Our First NYC Adventure

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The night before our first New York trip, my mother decided that she would like to drive to the bus station because she thought that the hurricane was going to produce too much danger for me to drive in, and I panicked because I was supposed to drive other people to the bus station from Moravian the next day, and I feared that everyone would not fit with my mom in the car as well. Luckily, only 3 other people signed up to ride in my car, and they were all waiting in the parking lot, ready and prepared, at 6:30 Saturday morning, and we were able to get to the bus station and leave without a hitch. We arrived at Port Authority around 9 o’clock. It was really dark and damp, and it smelled like exhaust from all the buses. I watch way too much Law and Order, so I was thinking in the back of my mind that someone was going to abduct me or something, because bad things always happen at Port Authority on TV. However, there were almost no people down there, except Dr. Shosh, patiently waiting for the class to arrive. He then guided us up to 42nd Street, in the Broadway Theatre District, which I was thankful for, because I’ve only ever been to New York twice, and I was definitely not allowed to walk wherever I pleased before this first trip. We received our scavenger hunt teams and question sheets in front of Starbuck’s, and embarked upon our search. First, my group went into Starbuck’s, so we could all go to the bathroom. Then, we started scavenging. We didn’t really have a plan and just wandered around aimlessly, finding random answers as we roamed. I decided I could never live in the city because I kept smelling repulsive scents, and I cannot stand disgusting smells; I think I have a very sensitive nose. Also, I shuffle when I walk, so I always trip while I’m walking, and, since it was wet out from recent rain, I kept stepping in puddles, and I don’t even want to think about what was in that water. Later, I was so busy looking for one of the answers that I just walked straight in to a pole. Then, around 11, my group decided that we would head to the restaurant, so we wouldn’t be disqualified for tardiness because we had to be there by 12. We had about half of our scavenger hunt paper filled out and had no hopes of winning, but on our way down 46th, coming back from climbing into a construction site illegally to find an answer for the hunt, I saw a man handing out fliers for a Broadway show, and Whoopi Goldberg was on the front. I asked him for one because I remembered that one of the questions had asked something about her. Then, as I was writing down the answer for the group, another man handing out fliers asked what we were doing. When we told him we were on a scavenger hunt for our class, he said, “Oh, ask me some questions; I bet I can help!,” so we asked him and his friends all of the questions that we had not yet filled out the answers too, and they knew almost every one! We then rushed to the restaurant because we certainly didn’t want to be disqualified when our score had most definitely just been boosted. We arrived at the Film Center Café in plenty of time, around 11:45, and, after the scores were tallied, my group proved victorious in the scavenger hunt. Later, we ordered our food, and almost everyone ordered a cheeseburger because we were all starving and needed protein, so, as they brought the food out to our tables, I thought every plate was mine, but mine was almost the last to come out. Although, since I was so hungry, and waited for so long, I think mine tasted extra good to me. However, the French fries at the café were covered in little flecks of some green spice, and I just felt like I was covered in green stuff by the end of the meal. I probably shouldn’t complain though because Elizabeth ordered a Belgian waffle without berries on it, which, logically, should have been the easiest thing to make and should have come out first, but it came out last, and the man also brought her a huge plate of berries on the side like a metaphorical slap on the face to add to the fact that she only got her food after everyone else was almost done eating. After everyone relieved themselves and was satiated, we walked back to the Richard Rogers Theater, where In the Heights, which explores three days in the characters’ lives in the New York City Latino neighborhood of Washington Heights, was playing. The musical had an upbeat Latino score and added modern element like rap and hip hop to the traditional Broadway musical. After the show, it was pouring in New York City, and we were all so beat from scouring from 40th street to 54th street for scavenger hunt answers that most of us decided we just wanted to return to Port Authority and get home as quickly as possible. The ride seemed to drag on, and the torrential rain certainly wasn’t helping, but I think the fact that we all just wanted to get home as quickly as possible made it even worse. But, alas, we finally arrived back at the bus terminal around 7:30 on Saturday night, and after dropping everyone back off at the college, I went home, took a long, hot, relaxing shower, and slept straight through the night till 10:30 Sunday morning.

