Dear diary, my short summer staycation

Albany Institute of History & Art
Albany Institute of History & Art

I’ve come to the conclusion that people dis blogging, even when they don’t read blogs, because they believe it’s just a bunch of personal entries, as though it were some sort of public diary. While, I’ve usually attempted to give you a much more diverse and eclectic record, every once in a while, I need a journal entry, if only for ME to keep track of my activities six or sixteen months from now.

July 23: After work, I met The Wife and The Daughter at Albany’s Washington Park at for a free Park Playhouse presentation of the musical Singin’ in the Rain. The family didn’t get there until close to 6 p.m. for a 7:30 performance, and that’s too late. We found probably the last seats in the amphitheater, in the last row, far to the right, with some obstruction from one of the light poles. This was the antepenultimate performance, and it had reviewed well.

That said, the performance of the musical was quite fine. Great singing and dancing, even though only the guy playing Donald (the Gene Kelly role in the movie) was an Equity union actor. And, as advertised, there was actual singing, in the controlled “rain.” BTW, in case of real rain, the show might be postponed or even canceled. My friend Susan, who plays the oboe in the orchestra, and who the Daughter and I happened across at intermission, said only one show was canceled, though a couple were delayed over the four-week run.

The problem is that, because the stage gets wet, and has to get mopped up during the break, there’s not much story left afterward; a small complaint.

July 24: I took a day off from work, and we headed for the Albany Institute of History and Art. The baseball exhibit was also on its antepenultimate day on display. While the info on the major league teams was interesting, I was most intrigued by the local history. It showed the Capital District from our now-defunct minor league Yankees showcasing future stars such as Derek Jeter and Bernie Williams to the Albany Senators playing an exhibition game against Babe Ruth to the 1880s team in Troy that was a precursor to the San Francisco Giants.

After lunch, we went to the New York State Museum. There was an exhibit of art from students from the 64 education campuses comprising the State University of New York. There was also a fine display of photos and tools of the Shaker communities, several of which were around the area back in the religious organization’s heyday.

July 25: The folks putting on Park Playhouse had also produced a two-day run of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, with child and teen actors, at Albany’s Palace Theatre. This is the iteration in which Cinderella was played at various times by Julie Andrews, Lesley Ann Warren, and Brandy. I love this show, and this version was quite good, especially the title actress and the girl playing the herald.

However, because it was for free, and was presumably kid-friendly, parents brought their infants and toddlers, who couldn’t be still, or QUIET, for a 55-minute presentation, so it was occasionally difficult to hear. Outdoors, the noise may have been more diffused. Indoors, in the 2800-seat theater, at least 2/3s full, it was amplified.

July 26: I’ve previously touted the amazing work that happens on the very small stage of the Mac-Haydn Theatre, in Chatham, 45 minutes from Albany, where the entrances and exits become part of the set. My love for West Side Story is even more well established. This combination did not disappoint, from the very athletic mixing between the Sharks and the Jets, to the fine use of space to show Maria’s balcony.

The Wife thought the guy playing Tony was too pretty, though I disagreed. The problem with theater in the round, though, is that it may take a few seconds to find the highlighted action, such as when Maria and Tony first meet, and Tony is, for us, briefly obscured by the crowd at the dance.

What particularly worked for me was the Somewhere dance. Often a ballet that stops the action, it was quite effective with, e.g., “Anybodies”, the “tomboy” Jet dancing with Bernardo, the now slain Shark leader. Hey, maybe there IS “a place for us.”

And to nail that down, as we found our way to our car, we saw the actors playing Tony and Bernardo get in their vehicle and drive away together.

98 Acres in Albany

State Street, at South Hawk, 1963.
State Street, at South Hawk, 1963.

David Hochfelder, PhD, Associate Professor in the Department of History at UAlbany, is working on a research project titled “98 Acres in Albany”. Your help is requested.

The research team would appreciate any help you could give in connecting with people whose lives were affected by the demolition of the area and subsequent construction of the South Mall.

