Yesterday I made yet another trip to New York City. The first thing I did on this trip was take a tour of Radio City Music Hall. But since I arrived in the city an hour before the tour started I was able to spend some time in the Rockefeller Center area. I basically repeated everything I did on my trip last month while waiting for the Tour at NBC Studio. I used the restroom in the Rockefeller Center basement concourse just like last time. But I did take some photos of the NBC Store which I walked past while leaving. Rockefeller Center’s sunken plaza was being converted to its skating rink. The Cara Delevingne advertising for A|X Armani Exchange was still up so I took more photos of that. And I went into St. Patrick’s Cathedral again to take even more photos of the various side chapels. I did see a Slingshot SLR autocycle on West 50th Street so I took a photo of that too.
I had to go through security for the tour of Radio City Music Hall but they only looked through bags and made you go through one of those less sensitive metal detectors. I only had to remove my digital camera and smartphone. The tour group I was in was pretty small with just me, a family of four, and two Russian tourists. The tour began in the grand Art Deco lobby and then proceeded into the enormous performance hall. I took plenty of photos of the empty stage with its industrial looking back wall. A small banner on the back wall read “Entertainment Sponsor – Madison Square Garden – Local One 125th Anniversary”. I went on this tour to get some back stage views of a performing arts facility so I even liked the industrial looking back wall. We also got to see a concession area were the rest rooms and phone booths are located. I appreciated some murals on the walls which featured a Pierrot, a harlequin, a showgirl, a dancer, a black minstrel, and a Shakespearean actor. This was in the old illustration style you might find in an antique book on the theater, like maybe a drama textbook from the 1930s. There was also a large aluminum stature of a naked woman. Aluminum is a strange metal for a statue but apparently it was a new form of metal back then. A quick use of Google has revealed the name of this sculpture, the Spirit of the Dance. Next we took an elevator to go up several floors and eventually went through the mirrored rehearsal hall where auditions are held and dances rehearsed. I love seeing workplaces where art is made. These are sacred places to me. I feel the same way when seeing a drawing classroom or an art studio. Unfortunately I rarely see art workplaces and it sometimes it makes me very sad to encounter them and realize that I’m not a part of that world. As a writer, my creativity occurs at my computer where I do all my other work. We also got to see the Roxy Suite, a secret apartment in the Radio City Music Hall in the same opulent Art Deco interior design. I should mention that I really love the Art Deco style which manages to seem both modern and retro at the same time. Towards the end of the tour we got to get our picture taken with a Rockette. I didn’t really want to get my picture taken and I did not buy a print. It only served to remind me that I was seeing a performing arts facility as a tourist attraction. I’ve never seen a show at the Radio City Music Hall. I did mention to the tour guide that I was going to see a play later on that day.
After the tour ended my next goal was to have lunch. I walked to the One Worldwide Plaza on West 50th Street because I was planning on taking a C train to 14th Street. Unfortunately weekend maintenance caused big changes to the C train schedule and I had to take a F train leaving from the E train platform which was a bit confusing. But it did stop at 14th Street so I was able to walk to Tea and Sympathy in the West Village. The only reason I picked this place for lunch was because I was unable to find the place on my previous trip. So I was just making up for a spot of frustration. Tea and Sympathy is part of a very small number of establishments which make up Little Britain in the West Village. In fact, I think there are just three establishments which make up Little Britain so it is a little ridiculous to call it that. I ordered the scones with jam and clotted cream and a cup of coffee. The scones turned out to be plain, dry biscuits like something an amateur baker would make. Really, the only reason to visit Tea and Sympathy is to hear the waitstaff talking in the English accent. The food there is incredibly bland and nowhere near the quality required for a public restaurant. I also took a photo of Myer’s of Keswick, one of the other establishments which make up Little Britain, but I was too discouraged to actually enter and had no intention of buying anything. But just to make it worthwhile to have gone so far downtown, I made me way to Chelsea Markets and found Posman Books way in the back. I bought The Collected Poems of Philip Larkin because I’ve been thinking of reviving my interest in poetry. I had just finished reading Beautiful & Pointless: A Guide to Modern Poetry by David Orr which quotes from Philip Larkin. I think David Orr made a poor case for reading modern poetry but it did get me to thinking of some better reasons. One consideration that is swaying me is that poets value inspiration far more than other types of writers. Many poets feel that poetry is just inspiration put into words. But then again other poets consider the words to be the only important thing. Another consideration that may persuade me to give more attention to poetry is the fact that the poetry world has a better concept of the visionary than the performing arts world. By visionary, I don’t just mean a trail blazing artist, but rather an artist whose imagination is visionary. Poetry has a long history of self-professed visionaries, oracles, shamans, and mystics while the theater can scarcely claim even one playwright as a visionary.
