Archive for the ‘Broadway’ category

A Saturday in NYC

September 12, 2009

It’s been a while since I’ve done a post. Actually, it’s been a while since I’ve done any significant new wandering around NYC; but today I did.

It’s cool, dreary, and overcast with occasional rainshowers. My kind of day. I got up and couldn’t figure out what I felt like doing and realized it’s been forever since I’ve wandered through Central Park. So, off I went. Without my camera (so no new pictures).

I took the bus up to East 72nd Street and started to wander over to the Park. I immediately spotted something interesting: people walking around with runner numbers over their shirts. It turned out that there had been a big fitness run in Central Park and I was getting there too late to see anything of it. Well, except for one or two hundred ex-runners wandering the streets of Manhattan. No big issue, but mixed amongst them were men in kilts! Not with runner numbers…but with musical instruments. Mostly drums. (I would have loved to see bagpipes, but didn’t notice any.) I’ve never heard of bands going along with a fitness run. I realized something else must be going on. Then I started noticing people in identical shirts. Lots of them. Lots and lots of them.

I had accidentally run into the terminus of the annual labor union parade. I don’t know when and where it started, but it was being terminated at 5th Avenue and E. 72nd Street around 11am. The cops were sending the floats in one direction and the marchers in another. The marchers were wandering off toward home (I presume). I started noticing a lot of signs promoting their unions and Democratic Party politicians. No Republicans need apply around that group. I did notice one of the politicians (I recognized him from one of the posters) hugging various marchers. I think I remember his name, but I won’t guess it here.

So I stopped to watch for a little while. There was one good band with cheerleaders, but the rest was pretty boring. No, it was actually very, very, very boring. This and the St. Patricks Day Parade have to be some of my least favorite parades. Just too “municipal government-oriented” for my taste; although I have to point out that a number of the paraders were not associated with the City government. But a whole lot were. I think that if I had stuck around, I’d have seen a very similar contingent to the St. Pat’s grouping.

I did stick around for about 45 minutes. I don’t know why.

Then I entered the Park. Ahhhh! Very pleasant. I didn’t stray too far from a beeline across, but I did get to the sailboat pond where people rent remote control sailboats. There was some sort of birthday party or story-telling going on near the Lewis Carroll statues. Only two sailboats being operated, but both were being controlled pretty well. At least up until the users started using the little engines on them and they started going very quickly and ruined the casual ambiance I was feeling.

I left there and went by the boathouse where you can rent real rowboats. I didn’t see anybody out on the lake, though. The most fun thing I’ve always noticed about that place is that when a man and woman rent the boat, the woman almost always does the rowing. I don’t know why, but that seems to be the standard.

From there I went to Bethesda Fountain and saw a wedding that was just finishing. I always see brides and grooms around there on a weekend.

I did a little more wandering and decided to head out to my favorite Manhattan Street: West 72nd. It hasn’t changed over the past year or so. At least to my eye. I found a little aquarium/tropical fish store and spent a while going through there. I was actually slightly tempted. But my place is way too small for a decent aquarium. And the dead fish smell (probably starting within days of my purchase) would be too pervasive.

I went to Broadway and saw that my old favorite open-air bookselling place is still going strong. Street vendors with used books are always there. I went up Broadway to 51st Street or so and had a hamburger at Nick’s. It wasn’t as good as I remember, but the ambiance is absolutely unchanged. It is the quintessential greasy spoon and is always jammed with stoves, tables, and people.

Afterward, I went home. It was just about a 2 hour jaunt, but very pleasant.

-H

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Mary Poppins at the New Amsterdam Theatre

May 11, 2008

I don’t like the title.  I think we ought to use “theater” and not “theatre”.

 

I recently managed to get a super-cheap ticket to see Mary Poppins at the New Amsterdam Theatre and went. (The picture above is during the day, but I did see the play at night.)

The play was fine and nicely done.  It was definitely a big-bucks production with the stage set carrying a lot of the burden of the storyline.  Well, there’s really no storyline at all.  Just an excuse for a great stageset and lots and lots of singing.

But, I also liked the theater itself.  It’s located on 42nd Street, just off Broadway.