The Broadway Experience

What was I to learn about the Broadway strip in New York City? Well, number one, it was not just a strip, it was a neighborhood! Forty-second street to finally, fifty-eighth street, was as far as the group decided to go. The scavenger hunt was a maze; every billboard had a meaning, but not any given word was an answer to our riddle. A couple of times the group was misguided, but through it all, the excursion opened up understanding about Broadway.Before my trip to New York City, I would not believe my mind was capable of expansion. Block after block, there was another theater, another show in production, and another answer to the question. In comparison to all of New York, the Broadway neighborhood is roughly very small, but the number of people walking on the sidewalks was simply unbelievable. People who loved theater, officers who miraculously knew most of the answers to the questions, and people who were just newcomers, one of which was me, came to see the Broadway life. I am a foreigner to the Broadway community, but not a stranger to New York City. The smell of New York was the same, cigarette smoke in the air, sewer stench rising from the ground, and the aroma of gasoline from buses and cars. I knew exactly that this part of New York would not change from the last time I had visited the state.The humid weather served as the opponent of the day. Worries of rain drops were always in the back of my head, but the umbrella was not far from usage. Step after step, answer after answer, and the dripping sweat down my face, when would we be finished with this scavenger hunt? Every corner there was information to be found, a new production to know about, a restaurant/pub to visit. Was there even a block just for nothing? Each street in the Broadway neighborhood had significance and each building told its own history. I was amazed of how the neighborhood became to be, from one theater to over dozens of theaters that feature hit productions. I was personally honored, simply to be in Broadway’s presence, a historical place, where acting was praised and where people who love acting can come together. Certainly the scavenger hunt broadened my understanding of Broadway. I realized that Broadway could write its own history book.After walking the streets in New York City, the whole group came together to watch a production that won an abundant number of Tony Awards, In the Heights. Personally, I was very excited to see my first Broadway production; I could not wait to get into the theater. The musical started and my eyes peered wide open, not wanting to blink. Every second and every act was breath-taking, from the vibrant colors that painted the theater to the choreographed moves that brought life to the characters; I was gripped from the beginning of the story to the end.My experience at New York City will be unforgettable, especially the viewing of my first Broadway show. Although, my feet grew numb, my knees began to feel weak, and my body was physically exhausted by the end of my journey, I pulled forward something that was filed in the back of my brain: the immense love for Broadway.

Lower East Side Tenement Museum

Monday, September 29, 2008

“Ah you want to learn to dance?” Victoria, a 14 year old Jewish immigrant asks me in her slow, broken English as I, along with my fellow writing 100 peers sit in her small, cramped apartment. I awkwardly nod yes and look around at the faces of my peers. Some look back at me sympathetically as if to say, “I’m sorry you are in such an awkward and embarrassing position” while others just look at me and start laughing in amusement. As Victoria prepares the music for our dance, I glance about her small apartment and think, “I can not imagine having to live here.” Once Victoria finishes winding the victrola, strange music fills the room and Victoria grabs my hand. “It’s so easy.” She says, “Two steps forward, two steps back, and two steps to the side. Slow then fast. Come. you try.” I fail miserably as I attempt to keep up with her pace. “You are such a good dancer! Maybe you can go to the dance hall and dance with a guy and choose your own husband,” she says with a hint of sadness.
The Lower East Side Tenement museum opened my eyes to the struggle that early immigrants faced. To be sure, I had heard about the horrible conditions, the extreme poverty, and the numerous diseases the immigrants faced but those facts did not hit me until I was standing in a small, cramped room listening to the actress portray life in the early 1900’s. I felt heart broken when Victoria explained her love for school and how she felt so happy being able to go to school for two years, before being pulled out to help her family work. I thought I heard a twinge of jealously in her voice as she told us that her brother was allowed to continue his education. I could not imagine and I still can not imagine not being allowed to go to school. I love school, I am a major self described nerd. While most of my floor is out partying I am inside doing research on the history of the Bible. Not to be able to go to school would devastate me and in the 1900s this was happening to young immigrant women all the time.
I have the tendency to take things to heart, so as the museum tour progressed I felt a sense of despair coming over me especially as we stood in the presence of a tiny casket. As the tour guide explained the 27% mortality rate among immigrant babies, I began to imagine all the lives that never had a chance to flourish and about all the people who are lost in time and are forgotten. It just felt so weird listening to the tour guide explain the lives of these immigrants and their families, realizing that many of them have been dead for years. Despite the occasional sadness I felt, it did cheer me when I heard that some of the immigrants’ grandchildren have gone on to be fire fighters and to hold other important jobs. It reminded me that the lives of the immigrants were not in vain-even the life of that little five month old. She did not have the chance to experience life but her death and the deaths of the other immigrant babies forced society to think about how they are treating other human beings.

