INKED IN NYC: Part 1

When I was in high school it was really cool to go down to St Marks and get your belly button pierced, your cartilage pierced, or a small, questionable-in-taste tattoo, without your parents permission. Somehow I got through these formative years un-inked. This is good because at the time I wanted either a fish or a sea-horse tattooed somewhere on my body…most likely my lower back, as you do when you’re 17. I did however leave high school with 6 piercings and have since obtained four tattoos.

I’ve heard a lot of people say that they could never get a tattoo because they fear they would regret whatever it was they permanently inked on their body. I get this perspective, however it hasn’t been my experience. One of my tattoos doesn’t feel relevant to my life anymore, but it reminds me of a special experience and group of people so it still holds a lot of meaning.

I love hearing what people’s tattoos mean to them and I always have people asking what the significance of mine are. Here’s a little bit about each one in order of their acquisition:

1) “Jump” When I was in high school I was one of 7 seniors to lead the annual junior retreat known as “Kairos”. As a Kairos leader, I had to give a speech to the Junior class about a meaningful experience that changed my life. The retreat itself was full of tears and sentimentality, so you really had to be ready wear your heart on your sleeve. While I prepared to leave for the weekend retreat, I was a bit nervous about sharing something that was so personal with fifty 16-year-old girls. My step-dad, Larry came into my room and said “Imagine you are on the dock in Maine” (oops back track, I used to spend my summers on a tiny island in Maine…ok back to present-past time). He said “Whenever you are getting ready to jump, you are always nervous about the fall and how cold the ocean water will be. But after you come out, the sun warms you and you feel so refreshed. Imagine this experience is like that. You will be nervous at first but once you’ve done it, you’ll be glad you did”.

Mom mid "jump".
Mom mid “jump”.

After Larry said this, I immediately wrote “jump” in sharpy on my wrist and looked at it throughout the weekend. A year later, while on winter vacation from College, my mom, Larry, grandma, aunt, uncle and I were eating at a breakfast spot in Greenwich Village.  While we ate I scribbled the word jump over and over on the paper table-cloth. I decided on a version that I liked and Larry and I walked around the corner to a tattoo parlor on Bleecker (which no longer exists). The tattoo artist looked at me funny when I handed him my scribble because 1) he wondered why I didn’t want to choose a typed font since my hand writing isn’t so gorge and 2) he wondered if I was perhaps suicidal or just crazy? But I stuck with my paper table-cloth version. Ten minutes and $70 later I had my first tattoo!

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2) Here is the one that doesn’t feel so relevant any more. I’ll give you some background. In my junior year of college I took the advice of tattoo #1 and got up the cajones to audition for the university’s annual musical. This year’s  production was “Hair” and I was dying to play Chrissy. I was cast in said role and had one of the best experiences of my life spending two months with an amazing group of people. Being that “Hair” was set in the ’60s and was meant to embody love, peace, and heavy use of hallucinogens, we were encouraged to work hard at bonding with one another and developing a “tribe”. We did develop that tribe and really felt close to one another, spending every day together rehearsing, meditating and eventually getting completely nude on stage.

"Let the sunshine..."
“Let the sunshine…”

When the show closed, a group of us took a road trip to NYC for the weekend. Three of us out of that group felt strongly that we wanted to remember our time doing “Hair” and what it embodied for us so we went down to the village to get matching tats. We each got an “om” sign tattooed over our rib cage. This is my favorite part of the story: after getting our matching tattoos we went to one of our friend’s older brother’s apartments in Bushwick. There were 7 people living in the dirtiest loft you’ve ever seen with graffiti on the walls, ladders leading up to bedrooms you didn’t even know were bedrooms and makeshift wooden doors separating each “room”. When we got there, the girlfriend of the brother of the friend looked at our tattoos and said “wow…that’s sooooo cliché”. I was initially pretty offended but then I thought “lady, you live in a hipster loft in Bushwick Brooklyn. You couldn’t be more cliché if you were drinking kombucha out of a mason jar”, and I quickly got over it.

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To be continued…

EMMA’S TOP 5 WAYS TO SEE THEATER INEXPENSIVELY

One of the topics I am most frequently asked about by non-New Yorkers is getting theater tickets. First, they ask if I can get them free tickets. The answer is no. There is almost no one in the industry who can get you free tickets unless they are 1) really famous 2) really important or 3) have it in their contract. The only tickets I can get are house seats which are great seats but are quite expensive.

So, here are the best ways to get inexpensive theater tickets according to moi. This is how I get mine and how I generally advise others to get their’s. Got it? Get it? Good. Here we go…

1) TDF- This is my favorite way to get tickets because it is usually the least expensive. However, you don’t get to pick your seats and it can often be hit-or-miss. The other problem here is you have to be a member. You can either 1) sign up or 2) phone a friend (who’s a TDF member). I am a TDF member so if you need me… “I’ll be there…”

2) TKTS- Tickets at TKTS are only available for the day of the show. They are generally 40-50% off the original price of the ticket. That can still be quite a lot of Benjamins but it’s better than paying full price. Be ready to tell them what show you are looking to see once you get up to the window and be sure you are standing in the correct line as one is for plays and one is for musicals.

3) TodayTix- This app is pretty great. It lists discounts for various on and off-Broadway shows and also has lotteries. You don’t get to pick your seats but you do get to choose the general seating area. Then you get to meet a stranger in a TodayTix outfit outside the theater’s marquis who will give you your tickets and that is kind of fun.

4) Rush- Many shows have a rush option. You show up when the box office opens (or a bit before to be sure you’re in the front of the line) and you get any last-minute tickets they haven’t sold/cancellations. You can find out about rush and lottery on broadwayforbrokepeople.com or playbill.com. 

5) Lottery- A lot of shows have digital and in-person lotteries. The in-person lottery is generally two hours before the show, outside of the theater and is only for two tickets maximum. You have to have your ID with you to pick up the tickets and can’t have someone pick them up for you if you have put your name in the lottery. This can be a good option before heading to TKTS for last-minute tickets.

There are a ton of great ways to get tickets to the theater. These are my top five. How do you get yours? What have I missed? Let me know!

STRETCHING YOUR NET OF COMPASSION

I’ve noticed a recurring theme, a lesson of sorts, that keeps coming up in my life in various ways. At first, I was trying to ignore it as I knew that giving it attention would require a lot of work and introspection. But I’ve realized that God or the universe or whatever YOU want to call it, is trying to school me on the subject of compassion or more specifically, unconditional love for others.

I’m coming at this topic from a primarily Christian perspective, but that is only because it’s what I’m most familiar with. I think anyone and everyone can relate to what I’m going to say. Whether you’re Jewish, Muslim, Atheist, Wicken or praying to a shrine in your closet,  I encourage you to keep reading even while I get into the tiniest bit of Jesus-talk.

In the Bible it says over and over to love others, to love your neighbor as yourself, that love heals all things, etc. etc. I think it’s really easy to read this and feel uplifted and inspired. Just love everybody, man! But it means a heck of a lot more than that. It means loving when it’s really freaking hard. It means loving the people who are mean to you, who disagree with you, who are voting for the wrong presidential candidate. And that’s the tough stuff. One of the verses in the Bible touches on this kind of really hard love specifically (aside from the whole “forgive them father” section…that’s a big one). In Matthew 5 verse 43-46 it says  “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?”.

This theme has come up for me over and over and I think it’s because it’s something I’m really bad at. I call myself a Christian but I’m terrible at loving those that I find hard to love. I write people off when they disappoint me. It’s difficult for me to put myself in others’ shoes and I find it hard to forgive when people “wrong” me. But I’ve seen some pretty amazing examples that I want to share, partly for others but partly for myself, in hopes that exploring them will inspire me.

Many years ago my grandparents decided to help a young, troubled girl in their town by providing financial support to put her through college. My mom recalls one day when she and her family were at home and looked out the window, only to see a cross burning on the front lawn. It came out that it was the girl they were trying to help, rebelling against them. My grandfather spoke with the girl and asked her what motivated her to take such an extreme action. I don’t know what came of the conversation but in the end, he decided to continue to provide for her and help her in any way he could. This is one of many times my grandpa chose to respond in love.

In Wyoming in 1992, a young man named Matthew Shepard was brutally beaten and left to die tied to a fence. This was said to be a hate crime in response to Matthew’s sexual orientation. At the trial, when deciding on the sentence for the two murderers, Matthew’s father Dennis read a letter to the judge. He made the following statement “I would like nothing better than to see you die, Mr. McKinney. However, this is the time to begin the healing process. To show mercy to someone who refused to show any mercy. Mr. McKinney, I am going to grant you life, as hard as it is for me to do so, because of Matthew.” Has there ever been a more beautiful display of forgiveness, love, and grace? I pray that someday I might have the ability to be so forgiving and strong.

On the night of the Paris attacks, a man in Connecticut fired a few rounds into the Mosque next door. On various forms of social media, he spoke hatefully about Muslims, going so far as to say “Is Muslim season open yet? I’m in a target rich environment.” I think a very acceptable and even appropriate response would be to feel anger towards this violent man. Instead, the president of the Mosque invited the man to a service at the Mosque and instructed all of its Muslim members to offer him a hug and show forgiveness. Of course, there is no way to know whether this truly happened and whether it was genuine, but it’s not the only story of its kind. I want to believe that people are capable of such loving behavior.

And so I HAVE to believe I am capable of it as well. The title of this post is “stretching your net of compassion”. I stole these words from today’s sermon by K Karpen at the Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew. I’m going to butcher this so bear with me. The sermon was about the story in the gospel of John when, with Jesus’s help, the disciples catch 153 fish in their net. Though they have so many fish, the net does not break. K likened this to our love for one another. He said that God’s net of compassion is cast wide. The net doesn’t discriminate against gay fish, straight fish, black fish, white fish, republican fish or democrat fish. His net of mercy and compassion catches all of them without breaking.

So, I’m going to work on it. I’m going to work really really hard on it. I get upset when people hurt people that I love. I get upset when people treat me in a way that I (hope) I would never treat them. I get upset with people who treat complete strangers disrespectfully. But Jesus didn’t hate the men who crucified him. My grandpa didn’t hate the young girl who responded to his love with complete disrespect. Matthew Shepard’s parents didn’t hate the men who brutally killed their son. I think I can work on loving a little bit better, even when it’s really really hard.

A LIFE IN THE WINGS

My mom conducted Phantom of the Opera for the first time when she was 7 months pregnant with me. My dad was in various productions of the show as a performer throughout my infancy and early childhood. Needless to say, I heard Andrew Lloyd Webber’s music and felt the warmth of theater lights from inside the womb. It’s not a lifestyle that I ever thought was odd or different, but over the years, I’ve discovered that some people find it to be quite interesting. It’s difficult to summarize what my childhood in the theater was like but here are a few of the most memorable moments.

When my mom was pregnant with me, the cast and crew of the LA production of Phantom had a bet going on when I would be born. Michael Crawford was in the LA production at that time. His guess was the closest to my actual birth time and, therefore, HE won the pool of money. With this money, he bought me a baby-sized bracelet with my name engraved on it and wrote me (my mom) a beautiful letter welcoming me into the world. I’ve seen him since and reminded him of this story, which neither of us really remember. 

The "Phantot of the Opera".
The “Phantot of the Opera”.

As Phantom gained popularity, it started opening in various cities and countries around the world. My mom was fortunate to have been given the opportunity to put together and maintain many of the European productions, one of which was in Hamburg, Germany. The production there ran for 10 years and she would often take me with her when she went for auditions, rehearsals or to check in on the production. Many of my favorite memories are from various visits to the Neue Flora theater in Hamburg. Among these are taking my first steps in Hal Prince’s hotel room at the Four Seasons, and (much later) singing in German with the offstage singers during the show.

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The first memory needs no more explanation than I was in Hal’s hotel room, I walked and everyone was excited. Here’s more on the second: I often found it more exciting to hang out with the performers during the show rather than staying with my mother who was purely business when at work. There was a canteen at the Neue Flora which was open throughout the show and served food, drinks, candy, etc. I often planted myself there, waiting for the actors to come in and spend time with me. On one occasion, they were leaving the canteen to do the offstage singing in the second act of the show. I somehow convinced them that I knew the German lyrics and could sing it with them. Much to my mother’s chagrin, they brought me along and I sang the words loud and clear. I was no longer allowed to leave the canteen during the performances after that.

In the Christine Wig and Crown.
In the Christine Wig and Crown.

I’ve never thought of myself as a particularly mischievous child but in hindsight, it seems I caused my mom a bit of trouble now and then. One thing she LOVED was when I walked around giving actors notes on their performance. I’m told I went up to a Raoul following the show and told him he did a great job but his voice was a bit too dark for the role. I’d like to see how my mom dug herself out of that hole. Evidently, this is one of many inappropriate notes I gave to actors throughout my childhood. I’m hoping that with age I’ve gained at least a bit of diplomacy when speaking with actors.

"Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up."
“Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.”

At a certain point, I think around age 4, I became very frightened of the Phantom and was unable to watch the show. When the touring production went to Cleveland, my mom’s family went to see the show and brought me along with them. As soon as it started, I began to cry and insisted that I couldn’t watch. My aunt took me into the theater lobby where I performed the duration of the show for the ushers. 

In addition to working on Phantom, my mom worked on various other shows including Sunset Boulevard. As I mentioned in a previous post, she would often take me out of school to go on business trips with her. This time, she took me with her when they were rehearsing and opening the Sunset Boulevard tour. The production was still in previews and on one particular night, they were having to start and stop the show many times due to technical difficulties. On the third or fourth time stopping, the production stage manager went to make an announcement to the audience, grabbed my hand and pulled me up on stage. I stood there sheepishly in shorts and Birkenstocks (with socks) while he said “you can’t be mad at me when I have this cute little girl next to me, but we are going to have to stop the show once again. We will resume shortly”. 

Peter Lawrence and I trying to calm the audience.
Peter Lawrence and I trying to calm the audience.

One evening, my mom and I had settled in for a night of take-out and movies. We were lying on the couch in our PJs relaxing when at around 7:55 she got a call from the stage manager at Phantom. They didn’t have a conductor for the 8:00 performance and needed her to come conduct as fast as possible. We hopped in a cab and rode down 9th avenue. We lived at Columbus Circle and what should have been a 5-10 minute cab ride at most took forever due to unexpected traffic. We got out a few blocks from the theater and started running. I sat in the front house left box in my pajamas and watched my mom conduct the show that night.

Another day watching rehearsal.
Another day watching rehearsal.

When I tell people that I grew up in the theater, it’s hard to express how much it truly runs in my veins. I’d say this is partly by choice and partly due to my upbringing. I tried for years to extract myself from the world of musical theater but felt a constant pull to return. The swell of the music, the excitement backstage, the corny/cliché/magical drama of it all, it’s intoxicating to me.

STEPHEN SONDHEIM HATES ME

OK I’m exaggerating, he wouldn’t know me if I walked right into him, which I did once. But one particular summer I managed to inadvertently agitate him continuously on a few different occasions.

In the summer of 2003, my mom traveled to Chicago to work on a new musical called Bounce (which has since been re-named, Road Show). It was the world premiere of the musical which was written by Stephen Sondheim and directed by Hal Prince.

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Can we just soak up these pictures for a minute though?

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I was between years of high school with little to do in New York City since I wasn’t a summer-camp-going kid, so I ended up spending a month with my mom in Chicago. As I was a bit too young to explore the city on my own, I spent most days sitting with her in rehearsals and watching the performances in the evening. 

The first occasion when I managed to get in the way of one of the greatest composers of all time began with me riding up in the elevator of the theater to go into the house to watch the show. As the doors opened, I was looking down and didn’t see that He was standing in front of me trying to enter the elevator. I walked right into him nearly knocking him over and was too shocked to vocalize anything resembling an apology. I’m pretty sure I heard him mumble a few obscenities under his breath but I could have made that up in my mind as I tend to be pretty sensitive. This was the least horrible of the three events. 

On another occasion, I was sitting in one of the first few rows of the house watching a rehearsal. Most of the creative team was scattered in various seats around the theater behind me. While I was watching, I noticed that one of the conductor monitors behind me wasn’t on and I looked to the other side of the mezzanine to see if that monitor was turned on. I suppose I wasn’t aware that I was being disruptive to the people seated behind me. I quickly learned that I was when I heard Sondheim’s voice loudly lamenting to his colleague “who is that girl and why does she keep moving around? She’s distracting me!” I did my best to stay very still from then on whenever I was in his holiness’s presence.

The final event that really solidified his dislike for me was during one of the evening performances at the Goodman. I got too distracted in my mom’s dressing room to get to the house before the first act started. I decided I would go up at intermission and find an open seat to watch the second act. I went into the theater and found a seat in the last row and sat down. Just as the second act started, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a man behind me standing against the wall. He spoke with an usher briefly and continued to stand. I didn’t realize until the lights came up at the end of the show that it was Sondheim. I later found out that I had taken his seat, leaving him with no choice but to stand for the duration of the second act. Why he didn’t use his royal status to get me to move, I’m not sure. That is truthfully how it went down… at least in my memory of it. 

