Clockwise: All The Way Marqis @ Neil Simon Theater, Bethesda Fountain, Me and Phyllis, A Pickle Back, Cellist playing Bach Cello Suit, Me with Bob and Janet Moses.
A week ago I was frantically packing up my temporary home in Dallas, TX after closing Oedipus El Rey at the Dallas Theater Center. My head was a little groggy from the final Sunday night with the DTC crew at The Lakewood Landing, the favorite dive bar. Then I was off in a plane to New York City, a city I hadn’t visited since 2003.
I arrived on a cloudy, chilly day and was thrilled to be picked up by a great car service, Dial 7, that was recommended by my NY born and bred uncle. Within minutes of collecting my baggage a beautiful Lincoln MKT pulled up and whisked me into the city. They dropped me off on a narrow street and I set foot in Manhattan. I found the apartment where I will be living for the next three weeks and entered into a magical week.
First and foremost the magic began with my roommate. My mother, Maria Varela, has many amazing people in her life that I have been fortunate to meet. Robert Redford, Sonia Braga, Moctezuma Esparza, Sandra Cisneros, Luis Alfaro, Wynona LaDuke, Judy Richardson, Charlie Cobb, to name a bunch! The list goes on of the many artists, writer, activists, organizers and in general fascinating people that my mother has worked with, shared stories with and broken bread with. This time I am blessed to get to know, and share a home with Gloria Steinem.
Her home is filled with books, gorgeous textiles and framed magazine covers, photos and letters. I settled into my room and wandered around the home she has been in since 1968. Just yesterday she was sitting down with Abena Busia and Ruchira Gupta recalling the “dreadful democratic convention” of 1968 that always reminds her how long she has been living in her home. The desk in my room is painted with peacock feathers, a much loved personal totem for me, and behind me is a vase filled with peacock feathers. I believe in magic and I most definitely believe in signs, and I felt immediately that I was meant to be here in this moment.
My first night I found a fantastic Italian Restaurant, Il Ristorante Rosi, in the neighborhood and sat down for a gin martini, followed by the best beet salad I had ever had, and then a bold red wine with my short rib pasta dish. I met a few locals and shared my story of traveling here for a month to get my feet wet, see theater and celebrate my birthday. I received many well wishes and good lucks. Later that night Gloria arrived home from an event out of town, and even though it was past midnight, we stayed up talking about everything from elephants, to the Oscars, to La Malinche and beyond.
The second night I met my aunt and uncle at Union Square so he could give me Harvy Licht’s personal walking tour and our first stop was The Public Theater. I was over joyed and shared with them that I had an audition lined up for Shakespeare in the Park that friday. We traversed along the city streets and ended up for dinner at Porsena. The son of my aunts college roommate was a chef there and it was excellent. Afterwards they took me to Venieros Italian Bakery, a legendary place that has been there for 120 years. We picked up a pound of little pastries and visited with my uncles mother, a sharp, funny and lovely woman of 95 years. She will turn 96 on September 20th, the date of my wedding!
The third day I was cramming lines for my audition. I was reading for the role of Margaret in Much Ado About Nothing. (The evening before I watched the great film with Emma Thompson and Kenneth Branagh, both of whom just opened up the language for me and entertained the heck out of me. I can’t believe I had never seen it!) Sitting in the kitchen I was browsing the internet while swishing coconut oil in my mouth for 20 minutes. (Oil Pulling, an interesting health habit I recently was turned on to by a post on Facebook.) I about spit it out when I received a message on Facebook asking me if I wanted to attend the opening of All The Way on Broadway. A friend’s date was sick and I brought a fancy dress so it was kismet! That evening was a thrilling New York night. Watching Bryan Cranston in the role of LBJ was electric, during intermission Charlie Rose walked right past me as I was in line for the bath room, at the after party at Rockefeller Center I had a great conversation with Chris O’Dowd about how wonderful it is to be married, his rehearsals for Of Mice and Men, and he complimented my dress. The celebrity watching was great, I even had a chance to glance at Ronan Farrow, and I have to say he did have some pretty blue eyes. I even got to re-meet and chat with Bob Moses and his wife Janet Jemott Moses. Bob was a character portrayed in All The Way. However, the best part of the night was seeing Oregon Shakespeare family. So many OSF people were there that I felt for a moment like I could be at Martino’s having a drink after a show. I was so proud to know these artists and see their work on Broadway!!!
The fourth day I got ready, Gloria gave me a hug and gestured to sprinkle magic dust on me for luck, and I hopped a train to the Chelsey Studios for my first NYC audition. The casting directors were friendly and warm, I was nervous and excited and I had a great time in the room. Afterwards I took myself out for a bowl of Ramen and wandered all over for a couple hours. That evening I warmed up with a Makers on the rocks while addressing postcards before I met Gloria at a book party for Joan Barthel whose latest book American Saint is about Elizabeth Seton. It was a small gathering, and I met the author who was lovely. Finally we went to dinner at the Wayfarer with Gloria’s friend and partner on an upcoming project Kathy Najimy. It was such great company and conversation and the food was fantastic. I ended the evening with watching the HBO documentary of Gloria, In Her Own Words.
On the fifth day I took a walk in central park, it was a blazing 45 degrees outside, warmer than it had been and everyone was out. I entered on 72nd street and took my time to find Alice in Wonderland, The Boat House, Bethesda Fountain. I will be back to explore more, I have to find Strawberry Fields again, and of course the Delacorte Theatre. I did some grocery shopping and got ready to meet with my mother’s good friend from way back who is like an aunt to me. We planned to attend Lone Wolf Tribe’s show Hobo Grunt Cycle, however the trains were not running well on a busy weekend night, so we missed curtain. Instead we went to dinner at the Spring Street Natural and had a smooth bottle of Malbec as we caught up on life.
On the Sixth day I slept! I was so exhausted from all the wonderful days before. I spent the day cleaning and arranging my living space, catching up on my T.V. shows and cooked myself a pasta dinner. Then I got a text from a New Mexico friend who invited me down to Hell’s Kitchen to hang with her and her boyfriend. We started with drinks at Deacon Brodie’s Tavern then walked across the street to House of Brews where I discovered a drink called a Pickle Back. A shot of Jameson followed by a shot of pickle juice! I loved it/them (I had three!) We reminisced about New Mexico, swapping chile recipes and shared how much we like the idea of gluten free diet but what about flour tortillas!? So great to have a New Mexico buddy here in the Big Manzana.
Today is the seventh day! It’s taken me a couple hours to write this blog post and once I am done I am heading out to join a new friend, who I met in Dallas, for a play reading in the AmoralFEST 2014.
Tomorrow I get to attend the 40th anniversary of Free to Be You and Me which is co-moderated by Gloria Steinhem and Marlo Tomas.
This week has been pure magic, hard to believe, thrilling and I feel a little bit like Cinderella or Pretty Woman, but it doesn’t have anything to do with finding a man, (I already have a fantastic one holding down the fort in L.A.) it just has to do with living a life, if only for a moment, that seems to be made of dreams.