Archive for July, 2010

MSG in the Guggenheim

July 28, 2010

by Amy McLeod
July 28, 2010

I got frustrated walking through the Guggenheim.  I was having a hard time finding a piece of art that reminded me of Madison Square Garden.  There was nothing related to athletics or entertainment.  I realized, however, that I was thinking far too literally.

Then I walked through the exhibit called Broken Forms: European Modernism from the Guggenheim Collection.  This exhibit was made up a many different pieces of art.  They all consisted of vibrant colors and exciting shapes.  There wasn’t a clear top or bottom;the pieces could be interpreted anyway the viewer saw fit.

Franz Marc, Broken Forms (Zerbrochene Formen), 1914 (detail). Oil on canvas, 111.8 x 84.4 cm. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York 50.1240

These pieces reminded me of Madison Square Garden because of their ability to be seen in different ways.  MSG is a large space that can accommodate anything from sporting events to concerts to the circus to dinosaur exhibits.  It is flexible and it’s true purpose can be debated.

I felt that the pieces in the Broken Forms exhibit were similar.  Their meaning could be debated and the meaning might change depending on how the viewer chose to look at the art.


9/11 Day of Service

July 28, 2010

by Amy McLeod
July 28, 2010

I posted that I will work with my sorority, Alpha Xi Delta, to host a benefit on Elon’s campus.  If there is a home football game that day, we will use the tailgate as a time for the benefit.  The benefit could take the form of something concrete, like a bake sale, or something just to raise awareness.  Any funds that are raised will go to a relieforganization that we select in Burlington.

The Showman Standard

July 25, 2010

by Amy McLeod
July 25, 2010

Last Monday we visited Showman Fabricators in Queens. This company has built sets for some of the most recognizable television shows and Broadway productions.  From American Idol to SportsCenter to Rachael Ray’s kitchen, Showman has made it all happen.

I can’t build anything unless the pieces are all clearly labeled and the instructions are explicitly detailed.  At Showman, they work backward.  They are given a final image, a visual of what the end product should be.  Then, they make all of the pieces that fit together to create that product.

There are so many different skills that are necessary for this type of work.  Mathematics, electronics, attention to detail while also being able to think holistically.  The smallest error in measuring can keep the pieces from coming together properly.

To demonstrate this need for precision, we saw a pair of tweezers cut from a piece of steel.  With the help of a computer program and some very high pressure water, the tweezers were cut with one single stroke.

A few days after visiting Showman, the class went to see Memphis.  We learned that Showman had built the scenery so I made a mental note to pay close attention to all of the scenery in the show.  And I was blown away.  There were so many different elements that allowed for the show to take place in various “locations”.  The radio booth, the basement club, Mama’s house, the television studio and the streets of Memphis were all so well done.  It’s amazing that with just a few pieces, the set can be completely transformed.

Showman Fabricators are certainly in a league of their own.  I have a whole new appreciation for television and Broadway sets.  They don’t come nicely packaged and labeled with instructions like my shelves from Target.  They come from a giant warehouse in Queens, where they have been altered and perfected for weeks, where people have labored over them to make sure that they are up to the Showman standard.  And that standard is practically perfection.

It’s bigger than the game.

July 25, 2010

by Amy McLeod
July 25, 2010

I interviewed Brent Lefferts, a co-worker at CBS radio.  Fifteen years ago he attended a basketball game at Madison Square Garden.  That game changed his life, making him realize that he wanted to be involved with sports broadcasting.  This is the story of that night.

It’s March 29, 1995.  It’s the New York Knicks and the Chicago Bulls at Madison Square Garden.  Patrick Ewing and Michael Jordan.  This is going to be epic.

I got three tickets to the game for my 21st birthday.  I have been waiting for this day for about two months and now, it’s finally here.

Ewing jersey on.  Backward Knicks hat situated perfectly on my head. Nike tennis shoes on.  Camera, extra film and ticket in hand.  I’m out the door.

The half-hour train ride brings me right into Penn Station.  As I exit the train and follow the signs to Madison Square Garden, the excitement is mounting.  I can feel the energy already.   It’s electric.

I’m a little early, as planned, and get to take my time navigating the concourse of the Garden.  There are banners lining the walls detailing many notable athletic competitions and musical performances that have taken place in Madison Square Garden.  I’m in awe as I wander around, taking it all in.

My two best friends arrive and we enter the arena together.   Grabbing a hot dog and a beer on the way to our seats, we get the nourishment we need to make it through the game.

