About Jessica Tiare Bowen
Jessica Tiare Bowen lives in the juicy Big Apple with her adorable pink-nosed chihuahua, Gillman. He's the inspiration for her first published children's book, "Park Avenue Pound Puppy." The book is the combined result of her two greatest passions: pooches and penning stories.
Her passions include art, urban hikes through Manhattan, drinking coffee with 3 creams and 6 sugars, making extremely detailed itineraries and traveling to far away places, singing along to Broadway shows, Netflix movie nights, discovering incredible treasures at Goodwill and thrift stores, and listening to stories from little people under 7 and big people over 70.
She started her career as New York City Teaching Fellow, teaching elementary school and theater arts at a special education school in the South Bronx for 6 years. She is now a Special Education School Improvement Specialist working in public schools throughout New York City. She is the Editor-In-Chief of the online New York City travel magazine, Used York City. The magazine focuses on finding the best of New York...as used by New Yorkers. She is a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, and an ASPCA Ambassador.
Latest Posts by Jessica Tiare Bowen
I arrived full circle with “The Phantom of the Opera.” This granddaddy of a musical is still playing some 26 years after its 1988 opening at the appropriately named “Majestic Theater” and remains the longest running show on Broadway. I can’t envision anything topping this fantastic record, although should it ever happen, I hope “Chicago” inherits the crown simply because it seems right that an American musical hold this title.
I was quite fortunate to catch this landmark show soon after it opened in early 1988 to somewhat reluctant raves from the critics, but thunderous applause from its mesmerized audience. Yes, I was young and impressionable (that’s a good thing!) and found this show intensely romantic (if only!) yet I was old enough to appreciate the new musical theatrics, both vocally and visually, at work here. Like everyone else, I bought the album… yes, on vinyl, those were the days…. and wore it out along with my vocal chords! Whatever made me think I was a soprano?
So I jumped at this recent opportunity to see how I would perceive “Phantom” so many years later given that my world has altered in every way possible.
In 1988 this show was like no other with its amazing stage inventiveness, excepting perhaps “Cats” and “Starlight Express” – both Andrew Lloyd Weber shows, no coincidence there – which paved the way for the eye popping theatrics of “Phantom.” The 80s were a seminal time in musical theater history; the British invasion had arrived on our Great White Way and our stages were filled with shows from London’s West End. “Phantom” was the hottest ticket in town and its composer was welcomed as the heir apparent to the melodic traditions of Richard Rodgers. Yes, there were rumblings about the melodrama of its story, and the repetitive, perhaps copied nature of the music – but we all ignored the naysayers, this show was just too dazzling to let them take away the welcomed sensual pleasures at work here. We all came out feeling that we had surely gotten way more then our money’s worth of entertainment. “Phantom” was – and I gladly maintain that “Phantom” STILL IS – a major theatrical experience.
You all know this legendary story as it essentially follows the plot lines of “Beauty and the Beast.” The Phantom (an intense, emotional Norm Lewis in this current production, living up to the iconic performance of Michael Crawford as the original Phantom) resides under the Paris Opera House circa the era of the Belle Epoque, thus the exquisite costumes and sumptuous sets. Sadly, he is hidden from the world, denied of humanity, as he was horribly deformed as a child and rejected by the cruel world. Enter the beautiful young songstress, Christine Daae – magnificently performed by the fabulous Sierra Bogess. (You may recall she did the London PBS televised 25th Anniversary performance of “Phantom” several years back.) Such an electrifying performance, my hair stood on end - Sierra/Christine is surely the “angel of music” achingly sought by the Phantom. He is smitten with her musically and every other way and is determined to move her out of the chorus, into his lair, and make her a star. What inevitably follows and keeps you enthralled are the mysterious, downright creepy, doings astir at the Opera House. But of course a love triangle ensues as the handsome, vocally gifted Raul (nicely sung by Jeremy Hays) enters this timeless story. The plot thickens as does the music and the overt moving production numbers. Think “pop opera” due to the intense bass line that underscores many of the songs alongside the sung dialogue. This luscious score is always melodic, emotional, at times exquisite, and ultimately downright voluptuous. It all comes together in a glorious orgy of melody, costumes, and staging.
How can this show ever date? I know there are muted grumblings now about the campiness of the infamous chandelier effects and the artifice of the musical numbers. I don’t debate any of these easy criticisms. But when a show sells out night after night, and runs for 26 years….well, they must be doing something right!
