Egg Rolls, Egg Creams and Empanadas Festival

Meet Felipe Rangel, a talented artist who constructs colorful, dramatic vejigante masks.  The vejigante is a folkloric figure central to the Puerto Rican Carnival that takes place in Ponce every February. With its characteristic snout, sharp teeth, and multitudes of horns, vejigantes are a distinctive part of the cultural celebration.  Much like with the Mardi Gras Indian costumes (you might recall them if you watched Treme), there is tremendous pride in the craft of creating the mask, and Felipe was on hand to show it off at the recent Egg Rolls, Egg Creams and Empanadas Festival organized by the Museum at Eldridge Street last Sunday.  

Egg Rolls Egg Creams Empanadas Festival NYC
Felipe Rangel and his vejigante masks

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She Loves Me on Broadway

When I was younger, our family would spend the Christmas holidays visiting family in Singapore.  My uncle was a fan of musicals and often had the recordings playing during our stay.  I’d grown familiar with the scores of Cabaret and Jesus Christ Superstar, but had never actually seen a production.  Then during the Grammy Awards in 1988 they featured a performance from Phantom of the Opera, and I became obsessed.  When I finally made it to New York City, watching Phantom of the Opera was at the top of my to-do list, and it was the perfect culmination of my Broadway dreams.  

Since then I’ve added somewhat to my Playbill collection.  But Justin and I haven’t figured out how to become independently wealthy (tips welcome!), so we hem and haw, then judiciously try to pick shows that have something unique to offer.  We’ve gravitated towards less conventional musicals — Fun Home’s deep material drew us in, while American Psycho’s promise got us there (you can find our post on that one here).  When we heard about raves for She Loves Me, we were a little skeptical.  It seemed too… basic.  But boy, did it prove us wrong.

She Loves Me Broadway

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Shining City at the Irish Repertory Theatre

Ten years after a successful and critically acclaimed Broadway production, the Irish Repertory Theatre’s revival of Conor McPherson’s Shining City has very, very big shoes to fill — and to our delight, fill them they have, indeed.

Directed by Ciarán O’Reilly and starring Matthew Broderick, Billy Carter, Lisa Dwan, and James Russell, Shining City is a play that, when distilled to its essence, conveys a simple, unassuming ghost story — both figuratively and literally, though the figurative is much more compelling in this case. Staged largely in an office flat in Dublin and revealed primarily through a series of sessions between a patient and his therapist, it is a narrative wherein the apparition functions as metaphor for guilt over decisions made, actions taken, words spoken (and unspoken), injuries received and secrets harbored, and where hauntings are just the external manifestations of profound and debilitating regrets.

Billy Carter and Lisa Dwan in SHINING CITY at Irish Rep. Photo by Carol Rosegg
Photo credit: Carol Rosegg

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The Cloisters

“Could I get a knife and fork?”

“There were no utensils in medieval times, hence there are no utensils at Medieval Times. Would you like a refill on that Pepsi?”

“There were no utensils but there was Pepsi?”

Cable Guy, 1996

Everyone’s a fan of Arthurian legend, whether you fell in love with The Sword in the Stone as a child, or with Monty Python and the Holy Grail as an adult.  Your favorite Arthur might be Sean Connery, while your favorite Guinevere might be Ava Gardner.  You might’ve liked Steinbeck’s traditional retelling, or Mark Twain’s humorous alternative history version.  There’s just something about the warrior king, the code of chivalry, the mysticism, drama and romance of the time that intoxicates.  And it’s those same magical elements you’ll find at The Cloisters. (No dinner and jousting though, sorry.)

Met Cloisters

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Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibit

The boots, sweaters and coats of winter have long since gone to storage. The loafers, khakis, and jackets of spring have surreptitiously migrated to the bottom of the chest of drawers. And now, mercifully, the time for sundresses, chino shorts and flip flops — the compulsory uniform of summer — has finally arrived and New York City, in its typically brash, exploitative, never-halfway approach to everything, doesn’t just passively accept this change, it embraces it with something nearing pathology. 

In a city with weather as temperamental as New York, that first sustained period of warm, sunny weather, such as was experienced on Memorial Day weekend, elicits a dramatic reaction from its denizens, particularly so when they have had to wait until the tail end of spring to enjoy it.

Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibit

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Cindy Sherman at Metro Pictures Gallery

Cindy Sherman is the definition of a controversial artist — which, according to some, makes her a true artist.  Some find her work distasteful, or lacking in depth, while others find her work inspiring, innovative and provocative.  Regardless of which side you find yourself on, her influence in the art world cannot be denied.  Cindy Sherman is an American artist who is best known for turning self-portraiture on its head.  She acts simultaneously as photographer and model, but her pieces are narratives within a scene, so she also fills the role of writer, creative director, set designer, costume designer and makeup artist.  Her collections might capture her likeness as movie actresses, or as historical figures, or as clowns.  She has employed prosthetics and masks to alter her appearance or as standalone props.  

In an age where selfies have propelled celebrity, Cindy Sherman appears to be the anti-selfie queen.  Although she takes photographs of herself, she has always maintained that she considers herself anonymous in her work.  The makeup and costumes transform her into a character, and after hundreds of works (which she prefers to leave untitled so that viewers can invent their own stories to suit the scene — perhaps even insert themselves in it), she is as much a mystery as ever.  

Cindy Sherman NYC

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Vulture Festival and Film Club at the Crosby Street Hotel

My obsession with New York City started early, and when I was a college student in Cleveland I would regularly fantasize about a life in the big, bright city.  I browsed through the New York Times’ real estate listings and weekend magazines, perused the New Yorker’s articles and cartoons, and pored over New York Magazine’s news and reviews.  I’m still a New York Magazine subscriber today because it was quick to move into the online digital arena, where, like the growing majority, I choose to get most of my news now.  

New York Magazine has built several successful online brands — The Cut, Grub Street, The Science of Us, and of course, Vulture.  Vulture is their entertainment arm, providing movie, television and music news and reviews.  A few years ago the Vulture Festival was hatched: a weekend extravaganza filled with panels, performances, and screenings to fill all your pop culture dreams and desires.  The third annual festival included a tour of the Met Breuer led by their in-house art critic, a Rent sing-along, and a morning with The Muppets, among many others.  Eclectic, to say the least.

Vulture Festival Film Club

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Columbia University Film Festival at Lincoln Center

What are the criteria for an outstanding short film? Or, more precisely, what are the criteria for an outstanding student-produced short film? The specificity makes a huge difference, actually. That’s exactly what the Columbia University Film Festival seeks to answer with screenings, voting and discussions. The festival is the result of Columbia University’s MFA students’ years of study in the prestigious school’s film program.  As one would expect, being part of the Columbia University system gives the students access to massive film archives, unparalleled research collections and mentorship from industry leaders.  Alumni have gone on to produce box office hits (Frozen) and Netflix favorites (Making a Murderer), and are regular film award nominees and winners.

Columbia University Film Festival

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Modern Pinball NYC

Before the phenomena of binge-watching episodes of that favorite guilty pleasure program du jour on video streaming services or staring down, slack-jawed, for hours at the now ubiquitous mobile device while perusing social networks, there was another place, anathema to parents and teachers alike, where one could go to rot one’s brain and shorten one’s attention span. It was simply known as an arcade — the earliest iteration of which had pinball machines — and it was glorious.

Now, you can imagine my surprise and adoration when my lovely wife suggested a little adventure to Modern Pinball NYC on a breathtakingly beautiful Saturday afternoon. You can also imagine my surprise and self-loathing when she repeatedly topped my score. There’s no doubt: my girl’s got serious game. And I’ll likely never hear the end of it.

Modern Pinball NYC

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Martin Puryear: Big Bling at Madison Square Park

It was a lovely spring day in Central Park when my girlfriend remarked that she’d only begun noticing strollers around New York City after she’d had her baby and found herself pushing one as well.  I looked around and realized that families had decided to take advantage of the all-too-rare perfect weather just like we had, and had come out to the park in droves.  I marveled at the little kids running around, envious that they get to grow up with Central Park as their playground.  

New York City gets a bad rap for being a concrete jungle, and New Yorkers get pretty defensive when celebrities pick up their kids and move away.  But few are aware that there are more than 30,000 acres of public park land that is maintained by the city for the benefit of the residents, not including additional parks under federal and state jurisdiction or those that are privately owned.  To put it in context, Central Park only ranks fifth on the list of largest parks maintained by the city, and there are over 1,700 spaces — including playgrounds and recreational facilities — to be enjoyed.  

Madison Square Park
A previous outdoor sculpture called Fata Morgana by New York-based artist Teresita Fernández, consisting of mirror-polished discs that create canopies above the pathways

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