Category Archives: Arts & Entertainment

Spy v Spy Has New Addresses in NYC: At Spyscape Find Your Place in World of Espionage

The most chilling part of Spyscape, New York’s new spy experience, is the up-to-the-minute, torn from the headlines stuff: Here, Anonymous, as seen from two sides © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Are you Bond or Bourne? Once you leave Spyscape, you will learn there are many more roles to play in the complex and ever more ubiquitous world of intelligence. After going through eight “tests” and many stations which do their best to insert you into the realm of espionage and profile you to figure out what job you are best suited to, I would make a sorry spy. I knew from the start I wasn’t either Bond or Bourne. But I found a new calling.

I was expecting a museum, even as museums have become more interactive and engaging and multimedia. But Spyscape, one of the newest attractions in New York City, is not a museum. It is an interactive experience more than anything else, designed to inform you, yes, about the world of espionage and surveillance which, it turns out, is ubiquitous today, but put you in the picture so that you see yourself in the complex enterprise that is intelligence.

Spyscape is modern, state of the art, interactive, pulse-pounding, engaging, immersive experience that lets you peek into the world of espionage, spycraft, intelligence and counterintelligence today from the inside.

You don’t just get taken on a journey through the history of espionage from World War II and on, but become immersed in up-to-the-minute, ripped from the headlines events. Edward Snowdon. Wikileaks. Stuxnet. Black hat hackers.  Anonymous. “You might be persuaded not to vote.”

Pandora has truly been let out of her box.

There is a feeling of intensity from the moment you arrive – intended to give you that sense of tension and excitement that must be omnipresent in espionage, and visitors will enjoy as much as the adrenaline rush of skiing down a double-black trail. But is there a place for me?

I am risk adverse. I’m not a gamer. I don’t do puzzles. I’m frightened of going into small dark rooms when I don’t know what is there. I frighten easily.

As you arrive, you are given a bracelet that identifies you at scanning machines that basically track your progress as you go about the exhibit – you complete a series of tasks and quizzes and at the end, are assessed as to what role you might play in the spy apparatus – it turns out there are many, many different functions.

Your entrée into the world of spycraft is the largest passenger elevator in New York City,  escorted by a very professional person with a clipboard – it turns out that the ride up is also a multi-media orientation (think “Mission Impossible”).

Your mission: What kind of spy will you be? Or put another way: Where do you fit in the pantheon that is the world of espionage.

The experience is constructed as if a job interview, to immerse you and personalize what would otherwise be technical machines and bios. But it turns out that not all spies work for governments – corporations engage in some of the same techniques, so do journalists, and so do hackers and criminals. And it turns out that the profile you wind up with at the end of all the tasks and quizzes is authentic and serious – not tongue-in-cheek or hokey. I can see some young people seeing new career paths in intelligence (most of the CIA are analysts, not cloak-and-dagger operatives) or even outside, since, as is noted, the skills of a spy are broadly applicable.

The layout (Spyscape takes up a massive amount of space) is purposefully cold, grey, institutional, with constant pulsing sounds – sometimes electronic music, sometimes sound effects, sometimes narration.

I am quite unprepared for the experience, expecting a more conventional exhibit, so am put off stride when all of a sudden confronted with quizzes and tasks. It would have been completely different if I were primed and in a game mode.

One of the tasks I find more engaging (once I got the hang of it), was in the room about coding/decoding, the German’s Enigma machine and the Bombe that British mathematician Alan Turing and colleagues at Benchley developed to break the Enigma code. Here the task is to organize a spy’s escape, but you only have 3 minutes before the Germans will cut off communication to her, and you have to convert a message to code and then decode the response. I do this for the “Limping Lady”, who turns out to be a real person (I later realize she is the spy Virginia Hall) and this was a real scenario.

See what it would be like to code a message on a repiclica of the German Enigma that so confounded the Allies in World War II © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

You get personal insights into Alan Turing, the mathematician who developed a program to break the German “Enigma” machine code. (A fascinating artifact is a copy of Turing’s notes, as a teenager, summarizing Einstein’s Theory of Relativity as a gift for his mother). There is also a brief bio of Joan Clark, one of the Enigma codebreakers who rose to become Deputy Head of the Hut eight. You get to type code on a replica Enigma machine.

After one “test”, in which I fail to figure out patterns, I am given these words of encouragement: “You didn’t do too well today, but you are obviously better in other things.”

Another that is sure to delight is a room of laser beams where the timed task is to shut off lights without piercing the beams – very Oceans 11. (This task gauges your agility.)

All through, the exhibits personalize the serious issue being raised – the history, technology, impact on society – with real people, real events and real artifacts. This is serious business after all with real life and death consequences. Double agents have been exposed and executed; moles have exposed agents who were executed. Wars declared or averted, extended or curtailed, won or lost.

As you weave through, taking your own quizzes and tasks, the exhibits tell stories about real spies, double agents, like Robert Hansen and how he was discovered. Hansen’s treachery led to the unmasking of three soviets who spied for the US, two of whom were executed. – how he was discovered and trapped. Would you have detected Hansen’s deceit?

I have all sorts of trepidation about going into a small dark room which turned out to be the test of how well I could detect Deception (I think I do well at that one, probably by accident).

“Gadgets of defiance” describes the devices that British and American operatives used to carry out perilous missions in Nazi-occupied Europe – forged documents to support their cover identifies; one-time encryption pads and miniature radios to communicate with handlers. They supplied downed Allied pilots with escape maps and compasses and targeted the enemy with weapons and explosives.

I learn about Virginia Hall, an American special operations officer who, as a girl, had dreamed of joining the US foreign service and became fluent in foreign languages, but after she lost part of her left leg in an accident, her dream was cut off as well. When Hitler invaded Paris in 1940, Hall was working for a French ambulance service. She made her way to Britain and joined British special operations. She worked as a journalist for the New York Post in occupied France, and the Germans nicknamed Artemis;the Gestapo  considered her “the most dangerous of all Allied spies”. Virginia Hall was the “Limping Lady” of the code scenario.

A spy plane camera from the Cuban Missile Crisis © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

I learn about Oleg Penkovsky, known as “HERO” who was a Soviet military intelligence (GRU) colonel who was responsible for informing the United Kingdom about Soviet installing missiles in Cuba. The information he provided helped Kennedy through the Cuban Missile Crisis because he realized that a naval blockade could force the Soviet Union to stand down. Penkovsky, the highest ranking Soviet official to provide intelligence for the UK up until that time, is credited with altering the course of the Cold War. He was executed six months after being arrested.

I learn about the British couple, Ruari and Janet Chisholm, who were his handlers in Moscow. Ruari was Moscow Station Chief for M16, the British secret intelligence service. Janet collected much of Pankovsky’s intelligence. During one “brush contact” he walked casually over to her in a park and offered her children a tin of Vitamin C pills. Janet quickly swapped the tin which contained military secrets for another identical one hidden in her baby stroller. The thought of exposing children like that was chilling. (There’s a photo of Janet with her children on a park bench.)

We meet the real life “Q” gadget wizard, Charles Fraser Smith, who was Ian Fleming’s inspiration for the character he used in James Bond. The new multi-sensory James Bond experience explores the creative process behind the 007 movies while revealing the secrets of James Bond’s iconic Aston Martin DB5. You get to peek at gadgets in Q’s lab, examine original concept art in Oscar®-winning Production Designer Sir Ken Adam’s studio and look behind the scenes of Skyfall’s explosive finale.

Surveillance. It’s all around you. © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

At another section, you go through a dark curtain and find yourself in this dark round room, illuminated only by giant screens,that give you some sense of the state of surveillance (it is all around). This area showcases whistleblower Edward Snowden who exposed the NSA’s surveillance programs and the reporters who have unmasked government secrets – Laura Poitras  and Glenn Greenwald, the journalists who exposed modern day slavery(old school pad and pen, videocamera and computer are the weapons of choice).

This is where you see the message blazing out of a giant screen: “You might be persuaded not to vote.” This is the brave new world of intelligence – not extracting secrets, but in distorting and implanting messages to shape, disrupt or derail society.

Anonymous, the new face of intelligence/counterintelligence; governments no longer have a monopoly..© Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

One of the last stations is actually the most chilling: Hacktivism discusses hacking, hackers – by anarchists, profiteers as well as nation states. Stuxnet, which was used to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program (a centrifuge is on view). After Iran realized what had been done, it called for the hackers to join in an army.

We learn that Stuxnet is now open source, sold on the blck market, and could be used by any number of actors to shut down electric grids, water systems or air traffic control or remotely give instructions to launch a nuclear attack. And no one knows who has it.

Whistleblower Edward Snowdown, at Spyscape © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

And now, I am really to go into my “debrief – encryption, deception, surveillance, special ops, brainpower (7/18), which comes up with my spy role: Agent Handler (I suspect they give that one to all those who don’t measure up as real spies).

But it isn’t done flippantly or tongue-in-cheek. The authentic personal spy profile is based on psychologists and a former Head of Training at British Intelligence, and sounds pretty authentic (as were the short tests for which I was totally unprepared):

“Your Spy Profile is your unique (and ever evolving) combination of attributes. When compared to others, it allows us to determine the Spy Role you are best suited to.”

My profile – “empathetic, inquisitive, composed” – turns out to be fairly accurate and also serious, developed with real psychologists.

At Spyscape’s Debriefing, you learn your role in espionage, based on the profile compiled. © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Later in the day, I am sent a comprehensive profile to my email and a Welcome letter. “Your Spy Skills can be valuable in everyday life. We’ve evaluated your Core Attributes and Spy Skills to determine your Spy Profile. Top psychologists and spymasters helped us build our Spy Profile system. We hope the self-knowledge in your Spy Profile will empower you, and inspire you to further develop your Spy Skills.”

The missive gives me more detail about my role as Agent Handler: A manager of agents who provide secret intelligence or operational support, and an insider view from General David Petreus.

In the real life example, I am given the bio of the agent handler for my new spy hero, Oleg Penkovsky (his code name was Hero) and the background that I found so compelling in the exhibit, about his handler, Ruari Chisholm, and an example of a typical operation, procuring cover material for an agent in the Iranian government who wants to provide info on Iran’s potential to develop nuclear weapons.

(This makes me think of important omissions in Spyscape: Valerie Plame, the CIA undercover agent who was infiltrating the Iran nuclear program until Plame’s identity as covert officer of the CIA working in counter proliferation was leaked to the press by members of George W Bush administration and subsequently made public  as retribution for her husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson’s reveal about the false information that led to the US invasion of Iraq; she also had knowledge to disprove Bush’s contention that the aluminum tubes that Iraq had could be used as centrifuges for nuclear material. Also, how Andrew McCabe, the foremost counter-intelligence expert on Russia, was drummed out of the FBI by Trump to short-circuit the investigation into Russian collusion with the Trump campaign and the 2016 election).

Spyscape will excite and thrill as it informs and intrigues. It helps to be prepared in advance for what you will encounter – I think I would have done considerably better and had better attitude.

And like skiing, it is an experience that adults and older children will relish doing together.

There is a continuing relationship – they send you the profile, and follow up with articles, stories, spy challenges, sharing news about factual and fictional worlds of spying and hacking “and helping you develop your own spy skills. We will be adding content from top hackers and spies to spyscape.com/academy so check in regularly to see what’s new.”

I think I’m being groomed. I’m definitely intrigued.

From Spyscape, I walk down to the KGB Museum in Chelsea. It is an interesting Spy v Spy counterpoint that enhances the experience of each one separately.

Visiting:  SPYSCAPE is optimized for adults and teens, but children are welcome. Bringing pre-school-age kids is not recommended. You need about two hours. There is a pleasant café and the gift shop is loaded with spy-related merch.  Open Monday-Friday, 10 am-9 pm and Saturday-Sunday, 9am-9 pm, last entry at 7:30 pm. (Adult, $39; child 3-12 $32).

