Remember meForgot password?
    Log in with Twitter

article imageTake a Ride on a NYC Subway, See a Performance Along the Way.

By Joan Firstenberg     Feb 2, 2009 in Entertainment
It's not on Broadway, but it is in the Subway....a two-hour theatre event staged right on New York City's subway cars. It premiered Thursday night to rave reviews in subway stations throughout the city.
It's being called "the longest running theatrical production in New York, running from Brooklyn into Manhattan" with a 30-member cast and crew, including a band. The audiences were captive New Yorkers who bought theatre tickets at $10 apiece on a website called, Then, they were notified by e-mail where in Brooklyn to pick up their tickets. The play was called "IRT--A Tragedy in Three Stations." It is the story of the evolution of New York City's subway system and the men who risked their lives to build it. It lasts two hours, factoring in a train delay or two.
Jeff Stark is the play's writer/director. The piece stars Jim Ford as the imposing looking August Belmont, Jr., an early 20th century in the subway system. He served as the president of the city's Interborough Rapid Transit, which operated the city's earlier underground lines.
Stark, who is 36-year old and a handyman created this artistic venture. The story is set in 1904, four years after the building of the subway system began. Belmont is constantly fighting with a union organizer, Thomas Fowler (played by Tyler Caffall). Belmont's daughter, Clara (played by Catherine Yeager) is a nurse who also happens to be Mr. Fowler's girlfriend, so she is caught in the middle between these two men.
It is Mr. Ford, wearing a tuxedo and a handlebar mustache, who greets the ticket-holding audience gathered on the Brooklyn subway platform for the start of the play.
“Tonight, these platforms will be our playhouse. Conductors will manage our stage. The sound designer is a passing train, and these fluorescents light our way.”
People who paid the $10 ticket price got to sit in the car where the production was going on and see the whole thing. But of course, people who didn't buy a ticket, but perhaps just had the metro card, or the cost of a subway ride, also got a chance to glimpse little pieces of the production.
Twenty-seven year old Julie Funk of Brooklyn, who bought a ticket for the event was pleased.
“This is an interesting, innovative and inexpensive way of using public spaces to display art."
But 44-year old Steve Thompson, a Brooklyn courier, who was not part of the paying audience, was coming down a large staircase into the subway station, when he spotted the costumed Mr. Ford and the band playing. as the train was stopped.
“For a minute there, I thought I was in the Twilight Zone. But this is really cool. Just when you think you’re fed up with New York City, something like this endears you to it all over again.”
In the first scene of the play, Fowler confronts Mr. Belmont over worker safety, and the actors argue beneath a bright light that was fitted into one of the props, a shoeshine box.
At the Fulton Street Subway stop, Edwin Lo, a 34-year-old security guard from the Bronx, had just slipped inside the closing train doors when he found himself about a foot from the crowded stage, the audience nearly pushing him into a scene.
Although confused at first, Mr. Lo settled in, and said softly,
“I have to admit, this is pretty good stuff, man.”
By the time the train reached 59th Street, the play had progressed to a ballroom dance in which Ms. Belmont, in a long blue evening gown, and Mr. Fowler, in a black tuxedo with a white vest and union work boots, were surrounded by Mr. Belmont’s high-society guests.
The performance chugged along at an energetic clip, ending with a scene involving a security guard booth on a platform at 125th Street.
The play returns to the rails this week, though Thursday’s, Friday’s and Saturday’s performances have sold out. Mr. Stark, says the police have not bothered his troupe because they “operated within the guidelines for subway performers". But he says he's fairly certain that Saturday will mark the end of the line for his unique show.
More about Theatre, Subway, Art
More news from
Entertainment Video
Latest News
Top News