Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Walking Tour

Yesterday was day one of rehearsal for the new project.  We started by going on a tour of the Lower East Side, led by yours truly.  I wanted to be able to see first-hand some of the locations mentioned in my research and I wanted to share my research with the actors in a meaningful and active way, vs. sitting around a table with me talking at them.

As you can see by this photo, the actors were well-prepared for this tour with shades & iced coffee.  I wonder what the equivalent would have been for a morning stroll nearly 100 years ago....a parasol?

The amazing and intriguing thing about New York City and particularly the Lower East Side is that there are so many layers of history and once you train your eye to see into the past, all sorts of things make themselves available.  We met at Grand and Essex St. and made our way over to Orchard Street where we could walk past Guss Pickles and The Tenement Museum.  Orchard Street is mentioned many times in the newspaper articles and scholarly papers that I've read.  We then turned onto Rivington which was known for its pushcarts back in 1917.  Today, both streets are dotted with sleek, expensive restaurants and chic boutiques.  It's a startling contrast with the architecture and feel of the neighborhood.  

Finally, we made our way up East Broadway, where many buildings are still labeled with signs in Hebrew and Yiddish.  We approached the Forward Building where, on February 20, 1917, fifty women gathered to discuss the impending crisis of food prices.  They moved across the street to Rutgers Square (now Straus Sq.) to make speeches, where the crowd grew to 1,000.  Someone suggested marching to City Hall to speak to the Mayor and, led by a Mrs. Ida Harris and the known anarchist Marie Gantz, 300 to 400 of the women marched down East Broadway
 and the Bowery to City Hall.

It was an unexpectedly thrilling feeling to be standing there in that very spot, imagining the lives, needs and wants of women in the early 20th century.  To think that, if born in another time, we could have been them.  To think that at that moment, were were sharing the same ground.
Standing in Rutgers Square

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