Published on September 25th, 2012 | by Greg0
NY_Hearts: Neighborhood Drama, Featuring You
New York is a city of neighborhoods. From Chinatown and Little Italy to the East and West Villages, the places and people vary widely. It’s also a city of outsized proportions, where it’s easy to get lost, and where a million little dramas place out each day in the shops and restaurants and streets. Visitors to a new neighborhood- whether they are coming from across the town, another borough, or from the other side of the globe- can find it hard to know where to look and what to do. Hence the rise of “tour” apps for your smartphone, like Moveable Feast, that allow you to download experiences and follow a pre-charted course using your iOS device.
But what if you could combine these tours with a story- a frame around which to explore a new area and try out new things? Impossible to categorize, but easy to love, it’s an exciting concept. And it’s the pitch behind NY_Hearts and their amazing first edition, which focused on the Lower East Side. The Moveable Feast app itself is free, and you can download the NY_Hearts:LES tour and check it out for yourself at no cost to get an idea of how it works. But the ‘production’ part is over, after a successful limited run in July.
We can’t wait to check out future editions- and creator James Carter has clued us in to the next spot. Opening next Spring, he’ll be bringing a completely new story and tour to the lovely neighborhood of Park Slope, Brooklyn. Much like the original, we’ve been informed that it will include a variety of fun activities and stops, and we hope to hear a bit more about it at the New York Film Festival. Mr. Carter is giving a talk on September 30th as part of the NYFF’s ‘Convergence’ track, at 10:30 am at the Howard Gilman Theater. Titled ‘Work in Progress’, it’ll be a conversation about both the previous tour and the next one (and mentions a possible third still to come, and a web series)!
To experience NY_Hearts: LES ourselves, we set aside seven hours on a Sunday and traveled to a yoga studio to meet up and begin our journey- starting with an hour-long yoga class. Joined by a bunch of other folks on the ‘tour’, we were free to experience it at our own pace, walking around a number of stops and listening to our smartphone app “guide” between each one. Instead of a dry explanation of the different places, the audio instead told a very personal story, a set of diaries about and from Jill. Covering a tumultuous relationship, this was a great date experience, though definitely wasn’t appropriate for kids- parts of it were very adult, in the way mature relationships and turmoils are. Not every segment worked, but taken as a whole, it was an incredibly memorable- and powerful- day.
Part voyeuristic, well-produced audiologue, part neighborhood exploration, NY_Hearts felt truly new. It inspired fierce conversation, threw you into interesting situations with other people, and forced every participant to be both a passive observer and to take an active role. Parts required imagination- picturing Jill walking around- but parts of it were very physical in a way that no other theater experience (perhaps save Sleep No More) has matched. You’ll walk- many blocks- and wind up with souvenirs of your tour. You’ll eat a meal (we loved brunch at the Fat Radish), and never have to worry since everything is included in the cost of the tour (except tips). We wound up nearly in tears in the middle of a bridge, and sipping beers (again, included) while discussing the play with other folks who were as delighted as we were. There were stops at an art gallery and a coffee shop, cute businesses perhaps easy to overlook- but now permanently seared into our personal map of the city.
When NY_Hearts opens again, we strongly suggest grabbing a friend and going. It’s worth every penny- and it’s a New York experience that defies comparison.