The Stop Shopping Gospel Choir

The Stop Shopping Gospel Choir
Times Square, NYC

Anyone who has ever attended a Church function knows how essential the Stop Shopping Gospel Choir is to this movement! Whether performing on the street, stage, radio, film, video or television, our irrepressible Choir can conjure soaring harmonies lovely enough to convert even the most jaded consumer into a stop shopping true believer.

Our all-ages choir of 35 represents a diverse array of economic, ethnic, religious, and cultural backgrounds.  We have a choir member from every continent except Antartica, which we're working on.  We are moms and dads, activists, cyclists, worshippers, pagans, bakers, park-lovers, tech-geeks, tinkerers, campers, artists, teachers, truck drivers, gardeners, scholars, actors, nerds, athletes, executives, hairdressers, designers, angels, devils, and more.

Choir Members

Dragonfly
Dragonfly
Tenor
Dragonfly is a Baptist deacon's daughter, Buddhist, hunter/gatherer of media, eclectic artist, Texas ex-pat and recovering dollar store addict. She learned how to be a creatively constructive troublemaker through time in the San Antonio Youth NAACP, at Jump-Start Performance Company, Esperanza Peace & Justice Center, and one of the founding poets and hostesses of San Antonio's award-winning ¡Puro Slam!; mentorship from Sterling Houston, Linda Montano and Sharon Bridgforth; and other amazing havens and mentors. Her current sheroes and heroes are [in no particular order]: her mom, herself, Buddha, Jesus, Judy Bonds, Mary Magdalene, Mary Poppins, Wonder Woman, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Bayard Rustin, Oprah Winfrey and Michelle Obama. dragonfly is proud of her fancy degree from Rutgers and all the cool stuff she has accomplished. She seeks a life abundantly rich with unique experiences that she can one day tell her children. She hails from the sleepy railroad town of Converse, Texas, home of the mighty Judson Rockets.

James Solomon Benn
James Solomon Benn
Emeritus Choir Director

I saw Reverend Billy's work chronicled on WNET Thirteen's EGG: The Arts Show. His presentation of an edgy, fun-filled parody of the black church captivated me. He provided me a way of getting in touch with my own fractured youth — my father having been a Methodist preacher. My fateful meeting with the Reverend occured the next day at the Kinko's on 54th Street. I learned first-hand about his mission and asked him how I could join his funky-purple-wig-wearing gospel choir. I was hooked. The rest is history. Having performed in and directed everything from Fats Waller to Shakespeare, the Church of Stop Shopping has allowed me to use my theatre skills to make a difference.

Regional credits include Ain't Misbehavin' at Starlight Musicals, To Kill a Mockingbird and A Midsummer Night's Dream at Indiana Repertory Theatre, Five Guys Named Moe at Charlotte Rep and She Loves Me with Nebraska Rep. James' one-person show, Lil Butchie Sings!, explores growing up fat, black and gay in the Bible belt.

Reverend Billy
Reverend Billy
Bill Talen
A student of the writers Charles Gaines and Kurt Vonnegut, Talen has staged experimental plays, published essays and poems in Philadelphia, New York and California. At Life On the Water, a theater in San Francisco’s Fort Mason Theater, Talen presented artists such as Spalding Gray, Mabou Mines, David Cale, B. D. Wong, Holly Hughes, William Yellow Robe, the Red Eye Collective, Reno, John Trudeau, and Danny Glover reciting the works of Langston Hughes.  This experience in producing led him to the confessional monologue.  After studying with the cleric Reverend Sidney Lanier, Talen invented “a new kind of American preacher.”  Lanier, the cousin of Tennessee Williams and subject of the work Night of the Iguana, was familiar with the re-staging of biblical narratives. 

Talen moved to New York City in 1994, where the experimental preacher began his career with the other sidewalk preachers on Times Square. Specializing in exorcisms of sweatshop companies, and opposing the Disneyfication of the neighborhood, he set up his portable pulpit at the door of the Mouse.  Soon, “moral soap operas,” also called “Retail Interventions” were staged inside the chain stores, principally Disney, the GAP, Nike, and Starbucks.  The preacher was soon accompanied by singers, and began staging whole “Worships” in the tradition of ritual-based interactive plays of the day such as Tony and Tina's Wedding, Late-Nite Catechism, Blue Man Group and de la Guarda.  The Reverend's developing theology became the “Church of Stop Shopping,” founded on a resistance to consumerism and a defense of independent shops, community gardens and local economies.

