After a long, cold January day trekking across 57th Street, the Sideways team found their spirits revitalized at the Row House, where men and women were coming through the doors for their early evening fifty-minute workout. Row House was founded by trainers and couple, Debra and Eric Von Frohlich, as a destination where people of all ages can participate in a variety of exercise classes centered on rowing machines. The idea was inspired by Debra's great cousin, Emery, who lived to age ninety-three maintaining incredible health and form - which he attributed to his daily rowing routine. Promoting this inspirational story along with the full-body workout and non-impact nature of rowing, Debra and Eric have attracted a strong following of those who believe in it as the right alternative to the typical gym routine. After a tour of the facilities and observing a class, I believe that we were each inspired to give this new form of exercise a chance.Located one flight down, we had the pleasure of meeting one of the trainers as he was getting ready to begin his class in the EVF Performance Space - also run by Debra and Eric. Continuing in the same vein as Row House, the staff strives to provide a better alternative to traditional gym machines and utilities. Each class features a variety of cross-fit exercises including box-jumps, gymnastic rings and barbells, with the most popular class being their Signature 360. Although intimidated at first by the intensity of the exercises, I was captivated by the warmth and sincerity of the instructors. I came away believing that every client is given the same amount of guidance and care in order to provide the perfect individual workout for them.
Named for a New York native who was the first woman to swim the English Channel, The Gertrude Ederle Recreation Center sports numerous facilities including a computer room, a basketball court, a workout center, and a dance studio. When it was first built in 1906, however, it was one of many baths opened under New York State law to bathe the poor and homeless. The term "baths" in this case meant showers, since actual tubs were hard to clean and caused jealousy among bathers who would soak for hours. The pool, housed by the magnificent Georgian bathhouse designed by architects Werner & Windolph, existed for those who had already cleaned themselves. When it was realized that most swimmers used the pool in the summer to get cool rather than clean, the center's purpose gradually shifted from sanitary to recreational.
The building that houses Flute Bar & Lounge was once home to a speakeasy called Club Intime, run by the notorious chorus girl Texas Guinan. Today, Flute's owners pay homage to their predecessors with 1920's music and drinks served in mugs, as was the custom during Prohibition. The underground champagne bar has no windows and dim lighting, and its seating - plush sofas and ottomans clustered around low tables - give it a far more intimate feel than a traditional lounge.With countless brands from which to choose, champagne may be the focus, but Flute also serves a wide variety of cocktails - many of which feature champagne - and small accompanying food plates. Texas Guinan once called the speakeasy business an "essential and basic industry." Though her Club Intime was shut down after only six months in business, she would certainly be heartened that its spirit lives on in Flute today - especially on the last Saturday of each month when Wit's End celebrates jazz music and dancing with an assortment of talent.
The Neighborhood Playhouse is both a great community resource and an old-fashioned reminder of the timelessness of great theater. Virtually invisible from the street, the only clue to its existence is a red, unmarked door and a modest sign. Once inside, however, I discovered that this almost one hundred year old building holds within it a proscenium theater, a full-size dance studio, and plenty of dressing rooms and classrooms. What a fascinating tour I was treated to by Emily Duncan, the admissions administrator, where I learned about their history and mission.The lobby, with its shabby elegance, features photos of famous graduates, as well as scenes from plays over the course of the school's history. The top two floors of the building are devoted to a beautiful dance studio with wood floors and soaring ceilings. A lover of dance, I was particularly moved when Emily announced that I was standing in the former domain of dancer and choreographer, Martha Graham, who taught at the Neighborhood Playhouse alongside actor and teacher, Sanford Meisner.I was also enrapt by Christine Cirker, the librarian, who proudly discussed their vast collection of plays and theatre criticism. Incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about the world of theater, she told me that she also teaches classes on script interpretation. Christine went on to explain the playhouse's claim to fame: the Meisner Technique, a method of acting that emphasizes that one should "live truthfully under given imaginary circumstances." Sanford Meisner developed his famous improvisation-based technique at the Playhouse in the mid-1940s, which continues to train actors to this day. It counts among its list of prominent alumni names: Gregory Peck, Robert Duvall and Steve McQueen; and more recently, it has added to its roster, Allison Janney and Chris Noth.The playhouse trains about one hundred students at any given time, seventy-five first-years and twenty-five second-years who have been invited back as a result of a unanimous faculty vote. According to Emily, graduates have an easier time finding work than most aspiring actors due to their alma mater's extensive network of influential writers, directors, and actors. Much of the faculty is closely involved in the theater world, and as Pamela Moller Kareman, the playhouse's executive director, shared, "It's a big leap to become a professional actor; we want people to know that you can do this with your life." And from the time that I spent here, it became apparent that the staff at Neighborhood Playhouse is there to guide and support students every step of the way.