In 1964, more than 700 college students trekked to Mississippi to join other volunteers and community organizers to register African Americans to vote. Over a 10-week period known as “Freedom Summer,” these activists encountered stiff resistance from the Ku Klux Klan and even all-white local law enforcement agencies that included the murders of three civil rights workers, countless beatings, the burning of 35 churches and the bombing of 70 homes and community centers. However, their efforts aided the formation of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, which registered voters and sent 68 members to the 1964 Democratic National Convention to confront and unseat the all-white state delegation. On February 22nd, Stanley Nelson, a filmmaker and 2002 MacArthur Genius Fellow, will screen his documentary, Freedom Summer, at Sunnyside Reformed Church. He will also be in attendance for a Q&A related to this powerful movie, which won three Primetime Emmy Awards. Freedom Summer debuted at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, but it will make its East Coast premiere in Sunnyside.
Details: Freedom Summer, Sunnyside Reformed Church, 48th Street and Skillman Avenue, Sunnyside, February 22nd, 7 pm, free with suggested donation.
Argentina and Uruguay are bitter soccer rivals, but the two South American countries have worked well together in creating and perfecting the tango and milonga. These two sensual partner dances — featuring close embraces and syncopated rhythmic footwork — originated on both sides of the Rio de la Plata in the 1890s, before spreading around the world. On Friday, The Best Tango & Milonga kicks off an eight-week stay at Thalía Spanish Theatre. The show is under the direction of Montevideo native Raul Jaurena, a Latin Grammy winner who has played the bandoneón with orchestras from such diverse places as Hollywood, Vienna and Israel. One featured singer is Marga Mitchell, a Venezuela native whose resume includes the 2009 ACE Award as Best Actress in a Musical. On February 14th, the Sunnyside theatre will host a special Valentine’s Day event with a performance and a post-show reception with the cast.
Details: The Best Tango and Milango, Thalía Spanish Theatre, 41-17 Greenpoint Avenue, Sunnyside, January 31st to March 23rd with Friday and Saturday shows at 8 pm and Sunday performances at 4 pm. $35/$32 for students and senior citizens/$30 on Fridays.
Bonus details: Valentine’s Day Tango Lovers’ Night, February 14th, 8 pm, $50.
Beware: You will want to take voice lessons after this performance. O Sole Trio charms audiences with an eclectic mix of everything from Italian opera to jazz, dazzling piano and violin solos and chuckle-inducing stage antics. Canadian baritone Giuseppe Spoletini (right) deftly blends Gospel, arias and other musical genres with his classically trained voice. Erin Shields (center), a soprano, has a vocal versatility that delights everywhere from jazz clubs to cabaret venues to opera companies. David Shenton (left) is a talented English pianist, violinist, composer and arranger whose jazzy album, Sunnyside Blues, is inspired by the Queens neighborhood where he has settled. This Thursday, they will perform at one of their favorite venues, arguably their home-away-from-home, Sunnyside Reformed Church.
Details: O Sole Trio, Sunnyside Reformed Church, 48-03 Skillman Avenue, Sunnyside, December 19th, 7 pm, free with requested donation.
The Pirogue is a colorful and compelling drama about 30 Senegalese economic migrants who sail to Spain in small boat, facing a treacherous Atlantic Ocean and the possibility of never reaching their destination. Return to Gorée follows Youssou N’Dour as the Senegalese singer traces jazz’s trail from Africa to the U.S. His goal is to bring back to Africa a jazz repertoire of his own songs to perform a concert in Gorée, the island that symbolizes the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. Both movies will screen in Jamaica’s Black Spectrum Theatre on Saturday as part of the African Diaspora Film Festival. Now in its 20th year, the festival features everything from world premieres to classic movies and Q&A to panel discussions. On Sunday, Sunnyside’s Thalia Spanish Theatre will screen six movies: Papa National Oyé, a political satire of African dictators; Kinshasa Mboka Té, a documentary about the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo; Tula the Revolt, which stars Danny Glover as the leader of a slave uprising on the Dutch-occupied Caribbean island of Curacao in 1795; Amnesty, which depicts a young Kenyan couple living the American dream until an ICE audit reveals a damaging secret; Mother of George, which is about a Nigerian couple in Brooklyn that can’t conceive a child; and Spies of Mississippi, which tells the story of a secret spy agency that seeks to preserve segregation and maintain white supremacy in 20th century Mississippi.
