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.



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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Shawnee Playhouse Produced My One Act Play “Errant Souls”

I have finally achieved a major goal, an actual production of one of my plays! I wasn’t actually expecting my play to be performed. I was expecting a staged reading. But I guess the staged reading was part of the initial selection process. The winning plays were then given a full production much later. A production is a bigger deal than a staged reading. A staged reading is just actors sitting around a table reading the script, with the script in hand. But for this performance the actors were not holding scripts. They were all off book and the one act plays were given minimal sets and props. And the plays will be performed on the weekends for three whole weeks, which is six performances. A staged reading is usually not repeated.

On the drive out to Shawnee on Delaware I listened to a CD of Murder Ballads by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. This put me in the right mood because the songs were very dramatic and tragic. I arrived an hour early so I had a meal at Gem and Keystone Brewpub, a restaurant so close to the theater you could walk to it. I ordered a Sausage Sandwich topped with sour red cabbage slaw with a large helping of french fries and a Pepsi. I only mentioned this because it made the trip seem more like a special occasion. The brewpub is part of the upscale summer vacationer establishment in the Poconos. The Shawnee Inn and Golf Resort is the big resort in the area.

Unfortunately I don’t think my play worked at all on stage. It seemed horribly silly and pretentious. I think I used too much elevated language in an attempt to express wonder and this does not work unless it is spoken in utter sincerity. My play was the most ambitious one of the lot and it may have been too ambitious for what is essentially community theater. There were six other one act plays performed during the evening and they were all farces or comedies. I stayed to watch all six plays. I liked The Birthday Room by Rich Strack, and Absolution Green by Paul Kodiak was pretty good and well done. I almost forgot to mention that I was invited on stage by the lead actor in my play to receive a certificate. That was slightly awkward.

The Shawnee Playhouse was actually much nicer than I expected. It is one of the last summer resort theaters which used to be an important training ground for show biz folk. Moss Hart’s autobiography “One Act” describes the sort of amateur theatrical productions that were done by the social directors of summer resorts. The playhouse even had a fireplace which is one of the rustic aspects of a summer resort playhouse.

So what is next for my playwriting career? Today I received a postcard from the Actors Theatre of Louisville notifying me that my ten minute play was received for the 2016 National Ten-Minute Play Contest. This isn’t terribly exciting news since it just means I made it in before the 500 play limit. But the National Ten-Minute Play Contest is a big deal since the play they select will be considered for the Humana Festival of New American Plays and be published in their annual book. I submitted the ten minute version of my play “The Shaman” which is now a longer one act play. Eventually I will make it even longer for submission to the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center’s National Playwrights Conference which is a major opportunity. “The Shaman” is practically a rewrite of “Errant Souls” but with a focus on how the visionary artist is like a shaman and how this relates to theater. This play will be my most important work so I have cleverly created ever longer versions of the script to send out to the most important playwriting competitions.

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The Best Minds of My Generation Are Writing Code

Allen Ginsberg’s famous poem Howl begins:

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix,
Angel-headed hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection
to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night,

The best minds of my generation have been consumed by the IT industry. The best minds of my generation are busy making profound changes to the world. Here is a chilling thought. For several decades now, the best minds have been working feverishly to advance the computer industry. There has probably been no other human enterprise in the history of mankind which has consumed so much intellect and creativity. And the results have been astounding! The computer industry has transformed our world with some of the most significant advances in the history of mankind. Virtually all of humanity is connected online now. It is becoming increasingly easy to search through the vast store of human knowledge to make connections and collective efforts can be made to solve the toughest problems. Entire industries have been made obsolete by web applications. And frightening possibilities for mass surveillance have appeared.

The IT industry has an insatiable demand for talent. A lot of bright people have been sucked into this vast enterprise. I have to wonder if this isn’t a waste. What might some of these bright young people be doing if they were not writing code? Few professions pay better than computer programming. Maybe some of best minds of my generation would be writing poetry or plays. I always say, “Write code, not poetry. It pays better.”

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New York City Theater

On the second day of my weekend trip to New York City I saw two plays. My interest in the theater is growing more intense and New York City is a major source of inspiration. The major goal of this trip was to see “The Humans” at the Roundabout Theatre Company. “The Humans” was written by a playwright who grew up in Scranton,  Stephen Karam. In fact, both Scranton and Danville are mentioned in the play. I knew that because I read the script I bought on my previous trip.

I started my day with breakfast at the Theatre Row Diner. I knew this place was inexpensive and it is obviously associated with the theater. It is located near the Port Authority Bus Terminal. I ordered two scrambled eggs with sausage, wheat toast, and fried potatoes. This meal cost me less than $10.00 which is pretty cheap for New York City. I had to return to my hotel to clean my teeth because unfortunately I sometimes get a lot of food particles caught between two molars which can be painful. For this reason I always bring a floss brush with me.

After that annoying diversion I got to work on a major photography mission. I had a long list of establishments to photograph for my notes. This might not seem a worthwhile activity but I did find my custom travel guide extremely useful on this trip and I visit New York City often enough to justify this major project. During the course of creating my notes I often come across many interesting details about the city. For example, the first establishment I located was the Ensemble Studio Theatre which was actually not far from my hotel. This theater has a reputation for developing new plays. Next I found the Irish Arts Center which will be moving into a new building in the near future. Some places I photographed just for the hell of it, like Tout Va Bien, the French restaurant I ate at on a previous trip. I proceeded to Circle In The Square, a theater which is hidden away in the Paramount Plaza building. Some of the high rise buildings on Broadway actually have theaters within the building. It is very easy to overlook these theaters since there is no exterior evidence of their existence except for some signs. I also located the New York City Center which is a Moorish Revival theater located farther uptown than I usually go. I then found two public sculptures, Robert Indiana’s LOVE and HOPE sculptures. I wasn’t sure if there were actually two different sculptures but I did manage to find them both. I also came across many other interesting things to photograph since I was in an unfamiliar section of the city but I will have to identify what I saw later.

Once I had found everything on my list, I wanted to head on down to Greenwich Village to locate the Off-Off-Broadway theater I was going to in the evening. I also had a list of other establishments to photograph in Greenwich Village. I took the 1 train from the 50th Street Station to 14th Street where I had to transfer to the 2 train to reach Christopher Street. Once I was on Christopher Street I managed to find my way to Waverly Place and located the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater. This theater is very nondescript so it is hard to tell if you are at the right place. Basically it is just a red door with the word “Theater” over the door. A small message board is the only clue that this is the right place and it only read “Rattlestick”. So I took a photo of the door and then went off to locate more theaters in the area. I found the Lucille Lortel Theater and the Barrow Street Theatre.

Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre

Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre

I then walked towards Washington Park and managed to find John Barrymore’s apartment building. I’m going to be reading a biography of the Barrymores so I thought it would be cool to at least stand outside the legendary John Barrymore’s apartment building. This site was also made famous by the Paul Rudnick play “I Hate Hamlet”. He was inspired to write that play while living here and learning of the apartment’s association with John Barrymore. Playwrights are obsessed with John Barrymore’s ghost. Another play I’ve seen and read was Jason Miller’s “Barrymore’s Ghost”.

I then proceeded to Washington Park which was just down the street. I took lots of photos of the Washington Arch. There was a man playing the piano in front of the Washington Arch so I took lots of photos of him since he could not stop playing to beg for payment. I left the park to take a decent photo of The Players Theatre on MacDougal Street since they are constantly sending me spam. Along the way I saw the Provincetown Playhouse and Caffe Reggio. I did want to do some shopping in Greenwich Village but the stores I wanted to visit did not open until 11:00 a.m. so I had to wander around a bit until then. Eventually I decided to stop in at Caffe Reggio for a coffee since it was ridiculous to just photograph establishments without actually entering any of them. I ordered a cannoli and a cappuccino with whipped cream. The cannoli was good but it proved to be pretty messy to eat. I was glad I checked this place out because the decor was very unusual and bohemian.

