Friday, August 5, 2011

Whirlwind New York trip

We changed our travel plans last-minute, and decided to make a quick trip to the States in between Montreal and Toronto. We first went to Massachusetts, to visit my parents and my old hometown of Natick. Then we left the kids with Mom and Dad, and drove down to New York City for an overnight!

It was an excellent visit. We checked into the Hotel Pennsylvania, right in midtown Manhattan across the street from Madison Square Garden!! The hotel was built in 1919, and had a grand, elegant feel to it. At least, the lobby and public spaces. The rooms were a little less glamorous - quite small, and not renovated in a great many years; but all of this felt like real New York City.

Then we were out in the streets - walking through Times Square, and Rockefeller Center, and finding a wonderful Italian restaurant for dinner. We were on our way to the 8pm showing of Zarkana at Radio City Music Hall.

Zarkana was impressive. It's a big-scale show - including a 15-person flying trapeze act and a 15-person banquine act. There is a ton of video projection, as well.

But I had mixed feelings about the content of the show. Greg and I both really loved the Flag Manipulation and the High Wire and the Handbalancing acts. The Sand Painting was just about the weirdest thing I've ever seen in Cirque du Soleil. And the other acts had pros and cons - clean skills but poor presentation, or interesting presentation but not-too-dazzling skills; Greg and I both thoroughly disliked the music, which is rock-opera-esque. It's weird having the main character as a singer, and to have him singing melodramatically in English throughout the show. The video projections are occasionally marvelous, but often just distracting. An example: when the Roue Cyr act is going on, with a bunch of Roue Cyr artists spinning around on the stage, the video projections show lots more identical artists spinning around above and behind them. Instead of giving you the effect of a hundred Roue Cyr artists, it instead makes you question the real ones. Is the whole thing just CGI? I really hate it when technology gets in the way of circus, so that you appreciate the human feats less.

It's a strange show, and especially strange to be in this groundbreaking role; it will perform in gigantic theaters in Madrid and in Moscow, next. The show is designed to be staged in exceptionally large, unique theater spaces for longer runs, 6 months or so. To me it feels quite un-Cirque... but what is Cirque, these days, anyway? The company has expanded its definition continually over the last 25 years. It is always changing and trying new things. And so, we'll see how Zarkana fares in the world... so far its reception in New York seems excellent, and the seats are full.

Being in New York City is, to me, energizing and inspiring. The next morning I took some time to write in a new journal, here is what I wrote...


There is no place like New York. I'm convinced of it. There may be other crowded cities, but none with the rich diversity of this place. It overpowers the senses. People-watching feels impossible, with the swirl of constantly-changing faces. I love the energy here, though it can feel exhausting.

Studying the map of the city brings back a sprinkling of memories. Though I've never spent any significant time here, for 20 years I've had moments in the Big Apple. I remember coming here with my mother to see my first Broadway show, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Years later, I was sitting on the floor at the Port Authority, heading back to Washington DC after a visit to Greg, when we were first seeing each other. There were the times Greg and I saw Philippe Petit, Alegria, Lazer Vaudeville. I remember being a stiltwalking toy solider at the NY Public Library one year. There was the time on my birthday, a few years back, when I asked Greg to watch the kids so I could take the train up, and spend the whole day walking around the city by myself. Then there was that Thai dinner with Ludger, and taking the kids to the Bronx Zoo...

In any case, I am here now, and the city continues to bubble and boil and burst at the seams with all of its color and life. This morning I have been in the dank crowdedness of the subway, the fresh greenness of Central Park, and the jostling corridors of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

There seems to be no quiet time here, no real open space or room to stretch. Millions of people with all of their own ideas and agendas zoom around in mass anonymity. Nothing is strange here. Every imaginable type of person, clothing, behavior, all just mixes together. It can be a little bit dehumanizing. What are we all doing here? Does anything I say or do matter to anyone else? How is it at all possible to make connections in a place like this?


It is greatly satisfying to me to know that I'll have another opportunity soon to find out, when we spend a couple of months of 2012 actually living in New York City with Totem. Another one of my life's dreams will be fulfilled!

With that, it's off to Toronto....

1 comment:

  1. we went to NYC and saw Zarkana yesterday - it was interesting to come back and re-read this post after we saw the show! I agree with your thoughts about the video projection - I think it's visually confusing rather than enhancing what it happening on the stage. overall another great Cirque experience :-)