Four Days on the Road of Treasured Stories (Part 2)

Note: The following are travel notes from Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia founding member and Managing Director, Sara Lee Lewis.  She went to NYC from October 11-15 to watch the premiere of our new show.  This is part 2 of 2.  The first part is here.

Day Three

Our hotel is so well positioned – just a fifteen-minute walk to Chinatown, and our long-time favourite restaurant, The Golden Unicorn, for dim sum. As good as always.   Our return trip takes us into the path of a full-blown media circus as we pass the federal court buildings and the imminent sentencing of a well-publicized hedge fund scoundrel. It’s raining, so carnival-style tents have been set up to protect the hair and makeup of the anchor people – the camera folk, however, are getting wet. Everyone is here – CNN, Fox, and all the networks are on standby to comment on the longest sentence to date to be meted out to a naughty inside trader.  On the other side of the street Tom Selleck and a large crew are taping BLUE BLOODS, but they are being largely ignored.   We drop in at the Skirball rehearsal, meet the pleasant crew and say hello to the company. They accommodate Margo, who at last gets to take some photographs of the Brown Bear animals – especially Bear himself. He is adorable, and we look forward to seeing him in action.  There is quiet tension and anticipatory excitement permeating the stage.  Margo and I explore the delights of West Broadway, and settle on the Ideya Restaurant, a lively but intimate Caribbean restaurant.  Margueritas are served in large tumblers to accompany tasty and highly imaginative food.  We giggle our way homeward through the rain.  Definitively one of our favourite neighbourhoods.

 

Square Diner, New York City

Day Four:

Margo’s treating for breakfast again – this time at the historic Square Diner. Cops on (or temporarily off) the beat, discuss with the owner the challenges of life in Manhattan – we hear about the annual cost of $21,000 for health care insurance for a family of four. We arrive at the theatre – several nursery schools in attendance, along with an assortment of NYU students with specialized interests in education, puppetry, and theatre studies.  To my delight, I discover that the box office manager is the daughter of my old McGill classmate – a charming young woman who I last met at dinner about five years ago when passing through New York, and who first saw THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR when she and her family were my guests at Raritan College at least a decade ago.  And now she’s in charge of welcoming MY guests at the Skirball.  Rewarding!   The show goes well – our very first audience.  The children respond warmly to the large-scale animals in BROWN BEAR- particularly the lovely Yellow Duck, who swims magically across the stage.  Afterward Jim and the company members spend an intensive hour with about fifteen students, providing a hands-on introduction to the intricacies of our unique puppetry style, including the wheeled dollies, which enable Dan and Sarah Jean to glide so effortlessly.  The students are amazed to

Sarah Jean and Dan at Skirball Center (NYC) workshop

learn that these techniques are not effortless at all – on the contrary.  Despite the physical stamina obviously required to work for Mermaid, virtually all those present express their interest in doing so, with several asking detailed questions about our Institute programs.  Two of the students are Canadians, which we find interesting.  After the workshop, our host, Michael Harrington, feeds us cookies and champagne, by way of celebrating the premiere performance of TREASURED STORIES. The first of many, we hope.

Margo and I head for the Rubin Gallery of Himalayan Art  (one of our favourites), before walking home for a brief respite before returning uptown for THE BOOK OF MORMON performance.  What a wild romp!  The show features the energetic ensemble work one expects from a large and skilled company.  The story and the lyrics are outrageous but never cruel – the whole effect is strangely endearing, in the manner of THE PRODUCER.  We’re glad we splurged.

Christine, Sarah Jean and Dan demonstrate Brown Bear during a post-show Q&A at the Skirball Center

 

OUR LAST MORNING:

The sun shines at last – just as we are about to leave town.  We head for the wonderfully abundant Amish Market on West Broadway for breakfast around 7:00AM, and then make our pilgrimage to the World Trade Center site.  The cranes are in full operation, even at an early hour on a weekend. The central tower is more than half finished; and the site generates a determined energy that stirs us.  Before returning to our hotel for checkout and to await Margo’s airport limo transportation, we walk along Spruce Street to admire Frank Gehry’s stunning apartment dwelling.   Then I head for the Skirball, and meet Motoko Inoue and her guests – she’s just driven in from Northampton.  Lots of buzz in the house  – a good crowd, with lots of grandparents and divorced daddies doing their Saturday morning thing.  An appreciative audience – especially for Brown Bear and his companions, who are greeted by name in unison as they make their appearance.  Then its time to head for La Guardia, and my wee holiday in Northern California.

What fun we had. Some days I like my job.

Lee

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