Details: December 14th, Return to Gorée, 2 pm, and The Pirogue, 4:30 pm, Black Spectrum Theatre, Baisley Boulevard at 177th Street, Roy Wilkins Park, Jamaica, prices vary.
Details: December 15th, Papa National Oyé and Kinshasa Mboka Té, 1:30 pm; Tula the Revolt, 3:30 pm; Amnesty and Mother of George, 5:30 pm; and Spies of Mississippi, 8 pm, Thalia Spanish Theatre, 41-17 Greenpoint Avenue, Sunnyside, prices vary. (more…)
The color! The rhythm! The songs! This homage deserves an homage! For five weeks, Thalia Spanish Theatre will present Heartbeat of Latino America (Al Ritmo del Corazon Latino). This brand new tribute celebrates the music and dance of 15 Spanish-speaking countries — Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Puerto Rico, Venezuela and Spain. Armando Moreno’s Mestizo Dance Company, which is known for festive skirts, sensuous gyrations and intense passion, will perform along with Harold Guitierrez and His Band.
On your marks… Get set… Eat! The tenth annual Queens Restaurant Week 2013 will run from September 30th to October 3rd and October 7th to October 10th with more than 60 eateries participating. A three-course, prix fixe dinner for $28 and lunch for $14 are the general parameters for the promotion, although some establishments will also offer wine or some other items, and many restaurants will continue their specials beyond October 10th. As to be expected in the world’s most diverse county, the cuisine options are boundless. Participating restaurants include Ben’s Best (Kosher, Rego Park), Christos (Astoria, steakhouse with Greek influence), Dazies (Sunnyside, Italian), Haveli (Forest Hills, Indian), Roka (Richmond Hill, Turkish), Tequila Sunrise (Bayside, Mexican) and Uncle Peter’s (Jackson Heights, pan-European).
Founded in 1979, Andrea Del Conte Danza Espa is arguably the most popular flamenco troupe in the U.S. The usually 10-member ensemble is known for its deep repertoire of acts combining all aspects – song, music, dance, handclaps, passion, sensuality, romance – of this traditional Spanish genre. On September 13th, Danza España will kick off a three-week run of Flamenc@! at the Thalía Spanish Theater in Sunnyside. The show is a tribute to women, featuring spectacular swirls of mantones (shawls), abánicos (fans) and batas de cola (ruffled dresses).
Details: Flamenc@!, Thalia Spanish Theatre, 41-17 Greenpoint Avenue, Sunnyside, September 13th – 29th, Friday and Saturday at 8 pm and Sunday at 4 pm, $35/$32 students and senior citizens/$30 on Friday/group rates available.
Few of the teeming masses who frequent the 7 train would be truly interested in the fact that they are traveling on a National Millennium Trail, specifically “The International Express” as designated by President Clinton. They might feign interest at the news that Queens Boulevard is quite modern, having been conceived of and built during the early 20th century in concert with the “dual contracts” phase of New York City subway construction which unintentionally created this immigrant superhighway. The modern thoroughfare carries automotive traffic and, in Sunnyside, is bisected by a concrete clad steel truss viaduct which in turn carries locomotive service (IRT Flushing Line).
That’s not what this post is about, though — it’s something else entirely. (more…)
The ironic thing is that you can’t catch a train here. Yet.
The Sunnyside Yard opened in 1910, and was built by the Pennsylvania Railroad. The rail complex was the largest coach yard on Earth back then, occupying some 192 acres which carried nearly 26 miles of track that could accommodate a thousand train cars. In modern times, the busiest rail junction in the United States is found here, called the Harold Interlocking.
A fantastic overview of the history of rail in Long Island City — with maps — can be found at the website trainsarefun.com.
The Sunnyside Yard tends to insulate Long Island City from the rest of western Queens, forcing its residential and business traffic to pass through and around narrow or crowded choke points like Queens Plaza. Its borders are defined by Jackson Avenue and Northern Boulevard to the north, while the southern border is found along Skillman Avenue in Sunnyside. In the east, it’s 48th Street and the west border is 21st Street.
There’s a reason I use a lot of adjectives when describing the place — ones like “gargantuan,” “cyclopean,” or — a noun — “titan.” (more…)