I woke up around 4:30 am and walked over to the Times Square Starbucks and got to watch crews setting up outside the Good Morning America studio for the Dancing With the Stars After Party.
It was overcast this morning but the rain held off, only drizzling occasionally throughout the day. We met our friends at 7:30 am and headed down for what, I was sure would be the most memorable part of our visit.
National September 11 Memorial & Museum The Museum was originally supposed to open in time for the tenth anniversary of 9/11 in 2011. Bureaucracy and funding got in the way, delaying the tireless efforts– but here we were, May 21, 2014, the official opening day– and I was lucky enough to be there.
When we arrived at the Memorial site, the hallowed ground where the World Trade Center once stood, still known by many as Ground Zero– I was taken aback to cross the street, round the corner and find the Memorial Plaza open with free access. I visited the Memorial twice before, while it was completely fenced in, keep out anyone that did not have a pass or a ticket. In fact, this historic site had been completely caged in since the horrifying events of 9/11.
Now it has been set free. Open to the world. A beautiful public tribute to the many people that perished that day.
As we walked across the massive plaza, bagpipes were playing. The press were set up in a long row near the museum to capture the ceremonial unfurling of the National 9/11 Flag before it was carefully folded and carried past us through the museum doors.
We were among the first 50 members of the public to enter these sacred halls. I say sacred not only because of what the museum represents but also because it houses a repository of some 8,000 still unidentified human remains.
The museum is beautifully laid out. Upon entering, you must first go through airport-like security. From there you enter the sprawling entry hall where you are greeted by two twin steel tridents, salvaged from the North Tower facade, rising up against the glass framed backdrop of the memorial plaza towards the sky. This is just the beginning, leading you into and all-encompassing journey of sight and sound, taking you back in time to one of the darkest days in American history. It is a sobering reminder for those that lived through it– an important memorandum for those who were too young and the many future generations to come.
I think you can visit the museum and experience it differently, depending on your mindset. It would be easy to become completely engulfed and have a very emotional experience. Or, as I chose, for my first visit– to view the museum as a spectator. I viewed much of it through the lens of my camera; wanting to document everything I saw. This visit I wanted to be an observer, or a witness; I wasn’t there to grieve.
I don’t want anyone to think I was trying to ignore or avoid an emotional experience– just being there was an emotional experience for me. September 11, 2001 has had such a profound effect on my life, I knew this experience would be another milestone in my personal journey.
I’m not sure how guided tours would work here. Much of the museum is laid out to stimulate a very solemn, personal experience. No photography is allowed in a number of areas. Dim lighting spotlights the exhibits, salvaged from tons of debris and personal effects donated by the families of victims. You are led on a cerebral and visceral journey depending on your emotional state.
The next time I go back, I could easily spend a full day taking in the full experience. Allowing myself to feeling the overpowering emotions bottled up inside. Allowing myself to grieve. The eyewitness accounts, media documentation, personal effects and thousands of stories of life and loss– are all here in remembrance.
The Cripple of Inishmaan Daniel Radcliffe is featured in this production written by Martin McDonagh. We saw Radcliffe’s outstanding performance in Equus a few seasons back. Even though he’s considered the star of this, he’s really not on stage that much. Other characters spend most of the the time talking about him in his absence.
There’s a chunk of the second act where the characters are watching a movie, conversing and commenting on the film. I completely missed the correlation here. It didn’t seem to go anywhere to further the thin plot.
There are some great moments and fine acting in this Irish black comedy. I’d compare a lot of the banter back and forth to that of a Mamet play.
Overall, though, it just wasn’t my favorite piece.
Casa Valentina Written by Harvey Fierstein and directed by Joe Mantello, Casa Valentina is a fine theatrical work. Michael and I both agreed it could use some fine tuning towards the end but it’s a fascinating story.
Based on actual events, the action takes place in 1962 in the Catskills where a small group of married men gather to “escape being men”, dressing and living as women. It explores the conflicts of their mostly secret lives, their relationships and their own deep seated prejudices.
The ensemble cast is outstanding. I was most impressed and moved by Gabriel Ebert’s (Tony-winner last year for Matilda) sensitive portrayal of Jonathan/Miranda, completely at odds with his identity. Tom McGowan (Modern Family) as Bessie, is a strong, larger than life contrast– always the life of the party.
I kept forgetting that Reed Birney was a man. His Strong-woman portrayal of Charlotte is mesmerizing. John Cullum is completely adorable as Terry and has some of the best, unexpected quips.
Patrick Page and Mare Winningham lead the ensemble as husband and wife, ‘comfortable’ yet deeply conflicted with their unusual arrangement. It is their storyline, above all else, that we felt could have used a little more exploration.
Casa Valentina is a very funny, yet moving story. It’s one production that I would highly recommend.