Where events occur changes the relationship between viewer and actor, between spectator and participant.
Like itinerant actors and agitators, Reverend Billy and the Church of Life After Shopping perform on the street, in the public commons, and in corporate retail spaces, using theatrical tools in service of social change.
That zone, between art and political action, outside the market economy.
“...when a part of the self is given away...community appears.”
“When art acts as an agent of transformation…we may correctly speak of it as a gift.” -Lewis Hyde, THE GIFT
“...Savitri and I and many of the choir and musicians originally came into the arts with an intact sense of the future, technique, money, independence, reviews but these old yardsticks are gone now. The path has vanished; being an artist right now is stumbling around in a blackened wood. We end up reaching for each other in a different way.” Bill Talen
"It’s about thinking independently together…that’s where the political acts live – between us." -Savitri D.
Bill Talen went from being a solo performer to making work collaboratively, re-thinking theatre as an art form in public life.
“...the collective functions at a level superior to the creative capacities of the individuals which make it up...it blesses them… brings out the best in them, and serves as a floor below which the collective cannot drop…The individual participates in the accumulated genius of the collective, and by such participation becomes himself part of that genius – something more than himself...”
-Maya Deren, “The Collective as Creative Artist” in THE DIVINE HORSEMEN
Reverend Billy and the Church of Life After Shopping:
Successfully pressured JP Morgan Chase Bank to stop funding Mountain Top Removal (MTR) Coal Mining in Appalachia
Successfully pressured Victoria’s Secret to discontinue use of old growth forest in their catalogs
Successfully pressured Starbucks to stop blocking efforts by Ethiopian Coffee Farmers to trademark the names of their coffee
Successfully kept Wal-Mart out of NYC with a broad coalition of neighborhood defense groups, unions, and anti-sweatshop churches.
“Theatre is a name, a label that encloses a number of measurement-systems, a glossary of terms, a history...the word isn't something we are obligated to anymore," Talen says. "Resisting consumerism...is a critique of the greatest part of the American economy and culture. Key to this modern conformity is the labeling process, where reality is cut into squares and labeled for consumption. We reject this view of the world, and when we do, we find that borders are like liquid and gas…ordinary human action – nontheatrical every day life – is a magical foreground to respect and protect.”


“We make our stages in contested space, flanked by corporate forces, tacking against the prevailing wind. The appropriation of public space, we feel is the appropriation of our ability to think independently.” Bill Talen
Kayford Mountain, WVA, destroyed. 7/25/10
Photo by Brennan Cavanaugh (CC)
“We have more control now and can manipulate the conditions more forcefully and more gracefully. Much that we do is dramatic to observers, our risk of arrest, our confrontations with power and all the violence associated with large gestures in public space...to us those actions are a developing vocabulary, it is the meaning they carry that matters to us.”  BT
United For Peace and Justice march on Wall Street
Photo by Brennan Cavanaugh (CC)
“I was arrested reciting the First Amendment in Union Square Park and understood I had no choice about my work anymore, that being an artist meant rising to the radical promise of the First Amendment itself. The Freedom there is our great Commons – and now I spend my time defending it, expanding it.”  Bill Talen
Savitri D and Bill Talen.
Photo by Brennan Cavanaugh (CC)