The goal of this project is to build a website that will reproduce the lost streetscape based on photos held at the Albany Institute of History and Art and the NYS Archives that document almost all of the 1,200 buildings demolished as well as map the demographic and public health trends in the 98-acre area and surrounding neighborhoods.

The research team has an advance book contract with SUNY Press to publish a companion volume of photo-essays. First drafts of those essays are on this WordPress blog.

The research team’s social media outreach is here:
Twitter
Facebook

Please reach out to Dr. Hochfelder and his research team if you have relevant stories to share. Please pass word on to others you know who may have stories to share.

Thank you for helping to document and preserve the voices of those who lived in the 98 acres of Albany that are now consumed by the South Mall. Help keep history alive!

 

K is for Killing

The current debate over gun violence likely will not be ended so easily.

 

My church, First Presbyterian Church in Albany, NY, is celebrating its 250th anniversary this year. The church donated some artifacts to the Albany Institute of History & Art, itself founded in 1791. The Institute has an exhibit, ongoing through April 17, showing some of the church history over the years.

Some of the church members included John Jay, eventually the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court; Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of the Treasury; and Aaron Burr, third Vice-President of United States, and the first NOT to go on to become President.

After Burr killed Hamilton in a duel in 1804, the pastor Eliphalet Nott delivered a jeremiad against dueling. As it was a particularly long and significant sermon, it was published by the Dutch Reformed Church in Albany. (I listened to the re-enacted speech a few years ago.) Eliphalet Nott had the remarkable effect of, almost singlehandedly, effectively ending what had been considered an “honorable” way for gentlemen to settle their differences.

The current debate over gun violence likely will not be ended so easily. The solutions seem to be fewer guns on one side, more guns on the other. The latter group clings to the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution: “A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” The notion of a militia, to me, seems to be a state-run National Guard.

In any case, here’s a list of murders with firearms (most recent) by country. And here are twelve facts about guns and mass shootings in the United States. Nothing here, I suspect, will change anyone’s mind about the next steps to take. No Eliphalet Nott sermon will save the day anymore.

ABC Wednesday – Round 12

R is for Real Rodin?

Meanwhile, the booklet and the film of his life that was shown, not to mention the irrefutable Rodin pieces that were shown, still made the visit worthwhile.


Back in the fall of 2005 at the Albany [NY] Institute of History and Art, my wife and I saw this lovely exhibit of the works of Auguste Rodin called Rodin: A Magnificent Obsession, which was billed as “a complete retrospective…

“The exhibition spans the length of Rodin’s career from his earliest bust of his father, Jean Baptiste Rodin, to his later studies of dancing figures. In addition to the bronzes, there are works on paper, photographs, portraits of the artist, and an educational model that demonstrates the complexities of the lost-wax casting process, Rodin’s favored method of sculptural reproduction.”

I remember seeing a version of piece called The Thinker. I’d viewed pictures of it many times, and it looked nice. But seeing it in person, I thought it was one of the most sensual items I had ever seen in my life!

As it turns out, though, there was some controversy over the show presented by the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Foundation over an eight-year span. As noted in this lengthy and detailed blogpost, the exhibition “contains at best a half-a-dozen or so non-disclosed reproductions – with fifty-four of them being absolute outright fakes.

“An example of one of these non-disclosed fakes is the…Monumental Head of Balzac. In the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation’s 2001 Rodin A Magnificent Obsession catalogue, it is also listed as ‘cast 9/12 in 1980’ and ‘Signed and numbered A. Rodin.’ Since Auguste Rodin died in 1917, some sixty-three years earlier, how’d he do that?”

This was disappointing, of course, but it was so in retrospect, some three years after we saw the show. Meanwhile, the booklet and the film of his life that was shown, not to mention the irrefutable Rodin pieces that were shown, still made the visit worthwhile.

In any case, THE best webpage about Rodin that I’ve come across is this NotSorry.com page with LOTS of useful links.

 

ABC Wednesday – Round 8