And so you rightfully ask, is this show better the 2nd time around? And in my case, so many years later? YOU BET. I felt an emotional maturity and depth in the music as well as in this ageless story which I did not sense way back when, and this is especially evident in the complex performance of the two principles. Or perhaps it’s my own growth at play here that allows me to relish this work thru the eyes of experience rather then innocence?
This is a great night of theater, a sumptuous spectacle and an essential part of musical history on whatever level or dimension you experience “Phantom.” It’s a win/win at any stage of your life. Don’t miss this landmark.
By: Joanne Theodorou
Meditation has always been something that’s intrigued me (remember. While I practice yoga on the regular, it’s never been much of a zen activity for me…let’s chalk this up to the fact that I like hot yoga, and it’s hard to be zen when you have about a gallon of sweat dripping down your face at any given moment. Gross, I know.
I heard about a downtown meditation class that occurs mornings for an hour and lunchtime for half an hour. A quick 30 minute lunchtime meditation seemed like the perfect time to give it a try, no? Our meditation instructor at The Three Jewels told us we could either meditate in the seated position or laying down on a yoga mat…either was fine as long as our spine was straight. I’ll let you guess which one I opted for;-)
Closing our eyes, she walked us through some calming words, encouraging us to first pay attention to all the sounds around us (water faucet dripping! cabs honking! classmates breathing! ahhhh the stimulation!), and then for us to let go of those sounds completely and to focus on our breathing. On the inhale and exhale. On that moment. (Yes, the cabs were still honking but I did my best to ignore, promise!)
Thirty minutes was the exact right amount of time for me. Anymore and I probably would have been snoring away in class, zenned to the max with a lunchtime snoozer.
If meditation is something you’re interested in, I’d absolutely encourage you to try out a class. They are donation based ($7), but will never turn anyone away for funds…so technically, yes, you can go for free. If you have a tendency to get super relaxed (read: on the verge of sleeping), I’d suggest giving the seated meditation pose a try first.
If I worked in the hood I would definitely take advantage of the lunchtime zen sessions as a way to relax, but being much further uptown and having a preference for sweat over zzz’s, I’ll be sticking to the hot yoga.
Have you ever tried meditation? Should I give it another try? Share your thoughts below!
By: Jessica Tiare Bowen
Often, I joke around that I’m “staying on the island for the summer”…meaning the island of Manhattan, of course. But there’s another island right next door that’s super quick and easy to get to (no car needed!), and offers a lot of quiet, solitude, and nature that we’re not necessarily swimming in on the island of Manhattan. No, I’m not speaking of the Hamptons…I’m talking Roosevelt Island!
My favorite way of getting to Roosevelt Island is taking the RI Tram from 59th Street and 2nd Avenue (video of the ride below!) If heights aren’t your thing, you can hop on the F train and take it underground to the Roosevelt Island stop.
What To Do
When you disembark the tram, you’ll see the teeny tiny Visitor’s Center right in front of you. The folks manning the desk are super helpful and knowledgable about anything you might want to know about the island, so I’d definitely suggest popping in for a chat and to get yourself orientated. If you’re into history, ask lots of questions! Roosevelt Island has a fascinating past, including hospitals, asylums, and correctional institutions.
Southpoint Park & Four Freedoms Park
A 10 minute walk south once you exit the tram or subway, these parks are clean (with public restrooms, yay!), and offer breathtaking views of the city. You’ll come across Southpoint Park first (which is dog friendly, Four Freedoms is not.) It is also home to a landmark building: the old Small Pox Hospital, which is pretty cool to see up close and personal. Be sure to walk down to the end of the island to Four Freedoms Park, which is where you will see a gorgeous memorial to President FDR himself. The parks are hosts to lots of fun outdoorsy, summery events, so be sure to check out their website for times of outdoor films, dance lessons, tours, etc.
Blackwell Island Lighthouse
Now hop on the red bus (which picks up back at the tram) and ride it about 10 minutes to the last stop on the North point of the island where you will see the Blackwell Island Lighthouse. Built by convict laborers in 1872, this lighthouse lit the way for boats navigating what was then referred to as the “Hell Gates waters”. The lighthouse is also surrounded by a park, so this is a great place to lay out with a blanket and read a book, take a snooze, or play some frisbee.
