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After a wild week of Omicron variant news, it sounds like we might all be spending a bit more time…indoors. But as much as there is deja vu in the air, we have learned enough not to entirely repeat March of 2020 — no more hoarding of toilet paper or Zoom happy hours, please!
So while we may now know not to wipe down our takeout containers with Clorox and have more than perfected our banana bread recipes, we may find ourselves with the same familiar feeling of needing to fill our time.
One safe and socially distanced way to enjoy New York is to walk around outside and take in the vibrant scenery (quieter though it may be in the age of omicron). Wander solo for a bit of pandemic zen, or as one Twitter user put it:
But there is only so much walking one can do (though your fitness trackers will finally stop yelling at you). How can you experience the city once you’ve returned to your apartment for the Great Surge Hibernation? We’ve gathered a few ideas that extend beyond refreshing the New York Times COVID-19 statistics page (your therapist said it was a bad idea!). Let’s all take a deep breath and carry on like the New Yorkers we are. See you in the spring/fall/sooner than 2023???
ANTI-DOOMSCROLL INSTAGRAM ACCOUNTS
One thing we absolutely do not recommend is doom scrolling your way through this surge. Yes, it is important to keep up with current events (feel free to make W42ST your number one source of news!), but it’s equally important to give yourself a break from some of the heavier content.
What better way to keep an eye on the city than to follow these NY-centric accounts?
Billed as “NY documented through the eyes of NYers”, @whatisnewyork is Instagram’s answer to man-on-the-street journalism and eyewitness reports. Race cars getting parking tickets, unusual use of public space, and classic New York attitude are all on display. It’s as close as you’ll get to wandering down 9th Ave on a Friday night.
Nicolas Heller, otherwise known as @newyorknico, calls himself the “unofficial talent scout of New York City.” Heller profiles everyday New Yorkers and highlights their businesses, campaigns, and personal stories. He also peppers in celebrity sightings and local events here and there, to keep the account equal parts newsworthy and wholesome! He even helped Hell’s Kitchen crooner Sal Salomon to get the funds to find a home earlier in the year.
Humans of New York (@humansofny) has grown into a veritable worldwide phenomenon, sparking multiple essay collections and photo books filled with New York stories. Brandon Stanton’s empathetic and riveting multi-part profiles of the people he’s met on the street are each their own well-structured biography. From heartbreaking to hilarious, they are always worth a read.
One of the things we miss the most about being stuck inside is the lack of New York banter. By nature of living in a densely-packed urban environment, it’s hard not to eavesdrop on a stranger’s conversation here and there. To get your fix without talking to yourself, check out @overheardnewyork for some extremely New York soundbites.
Looking to spend your quarantine scroll productively? Try @nyhistory from the New York Historical Society. Their Instagram account provides bite-sized history lessons, combined with exclusive photographs and illustrations from the society’s archives.
Do you miss getting properly dressed to leave the house? Quench your thirst for something other than athleisure with street style account @watchingnewyork by photographer Johnny Cirillo. Here you’ll find the best sidewalk shots of stylish New Yorkers — save some as inspiration for the next time you put on “hard pants”.
There are only so many times that you can make boxed Annie’s Mac and Cheese. When you want to try something new and support local restaurants in the process, check out @new_fork_city , an account dedicated to lovingly photographing the best food in town. Take a gander to whet your appetite, then order takeout from one of the many delicious Hell’s Kitchen eateries (the New Fork team recommends Amy’s Bread, as do we!)
OPENING NIGHT IN YOUR APARTMENT
If you’re looking for theatrical entertainment but find yourself under the weather and quarantined, fear not — there are a plethora of digital options to tide you over while you recover. For $11.99 a month, you can access a wide variety of recorded performances and movie musicals through Broadway HD, a theatrical streaming service offering hundreds of exclusive titles. Check out performances from the New York City Ballet, Royal Shakespeare Company, Tony Award-winning musicals of past and present, and theatrical adaptations through miniseries. And if you’re wary of committing to yet another streaming service, there are seven-day free trials available. While you may not be able to watch the entirety of the library in a week, with nothing but time on your hands, who says you can’t try?
Another phenomenon of the COVID-era is the rise of Zoom theater, both through formal productions and fundraising benefits. While one of the standout hits of the Zoom season — Patrick Foley and Michael Breslin’s Circle Jerk — is no longer available to stream (though we eagerly await its return in whatever format possible!), there are a few highlights of the new medium available on YouTube.
Scenes from Angels in America, an abbreviated showing from Tony Kushner’s masterpiece on the height of the AIDS crisis, debuted on YouTube as a fundraiser for amFAR, the foundation for AIDS research. The star-studded cast (beaming in from their respective homes) is too packed with talent not to mention in its entirety:
Glenn Close, Alan Cumming, Paul Dano, Linda Emond, Whoopi Goldberg, Jake Gyllenhaal, Jeremy O. Harris, Brian Tyree Henry, Nikki M. James, Laura Linney, Vella Lovell, Patti LuPone, S. Epatha, Merkerson, Larry Owens, Andrew Rannells, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Lois Smith, Brandon Uranowitz
Needless to say, it’s worth your while.
