Tag Archives: theatre

Five Great Places to Eat in New York’s Theatre District | BEDA Day 9

I see a lot of theatre, and as such, spend a lot of time in New York’s Theatre District. The West 40s are littered with restaurants, bars, and cafes catering to the millions of theatre-goers passing through the area each year. And I’ve been to…a lot of them.

Almost any type of cuisine you can think of is available just minutes from Times Square, and the amount of choices can be pretty overwhelming. It’s easy to just say “screw it” and end up at an overpriced chain restaurant right across the street from your theatre. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with convenience – I used to frequent happy hour at Jekyll & Hyde before it closed (RIP, old friend) – but there are some great places just a few blocks away from the main drag. The next time you’re in town for a show, check out some of these spots for a bite.

For Pre-Matinee Brunch: Pigalle 

This cute French bistro at 48th Street & 8th Avenue is popular with both tourists and the theatre community, and for good reason. Pigalle’s brunch menu features classic French dishes like croque monsieur and breakfast staples like challah french toast. I recently came here before a matinee of School of Rock and enjoyed a light, fluffy waffle and way too much coffee. I also enjoyed pretending I was in Smash for an hour, as the infamous NBC musical drama shot several scenes here. For the record, I’m Team Ivy.

For When Your Parents Are in Town: Esca

This restaurant, a joint venture from Mario Batali, Joe Bastianich, Lydia Bastianich, and David Pasternack, has become a family favorite in recent months. Esca specializes in Southern Italian seafood, particularly of the raw variety. Their crudo, or raw fish, is something everyone should experience at least once in their lives. If you’re not feeling too adventurous, Esca also offers plenty of classic pasta dishes. They also have plenty of options for the gluten-free crowd. Naturally, this place is a little pricey, so it’s definitely a  good place to bring your folks for dinner if they’re feeling generous.

For a Cold Winter’s Night: Obao

I am kind of obsessed with this Thai and Vietnamese spot in the heart of Hell’s Kitchen. Plenty of New York eateries have trendy interiors, but can’t quite deliver on the culinary aspect. Obao’s trendy ambiance is almost as spectacular as it’s menu of noodles, barbecue, and cocktails. Their Pho Bo is guaranteed to warm you up after a day of standing in the rain trying to get Hamilton tickets. Best of all, everything is really reasonably priced. Their lunch special (appetizer and entree for $9) is one of the best deals in the city, at least in my mind.

For Post-Show Cocktails: Bea

There must be something about the corner of 43rd Street & 9th Avenue, seeing as two spots on my list are located there. Bea, unlike Esca, is a little more casual and known for their menu of creative cocktails and bar bites. It’s not quite as rowdy as some of the other bars in the area, which makes it great for post-show discussions over a “Tottenville Tea” or “Lavender Monk.” Their flatbreads are also fantastic if you’re feeling a bit peckish after four hours of Long Day’s Journey Into Night.

For Something Sweet: Schmackary’s

Schmackary’s, home to some of the best cookies in New York, quickly became a big part of my theatre-going routine after I moved here last year. After a show, if it’s not completely freezing out, you’ll usually find me waiting in line here for a Classic Chocolate Chip cookie and a decaf tea. Schmackary’s cookies are always fresh and never overly-sweet. Their cookies come in a huge range of flavors (including gluten and nut-free options), so you’ll definitely find something to tempt your tastebuds.

Hopefully, you’re feeling a little more equipped to handle the culinary jungle that is the Theatre District and Hell’s Kitchen. New Yorkers, let me know your favorite places to eat in the area. I’m always looking for new places to check out!

5 Amazing Podcasts for Your Commute | BEDA Day 5

As a fan of funny people talking in my ear on my way to work, I’ve really been enjoying the Podcast Renaissance. So many smart, funny people are launching their own shows on a range of topics. Not only do these shows make me laugh, they are also incredible educational tools that showcase the work of talented up-and-coming writers. My cup (or really, my Overcast feed) runneth over. Here are 5 podcasts I’ve been obsessed with lately.

The Ensemblist
Want to know what really happens behind the scenes at a Broadway show? Ever wonder what life is like for the ensemble members #werking it in that big musical number? The Ensemblist podcast, hosted by Nikka Graff Lanzarone and Mo Brady aims to give listeners “an inside look at all aspects of being on Broadway.” The show features interviews with seasoned Broadway professionals and newbies alike, with each episode focusing on one aspect of the business of show, such as the unions, being a parent and a performer, and live TV musicals. Each episode usually clocks in at less than 30 minutes, which, incidentally, is perfectly timed to my commute.

