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BWW Interview: Stephen Shanaghan And Kevin Malony of Pangea Restaurant and Cabaret

The birthplace of Alt Cabaret struggles to stay alive but owner Stephen Shanaghan ain't goin' down without a fight.

BWW Interview: Stephen Shanaghan And Kevin Malony of  Pangea Restaurant and Cabaret

For ten months the wildly popular downtown restaurant PANGEA has been fighting the good fight. Like the famed little engine, owner Stephen Shanaghan has been chugging up the survival hill with his home away from home, and all the family that comes with it - loyal patrons, employees in the kitchen, behind the bar, on the floor, and the artists whose work has made the Pangea cabaret room one of unquestionable uniqueness and infinite importance.

The Alt Cabaret movement has been around for a long time, entertaining audiences who seek something a little different than the club acts to be found uptown. Just as there are audiences who crave jazz music, fans of Broadway belters, aficionados of swing, devotees of drag, there exist nightclub goers in search of that off-center, sometimes odd, always interesting artistry that seems to live on the Lower East Side. These days, that kind of performing artistry can be found in clubs maybe a little TOO lower and TOO East side, in delicious, delectable, decadent dive bars and clubs where only the die-hards know how to find them - but it started right here at Pangea. Fans of the Alt Cabaret movement don't mind taking a trip that requires two subway changes and a ten-block walk to one of those other clubs, but it's a blessing to all that Pangea, where Alt Cabaret is always being nurtured, can be easily accessed by two different major subway lines. Once there, the ambiance is comfortable, cozy, pretty, and with a remarkably palatable menu. This club serves a very distinctive and valuable role in the cabaret industry, which is why the saving of Pangea during the pandemic has evolved into a movement, one that has brought an entire community of artists to the aid of Shanaghan and co.

Kevin Malony of TWEED TheaterWorks has produced many a show that has played the Pangea nightclub, and his devotion to and belief in the family-owned nightspot led to an easy decision to get involved, and out of his involvement was born 'TAINT - a virtual cabaret special that has been broadcasting online as a fundraiser for Pangea, with such success that the program's popularity has caused an extension of its' availability. The special is due to run online until January 20th, Inauguration Day, at which time its future availability will have to be determined. Directed by Mr. Malony and edited by Adam Pivirotti, "Taint features a plethora of Alt Cabaret artists like iconic Charles Busch, beloved Steve Hayes, and TWEED's own Claywoman, and the hour-long show serves up Alt Cabaret in all its' glory like a Who's Who of Pangea talent.

Curious to hear just what the situation is and how 'TAINT was created, I reached out to Pangea owner Shanaghan and TWEED leader Malony for an informal chat.

This interview was conducted digitally and is reproduced exactly as it was received.

Stephen Shanaghan and Kevin Malony! Welcome to Broadway World and thank you so much for chatting with me today. I have, literally, just finished watching your online special 'TAINT and I just loved it! Well done, you!

SS: Thank you, Stephen.

So, 'TAINT actually had a holiday season debut that I actually missed but, thanks to an extension, I got to catch it in the New Year. It must have been really well received to be extended until January 20th.

SS: To me 'TAINT represents the exact diversity of the acts that are booked at Pangea. I also thought the variety show style comes off better in a virtual presentation than in a live one. Adam Pivirotti did an excellent job with the editing. 'TAINT shows how supportive the artists are of Pangea. I have always respected our artists and treated them to an after performance family dinner and drinks. It may be old-school, but it was something that I started from day one.

Stephen, the special is an extremely accurate portrayal of the talents that play the PANGEA cabaret room. Almost all of them are talents that fall under the category of Alt Cabaret. When and why did the genre become one that you felt was important to promote and support?

BWW Interview: Stephen Shanaghan And Kevin Malony of  Pangea Restaurant and Cabaret

SS: I have been living and working in the East Village since the late '70s. It used to be the most alternative, diverse neighborhood in the city. Most of my friends are artists, performers, and musicians. When I opened on Second Avenue in 1986, one of my musician friends saw the back dining room and said the space would make the perfect cabaret room. He worked on many Broadway shows and had gigs all over town, so I felt he knew what he was talking about. I always kept that idea in the back of my mind. Fast forward to November 2014, I attended a book signing for James Gavin's new biography of Peggy Lee "Is That All There Is? That night I met Tammy Lang (aka Tammy Faye Starlite), Penny Arcade, Jackie Rudin, and Carol Lipnik. All were attending the book signing. It was that fateful night that Jackie Rudin and Penny Arcade told me I had to book Carol Lipnik. Carol gave me some CDs to listen to. When I heard Carol's voice, I was gobsmacked. I booked Carol for a weekly Sunday night show starting in January 2015. That's when the alt-cabaret brand began. From there the cabaret grew and I met so many of the downtown performers through Carol's weekly shows. I always preferred to meet new artists in person and get to know them, before I booked them.

