Oct 15, 2018

Flatiron Faces: Robert Pinzon, Owner, Abracadabra NYC

Meet Robert Pinzon, owner of Abracadabra NYC, the iconic costume and magic superstore that occupies 12,000 square feet at 19 West 21st Street. “It's fun to see customers having a blast trying on costumes and making fun of themselves,” says Pinzon. “It’s also been fun to meet a lot of celebrities here–from Shaquille O'Neal to Dionne Warwick!”

1.  You own Abracadabra NYC, the legendary costume and magic superstore that has been here in the Flatiron District since 1997. Tell us more about owning this place.

I bought the store in 2007. The store wasn't anything like it is today. We turned it around to be more like a destination store. We have interactive props all over that seem to be a crowd pleaser with the tourists who visit New York City. Our costume selection is huge. Our magic section is perfect for amateurs and professionals alike. Our professional makeup section is second to none. At first it was a challenge to get the store looking like it does now, and we needed to revamp every section. 

2.  Halloween is coming up in a couple weeks. What do you think will be some of this year’s must-have costumes?

That's really tough to answer. Most of the time we know what the best costume was after Halloween. However, consistently, the iconic superheroes are very popular–Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, the Joker. Yes, the Joker! The new superheroes are also always in demand. This year's Black Panther is going to be serious business.

3.  What have been your favorite items and biggest sellers over the years? And, how many costumes occupy your space?

I don't really have a favorite item. However, I do enjoy our magicians doing demonstrations of magic tricks for the customers. Most of the time it turns into a party atmosphere with people laughing and screaming. It's awesome!

The biggest sellers have been superheroes–from Star Wars to Deadpool, etc. There are so many of them, but people always want to be a superhero at least for a day. The store has 12,000 square feet. We occupy about 2,000 square feet for storage. Currently, we carry about 25,000 package costumes and accessories. Our rental department carries about 12,000 costume rentals. It is the largest in NYC.

4.  How did you initially become involved in costuming, and is there any advice you would share with others who are interested in this line of work? 

I became involved with Abracadabra because my brother was managing the store at the time. I thought it would be a fun business to run, so we bought it in 2007. I did gain some experience running a temporary Halloween store the previous year in 2006, so maybe that got me interested, too. My advice to others who might be interested in this line of work is...I feel like Abracadabra is a New York City thing, and being in the Flatiron District is a beautiful thing. The competition is fierce. There is also a big Halloween store downtown. In addition, the internet has taken a chunk out of our business.

5. Last year you considered selling the store. Why?

I thought I was done. I thought about selling and I had some investors interested. However, my kids didn't want me to sell it and they expressed an interest in taking it over. So I thought about it, thought about it, and three seconds later, I said, ‘YEAH, BABY!’ I really love the store and I'm a New Yorker. I grew up in the city in Upper Manhattan in Washington Heights. So now all the kids are actively involved, at some level, in the business. However, my son-in-law Brian is running the show at the store.

6.  Do you plan to celebrate Halloween this year? How so?

We celebrate Halloween at the store every year. The whole month of October is Halloween for us. The last few days before Halloween is party time. The store is packed, the music is going, the props are scaring people around every corner, and the employees are dressed in their favorite costumes. It's second only to the Halloween parade.

7.  Switching gears, when it’s time to leave Abracadabra NYC, where are your favorite spots to grab a bite to eat in the neighborhood? Do you have a go-to dish?

My favorite spot to get something to eat is at Essen on Sixth Avenue. They’ve got the best buffet in town. But I also love to bring mama's cooking (that's my wife) to work and eat it at the plaza on Broadway and 23rd Street.

8.  What do you consider a “must-see” or “must-do” here in the neighborhood?

You must see the Flatiron Building. What an awesome building! The architectural design and the details on that building are phenomenal. Now, what you must do here in the neighborhood is to stop by Abracadabra NYC. We were voted by The Guide to Odd New York as one of the Top 10 places to visit. It's the most unique store in the heart of NYC. Ask for Bob.

9.  What’s your favorite building or architectural element in the area?

My favorite building in the area is definitely the Flatiron Building. It's also the favorite for a lot of visitors. I see it every day along with the amount of visitors taking pictures.