You Must Remember This
Guys, WHY did it take me so long to listen to this show? You Must Remember This, hosted by Karina Longworth, tells the secret history of old Hollywood, one episode at a time. I’m a huge nerd for Hollywood History, so I pretty much lost my mind the first time I listened to an episode. This season focuses on the Hollywood Blacklist, a direct result of the Communist witch hunts that took place after World War II. These stories are fascinating and still incredibly important. I’m loving this series so far.

Can I Pet Your Dog?
This podcast from Renee Colvert and Allegra Ringo was basically made for me. Each episode features these two funny ladies talking about their unabashed love for dogs. They also invite awesome guests like Noel Wells, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Lesli Margherita on to talk about their favorite dogs. Most of the time I just want to talk about dogs, so this show is perfect. Also, it’s part of the comedy and culture behemoth that is the Maximum Fun network, so you know it’s good.

Scriptnotes
I’ve been a Scriptnotes fan for going on 3 years now, and it remains one of the most consistently awesome podcasts in my feed. Hosted by screenwriters Craig Mazin and John August, Scriptnotes features conversations on the TV and film industry, writing craft, and basically everything interesting to screenwriters. When I was completing my undergrad program, the podcast was a great supplement to my classes. Now that I’m out of school, each episode keeps me up-to-date on the biz and motivates me to keep working. So thanks for that, John and Craig.

Spirits
Okay, so I’m obviously biased because this podcast is hosted by two of my friends, Amanda McLoughlin and Julia Schifini. However, I’d probably still recommend it even if I didn’t know them. In this podcast, Amanda and Julia enjoy some adult beverages and talk about mythology, legends, and lore. They only have a few episodes under their belts, but I’ve learned more in these episodes than I ever knew before about the myths and legends of Greece, Ireland, and the Philippines. Plus, they’re both hilarious. If you support them on Patreon (shameless plug), you’ll receive drink recipes catered to each episode. Yum.

What podcasts have you been loving recently? Let me know in comments! I’m always looking for new shows to add to my feed.  

Broadway Christmas | Broadway Flea Market 2015 and Elsie Fest

I’ll admit to being a little skeptical when Elsie Fest was announced for the same day as the annual Broadway Flea Market & Grand Auction. Two major Broadway events in one day? Won’t one take away from the other? Despite this, I found the idea of a “Coachella for showtunes” intriguing to say the least. I decided to go for it. Take my money, Darren Criss.

Broadway Bears from Fun Home, The King & I, and Hand to God for auction.

Broadway Bears from Fun Home, The King & I, and Hand to God for auction.

I started out my day in Times Square, navigating the throngs of shoppers at the Broadway Flea Market. I look forward to this event every year. Much like your average flea market, you never know who you’ll run into or which hidden treasures you’ll find. If, in your mind, hidden treasure equates to vintage Playbills from the original Broadway production of Chess, then this event is for you. I shared my haul from this year in the video below. I’m particularly excited about the shot glass.

The Broadway Flea isn’t just an amazing fundraiser for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. It also acts as a massive gathering of the theatre community. Stars, community leaders, producers, and fans alike get together to celebrate the new season and our favorite shows. I saw lots of friends reunite, taking a break from their busy schedules to scour the tables together for the perfect find. It all makes for a super-fun (albeit sweaty) day out in midtown.

The Hudson from JBL Live.

The Hudson from JBL Live.

After a few hours, I tore myself away from the flea market and headed over to JBL Live for Elsie Fest. I really didn’t know what to expect heading in, but the set-up was similar to many outdoor concerts I’d been to before: stage, merch booths, porta potties. In addition to the standards, Darren Criss & Co. brought in a couple of food trucks and set up beer garden/piano bar on the opposite end of the bar (sponsored by the legendary West Village haunt, Marie’s Crisis). My friends and I scouted out a spot in the back where we could lay down a picnic blanket and set up base camp for the day.

Aaron Tveit

Tiny Aaron Tveit

Bringing showtunes out of the theatre and into a concert setting like that of Elsie Fest is tricky, but I think everyone pulled it off really well. Some of the acts seemed more tailored to a smaller venue like 54 Below, but most adapted to the huge stage pretty well. Aaron Tveit opened his set with a rocking rendition of “I’m Alive” from Next to Normal, Leslie Odom Jr. turned “Cheer Up Charlie” from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory into a soulful R&B ballad, and Darren Criss closed out the show with a punk cover of “Cabaret.” Plus, the whole Starkid gang got together to perform numbers from the hit parody musicals, most notably “Gotta Get Back to Hogwarts” from A Very Potter Musical.

