Stepping into Magic: an actor's journey…

"Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them" ~William Shakespeare

Multi-Media Magic, Week 2 in NYC!

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This week was filled with a robust variety of events. From puppets to panels, to musicals and plays. I was in the city center, the lower east side, the lower west side, and the upper east. Topics included veterans, artist in NYC, vampires, boxers and more. I find it amazing how creative people can be, even when serving a 1/2 dozen oysters on a decorated tray of ice. We are creative beings and exposing ourselves to the variety of expression only expands our imagination and drive. Below is a mini play by play of the great events I attended. Enjoy!

Tuesday night I had the pleasure of attending the 40th Anniversary of the award winning project FREE TO BE YOU AND ME at the Paley Center. I grew up on this book and audio tape that was created by Marlo Thomas and many others. She shared how she wanted to make a record for her niece that defied the gender and racial stereyotypes found in most childrens books at that time, the mid 70’s, and the result was this collaborative project that went on to win an Emmy for Outstanding Children’s Programming. Marlo and Gloria Steinem Co-moderated the event and sat on stage with Alan Alda, Rosie Grier and Carole Hart. In the audience were numerous members who contributed to writing the music, performing, producing, and so much more. It was not only a celebration of the project but from the hugs and smiles between these creative beings it was a reunion as well. Many of them hadn’t seen each other in years. In between the panel, a clip of which can be seen HERE, they showed videos of the songs that were part of the televised special of this project that aired on ABC in 1974. At the end of the evening we all sang the title song “Free to Be You and Me” while the panelists held hands and smiled at this moment that recognized the work that they did and the call for more work like this to be done for the future generations. I was teary while singing the words, part of it was happy tears for being of a generation that was raised on this project and another part was frustrated tears because there is so much more work to do. I use this book in my teaching, the tape and the stories, and I hope that we continue to spread the message of love, equality, independence and critical thinking that was shared in this project.

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Alan Alda, Rosie Grier and Carole Hart, Gloria Steinem & Marlo Thomas

Wednesday night I attended the NYC screening & after party for the new Jim Jarmush film ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE starring Tilda Swinton. It was a beautiful and surprisingly funny love story that takes place between Detroit and Tangiers.(I recently finished all 6 seasons of True Blood and was happy to be back in the world of Vampire.) They myths and history of this dangerouly beautiful creature has always fascinated me. I have the black and white Nosfuratu on VHS and still love watching Interview with a Vampire. The music in the film was haunting, especially in the opening shot. After the show I got the nerve to ask Isiah Whitlock Jr. if he wanted to share a cab to the after party. I had seen him arrive to the theater when he sat in my row. When the film ended I was looking up directions to the party and as we both stepped outside we were hit with wind and rain. We hailed a cab and talked theater on the drive to Chalk Point Kitchen/The Handy Liquor Bar (opening officially in April.) Once inside the dark bar below we were all lit up every once in a while by the bright flashes of the cameras pointed at Tilda and Jim. I was on my own so I found a great spot by the bar to people watch. Finally, after the crowd thinned a little, I gathered my courage to go up to Tilda and thank her for her work. She was stunning in person and so gracious. Towards the end of the night the general manager invited me up partake in the family dinner with the employees in the restaurant. It was a fabulous NYC evening!

Thursday was a fantastic Opening Night of the new musical ROCKY with a dear colleage from USC. She was able to get free tickets and invited me as her date. There was the usual star watching, Wesley Snipes, Sylvester Stallone, Bobby Canavale, and plenty of other folks who looked very important surrounded by fans. The show was a complete spectacle! The stage was moving for every scene, they flew the boxing ring in and out of the theater and at the end the theatre was turned into a stadium. However, for all the spectacle the book and a few of the songs were really lacking. The tag line “Love Wins” is on the front of the theater and I always loved the story between Adrian and Rocky. While chatting over some great Thai food at Yum Yum on 9th street my friend shared that she felt like it was more of a love story between Rocky and Boxing rather than between Rocky and Adrian. It’s too bad because the girl playing Adrian, Margo Seibert, was fantastic. It was her Broadway debut! It is amazing to be reminded of the big and huge magic that can be created in Broadway musicals.

