Today’s Theatrica activities involved jumping on the New York subway for the first time on our trip. Well, a train’s a train, but it was sort of cool riding the subway in NYC. We went down to the Lower East Side of Manhattan to visit the Jewish Tenement Museum, where education officers took us through some of the history behind Jewish immigrants settling in the area years ago. Today, the neighborhood also includes many Chinese American families. It was a fascinating look back on some of the history of New York. The photos below should give you a feel for the neighborhood, its architecture and its people.
Next up was lunch in Katz’s Deli, where the infamous scene from the film When Harry Met Sally was shot. An enormous, bustling food house, Katz’s Delicatessen was a cultural experience all of its own.
Our afternoon workshops were back at a previous venue, the rehearsal rooms of the Manhattan Theatre Club. Our first speaker was the producer of a show we saw a few night’s ago, possibly the most successful Off Broadway musical ever, Altar Boyz. Back home in Melbourne before the trip, students organised themsleves into small groups and were asked to prepare a concept for the story line to their own Broadway musical. Today, the Altar Boyz producer sat down before the whole class with each of these groups and went through the ideas they had prepared, finally giving them reasons why he would or wouldn’t finance their show to be produced on Broadway. The most original concept I believe was from some of the Centrestage students – Coffee: The Musical, with characters like Macchiato and Latte etc.
The second afternoon session was run by the marketing manager for the Broadway musical Chicago, which we also saw a few nights ago. This was great, because Chicago probably has one of the most successful marketing campaigns in recent musical history. Of particular relevance is Chicago on Broadway. The current revival of this 1975 musical has been on Broadway since 1996 and most people in the industry believe it is now looking a little tired. It was our guest speaker’s job to keep audience’s (local and overseas) interested in the show. We discussed how Chicago has now been seen by an estimated 18 million people worldwide and has grossed over 1 billion dolllars across the globe. They’re pretty impressive figures! On Broadway they keep adding new flavour to the show by having stars in the main roles, such as Melanie Griffith and more recently the American singer Usher. We also learnt the role of Roxy on Broadway will soon be taken over by R&B singer Mya.
After a spot of dinner at a very cool Mexican restaurant, we then went to the performance venue of where our daytime industry sessions have been, The Manhattan Theatre Club (theatre) to see a preview of a world premiere show From Up Here. This play starred Julie White, who last year won a Tony Award for her work in another Broadway play. We were privileged, because not only was this a play that was mostly naturalistic in its setting and acting (many of our students spend much of their senior drama years studying opposite styles of acting to this), but the performances were outstanding. Not a weak actor in the cast, a play in which one could identify with each of the characters (instead of just one) and a great plot to boot. It was a wonderful opportunity to see first class acting in the busiest theatre hub in the world.