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Open Thought Productions in association with Unfinished Business present 


The Spinning Wheel


The Spinning Wheel, conceived by hip hop theater artist Baba Israel with UK based director Leo Kay and musician Yako 440, is a multimedia performance and interactive gallery exhibition that engages with the 50 year radical archive of Israel's late father and Living Theatre alum steve ben israel. Through spoken word, video, and live music, the show preserves and animates the collectivist impulses of New York counterculture while carrying on a family legacy of generosity via a son's loving tribute to his father.


steve ben israel was a New York jazz musician, poet, stand-up comic, political activist and core member of the iconic ensemble The Living Theatre. He passed away in 2012, leaving behind a legacy of 1960s countercultural work and artifacts, an enormous archive, and a son - New York Hip Hop Theatre Artist, Baba Israel.


Drawing on his father's archival material for contextual inspiration and audio visual content, Baba collaborated with UK theatre maker Leo Kay, long time musical collaborator Yako 440, dramaturg Talvin Wilks and video artist Richard Ramchurn to create The Spinning Wheel, which will combine storytelling, hip hop, live-looping, projection mapping, and a fusion of Hip Hop, jazz and spoken word, reflecting on themes such as intergenerational connections, family legacy, political action, and the roles we play in the everyday lives of others.


The accompanying Spinning Wheel exhibition in the gallery is curated by Baba and Yako and features original posters, poetry and photography by steve ben israel, prints by renowned political activist and artist Eric Drooker, original stencil work and collage by Yako 440, and original posters and photographic prints from steve ben israel’s time with the  Living Theatre in the 60s and 70s. The exhibit also features an interactive installation created by Richard Ramchurn the form of a recreation of steve ben israel’s den audience which allows visitors to take a more intimate journey through the archive material used in the creation of The Spinning Wheel performance piece. 




Baba Israel

Director/Co-creator Leo Kay

Dramaturg Talvin Wilks
Musical Director/Visual Artist YAKO 440

Video Artist Richard Ramchurn (AlbinoMosquito)

Visual Artist Eric Drooker

ProducerOpen Thought Productions in association Unfinished Business 


Supported by Theatre in the Mill and Arts Council England.

The Spinning Wheel has been developed as part of BRIC's Fireworks Residency and commissioning program for collaborative teams of artists who are interested in developing new, large-scale multidisciplinary work that cross—or erase—artistic boundaries. It is supported in part by a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation’s NYC Cultural Innovation Fund. 


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