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October 04, 2011

NYC & Blue Man Group Love Vermont, Hate Irene

Land_venetian_header You can't throw a dart at the Seven Days calendar section these days without hitting an Irene benefit (because naturally, you'd be throwing darts at our paper, right?). They're everywhere from church basements to theaters to your neighbor's kid's romper room. And that's a good thing. We need to take care of each other, especially as lady winter breathes her icy breath down our necks, reminding us that tough times may be ahead for some. 

As we work to take care of ourselves and our neighbors, it's nice to hear that other places are trying to take care of us, too. On Monday, Oct. 10, a cadre of Vermont expats living in New York City are hosting a fundraiser for our brave little state. But not just any fundraiser featuring, say, the musical stylings of your cousin's garage band and a chicken supper by the local church's ladies auxiliary. This event, cheekily called I Vermont NY I-vermont-ny (think of an "I ♥ NY" T-shirt, then replace the heart with a silhouette of Vermont. Or just look at the photo at left), presented by Blue Man Group NYC and Brooklyn Bowl, will feature a handful of Blue Men, Amanda Palmer of the Dresden Dolls and a few other special guests. Pretty big firepower for a flood fundraiser.

The event is organized by Vermont-bred artist Zea Barker, a clown, dancer, illustrator, makeup artist, art director, etc., and Isaac Littlejohn Eddy, an animator, cartoonist and Blue Man performer. Barker, who does makeup and wardrobe for the Blue Man Group in New York, says the impetus for the benefit was what she saw as a lack of national coverage of Irene's effect on Vermont. Few in New York took the storm seriously, Barker remembers. "There was a lot of attitude about how it was just nothing," she recalls. "But I started to realize very soon afterwards that Vermont was having problems."

The day after the storm, Barker was glued to the Internet, watching videos of the devastation on YouTube and reading about the damage in Rutland and other central and southern Vermont towns where she lived as a girl. It was heartbreaking, she says: "Those roads that were destroyed were my childhood home." She sent an email to her friend Eddy and suggested they host a benefit for their home state in New York. Eddy was in. 

For Barker and her Vermont expat theater friends, watching the aftermath of Irene unfold was emotional. Neither she nor Eddy had ever planned an event before, but with their industry connections, a benefit with big names wasn't too hard to set in motion. Palmer (above), a friend and former roommate of Barker's, said she would love to help out. Having the Blue Man Group on board was a given. Other performers include funk-rock band the London Souls and DJ Spiritbear

Inexplicably, there seems to be a disproportionate number of Vermonters working in the performing arts in New York. Barker says you can't find a dressing room in the city that isn't teeming with Vermonters. In Blue Man Group NYC alone there are at least three — Eddy, Brian T. Scott and Christopher Bowen, all from Randolph. Bowen was the first Blue Man to be hired by the show's originators. Another Vermonter works for the group's Tokyo cast. 

The evening, which is sponsored by Cabot Creamery, will also feature a silent auction with original art, photo prints and a variety of Vermont crafts (read: hand-turned wooden bowls) and services. Vermont cartoonist Ed Koren is designing a special poster that can be purchased at the event. And, perhaps more exciting than the Blue Man Group or Amanda Fucking Palmer, there will be a Vermont farmers market, of sorts, featuring all manner of maple products, including maple edible underwear and a variety of maple-flavored prophylactics (we wish!). 

Proceeds from the event will go to the Vermont Disaster Relief Fund and Vermont Farm Disaster Relief Fund. Barker, who with Eddy has taught at the state's Governor's Institute on the Arts, says the event offers Vermont artists living in New York a chance to give back to the state they cherish. "It's a way to send back some love." 

Tickets for the show, which range from $20 to $120, are available here

Photos via and Foster.  

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