A New York State of Mind ; from the 'A' Train to the Rainbow Room, a Tour of Venues That Most Define New York Shows How Much the City Has Changed - and Refuses to - 17 Days after the Attack

By writer, Alexandra Marks | The Christian Science Monitor, September 28, 2001 | Go to article overview

A New York State of Mind ; from the 'A' Train to the Rainbow Room, a Tour of Venues That Most Define New York Shows How Much the City Has Changed - and Refuses to - 17 Days after the Attack


writer, Alexandra Marks, The Christian Science Monitor


Reported by staff writers Ron Scherer and Liz Marlantes and contributor Harry Bruinius in New York.

'Normal" in New York has never been like "normal" in any other place. This is a city with its own definition of a minute, where a mile is measured in blocks that are walked or sped beneath in dark tunnels dug by sweating forefathers a century ago.

This is a place full of unabashed hubris, the home of the bruisin' Bronx Bombers and the Subway Series, Wall Street's financial powerhouses and Broadway's glitterati.

This is New York, where the mayor is both chief sports fan and premier opera booster. The city that was 24/7 at least a century before this became a cliche.

And it is still New York, although tempered, made a touch wary by terrorist assault. A sudden civility has replaced its legendary brusqueness. People now actually make eye contact on the subway.

A need for community has brought out millions for chats on their stoops or at the corner deli: Even those who like to remain anonymous, as they can in this city more than any other, are reaching out. Others are rethinking their all-work, all-the-time ethos.

But the city's character, its irrepressibility, remains largely intact. Defiantly so, the way it's always been.

Cycles of cataclysm and recovery have shaped New York's history. From the British occupation, through labor riots, rebellions, near bankruptcy, and even - eerily - an earlier plane crash into the Empire State Building. The city has always embodied the purest example of that distinctly American ability to pick up and move on.

Its people, their neighborhoods, ballparks, and theaters tell the story of how the city has changed but remains the same - despite what poet laureate Billy Collins calls the "twin holes" left where the World Trade Center once stood.

PART 1: Indomitable

Little more than a month ago, the sidewalks in Times Square were clogged with theatergoers waiting to get into the big attractions on Broadway. Most days, the throng swelled so much that people spilled into the streets.

So the mayor devised a solution: He ordered out road crews, who drew new white lines on the street and simply extended the sidewalk into the street. It was a testament to the prominence of the Great White Way and its patrons - an acknowledgment that, when it comes to theater arts, New York is the world's center stage.

But Broadway, like much of the city, closed down in the stunned days following the crumbling of the towers. Concerts were canceled, restaurants shuttered. The emptiness seemed to mock the new white lines.

Like restaurants and hotels, theater productions have fixed costs. If a ticket isn't sold, the theater can't just put it on sale the next day. It's a loss - and there were enough unsold seats in the days following the attack to drive shows already on the edge off the stage.

But indomitable Broadway and the rest of the theater scene are pulling together. Theaters cut rents, authors gave back royalties, actors and actresses agreed to pay cuts.

"Artists are more or less accustomed, reluctantly and resentfully, to going without," says Loren Hightower, who danced in Broadway hits such as "Camelot" and "Oklahoma." "And in that way, they're prepared and resilient."

Within days of the attack, that resilience came to the fore, and the stage lights slowly began to come up.

"We had to get back to work," says Robert Krauss, co-creator and director of "Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh," a zany off-Broadway comedy based on Allan Sherman songs. "The cast said, 'We've got to go make people laugh now.' They see that as their job, to entertain and keep spirits up."

The show reopened on Thursday, two days after the attack. There were 21 people in the house that, until then, had been sold out every night. …

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