Archive for the ‘LES’ category

Shakespeare in the Parking Lot – Julius Caesar

August 8, 2010

For the past few years, the only theater I’ve been going to has been Shakespeare. The rest of Broadway just doesn’t appeal to me: plays based on TV shows, on movies, and revivals of earlier plays seem to dominate the main theaters. The off-Broadway scene is filled with stuff that I find unappealing, even offensive in their deliberate crassness (but I guess that’s exactly what they are shooting for, and achieving, and getting…the lack of my patronage). I guess I’m becoming more and more of a stick in the mud and just don’t have the patience for those that want to try it.

But Shakespeare is still playing here and there and I really enjoy seeing it. The stories are timeless, the language difficult to parse until you get into the swing of it, and the prices are great.

Yesterday, I went to “Shakespeare in the Parking Lot”, not to be confused with the celebrity-driven Shakespeare in the Park. And you wouldn’t confuse them if were you there. The Parking Lot version has…well, it’s a parking lot in the Lower East Side. They have some chairs, but I took my own and so did a lot of others. They spread some blankets to let a few people sit on “less uncomfortable” asphalt. And the show is “in the round”, where actors came and went from the very cheap stage from four separate directions. The only props were a dressmaker’s dummy, yardsticks for swords, a letter opener for a dagger, and red ribbons to symbolize blood.

Oh, and a kazoo. The first Shakespeare I’ve seen with a kazoo. And it was properly used. I really liked it. And I’m thankful to the cast that is was used only at the first and even then was sparingly used. It really gave a good touch to the scene, though.

The play was Julius Caesar and it was free to attend (Huzzah!). It had a twist, though. They changed the scene from Rome in 44BC to…a school education board election. I guess still in 44BC and including swords and assassinations. But the beauty of it was that the text was pure Shakespeare. They didn’t change the lines, although they probably deleted a whole bunch of stuff that I didn’t miss. They also changed the gender of a bunch of the characters. For example, Marcus Antonius was played by a female (Ivory Aquino, who might be this). And nicely played, too. She hardly had any lines besides the “Friends, Romans, countryman…” speech; but it’s a long, long one and she handled it very well (although I always viewed the line “And Brutus is an honorable man” as pure sarcasm, but perhaps I’m wrong in that or that this is just an interpretation).

My favorite performance was that of Cassius, played by another woman, Selene Beretta. She did really well and I thoroughly enjoyed her work. I’m going to cheap out and not cite the others, but I really did enjoy all of their work and just don’t have the patience or the time to detail all the stuff I loved (among others: Hamilton Clancy’s performance as Julius Caesar, his humorous introduction to the play, the original music, the soothsayer/poet’s performance, the off-stage chanting, the seriousness of Mark Jeter’s Brutus, the creative use of that dressmaker dummy…). Okay, I started something I shouldn’t have because the cast was excellent and I know I’m forgetting bits and pieces I wanted to remember and cite (…the opening scene with the cobbler weaseling his way out of a confrontation…the assassination scene done so well in the round…the lackadaisical performance of the servant). Okay, I’m bad at this. All in all, well done.

However, I do admit that open air Shakespeare is hurt by motorcycles passing by in the neighborhood. And strangely enhanced by having a couple of officers in a police car watching for a while. They didn’t seem to be there for the murder, though.

I have to admit that I really don’t understand the reason for staging the play as if it were a school board election. It really was mentioned only at the very beginning, but the contents didn’t allude to an election after about four minutes into the play. From what I read on, they used it as a way to let them cast more women in the play. I don’t think it was necessary. In fact, I thought the females held their own as the characters without the need for the backstory.

It’s playing for another week. The Drilling Company puts it on.


A Small Spalding Gray Memorial

June 19, 2008

I’ve been to the area about five to seven times; Tompkins Square Park. One of my favorite spots is the Temperance Fountain. That fountain was established a hundred years ago to provide fresh water and (hopefully) wean people away from alcohol.

