August 19, 2008

When the moon is in the 7th house.

I don't know if Jupiter aligned with Mars on Saturday night (and I certainly know that peace isn't guiding the planet), but the full moon looked spectacular rising over the old carousel building in Asbury Park, NJ. The structure sat vacant and crumbling for many years until rising once again for the first time this weekend... a theater! How cool is that?!

Here's the beautiful building in the daylight:

And if you haven't guessed from my "subtle" lede, the production is Hair.

The play is being staged by Revision Theatre, a new regional company setting up their base of operations in Asbury Park. Asbury Park was once the cat's meow of the Jersey Shore, a playground for wealthier suburbanites and New Yorkers starting at the turn-of-the-century. The town has seen some rough times in the past several decades, notably the riots of 1970. People and businesses left in droves, and all that remained were the crumbling facades of once-bustling waterfront attractions like the Paramount Theater, the Casino and the carousel that once anchored a suite of rides and attractions housed in the Palace Amusements complex, also home to Bruce Springsteen's Tunnel of Love (Palace Amusements, sadly, did not get a stay of execution from its date with the wrecking ball). The Stone Pony, where Bruce got his start, miraculously stayed put all these years, despite numerous threats of eminent domain interventions.

Fast forward to the last couple of years. Asbury's relatively close proximity to Manhattan (a 95 minute train ride to a station that's walking distance to the beach; just over an hour drive if you don't hit traffic) made people (and developers) say, "A ha!" There's been several failed (re: half-assed) attempts to kick-start this town, but this most recent appears to be the real deal.

If you're in the vicinity, please give Asbury Park a try and please try to go see Hair! (The show runs through August 31.) Revision did a great job staging this production "in the round," and the talented cast was full of energy and enthusiasm. The acoustics in the building are a little wonky, but make no mistake - this is a professional production. I especially thought Berger (played by Scoop Sloane...and no, I'm not making that name up but I think he is) and Claude (Casey Gensler, pictured below when I could sneak a lap shot) were quite well cast, and the "tribe" (re: supporting cast) had amazingly good voices, in particular Marah Meese, whose character Chrissy gets to sing the beautiful "Frank Mills" (and sing Ms. Meese did) and cast member Deirdre Grace who belted out "White Boys." She was so good I almost hugged her after the performance. I hope to see (and hear) her again.

It's the perfect play for a town in transition that's rising up before our very eyes thanks to a lot of people of different backgrounds and means coming together to make something good happen. You probably already know I'm partial to this area (I can see the carousel from my widow's walk in fact!) and if it sounds like I'm also partial to Hair, you'd be right...

Yup. That's me in Hair. Eighteen years ago (gasp). I don't know what will be more shocking to people reading this (including people who know me); that I actually dabbled in musical theater or that the clothes I'm wearing in the cast photo were my own.


pve design said...

Hair... how wonderful! Lovely post and now I see your theatrical flair shining through!

please sir said...

Oh so wonderful! Glad to hear a structure can be used again for great purposes!

Amy said...

That is so very cool! Being an artsy person myself, I applaud every restoration. The architecture is amazing. I've never been to the Jersey shore *but* if I ever go I'll definitely visit.

*And* thanks for visiting my blog! :)

design for mankind. said...

Ha--- OMG you are so cute! :) I can't believe you were in HAIR!!!!

I want a video. ;)

Ms. Tee said...

What lovely photos! Which one is you in the picture?!

ofifteen said...

That first photo is great! ...hmmm, and it is in NJ...:)

'designing your life'

Laura @ the shorehouse. said...

pve design...I still get a little theatrical at my desk job every now and again. :-)

please pics don't even do it justice. It's soooooo cool. And it was thisclose to getting demolished last year!

Amy...that's the spirit! :-) Come to the shorehouse if you're ever in our neck of the woods.

design for mankind...I have video (VHS, natch). is good. ;-) And thank you for saying "are" so cute...present tense, lol.

ms. tee...I added a tiny little red arrow but if you click on the photo it will enlarge a bit for you to see better. I'm the brunette in the light green tie dye.

ofifteen...and worth the trip. :-) I need to do a post on new design-type stores in the area.

Tina said...

Very cool.

j.cro said...

