St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery
This, the East Village’s unofficial cultural center, offers some of the city’s finest contemporary poetry, dance and theater. Ontological at St. Mark’s Theater is an Off Off Broadway venue specializing in experimental fare. The Danspace Project stages performances in the church’s spare and open 300-seat sanctuary during some 20 weeks every year. Although Danspace, founded in 1974, has featured work by contemporaries like Bill T. Jones and Meredith Monk, dance performances as such at the church actually go back as far as the 1920s when leading figures such as Isadora Duncan, Martha Graham and Ruth St. Denis performed here. The Poetry Project offers readings on Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings as well as weekly writing workshops and a monthly lecture. Poets who have read here over the years include John Ashbery, Amiri Baraka, Allen Ginsberg, Galway Kinnell, Robert Lowell, Frank O’Hara and Adrienne Rich. The church was completed in 1799 on the site of a chapel originally built by Peter Stuyvesant, governor of New Amsterdam, New York City’s old Dutch name. Alexander Hamilton provided legal help to incorporate the church as the first Episcopal parish in America. So it remains. It was built in roughly three stages: the original Federal structure, as mentioned, the Greek Revival steeple and the cast-iron portico. The church also provides numerous social services to Lower East Side residents.