I really like to say that Sondheim hates me ’cause, as they say, it’s better than indifference. The truth is, he has no idea that I exist. For him, I am a blip on the screen that is his fabulous life. For me, he’ll always be one of the greatest lyricists/composers of all time. Nearly 15 years later, I still like to bask in the glory of our less-than-desirable interactions. 

“Any moment, big or small,
Is a moment, after all.
Seize the moment, skies may fall
Any moment.”

THE WORST KINDS OF PEOPLE YOU’LL FIND IN NEW YORK

If you’ve been sickened by how positive and upbeat my recent blog posts have been, here’s a good downer for ya. Here are (some) of the worst kinds of people you’ll come across in NYC in no particular order:

1) The ones that are rude to waiters, taxi drivers, Uber drivers, or anyone in the service industry. Who raised these people? Where did they learn that one human is less valuable than another?

2) The people who accost you on the sidewalk for a good cause. This is a rough one. I understand that these people have good intentions and are truly trying to do something to save the world. However, when I see them on the street waiting to attack me when I walk by, it actually makes me feel less inclined to give money. I’m not a bad person and I do care about saving the planet, but hounding me on the street isn’t going to convince me to give you money.

3) People who think you’re standing next to the subway door politely when it opens just for fun. You know those people who decide they are going to stand in front of the subway door and push their way on without letting anyone off? Meanwhile, you are standing politely by the side of the door waiting your turn. Again, who raised these people? What makes them think they are more entitled to a seat or a certain spot on the train than anyone else?

4) People who say they’re from New York City when they are from the ‘burbs or even better, another state. I’m not trying to be a snooty New Yorker though sometimes I accidentally am. Here’s the thing, I’ve actually had the following conversation:

Me: Where are you from?

Non-New Yorker: New York, you?

Me: New York! Where in New York are you from?

Non-New Yorker: Well I’m actually from Connecticut but I say I’m from New York because it’s easier OR I say I’m from New York because some people don’t know Connecticut.

People haven’t heard of the state called Connecticut? Wasn’t it one of the first states to join the union? Is this a real argument? I’m not saying you can’t decide you want to call yourself a New Yorker. Sometimes I’d like to call myself a Mainer. But if someone asks you where you’re from, isn’t it kind of good to actually say like…where you’re from?

5) Those people who think you are personally attacking them if you inadvertently touch them. On one occasion I was standing on a very crowded subway and unknowingly hit a woman’s foot with my foot. I hadn’t noticed that I had done it until she started talking to her friend loudly about how rude I was and that I hadn’t even apologized. Even after I told her I was sorry she continued to talk about me and how entitled I was. I understand how annoying it is when people go through the world completely unaware of their surroundings, but in this situation, that really wasn’t the case. I swear!

6) Those people who can’t stop talking about how awful New York is. They go on and on about how it’s dirty, there are rats and cockroaches, the subways are terrible, there’s so much crime, etc.  OK yes, a lot of that is true but 1) why are you here if you hate it and 2) are you accurately comparing what it would be like to live in other areas of the country/world? Would you rather live in Arizona with the scorpions? Or in the Carolinas with the Snakes and Spiders? My cousin lived in South Carolina and found a snake in her mailbox and woke up with a tarantula on her face. Is that really what you would prefer? Suit yourself. Also, New York hasn’t been rated in the top 10 most dangerous states in at least four years (I know ’cause I used the interwebs to look it up) so let’s just calm down.

PS. I’m not saying you have to love New York. It’s not for everyone. But what’s the point of complaining about it endlessly? Right?

7) People who really don’t feel like doing their jobs. Have you ever been in a store trying to pay for something and the cashier acts like you are inconveniencing them SO much by your sheer presence? Like the fact that she/he has to stop their conversation to do their job is such a nuisance? As I said in statement #1, being rude to people in the service industry is not OK, but these types of humans really grind my gears.

8) Bad parenting in public (and in private). If I had a penny for every time I’ve seen a parent scream at/hit their child because the child is yelling or crying, I’d be rich. I think these are the parents that raise the people who grow up to be #1 and #3. In what universe do you think that yelling at your child for yelling is a productive way of teaching them a lesson?