After hanging out around Christopher Park and Sheridan Square for awhile, 11:00 a.m. finally rolled around so I went to Three Lives & Company, a nearby bookstore. I was undecided about which book to buy but eventually I settled for The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow since I’m going to explore Chicago some day. I then went to Bleecker Street Records where I bought a DVD, the Ramones Musicladen. This was a PAL DVD but I did not realize that until much later. Although it was only 12:15 p.m. by then, I took a 3 train uptown to ensure that I would be in the Times Square area by 2:00 p.m. I remember that the 3 train was extremely crowded and I was unable to hold onto anything so only the press of other people kept me on my feet. I got off at 42nd Street because the 3 train does not stop at the 50th Street Station. During the long walk to my hotel I took lots of photos of establishments in Hell’s Kitchen to add to my collection.

I dropped my purchases off at the hotel and then walked along West 49th Street towards Broadway. I came across a Susquehanna Trailways bus parked along West 49th Street. I bet that bus was doing a New York City tour which I could not go on because it was all booked up. I located the Laura Pels Theatre in order to take some photos but I was too early so I wandered around Times Square to take more photos of various Broadway theaters. I never get tired of wasting time that way! I should mention that I saw some heavily armed NYPD soldiers guarding Times Square due to the recent terrorist threats. One thing that I came across that particularly amused me was a sign that read “Super Natural Visions $10”. This must have been for psychic readings. I’m very familiar with supernatural visions but I don’t believe in psychics. An extreme form of creativity can seem supernatural if you manage to reach the deepest part of the psyche where you encounter that which is unfamiliar to the conscious mind. So it seemed very ironic to advertise this on Broadway.

Laura Pels Theatre

Laura Pels Theatre

At 2:00 p.m. it was finally time for the major goal of my trip, seeing the play “The Humans” by Stephen Karam. This show came to my attention because even the brief description mentions Pennsylvania. After learning that the playwright was originally from Scranton I became even more interested. Stephen Karam was apparently involved with the Scranton Public Theatre before moving on to bigger things. Eventually he moved to New York City and became a fairly successful playwright. It is great to find someone from the region living the dream! I’ve read in The Hollywood Reporter that this play will migrate to Broadway. Getting a play on Broadway is every playwright’s dream. It is exceedingly unlikely to ever happen so this is like winning the state lottery. I am really jealous, but it is encouraging in a way to see someone achieve this.

I have to admit that the title is not specific enough. What play isn’t about the humans? But I loved this play since it is the sort of subtle tragedy I prefer. By subtle tragedy I mean that you are not overwhelmed by the tragedy, but it is present to the same degree that tragedy is present in real life. People deal with tragedy without getting too emotional about it, even if they do feel deep grief in private. One of the things I love about theater is that it gives a voice to this silent grief and allows some eloquent expression of grief. Much of the tragedy in this play is very familiar; illness, losing a job, dementia, and economic hardship.

Both Scranton and Danville are mentioned during the course of the play. This alone is enough to thrill me since I have been exploring both of those cities. Danville is much closer to Williamsport and is considered to be within the area. As a matter of fact, I was driven through Danville by the Susquehanna Trailways bus on the way to New York City although we did not stop to pick anybody up there. Scranton is served by Martz Trailways which runs many buses to New York City. Of course, I wouldn’t like a play just for mentioning some familiar places. I would like this play without that.

The stage set was designed to represent a duplex apartment so there were two floors. This sort of thing would be hard to reproduce in community theater. I was a bit shocked by the unprotected edge of the upper floor since an actor could easily walk off the stage and fall to the lower stage. I half expected the character in the wheelchair suffering from dementia to start rolling towards the edge of the stage. It would have been horrifying to see her crash onto the stage below!

The play was your basic kitchen sink drama. There is a lot of criticism of this form of social realism but I don’t think such criticism is justified. You can’t very well write about royalty these days. Nobody could relate to the court intrigues of kings and queens. I suppose you could treat celebrities as royalty but writing plays about their lives would seem like tabloid exploitation. Elevating the tragedy of the common man is the only option. I’m inclined to view the failed artist as a tragic figure but this can seem self-centered.

I think I heard some people in the audience speaking Russian and this surprised me because the language barrier should prevent you from enjoying a play unless you are fairly proficient in the language.

At the end of the play, a few actors remained on stage and asked for donations to the Broadway Cares charity. I forgot to mention that the Laura Pels Theatre is below street level. After the show I was ready for diner. I was going to eat at Zuni’s in Hell’s Kitchen but I discovered that this restaurant had closed permanently. Instead I had to backtrack to Restaurant Row on West 46th Street where I decided to try the Brazil Brazil Restaurant. I ordered the Camarão no Coco, sautéed shrimps with mushrooms and herbs, coconut milk served in a fresh coconut shell, sautéed broccoli and rice. I also ordered a drink, a caipirinha, Brazil’s national cocktail. I can’t find the actual name of the drink online but it was something like Limonada de Janeiro. This meal was very expensive, $55.00 with the tip, but at least the food was pretty good. I just hate paying a lot for a crappy meal.

Brazil Restaurant

Brazil Restaurant

I returned to my hotel to drop off the theater program, i.e. Playbill, and left at 5:45 p.m. to reach Greenwich Village for the final goal of my trip, a play at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater at 8:00 p.m. The first thing I did in Greenwich Village was to retrace my steps to the Three Lives & Company bookstore where I bought a copy of “The Village” by John Strausbaugh. This book is a history of bohemians in Greenwich Village so what better place to buy it than in Greenwich Village itself? I saw this book on my previous visit to the book store earlier in the day and regretted not buying it. I then had to wait in a park for a long time for the show to begin. Fortunately it was chilly but not real cold. I played solitaire on my smartphone.

The play I saw at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater was The Bachelors by Caroline V. McGraw. This show wasn’t actually produced by the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater. It was a production of Lesser America, a theater company which must have rented this theater. Everyone in the theater seemed to be in the line for the bathrooms and the show started 10 minutes late. This play had a lot of physical action with liquids being drunk and spewed back out. I was sitting in the front row so this was a bit alarming. The audience was mostly young people but there were two gentlemen sitting behind me speaking in such a thick Southern redneck accent that I thought it was a joke at first. They were sort of comical talking about trying to get into Bubba Shrimp after the show.

The play was about three bachelors and their sorry love lives. I’m not sure why a female playwright would write a play on bachelors since she could hardly sympathize with such characters. The behavior of each bachelor did seem slightly strange and overly forlorn. One bachelor had his girlfriend break up with him after she discovered she had cancer. She wanted to experience life to the fullest during the time she had left to her. Another bachelor was fired after touching a stripper on a business trip. And the last bachelor had a naked girl in the attic but unfortunately she did not appear in the play. The play ends with a door mysteriously opening like an invitation to life’s party. At least that was my interpretation. I thought it was a very abrupt ending and it caught me by surprise. A door opens. Oh, that is the end of the play? But I did enjoy the play. It seemed like something that talented college students would create to celebrate their lifestyle.

I took the 3 train back uptown again but instead of walking back to the Christopher Street Station I walked to the closer 14th Street Station to avoid making a transfer. I still had to get off at the 42nd Street / Times Square station. I walked though Times Square again before heading into the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood.

