By Billy McEntee

About Billy McEntee

Billy McEntee has been fortunate to work at arts non-profits in Boston, Denver, Berkeley, and now New York. His writing has appeared in The Brooklyn Rail and on Indiewire, Eclectica Magazine, HowlRound, and Brooklyn Magazine. He's often getting wine at Dandelion or eating cookies at Archestratus.

Essay: Gee vs. Elle, A Tale of Two Subways

Gee’s been in her older sister’s shadow for a while. Like, since 1933. She heard legend of Elle’s flapper-filled carts and smooth shuttling of partiers from soirée to soirée, borough to borough, without ever so much as rattling their champagne, which they could drink whilst riding cause Elle was a “cool train.”

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Standards Manual in Greenpoint Finds Success in Reissuing Relics

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Jesse Reed. Photo by Ian Hartsoe

“We had a hint there might be an interest in this book.”

That hint was raising over $800,000 on Kickstarter to reissue the New York City Transit Authority Graphics Standards Manual. But before the online support and incredible demand, this lucrative endeavor began more innocently — with buried treasure.

“We found one of the original manuals in our old office’s basement,” Jesse Reed said of the copy he and his business partner Hamish Smyth discovered and — through enormous fundraising — reissued for public consumption.

New Yorkers love griping about the subway, so it may come as a surprise that this manual elicited such fervid response, but these backers are seeking more than just a handsome coffee table book or conversation starter.

Standards Manual storefront on Franklin Street in Greenpoint. Photo by Ian Hartsoe
Standards Manual storefront on Franklin Street in Greenpoint. Photo by Ian Hartsoe

 

“We knew designers were into it, but once we launched the Kickstarter we found other audiences, and one was people who live in New York City,” Reed said. “They saw the manual and subway signs for the first time as designed objects, and it struck a chord with a lot of people who ride the subway every day. If you were here in the ’70s or earlier, you knew how horrible the signage was, and then you see the manual and how it’s now made.”

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Heather Christian Unleashes a Ravishing Tour de Force in The Bushwick Starr’s “Animal Wisdom”

Heather Christian in her Bushwick Starr show, “Animal Wisdom.” Photo by Maria Baranova.

The richest musical score this season might not be found on Broadway. To add to its allure, it’s created by a “migraine-suffering musician who talks to dead people.”

It’s a bold self-proclamation, but Obie Award winner Heather Christian’s Animal Wisdom is an equally bold work — and one that’s near impossible to pin down. To call it a play lumps it in with traditional narratives, and yet to label it a folksy-Requiem-mass-drama barely trumpets its dynamism, élan, and pure resplendence.

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A Fiery, Absurdist “Chamber Music” Now Playing at St. John’s

Members of the “Chamber Music” cast at St. John’s

“The chair recognizes Joan of Arc.”

It’s hard not to recognize her, in the theatrical sense — like the Joans we’ve seen, this one’s armor-clad, cross-bearing, and all-powerful. But is this Joan? Well, of course not; it’s merely a depiction.

But is the performer (a marvelously focused Bre Northrup) playing Joan, or a character who believes they are Joan? This is one of the central questions in Arthur Kopit’s Chamber Music, now playing through September 16 in the basement of St. John’s Lutheran Church (155 Milton Street).

Director Emily Moler makes dynamic use of her staging Kopit’s absurdist play, setting it in the round and utilizing the subterranean locale’s low-budget though ample space. In fact a church basement may be the unlikely, appropriate setting for Chamber Music: the play actually takes place in a mental institution, so a church (with its rigid mores) lends itself winningly to this story’s strict asylum. The “Joan of Arc” and other lady icons, from Osa Johnson to Pearl White, inhabit this jail, and their meeting of the minds feels echoed in the opening of Top Girls, Caryl Churchill’s feminist anthem. Continue reading

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Self-Help Gets a Lift in “The Protégé,” a New Play at Chez Bushwick


I hope you have the pleasure of meeting Caitlin Bebb, whose addictive and contagious luminosity makes her an ideal artist to write and perform in a show about self-help. Even if you don’t meet her personally, you may feel like you have after experiencing her intimate but wild new show, The Protégé, presented by Glass Bandits and playing June 23–26 at Chez Bushwick (304 Boerum St).

Personal development, therapy, and self-improvement can come with sticky stigmas; by nature, these tactics make us address, confront, and perhaps publicize our imperfections. But in her mysterious yet alluring solo show, Caitlin Bebb rejiggers these ignominies, breaking down the walls of what self-help can expound — well, perhaps not breaking them down, but certainly infusing them with spiritual rejuvenation, a genre-defying performance, and a dance party. Continue reading

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The Evolution of Jazz with Angela Morris

Angela Morris at Legion, photo by Peter Gannushkin.

