January Issue: Theater Extras

A small FOB item about a local seat-filling service.

He'll Save You a Seat

From his office in White Plains, Jed Canaan can pack a house. His business, Theater Extras, provides enthusiastic seat-fillers to achieve that standing-room-only look.

Theater Extras’ 4,200 New York members pay for the privilege: $99/year for access to pairs of tickets or $175/year for packs of four tickets, plus a $4 processing fee per ticket used (a portion of which goes to Broadway Cares, Equity Fights AIDS). They can then log into theaterextras.com to request first-come, first-served tickets.

Why would managers want to give away tickets for free? “They don’t,” Canaan says. “But if Tony voters are coming, or if they know a critic will be there, they’ll come to us because they’re confident we can fill the house on short notice.” 

For obvious reasons, theaters want Theater Extras to remain a secret, which leads to a lot of misconceptions, Canaan says. No, it’s not just the worst seats at the worst shows (seats are all over the house, and even great shows want full houses on the days the critics arrive). No, tickets are not offered only at the last minute (theaters know within two or three days how the house is selling). No, it’s not just used for theaters (there are also tickets to sporting events, concerts, and museums).

Canaan came up with the idea for Theater Extras while working in PR. He discovered the need for the service after talking to theater owners—he’s always been a theater fan himself. “My favorite show is The Book of Mormon,” he says, “but that’s not available through my site because, obviously, it’s been selling so well.”                  

September Issue: Q&A with Tom Kitt

Broadway Box Office

When we last left Byram Hills High School grad Tom Kitt, he was arranging music for Green Day’s American Idiot after having won a Pulitzer for Next to Normal. He’s returned to Broadway with the high-flying cheerleaders of Bring It On.

This seems like the opposite of Next to Normal. What made you want to get involved? I love musical comedy, and Bring It On is a natural fit for a musical. But I also felt there was something emotional in the story, especially being set in the world of high school—high school is a loaded time for everybody. So even though the emotions are different than Next to Normal, there was still something moving about Bring It On, and it brought out a lot of feeling.

You worked on the music with Lin-Manuel Miranda of In the Heights. How are your styles different, and how were you able to combine them? It was wonderful to feed off each other. We started by doing the first number together, and we tried to capture that cheer energy in that electronic/pop world. Then we wrote the songs for the Jackson school, and he has that hip-hop vernacular that comes into play—he’s a virtuoso at it. But we wanted to make sure that every song had character development, and by the end it morphed so that it felt like Lin-Manuel, [co-lyricist] Amanda Green, and I all wrote the score together as one piece.

The musical is partially about finding what you love to do in high school. What was your big extracurricular at Byram Hills? I was into music, so I performed in the musicals. But I was also into sports, and I did soccer and baseball. I guess I was like the character of Randall in that I didn’t really do just one thing; I tried to run in all the different crowds.

Next month, the movie Pitch Perfect comes out, and you also worked on that. Were you already familiar with that a cappella world? I was in an a capella group at Columbia, and I’ve been wanting to do something about a cappella groups for a long time. My friend [and director] Jason Moore told me about the movie, and I told him I had to work on it. I arranged songs with people who live on the West Coast and work on The Sing-Off. One set piece that I worked on and am particularly proud of is the ‘riff-off,’ where you have to ‘steal’ songs by singing another song with the same lyric in a certain category. From the trailer, it looks like it really came off.

Bring It On is currently playing at the St. James Theatre.

June Issue: Summer Fun Cover Story

Summer Fun

For June's cover story, I examined all of the ways to enjoy Westchester County in the summer. This includes biking, archery, going to a driving range, exercising outdoors, kayaking, joining adult-centered leagues for childhood games like kickballl and frisbee, charity walks and swims, aqua zumba, mega yoga, troubleshooting sunburns and mosquito bites, eating seasonal food, sampling ethnic barbecue, drinking fresh fruit-infused cocktails, eating ice-cream floats, going on picnics, finding cold-brewed coffee, taking one-off bartending classes, geoaching, finding the best arts events, playing in an all-inclusive orchestra, visiting a new arts venue, volunteering at local farms, gardening, finding free events, taking day trips, shopping sidewalk sales, wearing stylish sunglasses and flip-flops, and visiting the Summertime Hall of Fame. Phew!