That was the end of my successful trip but there are a few details about my departure which I need to record. Finding my way to Gate 2 in the Port Authority Bus Terminal was a little difficult. There was a kiosk like a giant touch pad that provided directions. I had to go down one level and then go down a concourse to reach the stairs to go down another level. Going down two escalators took me to Greyhound Gates 60 to 85 so that was a mistake. There are several Hudson News convenience stores in the Port Authority Bus Terminal where you can buy overpriced snacks and drinks. I bought a bag of pretzels and a candy bar for breakfast plus a bottle of orange juice and a Sprite. I must have spent $10 for all of that! I should bring my own snacks in my luggage on future trips. I did bring two bottles of orange juice and a bottle of Sparkling Ice to ensure I had something to drink. My hotel room had a small refrigerator which was empty so I was able to keep them cool in that.

In conclusion, this trip was a big success. I learned how to make a more extensive trip to New York City without spending too much money. It would still be more economical to make day trips using Susquehanna Trailways tours. Also I rarely have an extended weekend to make the trip worthwhile.

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New York City Overnight Trip

This weekend I made my first overnight trip to New York City making all the arrangements myself. An overnight trip is far more expensive than a day trip, but I had to make this type of trip to see the play I wanted to see. I learned a lot about this alternative way of traveling to New York City. It should prove useful for the future. Actually there was nothing terribly different about this trip. I just used the regularly scheduled Susquehanna Trailways bus service to New York City instead of going on a special tour. However there were a few changes in the procedure which are worth noting. I should mention that I left on a Friday and this was possible because Pennsylvania has not passed the state budget. My hours have been reduced at work so I have extended weekends. This gives me the opportunity to make worthwhile weekend trips.

I was able to order my bus tickets online and print them out at home. Although these tickets have a bar code and a QR code, it was still necessary to hand the bus driver the printed tickets. This is important to note because although I had images of the tickets in my notes on my smartphone as a backup, that would not have sufficed since the bus driver cannot scan the tickets. I had to switch buses at Lehighton, a small city near Jim Thorpe. There isn’t a proper bus station in Lehighton. The buses just park in front of a small park. When you need to transfer to another bus, hand the driver both tickets when boarding the first bus. My luggage was transferred from one bus to the other. I saw the Church Street Station in Hazleton and the Easton Bus Terminal. It was interesting to be driven through those cities because I have not explored them yet as part of my grand tour of Pennsylvania. The bathroom in the Easton Bus Terminal is a single occupant bathroom, although I did not learn that until my return trip. It took five or six hours to ride the bus to New York City because the regular bus service stops at a lot of cities on the way and does not take a very direct route. Therefore it is important to note when and where you could take a bathroom break.

The bus took me to the Port Authority Bus Terminal. This was the first time I’ve been inside the Port Authority Bus Terminal, even though I’ve seen the exterior many times. Finding my way around the interior was another learning experience. Susquehanna Trailways appears to always use Gate 2 which is on a lower level. I didn’t really exit through the terminal. Instead I found my way to the streets by cutting across the bus lane.

I had booked two nights at the Skyline Hotel. This is the same hotel that Susquehanna Trailways uses on its overnight New York City trips so I knew it was affordable and a quality hotel. Plus it is in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood so I knew where it was located. There are actually some other inexpensive hotels right next to the Port Authority Bus Terminal which I may try on a future trip. As it was, I had to drag my luggage for seven blocks! Fortunately that was not too bad and only took me 15 minutes. I saved money by not taking a taxi. I added a help topic on Tenth Avenue to my notes and really improved my knowledge of the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood. I also took a lot of photos to improve my notes. Hell’s Kitchen is to the west of the Theater District so I’m always straying into it.

Skyline Hotel

Skyline Hotel

After checking in at the hotel, room 737, my first priority was to have lunch since I had not eaten anything during that six hour bus ride. I found my way to the Obao restaurant on 9th Avenue. This Thai restaurant was highly recommended online and their prices were comparatively low. I ordered two appetizers and a glass of Thai Iced Tea for less than $25.00. The crispy pork belly was insanely delicious! The spare rib on sugarcane skewer was also extremely delicious, especially if dipped in the peanut sauce. Even the Thai Iced Tea was better than expected. It tasted like a Starbucks frappuccino only not as sweet. Obao will definitely be my first pick for an inexpensive restaurant on all future trips!

My second goal was the obligatory visit to the Drama Book Shop where I splurged on five books:

  1. Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom by Jennifer Haley
  2. Philadelphia, Here I Come! by Brian Friel
  3. Topdog/Underdog by Suzan-Lori Parks
  4. Clown Bar by Adam Szymkowicz
  5. Dancing At Lughnasa by Brian Friel

These books were all thin actor’s editions or single plays so they didn’t take much room in my luggage although I could have carried more than the usual amount of purchases home. I bought the Topdog/Underdog by Suzan-Lori Parks script in order to participate in the online conversation at the Reddit Play Club. Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom by Jennifer Haley was actually the play I was going to see that evening.

The Drama Book Shop Sign

The Drama Book Shop Sign

I returned to my hotel room to drop off my books. That is what I like about having a hotel room. On a day trip I would have had to carry those books everywhere for the rest of my trip. My next destination was the Whitney Museum of American Art. I had to rush through the museum on my last trip to New York City so I decided to kill some time by revisiting the place at my leisure. I only had to repeat the subway ride from my previous trip. I did add $20 value to my Metro card to last me for this two day overnight trip. While I was in the Meatpacking District near 14th Street, I managed to locate Google’s New York office and the Chelsea Markets. As before, the key to getting oriented to find the Whitney Museum of American Art was to locate the High Line and follow it downtown. I was a bit early for my 3:00 p.m. timed ticket so I sat on a chair outside the museum. They conveniently had some chairs arranged on the patio. Once inside the museum I made sure to visit all the floors which had art exhibits and I ventured out on all the terraces to take photos of the New York City skyline. The terraces of their new building are a major part of this new attraction. There is a lot of interesting architecture in view including a large water tower. Nevertheless I only spent an hour there.

Whitney Museum of American Art View

Whitney Museum of American Art View

From the Whitney Museum of American Art I walked east to Union Square Park in order to take the N train downtown to Tribeca. But along the way I came across The New School which has completed their new building. I remember seeing a conceptual drawing of this new building but I never realized it was built so now I must update my notes.  I needed to be in Tribeca to see a play at 7:00 p.m. In order to make this expensive trip as worthwhile as possible, I bought tickets for three shows. I could see two shows on Saturday by attending an afternoon matinee. Since I usually make day trips this was a rare chance to see an evening performance at the smaller theaters. Actually I would have picked something on Broadway but the ticket prices were outrageous. At their most expensive, Broadway tickets used to be $150 for a good seat at a hot show but now a ticket can cost as much as $375! I could not afford to see three plays at that price. So I choose two Off-Off-Broadway plays for a more reasonable ticket price. On this trip I was able to check out two Off-Off-Broadway theaters which I frequently hear about.

This evening’s show was Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom at The Flea Theater. This play was written by Jennifer Haley, a Los Angeles based playwright I had already come across while planning my trip to Los Angeles. I’m still planning that future trip. Unfortunately I arrived in Trebeca very early so I had to kill some time by drinking a coffee at a Starbucks. I needed some coffee to keep me awake for the play. It is not that I find these plays boring, but getting up early to make a bus trip to New York City is very tiring and I immediately want to sleep upon entering a dark theater. It is so tempting! While drinking my coffee I noticed a wireless charging powermat. You just plug your device into a Duracell Powermat ring and place the ring over a powermat. Your device then begins charging. I was able to charge my smartphone a bit while I was drinking my coffee! But I was still too early for the play so I went to a Pret a Manger food chain store and selected some gourmet items for a meal. I’ve never been to a Pret a Manger before and it seemed a better option than a fast food place like McDonald’s or Burger King which I passed. I had a slim chicken Caesar with bacon, a smoked ham and egg salad sandwich, some honey banana yogurt, and a lemon and lime soda. That meal cost me less than $20.00 and took a good while to eat. I also used the rest room before I left. I had to enter a four digit number to enter the single occupant rest room. This is worth noting because I have Pret a Manger food chain stores in my notes as having public rest rooms but this seems less than ideal.

