August 17th, 2009


Fun stuff, August 3-9

I saw "Titanic" twice and read "A Night to Remember" so the Titanic exhibit in Times Square was a must-see. I reserved for Monday at 6, but needed to be at 50th Street at 7:30 to pick up tickets for the next event. I had no watch and no conception of the time, and ended up spending only 15-20 minutes at the exhibit since I was scared of being late. The exhibit recreated the ship's corridors and famous staircase, and had a lot of interesting artifacts.

I was so early I had time to take a long walk around the neighborhood, stop for a bagel, and do the entire Puzzability space series I'd printed out (backsolved the Reentry portion) while sitting at the outdoor tables by Worldwide Plaza. I asked the box office person if I could get the tickets early, and they handed over great seats in the second row. This event was the musical revue "For Lovers Only" at New World Stages on its closing night. I thought this might be depressing for two single women (L came along), but that was not a problem. I thought my mother would adore the older standards of the first half, but it got more contemporary later. The voices were a tad operatic for my taste, but the singers were certainly talented. Former cast members and creator/author Nancy Friday came out at the end. Musical director/pianist Ken Lundie seemed familiar but we could not place why (credits in the program didn't ring a bell).

Celebrity encounter: Before the show, I came out of the ladies' room to find L excitedly pointing out the actor who plays Irving Berlin in "Tin Pan Alley Rag" (which we'd both seen in different previews): Michael Therriault was waiting to get in to "The Toxic Avenger" in the same complex (this was his show's night off). I would have been too shy to say anything but L walked right over and said, "Irving!" We told him we enjoyed the show, and I mentioned we knew Brian Cimmet (of the Ryan & Brian blog) who is one of the pianists. While training for the role, Michael watched videos of Brian playing the same music he supposedly plays so his hand motions would be correct.

The following night I went to Mostly Mozart, mainly for the preconcert of my favorite Mendelssohn piano trio. This had open seating, so I plunked myself in the left side of the second row for a prime view of the piano, only to find that the violinist blocked my view once they started playing and it was too late to move. My real seat was much further back in row W. The conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin was young, energetic, and dressed in brown leather. Saturday I was back at Mostly Mozart, for the annual BBQ/concert evening with M and M.

I was back at the Castillo (where I'd seen a movie the previous week) Thursday for "Nothing Really Happens: Memories of Aging Strippers," a 2003 movie based on a Castillo play. The story examines the intertwined lives of a Holocaust survivor/Nobel prize-winning author, college professor studying burlesque, Bronx-born stripper in the twilight of her career, and reporter. The actors playing all these roles - Judith Malina, Mary Round, Madelyn Chapman and David Nackman - spoke afterward.

I realized I'd seen the now-83-year-old (and still articulate and spry) Malina in the '60s when her Living Theater company performed at Temple Beth-El in Great Neck. I can't remember the play (and can't find the program, though I probably still have it), but it was very weird with much moaning, groaning and screaming. We couldn't take it and called my friend's father to pick us up. When he arrived, we asked him what was going on, and he replied, "I believe Thebes is falling."

[info]jedusor was in town for work, so [info]elainetyger and I met her and her friend for dinner at a coffee shop near Times Square that Friday. They went on to see the Harry Potter movie, while I headed for "Next to Normal." Tony-winner Alice Ripley (who from my faraway seat resembled NPLer Helene) plays troubled suburban mom Diana, whose mental illness affects her family. I knew this was a musical, but no songs were listed in the Playbill, and it turned out to be a rock opera with many lines sung. I haven't heard the competition but didn't find this Tony-winning score very memorable, and like most rock it was often too LOUD.

Ending a busy week, I went to MoMA Sunday afternoon for "Little Children." Jackie Earle Haley's character disturbed and haunted me long afterward.


The fun continues, August 10-16

Actually, I did nothing August 10 but then headed into another busy week.

In the past I failed to obtain Virtual Line tickets to "Hair" and "Twelfth Night" in the park (I won "Hair" tickets one night it was pouring and got cancelled), so didn't feel optimistic when entering the lottery for the first performance of "The Bacchae." But soon after 1pm my e-mail contained a pleasant surprise - I won! People may not have been aware the new series was starting, or were deterred by the 40% chance of rain. Now I had to scramble to find a second person (though if I had to go alone, the spare ticket would be released to the standby line), and N took the other seat.