9) People who take up the entire sidewalk. Why do they think it’s OK to walk in a line right next to each other? Do they think there aren’t other people who need to get somewhere? This is when I turn into that stereotypical New Yorker who angrily tells people to move out of the way. Just kidding, I don’t generally say this out loud, only in my head.

10) Gropers/cat-callers/inappropriate people. Need I say more?

“I LOVE THE GRIME ALL THE TIME…”

It’s a humid day in NYC. It’s gone between sunny, rainy and cloudy (my childhood cats were named rainy and cloudy…I think I was in a bit of a depression when naming them) and yet it’s been a glorious day. I think something that I dislike most about living in the city is the schlepping. On any given day I’ll go between my house, work, an exercise class, multiple auditions and my boyfriend’s house. This requires me to carry more bags than I’d wish to carry, inevitably making me into a bag lady of sorts. This morning I walked to my office and various auditions, down and up and down again along 8th avenue. Each time carrying, at least, three bags while attempting to keep my cool.

 
As I walk in one of the busiest neighborhoods of this city dripping sweat, there are so many classic New York scenes in every visible direction. A man stands on the corner trying to sell me an umbrella, a biker nearly runs me over trying to deliver someone’s lunch (and I do NOT curse at him), tourists block the intersection looking at their cellphones and directions. It all reminds me of the stories my mom told me of her dreams of moving to New York and hustling to make a life here. Her dream was of course a romanticized version of what it is actually like, but it’s also not. It’s exactly as beautiful and grimey and amazing as she imagined it would be.

One of my favorite sights becomes increasingly visible as I near the block where the majority of Broadway (and off Broadway and off off Broadway) auditions are held. I see actors/dancers/singers going to auditions. You can sometimes spot them from a mile away. I ride the elevator up with a young girl and her mom, the girl carrying a sparkly blue binder full of crisply printed music. She is clearly new to the audition scene. The more seasoned performers roam the halls with their binders full of faded copies of music they’ve sung for years. Some of them even have black rectangles of mic tape residue on their necks from the previous evening’s performance.

It starts to pour outside of our 16th-floor window and I’ll have to schlep all these bags back to my office with no hands left for an umbrella. But it’s fine because I’ve spent the morning being serenaded with broadway show tunes and after all, I live in one of the greatest cities in the world.


  

“Once I hated this city
Now it can’t get me down
Slushy, humid and gritty
What a pretty town

What thought I could be duller
More depressing, less gay
Now my favorite color
Is gray

A wall of rain as it turns to sleet
The lack of sun on a one-way street
I love the grime all the time
And what more do I need?

My window pane has a lovely view
An inch of sky and a fly or two
Why I can see half a tree
And what more do I need?

The dusk is thick and it’s galling
It simply can’t be excused
In winter even the falling snow looks
Used

My window pane may not give much light
But I see you, so the view is bright
If I can love you, I’ll pay the dirt no heed
With your love what more do I need?

Someone shouting for quiet
Someone starting a brawl
Down the block there’s a riot
And I’ll buy it all

Listen now, I’m ecstatic
Hold me close and be still
Hear the lovely pneumatic
Drill

A subway train thunders through the Bronx
A taxi horn on the corner honks
But I adore every roar
And what more do I need?

I hear a crane making street repairs
A two ton child running wild upstairs
Steam pipes bang, sirens clang
And what more do I need?

The neighbors yell in the summer
The landlord yells in the fall
So loud I can’t hear the plumber
Pound the wall

An aeroplane roars across the bay
But I can hear you as clear as day
You said you loved me
Above the sound and speed
With your love what more do I need?”

“What More Do I Need”- Stephen Sondheim

A CAREER PATH I ONCE TOOK/ TWO ROADS DIVERGED

Over the years, I have known that I wanted to have a career in the theatre, but I was uncertain as to exactly what that career would be. I have had many incredible opportunities; I was an intern to a Stage Manager on the Broadway revival of Gypsy with Patti Lupone and an intern on the Broadway production of The Phantom of the Opera. I briefly attempted singing and acting as an ensemble member of a workshop for a new musical headed for Broadway. (“headed for” is important. It didn’t make it). I interned for a sound designer in San Diego at the Old Globe Theatre.  I was a dresser for a number of years. Now I have recently (and finally) found what seems to be my “home” in casting. If my pursuits seemed random, you might say that the constant thread is the fact that I steadily pursued jobs in the theater (except that one time when I tried being a vegan chef).

