Flex and Tension with The Ailey Extension

During the spring, most of us work like Rocky Balboa training for a prize fight in order to look desirable during New York City’s annual humidity festival, also known as the summer.   But as sure as The Empire State Building lights up in the evening, the temperature cools, making way for fall.   Bikinis, mini-skirts, sandals and halter tops are replaced with jackets, sweaters, corduroys and knee-high boots.  The quest to maintain that summer figure may become more difficult as fall gives way to winter.  New York City is filled with gyms, but spinning on a bicycle going nowhere, posing in yoga positions or doing repetitions on a weight machine are not the only methods to staying fit and agile.  Dancing provides all the sweat and none of the routine of regular workout and The Ailey Extension offers both.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre is best known as being the “Cultural Ambassador to the World,” but in New York City AAADT is an institution.  Founded in Manhattan in 1958, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre and its creator changed the landscape of American modern dance.  One of Ailey’s signature ballet, Revelations, is considered to be the most often seen modern dance performance.  Each time I watch this extraordinary work, I sit in awe and sometimes believe that I can perform the choreography.  After my brief moment of delusion, I realize I can never move and accentuate my body like someone who has devoted their life to dancing and performing, but I can learn.   

“Mr. Ailey understood that people need to be engaged and connected in a way that they understand,” states Iquail Johnson, one of the instructors at The Ailey Extension.  And through The Ailey Extension everyone is able to partake in a piece of Alvin Ailey’s legacy, experiencing the opportunity to comprehend dance the way he understood it.  Created in 2005, The Ailey Extension offers over 80 dance and fitness classes each week in a variety of different styles and skill levels.  The teachers are all specialists in their field.  Iquail Johnson is a Philadelphia native that began his career in dance at 13 after being accepted to the Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts.  He continued his studies with PHILADANCO, Philadelphia Dance Company, and earned scholarships to attend The Julliard School, The Ailey School and The Paul Taylor School among others.  After receiving a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Ballet from the University of the Arts and a Master of Fine Arts from SUNY Purchase, , Iquail has worked with dance companies including Ronald K Brown/Evidence, The Fred Benjamin Dance Company, and Subtle Changes.  He has also appeared on Broadway in Hot Feet, The Lion King, and Purlie and is the Founding Artistic Director of Dance IQUAIL!

Iquail began teaching Horton, the dance style Alvin Ailey used as the foundation of his choreography, at The Ailey Extension in 2006.   One might think that a dancer of his caliber would be climbing the walls trying to teach a roomful of nonprofessionals how to properly execute Locomotions, “Accented Runs,” “Hip Pushes” and “Leg Slices,” but Iquail enjoys working with the variety of students that pass through his class on a weekly basis.  “The most interesting thing is to see the development,” he says.  “You can see when they come in if they have no experience.  But no matter where [the students] come in, at what level, you can always see the growth that happens, you can see the ‘a-ha’ moment, when finally after taking classes for three months, six months or even a year they start to get it and their body starts to understand it. And that is the beauty of it.  When the body holds on to it, it is something that is undeniable,” 

As a trained dancer, Iquail physique is the embodiment of perfection, but he also believes that dance is a great alternative to traditional exercise regiments.  “Dance is a fabulous way to introduce people to movement.  No matter what kind of culture you are from, movement is a part of our everyday life, even if it’s a pedestrian walking down the street, he says.  “And the physical aspect is so integrated in dance,” he continues, “that its fun. You’re not thinking ‘Oh I have to do twelve more or I have thirty minutes.’  Also you are building cognitive skills, you’re developing comprehension skills, you’re coordinating your body, so at the end of the day you’ve developed your physicality, your mental state and your awareness of other people, and you packaged it with grace and elegance.  You can’t get that working out.”   When asked what technique he prefers and which technique should a new student learn first, Iquail jokingly replies, “Horton of course.”  “It is a fabulous technique for a lot of different reasons,” he says, “One, it wasn’t created with one person in mind. A lot of modern dance was developed for one person, the creator of that particular style.  Lester Horton decided not to let himself be the vehicle to express his technique, he used all the dancers around him, so that way he could make the technique work for no matter what body type you have.”  But if a student comes into The Ailey Extension taking Horton, they do not have to stick with it.  The staff and teachers at The Ailey Extension want you to feel connected to whatever classes you decide to take.  With that concept in mind, The Ailey Extension has an open door policy where students can go from one class to the next, trying them out until they find a class and teacher that works for them.

