Lots to report from June 2017 — I spent the month in New York City and Connecticut, finishing up a work project and then enjoying the start of summer.
I finished working on the latest incarnation of Showtime at the Apollo the first week of June. Our proximity to excellent restaurants in Harlem led to quite a few meals which I am still trying to work off. Along with my co-workers / college friends Adam and Sophia, I tried out Sylvia’s fried chicken and waffles. Super delicious. The other dish pictured below is ‘smothered chicken’ and collard greens with mac & cheese.
Marquee shot with our script department (minus Adam!) in front of the Apollo theater:
Inside the truck during rehearsals:
Inside the theater prior to audience load in:
The day after we wrapped, I spent a few hours wandering around The Cloisters medieval museum in Fort Tryon park in the northernmost part of Manhattan. Full post coming soon.
I attended the immersive production of Ghost Light at Lincoln Center. It is delightful. Obligatory Lincoln Center photo post performance:
Speaking of immersive theater, I was thrilled to catch Sweeney Todd at the Barrow Street Theatre — the production is set in a pie shop which has taken over the whole space (you can order food before the show begins). I got an $85 “twisting view” seat near the action and was very pleased with it, as regular tickets are a shocking $140 for this off-Broadway run. (The TodayTix app offers $39 lottery tickets if you are lucky enough to win.) Loved hearing Norm Lewis’s dulcet tones in such close proximity.
On my way into the city to see this show, I found out that my 9th grade Theater Arts teacher had passed away that morning. Mr. Harris was the person who sparked my love of theater almost 20 years ago — a gift that has kept me creatively and culturally nourished ever since. It was in his class that I saw a VHS tape of Sweeney Todd (my first introduction to Sondheim), and while seeing this show now in 2017 I got teary at many points thinking about how lucky I am to know the theater world because of Mr. Harris. I reconnected with him about five years ago, expressing how much his class had changed my life. We’ve met up for lunch every year or so since to catch up on all the shows we’ve both seen. Two years ago I urged Mr. Harris to buy Hamilton tickets before the show opened on Broadway, and while reluctant about this new hip-hop musical, he got a 3rd row center ticket (his favorite place to sit) and loved it. My heart is heavy knowing we’ve had our last chat. I’m so grateful for his influence and will do my best to pass on that love of theater to future generations, as he did for me and so many others.
Seated Ballerina by Jeff Koons at Rockefeller Center.
I ordered the “Mother Te-REESE-a” peanut butter cup latte at The Bean coffee shop in NYC. It was just okay. I appreciate that they attempt it.
Graffiti in Harlem:
Graffiti in New Haven:
I got back to CT in time for Father’s Day weekend — we drove to Essex along the shoreline for a few hours of walking around and enjoying the scenery. Here are a few family photos:
Dressed for dinner out that night:
We went to Geronimo in New Haven, a delicious Mexican spot. The service was terrible that night — painfully slow and our waitress repeatedly forgot about us (we went at 5pm and it wasn’t busy), but the food was very good once it arrived at our table.
We tried an escape room for the first time! Escape New Haven offers several different themed rooms and we went with The Crypt. Here is the description:
You are members of the crew of a major upcoming movie, “The Crypt.” The director and the star, the famous has-been Holly Mayweather, have been acting strange lately, and odd things keep happening on set, so you’ve decided to sneak in late at night and see if you can find out what’s going on. You have one hour before the security guard comes back to make his rounds. Let’s see what you can find.
Compelling décor marries a 1920s movie set with a foray into the occult. Some puzzles are straightforward; others require careful thought, strong intuition, and decisive teamwork. While this is not a horror experience, there are a few thrilling moments.
And… WE DID IT! We solved the puzzled and escaped the room with about four minutes to spare. This particular room only has a 20% success rate, and we did well enough that our finish time tied with 3rd place for the month. Even though this was our first escape room (my sister had done one elsewhere once before), we had an advantage because both my dad and sister play escape room-type games on their iPads regularly so they were quite familiar with how to piece together clues. But it took all four of us contributing to escape in the time that we did. Very thrilling.
Here’s the travel-themed Father’s Day card I got my dad — it pairs nicely with the one I got my mom for Mother’s Day last month!
I took my dad out for lunch the following week to Viron Rondo Osteria in Cheshire, CT — highly recommend. It was our first time here and it’s a lovely setting with a varied menu and good prices. Be sure to get the “My Mother’s Chips” appetizer — crispy eggplant and zucchini served with yogurt cilantro dip (pictured below left). And I can personally attest that my Bistecca grilled sirloin dish was outstanding.
And I took my mom out to lunch for a belated Mother’s Day gift since I was working in NYC for most of the past month — we went to Skippers Restaurant in Niantic for lobster rolls, followed by a visit to The Book Barn just down the street.
We also stopped by Eugene O’Neill’s boyhood home in New London, CT — the Monte Cristo Cottage, which is run by the nearby Eugene O’Neill Theater Center. It’s open for tours during the summer months from Thursdays through Sundays from 12-4pm, with tickets costing $7 for adult general admission. Call in advance just to make sure they’re open as scheduled (860-443-5378 x288).
I was SUCH a geek here and will detail everything in a future post.
Some meals we made at home — southwest BBQ chicken salad, breaded sole with greens, rice, and guacamole / chips.