10.  Finally, choose three words to describe the Flatiron District.


Photo Credit: Hailey Rutt

Sep 17, 2018

Flatiron Faces: Ted Altschuler, Baruch Performing Arts Center

Meet Ted Altschuler, Director of the Baruch Performing Arts Center (BPAC), which showcases various award-winning artists and productions at its One Bernard Baruch Way location on 25th Street, between Lexington and Third Avenues. “My role is the visionary and administrative oversight of the Center’s activities,” says Altschuler, whose arts career expands more than three decades. “Telling the stories and creating the experiences of our time is what excites me.”

1. The Baruch Performing Arts Center (BPAC) is a cultural gem here in the Flatiron District. Can you please give a bit more background on BPAC and your role as Director?

In two gorgeous and intimately-scaled venues 39 feet beneath 25th Street, between Third Avenue and Lexington Avenue, BPAC presents a season of world-class cultural events by New York and international [artists in] theatre, dance, classical music, jazz, and opera, as well as film screenings and talks. At the center of that season is new work made in-residence and culturally diverse programming created by critically acclaimed artists. Best of all, our central Flatiron location and our affordable prices! Some of October’s events include: 

Oct. 17 at 7:30 pm: Dada at the Movies: Part film screening, part concert, the amazing pianist Guy Livingston recreates an evening held by the famed Dada artists in 1923. It ended with the police showing up, but we plan to avoid that.

Oct. 26 – Nov. 4 (various times): Words on the Street: The world premiere of a multi-media, dystopian, music-theater mystery! This is an incredibly creative hybrid evening, but there are only eight performances.

Oct. 31 at 6:30 pm: Tessa Lark (violin) and Andrew Armstrong (piano): Avery Fisher Career Grant winner Tessa Lark is critically acclaimed for her elegance and is as talented playing classical as she is bluegrass on her Strad. We are offering tickets free of charge, but you must make a reservation at baruch.cuny.edu/bpac.

2. You’ve had a distinguished three-decade career working in the arts including directing plays and operas, as well as teaching at The Juilliard School. What attracted you to the arts, and what remains so appealing about it?

I have always lived by observing and collecting sounds, pictures, stories, and behavior and then either making things from them, or building places and processes where others do that. Arts are the way that our culture celebrates, processes, remembers, and opposes the narrative threads of our time. Money and fame confer influence temporarily, but they only survive because of the architecture, objects, pictures, stories, and songs that are left behind. Live performance, because it is fleeting perhaps, gets closest to capturing the essence of the moment.

3. Do you have any career advice for those interested in pursuing the arts?

Marry a chocolate heir/heiress.

4. Which of this season’s BPAC productions are you most looking forward to?

You know I’m not supposed to have favorites, but here are three pretty special events:

Jan. 5-12, 2019: 4:48 Psychosis: The Prototype new music-theatre festival is bringing the U.S. premiere of Philip Venables’  bombshell opera based on the final play of Sarah Kane to BPAC. Hot off a sold-out Royal Opera House production in London, the piece explores the search for love and identity amid the turmoil and confusion of mental illness.

March 13, 2019: Brian Mulligan (baritone) and Timothy Long (piano): Walden: A recital by two consummate musicians featuring the New York premiere of a new song cycle by Gregory Spears (Fellow Travelers) based on texts by Henry David Thoreau.

April 26-May 12, 2019: Refuge by Blessed Unrest and Teatri ODA: Two theater companies, one from New York, and the other from Kosovo, create a bilingual, physical theater work about the harboring of Jewish refugees by Albanians during World War II.

5. In addition to your arts background, you hold a CUNY doctorate in cognitive neuroscience and have been engaged in expanding the public’s understanding of science. Tell us more.

I got interested in cognitive neuroscience via my work with actors. Cog neuro looks at the physiological sources of our emotions and behaviors, how we pay attention, remember, problem solve, and use our senses. Those were the same processes that I thought about when I worked with actors. So, I became curious about what those scientists knew that I didn’t. A lot, as it turns out. For five years, I took classes, interacted with patients, and conducted experiments in a lab. My studies looked at visual processing, specifically what the brain contributes to the information that our eyes collect from our environment to produce the experience of seeing, which is, one could say, a creative act! 

