I have always been a fan of site specific performances in non-theatre places or in this case, live theatre in non-theatre space. Thanks to an email from Myra of Noshwalks on Friday, I bought a ticket and attended the second preview of Manna-Hata at the James A Farley Post Office. The entrance for the performance is on the 31st Street side. (On the left in this vintage postcard).
The show is an extraordinarily interesting attempt to place the audience into a live theatrical history of New York City. It is a reminder that a live creative theater experience, in this case great, not great and all points in between, will always be special in ways that are different from film and video.
Manna-Hata also provided an opportunity so see many of the very utilitarian (euphemism here) spaces that were used by the workers of this grand post office - once the largest in the country. Now I know why some workers go "postal".
No time was spent in the grand public space during the performance. The history of New York provides a great pool of material. I loved some of the choices, wondered about others and of course had my share of...why didn't they include X or connect all the bits about tobacco to Bloomberg's New York. They did a nice job of connecting the "tuition free" Cooper Union to now.
There was no connection to the site in the show. To me this post office will always be connected to my favorite NYC movie Miracle on 34th Street and to standing in line to request an application to run the NYC Marathon in the early days.
It is only running for the next two weekends - Thurs - Sunday. See it if you love interesting theatre, NYC history and want to explore the back spaces of a great New York City building. The middle is much better than either the beginning or the end but I think there is a reason for this. The earlier you go back in NYC history, the murkier the documentation for the stories. And, how does one end a story like this when the future is still unfolding.
You will be divided into groups in order to travel during the production. I thought my group leader Jane Jacobs was great! Enjoy if you go!
Beware, you will stand a lot and climb stairs during the performance and the dust upstairs may be uncomfortable for those who are very allergic. And, to my FB friends at Forgotten Musicals, some of the weakest links are the attempts at music and dance so see it now! There won't be a DVD.