Click through to read the story, or download the PDF above.

Profile: FaTye

My profile of a local resident who went from near-homelessness to starring in regional theater.

Big River, Big Journey

...Though FaTye is a natural singer and performer, he still had a lot of ground to make up in his training. Luckily, the Westchester theater community embraced him. “Ninety percent of my training happened in Westchester,” he says. FaTye worked with the Broadway Training Center in Hastings-on-Hudson, the Actors Conservatory Theatre in Yonkers, the Lighthouse Youth Theatre in Thornwood, and the Lagond Music School in Elmsford, among others. “He’s incredibly hard-working,” Mallah says. “At Children’s Village, on one snowy day, he just got up early and shoveled all the walks.”

After high school, he studied at the American Musical Dramatic Academy and the Collaborative Arts Project before attending NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. Not wanting to give up his apartment in Elmsford, he’d wake up at 4 am to commute to his 8 am classes. “I was never late,” he says.

Now, he’s starring as Jim in Big River, a show he calls “the pinnacle of my life” because of its parallels to his personal history. “Jim tries to get away from hardship, knowing something better is out there for him,” he says. “That’s who I am. I was always looking for the light, for the freedom.”


Click through to read the rest of the profile online, or download the PDF above.

Fall Arts Preview: Fall Events

Fall Arts Preview: Fall Events

I wrote the massive guide to fall arts and culture, which was broken into Fall Events, Fall Books, Fall Movies, and Fall TV. For fall events, I covered upcoming art, film, music, theater, family happenings, readings, lectures, comedy, art and craft fairs, and special events taking place in Westchester September, October, and November.

"Talk Cinema

Film writer Harlan Jacobson screened The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo—the original Swedish version, of course—before almost anyone else here had a glimpse of Noomi Rapace’s nose-ringed face, thank you very much. And he doesn’t plan on getting scooped this season, either. For his Talk Cinema series, Jacobson shows an indie or foreign film before its release, then hosts a discussion afterward with a filmmaker or critic. You don’t get to know what film you see beforehand, but speculating is half the fun.


The Zombies

This will be their year: to celebrate the band’s 50th anniversary, the Zombies have planned a worldwide tour, with stops from Edinburgh to Tel Aviv. And, when they finally come stateside, they’re playing the Tarrytown Music Hall. In addition to ’60s hits like 'Time of the Season' and 'She’s Not There,' the band will perform songs from last year’s new album, Breathe Out, Breathe In."

Click through to read the rest of the article, or download the PDF above.

August Issue: In Every Issue

Culture, Etc.
Guster, Steve Earle, Trollhunter, and more.

"It’s August, and, to paraphrase Gershwin, the livin’ should be easy—and the music should be, too. Guster understands, and the band’s most recent album, the aptly named Easy Wonderful, provides just the kind of poppy, no-fuss music that’s best for those days when it’s too hot to think. It inspired Entertainment Weekly to write, 'There’s something happily uncomplicated—and at times proudly uncool—about this band’s sixth album.' Hear for yourself when Guster plays an outdoor concert at the Ives Concert Park in Danbury, Connecticut, on August 3."

Click through to read the rest of the article.

Home Theater & Broadway Box Office
Paul, Jane Eyre, Your Highness, and Cul-De-Sac, plus an interview with Altar Boyz director Carlos Encinias.

"Who is your favorite boy band?

I’d have to say it’s a tie between *NSYNC and the New Kids on the Block. The New Kids on the Block was my first concert, but I say that I was just taking my sister and it wasn’t really for me. That’s my line."

Click through to read the rest of the article.

