Monday, June 24, 2013

June 22, 2013: 24 Hour Plays LA Benefiting Urban Arts Partnership (sponsored by Monte Blanc)

Date: June 22, 2013
Event: 24 Hour Plays LA
Location:  Los Angeles, CA
Cost:  Ticket prices ranged from $100 - $200
Summary: And with this, I become a bi-coastal supporter of 24 Hour Plays.  :D

If you know me, you know that The 24 Hour Plays benefiting Urban Arts Partnership (sponsored by Monte Blanc) is one of my favorite favorite favorite things to do in New York.  Favorite!  I have attended the 24 Hour Plays six times in New York, but this is the first time I've gone to the LA version of it.  It just so happened I had to be in California for work the following week so I wasn't about to miss the opportunity to come down to LA a couple of days early to experience this!  And I wasn't disappointed.

Now, why do I love it so much?  Well, why do any of us love anything so much?  It's hard to pinpoint.  But I can say that it was the very first Broadway show I ever saw after I moved to New York, so it holds that special place in my heart for that reason.  Second, I feel very very strongly about the organization that benefits from the show -- Urban Arts Partnership ( or @UrbanArtsNYC on twitter) -- which brings arts education to under-served students in New York (or LA).  And, third, you seriously just never know what you're going to get.  And that makes it

For those that have never heard of 24 Hour Plays, here's what it is:  in short, it's a show in which six 10-minute plays are written, produced, and performed all in the span of 24 hours.  The writers, directors, and actors meet for the first time at 10:00 pm the night before, then the writers write the plays all night, then the actors come back and rehearse with the directors all day, then they do lighting and such, and at 8:00 pm it's curtains up, and the performances end at approximately 10:00 pm, 24 hours after their very creation began.

As I said above, as an audience member, you honestly have no idea what to expect.  Will they be comedies?  Dramas?  Who will play what roll?  Will I laugh?  Will I cry?  Will the play make any sense at all? (admittedly, the answer to that last question is frequently 'no', but again, that's part of the fun.)  And also, it's clear every year, and this year was no different, that the actors love what they're doing, they believe in what they're doing, and that translates on the stage.  The audience can feel it, and we're brought along on the ride with them, we're part of this creative process, and it' I said, it's just plain fun.  (if you’re on twitter, search on the #24HRLA hashtag to see some of the shenanigans)

As for the actors, kudos to them.  They give of their time to this and their name (and for some, their dignity, heh) and they do it for an amazing cause, one I feel strongly about as I said.  I'm an engineer by training, a scientist by nature.  I’m all about numbers and the laws of physics.  But I know that I would not be a complete person, professionally or personally, without the arts (if you've read previous entries in this blog, I think you can see I do love artsy stuff), and I believe we need to continue arts education in our classrooms -- it's not just a 'nice to have', it's a requirement.  And that's what Urban Arts Partnership also believes and that's what they do -- bring arts back to the class rooms, both for the sake of arts but also incorporating it into the core curriculum.  Helping kids stay interested, helping them learn.  And more of them are graduating because of it.  As I said, it’s not just nice to have, it’s making a real impact on kids’ lives.

And so that's what these actors lending their time to this cause does.  And I'm not just speaking theoretically:  at this year's performance, the person on my left was there specifically to see Sasha Alexander perform and the person on my right was there because she wanted to see Sklar Astin.  And I’m sure these two cases were not unique.  All of these actors, their names, their presence was putting butts in the seats and bringing money to UAP.  So, as I said, kudos and props to the actors.  Respect.

Continue reading below about the individual plays from this year.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

June 22, 2013: Hiking to the Hollywood Sign

Date: June 22, 2013
Event: Hiking to the Hollywood Sign
Location:  Los Angeles, CA
Cost:  FREE
Summary: If you're in LA -- do this!

Catching up on some blogging here – that’s what I do with long holiday weekends, I guess. This one is part of my two-day adventure in LA in late June. On Friday I went to Paramount Studios (I may or may not get a post up about that). On Saturday, I hiked to the Hollywood sign in the morning and went to 24 Hour Plays LA in the evening. I’ve already written about 24 Hour Plays; this post is about the first half of the day: Hiking to the Hollywood sign.

All I can say is that if you have any time in LA, somehow get this on your itinerary. It was so much fun, great views (albeit through haze/smog) of LA, little bits of nature to keep you company, and an up close and personal view of one of the most iconic signs in the world. Do it!

My only warnings would be that nearly the entire hike is exposed to the sun – no shade to speak of what so ever. So, very exposed. Go early in the morning to avoid the heat, wear tons of sunscreen, and take at least one bottle of water (at least). Also, read up on which trails to follow – they aren’t marked – but also know that you can ask the numerous other people making the trek which way to go. In terms of difficulty, it’s about 6 miles round trip and while there is a steady incline on the way out there, it’s pretty mild.