We take our seats as the teams finish their warm-ups on the court.  I, along with probably everyone else in the arena, have my eye on Michael Jordan.  He was retired and this is only his fifth game since he reentered the sport. The big question, is how he will play?  He tends to do well in the Garden, but we, as Knicks fans, are hoping that’s not the case.

As the teams go back into the tunnel for their final time before the game starts, I can feel the excitement knotting in my stomach.  Not only am I in Madison Square Garden, the best place in the world to watch a game, but I’m about to see a battle royale between two of the best players in the game.

Ewing and Jordan have battled each other since the 1982 NCAA Championship game when Ewing was at Georgetown and Jordan was at the University of North Carolina.  And here they are again, ready for another rematch.

The magnitude of the moment is setting in.  No, it isn’t a championship game or even one on which the league standings hung.  It is just two great players, two iconic players, playing in the best arena in the world.  And here I am to watch.  I’m 21 years old and I don’t see how my life can get any better.

It’s gametime.  The crowd goes nuts as the lights go down and the starting lineups for each team are announced.  Everyone knows how big this game is.  The players take their positions.  The clock shows 12 minutes.  Tipoff.

The game is underway.  Still in shock of what I am witnessing, I have to remind myself to breathe.  The energy in the arena is overwhelming and I’m being consumed by it.   And it’s the best feeling in the world.

The first half is a blur.  It seems as though retirement has done nothing to slow down Michael Jordan.  He may have lost some of the height on his jumps and some of his signature grace, but he is still Michael.  Still amazing.

During halftime, my buddies and I talk about the game.  About Jordan and Ewing.  About bad calls by the referees and dirty plays by the players.   About what to do after the game.  But mostly, I am making a point to take a mental picture.  This is a moment that I want to remember.  This is a moment that I will never have again.  As a 21-year-old sports enthusiast, this is a defining moment in my life.

No time for sentimental moments, the second half is about to start.  There’s no way Jordan can have the same type of performance in this half that he had in the first.  He’s old.  He’s going to give out soon.

Not quite.  As though he was back in his 20s and had been training for years, Michael Jordan continues his dominant performance.  It remains a close game, but we just don’t have an answer for Jordan.  He’s unstoppable.

Layup here.  Three-pointer there.  The occasional Jordan-esque dunk.  Boy, is this a treat to watch.  With time winding down, I am hoping for overtime.   Not because I don’t want to Knicks to crush the Bulls, but because I want the game to continue.  Anything I can do to watch just a few more minutes of the action.

But the game doesn’t go into overtime.  No, on the last play of the game, Jordan sets up a play for a dunk by Bill Wennington.  The buzzer sounds.  113-111.  The Bulls over the Knicks.

Of course I’m disappointed that the Knicks lost, but I’m more excited than upset.  Excited because I know that I just witnessed one of the most amazing basketball games by one of the best players in history.  Jordan scored 55 points, almost half of the points that his entire team scored.  This performance was coined the “double nickel” and I knew instantly that I had witnessed a game that would go down in history. 

Sure, I’m a die-hard Knicks fan, but there’s just something about watching Michael Jordan play.   Seeing this game made me appreciate the sport for more than the competition.  To me, it’s an art.  I can appreciate Michael Jordan for the artist that he is.

I went into MSG hoping to see a good game that ended with a Knicks victory.  I left with a new outlook on the sport and the competition.  What makes the sport great is the players.  Regardless of what jersey they wear and who they are paid by, the athletes keep me coming back.

“More than anything, what Madison Square Garden means to me is the highest caliber of athlete playing at the highest level of competition.  There’s something really magical about seeing the best of the best compete.  There’s a feeling that comes with Madison Square Garden and it’s bigger than the game.”

Ethnography Study: Interview Report

July 20, 2010

by Amy McLeod
July 20, 2010

I spent a few hours Monday walking around Madison Square Garden and searching for interviews for my ethnography study.  Our assignment is to tell a story, based on these interviews, that is representative of our “street”.

Because it was the middle of the work day, MSG was slightly less hectic than usual.  There wasn’t the madness that typically surrounds Penn Station during rush hours.  There weren’t the mobs of tourists admiring the arena in awe.  Most of the people in the area were working – leaving them with little motivation or time to talk to me.  But I did find a few who were willing to indulge a student.

