St. Patrick's Cathedral, Again

At a few minutes past noon on Sunday, 24 September 2000, the Surveillance Camera Players (SCP) performed God's Eyes Here on Earth over and over again in front of the police surveillance camera located on the Fifth Avenue side of St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City. This performance of the play was the SCP's fourth: previous performances had taken place on 16 July 2000, 23 July 2000 and 6 August 2000. As a result of all this experience, the group has gotten pretty good at presenting the play; it has certainty grown confident in its ability to stage the play, without any rehearsal whatsoever, in a location as highly visible and "controversial" as St. Patrick's, even if police officers and security guards are present right from the start.

As before, the SCP's performance of God's Eyes Here on Earth was quite successful. That is to say, despite being silent and performed by "only" four people (Susan, Miranda, Kristin and Bill), the play managed to catch and, for a moment or even several moments, hold the attention of a relatively large number of people, perhaps as many as a couple hundred. (In addition to being a tourist attraction in itself, the Cathedral is located on Fifth Avenue, a well-known street for strollers that on the day of the performance was closed to automobile traffic so that a book fair could be held.) Individuals and groups of people stood about, reading the play's hand-lettered boards and sometimes saying the phrases aloud to themselves or each other. A few of the passers-by ("the members of the audience") took pictures or shot videotape. Several expressed their opinions aloud to each other, to no one in particular or to the performers themselves. Typically, the reactions were mixed: some people declared themselves happy that the cathedral is being surveilled and had a hard time understanding why the SCP would protest against the cameras; others were appalled by the intrusion of the nearly-secret camera and had no difficulty sensing and enjoying the humor in the play.

By far the most memorable responses -- precisely because they'd never been encountered before -- were provided by the young man on the sidewalk who gushed excitedly to his companion, "There was an article about them [the SCP] in The New York Times"; the angry young man who exited the cathedral, saw the group in action and yelled out "Stop wasting time!" (to which Bill called out "Yes, sir!" as if he were responding to his superior officer); and the smiling middle-aged woman who, at the end of the play, joined the line of performers and prayed to the surveillance camera with them (she crossed herself).

In keeping with the pattern of behavior established on 8 December 1999, uniformed officers from the New York Police Department observed but kept their distance from the performance, allowing the SCP to perform without interruption for as long as the group wished, which was about an hour. After the group was finished, and while interviews with passers-by were taking place, a single police officer approached one of the crews videotaping the performance (see below) and asked to see their permit to film. When one was produced, the cop became flustered, but he perservered in his attempt to get the crew to stop taping. He said that the permit, though perfectly valid, did not allow the crew to videotape the book fair across the street. Rather than continue to play this silly game, the crew and the SCP moved over to the 51st Street side of the cathderal and conducted the remaining interviews there.

The entire proceedings were videotaped by Jed and Amanda, who have been recording material for a documentary on the SCP since November 1999, and by a four-member crew from Metro TV, a local cable TV channel (Channel 70 in all five boroughs of NYC). Prior to the performance, the Metro TV crew interviewed Bill at great length in his apartment; afterwards, the crew interviewed each member of the group and then taped Bill riding the subway with all the boards in tow and talking about the performance. The Metro TV crew was also present at the SCP's 9 August 2000 performance in Times Square.

Contact the Surveillance Camera Players

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By snail mail: SCP c/o NOT BORED! POB 1115, Stuyvesant Station, New York City 10009-9998

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