‘Network’ on Broadway, Starring Bryan Cranston

Bryan Cranston, Lee Hall, Network, Paddy Chayefsky, Ivo Van Hove, Lee Hall

Bryan Cranston and cast in ‘Network,’ adapted by Lee Hall based on the Paddy Chayefsky film, directed by Ivo Van Hove (Jan Versweyveld)

Paddy Chayefsky’s gobsmacking 1976 film satire Network (directed by Sidney Lumet), provides a searing example of the noxious morphing of Broadcast News toward lurid entertainment. Also, its timeless themes about the ubiquity of corruption even in the banal news delivery business cauterize with laser-like precision. In transferring this amazing work to Broadway, only a devilishly adroit director could improve upon an already ingenious rendering of the nullification of the free press by corporate greed.  It takes genius to tackle the already fantastic. Unsurprisingly, Ivo Van Hove has applied his brilliance to bring Network to Broadway after its London run last year.

The innovative Van Hove and the inestimably formidable Bryan Cranston as Howard Beale, the uncanny, knight-errant, news anchor of fictional UBS make Network a mind-blaster. Cranston’s performance leaves one speechless. With humanity and ferocity, Cranston believably renders Beale’s epiphany about his own life. As a result he elicits our compassion and captivates us into astonishment. We watch open-mouthed as he steps into Beale’s cavernous soul-depth. And we feel the emotional pull of Cranston’s Everyman and journey with him to the Beale abyss. Cranston achieves an immediacy and truth that coheres with our own empathetic understanding. We’ve been there! Truly, even if we remain complacent with every privilege in the world, we feel “mad as hell and refuse to take it anymore!”

Exhilarated with wonder after seeing the production, I recall the profound themes Van Hove’s exalted direction and Lee Hall’s succinctly adapted script present. Indeed, these resound for us today in the fake news Trumposphere. Increasingly, the news spills out “shock and awe” entertainment. For the sake of profits, facts, information and sourced material shift to the back burner. Judgment and reason become sacrificed to the audience lust for titillation. The difficulties of divining the differences between truth, reality, lies, obfuscations increase. Content appears subject to media company editors who must carefully negotiate around the mission of profit and not upset advertisers. The confounded viewer eventually stops seeking to be informed as a civil obligation. Notably, viewers have been overwhelmed by the cacophony of lies from the media nexus which depends on advertising dollars.

Sadly, as Network illustrates, if truth and a truth deliverer do somehow break through the confusion of white noise and find a following as Howard Beale seemingly does, he and his opinions, “the truth” are commoditized. Finally, when the truth is hijacked for its profitability, the service of one whose opinions authoritatively voice society’s zeitgeist will be undermined. Truth can never be commoditized, regardless of how much its seekers long to hear it. The once noble concepts of a free press and information sharing to keep the public informed and knowledgeable disintegrate in CEOs bank accounts.

Van Hove and Hall have reconfigured the already brilliant Paddy Chayefsky script to another level of currency with a few modifications. Though the time period and characters appear similar, in the case of Max Schumacher (the fine Tony Goldwyn), and Diana Christensen (Tatiana Maslany distills all we dislike about the rapacious female executive), their self-destruction appears to be more trenchant.

The ironies of Network’s plot development are still precious. The fired Howard Beale whose ratings slump cannot be overcome states on the air that he intends to kill himself on next week’s program. His unauthorized announcement creates a furor and a ratings spike. Indeed, competitor news media make Howard Beale front page headlines. From this point on Beale’s inner unraveling moves to center stage. Beale becomes the stuff of media legend. As the journey of his personal enlightenment grows with power and truth, he and it are commoditized. Enabled by his friend Max Schumacher (Tony Goldwyn), and ambitious up-and-comer Diana Christensen (Tatiana Maslany), who usurps Max Schumacher’s job with seductive abandon, Beale ends up becoming the superlative ratings darling of UBS.

Tony Goldwyn, Tatiana Maslany, Network, Ivo Van Hove, Lee Hall, Paddy Chayefsky

Tony Goldwyn, Tatiana Maslany in ‘Network,’ directed by Ivo Van Hove, adaptation by Lee Hall based on the Paddy Chayefsky film (Jan Versweyveld)

Essentially the dynamic twists of Hall’s adaptation follow Chayefsky’s sardonic overload brought to an absurdist conclusion. Beale’s breakdown drives him to the edge of sanity and a fool’s genius. Notably, as Cranston negotiates Beale’s travels from the hackneyed to sublime revelation, he leaves us spellbound. His “mad as hell” rant arises from Cranston’s core of understanding the human condition. As he explodes with humanity and inner beauty, we align ourselves with his emotion. We marvel at what he has made us feel.

Despite Max’s plea for decency to take Howard off the air and stop exploiting his breakdown, Diana Christensen promotes Beale as the angry “prophet” of the airwaves. As spokesperson for millions of individuals, Beale enamors his fans with unscripted “truths.” On “The Howard Beale Show,” converted into something akin to a game show with us as the live audience, Beale’s ravings resound with passion.

Meanwhile, confounded by his own immorality and dissipation, Max leaves his wife Louise. I love what Alyssa Bresnahan does with Louise’s aria. Going against his own best interests, Max has an affair with the obscenely ambitious Christensen. As their relationship begins to crumble, the climax of the cacophony of chaos peaks. Cannily, Beale crosses a line that must never be crossed. He mucks with the corporate restructuring of debt. And Arthur Jensen, the CEO of CCA, the parent company, gets mightily pissed. Nick Wyman’s subtle, grinning malevolence as Jensen is just great.

Largely due to Bryan Cranston’s fantastic performance as Howard Beale, Network echos in our remembrance. As Howard Beale communicates truth to his television audience, Cranston brings our consciousness into the greater understanding of who we are as human beings. In Beale’s realization of who he can be, he reminds us of our value and our spirit and soul worth. When Cranston’s Beale expresses the anger which is more than anger and rage that is more than rage, it is as if he grasps our being, and we tie in with him forming a collective consciousness.

Indeed, Beale takes us to a level of human sanctity that was unimaginable at the top of the production. When at one point Cranston’s Beale joins the audience and sits next to two individuals for a confidential moment (he’s incredible in delivering the irrevocable ineffability of live theater), Van Hove turns the cameras on us. We see ourselves projected on television. It is impossible to ignore the truths of what we experience in the shadow of Beale’s soul light. Irrevocably, we awake and feel intensely because Cranston trusts Beale’s heart and conjoins himself and us with it.

Bryan ranston, Tony Goldwyn, Network, Ivo Van Hove, Lee Hall, Paddy Chayefsky,

(L to R): Bryan Cranston, Tony Goldwyn and the cast of ‘Network,’ directed by Ivo Van Hove, adaptation by Lee Hall based on the Paddy Chayefsky film (Jan Versweyveld)

For his part Van Hove has rendered the dynamism, artificiality and hyperbolic humming chaos of the TV production newsroom with seamless facility. We watch the recreated TV Studio live! Thus, we see the news projected on the big screen as camera operators live-capture Cranston’s Beale. And we note his various pilot fish (make-up, hair and clothing assistants, etc.), fussing over him. The immediacy of their actions powers up to build suspense about watching the “TV show.” Of course it is a show within a show. And we all become players!

Interestingly, the authenticity and the boardroom scenes reinforce the theme that “profit-motives propel television content” (we think of social media), to addict and brainwash. Media folks need us to appreciate sensationalism over rationality. And their obsession with the bottom line strips and devours the decency of all who work for the CCA company. Most importantly, we note the downward trend away from kindness, generosity and concern for others in Christensen, Frank Hackett (Joshua Boone), Harry Hunter (Julian Elijah Martinez) and others. In fact all who create such entertainment news reflect a craven  amorality.

Additionally, Van Hove’s striking re-imagining of a TV studio and news room as a live play by play brings the action into our laps. We serve a dual function. With sardonic humor, Van Hove makes us a live and interactive, participatory audience as we applaud to “Applause” signs. Yet simultaneously, we watch the action on smaller screens featuring various channels which morph to the large screen for Beale’s news program. We participate, yet we distance ourselves as the voyeurs of TV’s “non-participatory experience.”

Interestingly, this meld of the two roles we play as audience members during “The Howard Beale Show” creates dissonance. For ultimately, we “get” that as the media audience (especially social media), we choose/control the content which is as good as our viewing tastes.

This production and all who create its fever, furor and fabulousness from actors to scene and technical designers impart a momentum that runs like an electric wave which ignites all it touches. The encounter provokes. It is as if by watching the downfall of Howard Beale, UBS, CCA and everything that was once moral and decent in the news business, we watch our own participation/contribution to it.

Chayefsky’s and Hall’s Network is the harbinger of the current social media devolution. “The news” has been atomized to fit every opinion or position based on skewed information and ear tickling “facts.” And it is these statements “of fact” that force us to a site like Snopes for fact-checking. Ironically, the site speaks more credibly of its being relied upon by non-readers and non-researchers than for its accuracy.

Bryan Cranston, Network, Ivo Van Hove, Lee Hall, Paddy Chayefsky

Bryan Cranston and the cast of ‘Network,’ directed by Ivo Van Hove, adaptation by Lee Hall based on the Paddy Chayefsky film (Jan Versweyveld)

The greatness of this production is in its expression as an immersive consciousness-raising satire/comedy/drama. For it compels us to interact with cognition and emotion in a weird connect/disconnect. On one level, Network, especially in its addendum video clips (no spoiler alert-you’ll just have to see it), becomes an intriguing call to action. We can be better if we demand better and do not settle for less. On the other hand, Van Hove shepherds Cranston, the excellent ensemble and the artistic designers to provide an incredible one-of-a-kind entertainment that makes us think long after we’ve left the Belasco Theatre.

Special kudos to Jan Versweyveld (Scenic & Lighting Design), Tal Yarden (Video Design), An D’Huys (Costume Design), Eric Sleichim (Sound & Music).

Don’t miss this one. You will regret not seeing Bryan Cranston and this fiery re-imagining of Network at the Belasco Theatre. The production runs with no intermission at the Belasco Theatre (111 44th Street), through 17 March. You can pick up tickets at their website.

 

 

 

Tulis McCall in ‘At Your Service,’ Directed by Austin Pendleton

Tulis McCall, Pangea, At Your Service: Advice From a Woman Who Knows Better, Austin Pendleton

Tulis McCall at Pangea, ‘At Your Service: Advice From a Woman Who Knows Better,’ directed by Austin Pendleton (Betsyann Faiella)

Whenever Tulis McCall performs I make it a point to stop by and catch her show if I can. I primarily do this for the laughs and the uplift. Watching her top off her crowd work with original riffs and exquisite pacing and delivery, I receive a healing. I completely identify with her wisdom about sex, male machismo, the mirror, hating the “shocking” physicality of aging, and the irresponsibility and obliviousness of youth concerning aging. Her humor about the terrifying impact of being referred to as a “woman of a certain age” stings with truthful riot.

There should be more Tulis McCalls around. Indeed, let’s get real: Boomer women outnumber most generational female groups. And of course, the more hysteria (as in LMAO) we have to assist us with the aging process, the easier the medicinal truth goes down.

Tulis’ latest edition from the consciousness-raising joke-sphere is entitled At Your Service: Advice From a Woman Who Knows Better. It shone, as do all of her performances. On Monday, 3 December, Tulis came out with a drink in her hand and advised all of us to join her. And so we did. Pangea’s back-room features a Cabaret/Dinner Club. It serves a nifty menu and most everything alcoholic your heart may desire. So there we sat and laughed with Tulis about ourselves as once more she “let it rip!”

Tulis’ humor strikes with sublime prickliness. About getting older she quipped and questioned. What happened? Like all of us, first she did a few things here – and then she made some statements there. Then came a few other things over there. Then, all of a sudden, ARGH! She’s facing a number once deemed an impossibility!

Time and age don’t work in tandem. Mental oblivion and time work in tandem. And when something, some pressure, some stress, some blip crosses our path, the revelation of age comes upon us like a tree trunk crashing on our heads. We can never return to our youth. This reality, enough to send folks off a cliff or into a bottle of Wellbutrin, becomes the hammer in Tulis’ toolkit of life-bending hilarity. Better to watch a Tulis performance. The only side effect you’ll sustain is laughter, which is good for your well-being. Especially if you are a thirty-something with “the darkness” of aging approaching.

Austin Pendleton, noted actor, director, playwright, and teacher, directed the show. Under his guidance Tulis’ moments of annoyance at life’s regrets prickled with authenticity. Her emotions of hating what she sees in the mirror seemed more pronounced. And her steely deadpan delivery appeared measured, cool.

The bits throughout were great. Some stood out for me. She shared a story from her teenage years about taking a break from life, and the vitality of doing this often. A shattering moment occurred when she was a teenager. She left school one day with one of the “cool” ones, a teen whose enviable insouciance made her popular and well-liked. When they went to a hamburger joint and ordered, the teen shocked Tulis by ordering “fries and a Coke.” She took a break from the routine, the regular, the sacrosanct marriage of meat and potatoes. In going to the irregular, she refreshed herself. The amazed Tulis didn’t know the possibilities of such a “transgression” until her adventure with the cool girl. Then and there she learned the importance of stepping outside the routine and beyond the box.

Indeed, the idea enthralls. Take a break from running around. What can be gained from the accumulation of anything, including educational degrees (how many lawyers have found this out when they discover they hate their jobs?). Take a break from ambition if you can. Don’t go out and buy something when stressed. And those activities on to-do lists should be thrown out, she quipped, especially if one has yet to do them. They will always be present and turn up on another list. This entire segment wowed us because of its wisdom and the stupidity of us not “breaking away.”

Her sound advice resonates in New York City where everyone’s a climber. The fact remains that the just-around-the-corner prize may be snatched away at any moment by an irrefutable fact that no one easily acknowledges: Immortality isn’t the inevitability we think it is.

Tulis McCall, At Your Service: Advice From a Woman Who Knows Better, Austin Pendleton, Pangea

Tulis McCall at Pangea, ‘At Your Service: Advice From a Woman Who Knows Better,’ directed by Austin Pendleton (Betsyann Faiella)

This became funnier when she asked the lifted hands of those who knew they would die. Of course all hands went up. When she asked how many of us believed it, really? Well, there wasn’t an overwhelming response. For those who fear truth, Tulis has a knack of helping one wrap one’s mind around the ridiculousness of one’s own self-deceptions.

Death is a fascist despot. There is no countermanding him. Thus one must confront one’s own conceptualizations of this despot with courage. So when Tulis cha-chinged this on her subject list to riff about, her funny approach brought miles of laughter. Twerking a blip in pacing, and timing, Tulis walked Death into our consciousness. Then she personified him/her/it with drink in hand, pulling up a a beach chair and sitting next to her. It may be my faulty memory, but Death should come calling with champagne or a martini. However, perhaps it was because I reached the end of my drink that I thought Tulis imagined him with one, too.

