Bucks County Trip

Yesterday I made a trip to Doylestown and New Hope in Bucks County. This was sort of a preliminary trip for an overnight trip I have planned for August 6 to August 7. I had nothing better to do this weekend so I decided to visit the James A. Michener Art Museum and the Mercer Museum to give myself more time for other things on my weekend getaway. But since it did not take that long to see both museums I had time to drive to New Hope too.

It takes three hours to drive from Williamsport to Doylestown. I used the Pennsylvania Turnpike and drove pass the Hickory Run Service Plaza, through the Lehigh Tunnel, and pass the Allentown Service Plaza to get off at the Quakertown exit, Exit 44. I had to pay a toll of $6.05. Although I had detailed directions on where to go once leaving the turnpike, I still relied on GPS to get to Doylestown. Things went very smoothly even though I encountered some tricky intersections.

I parked in the James A. Michener Art Museum’s parking lot and took some photos of both museum exteriors while waiting for the James A. Michener Art Museum to open at 10:00 a.m. Fortunately, I had timed my departure just right so I arrived at my destination only a few minutes early. The James A. Michener Art Museum is a fairly small museum. I think it only took me 45 minutes to see all the exhibits. I saw the Lenfest Exhibition of Pennsylvania Impressionism, the George Nakashima Reading Room, Daniel Garber’s “A Wooded Watershed”, and the James A. Michener: A Living Legacy exhibit.

James A. Michener Art Museum

James A. Michener Art Museum

At the museum store I bought The Ladies of the Corridor, a play by Dorothy Parker. Dorothy Parker used to own a farmhouse in Bucks County. I did not know that she ever wrote a play. I also bought a novel by James A. Michener, The Fires of Spring. I’ve never read any of his novels even though you see them at used book sales all the time.

I then walked over to the Mercer Museum which is just across the street from the James A. Michener Art Museum. This completed my tour of the Henry Chapman Mercer attractions since I saw Fonthill Castle and the Moravian Pottery and Tile Works on a bus trip in the Spring. I didn’t expect to like the Mercer Museum but it was more interesting than I expected. A collection of pre-industrial hand tools doesn’t sound very appealing but there were also old carriages, sleds,  a whaleboat, and a Conestoga wagon to see. All of these objects hang from the walls of the central courtyard of this immense concrete castle. After exploring the six floors of pre-industrial artifacts I walked through the special exhibit, Long May She Wave: A Graphic History of the American Flag, which included a lot of flag art and flag-related objects and artifacts.

Mercer Museum

Mercer Museum

The final establishment in Doylestown I visited was the Doylestown Bookshop, a large book store on Main Street. It was a short walk from the museums but the temperature that day reached a high of 97 degrees so even a short walk was a bit of an ordeal. I had trouble finding any interesting books at the Doylestown Bookshop but eventually I settled for New York City: A Cultural History since I am very interested in New York City’s many contributions to American culture.

I left Doylestown around Noon so I had plenty of time to drive to New Hope. I have been planning my overnight trip to New Hope for the past three weeks so I was thrilled with the prospect of a sneak preview. I wanted to take plenty of photos to complete my custom travel guide for New Hope. Although this tourist town is very popular, I still found it difficult to find decent photos of many establishments.

Driving to New Hope was more difficult than I expected since there were several turns where it was not obvious in which direction to go. Still, I managed to always make the correct decision and my GPS helped me to keep on track. I will need to do some more research on the roads for my overnight trip. Eventually I drove pass the place where I will be staying, a roadside hotel outside of town. There are many fancy bed and breakfast places in New Hope but most of them required a two night stay.

Finding a place to park in New Hope is a real challenge, but I managed to find a spot at the end of New Street near the American Legion on the Delaware Canal Towpath. This cost me $10.00 but there was plenty of room to park.

I walked along South Main Street and took lots of photos of various establishments which I knew about from my research. However, there were a few surprises since Google Street View is a little outdated and many of the tourist photos I’ve collected are old. I was quite thrilled to see the Bucks County Playhouse which was the major inspiration for my trip. This is the official State Theater of Pennsylvania. The play Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike by Christopher Durang is set in Bucks County and the playwright actually appeared in his play in a production at the Bucks County Playhouse. I wish I had seen that. I am going to see the play The Divine Sister by Charles Busch. I’m a bit familiar with the work of Charles Busch, a cross-dressing playwright, since I’ve read a few of his plays and bought many of his books. I suppose the theater is doing his play because New Hope PA has a lot of gay pride.

Bucks County Playhouse

Bucks County Playhouse

New Hope PA also seems to have many psychics and pagans. I saw at least three storefronts for Psychic Readings and there were two stores selling Wicca merchandise; Mystickal Tymes and Gypsy Heaven. I visited both of those stores. I was interested in buying some books but both stores had a poor selection. They were both selling mostly New Age books on Wicca. Now you might say that I take mysticism seriously and I can tell if someone else really knows anything about it by the kinds of books they would choose to read or sell. Neither of these stores offered anything of interest to me. But at the Gypsy Heaven  I did buy the book The Goddess and The Shaman by J. A. Kent Phd since I’m trying to finish my full length play on shamanism. I need to read a good book on shamanism to get a few ideas on how to expand my play and maybe replace some bad lines.

Gypsy Heaven

Gypsy Heaven

Although I planned to spend as much time in New Hope as possible it was brutally hot so it became impractical to remain outside for long. By 3:30 p.m. I was completely exhausted and feeling very poorly so I had to leave. But before that I managed to walk across the bridge over the Delaware River to explore Lambertville in New Jersey. I also visited Farley’s Bookshop where I bought the book Five Plays by Anton Chekhov. I really don’t need another book of his plays but this one was translated by a different person and I really need to familiarize myself with this plays. I am constantly coming across references to his plays. For example, Christopher Durang’s Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike is based on Chekhov’s plays, mostly The Seagull and Uncle Vanya. I had lunch at the Blue Tortilla Restaurant where I ordered a pink lemonade and Enciladas Verdes. After that I was finally out of cash so I had to go to the PNC Bank to use their ATM.

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Angel Falls Hike

Today I went hiking on the Loyalsock Trail in Sullivan County on a quest to find the Angel Falls. This was a very arduous journey. Just finding the trail was pretty difficult. First you go North on Route 87. I’m sort of familiar with Route 87 because you get on it when leaving Walmart in Montoursville. You drive north on Route 87 until you get to Ogdonia Road on your right. Unfortunately there are no landmarks on the way that will alert you when you are getting close to that road. All I can say is that it is pass Barbours but before Hillsgrove. I did take a photo of exactly where you turn off Route 87 for future reference. My GPS was annoyingly useless.

Ogdonia Road

Ogdonia Road

Ogdonia Road is a gravel road. Along the way you will see a big sign reading “Entering Loyalsock State Forest”. Eventually you will see a sign for Brunnerdale Road pointing to the left. The Loyalsock Trail parking area is just across a bridge on Brunnerdale Road, not far from the crossroads. There is room for maybe five cars and I only saw one truck already there.

Entering Loyalsock State Forest

Entering Loyalsock State Forest

Brunnerdale Road

Brunnerdale Road

Loyalsock Trail Parking Area

Loyalsock Trail Parking Area

The entrance to a portion of Loyalsock Trail was pretty obvious. It follows the creek Brunnerdale Run. You then follow Loyalsock Trail as it steeply climbs the mountain. Do not go off trail! I saw a red disk marker which read “LT Relocated” and wondered if I should try to follow the original trail. You definitely should not go off the trail. Eventually I found a tree with another red disk marker that read “Angel Falls”. This was my first sign that I was on the right track! At this point you stop following the Loyalsock Trail and look for a trail marked with round blue markers. This is the trail to the Angel Falls. Eventually you reach a trail sign reading “Camping Closed Beyond This Point” just before you arrive at the top of the falls.

LT Relocated

LT Relocated

Angel Falls Red Marker

Angel Falls Red Marker

There is no clearly marked trail down to the foot of the falls. At this point I had to go off trail although I did see some old trail signs, a blue circle with an X mark in the center. This appears to be an old trail that is no longer maintained. I scrambled down the hill to find a boulder strewn area besides the falls where there is a rope swing. I also went further down the creek, Falls Run, to see another waterfall, possibly Gipson Falls.

No Camping This Area

No Camping This Area

Angel Falls

Angel Falls

Gipson Falls

Gipson Falls

You definitely need hiking poles for this hike because there are many steep parts of the trail and climbing around the waterfalls is very difficult. You will also need waterproof hiking boots because I had to cross a few streams and parts of the trail were muddy and covered in water. I thought the hike was a bit of an ordeal and the Angel Falls isn’t a very safe place due to the lack of a good trail along the falls. I don’t recommend this hike unless you are feeling adventurous. On the other hand, this is a great hike if you want to go deep into the woods to see something pretty amazing.

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Tioga County Trip

I’ve been driving north to Tioga County so often that I’m no longer blogging about it. Usually I do the same thing on every trip. I go to Colton Point State Park and do some brief hiking to the lookouts for the vista views. Then I go to Leonard Harrison State Park and take some photos from its more lavish lookout. And finally I go to Wellsboro and buy a book at From My Shelf Books and maybe have lunch. On my last such trip I did discover another trail at Colton Point State Park, the Barbour Rock Trail, which is handicap accessible. That trail leads to yet another vista view.