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The plaque reads “New Amsterdam Theatre.  Designed by the noted theater architects, Herts & Tallant, for producers Klaw & Erlanger, the New Amersterdam opened on October 26, 1903, with a production of Shakespears “A Midsummer’s Night Dream”.  The theater has one of the fiest art noveau interiors in the United States.  As one of New York City’s best musical comedy houses, the New Amersterdam showcased many talented stars and was home to the Ziegfield Follies from 1913 through 1927.  The theater, converted to a movie house in 1937, closed in 1985.  The New Amsterdam was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.  Following acquisition by the 42nd St. Devlopment Project, Inc. and the New York City Economic Development Corporation, the New Amsterdam was restored to its original splendor by the Walt Disney Company, who jointly funded the project with the Empire State Development Corporation, the New York City Economic Development Corporation, and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.  The theater reopened in 1997.”

I did manage to get an inside shot of the theater.

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-H

Canyon of Heroes

May 9, 2008

The start of Broadway is downtown in the Financial District. And just after Broadway starts, you run into the fabled Canyon of Heroes. This is where the ticker tape parades are held. Well, there’s no more ticker tape but I think they do a simulated version of it when they have those rare parades.

The picture above is from the north looking southward.

All along the sidewalk are these inserts. They hold a date, a name, and a description. First, November 2, 1960 when President Eisenhower and Vice President Nixon were apparently featured in such a ticker tape parade.

But, you object, 1960 was a presidential election year! Was there some sort of Republican lock on such parades. Nope, just past it is the October 19, 1960 marker for the Democratic presidential nominee, John F. Kennedy. (I guess V.P. Nixon had to share his parade with the sitting president while JFK got his own. But then, Nixon’s was closer to election day.)

Well, those are pretty prestigious individuals. It takes a lot to get a ticker tape. Well, maybe nowadays. Back on November 4, 1959, they held a ticker tape parade for Sekou Toure, the brand new president of Guinea. He was about 37 at the time and had set up a one-party system to lead Guinea after freeing it from French colonial rule. Nowadays, NYC gets a passle of presidents from other countries and I don’t see any parades for them.

Heck, you didn’t even have to be a president. Willy Brandt was the mayor of West Berlin when he got his parade on February 10, 1959. Of course, he later went on to lead West Germany so maybe it was just in anticipation…

-H

Theater Row in Hell’s Kitchen…and a bit ‘o the Bard

March 17, 2008

A co-worker alerted me to a new production of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. 

So, I thought I ought to go.  And when I heard who was doing it, I really knew I must, absolutely must, go.

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It was TBTB, the acronym for Theater Breaking Through Barriers.  It used to be called the Theater for the Blind.  I’ve never seen any of their productions, but I figured it would be an interesting interpretation.

And it was.  It was more than that.  It was terrific.  I’m not that fond of the play itself (I just don’t enjoy the storyline that much), but their production was nicely done.  You see, they didn’t really play off the idea of the disabilities, but their real gimmick is that they were only going to have four actors playing all of the parts.  That meant that each actor would handle eight or more rolls.  And, on occasion, both rolls are on stage at the same time.  Talking with each other.

And you ain’t seen nothing til you’ve seen a blind actor doing quick costume changes to talk with himself…and one of “himselves” is a woman.  Kudos.

The show is at Theater Row in Hell’s Kitchen, 42nd Street between 9th and 10th Avenues.  It is my favorite off-off-Broadway venue.  It holds a number of separate smaller theaters (kind of a live theater multiplex) and this play was in The Kirk.  It holds about 100 seats.

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I could only tell disabilities in two of the actors, there was only one blind guy and one who has cerebal palsy.  Another great part is that there was no quarter given to them on account of the disability.  The actor with CP (Gregg Mozgala) had to jump about the stage in his role as Romeo.  The blind actor had to wander the stage and pick up stuff at one point and sword fight at other points.

The Kirk’s inside before the beginning.

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If you look carefully, you may see the wires across the stage floor.  They were used as marks for the blind actor (George Ashiotis).  When he did his switching of roles, it was great.  He did conversations with his off-stage self and would go back and change during it.

But the best switching was done by the lone female (Emily Young).  For a long conversation between Juliet and Paris (she playing both parts), she kept walking back and forth behind a barrier (just behind the small box at the center in the picture above) and putting up her hood to show that she was Paris, or down to show that she was Juliet.  And she kept them straight.  I think we were all at the edge of our seats waiting for a slip, but there was none.

And I say all of this and Nicholas Viselli and Emily Young are probably amazed/amused that I didn’t spot their disabilities (if they have any).  But disabilities weren’t part of the play (although I kept hearing lines about blindness and light that I hadn’t noticed before).  And that was the great thing.  I went to the play expecting to have them put out the lights for a large portion of it to force the audience to “see” the play the way a blind person would, but got a straight-out production of Shakespeare that ignored any limitations.