In any case that witty personification slays the fear and terror of death’s association. Maybe it’s because I am chilled by the horrors of Death characterized as skulls, gruesome Scream masks, and animated skeletons. So imagining Death in a beach chair suited me fine. And what I loved even more was that Tulis gave Death marching orders. Not ready to go, yet!!! Neither am I. And neither is anyone else, I imagine. The next time fears of Death poke their heads around the corner and try to dominate, I will throw a beach ball at them and picture Tulis’ absurdist personification of Death sipping a gin and tonic.

For a humorous wit and wag, Tulis is no joke, serious about her comedy as all fine comedians should be. She’s won awards including the 2016 Best Standup Award for Are You Serious? – A Woman of a Certain Age Inquires and the 2015 Best Storytelling Script Award from United Solo.

There are only three times the word “awesome” can be used, she told us. Having multiple orgasms is one. She discussed how young people refer to “women of a certain age” as “dear,” like an epithet. She has the perfect solution for correcting the gun problems in our country. I absolutely doubled over with belly laughs as she “took us to the visuals.” Her riffs about mirrors add up to a time in the funhouse. Her observations about our lives being a numbers game ring with wisdom. Indeed, she has become my expert about how to do a Walkabout in our culture as “a woman of a certain age.” This includes an addendum about how we didn’t get there, though everyone else thinks we’re past it.

Tulis McCall’s show at Pangea directed by Austin Pendleton ended the same evening it began, after about an hour and one-half. She will be performing at various venues. Watch out for notifications. In this time of raging White House infirmities, take a Tulis McCall break. You’ll be happy you did.

‘Clueless, The Musical,’ Presented by The New Group

Zurin Villanueva, Dove Cameron, Clueless The Musical, world premiere, The New Group, Off-Broadway, The Pershing Square Signature Center

center L-R: Zurin Villanueva, Dove Cameron and cast in “Clueless, The Musical,” a world premiere Off-Broadway production, from The New Group, at The Pershing Square Signature Center. (Monique Carboni)

Clueless, The Musical is a “blast from the past.” The opening projections flash photographs of people we associate with the 1990s (Bill Clinton, the Baldwins, etc.). A voice-over and vocals by Cher (Dove Cameron), her maid and others sing the song (Beautiful Life) from Ace of Base’s The Sign. The sweet, gorgeous teenage Cher, sums up her privilege, happiness and the fun of her “Beautiful Life,” with enthusiasm and hopefulness.  Heckerling wrote and directed the beloved film Clueless, the basis for this Off-Broadway musical presented by The New Group and directed by Kristin Hanggi. Heckerling also contributed with lyrics.

The production in its world premiere is splendid! Especially if you love the film Clueless, you must see Clueless, The Musical. Truly, the music, dancing and spot-on singing by the principals adds to the exuberance, excitement and energy of the original story and characters.

The film Clueless  was a smash comedy hit which still stands today because of the superb acting, tight screenplay and Heckerling’s clever, tongue-in-cheek direction. At the time of the film we enjoyed ranking on the Beverly Hills lifestyles of the rich and not so famous kids. Gritty New Yorkers riffed about their asinine assumptions, expectations and privileged boorishness. Clueless’s protagonist Cher (Alicia Silverstone was wonderful in the part), is an airhead, but her saving grace is her loving, generous nature and her ability to admit fault and reform.

Sounds familiar? The plot is an update of Jane Austin’s Sense and Sensibility. Heckerling performed a yeowoman’s effort in morphing times and settings and nailing with humor and irony Austin’s characters and their romances. In her adaptation, the modern events she selects to illuminate the growth of the characters are grand. The same applies for the musical.

Dove Cameron, Zurin Villanueva, Clueless The Musical, world premiere, Off-Broadway, The Pershing Square Signature Center

L-R: Dove Cameron, Zurin Villanueva in “Clueless, The Musical,” a world premiere Off-Broadway production, from The New Group, at The Pershing Square Signature Center. (Monique Carboni)

Taking her successful film Clueless and transposing it into a musical, using 1990s music hits and adapting the lyrics to sync with the characters and situations, may seem a risky venture. Why?  Many of us are up to our eyeballs in presumptuous rich folks, whose sense of privilege is nauseating. However, those who know Clueless appreciate the arc of Cher’s development, her foibles, her ridiculousness and her sparkling intelligence. As a character ripe for development and shaping, Heckerling has crafted a modern teen with whom women can identify and like, and men can find appealing.

Furthermore, Cher’s goodness is the antithesis of the privileged, ungenerous social set currently in political power in this nation, you know, those who would put children in cages at the border. Cher probably would be working with Miss Geist to do fund raisers to collect donations for the ACLU to help asylum seekers. Indeed, in seeing the safer, purer time of the 1990s, Clueless, The Musical is a relief, especially since our eyes have been opened and we are reeling from Trumpism in a divided country. This production is just what we need to ESCAPE from the present turmoil and chaos, sit back and have some much deserved fun being entertained without thinking about anything politically earth-shattering.

Gilbert L. Bailey II, Danielle Marie Gonzalez, Clueless The Musical, world premiere, Off-Broadway, The Pershing Square Signature Center

Center L-R: Gilbert L. Bailey II, Danielle Marie Gonzalez and cast in “Clueless, The Musical,” a world premiere Off-Broadway production, from The New Group, at The Pershing Square Signature Center. (Monique Carboni)

The production jets us back in time when the culture was carefree, the economy was hopping and Bill Clinton was the light-hearted, saxophone-playing  president on The Late Show. Newt Gingrich and Monica Lewinsky are nowhere in sight.  The setting is a time before Y2K, the Dot.com meltdown and horrors of 9/11. A funny joke from the 1990s? “What is Forrest Gump’s password?” Answer: 1Forrest1.

From the outset Cher assures us in song that her situation is beautiful. We understand that though she is from the upper class, she has suffered the loss of her mom. Well, to liposuction. (This gets a laugh.) Continually, Cher tries to get her Dad (Chris Hoch portrays all the adult males in her life, including her DMV Instructor, and speech teacher Mr. Hall) to eat right so she won’t lose another parent. Also, part of the family is her X-step brother Josh (David Thomas Brown). During Cher’s song, we become acquainted with the important people in her life, her schoolmates, best friend Dionne (Zurin Villanueva), her Dad and Josh. We also meet the various school cliques and learn that Cher is a member of the cool, happening crowd.

Talya Groves, Tessa Grady, Ephie Aardema, Dove Cameron, Zurin Villanueva, Clueless The Musical, world premiere, Off-Broadway, The New Group, The Pershing Square Signature Center

L-R: Talya Groves, Tessa Grady, Ephie Aardema, Dove Cameron, Zurin Villanueva in “Clueless, The Musical,” a world premiere Off-Broadway production, from The New Group, at The Pershing Square Signature Center. (Monique Carboni)

If you love the film Clueless, you will enjoy Clueless, The Musical. Essentially, the scenes and conflicts are similar with the same funny characters:  the vacant Tai (Ephie Aardema), the snooty Amber (Danielle Marie Gonzalez) who we despise because she is like THOSE folks who are arrogant, privileged and presumptuous. Travis (Will Connolly), Miss Geist (Megan Sikora), Elton (Brett Thiele) Mr. Hall (Chris Hoch), Christian (Justin Mortelliti) round out the cast. A word about the ensemble. They are fantastic. Dove Cameron’s voice, movement and portrayal of Cher shines with adorableness and ingenuousness.

Cher’s friends Dionne and Tai are deftly rendered by Zurin Villanueva and Ephie Aardema, both of whom have fine voices. Tai is the new girl who Cher and Dionne take under their wing. They give her pointers like keeping away from the “grassy knoll” where the stoners like Travis (whom Tai likes), hang out.

The situations rock on. And the events follow in sequence humorously like in the film. Some of these include Cher negotiating an upswing in her grades, the party scene when Tai becomes interested in Elton, Cher’s mugging in the parking lot, the school dance when Josh watches over Cher and Christian, and the hysterical scene when Dionne mistakenly ends up on the Freeway. There is even Cher’s Driving Test.

The Driving Test is a turning point. After Cher fails she is insulted by Tai. But then she has a moment of realization. She must stop being “clueless,” must work toward the social good and turn herself around to be less narcissistic. At the bottom of her attempting to be match maker for Tai, she eventually acknowledges she yearns to make her own match. Finally, her match-making “prowess” pays off. By the time the students celebrate the wedding of Mr. Hall and Ms Geist she’s caught someone. Thankfully, happy endings do occur.

Dave Thomas Brown, Dove Cameron, Clueless The Musical, world premiere, Off-Broadway, The New Group, The Pershing Square Signature Center

L-R (center): Dave Thomas Brown, Dove Cameron and cast in “Clueless, The Musical,” a world premiere Off-Broadway production, from The New Group, at The Pershing Square Signature Center. (Monique Carboni)

Each of these events are heightened with the music the energetic dance numbers and Heckerling’s dialogue interspersed with the songs to elucidate the action and feelings of the characters. Many 1990s music groups are featured as well as solo artists: Jill Souble (“Supermodel”), Acqua (“Valley Girls”),  Deee’Lite (“Groove is in The Heart”), Natalie Imbruglia (“Torn”), En Vogue (“My Lovin'”), Spin Doctors (“Little Miss Cant’ Be Wrong”), Joan Osbourne (“One of Us”), N’SYNC (“Bye, Bye, Bye”) and more. The dialogue overlaps with the songs as some are reprised.

One noted change which clearly is an update occurs as Heckerling deepens the character of Christian. Indeed, Christian confides in Cher about being gay. He intimates it in one song and then confirms it in another song and they become friends. Justin Mortelliti does a fine job with his acting, singing and dancing in these scenes. Likewise, the songs which infer Cher’s and Josh’s growing feelings for each other engage us. The music heightens the ebullient atmosphere. The dancing, vibrant costumes and complementary scenic design cohere to make Clueless, The Musical a delight.

Mention must be made to the following musicians in the orchestra: Matthew Smedal, Charles Santoro, Marc Malsegna, David Lina-Burg, Amanda Ruzza, Adam Wolfe. And Kudos to Kelly Devine for choreography, Beowulf Boritt for scenic design, Amy Clark for costume design, Jason Lyons for lighting design, Gareth Owen for sound design, Darrel Maloney for projection design and Matthew Smedal for music direction. Music supervision, arrangement and orchestration is by Ethan Popp.

Clueless, The Musical presented by The New Group runs with one intermission at The Pershing Square Signature Center, 42nd Street between Ninth and Tenth Avenues. The production closes on 12 January 2019. You may pick up tickets at their website.

 

The 27th New York Botanical Garden Holiday Train Show Splendors

Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, NYBG, 27th NYBG Holiday Train Show, Applied Imagination

Replica of Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, NYBG, 27th NYBG Holiday Train Show, Applied Imagination (Carole Di Tosti)

NYBG, 27th Holiday Train Show, Applied Imagination, NYBG

27th Holiday Train Show, 3000 ft. 360 degree extension, New York Botanical Garden, Applied Imagination (Carole Di Tosti)

Once a year The New York Botanical Garden gets dressed up in the reds, greens, whites, sparkles, golds and silvers that echo all that is bright for the wintry weather and coming cold and snow. Though some dislike all the fuss of the holidays, I enjoy it, because I visit family and friends. Thankfully, I don’t have a tree and pets to wreck it.

27th New York Botanical Garden Holiday Train Show, Applied Imagination

27th New York Botanical Garden Holiday Train Show, Applied Imagination (Carole Di Tosti)

NYBG, 27th Holiday Train Show, Metro North, Applied Imagination

27th NYBG Holiday Train Show, Metro North, Applied Imagination (Carole Di Tosti)

I help decorate my family’s trees and enjoy the celebration of present giving especially with my young nephews and nieces. For folks like me who tangentially celebrate with friends and family, but don’t do a lot of decorating at home, the New York Botanical Garden is the place to go to feel festive. And what makes the Garden especially celebratory during the holidays is their annual train show.

St. Patrick's Cathedral, NYBG Holiday Train Show 2018, Applied Imagination

St. Patrick’s Cathedral, NYBG Holiday Train Show 2018, Applied Imagination (Carole Di Tosti)

 

NYBG Holiday Train Show 2018, Applied Imagination

A vista of Bridges, NYBG Holiday Train Show 2018, Applied Imagination (Carole Di Tosti)

Each year various innovations are made. Displays change. Sometimes, I find I lose whole areas of New York City replicas (Coney Island, Central Park, Museum Row,) that normally are featured together. When I don’t see them, I wonder if they have been saved and stored for next year. But then I find them again in a different section of the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory than they were the previous year. Indeed, there appears to be an infinite variety of placements of the over 175 replicas that compromise the permanent Holiday Train Show collection that collaborators Applied Imagination and NYBG create for one of the most well attended events the Garden offers.

Elephantine Colossus, Luna Park Gate, Coney Island, 27 Holiday Train Show, Applied Imagination

Elephantine Colossus, Luna Park Gate, Coney Island, 27th NYBG Holiday Train Show, Applied Imagination (Carole Di Tosti)

Thousands of first-time tourists, visitors and members attend each year, participating in Bar Car Nights, the Holiday Tree and Minorah Lighting Ceremony, the Annual Bird Count and much more. However, the central themes of winter reside in trains as a throwback of the past. Ironically, they are the most mechanized feature of the train show along with the colorful lights interspersed throughout. For Founder Paul Busse eschewed using the plastic villages that came with model trains. When he decided to make his architectural “villages” of organic plant parts to husband the environment and throw down the “fake,” it was a boon. For every model, ever bridge, every house, gate, feature he and later others on his staff designed, use as their building blocks plants: twigs, bark, acorns, gourds, fruits, seeds, leaves, ferns, fungus, moss, nuts, nut shells, plant fiber and much more.

NYBG Holiday Train Show 2018, One World Trade Center, Palms of the World Gallery and Refleting Pool, Applied Imagination

Palms of the World Gallery and Reflecting Pool, One World Trade Center and Maritime buildings NYBG Holiday Train Show 2018 (Carole Di Tosti)

One World Trade Center, Palms of the World Gallery and Reflecting Pool, NYBG Holiday Train Show 2018, Applied Imagination

Detail of the Oculus, One World Trade Center, Palms of the World Gallery and Reflecting Pool, NYBG Holiday Train Show 2018, Applied Imagination (Carole Di Tosti)

Palms of the World Gallery and Reflecting Pool, Holiday Train Show 2018, Applied Imagination, The Oculus

The Oculus at the foot of One World Trade Center, Palms of the World Gallery and Reflecting Pool, NYBG Holiday Train Show 2018 (Carole Di Tosti)

Both Applied Imagination who creates the stupendous replicas of iconic New York City buildings and the New York Botanical Garden team work like Santa’s elves for two weeks. During that time they set up the more than 25 HG model trains that skip and breeze over 1/2 mile of track non-stop during the daytime when the Garden is open through 6 pm when it shuts down. Then the trains glide from 7-10:30 pm on select Bar Car Nights, their headlights glinting through the dark mystery of the Garden’s dense, exotic evening atmosphere.