Spyscape, 928 8th Avenue (entrance on SE corner of 55th Street), 646-585-7012, spyscape.com

Next: Spy v Spy in New York City: New KGB Spy Museum is Window into How Spies Impact World Affairs

_____________________________

© 2019 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Gold Coast Arts Center, Long Island Presents ‘Chinese Artists in America’ Exhibit

Artists Ping Wang and Arthur Liu with Town North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth and Gold Coast Arts Center Executive Director Regina Gil at opening of exhibit, “Chinese Artists in America© Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Gold Coast Arts Center, Great Neck, Long Island presents an exhibition of “Chinese Artists in America.” The works by eight contemporary Chinese-American artists is on view through March 20.

“The exhibition reflects the creative vitality of Chinese and American cultural interaction and growth through the arts and its historical and aesthetic links to other communities,” Gallery Curator Jude Amsel writes.

“These artists created a new visual language that embodies aspects of traditional Chinese art while responding to a time of great transition. Their artworks express personal beliefs, national pride, and international awareness.”

“The Gold Coast Arts Center is dedicated to promoting awareness and understanding through the arts and through public events that bring people together,” stated Regina Gil, founder and Executive Director of the Gold Coast Arts Center. “We are proud to have enabled artists from around the world to share their vision and craft with our audiences. The exhibition of art by Chinese-American artists weaves the heritage, experience and craft that has emerged from each artist’s personal exposure to Chinese and American culture and education.”

The opening reception for the art exhibition was accompanied by a cultural performance, music and dance presented under the aegis of the Great Neck Chinese Association.

Here are highlights, with the artists’ own statements.

Zhen Guo © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Zhen Guo: “With ‘Muted Landscape; I present a view of the world, and we who live on its surface, that is at once expansive and frightening.  The images, created (I do not say painted because there is no obvious brush work in the ink on rice paper creation) present a landscape as if from 36,000 feet, muted by both the gray color and by the distance.  Mountains, lakes, a sheer rock face wall, caldera, fields of snow, high and pointed peaks and rivers are joined and blended but not necessarily in the places or ways we expect.  It is as if the vision of Ansel Adams has been stirred shaken and kneaded merged a late Autumn vision of the natural world.  As our eyes travel over the painting the view changes and rivers become shadows, mountains become fields, and lakes become snow covered peaks.  We are entranced and at the same time afraid that, if we landed, there we could not find our way out. Perhaps this is a place for own internal search for a perch for our soul or to find our way forward.”

“Country Fair,” by Dexiang Qian © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Dexiang Qian: “I was born in Zhijiang. Many artists have come to Zhijiang to observe, sketch, and experiment with depicting the rural countryside. During my creation process, I use a glazing technique with a limited color palette. I continue to simplify the elements, and the resulting composition often is in geometric patterns.”  © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Xiangdong Shi © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Xiangdong Shi: ““Food: Chinese beauty, taste and auspicious meaning. Chinese cuisine is not only delicious, but also the pursuit of form and color, such as Sweet Dumplings, put in a few red medlar, and immediately look happy, and eat the Sweet Dumplings at the Lantern Festival, so the Sweet Dumplings are also called Yuan Xiao, means the first full moon night of the year. Chinese cuisine is rich and auspicious Meaning, such as birthday, Chinese people often cook a bowl of noodles, called longevity noodles, meaning healthy longevity. Another example is the Traditional Chinese Rice-Pudding, is the exclusive food of the Dragon Boat Festival, it is to commemorate the ancient Chinese famous poet Qu Yuan, in addition, often in the  Traditional Chinese Rice-Pudding have any jujubes, white rice and red jujubes are put together, the color contrast is strong. Red has a special meaning in Chinese culture, and represents good luck. Therefore, the food series I painted not only expresses the taste of food, but also the sense of form and meaning of food. This is the true essence of Chinese culture.”

Arthur B. Liu © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Arthur B. Liu is President of Queens Art Education Center, New York, visiting professor of the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts, member of the Watercolor Society of USA, artist of the National Art League of USA, director of the Chinese Culture Art Association of New York, USA. He is the Educator, Artist and Inventor. He is the only one Chinese American artist who has been granted patents for inventions. He is showing “The flowing colors Chinese painting series” in this exhibition.

Ping Wang © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Ping Wang: “The initial idea of my “In and Out” series were body parts extended from a “Square”(space ) merged into a background. The background scenes are from Chinese illusional landscapes to recent New York City landmarks and daily life.  After a year or two reminiscing in depth I subconsciously escaped in the collision between China and American culture. I was enormously inspired by traditional Chinese composition and techniques. In the ‘Fight Club; series, I tried to combine some oriental perspectives and compositions into a Western story. Now living in New York for several years, I can see the integration of eastern and western cultures.”

“Sacrifice the Body to Feeding the Tiger,” by Yulin Huang
© Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Yulin Huang: “In the face of the canvas, I have never forgotten all the so-called knowledge, just by intuition, in a simple, primitive, child-like way, straightforward and quick to smear. “Sacrifice the Body to Feeding the Tiger” (2018) is a “Dunhuang” mural from the ancient East, painted on the walls of the grotto 2000 years ago. It tells a Buddhist story. A prince, giving up his life and helping his hunger with his own flesh   The hungry tiger mother and son are born into Buddha after death. Like the cross that Jesus passed. In “Chinese New Year,” red lanterns, dragon dances, lion dances, firecrackers, fireworks, spring couplets, red envelopes… The people celebrate the biggest festivals, joyous and lively. But I feel a very loneliness.”

Hai Wei © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Hai Wei: “Even though we all advocate tolerance, different habits and beliefs sometimes constitute an offense.  Each different culture and art is connected of each other while learning from each other and integrating with each other. When the plane flies over the Arctic Circle, across the window, the outside is a mountain like a scarf, inside is a scarf like a mountain… All things connected, miraculous conversion. Similarly, in the body, the blood, the fresh life, can also be converted and reincarnation?  We have been watching ourselves for too long and rarely look at them. Most people think the sheep is weak ,ordinary, silent. In fact, they still have power and charm of wildness. The art created by nature is life, the beauty of life, and it does not depend on us. It is a kind of dignity.”

Yafu Wang with “Chinese Artists in America” curator Jude Amsel © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Yafu Wang: Yafu’s works are varied and diverse.  Those selected art pieces cover his early works in road, shadows, posters, and temples etc.  Yafu always states that his work expresses his deep love and awe for the mighty God.  It fulfills all the missing parts in his life. 

Here are highlights from the performances:

Chinese Drum “Ma Deng Dance” featuring Anthony Wu, Dorie Liu, Kexin Huang, Yuxin Huang, Kingsley Liu. © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Chinese Guzheng Duet “Dong Ting New Song” featuring Ella Li, Shiying Wei. © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Chinese Cucurbit Flute Solo, “Wedding Vow,” featuring Ricky Deng © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Violin & Piano in Chinese song, “Painted Heart” with Aili Tian, Phoenix tian, Joy Yang and Selena Lu (piano). © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Chinese Instruments ensemble “Xi Yang Yang (Be Happy)” “Turpan’s Grapes Turn Ripe (with Dance)” featuring Xiulu Xin (Banhu):, Yuqi Sun (Erhu), Xianyi Wang (Dulcimer), Xiuzhen Liang (Ruan), Rongxian Chen (Electronic Guitar), Cathong Li (Rock Percussion/Dance) © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Children’s Chorus: Jasmine Flowers featuring Evan Cao, Derick Chen, Melissa Chiang, Jessica Chiang, Anthony Chiang, Athena Jin, Ella Li, Jack Pei, Dorothy Qian, Lucas Wang, Madeline Wang, Isabella Wu, Kenneth Wu, Katharine Xu, Carolyn Zuo and Kaitlyn Feng (piano) © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Gold Coast Arts Center, Long Island Presents “Chinese Artists in America”

The Gallery is open when the Gold Coast Arts Center is open, 113 Middle Neck Road, Great Neck, NY, 516-829-2570, goldcoastarts.org.

_______________________

© 2019 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com,  www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Shops at Columbus Circle: Festive, Refined Shopping & Entertainment Destination Sparkles for the Holidays in New York

The cast of “Beautiful” performs at Broadway Under the Stars at the Shops at Columbus Circle, a holiday event © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

by Karen Rubin

Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

For a festive place to shop in New York, The Shops at Columbus Circle  is a destination within a destination that draws more than 16 million visitors per year to its 50 shops, renowned restaurants, bars and that priceless view (free) of Central Park (not to mention temperature-controlled and pet-friendly). And there are some spectacular happenings for the holidays:

Broadway Under the Stars is a five-week series of free public performances from today’s hottest Broadway musicals performing on the second floor mezzanine at The Shops at Columbus Circle. Participating shows include: Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, Chicago, Dear Evan Hansen, Head Over Heels, Kinky Boots, The Phantom of the Opera, School of Rock, Waitress and Wicked (check out theshopsatcolumbuscircle.com for schedules). Performances, which began Monday, Nov. 12, take place for five consecutive Mondays through Dec. 10.

You get to see the actual cast performing in this extraordinarily intimate space – like your living room, except that it overlooks the massive stars that dip into the atrium. What is more, actor George Psomas (Fiddler on the Roof, South Pacific) who hosts the event, elicits wonderful insights from the performers about their career and the shows in brief interviews.

The cast of “Head Over Heels” performs at Broadway Under the Stars at the Shops at Columbus Circle, a holiday event © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

On Nov. 19, we got to see performances from Head Over Heels, Ruben & Clay’s Christmas Show, The Band’s Visit, and Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.

Coming up:

Nov. 26: The Phantom of the Opera, Chicago, Waitress

Dec. 3: The Prom, Dear Evan Hansen

Dec. 10: Mean Girls, Wicked

The shows begin at 5 pm.  They are free and open to the public – no reservations or tickets are required but people line up at least an hour before to get a decent view.

Cast members of “The Band’s Visit” performs at Broadway Under the Stars at the Shops at Columbus Circle, a holiday event © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

On Monday, November 26, there is the 19th Annual Winter’s Eve Event in conjunction with the Lincoln Square Business Improvement District. Artists, up-and-coming musicians, dancers, street performers and more will be present to welcome the holiday season and light up the Upper West Side with an evening of music, food, dancing and fun for everyone. The Shops at Columbus Circle will host an evening of entertainment, shopping discounts and food samplings.

Holiday Under the Stars is The Shops at Columbus Circle’s holiday lights display, featuring 12 massive 14-foot stars which hang from the 100-foot-high ceilings. This is claimed to be the largest specialty crafted exhibit of illuminated color display in the world. There is a 5-minute daily musical light show every half hour from 5 pm to 9 pm, through the end of the year.

The stars are aligned at the Shops at Columbus Circle, in the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle, a festive shopping, dining and entertainment destination especially at the holidays © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Culinary Delights:  Among the restaurants are six Michelin Stars among two of its restaurants:Chef Masayoshi Takayama’s Masa is the only three-star Michelin Japanese/Sushi restaurant in the U.S., and the gastronomic jewel box that is Thomas Keller’s Per Se has the rest. The Bluebird London restaurant in London and Momofuku Noodle Bar are newly opened and join the Landmarc and Porter House restaurants.

The Bluebird London restaurant, imported from London, is one of the newest to open at the Shops at Columbus Circle, where two of the restaurants have six Michelin stars between them © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

With its proximity nestled between Lincoln Center a short walk to the north, and Broadway theater a short walk to the south, the restaurants all offer pre-theater dinner and after-theater dining, and will get you out in time for curtain. The shopping and dining venue is also a short walk from Rockefeller Center. (Reservations accepted.)

Also, from the 150-foot-high panoramic windows, you can take in the breathtaking views of Central Park. It’s one of the few indoor places in Manhattan where you can enjoy this vantage point.