But, all that being said, I can’t tell you how much I recommend this for anyone who wants to add a little something different than the regular tours and sites of LA. You won’t regret it. I sure don’t!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

June 16, 2013 Sing for Hope Pianos at Lincoln Center

Date: June 16, 2013
Event: Sing for Hope Pianos at Lincoln Center
Cost: FREE
Summary: 88 uniquely and artistically decorated pianos staged in the plaza at Lincoln Center with the public invited to come to enjoy them and play them.  A feast for the eyes and the ears!

For a couple of years now I’ve heard of this "Sing for Hope" pop-up Pianos (  Essentially, 88 differently painted pianos scattered throughout NYC, left in parks or other public places for people -- anyone, everyone -- to play.  The theme:  art for all.  I had always meant to try to go see some in their native locations but never quite got to it.  So I was thrilled to hear they were doing a closing ceremony of sorts by gathering all 88 pianos at Lincoln Center for all day Sunday.  After a morning bike ride and a quick breakfast, I grabbed my camera and headed to Lincoln Center.

And it was even better than I had expected.  So much better.  There are times when I just want to throw my arms out and hug an event and laugh in pure enjoyment.  This was one of those times.  I'm not sure I can fully explain why but it just was.  I had expected to fall in love with the pianos themselves, the colors and creativeness of each.  But I hadn't expected the pure cacophony of sound -- people playing pianos located right next to each other but playing different music.  Yet it wasn't noise, it wasn't dissonant, it was just so many different musical notes coming at you much like each piano was something different visually.  So I loved the pianos and I loved the music.  But I think what struck me the most, the thing that really made me want to hug the entire scene was the people.  The different races, ages, gender, types of dress, types of style that each person had.  It was a cross section of New York.  Not of high society New York (which one might think when one thinks of 'piano playing at Lincoln Center') but of all of New York.  Everyone coming together to just enjoy some music.

When I looked through all my pictures (I won't admit exactly how many I took), I would have expected that most would have been of the pianos.  But no, the biggest block of pictures were of the people playing the pianos.  The people, the players, they were what really captured my imagination.

Sadly, it is impossible to impart through pictures the audio aspect of the experience (even harder than imparting the taste and smells of the food festivals), but I hope the pictures at least tell a story you can understand....

Saturday, June 15, 2013

June 14, 2013: Leonard Nimoy's Vincent

Date: June 14, 2013
Event: Leonard Nimoy's Vincent at Symphony House, with Q&A afterwards with Mr. Nimoy
Cost: $35 for a general admission ticket
Summary:  I readily admit I knew little about Vincent van Gogh; this was an amazing way to gain some knowledge and insight.

I will be the first to admit that not only did I not know much about Vincent van Gogh (other than what we learned in art history class and getting my picture taken with Stary Night at MoMA), but I will also admit that I pretty much went to this play because of the Q&A session afterwards with Mr. Nimoy (*cough*yes I'm a trekkie*cough*).

But, it was such a wonderful surprise.  The actor (singular, for it was a one man show),  Jean-Michel Richaud, was amazing!  Amazing!  The pace was good, the material was interesting, and the length was perfect.  I left with a desire to know a little bit more about Vincent van Gogh (and about his brother Theo, who was the narrator in this play).

And, of course, the Q&A was wonderful.  No mention of Star Trek other than a passing comment when asked why he wrote Vincent.  Mr. Nimoy's answer was he was tired of talking about the things he was talking about -- something about a TV show he did once (at which point the audience laughed appropriately and knowingly) -- and that there must be more out there he could do.  So he wrote this play.

Lots more about the play and Q&A (as well as pictures) below the cut.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

June 8 & 9, 2013: Big Apple Barbecue Block Party

Date: June 8-9, 2013
Event: Big Apple Barbecue Block Party
Cost: FREE (unless you want to actually EAT the barbecue, at which time it will run you about $9 each)
Summary:  Open flame, smoke, sizzling, sun, barbecue sauce, meat.

This weekend's adventure? The Big Apple Barbecue Block Party ( -- a huge BBQ festival in Madison Square Park. Pit Masters (I'm learning the lingo) from around the nation come to share their wares with the fine citizens of New York City.

So, yes, since this is a BBQ Festival, you are about to be treated to more PICTURES OF FOOD. More specifically, meat. Lots and lots of meat. And there was lots of it. What I loved the most, though, was that it really was a giant cookout. Open flames everywhere, smoke filling the air, feeling the heat of the smokers if you got close, the smell of grilling ribs infiltrating ones nose, and everyone seeming to be having just a very relaxing and nice time -- truely like a giant back yard barbecue, but surrounded by the sky scrappers and cabs that are NYC.