Palms of the World Gallery and Reflecting Pool, NYBG Holiday Train Show 2018, Lower Manhattan display

Lower Manhattan Display, Bronx ferry and buildings, Palms of the World Gallery and Reflecting Pool, NYBG Holiday Train Show 2018 (Carole Di Tosti)

What those who have been attending the show for a while and certainly the newcomers do not realize in this 27th year of the Holiday Train Show is its evolution. Each year buildings have been added to the collection. Paul Busse always strives to forge out and tackle the different and unique, so he and his creators in Applied Imagination’s Alexandria, Kentucky Studio plan ahead with conceptualizations. After decisions in collaboration with the NYBG team, then the drawings are finalized. Then the construction begins and all is completed around the time the Garden staff strikes down the fall exhibits in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, the soil is regraded and plants chosen and prepared to feature the Holiday Train Show’s old and newly fabricated models.

St. Patrick's Cathedral, NYBG Holiday Train Show 2018, Enid A. Haupt Conservatory

Exquisite detail of the seeds, flower petals and twigs that comprise the stained glass windows of St. Patrick’s Cathedral replica, NYBG Holiday Train Show 2018 (Carole Di Tosti)

Laura Busse Dolan, Applied Imagination

Laura Busse Dolan, owner of Applied Imagination (Carole Di Tosti)

The journey from start to finish is a prodigious one, but the Applied Imagination team headed up by owner Laura Busse Dolan are practiced artisans. Clearly, they enjoy giving children and adults pleasure which one can easily assess just walking from one end of the conservatory to the other listening to the kids screams (daytime exhibit) and seeing adults relaxed amble with drink in hand through sections of the conservatory during Bar Car Nights. Those nights or Member Days are a great time to reconnect with friends, lovers and partners while enjoying the splendors of the Garden’s wintertime loveliness.

New York Public Library, NYBG Holiday Train Show 2018, Applied Imagination

New York Public Library replica, NYBG Holiday Train Show 2018, Applied Imagination (Carole Di Tosti)

The festive and popular Bar Car Nights on select Fridays and Saturdays from 7-10:30 pm, December 15, 21, 22, 28, 29, January 5, 12. for adults over 21. Have a bite to eat fro the Bronx Night Market Holiday Pop-up, There are fire pits in the Leon Levy Visitor enter. Watch live ice-sculpting demonstrations, sing along to favorite tunes with dueling pianos in the Pine Tree Cafe and listen to roving a cappella groups as they guide you through the Garden.

Join former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins for a special reading of poems on December 16 at 2 pm. New this year as part of the Kids’ Poetry Contest and in partnership with the Poetry Society of America, Collins will select 12 winning poems to be displayed at NYBG during the Holiday Train Show. And the student authors will share their work during the special reading.

For special programming during the Holiday Train Show 2016, go to the New York Botanical Garden website.

 

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‘Concert for America’ Chita Rivera, Patrick Wilson, Andrea Martin Weigh in

Idina Menzel, Concert for America, Great Hall Cooper Union

Idina Menzel, ‘Concert for America,’ at The Great Hall at Cooper Union on June 30, will be rebroadcast on July 8, 2018 at 9:00 pm ET on www.ConcertsforAmerica.com and Facebook.com/ConcertForAmerica where you can donate to help migrant families on the southern border (Monica Simoes)

Concert for America, hosted by Sirius XM’s Seth Rudetsky and James Wesley was held on June 30 at the Great Hall, Cooper Union. Rudetsky and Wesley debuted Concert for America on January 20, 2017 and have toured the country with eclectic talent line-ups with all concerts benefiting 5 national organizations fighting for civil, human and environmental rights.

Idina Menzel, Seth Rudetsky, James Wesley, Concert for America, Great Hall, Cooper Union

Idina Menzel hugging Seth Rudetsky with James Wesley looking on at ‘Concert for America,’ The Great Hall, Cooper Union to be rebroadcast Sunday, July 8, 2018 at 9:00 pm ET on www.ConcertsforAmerica.com and Facebook.com/ConcertForAmerica (Monica Simoes)

In light of what was happening to migrant children being separated from their families and babies being taken from their mothers, a friend posited to the duo that they put up another Concert for America. They suggested that it coincide with the day of national protests on June 30 (over 700 marches took place to protest against the egregious activities occurring at the southern border) and be held after the marches.

Seth Rudetsky, Jorge Avila, James Weslley, Concert for America, The Great Hall, Cooper Union

(L to R): Seth Rudetsky, Jorge Avila (concert violinist), James Wesley, ‘Concert for America,’ The Great Hall, Cooper Union to be rebroadcast on Sunday, July 8, 2018, 9:00 pm ET on www.ConcertsforAmerica and Facebook.com/ConcertForAmerica (Monica Simoes)

In record time Rudetsky and Wesley contacted exceptional performers who agreed to take out time from their inordinately busy schedules and perform for a “great cause,” to inspire and uplift us and to challenge us to be overcomers who fervently take a stand for the principles of freedom and democracy, decency and humanity. The Concert for America presented songs of hope and encouragement by Mandy Gonzalez, Jeremy Jordan, Idina Menzel, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Audra McDonald, Olga Merediz, Chita Rivera, Keala Settle Shaina Taub, and Patrick Wilson to name a few. Also appearing was concert violinist Jorge Avila. And Tina Fey and Andrea Martin shared their comedy and commentary. Matt Bomer and Andrew Rannells, both appearing in The Boys in the Band matinee and evening performances made, a video for the audience which Rudetsky and Wesley played.

Tina Fey, Concert for America, Great Hall, Cooper Union

Tina Fey at ‘Concert for America,’ June 30 at the Great Hall, Cooper Union to be rebroadcast July 8, 2018 at 9:00 pm ET on www.ConcertsforAmerica.com and Facebook.com/ConcertForAmerica (Monica Simoes)

Matt Bomer, Andrew Rannells, Concert for America

Matt Bomer and Andrew Rannells on video, ‘Concert for America,’ to be rebroadcast on Sunday, July 8, 2018, at 9:00 pm ET on www.ConcertsforAmerica.com and Facebook.com/ConcertForAmerica (Monica Simoes)

Also present were representatives and spokespersons from the ACLU and children’s services and the organizations working on the frontlines that the Concert for America is raising money for. These include Al Otro Lado, Texas Civil Rights Project, ACLU Foundation of Texas and Florence Project.

James Wesley, Terri Burke, Seth Rudetsky, Concert for America

James Wesley, Terri Burke (ACLU Texas) Seth Rudetsky,’ Concert for America,’ rebroadcasting on July 9, 2018, 9:00 pm ET on www.ConcertsforAmerica and Facebook.com/ConcertForAmerica. You may also donate on those sites. (Monica Simoes)

If you were unable to attend the Concert for America at the Great Hall in Cooper Union, the benefit concert will be rebroadcast on Sunday, July 8, 2018 at 9:00 pm ET on the following sites where you may also donate to help organizations help the migrant families and children on the southern border. The sites are  www.ConcertsforAmerica.com and Facebook.com/ConcertforAmerica.

Before the show started, I had the opportunity to speak with Chita Rivera, Patrick Wilson and Andrea Martin who briefly weighed in about the state of affairs in our country. Their comments are edited gently for fluidity and clarity.

Commentary by Chita Rivera.

Seth Rudetsky, Chita Rivera, Concert for America, Cooper Union

Co-host XM’s Seth Rudetsky, Chita Rivera, ‘Concert for America,’ Cooper Union will be rebroadcast on July 8, 2018, 9:00 pm ET on www.ConcertsforAmerica.com and Facebook.com/ConcertForAmerica where you may donate to help migrant families on the southern border (Monica Simoes)

Chita Rivera is a Broadway legend with two Tony awards for Best Leading Actress in a Musical and eight additional Tony nominations. She has won so many awards (including The Presidential Medal of Freedom) they have created the Chita Rivera Awards in her honor. She has originated roles in West Side Story, Bye Bye Birdie, Chicago, The Rink, The Kiss of the Spider Woman and The Visit to name a few. To read more about Chita Rivera in an interview with Richard Ridge, presented by The League of Professional Theatre Women and Lincoln Center Library for the Performing Arts, CLICK HERE.

Chita Rivera, Concert for America, The Great Hall, Cooper Union

Chita Rivera performing at ‘Concert for America’ which will rebroadcast on Sunday, July 8, 2018 at 9:00 pm ET on www.ConcertsforAmerica.com and Facebook.com/ConcertForAmerica (Monica Simoes)

Ms. Rivera, what do you say to people who are down and depressed about what is going on? You are so uplifting…

Unfortunately, this particular subject and all of the others that we’re defending here have gotten ME down and have gotten ME depressed. We have to unite. We have to not let this happen and speak up and all come together and have evenings like this and have marches that are happening. Our voices have to be heard because (the situation at the border) this is inhumane.

Chita Rivera at ‘Concert for America’ which will be rebroadcast on Sunday, July 8, 2018, at 9:00 pm ET on http://www.ConcertsforAmerica.com and Facebook.com/ConcertForAmerica (Monica Simoes)
@Concerts4USA

How far do we have to go?

I don’t know. As far as we HAVE to go. We have to take every single day and do something. We can’t lower ourselves to a level that exists out there. We can do it, legally. We can do it with the passion from our hearts. We don’t have to go to the lowest level that has manifested. We have to raise our bar. I want to feel proud to be an American again. I remember going to London and being so proud, years ago, because they were so kind to us and so welcoming that we were Americans. And I was so proud of my country. Now, I’m embarrassed to go anywhere.

(L to R): Seth Rudetsky, Lisa Mordente (Chita Rivera’s daughter), Chita Rivera, ‘Concert for America,’ will be rebroadcast on July 8, Sunday at 9:00 pm ET on http://www.ConcertsforAmerica.com and Facebook.com/ConcertForAmerica (Monica Simoes)

But you are representing the best of our country. So any time you go out and sing you show the talent and greatness of what citizens of our nation can be.

Yes. That’s why my daughter Lisa and I are here. And it’s why Freddie and John are represented here. John Kander and Fred Ebb. We’re singing “The Apple Doesn’t Fall Very Far From the Tree.” (It is from the show The Rink, Broadway-1984, by composer John Kander and lyricist Fred Ebb, book by Terrance McNally. Chita Rivera originated the role of Anna, Lisa Minelli the role of Angel). And it’s about a mother and daughter and the differences between mothers and daughters and about children. So it’s very appropriate.

Commentary by Andrea Martin

Andrea Martin, Concert for America, The Great Hall, Cooper Union

Andrea Martin, ‘Concert for America,’ The Great Hall, Cooper Union, to be rebroadcast on Sunday, July 8, 2018 at 9:00 pm ET, on www.ConcertsforAmerica.com and Facebook.com/ConcertForAmerica (Monica Simoes)

Andrea Martin is an American-Canadian actress, singer, author and comedian. Best known for her work in the television series Second City TV, she has also appeared in films, most recently My Big Fat Greek Wedding 1 and 2. Renowned on Broadway, she won Tony Awards for My Favorite Year and the 2013 Revival of Pippin. Her performances on Broadway include Candide, Oklahoma!, Fiddler on the Roof, Young Frankenstein, Exit the King and Act One. She has received five nominations for the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical more than any other actress in the award’s history.

Andrea Martin, Concert for America, The Great Hall, Cooper Union

Andrea Martin, ‘Concert for America,’ to be rebroadcast on Sunday, July 8, 2018 at 9:00 pm ET on www.ConcertsforAmerica.com and Facebook.com/ConcertForAmerica (Monica Simoes)

You’re here. You care greatly about what is happening to our nation. How do you stay cheerful in the midst of all of this?

I think you compartmentalize. And you do the best you can, staying present in your own life so you’ll have the energy to help where you’re needed. You cannot disperse your drive, your focus by being depressed all the time.

Lisa Mordente, Chita Rivera, Andrea Martin, Concert for America, The Great Hall, Cooper Union

(L to R): Lisa Mordente, Chita Rivera, Andrea Martin, backstage at ‘Concert for America,’ to be rebroadcast on Sunday, July 8, 2018 at 9:00 pm ET, on www.ConcertsforAmerica.com and Facebook.com/ConcertforAmerica (Monica Simoes)

If you could say one or two things to the leaders of our nation, what would you say to them?

I’d say, we can work this out. Let’s be decent people and listen to one another. That’s what I would say.

Commentary by Patrick Wilson

Patrick Wilson, Concert for America, The Great Hall, Cooper Union

Patrick Wilson, ‘Concert for America,’ June 30 at The Great Hall, Cooper Union, rebroadcasting on July 8, 2018, 9 pm ET on www.ConcertsforAmerica.com and Facebook.com/ConcertForAmerica (Monica Simoes)

Patrick Wilson has been starring in Broadway musicals since 1995. He is a two-time Tony Award nominee for his roles in The Full Monty (2000–2001) and Oklahoma! (2002). In 2003, he appeared in the HBO miniseries Angels in America for which he was nominated for the Golden Globe Award and Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie. He has also appeared in many films renowned for Insidious and Insidious: Chapter 2, The Conjuring and The Conjuring 2 and more. He has been cast as Orm Marius/Ocean Master in Aquaman (2018).

Patrick Wilson, Concert for America, The Great Halll, Cooper Union

Patrick Wilson, ‘Concert for America, The Great Hall, Cooper Union (Monica Simoes)

I know you’re here because you care about what’s happening at the border. You have a family. You understand. If you had the opportunity to talk to Donald Trump, or Jeff Sessions or others, what might you say to them?

The older I get, I try to follow this idea: Say what you mean and mean what you say. I’m a pretty simple guy. I try to operate from the heart. I mean this with regard not only to Donald Trump or Jeff Sessions, but anybody. Anybody who doesn’t operate from the heart? I  would say, try to! I think some people have a disconnect with the inner person. I can only speak from my experience. I want to be around people, work with people, work for people who are truthful, who believe in the good, who are creative people that lead from the heart. Those are the people I surround myself with.

Patrick Wilson, Concert for America, The Great Hall, Cooper Union

Patrick Wilson, ‘Concert for America,’ The Great Hall, Cooper Union, rebroadcasting on July 8, 2018 at 9:00 pm ET on www.ConcertsforAmerica.com and Facebook.com/ConcertForAmerica (Carole Di Tosti)

Obviously, it’s not perfect. Not every relationship is perfect, not every job is perfect. But you try to weed out those who don’t jive with you. The older I get, those are the only the kinds of people I want to work with. So it’s hard for me to go along or follow and agree with people who say, “Oh, I don’t like him, but I like his policies. Or the comment, “Well, look what he’s done.”