The Flea Theater

The Flea Theater

The highlight of the evening was the play at the Flea Theater. The Flea Theater seems to have become a fairly famous theater even though it looks like a tiny community theater. For example, the current edition of American Theatre magazine has an article on director Niegel Smith, the artistic director for The Flea Theater. Another peculiar example of the Flea Theater’s fame is that this play was directed by the film director, Joel Schumacher. Joel Schumacher was the film director for The Lost Boys and Batman Forever. Why would such a big time film director want to direct a play for a storefront theater? Anyway, this was the New York premiere of Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom.

The play was pretty interesting if you are a nerd. It is sort of inspired by text-based adventure games for the PC or online role playing games. The computer game, Neighborhood 3, uses GPS maps based on your real neighborhood and eventually the game play spills over into real life. The characters begin to kill their parents who are represented as zombies in the game. I would have thought this a dumb idea for a play but the trick is in the execution of course. You can write a decent play based on popular culture as long as it is well written, but I would avoid doing so because the concept might get your play dismissed out of hand. There were very few stage props and the stage set itself was very minimal with just a backdrop that curved upwards from the floor. It basically looked like a cheap community theater production. However, the acting was definitely better than average. I thought the play was an excellent example of theater finally beginning to acknowledge contemporary life which is heavily influenced by technology. The theater will have to deal with our addiction to technology to accurately reflect contemporary life and to appeal to a contemporary audience. You mostly see this in the use of cell phones in new plays. Characters are always on their cell phones in some plays just like real life people are always on their cell phones. Personally I am not always on my cell phone so I don’t create characters with the habit. One of the things that got a big laugh in this play was the actor’s AFK performance (away from keyboard). He swayed in place like a Second Life avatar and the hip audience roared with laughter over this clever reference to that ridiculous action.

After the play I took the subway back uptown to my hotel. I made sure to visit Times Square first since I can never resist seeing that spectacle at night. This was really just a half a day in New York City since I arrived at approximately 1:00 p.m. But since I was able to stay until late at night I managed to fit in a typical day trip’s worth of activities. I still treat every trip to New York City as a special occasion to be enjoyed as fully as possible.

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Drama As A Form Of Literature

I don’t think the theater community does enough to promote drama as a form of literature. The conventional wisdom is that plays are written to be performed on a stage and not read. While it is true that you should prefer to see a play performed on stage, you should not be discouraged from reading a play. Personally I love to read plays because I am rarely disappointed by a play. In order for any play to be published, it had to be worthy of being performed since nobody publishes plays which were never produced. This generally ensures that any play you read will be intelligible and entertaining. You certainly have no guarantee that any novel you read will be intelligible or entertaining! Since most plays don’t run longer than two hours you are also ensured that reading a play will not take more than a single day or a few hours. Compare that to a Dostoevsky novel which may require you to invest a week into the reading of it.

I was reading plays long before I was able to go the theater to see them performed onstage. I only began to attend shows at the theater because I wanted to see some of the plays I’ve read performed live right in front of me. So the theater isn’t doing itself any favors if it discourages people from reading plays. Readers of drama are sure to become your future audience.

Unfortunately there are only a few publishers devoted to publishing plays; Samuel French, Broadway Play Publishing, Playscripts, Inc, Smith and Kraus Publishers, and Theatre Communications Group. The market for plays is assumed to be actors looking for monologues to perform for auditions. Smith and Kraus publishes collections of monologues and many of their books are labeled “Plays for Actors”. We need to encourage the general public to read plays, not just actors. Many plays are only published as cheap looking “acting editions” without even an attempt at cover art. Personally I don’t care for that because cover art can be inspiring.

Recently I’ve read the book, The Philadelphia Connection: Conversations with Playwrights, by B. J. Burton. I was surprised that I’ve never heard of any of these playwrights even though I try to follow the Philadelphia theater scene. Actually this isn’t too surprising. Obviously I can’t get down to Philadelphia very often. And none of these playwrights has had their work published in a very prominent format. I was able to buy a few of their plays from Playscripts, Inc (in acting editions) but it was expensive.  The Philadelphia Connection book really needs a companion anthology, a collection of the plays mentioned in the interviews.

There are a few other reasons I prefer drama over other forms of literature. Take poetry for instance. Modern poetry is often unintelligible. Poetry critics are so severe that a poet can only survive by being totally opaque. You can’t criticize a poem if you can’t decipher it. I don’t mind being mystified by a poem but it has gotten to the point where you can barely read the poem. A lot of poems are just jumbles of words that don’t appear to be trying to say anything at all. What has been sacrificed is eloquence and a heightened use of language. Fortunately you can still find eloquence and a heightened use of language in plays. Even contemporary plays can be more poetic than modern poetry and of course Shakespeare is the most eloquent poet of them all.

So what can the theater community do to promote the reading of plays? Some theaters are more devoted to playwrights than others and they are doing some things right. The Signature Theatre Company actually has a book store in their theater building where you can buy the published plays of the playwrights they are featuring this season. It is not just a table with some books on sale, but an actual store. A theater could also create a play library in their lobby so patrons could look through some books before the show begins. Playwrights Horizons is just up the street from the Signature Theatre Company and I think they actually publish the original plays they are producing using print-on-demand technology. Theaters could also create drama reading clubs and writer groups to increase the literary activity in their community.

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Cabaret at the Mary L. Welch Theatre

Last night I saw the musical Cabaret at the Mary L. Welch Theatre on the Lycoming College campus. This was the second time I’ve seen this musical, since it was performed by the Community Theatre League in June 2006. I keep track of all the plays I’ve seen and this makes 130. I’ve seen 130 plays or musicals performed on stage.

It only cost $10.00 to see this musical which seems like quite a bargain after trying to find affordable shows in New York City. I tried to get a seat for Wicked but all the seats were more than $200. I’m sorry, but nothing the theater could do is worth $200! Fortunately I have three tickets for my overnight trip to New York City next week. I’m going to see The Humans by Stephen Karam at the Roundabout Theatre Company. I’m basically making this expensive trip just to see this play because the playwright grew up in Scranton. I read the play and he even mentions Danville in the course of the play. But I will also check out The Flea Theater and the Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre which are Off-Off Broadway theaters that are frequently mentioned in the theater community. Since this will be an overnight trip I can see shows in the evening.

I have not been to the Mary L. Welch Theatre in a long time. You can order tickets online now. I enjoy the ambiance of a college theater since it reminds me of auditorium events from my school days. The show had some technical difficulties with what sounded like microphone plosives occurring for the entire night, even during songs. All of the actors wore mikes which might have been a bad idea. There was a hilarious accident when a pineapple fell though the bottom of a paper bag and the actor had to pick it up. He had to hide the pineapple behind the paper bag to continue the screen. Then when the other actor wondered aloud what he had for her, everyone laughed since we all knew what was in the bag.

Fortunately I won’t have long to wait until I see even more theater. You might think I’m obsessed with theater right now, but it is not exactly the theater that has me entranced. I would say I’m drawn to a grandeur that theater might achieve, but which isn’t necessarily always there. After my trip to New York City I won’t be seeing any more plays until January when my short play will be staged at the Shawnee Playhouse in the Poconos. That has been my major source of encouragement.

