The building I now work in on 36th Street was once the destination of many trips from Pennsylvania. My parents and I would drive for hours into the city for auditions, sometimes multiple times a week. We’d stand in line to get our photos taken in the lobby of 520 8th Avenue and wait to collect a visitor's pass to ascend the elevator to Ripley Grier Studios. Now I bypass the line with my office i.d. and ride the elevator with kids that look all too familiar—with sheet music in hand and nervous parents in tow.
Sometimes I’m reminded of auditions I had in the building as I pass the 16th floor. One that is particularly haunting was a dance call for the remake of the movie Fame when I was fourteen—I spread my arms wide clocking the girl next to me when I should have been turning. Mandy Moore (the famed choreographer, not the pop star) quietly dismissed me. Equally memorable is the time I auditioned for a We The Kings music video when I was seventeen. After I read the sides, the casting director brought my parents into the room. To improvise a scene. The song was called “Check Yes Juliet,” and the Romeo and Juliet-inspired video was about a girl, her rockstar boyfriend, and her disapproving parents. We made up a scene in which my dad caught me sneaking out of the house to see the boy. I remember yelling, “But I love him, Dad!” And my father yelling from across the studio, “How can you love him? He looks like he is dressed for Halloween!” (Which is exactly what my dad thinks of boys who look like they might listen to rock music.) We didn’t get the roles.
After auditions, I’d resort to my trusty blue binder filled with restaurants mapped out by neighborhoods, and my dog-eared Zagat Guide, for dinner. Whether an audition went well, or terribly like in the above cases, we always made a point to add something special to the sometimes two minute auditions. Food adventures made the long trip worthwhile, and we ate our way through the city. Looking back, I realize that my love for these frequent, quick trips to Manhattan spurred from more than just the thrill of a great audition. They were equally as exciting because of the cannolis from Little Italy, the bowls of pasta from Ill Vagabondo, and the juicy burgers hidden inside the Le Parker Meridien hotel.
So my love affair with New York started long before my parents dropped me off at Pace University for my freshman year of college. It really began when I was seven and stood outside of the Palace Theatre after seeing Beauty & The Beast and declared that I’d live in this twinkling city when I grew up. And it lasted through the eight trips my parents made hauling my life in and out of boxes each semester of college, all while double-parked on busy New York streets. Thanks, Mom and Dad!
This week, as I look back on the seven years that I’ve had a New York mailing address, I’m reminded of why I love this crazy city. I went to a heartwarming production of Shakespeare’s As You Like It in Central Park, which featured a cast of professional actors, New York taxi drivers, teachers, and community members all sharing the stage. I attended a secret concert in my neighborhood of Greenpoint, and sat on a colorful tapestry on a warehouse floor listening to beautiful music on a rainy night. I did yoga on the rooftop of the William Vale Hotel with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline. I went to Smorgasburg for a lobster roll and drank juice out of a pineapple with a straw. I toured the Brooklyn Brewery. I ran a 5k as part of the Wanderlust Festival and did yoga with 10,000 people in Prospect Park as Alicia Key’s “New York” blared through the sound system. Dragonflies flew overhead, the sun was beating down, and I really did feel inspired by New York, just as the lyrics say.
This jam-packed week wasn't atypical. I survive on spontaneous adventures, and regularly eat dinner long after the sun sets. I’ve somehow managed to make my love of theatre and my passion of food and culture into a living. While my path has wandered, so many things have stayed the same. For one, I still spend a lot of time at 520 8th Ave. Just on a higher floor.