Patrick Wilson, The Great Hall, Cooper Union, Concert for America

Patrick Wilson, ‘Concert for America,’ The Great Hall, Cooper Union on June 30 to be rebroadcast on Sunday, July 8, 2018 at 9:00 pm ET on www.ConcertsforAmerica.com and Facebook.com/ConcertForAmerica (Monica Simoes)

 

I say, look at the person! That’s who artists are. That’s what artists do. It’s about the person. I only operate from the inside out. I don’t know how to operate any other way. For example take the guy who pays for everyone at the table but is rude to the waiter? I don’t like that guy. I don’t want to be around that guy. And I don’t want to have dinner with that guy ever again. That’s what we’re talking about.

Brian Stokes Mitchell, Patrick Wilson, Concert for America, Great Hall Cooper Union

Brian Stokes Mitchell and Patrick Wilson backstage, ‘Concert for America,’ to be rebroadcast on Sunday, July 8, 2018 at 9:00 pm ET on www.ConcertsforAmerica.com and Facebook.com/ConcertForAmerica (Monica Simoes)

The Concert for America is being rebroadcast on July 8, 2018 at 9:00 pm ET on www.ConcertsforAmerica.com and Facebook.com/ConcertForAmerica.  A few more photos of entertainers who appeared are below.

Keattle Settle, The Great Hall, Concert for America, Cooper Union

Keala Settle, ‘Concert for America,’ The Great Hall, Cooper Union, rebroadcasting on Sunday, July 8, 2018 at 9:00 pm ET on http://www.ConcertsforAmerica.com and Facebook.com/ConcertForAmerica (Monica Simoes)

Mandy Gonzalez, Concert for America, The Great Hall, Cooper Union

Mandy Gonzalez, ‘Concert for America,’ The Great Hall, Cooper Union (Monica Simoes)

Allyson Tucker, Audra McDonald, Chita Rivera, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Lisa Mordente, Concert for America, The Great Hall, Cooper Union

Backstage with Allyson Tucker, Audra McDonald, Chita Rivera, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Lisa Mordente, ‘Concert for America,’ The Great Hall, Cooper Union (Monica Simoes)

Olga Merediz, Concert for America

Olga Merediz, ‘Concert for America’ (Monica Simoes)

Jeremy Jordan, Over the Rainbow, Concert for America, The Great Hall, Cooper Union

Jeremy Jordan sings ‘Over the Rainbow,’ ‘Concert for America,’ The Great Hall, Cooper Union (Carole Di Tosti)

When you visit online www.ConcertforAmerica.com you will be able to donate to the four organizations helping families on the border: Al Otro Lado, Texas Civil Rights Project, ACLU Foundation of Texas and Florence Project. The money donated will be divided up amongst the four organizations. Since the reunification of families must be accomplished by a court ordered date, reports have circulated that there are almost 3000 children that must be brought together with their families. And as the process continues, more will be revealed that we do not yet know about.

Concert for America, The Great Hall Cooper Union

The cast sings “Let the Sunshine In” from ‘Hair,’ at ‘Concert for America,’ The Great Hall, Cooper Union (Monica Simoes)

Regarding the Concert for America, the sold out tickets and the appearance on short notice of the celebrities and entertainers who came to The Great Hall, Cooper Union indicate how much people are concerned and upset. Indeed, they took a stand and showed up  to inspire the rest of us. Many Americans, more than we may even realize, care and have a heart for children. The abusive human rights violations have to stop.

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Why We Need a ‘Concert for America’

James Wesley, Terri Burke, (ACLU Texas), Seth Rudetsky, Concert for America, Great Hall at Cooper UNion

(L to R): James Wesley, Terri Burke (ACLU of Texas), Seth Rudetsky ‘Concert For America,’ Great Hall at Cooper Union (Monica Simoes)

Seth Rudetsky and James Wesley of Sirius XM prompted by a friend had a great idea for June 30. Have a benefit concert with celebrity entertainers. Not only did US citizens need to march, they also needed to be uplifted. So once again, Rudetsky and Wesley brought together, this time in just an amazing week or so, marvelous artists and speakers to perform a concert of songs, comedy and commentary to give us hope during these trying times. They hosted the Concert for America at Cooper Union’s Great Hall on June 30 right after the marches across the nation were concluding.

Tina Fey, Concert for America, Seth Rudetsky, James Wesley

Tina Fey, ‘Concert for America,’ hosted by Sirius XM’s Seth Rudetsky and James Wesley, June 30 to be rebroadcast July 8, 9 pm ET (Monica Simoes)

The Concert for America which took place on June 30 will be rebroadcast on Sunday, July 8 at 9:00 pm ET on two sites. www.ConcertsforAmerica.com and  Facebook.com/ConcertForAmerica.   On the sites you may also donate to organizations helping out on our southern border: Al Otro Lado, Texas Civil Rights Project, ACLU Foundation of Texas and Florence Project. The donations will be split up evenly to the four groups. Here’s why your donation will make a difference.

James Wesley, Seth Rudetsky, Concert for America,

(L to R): James Wesley, Seth Rudetsky Sirius XM’s hosts for ‘Concert for America’ being rebroadcast on July 8, Sunday 9 pm ET, http://www.ConcertsforAmerica.com (Carole Di Tosti)

Though the ACLU has been fighting on behalf of immigrants for months and years, the situation has declined. The Zero Tolerance Policy piloted without fanfare was instituted but the chaos it created impacted thousands to cries of outrage. Though the administration “rescinded” the policy, the fallout and abuse is continuing. To give a bit of background  this is what happened in the past months.

Idina Menzel, Concert for America, Cooper Union

Idina Menzel came from one show and rushed back to her other show to take a stand and uplift the audience, Concert for America, Great Hall, Cooper Union (Monica Simoes)

Unbeknownst to all but a few officials and law enforcement at the Southern Border, immigrant children were being taken from their parents as they attempted to gain asylum. Egregiously, babies were ripped from mothers who feared they might never see their young ones again. But those who saw and had a conscience and image of a better United States under the constitution, leaked information. Whistleblowers, distressed at what they witnessed as human rights violations contacted senators like Jeff Merkely (D. Oregon).

Tina Fey, Concert for America

Tina Fey, ‘Concert for America’ (Monica Simoes) rebroadcast on Sunday, July 8, 2018, 9:00 pm ET at http://www.ConcertsforAmerica.com

Finally, after repeated attempts to gain entrance to facilities and being turned away, lawmakers visited and observed. Then they spoke out fervently and stirred the hearts of Americans and people around the world against the injustices and cruelty to children in detention centers. When reporters were invited into the Walmart that had been converted to house children,  Jacab Soboroff’s and other reporters’ news broadcasts shocked US citizens. What they revealed exemplified a country misaligned with democratic constitutional values and human rights principles. These were practices more reminiscent of fascist politics and shameful moments in our history.  What they witnessed, reminiscent of Japanese internment camps during WWII, chronicled abusive treatment directed at innocent children. Was this representative of our hope to evolve our nation toward a more perfect union?

Patrick Wilson, James Wesley, Chita Rivera, Olga Merediz, Concert for America

Patrick Wilson, James Wesley, Chita Rivera, Olga Merediz and the cast of ‘Concert for America,’ (Monica Simoes)

Counter-narratives long on rants about thousands and thousands of invaders (MS 13) and short on facts, with illogical contradictions and misinformation abounded on alt-right conservative media and entertainment media like Fox News. One commentator posited that the President should not listen to child actors crying, citing as a source the New Yorker.

Audra McDonald, Concert for America, Cooper Union Great Hall

Audra McDonald backstage at ‘Concert for America,’ rebroadcast on Sunday, July 8, 9:00 pm ET, http://www.ConcertsforAmerica.com (Carole Di Tosti)

With easy fact checking the source was a New Yorker article from 2011; the “actor” was a grown woman from the islands who had been coached. This was not even close to June 2018, babies who are not even verbal yet, or toddlers. Those kept in dog kennels who were older? Perhaps they could be coached, but they were too traumatized by the chaos and confusion to make logical sense or be coherent. The lies coming out of the commentators on Fox were nothing short of irresponsible, though white supremacists may have found them entertaining and useful to add to their rhetoric that our country is in dire straights from MS-13 gangs pouring over the border, a patent lie.

Jeremy Jordan, Concert for America, Cooper Union

Backstage with Jeremy Jordan at ‘Concert for America,’ Cooper Union, rebroadcast on July 9, Sunday 9 pm ET at http://www.ConcertsforAmerica.com (Carole Di Tosti)

Because of the outcry the president rescinded the order and stopped separating children from parents, mothers from babies, we are told. Nevertheless, the situation needed to be monitored because secret night flights of children separated from families went to cities across the nation. Separated children were installed in shelters in cities, without the knowledge of mayors who were being stonewalled by the federal government. Thankfully, whistleblowers from shelters started to contact mayors and officials about the location of the children.

Conert for America, Lisa Mordente, Chita Rivera

(L to R): Lisa Mordente and Chita Rivera, ‘Concert for America’ (Monica Simoes) rebroadcast July 8, Sunday 9 pm ET at http://www.ConertsforAmerica.com

The family separation, egregious on its face, was made all the more horrible because no records were kept. There were no lists of where children were being sent. No digital monitoring occurred. (This lack of organization and no record keeping will occur when the WH meets with Russian President Putin.) Such inattention to detail gives rise to a complete lack of transparency and Faustian bargains. In the case of the children at the southern border, it creates  opportunities for grave abuse.

Mandy Gonzalez, Concert for America

Mandy Gonzalez in ‘Concert for America’ at Cooper Union, rebroadcast on http://www.ConcertsforAmerica.com, Sunday, July 8, 9 pm ET (Carole Di Tosti)

The ACLU which has been fighting the family separation policy for months, long before the “zero tolerance policy” was instituted, won in court against the Trump administration’s chaos, disorganization and mismanagement at the border. And a judge ordered the Trump administration to speed up the reunification process of children with families. Is the administration abiding by the judge’s orders?  It is being reported that families are being given an ultimatum. They may either be separated from their children as they seek asylum, or go back to their origin countries with their children and in some instances risk murder or kidnapping. It is a choice between Scylla or Charybdis.

Odysseus between Scylla and Charybdis, British Museum

Odysseus between Scylla and Charybdis, courtesy of the British Museum, see site.

US citizens have been polled and a majority do not support this unpatriotic, unconstitutional approach toward immigration. The very need for immigration is something which Secretary of State William H. Seward under President Lincoln uplifted as necessary to our nation’s prosperity. However, there are supporters of the policies of the administration.

Olga Merediz, Concert for America, Cooper Union

Olga Merediz in ‘Concert for America,’ (Carole Di Tosti)

Cui bono? Who benefits? Reports have gone out that the non profit prisons at the southern border interning children and families are making billions of dollars on this immigrant crisis. As long as the rhetoric holds that MS-13 gangs are flooding the country (a lie) and we “must protect our borders, a national security issue,” migrant children and families who are truly seeking asylum here will be helping CEO’s and investors make billions of dollars. For corporations the crisis is “a very good thing.”

Brian Stokes Mitchell, Audra McDonald, Concert for America

Brian Stokes Mitchell, Audra McDonald in ‘Concert for America’ (Carole Di Tosti)

The Concert for America organized by Seth Rudetsky and James Wesley and starring Tina Fey, Idina Menzel, Audra McDonald, Patrick Wilson, Chita Rivera, Andrea Martin, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Jeremy Jordan Keala Settle and more was a wonderful encouragement to remind us of the best of our country’s values and ideals. Marvelous performers sang songs of determination and strength and overcoming. We felt inspired that we are to uplift those legitimately seeking asylum and help them. Importantly,  commentators from the Texas ACLU, al Otro Lado, Texas Civil Rights Project, ACLU Foundation of Texas and Florence Project gave eye witness accounts that the abuses that are happening are NOT FAKE, ENTERTAINING NEWS.  It is a miserable, indecent and immoral situation.

Jeremy Jordan, Concert for America, Great Hall Cooper Union

Jeremy Jordan knocking ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ out of the park, ‘Concert for America’ (Carole Di Tosti)

This amazing Concert for America will be rebroadcast live on Sunday, July 8, 2018 at 9:00 pm ET on two sites: www.ConcertsforAmerica.com  and on Facebook at  Facebook.com/ConcertForAmerica.

On both sites you can see this benefit to help four organizations on our Southern Border (Al Otro Lado, Texas Civil Rights Project, ACLU Foundation of Texas and Florence Project). And you can go to the Facebook and ConcertsforAmerica sites to donate as well.

 

NYBG Edible Academy Celebrates its Expansion

The New York Botanical Garden has always prized horticultural/environmental research, preservation and sustainability. This is especially so in this crisis period where the US no longer participates in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. As a part of their vision to educate children and families about how gardens improve the environmental landscape and integrate human growth, wellness and health, the NYBG is briskly moving forward to assist the global on the local level in NYC.

New York Botanical Garden, Edible Academy, Opening Day Ceremony

Children from area public schools picking the first harvest of vegetables from the Edible Academy, NYBG, Opening Day Ceremonies, June 14 (Carole Di Tosti)

The Garden is accomplishing this by operating a State-of-the Art Edible Academy that expanded their former academy into an amazing three acre campus. The central purpose of the Edible Academy is to teach children and families how to grow, harvest and prepare healthy, clean, organic produce. It is also to encourage the knowledge that sustainability in various forms like cutting down on food waste, composting, food shopping carefully, etc., are practices we should engage in to meet our personal goals to support global and local environments.

NYBG, Edible Academy, Opening Day Ceremony

Year-round greenhouse, Edible Academy, NYBG, Opening Day Ceremonies (Carole Di Tosti)

Edible Academy, NYBG, Opening Day Ceremony

Kitchen classroom, Edible Academy, NYBG, Opening Day Ceremonies, June 14 (Carole Di Tosti)

Apiary, Edible Academy, NYBG

Kate Solomon Family Apiary, Edible Academy, Opening Day Ceremonies, June 14, 2018, NYBG (Carole Di Tosti)

Edible Academy, NYBG, Opening Day Ceremonies

Campus of the Edible Academy with guests, donors, officials viewing the buildings, NYBG, Opening Day Ceremonies, June 14, 2018 (Carole Di Tosti)

Edible Academy, Opening Day Ceremonies, NYBG

The lettuces, like all the vegetables grown at the Edible Academy, are organic, with attention to no use of chemicals to keep away insects, NYBG (Carole Di Tosti)

The NYBG has had an acclaimed garden-based education program for many years. However, to better serve the community of thousands of children in the New York City area, the Garden funded the expansion of the Ruth Rea Howell Vegetable Garden through public and private donations, totaling $28 million. The indoor-outdoor campus, designed by the Cooper Robertson architectural firm, boasts cutting-edge sustainable technology which allows the NYBG’s edible gardening program to operate year-round. With their improvements the Garden has doubled its capacity to involve children, families, teachers and the general public in programs every season.

marigolds, NYBG, Edible Academy, Opening Day Ceremonies

Marigolds are a part of every organic garden to keep away insects, Edible Academy, NYBG, Opening Day Ceremonies, June 14 (Carole Di Tosti)

NYBG, Edible Academy, Opening Day Ceremony June 14

The Edible Academy grows different types of vegetables: lettuces, peas, kale, broccoli to name a few, NYBG, Opening Day Ceremonies, June 14 (Carole Di Tosti)

NYBG, Edible Academy, Opening Day Ceremonies June 14

Students from Edgar Allan Poe School in the Bronx, teachers, donors and other visitors at the Opening Day Ceremony Dedication of the Edible Academy, NYBG (Carole Di Tosti)

Edible Academy, NYBG, Opening Day Ceremonies June 14

Nasturtiums (flowers in the foreground) are keeping away aphids and other insects from the vegetables, Edible Academy, NYBG, Opening Day Ceremonies, June 14 (Carole Di Tosti)

Ruth Rea Howell Vegetable Garden, Edible Academy, NYBG, Opening Day Ceremony June 14

The Ruth Rea Howell Vegetable Garden initiated in 1993, Edible Academy, NYBG, Opening Day Ceremonies, June 14 (Carole Di Tosti)

Meadow Garden, NYBG, Edible Academy

Royce Family Meadow Garden by the greenhouse has wildflowers to attract beneficial insects, Edible Academy, NYBG (Carole Di Tosti)

Meadow Garden, Edible Academy, NYBG, Opening Day Ceremonies June 14

Another view of the Meadow Garden with State-of-the-Art Buildings in the background, Edible Academy, Opening Day Ceremonies, June 14, NYBG (Carole Di Tosti)

The Edible Academy expansion is one more turning point on the highway of success the NYBG has paved over the decades to engage children and families to understand the importance of nature in their spiritual, emotional, psychological and physical well being. The power of nature to heal is a fact which scientists may have underestimated in the past, but now are studying in earnest. Indeed, there is a renewed interest in how “getting back to the land and the soil” heals soldiers and others with PTSD and helps children and adults with psychological problems by reaffirming mind/body connections to support the whole individual’s wellness.