What is remarkable is the ambiance of refinement, of calm that you don’t ordinarily feel shopping for the holidays – it’s not so much as a mall (perish the thought!) as an urban oasis. The Shops at Columbus Circle is a real neighborhood place, where Upper Westsiders come to buy groceries at Whole Foods and work out at the Equinox gym. The architecture and décor is absolutely lovely.

Many of the shops offer special events throughout the year. Visit www.theshopsatcolumbuscircle.com for ever-changing list of events and happenings.

The Shops at Columbus Circle, located in Time Warner Center in the heart of Manhattan on Columbus Circle, has become one of New York’s iconic destinations to dine, shop, entertain, and be entertained. The soaring 2.8 million-square-foot landmark has transformed Columbus Circle into a cultural portal to Manhattan’s Upper West Side and Central Park.

Visit www.theshopsatcolumbuscircle.com to learn more and get the full schedule of events and activities throughout the holiday season.

_____________________________

© 2018 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com,  www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin , and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Holidays in New York, Most Magical Time of the Year

 

The most stupendous float of all at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade carries Santa Claus with his elves and reindeer ushering in Christmas © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

by Karen Rubin

Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

 

The winter holiday season may well be New York City’s most magical time of the year and gets underway with the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, continues with the iconic Christmas Tree lighting ceremony at Rockefeller Center, and constantly delights with festivals, special events and attractions, and all the dazzle of holiday decorations right through New Year’s Day.

“The holiday season in New York City is a spectacle unlike any other,” said NYC & Company President and CEO Fred Dixon “It is a time when the vibrant energy that makes up the very fabric of our city is magnified through the joy of dozens of multicultural celebrations among New Yorkers and global visitors who make the five boroughs a centerpiece of their annual festivities.”

Highlights include landmark events and first-time New York–style holiday celebrations of a nearly endless variety for travelers to enjoy this winter. Visitors delight in historic and new shopping destinations, world-famous department store window displays (Barneys, Bergdorf Goodman, Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s, Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue), unrivaled outdoor ice-skating rinks and more scattered all throughout Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens and Staten Island. The five-borough-wide season wraps up in a fashion as dazzling as ever with various New Year’s Eve celebrations.

As always, three iconic events bookend the introduction and conclusion of the holiday season in New York City:

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade featuring larger-than-life helium balloons, performances by the casts of Broadway musicals, select marching bands from across the nation and celebrity appearances—kicks off the holiday season on November 22 at 9 am. A staple of the holiday season since 1924, the 92nd edition, the line-up will feature 16 giant character balloons; 43 novelty balloons, heritage balloons, balloonicles, balloonheads and trycaloons; 26 floats; 1,200 cheerleaders and dancers; more than 1,000 clowns; and 12 marching bands (macys.com/parade).

But the event has a pre-quel, The Great Balloon Inflation, that takes place the night before, when the streets around the Museum of Natural History on Central Park West are literally flooded with tens of thousands of people coming to delight in seeing the massive balloons being inflated by hundreds of volunteers.

Tens of thousands come out the night before the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade to watch the Balloon Inflation © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, Manhattan, November 28, 2018: A lineup of live performers rivaled by few events all year will help light up New York City’s biggest and brightest home for Santa’s Christmas eve delivery again. The more than seven-story tree will spread holiday cheer to the millions of visitors it welcomes until the lights dim on January 7 (rockefellercenter.com).

New Year’s Eve Times Square Ball Drop, Manhattan, December 31, 2018–January 1,2019: In 1904, the former New York Times owner convinced the City to rename Longacre Square in honor of the world-famous publication. In addition to the name change and the opening of NYC’s first subway line, that year marked the inaugural Times Square New Year’s Eve celebration, and the “Crossroads of the World” has been the historic backdrop of the City’s New Year’s Eve celebration ever since. Approximately 1 million visitors are expected to gather to watch the ball drop in person again this year. This is something that should be on every bucket list to do at least once in a lifetime (timessquarenyc.org).

Angels light the way to the most famous holiday tree, at Rockefeller Center © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

My favorite activity for the holidays is an evening stroll to see the holiday windows and decorations. My route typically goes from Macy’s (this year’s theme, “Believe in the Wonder of Giving”), up to Fifth Avenue to Saks Fifth Avenue which is directly across from Rockefeller Center (from which you can see the amazing light show that is projected onto Saks building) and across the street from St. Patrick’s Cathedral (stop in), up to Bergdorf Goodman. Separately, I will take in Bloomingdale’s (a “Grinch” theme this year, connecting with the new movie), and Barney’s downtown on Broadway.

Meanwhile, there are more than a dozen celebratory events to delight this holiday season in NYC.

23 Days of Flatiron Cheer, Manhattan, December 1–23, 2018: The Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership welcomes visitors this December to enjoy contests, performances, free neighborhood walking tours, giveaways from local businesses and an interactive installation in the North Public Plaza. Other unparalleled offerings can be found in the historic 103-block neighborhood stretching from 23rd to 28th Street, bordered by Third and Sixth Avenues (flatirondistrict.nyc).

A Slice of Brooklyn Christmas Lights Tour, Brooklyn, December 1–30, 2018: Every holiday season, more than 100,000 visitors descend on Brooklyn’s Dyker Heights neighborhood to view the most extravagant Christmas displays in the New York City area. This tour, operated by born and raised Brooklynites, stops by the most over-the-top exhibits of the season while telling patrons the story of how “Dyker Lights” came to be nearly 40 years ago (asliceofbrooklyn.com).

Enchanted by the holiday windows © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Another popular tour is the holiday edition of The Ride, “a 21st century sleigh ride” aboard patented $1.5 million travelling high-tech theaters with floor-to-ceiling gigantic glass windows featuring side-facing VIP seating making the streets of New York the stage. Original seasonal music, videos and hilarious hosts support the dazzling Holiday performances along the 4.2 mile journey through Midtown Manhattan (http://experiencetheride.com, 212-221-0853).

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s Holiday Engagement at New York City Center, Manhattan, November 28–December 30, 2018: City Center’s 75th Anniversary Season will feature a wide range of performances including new productions, annual favorites, live music and Alvin Ailey’s feature performance Revelations. A special show on December 11 celebrates City Center’s opening performance in 1943 (alvinailey.org).

Saks Fifth Avenue becomes a canvas for a holiday lightshow © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

American Museum of Natural History’s Holiday Season, Manhattan, November 20, 2018–January 7, 2019: The museum’s cultural celebrations begin with the decoration of the Origami Holiday Tree—complete with more than 800 hand-folded paper models created by local artists—and continue through the New Year. On December 29, the AMNH will host its 40th annual Kwanzaa celebration. The festival of African-American heritage celebrates the seven core principles of Kwanzaa while exploring the rich history behind its traditions. Family-friendly activities, musical performances and an international marketplace are also included (amnh.org).

Apollo Theater Presents “Kwanzaa Celebration: Regeneration Night,” Manhattan, December 29, 2018: The legendary Harlem theater is celebrating Kwanzaa with visitors for the 12th consecutive year with a night of music and dance that honors the principles of Kwanzaa—family, community and culture (apollotheater.org).

Brooklyn Ballet’s Nutcracker, Brooklyn, December 14, 2018: The hip-hop and ballet infused replication of the holiday classic, reimagined in various Brooklyn neighborhoods, is hosted by the iconic Kings Theatre, in Flatbush, for the first time this year (brooklynballet.org).

Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical: Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, December 13–30, 2018: Dr. Seuss’ holiday classic is sure to cause audiences hearts to grow at least three sizes when they watch the story of the true meaning of Christmas come to life in this limited engagement at the world’s most famous arena (msg.com/hulu-theater-at-msg).

Gingerbread Lane at New York Hall of Science, Queens, November 10, 2018–January 21, 2019: Since 2013, the edible village at the New York Hall of Science in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Queens, has set the Guinness World Record for the largest collection of gingerbread houses and structures with each new installment. The record is sure to be challenged again this year (nysci.org).

Grand Army Plaza, Largest Menorah Lighting, Brooklyn, December 2–10, 2018: With the help of local synagogues, the Grand Army Plaza, located in Park Slope, Brooklyn, has hosted the nightly lighting of the 32-foot menorah since 1984. Visitors are invited to celebrate the holiday with concerts and gifts for children through each day of the Jewish Festival of Lights (largestmenorah.com).

Holiday Workshop Weekend at Wave Hill, The Bronx, December 8–9, 2018: At this holiday craft fair, in addition to creating the usual wreaths and treasure boxes, families are invited to work on the feature project: the hamsa, or hamesh, the multicultural symbol of an open hand. Guests explore the spiritual side of the holidays as they make the palm-shaped amulets (wavehill.org).

New York Botanical Garden’s Holiday Train Show, The Bronx, November 17, 2018–January 21, 2019: The annual exhibition of classical model trains moving through a hand crafted display of New York City’s built environment is back for the 27th year. More than 175 miniature iconic city structures such as Yankee Stadium, The Brooklyn Bridge and The Statue of Liberty are replicated entirely out of plant parts and will coincide with other holiday celebrations such as a cappella performances, Bar Car Nights and more at the New York Botanical Garden (nybg.org).

The New York City Ballet presents George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker, one of the most beloved and anticipated holiday classics, November 23–December 30 at Lincoln Center (nycballet.com).

Quite literally, the most magical place to be during this holiday season is at the NYHS. Harry Potter: A History of Magic captures the traditions of folklore and magic at the heart of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter stories through centuries-old treasures © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

New-York Historical Society Presents “Harry Potter: A History of Magic”, Manhattan, through January 27: Quite literally, the most magical place to be during this holiday season is at the NYHS. Harry Potter: A History of Magic captures the traditions of folklore and magic at the heart of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter stories through centuries-old treasures, including rare books, manuscripts, and magical objects from the collections of the British Library, the New-York Historical Society, and other museums, as well as never before seen material from Harry Potter publisher Scholastic and J.K. Rowling’s own archives. The New York exhibition, showcasing a selection of objects not featured in the London presentation that are on view to the public for the very first time, is sponsored by Audible. There are also a slew of special events and family programming in conjunction with this not-to-be-missed exhibit, which vanishes, poof, after January 27, 2019. The tickets are timed; you can order online. Also visit The DiMenna Children’s History Museum, created for children  8-13, which presents 350 years of New York and American history through character-based pavilions, interactive exhibits and digital games. (New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West (at 77th Street), 212-873-3400, nyhistory.org)

New York Philharmonic Presents “Home Alone in Concert, ” Manhattan, December 20–21,2018: The acclaimed New York Philharmonic will perform John Williams’ score live to the classic Christmas film Home Alone, for a 2018–19 holiday season special event—booby traps and lovable bandits not included (nyphil.org).

A carriage ride down Fifth Avenue © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

New York Transit Museum Gallery Annex and Store at Grand Central Terminal Holiday Train Show, Manhattan, November 15, 2018–February 3, 2019: A staple of Grand Central Terminal during the holiday season since 2001, the train show features a 34-foot-long track where vintage trains from the museum’s collection travel through a miniature New York City and countryside scene all the way to the North Pole (grandcentralterminal.com).

Radio City Christmas Spectacular Starring the Rockettes, Manhattan, November 9, 2018–January 1, 2019: Everyone’s favorite high kickers dance their way from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Eve and champion the holiday spirit of New York City with their extravagant costumes and breathtaking state-of-the-art production (rockettes.com).

St. Thomas Church which is famous for the Saint Thomas Choir of Men and Boys, and its annual performances of Handel’s Messiah (Dec. 4, 6). Also this year, “A Ceremony of Carols” by Benjamin Britten (Dec. 13). (Purchase tickets, www.saintthomaschurch.org/music/concerts); also take a tour of this magnificent edifice, built in 1913 in the French High Gothic style. (5th Avenue and 53rd Street, www.saintthomaschurch.org).