My longest experience in one career path was as a dresser. It was also one of the most fun. I started one summer between my junior and senior year of college. Let me back up a bit in case you don’t know the specifics of what a dresser in the theatre does. Generally, a dresser is assigned to one or more actors whom they dress every night. They are responsible for pre-setting all of the costumes that the actors will need throughout the show, making sure that the costumes are in good shape (no rips, buttons falling off, etc), making sure the actor is comfortable and ready to perform, and assisting with any mid-show costume changes. My first job was as a swing dresser for The Phantom of the Opera. A swing learns many different wardrobe “tracks” in the event that a permanent dresser is sick or goes on vacation. As a dresser you need to a) stay out of the way of moving sets and fast moving people, and b) try to make everything as seamless for the actors as possible. This can be particularly challenging if you are doing a different track every night. I worked at Phantom for the duration of that summer, learning 9 out of 16 tracks in the show.

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Some of the Phantom wig and wardrobe girlies
The lovely Sarah Bakker on the night of her first performance as Christine
The lovely Sarah Bakker on the night of her first performance as Christine
The Raoul boys
The Raoul boys

 After college, I returned to the city and went back to dressing. I continued to dress at Phantom and also began subbing in wardrobe at Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark, two completely different experiences. Going between those two shows was a trip. One night I might be helping someone get into a giant dress with a corset and a big bustle and the next I’d be zipping someone into a skin-tight spider suit.

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After Spiderman closed, I was asked to work on the revival of Cabaret as a full-time dresser. This was my first time not only having my own track, but creating it from scratch. I dressed the character Fraulein Kost throughout the entire show, helping other dressers with quick changes at various points as well. My time at Studio 54 was truly incredible. Watching Alan Cumming return to the role that made him famous was an experience I’ll never forget, not to mention making lifelong friends with such an amazing group of coworkers.

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Dressers hard at work
At Tony rehearsal

One of the things I love most about being a dresser are the fun traditions you create. Because the job requires you to do to the exact same sequence of events every night at the same time with the same people, you start to develop jokes and rituals with different people backstage. Every night after the call for places, Alan would come down the stairs in his Emcee costume and do pull ups on the stairs in front of us. When he walked by he would say the same phrase to the actors as he passed them, wishing them good luck. In the first act as one actor ran by to enter his scene, he would do a different kind of dance, entertaining those of us who were waiting for our next cue. At the end of the first act, when the actor that I dressed left her scene from one side of the stage and walked to enter at another side, she would get high fives from everyone she met on her path to her next entrance. On her final night, we arranged to have a huge line of people waiting to high five her. She wasn’t able to make it through that scene with dry eyes.

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One of my favorite traditions was during act two with my friend and floormate Danny who played Herr Schultz. Every night we (he) would come up with a joke of some sort and we would greet our other floormates Aaron (Ernst Ludwig) and Gayle/Hani (Fraulein Kost) as they exited the stage. Our jokes would range from full on skits to just wearing signs on our clothes. Any pieces of paper required for these jokes were later taped onto one of the dressing room doors on our floor. It turned into quite a work of art.

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I always say they should sell tickets to be backstage during a show instead of in front of the stage because that’s really where the magic happens. Dressers are just one group of so many incredible people that are crucial in making the experience of going to the theatre magical.

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GETTING ZEN IN NYC

I never particularly liked yoga growing up. I tried to like it because it seemed like a great way to relax, stretch, and exercise, but I just couldn’t get into it. Thoughts would race through my head while I was trying to be “zen” and I would become increasingly bored and anxious as the class slowly passed one ujjayi breath at a time.

One day while perusing the racks of overpriced clothes at Lululemon (clothes which I pined over), I saw a poster up about their monthly free yoga classes. This month was being hosted at Laughing Lotus. Regardless of the fact that the class was at 6:30am, I decided to go. It was summer and I worked nights so I had all day to rest. This place completely changed my view of yoga. The walls are covered in pink graffiti and murals of Ganesha and lotus flowers, the floors are covered in glitter (but not the kind that gets all over you), and they play loud bumping music while you sweat it out on the mat. This probably goes against the whole purpose of the practice of yoga, but this was my foray into loving it.

Image from Wellandgood.com
Image from Wellandgood.com

After this experience I was able to start understanding and appreciating the slower, quieter, more introspective practices of yoga. Here are a few of my other favorite studios around the city.