I had never noticed that the pavers around the fountain had dedications. Not all of them, but a bunch. As I circled it and looked (‘cuz I’m that kind of guy), I spotted a familiar name: Spalding Gray.

I never knew him or met him.  I best remember him in the movie “Swimming to Cambodia”.  He was something of a mezmerizing storyteller.

The paver reads “To The Best Dad in The World Spalding Gray All our love Marissa, Forrest Theo”.  According to Wikipedia, Marisa was his stepdaughter and the other two were his sons.  (And Wikipedia spells Marissa with one “s” whereas the paver has two.  I don’t know the right one.) [UPDATE:  Spalding Gray webmaster John Boland has provided the correct spelling:  “Marrisa”.  So the paver ought to read “To The Best Dad in The World Spalding Gray All our love Marrisa, Forrest Theo”.  This would correct the spelling of Marissa/Marrisa.]

But I do know that I enjoyed his monologue in Swimming to Cambodia.  Absolutely riviting.  I saw parts of “Monster in the Box” and enjoyed that, too.


Sixth Street and Avenue B Community Garden

June 2, 2008

I went down to the Lower East Side to watch the Turkish Day Parade. It never happened. No parade. No sign of a parade. I have to figure out how to find a reliable source for parade information.

While I was there, looking in vain, I noticed a little garden that I hadn’t seen before. It was the Sixth Street and Ave B Community Garden. Located…right there. The LES has a whole bunch of these little garden areas.

This one was interesting in that it was absolutely busting out with plant life. There was an entire crew in there that day, but I didn’t see any pruning; just heard some stuff about composting which I presumed was neighborhood composting.

Look at this place. Looks like it needs a crew with weedwhackers. It’s Spring and the place is roaring back to life after a hard Winter. A little pruning might be a very good thing.

Actually, at least one area looked like it was getting ready for some specialized planting.

It was this garden that really showed me how vibrant these gardens can be. I went through a number of them during my winter wanderings and am looking forward to seeing how they are faring. Are they tightly managed and kept in check? Or are is each just an oasis of wildness?


I missed a celeb photo…I think

June 1, 2008

I was wandering through the Lower East Side and spotted a film crew. As I went past, I saw a little girl perhaps nine years old lip syncing and shoulder-swaying to unheard music and surrounded by a film crew. The little girl look slightly familiar. Perhaps not.

I walked on as I was on a quest to look at a garden. I knew they’d still be there in five minutes. If you’ve never seen this stuff, film crews stick around for hours and do very little, at least to my eyes. It seems to be multiple takes and you never see anything. I did take a quick photo of the crew. I didn’t want to throw the kid off her acting.

I wandered into the garden and spent less than ten minutes just looking at it and photographing it (it was the Sixth Street and Ave B Community Garden that I will post on separately).

And when I came out. They were gone. Not even the slightest sign of them.

Well, maybe a sign. There were postings by the NY film board or whomever that the new version of the Electric Company would be filming in the area. Maybe that was them.

In any case, the only film magic I saw was a little girl doing a little dance and a little lip-syncing to unheard music and then vanishing.


The Creative Little Garden in the LES

May 31, 2008

It’s so small that it’s easy to walk right by “The Creative Little Garden“. Yet, it is so nearly perfect that it may be my favorite garden in the City. It’s located at 503 6th Street between Avenue A and Avenue B. It’s a block away from Tompkins Square Park which makes it a little more unlikely to find as that park is a magnet for the locals.

I was surprised how quickly I took to it. Most of these community gardens are interesting only for a couple of minutes. But this one had me sitting and resting and reading in it for quite some time.

I don’t know how thin it is, but this picture was taken while sitting on the bench in the picture above.

From what I understand, there’s a long story behind the garden. The woman who founded it is said to have been a member of the French Resistance during WWII and something of a far-left radical once she got here. The other part is that there’s some connection between the garden and the Godfather movie. I read that the neighborhood was used for some of the exterior shots for that movie and some of the funds were used to create the garden.

Or it could all be a bunch of hoo-hah.

But it is a great little garden.