Science either observes the world, or it tests hypotheses about how it works through measurement and manipulation. I love making process by which we better understand the role the brain takes in behavior—that’s the creative part of science. But data is not of value to society, it’s not even of value to other scientists, without a narrative. That story attaches it to what is known so far, explicates your methods so that others can reproduce them, and frames your results, to say why they are significant.

While earning my Ph.D., I started telling stories to the public to assist in how they understood science outcomes, since telling stories has always been my thing. People use data to make important decisions about health care, what car to buy, etc., so it’s important that we are informed data consumers. I made a TED-Ed video, created programs for Brain Awareness Week. In fact, I still program an annual Brain Awareness Week program at BPAC every March! We have done neuroscience and law, a program on artists who are neuroscientists, and on March 12th, we’re doing one on neuroscience and sports called “This is Your Brain on Baseball".

6. Bookeywookey is your blog. How would you characterize it? And, we have to know, what’s the backstory to the name?

I would characterize it as seriously hybrid, like me. I started it as a way to practice writing and to engage more with what I read (I read books continuously). The name? That’s from the musical form boogie woogie, which is characterized by an energetic percussive bass (left hand—I’m a lefty) with improvisatory riffs in the right hand—my process as a director involves a lot of improvisation.  Obviously, the name is a play on my obsession with all things bookish (or bookey). Bookeywookey has had more that a 250,000 visits! My favorite type of post would combine the range of my interests, like one I did using Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream as a way of explaining research on the hormone oxytocin.

7. When it’s time to grab a bite to eat, where do you like to go in Flatiron and what’s your go-to dish?

I’m a big fan of Almayass on 21st Street and their small plates. Their Moutabbal is super creamy and fresh with a great charred flavor. Their tea made with fresh mint leaves is a wonderful way to cap a meal.

8. What do you consider a “must-see” or “must-do” here in the neighborhood?

The Center for Book Arts on 27th Street is such a singular exhibition space and, fitting to my obsession with all things bookey, it celebrates the book as an art object (the major reason that I prefer analogue books to digital readers is their distinctiveness as objects).

9. What’s your favorite building or architectural element in the area?

I have three: The historic Spanish/Portuguese Jewish cemetery on 21st Street near Sixth Avenue surprises me every time I walk by it! The East 24th street sky bridge between the two Credit Suisse buildings is one of just a few of these structures left in NYC. Doesn’t it kind of evoke Venice? I love all the original art on the walls at the Freehand Hotel’s bar —and it’s a great place to go for a drink before or after a BPAC show!

10. Finally, choose three words to describe the Flatiron District. 

Abundant. Classy. Old-World-New-York.

Photo Credit: Mathieu Asselin

Aug 9, 2018

Flatiron Faces: Emily Anghel, Community Manager, The Yard

Meet Emily Anghel, Community Manager at The Yard, a coworking space with 14 locations in New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Boston, including two Flatiron locations. “I represent the brand on a daily basis and ensure the highest level of member satisfaction, starting with a smile on my face every morning,” says Anghel about her role at The Yard’s Flatiron South location located at 234 Fifth Avenue (between 27th and 28th Streets).

1. What is The Yard? And, please describe some of your responsibilities as Community Manager at The Yard’s Flatiron South location.

The Yard is a dynamic, shared office space community offering private offices, coworking, and innovative amenities for growing businesses. We have 14 locations in New York City, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Boston. Our beautifully designed spaces include everything you need to run your business–furnished offices, ultra-fast Wi-Fi, members-only lounges, 24/7 access, and more. 

Community Managers wear many hats. They act as the face of their location to potential members and a resource for all the businesses in our community. Every day is different and can include working on anything from maintaining building operations to creating community initiatives or developing new programming for members! Though most days are busy at Flatiron South, I always make time to get up and shake it out to the latest hits! By doing this, I create a well-balanced atmosphere that reminds members to unplug for a few minutes, focus on themselves, and be in the present. 

2. The Yard is part of a growing number of coworking spaces located in Flatiron. What distinguishes The Yard from others, and what are some of your notable amenities?

Our people and culture make The Yard stand out. From the moment you walk through The Yard’s doors, you’ll feel the most professional and personalized experience that is created by our team. We ensure that our focus is on your business by providing a sophisticated environment and access to a variety of resources. We prioritize getting to know your needs to make every workday the best it can be.

