Archive for July, 2010

24 hours in the heart of the Theatre District

July 28, 2010

I haven’t been going to the theatre this summer as much I usually do. A couple of Saturday nights ago I was even wondering when I would be next going to see another play. I was heading back to my apartment after a late yoga class and walking past Union Square, heading west on Geary, and I heard music. It was about 10 PM. I was curious, and  walked up the stairs into the Square itself to see what was going on.

I discovered a large crowd of people watching an outdoor movie. I was surprised and delighted! The movie was “Dirty Dancing,” and it was being shown on a big screen like the ones they used to have at drive-in movies. But instead of cars lined up in rows there were people all over the Square sitting on blankets and folding chairs and digging the show. I walked around the edges of the audience and found a place to join them. 

I’d never seen “Dirty Dancing” before but I quickly figured out what was going on. I cheered and applauded along with everyone else as the story neared it’s conclusion. The music had stopped and there was a lot of drama and talking, and then what was clearly the big moment arrived: Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey began dancing together to the hit song “The Time of My Life.” It was awesome, but I was not prepared for what happened next. People in the audience started standing up and dancing too! There was a big empty space on the ground in front of the movie screen, and suddenly it was filled up with dancers. And I mean lots of dancers. There I was, in the heart of the Theatre District on a Saturday night, and it was alive with music and dance. It was so cool that even now, two weeks later, I find it hard to believe it actually happened. 

The dancing continued all the way through the last credits. When it ended I wandered through the crowd, enjoying the glow of so many smiling faces. Eventually I made it to my apartment, which is two blocks from there, and checked my email. There was something from The Move-About Theatre Company informing me that they had just started a 24-hour project: they would create three short plays from scratch and have them ready to perform the next evening – in Union Square!

So I went to see them, and they did what they said they were going to do. The plays were all funny and mysterious genre pieces. Considering the self imposed time (and other) limitations I thought they were quite good – cleverly scripted, directed and costumed. My favorite was the second one, which reminded me of some the more existential “Twilight Zone” episodes. I don’t know who wrote what, but they all did a great job of putting on a show.

After seeing two wonderful events in 24 hours in the heart of the Theatre District I felt like Ronald Coleman in “Lost Horizon;”  I had once again been reminded that there are always amazing, and often unexpected, experiences out there waiting to be discovered.



Relevant links:

Here is a video that someone posted of the Saturday night movie screening. The camera is facing west – that’s the St. Francis Hotel behind the movie screen. When the camera pans to the right it catches a bit of my dangling backpack strap at 1:38 (I was standing to the right of the empty chair.) You can’t see anyone dancing, but you can hear the crowd cheering:

I’d also like to mention that the late, great actor Jerry Orbach is in this video, too (in “Dirty Dancing” of course.) He was one of the stars of the first New York production of “The Fantasticks-” that’s him singing “Try to Remember” on the original cast album, a recording I’ve been listening to and loving since I was around ten years old. And just a block away from Union Square, at the SF Playhouse, is a production of  “The Fantasticks” that is being staged in honor of it’s 50th anniversary!

The film screening was co-presented by the The Jewish Film Festival and Film Night in the Park: