Tuesday, April 1, 2008

My New York stories

Wow, after a very exciting extra-long weekend in New York City I have so many thoughts swirling around in my head it's tough to know what to write about first. So before I get to reviews of all the shows I saw, here are a few observations:

First, a very heartfelt thanks to my fellow bloggers, their friends and very significant others. The vast majority of you didn't know me from a hole in the wall, yet you reacted with so much enthusiasm when I suggested that we meet. And I'm so glad we did. Even though I'm by far the least knowledgeable of the group, you've always made me feel a welcome part of the theatre-blogging community.

Thank-you Sarah from Adventures in the Endless Pursuit of Entertainment, Jan from Broadway & Me, Kari from Casual Heap, Chris from Everything I Know I Learned from Musicals, Patrick from Just Shows To Go You, Aaron from Kul That Sounds Cool, Steve from Steve on Broadway, Michael from The Lunar Gemini, Alicia from Things You'll Learn to Love About Me, and Mondschein from Third Row, Mezzanine. It was a wonderful weekend filled with great conversation and great new friends. And a special shoutout to Broadway Baby Michael: naim me'od! To top it off, I tried a mimosa for the first time, at Angus McIndoe's, and discovered another food combination that goes together as well as chocolate and peanut butter!

Ok, now a few other matters. This first one is serious, but fortunately had a happy ending.

When I was at South Pacific on Saturday afternoon, an elderly man stumbled getting to his seat in the loge at Lincoln Center's Vivian Beaumont Theater, close to where I was sitting. The lights had gone off and the orchestra had just started playing the overture while several people, including a security officer, came to the man's aid. Thankfully, he wasn't hurt and in a few minutes they got him up and into his seat. It was kind of surreal, because the orchestra was playing, the show was starting, and this little drama was going on virtually unnoticed. I felt a little panicky, like why doesn't someone stop the music and turn the lights on? It just made me wonder what the procedure is for stopping a show when something like that happens.

Now, for something kind of funny. At one point in Passing Strange on Thursday, Stew, narrator of the story, says some line, I forget exactly what it was, but someone in the audience shouted it back at him. Then Stew acknowledged the man. Well, Daniel Breaker, the actor playing Youth, Stew's younger self, cracked up. He literally could not continue. He tried a second time and still couldn't compose himself. But the third time, he managed to get back into the character. I think Daniel Breaker is a terrific actor, and he did a great job regaining his composure. I'm sorry it happened, and I don't condone what the man did (although it's a testament to the show's power that he was so moved) but it was a live-theatre moment to remember.

I always like to do something new on every visit to New York City, and this time I went to Union Square and the Strand Book Store on a drizzly Monday morning. The Strand, at 12th and Broadway, advertises its 18 miles of books - old and new, rare and all too common - under one roof. It's kind of like a bibliophile's version of Oklahoma - the books are as high as an elephant's eye, and they look like they're climbing clear up to the sky. If I lived in New York, this would definitely be one of my favorite spots. And like every retail landmark, the Strand has an I Love Me wall, filled with nicely framed newspaper articles singing its praises.

I followed up my visit to the Strand with lunch at Max Brenner, which also has a slogan: "Chocolate by the bald man." I passed up the chocolate, but I did have a great veggie burger with guacamole. I've decided that more food should come topped with guacamole. It was fun to walk around the Union Square Greenmarket - the organic whole grain bread was especially tempting - although it would have been even better on a nice sunny day.

Last year, just after the stagehands' strike ended, there was a story in The New York Times that mentioned theatergoers who will sometimes run into a nearby restaurant for a drink at intermission. In a blog post, I expressed disbelief that someone would leave the theatre, but Steve and Sarah assured me it's done all the time - for drinks and to get around long lines for the facilities.

Well, at the intermission of Gypsy on Sunday, I ran outside without my coat into the chilly spring air, dashed next door to Angus McIndoe's, and used the bathroom. No waiting, and an authentic theatergoing experience! Maybe you have to be a woman to understand this, but it was pretty darned exciting.

Finally, before I left on Monday, I did one of my favorite things - walking around Times Square taking pictures of theatre marquees and posters. Outside the Booth Theatre I saw signs for The Seafarer, which had just closed, coming down and a huge poster going up for Thurgood. The one-man play, starring Laurence Fishburne as pioneering civil-rights lawyer and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, begins previews April 12. In about six weeks, I'll be back in New York City to see it - and that's no joke!


karigee said...

It was great to meet you, Esther -- thanks for arranging the lunch. And for the Angus bathroom tip -- I've been wondering if that might work...

Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Huge kudos and large bouquets to you for organizing such an amazing gathering. What fun, but the best was spending time with you one-on-one!

Esther said...

Thanks, Kari! And I'm so glad you came. I really enjoyed meeting you, too. You know, it's everyone who came and had a great time that made it such a success.

Yes, using the bathroom at Angus is very simple. If anyone is reading this who hasn't been there, it's a straight shot down the long corridor at the St. James, then it's right next door. You'll be back in plenty of time. It's so close, you don't even need a coat. Just remember to bring your ticket, although they didn't check it when I came back in.

In fact, I was thinking that should be my next project, compiling a list of restaurants next to or across from Broadway theaters where you can pop in for a quick bathroom break during intermission.

Esther said...

Awww shucks, thank-you Steve, my sweet brother and cherished friend. That means so much to me. And thank-you for providing the inspiration. I never would have done it on my own, but when you said last November that you'd like to meet some of the other bloggers, I leaped into action! I'm so glad you mentioned it. I had a wonderful time sitting around and talking and getting to know everyone. And everyone was just as nice and friendly as I knew they'd be from their blogs.

Vance said...

Oh and btw, I was commenting on SOB too that Im so jealous of this theatre blogger group!!!

But yeah, I started doing the NY trip theatre marathon last year (did it three times!!) and loving it (and trying to plan for more now that there is so much to catch up with!)

Esther said...

Hey Vance,
Thanks for the comment. Don't worry, we'll have another get-together! Everyone really seems to want to make it a regular event. Hopefully we can meet you and a few of the other people we missed the first time. :-)

And I'm with you on the theater marathons! Last summer I saw seven musicals in five days and I loved it! I'd walk around seeing different things in the city on days when I didn't have a matinee, then head to the theater at night. It was absolutely wonderful.