What is the Real? – My Five Favorite Shows in NYC

I started this entry on September 12th, two days before my last day as a New Yorker and had just passed my four-year anniversary in the City on August 22nd.  These four years have been pretty amazing, crazy, hard, wonderful… really, all sorts of adjectives.

As I think of all I didn’t do, I reflect on what made my four years here what they were.  Therefore, a short series on four years in New York shall commence.

September 12, 2011 – My five favorite shows in NYC:

I came to New York four years ago to study theater. Fortunately, I was able to see a lot of it while here.  I still missed a lot of shows (Fela!, Circle Mirror Transformation, the Our Town revival) that folks spoke very highly of, but I am happy with the breadth of what I saw.

Every time the lights dimmed, I still felt the thrill of live theater.  It is a magical experience when done well.

While shlepping boxes to UPS last week, Joe and I got talking about how many Broadway shows I have seen. Eventually, we figured out it was around 55 (including Book of Mormon last night, which was awesome) and that is not counting seeing shows more than once.  Of course there are many off-Broadway shows and Columbia shows and more, but to even figure that out would be impossible.

Unfortunately, I don’t think I have ever captured the correct voice to talk about shows I really loved – it is always easier to talk about the problematic aspects of good, but not great shows.  So here is my fan-girl-ish incoherent ramblings of my five favorite shows:

Sleep No More – Punchdrunk Theater Company – 2011 (still running)

I have been holding off blogging about Sleep No More because I’m just not sure what to say.  I think it is still going to have to have its own blog entry, with many spoilers and much gushing.

But in brief – Sleep No More is a performance piece that interprets Macbeth as though in a Hitchcock hotel.  Audience members wear white masks, and explore the 100 rooms at will, interacting with the space and the actors based on each’s individual path.

Dear friend Robert had this to say, immediately following:

Captivated by the lady in red, Her smell lingers-clothes saturated; dancing with the male witch-we both led; a sweaty head-wet my leg; water dripping from her hair-the sexy witch; bruises on her leg-the bald witch; I smell Her now; and I feel Her porcelain grasp from floors above.

I really loved the experience, it was the most magical theatrical adventure I have ever had. And it challenged my personal conventions as an audience member, many times, and in different ways.  Best immersive, audience experience I have had.

To this point, I have seen it twice, and am going tonight to see it a final third time.  I greatly admire the performers, and am amazed by the production design and just heaps of work it must take to keep the show going.

I have recommended it to all my friends, and I do to you too, gentle reader. =) Tickets are available here, and the show has been extended through January.  If you do go, wear running shoes, go as early as possible (there are staggered entrance times) and enjoy!

Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson – the Public Theater – May 2010
By Alex Timbers; music and lyrics by Michael Friedman

How many people do you know who have a favorite year in history?

Well …. I do (1968, in case you were wondering). Which is just one sign of what a history dork I am.
Therefore, when you combine American History, a rock musical, and Benjamin Walker in eyeliner – I’m sold!

The Public Theater production of Bloody Bloody tells the story of America’s 7th president, from his frontier life, to his populist campaign and through his presidency. It was full of crazy intensity, smart reference, and joyful anachronism.  I laughed and was moved by the examination of the serious issues of the 18-teens that have ramifications today.  As Ben Brantly said, ‘Though its style is often as skewed as a tilt-a-whirl ride, “Bloody Bloody” takes precision aim at its central target: an impatient electorate ruled by a hunger for instant gratification.

The intricate, and over-the-top set design extended through the whole house, and in our front row seats, we could see the sweat gather as the cast worked their asses off. … I died at the De Tocqueville joke in the musical retelling of the Corrupt Bargain. … ‘Twas really wonderful.

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NYC Bucket List Update

Time for a quick update on my NYC Bucket List.
I have 9 days left in New York and a ton to do.

In addition to the list below, I have been trying to spend a ton of time with friends. Which has been wonderful – lots of lunches, movies, Trivial Pursuit, Bananagrams and more – but I am sadly unable to see everyone before I go, which is a hard realization.