Guster photo by Floto+Warner Studio

June Issue: Summer Fun Cover Story

Summer Fun

For the June cover, I produced a feature package on the best ways to enjoy summer in Westchester County, from driving race cars to seeing Shakespeare outdoors to heading to one of a million local beaches. You can read an excerpt below and follow the link to read the rest of the article, or you can download the PDF.

"Wear Your Favorite Eye Patch

Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for…you. Forget the Pirates of the Caribbean—the Pirates of the Hudson have arrived and have laid siege to Philipsburg Manor. If you dare, you can put on your finest bandana, hook hand, peg leg, or shoulder parrot, and mingle among them. There, you’ll see belly dancers gyrating to the sounds of pirate musicians, shop for fenced booty from the Thieves Market, marvel at the Museum of Oddities, feast on foods prepared by Tastefully Yours, and imbibe grog from the Captain Lawrence Brewery. (Just keep an eye on your own wallet—these scalawags have sticky fingers.) Pirates-in-training can take part in a treasure hunt and climb on a shipwreck—or be forced to walk its plank. Pirates of the Hudson: The Siege of Sleepy Hollow comes to us from the same people who brought us the Horseman’s Hollow event on Halloween. The event takes place from July 2 to July 4 and, as with the Horseman’s Hollow, you must have a timed ticket to enter. For more information, call (914) 631-8200 or visit hudsonvalley.org."

Click here to read the full article online.

Two Man Gentleman Band photo by Putnam Bean; Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival ten photo by William Marsh; Pirates photo by Bryan Haeffele.

February and March Issues

Westchester: Off-Off-Off Broadway?

How Westchester is becoming a destination for emerging theater: No doubt, playwrights, directors, and producers benefit from trying out their new material on an audience of regular theater-goers. 'When artists do these kinds of readings in the city, industry professionals, critics, and bloggers show up,' says Anna Becker, curator and founder of the Insights & Revelations Performance Series, which has brought new works to the county since 2005. 'That’s exactly the kind of pressure that you don’t want when figuring things out. In Westchester, the audience is intelligent and savvy, but they’re not as critical as industry insiders. It’s the perfect place to try something out.'”

First Kisses—Remembered

One artist's Valentine's Day performance work: "What happens when you think about your first kiss? Do you smile sheepishly? Blush? Cringe? Marcy B. Freedman, an artist and art historian from Croton-on-Hudson, wants to know. She’s collecting these stories for a work of performance art titled First Kiss Remembered, which she will perform on February 12 from noon to 3 pm at the Peekskill Coffee House—right across the street from her art studio. We caught up with her to talk about the state of kissing in the county."

Pet Events

Where to party with Fido and Fluffy: "Your pup appreciates the finer things, but never gets invited to cocktail parties—until now. The SPCA of Westchester’s Top Hat and Cocktails gala invites people and their pets to put on their best duds and venture out together. After your portrait is taken by a professional pet photographer, take Spot to the doggie ice-cream bar while you enjoy drinks, hors d’oeuvres, and live and silent auctions."

Teaming with Excitement

Looking at a recent expansion to a local children's bookstore: "The [bookstore] is expanding—taking over the adjacent storefront, previously held by a rug seller—and nearly doubling in size. With the increased space, the shop is adding a tea salon with an assortment of teas, French-press coffee, hot cocoa, pastries and scones. 'I’m thinking of moms at three o’clock, when it’s too early to go home and start making dinner, and the kids might be getting a little fussy,' says owner Francine Lucidon. 'Instead, they can come here, and Mom can have her tea and the kids can have hot chocolate, and everybody can read their books together.'”

February Cultural Highlights

Anthony Bourdain, Jim Breuer, Step Afrika, etc.

March Cultural Highlights

A Woman's Life, Bernadette Peters, Randy Newman, etc.

February Home Theater

It's Kind of a Funny Story, Let Me In, Monsters, and A Woman, a Gun, and a Noodle Shop.

March Home Theater

TV shows: Mad Men, Treme, and The Walking Dead.