BWW Interview: Stephen Shanaghan And Kevin Malony of  Pangea Restaurant and Cabaret

Kevin, you are the person behind the hour-long film. Put a picture in my head of the creation of 'Taint, from inception to release.

BWW Interview: Stephen Shanaghan And Kevin Malony of  Pangea Restaurant and CabaretKM: I KNEW I WANTED TO DO SOMETHING TO SUPPORT PANGEA. MY ORIGINAL IDEA WAS TO DO A READING OF "THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST" AND I HAD Stephen Pell ADAPT IT DOWN TO A ONE HOUR 'ZOOM PLAY', AND ARRANGED A FIRST READ THROUGH WITH A CAST I CHOSE FROM TWEED ARTISTS. IT WAS IMMEDIATELY APPARENT THAT THIS MATERIAL WAS GOING TO REQUIRE A LOT OF WORK - IDEALLY 'IN PERSON' WORK - ON THE SCRIPT IN ORDER TO DO IT JUSTICE. IT WAS THEN THAT I DECIDED TO DO A PRE-RECORDED 'VARIETY SHOW'. I SPOKE WITH ADAM PIVIROTTO, A DIRECTOR AND FILM EDITOR WHO WORKS WITH TWEED, AND ASKED IF HE WAS UP FOR EDITING TOGETHER A SHOW BASED ON MATERIAL SENT IN FROM ARTISTS. HE WAS. I THEN TELEPHONED - YES, CALLED IN PERSON - ALL THE ARTISTS AND EXPLAINED THE CONCEPT- A VARIETY SHOW WITHOUT A HOLIDAY THEME - IN SUPPORT OF PANGEA. I ASKED FOR THREE MINUTES OF MATERIAL. ALMOST EVERYONE SAID YES. I GAVE THEM NO GUIDELINES OTHER THAN THAT. AFTER SOME CAJOLING, WE FINALLY RECEIVED THE ARTISTS SUBMISSIONS. ALMOST ALL OF WHAT WE RECEIVED WERE IN TERRIFIC SHAPE ALREADY. A COUPLE HAD TO BE RE-SHOT FOR TECHNICAL REASONS. A COUPLE WERE VIDEOS OF LIVE PERFORMANCES AT PANGEA, BUT MOST WERE SHOT ON I-PHONES AND LAPTOPS BY THE ARTISTS THEMSELVES SPECIFICALLY FOR THIS EVENT. ADAM AND I THEN BEGAN THE PROCESS OF CREATING AN OPENING SEQUENCE, CLEANING UP THE EDITS, AND DETERMINING A 'SET LIST', WHICH WAS REALLY THE HARDEST PART OF THE WHOLE THING. FINALLY, WE HAD SOMETHING THAT WORKED WELL, BUT WE HAD NO ENDING. I CALLED RACHELLE GARNIEZ AT MIDNIGHT BEFORE THE MATERIAL WAS DUE THE NEXT MORNING AND ASKED HER IF 'VICKI KRISTINA BARCELONA' HER TRIO, HAD SOMETHING SUITABLE FOR A FINALE. SHE SENT ME THREE OPTIONS. ONE WAS PERFECT. I THEN ASKED ALBIE MITCHELL, THE PANGEA HOUSE PHOTOGRAPHER, TO SEND ME SOME SHOTS. HE SEND A FEW HUNDRED! ADAM THEN WORKED ALL NIGHT TO PUT TOGETHER THE FINAL PHOTO-MONTAGE OVER THE LAST SONG TO MAKE A PROPER ENDING AND MEET THE DEADLINE. ADAM IS A BRILLIANT EDITOR, AND IT LOOKED LIKE WE'D WORKED ON IT FOR WEEKS! IN REALITY, THE ENTIRE THING CAME TOGETHER IN ABOUT TEN DAYS.

Stephen, Pangea restaurant is well-known for a family atmosphere and comforting Mediterranean cuisine. When you started presenting Alt Cabaret acts, did you have any concerns that the shows might be a little "out there" for your clientele?