Under the direction of Savitri D, the Reverend and Choir have toured in Europe, Africa, South America and throughout North America. William Talen has won the OBIE Award, The Dramalogue Award, The Historic Districts Council's Preservation Award (for leading demonstrations to save Manhattan's Poe House) and has been jailed more than 50 times.
Sierra Carrère
Sierra Carrère
Alto
Sierra Carrère (a.k.a "Amazon Queen") is defining fabulous. If you are a New Yorker, you may have seen her riding her bike, hooping in a parade, roller skating in Central Park, in dance or yoga class, at a rally, breakin' it down in a drum circle, singing onstage, or anywhere. She feels so blessed to live in the cultural mecca that is NYC and belong to so many of its amazing communities. She also sings with the Reggae Band Meta & the Cornerstones, and is working on her solo album.

Sierra was raised in Ithaca, NY, and from age 9 until she moved to NYC, she sang and traveled with Vitamin L, a national children's singing group performing songs to inspire and promote acceptance, diversity, community, and self-expression. Joining Reverend Billy & his church feels like a natural continuation of her passion of using art to transform the world. Change-a-lujah! 
Ben Cerf
Ben Cerf
Basso

He always suspected there was something sinister in shopping. Brands befuddled him and the logos burned with meaningless urgency. Always and here he is.

Molly Chanoff
Molly Chanoff
Alto
Molly Chanoff is an acrobat living and teaching in Brooklyn. For seven years she has been hanging from her toes and diving through hoops with LAVA, the award-winning all-female acrobat/circus/dance troupe. When she is not doing that, you can find her at Human Rights Watch, or doing capoeira, or perhaps in Brasil. She is overjoyed to be singing with the Stop Shopping Choir.

Talk to Molly HERE.
Savitri D
Savitri D
Director
Savitri is the director of Reverend Billy and The Church of Stop Shopping. She is a freedom fighter and lover of wildness. She was born in Taos, New Mexico and has lived in Brooklyn since 1996.
Ben Dubin-Thaler
Ben Dubin-Thaler
Basso
I met the Reverend when he grabbed my ass while I was walking through Union Square Park. He must have mistaken me for the Starfucks mermaid. As soon as he saw that it was just a boy dressed in a skirt on his way to radical cheerleading practice, he immediately and profusely apologized. But the Rev couldn't get rid of me that easily. He has a way with hands, you see... just one grope and well... I was hooked on his spirit. Singer of the Month January 2010
Sarah East Johnson
Sarah East Johnson
Alto
Sarah East Johnson is the founder and Artistic Director of LAVA, an Obie and Bessie Award winning performance troupe that integrates dance and acrobatics into original productions characterized by physical rigor, intellectual wit and subversive politics. LAVA has performed at PS 122, Dance Theater Workshop, The Kitchen, The Flea Theater, Symphony Space, The Joyce, and the New Victory Theater and has toured around the U.S. The LAVA Studio in Prospect Heights Brooklyn offers classes for kids and adults in the unique blend of acrobatics and dance that LAVA is known for. 
Donald Gallagher
Donald Gallagher
Basso
Donald Gallagher is a Radical Faerie. He is also a decorative painter of homes, offices, churches, and restaurants. Some of his base needs he satisfies in the bass section of the Church of Life After Shopping Gospel Choir. He joined the group to participate in the "Save the Poe and Judson Houses" campaign, since he had his honeymoon at Judson House in 1966 with his so-called "lover." The Choir and the message of the Church of Stop Shopping have been a joy for him to be a part of. 
Amber Gray
Amber Gray
Alto
Growing up an Army brat, Amber Gray quickly learned the theatre was an immediate source for community. She is grateful to have found The Church of Stop Shopping family and forever relieved they have given her the strength to overcome her retail therapy vices.