Visiting St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Fifth Avenue is also a highlight of the holidays and it is remarkable that you can just walk in and enjoy an inspirational service.

Cathedral of St John the Divine offers inspiring concerts throughout the holiday season, with a Concert for Peace on New Year’s Eve © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

I personally love to close out the holiday season on New Year’s Eve at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine which presents the most magnificent annual Concert for Peace, founded by Leonard Bernstein in 1984 with the idea of bringing together New Yorkers and visitors from around the world for an evening filled with uplifting music in a most magnificent setting. Indeed, the cathedral offers a rich calendar of concerts throughout the holiday season, as well as tours of this architectural jewel. Check the website for details.(The Cathedral of St. John the Divine, 1047 Amsterdam Avenue, at 112th Street, New York, NY 10025, 212-316-7540, info@stjohndivine.org, www.stjohndivine.org)

Favorite Places to Catch the Holiday Spirit

Central Park is magical in any season, but particularly for the holidays. In addition to the Wollman Rink (wollmanskatingrink.com), The Swedish Cottage is an enchanting place that is home to one of the last public marionette companies in the country. The cottage was originally constructed as a model pre-fabricated schoolhouse, and became Sweden’s entry in the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. After the exhibit, Central Park’s co-designer Frederick Law Olmsted had it placed in Central Park, where it has been headquarters for the Marionette Theater since 1939 (West Side at 79th Street). Currently playing is “Yet, Set, Snow!”, an original story and production from the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre, with performances through the season until Feb. 24, 2019. (Purchase tickets, www.cityparksfoundation.org/arts/swedish-cottage-marionette-theatre)

Other favorite venues to get into the Christmas Spirit: Bryant Park, with its massive Christmas tree, ice skating rink, festive holiday markets, cafes, and carousel (wintervillage.org) has become one of the city’s iconic holiday places. Of course, there is skating right below the magnificent Christmas tree at the Rink at Rockefeller Center (therinkatrockcenter.com). There is also skating and The Rink at Brookfield Place opens November 1 (230 Vesey St., 860-209-3459, gpice.com).

Skating at Bryant Park where there is also a holiday market © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Besides Bryant Park, there are holiday markets at Union Square, Columbus Circle, and Grand Central Terminal.

For a festive place to shop: The Shops at Columbus Circle, a destination within a destination that draws more than 16 million visitors per year to its 50 shops, renowned restaurants, bars and that free priceless view of Central Park (not to mention temperature-controlled and pet-friendly). But there are some spectacular happenings for the holidays:

Broadway Under the Stars is a five-week series of free public performances from today’s hottest Broadway musicals performing on the second floor mezzanine at The Shops at Columbus Circle. Participating shows include: Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, Chicago, Dear Evan Hansen, Head Over Heels, Kinky Boots, The Phantom of the Opera, School of Rock, Waitress and Wicked (check out theshopsatcolumbuscircle.com for schedules). Performances begin Monday, Nov. 12 and take place for five consecutive Mondays through Dec. 10. Shows begin at 5 pm and last approximately 20 minutes.  (Free and open to the public, no reservations or tickets are required.)

The stars are aligned at the Shops at Columbus Circle, in the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle, a festive shopping, dining and entertainment destination especially at the holidays © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Holiday Under the Stars is The Shops at Columbus Circle’s holiday lights display, featuring 12 massive 14-foot stars which hang from the 100-foot-high ceilings. This is claimed to be the largest specialty crafted exhibit of illuminated color display in the world. There is a 5-minute daily musical light show every half hour from 5 pm to 9 pm, through the end of the year.

Culinary Delights:  Among the restaurants are six Michelin Stars: from Chef Masayoshi Takayama’s Masa, the only three-star Michelin Japanese/Sushi restaurant in the U.S., to the gastronomic jewel box that is Thomas Keller’s Per Se). The Bluebird London restaurant in London and Momofuku Noodle Bar are newly opened and join the Landmarc and Porter House restaurants.

Also, from the 150-foot-high panoramic windows,  visitors can take in the breathtaking views of Central Park. It’s one of the few indoor places in Manhattan where you can enjoy this vantage point.

(Visit www.theshopsatcolumbuscircle.com for ever-changing list of events and happenings.)

For more information regarding the most wonderful time of the year in the five boroughs, find NYC & Company’s official guide to the holidays in New York City at NYCgo.com/holiday.

_____________________________

© 2018 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com,  www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin , and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Gold Coast International Film Festival Announces 2018 Winners

by Karen Rubin

Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Regina Gil, executive director of the Gold Coast International Film Festival and Gold Coast Arts Center, at awards luncheon © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

After 10 days and 80 films from 22 countries screened, many the United States or Long Island premiere, the 2018 Gold Coast International Film Festival came to a close and declared the winners:

The Audience Award Winner for Best Narrative was “The Lost Suit,” a bittersweet story made in Argentina and Spain by Pablo Solarz about an 88-year-old Jewish tailor who embarks on a long, transcontinental journey to try and find the man who saved him from certain death during the Holocaust. Heartfelt and charming, with a wonderful comedic flavor, the film reminds us of the importance of family, friendship, and keeping your word. Out of 230 audience-goers, 212 gave the film the highest ranking. “People were obsessed with it.” The Gold Coast arts center, which stages cinema series throughout the year, is hoping to bring it back.

Regina Gil, GCIFF founder, and Caroline Sorokoff, Festival Director, present GCIFF 2018 award for Best Narrative to “The Last Suit” © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Audience Award Winner for Best Documentary Feature Film went to “Heading Home,” by Seth Kramer, Daniel A. Miller, Jeremy Newberger, a stirring underdog chronicle of the unexpected triumph of Israel’s national baseball team at the 2017 World Baseball Classic. With their Mensch on the Bench mascot by their side, the team laughs and cries as they discover the pride of representing Israel on the world stage. The screening featured a Q&A with Co-Director Jeremy Newberger.

The Audience and Jury Award Winners for Best Narrative Short Film went to “Stems” and Best Documentary Short Film award was won by two films, “Wendy’s Shabbat” and “One Small Step.”

Regina Gil, GCIFF founder, and Alexandra Gil, curator of the festival Shorts, present GCIFF 2018 awards for Best Short Documentary Film to “Wendy’s Shabbat” and “One Small Step” © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

A new award this year, Best Family Short Film, went to Rag Dolls.

Shorts film curator Alexandra Gil viewed some 2,000 submissions before making the selections for the festival.

The winner of the new Gold Coast International Film Festival 2018 Award for Best Family Short Film went to “Rag Dolls” © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

The awards winners for the 8th annual festival were named at a gala lunch at the NM Café at Neiman Marcus Roosevelt Field, a major sponsor of the festival, which also supports youth arts programs. Other major sponsors included the Town of North Hempstead and Douglas Elliman Real Estate, which provided important seed money “when we were just an idea” and have kept up. Hofstra University is also a major supporter, offering film programs including internships.

Some 4,000 tickets were sold; audience goers came from 180 zipcodes. Audience goers get to see films that are rarely screened outside of independent theaters in New York City – the festival brings films to the suburbs. Many of the documentaries, like “Bathtubs Over Broadway,” an astonishing documentary about Steve Young’s quest to collect Industrial Musicals which sets him on a journey to meet the makers; and “Happy” Academy Award® nominated director Roko Belic’s film explores the secrets behind our most valued emotion, traveling from the bayous of Louisiana, the deserts of Namibia, the beaches of Brazil and the villages of Okinawa to a communal home in Denmark; and short films are only seen at festivals. There are also opportunities to hear from filmmakers and historians and engage in question and answers. One special program gives Young Filmmakers, from K-12, a chance to shine (and shine they did).

Here are more highlights from the festival:

A musical-comedy-documentary! Comedy writer Steve Young’s assignment to scour bargain-bin vinyl for a Late Night with David Letterman segment becomes an unexpected, decades-spanning obsession when he stumbles upon the strange and hilarious world of industrial musicals in this amazing, revelatory and entertaining film, “Bathtubs Over Broadway,” by Dava Whisenant. The film’s star, Steve Young, participated in a Q&A after the GCIFF screening © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Paul Lieberstein, best known as Toby from “The Office,” plays nice-guy Fred in “Song of Back and Neck,” this charming romantic comedy which Lieberstan also directed. Fred rarely gets through the day without falling to the ground with crippling back and neck pain, and is not taken seriously by anyone at work. But as he discovers unexpected love and a rather unique talent, it is just the start of the unpredictable happenings coming his way. Lieberstein joined an audience Q&A via Skype following the Long Island premiere of his film © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

“Howard,” an intimate and insightful tribute to a once-in-a-generation talent, the legendary lyricist Howard Ashman by Don Hahn, revealed the incalculable impact Ashman had on Broadway, movies and the culture at large even beyond his ingenious lyrics. The audience gets to see much of his creative process behind such stellar hits as “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Little Mermaid,” “Little Shop of Horrors.” Howard’s sister, Sarah Ashman Gillespie and his partner Bill Lauch were on hand after the screening, which was sponsored by AARP Long Island, for a Q&A and to share their personal reflections © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

What makes you happy? Money? Kids and family? Your work? Academy Award-nominated director Roko Belic’s documentary, “Happy” explores the secrets behind our most valued emotion. From the bayous of Louisiana, the deserts of Namibia, the beaches of Brazil and the villages of Okinawa to a communal home in Denmark, Belic goes in search of what really makes people happy. The GCIFF presentation was sponsored by Katz Institute for women’s Health at Northwell Health, and a panel of experts from the Center for Wellness and Integrative Medicine and Katz Institute were on hand to discuss the role of mindfulness and innovations in integrated, holistic approaches: Tina Conroy, Director of Energy and Healing; Bella Grossman, Clinical Psychologist, Marissa Licata, Registered Dietition, Deborah McElligott, Cardiac Nurse Practitioner and Lucy Gade, Medical Director © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Filmmaker Andrew Toscanao, who is in fifth grade at Northside elementary in Plainview, NY, discusses his film, “The Lego Agent: Dr. Evil’s Revenge” at the Gold Coast International Film Festival’s Young Filmmakers Program. Young Filmmakers are also invited to participate in a free day of hands-on filmmaker workshops for filmmakers in grades 7-12, Saturday, March 16, at Hofstra University, a festival sponsor © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Eliad Lienhardt came from Switzerland to discuss the making of his film short, “Alison”after the screening at the Gold Coast International Film Festival © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Famed director Peter Bogdanovich has created a love-letter to Buster Keaton, one of Hollywood’s most prolific, influential and innovative filmmakers, Buster Keaton. “The Great Buster,” is a celebration of Keaton’s life, career and legacy. The story told with stunning restorations of archival works that bring Keaton’s magic to life on the big screen, plus interviews with his friends, family, collaborators, and a broad array of artists influenced by his singular vision, including Mel Brooks, Bill Hader, Cybil Shepherd and Quentin Tarantino. Professor Rodney F. Hill, film scholar, was on hand for a Q&A after the screening of the documentary © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The 2018 festival kicked off with a Gold Coast Arts Center gala in Great Neck, Long Island honoring film and television star Robert Wagner with the second annual Burton Moss Hollywood Golden Era Award in recognition of his long, illustrious career that began in 1950. (See story.)