Friday night was a second attempt at seeing the Lone Wolf Tribe’s Hobo Grunt Cycle at Dixon Place. However, after 20 minutes into the show the light board malfunctioned and the show had to be stopped. Discouraged about not seeing the full production my companion and I stopped at Lombardi’s for pizza and a couple of glasses of Malbec. During our conversation she shared that her daughter’s name was a combination of my mother‘s name and Ella Baker. I never knew this and now really understand how deep her relationship with my mother is. After dinner we walked together to the metro and she gave me a very valuable piece of advice. When riding the trains late at night it is best to head to the middle of the train, where you see the signs for “Boarding Area” and you can find a thin and long rectangular board hanging towards the tracks with black and white stripes along with T.V. monitors. This is where the exact middle of the trains are. There is a conductor that has to wave at the monitors to signal that the train has stopped at the proper distance. Boarding the train here secures that you are near a conductor and is safer for riding at night. Great to get tips from the locals!

Saturday was a full and crazy day, no surprise since it was not only a full moon, but the Ides of March to boot! It began with a matinee performance of The Architecure of Becoming presented by the Women’s Project Theater. It was a beautiful tribute to New York’s City Center space. I enjoyed the moments that took me back in time and the acting was phenomenal. I then hopped the train to the lower east side and wandered around Little Italy and Chinatown, eventually ending up at Sel Rrose for raw oyster happy hour and a wonderful glass of wine. I then ventured back to Dixon Place to catch the final performance of the Hobo Grunt Cycle. I invited a great friend who, I met at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and with the “third time’s a charm” luck we were able to see the whole performance. (Their projector glitched up during the beginning of the show, but luckily it continued without a hitch!) It was very moving and the puppetry was beautiful. Afterwards we caught up over drinks and I dragged him down to Hell’s Kitchen to meet my New Mexico friend and introduced him to Pickle Backs. The night ended in a splendid & hazy cab ride home!

Sunday was a venture into Greenwich Village with a relative who had lived in the area many years before. We first wandered through Washington Square Park where we watched some folks play chess, one man showed off his trained pigeon and another was playing classical music on a grand piano. (How did he get it there?!) We made a circle around the park and landed at Meskerem for some great Ethiopian food. Afterwards we wandered the streets stumbling upon an indoor market and a little coffee shop for some tea and espresso. She walked me back to the train and we said our goodbyes, a lovely visit for us both. I returned home, exhausted from the week and binged on T.V. I completed the first season of True Detective, caught up on Parenthood, and began season 2 of VEEP.

Monday morning I woke up and decided to walk a few blocks to catch a glimpse of the St. Patrick’s Day parade. I was on the fence because of the controversy surrounding the parade. Even the new Mayor, Bill De Blasio, refused to march because of the parade’s restrictions that don’t allow LGBT members march openly. However, I was only a few blocks away and despite the controversy and freezing weather I went for it. The attendance in my area was very thin and the parade was a bit painful to watch because everyone looked freezing, but when the bagpipes would come by it warmed my heart. I then headed to the Food Emporium to stock up on provisions for my mom’s visit for my birthday week. She arrived at 7:30pm and we cleaned up and went to dinner. After a couple of martinis and a great dinner at T-Bar the waiter came by to offer dessert, but my mom waved him away explaining that we had to stop by the local Irish bar before heading home. (I was going to suggest it before we left, but I thought she might be exhausted from a day of traveling, she beat me to it). So off we walked to McKeown’s in the hopes that is wasn’t too rambunctious on a St. Patrick’s Day night. My usual bartender was there and he proceeded to fill our cups with Jameson and give us shamrock tattoos. We struck up a few conversations, toasted to our Irish ancestors, enjoyed the music and then stumbled home.

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This next week is going to be full of exploring the old parts of NYC my mom and I know and love as well uncovering new jewels within this city. We have decided to take abstract photos when the mood strikes and maybe make another calendar for Christmas. It’s wonderful having her here and I look forward to the fun (a.k.a. trouble) we will get into as well as celebrating my birthday on the first day of spring!

Let the NYC magic continue…

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