Other New York credits include Melo-Llama: A Melodrama (NYC Fringe show at the Connelly Theatre), Dearborn Heights (Vital Theatre Company's Drama League Alumni Fest,) On the Verge or The Geography of Yearning (Red Room Theatre,) The Just Assassins (Wow Café Theatre,) as well as the new musical ULA: A Dream Play with Music (Phil Bosakowski Theatre.) 

Regionally, Amber has been seen in the world premiere of Prudence (Connecticut Repertory Theatre,) Ain't Misbehavin' (Huntington Theatre Company,) On the Razzle and Lady Windermere's Fan (Williamstown Theatre Festival.) Amber is a graduate from Boston University's College of Fine Arts where she received a BFA in Acting alongside the Bette Davis Award from the Davis Foundation, and the Kahn Career Entry Grant for her artistic accomplishments.
Gaylen Hamilton
Gaylen Hamilton
Basso
Gaylen unofficially joined the choir at Burning Man 2007 after having resisted overtures from the group for nearly a year.  His first performance with the choir, at the Temple built by David Best, probably is still his favorite.

Gaylen has been active in the pursuit of social justice for decades.  His early work with Colorado and New Jersey punk rock bands was overtly political and satirical with a double-barreled focus on ending racism and the fur trade.  More recently, he has taken on the task of improving the world's access to Human Powered Vehicles (HPV).  He is the founder of BrooklynBikeCycle, a not-very-profitable organization, with a mission to provide as many bicycles to as many people as possible in New York City and the world beyond.

He is also very involved with the Ghost Bikes and the annual Ghost Bike Memorial Ride.

Pat  Hornak
Pat Hornak
Alto
I'm Pat, retired French and ESL teacher, launching my second career as the Johnnie Appleseed of jello shots, spreading j.s. magic wherever and whenever I can. Travel, foreign language and music are three priorities in my life. I like to meet and live with people from another walk of life or geographical area, and sing with them. In an increasingly fragmented world, I feel this builds bridges. For years my only "politics" has involved working toward a greener environment and being a responsible consumer. And so I am thrilled to be a part of the Stop Shopping Gospel Choir!!! (Thank you, Jessica!)

Monica  Hunken
Monica Hunken
Action Captain, Soprano
Monica, a California native born to an engineer and bilingual education activist, performs and teaches physical and street theater all over the world, including: a small Thai fishing village, a homeless shelter in India, a May Day festival in Poland, Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, international theater festivals in Scotland and Ecuador, and all throughout the boroughs -- disrupting the streets and chain stores of fabulous New York City. She has a BFA in Experimental Theater and an MA in Educational Theater from NYU, but has received her greatest street education with the Church of Stop Shopping since 2002.  You can usually catch her performing her solo plays, clowning in bike lanes, or some other act of Exalted Embarassment.
Barbara Robin Lee
Barbara Robin Lee
Soprano
In the very early morning of March 11, 1960 at 1:07am, Barbara Robin Lee was born to a 16-year-old black teenager at Pilgrim State Mental Hospital on Long Island, NY. Barbara grew up to be a madcap, nappy-headed tomboy who read comic books and listened to Elton John. In her young adulthood, she got politicized first by campaigning for Gary Hart the first time around, and then she discovered Anarchism when she became homeless and squatted in the Lower East Side. Barb has spent a lot of time in the NYC and New Jersey jails for protesting in the streets of NYC, in Tompkins Square Park, and fighting white supremacists at Giants Stadium.

Nowadays, Barbara dyes her gray hairs and still thinks she's a teenager. She loves her two cats and is a friend to all animals except for spiders, snakes, roaches and rats. She sings soprano in the choir and she thanks Rev. Billy for saving her from political apathy. Oh yeah -- when the mood hits her, she unleashes her furious talent of the written word to all whom will read and listen. Lester Bangs, Assata Shakur and Dr. Hunter S. Thompson are her heroes.

