Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas in New York City

Even the Empire State Building was feeling the holiday spirit, so why didn't I?

My first Christmas in New York City. I can write about it romantically or I can write about it truthfully.

Romantically, my first Christmas in New York City was relaxing, some much-needed alone time to gather my thoughts and reflect on how far I've come this year.

In actuality, I spent Christmas weekend drinking hot chocolate, watching old episodes of "How I Met Your Mother" and having too many mimosas at Sunday brunch (which was more overpriced than normal and I met up with a fellow friend who did not go home for Christmas). And other than the phone call from my parents to wish me a Merry Christmas and a phone call from my oldest sister who was making a cake for her son's birthday party on Christmas day and wanted to know how to make whipped cream, I didn't speak to many people this past weekend. Not to say that I was lonely, but the quiet was palpable.

But one thing about the holiday season, you're not allowed to feel indifference. And there's not much place for pretending that all of the romanticism of mistletoe, snow, presents and "How are you spending Christmas? Are you going back to California to see your family?" does not affect you.

In fact, it was shaking me and asking me frantically why I wasn't feeling more cheerful, why I was spending the holidays alone and why I didn't have a Christmas tree. To answer those questions: I feel slight amusement, that's enough; my mom wanted me home for Tet and I can only afford to fly back to California once this year; and I have no room for a Diep-sized Christmas tree.

Because this year, I was not in the holiday mood. Maybe it's that transition from childhood to adulthood, or perhaps that's the byproduct of spending a season that everyone (religious and non-believers alive) was spending with their family alone. You can't help but feel out of the norm; in the land of twinkle lights and garlands, you are an alien.

So yes, my first Christmas in New York City was quiet. But when you consider that I live in New York City, quiet is pretty atypical and kind of great. And I'll celebrate with my family when I come home to California in January.

"Once" in a Theater

A perfect moment of theater does not necessarily happen in a show that is entirely good. It's likelier in a show that is entirely good from start to finish. But it can also happen in one of those shows that leaves you mostly emotionless, where you didn't entirely dislike it but you didn't like it very much either. That happened to me with the musical version of Once, a charming little Irish movie about two socially awkward yet musically talented people who develop feelings for each other, make music and then not make love.

But this post is not about what struck me (or didn't) about the musical version of the film, currently playing at the New York Theatre Workshop (it's also written by Enda Walsh, whose Penelope was my first moment of theatrical bliss in New York City). No, this is the story of that rare and perfect theatrical moment.

Monday, December 12, 2011

God is in the Details

Thou shalt remember that less is more.

It's about two weeks until Christmas and c'mon, mommy needs some new Sondheim!

Reposted with love from

Friday, December 9, 2011

Stalking Stephen Sondheim

I have never considered myself a Stephen Sondheim (or as others call him, "God") expert. Yes, I enjoy the man's work but I haven't seen enough of his shows live to peg myself as an expert. Yes, I listen to the cast album from his shows for fun (sometimes while at the gym) but that's more fan than expert.

These past two weeks, I've taken my fanaticism to a whole new level by attending not just one, but two Sondheim events in New York City, part of the press tour to promote his new book: Look, I Made a Hat.

You can find a more reported version of the events where we went to here at my (platonic) date's blog: Theatre-Words.

To quote myself: "We have officially become Sondheim groupies." So much so that we noticed the Master wore the same outfit to the first event (The Colbert Report, click on the link for potential free tickets to the show) as he did the second event (a conversation with Anna Quindlen at Barnes & Noble). We're fashion-savvy like that.

Here's a nice little excerpt from his interview with Miss Quindlen: when asked about which one of his works he would like to take to a desert island, he answered with A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, because if you have to listen to something night after night, it should be something that makes you laugh.

And here's the interview with Stephen Colbert, where Stephen squared sang an up-beat, let's call it lounge, version of "Sorry Grateful" from Company.

"My performance of Harry, great interpretation of Sondheim or greatest interpretation of Sondheim?"

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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

In the Bathroom with Frank Gehry

The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre, part of the new Signature Center designed by Frank Gehry

I was chatting with Frank Gehry, architect extraordinaire, while waiting in line to the bathroom. With famous people, the best way to humanize them, is to see them go into a bathroom, it's the great equalizer (next to death).

Let's pull back a little bit, how did I encounter architect Frank Gehry in the bathroom? It was during a press tour of the new in-progress Signature Center, New York City's Signature Theatre's new home, designed by Gehry at a discounted price of only $66 million.

During his speech at the luncheon, which you can read a bit of in the linked article, he demonstrated just how famous he was by calling the greatest playwright who ever lived as "The guy said, 'All the world’s a stage', and I believe that." Did I mention the man is in his 80's and hilarious? He also responded with "Thank God," when I told him I don't write about architecture.

And he's also going to live longer now, because I said that he can. So you're welcome architecture-fanatics. You're welcome.

As for the new center, with three theaters opening into a central space with a cafe and bookstore, it's a theatrical piazza (which was the point). Hopefully I will be able to get in when the place finally opens in January.

So yes, just another day at American Theatre magazine.