Edible Academy, NYBG, Opening Day Ceremony June 14

Vegetable beds, Edible Academy, NYBG, Opening Day Ceremonies, June 14 (Carole Di Tosti)

Additionally, as films like Eating Animals indict agribusiness, industrial farming and industrialized animal husbandry, individuals acknowledge the importance of farm to table, fresh versus canned or frozen, and organic and free ranged chicken or beef versus processed animals. The latter inhumanely raised, shot up with antibiotics, and growth-hormones and fed with bio-engineered “round-up ready” plant grains that have been sprayed with chemicals to discourage fungus or insets, are egregious components of global warming.

Edible Academy, NYBG

Herbs, purple basil, parsley, rosemary, Edible Academy, NYBG (Carole Di Tosti)

NYBG, Edible Academy, Opening Day Ceremonies June 14

Another view from inside the kitchen classroom looking out on the garden with children and attendees to celebrate the dedication of the Edible Academy, NYBG, June 14 (Carole Di Tosti)

Not only have agribusinesses and the correlative processed food industry impoverished once noble farmers making them into indentured servants, the toxicity of food additives and preservatives have wrecked our metabolisms and immune systems. Since fast food consumerism burgeoned and profits over healthy eating became the sine quo none of the food industry in the late 1970s, obesity rates of families have risen steadily to the present. Related illnesses never seen before like increased instances of childhood diabetes, high blood pressure and inflammation have been recorded by doctors. Clearly, acidity and toxicity have overtaken our bodies based upon our eating habits as we have chosen fast food convenience over healthy planned “start from scratch” meals at home.

Edible Academy, NYBG, Opening Day Ceremony June 14

Various vegetables, Edible Academy, NYBG, Opening Day Ceremonies, June 14 (Carole Di Tosti)

Scientists and nutritionists have acknowledged the long-term impact of the chemicals we ingest in our food, drinks and water.  In positing chemicals’ (including food preservatives, dyes, MSG, flavor enhancers) deleterious side effects on the human immune system, Europe has banned over 1000 chemicals emphasizing non GMO, non-irradiated produce and wheat, few preservatives, artisanal meat, cheese, wine and more.  In France they have managed to keep out Monsanto corn and soybeans, which is the only offering in the US. In Italy they have created the slow food and slow wine movement since 1989, encouraging fresh, locally grown in cooperative farming as they eschew fast food and processed food.

Edible Academy, NYBG

Edible Academy, NYBG, fresh sweet peas have no preservatives like canned peas (Carole Di Tosti)

Thankfully, the US has caught on, though we have remained behind Europe. We only ban 80 chemicals recognized to be toxic for human consumption, which is to say there are 920 chemicals or more that should be banned. Sadly, recent political developments and the vitiation of environmental policies and Food and Drug regulations threaten even the small strides we have made.

NYC Mayor de Blasio, Gregory Long, Maureen K. Chilton, Carrie Rebora Barratt, Ph.D., Edible Academy, NYBG,

Center- Mayor de Blasio (R) outgoing CEO and president Gregory Long, (L of the Mayor) Carrie Rebora Barratt, Ph.D. incoming CEO and president, with Chairman of the Board Maureen K. Chilton and government officials who support this effort, Edible Academy, NYBG, Opening Day Ceremonies, June 14 (Carole Di Tosti)

Rappaport Family Toolshed, Edible Academy, NYBG, Opening Day Ceremonies June 14

Rappaport Family Toolshed, Edible Academy, NYBG, Opening Day Ceremonies, June 14 (Carole Di Tosti)

Thus, the NYBG Edible Academy is needed now more than ever, and surely, it remains a beacon for us in dark times. As a sanctuary for living plants and animals (native wildlife), it reminds us that we must uplift who we are, what we put in our bodies and what we must allow in the broader society. Above all the Garden is a bulwark which encourages us to remember we are interconnected with the earth, and thus, must do our part to help our human, plant and animal communities thrive.

Outgoing CEO and President Gregory Long, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, Chairman of the Board Maureen K. Chilton, Edible Academy, Opening Day Ceremonies June 14, NYBG

(L to R): Outgoing CEO and NYBG President Gregory Long, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, Chairman of the Board Maureen K. Chilton, Dedication of the Edible Academy, June 14, NYBG (Carole Di Tosti)

To these ends, The Edible Academy expansion is money well spent especially for New York City children. The area around NYBG has one of the highest rates of food insecurity in the nation. Many do not have access to fresh, affordable fruit and vegetables. Indeed, as a result there are high rates of obesity-related ailments. However, there is good news. Extensive research has shown that children who plant and harvest their own produce develop important life skills as they shop, prepare and cook their meals with wisdom. And they are more likely to eat healthful fresh fruits and vegetables and cook meals “from scratch” because the food flavors are incredible.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, Edible Academy, NYBG Chairman of the Board Maureen K. Chilton, Opening Day Ceremonies June 14

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio (center) with Chairman of the Board Maureen K. Chilton and donors of the Edible Academy, Opening Day Ceremonies, June 14, NYBG (Carole Di Tosti)

As a measure of the support for the importance of the NYBG mission, Garden leaders, government officials, corporate and foundation donors and dozens of Bronx schoolchildren showed up on June 14, 2018 to celebrate the opening of the Edible Academy’s momentous occasion. The Academy, which has been in the physical works for about eighteen months, has been in conceptualization for years. “We have long dreamed of expanding the Ruth Rea Howell Vegetable Garden,” said Maureen K. Chilton, Chairman of the NYBG Board of Trustees, who added, “With the opening of the Edible Academy, we will now be able to offer even more educational resources, impacting the lives of countless children as they learn about gardening, plant science and healthful living.”

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, Ribbon Cutting Ceremony, Edible Academy Dedication June 14, NYBG

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio cuts the ribbon in the Opening Day Ceremony dedicating the Edible Academy, NYBG, Opening Day Ceremonies, June 14 (Carole Di Tosti)

Mayor Bill de Blasio, NYC Cultural Affairs Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl, Bronx Councilmember, Ritchie Torres, New York State Senator, Jeffrey D. Klein, NY State Assembly Speaker Carl E. Heastie, NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson and other officials were present as Mayor de Blasio cut the ribbon and opened the ceremony dedicating the expansion. Mayor de Blasio affirmed that the City of New York provided $8.6 million for the Edible Academy through the Department of Cultural Affairs. And through the leadership of the NYS Senate and Assembly, the Edible Academy received $2.5 million.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, Tom Finkelpearl, Maureen K. Chilton, Gregory Long, William D. Rueckert, Dr. Carrie Rebora Barratt, Edible Academy Dedication June 14, NYBG

Student presenting the first harvest in the dedication of the Edible Academy. Mayor de Blasio speaks to another student behind the podium who presented his basket. Present with the Mayor are Commissioner of the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs Tom Finkelpearl, Gregory Long, Dr. Carrie Barratt, Maureen K. Chilton, William D. Rueckert-President of the Cleveland H. Dodge Foundation

Ruth Rea Howell Vegetable Garden, Green Thumb Garden, Global Garden, Children's Gardening Program Garden, Edible Academy, NYBG

Ruth Rea Howell Vegetable Garden is a collection of three gardens, Green Thumb Garden, Global Garden, Children’s Gardening Program Garden, Edible Academy, NYBG (Carole Di Tosti)

Mayor de Blasio along with other speakers identified the importance of the Edible Academy to influence generations. He stated, “Though New York City offers students access to parks, cultural institutions, and educational experiences unlike anywhere else, opportunities to learn about agriculture in our urban jungle can be a little harder to find.” And he added, “Now, more children, educators and families can use this extraordinary resource to better understand the connections between diet, well-being and the stewardship of our planet.”

Edible Academy, NYBG

Italian Garden, Edible Academy, NYBG (Carole Di Tosti)

Edible Academy, NYBG

Caribbean Garden, Edible Academy, NYBG (Carole Di Tosti)

That Mayor de Blasio has a heart for children not only was evidenced here at the opening of the Edible Academy. Some days later the Mayor found out like the rest of us through fine investigative journalism that immigrant children were being separated from families in the President’s new Zero Tolerance Policy at our Southern Border. Housed in cages, sleeping on concrete, not knowing where their parents were, some were flown in secret at night to New York City shelters unbeknownst to city or state officials.

Global Garden, Edible Academy, NYBG,

Global Garden, Edible Academy, NYBG. After the ceremonies guests had lunch at the Solar Pavilion (Carole Di Tosti)

After the Mayor and Governor Cuomo flew to the border, apprised the situation and came back to the city, some of the children were located in Harlem and increased services were provided. On the news Mayor de Blasio and others stated that the number of children in New York City, once thought to be 239 was now hovering around 600 for those at a Daytime facility. Most probably, the WH administration has had immigrant children flown to other areas of New York City, perhaps even the Bronx. Thus, in the upcoming months, the Garden and the Edible Academy may offer a measure of encouragement and support if such children over the years find their way to the doors of the Edible Academy.

Edible Academy, NYBG, Susan P. and Coley Burke Amphitheater

The Susan P. and Coley Burke Amphitheater beyond the greenhouse, Edible Academy, NYBG, Opening Day Ceremonies June 14 (Carole Di Tosti)

Before you visit the Academy, read up on the innovative and sustainable design elements to appreciate the buildings set into the farm-like setting. The campus includes a green roof for the classroom building, geothermal wells for heating and cooling, a freestanding solar pavilion to help power the facility, and composting toilets. Of course all are designed to minimize the environmental impact of the facility and support one of the largest educational gardening programs in the US. These sustainability features meet the criteria for certification as a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold Project. What an amazing learning facility for NYC children which is in keeping with New York State’s philosophy to affirm the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement despite its rejection by the current WH administration.

There is so much to see and do at NYBG, you will need to make a number of visits during each of the year-round exhibits (Holiday Train Show, Orchid Show, Rose Garden, Spring blooms: azealas, daffodils, lilacs, Summer Concerts, Fall Pumpkin Weekend, etc.) and activities. If you have kids, they will love the Edible Academy and the Everett Children’s Adventure Garden which has seasonal, year-round events and fun programs. Certainly, a Garden family membership will pay itself off many times over and comes with additional free parking.

Heliconia, Crab's Claw Ginger, 1939, oil on canvas, Sharon Twigg-Smith Collection, Georgia O'Keeffe, NYBG Exhibit, Georgia O'Keeffe Visions of Hawai'i

Heliconia, Crab’s Claw Ginger, 1939, Oil on Canvas, collection of Sharon Twigg-Smith, Georgia O’Keeffe, NYBG’s Exhibit, ‘Georgie O’Keeffe: Visions of Hawai’i’ (photo taken at the Luesther T. Mertz Library Art Gallery by Carole Di Tosti)

NYBG Exhibit Georgia O'Keeffe: Visions of Hawai'i, Enid A. Haupt Conservatory Heliconia Crab's Claw Ginger

The real Heliconia Crab’s Claw Ginger at the Enid A. Hapt Conservatory, NYBG Exhibit ‘Georgia O’Keeffe: Visions of Hawai’i’ (Carole Di Tosti)

Currently, the main exhibit, Georgia O’Keeffe’s Visions of Hawai’i (through October 28th) makes its home in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, at the Luesther T. Mertz Library and Art Gallery and elsewhere in the Garden. At the Art Gallery you will see gorgeous paintings inspired by plants and scenic vistas from Georgia O’Keeffe’s commissioned journey to Hawai’i. Look for outdoor installations by contemporary Hawaiian-Chinese sculptor Mark Chai, inspired by the forms of the plants that O’Keeffe encountered while visiting the exotic paradise.

Mark Chai, NYBG Exhibit, Georgia O'Keeffe: Visions of Hawai'i

Installation by sculptor Mark Chai, NYBG Exhibit ‘Georgia O’Keeffe: Visions of Hawai’i’ (Carole Di Tosti)

And take a tram ride to the Edible Academy and spend time investigating the campus. You will enjoy the Ruth Rea Howell Vegetable Garden (three gardens), the Classroom Building (with a demonstration kitchen classroom), the greenhouse, the Pauline Gillespie Gossett Overlook Pavilion (you see the Bronx River), the Susan P. and Coley Burke Ampitheater, the Solar Pavilion, the Wamsler Phillips Plant Nursery and much more.

For Garden programming, CLICK HERE.  For membership CLICK HERE.   For the Summer Concert Series CLICK HERE.  If you have never been to the NYBG you are missing a treasure in NYC that you cannot divine until you visit. It is one of New York City’s hidden gems, a haven and a sanctuary for thousands of visitors and members each year. But do not wait to the last minute of the Georgia O’Keeffe exhibit or any exhibit for that matter. You will be bumping into crowds who want to go one last time to experience the Garden’s wonders.

‘Chita Rivera and Richard Ridge in Conversation’

Chita Rivera in Conversation With Richard Ridge, League of Professional Theatre Women, NYPL for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center

‘Chita Rivera in Conversation With Richard Ridge,’ NYPL for the Performing Arts, presented in collaboration with the League of Professional Theatre Women (Carole Di Tosti)

Chita Rivera is a Broadway legend and one of the most gracious and prodigious theatrical talents one would want to meet. Richard Ridge is the lead correspondent for Broadway World the go-to place online to find everything you want to know about Broadway, its stars, its happenings. For those who were there on Monday evening, 7 May they received a great treat.  The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center in collaboration with the League of Professional Theatre Women presented Chita Rivera in conversation with Richard Ridge. After the interview, members discussed with Co-Chairs Pat Addiss and Sophia Romma who produced the event how they appreciated Chita Rivera’s authenticity and great good will, and Richard Ridge’s superbly guided questions.

