices carried across water, the legacy of this grand complex lingers in hundreds of grand, haunted structures – including a cobweb strewn hospital of pure Italian marble, a mucky dry dock colossal enough to cradle the Empire State Building, and a windowless high-rise that alarmed residents back then and still remains a mystery today.
Today, nearly 300 Yard businesses – 70 percent of which have five or fewer employees – “can and do” create food products, furniture, modular buildings, luxury home goods, art and more, much of which target local consumers and are used by people and businesses within commuting distance. The exhibit at BLDG 92 celebrates these industrialists and their predecessors in an explosion of interactive media, testimonials and artifacts that is suitably unexpected.
BLDG 92 is devoted to shining a light on untold chapters in Brooklyn’s past, offering a way for people to flirt with Yard history in whimsical ways. For example, to celebrate the 236th anniversary of the Battle of Brooklyn, trivia enthusiasts Stuart Post and Chris Kelley crafted a fun and quirky Q&A battle. Then, for this year’s Brooklyn Book Festival, newspaper columnist Denis Hamill performed a sunset reading of Arthur Miller’s Fitters Night while standing beside the Yard’s earliest dry dock, perched on Wallabout Bay. Miller, his protagonist and even Hamill’s own brother are bound by their experiences working night shift on the Yard.
There is also glamour on the Yard, with anchor tenant Steiner Studios –considered a major part of “Hollywood East.” Steiner hopes to expand into 20 wooded acres on the site of the former Naval Hospital complex, where mammoth weeping trees and boundless undergrowth shroud antique structures, including a surgeon’s house, officer’s club and even a morgue. Such real-life relics and landmarks lend an otherworldly quality to period productions such as HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire” and the ill-fated ABC series “Pan Am.”
Elsewhere on the complex, visiting guests can test their mechanical predilections on a “Yard Inspectors” tour, traversing the complex to decipher clues and scope out nautical equipment.
Coming up this October, theatre group Poly Be + Seats are set to co-opt BLDG92 galleries as the set of their newest production, “A History of Launching Ships.” Inspired by Washington Irving’s gothic New York tales and true-life Revolutionary War heroine Elizabeth Burgin, who freed hundreds of patriots from British prison ships moored off the Yard’s shores, local playwright Avi Glickstein probed the Yard’s archives to craft a spooky imagining of Burgin and her three female co-conspirators in their journey to escape. The play debuts on Thursday, October 11, and continues through 12 performances – perfect for fans of the ghostly or unorthodox to shepherd in Halloween.
Even when the mood calls for breezier pursuits, BLDG 92 sends up a suite of programs, tours and dining from which to choose. For every day, fancy or season, BLDG 92 offers another body of proof that Brooklyn might really be the stuff of legends.
BLDG 92 is free and open to the public Wednesday – Sunday from noon to 6pm. For more information, visit www.bldg92.org.
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