Chris Wells, ex-Actors' Gangster and fellow former Angeleno, is one of my favorite stage and/or cabaret performers, but I haven't seen him perform in quite a while--unless I can count his monthly "gig" leading a secular artist's service called The Secret City, which he began hosting a little over a year ago, and which I've profiled in a brief piece in this month's American Theatre (the story's not online; get thee to a newsstand).
As someone who's been going to the theatre almost as long as I've been going to churches, I'm especially appreciative of the Sunday morning sanctuary that Chris has created, though he's taken pains not to call what he does a "church." As he puts it:
“It doesn’t have baggage for me, but I’m very mindful that the word ‘church’ is really loaded for people,” Wells concedes. For him, the reason worship makes such a natural fit with theatre has nothing to do with belief systems.
“One of the reasons that fundamentalism appeals so much to some people is the feeling of belonging,” says Wells. “And it occurred to me that artists have suffered what I’ve referred to as a diaspora—I really feel that for a number of reasons artists have been exploded out of any feeling of being central to the civilization. Not to sound too political or paranoid, but that is how you disempower people—separate them from other like people.
“So my desire was to re-gather those people and say, ‘Not only do we have a purpose, but we actually have maybe the greatest calling there is.’ ”
Can I get an amen? The Secret City will hold a cabaret benefit this weekend at the space, Theatrelab, 137 W. 14th St., Sat. Dec. 6 at 7 & 9:30 p.m., and Sun. Dec. 7 at 9 p.m. Info here.