I somehow missed the memo that Banned Books Week was here until yesterday (oops), but today I’m taking a moment to appreciate what it represents. According to its website, “Banned Books Week is the annual celebration of the freedom to read.” I read a lot of banned books as a kid, but this is one that stands out in memory.Continue reading “The Banned Book That Destroyed Me (Temporarily) as a Kid”
I was sort of late to the podcast game. I listened to Serial back when it first aired and was swept up with the rest of the world in the show’s mystery, but my other attempts to pick up a podcast habit didn’t stick. Then, a couple of years ago, a close friend of mine recommended a podcast that got me hooked.Continue reading “6 Fantastic Podcasts You Should Check Out”
Everyone knows that Deerhunter is a great band. (If for some reason you don’t yet, then go fucking listen to them. Youtube exists for a reason.) I was lucky enough to catch one of their shows last night on the last leg of their tour promoting Monomania. I expected to be impressed, but the word “impressed” doesn’t do the performance justice.Continue reading “A Mindblowing Deerhunter Concert at Webster Hall”
I was walking to meet up with some friends in Bushwick when I passed by a man in a black hoodie, smoking a cigarette outside of an apartment building. Another man walked up the sidewalk towards me, carrying a 12-pack of Tecate in one hand. I watched as he glanced up at the man with the cigarette, slowed down and approached him. He asked to bum one.
“I’ll give you a beer for a cigarette,” he said. “A friendly Bushwick barter…”
The man quickly agreed. He pulled a fresh cigarette out as the second man ripped open the cardboard box and, just like that, a conversation was born. They began to swap stories of their past spontaneous street trades. As their voices faded away behind me, I realized that I’d witnessed one of those fantastic interactions that make Bushwick so special. Two strangers meeting unexpectedly and sharing a moment. Three, if you count my observation.
I glanced back one last time and saw a different, more familiar, tableau – two old friends taking a quick smoking break on a brisk evening – and I smiled.
Photo via Flickr
Last week my S.O. and I had tickets to attend Sleep No More, which I understood to be a limited-run, slightly scary, interactive theatre experience. A couple days before the show, I received an email with the above instructions. I’m a wuss about a) the dark, and b) pretty much everything else. Needless to say, the “safety” section scared me shitless.
Three large bouncers in fancy security garb greet you in front of the the five-story, faux hotel called The McKittrick. They check your ID and let you through a huge, and I mean really huge, door. You hustle down a startlingly dark hallway, at the end of which you are given a playing card, mine was the four of diamonds, and check all of your coats and bags. “Make sure everything fits in your pockets securely – you will be running around a lot. Just hang on to a credit card if you want to grab a drink at the bar,” the coat check person may tell you.
Next, you head down a dark, twist and turn-y hallway, holding onto the walls for support, until you suddenly find yourself in the candlelit, red velvet-draped hotel bar straight out of the 1930s. It’s loud with the grooves of a jazz band onstage, groups of friends chatting loudly, and a drunk as fuck MC, who makes his way around the room during songs with many an “Excuse me, dahling…Pardon me, dear.” Charming, strange and ridiculous, he/the scene/your gin and tonic are the ultimate interactive theatre lube.
When the number on your card is called, you join a group of other patrons to wait for an elevator. Your temporary guide hands everyone a white mask. He explains as he hustles you onto the large freight elevator that you are not to take the mask off ever, nor are you to speak at all during the show. A mild panic sets in as the elevator jars to a stop and the doors open to darkness. The first woman steps out onto the landing and the guide holds out an arm to stop the rest of the group from joining her. We see her turn around with wide eyes before the door shuts her out with a clang. He lets out a low laugh, “I just did her a favor. It is best to go alone.”
It’s hard to describe what happens next because it’s all a blur. After getting off the elevator (in a group that included my S.O., thank god) I dawdled around, tinkering with props. Feeling bold, I struck the keys of a piano, then ran away. I rustled some letters on a desk, flipped through some books, examined a cabinet, not really sure what I was supposed to be doing. Then we heard music. My S.O. and I wandered over to the edge of a balcony that overlooked another floor and saw two actors, identified by their 1930s clothing and lack of masks, dancing a foxtrot in the middle of the large room below. I watched, in a trance, as they swept about the floor to the hauntingly creepy track playing in the background.
After a few minutes, I left the balcony and waved my S.O. over to follow me. He approached and I gestured as best as I could “Let’s separate!” and he nodded in understanding. He went right, I went left, and the night really began.
Without saying too much more, because it really is about individual discovery, Sleep No More is a total experience. Every masked audience member is left to his/her own anonymous devices. You can explore the building itself, or you can find actors and follow them around as they perform a loose, fragmented interpretation of Macbeth. I did a mix of both, my short attention span had me running up and down to various floors, following any unusual sounds I heard. You might interact with the actors one-on-one, or you may not (I had very personal one-on-ones with two different actors – perhaps I was the right amount of awkward and eager?). You may get lost as you amble along, or you may approach the space more methodically. You may see all of the actors at some point, or you may not.
There is no wrong way to do Sleep No More. Follow your gut as you explore, and you’ll have an entirely unique experience. It is intense, fantastical, strange, and so fun. I don’t see how I could not go again.
Tickets to this Punchdrunk performance are expensive, but worth every penny. An experience not to be missed.
And no, this is not a sponsored post. I seriously just loved it that much.