Meet 52nd Street

Lost Gem
INTAR Theatre 1 Theaters Hells Kitchen Midtown West

INTAR Theatre

“INTAR is a beacon for all Latino artists in New York, ” said Artistic Director Lou Moreno, who was raised in Colombia and naturally gravitated toward the theater when he arrived in Manhattan at the age of twenty-one. At the time, INTAR was still under the management of its founder, Cuban immigrant Max Ferrá. Max created the institution out of a passion for all international art, with a special focus on Latinx work. More broadly, however, “Max was driven by beauty. He always challenged us to find the beauty in everything we did at the theater. ” His successor, Cuban-American playwright Eduardo Machado, sought to continue Max’s vision by producing plays in any venue he could rent as INTAR lacked a space of its own. Lou had been affiliated with INTAR since his first job running the light board in the 1990s. He did acting, directing, and some design before joining as Eduardo’s associate artistic director. When Eduardo departed the business in 2010, Lou took over the reins and endeavored to transform the theater and lift it out of debt. He converted the rehearsal studio on 52nd Street into a workshop space, complete with risers and a full lighting grid, and switched INTAR’s focus to developing new dramatic and musical theater productions. “I tried to honor what Max felt the theater should be. ”To Lou, establishing their own place for performances rather than renting outside theaters was a logical choice: “I can either rent and spend money paying landlords or I can spend the money on the actors. ” Once the unions got behind him, they finalized INTAR’s space within nine months and were able to put on their first show. Since then, the theater has produced about fifteen plays and developed new programming to support fledgling artists. “The heart of INTAR is based on this community of artists, so our organization will never truly die. Our artists constantly feed us, and we try to feed them. ”Though Lou longs for the day when INTAR will no longer be necessary to push Latinx work into the mainstream, he is thrilled to see a shift in the industry in recent years. “We spent so much time chasing the American theater that now we are finally at a time that they are chasing us. ”

Lost Gem
La Grenouille 1 French Midtown East

La Grenouille

The story of La Grenouille begins with “il était une fois, ” once upon a time. Gisèle Collas and Charles Masson first crossed paths in Paris after World War II, during which Charles enlisted in the American army while Gisèle cared for her younger sister in Nazi-occupied France. When the two met again in New York, Gisèle had just moved to the city with only forty dollars “but a lot of passion. ” The couple married in 1949, destined to open a door to bygone Paris in Manhattan. Gisèle was sipping on a Triple Manhattan when she signed the lease to what had once been the Copenhagen restaurant. At the time, Charles had found work on independent cruises and Gisèle was eager to put an end to his long departures. It was through a wire message that Gisèle informed her voyaging husband that they were the proud owners of a building they would transform into their dream restaurant. Charles named it after his pet name for Gisèle, “ma petite grenouille. ”“It’s a fairytale story, ” expressed current owner Philippe Masson, who carries on his parents’ legacy. He developed his culinary passion early in his childhood by “burning meringues to find out the right temperature of the oven” late into the night with his father. Today, he is able to design new dishes seasonally and deliver menu classics such as the Grand Marnier Soufflé — always perfectly sugared and fluffed in its small white ramekin. His work is fueled by “a lot of joy, a lot of Cuban cigars, and a lot of good music. ”On Mondays, however, all of Philippe’s energy is devoted to creating the floral arrangements for which the restau-rant is known. The exquisite arrangements began when Charles bought a “big, beautiful Baccarat vase” to temper the light shooting through the windows. The arrangements have since become one of the most renowned qualities of the restaurant, intermingling with the lush red banquets, original chandeliers, and a center-hung portrait of the stunning “grande dame” Gisèle. Upstairs, artwork pays homage to French painter Bernard LaMotte who once lived and hosted guests there including Greta Garbo, Charlie Chaplin, and Antoine de Saint-Ex-upéry, who wrote parts of Le Petit Prince in that same space.

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