Monthly Archives: January 2011

Monday’s Watch, Listen, Read

Something funky is going on with WordPress on my computer (I’m stuck typing this from my phone). Will post my Monday picks as soon as the site allows.

Thanks!

Ashley

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Monday’s Watch, Listen, Read

An ongoing series where I share what I’m watching, listening to, and reading. Here are this Monday’s picks:

Watch

Do you love costume dramas/comedies? Ditto for British accents and Maggie Smith? Then you should be watching Downton Abbey on PBS. Don’t have a TV? No excuse because here’s a link to watch free full episodes, in their entirety (for a limited time! Act now!)

Listen

Nichols & May … is there anything better? Take a listen. It still holds up today. Every writer, comedian, actor, improv artist, general funny person should hear this. I wish I could have a kernel of their brilliance.

I remember the first time I saw Mike Nichols in person.  It was during a screening of a movie I had worked on. One of our actors had invited him. He came into the small screening room and sat right in front of me (Mike Nichols! Half of Nichols & May, sitting right there!) He was taller than I expected. I think I spent the entire movie staring at his broad back and trying to guess (based on the occasional tilt of his head) his reaction to every scene. I remember how he laughed loudly at one particular scene. His laugh was booming, even the sound-proofed walls of the screening room couldn’t quite contain it.

Read

I came across this blog post via a retweet from this fine playwright. It was one of those things that came along exactly when I needed it. It calmed a bit of my daily writing anxiety and confirmed that I’m not alone in feeling like a bit of a jester when I’m writing things that are fiction or deeply personal. Here’s one of my favorite quotes from the post “Dare to Be Foolish” by Terri Windling:

“The simple truth is that being a creative artist takes courage; it’s not a job for the faint of heart. It takes courage each and every time you put a book or poem or painting before the public, because it is, in fact, enormously revealing … Worse yet, what our work often reveals is not the beautifully-lit, carefully-presented surface of our creativity, but the darker shadow-play at its interior. That can’t be helped. But the good news is: that’s precisely where the best art comes from.”

The Diaries: January 1914

In 2005, I came across three diaries belonging to Raymond Enders, a resident of New York City. In these diaries (from 1914, 1921, & 1923) he meticulously recorded his daily life. In 2011, I will retrace his steps and share some of the highlights.

January, 1914

—–

Saturday, January 3rd: Cloudy. Rain.

“To business. To Wanamaker’s …

Wanamaker’s was a department store located on Broadway between 9th, 10th streets and 4th avenue. The building has withstood the test of time and a fire that resulted in near ruin to the interior and the subway beneath it. Today, 770 Broadway itself doesn’t look much different, though the street itself is crammed end-to-end with buildings. Wanamaker’s is now home to my local Kmart. Pretty fancy exterior for a discount store.

——

Wednesday, January 21st

Cloudy in the Am. Then Clear & cold Pm. To office, then to courthouse. NY State supreme Court. Pt. 1 J. Davis. To Serve on Hans Schmidt Trial. Examined by Di– Att Whit–yan* & excused by council for Schmidt. Saw Schmidt…

Hans Schmidt was a priest who was affiliated with St. Joseph’s Church on W. 125th street. He confessed to killing Anna Aumuller, dismembering her body, and sinking it in the North River. The NY Times has the story.

* — used whenever I cannot make out the handwriting

—–

Saturday, January 24th: Rain. Mild

To office – to Home – to Harlem. Had dinner at Hotel Theresa with Billie…


The Hotel Theresa was built at 125th street and 7th avenue in 1913. First opened as an “apartment hotel,” it boasted 300 rooms and a style that the NY Times noted could look Islamic or Art Deco. Ironically, the “Wonder of Harlem,” was only open to white people until 1940. By 1941, it was the the place for African-American athletes, musicians, writers, and the likes of Malcolm X. (and even Fidel Castro), passed through the hotel.

—–

Sunday, January 25th: Clear. Cold.

To Criterion theatre. Show charming …

Located at 1514-16 Broadway, the Criterion was an entertainment complex opened by Oscar Hammerstein. From the Internet Broadway Database:

“In 1895, Oscar Hammerstein opened an entertainment complex for which one fifty-cent ticket admitted you to two main auditoriums (Lyric, Music Hall), two small theatres (Concert Hall, Roof Garden), an Oriental cafe, bowling, and billiards. On June 29, 1898, the debt-laden Olympia was auctioned. Charles Frohman leased the Lyric and renamed it the Criterion. In 1914, it showed movies as the Vitagraph, but soon returned to live theatre.”

On January 25th, the show Raymond would have seen is was a comedy called “Young Wisdom” by the playwright Rachel Crothers, who was one of the few female playwrights whose plays were running on Broadway. In her lifetime, she had 37 plays produced, most of which revolved around the themes of women, society and gender politics. All were comedies. The NY Times gave “Young Wisdom” a highly favorable review.

Despite the daily records of Raymond’s life, there are many details I’m missing. The general information either leads me in too many different directions or down a dead-end. Passing references to restaurants that have been lost with time. The addresses of buildings no longer in existence. I sense I’ll be left with many questions. I might never find out if Raymond gets married to one of the many women he consistently spends his evenings with or what becomes of him after 1923, but the journey is part of the fun.  I never knew about the Hotel Theresa in Harlem; or the fantastic entertainment complexes that populated the Times Square neighborhood. It was also a pleasant surprise to discover the existence of a prolific female playwright — one who seemed to be writing about what she wanted and was successful at it to boot. I’m learning a lot, but mostly I’m learning to be patient; to deal with not knowing every detail and being ok with that. It’s the happy accidents and little gems of old New York , a glimpse of what it once was, that thrill me the most.