Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Miss Manhattan Hangs Out...with Dr. Erin Honcharuk

When I arrive at Erin Honcharuk’s apartment in New Jersey, it is covered in a flurry of lavender and baby’s breath. There are flowers on the counter and the dining table, buds swirling on the floor with a rainbow of leftover sprinkles.

Tomorrow Erin is getting married, and today she’s putting the finishing touches on a few of the many things she and her fiancé (now husband) Sean, DIY-ed for the wedding. This includes but is not limited to the bouquets and boutonnières and the four-tier wedding cake that Erin made herself from scratch. It has two tiers of raspberry mascarpone and two tiers of carrot cake, and is alternately covered in rose gold and rosettes she piped on herself. Later I’ll get a chance to taste the frosting and I have to do my best not to lick the bowl.

I’m probably supposed to be more helpful--I’m one of her bridesmaids, after all--but at first my task is relegated to “Tell me if this sucks or not” when Erin gathers the bouquets together, so I take a bunch of pictures as well. None of the bouquets suck. In fact, they smell delightful and I rub some of the lavender on my wrists, crushing the tiny flowers to release the oil onto my skin.

You’d think that taking on tasks like these for her own wedding Erin has all the time in the world, but in reality she is an orthopaedic surgery resident at Robert Wood Johnson Hospital where she specializes in pediatrics. She is regularly on call, works long hours, and books her vacation time months in advance. Which worked out in this case because she took this week off to prepare for the wedding. Before today, she and Sean have also made their centerpieces, table cards, welcome bags, and heavens knows what else. Soon everything will be piled into their respective cars and taken to the wedding venue, Rutherfurd Hall in Hackettstown, New Jersey.

But first, Erin, her mother Lois, and I get manicures and pedicures. Erin’s “something blue” will be her toenail polish, pastel blue with sparkles, with a neutral gel on her hands. Post-nails, we pick up sandwiches and bring them back, where a friend of Sean’s and his wife are working on the groom’s cake. Erin jumps in the shower while Sean and I tie ribbons around the bouquets and boutonnières.

Dressed, she begins stacking the cakes as they’ll be delivered, piping additional rosettes and bringing more frosting with her in case she runs out of time. Cars loaded, we head to Hackettstown to drop everything off and rehearse. But we get stuck in traffic and the rehearsal gets tabled to the rehearsal dinner. Erin puts her makeup on in the car, and we dash over to the Inn at Millrace Pond in Hope, New Jersey. Unwinding with hors d’oeuvres and drinks, Erin thanks everyone for coming. The space is filled with laughter, fine food, and a group of people that will soon become family.

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Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Miss Manhattan Hangs Out...at the New York Burlesque Festival

Whenever there’s a possibility to see glitter and glamour, I’m there. Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, I’ve been going to the New York Burlesque Festival almost every year since I moved to the city. I’ve written about and shared images from the festival before on my blog, and I thought it would be fun to also share some this year on TinyLetter.

The New York Burlesque Festival is now in its 16th year, a four-night event (Thursday-Sunday) that regularly sells out. Jen Gapay of Thirsty Girl Productions, who co-produces the festival with burlesque legend Angie Pontani, was kind enough to have me at the festival’s Premiere Party at Brooklyn Bowl this past Friday. As ever, the glitter and glamour was more than just a possibility, but a fully realized, nonstop sparkle extravaganza.

Even arriving and perusing vendors, there were intricate rhinestone pasties in the shapes of flames, butterflies, and emojis. Long studded gloves in all manner of colors. Another burlesque legend Jo Weldon with her new book Fierce, about the history of leopard print.

I don’t remember exactly why I went to a burlesque show the first time, but I knew almost instantly I’d be back. I love burlesque for how it creatively parodies or exaggerates (or, uh, burlesques) sexuality, how it’s used to make us laugh, how it spins taboo on its head and asks us to see the theatricality and comedy and even beauty in something we’re so often taught to hide. Performers fully own their bodies, and their pride is inspiring.