Oh, and another gimmick that I liked was the idea that they kept putting up Southern and Western accents (and occasional other ones that didn’t work quite as well) into the play.  No British accents, but American ones.  (Viselli’s Texan Mr. Capulet was the best accent.)

Well done.

-H

Ankling West 72nd Street

October 26, 2007

For me, West 72nd Street is Manhattan.  It’s absurd, but whenever I try to picture Manhattan into a single sort of place, this is the street for me.

I used to live in the area, and I would walk down parts of 72nd Street twice a day (to/from the subway).

And, although it’s only been 2 years since I’ve moved, it’s changing.  Mostly subtle, but it’s emblematic of Manhattan that there’s a continuous creative destruction in process.

At the far east part of W. 72nd is the Dakota.  One of my favorite buildings just because of its architecture.  I’ve posted about it before.  I’ve never been in it and never expect to be.

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As I’ve commented before, I find the window air conditioners on such a hyper-expensive building to be amusing more than anything else.

Further down the street is one of those views that are so typical of the Upper West Side.

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As you get to Broadway, you run into Verdi Square where the subway station is.  The square is created when Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue intersect.

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And once you get to West End Avenue you’re nearly at the Hudson River.  Looking back toward Broadway is a view I’ve seen hundreds of times and that I really like. (Sorry that the shade is so intense on the sunny day that I took the picture.)

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If you look closely, you’ll see the water tanks on some of the older buildings.  The newer ones have them, too.  They’re just better hidden.

-H

Ankling to Herald Square in Manhattan

October 13, 2007

Just a short post to point out a famous landmark in Manhattan:  Herald Square.

You know it from “Give My Regards to Broadway” by George M. Cohan and the line that says “remember me to Herald Square” sung by Jimmy Cagney (okay, that was in the movie “Yankee Doodle Dandy”).  But, what’s the deal behind it?

Most of Manhattan is laid out in a grid with the streets going east-west and the avenues going north-south.  There’s the one big exception:  Broadway.  Broadway goes mostly north-south, but with an east-to-west drift.  The grid makes square blocks, but everytime that Broadway crosses an avenue, it causes one of more “splinters” of the blocks to be left over and those bits and pieces are called “squares”.  I’ve yet to see one that’s square, and most of them are pretty much smallish islands.  Of course, Times Square is the most famous (where Broadway crosses 7th Avenue), but Herald Square is probably second (where Broadway crosses 6th Avenue).

Here’s a picture of it from just north.

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Nobody would call it big, but they have put some effort to making it look good.

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The square is named after the old newspaper “The New York Herald”, just like Times Square is named after The New York Times.  Well, the Herald is long gone, but the Times is still around (however, the Times is moving its operations a little more distant from its current 43rd Street location to 41st Street and a bit further west from where it is now).

Anyway, Herald Square does have a famous neighbor:  Macy’s.

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The square’s tower is a monument and celebrates…the New York Herald (actually, its founders).

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A closeup of the plaque at the bottom.

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You may need to click the picture to be able to read it.

-H

The Korean Parade on Broadway

October 7, 2007

It was a Saturday and the Korean Parade was set to go.  Therefore, so was I. 

The day was bright and sunny and I was interested in the parade in an odd way simply because it was on Broadway and I don’t recall having seen one on that avenue before.  (There’s a sort of heirarchy of parades where certain avenues such as Fifth get the biggest and the smaller ones go to other streets such as Madison and 2nd and 6th.)  There had been no publicity about the Korean Parade that I was aware of, which for me tends to mean a small parade which is often very interesting.  Yet, there really isn’t a big link that I’m aware of between mid-town Broadway and the Korean community.  There is a huge community out in Queens and I’m sure many live in Manhattan, but I was wondering why they weren’t holding it in Queens.  (On the other hand, I don’t think many Nigerians live on Second Avenue, but their consulate is there and is probably a hub of their social network.)  Nevertheless, I expected to see an interesting parade with some very interesting displays.

And I got it.

The parade started just about on time with the usual “cops on horses”.

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The parade was from 41st Street down to 23rd.  I was at 37th.  The day was a bright and sunny day, but I had positioned myself in a shadier area.  Later, as the earth kept turning and the sun kept creeping in, the brightness would become an issue.