Walk The Promenade
After a bit of rest, head back down the West side of the island via foot for a nice little stroll…it’s about 2 miles (or you could always hop back on the bus!) You’ll capture beautiful views of Manhattan’s Upper East Side, and see the Coler Campus of the Coler-Goldwater Hospital on your left. The hospital is a long-term care facility for patients with live-in needs, hence you’ll see a lot of wheelchairs and scooters about. I love how universally designed and accessible the island is to all…kudos, NYC!
You’ll run smack into Eleanor’s Pier, which is a cute wooden pier with tables and a container of takeout menus. You can either order takeout right from the pier, or walk just another block to the town center where the restaurants are located, and then bring your food back. (Or packing a picnic is always a great option!) There’s not a huge variety when it comes to dining on the island, but they have all the staples: bar food, pizza, and sushi. It should be no surprise what I went for! Three hours should be plenty of time to see the above mentioned sites and to enjoy some quietness on the island. Although it’s not quite a beach getaway, I promise you’ll leave feeling rested, recharged, and ready to tackle whatever may lay on the other end of your tram ride.
What’s your favorite afternoon getaway? Share below!
Recently I went to the Boston Ballet. A childhood ballerina myself, I had no doubt I was going to adore the dances going in, but had little hope for the hubby. ”Please just stay awake, and I promise we’ll go to The Smith afterwards and order all your favorite things!”, I pleaded.
Come to find out, the Boston Ballet at Lincoln Center was a game changer. He LOVED it*. And honestly, I had never seen a ballet quite like it, it reminded me of the edgier troupe at the end of Center Stage that stole the audiences heart…a little less ballet that we think of in the traditional pink tutus and toe shoes, double pirouettes sense, and more theatrical performance art accompanied by techno rock music that keeps you on the edge of your seat wondering, “What’s next?” We saw the performances The Second Detail (my fave), New Work, and Cacti (the hubby was completely enchanted by this one!)
As promised, we did stop by the UWS’s Smith for a dinner of all his favorite things: cheesy grits, french fries, gnocchi, and baguettes. Carb-loading for a full night’s sleep, darlings!
Besides the ballet, Lincoln Center has plenty of other reasons to pay them a visit this summer, some of which are absolutely free. Here’s 5 of my fave freebies:
1. Midsummer Night Swing (You have to pay to get onto the dance floor, but you can enjoy the music, people and dancing from the sidelines without paying a cent!)
2. Napping on the Illumination Lawn.
3. Enjoying free musical performances at Target Free Thursdays.
4. Visiting the exhibit “Launchpad of the American Theater: The O’Neill since 1964” at the New York Library for the Performing Arts.
5. Meet The Artist Saturdays, happening the first Saturday of each month.
Which of these would you most like to check out this summer? Share below!
For those of you hosting parties this summer, I have a super adorable, no-bake, no-work, 5-minutes-and-you’re-done, festive recipe*! Trust me, your vegetarian friends who are skipping the hotdogs will love you, as will your gluten-free friends who are skipping the apple pie, and your vegan friends who are skipping the ice-cream.
Needless to say, you really can’t go wrong with fruit (although go organic, just in case), and as you can tell from the photos, there’s virtually no work required other than cutting up bananas and sticking the fruit on skewers. Voila, fruit kebabs! And seriously guys, how cute is this?!
A lover of children’s literature, A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh books were always in heavy rotation in my library as a child, and the cartoons played pretty much on repeat on our trusty VHS player. That being said, I never pondered much on the origins of the 1920′s series, basically assuming it was the fictional creation of some brilliant author, generations before my time.
“It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like “What about lunch?” -Winnie-the-Pooh
Imagine my delight when, on a recent stroll of the New York Public Library’s Main Branch, I stumbled (literally) onto a glass case filled with the original Hundred Acre Wood’s gang, tattered and loved unconditionally by a child, just as I would expect.
“Nobody can be uncheered with a balloon.” -Winnie-the-Pooh
The child that loved this gang of characters was the author’s son, Christopher Robin (also a main character in the stories!) The story has it that the actual Christopher Robin received the stuffed bear on his first birthday, which he originally named Edward, and added his friends to the collection over his childhood years. He used to spend summers in the real Hundred Acre Wood (located in southern England), and hence switched Edward’s name to “Winnie-the-Pooh”, originating from the Winnipeg black bear, the one Christopher Robin used to visit frequently at the London Zoo. Christopher Robin’s father quickly realized that this collection of characters would make for wonderful bedtime stories, and thus, the series was born.