Carol Lester
Carol Lester
Alto
Carol's dharmic path led her to be a proud soprano for Reverend Billy's Church of Stop Shopping Gospel Choir, where voices intertwine to share the true gifts of love, fellowship and harmony for all humankind. She is co-founder, Vice-President of Communications, and A&R for Mamapublooza Music Publishing, and is an industry judge for the 2009 Independent Music Awards. Whether unplugged or backed by the World Women Ensemble, Carol simmers with emotion and passion. An active leader in the grassroots and social cause music scene, this award-winning ASCAP and UNISONG writer is a featured performer on Sounds of Hope: NYC Artists Remember 9/11

Songs from her three indie CDs have been licensed for use in television, film, and radio projects, including USA TV Network, The Red Cross, and 9/11 Memorial Commission. She is also a featured artist in Mamapublooza Publishing, which unites 800 international mother songwriters in earning licensing fees. Carol is Creative Director for their CD: Volume 3 Compilation: Moms Gone Mad / MamaLove.

On the grassroots front, Ms. Lester is a co-founder and two-term board president of one of the most successful urban charter schools in the Nation (LCCS), and runs a local environmental coalition to protect local school children from toxic dust particulates released from historic fill in soil during groundbreaking construction by unscrupulous developers. Visit her website and see the music video from her award-winning CD, Feed the Love Starve the War, which features the World Women Ensemble.

chantel cherisse lucier
chantel cherisse lucier
Alto
chantel cherisse lucier is a native of San Francisco, CA. She is of Mexican, Norweigan, and Italian descent with an entirely French name. In addition to singing, chantel creates theater and film, makes jewelry, paints, creates interdisciplinary work and photography, is a certified reflexologist, and works with the Living Theatre and Woken'Glacier Theatre Company. She is June 2010 Singer of the Month

"Words, like other waste matter, eventually drift down the drain. Acts live on... action."
— Henry Miller



Derrick McGinty
Derrick McGinty
Star Emeritus
Billy and I met when he came to see a Peculiar Works Project show I was in at the Dixon Place Theatre, which at that time was located at the Vineyard 26 space. I didn't know him at the time but we talked a bit after the show and did some hamming it up, a la Southern Baptist Church. Unbeknownst to me he was not just auditioning me but creating a role, the First Lady of the Church, for me. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Rest in Peace Beloved Brother Derrick. We love you FOREVER. June 2010
Shilpa  Narayan
Shilpa Narayan
Alto, Sidewalk Counsel
Shilpa Narayan joined the choir after seeing the Reverend exorcise the devil from a Starbucks coffee cup. She has since confessed, and continues to confess, her sins. She is an attorney licensed to practice law in New York State and is a dedicated defender of the First Amendment.
Singer of the Month December 2010

Laura Newman
Laura Newman
Soprano
Laura was assigned to go on a field trip to Reverend Billy's Church by professor Stephen Duncombe in the spring of 2000. One month later at the April 16th March on D.C., the Reverend and Laura spent the day together as tourists de la Resistance, and she told him she liked to sing. Since then she has sung on hundreds of stages and into many bullhorns. Highlights include soloing after Joan Baez at Burning Man 2005 and singing a gospel rendition of the First Amendment under her breath while handcuffed at the police station with Reverend Billy. Laura is also a film director and writer. Her work, which often stars members of the choir, can be seen at irREVERENT Films. She would like to thank James for giving her the juice that makes her more than a white girl with a wind pipe.
Susannah Pryce
Susannah Pryce
Soprano
The first time I saw The Rev was '98 or '99. I was performing in a show and riding around box office cash on a bike for the Fringe Festival. I saw this thing with a preacher and somebody in a mouse costume and I thought, "I want to see that one!" Later as an organizer for Artists for Peace (now Artists for Humanity), I called on the Rev to open our first show. A couple years later, The Rev saw me drowning in a 'real job' and saved me from the 'no shows' blues. Thanks Rev!