After my brief conversation with Iquail, it was time for me to see him in action as he taught his Wednesday evening class.  As I walked through the halls to the classroom the richness of spirits that have passed through this hallowed dance institution was almost tangible and completely entrancing.  In fact, as soon as you step through the doors it is as if the weight of day drops at your feet.  The more you walk, the more negativity is removed until you feel as clean as a newly christened baby.  I like to think of myself as a spirit dancer, also known as a free-stylist.  I hear the beat, and whatever comes out, comes out.  I thought I could pull the journalist card and sit back and watch the class, but Iquail would have none of that.  Of course having no formal training, I initially got tripped up by the terminology and stiffened up with the knowledge that was not dancing in a dimly lit room with strobe lights bouncing off the walls, but Iquail’s patience allowed my muscles to relax so that I could receive the dance.  Iquail is no Debbie Allen banging the floor with her dance stick, but he is not Mr. Softee either.  He pulls every inch out of you, making sure that you are extending and giving all you can to the movements.  By the time my hour was over, I realized I had sweated just as hard and felt just as sore as if had ran a few miles or had danced for five hours.  I left the class with a soul as rejuvenated as any time I danced a 10 -hour marathon at Club Shelter.  As I walked out, I thought about something Iquail said about the legacy of Alvin Ailey, whose presence could still be felt in the building.  “I think it has to do with taking dance away from dance.  It has to do with the fact that [Mr. Ailey] touched people.  And that everything he did was as a result of selflessness and generosity, and people gravitate to that, unbeknownst to them.  His generosity was so strong that people can’t explain why when they go see Revelations, that it is something they have to return to see over and over again for the last fifty-two years.  Now when you go see something fifty-two times, you’re like ‘Ok, now I’m tired,’ but to see something over and over again for fifty-two years, it becomes something that is transcendent. And I think that is why [AAADT] is such a global brand, because it is not about the dance.  Dance is just a vehicle to tell people we are all connected. The dances are the same steps; it has something to do with the spirit.”  What I learned is The Alvin Ailey Extension is more than just a place to learn dance steps or lose weight; it is a sanctuary to refresh your soul.  The perspiration is just a bonus.  

To learn more about The Ailey Extension, click


Photos: Gabriel Bienczycki and Kyle Froman

New Ailey Season Comes This Way

Under the leadership of Robert Battle, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is poised to add new treasures to their already voluminous, lionized legacy.  The world’s most dynamic and soulful dance company will be in the Big Apple at New York City Center from November 30 to January 1.  The “Cultural Ambassador to the World” is back home to dazzle New Yorkers with new ballets as well as with classics like “Revelations.”  But you do not have to believe me, take a look for yourself.


To order tickets, please click


Photo:  Paul Kolnik

Video courtesy of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Get Ready for Shoot Your Close Up

On September 19th, The Tribeca Film Festival has opened submissions for next year’s festival, which will be held April 18 to April 29.  Currently they are accepting submissions for narrative and documentary features as well as short film entries.

Below are the submission deadlines:

October 28, 2011 (6pm EST, postmark)
Early entry deadline for Features and Shorts

December 2, 2011
(6pm EST, postmark)

Official deadline for then-complete Features and for ALL Shorts

January 6, 2012
(6pm EST, arrive by)

Late deadline for Features completed after the Official Entry deadline

The Tribeca Film Festival is looking for the next Woody Allen, Scorsese, Spike Lee or Kenneth Branagh to showcase their talent at NYC’s premiere film event.  The next great Big Apple film may be resting in the annals of your mind, so get that camera out and submit your movie.

To learn more about The Tribeca Film Festival and its submission details, click


Mary Poppins 2.0, Practically Perfect

Besides the cavalcade of characters that sprang from the world of Disney, Walt Disney was a virtuoso at adapting popular children’s stories into theatrical extravaganzas that were amalgamations of color, sound and joy.  Mary Poppins was no exception.  Based on the book series created by P.L. Travers, the 1964 film was written by Bill Walsh and Don DaGradi, with songs courtesy of the Sherman Brothers.  Shot on a set in California, Disney’s Mary Poppins was based primarily on the first book, starred Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke, combined animation and live action, churned out some of Disney’s most popular tunes and won five Oscars.  Although under the strict supervision of Travers, Disney also managed to transform the character of Mary Poppins from a no-nonsense, frigid au pair into a beautiful, cheery governess, as well as delete two of the four Banks children, change the setting from the 30s to the Edwardian era and cajole suggestions that Bert and Mary could have been more than friends. 

