Not to get too Carrie Bradshaw on you, but sometimes in New York, you get presented with some really great opportunities. I was lucky enough to be in the first audience for the newly reopened Hudson Theatre, on 44th St., and it was a true privilege. The current production, Sunday in the Park with George, is a lovely one, but the theater itself is outright beautiful.
Studio 54, when I realized it was on the list of Broadway theaters, was admittedly the one I was most excited to check off my list. It’s been a working theater as part of the Roundabout Theatre Company since 1998, having started its run by hosting Cabaret for six years. Obviously a lot of the fun is in its glittery history as a nightclub. But the space has a super impressive history.
Here in New York, we like to get out of New York. We have two airports, two train stations, ferries, boats larger than ferries, and a variety of escape tunnels. Transplant New Yorkers looking to get back to their pre-city roots, and lifers looking to see that thing we call “wilderness,” can visit upstate (or on Long Island, or even in Jersey) via one of these many routes.
Cold Spring is a great little town sitting on the Hudson, an hour and change away from the city via the Metro North. (If you’re starting from Grand Central, it’s a $28 round trip off-peak.) It looks across the river at both West Point and the Storm King state park.
I like events. I am not always a free wanderer by nature – when I visit new locations, I like to have something of a goal in mind, and then let the wandering happen as part of my comings or goings. So as part of the background research for this blog, I ended up browsing the “events” sections of the various locations I wanted to visit. And that was how I ultimately stumbled upon Into the Veil.
(Sorry, guys, no pictures in this one – the few I took were too dim or blurry to be of any use. It is very hard to capture the appropriate spookiness of a cemetery after dark without it looking like an old-timey photo of a “ghost”. Which, while appropriate in this case, is not actually visually useful.)
Green-Wood Cemetery is a National Historic Landmark and a Revolutionary War historic site, founded in 1838. It is sprawling and hilly, a known destination for bird-watchers, and has been a filming location for Flight of the Conchords, and the three best Law & Orders. It really is a beautiful park space, if you don’t mind the gentle disquiet of so many dead buried beneath you. (Like Washington Square Park, but actually advertised as a burial site, thus, with fewer acrobatics.)
Into the Veil is an event run jointly by the cemetery and by “hidden gem”-seekers Atlas Obscura. We queued up after dark and were admitted into the cemetery with a map and a self-provided flashlight. The map in question did not cover the park’s entire 478 acres (more than twice the size of Governor’s Island), but had marked out a designated area where guests could find various events, such as bands, live theatrical performances, or tarot card readings. Beyond the suggestions of the map, which did not give times and only the thinnest of navigational directions, attendees were allowed to explore freely.
My companion and I, who had not bothered to bring flashlights, and decided that maps were “for suckers,” immediately wandered off the suggested paths and found ourselves exploring the cemetery as a whole, stumbling upon all kinds of statuary. It was a gorgeous night, a day or two away from full moon, and the grounds were brilliantly illuminated, so it was a pleasant stroll back to the sanctioned activities, which at that point were lit by the largest collection of tealights I have seen in my life. Half the fun was traveling through the dark to follow clusters of tealights or the faint strains of music to a party locale. We got drastically veered off course at one point*, following a parade of bagpipers.
*We got drastically veered off course at several points, this was just the best one, because of the bagpipers.
In spite of the occasional cocktail tables provided by local bars, everything was tinged with a distinct air of spookiness. Green-Wood opened up a few mausoleums and some of its other famous highlights as event spaces for the night. There was a band playing under cover of neon lights at the back of the Catacombs. A drum circle raged joyously but ominously in the center of the always creepy Circle. (The Circle is even creepier at night ringed by tealights, while drums beat. Of all the times in the evening I joked that we were about to meet our untimely demise at the hands of something supernatural, this was the time that I meant it.) The biggest crowd of the most drunken revelers could be found at Sylvan Water, stretched out on the thoughtfully provided blankets, watching circus acts performed across the water, backlit by a mausoleum.
The event concluded at midnight, though was tough to accurately police a speedy exit, so our night petered out pleasantly atop one of the hills, under a full moon so bright it felt like waiting for the sunrise, while bagpipers gathered behind us to lure in a crowd for one last mournful parade.
Location: Main gate at Fifth Avenue and 25th Street, with gates at Fourth Avenue and 35th Street, Fort Hamilton Parkway, and Prospect Park West
Nearest Public Transit: R train at 25th St
Estimated Timespan: 1-3 hours
Cost: Free (Note: Into the Veil and other tours and events are largely not free)
While the Beacon is not on my List of Theaters, once I got there, I realized I had never actually been, having oddly confused it with the smaller venue Symphony Space (also on Broadway, although twenty blocks north) (any location I visited in the first six months after moving to New York tend to blur together by genre only). My foolishness and faulty memory checked, I got to really enjoy a lovely theater space.
The Beacon Theatre, located at 74th and Broadway, is a sister theater to Radio City Music Hall, under the management umbrella of the Madison Square Garden Company. It opened in 1929, owned by Warner Brothers, and was actually a movie theater up through the seventies. In the mid-seventies, two dudes named Steven and Stephen decided to update it slightly and use it as a live performance space. Since then, has been largely used as a concert venue, although it is IMAX-capable. George Carlin’s HBO specials were taped there, Cirque du Soleil has performed there, David Bowie and the Stones have played there (not at the same time), and the Allman Brothers Band have famously played there every year but one for nineteen years up until their final ever show. It’s thrice been a home stage for the Tony Awards (including 2016 Tony Awards, which you may remember fondly as “that time Hamilton won everything”).
The decor is neo-Grecian, which translates to “all the big gold statues you can handle, then make them bigger and more gold”. 30 feet tall, to be precise. All in all, it’s a really pretty space to keep you visually entertained while you wait for your paid entertainment to start.
And as requested, information about the bathrooms! There are two that I could find, on the ground floor and up on the “balcony” two staircases up. They are not large, but relatively out of the way. It’s also worth noting that if you purchase a bottled beverage, they give it to you without the cap. No carbonation sounds here!
In my years of living in New York, one thing I have never gotten tired of is going to shows. So when we were making our lists, I did a quick Wikipedia search for Broadway theatre. And they helpfully gave me a list of forty-one theaters, which was more than I expected. I did a bit of digging, both on the internet and in my collection of Playbills, and found that I had not actually visited as many Broadway theaters as I thought I had. (Only a disappointing twelve! Turns out it was multiple shows at the same theaters, which is bound to happen over time.)
The Bernard B. Jacobs on West 45th St., originally the Royale, was, at the time of my visit and of this writing, home of The Color Purple. The theater is 89 years old, built in 1927, and was part of a three-theater complex owned by the Shubert Organization that included the John Golden (which I have been to) and the Majestic (which I haven’t). The Jacobs has in its time has seen productions of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, A Raisin in the Sun, Glengarry Glen Ross, the less-successful American history musical Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, and Tony-winning Once, among others.
When Ellen and I decided to do this blog, we each made lists of places we wanted to visit, and I’m sorry to say that the majority of those lists were Manhattan- and Brooklyn-based. It’s inevitable, I suppose, but as a Queens resident, I wanted to get out and explore my own borough, because it does have interesting things to see and do. Like the Socrates Sculpture Park in Long Island City, now in its thirtieth year, which does what it says on the tin (sign) – an NYC public park that also functions as a sculpture garden. Continue reading “Socrates Sculpture Park”