I had a little trouble getting from 14th Street to 23rd Street in Chelsea due to the changes to the C train schedule. I took an A train going uptown but it was an express train and skipped the 23rd Street Station. So I got off at the 34th Street Station and got on another A train going downtown. This train also skipped the 23rd Street Station so I got off at the 14th Street Station and finally boarded a C train going uptown like I was supposed to. I was finally able to get off at West 23rd Street in Chelsea. The play I was going to see did not start until 3:00 p.m. so I had time to walk to one establishment in the Chelsea neighborhood. I walked to West 27th Street between 10th Avenue and 11th Avenue just to photograph the entrance of McKittrick Hotel where the site-specific work of theater Sleep No More is performed. It was kind of stupid to walk so far just to take a photo of a place I was not planning to visit, but there are no decent photos of McKittrick Hotel online and that bugged me. I actually left a broken image in my notes because I knew I would need to use my own photo for this topic.
McKittrick Hotel was far west of the Irish Repertory Theatre so I had to hustle to make it there in time. Seeing the play The Home Place by Brian Friel was the highlight of my trip. At this point I should mention that I seemed to be surrounded by theater folk on the bus. I overheard another passenger mention that he was going to see this very same play. And the passenger seated next to me was studying his script of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? This probably means he is going to play George in The Community Theatre League production of the play on October 13th, 14th, and 15th. I’m going to see that play this month.
The Home Place by Brian Friel is basically The Cherry Orchard set in Ireland. The set design was very fancy and even had a small grove of trees. The period costumes were also quite impressive. I sat in the front row so I had an excellent view of the actors but it often feels a little too initiate to be that close to them. I was close enough to see the spittle fly during some of the more forceful speeches. The spittle is quite visible in the bright lights. A few of the actors used Irish accents and I guess the actors playing the English used English accents but they were upper class so it wasn’t very noticeable. They spoke in a more former and proper manner. I read the play before this trip just to make sure I would understand everything even if I could not quite hear the dialogue. Some of the symbolism was overly obvious like the falcon threatening the chickens and Christopher Gore being tagged with the paint used to mark one of the doomed trees. He was supposed to get the white paint on him by accident but the actor playing his son did this very clumsily and made it look deliberate. And he did not get any white paint on the book the way it should have to support the later cursing over ruining the old records. No, I think that bit of stage business did not go well. Overall, The Home Place was very clearly based on the work of Anton Chekhov and only used enough innovations to apply Chekovian themes to the Irish. I thought it was a great play and the production was extremely professional but it also seemed quite unoriginal. And this has got me to thinking that far too many of the plays being written and produced are blatant rip offs of Anton Chekhov. All of the best playwrights are faux translating Chekhov; David Mamet and Stephen Kaplan to name two. Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike by Christopher Durang sets Chekovian characters in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. And many other playwrights write very muted dramas about middle class failure in the Chekhov style. Samuel D. Hunter could be accused of this as well as Annie Baker. The decline of the middle class provides the perfect opportunity to fill our theater seasons with pastiches of The Cherry Orchard.
This is an indication how self-absorbed and constrained playwrighting has become as a result of all the MFA in Playwriting programs. The theater has become a monoculture of plays in the style of Chekhov. Writers for the stage don’t try to show us new ways of seeing the world. It is always going to be the way Anton Chekhov looked at the world. Maybe I should create a computer program to skew my unique writer’s voice more in the style of Chekhov to please the theater. No fucking way! Chekhov is a bit boring, to tell the truth. So a season of plays in the style of Chekhov is going to be a long winter. It is high time that theater broadened its range of culture referents. No more seagulls! The visionary knows how to transcend even the tired, worn out patterns of his own thoughts. The visionary sees the world in an entirely different way and is the creator of new worlds. There are no visionaries in Chekhov’s world except for maybe the symbolist playwright Konstantin Tréplev.