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New York City Again

I virtually repeated my trip to New York City from last week. I really wanted to see the play The Humans by Stephen Karam so I tried to find another bus trip to New York City. Susquehanna Trailways’ tours to NYC are sold out for November and December so I tried Sherry Ault Tours, an independent bus trip organizer, and she had a cancellation for her NYC bus trip. Unfortunately the show I wanted to see was sold out for its matinee performance on November 7, 2015 so I had to go see another play. I plan to make yet another trip to New York City this month so that I can finally see the play, The Humans by Stephen Karam. What I will have to do is take a regular Susquehanna Trailways bus to New York City’s Port Authority Bus Terminal and then stay overnight for two nights. I have already booked everything for that trip. Depending upon how well it goes, that might prove to be a great option for getting into the city more often. But it will be more expensive that way.

Fortunately no trip to New York City is wasted, not when you’re researched the city as extensively as I have, so I was still able to pack a lot of activities into this trip. The bus left us off on 6th Avenue, the Avenue of the Americas, close to Radio City Music Hall. So the first thing I did was take some photos of the Museum of Modern Art entrance because I’ve never taken any photos of it. I didn’t actually want to visit MoMA because I’ve been there and done that. Then I located  The Netherlands Club of New York which is housed in the same building as Woman’s National Republican Club and took photos of the exterior. Let me explain. The Netherlands has very little cultural presence in New York City. But they do have this private club to promote Dutch culture. I need a decent photo of the Woman’s National Republican Club for my notes. This may seem like a waste of time but I sometimes get requests by publishers wanting to use some of my photos from Flickr, particularly when I take a photo of an obscure establishment for which no decent photos exist online.

My next step was to repeat the subway ride from my previous trip, taking the 1 train down to Houston Street. Everything was exactly the same for this subway ride so I won’t repeat my previous description. I was able to quickly find Bleecker Street and this time I did not get lost because I had detailed notes on the entire street. I added a topic to my notes on Bleecker Street with every single cross street listed. I found photos of establishments on every street corner and used Google Street View to do a virtual walk through of the route. This worked perfectly! I was able to find my way to the Off-Broadway theaters I wanted to locate. I even took photos on many street corners to update my notes. For example, I see that the “Welcome to Greenwich Village” sign is gone from the intersection of Bleecker Street and Macdougal Street. I can tell from my notes that I got on Bleecker Street at 6th Avenue after walking north on 6th Avenue from the 1 Broadway – Seventh Avenue Local’s Houston Street station.

Anyway, I was able to find the Lynn Redgrave Theater on Bleecker Street. This is the home of Culture Project, a theater company which does political plays. Then I came to the Sheen Center, a relatively new performing arts and culture center associated with the Catholic Archdiocese of New York. I only discovered this place while doing my research on Bleecker Street. Various fringe theater companies could potentially use this performance space so it was worthwhile to locate it. When I reached the end of Bleecker Street at the Bowery I came across something completely unexpected, a beautiful mural of Joey Ramone right across from where CBGB used to exist. I would have made the trip down to Lower Manhattan just to see this! Next I found the Bouwerie Lane Theatre on Bond Street but the building is now an art gallery and had no theater signs. Further up Bond Street I located Gene Frankel Theatre. There was a large flatbed truck stuck in the street right in front of the building, but eventually it managed to get around a double parked car so I could get a decent photo of this theater. This is what I intended to do last week but I got lost. Mission accomplished!

Joey Ramone Mural

Joey Ramone Mural

I had two more places to locate now that I was in the area. First I wanted to see a literary landmark, the Nuyorican Poets Café in the East Village. Then I wanted to visit the Housing Works bookstore. I walked a long ways along Houston Street to reach Avenue C in the East Village. I took a lot of photos of Houston Street because I’m working on a new help topic devoted to this street. I already did have a list of the cross streets in my notes and that was really useful. There is a lot of construction going on along Houston Street which shows up in my photos. But I think this construction has been going on forever because I remember seeing it years ago when I was in the neighborhood. I had no trouble finding Nuyorican Poets Café. Even though this is primarily a community cultural center devoted to poetry and literary events, there have been plays done there. I fact, I bought a book, Action: The Nuyorican Poets Café Theater Festival by Miguel Algarin and Lois Griffith.

Nuyorican Poets Cafe

Nuyorican Poets Cafe

Next I walked west on the other side of Houston Street to reach Housing Works Bookstore Cafe near where Houston Street crosses Broadway. This used book store is very popular in New York City and often features readings by famous authors. For example, Neil Gaiman and his wife Amanda Palmer did a book signing there and I used a few photos from that in my notes. I had trouble finding their bookshelf for Theatre but eventually I located it in the back of the store along the wall to the right of the cafe. I found two plays to buy; Cloud 9 by Caryl Churchill and Albertine In Five Times by Michel Tremplay. These two books cost me $13.34 which is a bit expensive for used books, but the money goes to a good cause.

Housing Works Bookstore Cafe

Housing Works Bookstore Cafe

My next goal was to head back uptown to buy more plays at the Drama Book Shop. I made the mistake of taking a 6 train uptown and it was ridiculously crowded as usual. We were packed in like sardines! At this point, I should mention that it was really hot in the subways. I was dressed for chilly weather but it must have been 60 degrees Fahrenheit all day. I was frequently sweltering in my light jacket with a light sweater underneath. Ordinarily I would need my winter coat for early November. Thanks global warming! I got off at the Grand Central Terminal on 42nd Street and walked west and south to 40th Street. I felt a bit rushed at the Drama Book Shop but I managed to find two books I wanted to buy; Humana Festival 2009: The Complete Plays and In the Heart of America and Other Plays by Naomi Wallace. As I was paying for these books, the sales clerk made a curious comment about the Humana Festival 2009. Something about how one of the playwrights was rarely published. This really surprised me because that was precisely why I bought this book! It features a play by Alex Dremann, a Philadelphia playwright who has nothing published except a 10 minute play in this book. But I didn’t quite catch the name of the playwright and he may have meant Charles L. Mee, a playwright well known for making his work available online for rewrites. There was also a play by Naomi Wallace in this book which I did not expect.

I was in a rush to get out of the book store because I had a play to see at 2:00 p.m. Fortunately the theater was only a few blocks away but I felt I had to run to get there in time. Actually I was a bit early so I could use the restroom and get a drink from their water fountain. I was powerfully thirsty after sweltering in my warm clothing! The play I saw was Night Is A Room by Naomi Wallace at the Signature Theater on 42nd Street. I was not familiar with Naomi Wallace’s work but the ticket was only $25.00 and that is a bargain for Off Broadway. The Signature Theater has a book store and they were selling In the Heart of America and Other Plays by Naomi Wallace but I’d just bought that. There was a long line at the cafe so I could not get anything to drink. As I said, I used the water fountain near the restroom.

Night Is A Room was the greatest motherfucking play I’ve ever seen, because it was literally a mother fucking play, a play about incest. The play was about a man who leaves his hot wife to shack up with his frumpy mother. The audience members sitting next to me where really shocked by this play. I just didn’t buy it. The male actor, Bill Heck, was very handsome, like a movie star. He has been in a few movies. His wife, played by Dagmara Dominczyk, is smoking hot. However, the role of Doré was played by Ann Dowd and she looked like an ugly, middle-aged housewife gone to seed. So I just could not buy a handsome man leaving his beautiful wife for this lumpy housewife. Even great acting could not sell this to me. I almost think this was an acting exercise, see if you can convince the audience that you are attracted to this hideous woman. It was a very impressive effort but there was no way he could be attracted to her! So it was really shocking when Marcus french kisses Doré. I mean they really went at it with what should have been a very hot display of public affection. But I was just like, ew, gross! Now, I don’t know if this was bad casting. The drama would have been more intense if the mother had been old, but still attractive, like Ethel Barrymore. Then I could have accepted Marcus’ attraction for his mother. But maybe they wanted an actress who looks very motherly in order to increase the shock value. I almost forgot to mention that some soft yellow lights set to light the actors horizontally almost gave the impression of sunset, an interesting and beautiful effect.