Our Art Program is a particularly unique amenity that we are proud to share with our members. Our locations work closely with thoughtfully selected curators and local galleries to decorate our 14 spaces with beautiful artwork. These masterpieces are celebrated during our art receptions every quarter and provide our members with a change in ambience and a twist on the typical networking event. 

3. What types of clients seek out space at the Flatiron South location?

Those who seek out Flatiron South are creative, driven, and want to be in a bustling neighborhood! Many of our members are in the marketing, technology, and wellness industries. 

4. You joined The Yard in 2016. What do you find most rewarding about working with The Yard? 

Meeting a new member and watching them grow within The Yard is what I find most rewarding. I have made dear friends from working here, and it’s incredible to see what they have accomplished since they joined our community. Seeing members meet one another and actually collaborating is where the magic really happens–it gets me every time!

Another truly rewarding experience was bringing our culture and brand to the City of Brotherly Love. I had the opportunity to relocate and help open our Philadelphia location in May 2017. I spent a year there building a new community while watching the space come to life! Now that I am back in New York City, I am training to take on the role of Culture Coordinator, which will ensure the highest level of community engagement and satisfaction between our staff and members. I’m taking on more HR-related responsibilities while the company grows, and it’s really exciting to see our successes as well!.

5. What advice would you offer to those interested in similar, community-facing work? 

Find a company whose culture allows you to explore different interests you have. Being a Community Manager allows you to develop your people, customer service, and business development skills while learning about so many different industries. Making sure you’re at a company that allows you to grow from within while expanding these skills is key. The Yard is helping me expand my personal and career interests by enabling me to train toward a role on our Culture team.

6. You’re originally from Tulsa, Oklahoma. What do you miss about Oklahoma? And, what are your favorite parts of working in Flatiron?

I was born in Tulsa, but moved to Illinois quite soon thereafter. I would definitely consider myself a Midwesterner! I miss the familiarity of living in one place for most of my life and, of course, Chicago-style hot dogs. However, nothing beats being able to take my lunch to Madison Square Park, sit on a bench, and enjoy the energy of Flatiron and its people.

7. Where do you like to grab a bite to eat in the neighborhood, and what’s your go-to dish?

I enjoy dining at Hanjan, a traditional and gastronomic Korean restaurant. The ‘Bulgogi’ Beef Bibimbap is outstanding and my go-to every time!

8. What do you consider a “must-see” or “must-do” here in the neighborhood?

A walk through Eataly is a must! It opens your eyes to a plethora of food and drink that you wouldn’t find just anywhere. Also, the Nutella Bar is a guilty pleasure of mine! 

9. What’s your favorite building or architectural element in the area?

My favorite building in the Flatiron District is the Appellate Courthouse on Madison Avenue and 25th Street. The marble building glimmers in the sunlight and these intricate statues stand tall on its facade. It’s always a breath of fresh air to see a historic building among modern architecture!

10. Finally, choose three words to describe the Flatiron District.

Unique. Cultural. Electric. 

Photo Credit: The Yard

Jul 24, 2018

Flatiron Faces: Jorge Espinoza, Executive Chef, Scarpetta

Meet Jorge Espinoza, Executive Chef at Scarpetta, the critically-acclaimed restaurant located inside The James New York–NoMad at 88 Madison Avenue, between 28th and 29th Streets. “Italian food is very relaxed,” says the Querétaro, Mexico native about his passion for the cuisine. “It’s full of strong flavors, and only a few ingredients.”

1. You’re Executive Chef at NYC fave Scarpetta, and your parents’ cooking was the inspiration for your culinary career. What makes the profession so appealing to you? 

It's the freedom to create and express yourself in the dishes, and the satisfaction of when people enjoy my food. 

2. Tell us about your passion for Italian cuisine. Where did this interest originate? And, do you have similar interests in other regional food?

The first Italian restaurant that I worked at was L’Impero (in Tudor City) and it was there that I discovered Italian was the cuisine that I wanted to make. It’s very similar to the food I grew up seeing in my house. Italian food is very relaxed, full of strong flavors, and only has a few ingredients. 