Much of the evening which was too good to miss is captured here with some edits. I chose to sum up the beginning and conclude on a positive affirmation that strikes me as suffusing all that Chita Rivera has accomplished in her amazing life with her last comment in this piece. It is why she is who she is, after all is said and done!

The interview began with Richard Ridge asking Chita Rivera the “sixty-four thousand dollar question,” how she became a dancer. Chita Rivera’s answer is one for the ages. She said that she was a tomboy. And one day jumping from the chair to the coffee table, she missed her mark. Exasperated her mother said, “That’s it. You’re out of here. You’re going to Doris Jones.” From a time perspective and having raised children, Chita Rivera surmises, “I had no idea my mother was so smart. She wanted to save the house.”

Apparently, her mom who had exquisite legs and the most beautiful turnout, wanted to be a dancer, but chose to raise five children. However, she championed her daughter Chita to do that which she thought might work out to keep her daughter entertained and “the house saved.” What follows is Richard Ridge’s wonderfully knowledgeable and finely researched informal interview with the inimitable Chita Rivera.

NYPL for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center, Chita Rivera, Chita Rivera in Conversation With Richard Ridge, LPTW

Chita Rivera, ‘Chita Rivera in Conversation With Richard Ridge,’ presented in collaboration with the League of Professional Theatre Women and NYPL for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center (Carole Di Tosti)

So it was Doris Jones who took you to New York for your audition for George Balanchine? What was that like?

Well, we were very obedient in those days to adults and when you have someone wonderful like Miss Jones, it’s easy. Louis Johnson was really the first male, black dancer in the New York City ballet. He was my partner in Ms. Jones’ school. So the two of us won a scholarship to audition that day.  I got out of the elevator and saw this gorgeous girl with legs up to my shoulders and so skinny and so beautiful and so calm. I looked at Ms. Jones and said, I’m scared. And Ms. Jones said, “Just stay in your lane.” And I’ve been staying in my lane ever since. You find out who you are by being who you are.

So you accompany a friend to the touring audition to Call Me Madam. What happened when you got there.

Well, Helen (I can’t remember her last name)…approached me in class and said,  “Chita, I’m not on scholarship. I have no money. Will you go with me? I’m scared to death.” I said, “Absolutely.” I wasn’t frightened because it didn’t mean anything to me except it was an experience. I got the job but Helen didn’t! I haven’t heard from her since. So if anyone hears from her, let me know. (laughter) So I went home and told my mother, “They’ve offered me $250 dollars a week to go on the road with a woman by the name of Elaine Stritch!” I don’t think at the time I had even seen a Broadway show. But I loved it. It was an exciting time to be doing the choreography. The choreographer’s name was Jerome Robbins. And I got one of the four principal dancers. So I just continued to do what I was told and it was an amazing experience. It was the beginning of everything.

Doris Jones had performances when we were in her school. So I had the opportunity to dance during concerts and on point. But I never got the chance to dance with the New York City Ballet. I’ve thought about that. And I’m just fine about it. (laughter) And Ms. Jones, God love her, she had gorgeous schools. I invited her to see my shows and she never came. And one day, when I was doing Kiss of the Spider Woman, I was in a restaurant and there was Ms. Jones. I said why haven’t you come to see me? Are you ashamed of me? She said, “I’m busy making little Chita Riveras (laughter). I just let you out into the world.” So I give Ms. Jones all the credit. (applause)

NYPL for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center, Chita Rivera Richard Ridge, LPTW

‘Chita Rivera in Conversation With Richard Ridge,’ presented in collaboration with the League of Professional Theatre Women and NYPL for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center (Carole Di Tosti)

You did Guys and Dolls and then Can Can when you started your life-long friendship with Gwen Verdon. What did you learn from her. And that day you were called into her dressing room what did she say to you?

I’ve always said that if I am reincarnated, I’d like to come back as the carriage instead of the horse. I think most dancers would like to be the carriage because the horse pulls and pulls and does the hard work…the carriage gets to carry the amazing people…what was the question?  (laughter)

The dressing room when Gwen Verdon called you.

Michael Kidd choreographed the show. She was extraordinary. I lived in the wings of every show I ever did  and learned so much that way. She called me into her room. At that time you didn’t cross a star’s threshold, not unless someone asked you to. You didn’t just presume. And so I went in. I remember her clearly saying to me, “Chita, you should be brave enough to go out and look for parts you can create for yourself.” I realized she was giving me courage and making me go out and find out who I am. And shortly after that, I did get a part. The fabulous Gwen Verdon! And the next time I saw her we were behind the amazing Tony Walton set and  there we were in top hat and canes and I looked at the back of her head and thought, “Oh my God.” I’m standing next to Gwen Verdon. It was amazing. You don’t realize it until you’re in it and then you go, “Yeah!” And you don’t want to be anywhere else. You want to be there. She was a phenomenal artist and great friend.

Well the role that catapulted you to stardom was Anita in the groundbreaking musical West Side Story. (applause) We just celebrated Jerome Robbins’ 100th Anniversary.

Right and this is the 61st Anniversary of West Side Story. I always say, I’ve been running around living the life of a 35 year-old all these years and I never realized how old I was. So for age? Don’t count it, unless it’s 5, 6, 7, 8 (laughter/applause). We worked hard at the auditions and we didn’t realize we were working hard. We just were because that’s what you do. There were several auditions. It was Kenny Leroy as Bernardo. We had to be matched up with our guys. We didn’t realize we didn’t know how to sing. We were taught on the spot. And of course dancing is acting. And suddenly we had words. It was extraordinary. It was tough but it was good because we learned.

At what point during that process did you realize that the show was a such a phenomenon.

I don’t know if I realized it. I was so busy living it.  You don’t have much time to realize it unless you’re looking at a fellow actor and you get those responses. We got to Washington, DC and “America” stopped the show dead. We didn’t know what to do with that. We said to Jerry, “What do we do?” Jerry said go downstairs, change your clothes and get ready for the next scene. That was the first time we got any kind of feeling about the response. But all along it was being built, the value of the words, the excitement. “Cool” was better than “America” but “Cool” came after “America.”  “Cool was an extraordinarily choreographed piece. I watched from the wings when I wasn’t onstage.

NYPL for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center, Chita Rivera, Richard Ridge, LPTW

‘Chita Rivera in Conversation With Richard Ridge,’ presented by the NYPL for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center and the LPTW (Carole Di Tosti)

You went to Leonard Bernstein’s apartment and learned a song at his piano?

I sure did. It’s kind of fun to say, “Lenny” and think that I knew him and that this amazing genius is a kind, giving soul. Well, I rang the buzzer. He escorted me to his music room, and I sat next to him on the piano and was nervous. And I carry little angels with me on my shoulders. One tells me what to do, the other tells me, “Don’t do that.” I remember one of them said to me, “You know you’re sitting next to Leonard Bernstein.” And the other one said, “Do exactly what he says.” So I listened to him and it was then I heard my own voice. He pulled it out. He just had a way of making you find yourself. And making you feel comfortable in your own shoes. He had the excitement for himself and the show. He was directing the quintet and we were all on the set. He was in the pit standing on a chair and he got so enthusiastic that he went straight through the chair. But dancers love to laugh anyhow, so we had a good laugh.

Could you sum up the best part of working with Jerome Robbins, what it was for you?

I don’t know because there are so many things. I used to call him “Big Daddy.” He had all the answers as far as I was concerned. I remember one time I was standing downstage. He was giving us a five minute break which I rarely took. Mickey Calin was gorgeous and several girls were hovering. I saw Jerry looking at Mickey and I got very nervous and I walked past him and said, “Don’t do it.” He was about to kill him, slaughter him.  And we had a laugh and he said, “You’re a witch. You’re just a witch.” We had that kind of relationship because we all had respect for each other. And we were working so hard. And there’s nothing better than working hard and finding out that you can do it. What a creator he was. He introduced us to words and music and worlds we never knew. And feelings we never knew we had. That’s how you build your canvas, your life.

You created the role of Rose in the Broadway smash, Bye, Bye Birdie. (applause) You almost turned that show down, didn’t you?

Well, I read the script.  Really! Who’s going to sit up there as a parent and let all these kids talk on the telephone? I wouldn’t let my daughter talk on the phone that long. I also learned that we don’t know what we’re talking about. Shut up and do your job. (laughter) Let them do theirs, you do yours. Gower Champion! He brought technicolor, he brought humor, he brought class, he brought Hollywood. And of course, then there was that funny person Dick Van Dyke. I just watched him. I am a great thief and I will steal. I have been around extraordinary people, so I just watched and learned a lot from them. And Dick is one of the funniest, kindest, most giving people in the theater. He’s 92 and he still going strong. He’s still funny. Don’t lose your sense of humor.

You’ve received many great phone calls during your career. Tell us about the phone call you received from Cy Coleman, Gwen Verdon and Bob Fosse.

It was from Cy. It is amazing that I know these people. It is wonderful to know them. They asked if I would take the original of Sweet Charity on the road. There was Ben Vereen, Thelma Oliver and the greatest chorus of dancers. So we did it. That was a great phone call.

Chita Rivera, Richard Ridge, NYPL for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center, LPTW

Chita Rivera in Conversation With Richard Ridge, presented by NYPL for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center and LPTW (Carole Di Tosti)

Then you got to do the film version.

The cherry on the top was that it was a wonderful experience to do the entire show for almost a year and another cherry to be with my buddy Shirley MacLaine. She always had a great sense of humor and we always made fun of her right to her face. Once when we were filming, we were supposed to head up to the rooftops, turn on a dime, run down a ramp. The lineup was Shirley was in the front, less to travel, then I was next, then Paula Kelly who was extraordinary. She had the furthest to travel. I loved to dance with the boys. They had the power, but I couldn’t travel like that. But Paula could. She was amazing. We were pulled aside and told, do exactly what they said for the shoot. So we hit it the first couple of times and on the third time, that was the final take. I said, “Damn.” I knew I wanted to travel further. It would fulfill my faith in myself. (laughter) I knew Paula was flying. I saw her out of the corner of my eye. That’s what the chorus does to you. You can see 360 degrees. Shirley said, “What’s wrong, kid?” I said it just didn’t feel right. She asked the director, “Can we do another take?” So we did it again. That was just great!

You received your second Tony nomination the original for Velma Kelly in Chicago, John Kander  and Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse. (applause) What happened the first time you heard the vamp to your number?

Well, I knew John Kander wrote great vamps. No one writes great vamps like John Kander. When you hear Liza’s vamp in Cabaret, it’s John Kander’s. When you hear Joel Grey’s vamp, you know John Kander wrote it. I said in my head, “Oh, I want a vamp.” John comes in and says, “Come on I want to play your opening number for you.” We go down to the theater and he started with Dum, dum…and I was so excited. And he said, “Wait Chita, that’s just the vamp. Wait for the song.” (laughter)  It was just an amazing song. And when the curtain opens up on Tony Walton’s fabulous set? The theater is just greatest place in the world. (applause) You can go to so many different worlds, see so many different things, tell so many wonderful stories. I remember when my mother passed away. I was in Merlin. It got terrible reviews, but it was a magical show. When she passed, I don’t know what I would have done. But I went to the theater and I was placed in another world and it saved me. It saved me. So I’m very, very grateful.

Richard Ridge, Pat Addiss, Chita Rivera, NYPL for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center, LPTW

Richard Ridge, Pat Addiss, Chita Rivera, ‘Chita Rivera in Conversation With Richard Ridge,’ presented by NYPL for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center and LPTW (Carole Di Tosti)

You were in another world when you played Anna at a roller skating rink in John Kander and Fred Ebb’s The Rink.

They called and said, “We have another show, Chita, and want to know if you’d like to be a part of it?” I said, Well, let me think about it…Yes. They said, “You’ll have a co-star. How would you feel about Liza Minelli?” I said, well, I really have to think about that…(laughter) Of course! We’ve always wanted to play girlfriends. There was silence. They said, “Well, gee. It’s not girlfriends.” I asked what? They said, “It’s mother and daughter.” I asked who plays the mother? (laughter) Keep  your sense of humor! But it was great. Every once in a while I found myself standing in front of Liza who was a joy to work with. I had met her mother. Make sure you’re there! Don’t miss the knowledge of those moments.

Your leg was broken during a car accident. It was broken in twelve places which required 18 screws. You were told you’d never dance again. You know many stars have life-threatening things happen to them. What got you through that experience?

I think my mom and my family. And I think of the example of Ms Jones, the way she taught us. I clearly remember going into the Emergency Room in shock. The X ray technician said, “Oh how nice to meet you.” (laughter) She takes the picture and comes out and says, “Oh, you did a good job on yourself.”  I clearly remember shifting gears. I remember saying, “Oh shit.”  And the climate of my mind totally changed. Then I thought, “What’s next.” Then Gary Chris who is a friend of mine and beautiful dancer  talked to me. I realized it’s one of life’s lessons. Every single day, things change. You accept things for what they are and you just keep going. And I don’t think I could have kept going without learning from my teachers. It’s incredible to be recuperating in bed and feeling the healing happening gradually.

Richard Ridge, Pat Addiss, Chita Rivera, NYPL for the Performing Arts, LPTW

Richard Ridge, Pat Addiss, Chita Rivera, NYPL for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center and LPTW presenting ‘Chita Rivera in Conversation With Richard Ridge’ (Carole Di Tosti)

You accepted another Tony Award for Aurora in Kander and Ebb’s Kiss of the Spider Woman. (applause) Aurora was difficult to find because she is made up of fragments.

Yes. Fragments. When I finally realized not to become too desperate to find out who she was, to just be patient, one day, I realized that I was in his mind, his imagination. Then I found the character. It was his imagination because he envisioned her. I had the support of the amazing actors and Rob Marshall’s choreography and Hal Prince’s direction. It was so beautiful. The story was extraordinary. It was a story I wanted to make sure was heard. It was beautiful to look at. I wondered how was I going to be in the web? They said, you’ll see. It was a projection and I was standing in the center of the stage and I looked as though I was hanging on this web. I did do a lot of climbing. But my name is Chita. (applause) I’m lucky, really lucky to be around at the time these great shows were created and to work with such amazing people.

You played opposite Antonio Banderas in the stunning revival Nine. Everyone in the audience wants to know what was it like sharing the stage with Antonio Banderas.

I had several people say, you did that tango with Antonio and you did that high kick split. How did you do that? I said, you would be able to do that too if you were with Antonio Banderas. (laughter) Antonio Banderas was so extraordinary in that show and so was Raul Julia in the original. Extraordinary. I loved what Tommy Tune created. Raul? I could have done that split with Raoul. Antonio is the lover we have seen on screen. He was so perfect, so beautiful. So for my audiences, I tell them everything you’ve dreamed about Antonio is true. He was great to work with, sang, never missed a show. You know he’s a wonderful actor.