Along with creating indelible imprints on American and pop culture, Disney has also found tremendous success adapting their films into stage productions.  Once again, Mary Poppins was no exception and like its box office predecessor, the musical also received an overhaul.  Although Disney wanted to procure the stage rights, they were unsuccessful.  In 1993, theater producer Cameron Macintosh acquired the stage rights and in 2001, he and Thomas Schumacher, the head of Walt Disney Theatrical, began talks on a possible collaboration, which ensured songs from the Disney film could be used. With both sides in accord, a preliminary outline of the show was written in 2002. The stage production of Mary Poppins included aspects of the film and the book series with the book written by Julian Fellowes.   The music and lyrics of the Sherman Brothers received an additional boost from composer George Stiles and lyricist Anthony Drewe, giving the musical a more modern feel with the music helping to move the narrative along.  Also the lively, magical caregiver was brought back to her London roots.  The West End production premiered in December 2004 and garnered two Olivier Awards before floating overseas, opening at the New Amsterdam Theatre on Broadway in November 2006.  Almost five years later, and the carpetbag totting supernanny and the music she inspired are still enchanting men, women and children on Broadway and all over the world with various tours.

I had not seen the film version of Mary Poppins since I was a teenager, but as with most Disney movies, the Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious classic left a huge impression, becoming part of my adolescent experience as well as turning me into a life-long fan of Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke.  Although it had been decades since I saw the film, I remembered it enough to realize that the stage version of Mary Poppins had received an upgrade.  It was not a complete skin-pulling facelift; instead the musical had more like a treatment of Botox – a few subtle injections that change the aesthetic of the musical for the better.  By integrating additional books from the series, the plot had a plenteous storyline making it more engaging than its film predecessor.  Staple numbers like “Jolly Holiday,” “Chim Chim Cher-ee,” “A Spoonful of Sugar,” Let’s Go Fly a Kite,” “Feed the Birds,” “Step in Time” and “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” are performed in the musical and are cleverly interwoven throughout the course of the upgraded production.  For instance, “Spoonful of Sugar” is performed after the children create a disaster in the kitchen right before their mother is to receive guests for a luncheon, and “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” integrates a lesson about the importance of words.  Songs like “Brimstone and Treacle,” “Playing the Game” and “Anything Can Happen” were wonderful complements to the existing Sherman Brothers tunes, even better suited than the original compositions of the film that were removed.

But of course the ultimate test of whether or not Mary Poppins could stand up to the film was the casting of Bert and Mary.  One of the roles Julie Andrews is most famous for is the role of Mary Poppins and Dick Van Dyke made being a lowly chimneysweep seem as cool as a barrister.  The actors attempting to fill these roles on stage had a tremendous shadow following them knowing their faces would replace the image set by these two iconic television, film and stage legends.  Laura Michelle Kelly and Gavin Lee originated the roles of Mary and Bert on the West End, and subsequently played the roles on Broadway, both leaving and returning back to the show.  Mary and Bert are the heart and soul of the show; I believe the show’s long running success, surpassing Pippin to become the 30th longest running show in Broadway history, is a testament to the awesome performances of these actors.  They carry the heaviest burden and they do so with the ease of Atlas.  Gavin Lee is marvelous as Bert.  He almost made we want to say, “Dick Van Who?”  Actress Catherine Walker played the role of Mary during the evening in which I attended.  Walker’s voice is utterly ravishing.  Indeed the entire cast is a pleasure to watch.  Similar to the film, the choreography is traditional with touches of technology fused in allowing Bert to walk on the ceiling and Mary to glide above the audience.  Although not as dare-devilish or as splashy as some of the choreography on Broadway, Poppins is done with air of class, which is always en vogue and can be enjoyed by young and old alike.   Numbers like “Step in Time” and “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” are awesome crowd pleasers that would have anyone rise to their feet to give a standing ovation, and “Feed the Birds” is still my favorite song, bringing water to my eyes each time I hear it.  While I would not recommend any parent bring a little one under the age of six to see this musical (there are a few scenes in the show that may be too scary for them) Mary Poppins and the lessons she shares through song would bring the kid out of anyone.  Cameron Macintosh and Walt Disney Theatrical have most definitely succeeded in adding another winning chapter in the story of Pamela Travers most famous character; even a hard taskmaster like Travers would be pleased. The stage version of Mary Poppins surpasses the film and still draws a full house on Broadway.  It is a heaping tablespoonful of fun – deliciously delightful in everyway.

