This week’s post is going to be a story, marveling at the wonder that is New York.
Once upon a time in New York, October 8th to be exact, I went to a theatre festival, called the Prelude Festival. The production company I work for was having a selection of one of their future projects presented, and I was filming it. Our project, called Wilderness, is a multi-media documentary play focusing on the stories of young teens that have been sent to the Wilderness camp after experiencing problems at home. It was my first time seeing any of the project, and it was a joy to film it. If you’re in NYC, keep an eye on this project, it’s gonna be amazing.
Anyway, the rest of the festival was…. interesting. The second piece was this one woman describing an interaction between a stressed out woman, her husband, her children, and a friend. It was…. odd. And the final piece was really interesting to me. It was a man, who involved all of the audience in his “webcast”. He started by talking about our dreams, and then went into the oedipal tendencies people have which evolved into talking about trying to understand the mentality of the people who do school shootings. It was a very interesting, multi-media presentation that was very in line with the things that I like to do with my work. So I talked to the men behind it afterwards, and hopefully I will get to stay in contact with them in the future. I left the festival feeling confident in myself, feeling excited at the possibility of collaborating in the future.
As I stepped out to leave the festival, I ran into another audience member, a man who has been in the documentary business for 20+ years. In the talk back after the festival he voiced his intention to use documentaries as a tool to further the conversation about mental illness. He and I had a brief conversation about documentaries and using theatre to further conversations, and as we parted he gave me one of the greatest compliments I’ve ever gotten. Mainly because it came from a man who had known me for less than 20 minutes, and saw something in me that I keep forgetting to see in myself.
“Anika, thank you for… for resonating. You are going to give this city HELL!”
That would have been enough for me to go home and say yes. I had an amazing night. BUT THEN THE NIGHT GOT BETTER.
Elated as I was about my time with the festival, I still found myself a little nervous about my time in New York, and my future. So I decided to call my dear friend Katherine, who has always been one of my biggest motivators. As I talked with her, I got lost in the conversation and ended up on the opposite end of the city, far from where I wanted to be. As I was walking, I passed by a coffee table, left outside a wealthy looking brownstone on 38th st. As I stood there, I told Katherine about the table and we decided that yes, it would be worth me lugging this table all the way back to brooklyn. It’s a free freaking table. Little did I know that this table would soon become priceless.
So I finally get turned in the right direction and start making my way towards my station, which is on the other side of times square. No one really looked twice at me as I walked through times square with this coffee table that was bigger than my torso. Some people called out encouragement, and some people offered to help me carry it. As I darted through Time Square, I ended up walking past the Lunt Fontanne Theatre, where Finding Neverland is currently running. I thought I was going to miss the theatre crowds, but the shows must have started at 7 that night, because actors were leaving through the stage door. I glanced over, and I saw that Terrence Mann was signing autographs on the street.
I met Terrence Mann on the last night of my first summer in NYC, when I saw Pippin for the first time in 2013. If you know me, you know that Pippin has become a huge part of my life, and I was a little emotional after the show. I told Terrence (I can call him by his first name here right?) that I was planning on moving to New York one day to figure out my future with theatre. He told me to keep going and that I would find my way.
So flash forward to now, where I approached Terrence, coffee table in tow, and apologized for not having a program. I told him about how we met at Pippin, and how I didn’t expect him to remember me but I wanted him to know that his kind words had a lasting affect on me. He was very kind and excited that I had moved to New York. He commended me on making it here, and said I was doing it right by getting a free coffee table. I jokingly asked if he wanted to sign it, to which he whipped out his sharpie and signed it with a big old XOXO.
So I’m really hyper right now, and I’m getting ready to truck home, when I see that there’s a small crowd outside the Richard Rogers theatre cheering for someone… who looks a lot like Lin Manuel- Miranda.
I met Lin- Manuel Miranda in the middle of my first summer in New York (same year I met Terry Mann), where he was doing the first workshop for Hamilton. We started talking at a barbecue about cameras, and then talked about his work with West Side Story. He asked me what I wanted to do. I told him about my goal to move to New York and he joked “we’ll see who gets there first”. And then he left, and I didn’t think I would ever be in his presence again. Not because I didn’t think Hamilton would make it to New York, but mainly because at the time, I wasn’t sure if I was confident enough in myself to make this move and to do the things I’ve done now.
Well now I’m here. I walked across the street with my now beloved table. I stood at the back of the line because I didn’t want to cut in front of paying customers. Two members of the Hamilton cast (Jasmine Cephas Jones and Anthony Ramos) signed my cast and encouraged my attempts to see Hamilton. (for those of you who don’t know, I’m doing the raffle once a week until I either win or have enough money to buy a ticket. #questforhamilton). I was delighted at how kind they were!
Lin’s (this is my blog post, I can be as familiar as I want) bodyguard eyeballed my table with a smile. When Lin got down to me, he looked at my table quizzically as I told him about our meeting at powerhouse a few years ago, and about our conversation. When I talked about me moving to New York, his face broke out in the biggest grin and he practically screamed “YOU DONE DID IT DIDN’T YA!” He signed my table and took a photo with me, and it was amazing.
He then wished me luck, and said “this is definitely a first for me, I like it!” To which I responded “Coming from a man who has created so many ‘firsts’ on broadway, that’s an honor”. And you know what? It really was. This man just won the McArthur grant. He’s one of the most brilliant minds in NYC. And he said that me and my humble little table were a first. It’s silly, but I was over the moon.
So I then had to stop in a little alley and call my friend Rachel, who didn’t answer her phone. I then was so excited that when I texted her, I texted Lin Manuel Rivera. I honestly have no fucking clue why I wrote rivera. Miranda is nothing like rivera. My only explanation is that I was so frazzled that my brain just decided to pull one over on me to make sure that I didn’t get too big of an ego.
I then called my Mom, who screamed really loudly, and then I got myself onto an A train and pissed off a bunch of people, before dragging the table up the stairs to my apartment at midnight and trying not to wake the neighbors. And now, after treating my very sore arms (I swear the table got heavier the longer I carried it), now the table is sitting in its new home, where it will stay FOREVER because it is literally priceless to me now.
Needless to say, this was an amazing night. It was surprising, filled with laughter and joy. It was filled with reassurances, and new experiences. I’m not saying that I have been depressed these past few weeks, but I have been feeling the weight of many things on my shoulders lately. My confidence in myself as an artist has been shaken a little bit, mainly because I have been so focused on surviving in NYC that I haven’t put in the proper amount of effort or time into my more artistic things, like creating shows. Being at the theatre festival rejuvenated me and got me excited for new opportunities. Seeing Terrence Mann and the cast of Hamilton reminded me that you can find people who believe in you anywhere.
I look forward to all the nights I get like this in the future. So if you live here or visit here, I encourage you to have nights like this, nights where the city takes over and shows you amazing things. Because in the end, no matter how stressful this city is, that night reminded me that New York City is the place where anything can happen.