Monday, November 15, 2010

Brooklyn Lyceum

On Friday night, my fabulous friends Kimberly and Erin B accompanied me to my silks teacher's performance at the Brooklyn Lyceum. The show, "Things I Have Borrowed, Stolen, and Forgotten to Give Back", was kooky and impressive at the same time. As a matter of fact, so was Brooklyn. 

We began our adventure in the borough of Brooklyn by catching the R train to Park Slope from Times Square. A little word of advice, folks. Whatever you do, don't take the subway to Brooklyn on a weekend evening. First of all, you have a ninety percent chance of your train running local (whether it's supposed to or not). Second, you never know what kind of characters you might encounter. On this particular excursion, my well-dressed party sat quietly on a fairly empty subway car. Unfortunately, the only other personages that were in the car were causing a ruckus. A deadpan woman sat behind us while her two (I'm assuming) daughters screamed and swung like monkeys from the poles in the subway car. The two girls were probably about five and nine-ish and were literally wailing at such a decibel level that we could not hear each other talk. Now, if you know anything about me, you know that I do not abide by loud children. Added to my frustration with the noise was the ticking clock, the sluggish train, and the realization that we more than likely would not get to the performance on time. So, I decided to take matters politely into my own hands, turned around, and put a finger to my lips, "Shhh", I said, "We need to be a little quieter". Very polite compared to what I would have normally done. The little monkeys looked at me, got down off the pole, and quieted down. I thought my shush had done the trick until the little one (no more than six years old at the most) swung around the pole nearest to me and said, I swear, "F$!!% you, B#!%&". I turned to my friends, my mouth agape, and saw they had not heard it. Maybe it was my imagination. I hoped it was. Nope. The three little deviants (or the two and their useless guardian) got off at the next stop and all of my friends watched as both little girls stuck their tongues out, flipped us the bird, and then repeated their favorite choice phrase from earlier. "Welcome to Brooklyn", chuckled Erin. 

We arrived at the Brooklyn Lyceum on Fourth Avenue and President Street at twelve minutes after eight. We hurriedly asked the gentleman at the theatre door if the show had started. He replied that it "just had" and showed us a line where we might pick up our tickets. This line, though, was also the line where one might buy beer and cappuccinos and there was one man running the whole deal. Every punctual bone in my body began to itch. The guy behind the counter was seriously opening bottles of beer and discussing the breweries with the people at the front of the line. So inefficient! I looked over at Erin again, "Brooklyn", she mumbled. Ugh! When we finally got our tickets and snuck into the theatre, there were no seats, so we stood to the side of the seats on house right. The interesting thing about the Brooklyn Lyceum is that it is one of the most original theatre spaces I've ever encountered. The Brooklyn Lyceum was once a public bathhouse. Built in 1908, this bathhouse (#7) was part of the city's efforts to improve conditions for the poor as most residences lacked adequate plumbing. The Lyceum, the largest and last bathhouse built, gave bathing facilities, swimming pool access, and gym access to over 150,000 people until it closed in 1937. After that, it changed hands many times, serving as a gym, storage facility, and recreation facility until the city auctioned it off to Eric Richmond in 1994. He converted the space into a theatre . . . ish. The entire performance space is lined in old exposed brick and a few lights hang from the bare rafters above the concrete floor. The seats look like old wooden pews moved from a church and the whole place is drafty and smells like dust. Despite all this, the place has an avant garde charm that befits small performances like the one we were about to see.

Lisa's Bright Ideas, the presenter of the show, had hung four colored silks, a rope, and a hammock from the rafters. Unfortunately, we arrived at the show too late to see the first few minutes (and, I'm assuming, the use of the hammock), but what we did see was four women pensively climbing, flipping, and basically defying gravity on said apparatuses. The music they moved to was an interesting hodgepodge of tunes (Erin B suggested that perhaps they had turned the iPod to shuffle and began choreographing) and I didn't really understand what the title had to do with the performance or the fact that they were all wearing old fashioned lingerie. Nevertheless, I was enthralled and entertained. I marveled at the strength of these women and the musicality they maintained while dangerously wrapping themselves in pieces of fabric a good forty feet above the concrete floor (no net). I was particularly proud of a solo (performed by our fabulous teacher) on a rope. Just a rope. No knots, just a really long rope suspended from the ceiling. She clung to the top and stared at the audience with a tortured caged-animal-like expression before she plummeted toward the ground and caught herself in a split. Like most avant garde theatre that I see these days, I didn't fully understand the piece, but I enjoyed it. We left feeling very cool and cultured to have seen an aerial show in a bathhouse in Brooklyn. 

Since the show was on the short side, Kimberly, Erin, and I decided to take in a restaurant in the area to round out our borough experience. We walked a bit and stumbled on Total Wine Bar on Fifth Avenue and St Mark's. It was a small, dark room about the size of my living room that was packed with hip-looking Brooklyn-ites. We sidled up to the bar and perused their wine list (they offered small plates of food, but we saw that nobody in the restaurant was eating). The restaurant was homey and cute. And small. There was no hostess and (it seemed) only one person working at the bar, so we pulled out some folding chairs in the corner and smooshed in between packed tables. Nobody seemed to mind. The bar was nothing special, but the wine list was comparable to good Manhattan wine lists and the company was great. Kimberly, Erin, and I discussed the performance as we sipped and relaxed on the chilly Friday night. As the discussion turned toward European travel, I realized that I must take my leave. (I had made plans for later in the evening in Midtown). We said our goodbyes and I hopped down into the subway, took the wrong train (that was going local), switched trains (to another local), rebuffed two drunk frat boys, and ended up in midtown an hour later. I learned a valuable lesson. Brooklyn is cute, just never take the subway there on the weekend.

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