The Reluctant Writer: Something Else to do When I Should Be Writing

February 21, 2010

New York City — for the weekend, a summer, for life

Coming to New York is, in so many ways, like coming home.

Years ago, when Bonnie and Annie were mere babes and their arts studies took them to NYU for Annie to study viola and to the American Ballet Theatre for Bonnie to study ballet, the Beer Doc and I decided that, if we were going to pay for anyone to spend the summer in Manhattan, then we might as well pay for everyone to spend the summer there.  So, for four summers in a row the Boiter-Jolley clan hunkered down in Greenwich Village for 6 to 8 weeks.  For the first two summers we resided in two bedroom apartments on 5th Avenue between 8th and 9th streets — just a block and a half up from Washington Park.  The next summer we opted for a two bedroom in the meatpacking district at the edge of the west village.  Then the next year we scored a three bedroom townhouse owned by the dean of NYU’s Graduate School of Public Service which was also on 5th Avenue and Washington Mews, a half block off of Washington Square.  We were in heaven.

The results of out extended time in the city, in addition to an elevated credit card balance and the reality that the Beer Doc would be retiring a few years later than planned, were a comfort and familiarity with the city as well as the sensation that in some small way, the city is ours, just as it belongs to the millions of people who either live here or have lived here in the past.

Spending so much time in New York taught us that while the arts and adventures in the city are certainly spectacular, the real wonders are found wherever the sidewalk leads you.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the fact that Christopher Walken and Liev Schriber and Kristen Chenoweth are all performing on any given night within a few blocks of one another; just walking past Lincoln Center gives me chills — not to mention climbing to the upper realms of the New York State Theatre.  But the best things about the city are the conversations you overhear at crowded bars in Chelsea late at night; the best sites the ones you happen upon rounding the corner of Bleeker and McDougal or near the smoking area at Lips in the Village.

So when Bonnie decided to venture up for a weekend of auditions in the city, once again I figured, we’re going to be paying for a hotel room anyway — I’ll just go along, too.

Being a Southern girl by nurture and nature, New York winters offer me less opportunity for freelance adventures — the streets get pretty cold uptown — and spending only 48 hours anywhere puts a damper on too much wondering aimlessly around.  But we did take advantage of a couple of arts opportunities I’ll share.

Friday night found us at the Joyce Theatre in Chelsea — one of my favorite theatres in one of my favorite parts of town.  We were there to see Parsons Dance — we had no idea what we were going to see, we just knew we wanted to go.  To our thrilled surprise we got to see one of David Parsons’ most famous pieces of choreography, entitled Caught.  First performed in 1982 by David Parsons himself, Caught depicts a single dancer who dances to the music of Robert Fripp’s, “Let the Power Fall,” while incorporating the use of strobe lighting.  This may sound like something from a 1970s disco, but it is not.  The lighting is specifically timed as if the performer is dancing with the light itself — at times the light captures (i.e., “caught”) the dancer in a variety of series of midair jumps and leaps so that she or he appears to be completely suspended and flying through the air in circles and across the stage.  Verbal description fails this piece of choreography.  We got to see Zac Hammer perform this number — it was spectacular.

We also saw a rock-dance opera called Remember Me, performed by Parsons Dance and members of the East Village Opera CompanyJulie Blume danced the lead, and she was absolutely glorious.

Another highlight of the trip was seeing David Mamet’s new play, Race, starring Alan Shore — I mean, James Spader — with David Allen Grier, Richard Thomas (aka John Boy Walton), and Kerry Washington.  The cast was excellent and Mamet’s dialogue shot through the stage like an automatic weapon.  The plot deals with a law firm’s (unfortunately not Crane, Poole, and Schmidt’s) preparation to defend a white man who is accused of raping a black woman.  Of import is the way that we as white people and Black people speak of race — when we have the audacity to even do so.  Interestingly enough, the only time the play addresses the issue of gender is in the last line of the first act.  Alan, I mean James, states that race and sex are the same thing, then the scene goes black.  “Yes!” I thought — finally we were going to be talking about the woman (and women) at the heart of the issue, but disappointingly, we did not.  Someone needs to have a sit down with David Mamet and introduce to him the concept of intersectionality — the sociological theory that socially contructed categories of discrimination interact on multiple levels contributing to a variety of arenas for social inequality.  The absence of consideration for sex and gender in the play Race detracts from its efficacy — however, I am not oblivious to the title of the play — Race; not Race and Gender.  That said, writing a play about any form of rape without considering sexual politics is like writing a play about bread making without considering the role of yeast.  Given this caveat, the play is excellent and it raises questions that must be raised by someone, at sometime,  in some forum, if we are going to intellectually and spiritually progress as a human race.

On a far more frivolous note, Bonnie and I got our Boston Legal on after the play when we stage-door stalked James Spader, got his autograph and our photos taken with him.  Drat my daughter for taking my photo with her broken camera — yes, she has broken yet another camera — so I may never have evidence of my conquest.

Still, I do so love new York.

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