When the play was over I walked to Chelsea Television Studios just three blocks north. This is a set of television studios where some minor daytime talk shows are filmed. The Rachael Ray Show and the Wendy Williams Show are taped before a studio audience here. I don’t watch television so I’ve never seen these shows but I’m slightly interested in the television industry since it is based in New York City. I took several photos of the exterior of the Chelsea Television Studios because I couldn’t find any online. The Fashion Institute of Technology was nearby but I’m not into fashion.
At this point I had no other plans. I have a long list of establishments to photograph all over Manhattan but I didn’t want to run all over the city just to take photos. I walked north along 8th Avenue to the 34th Street Station at Penn Station and took a C train to the 42nd Street Station, Port Authority Bus Terminal. I tried to find an exit on West 40th Street but I exited directly across from the New Victory Theater. From there I walked to the Drama Book Shop on West 40th Street. This book store is celebrating their 100th Anniversary and they have been tweeting about their many events to celebrate the occasion. This served to remind me to pay them a visit. I bought two more scripts on my shopping list; Proof by David Auburn and The Pillowman by Martin McDonagh. Proof is about a mathematician who developed mathematical proofs and this interests me because I’m getting into some pretty heavy math while studying artificial intelligence. I saw The Pillowman in San Francisco but never read the play.
From the Drama Book Shop I walked south another two blocks to visit my favorite art gallery, Last Rites Gallery. Last Rites Gallery is pretty much the only art gallery I have ever been to in New York City. I was surprised to notice that the gallery is located down the street from the distinctive building I photographed on a previous trip. This provides a handy visual landmark for finding the gallery on future trips. The artwork at the Last Rites Gallery frequently changes so it is worthwhile to visit the gallery often. I thought the work on display at this time was quite striking and really inspirational. I saw “Anomalies: Lines, Forms, Textures” a solo exhibition of new works by Eric Lacombe. But according to the postcard I took, this work was being shown at the Booth Gallery at the very same address as the Last Rites Gallery. Obviously two galleries are operating out of the same space. However Eric Lacombe’s work seemed very much to the taste’s of Last Rites Gallery since his work is quite macabre. This artist has a very dark vision. His artwork was the stuff of nightmares that I could only describe as detailed documentation of decay and rotting flesh on faces. A few pieces looked more like macabre morgue diagrams, disturbing but not as dark. Some of the paintings were in the style of Francis Bacon’s Screaming Popes. Still I liked this artwork. It was really visionary stuff and perfectly illustrates what I mean by showing us a new way of seeing the world. Mind you, vision does not have to be this dark but it often is strange.
I did not spend too much time at the Gallery. I took some postcards and signed their guest book to be put on the mailing list. For dinner I went to the Dafni Greek Taverna across from the Port Authority Bus Terminal. I had to sit at the bar because I did not have a reservation. This restaurant is in a very undesirable location so I did not expect to need a reservation, but it was a prime time for dinner. I ordered the Moussaka, a Greek dish I had first tried at Molyvos. I liked it so much that I wanted to try it at a more affordable restaurant and Dafni fits the bill. My meal only came to around $26.00 including tip, which is half of what I paid at Molyvos. The Moussaka at Dafni was also far larger and made for a satisfying meal. There was something like baked beans only with chickpeas slopped next to the Moussaka but I did not eat that. Before the Moussaka came I enjoyed a tasty Greek salad which was much better than a regular salad. It had chives and a lot more feta cheese than a regular salad would have. I had a lemonade with this which probably wasn’t the best drink option.
For the final few hours of my trip I just wandered around the Theater District and Times Square as it got dark and took photos. I must mention that we stopped at McDonalds in Lake Harmony on the way home. I ordered a Quarter Pounder and a cup of coffee but it took them a long time to fill my order. There have been no rest stops on the last few trips so I’m glad the bus driver insisted on a break this trip.
I keep going back to New York City because every trip is very inspirational. This always causes me to ponder inspiration on the long bus ride home. I often despair over ever making use of all my inspiration but really I should be thankful that my world is a world of transcendent inspiration. It is obvious that other artists struggle for inspiration and don’t even seem to be very familiar with exceptional states of inspiration.