However, on Saturday I found enough different things to do that it is worth a blog post. First I went on an Ole Covered Wagon Tour. I’ve heard about this but I did not know where the place was located. It happens to be very near Colton Point State Park off Route 6. I was able to make a reservation online. The summer classic tour is only $25.00. I arrived a half hour early and used their portable toilet located behind the Ole Covered Wagon Tour shack. That is worth mentioning because after a long drive or a two hour covered wagon ride you are going to need to go to the bathroom. There were a few bikers on the tour which wasn’t surprising because hordes of bikers can always be seen in Wellsboro. I think bikers just like the scenic drives in Pennsylvania. They really congregate in some of the tourist towns like Wellsboro, Jim Thorpe, and New Hope.

Ole Covered Wagon Tours

Ole Covered Wagon Tours

The covered wagon tour took two hours and went along the Pine Creek Rail Trail. That was the first time I’ve been down along Pine Creek. A few cars passed us on the trail and according to the tour guide this is allowed if you own a cabin on Pine Creek. We did see a deer which came down to the creek for a drink. The wagon stopped so we would have time to see the deer and take some photos. Everybody had to get off the wagon before it could turn around for the return trip. The tour guide had us pass around some photos from the lumbering era but I’ve seen many such photos before from my collection of local history books and travel guides. We also got to pass around some horse shoes and a nail.

After the tour was over, I drove back to Wellsboro and bought a book at From My Shelf Books. I bought Bodega Dreams by Ernesto Quinonez because it was on my New York City Amazon wish list. Then I went to Harland’s Family Style Restaurant for lunch. This place has escaped my attention because it is not located on Main Street. But I tend to drive pass it now that the From My Shelf Books store has moved. I ordered the Pine Creek Burger which came with fries. Service was a little slow but the restaurant was pretty nice, one of those old fashioned places that you can’t find anymore.

Harland's Family Style Restaurant

Harland’s Family Style Restaurant

After lunch I drove to Hills Creek State Park using my GPS device. This state park was a bit difficult to find and my GPS had me driving along rural gravel roads until I was completely lost. But I did manage to find the state park. Actually I only got lost on the way back.  Hills Creek State Park has a lake and a public beach but the hiking trails don’t seem particularly interesting. I parked at the Tauschers Trail trailhead and hiked through the pine plantations. I saw lots of cabins along the trail. Eventually I came out to the lake area and found the public beach. There was a refreshment stand where I bought an ice cream cone. There was a good sized crowd at the public beach and some people were having reunions at the pavilions.

Hills Creek State Park

Hills Creek State Park

Finally I drove to Mansfield and took some photos of establishments on Main Street. There are probably only ten establishments of any interest on Main Street. Mansfield is a really small town. Except for Mansfield University there is almost nothing there. I went into Red Rose Antiques Mall where I bought an used DVD of Warm Bodies. That was probably the first time I actually entered any establishment in Mansfield.

Red Rose Antiques

Red Rose Antiques

In conclusion, I did four new things on this trip to Tioga County:

  1. Ole Covered Wagon Tour
  2. Harland’s Family Style Restaurant
  3. Hills Creek State Park
  4. Mansfield antique mall

I like driving north to the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon because it is a very scenic drive and it is the closest tourist destination for me.

 

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Trip To NYC To See The Crucible

I saw another Broadway play yesterday, The Crucible by Arthur Miller. I’ve been seeing a lot of Off Broadway plays but for this trip I wanted to see something on Broadway, no matter what the cost. I didn’t particularly want to see The Crucible by Arthur Miller because I associate that play with boring English class material, but this production promised to be really creepy with horror film style special effects. This production of The Crucible is better than a trip through a haunted house!

Since the play did not begin until 2:00 p.m. I spent the morning in the vicinity of Union Square. There are several theater establishments in the Union Square area I wanted to find, even though I’ve explored the area before. I used my Metrocard to take the subway from the 49th Street station (outside Olive Garden in Times Square) downtown to the Union Square Station. I think I took an R train. One of the things I’ve finally figured out is that you don’t have to wait for a particular train. The N, Q, or R trains all take you to Union Square Station so just get on the first train that arrives regardless of its letter.

In the Union Square area I quickly located the Daryl Roth Theatre, the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute, Vineyard Theatre, and Irving Plaza. The Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute was my inspiration for spending part of my day in Union Square. I’ve been reading several books on acting in order to understand the actor’s place in the theater community. You could say that theater exists for the sake of actors and not for the sake of drama as a form of literature. However, that is a cynical viewpoint and I have been pleasantly surprised to learn that many theater actors are actually intent on being great artists. I find that very encouraging. The theater actor uses his imagination to become the character, so the world of the imagination is very important to the actor. I have a powerful imagination which I can use to give illusions the force of reality so I can understand this aspect of their craft. However, there is a significant difference in that my imagination is not well suited to creating characters or a story. But a story is just a narrative applied to random events in order to give life meaning. I can appreciate the longing for meaning in life and creating a story gives life its significance. You could argue that a fictional narrative is not the true story or the truth of life, but human beings are incapable of understanding the world in any other way. Our scientific understanding of the universe actually goes against human nature and causes depression if taken too far. And as far as character goes, I can appreciate the desire to reach beyond the surface of relationships to really connect with another person by revealing deeper emotions, the hidden life of the deeper self. I’m interested in depth psychology even if I’m not interested in character as an abstract concept in and of itself. So given that understanding I think I can relate to actors. In any event, the entire world is entranced with the performance of actors, especially movie stars, and it is worthwhile to figure out why that is. Why do we worship these people as our new gods? There is an answer to this question.

There are also many book stores in the Union Square area so my secondary mission was to do some shopping. At the Alabaster Bookshop, a very small book store, I bought Five Plays by Anton Chekhov, translated by Marina Brodskaya. I’ve read all of Chekhov’s plays a long time ago but he is one of the most influential playwrights, probably only second to Shakespeare. I’ve forgotten what some of his plays are about and this has made it difficult to understand some of the frequent references to his work found in much of theater discussion. For example, all of the books on acting I’m reading mention Chekhov and Stanislavski. I think I can justify re-reading these plays in different translations. I also went to the Barnes & Noble store at Union Square and located their Drama section on the fourth floor. They had a large selection so I was tempted to buy many books but eventually I settled on John by Annie Baker and Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike by Christopher Durang. Both of these plays are set in Pennsylvania.

Alabaster Bookshop

Alabaster Bookshop

I had a list of establishments to locate and I managed to find every single one; Forbidden Planet, Classic Stage Company, The New School, and Quad Cinema. Near the Quad Cinema I came across the 13th Street Repertory Company which wasn’t on my list but I took a photo of that too. I also walked all the way to Gramercy Park and took photos of the Players Club and the statue of Shakespearean actor Edwin Booth. This statue is located in the middle of the park which is not open to the public so I took the photo through the iron gate using my camera’s zoom.

Edwin Booth Statue

Edwin Booth Statue

After finding everything I came to see, I returned to the Union Square Station and rushed back uptown to be in the vicinity of Broadway in time to see The Crucible. I got on a Q train and had to get off at 42nd Street since its next stop would have been 57th Street, too far uptown from where I wanted to be. As it was, I had to walk uptown 6 blocks to reach 48th Street. After taking some photos of the Walter Kerr Theatre, I wandered around the neighborhood looking for someplace to eat after the show. I found the Sombreo Mexican Restaurant on 48th Street and made a mental note to try that place. But I actually went to a Starbucks at the Worldwide Plaza where I had a large, iced coffee and a yogurt.

Walter Kerr Theatre

Walter Kerr Theatre

I have written a separate theater review of The Crucible in my previous blog post. I thought it would be funny to review the play as if it were a serious attempt to practice the dark arts. So here I will only mention a few details of the experience worth noting. First, the line to get into the theater was surprisingly long even though I arrived a half hour early. There was somebody at the head of the line to check bags but he only shone his flashlight into the bag without really examining the contents. I had a shopping bag of books and my small Pacsafe shoulder bag which I use if I’m not wearing a jacket with pockets for my stuff. After finding my seat, I located the men’s room which was located on the left and up a flight of stairs. The show ran for three hours so I wanted to empty my bladder. However I must have been so dehydrated that I didn’t find it possible to urinate at all.

I had a front row seat so I got a good view of Saoirse Ronan, the star of the show. She appears in all the advertising for the show. But I did recognize two other actors. Ciarán Hinds who plays the Deputy Governor Danforth looked familiar to me. He has appeared in many films, but none that I’ve seen so that is a bit strange. Wait a minute, he was in the film The Woman in Black and I probably remember him from that. Thomas Jay Ryan played Thomas Putnam and I recognized him from Travels With My Aunt by the Keen Company.

After the play was over I went immediately to the Sombreo Mexican Restaurant on 48th Street where I had a drink and a three course meal from the Pre-Fixe Dinner menu; garden salad, Chicken Fajitas, and Chocolate Mousse. I had to assemble the fajitas myself but at least I got to make them the way I like them. This meal cost me $50.00 so it was not cheap and too expensive for Mexican food.

