Citi Field is the go-to ballpark for food and entertainment in 2024

Top NYC food brands deliver a fun experience to baseball fans at CitiField

by John Sanchez & Yasin Akdag 

Left to right: Blaise Ffrench, Enigee (Glazed Dounuts), John Sanchez (Empanada Mama). Photo taken by Eli Kolins for BQE Media.


New York Mets Baseball Opening Day was Thursday, March 28, and baseball wasn’t the only thing that fans were excited about experiencing at Citi Field.

Did you know that Citi Field in Queens, New York, was recognized by USA Today as having the best food in any MLB stadium –  twice.

Fans look forward to experiencing an all-star lineup of NYC food brands, including: Empanada Mama, Glaze Donuts, Shake Shack, Pat LaFrieda, Chiddy Cheesesteak, Prince Street Pizza, Pop Up Bagels, and many more at Citi Field during each and every Mets home game.

Citi Field’s newest celebrity chef partners include Anne Burrell, Adam Richman and Judy Joo; and all three have cooked up something new and exciting this season.

Anne Burrell’s Italian Eats features her new Loaded Pepperoni Chips –  similar to loaded nachos, but with fried pepperoni cups. You can find these at Anne Burrell’s Italian Treats on the Field Level section 101.

Adam Richman’s Burger Hall of Fame features his French Onion Soup Burger, and can be found at Section 103.

Joo’s Seoul Bird features Korean Fried Chicken, and can be found at the Hudson Whiskey NY Club on the Promenade Level.

“Highlighting the best NYC food brands is an important part of the food program at Citi Field,” said Jason Eksterowicz, Senior Executive Chef at Citi Field.

“We are a melting pot. At Citi Field, you’re not going to find things that are cool in D.C., or any vendors from Philly. Everything is going to be local to New York,” said Eksterowicz.

The main media event at Citi Field, introducing “What’s New in 24,” took place on March 28th, and the Queens Ledger News Team got a sneak peek at the exclusive brands that are gracing the ballpark this 2024-25 season.

Empanada Mama’s Cheesesteak and Banana Nutella Empanadas, Prince Street Pizza’s Pepperoni Square, Gyro Jimmy’s Greek Grill’s Loukoumades, Taqueria Nixtamal’s Birria Taco and Esquites, and Wok n’ Roll’s Rainbow Cookie Eggroll were a few of the many brands that we enjoyed.

“Empanada Mama is excited to be back at Citi Field this Mets season, and we’ve brought our popular Banana Nutella dessert empanada this time,” said John Sanchez, CMO of Empanada Mama. Empanada Mama was one of the new star food brands last season, and fans raved about their Cheesesteak Empanada. “The food at Citi Field is so enjoyable that even if the Mets aren’t winning, fans still enjoy themselves,” said Sanchez. “It’s a testament to Citi Field’s Hospitality team,” he added.

“We have a very passionate fan base, and they deserve the very best experience at Citi Field” said Taryn Donovan, VP of Hospitality at the NY Mets. “Going to a Mets game at Citi Field is a special experience, and being able to enjoy popular NYC food brands while watching the game with loved ones is a home-run,” said Donovan.

We also got a behind the scenes look at the new Delta SKY360º Club, upgraded team store, buzz-worthy LED lighting, and the dynamic Queens Crew dance team.


Empanada Mama

  Cheesesteak Empanadas. Photo taken by Eli Kolins

Empanada Mama serves up empanadas the size of baseballs. Popular for being a snack that is easy to devour, you can’t go wrong with their Cheesesteak, Buffalo Chicken, Greek Spinach Pie, or Banana Nutella dessert flavors. Find them on the Field Level in Section 103 and embark on a trip to experience the food of America del Sur.


Glaze Donuts

Custom Mets Donuts. Photo taken by Eli Kolins

Enigee, a partner of Glaze Donuts, invites you to try their award-winning dounuts. Dig into their glazed doughnuts filled with orange Boston cream that’s ready to hit your tastebuds.  Their custom Mets donut is calling fans to cheer for their team, while satisfying your sweet tooth. Go Mets! 