When you go see a show, there’s really no opportunity to get up and dance to your favorite songs like you might at home (unless you’re seeing Mamma Mia). Elsie Fest gave us theatre dorks the opportunity to do just that, to relax and celebrate our favorite shows and performers. One of my favorite parts of the day was bonding with a bunch of rad ladies in the food truck line over Hamilton and more. That’s really the best part of any fan gathering and why I keep going to them. I’m sure Elsie Fest will be even better next year. I know I’ll be back.

Five Reasons Why Fall is the Superior Season

I have a confession to make. I, Charlotte Dow, am a basic fall bitch.

Tomorrow is the first day of fall and I couldn’t be more excited. Don’t get me wrong, every season has its perks. My fragile constitution just can’t handle the extremes of summer and winter. I much prefer the more temperate, in-betweeny seasons of spring and fall. Since spring comes with allergies that have me sniveling for weeks, that leaves fall as the supreme. I feel like fall never really got the respect it deserved until recently. Now every #brand cashes in on the change of seasons well before the calendar even turns to September. I don’t even mind the fall-sploitation. Bring on the pumpkin-flavored everything.

Not convinced? Here are five reasons why fall is the superior season.

1. New TV Shows! New Theatre! New Everything!

The drop in temperature gives us all plenty of excuses to stay inside and enjoy an avalanche of new entertainment. September and October are chock full of season and series premieres on TV. I’m particularly looking forward to the returns of The Leftovers and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Luckily, they both air on Sundays, so I can balance the completely grim with the completely silly. Plus, as I mentioned in my Broadway on a budget post, the new theatre season has plenty to offer. Between Allegiance, Spring Awakening, Fiddler on the Roof, and King Charles III, my sippy cup full of theatre wine runneth over.

2. Dat Fall Foliage, Tho

While I still live in the northeast, I feel like I haven’t seen fall in its full glory since I moved to the city. The lack of trees is a bit of a problem and I haven’t had a ton of chances to go frolic in a pumpkin patch (or whatever it is that country folk do this time of year). This year, I’m determined to get in some quality time with the changing landscape. The vibrance of the fall colors up here make the brutal winters almost worth it. Almost.

3. HALLOWEEN

I mean, this should be reason enough to love fall. Yeah, putting together a costume (and plans) for Halloween tends to stress me out, but the night is so fun that I don’t even care. I’m not a huge fan of horror, but I love getting a little spooky. I’m so ready for some witchy-themed drinks, Hocus Pocus reruns, and thinkpieces on the occult. Plus, adorably-packaged candy never really gets old.

4. Peak Sweater Season

Once we hit about mid-October, I start rocking my cold-weather uniform: boots, leggings/pants, and a comfy sweater. I’ll admit, this ensemble does kind of lose its charm around February, but fall is a time to enjoy the novelty of being fully-covered and cozy. After months of freezing in my over air-conditioned office, I can wear something warm without sweating through my commute. I truly thrive in jewel-toned cashmere.

5. Pumpkin. Beer.

Do I really need to justify this one?

Now that I’ve convinced you all of autumn’s superiority, what are you looking forward to this season? If you’re in New York, Buzzfeed has compiled a list of killer fall activities in and around the city.

I have truly proved myself basic. Pass me a PSL.

An “Expert’s” Guide to Doing Broadway On a Budget

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It’s almost that time, kids. In a few weeks, exciting new productions will be popping up all over the Great White Way. Personally, I’m incredibly excited for the upcoming season. Productions like Hamilton, Allegiance, and the revival of Spring Awakening are bringing fantastic stories and much-needed diversity to Broadway. How do you keep up with the season without losing your shirt? Here are some of my favorite ways to catch a show on a budget.

Cheap

The TKTS booths – located in Times Square, South Street Seaport, and Downtown Brooklyn – have been the go-to outlets for discount theatre tickets for years. Head to your location of choice early in the day to grab same-day tickets at up to 50% off face value. Since availability varies every day, TKTS is a great way to go if you’re not too picky about which show you want to see. I’d recommend downloading the TKTS app as well for real-time updates on ticket availability.