Sombreo Mexican Restaurant

Sombreo Mexican Restaurant

After dinner I walked all the way to Last Rites Gallery on West 38th Street, ten blocks downtown. This is the only art gallery in my custom travel guide and the only art gallery I wanted to visit. Last Rites Gallery specializes in gothic art and art that explores the darker side of our imagination. I saw the artwork of Henrik Uldalen, whose paintings remind me of the work of Francis Bacon, and paintings by Odd Nerdrum.

I then located the Baryshnikov Arts Center on West 37th Street. The Baryshnikov Arts Center is devoted to dance, one of the performing arts I pay little attention to. And finally I walked all the way back uptown to 56th Street and located Carnegie Hall to take some good photos of that.

This trip serves to keep my theater mania at a high pitch. I want to feel mania bordering on a dark obsession to fuel my playwriting ambitions. On the other hand, I want to manage this mania so it does not consume me. After all the theater can be a harsh bitch. The theater treats everybody like a beggar and rejects the vast majority of her suitors. I have to keep reminding myself that I am feeding theater to my ravenous vision and it is my vision which truly fuels my mania. My imagination is awesome and self-sustaining, inspiration feeding into itself,  but it does require an object. I wonder what theater artists would think if they knew what I was really doing?

 

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The Crucible: Dark Play Of The Occult

Yesterday I saw The Crucible at the Walter Kerr Theatre on Broadway. I was really shocked by what I saw for apparently Broadway has turned to the dark arts in its quest for box office success. I’ve never thought of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible as an occult masterpiece, but of course it is. The play is all about witches and their witchcraft. Broadway artists must now be practicing witchcraft too, for I saw many things occur during the course of this play which I cannot explain.

For example, after the intermission a wolf loped out onto the stage. A real live wolf loose in the theater! The wolf sniffed around the stage a bit and then stood stock still in the spotlight, looking out into the audience like it was an actor hitting his mark. My God, it was unnatural! You could not train a real wolf to do such a thing. It had to have been a devil dog. These Broadway sorcerers conjured up a devil dog in the shape of a wolf and set it loose on the stage. The fools! What if the devil dog had jumped off the stage and gone for our throats! You can’t control a wolf. Or can you? If you practice the black arts I suppose you can make a wolf do anything. You can even make it your actor!

Several of the young actresses in the play were clearly being possessed by spirits and in that state, strange things would occur onstage. For example, the writing in chalk on the blackboard would slowly transform into other words, words of power, and spectral moths appeared on the blackboard, like living chalk moths.

The play was set in a contemporary classroom and this too shows a certain craftiness for most people have been introduced to The Crucible in the classroom. This play is frequently taught in high school English classes. So setting the play in a contemporary classroom was clearly intended to invoke those memories, making the mind more susceptible to these dark workings.

I’m sure many people will make excuses for this Broadway play. They will claim it is merely entertainment, a work of the imagination. But you must take care in what you put out into the world. In the world of the imagination, a work of the imagination is very real. To the psyche, the soul, everything that occurs in the imagination has a symbolic meaning and is part of its reality. Disturbing images and weird occurrences are genuinely disturbing and weird to your unconscious. Your psyche does not have your reason to distinguish between illusion and reality. Practicing witchcraft in the theater summons dreadful things from the spirit world and makes them a living presence in our world. The theater is all about creating illusion on the stage, giving works of the imagination a physical presence in the world. It is a conjuring!

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How To Legitimately Piss And Moan About The Theater

I like to read articles on the Howl Round web site for its lively discussion of the theater and playwriting. I’ve noticed there are a lot of articles about gender politics and other social justice warrior concerns. I’m not going to argue against diversity in the theater since I think we need variety in the theater and promoting diversity will lead to a greater variety of plays. But lets talk about variety of content.

If you are a critic of the theater community, and feel that there is a crying need for a certain type of play to be seen, that certain voices be heard on the stage, then I would argue that it is your responsibility to step up to the plate and write the plays you want to see. Think about it! If you like great tragedies and you are bitching about how the theater does not do enough tragedies on contemporary issues, then write one. The theater cannot put on plays which don’t exist. The theater cannot do imaginary plays by imaginary playwrights. No, somebody actually has to write all these plays that you imagine are out there just crying to be put on the stage.

You might argue that you don’t have the time to write a play. So now you are not only complaining that the theater doesn’t produce plays which don’t exist, you are also complaining about not seeing plays which you don’t even think are worth your time to write! This is completely irrational and totally unfair to the theater community.

Now you may argue that you anticipate writing the plays you would like to see would be a waste of your time because you anticipate that every theater would reject them. That may be. But there are thousands of theater companies doing new plays and until you have submitted your hypothetical plays to all of them, you just don’t know. You aren’t being fair the broader theater community to just assume that they would reject the sort of plays you see a crying need for.  This is a form of arrogance, not pessimism.

Finally, you may argue that you are not a playwright. This is why theater companies and some corporations commission plays. Somebody sees a great need for a play to address an important topic for their community but they don’t feel qualified to write it themselves, so they commission an accomplished playwright to write the play. Obviously you probably can’t afford to commission a play from David Mamet on your serious topic. But there are plenty of under-employed playwrights who would probably accept a commission for as little as $500 or less. If you can’t even afford that, then invest your own time in writing the play. If you are not willing to invest any of your time in this great enterprise then it could not have been very important to you anyway. Sure your play may be rejected by every single theater that you submit it to, but now you can legitimately piss and moan about the types of plays the theater refuses to put on. You will have earned the right to be a complainer!

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Daphne’s Dive NYC Theater Trip

On Saturday I made yet another trip to New York City as part of my extensive exploration of the New York City theater community. However, the play I selected to see was partly based on the ticket price, a bargain at $25.00. Nevertheless it was a new play by a playwright who is on my radar.

I had a long list of relatively obscure establishments to locate. All I did was take a photo of the exteriors but just finding these places was an useful exercise. More preciously doing the research was useful and taking these photos only put me on the scene and reinforced their reality.

The first place I located was the Professional Performing Arts School, a high school for the performing arts much like the school featured in the film Fame. While researching this school I came across the New York City Department of Education Comprehensive Theater Examination and it was interesting to read their criteria for evaluating students.

Professional Performing Arts School

Professional Performing Arts School

Next I found The Actors’ Temple, a synagogue where actors worshiped which still retains a connection with the theater community. Sometimes this synagogue serves as a performance space so I might need to know where to find it some day. My research has gone beyond the obvious to delve into the really hidden places which most tourists would not be interested in.

The Actors Temple

The Actors Temple

My next goal was the Actors’ Equity Building on West 46th Street. I must have passed this building many times while crisscrossing Times Square but I never realized the actor’s union had an office in this building. There was a Sysco truck parked right in front of the entrance so I had to come back to this building later.

Another tiny theater I sought out was the Davenport Theatre on West 45th Street. This theater is operated by a producer, Ken Davenport, whose web site looks suspiciously like a multi-level marketing scam. However, he seems to be a legitimate Off Broadway producer and I’m sort of familiar with his work from the Your Broadway Genius newsletter I receive. So my research on this theater sort of connects the dots.

Davenport Theatre

Davenport Theatre

There was one major Broadway theater I’d never photographed because it is hidden away on West 41st Street, the Nederlander Theatre. After taking a photo of that theater I ventured into the Garment District where there are a few acting schools. I located the William Esper Studio and The Barrow Group. I don’t have much interest in acting but it would be useful to ponder how actors go about building a character. I also located 520 8th Avenue which happens to be where the Theatre Communications Group has its offices. There are also many performance spaces in that building.

Theatre Communications Group

Theatre Communications Group

After running all around Midtown taking photos I was very thirsty and began to think about finding a place to eat. I was planning on going to Obao on 9th Avenue again but as I walked along Shubert Alley it occurred to me to give Junior’s Restaurant a try. Junior’s Restaurant is right on Shubert Alley across from the theater posters. It occupies a prime Broadway location. The place was really packed but I only had to wait ten minutes for a table with a fine view of Shubert Alley. I ordered a grilled cheese sandwich with bacon and a coffee shake. This meal was nothing special but it was pretty good and only cost me $25.00. The portions where huge so I did not finish my sandwich or eat all my fries.

After lunch I went to the Drama Book Shop for my obligatory shopping spree. I checked out the Russian plays book shelf for a copy of Leonid Andreyev’s play He Who Gets Slapped. There is a great silent film of He Who Gets Slapped starring Lon Chaney. I found the entire film on YouTube and copied it to my smartphone to view on the long bus ride to New York City. This silent film really got to me and it inspired a great idea for yet another play. What I found moving about the story was the humiliation of the intellectual. The intellectual protagonist is humiliated and betrayed and winds up a melancholy clown in a circus where he suffers the slings and arrows of an outrageous fortune in the form of repeated slaps to the face. It is a brilliant metaphor for the degradation of the noble mind and soul. My idea was to update the story to make the intellectual a recent college graduate forced to work at a McDonald’s in a Ronald McDonald clown costume. This is very humiliating and it is precisely what is being done to the finest minds of the current generation. I think this play idea has a lot of potential and I spent most of my day in New York City in a state of excitement over the prospect of writing it. Unfortunately the Drama Book Shop had nothing by Leonid Andreyev so I bought three other books; Still by Jen Silverman, Funny, Strange, Provocative: Seven Plays from Clubbed ThumbNew Downtown Now (Young Jean Lee).