Also, Hurricane Irene kinda eliminated a weekend in which to accomplish things – instead I just sat around and watched movies at J & J’s.

What I have accomplished since August 19th….

Shows I’ve seen:

  • Sleep No More (And I’m actually going again… a little obsessed)

Sleep No More: Mask, necklace, candy and playing card after the 8/18 performance

  • The Moth, Story Slam: DRIVE
  • The Judgement of Paris
  • War Horse

Visit these Sites and/or take Photos:

  • Morgan Library – Went with Joe, and it was lovely!
  • Bryant Park
  • read a book in the Rose Room reading room at the NYPL – ended up only spending a brief moment in the Reading Room, BUT the NYPL Celebrating 100 Years Exhibit is phenomenal. Go see it!

Patience or Fortitude at the NYPL

  • WD50 – Dessert Tasting Menu

Blood orange curd, thyme, swiss chard, hibiscus

Museums

  • Cloisters – Kaitlin and I explored this past Saturday. Lovely as always.

Beautiful window decal at the Cloisters

  • Met Museum – Had a great time with Alex, who had, shockingly, never been there.

Alex admiring the Temple of Dendur

Met Museum - Propaganda Poster from WWI

Things that I know, now, are not happening:

  • Bellhouse Music
  • Bellhouse Comedy show (Eugene Mirman?)
  • Carnegie Hall
  • David Letterman or Jimmy Fallon or Daily Show
  • movie at the Paris Theater
  • rowboat on the Lake – Turns out the Boathouse and Boat Rentals are on strike, decided not to cross the picket line
  • Brooklyn Museum
  • United Nations
  • Woodlawn Cemetery

If you would like to see everything else I am going to try and do – and it is WAY too much –  click here.

Hey, its the Bowery Boys, hey!

As I move ever closer to my last day as a New Yorker (now only 13 days away), I have just passed my four-year anniversary in the City on August 22nd.  These four years have been pretty amazing, crazy, hard, wonderful… really, all sorts of adjectives.

As I think of all I didn’t yet do, I reflect on what made my four years here what they were.  Therefore, a short series on four years in New York shall commence.

On August 22, 2007, I arrived in New York, where I had previously visited for a handful of days in 2003 and for a 5-week internship in the summer of 2005.  That limited experience had given me a taste of the many possibilities New York contained, and when I was looking forward to New York from the safety and familiarity of California, I felt sure I could handle most NYC had to offer.  But after a night spent on Syche & Drew’s burnt orange couch, I was sitting alone in my new apartment on the only furniture I owned – a blue air mattress – feeling sad, worried, and adrift in this new City.

As, I began to explore my new surroundings, I stumbled upon a fantastic  guide to my new home – the Bowery Boys.

The Bowery Boys: New York City History is a brilliant podcast created by Tom Meyers and Greg Young.  Each episode the pair tells the story of a NYC landmark, person, or moment.  They do so with an incredible grasp of the facts, excellent storytelling, and a wonderful humor.

The podcast began in July 2007, just before I arrived, and was an excellent companion in those early weeks, and still to this day. (I actually finished listening to the most recent podcast #128 Hoaxes and Conspiracies of 1864 just this morning).

Admittedly, being a history dork (and at that time with a spanking new BA in History), this podcast was made more for me then most people. But any podcast that can convey serious, valid information and still turn Peter Stuyvesant and Robert Moses into running jokes, is in my good book!

The podcast helped me to learn about the world I was living in (#47 covered my neighbor in Grant’s Tomb, #54/55 covered Central Park – every New Yorkers retreat, & #90 covered Columbia itself) and others encouraged me to explore parts of New York I otherwise might have missed (African Burial Ground, Gracie Mansion.)