3. You consider consistency, dedication, and passion as keys to good cooking. Can you explain further?

In terms of consistency, it is one of the most important aspects in the restaurant business. Without it, there would be no restaurants. Dedication to me is the symposium of success and experience, and the technique is improved every day. And passion is everything! It’s what gives you creativity and it’s what makes the challenges easier to overcome.

4. What do you like to do outside of the kitchen?

I am very passionate about vintage HiFi systems and listening to old vinyl records.

5. You were part of the Scarpetta launch team in the Meatpacking District a decade ago before the restaurant’s relocation to the Flatiron District earlier this year. Which Scarpetta dishes do you most recommend and why​?

The spaghetti pomodoro is a must-have because it's everything you want in a dish! It's simple, but very satisfying, and ideal for everyone. The braised octopus is full of color and flavor, and has many textures. Finally, the veal tenderloin is very delicate, but also a complete meal with refreshing flavors.

6. In addition to Scarpetta, where else do you like to grab a bite to eat in the Flatiron District and your favorite food there and why​?

The uni tostada at Cosme is my favorite. I love the combination of the bone marrow with smoked tomatoes and uni. It’s a very unique mix of flavors. The husk meringue is simple but packed with different textures, and the perfect amount of sweetness.

7. What do you consider a “must-see” or “must-do” here in the neighborhood and why?

Eataly! It really is an incredible place and they have great products. The feel of the open-format dining, and drinks, next to shopping represents that same communal dining experience we offer. There is something that just feels good about it. People are always happy when they’re around food!

8. What’s your favorite building or architectural element in the area and why?

As much as I love the Flatiron Building, I really do love the building that we’re in. It’s a Beaux-Arts building with so much history. There's hand-crafted Tiffany glass above the panels of our dining room ceiling, and there are so many secrets and layers here. It’s very New York!

9. Finally, choose three words to describe the Flatiron District.

Innovative. Historic. Sophisticated.

Photo Credit: Sergio Spera

Jun 11, 2018

Flatiron Faces: Frank Roberts, Regional Director of Culture & Entertainment, The New York EDITION

Meet Frank Roberts, Regional Director of Culture & Entertainment at The New York EDITION, a five-star boutique hotel with 273 unique guest rooms and suites located at 5 Madison Avenue, between 23rd and 24th Streets. “I like to think of The New York EDITION as an extension of my living room,” says Roberts, “and I think our guests get that feeling as well.” 

1. Tell us about The New York EDITION and your role there as the hotel's Regional Director of Culture & Entertainment.

The New York EDITION is a hotel pioneering a new space in the industry that we’ve coined ‘modern luxury.’ Staying at the EDITION is meant to be an immersion into the local culture coupled with unpretentious, yet sophisticated, service.

As Regional Director of Culture & Entertainment, I ensure that our guests and locals alike walk into the hotel and are immediately immersed in the happenings of the neighborhood and city at large. We do this through programming in the arts, fashion, and entertainment spaces such as artist-in-residence programs, live music, and seasonal food and beverage concepts.

2. A billiards table with a felt top the color of grape jelly is one of the featured forms of entertainment at The New York EDITION. What else does the hotel offer to its visitors to the neighborhood?

It is a place to lounge, relax, have a great cocktail, gather with friends, even have a Michelin-starred meal. The versatility of the space allows for casual gatherings to the most special celebrations, and really everything in between.

3. What types of questions are you most commonly asked by guests? And, can you share questions that have surprised you?

The most common question I receive from guests is ‘what’s that smell?’ When you walk into the EDITION, you are greeted by the most amazing scent, a special collaboration between Ian Schrager [pioneer of the boutique hotel concept and a founder of the iconic Studio 54] and [luxury fragrance brand] Le Labo, a Black Tea theme that makes guests feel welcomed and it’s inviting.

4 . Briefly describe the hotel’s partnership with Mr. Schrager.

The EDITION’s concept is a labor of love from our fearless leader, Ian Schrager. Perhaps the most innovative and influential person in hospitality, nightlife, and culture, he has set the bar in our pursuit of a modern luxury experience. Every piece of furniture, every photograph in The Clocktower restaurant, the smell, the sounds, are all handpicked by Ian.

5. Prior to coming to the Flatiron neighborhood, you managed the Rose Bar at the Gramercy Park Hotel. What do you find appealing about your line of work?

