Blake’s latest piece is a collaboration with guitarist Tyler Stahl. The two have known each other since childhood and written music together for over a decade, but this is the first time they have co-created a theater piece. It also marks a new style of work for Blake. In addition to his usual shtick, he sings and plays harmonica while Tyler plays guitar, sings harmonies, and pounds out rhythms using kick drum pedals on an old fashioned suitcase and tambourine. The result is an auditory collage which drifts seamlessly between storytelling, spoken word poetry, and song.
The show begins with the struggle small business owners face in New York amidst soaring rents and the corporate homogenization of our urban landscape. Blake shares an experience he had with the owner of a chess shop in Greenwich Village who asked, “how long until this whole city becomes a Starbucks?” While the chess shop means a lot to a lot of different people, it’s days may be numbered and the owner knows that. Blake relates this economic insecurity to his own experience as an artist who feels driven to contribute to the world in ways the market fails to appreciate. In a swingin’ folk rag, he sings: “Now I’m aware art doesn’t pay / And you can see that’s not the point form a mile away / It’s just hard to do when you got bills to pay / But life is hard. That’s what they say, right?”
Things take an unexpected turn when the exponential growth of technology enters the equation. Experts warn that breakthroughs in AI could disrupt our economy in ways few people acknowledge. While mass unemployment is entirely possible, Blake offers a more optimistic take. He imagines a future in which automation frees the masses from wage-slave toil for mere survival and allows people to pursue something other than money. He concedes there are obstacles to enacting this vision, but argues the current paradigm is incompatible with the future of AI. What seems radical today may simply be ahead of its time.
Bryn Herdrich directed a workshop sharing of the piece at The Bitter End in April. Production details to come.
Prelude to the Apocalypse (For What It's Worth)