Where We Went This Year! (22,000 miles of driving!)

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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Philadelphia, PA

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you: THE LAST WEEK BEFORE OUR FIRST LAYOFF SINCE CHRISTMAS. Which undoubtedly sounds like less to you than it does to us. Or did. And which frankly probably sounded like less to me than it did to Angie, who actually has to work for a living. And at that rate, less to Angie than … oh this is silly…

Philly. Filly, filly, filly. Phillayyyy. Filet…


I don’t know why, I just like this town. A lot. Yes, the avowedly dog-friendliness of Philadelphia, from the poop bags in the park to the hotels that accept pets to the restaurants that don’t flinch if you ask to sit with your dog at the outside seating (listen and learn, New York City), doesn’t hurt. But it’s deeper, I’m sure of it. I felt this way the last time I was here. Let me tick off a few possible points worth mentioning, in no particular order:

  • outdoor art – tons of it.
  • A vital theater scene, in fact a vital arts scene all the way around.
  • Smart audiences, which suggests to me a smart population.
  • Lots of historical preservation (but then, oh home of the Declaration, you’d better…)
  • Enough ‘weird’ to offer lots of things-I-wish-I-had-done by the time I left.
  • Architecture which has managed to remain updated without losing a sense of its heritage.
  • Neighborhoods, lots of ‘em.
  • It’s flat – great for biking around.
  • It’s small – great for biking around.
  • Lots of people bike – so you don’t feel like a moron biking around.
  • It’s close enough to New York to make use of the city, but not so close you feel like you’re a bedroom community (I know several actors from Philly, some who stayed in Philly and would commute to NYC for the bigger auditions…)
  • A heartbeat which feels familiar – and this is harder to define, but I think it’s something about its being an East Coast town, with enough ties to New England, that the names sound familiar, people walk at a recognizable pace, stop at delis or flower shops at a familiar rate, go out with friends on the town, instead of visiting at each others’ homes, etc., so the downtown it vital all day long…in fact, and that’s its own thing:
  • Downtown ain’t dead.

Now sure, we were in a cool part of Philadelphia, probably pricier than where I’d find myself as often if I lived there. But I wonder how much pricier? Real estate offerings were pretty good, what I saw up on brokers’ windows. (‘Course, with the recent devaluation because of the economy, that may not be the best measuring stick…) And like a lot of bigger cities, you can live cheaply if you choose to. Eat in, shop on Craigslist, that kind of thing… Stuff we do in New York.

Philadelphia is a city that feels lived in without feeling rundown. Or at least, if it was rundown, it’s been given a very good facelift. Yeah… Philly’s cool.

We arrived and unloaded into our room at the Radisson Warwick Hotel. Very nice. We knew it was going to be a very busy week: we had a new male lead (Jake Epstein) being put in and there was a put-in rehearsal with him. We also had an understudy put-in which was going to eat up another afternoon. But even with a fair amount of rehearsal, we managed to get in some good walks around town.

Angie also went by the restaurant where she had planned to have her birthday dinner, Pumpkin. You see, the missus was due to turn … well, a big number … the Monday after our week in Philadelphia, the Monday of our layoff week, and the plan was to invite a bunch of friends in from New York and other places for dinner and have one very nice, very comfortable, and very personal dinner to celebrate. Some folks were able to make it, others had stuff going on, and some made their pilgrimage in other ways. But more on that to come in the next blog entry... The Layoff Week.

Rittenhouse Square was a frequent watering hole for Butley. Many fun concrete benches made for good practice on hopping up & down. And it’s kind of an anomaly as city parks go – smaller than the kind of park you get lost it, it’s definitely bigger than the kind of park where you can see one side from the other. Nicely carved up to give everyone a little plot of their own, but with more than enough benches and stoops for crowds to gather at lunchtime or such. You'll find your fair share of discoing rollerskaters, mobile-yoga-moms & prams, chess-playing seniors and pigeon-chasing juniors, as well as everything in between.

Parc was a restaurant just adjacent to Rittenhouse, and it’s a little piece of Paris in Philly. Kinda. OK, not really. But someone who built it obviously had at least been to Paris and liked it. The entire walls which open up onto streetside dining, the bamboo & red painted chairs, the predominance of the espresso machine… We had a good brunch there. Nothing toe-curling, but very pleasant.

The theater where we performed, the Academy of Music’s Kimmel Center, was be-yoo-tee-ful. It felt like an old, Austrian opera house. Tom Hulce could have shot his sequel to "Amadeus" there. “Mozart: the Farewell Concert.”

Angie went to a matinee to see her friend Joy Franz perform in a production of Grey Gardens at the Philadelphia Theater Company, on the one afternoon she had off. And me … well … I think I slept on my afternoon off.

And before the evening performance on Sunday, we had our traditional rendition of “Happy Trails” for Kyle Riabko, our Melchior, and Julie Danielson, our bassist, who were to be moving on to greener pastures from our little migrating gaggle. There were tears, Lord were there tears (this is a company of late teens and early twenty-something musical theater kids…), but I think a few of them may have even been mine. Foxholes make fast friends, and I’ll look forward to seeing them both anon. As I surely will. Because we all know how this business is.

But the real excitement of the week – at least for me anyway, having been planning it for a couple weeks prior – was a re-writing of the lyrics to one of our songs, “The Bitch of Living,” to be sung by all the boys in the cast (who sing “The Bitch of Living” in the show). We even rehearsed it a couple times, and Freddy Hall, one of our guitarists, and Marques Walls, our drummer, generously offered their talents. And so, before “Happy Trails,” (I’m no dummy), we rallied the company together and Angie rang in this latest milestone the best way I could think up – by having a group of cute young fellas singing, “The Bitch of 40.”

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