I hiked at Giufridda Park in Meriden, CT for the first time — and loved this loop so much I came back two days later to do it again! The views from above are terrific.
Roses in bloom:
For the first time in my life, I attended events at The International Festival of Arts & Ideas in New Haven, CT. Sadly I missed out on a meal presented by IRIS and Sanctuary Kitchen at CitySeed, where refugees made foods from their home countries. I didn’t know about it until just after it happened, but it was sold out anyways. Now Sanctuary Kitchen is on my radar and I hope to attend another one of their events soon. But I did find out about two other theater-related events just in time — a talk with the widow of playwright August Wilson about his work, as well as a conversation between Taylor Mac and Bassem Youssef. More on that in a minute…
On my way to the events, I decided to come early and spend a few hours wandering around the Yale University Art Gallery — which is FREE to the public! I’ve heard phenomenal things about this museum and don’t think I’ve ever been here (if so it was when I was a young kid, perhaps on a field trip). I LOVED it so much here. In lieu of a full post, here are a number of my favorite photos from the afternoon.
The above photo got me to add Bash Bish Falls in Massachusetts to my travel list.
I added text to some of the photos below to identify their artists.
This exhibit below features photos from the 1957 Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom, the first large-scale gathering of African Americans on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Thousands traveled from across the country to commemorate the third anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education, which banned racial segregation in public schools. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered one of the speeches that day, his first national address. Lee Friedlander, then a 22-year-old freelance photographer, also made the journey and documented the day in pictures. It would take him decades to find a publisher. (Most of this paragraph was taken from the wall display of this exhibit.)
After exploring the art gallery, I attended the August Wilson event with his widow Constanza Romero (a theatrical costume designer) and a scholar of his work, Harry J. Elam Jr. Very informative and moving to hear them talk about Wilson’s Pittsburgh Cycle, which chronicles a century of the African American experience with one play set in each decade of the 1900s. I’ve currently only seen three of the 10 and am eager to see them all.
While waiting in line to get in, I spied this poster:
Are you kidding me?! Performance artist Taylor Mac in conversation with “the Jon Stewart of Egypt” Bassem Youssef — for free? Count me in. I came back to the Yale Art Gallery two days later with my sister. Loved hearing these two speak about their work and topical issues.
(Also, if you aren’t familiar with Taylor Mac, check out this music video of him performing Amazing Grace through the streets of San Francisco.)
Final night of the International Festival of Arts & Ideas on the New Haven Green:
Quick stop by Koffee?, my favorite coffee shop in New Haven:
My sister suggested I come back to check out the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale — from the outside it looks like a windowless building, but those squares are actually translucent and emit a glow from the inside:
On this particular evening, I was back in New Haven for a public conversation called Coming to Connecticut on the topic of resettling refugees in our state, attended by governor Dannel Malloy, who has worked to ensure that refugees are welcome here. Other panelists included a leading expert in refugee law (Becca Heller), staff attorney for the National Immigration Law Center (Justin Cox), the executive director of IRIS (Chris George), a Yale economics professor (Mushfiq Mobarak), and a refugee from Iraq who has lived in New Haven since 2014 (Bushra Mahdi). It was a terrific and informative event. I am glad to witness a community coming together to support refugee resettlement here in CT.
The following night I attended another refugee event in the same space — this was sponsored by IRIS (Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services) and included a reception with Syrian cuisine made by refugees (my favorite was the mutabal, a smoky eggplant dip). There were also two photo exhibits on display during the reception.
A theatrical presentation followed, presented by Collective Consciousness Theater which conducted hundreds of hours of interviews with refugees six years ago and compiled them into an hour-long performance. Afterwards a moderator invited some of the theater artists as well as recently resettled refugees to participate in a discussion. And the evening was put together in part by someone I went to church with as a youth — it was great to catch up with her in the lobby after and learn more about her work with IRIS.
I took several long walks in my hometown of Wallingford. The Choate campus in the center of town is so picturesque this time of year.
And I finally made it to the Goodspeed theater in East Haddam, CT — I’ve been meaning to come here for years. Thoroughly Modern Millie was playing here through July 2nd — and while I know that entire cast album, I’d never seen the show before. I showed up just before curtain and bought a $29 balcony ticket to a Wednesday matinee. LOVED the show. And the grounds here are so pretty.
This theater is in need of a major restoration, however. The balcony seats that wrap around near the front of the stage are particularly dangerous, as patrons have to duck down low to get over structural rods that are connected to lighting rigs. I witnessed a few senior citizens nearly go down while trying to get to their seats! But this opera house is so old that I bet it would take millions of dollars to bring it up to code during any renovations process. I hope they can salvage it in the coming decades because it is a special theater.
Also — I stopped into Higher Grounds coffee shop near the theater and it’s adorable. They close at 2p and was in a rush to get to the theater so I took an iced coffee to go, but I would love to come back in the future to hang out for a bit. They have a full breakfast and lunch menu, plus treats like homemade lavender shortbread cookies.
And I squeezed in one more theatrical trip on the last day of the month, to see the new musical Deathless at the Goodspeed’s smaller venue located about 10 minutes away in Chester, CT — the Norma Terris Theater. I was so glad to catch it. And upon perusing the program I realized I know the associate director! Small world.
Whew, what a month. Now the summer begins in earnest. Hope you are all enjoying it!