Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Venice - Carnivale - 2017 - Part 1

Bucket List: Carnival - Venice - check! For 2017 the celebrations began on February 11th and continue through to February 28th.

Anyone who has ever read my Dizzy Traveler blog knows I'm madly in love with Venice, Italy. But what I had never done was Carnivale. And this trip proved to be as exciting as I hoped that it would be.

Holiday lights along side of Piazza San Marco

With my travel partner Bud, we arrived in Venice in the early evening, 3 days before the kick-off of events. 3 million visitors pour into this magnificent and mystifying floating city for Carnival and I wanted to get settled into our Airbnb and familiar with our neighborhood, the Dorsoduro before they all arrived. I had stayed in this part of Venice two years ago and loved how open it felt compared to other areas in the city. It's also very quiet but still there are exciting taverns, restaurants, galleries and museums. Our apartment was located next door to the Peggy Guggenheim Museum.

Searching for our front door we discovered a cherub, our guardian angel, looking over us in the alleyway.  Either way, it's a very safe neighborhood. In fact, all of Venice is. A local friend of mine once told me, "There is very little crime in Venice because we are all looking out for each other." Then she paused and said, "Plus, this is a very expensive city to live in, the crooks can't afford it!"

This was a beautiful apartment and it overlooked Peggy's Museum and gardens. And beyond was the stunning Santa Maria della Salute. Look at the these views from our windows!

And inside, the apartment was perfect.

If you want to check it out, here's a link to our apartment, the Mansarda Magritte. What's good to know, there's a full service supermarket not far away plus you're very near to the Accademia Bridge and the Santa Maria della Salute vaporetto (water bus) stops. The apartment looks just like its pictures only better. So much space and light and the decor is very simple but elegant. The kitchen is easy to work, clean and we used it a lot, especially for breakfasts. Upstairs is a great and large loft area, perfect for getting away from others to read a book or write, with tons of light. I already miss the church bells tolling gently in the background.

Basilica San Marco
As we ventured out to explore, Venice, this trip, seemed to be gleaming under the noon day sun.

The Clock Tower

View of Piazza San Marco from our water taxi.

Interesting note: Carnival in Venice dates as far back as 1268 but when Austria took over Venice they outlawed it in 1797. It wasn't until as recently as 1979 that Carnival was reinstated and has now become the world famous event that it is.

So, I needed to find a mask for Carnivale! All year long, but especially leading up to Carnivale, you can find all sort of masks for sale in the city, from the very cheap to the extremely expensive.

But I headed over to one of the oldest and most prestigious mask making workshops in Venice, Ca' Macana.
I also love that it's just off Campo San Barnaba where Katharine Hepburn filmed parts of Summertime and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade shot some scenes. There are several great restaurants in this area too.

And here, I took forever, to finally chose my handmade leather and signed Pulcinella mask.

Looks like I'm going to rob a bank.
With the opening night ceremony a day away, and with the full moon guiding us, we decided to stroll through Venice and . . . 

 . . . we found to our delight, that the streets and alleyways were virtually empty. Unheard of in Venice. We had it all to ourselves.

Rialto Bridge in background, lit up and empty!

Another Campo beautifully lit up and empty!

However, as we turned a corner, that's when the shenanigans began.

A gigantic carnival puppet started following us surrounded by his band of noisy minstrels.

Great fun but as we made our way back to the Dorsoduro and through Campo San Stefano before crossing the Accademia Bridge, the calm before the exciting storm returned.

Campo San Stefano, normally clogged with tourists.

Part - 2 - Carnival ceremonies, restaurants, museums and much more.

Buona Notte

Monday, January 30, 2017

SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW: With Writer, Actor, Director, and More! - Gregory G. Allen

Arthur Wooten:  Greg, when we first met I knew you as a novelist. Can you offer our readers a little insight into your body of work. Maybe the elevator pitch/logline for each book?

Greg Allen:  Oh goodness! You're putting me on the spot. It needs to be a long elevator ride. Hi, I'm Gregory Allen & I've written 3 novels . . .


. . . that  deal with family (those we're born into and those we make), topics of sexuality, . . . 


. . . the foster care system, mental illness, love, and self discovery.
I also have three children's books that advocate on autism awareness as well as following your dream...even if you're a squirrel who wants to perform.  Here are all my books:

Arthur:  So, I’ve discovered that you wear many hats. You’re a theatre manager and I believe you’re also a playwright and a composer? And you’ve recently starred in the musical production of Big Fish and prior to that, Next To Normal.
Greg in Next To Normal
Greg: It's often hard to say what you do when you enjoy doing so many things. You can't fit it on a business card! I've been in the entertainment industry for over 25 years in one capacity or another. I've written several musicals, directed them, acted in them and I love each of those in a different way. No matter what – I'm a story teller. Either telling someone else's story or one I've created myself. I think that's why I loved playing Edward Bloom in Big Fish the Musical last summer...he was an incredible storyteller. 