Now I had to carry a bag of books around with me for the rest of the day. I wandered up and down West 42nd Street because I’ve been reading a book Ghosts of 42nd Street by Anthony Bianco which describes in great detail the history of 42nd Street and how it was rehabilitated and redeveloped into what we find there today. I noticed that the American Airlines Theatre was still playing Long Day’s Journey Into Night which I saw on my previous trip. Eventually 2:00 p.m. rolled around and it was time to see a matinee at the Signature Theatre. The play I selected was Daphne’s Dive by the Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Quiara Alegría Hudes. Quiara Alegría Hudes was born and raised in Philadelphia and the play was set in Philadelphia so that provided an excellent reason to see this play. I visit Philadelphia almost as often as New York City and Quiara Alegría Hudes is one of the Philly associated playwrights whose work I follow.

For the first time, I had a seat which placed me below the level of the stage so I was looking up at the actors. I’ve never been seated below the stage before. Daphne’s Dive proved to be a serious and moving play set in a dive bar. Philadelphia has many dive bars. There were many references to Philadelphia in the play and I got a kick out of that. Fortunately nobody yelled out “Yo Philly!” in hometown pride. The stage set was very realistic. It really did look like a dive bar. The cast was very multiracial but predominantly Hispanic. I was very tired and I’m afraid my mind wandered as I occasionally spaced out, but most of the time the play held my attention and I focused on the drama. There was some lesbian hot and heavy action in the play which was slightly shocking and an improbable off stage self-immolation which seemed a little excessive.

After the show I passed the Playwrights Horizons theater which I took great interest in. I’ve recently submitted my new full length play to Playwrights Horizons after realizing they accept submissions. This is probably a very competitive market but my play is really audacious and makes extraordinary claims. I must confess that I’m a bit hesitant to even put it out there. It would be huge if Playwrights Horizons did choose to do my play and I’m sure it would cause a lot of controversy. My mind is ablaze with an unfathomable glory and if even a hint of that made it to the page and then the stage then I would be undone. To me this seems like a very real possibility and yet it would require an impossible level of technical achievement. It is all a question of communicating the ineffable.

Playwrights Horizons

Playwrights Horizons

The next goal of my trip was to visit the Paley Center for Media, one of the minor museums I never got around to. Some travel guides describe the Paley Center for Media as a museum with exhibits but I didn’t see anything like that. Instead I was only directed to the media library which had computers with widescreen monitors. You could call up any old television show episode you liked from the media library and it would play at your work station. Being a snob, I selected a television version of Hamlet starring Christopher Plummer as Hamlet and Robert Shaw as Claudius. This was the 1964 Hamlet at Elsinore. I didn’t care much for Christopher Plummer’s Hamlet but Robert Shaw was mesmerizing as Claudius. I was only able to watch an hour of this movie before closing time. Ordinarily I would not waste time watching a movie in New York City. Actually being in the city is better than just watching a movie set in the city. Travel is your chance to experience exotic locations instead of just fantasizing about them.

I still had two hours in the city so I wandered around the Theater District and Times Square taking photos with my new camera since it takes much better photos than my old digital camera. On the bus ride home the bus broke down after leaving the Lycoming Mall. Fortunately we were almost home so they just sent another bus to pick us up and it did not take very long to drive the remaining distance to the bus depot.

My mind was in an over-excited state all during this trip to New York City. My interest in the theater is approaching the level of mania. I’m wary of becoming too obsessed with theater because it is extremely difficult to get anywhere in that business. Putting too much energy into playwriting can only lead to disappointment and bitterness. But on the other hand I possess something tangible. My imagination is so very, very powerful. It defines my world and determines everything I do. I do not think it is like anyone else’s imagination. I suppose that seems vain but I’ve never found much evidence of overwhelming inspiration in other artists. I feel like I live in another world, an enchanted world which only shares a surface resemblance to the common world. Even the world of fantasy the entertainment industry derives all its power from is nothing compared to the enchantment I’ve known. Most significantly, nothing ever created is as profound as one’s own dreams. This should be a simple truth but I’ve never heard it said.

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Talent Discovery

I just finished reading the book Respect For Acting by Uta Hagen and watched a documentary on actress Charlotte Rampling, The Look. The book and the documentary remind me that actors can be serious artists and not just attention whores who want to stand in the spotlight. It is important to realize that. What a serious artist ultimately wants is nothing more than recognition. It is necessary for a playwright to find serious artists in the theater or there can be no recognition. You can be cynical and imagine that the theater only exists to aggrandize actors and make them into stars. The writer can only be an underpaid servant of such a superficial enterprise. Fortunately I think writers and actors have the same goal, to explore humanity. As serious artists they are peers.

Not everyone is a serious artist with a genuine interest in exploring humanity. There are writers who are writing just to be writing, with nothing really on their mind and no artistic aim whatsoever. Obviously serious theater artists don’t want to be bothered by such writers. Then there are actors who just want to achieve fame and fortune on the stage and screen. They care nothing about the intellectual and artistic aims of the plays and films they are doing. A movie star will often trample all over the screenwriter’s script to the extent that you have to become a director to retain any control over your vision.

So how does a serious artist gain recognition from other serious artists? Obviously nothing I write will ever come to the attention of actress Charlotte Rampling. It easy to evaluate the body of work of an established and highly successful theater artist. What you have to do is find the serious artists who have yet to become highly respected and successful because these people are still approachable. Theater companies expect writers to do this by reading their Artist Statement and evaluating their body of work. Unfortunately artist statements are often brief boilerplate pieces of writing that tell you nothing and by the time it is apparent that a theater company is comprised of serious artists, they will already be beyond your reach or swamped with submissions. Finding your true peers at a point in their career when they are approachable is actually a very difficult task.

It is equally difficult for a new theater company to find the playwrights who will make their fame. Established playwrights won’t want t0 waste their new work on a small theater without much of an audience. David Mamet is not going to submit his new play to a community theater or an amateur theater company. What a new theater company really wants to do is find an emerging playwright to nurture so they can be associated with the discovery of America’s next great playwright. The writer just wants to find a theater with serious artists who can grasp what he is trying to achieve and provide the necessary talent to bring his vision to life. An ambitious theater company doesn’t just want to do proven masterpieces of the stage. They want to get credit for discovering talent. They want to make a contribution. They want to give the world great new plays that they developed.

Unfortunately discovering talent, the serious artist waiting to be discovered by his peers, seems to be a haphazard process that depends on sheer luck. Theater companies don’t have clear, well-written artistic statements so you can tell where the artistic director has his head at. So the serious writer can find it very difficult to evaluate a theater. It is hard to say if an unproven theater company would appreciate your work or give you a shot. Meanwhile theaters get swamped with scripts that they don’t have time to read carefully so it is sheer luck if they come across what they are looking for.

Part of this problem could be solved by writing a detailed artistic statement. This would help other serious artists get some sense of what is important to you. Obviously not everybody has the time to write a well thought out essay and nobody has the time to read a lot of detailed artistic statements. But there is clearly an advantage if you are the rare bird who bothers to write an essay.

There are a few existing writings on the theater which describe an aesthetic you can reject or enthusiastically accept. It can be very revealing to read somebody’s thoughts on these texts. For example, The Dramatic Imagination: Reflections and Speculations on the Art of the Theatre by Robert Edmond Jones was much admired by Marian Seldes, a serious theater artist. Other theater artists dismiss the book for its purple prose and mysticism. This reveals an attitude which is against the pursuit of high ideals and too lofty aims. There is nothing wrong with rejecting the premise that theater should pursue a spiritual aim, something greater than life. Maybe you think theater should only hold up a mirror to life without aggrandizing any aspect of reality. I think a reaction to this book is very revealing and I would prefer to work with people sympathetic to Robert Edmond Jones’s vision.

 

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Belles, A Theater Review

Last night I saw the play Belles by Mark Dunn at the Community Theatre League. Mark Dunn is the Playwright-in-Residence at the Community Theatre League. This is a bit of a mystery to me since he does not appear to have any connection to the area or this theater. But I thought I should see at least one of his plays.

The stage set was very interesting with six areas marked off to represent six different locations. There was furniture in each area but no walls. This allowed for several distinct locations without requiring any set changes. Lighting was used to draw attention to different parts of the stage and actors would only appear in their part of the set as needed.

I was sitting in the front row on the same level as the stage so one of the actresses was right in front of me. It gave me the illusion of being in the play since I had the same perspective as a person in her personal space.

The play involves six sisters who never actually meet during the course of the play. All of their interaction occurs over the telephone. Ordinarily it would be a mistake to have the dramatic action occur through a telephone conversation. That is a rookie playwright mistake. But it works if both parties are actually present on stage. For some reason, all the phones were old cordless telephones instead of modern smartphones or cell phones. This may have been for historical accuracy or maybe it was specified in the script and can’t be changed.

