Recently, a new play reading about Hoboken’s storied history has debuted at The Mile Square Theatre. Titled Yuppies Invade My House at Dinnertime, the play covers the history behind the Hoboken fires in the early 1980s and how they relate to gentrification. Although the play’s one-week tenure is now finished, attendees received an unexpected surprise during last Wednesday night’s show — a Hoboken developer who is depicted in the play was in attendance and, seemingly upset, stormed the stage. Read on for more about the play and the incident at MST.
About the Play
Yuppies Invade My House at Dinnertime was created by Joseph Gallo, the playwright-in-residence at Mile Square Theatre who has lived in Hoboken since the early 1980s. This play has been a long time coming for him, as it’s based on the book of the same name.
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Yuppies Invade My House at Dinnertime: A Tale of Brunch, Bombs, and Gentrification in an American City was a book published in 1987 chronicling gentrification in Hoboken along with the impact of the Hoboken fires. The book itself is a collection of letters written by residents to the now-defunct Hoboken Reporter newspaper. Joseph was a Hoboken resident at this time, and he told Hoboken Girl in a previous interview about the play that “There were over 500 arson fires, and there are still 28 arson-related murder cases still open. It changed the face of Hoboken.”
The play combines the experiences captured in the book and the interviews that Joseph conducted with Hoboken residents. It is a five-person cast, and Joseph designed it to have community involvement. “I felt that it was important that we have someone from the community, a non-actor, be in the play,” he said. “Hoboken City Councilwoman Jen Giattino has been a part of the cast.”
The play’s subject makes it ripe for public debate. “I want people to come away from the play, and talk about it,” Joseph said. “Then I want them to start to see the city in a way that they haven’t before. There’s a generation of people who live in town who don’t know anything about the history of the city.”
Retired Hoboken developer and co-founder of Applied Companies Joe Barry did not take the information being portrayed in Yuppies Invade My House at Dinnertime lightly when he attended the show on Wednesday, April 5th. During the performance’s first act, he stormed onto the stage and knocked over a music stand of one of the actors – Hoboken Councilwoman Jen Giattino – after becoming angry about how he was being portrayed in the play.
The performance included an actor playing Joe Barry and takes its name from a book Barry co-wrote in 1987, according to NJ.com. Audience member Bill Bayer said that Joe made “expletive-laced comments on multiple occasions in a ‘somewhat loud voice’ before heading to the stage.” Another audience member said that they recall Joe saying “This is all lies” as the play was describing the fires as a way for landlords to push out tenants before redeveloping the properties.
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Bill ended up jumping on the stage and grabbed Joe. Bill also told NJ.com that the actor who portrayed Joe confronted him before Joe left. The Hoboken developer was heard saying “I’m Joe Barry” before police responded to the incident at MST around 8:30PM, and Joe was escorted out of the theater. According to the City of Hoboken, no one was arrested. The play resumed shortly after the incident was over.
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