Actor Robert Wagner, honored with the Gold Coast Film Festival’s second annual Burton Moss Hollywood Golden Era Award at the Gold Coast Arts Center’s gala, discusses his career with film historian, author, and professor Foster Hirsch © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

_____________________________

© 2018 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com,  www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin , and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Gold Coast Film Festival Kicks Off With Gala Honoring Film & TV Legend Robert Wagner with Hollywood Golden Era Award

Actor Robert Wagner, honored with the Gold Coast Film Festival’s second annual Burton Moss Hollywood Golden Era Award at the Gold Coast Arts Center’s gala, discusses his career with film historian, author, and professor Foster Hirsch © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

by Karen Rubin

Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

The stars shone over the Gold Coast Arts Center in Great Neck, Long Island as film and television star Robert Wagner was honored with the second annual Burton Moss Hollywood Golden Era Award in recognition of his long, illustrious career that began in 1950 with his film debut in The Happy Years The award was presented at the center’s annual gala which also helped raise funds for the nonprofit Arts Center and its Gold Coast International Film Festival, which starts on Friday, November 2, 2018 on the storied Gold Coast of Nassau County’s North Shore, once home to entertainment legends including W. C. Fields, Paulette Goddard, Oscar Hammerstein, Alan King, Francis Ford Coppola, George Segal, and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Joining Wagner at the gala were such luminaries as his wife, actress Jill St. John; his daughter Courtney Wagner, who co-hosts Boulevard, their new cable program about the movie stars of Hollywood; actress Sharon Gless (Cagney and Lacey) and her husband, producer Barney Rosenzweig; and Princess Yasmin Aga Khan, whose mother, the late Rita Hayworth, posthumously received the first Burton Moss Hollywood Golden Era Award in 2017.

Iconic talent agent, Budd Burton Moss, the award’s namesake, also attended the event in tribute to his childhood friend.  Moss, the most respected and admired talent agent of Hollywood’s Golden Age, attended elementary school in California with Wagner, forging a relationship that has endured since.

Actress Diane Baker and noted radio and television personality Larry King sent along their best wishes via video. Also in attendance were Harriet Fields, granddaughter of the late W.C. Fields, and renowned film historian and film professor, Foster Hirsch, who moderated a candid, lively and informative discussion with Wagner before the presentation of the award.

Wagner may well hold the record for longest continuous career – he has been acting for 70 years, a fact acknowledged by tributes from Larry King and actor Diane Baker.

During the conversation with Hirsch, Wagner spoke of his mentors, who bolstered his career: actor Spencer Tracy, who “changed my life,” and film producer Darryl Zanuck, who basically discovered him, developed him and said of him, “You will be a big star.”

Clark Gable got him a screen test at MGM, but that didn’t work out, and got a contract with 20th Century Fox ($55 a week), where he stayed for 20 years, a part of the studio system.

“The studio system worked well for me. People at 20th Century Fox looked out for their people.”  His departure coincided with the collapse of the studio system.

“I owe my career to Darryl Zanuck,” he said. “He knew scripts, stories, believed in the people around him. He really cared about me.. Darryl was watching me. When he left [the studio], it was a different situation.”

Actor Robert Wagner, honored with the Gold Coast Film Festival’s second annual Burton Moss Hollywood Golden Era Award at the Gold Coast Arts Center’s gala, discusses his career © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

He joked that he wasn’t happy doing “Prince Valiant,” revolutionary for being one of the first movies filmed in Cinemascope. “It was the wig – it got in the way. Dean Martin talked to me for 10 minutes; he thought I was Jane Wyman.”

He reflected on his transition from film to television – something that wasn’t done at the time. “Lou Wasserman said to me, ‘I want you in this magazine – TV Guide. I think this medium is for you.” Wasserman proposed making a pilot for “It Takes a Thief,” and promised that if it wasn’t picked up, he would make it into a movie. It wasn’t picked up; he made the movie, and then it was picked up.”

“It started mid-season,” Wagner related. “That’s death. I thought my career was gone. But the audience liked it.”

Fred Astaire was his co-star. “There was nobody like him. A meticulous man. I asked him to play my father. I knew him when I was a kid – I went to boarding school with his son. Who asked me over for the weekend at his house. Astaire picked me up, put me in the back seat of his convertible – I was 7 or 8 years old. I didn’t know who Astaire was at the time. I spent a lot of time with him over the years.”

Hirsch pressed him on how his mentors seemed to all be father figures because his own father was “rather difficult.”

“My father was a product of that era. He did things his way. I was programmed to go into his business – steel. I always wanted to be actor in movies, from time I saw my first movie.”

Gold Coast Arts Center/Gold Coast Film Festival Executive Director Regina Gil with actor and gala honoree Robert Wagner and professor Foster Hirsch at the Gold Coast Arts Center gala. © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

He spoke of the many “marvelous leading ladies” he worked with: Audrey Hepburn, Sophia Loren, Bette Davis, Elizabeth Taylor, to list but a few,” writing about them in his book, “I Loved Her in the Movies,” one of three Hollywood memoirs he has published.

“You can’t be a leading man without a leading lady.”

And he spoke lovingly and admiringly of his wife, the actress Natalie Wood, whose real name was Natalia Nikolaevna Zakharenko, a child of Russian immigrants. She made her debut before she was five years old in a 15-second scene in the 1943 film, “Happy Land,” and at the age of seven, played a German orphan opposite Orson Welles and Claudette Colbert in “Tomorrow is Forever” (1946).

“They dyed her hair blond and taught her a German accent… She had God-given talent.”

He said that he doesn’t believe “West Side Story” would have been made without Wood. “She was so good at accents. She was good at everything.”

Among the stars in attendance at the Gold Coast Arts Center Gala honoring actor Robert Wagner with the second annual Burton Moss Hollywood Golden Era Award, were actor Jill St. John, his wife; Sharon Gless and her husband, Barney Rosenzweig, the producer of Cagney & Lacey; and Hollywood agent Burton Moss © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

In the audience was his wife, Jill St. John, “the first Bond girl,” with whom he performed “Love Letters” on the stage, criss-crossing the country for nine years.

“The performances had to be different, otherwise they would have had to take me away with a net. We had to keep it different.”

Wagner’s numerous film credits includes With a Song in My Heart, Broken Lance with the legendary Spencer Tracy, Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, The Pink Panther, The Curse of the Pink Panther, Midway, The Towering Inferno, Banning, Harper, Prince Valiant, The True Story of Jesse James, and All the Fine Young Cannibals. He re-created his role of Number Two, the villainous henchman to Dr. Evil, the archenemy of Mike Myers’ title character in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.

On television, Wagner has starred in three long-running hit series, It Takes a Thiefwith Fred Astaire, Switch, with Eddie Albert and Sharon Gless and Hart to Hart, with Stefanie Powers.  He also starred in the top-rated miniseries Windmills of the Gods, based on Sidney Sheldon’s best-selling novel; with Joanne Woodward in A Kiss Before Dying; and with Elizabeth Taylor in There Must Be a Pony. He also appeared in the memorable Seinfeld episode, “The Yada, Yada, Yada,” as Dr. Abbot.

Edwina Sandys, the sculptor (and Winston Churchill’s granddaughter); actor and honoree Robert Wagner; Princess Yasmin Aga Khan, daughter of Rita Haywood, the award’s first recipient and spokesperson for the Alzheimer’s Association; and Hollywood agent Burton Ross at the presentation of the Burton Moss Hollywood Golden Era Award at the Gold Coat Arts Center gala © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Named for the man who has represented some of Hollywood’s finest stars, the Burton Moss Hollywood Golden Era Award pays tribute to film legends who may not have been honored adequately during their lifetimes, and whose names and legacy are in danger of becoming forgotten by newer generations of filmgoers.  The award itself, an original work of art, was created by celebrated sculptor Edwina Sandys, who also attended the event, is a granddaughter of Sir Winston Churchill.

Presenting the award to Wagner, Princess Yasmin Aga Khan, who had received the first award on behalf of her mother, Rita Hayworth, said she had devoted her life as a spokesperson for the Alzheimer’s Association, working for a cure, andnoted that among the many programs offered at the Gold Coast Arts Center (programs “from womb to tomb” in art, music, performance) are Making Memories a program that serves those with Alzheimer’s and memory impairment.

Gold Coast Arts Center/Gold Coast Film Festival Executive Director Regina Gil with actor Jill St. John, sculptor Edwina Sandys, honoree actor Robert Wagner, and his daughter, Courtney Wagner and Jon Kaiman, co-president of the Arts Center © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Proceeds from the benefit support the Arts Center’s outreach projects including Making Memories, as well as ArtReach, a program that brings Arts Center faculty and programs to underserved schoolchildren and others, to enrich their curriculum with arts education in the areas of ceramics, painting, music, dance, and chess.

The gala kicks off this year’s Gold Coast International Film Festival, taking place November 2 – 13 at various venues in North Hempstead, Long Island. The festival this year features 80 films over 10 days. (Tickets and information at www.goldcoastfilmfestival.org).

Since 2011, the Gold Coast International Film Festival has brought the latest Hollywood hits and Indie favorites to standing-room-only audiences throughout the fabled Gold Coast of Long Island and beyond. Add A-list celebrities and unforgettable events to the mix, and it’s easy to see why the Gold Coast International Film Festival has become the “go to” festival for film buffs and the public; (it is also the last major film festival on the East Coast before Awards season). The Gold Coast International Film Festival is produced by the not-for-profit Gold Coast Arts Center.

The Gold Coast Arts Center is a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to promoting the arts through education, exhibition, performance, and outreach. Located on the North Shore of Long Island, it has brought the arts to tens of thousands of people throughout the region for over 20 years. Among the Center’s offerings are its School for the Arts, which holds year-round classes in visual and performing arts for students of all ages and abilities; a free public art gallery; a concert and lecture series; film screenings and discussions; the annual Gold Coast International Film Festival; and initiatives that focus on senior citizens and underserved communities. These initiatives include artist residencies, after-school programs, school assemblies, teacher-training workshops, and parent-child workshops. The Gold Coast Arts Center is an affiliate of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Partners in Education program, and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. More information can be found at www.goldcoastarts.org.

_____________________________

© 2018 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com,  www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin , and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

 

New York City’s 45th Annual Village Halloween Parade Dazzles with “I AM a Robot” Theme

The 45th annual, iconic New York City Village Halloween Parade brought out thousands of costumed participants around the theme, “I AM a Robot!” © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin

Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

 

The 45th annual, iconic New York City Village Halloween Parade brought out thousands of costumed participants around the theme, “I AM a Robot!”

“With artificial intelligences learning, adapting, interpreting and reacting as humans do, the times we live in can be overwhelming,” said  Jeanne Fleming, Artistic/Producing Director of New York’s Village Halloween Parade. “This traditional and beloved event aspires to bring folks into their creative imagination—celebrating that quality that differentiates us from robots—and by extension make the world a better place. We as New Yorkers and those visiting the Big Apple can come together, affirm our identity, block out the distractions, focus on joy and inhabit the streets of New York LIVE.”

“This traditional and beloved event aspires to bring folks into their creative imagination—celebrating that quality that differentiates us from robots—and by extension make the world a better place,” said Jeanne Fleming, Artistic/Producing Director of the Village Halloween Parade © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

“The 2018 Village Halloween Parade celebrates what makes us human by exploring how we remake ourselves. For our part, we will deploy a floating phalanx of cybernetic figures, each tethered by glowing wires to its human controller to evoke the increasingly complex strands of identity that entangle man with machine. We invite all of our Halloween makers and marchers to join our positronic collective, expressing your inner cyborgs for an evening of robotic revelry as we employ our most uniquely human qualities–dreaming, fantasizing, creating–to do our best robot impersonations.”

The theme is timely, considering 2018 is also the 200th anniversary of the publication of Mary Shelley’s publication of “Frankenstein”.

Grand Marshal Machine Dazzle led the VIP Robot Section.

Grand Marshal Machine Dazzle led the VIP Robot Section of the 45th annual New York City Village Halloween Parade © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Village Halloween Parade is:

The nation’s largest public Halloween celebration

Named as The Greatest Event on Earth by Festivals International for October 31

Attended by over 2 million people, seen by over 1 million on TV.

The nation’s only major night Parade.

Listed as one of the 100 Things to do Before You Die.

Picked by Events International as The Greatest Event on Earth on October 31, and ranked 3rd by Citysearch as the best event in New York City.