You received your ninth nomination on Broadway for Chita Rivera: The Dancer’s Life (book by Terrance McNally) What gave you the great pleasure of performing the show across the country for people who couldn’t get to New York.

First of all there are so many sensational theaters across the country. Those people are theater hungry. So it’s a joy to bring a show that you’re proud of to them. And they really appreciated it. So when someone asked about doing it? I thought, initially, what do I have to offer? You’re so busy, you don’t step back and look at your body of work and yourself because it’s you and you live it. The story is the adventure of my life. It’s God’s way of letting me realize what I have. Four brothers and sisters, music everywhere, my father’s a musician in a white suit, I’m telling it and hearing it at the same time. I think  damn! This is interesting. It’s a lot of music when music means so much. We had a great time. Dancing on the kitchen table with a lot of hungry kids and Graciella Danielle’s imagination? Wonderful.

Chita Rivera, NYPL for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center, Richard Ridge

Chita Rivera, ‘Chita Rivera in Conversation With Richard Ridge,’ presented by NYPL for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center and LPTW (Carole Di Tosti)

You recived your 10th Tony nomination for your emotionally moving and mesmerizing performance in John Kander, Fred Ebb and Terence McNally’s The Visit.

You know I say, I don’t need any more friends. I have enough friends. It’s a responsibility to return those calls. But Roger Rees who left us is a friend I got to know only a little bit, but I did have some time with him. He was a wonderful man and a wonderful actor. The piece was so dark that people thought the show was about revenge. No. It was about love. Yes, some people died, but it doesn’t mean it wasn’t about love. And the truth comes out that they have made mistakes themselves in the “Yellow Shoe” song. My character buys the town up. But she arrives with the casket empty and leaves with him in the casket. But she makes the entire town realize that he did love her. I just loved it. I thought John Doyle did an extraordinary job. And the score that John Kander wrote was wild and wonderful. The production and the characters are really what theater is all about.

What do those three men, John Kander, Fred Ebb and Terrance McNally mean to you?

Well, they knew things about myself that I didn’t know. They allowed me to get to know me. They put words in my mouth I might not have said, but I certainly grew to understand. Freddy knew my sense of humor. John writes the most beautiful music you could ever hope to sing. Terrance, I don’t remember meeting him 60 years ago. I learned so much from him. They made me feel good about myself. They cared and they became like partners in life. Fred is not with us anymore. But in a way he still is.

In 2009 Barack Obama awarded you with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. (applause) What was it like to be in the room?

Oh please! Barack and Michelle Obama? I remember watching him when he and Michelle were dancing…he had a little bop. A tiny bop. I said to Michelle, is that a bop? I know that bop! I think it’s just great. And Michelle said, “Yeah. That’s his bop. It’s the only step he’s got.” (laughter) But to be in the same room? I think after a while, you just have to say, “Thank you God!”

‘Daniël Ost’s Triumph at The NYBG Orchid Show’

Belgian floral artist, Daniël Ost, 2018 NYBG Orchid Show

Palms of the World Gallery, 2018 NYBG Orchid Show, Daytime, designed by Belgian floral artist, Daniël Ost (Carole Di Tosti)

Orchid Dancers, Orchid Evenings, 2018 NYBG Orchid Show, Daniël Ost,

Orchid Dancers, 2018 NYBG Orchid Show, ‘Orchid Evenings,’ Daniël Ost, Belgian floral artist (Carole Di Tosti)

Daniël Ost, Palms of the World Gallery, 2018 Orchid Show, Orchid Evenings, Belgian floral artist

Palms of the World Gallery, anterior view, 2018 NYBG Orchid Show, ‘Orchid Evenings,’ Daniël Ost, floral artist (Carole Di Tosti)

2018 NYBG Orchid Show, Palms of the World Gallery, Daniël Ost,

2018 NYBG Orchid Show (daytime) Daniël Ost, Palms of the World Gallery (Carole Di Tosti)

Daniël Ost, orchid dancer, 2018 NYBG Orchid Show, orhid evenings, Belgian floral artist

Orchid Dancer, 2018 NYBG Orchid Show, ‘Orchid Evenings,’ Daniël Ost, Belgian floral artist (Carole Di Tosti)

Palms of the World Gallery, 2018 NYBG Orchid Show,

Detail, Palms of the World Gallery, 2018 NYBG Orchid Show (daytime) Daniël Ost (Carole Di Tosti)

Daniël Ost, Palms of the World Gallery, 2018 NYBG Orchid Show

Palms of the World Gallery (daytime, detail) 2018 NYBG Orchid Show, Daniël Ost (Carole Di Tosti)

Dutch floral artist  Daniël Ost is world renowned. No stranger to Europe or Japan, Ost’s large-scale sculptures have been likened to Anish Kapoor, Claes Oldenburg and Andy Goldsworhy. If you google any of these individuals and Ost and check out their websites, you will be astounded at their botanical artistry of beauty, light and grace. Indeed, in Belgium where Ost grew up and initially trained, he has been referred to as “the Picasso of flower arranging.” And France hails him as “the international star of floral decoration.”

2018 NYBG Orchid Show, orchid evenings, Daniël Ost, Belgian floral artist

2018 NYBG Orchid Show, ‘Orchid Evenings,’ Daniël Ost, Belgian floral artist (Carole Di Tosti)

2018 NYBG Orchid Show, orchid evenings, Daniël Ost, Belgian floral artist

Detail, 2018 NYBG Orchid Show, ‘Orchid Evenings,’ Daniël Ost, Belgian floral artist (Carole Di Tosti)

2018 NYBG Orchid Show, orchid evenings, Belgian floral artist, Daniël Ost,

Detail, 2018 NYBG Orchid Show, ‘Orchid Evenings,’ Daniël Ost, Belgian floral artist (Carole Di Tosti)

2018 Orchid Show, orchid evenings, Belgian floral artist,

2018 Orchid Show, ‘Orchid Evenings,’ Belgian floral artist, Daniël Ost (Carole Di Tosti)

2018 NYBG Orchid Show, orchid evenings, Daniël Ost,

2018 Orchid Show, ‘Orchid Evenings,’ Daniël Ost (Carole Di Tosti)

While those in the United States may not be familiar with Ost’s brilliance others might because of their network of friends and their extensive travel. However, those in the multi-million dollar flower industry and those staff, botanists, horticulturalists who make their work homes in global botanical gardens  know of Ost’s reputation. The New York area is fortunate to witness Ost’s magnificent living floral designs at the New York Botanical Garden Orchid Show until 22 April.. His installations are one-of-a-kind spectaculars that take your breath away.

2018 NYBG Orchid Show, orchid evenings, Belgian floral artist, Daniël Ost,

2018 NYBG Orchid Show, ‘Orchid Evenings,’ Daniël Ost, Belgian floral artist (Carole Di Tosti)

It is a rare opportunity to see Ost in “living color.” And unfortunately, his botanical showcase at the New York Botanical Garden will only remain until next week. As for Orchid Evenings? There are only three evenings left after tonight.

Daniël Ost, 2018 NYBG Orchid Show, orchid evenings

2018 NYBG Orchid Show, ‘Orchid Evenings,’ Daniël Ost (Carole Di Tosti)

Whether you see them in the main galleries of the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory in the daytime or in the evening, you will note how the changing light  impacts the elements used to encapsulate the exotic delicacy of the thousands of orchids Ost and his team selected for the annual Orchid Show displays.

2018 NYBG Orchid Show, orchid evenings,

2018 NYBG Orchid Show, ‘Orchid Evenings,’ Daniël Ost (Carole Di Tosti)

Unlike other designers commissioned for various NYBG shows, Ost took a hands-on approach to his installations. He traveled back and forth to the Nolen Greenhouses to specifically select a multitude of orchids and companion plants based upon their color, size, form, texture, delicacy, hardiness and more. His vision for each of his installations he effected with the assistance of his team Marco and Damien (both from Belgium) and the NYBG staff and Marc Hachadourian.

Daniël Ost, cymbidium, 2018 NYBG Orchid Show, orchid evenings

Cymbidium, 2018 NYBG Orchid Show, ‘Orchid Evenings,’ Daniël Ost (Carole Di Tosti)

2018 NYBG Orchid Show, Daniël Ost,

2018 NYBG Orchid Show (daytime detail) Daniël Ost (Carole Di Tosti)

Marc is the Director of The New York Botanical Garden’s Nolen Greenhouses for Living Collections. He is the main orchid curator who assiduously watches over the plants under his care. For Marc to give Ost free reign in the greenhouses indicates the level of respect both men have for each other in their passion and dedication to plants and flowers. During the weeks that Ost and his team spent in the Bronx working labor intensive lengthy days to scale up the thousands of orchids of myriad varieties with their lively companion counterparts (crotons, draceana, ferns, palms, ficus, etc.) they closely bonded with the staff.

2018 NYBG Orchid Show, Daniël Ost,

2018 NYBG Orchid Show, Daniël Ost (Carole Di Tosti)

On the Press Day I visited, I spoke with Daniel and Damien. And both mentioned that despite the amazing pressure of their schedule, they loved the Garden and were thrilled with the array of plants they were able to employ in their unique installations.

vandas, 2018 NYBG Orchid Show,

Vandas, detail, 2018 NYBG Orchid Show (daytime) Daniël Ost (Carole Di Tosti)

Damien assured me the clear plastic tubing, a trending element of floral design that reflected the light and cohered with the glass of the Enid A. Haupt, was a medium that best suited individualizing each orchid variety and color Daniel selected. One only has to view the monumental and glorious sculpture in the Palms of the World Gallery to understand how. Trained by Noboru Kurisaki, a prominent grand master of Ikebana, Ost learned from him that a single flower used the right way can have more impact than thousands of flowers bound together en masse.

2018 NYBG Orchid Show, Daniël Ost,

2018 NYBG Orchid Show (daytime) Daniël Ost (Carole Di Tosti)

You will not find walls of the same colors or types of orchids clumped together in a wall. Instead, every orchid variety is surrounded by a distinct and particular other orchid variety. What does thread together in minute details is a similitude and harmony of color. And then when you think you have picked out the harmonious hues, you discover that there are multitudes of contrasts.

2018 NYBG Orchid Show, Daniël Ost,

2018 NYBG Orchid Show, Daniël Ost (Carole Di Tosti)

The orchid selection brought the teams to configure the largest orchid display ever used for any of the NYBG Orchid Shows. That alone is amazing when you understand that Ost and the teams made sure to individualize each orchid from its brothers. What do remain in greater combinations of the same plants are the companion plants. But these have been selected to highlight and emphasize the vast varieties of color, shape and orchid forms.

Daniël Ost, 2018 NYBG Orchid Show

2018 NYBG Orchid Show, Daniël Ost (Carole Di Tosti)

Phalaenopsis (moth orchid), Vandas, Miltonia, Cymbidium, Cattleya, Dendrobium, Paphiopedilum, Oncidium (dancing-lady), Brassia, Odontoglossum are some of the varieties. The orchids in the show span from those that are rare which you will see in the glass case, the Garden’s permanent collection. Whether shipped in from tropical climes, or raised in the Nolen greenhouses, whether popular pinks and fuschias, or the multi-faceted, multi-hued hybrids, the diversity of plants is amazing.

2018 NYBG Orchid Show,

2018 NYBG Orchid Show, Daniël Ost (Carole Di Tosti)

2018 NYBG Orchid Show, Daniël Ost,

2018 NYBG Orchid Show, Daniël Ost (Carole Di Tosti)

Daniël Ost, 2018 NYBG Orchid Show

2018 NYBG Orchid Show, Daniël Ost (daytime detail) (Carole Di Tosti)

2018 NYBG Orchid Show, Daniël Ost,

2018 NYBG Orchid Show, Daniël Ost (Carole Di Tosti)

Thus each orchid in the show has its own defined space, its roots either allowed to hang down or placed within a moss medium so they might thrive as their variety would in the wild. This is especially manifest and clearly seen in the Palms of the World Gallery and in the walkway of the seasonal gallery as one saunters up to the 360 degree showpiece gallery of the conservatory whose permanent plants spiral upward 100 feet or more to the domed ceiling.

2018 NYBG Orchid Show, orchid evenings,

2018 NYBG Orchid Show, ‘Orchid Evenings,’ Daniël Ost (Carole Di Tosti)

2018 NYBG Orchid Show, orchid evenings, Daniël Ost

2018 NYBG Orchid Show, ‘Orchid Evenings,’ Daniël Ost (Carole Di Tosti)

2018 NYBG Orchid Show, orchid evenings,

2018 NYBG Orchid Show, ‘Orchid Evenings,’ Daniël Ost (Carole Di Tosti)

In this particular gallery, Ost and his team used green bamboo in a circular round which mirrors the lattice work of the Enid A. Haupt. The bamboo and the tubing are at meet and are employed together in the passageway leading to either domed space.

2018 nYBG Orchid Show, orchid evenings, Daniël Ost,

2018 NYBG Orchid Show, ‘Orchid Evenings,’ Daniël Ost (Carole Di Tosti)

Thus, at either end the larger galleries of the Enid A. Haupt manifest their own design akin to their structure. Thus, Ost’s vision in employing these implements for the installations represent a celebration of the architecture of the conservatory. Indeed, function and design whimsically become one. And the elements used to reflect Ost’s vision serve as the platforms upon which the orchids shimmer with vibrancy, magnificence, singularity and loveliness.

orchid dancer, 2018 nYBG Orchid Show, orchid evenings, Daniël Ost

Orchid Dancer, 2018 NYBG Orchid Show, ‘Orchid Evenings,’ Daniël Ost (Carole Di Tosti)

Words and photos cannot do justice to viewing the theatrical horticultural spectacular in all its vivacity. You must see it for yourself. However, here are more photos which will reveal the amazing installations in the daytime and evening “light” motifs.

There is programming surrounding the 2018 Orchid Show. Saturday, April 14 is an Orchid Evening which begins at 6:30 pm and lasts until 9:30 pm. The Garden is mysterious and exotic in the evenings. The Enid A. Haupt is transformed to an ethereal, romantic tropical setting where anything seems possible.

The show ends on 22nd of April. Next weekend is the last Orchid Evening of the season. Best to get tickets for the weekend immediately. With the nicer weather, the crowds show up and the tickets sell out. You will be glad you didn’t miss Daniël Ost’s splendid vision for orchids at this year’s show. For all programming CLICK HERE.

‘Phylicia Rashad Receives Lifetime Achievement Award at 2018 LPTW Theatre Awards’

Phylicia Rashad, Lifetime chievement Award, LPTW Theatre Women Awards, TIMESCENTER

Phylicia Rashad during her standing ovation upon receiving The Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2018 LPTW Theatre Women Awards, TimesCenter (Carole Di Tosti)

On Friday 16 March The League of Professional Theatre Women held their awards for outstanding accomplishments of women in the theater. With the #metoo movement in full swing and the entertainment industry highlighting the paltry showing of sterling women who have yet to be represented in parity and equity with men, the LPTW shines a special light on the tremendous capabilities of women in the industry. They have been doing this for years beginning with their pioneering efforts championing women in the theatre since their inception in 1984.