I recommend checking the podcast out, whether you live here or not, as it is a great glimpse of a great American city.  Here are some of my favorites (images taken, without permission, from the great Bowery Boys blog):

David Belasco and some of his lady friends

#18 Ghost Stories of New York City

Every Halloween, the pair puts together a set of scary stories from New York’s past.  I’ve loved each of them, but still think the first is the best.

Two of the tales teach us why ghost lights are so important – David Belasco still haunts his 44th street theater and Olive Thomas, a Ziegfeld Follies chorus girl, who haunts the New Amsterdam theater can still be glimpsed walking the long destroyed catwalks.

A Richard Serra piece from MOMA

#32 Museum of Modern Art

I love MOMA, both its permanent collection and special exhibits (seeing Marina Abramovic there will be its own blog post). And this podcast was a great tutorial on how a Modern museum could be birthed in the City, and a great story of a strong, important woman – Abby Aldrich Rockefeller – who battled enforced bed rest to create a cultural institution.

Henry Ward Beecher sits in Columbus Park in front of Brooklyn Borough Hall

#37 Henry Ward Beecher and Plymouth Church

Possibly my very favorite of all their episodes, and their descriptions sums it up best:

We’ve never done such a saucy show — full of sex, lies, and petticoats. Meet Henry Ward Beecher, Brooklyn Heights’ most notorious resident, and find out about the fascinating and provocative history of the church that turned him into a national celebrity.

I have listened at least a half a dozen times, and I still very much want to read Beecher’s biography The Most Famous Man in America by Debby Applegate.

There are so many other great episodes – the story of the Bronx Zoo, Robert Moses, himself, movie making in New York. And each summer they have done a series of podcasts on theme – last summer the transit system that makes life possible in NYC, and this summer New York and the Civil War.

I highly, highly recommend a listen to this superb podcast.  And to the Bowery Boys – thank you for being an excellent companion on my four years in New York.  I will still listen long after I leave.

It couldn’t have happened anywhere but in little old New York.

Ok, so after four (great, crazy, stressful, long, wonderful) years, I am leaving New York and moving back to the Bay Area.

I have a little bit under 4 weeks to do everything I ever intended to do in the City (sure, I will visit, but that will be primarily to see friends and shows).

So, here is my bucket list (full of way more than I can accomplish, but it will be fun to try). If any of my NYC friends would like to join in on any of these adventures, let me know!

Before September 14th I would like to:

See these Shows:

  • Sleep No More (8/17)
  • Book of Mormon (9/11)
  • Assscat 3000
  • Bellhouse Music
  • Bellhouse Comedy show (Eugene Mirman?)
  • The Moth (8/29)
  • Carnegie Hall
  • David Letterman or Jimmy Fallon or Daily Show
  • movie at the Paris Theater

Visit these Sites and/or take Photos:

  • Morgan Library
  • United Nations
  • Morris Jummel
  • Grand Central – Whisper Gallery
  • High Line – new section, roller skating
  • Fraunces Tavern
  • Chelsea Hotel
  • White Horse Tavern
  • Algonquin Hotel – Round Table
  • East River Ferry
  • Bobby Wagner Walkway/Carl Schwarz (84th-90th)
  • Manhattan Bridge
  • Roosevelt Island
  • Governor’s Island
  • Little Red Lighthouse
  • Alan Ginsberg’s Stoop
  • African Burial Grounds
  • 520 Madison – Berlin Wall
  • Chrysler Lobby
  • Earth Room
  • rowboat on the Lake
  • Woodlawn Cemetery
  • read a book in the Rose Room reading room at the New York Public Library main branch
  • Housing Works Bookstore

Museums

  • 5 Pointz (Graffiti museum in Queens)
  • Cloisters
  • NY Panorama/Queens Museum
  • Brooklyn Museum
  • Transit Museum
  • Met Museum – (Scavenger Hunt?)
  • Frick
  • New Museum
  • Museum of the City of New York or New York Historical Society
  • Socrates Sculpture Park

Food

  • One if By Land
  • WD50
  • Rare View (bar)
  • A Salt and Battery
  • Indian with KC