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The New York TImes - The City - Sunday, July 30, 2000



Where Legends Performed, A Few Final Memories

THE SETTING Judson House, at Thompson Street and West Third, where every inch of free space is filled with interactive performance by the Peculiar Works Project.

The house was built in the 1840s, acquired by Judson Memorial Church in 1899, and used since the 1950s as a haven for experimental dance and performance art. Important figures associated with Judson House include Yoko Ono, Trisha Brown, Maria Irene Fornes and Robert Rauchenberg.

The house is to be demolished sometime next month to make room for a New York University Law School building. On Thursday night, the Peculiar Works Project enticed more than 100 people to attend the first of four evenings celebrating the history of the place through a series of performance and installation works.

THE BUZZ Twenty-one people climbed up a fire escape and through a window to enter the world of "The Haunted Sailor," a narrative about a dead seaman who returns to his lover's house each year to search for treasure in the walls.

"Why are you following me?" shouted Robert Salas, who played the sailor. "You think I have no right to be here?"

Eric Malter, an advertising executive who brought his 13-year-old son, Evan, understood the sailor's plight. "It made sense to me," Mr. Malter said. "I like the notion of hidden treasure in the walls."

Catherine Porter, one of the show's producers, said the performances were intended to tell the house's hidden stories. But not everyone got the message.

"For me it's a little hard to comprehend," said Trevor Colas, an account executive. He peered into a gleaming white room where a scantily clad man and woman performed a minimalist dance routine that echoed the style of some choreographers associated with Judson House. "I'm not a big fan of avant-garde art," he said. "But I do enjoy watching and trying to pull things out."

At the beginning of the evening, each visitor made a mark on a crumbling wall along the stairwell, providing a final count of the house's inhabitants before the wrecking ball strikes.

In the installation "wonderwall elegy," Laura Schair, a photographer, scribbled the words "Scuba diving is a lot of fun" on the wall -- her tribute to the house and its spirit of self-expression. David Hapgood, a retiree who lives in Greenwich Village, added, "Sorry it's gone."

"Tonight is fun," said Mr. Hapgood, who took home a ragged piece of the building's wall. "But it's a very unhappy occasion for the neighborhood." SHERRI DAY