Susannah Pryce holds a Cum Laude degree in performing arts and acting from Florida School of the Arts and has been studying and performing on both the east and west coasts since 1989. Highlights include Comedy Central's Upright Citizens Brigade (Season 1, Episode 107/The Lady of the Lake), east coast tours with Theatre IV, and west coast tours with B Street Theatre under the direction of Timothy Busfield. As a model in New York, Susannah has graced the cover of the Village Voice and walked the runway for Nigerian Fabrics and Fashion, Timeless Elegance, and the Rhone Alps Ski Show. As a visual artist, Susannah's work was shown in New York at ABC No Rio, Korova Milk Bar, and display at the Bedford Avenue booth of the L train in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. As a vocalist, she has performed her original songs throughout New York at Tagine Dining Gallery, Stingers Lounge, and in France at the Fete de la Musique. As a musician, Susannah has played clarinet for more than 13 years, and experience performing piano and violin. As a writer, she has two completed projects: Chai Mama (now 'Chai'), a one-act play; and Diary in Disguise, a book of 300 poems. She speaks French and is a candidate for both Modern Dance/Choreography and English degrees at Long Island University. Susannah is thrilled to be a part of Reverend Billy's Stop Shopping Choir!
Andrew Pryce
Andrew Pryce
Soprano-non-castrato-one-day-to-be-Tenor
Andrew began singing in the womb. His second song (Sung at the age of 11 months) was the ABC's. At 13 months of age he's moved on to his own version of a song he learned from some purple thing on TV. Now at the ripe old age of 14 months he is randomly repeating "Ashes Ashes Ya Ya Yah!" Andrew is thrilled to be a part of Reverend Billy's Stop Shopping Choir! 
John Quilty
John Quilty
Tenor
John is a New York-based actor who works regularly Off-Broadway. He came to the Gospel Choir after being healed from credit card debt. In his youth, John was a New York City Guardian Angel who patrolled Restaurant Row and the A "Muggers Express" subway trains. He no longer dons a red beret, but sings for peace and non-violent solutions.  
Nathan Stevens
Nathan Stevens
Bassist
Nathan Stevens was born and raised in Louisville, KY, right around the time when the Empire Striked Back. He began playing the bass when he was 12, setting aside a promising future as a violist in order to "get girls" because in those days, the Suzuki Method was not as sexy as the Smashing Pumpkins. But soon enough, young Nate learned that the bass was more than just a Weapon of Attraction, but could, in some instances, replace the need for women all together.
Dawn Stewart-Lookkin
Dawn Stewart-Lookkin
Alto
Born and raised in NYC by a progressive single mom and the whole multicultural "village" at the Unitarian Universalist Community Church of New York, Dawn has always been surrounded by leftist political activists working for the people. Back in the 1970s, her mom (Scottish American from Massachusetts) met her dad (Chinese from Trinidad) while he was operating the projector at Third World Newsreel showing a documentary about the Rosenberg Trials. From this beginning, it was already written in the stars that she would eventually find her calling with The Church of Life After Shopping!

Dawn started singing at age 11 and since then has performed in musicals, choruses, choirs and a capella groups. But there is no other group or community that she wanted to be more a part of than the Life After Shopping Gospel Choir. For her, it is a dream and a blessing to join such a loving, activist-y, fun family of people. To sing, be creative and make a difference simultaneously, isn't that what we all desire? Summer of 2007 she got to take the movement to the streets of Vermont as an apprentice with Bread and Puppet Theater, paving her way to activist street theater. Her heart also belongs to crafts and making things with her hands, like crocheted finger puppets! She started a small business to showcase her creations. Dawn lives in Jackson Heights, Queens with her partner and their Maine Coon cat.
Theodros Tamirat
Theodros Tamirat
Basso
Born and bred in Ethiopia, transplanted to NYC, saw the Reverend taking action against Starbucks at Cooper Union, followed him since. I love this planet, and singing. I also love animals and trees.

Travis  Tench
Travis Tench
Tenor
Travis Tench is a self-taught multi-instrumentalist, composer, educator, chef, grower of delicious things, and maker of beautiful things. He is the vice-president (and lead guitarist) of EcoStation:NY, an NYC-based non-profit organization committed to environmental education and restoration, and manager of the Bushwick Farmers’ Market. He is also co-founder and Director of Heavy Lifting of Band of Bicycles, a pedal-powered performance and bicycle-advocacy group. He lives in Brooklyn and thinks it’s funny when animals wear hats.