In October 2007, Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta added a public holiday in the middle of February called “Family Day.”

2008 was an election year in Canada and the holiday may or may not have been a shiny distraction from the scandal surrounding Alberta’s Conservative Premier Don Getty. See, his son had been arrested for possession and use of cocaine.  And why do you think this happened? Because Getty didn’t spend enough time with his family.

That’s a bit of history there for you, and a long weekend for me.

So, a couple of months ago well past my bedtime (I mention that because it somewhat explains some of the not-very-thought-through details of the trip), I opened up a bunch of windows on my computer and simultaneously bought tickets to Sleep No More, Richard III, and the bus.

Were 24.5 hours on a bus worth it for 2.5 days in New York City?

SOHO, New York City... Pretty enough to endure the bus?

Well, after 12 and a half hours on a ridiculously uncomfortable bus and absurd wait at the border, I got to what would be a sunny and warm weekend in New York throughout which I would manage not to pass out in the middle of anything.

Wait, no, I did pass out, but only for seconds at a time- turns out Richard III is long and theatres are dark.  But I’m sure following who was dead and who killed them was not actually that important anyway, right?

So, after jumping off the bus on 8th avenue, I went around the block a couple of times looking for the right subway entrance before getting myself to Brooklyn.

Brooklyn

My lovely friends and hosts were out (Megabus was mega-late), so I wandered around a bit to find BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music) where I would be attending a matinée of Shakespeare’s Richard III (That’s the one about the winter of our discontent and a horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!- that one).

But I was early and desperately needed to find a washroom and some coffee.  Apparently I had stumbled into real America: I could only find fast-food joints and Appelbees, which I stepped into because:

1- it looked like its bathroom would be clean
2-it looked like it would be an ok place to spend an hour to read my book and eat lunch slowly (considering the alternatives)
3-it seemed very American, and I wanted to immerse myself in the culture

After ordering the cheapest thing on the menu (not cheap) and a coffee (quickly!), I slipped off to the washroom to put my contacts in, change my shirt, and splash some water on my face. I felt a little like a sleepy-eyed vagabond.  And by the looks of those two ladies who walked in on me, I looked like one too.

RICHARD III

So that afternoon, I went to BAM to see Richard III.  This is the trailer from that show:

People are raving about this production.  And as you can see from the video, the drums, visual design, and cast are amazing.  Sam Mendes is a personal hero of mine for having founded  The Donmar Warehouse in London and for basically making theatre “cool.”  And it was because he was directing this piece that I bought a ticket.  It didn’t hurt that Kevin Spacey and Gemma Jones were in the cast.

I don’t know if anyone should go see a 3 1/2 hour play after no hours of sleep in a theatre’s whose coffee (which is really just water dressed in brown, as Ani would say) costs $3 a cup.

So I may not have been blown away because I wasn’t in the right state, but I can tell you that it was an impressive production and that Kevin Spacey has a great voice and remarkable presence on stage.  His curtain-call bows, however, are terribly dorky.

I loved loved loved the Harvey Theater at BAM.  It was worth the price of admission to be in a place so full of history and unique aesthetic. (More about the theatre and its design can be found here.)

The interior of the Harvey Theater (image stolen from the Time Out NYC website)

Can you imagine being around as Peter Brook and BAM’s executive director Harvey Lichtenstein snuck into the abandoned theatre through a broken window only to discover a beautiful crumbling space perfect to stage Brook’s crazy-long The Mahabharata?  (9 hours. Seriously.  I love theatre, but 90 minutes is perfect thank you very much.)

They’ve kept the shell of the auditorium and run-down look.  They embraced shabby-chic before it was even trendy.  A theatre ahead of its time in more ways than one.

After the play, I was glad to step into fresh air, meet my friends for an amazing home-cooked meal of lamb and salad and the best potatoes anywhere.  And then we were off to catch Rhododendron‘s intimate jazz performance. It was the kind of music that I don’t necessarily grasp, but that I can feel slowly stretching my mind and that little place inside your ribs that feels music.

Rhododendron at iBeam

This post is starting to get long, so I’ll save what happened next for next time.  Spoiler: I went to see Sleep No More, so that’s what I’ll write about.

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