“Well,” said Pooh, “what I like best,” and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called.” -Winnie-the-Pooh
Winnie-the-Pooh and his besties, Eeyore, Piglet, Kanga, and Tigger, have been living at the NYPL since 1987, and I like to believe that, minus the cuddles, they are just has happy being loved and adored by Winnie-the-Pooh fans that pay frequent visits as they were living in Christopher Robin’s home, some 90+ years ago.
What childhood literary character played an important part of your life? Share below!WHERE: Children’s Center at the NYPL Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street New York, New York COST: Free
The very first movie my mom ever took me to see in theaters as a kid was The Jungle Book, setting the stage for my love of all things Disney and musical. In 1992, the Disney version of Aladdin came to the screen, and my siblings and I must have watched that VHS copy, oh, a proper 1,572 times over the years.
Flash forward to 2014 when Aladdin comes to the biggest off-screen of NYC, Broadway! My hopes were high, and only to be exceeded by the brilliant directing and choreography (Casey Nicholaw, Tony award winner for directing The Book of Mormon), music (by composer Alan Menken), design of the massive sets, glittery costumes, and other worldly-lighting (Bob Crowley, Gregg Barnes, and Natasha Katz) and the crazy-talented cast (seriously, James Monroe Iglehart who played the Genie just blew the performance out of the park!
He also took home the Tony for Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical, just FYI.) A special shout out to the special effect team (led by illusion master Jim Steinmeyer) who was charged with everything from creating magical books to materializing Genies to creating flying carpets (with no strings to be seen anywhere, folks!)
For those of you who perhaps haven’t seen the Disney version, Aladdin tells the story of a young lad in Arabian times, who gets three wishes from a genie trapped in a magic lamp. Throw in a princess who doesn’t want to get married to just any old prince, an evil villain who’s trying to steal the throne, and mix this all together with some truly incredible music and dance numbers, and you have the recipe for a hit. A spot on one at that.
While the musical is certainly kid friendly, it has some great adult humor in there, too. And while, yes, it’s a musical inspired by Disney, it’s important to note that this production is packed with more old-school Broadway pizazz then you’ll find anywhere else on the stage right now. We’re talking high kicking, show stopping, over-the-top-in-all-the-right-ways numbers that will have you singing the likes of “Friend Like Me” and “A Whole New World” for weeks to come! This is one all generations will enjoy so much, you’ll be wishing for your own magic lamp only to request to see it over, and over, and over again.
Before I start, I’d like you to all take a good, long look at this pretzel. Soft, warm, salty, and when dipped into that piping pot of cheddar ale dip…hot diggity! Loyalty for life is what I call that, Flatiron Hall!
Nestled in NoMad, Flatiron Hall is the sister restaurant to further-downtown’s Houston Hall (and we all remember how much I love that place! But in case you forgot…!)
This two level complex houses the restaurant on the main floor and the rowdier hall one level down in the “beer cellar”. The vibe is 1920′s New York meets 2014′s influx of craft beer lovers. This place puts the meow in the cat, my friends. And the service? Top of the line. We never sat with an empty glass, and our server went above and beyond to be so accommodating with my picky vegetarian tastes.
As obsessed as I am with the aforementioned pretzel, there’s still a bevy of menu options to please your pallet…(my husband has returned 3 times already for the Beef Filet Mignon Sandwich. I wonder if it’s too late to get stock in this place…?) Other favorites of ours were the Mediterranean Platter (great for sharing!), the Big Bowl Garden Vegetable Plate (great for veggies!), and the Dark Chocolate Mousse.
And being a beer hall, I would be amiss if I didn’t mention the frothy suds. New Yorkers will be pleased to know that their beer is produced locally, as in right over the bridge, by Greenpoint Beer Works. Besides what they have on tap, the bartenders also mix up a mean cocktail. Runaway American Sidecar and Burnham’s Folly were particular favorites of mine, and not just cause of their cooler than cool names, promise.
Truly a great spot for a group meet up, lively date night, or throw-back evening to the
crazy partying simpler times of the Roaring Twenties, Flatiron Hall has the recipe for success down. Now if only they’d share the recipe to that pretzel and cheese dip…
Until then, here’s some food porn to tickle your fancy…
What’s the most memorable dish you’ve eaten this week? Describe below!
WHERE: Flatiron Hall 38 West 26th Street New York, New York