My Exploration of Culture and New York City

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The day began with a visit to the Lower East Side Tenement Museum. At first nothing looked special or unique, but upon further observations I was able to see that this town had a big history. The stories behind the buildings that lined the streets of the Lower East Side really made me think. All the hustle and bustle that once filled those same streets was not there, but I imagined it and could start to feel the neighborhood come to life. After hearing about the immigrants who survived in those tenement buildings, I thought about how important those people were. Without them what would what we call America be like today? Of course, it is also hard to imagine living in the poor lifestyle crammed with so many people. After the museum, we continued or adventure by heading to the San Genanaro Festival.
At the San Genanaro festival, the Italian flavor came to life. It was really neat to have the opportunity to walk through China town, with the open markets, and then to walk through the festival which showed its Italian roots. Smelling the Italian food in the air, we set off to find a restaurant to eat at. We chose a nice little Italian place and ate inside. I had some homemade ravioli. The food was delicious and the service was top notch. Unfortunately we did not have too much time to roam around the festival too much. I was kind of hoping to get a chance to go see the church that was actually sponsoring the festival, but I guess that’s just one more reason to go back and visit the city once again. After lunch it was time to head to the subway again; which would take us back to the Broadway district.
[Title of Show] was a very interesting piece. With such a unique plot, the show took on a form not like the previous show at all. Although I did think that the acting was very good. I personally did not enjoy the show as much as In the Heights because of the language; and also I personally did not enjoy the humor. With only four main actors and one musician, it was easier to follow who was who and get to know them each individually. Another aspect was that the actors were playing the part of themselves, and like in Heidi’s song, they were able to fit their molds beautifully. One of the big differences in this show and In the Heights was the lighting. [Title of Show] did not have nearly the in depth lighting system that the other show had.
All three events shared some theatrical elements. They all obviously took place in New York. Also these events all told a story in their own way. The Tenement Museum told the story of the thousands of immigrants who passed through New York, especially the Moore family. The San Genanaro Festival told the story of the Italian immigrants and all of their culture they brought over from their home country. The musical [Title of Show] also told a story. It actually told the story of the musical itself and how it came to be. All of them showcased culture and the changes in it. Beginning with life in the 1800s then in [Title of Show] with the more modern culture, the whole day was filled with cultural experiences.

My Adventure to New York to see "In The Heights"

Thursday, September 18, 2008

“Beep, Beep, Beep” were the first sounds I heard at 5:50 a.m. as I arose to my alarm clock and prepared for my trip to fabulous New York City. Still groggy, I gathered my clothes and applied my make up before walking to the Johnston Hall Parking Lot where I met my fellow classmates. At approximately 6:45, we arrived at the Industrial Park Bus Terminal where I enjoyed a delicious coffee cake with bits of cinnamon that burst throughout my mouth! We loaded the bus at 7:00 a.m. and began our lengthy trip to the city.

Much to my surprise, I fell asleep for the entire bus ride and I awoke as we went through the dim Lincoln Tunnel. As we departed the bus at around 9:15, we walked through Port Authority and were welcomed by Professor Shosh. He had given us a scavenger hunt that helped us learn more about the Broadway district. With a “on your marks, get set, go” Meredith, Claire and I were off to complete the extensive scavenger hunt. The scavenger hunt was exhausting, fun, and full of challenging questions. As we were walking, we heard classic New York City sounds. The taxis were honking their horns while trying to get to their destination. The sewer steam hissed as busy people walked over it and the diversity of New York was heard as people talked in their native tongue. Along with the noises, I noticed several distinctive smells signature to the city.

While completing our scavenger hunt we walked past several restaurants, bakeries and food stands. The sweet smell of sugared nuts wafted through my nose while migrating through the various nut stands. Garlic was another distinctive smell that filled the air as we hurriedly passed the many Italian restaurants. New York also had unpleasant smells such as diesel that wafted through the air as well. By 11:30 Meredith, Claire and I decided to find the Film Center Café where we would meet Professor Shosh and our classmates. The film Center Café was beautifully decorated with dark blue walls, mahogany booths and beautiful sculptures. After deciding what to order, I enjoyed chatting with my classmates about the scavenger hunt and what they learned about Broadway. I quickly ate my savory Belgian Waffle and at around 1:30 p.m., we made our way to In The Heights. As we walked, Professor Shosh told me about restaurant row and I soon realized that I had eaten there before. When we came to Richard Rodgers Theatre my excitement grew and I could not wait to sit in those infamous red velvet seats. We found our seats and soon after, the performance began.