My only complaint is that dishes cost $9 and they were generally meal (or half a meal) sized -- I wish they'd have a sample for $2-3 that was really just a few bites. Then one could sample a bunch without spending a small fortune and without throwing a ton of food away. Of course, I guess this just means I need to make more friends so 4 or 5 of us can go and each get something different and then share. (As an aside, I'm auditioning friends...anyone want to apply? ;) )

The festival was both Saturday and Sunday. I went on both Saturday and Sunday and loved it. Loved taking pictures, loved the sights and sounds, loved watching the unabashed love affair with cooking meat over flame, slathering it with messy red sauces, consuming it, going "OMG this is soooo good!", then getting back in line for more. Sadly, I didn't come away with pictures I really like. Oh well, it was still fun. And next year, I might actually partake in the tasting! :)

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

June 4, 2013: Breakfast Briefings at Bryant Park with Bobby Flay

Date: June 4, 2013
Event: Breakfast Briefings at Bryant Park with Bobby Flay
Cost: FREE (well, an hour of sleep so I could get to work early so I could take an hour off)
Summary:  Beautiful morning, beautiful weather, free coffee, and Bobby Flay talking about barbecuing.

I was checking my twitter feed last night and lo and behold, Bryant Park (@BryantParkNYC) tweets about the first "Breakfast Briefing" (sponsored by Wall Street Journal) of the year -- a one hour discussion with Bobby Flay, click here to register.  Why, I think I *will* click there to register, thank you!

So, about 14 hours later I find myself at Bryant Park on the most gorgeous of spring/summer mornings.  And soon after that, found myself in this wonderful little outdoor seating area listening to Bobby Flay talk about cooking, his restaurants, Iron Chef, an upcoming book of his, and barbecuing.  All the while enjoying the weather and sipping coffee while the city goes on around us.  Mornings like this is just one of the things I love about NYC.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

June 1 & 2, 2013: HOWL Festival

Date: June 1 & 2, 2013
Event: HOWL Festival
Cost: FREE
Summary: It's like they are making an art museum right before your eyes.

I had never heard of the HOWL Festival.  Or maybe I had but hadn't really thought much about it.  But as I was looking for something to do this weekend, this looked interesting.  It is an arts festival encompassing music, dance, visual art, poetry, etc.  Pretty much everything.  It's probably easiest if you read about it at their website here:  About HOWL.

While there was lots going on on various stages and locations in Tomkins Square Park, I most went for Art Around The Park which the festival website describes thusly: "A live action weekend-long event involving 140 artists of all ages turns an 8 foot high, 900 foot long blank "canvas" encircling the exterior of Tompkins Square Park into an explosion of color and creativity."

And let me tell you, it did NOT disappoint.  AT ALL.  It was amazing.  Awesome.  The creativity, the creation, the colors, the controlled chaos, and all the other things that don't begin with 'c'!  Seriously, each artist used their canvas so differently and seeing each style, each bit of invention, some thought provoking, some very much not, all of them interesting in their own way.  Loved them all.  Some more than others, of course.  And to be there to watch them being created -- not just to see the finished product but to *watch* them being created.  It was wonderful.  It really was.

And if you're in New York during HOWL, I highly recommend going on Saturday to see it all happening.  And then if you've got time and if you're curious, head back on Sunday to see the finished product.

LOTS and LOTS (and lots) of pictures under the cut.  :)

June 1, 2013: Name Tag Day!

Date:  June 1, 2013
Event:  Name Tag Day
Cost:  FREE
Summary:  Volunteers with the Awesome Foundation hand out thousands of name tags to New Yorkers so that we can say hi to each other by name as we pass each other on the side walk.  What's not to love?

Pretty much, the summary says it all.  What a fun idea.  I got my name tag while I was out at the Howl Festival (post on that to come) and managed to say 'hi' to two other people.  "Hi Terrance!" and "Hi Jenny!".  This resulted in smiles and waves.

Then, as I was headed back to my apartment, I was at Starbucks near Union Square (one of the locations where name tags were being handed out) and just as I was leaving these two women were coming in and I heard one say to the other, "What's with all the name tags?"  That also made me smile.

And finally, as I was headed across Union Square, I heard this, "Hi, Jill!" I turn and look and it's the person who gave me my name tag.  How he remembered my name I have no idea.  But we both waved at each other frantically.  And I smiled the rest of the way to my apartment.

Thank you Awesome Foundation.

Just a couple pictures after the jump.