Ranked by Biz Bash as one of the top 10 events in NYC.

Recipient of the Municipal Arts Society of New York’s Award for making a major contribution to the cultural life of New York City.

Recipient of a major grant from the National Endowment for the Arts in recognition of Longtime Artistic Achievement.

Recipient of the Mayor’s Tourism Grant in recognition of the Parade’s major impact on the economic life of New York City and grants from the Manhattan Borough President’s Tourism Initiative.

The 45th annual, iconic New York City Village Halloween Parade brought out thousands of costumed participants around the theme, “I AM a Robot!” © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Started by Greenwich Village mask maker and puppeteer in 1974, the Parade began as a walk from house to house in his neighborhood for his children and their friends.

After the second year of this local promenade, Theater for the New City stepped in and produced the event on a larger scale as part of their City in the Streets program. That year the Parade went through many more streets in Greenwich Village and attracted larger participation because of the involvement of the Theater.

After the third year, the Parade formed itself into a not-for-profit organization, discontinued its association with Theater for the New City and produced the Parade on its own.

The Village Halloween Parade has been a significant factor in the revitalization of the city and its spirit.

It also affords an opportunity for political expression.

One of the more political demonstrations during the 45th annual New York City Village Halloween Parade © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

One of the more political demonstrations during the 45th annual New York City Village Halloween Parade © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

For more information on the Parade, visit https://www.halloween-nyc.com/.

Here are more highlights:

The 45th annual New York City Village Halloween Parade brought out thousands of participants © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The 45th annual New York City Village Halloween Parade brought out thousands of participants © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The 45th annual New York City Village Halloween Parade brought out thousands of participants © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The 45th annual, iconic New York City Village Halloween Parade brought out thousands of costumed participants around the theme, “I AM a Robot!” © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The 45th annual New York City Village Halloween Parade brought out thousands of participants © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The 45th annual New York City Village Halloween Parade brought out thousands of participants © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The 45th annual New York City Village Halloween Parade brought out thousands of participants © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The 45th annual New York City Village Halloween Parade brought out thousands of participants © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The 45th annual New York City Village Halloween Parade brought out thousands of participants © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The 45th annual New York City Village Halloween Parade brought out thousands of participants © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The 45th annual New York City Village Halloween Parade brought out thousands of participants © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Village Halloween Parade is New York City’s answer to New Orleans’ Carnival © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Village Halloween Parade is a family affair © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

The 45th annual New York City Village Halloween Parade brought out thousands of participants © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The 45th annual New York City Village Halloween Parade brought out thousands of participants © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The 45th annual New York City Village Halloween Parade brought out thousands of participants © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The 45th annual New York City Village Halloween Parade brought out thousands of participants © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

One of the more political demonstrations during the 45th annual New York City Village Halloween Parade © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Many marchers used the Village Halloween Parade for political expression © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Notorious RBG made an appearance at the 45th Annual Village Halloween Parade in New York City © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The New York City Village Halloween Parade is an opportunity for artistic expression © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Making a political point to #Vote at the New York City Village Halloween Parade © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

___________________

© 2018 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com,  www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin , and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

‘Harry Potter: A History of Magic’ is Spellbinding Exhibit at New-York Historical Society

Capturing the traditions of folklore and magic at the heart of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter stories, Harry Potter: A History of Magic, on view at the New-York Historical Society through January 27, 2019, explores the historic and traditional foundations underpining “Harry Potter” as well as her creative process © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

by Karen Rubin

Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

“Harry Potter: A History of Magic”, the newly opened exhibit at the New-York Historical Society Museum & Library only on view until January 27, is a must-see on so many levels. It isn’t just for fans of J.K. Rowling’s phenomenal series, where you get extraordinary insights into her creative process through glimpses at original hand-written drafts and drawings, but insights into the history of magic – the centuries of folklore, myth and legend –  that provided the foundation for her stories. Here you see the original documents and artifacts which make you realize (for the first time), how Rowling drew on history and tradition, and how magic and witchcraft actually provided the foundation of science and discovery.

“Abracadabra,” we learn, is an incantation believed to have healing powers, first recorded by Quintus Serenus Sammanicus, physician to the Roman Emperor Caracalla. He prescribed that the word be repeatedly written out, each time leaving off one letter. The charm was then worn as an amulet around the neck to drive out fever. We see it described in “Liber Medicinalis,” a 13th century book from Canterbury.

The invisibility cloak that Harry Potter wore? There actually was an incantation for invisibility that we can see in a mid-17th century spell book owned by a contemporary of Shakespeare. A 4th century papyrus scroll turns out to be an ancient Greek handbook of magic that contains a love charm.

Mandrake roots really do look like men (or women) and the legend of them screaming when pulled out by the roots, causing insanity, was documented across cultures. We get to see a mandrake root, which looks like a shriveled old man in anguish.

The Philosopher’s Stone that plays such a key role for Harry Potter (it was renamed the Sorcerer’s Stone for American readers)? This was the quest of alchemists, who sought to create the elixir of immortal life and turn ordinary metal into gold – in essence, harnessing the energy of the universe and its power. The “recipe” for the Philosopher’s Stone was believed to be prescribed in The Ripley Scroll. We get to see an actual Ripley Scroll, from around 1570 England, exquisite in its color, unfurled over 20 feet, one of only 22 known to still exist. This one is on loan from the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University.

The Ripley Scroll provided alchemists with the “recipe” to make the Philosopher’s Stone, the key to the elixir of life (immortality) and for turning ordinary metal into gold © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The scroll takes its name from George Ripley, a canon at Bridlington Priory in northern England and author of “The Compound of Alchymy.” The scroll, full of mystical symbolism, supposedly gives clues to how to make the key red, white and black stones that together would form the Philosopher’s Stone. Rowling wove these symbols into her characters: Rubeus Hagrid (rubeus is Latin for “red); Albus Dumbledore (albus is Latin for “white”) and Sirius Black, Harry’s three father figures.

We get to see a copy of Culpepper’s Herbal, describing the medicinal properties of herbs, the first medical text to be published in English (instead of Latin), so as to break the monopoly of wealthy, educated in having this knowledge. Culpepper was accused of witchcraft in 1642, but acquitted. The book is still in print and we learn from Rowling that she possesses two copies.

We get to see the actual tombstone of Nicolas Flamel, an actual person! who a landlord and bookseller in medieval Paris who married a rich woman and became a philanthropist. His interest in alchemy, according to Pottermore, was apparently sparked after he obtained a mystical book was written by a man called Abraham the Jew in Greek, Hebrew and other languages. Following his death in 1418, rumors began to circulate that Flamel was an alchemist who had discovered how to make the Philosopher’s Stone, and turn metal into gold. He was buried in the church of Saint-Jacques-de-la Boucherie in Paris, his grave marked by this tombstone. But years later, when the body was exhumed, there was no body. Some believe he escaped to India, and with the elixir, still lives.

The actual tombstone of Nicolas Flamel, rumored to be an alchemist who had discovered the Philosopher’s Stone, who died in 1418 © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

The exhibition, a cerebral celebration marking the 20th anniversary of the US publication of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, captures the traditions of folklore and magic at the heart of the Harry Potter stories. Based on Harry Potter: A History of Magic, a British Library exhibition, with some special New York twists, it combines century-old treasures—including rare books, manuscripts, and magical objects from the British Library, New-York Historical Society, and other collections—with original material from Harry Potter’s U.S. publisher Scholastic and J.K. Rowling’s own archives, never before collected in one place, and items that have never been shown before. And this exhibit is the only other place where it will be shown, before the items go back to their respective museums, which include the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic, in Cornwall.

The entertaining aspect is in the exhibition’s presentation, as if you are wandering through Hogwarts, with the galleries organized around the Hogwarts’ curriculum for witches: Potions, Alchemy, Herbology, Charms, Astronomy, Divination, Defense Against the Dark Arts, Care of Magical Creatures – each one showing the historical and cultural traditions that underlie Rowling’s fantastical world and her creative process.

It is as if instead of J.K. Rowling inventing the Hogwarts curriculum, she graduated from it. It also means that all of us, children and adults, who were so enrapt in the Harry Potter saga of witchcraft and magic 20 years ago, have a whole new dimension for appreciating Rowling’s masterpiece from a mature perspective.

The exhibit, “Harry Potter: A History of Magic” at the New-York Historical Society is laid out as if you were walking through Hogwarts, with the galleries themed for the different subjects: Potions, Alchemy, Herbology, Charms, Astronomy, Divination, Defense Against the Dark Arts, Care of Magical Creatures © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The exhibit is captivating on so many levels – Rowling’s personality and creative process, you get so many insights into her as a person, and the connection to history and tradition at the heart of mythology. Also, we get to see the evolution of science from magic and spiritualism.

Rowling faithfully represented these traditions – even the names she chose for her characters relate back to these traditions, symbolically or literally.

Professor Severus Snape, presides over the Potions gallery at New-York Historical Society’s “Harry Potter: A History of Magic” exhibit. © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

In Potions & Alchemy, we see a copy of Jacob Meydenbach’s 1491 edition of Hartus Sanitatis (Latin for “The Garden of Health”), the first printed cyclopedia of natural history, which actually includes a hand-colored woodcut illustration of a potions class.

One of the plants described, blue hellebore, was the plant Harry Potter forgot to add in his Draught of Peace.

We see an actual bezoar stone, which was believed to be an antidote to poison, first introduced into medieval Europe by Arab physicians. They were expensive to buy and owners often kept their stones in elaborate cases. Here we see a bezoar stone in a gold filigree case from the 17th century.

The Herbology section is particularly fascinating: Here we see an illustration from a 15th century illustrated herbal by Giovanni Cadamasto that describes mandrakes (mandragara) that could cure headaches, earache, gout and insanity. Just as Rowling depicted, the plant was said to be particularly hazardous to harvest because the shrieks from the roots cause madness. “The best way to obtain it safely was to unearth its roots with an ivory stake, attaching the plant to a dog with a card. A horn would sound, drowning out the shrieking, startling the dog and causing it to drag out the mandrake.” We actually get to see a mandrake root and how much it resembles a prone shriveled man who appears anguished. The description of mandrake is also from a 14th century Arabic text, originally in Ancient Greek by Pedanius Dioscorides, a botanist.

We see implements of “magical gardening” of bone and antler, on loan from the Museum of Watchcraft & Magic, Boscastle, Cornwall.

There is an original copy of a book by Elizabeth Blackwell (one of the first women physicians), “A Curious  Herbal,” published in London in 1737-38. She was desperate to raise money to spring her husband Alexander from debtor prison, so made drawings that she took to Alexander to identify, which she then published weekly, eventually detailing 500 plants.

An 1807 edition of Robert John Thornton’s “The Temple of Flora,” an elaborate botany book that nearly bankrupted Thornton to produce (it was originally titled, “The New Illustration of the Sexual System of Linnaeus”). There is an illustration of Dragon arum (Dracunculus vulgaris), also known as stink lily, which reproduces the smell of putrefying meat to attract flies for pollination.

In Charms, we see a copy of Cotton Mather’s “The Wonders of the Invisible World,” published in London in 1693 (from the New-York Historical Society Library), in which he justified the Salem witchcraft trials.

This is the area which gives some attention to the way witches were depicted, when in essence, they were shaman, healers, who were extraordinarily connected to the natural world, and in fact, the first scientists and doctors.

We see the earliest printed illustration of a witch, from 1489, depicting witches as powerful and dangerous. “The Iconography went on to influence image of witches for centuries. The printing press was new – like video of the time.”

Here we see a colorful broomstick belonging to Olga Hunt, a 20th century witch of Manatan, Devon (from the Museum of Witchcraft, Boscastle). The broomstick is closely associated with the Western image of witches, but has roots in pagan fertility rites. The connection with witchcraft and broomsticks developed during the witch hysteria of 16th and 17th century Europe. Olga was supposed to have used it to leap around Dartmoor on a full moon.