After the play I went to Brazil Grill where I ordered a Passion Fruit Cosmopolitan drink and the Camarão Bahíana; sautéed shrimp, onions, bell peppers and garlic sauce. This meal cost me $50.00 with the tip. I think it was outrageously expensive for what it was. Basically I just got six jumbo shrimp with some rice to ladle the sauce onto. I will never eat there again! I should mention that this restaurant was actually recommended in my Playbill for Night Is A Room.

My final goal for this trip was to visit the Whitney Museum of American Art, which moved into a new building at the end of the High Line. You can buy a timed ticket for this museum online so I bought a ticket for 5:30 p.m. This proved to be too close to the time I needed to be at the pickup spot for the bus, 6:45 p.m. I would need at least a half hour to get back uptown and walk a few blocks to 6th Avenue and West 51st Street. I took a C Eighth Avenue Local train at the 50th Street station to get downtown and got off at the 14th Street station. From there it was short walk to the Whitney Museum of American Art but it was very dark out so I just got lucky in that I headed in the right direction. I really just needed to look for the High Line. I had to rush through the exhibits but I did go outside onto the terraces where you can enjoy great views of the city. Since it was early in the night the city was all lit up and the views were spectacular. I took a few photos but unfortunately my camera does not take good photos in low light so none of my photos from the terrace are any good.

In conclusion, this was another successful trip to New York City and demonstrates how important careful planning is when you have a limited amount of time in the city. You need to get around very efficiently if you want to pack in a lot of activities. Although my exploration of Lower Manhattan may seem a bit pointless, it lays the groundwork for future trips when I may need to arrive on time at an obscure Off Broadway theater.

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Jackery Mobile Battery Chargers

On my recent trip to New York City I tried the Jackery Mini, a portable device charger. When you have to spend four hours on a bus, you depend on your mobile devices to keep you entertained. I usually have my cell phone with me. It is capable of playing music stored on a SD card so I can use it in a pinch. But I rely more on my smartphone which also has a microSD card filled with MP3s. I can listen to music for hours on end since a lot of my music collection is stored on the microSD card. However, since I also store my travel notes on my smartphone I tend to have it turned on while I’m exploring the city. So occasionally I will run down the battery. A portable device charger ensures that this will not be a problem.

You don’t have any access to an electrical outlet on a bus and you don’t want to sit somewhere during your trip and wait an hour for your device to charge. On a day trip I don’t have a hotel room so I can’t charge my devices in my room. A portable device charger is very handy for these kinds of trips. The Jackery Mini is only half the size of the portable device charger I was using but it appears to be just as powerful. I was able to recharge my smartphone in just 40 minutes.

I also take my Amazon Kindle on my bus trips. All of these mobile devices use the same Micro USB Charging Port so I only need one cable.

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Halloween In New York City

I spent Halloween in New York City. This was a typical trip to New York City since I didn’t do anything related to Halloween. As usual, I used Susquehanna Trailways to make this trip since that is still the most economical option. It had been over a year since my last trip to NYC so there were a few changes, mostly more skyscrapers.

The first thing I did on the trip was walk down to 42nd Street and then I walked east. This took me pass some sights I’ve missed on previous trips since I don’t usually go too far east of midtown. I got some great photos of the Grand Central Terminal, the MetLife Building, and the Chrysler Building. Then I came across some new landmarks for me like the Daily News Building, Tudor City, and finally the United Nations. From the United Nations I walked north to find Dag Hammarskjold Plaza and the Japan Society building. This walk served to improve my knowledge of Manhattan’s geography since it illustrates how 42nd Street theaters, Bryant Park, the Grand Central Terminal, the Chrysler Building, and the United Nations are all among the same street.

Grand Central Terminal

Grand Central Terminal

After that I walked north to 51st Street and then west to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. I was looking for the Netherlands Club of New York but I got distracted by St. Patrick’s Cathedral and the Atlas stature. I think I took some of my best photos of the Atlas stature including an extreme close-up. While I was in the area, I also photographed Radio City Music Hall, Rockefeller Center including the gold stature of Prometheus in the sunken plaza (which was converted into an ice skating rink already), the Top of the Rock observation deck entrance, and the Time Life plaza which I’ve recently seen in the film, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013) starring Ben Stiller. At this point I used my extensive research on New York City to good effect. I needed a bathroom and I knew that one of the best places to find a restroom is on the lower concourse of the Rockefeller Center. They have quite a few shops down there. It is like a shopping mall. The men’s restroom was very crowded since this is not a big secret.

Although I had a matinee show to see at 2:00 p.m. it was only noon so I decided to use the subway to head downtown and locate a few Off-Broadway theaters in NoHo, North of Houston. This turned out to be a mistake since I got hopelessly lost downtown. But first I should mention that I took the 1 Broadway – Seventh Avenue Local at 50th Street. This station is located in a sunken plaza. There was a lot of construction in the sunken plaza as the Mars 2112 restaurant is long gone. This is right across from the Winter Garden theater which is now showing School Of Rock and not Rocky. The 1 Broadway did not go all the way downtown due to some construction. I had to transfer to a 2 Seventh Avenue Express train and got off at Houston Street.

It was at Houston Street that I got lost and wandered into Greenwich Village. So now I will try to figure out where I went wrong. Let’s see, I walked towards Greenwich Street. That was the wrong direction! Then I found the Cherry Lane Theater to the north. I found Bleecker Street which was encouraging because some of my targets were on that street, but again I went in the wrong direction. I walked north on Bleecker Street until I came across Abingdon Square Park. This was interesting because I’ve read a play by Maria Irene Fornes entitled Abingdon Square, so I did want to visit this park. After that I walked even further north to find Chelsea Market. At this point I was panicking so I found the nearest subway on 8th Avenue and took an E train back uptown to 42nd Street (Times Square). Unfortunately my custom travel guide was not handy in this situation since the Google Maps I embedded in my topic pages did not show enough of the streets in the neighborhood to orient myself. What I will have to do is add some larger maps and some topics on the major cross streets like the Bowery and Houston Street. Then I’ll also need some notes on how to find the nearest subway station.

The play I saw was Travels with My Aunt at the Clurman, one of the six theaters of Theater Row. I wasn’t particularly interested in this show but I was curious about Theater Row which I’ve walked pass on many other trips. I discovered that these six theaters do not have individual entrances onto the street. Instead you have to enter the lobby with the ticket window and wait there for the shows to start. Then you are let in. I had to go downstairs to reach the Clurman theater. So these six theaters are not actually in a row. That is an illusion created by the neon signs outside! This show was put on by the Keen Company, one of the eleven resident theaters of Theater Row.

Travels with My Aunt was a comedy based on a novel by Graham Greene. The show featured four actors all dressed in identical costumes. They took turns playing the hero and all the other characters. It was slightly confusing. I thought it was an annoying example of actor virtuosity. Without costume changes or clearly defined roles, the illusion of the story was totally lost. Having four identically dressed actors randomly assuming one role was particularly annoying. At least the role of Aunt Augusta was consistently played by one actor in high camp, but he was wearing a suit and would sometimes become the dull Henry. I love travel and the story was about travel so I could appreciate that aspect of the play. I almost fell asleep during the performance but that is because I had to get up at 4:00 a.m. to catch the 5:30 a.m. bus to New York City. Once you enter a darkened theater you just want to sleep if you got up that early. This has been a problem on previous trips.