SS: It actually was never an issue. Our customers were mainly a diverse group. We have always been known as a second home to neighborhood artists. From 1986 I partnered with many local theaters, art galleries, and dance companies. We would host opening night and closing night events for them. It was a very organic progression for us to introduce live performance. Being in the East Village helped. I remember one night my husband was having dinner with a client/friend in the front dining room. As I stopped by the table to chat, the performer for the 7 pm show passed as she moved toward the cabaret room. She was completely naked but wrapped in a sheet. Our dinner guest laughed and said, "Of course I would see a naked woman at my gay friend's restaurant". My response was "everything is possible at Pangea". Let me clarify here. She wasn't visibly naked. She was covered in a sheet. It was part of Hally McGehean and Joe McGinty's musical opening scene. The name of the show was "Upping My Numbers".

BWW Interview: Stephen Shanaghan And Kevin Malony of  Pangea Restaurant and Cabaret

Kevin, you are the leader of TWEED TheaterWorks, from whence cometh many a Pangea show. What is it about the cabaret room at Pangea that appeals to you and your company?

KM: THE ROOM HAS "IT". I CAN'T EXPLAIN IT. CALL IT 'JUJU'. CALL IT 'GOOD ENERGY' - WHATEVER. THE PLACE SIMPLY HAS ALWAYS HAD A SPECIAL QUALITY THAT IS IMMEDIATELY APPARENT AND WELCOMING. THERE ARE TONS OF "ISSUES" WITH THE PHYSICAL SPACE - MINIMAL LIGHTING, LOW CEILINGS, NO DRESSING ROOM, NO BACKSTAGE OR WINGS, ETC. WE ARE NEVER DETERRED BY THEM. AND STEPHEN AND ARNOLDO HAVE ALWAYS MADE ARTISTS FEEL APPRECIATED AND LOVED. IT IS THEIR CONTRIBUTION THAT MAKES US ALL WANT TO KEEP COMING BACK.

Stephen, times are difficult right now for the restaurant industry - yet, here's Pangea, still fighting to stay alive after ten months of this global health crisis. How have you managed it, and what can we, the public, do to help the Pangea family stay safe and flush until this is all over?

SS: First, we have had tremendous support from our community of artists and patrons. We started a GoFundMe campaign in March as soon as the pandemic began. At that time we were trying to raise enough funds to get us through the end of June. We thought things might be improving by then. We were wrong. The campaign is still ongoing and we send out occasional emails thanking everyone who has contributed and asking them to share the campaign with their friends and family. We would not be open today without this support from our followers. TWEED and Kevin Malony's 'TAINT! fundraiser show was literally a lifesaver. Funds raised from this production are helping us pay our staff through the end of January. We were at the 11th hour and 'TAINT helped us keep our doors open. Now we are planning to do other fundraising shows.

BWW Interview: Stephen Shanaghan And Kevin Malony of  Pangea Restaurant and Cabaret

Other artists are coming forth offering to help us with our fundraising efforts. Raquel Cion and her band produced a 15-minute music video called "Stuck On My Eyes: A Bowie Song Triptych". We launched it as a one-night-only this past Sunday, January 10th on the 5 year anniversary of Bowie's passing. Now it's available as a video on demand until January 26th. Raquel and each of the musicians filmed individually from their homes. All the artists are coming together in support. It really is a great community.

See the STUCK ON MY EYES trailer on Vimeo HERE and access the entire video on the Pangea website HERE

Kevin, it's a difficult time for artists as well - what kind of feedback did you get from the performers who contributed to 'Taint?

KM: MOST OF THE ARTISTS I WORK WITH CREATE THEIR OWN WORK AND ARE SONGWRITERS, PLAYWRIGHTS, PERFORMANCE ARTISTS OR MUSICIANS. CREATIVE ARTISTS AS WELL AS INTERPRETIVE ARTISTS. PEOPLE IN THESE FIELDS HAVE, OVER THE YEARS, DEALT WITH MANY HARDSHIPS IN THEIR CAREERS AND PERSONAL LIVES AND MOST OF THEM HAVE LEARNED HOW TO LIVE, AT LEAST AT SOME POINT, IN SOME KIND OF POVERTY. THIS PANDEMIC PRESENTED CHALLENGES, BUT OTHER THAN THE HEALTH RISK, NO CHALLENGES THAT MOST OF US HAVEN'T LEARNED TO COPE WITH IN THE PAST. THE WRITERS, SONGWRITERS, PLAYWRIGHTS WERE STILL CREATING WORK. THE MUSICIANS WERE PLAYING. PEOPLE WERE PRACTICING! SOME EMBRACED ZOOM IMMEDIATELY AND BEGAN TO SHOW WORK ON THAT PLATFORM. OTHERS TREATED THE PANDEMIC AS A STAY AT AN ARTS COLONY. SOME PEOPLE, INCLUDING ME, BEGAN WORKING IN OTHER MEDIUMS SUCH AS DRAWING AND FINE ART. FOR THE MOST PART, THE PEOPLE I KNOW ARE NOT SUFFERING THE EXTREMES THAT THE PANDEMIC PRESENTS IN TERMS OF FOOD AND SHELTER. AND THOSE THAT DO ARE SURROUNDED BY A COMMUNITY THAT HAS STEPPED UP AND IS ACTIVELY HELPING. A COMMUNITY REPRESENTED BY PANGEA.