Soon, with the rest of the audience, I will be enveloped in a swirl of striptease, of comedic and glamorous (or both) performances by entertainers with deliciously punny names like Broody Valentino, Rosie Cheeks, and Taradise. Their acts will be inspired by the likes of everything from Satanism to peacocks, Space Jam to romance novels, Sunset Boulevard to Jesus Christ Superstar.

But first, go-go dancers shimmy and swivel across the stage in heels, dollars tucked into garters and mouths and corsets. Broadway Brassy, with her red and black hair and gold sequin-encrusted wrap dress opens the show with her band, the Brass Knuckles. She sings covers of tunes like Stan Getz and Astrud Gilberto’s “The Girl from Ipanema” and Amy Winehouse’s “Valery.” The evening’s hosting duties will be split between Albert Cadabra (yes…) and Shelly Watson, “The Singing Siren." She’ll be flanked by “her two ginger giraffes,” as she calls them, two sky-high showgirls dripping in red fringe. They will introduce acts from all over the world, as far away as Japan, Argentina, and Montreal, and as close as our own New York City. Aria Delanoche is a glamorous peacock, Miss Orchid Mei is a fluffy leopard kitten, Harvest Moon and Jason Mejias swing across the stage on silks and ropes, and more.

How do they get the glitter to stay on their lips? Their fringe to shiver so sensationally? Their costumes slip away with such style? Headdresses to balance without bouncing? I am, as ever, entranced.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Miss Manhattan Hangs Out...with JD Ricafort

After a few years working in tech, JD Ricafort decided he wanted to follow a passion for musical theatre and he just...did it. Having spent much of his life singing and dancing, he actively refined the skills before leaving his job, then was cast in a number of productions. JD recently returned to his home base in Astoria to develop a new project, Super Smack. “The Nintendo Switch of rappers,” Smack is a rap alter-ego inspired by the self-described nerdy pop culture of his youth: video games, Toonami, Star Wars, and more, as well as a recent freestyle dedicated to Crazy Rich Asians that got a shoutout from George Takei. He’ll release his EP, “Fan Fiction,” in December.

JD discovered a love of writing and performing his own work after being accepted into Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal’s “BARS” program at The Public Theatre, which celebrates “the poetry of speech.” Working in tech again with a flexible schedule, he continues to craft Super Smack, who he sees as a bold, braggadocious version of himself.

JD often writes at Prince Tea House in Astoria, where I meet him on a Saturday. We sip teas and he tells me about his creative work, about finding growth in the writing process, the evolution of Super Smack, the balance of life and art.

Next we take a walk through Astoria, to the ferry that goes to Manhattan, and it’s the first weekend in a while that requires a jacket (JD’s is vintage, a gift from an uncle). I haven’t spent much time in Astoria beyond its main throughfares, so it’s delightful to have a tour from a resident. JD himself hadn’t explored much because he had been performing in various parts of the country for a while, but now he’s back and knows just where to take me. We start with the Filipino grocery store, where he gets a calamansi juice, a classic Filipino lemonade/limeade made from teeny tiny citrus. He also points out favorites of Spam and pork egg rolls, as well as various ulam (the Filipino word for main dish) and other classics like banana ketchup and chicharrones.

Continuing on, we pause at the Welling Court Mural Project, a section dedicated to street art and graffiti-inspired murals. JD is especially drawn to one with bright blues and reds--it reminds him, of course, of the Nintendo Switch. When he performs as Super Smack in the future, he’d love to have a jacket adorned with such hues.

The East River isn’t far now, and we make our way to the dock. JD has ridden the ferry from Astoria to Wall Street and back to write, an almost meditative practice. Now, though, he’s on his way to Manhattan for a rehearsal with North Coast, a hip-hop improv comedy team that performs nationally and internationally. Tonight is JD’s first performance with them, and he’s excited. He sips the calamansi juice as the ferry chugs along the river, water frothing in the wake behind us.


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