There were really two signature parts of the parade.  Well, maybe it’s better to say that there were two sights in the parade that I found more interesting than the others.  First, was what I can only refer to as the “head whirl”.  This was a marcher who had a sort of whirligig on his/her head that had a long white ribbon.  By twisting the head just right, the ribbon would circle the user.  It was a very nice visual.

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Later in the parade, there would be a number of the headwhirlers walking together, appropriately spaced out of course.

A common sight and sound during the parade were the drummers.  In the below case, wearing a hat/headcovering that was very colorful.

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The music was pleasant, the drumming was very good; but the crowd was sparse.

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Note that the crowd wasn’t particularly Korean, either.  It wasn’t quite as lopsided as the Nigerian Parade (where I think maybe I saw very few Nigerians who weren’t in the parade), but there were very few Korean nationals in the crowd.

The usual dignitaries did arrive.

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As usual, I’ve no idea who they are.

I didn’t see a single New York politician participating.

There were a number of social groups that participated.  Among them were the Korean-Germany Association.

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Another group was the Sygnman Rhee Association that commemorates the first post-WWII Korean president.  There were Korean-American police officers, a group that maintains cultural ties for Koreans adopted by Americans, and Korean Air had a nice float (pic below).

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My favorite group was this bunch:  Korean War Veterans.  Technically, the war continues but this group may have taken part in that incredible 1950-53 part of the war.

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Getting back to the “signature” parts of the parade, the second most arresting visual was something that was called “The Royal Procession of Great King Sejong”.  It took up the entire middle part of the parade.  There were two characters who may have portrayed the Great King, but neither was marked as such.  Here are some pictures from the procession.

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The horns they were playing gave out sort of a kazoo-sound.  Actually, it sounded much better than that, but that’s the closest I can describe it.

This section was a very solemn procession, but I did catch one guy showing some personality.

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But note the paucity, even the absence of viewers behind him (on the sunny side of the street).

During this time, some of the head-whirlers gave a display.  Very well done, but impossible to really capture in still pictures.

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And, probably, one of the Great King characters.

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Later, another figure may have also been the King.

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I often talk about the “men in skirts” phenomenon.  They sort of had it here, but they were more robes than a native dress that resembled the modern skirt.  I’ve also mentioned a character with a beard wearing a skirt (and parrot and tie-dyed dog):  not seen at this parade.

But this was a new one:  women in beards.

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They looked like they were portraying ancient scholars.  I don’t know if they’re being women was important to the storyline or whether they just needed people in the march.  Doesn’t matter, but it is still unique in my experience.

Part of the procession had a large drum with one person at each end banging on it.  It sounded good.  But, once again, note the absence of a crowd watching.

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An auto company had a car with a woman in national dress.

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There were several martial arts displays.  The age ranges were generally pretty young.

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The pictures above and below are two of my favorites.  It’s all about their attitudes.

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Four girls, four attitudes.  And the little boy looks ready for any trouble that may come his way.

And the drummers were everywhere.

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I liked this character.  He was having a grand time.

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 And cops weren’t the only ones on horses.

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But probably my favorite visual was this picture.  It just shouts out something very…Korean.

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An ancient and deep culture.

It was a long parade with lots of pagentry and color.  Overall, it was an excellent display, but to so few of us that it loses a lot of its power.  I always say that much of a parade’s appeal is in its audience.  The two spectacles feed each other and make each other better.

Speaking of this, being New York there had be “another”.  During the parade, I saw one nearby member of the crowd occasionally going out into the parade and taking pictures.  He had a tripod, seemed to “belong” out there, but didn’t appear to be an official photographer.  Right after I saw the “women in beards”, he and I talked (I wanted to make absolutely sure they were women because I was seeing them from a little distance, despite my camera zoom).  It turns out that he’s originally from Russia and goes to all the parades!  Kind of like Famous Ankles (excepting being Russian).  We compared stories and it turns out he’s gone to a lot of the same parades as I have, although he’s more interested in the native costumes and cultures rather than the actual parades.  His photos are strictly for his own viewing and he takes far fewer than I do.

Nevertheless, we both agreed that the day, although beautiful, was way too sunny and set off too many shadows that didn’t photograph well.  I took tons of photos (actually more than 300), but there’s absolutely no room for such volume here.

This weekend has two more parades and we each intend to go to both.  I doubt we’ll see each other as they are much, much larger than the Korean Parade.

But, it was nice meeting you Victor.  Have fun.

-H