Photos:  Broadway.com

(Posted photos are of Laura Michelle Kelly in the role of Mary Poppins.)

The Reemergence of The Night Queen

If Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary featured a photo for the colloquialism “Renaissance Woman,” then Yejide The Night Queen’s picture would prominently be placed underneath showing the indie hip-hop empress in the stoic stance she is known for.  This Brooklyn-born and bred artist is not only famous for dropping conscious rhymes on the frontal lobes of those thirsty for creativity, she is also a dancer, photographer, paralegal, mother and grandmother.  In the underground house music scene, she is a living legend.  A fixture at clubs such as Sound Factory Bar, Afterlife and Club Shelter, Yejide has been an active member of the New York City house scene for over 20 years chronicling its evolution through photos and gaining respect on the dance floor for her mastery of multiple dance styles.

In 2001, Yejide released Seventh, her first full length CD.  In 2006, she released The Smokey Chronicles, a collaboration of unreleased tunes, in-studio bloopers and seven-inch dub plates dating from 1997 to 1999. The Night Queen has also been a featured vocalist on several projects from 2002 to 2009.  Currently, this Lyricist Lounge and Knitting Factory all-star is in the studio completing her second full length CD; the release date is tentatively set for winter 2011/2012.  To give fans an early treat, The Night Queen has released a video for the single “Half,” a potent diatribe about self-empowerment and manifesting one’s own destiny in an industry known for being shady.

Discovering Yejide’s insightful, informative and expressive lyrics is a hip-hop head’s equivalent to unearthing rare gems.  The force that is The Night Queen harkens back to an era where being an individual, having a flow and ability to spit comprehensive bars were more important than following the hip-hop industry’s “How To” guide on building a rap brand.

And without further ado FAMERS, here is Yejide’s video for “Half,” enjoy!

To follow and learn more about Yejide The Night Queen, click the following links,





Photos courtesy of Yejide




O’Neil Play Goes Back Down Memory Lane

When reading the manuscript of a play, the reader can discover a world that does not necessarily appear on stage.  Dialogue and most importantly stage directions reveal more about the playwright’s true purpose for writing the play other than applause and a stint on Broadway.  Similar to a poem cleverly hidden within a poem, stage directions add texture and inject supplementary life to the work.

No playwright was as detailed with their stage direction as Eugene O’Neil.  The legendary dramatist made his first mark on Broadway with Beyond the Horizon, but before O’Neil became a Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winning playwright, he was an experimental writer in the downtown theatre district. 

Christopher Loar describes O’Neil as “a failed poet who became a Nobel Prize winning playwright.”  Loar is an ensemble member for New York Neo-Futurists  Known for Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind, a production billed as “an ever-changing attempt to perform 30 Plays in 60 Minutes,” New York Neo-Futurists interject vivacious physicality into live theatre – they are not a theatre group, they are a revolution.  As the director of The Complete and Condensed Stage Directions of Eugene O’Neil: Vol. 1, Early/Lost Plays, Christopher Loar accepted the mission of adapting O’Neil’s punctilious stage directions into a production that could stand on its own, separate from the dialogue, scenery and transformation of the actors into the characters.  The result is an uproarious free-for-all.

Loar and the ensemble of New Neo-York Futurists deconstruct the instructions of an obsessive control freak and create comedic art.  Following the model of Too Much Light, the troupe stages a physical reenactment of seven of O’Neil’s lesser known works.   As a narrator, played by Jacquelyn Landgraf describes the action, the ensembles mimic O’Neil’s stage directions with gestures that are over-dramatized and abundant with laughs.  There is no way anyone can watch this production and not walk away without having one moment in which they are doubled over in their seats from laughter.  Each of these plays deals with intense emotion and somber subject matter, however after New York Neo-Futurists get done with it, it became a vaudeville skit for the new millennium.  A red pail doubles for a fire in the Arizona desert; actors with shark fins on their heads imitate circling predators, an ensemble member places a puppet dinosaur over her hand and pretends to coo and cry like a baby, actors smear rouge on their face to display changes in emotion, a pig nose masquerades for an oddly shaped feature– all of it absurd and every bit of it comedic gold.