Gyro Jimmy’s Greek grill 

 Lamb Gyro. Courtesy of @gyrojimmys

Try their delicious lamb gyro dripping with tzatziki sauce and loaded with lettuce, tomato, onions, fries, and packed inside a pita. Have a sweet tooth? Their traditional Greek loukoumades – fried and glazed honey balls topped with cinnamon powder will leave you craving more! Meet the chef behind the menu, Jimmy Stathakis, who previously worked as a waiter and then started the restaurant business 20 years ago, and during COVID-19 opened the joint together with his partner Billy Vasos wondering where the pandemic would lead them. (that’s what real passion is about right?) Eat like the Greek gods and summon your power like a baseball player on the field! Hoorah! (Knock yourself out and run to the Excelsior Level at the Caesars Sportsbook Metropolitan Market).


Taqueria Nixtamal NYC

Birria Tacos. Photo taken by Eli Kolins

Enjoy your favorite sports game by dipping their birria beef tacos with melted cheese cilantro and onions into a cup of broth. To top it off, taste the sweetness of their Esquites (street corn for Spanish). This delicious dessert flavored with mayonnaise, cotija, and cheese certainly steals the show ¡Viva la Mexico!

The owners Rosabla Ruiz & Fernando Luis opened the restaurant 13 years ago, and their  Taqueria is known to be making its way to stadiums and festivals. (Now you can grab it at Citifield’s the Field Level at Taste of the City. 


Wok n’ roll

Rainbow eggrolls. Photo taken by Eli Kolins

Dig into these unique eggrolls layered with fun and festive rainbow colors filled with raspberry jam and chocolate syrup. The joint has only been open for three years and offers a new alternative to your regular bowl takeaway with a modern Chinese takeout that comes in specialty boxes. The owner Christopher wants to keep his customers entertained: “I prioritize my customers’ food experience by bringing them something unique like our eggrolls next to doing collaborations with local artists from Long Island where we’re based.” (Try it on the Field Level at the Metropolitan Fry Factory in Taste of the City).


Chiddy’s Cheesesteaks 

Chiddy Dog. Photo taken by Eli Kolins

This is their second year at Citi field, and this time around, Chiddy introduces a hotdog-cheesesteak mashup. Two legends in one bite! This is a combo that’ll leave you wanting more! The idea behind the Chiddy Dog, combining cheesesteaks with hotdogs, logically came from the lack of space in the food truck. Mike owns Chiddy’s Cheesesteaks, and the nickname “Chiddy” is adopted from his last name Chidester. He’s been running the business together with his partners Evan and Daron: “Our cheesesteaks were pretty popular alongside our regular beef hotdogs, we thought why not put them together in one, and that’s how the Chiddy dog was born”, Mike says. They’ve been doing cheesesteaks for 10 years, and the peeps love it! (Available on the Field Level in Section 132) 

On the entertainment front, The Amazin’ Mets Foundation introduces a range of exciting initiatives at Citi Field this season. Fans can enjoy The Queens Crew show and explore the expanded Mets Team store alongside a new raffle program benefiting community programs. Additionally, the luxurious DeltaSky 360° Club debuts, offering upscale amenities and gourmet snacks. Each home game presents opportunities for fans to win prizes, which Mets owner Alex Cohen emphasizes on within the community. Anticipation builds for the upcoming season with these enhancements. 

Kudos to CitiField’s Hospitality team for ensuring that even if the Mets season record is lousy, fans will be too busy eating to be upset, said John Jastremski, Host of New York New York Podcast for The Ringer on Spotify, SNY TV Sports Host, and BQE Media Sports Columnist.

The Mets season record is 14-13 so far. You can buy tickets here. Go Mets!

City Gate Productions presents “Five Women Wearing the Same Dress” in Maspeth

 The show’s titular women will be played by Regina Fischedick, Virginia Harmon, Margaret Leisenheimer, Ashley Gage and Liv Campbell. Photo by Joe Sinnott.