Each sister had her own story and a part in a shared narrative. Although the play began as a comedy it did have its serious moments and even reached a tragic climax before returning to a comedic ending. I thought it was a well-written play and deserves to be better known than it appears to be. Unfortunately you can be a fairly successful and accomplished playwright without becoming rich or even enjoying modest literary fame. I think minor poets may enjoy greater literary fame than a minor playwright!

My own ambitions to become a playwright are going well. Getting my one act play Errant Souls produced at Shawnee Playhouse was a big step up. Now I have a full length play, The Shaman, ready to submit. I am reserving this play for a major competition since I am no longer interested in just getting a production anywhere. In other words, it is no longer necessary to simply establish my ability to get something done. Currently I am working on another full length play which represents another way to explore my major theme. I plan to have four plays on the same theme because it is difficult to decide upon the best approach. And I plan to expand Dawn Eclipsed, a play about how higher education prepares you for a world which does not exist and how you cannot live up to your full potential. Once all these plays are written I will concern myself with the problem of promoting myself. There is no reason to think about that until I have a body of work to promote. In the past, the negativity that pervades the playwriting community has discouraged me from even attempting to write anything. But now I see that I was putting the cart before the horse. You can’t become embittered about being neglected before you’ve even done the work! I have become more philosophical about the whole thing. The fact that playwriting won’t make you rich and famous means you should not get too upset if you aren’t any good at it.

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I’m A Travel Photographer With A Photo Credit

I take hundreds of photos on my trips and upload them to Flickr at https://www.flickr.com/photos/youtuber/. Currently I have 34,915 photos on Flickr. I often go to the trouble of giving my photos titles and tags. This has finally paid off because a few of my New York City photos have been published in a book, New York Non-Stop: A Photographic Album ISBN: 978-0789329400

New York Non-Stop A Photographic Album

New York Non-Stop A Photographic Album

The publisher found my photos on Flickr and sent me an email asking for permission to use them. In exchange, I got a copy of the book. That makes me a travel photographer with a photo credit! Six of my photos were used in the book on pages; 36, 102, 210, 216, 283, and 337. It is actually a very nice book and I would have bought a copy anyways because it has many photos that capture the essence of New York City.

This is not the only time a publisher has asked for permission to use one of my photos. I often take photos of obscure theaters and entertainment industry establishments which are of potential interest for news stories on celebrities. I also go out of my way to photograph establishments when I cannot find a decent photo of the place on the Internet. It irritates me when theaters don’t put photos of their building on the Internet. Theater is something that you have to be physically present for. You have to find your way to the theater and be on time to see a performance. Therefore it is really crucial that you know where to go and what to look for. There are many theaters in New York City which don’t have a building facade. They can be hidden behind massive billboards or located deep within a skyscraper. The only evidence of the theater will be lots of advertising on the street. The Gershwin Theater and the Circle in the Square Theatre in the Paramount Plaza building are easy to overlook and the famous Palace Theatre is completely hidden by massive billboards.

I have been using a point and shoot pocket camera, a Fujifilm FinePix JX400, but now I use a SONY Cybershot DSC-RX100 which takes high definition photos. It takes much better photos under low light conditions too. On my last trip to New York City I was extremely pleased by the quality of my photos.

I suspect publishers are using the Internet as a cheap source of photos instead of hiring a professional photographer. I’ve noticed many web sites will use photos from Flickr too. This means even your average tourist can become a casual travel photographer. There are a few things I do which probably help. First, I do a lot of research for my trips so I know what there is to be photographed. Second, I often take the trouble to give my photos titles and tags so they can be found.

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Exploring Wilkes-Barre

Today I explored the city of Wilkes-Barre. I visited this city briefly three years ago but it has become a top priority since my older brother moved into that area. He now lives somewhere between Ricketts Glen State Park and Wilkes-Barre. So to reach Wilkes-Barre I drove along an alternative route on PA-118 East instead of using Interstate 80 East. I drove through Dallas PA and then used PA-309 South to reach downtown Wilkes-Barre.

I took 390 photos while walking around Wilkes-Barre. The reason I took so many photos is because it is hard to find any photos of this city. Nobody seems to be that interested in poor old Wilkes-Barre! I couldn’t even find decent photos of the college campus or landmark buildings. It is frustrating trying to plan a trip when you can’t find many photos of your destination. My 390 photos will be a bonanza for future explorers of  Wilkes-Barre, assuming I take the time to title and tag all of my photos on Flickr. Wilkes-Barre has probably never seen such an avid tourist, taking photos of everything in sight.

The first order of business was to find someplace to park. On my previous trip I parked on the street and had to worry about feeding quarters into a meter. On this trip I found a big parking lot on South Pennsylvania Avenue where I could park all day for only $3.00. This put me in the vicinity of the Stegmaier Brewery building, the Jewelcor Building, and an abandoned railroad station so I took photos of all that. Unfortunately it was a bit cloudy throughout the morning but my new digital camera takes decent photos under low light conditions.

Stegmaier Brewery Building

Stegmaier Brewery Building

After that I proceeded towards Public Square and took photos of City Hall and Best Western Genetti hotel where the Oyster Restaurant is located. I took lots of photos around Public Square and then walked along South Main Street. I went pass Barnes & Noble, Boscov’s, Martz Trailways and then took a photo of the Wilkes University gate. I could not find a single decent photo of this university entrance gate online. You would think that surely somebody would have taken a photo of it. Not being able to find any photos taken in a city suggests to me that nobody finds your city the least little bit interesting.

Wilkes University Gate

Wilkes University Gate

I took a few photos of Wilkes University properties but I did not wander too far onto their campus. However the campus is pretty much part of the downtown area so it is not like you are trespassing. One building I made sure to locate was the Dorothy Dickson Darte Center, the university’s performance art center.

I then walked into the lovely park along the Susquehanna River. This was the East branch of the Susquehanna River. Williamsport is on the West branch of the Susquehanna River. I walked over the Market Street Bridge to Kirby Park. I took my pedometer with me on this trip and I walked eleven miles today, a new record!

Once back over the Market Street Bridge I took photos of the big hole left by the demolition of the Hotel Sterling. Then I walked through the campus of King’s College and found the Luzerne County Courthouse. I then walked back and fourth along River Street to take photos of many buildings fronting River Street. I should mention that I don’t mind this sort of activity because I love to look at old buildings with interesting architecture. Part of the appeal of travel is to see new places and notice details that would escape you if it was a familiar sight. I could sort of do this in Williamsport by walking down a familiar street and taking photos of what catches my photographer’s eye.

River Street Buildings

River Street Buildings

At this point I really needed to find a restroom so I walked to Barnes & Noble which was open by then. I had to ask for the key to the restroom although the lady from the information desk actually opened the Men’s room door for me. Their selection of theater books was thin so I bought Simon Stephens: A Working Diary (Theatre Makers). I’ve never heard of this British playwright because I don’t follow British theater as closely as American theater. However, I see that he wrote The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time which I’ve heard about, but which I don’t really know.

After buying a book at Barnes & Noble I picked up a copy of  The Weekender and Electric City, the free weekly entertainment tabloids. These provide valuable insight into the local culture. I returned to my car to drop off these purchases. From there I walked all the way to Hazle Street where I expected to find the manufacturing facility of Nardone Brothers Pizza. Unfortunately there was a fire at this bakery and the business never rebuilt this manufacturing facility. I found it all boarded up. It was a waste of time to walk that far but I did see an interesting abandoned factory which looked very creepy.

Frederick Stegmaier Mansion

Frederick Stegmaier Mansion

I then walked back into town and found the Frederick Stegmaier Mansion. From there I wandered around the Wilkes University campus some more and eventually found my way back to Public Square. I searched for a place to have lunch and found What the Fork, a small fast food place. The interior was kind of shabby, as if the establishment was still being constructed. I ordered a Bacon Burger and a Fountain Drink. At that point I was getting kind of tired of walking around Wilkes-Barre. The sun was not coming out so I was unlikely to take any better photos. I did buy a copy of the local newspaper, The Citizen’s Voice, before returning to my car.

It was still kind of early so I entered the GPS coordinates of the Wyoming Valley Mall into my GPS device and managed to drive to the Wyoming Valley Mall, although not exactly according to the instructions.  The Wyoming Valley Mall is quite similar to our Lycoming Mall but it did not have a book store. I went to f.y.e. (for your entertainment) and bought a Blu-ray DVD of Tomorrowland for $29.67 which was kind of expensive. This was the movie I saw in San Francisco so it has some sentimental value for me.

Wyoming Valley Mall

Wyoming Valley Mall

I bought the DVD at 12:56 p.m. so it was still kind of early to go home. I decided to squeeze in one more attraction, the Seven Tubs Natural Area. I entered the GPS coordinates into my GPS device. Fortunately, I had this in my notes. I managed to find the Seven Tubs Natural Area easily enough after a short drive. The Seven Tubs Natural Area is a gorge where a stream has cut deep into the sandstone to create many pools and waterfalls. It is yet another spectacular rock formation deep in the woods and well worth seeing. I wasn’t prepared for a long hike so I only climbed a short trail to see the various whirlpools. After that I was finally ready to go home. I took the usual route to Interstate 80 West.