Overall, The Complete and Condensed Stage Directions of Eugene O’Neil is a 60-minute bacchanalia.  It is a brilliant, unique theatre going experience that elevates O’Neil’s work into a new realm all while bringing  America’s greatest playwright back to his beginnings.  If Benny Hill and Monty Python adopted a group of kids, New York Neo-Futurists would be their rainbow tribe.  Hats off to this kooky troupe for developing a new take on a theatre legend.

Photos:  Anton Nickel

A Testimony for RENT

Every Sunday those who are filled with the spirit, regardless of their denomination, attend church.  In the Baptist faith, there is a part of the service called devotion.  During this time, parishioners and visitors stand before the congregation and give their testimony, which generally consists of a narration that details the trials and tribulations that they have gone through and how they have overcome them (usually with  the assistance of god).  I spent season after season of my childhood in church listening to people’s testimonial; none of them were as dynamic as the affirmation I received after watching RENT.

There is no doubt in my mind that Jonathan Larson’s most seminal piece of work was and still is the ultimate testimony of a life lived.  The story behind RENT is beyond legendary.  The fact that Larson died at 35 of an aortic aneurysm the night before its off-Broadway premiere in 1996 is a detail that epitomized the phrase “life imitating art.”  Like the character Angel, who looked after his friends after his death, it seemed as if his spirit departed this earthly plane so that he could be a guide, lifting this production on his shoulders, as he did in life, and ensuring that his labor of love lived on.  A labor, and a testimony in itself, Larson wrote RENT as a tribute to the friends he lost from AIDS.  And how his tribute has grown, becoming an entity of its own, when the rock opera completed its final Broadway performance on September 7, 2008, it had become the ninth longest-running Broadway.  Subsequently, it developed legions of zealous RENTheads, created several incarnations with American and European tours.  It even spawned a school edition (which toned down the language and other elements of the show) and a 2005 movie which featured the majority of the original Broadway cast. 

Now RENT has returned back to its Off-Broadway roots – full circle for a production that had been touted as the musical that spoke to Generation X the way Hair spoke to those who grew up in the 60s.  I have always believed there is a time and season for everything.   When RENT made its Broadway debut on April 29, 1996 at Nederlander Theatre, I had no desire to see it, despite the ravings of my colleagues.   I never listened to the soundtrack, nor had I watched one scene from its film adaptation.  Perhaps it was because I was too much of a rebel back in the 90s to believe anyone had my generation pegged.  Perhaps it was because I lost one brother to AIDS in 1988 and another in 1997 and had no desire to return to feelings of despair, hysteria, anger and grief of the AIDS epidemic of the late 80s and early 90s.  Perhaps it just was not my time to see it.  Suffice to say when I took my seat at New World Stages, I was a true RENT-virgin and what a cherry popping!  I sat behind a row of RENTheads who were already singing the songs before the performance started.  But once it did, they were right on queue, from the first “Voicemail” to the last.  Putting the production within the context of when it originally premiered, I understood how RENT was ahead of its time and definitely ushered in a new age of American musicals, laying out a blueprint that productions like American Idiot and Fela used.  What I was not prepared for was the flooding of tears that erupted from my eyes as I stood to give the cast the standing ovation it most definitely deserved.

There is no doubt that RENT is a masterpiece in any incarnation.  After I pulled myself together, I went home and immediately scoured the internet to view the movie and whatever videos I could find of the original cast.  Despite being overtaken with emotion by this powerful theatrical force of nature, the reviewer in me still needed to make comparisons.  Without question the shoes the current cast had to fill were larger than the Grand Canyon.  And they do so in an impressive scale, I did not feel as if I had been cheated by not seeing RENT on Broadway or in the movies.  The spirit of Jonathan Larson is still present and when they lifted there voices to sing every note, they did so with the sincerest passion to live up to the promise of the music and still make the character their own.  They delivered a dose of fabulosity that I will soon not forget.