The late, great Stephen Sondheim turned 90 in 2020, and while a massive in-person concert was unfortunately canceled, a large group of notable actors (many of whom rose to fame performing in Sondheim shows) gathered virtually in partnership with Broadway.com to produce Take me to the World: A Sondheim 90th Birthday Celebration while raising money for ASTEP (Artists Striving to End Poverty).
While the original live broadcast featured a bit of a Zoom-comedy-of-errors opening (in short, a variety of technical errors resulting in live shots of Raul Esparza’s apartment floor and the entirety of Theater Twitter losing their collective minds), the now-removed moment was a charming reminder of the very live nature of theater. Even without the chaotic prologue, Take Me to the World is a great watch as a powerful tribute to the man who changed musical theater forever.
Eager to learn how a Broadway show comes to life? Want to know where all the actors who played “Annie” went? Would you like to get a glimpse into the frenetic, incorrigible mind of a theatrical giant like Elaine Stritch?
Lucky for you, there are many top-notch Broadway-themed documentaries available across the usual streaming platforms.
Try the documentary Every Little Step for an emotionally gripping, suspenseful, and very meta observation on the process of creating the world’s most famous audition musical, A Chorus Line.
Check out Fiddler: a Miracle of Miracles, bringing life to the rich historical context and long lineage of actors with a special connection to the oft-produced 1964 hit musical telling of Tevye and his daughters.
Watch Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me for a late-in-life, in-depth profile of the late Broadway great.
Learn about the making and afterlife of Stephen Sondheim’s most beloved quagmire of a musical, Merrily We Roll Along, in Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened.
Study up on the historical context and creative process surrounding Lin Manuel Miranda’s smash-hit musical in Hamilton’s America.
It’s hard to look away from the unyielding, honest look at child stardom and all that follows in Life After Tomorrow, a documentary chronicling the complicated careers of actors who have starred in the musical Annie.
And if you have a really solid chunk of time on your hands, buckle in and binge Broadway: The American Musical, a six-part PBS series on the making of an American art form. As a bonus, it’s narrated by Julie Andrews!
IT’S A HELLUVA TOWN
After you sing and dance in front of your TV for days, take a break and begin a marathon of quintessential New York movies. What makes a quintessential New York movie? That, as with everything in this city, is up for debate, and the team at Vulture has bravely compiled a casual starter list of The 101 Best New York City Movies, Ranked. Predictably, the comments section is a firestorm of discourse — would you expect anything less from New Yorkers and those who love us?
We recommend taking to the list and watching them all for yourself, but a few of our favorites are below:
Ghostbusters, the essential 1984 supernatural comedy with equal parts quirk and New York flair.
Weiner, a documentary detailing the rise and fall of disgraced NYC mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner — in addition to being an entirely fascinating portrayal of hubris and the avalanche of scandal, it’s an enlightening look into the machine of New York politics.
Funny Girl, the movie that made native New Yorker Barbra Streisand a star. New York City (and the Lower East Side in particular) qualifies as its own character in this 1968 classic.
If you miss (or wish you were around for) the age of disco, watch Saturday Night Fever, a story of Brooklyn grit and love on the dance floor starring John Travolta in what would become an iconic white suit.
For an essential education on the origins of the New York City drag ball scene (whose 1980s roots are still influential to the queer culture of today), check out Paris is Burning.
Necessary viewing for any Al Pacino fan — Dog Day Afternoon serves as the venue for one of his greatest performances as complicated Brooklyn bank robber Sonny Wortzik.
For all you hopeless romantics of Hell’s Kitchen, it’s hard to resist the charm of When Harry Met Sally, starring Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal at their best as two New Yorkers who love to argue, and argue to love.
Yes, On the Town is a delightfully dizzy musical comedy about three sailors on leave in New York City. Yes, you should watch it, even if for no other reason than to sing along to “New York, New York”. No, we can’t tell you whether to source a sailor outfit of your own for authentic reenactment.
Legendary choreographer and New Yorker Bob Fosse gives us a peek into his enviable brain in the fever-dream-like film, All That Jazz.
Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse breathes thrilling new life into the New York-based franchise in this exquisitely written and animated film.
Many would argue that Do the Right Thing is native New Yorker (and ultimate Knicks fan) Spike Lee’s magnum opus. Filmed in 1989, the tale of exploding racial tensions over one summer afternoon in Brooklyn is as relevant as ever.
Sometimes a movie is so hyped up over the years that it’s easy to forget its quality. The Godfather, an iconic New York movie about a very, uh, ambitious New York family, holds up. Make a Sunday gravy to go along with your viewing. And don’t forget the cannolis!
ISN’T IT LOVELY HOW ARTISTS CAN CAPTURE US
While nothing beats visiting a museum to witness the beauty of artwork up close, several New York museums have partnered with the Google Arts and Culture platform to display virtual collections and digital tours of their galleries.
There are also several standalone virtual exhibits from The Whitney Museum, the Frick, The Tenement Museum, and even the digital archives (featuring maps, photographs, and manuscripts) of the New York Public Library that are available to access from a laptop.
Soothe your eyeballs with something other than your iPhone home screen and take in art from New York and around the world.
As New Yorkers, we’re resilient — and know that this winter of uncertainty will eventually pass. But in the meantime, we hope that you find pockets of joy in the list above to get you through the indoor season! Please feel free to add your own suggestions below.