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.

P is for Pinksterfest

“The annual celebration began on the morning of the Monday following…Pentecost…While the majority of the Dutch population attended early mass, African-American slaves and Euro-American servants would congregate on the hill by the ‘thousands’ and await the arrival of the Pinkster King…”


This coming weekend, Albany, NY is having its 63rd Annual Albany Tulip Festival. It will be held in historic Washington Park. “The tradition stems from when Mayor Erastus Corning 2nd got a city ordinance passed declaring the tulip as Albany’s official flower on July 1, 1948. In addition, he sent a request to Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands to name a variety as Albany’s tulip…She picked the variety ‘Orange Wonder’…”

The event kicks off on Friday with a special musical program on City Hall’s historic 49-bell carillon at 11:30 a.m. Then at noon, there will be “the traditional Dutch practice of scrubbing the streets,” which frankly still fascinates me. Saturday features the coronation of the Tulip Queen, plus performers and vendors on both Saturday and Sunday. The whole schedule is here. The greatest challenge involves getting the majority of the bulbs to be in bloom that weekend, not too early or too late, despite unpredictable weather. The strategy in recent years has been to plant different types of tulips with varying blooming times.

At the same time, the term “pinksterfest” has ALSO used for the weekend, more or less synonymously, but not quite. So I needed to track this down.

From Wikipedia: “Pinkster is a spring festival, taking place in late May or early June. The name is a variation of the Dutch word Pinksteren, meaning ‘Pentecost'”

More useful, though, was THIS article by Matthew Shaughnessy from 2010: “…by the 19th century, it was the most important holiday of African-American slaves who lived in Dutch settlements from the Hudson Valley down to New York City…In Albany, during the week preceding Pinkster, slaves, and servants—both of African and European ancestries—gathered to set up camp, sing, and play music through the use of a large, skin-covered drum on Pinkster Hill. Individual encampments or ‘airy cottages’ were constructed by weaving branches and shrubs through a series of stakes that were vertically implanted into the ground covering the hill. Just upon celebration, the camps were stocked with beer and liquor as well as an assortment of food, including fruits and cakes.


“The annual celebration began on the morning of the Monday following…Pentecost…While the majority of the Dutch population attended early mass, African-American slaves and Euro-American servants would congregate on the hill by the ‘thousands’ and await the arrival of the Pinkster King, who was referred to as ‘King Charles.’ By all accounts, King Charles was an elderly member of the slave community, perhaps a patriarchal figure of some sort.”

The article goes into some detail about the goings-on.

Again from Wikipedia: “Sometime between 1811 and 1813 despite or perhaps because of its popularity, the city of Albany, New York passed a city ordinance banning the drinking and dancing associated with Pinkster. Whites were concerned that the congregation and socialization of large groups of African Americans could provide them with the opportunity to plot or plan a revolution. Some historians believe the council wanted to eliminate Pinkster because it didn’t appeal to the burgeoning middle class, pointing to the fact that the law was eventually overturned, which would contradict the motivation of preventing uprisings.”

Shaughnessy: “For one week a year, the strictures of everyday society were relaxed. Work was momentarily forgotten. Those at the bottom of the society, namely slaves and servants but also women and children, reversed the existent social hierarchy. For the remainder of the week, slaves and servants engaged in a variety of sports and increasingly commercialized forms of entertainment, which, according to a later account published in 1867, were exceedingly popular among white children. There were exhibitions of exotic animals, circus-riding, clowns, and the apparent highlight of the festival: the ‘Toto.’ While the Toto was a dance performed exclusively in the West African tradition of loud drumming and singing, its hybrid during Pinkster combined European and African steps. In addition, slaves sold herbs, roots, and shellfish in carts decorated with flowers, especially [Pentecost] azaleas…” At some point during the run of the Tulip Festival, the Pinksterfest name was absorbed.

ABC Wednesday – Round 8