Somerville Is Throwing a “Pity Party”
Greg Cook was having a hard time.
Plagued by a series of personal misfortunes, the local artist and writer began browsing self-help resources online. One website he found offered suggestions for various “pity parties” that people with different personality types could throw themselves. The most basic version involved sitting around in pajamas, eating ice cream, and listening to a mix of favorite sad songs.
It’s a familiar occasion, perhaps most often executed in solitude. Cook, however, had a different idea.
“This is a recipe for a really great sad block party,” he recalls thinking.
The artist is no stranger to turning sorrow into a group activity. Last year, he hosted two editions of the “Saddest Parade on Earth”—it’s exactly what it sounds like—in Beverly and Gloucester.
Now, with the help of the Somerville Arts Council, Cook is bringing a community “Pity Party” to Union Square on Thursday, September 17.
“I think a lot of us are having a hard time, and part of what makes it so hard is also that our culture doesn’t allow us to share our troubles—you have to sort of suffer alone,” he says. “[The ‘Pity Party’] is meant to say, ‘So many of us have been having a hard time, so let’s all get together and be sad together.'”
For optimal wallowing, the block-party-style event will offer a soundtrack of sad songs, courtesy of musicians Grace, See This World, and Ralph Waldo. Melancholy poets DiDi Delgado and Crystal “Navah da Buddaphliii” Beck of the Society of Urban Poetry, as well as depressed comedians Jiayong Li, Tawanda Gona, Christa Weiss, and Ted Pettingell will also perform. Drabby the Sad Clown, portrayed by Tom Bush, will mope around.
“It’s all about opposites in humor,” says Cook.
A “depresstival” will take place midway through the event, featuring among other things a “Tear Dispensary” by Essie Martsinkovsky, a “Complaint (& Catharsis) Department” by Julie Ann Otis, carnival games focusing on climate change by Kari Percival, a retro-style sad video game by Anthony Montuori, and ice cream from local vendors. Local artist Pat Falco will set up a love-letter writing station, the products of which can be sent through a slot and deposited directly into a garbage can.
Although the event is meant to take on a “sad-funny” tone, it will also spread awareness about mental health, providing information on the topic.
The “Pity Party” is hosted in collaboration with the Somerville Arts Council, who not only offered support with the casting call for artists and the logistics and organization of the event, but also initial encouragement when Cook first pitched the idea.
“Somerville can be accommodating to all sorts of things, including terrible sadness,” says Cook, who admits that he may have never followed up on the idea if members of the organization hadn’t checked in with him. “They were actually persistent. I think I probably would’ve been too sad to pursue it.”
On Facebook, more than 4,000 people have signed up to attend the event.
“It’s really, really exciting and humbling that so many people are excited by it and that so many people have expressed interest in actually coming,” says Cook. “It’s really lovely.”
When asked about the prospect of future renditions of the “Pity Party,” he says he’d have to see how the first one goes.
“Can you imagine—the 22nd annual ‘Pity Party’? Can it go that far?” says Cook, chuckling. “It also depends on how sad my life gets, I guess.”
The “Pity Party” will take place on Thursday, September 17, from 6 to 8 p.m. at Union Square in Somerville. The rain date will be Friday, September 18. For more information, visit somervilleartscouncil.org.