I was scared I wouldn't understand the play, but it wasn't bad and had neat special effects with fire and water. Greek drama is not really my thing ("Hair" would have been much better), but the whole theater-in-the-park experience is enjoyable. I hadn't been in the Delacorte since my sister and I got the last stand-by seats for a dance show in the '70s (and was also there to see "A Comedy of Errors" including Ted Danson and Danny DeVito in bit parts).

"The Bacchae"'s message could be interpreted as "Ick, drinking!" (Bacchus is evil), or maybe I should say, "Yay, drinking!" since if you mess with Bacchus he will harm you. Bacchus was a studly Jonathan Groff. Anthony Mackie (so good in "The Hurt Locker") was King Pentheus, and had a memorable drag scene. The large, gangly man next to me fidgeted constantly, draping himself over the railing (we were in the front row of a section) and at one point moving my purse strap away from him even though it was not in his space at all. It didn't rain.

The Jefferson Airplane was one of my favorite groups, and in the spirit of seeing people before it's too late I decided to go to the Heroes of Woodstock concert at the Nokia Theater where Jefferson Starship was on the bill. Although the ticket was "standing room" there was a large section of auditorium-style seats so I didn't have to mill around in a mosh pit. I was scared a concert with Woodstock in its name would be druggy despite NYC anti-smoking laws, and I did smell stuff but it wasn't constant so maybe there was some attempt at security. I really wish they'd enforce the laws. The other concert problem - LOUDNESS - was also there at times, but the noise-cancelling headphones adequately screened out excess buzz. I bought foam earplugs but could not get them in despite following the instructions; I'll have to try child-size or perhaps different models.

Country Joe McDonald emceed and began the show with "Gimme an F!" (hahaha) and later did the whole cheer. He had just a guitar and was really good, at comfortable volume. Big Brother and the Holding Company had Sophia Ramos as their Janis Joplin. She really worked it, but that raspy singing is not to my taste. Canned Heat did a smooth set and had more hits than I thought. Ten Years After were way loud. Their new frontman is good (and hot, as the people in back of me kept yelling); I always confused their big hit ("I'd Love to Change the World") with Led Zeppelin. The venue had a midnight curfew, and I was getting worried that everyone's long blues numbers were eating into the Jefferson Starship's time.

Country Joe did "For What It's Worth" (one of my faves) and the assembling Starship gradually joined him and they were ready to go. Paul Kantner was the only original present (sometimes Marty Balin joins them), but they also have David Freiberg from Quicksilver and their new female singer is good. They launched into "Somebody to Love," then one of my favorite more obscure songs "Other Side of This Life" and next "3/5 of a Mile in 10 Seconds." It was loud and I needed the headphones. It was really exciting to hear this group, even if it's not quite the original. There were a few more songs (including a long blues number), and they squeezed in "Volunteers" before midnight. The concert was available for free download to attendees and it sounds a little more ragged on re-hearing.

The next day I caught "The Inner Life of Martin Frost" at MoMA. This movie by author Paul Auster was barely released, and is an interesting semi-fantasy about writing and Muses. Then another concert: John Legend at Madison Square Garden. I wasn't sure he was big enough for the Garden but it was pretty darn full. I got a great seat on Stubhub (10th row, section 1, not cheap!), but in hindsight might have been better off farther away since it was punishingly LOUDDDDD. I still couldn't get the foam earplugs in, and the headphones only isolated the booming bassline and drums like guns in my ears. I'm still puzzled that people actually want this kind of volume. It was so distorted I sometimes didn't immediately recognize songs I knew. Sigh. Kanye West and Estelle guested (among others), but I didn't realize who they were until seeing the video later. They released balloons at the end; I caught one but decided not to shlep it home.