The Drama Book Shop

The Drama Book Shop

After the show I rushed to the Drama Book Shop to do some shopping. I had a long shopping list of plays to find. Unfortunately I only found three things on my list; Pocatello by Samuel D. Hunter, The Humans by Stephen Karam, and I Hate Hamlet by Paul Rudnick. Samuel D. Hunter is a great playwright. His play, The Whale, is one of the great contemporary tragedies. I Hate Hamlet interested me because one of the characters is the ghost of John Barrymore. The Barrymore awards in the Philadelphia theater community were named in honor of John Barrymore. I should buy a biography of John Barrymore. I keep a list of all the plays I’ve seen and apparently I’ve seen I Hate Hamlet but I don’t remember a thing about it. Stephen Karam grew up in Scranton PA and has become a successful playwright in New York City. He must be the most successful playwright to have come from Scranton since Jason Miller. The Humans is actually playing at the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre and I could have seen it on this trip since there was a Saturday afternoon matinee. Unfortunately, I neglected to check the Roundabout Theatre Company web site when searching for a play to see. However, I did walk pass the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre and took several photos of the theater windows advertising this play.

Roundabout Theatre Company

Roundabout Theatre Company

When I left the Drama Book Shop my next goal was to have some dinner. I wanted to try some Brazilian cuisine so I walked to  West 46th Street which is known as Little Brazil Street since there are a few Brazilian restaurants along this street. If you are into international travel, you will love the international restaurant scene in New York City which at least allows you to sample the cuisine of any country you are interested in, except the Netherlands, since there is no genuine Dutch restaurant in NYC. I selected Ipanema Restaurant for dinner but they had moved so it was a little hard to find. Fortunately they did not move far but the exterior was different. I ordered the Bitoque, aged angus steak in garlic and wine sauce topped with fried egg with fried potatoes. I saw a photo of this dish online and it looked delicious. It was delicious but more expensive than the online menu listed price. I also had a half glass of red wine but they did not let me pick the wine. Ipanema Restaurant is a nice restaurant with many well-dressed waiters who seemed to always be on the prowl to pounce at the first sign of an empty plate or used utensil. The service was almost too attentive, like having five bored waiters serving you.

After dinner I did my usual routine of wandering around Times Square and the theater district until it was time to get on the bus home. I thought about the play I’m writing. This play will be one of the most important plays I intend to write. It has a great concept and only I can write this play. I don’t have a good title for it yet, but it is essentially the shaman play since it will be about how I think shamanism relates to the psyche, the theater, and creativity. It is a fantastic concept and should be very interesting as long as I write it well. It is really hard to predict how it will be received though. Maybe I should be careful what I wish for, since this play might do better than I expect! It is important to remember that the American theater is not a monolithic institution. There are hundreds of theaters which are under individual artistic direction. So it is a mistake to be too pessimistic.

I have a few more details to record. First, I forgot to mention that I went to Kinokuniya Bookstore across from Bryant Park and bought a Blu-Ray DVD, The Ballad Of Narayama. The Susquehanna Trailways bus left us off at 49th Street and 8th Avenue near the Eugene O’Neill Theatre which is still showing The Book of Mormon.

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Final Day In Philadelphia

Sunday was my last day in Philadelphia for this trip. On previous trips, I high tailed it out of Philadelphia early Sunday morning to beat the traffic on the Schuylkill Expressway but I was determined to get the maximum number of hours in the city on this trip. This was a very expensive trip and I wanted to get my money’s worth.

The first thing I did was check out of the hotel at 8:00 a.m. I took my luggage to my car in the underground garage but I did not leave. I repeated my routine from the previous morning and walked along Race Street to Chinatown. I spent considerable more time exploring Chinatown which was practically deserted. I photographed as many establishments as I could given the early morning lighting. I can’t get a good photo with the sun shining right into the lens. After awhile I walked to Walnut Street and found the Forrest Theater and the Walnut Street Theater which I photographed extensively. Then I walked to Washington Square to photograph the Tomb of the Unknown Revolutionary War Soldier. None of this was necessary since I’ve taken photos of these sights on previous trips but I had to kill time until the Reading Terminal Market opened at 9:00 a.m.

At Reading Terminal Market I decided to have breakfast at Pearl’s Oyster Bar instead of at the Down Home Diner. Pearl’s Oyster Bar was crowded but I managed to get a seat at the long counter. I ordered the Creme Brule French Toast, although it may have been named a little different, which featured vanilla custard brioche, berry compote, creme anglaise, Pennsylvania maple syrup, berries, and fresh whipped cream. It was really delicious! All of their breakfast menu items looked scrumptious with large portions. Fortunately I was very hungry and was able to eat all of my french toast.

Reading Terminal Market

Reading Terminal Market

After breakfast I walked along the Avenue of the Arts yet again and made my way to the Rosenbach Museum And Library which was to be my last museum to see in Philadelphia. Unfortunately they did not open until noon so I had to go to Rittenhouse Square to sit around on park benches for an hour. I did take many photos of the park in bright sunshine. Eventually I was able to return to Rosenbach Museum And Library which had a few tourists already waiting to get.

Rittenhouse Square

Rittenhouse Square

Rosenbach Museum And Library proved to be a worthwhile conclusion to my cultural trip. The Rosenbach brothers were collectors and dealers of rare books so their museum was a treasure trove of rare books. First I went on a tour of the town house which is filled with antiques, bookcases, and objects of art. I saw the the manuscript and typescript for Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas. I also saw a drawing by William Blake, The Number of the Beast is 666. This was the biggest thrill for me since I am intrigued by this visionary artist and poet. I’ve read several biographies of William Blake and he is frequently referenced in the books I read on psychedelics and altered states of consciousness. The Rosenbach Museum And Library also has a recreation of Marianne Moore’s living room just as she lived in it, but unfortunately that was closed for renovations.

Rosenbach Museum And Library

Rosenbach Museum And Library

Before I left I saw the Down the Rabbit Hole special exhibit, Celebrating 150 Years of Alice in Wonderland, which included a pop-up display of the original manuscript.

I walked back to my hotel and managed to make my way out of the underground parking garage. I navigated the Schuylkill Expressway without incident but it was very crowded and slow going. On Interstate 80 in the Poconos it actually began snowing. It was like a blizzard even though the sun was still shining. That was quite unexpected!

My trip to Philadelphia was a great success! It was quite the cultural experience. I bought a lot of books which will take me years to read. I haven’t even read books I bought on previous trips to Philadelphia. Was it really necessary to travel that far for a great cultural experience? Williamsport has three theaters, which is a lot for a city this size, but the quality of their productions leaves a lot to be desired. The Community Arts Center never books anything with even the slightest cultural value. The Community Theatre League has been filling their season with comedies and musicals. The Lycoming College Theatre Department is doing Cabaret in November so I suppose that will be worthwhile. I just wish this region saw Philadelphia as a cultural resource so there would be more bus trips to the big city. Driving down there myself is a big hassle.

My next exciting adventure will be a trip to New York City on Halloween. I have not decided on what to do there, but it will probably be more theater.

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Philadelphia Theater Trip – Antigone

The goals for my second day in Philadelphia were the Barnes Foundation museum, the Eastern State Penitentiary, and the Wilma Theater. But first I had to have breakfast. I was starving since I did not eat diner the previous night. I walked along Race Street to the Reading Terminal Market. Before I reached the market, I passed the Hahnemann University Hospital which had a huge mural and the Church of Scientology. I had breakfast at the Down Home Diner in the Reading Terminal Market. I ordered the Country Scram, barnyard fresh eggs scrambled with salt-cured ham, onions and mushrooms. I did not think it was very good. Maybe that is why I was the only person having breakfast there. I also had a cup of coffee because I was suffering from caffeine withdrawal.

