Have you ever heard of Christopher Street? It’s a quaint little boulevard in Greenwich Village, New York City. Did you know that this Lower Manhatten avenue has been the home of writers and musicians for generations?
To truly understand and appreciate the artistic value of Christopher Street, one only needs to look back to the 1953 musical Wonderful Town. Christopher Street is the principal location and a song’s name in this five Tony award-winning production which had runs on Broadway and in the West End. The song “Christopher Street”, written by the illustrious Leonard Bernstein, praises the avenue as being “the place for self-expression” and the home of poets, actors, dancers, and writers.
Even beyond the stage, this area that runs all the way down to the waterside pier has cemented itself as a societal epicentre for creativity. It is a cultural landmark in the LGBTQ community and a common setting in films and musicals. Christopher Street is a place where one’s craft becomes art.
Pier Kids, a fresh example, is a documentary that features the lives of three homeless black youths as they navigate queer identity, welfare, and the streets. The film brings to light the struggles of the Christopher Street Pier youths.
Director Elegance Bratton said he is “making the film to honour the legacy of this historic safe space for black and brown queer people” and to showcase their strength and resilience. This movie—which is set to release in the U.K. on Oct. 8 2021—shows how film can be used to highlight social and cultural issues hidden in the fabric of society.
This is not the first time this street has been seen on the silver screen, in fact, it has quite the golden legacy. The setting of Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window is based on a courtyard at 125 Christopher Street. The film is widely regarded as a quintessential mystery thriller that has inspired filmmakers all over the world.
Writers may also find themselves indebted to Christopher Street as it was once the home of legendary American poet E.E. Cummings. The 20th-century modernist poet lived there for a number of years and mentions the street in his poem “my eyes are fond of the east side”. A friend of Cummings, satirist writer Dawn Powell, also called Christopher Street her home. This award-winning screenwriter, playwright, and novelist was celebrated for her work’s spiteful satiric prose. Christopher Street acted as the inspiration and backdrop of much of her work.
On a more musical note, this creative little avenue was the residence of David “Fathead” Newman. The renowned jazz saxophonist is most well-known for his work as a sideman on Ray Charles’s 1950s and 1960s recordings. He is regarded as one of the most naturally soulful saxophonists; he helped popularize the Texas Tenor style—a big-toned bluesy approach to the instrument.
With all these eminent creatives and works that have sprouted from the pavement of this street, it is hard to disagree with Bernstein. If you are interested in seeing the newest addition to Christopher Street’s collection of artistic expression, check your local cinemas for Elegance Bratton’s Pier Kids.
If this article struck you as enjoyable, you may also find this piece entertaining: In Film, In Time.