If you’ve heard live music in Brooklyn, there’s a good chance you’ve come across the multi-hyphenate and chameleon performer Angela Morris. She often performs around North Brooklyn, playing places like Silent Barn, Trans Pecos, and Legion, among others, and also frequented the now-closed Sunview Luncheonette and Manhattan Inn. Blurring musical genres and marrying avant jazz with pop, her music is at once whimsy but wise, stirring yet relaxing. But labeling Morris’s style may be futile; her timbre shifts depending on the night and her role. Morris plays across various venues with almost as many bands — including Rallidae, TMT Trio, and Pep Talk — all the while conducting, singing, or playing the saxophone or violin. Here, she discusses her move from Toronto, Brooklyn’s evergreen music scene, and — despite the unspoken truths of an instrumental’s injury — what continually motivates her to share her music. Continue reading

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LoftOpera revives “Otello,” Rossini’s Seldom Produced but Timely Masterpiece

Cecilia Violetta López as Desdemona and Bernard Holcomb as the titular Otello. Photo by Jamie Santamour.

LoftOpera never shies away from its edgy adaptations. In its upcoming production of Rossini’s Otello—based on Shakespeare’s tragedy of the same name—the challenge lies not in an overt modernization but in the score’s groundbreaking and complex music, and in the fact that this opera has not been produced in New York in more than 40 years. Loft’s reimagining of the classic tale of otherizing and political upheaval—themes still grappled with today—will play at LightSpace Studios (1115 Flushing Avenue) from March 16–27. We had the chance to speak to four-time Loft director John de los Santos and conductor Sean Kelly, a specialist in the bel canto technique.

GP: How have rehearsals been going?

JdlS: It’s an incredibly challenging piece but I’m very lucky to have Sean, the cast, and the incredible musicians, so it’s been going well.

SK: No one has sung this opera before, so it’s new for everyone, which is exciting. The Otello (Bernard Holcomb) we’ve technically been working with since September/October to prepare musically for the role.

GP: Rossini’s Otello has not been seen in New York in decades. Why this piece now?

JdlS: The last piece Sean and I did for Loft was Rossini’s Le Comte Ory and we had a great success with that, so it’s great to be working on one of his tragedies. This piece was an evolvement for him in his music as he was trying out some new things and really trying to push his audiences to accept and deal with topics that were pretty controversial in this period. Everybody’s familiar with the Verdi version of Otello and this one’s 70 years older. I think this version is superior; there are several things he does better than Verdi. Continue reading

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Food for Thought (and Humor) in The Bushwick Starr’s “[porto]”

“[porto]” at The Bushwick Starr. Photo by Marina McClure.

It serves pickled pomegranate, fried chickpea, and grilled sage.

No, it’s not the organic/gluten-free/farm-to-table market down the street; it’s the rustic gastropub in The Bushwick Starr’s (207 Starr St.) new play [porto] though based on Brooklyn’s artisanal food scene trends, these bites might soon appear on your go-to bar’s menu. And like those snacks, the play is a concoction of the satirical, savory, and flat-out strange.

[porto] is part of this year’s (and the second annual) Exponential Festival, a theatrical series promoting works created in New York and performed in Brooklyn. Kate Benson’s funny, meandering, and world-premiere play centers on Porto, a young woman for whom the hipness of Brooklyn’s cultural and foodie offerings has perhaps grown dull.

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Greenpoint’s Franklin Guesthouse is A Home Away From Home

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Living room area in one of the rooms at Franklin Guesthouse. All photos: Julia Moak.

Greenpoint’s not the sleepy neighborhood it was ten years ago, but you’ll still get a good night’s rest at Franklin Guesthouse.

“We try to make the rooms like a home—apartment-style—and really give you a lot of amenities you don’t get in other hotels,” said Dana Schneider, vice-president of Franklin Guesthouse (214 Franklin Street) and its sister boutiques, The Box House and Henry Norman Hotels. Continue reading

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With Roots in Japan, Brooklyn’s Osakana is No Fish Out of Water

All photos by Kate Truisi.
Fish at Osakana. All photos by Kate Truisi.

It’s a fish market, but there’s no ice.

Instead, the tuna belly, king mackerel, and sea trout rest on pottery as colorful as their contents in a 39-degree glass case that controls temperature and humidity. At Osakana (290 Graham Avenue) in Williamsburg, Brooklyn flair meets Japanese tradition in a tasteful marriage of style and utility.

Osakana’s refrigerator is nearly empty—what’s on display is what’s up for grabs. “In the US we catch fish by the net, but in Japan they catch with a rod,” Osakana manager Emma Kramer said. It’s a reality her team must deal with—as a fishing and island nation, Japan will always have the upper fin, as it were. But it’s not a fact that will hinder Osakana’s near sacred handling of food. Continue reading

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