Seven Tubs Natural Area

Seven Tubs Natural Area

This trip really advanced my knowledge of the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton metropolitan area. There are many possible reasons for me to visit this area so learning my way around is worthwhile. Although Wilkes-Barre isn’t a very famous city, it was interesting enough to wander around and that was more interesting than staying home to work on the computer.

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Long Day’s Journey Into Night – A Laugh Riot

Yesterday I went to New York City to see my favorite play “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” by Eugene O’Neill. This was my first bus trip to New York City with my new camera, a SONY CyberShot DSC-RX100, which takes much better photos than my old Fujifilm FinePix JX400.

As usual I took a Susquehanna Trailways bus to New York City and on this trip I sat right next to the escort with a good view out the driver’s window. The bus is now dropping passengers off on West 49th Street and 8th Avenue because the Times Square Church no longer allows them to drop off passengers there. This puts you near the Eugene O’Neill Theater which was appropriate for this trip since I was seeing one of his plays, although not at that theater.

The play did not begin until 1:00 p.m. and we reached New York City by 10:00 a.m. so I spent a few hours in Times Square getting some high quality photos with my high quality digital camera. One of the establishments I made sure to photograph was the Times Square Arts Center which is a shabby arts center that rents black box theaters for play festivals. One of those play festivals recently posted a call for submissions on Reddit. All of the play festivals in New York City require the playwright to produce his own show in exchange for the exposure, but most theater professionals seem to regard this as a poor opportunity and a bit exploitive. In any event, I wanted to document where the festival was held.

I walked down to West 37th Street to visit Magazine Cafe. This store should not have been open until 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, according to my notes, but they were open so I went in and bought a copy of the French literary magazine, Le Magazine Littéraire. New York City is one of the few cities in the United States were you can find books and magazines in foreign languages so I always try to buy a few on a trip. This supports my future travel plans.

After buying the magazine I walked back up to 42nd Street and took photos of The New York Public Library and Bryant Park. I’ve taken plenty of photos of The New York Public Library before but none of them will probably compare to the high quality photos I took with my new camera. Also, it was a bright and sunny day, perfect for taking photos.

New York Public Library

New York Public Library

Next I went to my favorite book store, the Drama Book Shop, which only sells plays and books on the theater or acting. I go there so often that my Acting Edition Club discount card has seven stamps. This time I bought The Pillowman by Martin McDonagh, the play I saw in San Francisco, Detroit by Lisa D’Amour, and The Night Alive and Other Plays by Conor McPherson.

I brought my pedometer on this trip and it recorded that I walked 19,805 steps which is approximately 10 miles! I did not use the subway on this trip. I walked everywhere since I was keeping to the midtown area. From the Drama Book Shop I walked a short distance to West 42nd Street and made sure to photograph the exterior of the theater where I was going to see the play, the American Airlines Theater. This is located on the flashiest part of 42nd Street so I took plenty of photos of other establishments in the vicinity.

Long Day's Journey Into Night

Long Day’s Journey Into Night

It was then close to 11:30 a.m. so I walked further up town to West 45th Street and 9th Avenue to find my new favorite restaurant, Obao. This restaurant opens at 11:30 a.m. so I was the second customer to show up. I ordered the same thing I ordered last time; the Crispy Pork Belly, the Spare Rib on Sugarcane Skewer, and Chai Tea. This meal only costs around $25.00 which is half of what I usually pay for a meal in New York City, $50.00 for something that isn’t all that special. I’m getting tired of feeling cheated so I’m feeling less adventurous concerning restaurants.

Lunch was over in less than half an hour so I had plenty of time to walk back to West 42nd Street and the American Airlines Theater. This was the major goal of my trip so I did not want to be late and miss the show. Once inside the theater I took the elevator to the fifth floor to use the restroom. The play ran for three and a half hours so I wanted to be sure I could last that long without a restroom break. When I got up there I found a lecture on the play taking place in a ballroom so I stood around and listened to that before the show began. My seat was in the rear mezzanine so I had to watch the play from above, like a god. Since the play featured several movie stars I would have preferred a front row seat where I could get a good look at them, but this was the best seat I could get. It wasn’t so bad. I had a good view of the chandelier, various spotlights, the balconies, and a god-like view of the stage so I was very aware of the theater surroundings.

It was a real thrill to see Long Day’s Journey Into Night in New York City. This is my favorite play by my favorite playwright although I might rank Hamlet a bit higher. Although the Roundabout Theatre Company and the American Airlines Theater is technically Off-Broadway, this is as close to Broadway as this play is likely to get. You could not ask for a better cast. The highly respected Irish actor Gabriel Byrne played James Tyrone and was perfect for the part. The Hollywood film star Jessica Lange played Mary Tyrone. I remember her most from the 1977 film King Kong although she probably doesn’t want to be remembered for that. But what is larger than life than King Kong? Mary Tyrone does not equal King Kong in stature. And Michael Shannon played James Tyrone, Jr. He also played General Zod in the superhero film Man of Steel.

Unfortunately, the most remarkable thing about this play was the astonishing tone deafness of the audience. Long Day’s Journey Into Night is a searing tragedy about four characters in torment. But this audience was laughing throughout the entire play! They were so out of touch with the intended mood of the play that you could not help noticing it, and it became the most remarkable thing about the whole experience. Now there is some comedy in the play and a little witty dialogue so I did not find it remarkable when the audience chuckled at the maid Cathleen and the business with the bottle. But the audience continued to laugh uproariously, giggle, chuckle, and titter every chance they could get.  Towards the end of the play I found myself just waiting to see what lines would get a laugh next.

My first clue that something was amiss was when Nietzsche got a laugh. Every mention of Nietzsche set the audience to laughing. This really puzzled me. What’s so funny about Nietzsche? Am I missing something here? Then the audience began laughing at lines you aren’t supposed to find that funny. For example, when Edmund asks his father, “Did Doc Hardy tell you I was going to die?” the audience howled in laughter, presumably because it sounds like a reason for Tyrone to give him a whole ten dollars. Sometimes I could see the audience’s point in finding something funny, like the dim, tiny little light that Tyrone turns on after relenting on the electric bill. But at other times my jaw dropped at astonishment at what the audience choose to laugh at. For example, when James tells Edmund, “Hell, you’re more than my brother. I made you! You’re my Frankenstein!” the audience laughed at the mention of Frankenstein. My reaction was, seriously? What the hell is wrong with you people? You are going to laugh at that? This is one of the biggest moments in the play and it is not intended to get a laugh!

This audience seemed to be just waiting to find the next big laugh and it had an evil genius in finding laughs within the play. For example, Mary Tyrone excuses her husband’s behavior by mentioning his ignorance, “Please don’t think I blame your father, Edmund. He didn’t know any better. He never went to school after he was ten. His people were the most ignorant kind of poverty-stricken Irish.” This got a big laugh from the audience which obviously thought this was meant to be some kind of insult. Two more examples of inappropriate laughter were when Tyrone accidently reminds Edmund of his consumption and Edmund accidentally reminds Tyrone of Mary’s addition to morphine. Both slip ups got big laughs from the audience.

How can one explain this tone deaf audience? Maybe they were all tourists. Maybe they knew nothing about Eugene O’Neill or this play and were just expecting a Broadway play. In that case, they were obligingly willing to chuckle at every display of wit and just showed poor judgment in finding the humor in the play. Still, these people must have a very poor sense of tragedy. They have no tragic sensibility!

There was one 15 minute intermission which was not enough time to use the restroom. In the lobby, I bought a critical edition of the play with a foreword by Jessica Lange. Apparently she has played the role of Mary Tyrone previously in London. I saw this play in London at the Apollo Theater in 2012. Laurie Metcalf played Mary Tyrone in that production. It was equally thrilling to see my favorite play during my only trip to London. I would also like to note that the stage set was awesome and featured a shining body of water visible through the house windows which managed to suggest the lake. They also used fog to make some of the scenes especially eerie. The dining room also filled with fog. That may have been unintentional but it looked very creepy and gave the play a haunting quality. At the end of the play, during Mary Tyrone’s final scene, the rest of the cast was frozen around the table in a tragic tableau. I should mention that the performance was flawless and the actors were obviously not playing the scenes for laughs. I think the audience was entirely to blame for refusing to take the play seriously.

When the play ended it was almost 5:00 p.m. so I did not have time to visit the Paley Center for Media which closed at 6:00 p.m. Since I was psyched by the play I spent the rest of my time taking photos of the various Broadway theaters. My new camera meant I would get some of my best photos ever. I especially wanted photos of the Helen Hayes Theatre which was showing The Humans by Stephen Karam and the New Dramatists, both on West 44th Street. Eventually I walked to West 52nd Street to locate the Paley Center for Media which I may visit on a future trip. On the Avenue of the Americas (Sixth Avenue), I found a Barilla Restaurant where I ordered a Rustica pizza and a small can of Sprite. From there I returned to Times Square and made my way to West 49th Street and 8th Avenue to wait for the bus home.

Times Square

Times Square

This trip really served to refresh my enthusiasm for the theater and playwriting. I’ve been reading some theater textbooks lately but that only serves to bore me. I’ve been thinking about how I can keep my interest at a very high level. My idea is that I have to start thinking of the theater as sacred to invest it with greater significance. Right now my major goal should be to complete some worthwhile full length plays. Once that is done I can put my mind to the problem of getting them produced in a major theater. There is really no point in complaining about your prospects until you have something to promote.

