“We’ll remember this moment as long as we live!”
Before becoming Reverend Billy, Bill Talen worked in theatre in San Francisco and studied with cleric Reverend Sidney Lanier (cousin of Tennessee Williams), who encouraged him to explore radical theologians and performers. Thus was born the character of Reverend Billy, ‘a new kind of American preacher,’ hybrid of a street preacher and a televangelist, who although neither traditional or Christian in essence, is not intended to be a parody.
Moving to New York City in 1994, Reverend Billy started out with sidewalk preaching on Times Square. He then staged ‘Retail Interventions’ in chain stores like Starbucks, the GAP, Nike and Disney. Soon joined by singers, he created interactive play ‘Worships.’ His developing theology grew into ‘The Church of Stop Shopping,’ a New York City based radical performance community denouncing consumerism, corporate irresponsibility and climate change, and promoting community shops and gardens, economic justice, anti-militarism and environmental protection.
From a one-man-show to a 100-activist strong, 40-person choir and 8-piece band with dozens of original songs, the self-named ‘post-religious church,’ directed by Talen’s wife Savitri Durkee, appears on stage regularly and tours internationally. Through singing, dancing, preaching and performing, the non-profit organization hold “services” in concert halls, churches, community centers, parking lots, malls, and especially in stores. “Above all we try to complexify the moment of purchase, to snap people out their hypnosis and back into the mystery of being human. We remind people that things come from somewhere, that products have a resource past, a labor past.” The church likes to partner with NGO’s and advocacy groups to help raise their profile and engage citizens in their cause.
Reverend Billy and his church have produced numerous books (The End Of The World, What Would Jesus Buy, What should I do If Reverend Billy Is In My Store), music albums (Reverend Billy & The Church of Stop Shopping, The Shopocalypse, The Declaration of The Occupation Of NYC), television shows (The Last Televangelist), online videos with as many as 250 000 views, weekly podcasts, posters, and documentary films.
Reverend Billy has appeared on The Today Show, Nightline, CNN, BBC, NPR, Democracy Now, Al-Jazeera, Fox News and Glenn Beck. Awards include the OBIE Award, The Dramalogue Award and The Historic Districts Council’s Preservation Award.
Throughout his activism career Reverend Billy has been jailed more than 50 times. He has made numerous appearances at Occupy Wall Street in solidarity of supporters.
Visit his website:
Reverend Billy with Glenn Beck (3 min)
Declaration of the Occupation “To The People Of The World” by the Stop Shopping Gospel Choir (2 min)