You can also save a great deal of money by simply planning ahead. Contrary to popular belief, not all Broadway tickets have a face value of $100+. Mezzanine seats for weekday performances can cost as little as $35. If you can buy your seats directly from the box office and avoid online fees, even better.

Cheaper

The TodayTix app has been a true game-changer for me. This app offers discounted tickets to almost every show in New York up to a week in advance. Buying tickets for a show 3 days ahead of time is about as spontaneous as I get, so TodayTix is perfect for me. The app also runs e-lotteries for shows like On the Town and Fun Home, offering heavily discounted tickets to winners. There is a service fee for TodayTix purchases (roughly $10 per ticket), so do keep that in mind when perusing the app. Otherwise, this is by far my favorite way to snag a ticket.

If you’re under the age of 30 (let’s be real, if you’re reading this blog, you probably are), there are even more ways to get discount tickets in advance. My TDF membership is one of the best investments I’ve made since moving to New York. TDF offers members of certain demographics (students, teachers, recent grads, seniors, members of the armed forces, etc.) discount tickets to select performances of plays, musicals, concerts, cabaret performances, and more for just $30 a year. While selection is sometimes limited, tickets are never more than $50 each. Plus, your membership supports TDF’s amazing theatre education and outreach programs. Non-profit theatre companies like Roundabout and Manhattan Theatre Club also offer heavily-discounted tickets to young theatregoers. Sign up and keep an eye on your email to find out when these seats go on sale.

Cheapest

Most Broadway shows offer a limited number of discounted tickets through a rush every day, depending on availability. In many cases you can get a great seat for under $40 by simply showing up to the box office early on the day of the show. Rushing can be a bit of a crap shoot. During the busy seasons (the holidays, post-Tonys) you’ll need to get in line before the box office opens to secure your spot. If you really want to try your luck, many of the hottest shows on Broadway (Hamilton, Book of Mormon, Wicked) run a lottery for discounted tickets. Head to the theatre about two and a half hours before curtain to get your name in the drawing. While lottery tickets are probably the least certain way to get tickets, the experience itself can be pretty fun. You can find more information on Broadway rush policies here.

With the average theatre ticket price climbing into the triple digits, it’s nice to know that there are still ways to take in a show without going into crippling debt. Have you tried any of these services? What did you see? Share your experiences in the comments!

Bethesda

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“This angel. She’s my favorite angel. I like them best when they’re statuary. They commemorate death but suggest a world without dying. They are made of the heaviest things on earth, stone and iron, they weigh tons but they’re winged, they are engines and instruments of flight.” – Tony Kushner, Angels in America

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During my junior year of college, I spent six months working at a theater in Philadelphia. I started about a week after their production of Angels in America opened and was highly encouraged to see the show (all six hours of it).

I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

The utter enormity of this piece really changed the way I looked at theatre forever. I realized that a play could be both extravagant and intimate. It broke all the rules that had been ingrained in my brain since my first playwriting class. It gave me so much hope and is still a source of inspiration.

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Bethesda Fountain, located in Central Park, plays a huge part in Angels, and yet it was one of those places I hadn’t truly visited in my many trips to the city. On a gorgeous day last August, I decided to fix it (and bring my camera along).

The fountain is truly magnificent, and you can see why it attracts so many visitors on days like this one. It’s also not far from the iconic Loeb Boathouse, where you can take a rowboat for a spin on the pond.

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The terrace directly across from the fountain features these gorgeous tiled ceilings and plenty of room for artists and visitors alike. On this particular afternoon I caught some buskers taking advantage of the space’s interesting acoustics to play some gospel tunes.

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Though I haven’t had a ton of time to get back to the park yet this season, I plan to in the coming weeks. The fact that Central Park exists and continues to thrive is truly a testament to what this city is capable of and it makes me incredibly excited to live here.

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Senior Project | A Balancing Act

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Sometimes I look at my friends and wonder how they’re still upright. They do so much more than I do and I feel like I’m about to collapse into a pile of creative project-induced stress. This could also be because I’m fighting off a cold and I walked a 12k for the first time in…a while yesterday, but I do have a lot going on at the moment. On top of my senior project (which should be commanding most of my attention), I have 18 credits worth of classes, a play opening in a week and a half, and my own creative endeavors to worry about. Oh, and my social life and health. Those are important, too.