Other than the volume problem, Legend was really good, in great voice, smooth as silk and very sexy. The opening act was India.ARIE who crossword constructors thank regularly. I got there a few minutes after 8 and she had already started. I only knew one of her songs before, but she was good (except for the LOUD sound; sigh). She did this really cool thing with her hair (watch to the end). And on the plus side, I didn't smell any smoky substances.

It's Restaurant Week (month?) so N and I tried the special at db Bistro. I like going to upscale places I normally wouldn't try. The appetizer sounded like a quiche but was more a flatbread. I had a fish and couscous entree, and fruit and cheese plate for dessert. This was a lot of food and I couldn't finish (so you KNOW it was a lot of food, since I'm normally in the Clean Plate Club). I had time to kill before the next event, so walked to MoMA. I roamed all over the museum (including the crossword-friendly ARAD and ENSOR exhibits, and an interesting display of the possessions of a Chinese artist's mother) and sat in the sculpture garden a bit. Since I'm a member, I could do this any time. Hmmm, that's an idea. At 4pm they showed the movie "Frownland" which was strange, annoying, disturbing, about slackers with no apparent future. I'm not sure what to make of it, and several people walked out. Turns out M and D were also there. We went next door to the American Folk Art Museum (free on Fridays) which had beautiful kaleidoscope quilts.

I had written 6:30pm on my calendar for a movie screening, thinking it was "arrive 6:30, movie starts 7" so continued to dawdle, going to the ladies' room, stopping at Duane Reade to check their earplugs, and finally getting to the DGA theater for IFP's showing of "Inglourious Basterds" (what's with this spelling?). There was no line at the check-in table, and I was surprised to enter a packed theater. There are always seats in the balcony, and the movie soon started - it STARTED at 6:30. Oops. Good thing I got there just in time. The movie was very good, though violent, with just enough goofiness to offset the Nazis. Brad Pitt's character is a cornpone good ol' boy killer who manages not to be a parody.

"Mary Stuart" is closing, so I saw it on Saturday afternoon. I should have read up on English history (always a weak spot), but think I understood the plot. The acting was really good, or maybe it's just those British accents. Also closing were two plays I saw at the Theater Row complex Sunday: John Klemeyer's "Negatives" (which would have been a fine play if it just covered the family dynamics of 3 middle-aged siblings who recently lost their father - but it then takes a fascinating turn into the JFK assassination. LOVED it!) and "Sweet Storm" (maybe I was tired at the end of a long day, but while this story of 2 newlyweds in 1960 Florida had its touching moments, my mind wandered). In between the plays I saw "500 Days of Summer" which I liked a lot. I was surprised I got one of the last 6 seats in the theater, since it's been out a while.

Someone working at Theater Row recognized me and I realized it was D's girlfriend G. Small world! I had met her briefly at the tournament. They will be at Lollapuzzoola next week.

Entertainment doesn't have to bankrupt you

Some people wonder how I can afford so much entertainment on a meager freelance income. Though sometimes I have to bite the bullet and pay full price (*cough* Paul McCartney *cough*, worth every penny) I'm often able to get discounts through various means. Here's a summary of options:

Movie screenings:

MoMA  - sooo worth it

IFP (who had the recent "Inglourious Basterds" screening, in conjunction with the Producers' Guild). Members also screen and vote on the Indie Spirit Awards nominees in January/February

NATAS if you work in TV 

For the general public (so you have to get there at least an hour early to be sure to get in):

Film Metro
Curbside Booty

Check your Visa card. If it's a Signature, you can get 2 for 1 on movie tickets and occasional other offers

Best theater/event deals ($3.50-$4 per ticket, $85-99 yearly fee), must check listings regularly:

Audience Extras
Theater Extras

Pretty good theater/event discounts:

TDF, if you qualify under various categories. $30 annual fee, more Broadway and can reserve farther in advance than the Extras clubs. Vouchers for off-off-Broadway can be purchased by nonmembers.

OK theater/event discounts (membership is free), similar prices to TKTS booth but can reserve in advance:

Broadway Box
Theatermania (they also have a paid Gold club with better deals - I'm not a member)

Free stuff all in one place:

Club Freetime (I do the paid membership but it's easy enough to Google to find out where an event is)

Have fun!