To wax on about how wonderful RENT is would seem futile and unworthy of what I experienced.  Everyone knows it is phenomenal – a tour de force of the digital age.  Perhaps the best attempt to sum up RENT’s continual relevance on our culture is to give my testimony.  RENT hit me with a direct blow to the heart and as I cried I knew why I never saw this rock opera before.  I am a member of the bohemian class.  The group I belong to is the underground house community of New York City.  Some of us have belonged to this community for decades, others for a few months. Like the protagonists of Larson’s greatest musical production, our struggle has been to find the freedom to be ourselves without judgment from the outside world. Whether it has been The Paradise Garage, Sound Factory Bar, Body & Soul, Shelter or Soulgasm we have given our sweat, blood and spirit to the dance floor, finding our true selves in the bass and treble of the speakers, making connections with people who could only understand us because they were like us.  Now my beloved community seems to remain in an in a state of disrepair.  I have watched fellow members become ill and die.  I have viewed members dismantle precious relationships through petty actions.  I have witnessed New York City attack my culture, deeming it unworthy because we do not want to spend hundreds of dollars for bottle service or pose behind a velvet rope. As I watch cast sing “no day but today,” in the final scene, I realized RENT was created during the height of the New York clubbing experience.  I began to understand how the mistakes of our past are shaping the consequences of today and if Mimi got a second chance, maybe we would get a second chance too. 

RENT is to me what Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On is to my mom and like that great musical work, will always be relevant.  Sure, some who go to see it may be in their twenties and can fully comprehend the idea of not selling out.  Others may be older and view it with through the reflection of hindsight, recognizing past mistakes and knowing they may have abandoned some principles to pay a mortgage or a child’s school tuition.  While the rest, will just hear the wonderful music and lyrics of Jonathan Larson and just be satisfied with that.  Because in the end, after you strip away all the back stories the greatest testimony of this rock opera is the music and because of it, RENT will never be evicted from the hearts and minds of anyone who sees it. 

Photos:  Joan Marcus

F.A.M.E NYC Remembers 9/11 10 Years Later

Rarely in modern history has the enormity of an event made the entire world pause, witness history unfold and realize that the paradigms of society have shifted.  No one with the ability to recall memories will ever forget where they were on September 11, 2001.  Like most Americans, I read about the attack on Pearl Harbor and thought an incident like that would never happen in this country again.  Sure, I had grown up in the dawning of the age of terrorism – viewed bombings and other attacks happen on the nightly news as if I was watching a scene from a movie.   “Those were other countries,” I thought, “They would never try anything like that here.”   I willingly shrouded myself with a tapestry of naiveté and overconfidence. 

On the morning of September 11, 2001 I, like most Americans, were on my way to work.  While driving to my job, I listened to the Star and Buckwild Show on Hot 97, as I did every morning.  As I pulled up to my building, I heard Star say that a plane flew into one of the World Trade Center towers.  Immediately, I thought it was an obscene joke, but when I arrived at the floor of my office, others had heard the news too.  Most of us assumed it was a single engine plane that somehow went off-course.  We went to the window, looked at the picture perfect blue sky and Manhattan skyline and wondered how anyone could not see the Twin Towers.  Then we heard about the second tower being hit, then the Pentagon, then the downed airplane in Shanksville, PA, we even heard rumors that the Sears Tower in Chicago had been hit.  As we looked around, searching for a sense of normalcy in each other’s faces, one single thought resonated through our minds – this is real.  America was under siege, and worst of all, the attackers were using our commercial airplanes to complete their mission of horror.

I and other members of the company raced to the media room; helplessly and frantically we watched as the Twin Towers smoldered and reports came through that people were jumping from the towers.  Then gaps and screams crowded the room as the South Tower disintegrated before our eyes.  The screams became louder as the North Tower fell.  We watched the gargantuan plume of smoke that once was the mighty World Trade Center towers engulf the area with an eerie shade of gray as people ran to escape it.  We hugged and cried trying to find solace.  We pressed our faces against the window watching the cloud of death rise into the blue atmosphere.  Suddenly terror came to our building – a bomb threat was called in.  After all we had witnessed, there was no way we were going to have an orderly evacuation.  We ran as if our lives depended on it.  No one was taking any chances, the sky had literally fallen like an old children’s fable, and danger was thick and palpable.    We poured out into the parking lot, shaken and frighten like abandoned children. How could this happen so quickly?  Who would do this to us? Why would anyone target civilians?  Questions that lingered in the backs of our minds that soon would be answered, but at that moment, all any of us wanted was to go home and be with our loved ones. 