I first went to Brother Jimmy’s, a sports bar, that sits adjacent to Madison Square Garden.  I spoke to one hostess and one bartender who gave me insight as to the impact that MSG has on their business.  They know, for instance, that when there is a game or concert, they can expect an influx of people before and after the event.  The mentioned repeatedly how much their business would have benefitted if LeBron James had come to the Knicks.

Following my conversation with these two women, I headed into Madison Square Garden to speak with an employee.  I approached one security guard and she directed me to one of her colleagues.  He was very friendly and had been working in MSG for 26 years.  Because of this, he was able to give me information about how the arena has changed over the years.  Unfortunately, because of confidentiality agreements, he was not able to go into too much detail, but he provided me with some good information.

I am planning on speaking with a coworker who has attended events in Madison Square Garden and I look forward to getting her story.  I am hoping that I will be able to use these different stories to tell the full experience that comes with Madison Square Garden.

What is this feeling? I think it’s called obsession.

July 14, 2010

by Amy McLeod
July 14, 2010

“You deserve each other, this hat and you.  You’re both so…smart.”

I can’t tell you how many times those lyrics from the Wicked song “Dancing through Life” have been on repeat in my head this summer.  Mind you, I had never seen the show and I had no context for the lyrics.  One of my roommates is a Wicked fanatic and would play the songs incessantly. After awhile, they just stuck.

There was a lot of build up to Wicked.  I’ve been hearing about since high school, when one of my best friends became obsessed.  Now, I can hardly walk into my New School dorm without hearing one of the many amazing songs.

Having heard so much about Wicked made me that much more excited to see the show.  I wanted to know who was singing the songs.  What were they talking about? And what in the world caused the feelings of unadulterated loathing?

I’ve never been a huge fan of “The Wizard of Oz” so I was a little nervous about seeing Wicked.  I was afraid that it wouldn’t live up to hype that surrounded it.  But, I am happy to report that this uncertainty was completely unwarranted.  I was taken aback by the scale of the show and how magnificent the performances were.  Katie Rose Clark as Glinda and Jennifer DiNoia as Elphaba were amazing.  The costumes were intricate and the scenery made the audience believe it was in Oz with the two witches.

Following the show, we were able to check out the stage.  There was scenery stored on either side, above and below the stage.  We say where some costume changes take place and the tracks where the scenery comes into and off of the stage.  We saw where Elphaba gets her green make up touched up between acts and where the munchkin heads hang when they’re not being worn.  It was an insiders look at what takes place behind the scenes of a Broadway production.

After I got back from the show last night, I went straight to and watched scenes from the show over and over…and over.

I think it’s safe to say that I have a full-blown case of Wicked fever.

“Anything less than 87% is Fraud-way”

July 14, 2010

by Amy McLeod
July 13, 2010

I love Broadway.  I don’t (or should I say, didn’t) know a thing about it, but I love it.  It is a magical thing to watch a plain, wooden stage transformed into a story and I can’t help but let myself fall into it.

Costumes, lighting, actors, props, music, etc.  The show cannot exist without each of these elements.  No matter how minuscule one may seem, they are all crucial aspects and add something that the show needs.

I didn’t realize how true this was until our visits on Monday.  From seeing the intricate detail that goes into every stage of the costuming process at William Ivey Long‘s studio to hearing about the daily preparation and repairs that our panelists spoke about to seeing the stories and stories of practice space, workshops and costume storage that exist at the Metropolitan Opera.

I would have never suggested that putting together a Broadway production was any small task, but I could have never imagined just how much goes into each and every performance.  One thing that was consistent with all of those we spoke with was their love for it.

It’s hard work and long hours. It requires going on the road for weeks at a time.  There are hours of rehearsal and shows on holidays.  It isn’t always secure work or the extremely lucrative.  But, when the curtain rises and the show begins, it makes all the work well worth it.

All of those who work on the shows understand the importance of each other.  While the actors on stage get most of the glory as they are the faces of the show, they are supportive of the crew that works backstage.  When IATSE, the union for professional stagehands, motion pictures technicians and allied crafts went on strikes, the actors were holding signs and protesting with them.  The show won’t succeed without all of these people, so they must work together and support each other.

We were able to go backstage after seeing Wicked and speak with Lindsay K. Northern who has a role in the ensemble as well as the understudy for Glinda.  She said “anything less that 87 percent is Fraud-way.”  If those working on the show aren’t able to give at least that much, they are detracting from the performance.  But, luckily for us viewers, most of the time, these people are happy to give 110 percent and we get to see an amazing show.