I am passionate about community, building relationships, and connecting people who might not otherwise meet. Throughout my career, I have been able to foster so many amazing relationships that have led to personal and professional collaborations and partnerships all made possible by the experiences we’ve created at places like Rose Bar and the EDITION.

6. What do you see now trending in the hospitality industry, and where is that leading into the future?

The next best thing will be the growth of the sophisticated nightlife culture in more hotels that tastefully stand out, and places that are as much for the local community as they are for travelers.

7. The New York EDITION features the Michelin-starred Clocktower restaurant. What's your favorite dish there? Where else do you like to grab a bite in the Flatiron District?

Definitely the Dover sole at the Clocktower. I’ve probably eaten it 100 times! We are so lucky to have the incomparable Eleven Madison Park right across the street from the EDITION. A dinner there is by far one of the most special food and beverage experiences in the city, if not the world.

8. What do you consider a “must-see” or “must-do” here in the neighborhood?

A must-do in the neighborhood is picking up your favorite book, a latte, and finding a bench in Madison Square Park to read from for the afternoon. 

9. What’s your favorite building or architectural element in the area?

The New York EDITION is in the converted [Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Clock Tower] building built in 1909. You can access the very top of the building where you can see the mechanics of the century-old clock and get a very unique view of the neighborhood.

10. Finally, choose three words to describe the Flatiron District.

Floral. (For the) Foodie. Inspired.

May 25, 2018

Flatiron Faces: Janine Nina Trevens, Producing Artistic Director & Co-founder of TADA!

Flatiron Faces: Janine Nina Trevens, Producing Artistic Director and Co-founder of TADA!

Meet Janine Nina Trevens, Producing Artistic Director and Co-founder of TADA!, the award-winning nonprofit youth theater located at 15 West 28th Street, between Broadway and Fifth Avenue. Since 1984, TADA! has produced a number of famous alumni, including Oscar-winning Get Out screenwriter and director, Jordan Peele. “I had no idea,” says Trevens, “that inside his head, scary, dark thoughts for movies were brewing.”

1.  Congratulations on recently celebrating your 34th anniversary as co-founder of TADA!, the first-ever youth theater to win a Drama Desk Award. What is TADA!, and how was the theater created?

TADA! is a youth theater and arts education nonprofit organization. TADA! produces original musicals written, directed, and designed by theater professionals and performed by members of the Resident Youth Ensemble, New York City kids ages 8 to 17, for family audiences. TADA! offers a free year-round youth development program and exciting musical theater classes and camp at our theater on West 28th Street. Classes and camps are also offered at other locations around New York City, and arts education residencies are held in public and private schools. Through TADA!'s high-quality work, young people gain confidence and learn commitment, responsibility, communication, and teamwork.

TADA! began in 1984. I was stage managing a comedy in a theater festival. The producer of the festival wanted to include all types of theater. He didn’t have a show for children. My mom, Francine Trevens, was directing a different show for him and suggested he talk to me since I had a children’s theater. The only thing was that I didn’t have a company, but I didn’t tell him that. He asked me for a proposal of what my company would do as part of the festival. A choreographer friend, Linda Reiff, and I went away for the weekend and came up with two shows–a dance/theater piece and a musical. The producer said yes to our proposal, so all we had to do at that point was create the company and the shows, including finding a musical director and composer, cast them, rehearse, hire designers, and actually create the sets, costumes, and lighting for the shows. The producer gave us the space, lighting equipment, and did the marketing. That was how TADA! started. We filed for nonprofit status after the festival and started raising money to continue to produce new musicals and provide arts education to New York City youth and teens.

2. A number of former TADA! students include Scandal actress Kerry Washington, Hairspray star Ricki Lake, and Jordan Peele of the Comedy Central TV team Key & Peele. What were they like as young performers?

They were all nice kids, full of energy, talent, and dedication. They were prepared and worked hard and also had a great deal of charisma and a love for performing. Out of those three, Jordan did the most with TADA! He was very friendly, nice, super creative, and funny and a great stage performer. Ricki was also so sweet. She was with TADA! before she started her film career. I remember that she wanted to be in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade so badly.