Stephen, what is the current restaurant status in New York City? Is Pangea currently open for business? What can your place offer people who are tired of staying in and want to get out for some fun?

BWW Interview: Stephen Shanaghan And Kevin Malony of  Pangea Restaurant and Cabaret

SS: We are currently open for outdoor service with heaters. We also offer takeout (for pickup). Our current hours are Monday through Saturday 5 pm-9:45 pm. And as soon as the weather gets slightly warmer, we will resume our "incidental" outdoor performances. We did a few this past Fall and they were successful. The Governor labeled them incidental because they were not supposed to be ticketed or promoted. However, we are allowed to promote them. They were not ticketed and the artists worked for gratuities. We staged them in the canopied area where our roadside seating was. Tables were spaced 12 feet from the singer. They are scaled-down productions. The ones I booked were a single vocalist with a guitarist. I also had a Brazilian Jazz tap dancer and guitarist. People are desperate for live performances. It gave everyone hope.

BWW Interview: Stephen Shanaghan And Kevin Malony of  Pangea Restaurant and Cabaret

Kevin, tell our Broadway World readers who haven't had a chance to experience Alt Cabaret why they should check out 'Taint, and why they should go to some Alt Cabaret shows when the clubs re-open.

KM: MY FRIEND HAS AN OLD UNCLE IN OKLAHOMA WHO ALWAYS SAYS AT THE END OF A PHONE CALL: "C'MON DOWN. WE'LL TREAT YOU SO MANY WAYS YOU'RE BOUND TO LIKE ONE OF THEM"! THAT'S WHAT WE DO.

Guys, what are the dets on 'Taint? How much longer, where, and how can people catch the show? Is there a chance of another extension?

KM: UP TO STEPHEN. ONCE THE SHOW WAS IN THE CAN I TURNED IT OVER TO HIM TO DO WITH AS HE PLEASES.

SS: Tickets for the show are available through our website at www.pangeanyc.com. It's currently scheduled through January 20th, Inauguration Day. I would gladly extend it. It's such a great show!

Kevin and Stephen, thank you so much for talking with me today. I can't wait to get back into the clubs and see shows at Pangea - I think it's the coziest cabaret room in the city and I just love it there.

SS: Thank you, Stephen. We can't wait to see you again soon!

KM: MY PLEASURE!

Visit the Pangea website HERE for tickets to 'TAINT, and Raquel Cion's "Stuck On My Eyes: A Bowie Song Triptych"

Contribute to the Pangea Gofundme campaign HERE

BWW Interview: Stephen Shanaghan And Kevin Malony of  Pangea Restaurant and Cabaret

Jody Morlock (who designed and painted the interior paintings) and co-owner Arloldo Caballero Y Cespedes


Photos by Albie Mitchell

Carol Lipnik:

BWW Interview: Stephen Shanaghan And Kevin Malony of  Pangea Restaurant and Cabaret

BWW Interview: Stephen Shanaghan And Kevin Malony of  Pangea Restaurant and Cabaret

BWW Interview: Stephen Shanaghan And Kevin Malony of  Pangea Restaurant and Cabaret

David Cale:

BWW Interview: Stephen Shanaghan And Kevin Malony of  Pangea Restaurant and Cabaret

BWW Interview: Stephen Shanaghan And Kevin Malony of  Pangea Restaurant and Cabaret

BWW Interview: Stephen Shanaghan And Kevin Malony of  Pangea Restaurant and Cabaret

Flotilla DeBarge:

BWW Interview: Stephen Shanaghan And Kevin Malony of  Pangea Restaurant and Cabaret

Rachelle Garniez:

BWW Interview: Stephen Shanaghan And Kevin Malony of  Pangea Restaurant and Cabaret

BWW Interview: Stephen Shanaghan And Kevin Malony of  Pangea Restaurant and Cabaret


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