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Showing posts from July, 2011

Theaters of War: Staging Shakespeare in the Park Avenue Armory

For its current six-week residency, the Royal Shakespeare Company has moved into the Park Avenue Armory in an impressive strategic fashion. Befitting a crack regiment, in preparation for its artistic takeover of New York City the company sent an advance facsimile kit of its own Stratford-on-Avon stage to be assembled within the vast armory. A bold gesture, the wholesale recreation of the English theater within the New York armory nevertheless proved a practical measure, as the actors and stage crew did not have to bother with learning new blocking and tech cues on an unfamiliar stage. Smart move indeed.



The Park Avenue Armory seems an appropriate place for the RSC to stage their advance on New York soil. After all, the theater and the military often share the same vocabulary. A geographical place for military operations is often called "the theater," as in the World War II references to the Pacific Theater and the European theater of operations. Much like a director, general…

The Place Where Joe Papp Lived

People commonly refer to the Public Theater on Lafayette as "the house that Papp built," referring to its legendary founder Joseph Papp (1921-1991), but let's now consider a place where Papp lived, a handsome modern apartment building in Greenwich Village at 40 E. 9th Street.

Known as The Sheridan, the 13-story structure between Broadway and University Place, built in 1950, features deep large terraces and a spacious private landscaped garden. The Historic Landmarks Preservation Center has marked Papp's residence here with one of their oval red cultural medallions, noting his importance as the "dynamic founder and impresario of the New York Shakespeare Festival/Public Theater." He lived in the building from 1973 until 1991, the year of his death.



According to Helen Epstein's biography, Joe Papp: An American Life, the 52-year-old director, his long-time assistant and future wife Gail Merrifield, and his second son, Tony, moved to the apartment on E. 9th…

The Cherub Gate, Trinity Place

The steadfast neo-Gothic Trinity Church at Broadway and Wall Street, designed by Richard Upjohn and consecrated in 1846, remains one of the most visited landmarks in lower Manhattan. Visitors to the dark canyon of Wall Street can't miss it, as its rising brownstone silhouette defines the view to the west, a conversation between finance and spirit. In the summer months, downtown office workers and tourists enjoy the cooling shade of the celebrated Trinity Churchyard (below).


Beyond the churchyard on the western side of the property, a bridge leads over the street to 74 Trinity Place, the church's office building, while a stone stairwell leads down to the street level of Trinity Place, the southern extension of Church Street. Here, the strong brick walls are marked by an arched gate. Above the arch, a cherub head looks out over the street.



The nearby marker for The Cherub Gate reads as follows:

"The cherub above is a gift to Trinity Church from the Church of St. Mary-le-Bow…

Strolling Notes from Recent Walks in Greenwich Village

• Residents of the Village don't have to travel far to get their outdoor music fix this summer. The Washington Square Music Festival is at its half-way point with a variety of offerings on Tuesday evenings at 8 p.m. in the park. The concert on July 26 - "Music Making By the Masters" - will be performed by the Festival Chamber Ensemble and will feature clarinetist Stanley Drucker performing W.A. Mozart's Quintet for clarinet and strings in A major, K.581; Astor Piazzolla: Four for Tango; and Anton Arensky: String Quartet op. 35 in a minor. For the final concert on August 2, the Charles Mingus Orchestra will play jazz. I certainly hope so. Don't miss this chance to listen to music in one of the city's most romantic parks. The concerts are free. See the festival website for more information.


The View from Hell's Kitchen

A weekend visit to the Hell's Kitchen Flea Market on West 39th Street between 9th and 10th Avenues often turns up a lot of great finds, but surely the unusual view of the city from this block and adjacent streets must be counted as one of the best side benefits to market shopping.


To the immediate northwest, the tall and sleek modern residential high-rises near the Hudson River symbolize the transformation of this once rough-and-tumble west side neighborhood into what the AIA Guide to New York City describes as "a new frontier for desperate affluent luxury invaders." To the northeast, the eclectic Midtown West/Times Square skyline rises above tenement buildings, a mix of the old and new city. From this angle in Hell's Kitchen, the steel-rod curtain of the Times Tower on Eighth Avenue, designed by Renzo Piano and built in 2007, seems the most dominant, though a magnificent older skyscraper on 42nd Street, Raymond Hood's blue-green McGraw Hill Building (original na…

A Walk for Tea: From SoHo to Chinatown

Tea drinking in New York, as with the rest of the country, is experiencing a surge, though not quite at the caffeinated levels of coffee's popularity. Local spots to drink tea have always been around, associated with cultures and customs as varied as Chinatown's tea parlors or favorite places for a traditional English afternoon tea. Yet, more tea spots and businesses have opened in the city over the past few years to meet this growing demand for all things Camellia sinensis. Even at home, while I am inclined to reach for the coffee pot first thing in the morning, more guests are now politely requesting a tea. A focus on the health benefits of tea is an important reason for the new popularity. Many consumers have graduated beyond the black tea bag and are eager to expand their knowledge of speciality teas, especially the green teas from China.


A good way to broaden one's tea horizon in New York is to take a walk. While it's possible to locate tea shops, parlors, and re…

Judy Garland Sings Cole Porter's "I Happen to Like New York," and in the City, a Judy Garland Retrospective

(Revised, January 2013) The Cole Porter song "I Happen to Like New York," sung by Judy Garland from the 1963 television special Judy Garland and Her Guests Phil Silvers and Robert Goulet, is a proud, almost defiant New York anthem. A rejoinder to a typical general complaint about the city (as in "I don't like New York'), "I Happen to Like New York" delineates the singer's favorite aspects of the city - the city air, the sights and sounds, and Battery Park, among them, but the song is more about a general love for "this town," "this burg." I love the way Garland, a great actress as well as singer, takes a glance back at the curtain of the skyline before she starts singing. She looks like she's taking one more cue from the sight of the dramatic skyline to bolster her arguments.

The song was originally featured in a Prohibition era musical from 1930, The New Yorkers, with lyrics and music by Cole Porter and book by Herber…