There is a two story brick house just a guitar pick’s throw away from the Breslin Hall that writers, poets, standup comedians, musicians and performance artists refer to as “Our Lady of Perpetual Hope.”
Run primarily by Hofstra seniors Heather Levinsky and Zach Johnson, Our Lady functions as a do-it-yourself house venue, creative hub and home base for Nonsense Humor Magazine. It is a space that emphasizes acceptance and actively condemns intolerance during its events and on its Facebook page. Our Lady hosts regular weekend concerts and has an Open Mic Night every Sunday at 8:00 p.m. All of the events are held in Our Lady’s garage.
Saturday night shows are marked by pink and blue lights that drape over the walls, patrons and performers. The performance space is backed by two paintings – both done by Levinsky – of a tea pot and a house. A cut out of a grinning Harry Styles overlooks the garage.
Each show carries with it a unique energy. Pop punk “master shredders” Prince Daddy & the Hyena play with an overwhelming energy that bursts forth in from the slashing of guitar strings, pounding of a bass pedal against a drum and screams into a microphone. That energy swirls around the room in a blissful typhoon of hip swaying, smiling and laughing. The dancing crowd of sweat and band T-shirts morphs into a single body of positive energy.
Here, in the saturated unifying euphoria of a concert, Levinsky can be spotted running from person to band to garage door, talking, checking the time and ensuring that the show is running smoothly.
Levinsky handles all of the booking at Our Lady. She was first motivated after a similar house venue, Dong Island, closed. There she worked the door during shows, collected donations and helped where she could.
“It was the main ‘inspiration’ for this thing,” she said in relation to the current Our Lady’s emphasis on tolerance. “No one was going to treat you badly at this show. These people, you’re going into their house [Dong Island] and they’re treating you nice and it’s a nice environment.”
Our Lady started hosting shows in early June, giving local bands a stage and an audience. As the summer progressed, bands from Montreal all the way to Atlanta made a stop in Our Lady’s space for an intimate and wild set.
“I have probably never seen a garage so packed before,” said Veronica Toone, a writer for Nonsense Humor who often frequents the pink and blue lit walls of Our Lady to read poetry and play guitar.
Open Mic Nights have been a trademark of Our Lady and an essential to fostering a creative community. “It’s a place where you can try out anything you want. You can talk to anybody. You can show people things you’ve been thinking about and wanting to maybe not show other people, but this is the place to do it. It’s the greatest place,” said Timothy Reilly, a regular presenter of performance art at Our Lady.
For open mic nights, Johnson rearranges the garage to make room for three rows of chairs and two couches to sit on. Everything from the bar and PA system to the mics and chairs are wiped down while the carpets are vacuumed. Two mics are set up, along with a stool to designate the stage. Careful preparation goes into every Sunday to ensure that audience members feel comfortable.
“We’re very serious and committed to the idea of respecting the space,” Johnson said. Performers are discouraged from making a mess, lighting objects on fire or heckling the crowd. “There are two different types of comfort at play here. There’s comfort with being a performer and being able to express yourself and do whatever you want. But there is a certain level of comfort that you have to maintain with your audience.”
Both performers and audience members can enjoy the night without fear of heckling or judgement. “I want it to be a space where [those] who wouldn’t feel comfortable doing that artistic thing elsewhere, feel comfortable doing it here, said Johnson.”
Our Lady has just hosted its first comedy show and are toying with the idea of film screenings and theater productions.
Our Lady’s next show is on Nov. 5 at 7:30 p.m. It’s a highly anticipated line-up of hometown heroes – Oso Oso and Prince Daddy & the Hyena are sure to leave a heart-filled, pop-punk fire that can only to be soothed by the Sunday open mic night. Check out the Facebook page for more details about both the show and Open Mic Night.