Upon arriving home, I crawled on my bed and watched as the first responders signals beeped (the echoes of those beeps still haunt me).  I knew each beep was a life begging to be saved and my heart broke as the beeps began to fade.  My boyfriend, my parents and I watched as 7 World Trade Center fell.  The next day, we returned to work like zombies.  My company, a telecommunications company, needed volunteers to help hand out cell phones.  I volunteered; I had to do something.  The days, weeks and months following that tragic day was a haze.  Everyday there were funerals on the news.  A co-worker, whose husband worked at Cantor Fitzgerald, had died.  The streets were littered with flyers of missing people.  Walking in New York City at that time felt like we were muddling through a post-apocalyptic ghost land.

Within the first year after 9/11, emotions feverishly ran the gamut. The pendulum between anger and sadness swung back and forth as we learned more about the hijackers and their ties to Al-Qaeda.  The anger even was focused toward our government as people murmured about conspiracy theories.  Now, 10 years has passed.  Sometimes the memories are foggy; sometimes they are as vibrant as they were on the day it happened.  Bracelets and signs stating, “We will never forget,” are everywhere.  The 9/11 memorial has officially been opened, but even before that, I believe each of us carried a tribute in our hearts.  Life has carried on, but we will never be the same.  We will never forget what the World Trade Center was before that day.  We will never forget the lives of the people that died.  We will never forget the fire fighters, police, EMS and other first responders that tried to save lives and gave their life in the process.  We will never forget the freedom fighters of Shanksville, PA.   We will never forget our soldiers that gave the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq and Afghanistan.  We will never forget the families that must carry on without their loved ones.

Ten years since 9/11, soon it will be 20, 30 and beyond.  I have read about September 11, 2001 in my niece’s and nephew’s history books as if it was Pearl Harbor.  I have always had a love for New York City, and the events of 9/11 only increased that love.  When I conceived the idea for F.A.M.E NYC, I know in the back of my mind that part of the reason I did so was because of 9/11.  Ten years later, New York City still stands strong and as long as I can, I will always report about the city I love and revolve in.





Slide show courtesy F.A.M.E NYC Editor


Nick Jonas Succeeds Harry Potter

Nick Jonas is no stranger to the bright lights of Broadway.  He has appeared in productions such as Annie Get Your Gun, Beauty and the Beast and Les Miserables.  Next year the Jonas brother will make his fifth appearance on Broadway as he replaces Daniel Radcliffe in How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying.

Jonas will assume the role of J. Pierrepont Finch, beginning January 24 and will play the role until July 1.  Radcliffe’s final performance is set for January 1.  Darren Criss, best known for the role of Blaine Anderson on the hit Fox show Glee, will make his Broadway debut on January 3, taking on the role of Finch for three weeks until Jonas begins his latest stint in the theatre.

Broadway Sheds Its Prices for Fall

The sun-filled days, the crisp in the air at night, the Caribbean Day parade on Labor Day, the makeover of Lincoln Center for Fashion Week – all signs that fall is fast approaching.  With the impeding10th anniversary of 9/11 reminding New Yorkers of how resilient we are and how much we have overcome since that tragic day, Broadway brings discounts center stage. 

After the events of September 11, 2001, Broadway as well as other businesses in the theatre district suffered huge losses in sales.  In response, Seasons of Savings was created in January 2002 to entice theatergoers to go back to The Great White Way.  The special edition Playbill is published twice a year, and is called the unofficial “New York Theatergoer’s Guide to Times Square.”  

Seasons of Savings features discount coupons with savings codes for various Broadway and Off-Broadway shows as well as restaurants, hotels and other Big Apple attractions.  On August 29, Serino Coyne, Broadway’s largest advertising agency, hosted an event at Tony’s Dinapoli, located at 147 West 43rd Street, to introduce this year’s coupon booklet.  Tony’s Dinapoli is a family style restaurant located in the heart of the theatre district.  It is famous for its scrumptious Italian cuisine and great relationship with Broadway.  This year’s booklet offers discounts to Memphis, Mary Poppins, Godspell, Chinglish, The Adams Family, Catch Me If You Can, Circle Line and more.  Seasons of Savings makes Broadway more affordable and provides an opportunity for more people to fall in love with the theatre.  Tis the season to save, I encourage all FAMERS to take advantage. 

To learn more about Seasons of Savings and its discounts, click http://seasonofsavings.com/, and join their mailing list.