My next trip to New York City will be on May 28 when I will see Daphne’s Dive by Quiara Alegría Hudes at the Signature Theatre.

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Saying Goodbye To Microsoft SQL Server 2005

Microsoft SQL Server 2005 reached its end of life today and will no longer be supported. So today at work I migrated my databases to Microsoft SQL Server 2008 and uninstalled Microsoft SQL Server 2005. I figured I might as well get rid of it because I have a lazy habit of using it by default. I had to update several projects for this change in SQL Server. My development SQL Server databases were using a different version of SQL Server than my production databases and that is never a good thing.

I am also making this change at home. I am running too many instances of SQL Server anyways in order to meet the requirements of various projects. A developer’s system eventually becomes very complicated with a wide variety of development software installed.

By the way, Microsoft is now giving away copies of SQL Server 2014 Developer’s Edition.

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Fonthill Castle Bus Trip

Yesterday I went on a bus trip to Bucks County with Sherry Ault Tours. We visited Fonthill Castle, the Moravian Pottery and Tile Works, and Peddler’s Village. I’ve read about Fonthill Castle in my Philadelphia travel guides which cover the surrounding areas. This was a rare opportunity to go on a bus trip to see some of the attractions outside of Philadelphia.

First we had a tour of the Moravian Pottery and Tile Works which was an interesting look at pre-industrial manufacturing of tiles. There were some tiles available for sale in the gift shop but I didn’t think they made for an attractive knick knack. I’m not really that interested in tiles or pottery.

We had to wait an hour in the bus before our Fonthill Castle tour. Since we were a large group, only thirteen people could go a tour but several groups were being lead through the castle simultaneously. We just had to stay out of each other’s way. Fonthill Castle is an amazing mansion. It is an unique mansion made out of poured-in-place concrete. Going through the mansion was like walking through a weird, spooky funhouse filled with old prints and artifacts. It was also a little like an old hobbit house.

Fonthill Castle

Fonthill Castle

After the Fonthill Castle tour we went to Peddler’s Village. I’ve been there once before on a rare shopping trip which included Rice’s Market. Unfortunately, the Canterbury Tales Forever book store I remembered was gone. I immediately had lunch at Hart’s Taven where I ordered a coke and a kielbasa sandwich with French fries. That meal only cost me $12.16 and I left $12.25 for a 9 cent tip. I didn’t tip more because I was cheated out of change when I ordered breakfast at Burger King in the Hickory Run Service Plaza. They didn’t even give me the sausage in my sausage croissant! That was enough to piss me off so I decided to pay it forward. I’m getting a little tired of being cheated at every turn lately so now I’m looking for ways to pass along the screwing.

Although the book store was gone, I did manage to find a book to buy at My Favorite Shoppe which was selling a few expensive first editions. I bought Dan Wakefield’s New York In The 50s. This book interested me because I’m currently reading a history book on Greenwich Village which probably covers some of the same material. I also own Dan Wakefield’s novel Selling Out which I still have to read. That novel is about a writer who goes to Los Angeles to write for television.

We spent several hours at Peddler’s Village which was way too long for me because I didn’t want to do a lot of shopping in gift stores. I did look around many gift stores which I treated as pop art galleries. That reminds me, I did buy a small print of a painting of the Bucks County Playhouse. It only cost $3.50 and it is a rare example of artwork that uses the theater as its subject matter. There actually is a Bucks County Playhouse and I should add it to my travel guide.

Peddler's Village

Peddler’s Village

I forgot to mention that this was my first trip using my new digital camera. I bought a SONY DSC-RX100B camera because my Fujifilm digital camera was beginning to get a little worn. This new digital camera appears to take better photos under low light conditions. It was a cloudy day on this trip but most of my photos are sharp and clear. Although the SONY DSC-RX100B is more bulky than my Fujifilm digital camera, it still fits in my pocket.

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More Startup Progress

Today I began work on the web site for users to sign up for my service. I plan to use the built-in Membership system of an ASP.NET web application. Unfortunately I’ve never really used this and it has changed a lot since ASP.NET 2.0. It took me most of the day to figure out how it works for an ASP.NET 4.0 web application. As usual there are now two ways to do something in ASP.NET. There is a new Identity system designed to replace the previous ASP.NET Membership and Simple Membership systems.

I should probably stick to ASP.NET to build this web application since you can now host a web application in the cloud using Microsoft Azure. This is built right into Visual Studio 2013. It might be the cheapest way to deploy my web application.

This web application might take a long time to create if I include the ability to make payments online. There has to be a customer dashboard to show the access count, access keys, blocked IP addresses and time remaining length of service. Then I will have to create a snazzy web design. I will try not to spend any money until I have this web application ready.

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Startup Progress

Today I made some more progress on my startup project. Today’s task was to research JSONP. JSONP is a method of padding the JSON data with a function call as a way to work around the Cross-Origin Resource Sharing restriction. It is really difficult to find any good examples of using JSONP, but I eventually figured out how to use the Flickr API to get my callback function working. My service is going to support JSONP. This is a simple matter of accepting a query string parameter for the callback name and then surrounding the JSON data with the callback function before returning the JSON string. One of the useful aspects of Yahoo! Pipes was that it gave you the ability to add a callback to any API you choose to route through your pipe. So even if an API did not support JSONP you could still use it. There is nothing terribly brilliant or original in my startup idea but I can’t find anyone offering this useful service.

I also discovered that I may not need a dedicated web server but I will need Internet Information Services (IIS) 7. My web site is running on a server that has Microsoft-IIS/6.0 so I cannot add a custom header in the web.config file.

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Working On My Startup

I have been working on my startup idea. I have been making excellent progress. First I converted some code for mashing up RSS feeds into an ASP.NET HTTP Handler so it acts more as a proxy service and a web service. The original code only saved combined and  filtered feeds to a file. Today I created a more generic ASP.NET HTTP Handler which can convert XML data formats into JSON data formats and vice versa.

The domain name I want is available. I have to do some research on the most affordable Windows dedicated hosting. I will probably need a dedicated server to add a response header to Internet Information Services. One of the key aspects of my service is that it will offer a solution to the Cross-Origin Resource Sharing problem that you run into when trying to use an external API. I have ordered a book on Cross-Origin Resource Sharing to make sure that I fully understand this technology.

I still have to work on the user management aspect of this project. Prospective clients need to be able to sign up for the service and obtain an access key. They will need a simple control panel to see their access counts and to block IP addresses. This kind of basic database management system is my specialty but to make things more interesting I will use the built-in Personalization database offered by ASP.NET.

Part of the reason I am doing this project is to learn how to create the necessary infrastructure to offer a web service. This could prove useful for future projects. I might also be able to offer my web developer services to clients who need a lot of help with their Cross-Origin Resource Sharing problems. In the past, I have seen how even a crummy little side project can lead you to a major client. So there are lots of ways this project could benefit me even if my startup never succeeds.

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Planning A Startup

My freelance web development work has pretty much dried up. I am currently selling stuff on eBay to reduce the clutter in my house and make a little extra money. You can check out the stuff I’m selling at http://www.ebay.com/sch/rrobbins/m.html?_nkw=&_armrs=1 So far I have only sold four items.

So I have decided to create my own startup. I have found the perfect opportunity. Yahoo! Pipes has discontinued their very useful service. I only discovered this when I investigated why my AJAX demo pages were not working. Yahoo! did not bother to inform their users when they discontinued their service so I didn’t have a chance to save my pipes. Fortunately I was able to get all of my AJAX examples working again except for the RSS feed one.

I have tried various replacements for Yahoo! Pipes but none of them did exactly what I need or they are too expensive. This gave me the idea to create my own alternative to Yahoo! Pipes. And since I’m not supplementing my income I figured I might as well offer this as a service.

This is an excellent idea for a startup because it is well within my technical expertise. One of the big problems with some startups is that they tackle problems which they don’t know how to solve or they underestimate the technical requirements. Fortunately, I am quite familiar with web services and the technical problems which Yahoo! Pipes helped to solve. I don’t plan to be too ambitious with this startup. I will only offer this service to programmers and other technical users. I won’t have the slick consumer interface that Yahoo! Pipes had.  I will also only promote this service well enough to give me enough customers to supplement my income. Too many customers could create a serious customer support problem. It could also create increased costs for the bandwidth.

Like any technical problem, creating this startup service should be approached step by step. My first step will be to create something to fix my own AJAX example for consuming a RSS feed using client side JavaScript. The next step will be to generate unique access keys for users. Then I need to limit the access rates. A database will be needed to handle all that. Then I’ll probably need a way to block IP addresses to handle abuse of the service. Finally I will need a dedicated web server to host my service. I will  probably name my startup WWD Pipes.

I’m confident that my startup will be mildly successful because it is not too ambitious. It fulfills a real need and the general concept is relatively simple to implement.

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Working On The Web Site

I have not written about my freelance work in a long time. Business has really dried up. I am down to just one client who is not giving me much work. While things are slow I have been working on my web site. I deleted lots of old web pages and some folders which were no longer needed. This makes the web site less cluttered.

I also discovered that Yahoo! Pipes has been shut down. This broke most of my AJAX examples. I am currently working on fixing all the AJAX examples. I had to install a PHP script on my server to act as a simple proxy to solve the Cross-Origin Resource Sharing (CORS) issue.

I made some improvements to the YouTube Favorites Backup page. This page now sends me emails when it encounters an error. I was getting thousands of emails which indicates that this web page is really popular. I added some code to ensure users enter a valid playlist URL and I improved the error messages. I still have to work on the YouTube Subscriptions Backup page because the Google API changed and now it is much more difficult to get that information.

I am currently upgrading a complex Drupal 6 web site to Drupal 7. Drupal 6 has reached its end of life and security updates will no longer be released for that version. This has probably created a lot of work upgrading Drupal sites and I intend to cash in on that as soon as I have enough expertise.

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Philadelphia Bus Trip

Today I went on a bus trip to Philadelphia with Sherry Ault Tours. Ordinarily I have to drive myself to Philadelphia since it is not a popular destination, but the Philadelphia Flower Show is one of the few exceptions for bus tours. However, I did not go to the flower show. I spent the day on my own.

I spent almost a month preparing for this trip. Although I thought I had researched Philadelphia very thoroughly, I still discovered several more significant things about the city. Even though I have explored the fringe theater scene, I was surprised to discover an underground arts scene in the Callowhill neighborhood. In that neighborhood you can find the Underground Arts concert venue and performance space for some really wacky underground art and music, the Vox Populi gallery which also has a performance space, The Trestle Inn dive bar with go go dancers, and PhilaMOCA: Philadelphia Mausoleum of Contemporary Art an art space that supports independent films. That is an impressive number of performance spaces to which you would have to add the Painted Bride Art Center which has existed for years. This makes me wonder why the Philadelphia underground art scenes is so very extensive. It may be because all the creatives and bohemians are being priced out of New York City. This might explain how the FringeArts became a permanent institution.

I also came across a WeWork office space in the Northern Liberties neighborhood which may be the home of many startups and tech companies. I’m very interested in the Philadelphia tech scene since this offers the best path for me to move to the big city. And finally, I learned that the Chestnut Hill area might make for a good weekend getaway just like my trip to the Manayunk neighborhood. Chestnut Hill seems to have enough shopping and good restaurants to justify a special trip to explore this Philadelphia neighborhood which is far from Center City.

But I didn’t visit any far flung neighborhoods on this trip since I had to stick around Center City. My main objective was to check out a new Philadelphia attraction, the One Liberty Observation Deck. I bought a ticket online for 12:00 p.m. Noon. But since the bus arrived at the Philadelphia Convention Center at 10:00 a.m. I spent two hours walking around the downtown area to take photos for my custom travel guide. First I located St. Stephen’s Church which is the home of the Lantern Theater Company. Then I located the Time restaurant on Sansom Street because it hosts a few readings and other literary events. I have begun to investigate Philadelphia’s literary scene.

After that I continued along Sansom Street and came across Philadelphia’s French Quarter. At least, I saw a street sign indicating the French Quarter. However, the only French establishment on this street was the Sofitel Hotel, which hardly makes for much of a “French Quarter”! I walked very far west on Sansom Street to locate the Long In The Tooth record store which is right across from the InterAct Theater Company. I overlooked this place on my last trip to Philadelphia even though I walked right pass it. My final photo quest was the Drake Hotel because the InterAct Theater Company will be moving to this location. I found the entrance to the Proscenium Theatre at The Drake. The InterAct Theater Company interests me because they run PlayPenn, the most significant organization in Pennsylvania devoted to new play development and playwright training.

I was surprised that it took me two hours to walk several blocks to take all these photos, but in fact I had to hustle to make it to the One Liberty skyscraper in time for my timed ticket. It was annoyingly difficult to find my way to the One Liberty Observation Deck within the Shops At Liberty Place. Basically the entrance is on the second floor and there are signs but it seemed ridiculously confusing to find the entrance to the observation deck. The elevator to the observation deck played a video to keep you entertained during the short ride in the elevator, just like the Top Of The Rock in New York City. But I have to admit that the view was really awesome. You get a great view of Philadelphia’s major skyscrapers like the Comcast Center, BNY Mellon Center, and the Liberty Two Office Tower. I also saw the progress on the Comcast Innovation and Technology Center skyscraper which is still being built. There were great views in all four directions. This was particularly fascinating for me because I have been studying the geography of the city. Seeing the city from above really clarifies the location of many buildings. I took lots of photos which I will pour over later.

One Liberty Observation Deck

One Liberty Observation Deck

Having accomplished my mission, I proceeded to do some shopping. First I went back to the Long In The Tooth record store and bought a CD, Protection by the band Massive Attack. I don’t know if I will like this album. I picked it almost at random. I only listen to music on my smartphone. I have virtually my entire CD collection copied to my smartphone and that keeps me entertained on long bus trips.  Next I went to Barnes & Noble on Rittenhouse Square where I spent a lot of time deciding on a book to buy on the Theater shelf. I finally settled for Mr. Burns by Anne Washburn since that was on my wish list. And finally I went to f.y.e. on Broad Street to buy a DVD. They had a foreign film section. I headed straight for that since foreign film DVDs are not offered at the f.y.e. store in our Lycoming Mall. I bought a Japanese movie, Zebraman by Takashi Miike which looks like it would be strange enough to suit my tastes. Although the price sticker was for $24.95, the DVD rang up for only $2.97 so I got this DVD at a bargain price. Sweet! This was a brand new shrink wrapped DVD, not an used disc.

One Liberty Observation Deck View

One Liberty Observation Deck View

After all that shopping I was getting pretty hungry so I went to the Reading Terminal Market for lunch. Unfortunately, the Reading Terminal Market was packed. It was like a madhouse in there! I didn’t see any place where I could sit down to eat. Every table at every restaurant was taken and you could hardly walk through the aisles due to the crush of people. So I left the Reading Terminal Market and had lunch at Kabuki Sushi which is only a block away. I ordered the Kabuki Roll and coffee bubble tea. I only had chopsticks for eating the sushi but I used my old trick of not separating my sticks and used them like wooden pliers. This was the first time I tried bubble tea, which contains tapioca balls. I ate my sushi in only fifteen minutes. I was out of there in no time.

My final goal on this trip was to try the Philadelphia subway system. Philadelphia’s subway system only has two lines. I used the Market-Frankford Line to get to Old City without walking. Unfortunately, this proved to be a very nerve wracking experience which I’m not likely to repeat. First I had to walk all the way to the Dilworth Park transportation entrance to get to an east bound platform for the Market-Frankford Line. I found several new fare vending machines but none of them were working yet. I had to pay the exact fare to the man in the ticket booth, $2.25, since he could not sell tokens or give change. Then I had a very difficult time finding the east bound platform for the Market-Frankford Line. The signage was not very helpful. The Philadelphia subway appears to be quite dilapidated and full of very hostile homeless people. It did not seem like a safe place to be. Overall, the experience was frustrating and very ghetto. Eventually I walked back to the Philadelphia Convention Center rather than repeat that experience.

Linode

Linode

I did not spend much time in Old City because I’ve explored that area thoroughly on previous trips. I did locate the Corn Exchange Bank building which is now occupied by a technology company, Linode. I was pleased to find huge banners on the building proudly proclaiming the company’s presence. This makes for great photos for my notes. Linode is a private server provider of Linux servers in the cloud. This is definitely something I might find interesting. The only other thing I wanted to photograph was the historical marker for The Barrymores on Arch Street and Sixth Street. I’ve recently read a biography of the Barrymores, a famous acting family originating from Philadelphia. The Philadelphia theater awards are named The Barrymore Awards so I figured I should know more about them. Unfortunately the Barrymores actually spent very little time in the city after becoming actors / actresses and they were not particularly faithful to their home town. I also managed to pick up a copy of the Spanish language newspaper, Al Dia, because I am learning Spanish. Yes, my interests are too varied. I am only learning Spanish very slowly. But it may come in handy for my trip to Los Angeles which will be my major vacation this year.

I got back to the Philadelphia Convention Center by 3:00 p.m. so I tried the Reading Terminal Market again and managed to snag a seat at Pearl’s Oyster Bar where I had the Lobster Mac and Cheese which was really good. Pearl’s Oyster Bar has become one of my favorites because they have plenty of seats at their long counter and the food is really good.

This trip to Philadelphia was mostly successful. I really expanded my knowledge of the city and got many great photos to use for my custom travel guide. You can find all the photos I took on this trip on my Flickr album. Philadelphia is like the Paris of Pennsylvania. My interest in the city has grown now that I’ve discovered its extensive underground art scene. For example, I discovered that one of the local theater actresses has appeared in various independent films made in Philadelphia so there must be a community of filmmakers in the city.

This year I plan to explore the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton metropolitan region more extensively because my older brother has moved there. I also plan to make an overnight trip to Philadelphia to see a show by the InterAct Theater Company. I also want to explore the Fishtown and Northern Liberties neighborhoods and maybe even spend a weekend in the Chestnut Hill neighborhood.

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