I had a ticket for the Barnes Foundation museum which I bought online but it was for 10:30 a.m. so I had to find something to do until then. I decided to walk around Center City and attempt to locate a few more theaters which are not located on Broad Street. First I looked for the Interact Theatre Company which I read about often in The Philadelphia Connection: Conversations with Playwrights because this theater encourages new work. I did walk pass the Joseph Fox Bookshop and that was the only book store I resisted during my trip because I did not want to carry a package into the Barnes Foundation museum. Eventually I had to cut short my search for theaters in order to make it to the Barnes Foundation on time. The Barnes Foundation museum is now located on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway with the rest of the museums. There was a huge controversy about moving the Barnes Collection. It was against the wishes of Albert C. Barnes. There is a book about the controversy which I own but I have not read it yet. The Barnes Collection is a great museum of modern art with works by Renoir, Cézanne, Matisse, Manet, Degas, Seurat, Prendergrast, Titian and Picasso. I even saw a few paintings by the metaphysical painter Giorgio de Chirico, one of my favorite artists. If you love modern art, you definitely need to visit the Barnes Foundation museum.  I wish I had seen the collection in its original home but it slipped my mind since the museum was then located on the outskirts of the city.

I used a museum map to make sure I went into every room of the museum. The organization of the art work was curious, since there were Japanese art placed next to modern art placed next to African artwork. After I was sure I saw everything I made my way to the Lower Level to use the restroom and visit the museum store. I bought a massive book, Masterworks of the Barnes, for $45.00 because they did not have a smaller guide book to the museum. But I did see a lot of great paintings that I would want to know more about. I did not use an audio guide during my visit.

Barnes Foundation

Barnes Foundation

I had to return to my hotel with that book since it was too heavy to carry around. In fact, I took all the books I had bought and put them in my car in the garage. I could buy as many books as I liked since they did not have to fit in my luggage! It did take me quite a while to locate my car since I was not sure which level I parked in.

Before proceeding to the Eastern State Penitentiary, I went to the see some public art which was located very close to my hotel. I found the sculpture, Freedom by Zenos Frudakis, outside the Philadelphia Performing Arts: A String Theory Charter School, whatever that is. I then walked a very long way to the Eastern State Penitentiary. I could have used my car, but I really didn’t want to navigate the streets of Philadelphia any more than I had to. Also, I’ve watched many episodes of Parking Wars so I know what hell is in store for you if the Philadelphia Parking Authority tickets your car.

The Eastern State Penitentiary is a very creepy, old prison, which exists in a state of partial ruin. It is popular during the Halloween season for haunted tours. A prison is not my idea of a fun tourist attraction but this place was genuinely spooky and gothic. I had to use an audio device for the tour since it was part of the deal, but it was a self-guided tour. Actor Steve Buscemi narrated the audio tour. I walked through many cell blocks and saw many cells filled with debris. I saw Al Capone’s cell which had some furniture and creature comforts. This attraction didn’t really fit the cultural focus of my trip but it was very interesting.

Eastern State Penitentiary

Eastern State Penitentiary

Across the street from the Eastern State Penitentiary I found the Bookhaven book store where I went on a mad buying binge. I bought five books:

  1. The Dog Problem and The Black Monk by David Rabe
  2. Sexual Perversity in Chicago and The Duck Variations by David Mamet
  3. A Life In The Theater by David Mamet
  4. The Bostonians by Henry James
  5. Two Trains Running by August Wilson

All of those books are plays except for the Henry James novel. Drama is my favorite form of literature.

I walked all the way back to my hotel which was an extremely long way to walk. I had to remove my socks and massage my feet after all that walking. I took an aspirin to keep going. When I was ready to go back out, my immediate goal was to resume the search for some more theaters. But first I had lunch at Cafe Cret on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. I ordered a Cuban sandwich (toasted), a Yogurt Parfait, and a medium café au lait. This proved to be a big meal but I was very hungry so I ate it all. I went back to Sansom Street and managed to find the Liberti Church where Azuka Theatre should have been but I found no sign of any theater posters around the church. I walked to Rittenhouse Square and took a few photos in the park before finding the Plays and Players Theatre, a major goal since 1812 Productions uses that theater and it was one of the original Little Theaters in America. Philadelphia playwright George Kelly based his slapstick comedy The Torch Bearers on this theater.

I then went back to Rittenhouse Square and entered the Barnes and Nobles book store there. I bought three more theater books:

  1. Disgraced by Ayad Akhtar
  2. Race by David Mamet
  3. How I Did It: Establishing A Playwriting Career

Disgraced was the play I saw the previous evening. Race was the first play I saw on Broadway. And How I Did It: Establishing A Playwriting Career is obviously of great interest to me since I am writing plays. This entire trip was a reward for finally resuming my writing. I finally finished the play I began for the online playwriting course I took with the instructor Brooke Berman, although I only made it an one act play, and I wrote a 10 minute version of my shaman play for submission to the Humana Festival of New American Plays. Eventually that play must be longer because I think it will be my most significant work.

From Rittenhouse Square I walked north to Logan Square and then back to my hotel. For two hours I copied photos from my camera to my laptop and went online to check my email and update a few social media web sites with my news. This evening was the much anticipated highlight of my trip, the performance of Antigone at the Wilma Theater.

The Wilma Theater

The Wilma Theater

I was eager to see the Wilma Theater since it has a reputation for avante garde performances. The lobby had a wall of black and white photos of past shows. I’ve always liked theater photos which usually seem highly suggestive. The Wilma Theater’s photos were particularly intriguing. During this trip I got the great idea of creating some fake theater posters for my plays. I could use my graphic design knowledge to create a typical poster of a fantasy show. Unfortunately any performance of one of my plays may have to remain a fantasy. I snagged as many theater brochures as I could to add to my research of Philadelphia theater.

Antigone by Sophocles was directed by a Greek director, Theodoros Terzopoulos. I thought it was the greatest performance I have ever seen in the theater! Of course, it was the only avante-garde performance I’ve ever seen. The show seemed very profound and mysterious to me. It was very symbolic so I was able to give everything a grander interpretation than a more conventional staging would indicate. The actors used very precise body movements so their performance resembled modern dance. Maybe a fan of modern dance would have found it more hackneyed, but it seemed very strange to me. The only thing I could compare it to is Steven Berkoff’s Oscar Wilde’s Salome which I’ve seen on DVD. Some of the slow motion action was similar. The Greek Chorus kept up a physically demanding exhalation, like a prolonged gasp of horror. And the leader of the Greek Chorus stood stock still under a hanging knife, chanting furiously. It was all very surreal.

The actor playing Creon was sitting right in front of me before the play began. I was sitting in row B so I was often very close to the actors. Part of row A was used as Antigone’s tomb. Creon was played by a Greek actor, Antonis Miriagos, and he was very intense. He was the most expressive actor in the cast. However, all of his lines were in Greek and you had to read subtitles projected above the stage to understand him. The lines in English were spoken to make every syllable distinct so it sounded very harsh and overly punctuated.

This play was virtually a ritual. The Philly.com review claims Antigone invokes a theatrical netherworld which is an excellent description. It was like a glimpse into a eerie netherworld where the tragedy was being mourned for eternity. I think you have to be familiar with the story to appreciate this play because the highly stylized performance does not allow you to get the story from the action. There was an onstage narrator to provide some of the background information.

Wilma Theater’s Antigone made quite an impression upon me. It was really dreamlike and offered the profound mystery I seek in the theater. I’m tempted to steal from it for my shaman play which needs a good attempt at performing a ritual. The desperate chanting by a mysterious and tragic figure was great. It is always thrilling when something supernatural is brought onto the stage, like a ghost, to haunt the audience.

So my second day in Philadelphia was an outstanding cultural experience. I saw all the great artwork of the Barnes Collection and the great artistry of the Wilma Theater.

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