What I think may be the key to doing my best work on this is blocking out time every day in my crazy schedule to put all the other distractions away and just spend some time with my story. The first deadline for my project was last Friday and I’ll be honest with you all, I was not prepared. I came up with a pretty detailed treatment and bio for my main protagonist, but I definitely need to spend some time creating the rest of the ensemble and tweaking my treatment before I’m ready to write. Luckily, I have a little more time for development.

“Why does that document you’re working on look more like an English essay than an actual script?” you’re probably [not] wondering. That, my friends, is a treatment. A treatment is essentially a detailed outline in prose of the script. I find them to be very helpful because they help me figure out what I want the tone of each scene to be, which doesn’t always come across in an outline. Prose helps me fully flesh out each moment before I actually write it. Plus, I enjoy writing prose. Makes me feel smarter or something.

My goal or this week is to keep working on my characters and outline my second episode. It’s going to be a tough week as I’m just a few days away from Godzilla’s tech weekend, but if my crazy friends can still do all that they do, I think I can make it out alive. As a wise Tumblr post once said, “You have as many hours in the day as Beyonce.”

P.S. If you’re in Philly, come see Godzilla. We open on Halloween!

Shocked by Culture Shock

Nearly every travel guide out there will tell you that there are several stages of culture shock. The more time you spend away from home, the harder culture shock will hit you, blah blah blah. For some reason, I thought I was immune to culture shock. I’ve traveled internationally, I’ve been exposed to British culture through different forms of media, and I’ve spent plenty of time away from home before. Culture shock can’t hit me! I’m super-traveler!

I was quite wrong.

Wikipedia describes culture shock as “a term used to describe the anxiety and feelings (of surprise, disorientation, confusion, etc.) felt when people have to operate within a different cultural or social environment, such as a different country or a different state”. That seems pretty accurate for Wikipedia, seeing as I’ve felt a lot of things since I arrived in London three weeks ago. I spent the first week or so in the “honeymoon stage”. I wanted to get out and do and see everything that this city has to offer. Homework? That can wait, let’s go to the Tower of London! That club is a fifteen minute walk from the tube? That’s totally worth it, they’ve got the best DJ in the city!

Naturally, I’m exhausted right now. Tiring yourself out in the first few days is probably the best way to enter stage two of culture shock, the “hostility stage”.

I feel like the term “hostility” is a bit strong, considering how I feel right now. I still love London, and I’m definitely not ready to go back to the states, but there are some things that frustrate me about being here. Things are expensive, in between school and travel plans I never feel like I have enough time for everything I want to do, and I still can’t find anywhere to get my eyebrows waxed (seriously, it’s getting out of hand).  I guess the thing that I’m most frustrated with is being so far away from the people I love. I want to share my experiences with them. However, I’ve been blessed with a great group of people to live and study with here in London, which makes this whole “hostility period” much easier. I’m not hostile, just a bit sad, particularly because the Reading Room of the Victoria & Albert Museum (where I happen to be writing this post) keeps playing songs that remind me of the states.

Of course, I’m still having an amazing time here. I’ll leave you with some highlights of the last few weeks.

I took a tour of Parliament with my classmates on Monday morning. Honestly, I didn’t think that “common folk” were allowed in Parliament. My experiences with American government buildings has been limited, and mostly experienced from the outside. Apparently anyone can come in and have a chat with their local Member of Parliament or attend a debate. The building alone is a work of art, and yet someone let me on the floor of the House of Commons. I call that government transparency at its finest. Congress, take notes.

I did the ultimate tourist thing and took a ride on the London Eye last week. My friends and I went at night when the city was all lit up and ready to party (well, as hard as you can party on a Wednesday night). The views were gorgeous enough to distract me from my fear of heights, which probably means that I’m not afraid of heights anymore. Here are a few of my favorite shots of the night.

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Last Saturday I saw Zach Braff’s new play All New People at the Duke of York’s Theatre. I went on my own, which is a theatre first for me. As much as I enjoy discussing a play after I’ve seen it with others, it was nice to just take it in and digest the work on my own. The play was a funny, yet poignant portrayal of life as a young person in such an isolating age. As this was Braff’s first play, there were some things that he still needs to work on and some writing choices that I didn’t agree with, but overall I enjoyed the show and would recommend it to theatre fans in London in the next two weeks, particularly if you are a fan of Braff’s work. I also got to meet Braff at the stage door after the show! He was really great with his fans, making sure to sign everyone’s program/Scrubs DVDs/Marks & Spencer’s voucher. Image

I leave for a weekend in Amsterdam bright and early tomorrow morning. It’s high time for a change of scenery.