In The Heights amazed me from beginning to end. The opening number consisted of a rap performed by the talented Lin-Manuel Miranda. The set was decorated with colorful buildings and the Washington Bridge was beautifully displayed in the background. The lightning effects really added to the performance; especially during “The “Club/Fireworks” scene. My favorite part of the musical was when the character Nina performed “Everything I Know”. This scene touched my heart because it reminded me of the relationship I have with my parents. As I listened to Nina sing, I could not help but to cry because I missed my parents so much. However, I quickly forgot my sadness as the musical moved into the “Finale” which was filled with wonderful choreography and up-beat music. The audience celebrated as the last verse was sung and the actors and actresses took their bows. In The Heights was a wonderful story full of exciting songs, great effects, and extremely talented performers.

After being engulfed in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s story, it was time to face reality and walk back to Port Authority in the dismal rain. My classmates and I said our goodbyes to Professor Shosh and our chaperones and loaded the busses once again at 5:15 p.m. On the way home, I listened to my iPod and reflected on the day’s events and I gradually fell asleep. At 8:00, I arrived back at Moravian and walked to the safety and comfort of my small dorm room.

Laying Down The Beat, Washington Heights is Full Of Heat!!!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Waking up at 5:30 in the morning was not a fun thing to do on a Saturday. I could already feel the thick humidity in my room, and I knew it was going to be a long day. Heading on the bus, all I was thinking about was SLEEP! Finally, in a couple of hours we got to "The Apple". It was time to go on a scavenger Broadway hunt through the Broadway District. Joey, Annie and I were unstoppable. When I say we were "truckin" it, we were. Throughout our journey in the city, we had the opportunity to meet new people and see different and historical things that you usually wouldn't think about learning about. This background information on the Broadway District allowed myself to respect "The Great White Way" a lot more. Feeling the sweat dripping from my face and down my back was all worth it. When Joey, Annie and I were finished looking for every possible answer, we headed to the Film Center Cafe`. Boy, was that a treat. I have never been so hungry in my life. That veggie burger was gone in the matter of thirty seconds.
Finally, it was time to see the production of In The Heights! As the class headed to matinee performance, you could see this was going to be a packed show. Since Joey, Annie and I came second in the scavenger hunt, we were awarded front row seats.....in our section. It was a treat. I sat down next to Annie and in a few moments, the best play I have seen in a while put on an amazing production. With it's hip-hop and latino style, In The Heights was unstoppable. Lin-Manuel Miranda made his first production a huge success. The coreography was so precise and the singing was phenomenal. In The Heights allowed the audience to see that broken down, lower class neighborhoods are not always filled with drugs and crime. Washington Heights pertrayed so much love. In The Heights became a success!
After waking up at 5:30AM and coming home around 9PM, all the things my group and I had to encounter was totally worth it. I made some great friends. This trip was amazing, and I hope the ones to come are just as great.

-Jen Buck

Welcome to the Great White Way!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Throughout the semester ahead, you'll travel regularly to our nation's largest city and live theatre capital to experience many different forms of theatrical events. Despite the fact that the heart of the Broadway Theatre district lies less than 90 miles from Bethlehem, many Moravian College students have not yet had the opportunity to walk through Times Square, to see a Broadway play or musical, or to visit the incredible cultural institutions that make their home in New York City. In his 1904 musical Little Johnny Jones, George M. Cohan wrote:
Give my regards to Broadway, remember me to Herald Square,
Tell all the gang at Forty-Second Street, that I will soon be there;
Whisper of how I'm yearning to mingle with the old time throng;
Give my regards to old Broadway and say that I'll be there ere long.

I encourage you to use this blog as a public space to share your adventures, offer your insights, and encourage your fellow students to join you in giving your regards to Broadway. I look forward to seeing you at 42nd and Broadway on Saturday morning. Don't forget your umbrella, camera, and writer's notebook!