Other performers you may know are Amar Ramasar (a principal dancer with the New York City Ballet and currently a lead in Broadway's Carousel); Adam and Jack Metzger of AJR, an indie pop band; Rah and Amiri Taylor of Blac Rabbit, who went viral with one of their Beatles covers; Broadway performers including Ricardo Zayas (Hamilton and upcoming Head Over Heels), Sheldon Henry (upcoming The Prom), and Sasha Allen (Hair, The Voice,and also tours with the Rolling Stones); Mizuo Peck (Sacajawea in the Night at The Museum movies) and Josh Peck (Nickelodeon TV's Drake & Josh) among others.

3. Earlier this year, Jordan received a Best Original Screenplay Oscar for his directorial debut film Get Out. What was your reaction? 

I was watching in my living room and I teared up. My phone also started exploding with texts from other alumni because they were so happy. 

4. What career advice have you offered students over the years?

Our actors are members of TADA!'s free Resident Youth Ensemble Program who are accepted based on auditions and TADA! students are the youth in TADA!’s education classes and camps. It is not our goal that everyone has a career in theater. We want the youth and teens that work with TADA! to feel confident to do whatever they want to do and realize that they have a voice.

When I give theatrical career advice, it is to say that if they want to continue to perform, they have to want to do it more than anything else. It’s a hard business. If you can think of other jobs you want to do, then you may want to explore those options. Some stay in theater or dance as performers, as writers, directors, stage managers, or designers. Other Ensemble Members are school teachers, doctors, nurses, curators, engineers, teaching artists, barbers, marketers, graphic designers, parents, and more. 

5. In your own pursuit of a performing arts career, you were inspired by your mother, a theater critic, and sister, an actress. What makes you love live theater?

My sister was an actress when she was a child, but as an adult she has been a teacher and is currently a special education teacher. My mom was a theater critic in Massachusetts, but once we moved to New York, she was a theatrical press agent, director, and producer. 

I love watching theater because it excites me and makes me feel and makes me think in a room full of other people sharing the experience. It gives me joy. 

I love creating theater because I have a lot to say, but I’m shy. I never wanted to be on the stage. I love doing youth theater because I love kids and always wanted to help make growing up easier. Some kids need to perform–it’s just in them–TADA! gives them a second home, a place to do it now and not wait until they grow up, a place to be with like-minded people who support them and a place to be successful.

6. Tell us about present and upcoming TADA! productions scheduled for this year.

This summer, from July 7th to August 2nd, is Golly Gee Whiz!, which is an homage to the old Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland ‘let's put on a show’ movie musicals. We also have week-long summer camps all summer that are for different ages. In these camps, kids create their own mini-musical and perform it for family and friends at the end of the week.

7. When you take time out from a production, what’s your go-to place to dine in the District? Favorite dish?

I have two favorites and most of the time there’s a line and a wait at both places, but they are worth it. One is Kazunori just two doors down from TADA! It is the best hand rolled sushi I’ve ever had anywhere. Also, the staff is so nice. I need to eat here at least once a week. I also love the food at Hillstone. When they have the grilled artichokes, I devour those. I also love the special layered spicy tuna sushi. My favorite is the hot fudge sundae because the hot fudge comes in a gravy boat and you pour it on hot throughout eating. I love watching it harden as it gets cold. It’s great to watch, but even better to eat. 

8. What do you consider a “must-see” or “must-do” here in the neighborhood?

I think TADA! is a must-do for families in the neighborhood. This neighborhood is great for us and our Ensemble Members, students, and audiences because there are so many subway lines that come to 28th Street as well as the PATH and Penn Station, which are so close by.

For me, it's mostly about the food. Besides the two restaurants I mentioned above, there’s wagamama, ilili, Eataly, Hill Country Chicken, PN Wood Fired Pizza, &pizza, Le Pain Quotidien, The Smith, Quality Eats, Sarabeth's, and when it's open, Mad. Sq. Eats. Many members also go to the dollar pizza place a block east of TADA! on 28th Street. 

I also like spending time in Madison Square Park when it's warm outside and shopping on Fifth Avenue and going to sample sales or having my nails done at Queen Jane Nail & Spa.

9. What’s your favorite building or architectural element in the area?

The Flatiron Building has been a favorite of mine since I moved to the city because of its unique triangular shape. It's one of those buildings that let's you know where you are once you see it.

10. Finally, choose three words to describe the Flatiron District.

Diverse. Changing. Delicious.