Upper West Side

Image from yelp.com

New York Loves Yoga– 140 W. 83rd Street                                     http://www.nylovesyoga.com/

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UWS Yoga and Wellness– 75B W. 85th Street                                http://www.uwsyoga.com/

Lower Manhattan

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Yoga Vida NYC-99 University Place/ 666 Broadway                     http://yogavida.com/

Image from giltcity.com
Image from giltcity.com

Y7 Studio– 430 Broome Street                                                        http://www.y7-studio.com/

Image from ishtayoga.com
Image from ishtayoga.com

Ishta Yoga– 56 E. 11th Street                                                           http://www.ishtayoga.com/

Image from Skytingyoga.com
Image from Skytingyoga.com

Sky Ting Yoga– 55 Chrystie Street                                                  http://www.skytingyoga.com/

Brooklyn

Image from areayogabrooklyn.com
Image from areayogabrooklyn.com

Area Yoga– 144 Montague Street                                                    http://www.areayogabrooklyn.com/

Where are your favorite places to zen out in NYC? Let me know!

 

 

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SECRET PIZZA AND A WEEKEND IN PHOTOS

In a city that is notorious for it’s Pizza, I think I’ve finally found my very favorite slice in town. Though popular among born and bred Brooklynites and authentic Italians (at least that’s what my two very Italian friends tell me), I think this place is fairly unknown. L&B Spumoni Gardens is quite a trek but it is SO worth it. There are two ways to get there a) drive, though parking can be tricky or b) take the subway (N to 86th street or D to 25th Ave).

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There is often quite a wait and you won’t have much luck sweet-talking the old school grumpy Italian hostess, but your patience will pay off. I’ve only been here twice so my suggestions are limited but I would suggest getting the Caprese salad which is a fresh and healthy start to what is sure to be a not-so-healthy meal. The rice balls look amazing. I didn’t have them as they aren’t vegetarian, but I did have the melted cheese and marinara sauce which comes on top of them and it was delicious. We got a carafe of the house red which is decent enough when you’re paying a pittance though I would just as soon get an ice cold Peroni to pair with my carbs. The obvious must-have is the Sicilian Pizza. This pizza… I “can’t even”. I mean I “literally can’t”. It feels like you’re biting into a cloud of dough. The marinara sauce has a delicious sweetness to it and there is the perfect ratio of sauce to cheese. If you are lucky enough to get a corner slice, you’ll really be in heaven. I’ve committed a Spumoni crime twice now in that I’ve never actually ordered any Spumoni. I am usually too full at that point and I tend to be more of a savory gal so you know where my priorities lie. I’ve heard the Spumoni is pretty darn good though.

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As a side note, if you happen to drive to L&B Spumoni Garden in the month of December, you should also drive by Dyker Heights to see the famous Christmas Lights. They are over-the-top but beautiful.

We spent our Saturday evening at Spumoni Gardens in an effort to carb load for Roman’s half-marathon on Sunday. It seemed to have been a successful mission because he ran a great race. After not having run farther than four miles in months, Roman ran the half marathon on Sunday under two hours. I got to cheer him on in Times Square and then meet him at the finish. After his race, we went for Brunch at one of my favorites, The Smile. I had a quinoa, lentil, egg concoction which was great and he had lox and lemon caper cream cheese on a Black Seed Bagel. I’m not a lox person but I tasted his food and it was SO good.

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Post-brunch, Roman and I walked around the village to different antique stores looking for furniture for our new apartment which we are moving into in the next few weeks. We found a million things we wanted and yet nothing we could afford. We also found some great mural walls to pose in front of.

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After walking around for a bit, I went downtown to the Glossier pop-up shop. If you don’t know Glossier, you should. I don’t mind ordering it online but going to the pop-up is so fun, I can’t resist. It smells like roses (due to the Soothing Face mist which contains Rosewater) and is a pink wonderland. I spent way too much money on various new products I wanted to try but so far it’s worth it because I’m loving everything. If you want to try out some of their products you can get 20% off with this Link.

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After a pretty good nap, Roman and I went to dinner at a friend’s place in Brooklyn. It was a fabulous night of wine, tuna steak (my first time having it, it was great!) and a very addicting game called Spyfall. 

Overall it was a perfect weekend. How was yours? Let me know!