By Stephanie Meditz |

City Gate Productions will celebrate Women’s History Month with six performances of Alan Ball’s iconic play,
“Five Women Wearing the Same Dress.”

The heartwarming comedy will run on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from March 24 to April 2 at the Moose
Lodge Theater in Maspeth.

The play follows five bridesmaids who are united by their womanhood, wedding garb, complicated relationships
with the bride and desire to escape the festivities.

In addition to irreverent comedy, this character-driven play tells a story of hope, human connection and women
lifting each other up.

“The audience can expect a lot of peeling back of the layers of what it means to be a woman in society,” director
Amanda Montoni said.

“I think the play itself has themes of healing and friendship and is a really beautiful story of women coming together and supporting one another,” Margaret Leisenheimer, who plays Frances, said.

Frances is a devout Christian who initially uses her religion to push others away.

“I think her story throughout the play is finding ways to connect with people on a really human level,” Leisenheimer
said. “Frances really does have a huge character growth throughout this play.”

To get into character, she reconnected with her Catholic roots and composed journal entries as Frances. Although this is her first play with City Gate Productions, Leisenheimer grew up in Maspeth and regularly attended
shows at the Moose Lodge Theater.

She is a Queens community theater veteran — she began acting with St. Mary’s Drama Guild in Woodside at age

“This is kind of my introduction back to plays in Queens as of recently, since graduating from college,” she said.
“It’s really cool to be doing a show in my hometown.”

Leisenheimer was a drama major at Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts in
Manhattan. She then earned her B.A. in Theater and Performance from Binghamton University.

The cast of “Five Women Wearing the Same Dress” has been rehearsing for their run since the end of January. Since the play is driven by character development, the actors have worked tirelessly to capture the true essence of
their roles.

“It’s been wonderful, they’re all rock stars. It’s really great to work with a cast of people that is so supportive,”
Leisenheimer said. “It’s been a lot of fun and it’s been a really cool space to be a part of, because I always feel like I
can play around and really explore this character with my cast members.”

“I’m blown away by the cast. They have a connection that is very rare to find, especially in local theater,” Montoni
said. “They work so hard. In every rehearsal, they peel back another layer of their characters and they explore their
characters a little bit more. It’s just been a beautiful progression of character development.”

It was precisely this character development and storytelling that prompted her to become a director in 2018.
Montoni feels especially connected to “Five Women Wearing the Same Dress” in particular.

“Reading the play as a young adult first in college, I felt seen in a lot of ways. And then coming back and reading
[Alan Ball’s] words as an adult, I’m like, ‘Wow, he hit the nail on the head,’” she said. “Now that I’ve had some life
experience, I feel like there’s someone who has held my hand through the process without knowing it.”

Not only was the play published the year she was born, but the titular dress for this production is based on the one
worn by her mother’s maid of honor.

Producer Thom Harmon worked closely with costume designer Amy Ellis, who made the dresses by hand.

“We knew that the dresses really needed to be special. They’re in the title of the show, and the show takes place and was written in the early ‘90s,” he said.

Although this is not City Gate Productions’ first play since the COVID-19 pandemic, the cast and crew are thrilled
to have live theater back in full swing.

Leisenheimer participated in Zoom workshops during the shutdown, but she said there is nothing like the in-person
interaction that theater promotes.

“The feeling of doing a play in front of an audience, it’s incomparable,” she said. “[Acting onstage] is this really
beautiful community, and it allows us to tell stories of what people might be going through at this point in time.”

As a director, Montoni feels like a part of herself has been restored since live theater’s return.

“I live and breathe theater and creativity, so it’s almost like I feel complete again,” she said. “I feel overjoyed and
just excited to bring theater back to the community.”

Queens-based artist Sandra Vucicevic painted five original abstract portraits of the show’s five titular women. She asked each actress for a few words to describe their character, and she used them to depict the characters’ inner worlds using acrylic paint on canvas.

“It’s not like a real portrait where you could see the face, it’s just my impression of what is going on inside of these
characters,” she said. “I use color to express feelings…different personalities would have different colors.”