LPTW VP Programming Ludovica Viller-Hauser, Artistic Director Parity Productions, LPTW Co-President Kelli Lynn Harrison, 2018 LPTW Theatre Women Awards, TimesCenter

(L to R): LPTW Co-President Kelli Lynn Harrison and VP of Programming Ludovica Villar-Hauser, Artistic Director of Parity Productions. Opening remarks, 2018 LPTW Theatre Women Awards, TimesCenter (Ashley Garrett)

The importance of this organization at this time is not to be underestimated. The pernicious nature of male chauvinism, paternalism and the preeminence of patriarchy is deeply entrenched in the folkways of our culture and has risen its ugly head politically, indicating that only lip service had been given to women’s inclusion in the power game. Indeed, men have been dragged along with the arc of progress and justice continues to be flogged by men in power under cover of darkness. Meanwhile, all is smiles and compliments by men for women when the spotlight is on.

League of Professional Theatre Women Awards, Rohina Malik, Cricket S. Myers, Linda Winer, Emily Joy Weiner, Adrienne Campbell-Holt, Phylicia Rashad

2018 League of Professional Women Theatre Awards pictures in the poster (L-R bottom row): Rohina Malik, Emily Joy Weiner, Cricket S. Myers (L-R top row): Linda Winer, Phylicia Rashad, Adrienne Campbell-Holt. On stage (L to R): Emily Joy Weiner, Jocelyn Bioh, Phylicia Rashad, Shelley Butler, Cricket S. Myers, Adrienne Campbell-Holt, Celia Keenan-Bolger, Roma Torre (Carole Di Tosti)

Well, women are bending the arc of progress toward their inclusion. It is enough that they are more than half the population, yet have been relegated to the back of the line when the golden rings of power are bestowed by other men. Indeed it is enough!

For years LPTW members identified the under-representation of women in positions of power and importance in the entertainment/theatre industry. And this ironically was not because women demonstrated a lack of creative talent, leadership abilities or phenomenal skill sets. It was because of surreptitious discrimination and a network of mores supported by men AND women wittingly and unwittingly. The concept that “boys will be boys” and women were less than “all that” reigned supreme in the competition for employment. Outstanding women had to push diligently, subtly and prodigiously to get a “place at the table” where men ultimately dominated. Women compromised their behaviors, attitudes, intelligence and creativity to meld into a preeminent male world of directors, playwrights, and design directors and assistants. Because of these pioneers, progress has been moving forward. But we have a long way to go before reaching parity and equity. Thankfully, “the whole world is watching.”

Catherine Adler, 2018 LPTW Theatre Women Awards Red Carpet, Kimberly Loren Eaton, Kate Hamill

LPTW VP of Communications Kimberly Loren Eaton, Playwright Kate Hamill, Broadway Producer Catherine Adler on 2018 LPTW Theatre Women Awards Red Carpet (Ashley Garrett)

Thus, The League of Professional Theatre Women cannot be praised or recognized enough because they have been at the forefront of supporting women in the theatre world in the US and globally before there was creditable appreciation for womens’ indelible contributions. Over the years their numbers have grown. Their mission has thrived and gained critical mass especially in the current noxious political atmosphere. Now, more than ever their work, their efforts are a beacon to the international theatre community and entertainment industry because their values indicate there are no inconsequential roles, no “little” players. All are integral and vital if live theatre which makes a difference in the minds and hearts of citizens is to continue in its goal to uplift, instruct, unify and promote understanding between and among global communities.

Eclipsed Producer Danai Gueirira, Red Carpet, 2018 LPTW Theatre Women Awards, TimesCenter, Brian Moreland

Producer Brian Moreland with ‘Eclipsed’ Producer Danai Gueirira, Red Carpet at 2018 LPTW Theatre Women Awards, TimesCenter (Ashley Garrett)

The theatre community receives strength in its diversity of gender, ethnicity, religious beliefs and international participation. As a maverick organization their force and presence are unmistakable. It should be shouted from the rooftops. Thus, it is with gratitude to this organization for what they have accomplished in solidarity over the years that I enumerate the women and the awards the LPTW bestowed last Friday at The TimesCenter.

Florencia Lozano, Host

Florencia Lozano, LPTW Awards Host, TIMESCENTER

Florencia Lozano, 2018 LPTW Awards Host, TimesCenter, (Carole Di Tosti)

Florencia Lozano (@ilovelorca) actor, writer and performance artist with a multitude of TV, theatre and film credits is one of the original members of the LAByrinth Theater company and currently serves as LAB’s literary manager. Host of the LPTW Theatre Awards, Florencia Lozano introduced the presenters who then bestowed the awards.

The Lee Reynolds Award, Co-presented by Marshall Jones III & Wayne Maugans to Rohina Malik

Marshall Jones III, co-presenter, Lee Reynolds Award, Rohina Malik, LPTW Theatre Women Awards

Marshall Jones III, Co-presenter of The Lee Reynolds Award to Rohina Malik at the 2018 LPTW Theatre Women Awards, TimesCenter (Carole Di Tosti)

Co-presenter, Wayne Maugans, Rohina Malik, LPTW Awards The Lee Reynolds Award, TIMESCENTER

Wayne Maugans Co-presented The Lee Reynolds Award to Rohina Malik, 2018 LPTW Theatre Women Awards, TimesCenter (Carole Di Tosti)

Rohina Malik, The Lee Reynolds Award, LPTW Theatre Women Awards, TIMESCENTER

Rohina Malik, recipient of The Lee Reynolds Award at the 2018 LPTW Theatre Women Awards, TimesCenter (Carole Di Tosti)

The Lee Reynolds Award is given annually to a woman or women active in any aspect of theatre whose work has helped to illuminate the possibilities for social, cultural or political change. Producing Artistic Director of the Crossroads Theatre Company and theatre professor at Rutgers University Marshall Jones III (#MarshallKJonesIII) and Wayne Maugans (@WayneMaugans) the Founding Artistic Director of Voyage Theater Company presented the Lee Reynolds Award to Rohina Malik (@rohina_malik). Her plays have been produced all over the country at various venues, and globally at two South African Theater festivals. She worked with Marshall Jones III and Wayne Maugans with their companies and has formed vital ongoing connections with them continually spurring on new works.

The Ruth Morely Design Award, Presented to Cricket S. Meyers by Shelley Butler

Shelley Butler, The Ruth Morley Design Award, LPTW Theatre Women Awards, Cricket S. Myers, TIMESCENTER

Shelley Butler presented the Ruth Morley Design Award to Cricket S. Myers at the 2018 LPTW Theatre Women Awards at the TimesCenter (Carole Di Tosti)

Cricket S. Myers, The Ruth Morley Design Award, LPTW Theatre Women Awards, TIMESCENTER

Cricket S. Myers, recipient of The Ruth Morley Design Award for Sound Design, 2018 LPTW Theatre Women Awards, TimesCenter (Carole Di Tosti)

The Ruth Morley Design Award, established in 1998 to honor leading film and theatre costume designer Ruth Morley, is given to an outstanding female theatre designer of costumes, scenery, lighting, sound or special effects. This year’s winner presented by director Shelley Butler (#ShelleyButler) was given to Cricket S. Myers (@sound_myers) for her award winning efforts in Sound Design.

The LPTW Special Award, Presented by Roma Torre to Linda Winer

Roma Torre, LPTW Special Award, Linda Winer, LPTW Theatre Women Awards, TIMESCENTER

Roma Torre, presented the LPTW Special Award to Linda Winer at the 2018 LPTW Theatre Women Awards, TimesCenter (Carole Di Tosti)

Linda Winer, LPTW Special Award, LPTW Theatre Women Awards, TIMESCENTER

Linda Winer, recipient of The LPTW Special Award, 2018 LPTW Theatre Women Awards, TimesCenter (Carole Di Tosti)

A LPTW Special Award, presented to a remarkable theatre woman for her service to the League and to her field was given to award winning Linda Winer (#LindaWiner) by NY 1 theater critic, the award winning Roma Torre (@NY1 #RomaTorreNYC). Linda Winer was Chief Theatre Critic for Newsday from 1987-2017 and she has taught critical writing at Columbia University’s School of the Arts since 1992. Both women quipped about the idea that a theater critic might receive an award when in the past, “critics” were looked upon with skepticism and sometimes fear. Certainly, both of these women have provided a wealth of information about productions and have placed them in the historical record revealing the development of theater in this nation.

The Josephine Abady Award, Presented by Karen Kandel to Emily Joy Weiner

Karen Kandel, Emily Joy Weiner, The Josephine Abady Award, LPTW Theatre Women Awards, TIMESCENTER

Karen Kandel presented the Josephine Abady Award to Emily Joy Weiner at the 2018 LPTW Theatre Women Awards, TimesCenter (Carole Di Tosti)

Emily Joy Weiner, The Josephine Abady Award, Karen Kandel, LPTW Theatre Women Awards, TIMESCENTER

Emily Joy Weiner recipient of The Josephine Abady Award at the 2018 LPTW Theatre Women Awards, TimesCenter (Carole Di Tosti)

The Josephine Abady Award honors the memory of LPTW member Josephine Abady. The award goes to an emerging director, producer or creative director of a work of cultural diversity who has worked in the profession for at least five years. Emily Joy Weiner, Co-Founder and Artistic Director of Houses on the Moon Theater Company received the award presented by award winning Karen Kandel, Co-Artistic Director of NYC based theatre company, Mabou Mines. The Houses on the Moon Theater Company was founded in 2001 with the mission of telling untold stories in the interest of social justice. Emily Joy Weiner has been creating developing, performing, producing and directing new works with the Houses on the Moon Theater Company that address the sensitive issues of our time with community organizations and the talented company of artists.

The LPTW Lucille Lortel Award, Presented by Celia Keenan-Bolger to Adrienne Campbell-Holt

Celia Keenan-Bolger, Adrienne Campbell-Holt, The LPTW Lucille Lortel Award, LPTW Theatre Awards, TIMESCENTER

Celia Keenan Bolger presented the LPTW Lucille Lortel Award to Adrienne Campbell-Holt, 2018 LPTW Theatre Women Awards, TimesCenter (Carole Di Tosti)

Adrienne Campbell-Holt, LPTW Lucille Lortel Award, LPTW Theatre Women Awards, TIMESCENTER

Adrienne Campbell-Holt, recipient of The LPTW Lucille Lortel Award at the 2018 LPTW Theatre Women Awards, TimesCenter (Carole Di Tosti)

The LPTW Lucille Lortel Award is an award from the Lucille Lortel estate endowment to fund an award and grant. The award is given to “an aspiring woman in any discipline of theatre who exemplifies great creative promise and deserves recognition and encouragement.” This year’s award was presented to director Adrienne Campbell-Holt (@adriennecolt, @Colt_Coeur) by award winning actor Celia Keenan-Bolger (@celiakb). The grant was awarded to Ms. Campbell-Holt’s company, Colt Coeur. Adrienne Campbell-Holt inspired the women in the room with her remarks and encouragement to women playwrights to tell women’s stories. Women, above all are storytellers and she suggested that we must continue to push each other and the culture forward into a new day of acceptance and unity.

The Lifetime Achievement Award, Presented by Jocelyn Bioh to Phylicia Rashad

Phylicia Rashad, LPTW Theatre Women Awards, TIMESCENTER, Lifetime Achievement Award

Phylicia Rashad receives a standing ovation for her well-deserved Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2018 LPTW Theatre Women Awards, TimesCenter (Carole Di Tosti)

Jocelyn Bioh, Phylicia Rashad, LPTW Theatre Women Awards, TIMESCENTER

Jocelyn Bioh presented the Lifetime Achievement Award to Phylicia Rashad at the 2018 LPTW Theatre Women Awards, TimesCenter (Carole Di Tosti)

The Lifetime Achievement Award presented to Phylicia Rashad (#PhyliciaRashad) needs no explanation and the honoree needs no introduction. The award was presented by Jocelyn Bioh (a Ghanaian-American writer/performer from NYC). Jocelyn Bioh (@Jjbioh) has carved a path for herself as an actor on Broadway and Off Broadway. She has appeared in film and TV. Jocelyn Bioh is also a playwright and is working as a staff writer on Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have it.

Phylicia Rashad, Lifetime Achievement Award, 2018 LPTW Theatre Women Awards, TIMESCENTER

Phylicia Rashad, recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2018 LPTW Theatre Women Awards, TimesCenter (Carole Di Tosti)

Phylicia Rashad has appeared in all entertainment venues, TV, Broadway and film. She has made lasting contributions throughout her career with her prodigious body of work. An example of this includes performances on Broadway in August Osage County, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Cymbeline (Lincoln Center Theater), August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean for which she received a Tony Award nomination, A Raisin in the Sun (Tony and Drama Desk Awards), Into the Woods, Dreamgirls, The Wiz.

Phylicia Rashad, The Lifetime Achievement Award, 2018 LPTW Theatre Women Awards, TIMESCENTER

Phylicia Rashad recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award, 2018 LPTW Theatre Women Awards, TimesCenter (Carole Di Tosti)

Off-Broadway she has appeared in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Sunday in the Park with George, Head of Passes for which she won a Lucille Lortel Award, The Story, Helen, Everybody’s Ruby, Blue, The House of Bernarda Alba to name a few. She has performed in Regional Theater and has also directed Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and Joe Turner’s Come and Gone at the Mark Taper Forum to mention two directorial achievements. She has directed many other productions at numerous venues for example, the Goodman Theatre, the Long Wharf Theatre, the McCarter Theatre, Ebony Repertory Theatre, Kirk Douglas Theatre, Westport Country Playhouse, Seattle Repertory Theatre. And she directed Four Little Girls at the Kennedy Center. She is simply sensational, and as Jocelyn Bioh  affirmed, she is “regal,” she is “legendary.”

Phylicia Rashad, Lifetime Achievement Award, League of Professional Theatre Women, Theatre Women Awards, TIMESCENTER

Phylicia Rashad received the Lifetime Achievement Award at LPTW Theatre Women Awards at the TimesCenter (Carole Di Tosti)

 

At the end of the evening a champagne toast heralded to celebrate the award winners and their presenters. Until another year! We’re looking forward to our members’ and exploits in 2018-2019. If you are currently a woman working in the theater globally as an actor, playwright, director, designer, consider viewing the LPTW website to check out their online community. This organization will help you network, meet individuals to spur on your career. Above all it encourages inclusion of women before we even were aware to ask for an “inclusion rider” in our contracts in the entertainment and theater industry. JUST DO IT!!!   CLICK HERE FOR THE WEBSITE. Tweet @LPTWomen.

 

 

 

 

 

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