Oh sister... 18 years ago we were just coming out of the 80s! You were allowed to wear those clothes back then. It's the kids you see walking around the city in the same exact clothes NOW that I have a problem with. It wasn't a good look back then (but we didn't know any better) and it's still NOT a good look NOW!

As for Asbury Park - there's a fantastic book called "4th of July, Asbury Park: A History of the Promised Land" by Daniel Wolff - it's all about the history of what AP always wanted to become but never quite got there.

The carousel was a big part of my childhood... I remember when I was finally big enough to grab the ring as I went by.

I'm glad to see it restored. A surf movie premier was supposed to happen there recently but I think they had to move it because of all the bird poop that accumulated on the floor. I'm glad to see they cleaned that up!

Linda Lou said...

"Give me hair, long beautiful hair, that musical, how fun to be part of it even if it was 18 years ago. Isn't Asbury Park where "The Boss" is from? I saw a story recently about how they are trying to return Asbury Park to its glory again!! Would love to visit.

Ms. Tee said...

Oh, I see now - very pretty! :)

Pat said...

Oh wow Laura I saw Hair on Broadway ages ago --it was one of the first Broadway shows I ever saw!
My daughter recently drove to the Stone Pony with friends to see a concert. They were surprised by some of Asbury Park's urban blight. I do hope it revives --- that has happened to so many once less desirable places in Brooklyn, so there is hope! We also have to hope the economy kicks up again so that can happen.

You must have had fun in Hair! Did your production alllow you to keep all your clothes on? That end was a shocker back in the 70's! Now it wouldn't make anyone! said...

I love Hair. Other than Jesus Christ's my favorite musical. I went thru a phase when I was teenager where I watched it...EVERYDAY. That picture of you is adorable!

Hooked on Houses said...

Look at you! I love picture. How fun that you were in Hair! I like you even more now. -Julia :-)

sarah @ a beach cottage said...

too cool that you were in hair, fantastic architecture, love that

thanks for the birthday wishes, too funny on the 'boom boom thrift' I don't really know why I wrote that, I guess I was still excited lol!!!!


Jenni @ nest to keep said...

I think it's so cool that they turned the old building into a theater for plays! One of the fun things my husband and I do together occasionally is see plays at a local theater called "Taproot Theater". We love it and always have such a great time!

I enjoyed reading about the play you saw, and thanks for saying hi on my blog. So great to see your comment there!

Marie Louise said...

What a great post! I'm glad to see that they are preserving the theater. I was there years ago on a photo shoot but have to admit I was hoping Bruce Springsteen would walk by at the time ;-)

Laura @ the shorehouse. said...

tina -- thanks. it totally is very cool! I was seriously thinking of going again :-)

j.cro -- I am so totally reading that book. Thanks for the tip off! I was wondering why the surf screening moved. Ewww...

linda lou -- sing it, sister! hahaha. Yes...BROOOCCCCE. It's a cool town; very funky and always on the verge of "rising up" (Springsteen wrote that song about AP). I need to work on a Boardwalk blog tour.

ms. tee -- aww...thanks! But the picture *was* taken a long time ago, lol. ;-)

pat -- I am soooo jealous you saw it on Bway! If your daughter had been to the Stone Pony a few years ago she may have turned the car around. So sad to see this place crumble (on the beach no less! you think that would be a winner) In the past two years we've seen an insane amount of progress - a big part of why we recently bought our house the next town over. I'm totally with you -- it's a lot like Brooklyn's "rise up" (still can't believe Williamsburg!) so my fingers are crossed. I'm also not wanting to see people without $ get displaced but that's a whole other blog...(and yes; I got to keep my clothes on in Hair. Phew!)

i love upstate -- JC Superstar: coming October! Just not in the carousel.

julia -- you are so kind. I like *you* even more after hearing about when your son started school. ;-)

sarah -- there's another rummage sale at the Methodist church this weekend. I'm hoping for a "boom boom thrift" (I am still laughing when I read those words!)

jenni -- I just Googled Taproot -- it looks perfect! I love that it apppears a bunch of college students started it years back. I love that.

marie louise -- I *still* hope to see Bruce walk by. All. the. time. :-)

Laura B. said...

I LOVE that! How awesome!! When I last was there it was crap on the inside, so happy to see that something is happening!