Today started off with some crazy games on stage, like Elbow Tag, which morphed into Polar Bear Elbow Tag. To wind down, our counselor Jocelyn (who is a music teacher during the school year,) played us one of her favorite pieces of music, one that actually tells a story. She wanted us to listen as the music changed mood and write down whatever story, feeling, or other thoughts it inspired in us.
After listening, several people shared what they wrote which ranged from a mystery about missing kids to a series of descriptive words, to a sad but hopeful poem. Finally, Jocelyn revealed the name of the piece; it was Romeo and Juliet, by Tchaikovsky, which one of the campers guessed.
Then it was time for our visit with Tim Federle, author of Better Nate Than Ever. We had a very lively discussion about what the campers want to be when they grow up. Olympic swimmer, zoologist, graphic novelist, astronaut, dentist, were but a few of the careers mentioned. Favorite musicals were also shared because not only is Tim an author, he is also a dancer who has been in many Broadway musicals. And that fact brought us back up to the Sharp stage where Tim gave us a taste of what it’s like to audition for a Broadway show. He taught us a dance to the song “Forget You,” from the TV show, Glee. After learning the steps slowly, the music came on, and – 5, 6, 7, 8! – we were doing it! It was so much fun.
Because of rain, we ate lunch in the Thalia Café before heading to Times Square and the New Amsterdam Theater with Tim, where we had the most extraordinary behind-the-scenes tour. We were taken onto the stage by the Head of Operations, Dana Amendola, who is also a Broadway historian. He knows everything about this theater, including its ghosts.
The New Amsterdam Theater was built in 1903 and was the home of the Ziegfeld Follies. One of the famous Zeigfeld Girls, one Olive Thomas, died tragically. Since her death almost 100 years ago, her ghost has been seen in the theater. To avoid any unpleasant encounters, Dana urged us to give her a nice “good-bye” when we were leaving the theater.
The theater is gorgeous with incredible sculptures, stained glass, plasterwork, and other design elements all inspired by A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In renovating the theater in the ‘90s, they wanted to put a “Hidden Mickey (Mouse,”) Disney’s signature, somewhere in the decor. Because the theater is landmarked, they were not allowed to do so. But they used elements of the flowery motifs found around the building to suggest it. (See the 3 round flowers below the square ones.)
On the subway to the theater, campers had asked if we would see costumes and maybe even get to try some on. Staff members thought that we probably wouldn’t. Those things are too fragile to be handled by the public. Wrong! Dana took us up to a room filled with props, costumes, set pieces, posters, and much more from Mary Poppins, The Lion King, The Little Mermaid, and Beauty and the Beast, all shows that have played at the New Amsterdam. Right away, campers were taking a soak in Ariel’s shell-shaped tub, putting on Mary Poppins’ coat, hat, and umbrella, turning into characters from The Lion King, and more.
Everyone got to try on costumes and become the characters they had loved seeing on stage. Tim even found the fish hat he wore when he was in The Little Mermaid. It was way too much fun. We couldn’t stop shooting photos. Here are a few. But a gallery with all of them is being set up. You will all get the link to it.
Reluctantly, we left the magic of the theater, respectfully bidding adieu to Olive Thomas on the way out, and came back to our home base. Tim signed our books and gave us a bookmark with the name of the sequel to Better Nate Than Ever, called FIVE, SIX, SEVEN, NATE!
We can’t wait to read it!