We also see Rowling’s original, handwritten draft of the Sorting Hat Song, sung at Harry’s sorting ceremony in his first year, with some crossings out and additions, and her sketch of Argus Filch, the Hogwarts caretaker (Argus is a name from Greek Mythology of a man-eyed giant who is “all seeing.”)

In Divination, there is a major archaeological find on view: oracle bones some 3,000 years old from China that proved the existence of the Shang Dynasty, which had only been known in legend. The bones offered not only the earliest examples of Chinese writing, but showed that the culture worshipped ancestors – the Oracle Bones were a means of communicating with ancestors, who could send back messages.

A witch’s cauldron is on view in “Harry Potter: A History of Magic” at the New-York Historical Society © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We see a black moon crystal ball used by “Smelly Nelly,” a 20th-century British witch who used strong perfume to attract the spirits she believed helped her to see the future (on loan from Museum of Witchcraft & Magic, Cornwall). Nelly is reflected in Rowling’s character of Sybill Trelawney, Hogwarts Divination professor.

There is also a 19th century fortune-telling doll from New-York Historical’s collection.

Astronomy features a 1699 celestial globe by famed cartographer Vincenzo Coronelli, pages from a notebook compiled by the artist and inventor Leonardo da Vinci that show the sun and moon revolving around the Earth, and a 13th century astrolabe thought to be one of the oldest geared instruments in existence, from the American Museum of Natural History Library.

Defense Against the Dark Arts features an actual wand, in the shape of a snake (snakes were magical because they were thought to have the ability to regenerate, and a wand in the shape of a snake would have been very powerful), and we learn that there are still wandmakers today who go to the woods where trees speak to them to be selected. There is also a magic staff (1998) carved from timber.

The basilisk in mythology didn’t look like the snake-like creature in Harry Potter but was depicted as a strange chicken, the size of palm, but its stare would kill you, and the way to defeat it was not by sword but by weasels.Care of Magical Creatures features a 13th-century bestiary manuscript depicting a phoenix rising from the ashes, a narwhal tusk, and John James Audubon’s original watercolor of snowy owls, just like the snowy owl that Hagrid gave to Harry Potter.

Care of Magical Creatures section of the “Harry Potter” exhibit features the New-York Historical Society’s John James Audubon’s original watercolor of snowy owls, just like the snowy owl that Hagrid gave to Harry Potter © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We see the oldest description of a Hippogriff: 16th century book on vellum paper given to George III –a magical creature that has the front legs, wings, and head of a giant eagle and the body, hind legs and tail of a horse. It is very similar to another mythical creature, the Griffin, with the horse rear replacing the lion rear.

We see examples of unicorn (loaned from the Explorer’s Club), as well as an actual merman – a Japanese creation made by combining two fish with wire and cloth (worthy of P.T. Barnum).  This is the first time it has been displayed outside the United Kingdom.

This fascination with these strange new creatures reflects the era of exploration into strange new lands and discovery of new creatures.

This section features Rowling’s hand-written draft of “Deathly Hallows”, with her crossings out, notes to self and ”x” where she needed to add more providing this amazing insight into Rowling’s creative process. There is also her own illustration of Harry and Hagrid going to Gringots and Jim Kay’s drawing of Hagrid.

These items were collected for the exhibition, basically tracing and providing original artifacts that underlie Rowling’s Harry Potter narrative, but it seems as if Rowling had already undertaken the Hogwarts curriculum herself. The exhibit brings together the source material that informed her inspiration.

In the section, Past, Present and Future, one of the most fascinating items is Rowling’s own draft for the “Order of Phoenix” and her meticulous outline of plot and where the characters are, what they are doing. You see original cover art by Brian Selnick for the 2018 (20th anniversary) series, in which he unifies the seven covers as a single image that tells the story of the Boy Who Lived, which had never been displayed before, and models of set designs for the “Cursed Child” on Broadway, as well as an autographed screenplay of “Fantastic Beasts,” and an edition of “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” (as “Sorcerer’s Stone” was titled in United Kingdom).

The New York presentation of  the British Library’s Harry Potter: A History of Magic exhibition is special because it features Mary GrandPré’s pastel illustrations for the cover artwork of Scholastic’s original editions of the novels; Brian Selznick’s newly created artwork for the covers of the 20th anniversary edition of the Harry Potter series published by Scholastic; cover art by Kazu Kibuishi featured in Scholastic’s 15th anniversary box set; and the enormous steamer trunk used to transport a signed copy of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince on the Queen Mary to the U.S. The exhibition also includes costumes and set models from the award-winning play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

Original art for “Harry Potters and the Order of the Phoenix” © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Also on display for the first time in the U.S. are Rowling’s handwritten first drafts of The Philosopher’s Stone and Deathly Hallows, her hand-drawn sketch of the Hogwarts grounds, and portraits and sketches of some of the Hogwarts’s professors and magical creatures created by British illustrator Jim Kay. John James Audubon’s watercolor of Snowy Owls, a 1693 publication defending the Salem witch trials, a study of the Woolworth Building—the landmark New York location featured in the film Fantastic Beasts—and other artifacts from New-York Historical’s collection.

I love the origination story – worthy of fiction – how in 1990, J.K. Rowling was sitting on a delayed train from Manchester to London when an idea popped into her head fully formed: the character of Harry Pottery, a boy wizard with messy black hair, glasses and a lightning shaped scar on his forehead. Over the next five years, she planned out seven books, writing mostly in longhand and amassing a mountain of notes, many on scraps of paper (some we get to see).

She presented a scroll of the draft of “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” (as it was titled in the United Kingdom), to Nigel Newton of Bloomsbury, who handed it to his eight year old daughter, Alice, to read. His daughter’s review, “‘it’s probably one of the best books for 8 or 9 year old could read,” encouraged him to publish. The initial print run was just 500 copies, typical for a children’s book by a first-time author. The book turned into a worldwide phenomenon – over 500 million books sold, printed in 80 languages. We see various editions lining the corridor.

The New-York Historical Society exhibition also includes costumes and set models from the award-winning play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

There’s so much to absorb – I went through the exhibit twice, and used the Audible guide they make available for free, and after three hours, could have spent considerably more time there.

There is a superb Family Guide for “A History of Magic” that turns the exhibit into an interactive activity.

New-York Historical is also presenting a wide variety of exhibition-related events for grown-up Harry Potter fans throughout the run of the exhibition, including trivia nights, art workshops, creative writing classes, social meet-ups, open mics, book clubs, and engaging courses that explore the Hogwarts curriculum. Programs include an onstage conversation with illustrators Mary GrandPré and Brian Selznick, and a special evening with actor Jim Dale, known for his narration of all seven Harry Potter U.S. audiobooks. Family activities feature History of Magic family days with hands-on activities and crafts, a Harry Potter family book club, historical Hallowe’en celebration, and trivia for families. Additional programming information is available at harrypotter.nyhistory.org.

Harry Potter: A History of Magic is sponsored by Audible and a special audio tour to accompany the Harry Potter: A History of Magic exhibition at New-York Historical, featuring Natalie Dormer, will be available to ticketholders as a free Audible download, offering in-depth content on fascinating objects throughout the exhibition galleries.

This is the only other exhibition of this collection outside of the British Library. After finishing here on January 27, the artifacts will be returned to the museums and institutions to which they belong. Poof, it’s vanished.

Timed-entry tickets for the exhibition Harry Potter: A History of Magic are $21 for adults, $16 for seniors (65+), $13 for students, $6 for kids ages 5–13, and free for children ages 0–4; tickets include admission to the rest of the Museum. Harry Potter: A History of Magic is on view through January 27, 2019, on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday 10 am–6 pm; Friday 10 am–9 pm; and Sunday 10 am–5 pm. The last entry is 45 minutes before closing.

Visit harrypotter.nyhistory.org to purchase exhibition and programming tickets in advance.

Black Citizenship in the Age of Jim Crow 

“History Matters,” is the New-York Historical Society’s motto, and that is clearly on view.

There is so much to see at the New-York Historical Society – it never fails to offer fascinating and provocative exhibits – you need a couple of extra hours beyond the time visiting “Harry Potter.”   I went through “Black Citizenship in the Age of Jim Crow” exhibit which is hard-hitting and in your face discussion of how the Emancipation Proclamation, Civil War, and most significantly, the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, led to an institutionalized system of terror and subjugation of African Americans, including a series of Supreme Court decisions dating back to Dred Scott, that perpetuated subjugation (on view through March 3).

Thomas Waterman Wood’s painting, “A Bit of War History: The Cantraband, The Recruit, The Veteran”, 1865, depict one man over time, as a runaway slave, a volunteer in the Union Army, and wounded veteran, is part of the exhibit, “Black Citizenship in the Age of Jim Crow” © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Also, the relatively new “Gallery of Tiffany Lamps” is not to be missed – this permanent display of 100 illuminated lamps is breathtaking for its beauty and exquisite presentation (by architect Eva Jiricna), and you even get the opportunity to design your own Tiffany lamp shade. You also learn the “hidden history” behind the lamps: about Clara Driscoll, the woman who up until now was virtually unknown and unheralded but was the artistic genius behind many of his designs, who headed the “Women’s Glass Cutting Department.”

There are also two films that are shown in a fantastic theater, each shorter than 20 minutes: “We Rise” about women and social movements that were incubated, flourished and pollinated from New York City (narrated by Meryl Street) and “New York Story,” how and why it grew to be the commercial and cultural capital of the world and remains inextricably connected to the world.

There is a lovely café at the Society.

New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West (at 77th Street), 212-873-3400, nyhistory.org.

_____________________________

© 2018 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com,  www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin , and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Gatsby-esque Jazz Age Lawn Party is Joyful Escape on Governors Island, New York City’s Island Retreat

Dancing to the 1920s Hot Jazz of Michael Arenella and His Dreamland Orchestra at the 13th annual Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island © 2018 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, David Leiberman & Laini Miranda

Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Flappers and Dapper Dans packed the ferry to Governors Island for the 13th annual Jazz Age Lawn Party, June 16 and 17. Take heart if you missed the June weekend festival: there is another opportunity to transport yourself back to the Gatsby Era, on August 25 & 26.

The Jazz Age Lawn Party is a chance to push back the clock to a Gatsby-esque Brigadoon of sorts. It is the best of New York and brings out the best of New Yorkers. The music and atmosphere brings out pure joy -– it is one perennial smile.

For an entire afternoon you are transported – quite literally by ferry from the tip of Manhattan and Brooklyn – to the 1920s era of hot jazz. People of all ages, dressed to the nine’s as flappers and gents, bearing wicker picnic baskets (some with tables, tablecloths and candelabra), stream onto the island, with its forts and structures from the Civil War and World War II. It is but a stone’s throw from Manhattan and Brooklyn, and yet a world and an era away.

Dancing to the 1920s Hot Jazz of Michael Arenella and His Dreamland Orchestra at the 13th annual Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island © 2018 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Michael Arenella and his Dreamland Orchestra create this literal dream, with his meticulously recreated music of the 1920s.

There is impeccable faithful reproduction – even the cocktails are Speakeasy-worthy and if you didn’t have appropriate attire, you could rent or buy vintage at one of the stalls, take a tintype photo or a photo sitting on a blue moon with a vintage camera.

Budding Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers learn to dance The Peabody at the 13th annual Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island © 2018 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Over the years, the regulars have returned, now with babies, now with toddlers, now with their little boys in their caps and suspenders, little girls with hair bows, dresses and patent leather shoes who join in the dancing.

Interlude music is provided on vintage vinyl recordings over antique gramophones.

The only thing that bursts the illusion, to jostle your memory of what year it is, are the ubiquitous cell phones.

