Moravian First Year Seminars in NYC
Saturday, September 17, 2011
Time Travel, Suspense and Hippies: Another Day in the Life of a Broadway and Beyond Student
Our latest trip into New York City was yet another adventure. Once more we woke up ridiculously early in the morning in order to catch a bus into the Big Apple. Thankfully, this time it wasn't too late because our day was packed. We began by taking a tour of the Lower East Side Tenement Museums, continued with lunch in Little Italy, a trip to an epic bookstore, and a performance of Traces, and we finished up the day with the closing night performance of Hair. All in all it was a fairly long, yet intensely awesome day.
(Sitting outside the visitors center)
Let me begin with the Lower East Side Tenement Museums. Now, one may wonder why the Broadway and Beyond class would be interested in such an museum. Well the answer is simple: the tour was part of the "beyond" aspect of the class. Also, one may not realize this, but the tour itself shared several similarities with more traditional theater. There were characters, a story, setting, and even music. We learned about the Moore family, an immigrant Irish family who had moved into one of the rooms of the Lower East Side Tenements. As a history major, I found the tour completely fascinating. Not only did the tour give us the chance to learn about life for immigrants in New York City through artifacts and stories, but the unique thing about the Lower East Side Tenement Museums is that it literally brings you inside the building where the families lived. It allowed for me to not only learn about the Moore family, but to truly step back in time and enter their world for just a moment.
After our visit to the past, we took a short trip to Italy...or rather, Little Italy. After we had finished our tours at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, it was time for lunch and we were all hungry. From the second we step foot in the area of Manhattan known as Little Italy our mouths were watering. Restaurants were setting up for the day, the street was crowded with people, and from everywhere the sweet smell of wonderful Italian food wafted through the air. A group of us had decided that instead of giving into the wonderful smells around us, we were simply going to skip the pasta and eat the bagged lunches which had been prepared for us instead. There is one complaint that I have about Little Italy: unless you're going to eat at a restaurant, there is no where for one to simply sit down. In order to find a place for us to sit and eat, we had to walk several blocks until we were out of Little Italy and into Chinatown where we found a wonderful park in which to have lunch.
Upon the completion of our little Chinatown picnic, we walked back up the six blocks or so to the pre-arranged meeting spot where we waited for everyone else. At one point, Lexis and I were determined to flip over a couch we found on the street curb in order to have some place to sit, but it didn't have any cushions so we didn't bother.
That's about when it started to rain. Normally I would be thankful that it didn't rain while we were having lunch, but as we had to walk from Little Italy to I believe Union Square in the pouring rain, I wasn't a happy camper. Thankfully, the rain decided to clear up about half-way through our walk, but as the
rain left, the heat came back. We were on our way to go and see Traces, an off-Broadway Cirque de Soile like show which none of us really knew much about. On the way, however, we stopped at a three story tall used book store. I was like a kid in a candy shop. They had everything from paper-back Harry Potter books to original copies of some of Edgar Allen Poe's poems. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. But all too soon we were being rushed out of the store and away to Traces.
Now, when we first sat down in the theater, none of us knew what to expect. The show that we saw, however, was beyond anything we ever could have expected. Traces does not tell a story in a traditional sense, but rather it tells the story about the performers themselves and asks the audience how they will leave their own traces behind. The show itself was a series of intense acrobatics mixed with par core and dance. Each performer had a sort of solo routine, unique to that individual in style and emotion. There were also routines where all of the performers would complete incredible acts (such as jumping through hoops fifteen feet off the ground or jumping backwards from one twenty foot pole to the next). Almost all of these routines were done to the backdrop of everyday activities such as basketball and skateboarding. We were all incredibly impressed to say the least. The show left us on the literal edge of our seats.
Once Traces was over (and we had met the performers) we were off to our next adventure: more walking. Lets just say that we walked a lot (all the way to Times Square) and by the time we arrived at the theater district we were all hungry and ready to find somewhere to sit and eat. A group of four of us decided to head to Friday's for a bite to eat as soon as we regrouped (Lexis and I, aside from being the only two crazy enough to try and flip over a thrown out couch, are also both pretty experienced city walkers). After dinner we still had a few hours to kill so we began to explore Times Square. We stopped in a few stores here and there but by far the best stop was the Disney Store. As soon as we stepped foot in there we were no longer a group of college students. Instead, we were six years old and began to go around the entire store looking at everything and pushing every "Try Me" button. Personally it had been a bit of a rough day, but the Disney Store definitely made me feel loads better. Once we left Disney behind (regretfully), we were out of time and had to meet back up with the whole group outside of Hair.
Now, I had seen Hair two years prior and so knew what to expect for the sixties rock musical. I had even come dressed up (though many would argue that I dress as a hippie normally). But others in our group were not as experienced and I watched in amusement as their jaws hit the floor during the final scene of Act One in which the entire cast in nude on stage. As I had anticipated, I loved Hair. I loved almost everything about it from the sets to the lighting to the costumes to the music to the characters to the lyrics and lines dripping with social commentary. While some may argue that Hair is a show with no coherent story, this is by far the case. Hair tells the story of a hippie tribe during the social turmoil of the late 1960s. It was during this time that terrified young men were receiving draft cards to go fight in a war for a cause in which they didn't believe. The social atmosphere was tense and protests were everywhere. Hair come to Broadway with the intent of not only bringing to light many of the major issues of the day, but also of awakening the public to the social injustice that was occurring during that time. Today, the show remains the same, but the messages received from it are very different. Times have changed. The Vietnam war is over and the hippies are a thing of the past. But Hair still holds relevance for even this day and age. We are still at war and there are still plenty of scared, questioning, and angry youth and young adults who are unsure of what to do and feel that they are not being heard. To say that Hair has lost its meaning would be to say that it had no meaning to begin with. The stories of Claude and the other tribe members are the untold stories of youth and young adults in both the 1960s and today.
Posted by Alexandria at 9:38 PM