Arthur:  You’ve written and directed the award winning short film Mother.

Greg: That was such a rewarding experience. Every single element from writing it, the two day shoot, post production – all of it came together in such a way that I'm afraid to try another. And then to hit the film festival circuit and win some awards...wow!

Arthur:  AND, as you mentioned, you’ve also segued into being a children’s book author.

Greg: My background started in children's theater. My mother and several family members were also teachers. I wrote my first children's musicals when I was a teen. I got my equity card doing children's theater. I toured as a teenage mutant ninja turtle. So wanting children to be involved in the arts has been important to me. I love traveling to schools and discussing writing with them after reading my books. It brings me such joy to hear from children that are already creating their own stories in elementary school.

Arthur:  How do you juggle so many genres and jobs? Do you finish one project to completion and then move to the next, keeping them compartmentalized? Or can you work on many things at the same time?

Greg: I often start several different projects, but then when one takes over – it really takes over and moves to the front. I still have sequels to my first two novels that I never finished. The past year I worked on adapting some of my novels into screenplays at the same time I was writing Irving the Theater Nut!   

Arthur:  In regard to your children’s books, where do you find your inspiration? 

Greg:  My Chicken Boy series is based on my godson with autism. I wanted to create a superhero with autism from the 1st person POV (point-of-view). I had no idea people would respond to it as they did and I would begin traveling to schools every year talking about it.

The second book came along when teachers and school nurses asked me to address sensory overload with children with autism. So I did. 

For Irving, when I started my current job managing a theater in a historic theater in Westchester County NY, the 1st week I was there a squirrel got into the theater. I completely forgot that I went home and wrote an outline. Last year, I found it and created the book about the squirrel who couldn't stay out of the building because he wants so badly to perform with the children rehearsing inside.

Arthur:  I know that with Chicken Boy you’ve delved into the school circuit, educating the kids and entertaining them with your work. Are you doing the same with Irving?

Greg:  I've already done several bookstores with Irving and have a school lined up this spring that specifically wants me to talk about Irving. I'd love to go to some summer theater camps and talk about Irving to those kids. It's for those that dare to be different, follow their dreams, and follow their own beat.

Arthur:  And what advice would you give other children’s book authors who want to take the challenge and visit schools with their projects? I bet your acting skills come in handy.

Greg: You definitely need to stay sharp and be ready to take whatever is thrown your way. You never know what questions will be asked. Plus yes, it helps to be somewhat entertaining so I can utilize some acting skills for that. If I start to sense I need to shift gears, I tell my story about touring as a Ninja Turtle and that pulls them right back in!

Arthur:  Do you see a sequel to Irving in the future? Or what about a children’s musical adaptation of Irving?

Greg:  At this point I want to see how the first book does, but I absolutely could see a sequel for Irving. I've already got to witness a group of children acting it out after I read them the story. That was so rewarding to me! I'd love to see it adapted for the stage. Who knows, that may end up being another project of mine. (I haven't written music in many, many years – so perhaps it could be a collaboration with someone – any takers?) 
Arthur : Greg, you never cease to amaze and inspire me.

To find out more about Greg visit his website at www.gregorygallen.com.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Free Museums in NYC - Museum of Modern Art and Robert (the restaurant)

Many know this, but for those who don't, the Museum of Modern Art - MOMA located at 11 West 53rd Street in Manhattan is free on Friday nights from 4:00 PM to 8:00 PM. But for New Yorkers, if you apply for your NYCidcard this museum, as well as many others in town - is free all the time for one year after you receive your id card. Plus you get discounts on Broadway shows, sporting events and even movies!

Enjoying a quick visit to some of the current exhibits as well as their permanent collection with my friend Bud, it was great to see the works of Jackson Pollock . . .

 . . . Henri Matisse . . . 

. . . as well as some lesser known but brilliant artists. We stumbled upon Florine Stettheimer.

Family Portrait, II by Florine Stettheimer

Whimsical and almost childlike, her paintings are very exciting to see up close. There are hidden clues as to the idiosyncrasies of each character she paints. Her works reminded use of the Russian painter and costume designer, Leon Bakst. She was also a poet, and set and costume designer.
Stettheimer costume design
From 1915 to 1935, Florine, with the help of her sisters, ran a literary and artists salon. Gertrude Stein was welcomed as well as modernist artists which included Georgia O'Keeffe. It must have been an exciting time to be an artist then!

DIZZY NOTE: With the hoards of people and the design of the museum itself, my vestibular symptoms as well as vertigo were starting to throw me off.

So off we went to Robert. Located at 2 Columbus Circle on the top floor of the Museum of Arts and Design building.

This restaurant has a fantastic view of the circle and Central Park beyond. If planning on having dinner, be clear to specify that you'd like a table up against the window. 

If just having cocktails there is a lounge just a few rows back behind the diners, but you'll still have a good view.

We just opted for drinks but I'm eager to go back and have dinner, as well as spend some time in the Museum of Arts and Design.