Michael Arenella leads His Dreamland Orchestra. He launched the Jazz Age Lawn Party 13 years ago; since then, tens of thousands of people have enjoyed this journey back to the 1920s© 2018 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Conductor, composer, musician and crooner Michael Arenella presents a personally transcribed, one-of-a-kind songbook for your listening and dancing pleasure by his Dreamland Orchestra, playing the Hot Jazz of the 1920s.

The Dreamland Follies and Michael Arenella and His Dreamland Orchestra at the 13th annual Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island. Many of the dancers are Rockettes © 2018 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The entertainment abounds on two stages (and two dancefloors): The Dreamland Follies evoke Ziegfeld-esque grand dance routines; Roddy Caravella and the Canarsie Wobblers is a fun-loving dance troupe that conjures the rebellious and exuberant spirit of Roaring ‘20s; Queen Esther pays tribute to jazz royalty of yore and Peter Mintun takes the moniker of “world’s greatest piano man”; and the Gelber & Manning Band, feuding vaudevillian lovebirds quarrel, coo and make beautiful music together. Also Drew Nugent and the Midnight Society have come from Philadelphia, presents wry, spry, and certifiably Hot Jazz; The Great Dubini (Gregory Dubin), the resident magician in The McKittrick Follies at The Mandeerlay Bar, presents his unique brand of classic magic.

Roddy Caravella and the Canarsie Wobblers at the 13th annual Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island © 2018 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

There are fun activities as well which you can join: the event typically starts with a dance lesson (the Peabody was being taught on Sunday), followed in the afternoon by a Dance Contest; a Bathing Beauties and Beaus Promenade, wearing vintage swimming outfits of the age (for entry email: bluevoon@aol.com), and a Children’s parade.

Bathing Beauties and Beaus in vintage outfits at the 13th annual Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island © 2018 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The afternoon starts off with dance lessons in the hottest dance steps of the time, like the Peabody or Charleston. You can immortalize the day in your own Vintage Portraits-You Ought To Be In Pictures, perched on a Paper Moons or in tintypes using the same techniques and chemicals (a mixture of gunpowder and ether) as were used more than a century ago; the ultimate family-friendly event also features Kidland carnival games and prizes for junior Gents and Flapperettes. There’s also a 1920s MotorCar Exhibition, where you can get up close and personal with flivvers and Tin Lizzies, and Antique Gramophones that reanimate original recordings from the 1920s.

Roddy Caravella and Gretchen Fenston demonstrate The Peabody © 2018 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

And what would a Prohibition-era, speakeasy event be without booze? Julie Reiner presents her Clover club Collection cocktails and VieVité, Côtes de Provence Rosé is the official wine sponsor of the Jazz Age Lawn Party. (Take note: you can’t bring in your own alcoholic beverages to Governor’s Island.)

Picnicking at the 13th annual Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island © 2018 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The event typically sells out and tickets are only available for purchase in advance. For tickets and information visit, http://jazzagelawnparty.com/. Purchase tickets at http://jazzagelawnparty.ticketfly.com/.

Here are more highlights:

Learning the Peabody at the Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island, NYC with Michael Arenella and his Dreamland Orchestra © 2018 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Roddy Caravella and Gretchen Fenston demonstrate The Peabody © 2018 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Picnicking at the 13th annual Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island © 2018 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Heidi Rosenau & Joe McGlynn, regulars at the Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island, dance to Michael Arenella and His Dreamland Orchestra © 2018 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Eden Atencio and Adam Coren of Brooklyn, winners of the Peabody contest, with Roddy Caravella at the 13th annual Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island © 2018 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Kids at the 13th annual Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island © 2018 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island, NYC with Michael Arenella and his Dreamland Orchestra transports in time. © 2018 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Peter Mintun, “world’s greatest piano man,” at the 13th annual Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island © 2018 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Kate Manning of the Gelber & Manning Band at the 13th annual Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island © 2018 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Gretchen Fenston and Joe McGlynn dance to the Gelber & Manning Band, “feuding vaudevillian lovebirds quarrel, coo and make beautiful music together” at the 13th annual Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island © 2018 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

A young flapper at the 13th annual Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island © 2018 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Inna Penek of Brooklyn at the 13th annual Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island © 2018 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Tanya Fraser, Helene Abiola and Megan Herson of New York City at the 13th annual Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island © 2018 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Michael Arenella leads the Children’s Parade at the 13th annual Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island © 2018 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Milo Saidl and Michael Mooney of New York City draw a cheering crowd at the 13th annual Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island © 2018 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Governors Island

Break away from the music and dancing to explore Governors Island, by bike or foot.

A 712-acre island in the heart of New York Harbor, but 800 yards off Lower Manhattan and even closer to Brooklyn, Governors Island is a sensational getaway destination in its own right – historic sites like Fort Jay and Castle Williams, bicycle paths, playgrounds, art venues, and marvelous festive “happenings.”

Be one of the first guests to stay overnight on NYC’s historic Governors Island with Collective Retreats. With unique accommodations including luxury tents (glamping) and designer modular containers, guests enjoy a full-service hotel-style retreat with unparalleled waterfront views of New York City and the Statue of Liberty (collectiveretreats.com).

You can rent bicycles at Citibikes and at Blazing Saddles (which offers a free hour-long ride weekdays before noon) and delightful surreys.

The Trust for Governors Island, also offers a wide variety of programming on public access days. Visit them at www.govisland.com for more information.

Enjoy a surrey ride around Governors Island with spectacular views of Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty © 2018 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Access to the island has been greatly improved and time the island open to the public greatly expanded.

This summer, you can stay late on Fridays, when is open until 10 pm (May 25-September 14); you can have cocktails and dinner at the outdoor cafes and bars; outdoor films and other events are scheduled.

Governors Island is open daily May 1-October 31, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays, and weekends from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.,  Fridays from May 25-September 14 until 10 p.m.. You can get ferry schedules here (ferries during Late Fridays will run from the Battery Maritime in Lower Manhattan, located at 10 South Street), https://govisland.com/visit-the-island/ferry.

See also:

Governors Island: New York City’s Island Retreat So Near Yet So Far Away, Introduces Glamping

 

_____________________________

© 2018 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com,  www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin , and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

New York Philharmonic Orchestra Brings ‘Priceless’ Music to Free Summer Concert in Prospect Park

New York Philharmonic brought its priceless music, absolutely free to Brooklyn’s Prospect Park as part of the Summer Concerts in the Parks Series Presented by Didi and Oscar Schafer © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Dave E. Leiberman, Laini Miranda
Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

The New York Philharmonic’s 2018 Concerts in the Parks, Presented by Didi and Oscar Schafer, provided a stunning introduction to conductor James Gaffigan, a New York native and Brooklynite, leading the orchestra in a program celebrating Laureate Conductor Leonard Bernstein’s centennial, evocative works highlighting the Orchestra’s virtuosity, and compositions by fifth-grade students in the Philharmonic’s Very Young Composers (VYC) program — the first time that VYC works have been performed in the parks concerts.

 

James Gaffigan conducts the New York Philharmonic in Saint-Saens’ Bacchanale from “Samson et Dalila” in Prospect Park, Brooklyn © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

The delightful program, perfect for a summer-concert-in-the-parks, featured Saint-Saëns’s Bacchanale from Samson and Delilah; Bernstein’s Three Dance Episodes from On the Town, a love letter to New York City;and Rimsky-Korsakov’s storybook in symphony, Scheherazade. 

James Gaffigan conducts the New York Philharmonic in Prospect Park, Brooklyn © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The concert in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park June 15 featured truly remarkable performances of 2018 works by 11-year-old Very Young Composer Jordan Millar’s Boogie Down Uptown; and 10-year-old Very Young Composer Camryn Cowan’s Harlem Shake. 

New York Philharmonic conductor James Gaffigan with young composers Jordan Millar and Camryn Cowan © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

James Gaffigan, a proud New Yorker who introduced the concert by asking for applause for public school teachers, showed himself to be the very antithesis of the arrogant orchestra conductor, but rather,  generous of praise, encouragement and exuberant emotion.

James Gaffigan conducts the New York Philharmonic in Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade in Prospect Park, Brooklyn © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

He did not use a baton for the Scheherazade. He waved his hands and arms in grand gestures, not so much conducting as dancing, performing, acting the music, bringing his whole body into it more like an opera singer than the orchestra conductor, giving the piece a staccato-like crisp precision. He conveyed an infectious joy of music. After, he congratulated Frank Huang, the brilliant concertmaster for his angelic violin solo, and then walked into the orchestra to congratulate all the solo performers, before taking the collective bow.

James Gaffigan conducts the New York Philharmonic in Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade in Prospect Park, Brooklyn © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Conductor James Gaffigan joins applause for New York Philharmonic’s concertmaster Frank Huang © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The summer concert series also featured performances at Van Cortlandt Park, Bronx (June 12); the Great Lawn in Central Park, Manhattan (June 13); and Cunningham Park, Queens (June 14). Musicians from the New York Philharmonic also performed Beethoven’s Wind Sextet, Op. 71; Tchaikovsky’s Souvenir de Florence; and the World Premieres of wind sextets by Very Young Composers of New York City — 14-year-old Chi-Chi Ezekwenna’s It’s Almost Summer! and 13-year-old Nicolas Lipman’s Sriracha! — in the Free Indoor Concert in Staten Island at the Music Hall at Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden (June 17).

The performances in the Bronx, Queens, Manhattan, and Brooklyn concluded with dazzling fireworks.

The New York Philharmonic concert in Prospect Park concludes with dazzling fireworks © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The summer series is an amazing opportunity to bring “priceless music” to new audiences absolutely free. Since 1965, the summer series has brought joy to more than 15 million New Yorkers and Big Apple visitors.

“We want all New Yorkers to love the Philharmonic as much as we do and the concerts in the Parks are a glorious way to share the Philharmonic’s virtuosity and power,” said New York Philharmonic chairman Oscar S. Schafer, who with his wife, Didi, has underwritten the series.

Here are more highlights from the concert in Prospect Park:

James Gaffigan conducts the New York Philharmonic in Prospect Park, Brooklyn © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

James Gaffigan conducts the New York Philharmonic in Prospect Park, Brooklyn © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Conductor James Gaffigan and Very Young Composer of New York City Jordan Millar (b 2006), “Boogie Down Uptown” (2018) © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Conductor James Gaffigan and Very Young Composer of New York City Camryn Cowan (2007), “Harlem Shake” (2018) © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

James Gaffigan conducts the New York Philharmonic in Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade in Prospect Park, Brooklyn © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

James Gaffigan conducts the New York Philharmonic in Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade in Prospect Park, Brooklyn © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

James Gaffigan conducts the New York Philharmonic in Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade in Prospect Park, Brooklyn © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

James Gaffigan conducts the New York Philharmonic in Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade in Prospect Park, Brooklyn © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

James Gaffigan conducts the New York Philharmonic in Prospect Park, Brooklyn © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

James Gaffigan conducts the New York Philharmonic in Prospect Park, Brooklyn © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

James Gaffigan conducts the New York Philharmonic in Prospect Park, Brooklyn © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

James Gaffigan conducts the New York Philharmonic in Prospect Park, Brooklyn © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

James Gaffigan conducts the New York Philharmonic in Prospect Park, Brooklyn © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Founded in 1842, the New York Philharmonic is the oldest symphony orchestra in the United States.

At the New York Philharmonic’s website (www.nyphil.org) you can peruse online archives and exhibits, see the concert calendar, get background on the musicians, and purchase tickets.

The summer concerts also inspire visits to see the orchestra at home at Lincoln Center (David Geffen Hall, 10 Lincoln Center Plaza, 212-875-5656). There are various subscription offers – the Philharmonic was offering an opportunity to choose four or more 2018-19 subscription concerts to get one free (promo code CHOOSE4, by June 22).

_____________________________

© 2018 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com,  www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin , and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures