Eugenics is often associated with Nazi Germany, but the pseudo-scientific movement is a dark and often-overlooked part of our national past. “The Nazis came to America to learn,” notes Judy Tate of the American Slavery Project. And the epicenter of American eugenics research was very closeby.
The Haunted Files, coming Wednesday to the Sheen Center, is a one-night immersive experience that draws on real files from the Eugenics Records Office, on Long Island’s North Shore. It will ask theatergoers to look deeply at some very difficult history in our backyard. Work conducted at the ERO helped to codify and provide “scientific” underpinning to many still-prevalent concepts: racial hierarchies, IQ testing, strict border divisions, and even the idea of “illegal” personhood.
Unable to keep up with “extreme costs,” downtown comedy staple UCB East will be shuttering this weekend, with final shows on Saturday night. The Upright Citizens Brigade theater made the announcement about its satellite location in mid-January, but other lower Manhattan venues are still digesting the news.
“I’m not going to look at you while we talk,” says Kelindah Schuster, settling down at a brightly backlit vanity, brush in hand. “I hope that’s not weird.” I sit a few feet behind the fully-equipped makeup station in Schuster’s small bedroom, in Bed-Stuy. Everywhere, amid the amber glass bottles of essential oils and the purple yoga mat on the floor, there are signs of the theatricality that bursts from this room on a near-nightly basis: mannequin heads in colorful wigs; jars of brushes, every size; bottles of cosmetics I can’t identify; a standing rack of platform heels at the foot of the bed. We talk through the mirror, our eyes meeting only occasionally. I watch, transfixed, as the makeup gets painted on in thick swaths: red brushstroke-brows, panels of gold on the lids, contoured cheekbones and matte black lips.