Each portrait is specific to the character it represents, but they will all be in the same frame to represent that they are all women who wear the same dress.

Vucicevic’s work will be displayed in the lobby at the Moose Lodge Theater for all six performances. Harmon hopes to collaborate with Queens-based artists for future shows as well, both to support local artists and add
another layer of meaning to each production.

“I’ve been doing all the PR and marketing for the show, which has been a lot of fun. The show really lends itself to a
lot of creative angles,” he said.

“Five Women Wearing the Same Dress” will allow audience members to come together and enjoy a comedy, but
also contemplate the play’s deeper meaning.

“It’s an opportunity for people to escape their everyday lives and just get to have two hours…to sit there in
community with one another and experience this thing together,” Leisenheimer said. “I think that’s something that’s
really beautiful, and something that’s hard to come by, especially in a city like New York where everyone’s kind of
doing their own thing and running from one place to another. It’s sort of like this huge deep breath in and exhale,
where everybody gets to experience together.”

Tickets are available for $25/$20 for seniors and students with ID at City Gate Productions.

“It’ll give them a couple hours to actually ponder life, but in an enjoyable way, in a hilarious way. They will be
swept away by the comedy, and faith and hope will be restored if audience members are feeling a little less of that
nowadays,” Montoni said.

Ice Theatre of New York brings free performances to NYC students

By Stephanie Meditz

Ice Theatre of New York’s New Works and Young Artists Series brings free ice dancing performances and lessons to NYC public school students.

Beginning on Feb. 2, Ice Theatre of New York (ITNY) will begin its New Works and Young Artists Series (NWYAS) for the first time in three years. 

The program gives the gift of ice dance to NYC public school students by providing them with free live performances by ITNY professionals and ice skating lessons. 

“Its goal is to introduce underserved public school students to skating on ice,” executive director Jirina Ribbens said. “And beyond just regular skating activity, to give them arts exposure to what we call dancing on ice, which is beautiful, choreographed performances and expressive movement on the ice.” 

ITNY’s mission is to establish ice dancing as an art form rather than a competitive sport or recreational activity. 

It is a repertory company that works with choreographers from both the dance and skating worlds, meaning that a choreographer might set a piece on one performer and reset the same piece on a different performer years later. 

“As a repertory company, you come in and you have to just learn all the different repertory that we are performing that season,” Ribbens said. “So it’s really truly like a dance company.” 

Ice Theatre of New York was the first company in the nation to be recognized as a non-profit dance company and is one of few dance companies that dances on ice. 

NWYAS performances include young apprentices who are close in age to the attending students, so they can see the possibility of their own progression. 

Ribbens said that NWYAS is many students’ first time ice skating. 

Ice Theatre of New York gives many students the opportunity to ice skate for the first time.

“We teach them how to safely fall and then to get up again on the ice,” she said. “The program is really inspiring for the children as well as for our performers because they feel like rock stars when the children respond to their performances, especially the young performers.” 

The New Works and Young Artists Series is open to NYC public schools, mainly Title 1 schools, and students visit their local ice rink as a class during the school day. 

The program will visit Lakeside in Prospect Park and City Ice Pavilion in Long Island City, as well as several rinks in Manhattan. 

ITNY also began virtual programming during the COVID-19 pandemic, which it has continued this year. 

“That reaches the children in the other boroughs or people who are further away from the rink,” Ribbens said. “And not all schools have bussing programs or are able to come to do the live programming. So we reach out to those schools with the virtual program where they get to watch a short video and then we teach them in their classroom how to fall and get up. It’s actually hilarious.” 

Ribbens is grateful that the program is operating in-person again, but during the pandemic, the virtual program was a nice change for students whose classes were strictly online. 

“They got to ask all these questions from the performers and they got to see exciting videos,” she said. “We didn’t know how it was going to be received, but it was very well-received. The teachers loved it because it really gave them a different thing to do with the children during the pandemic.”

By bringing ice dancing to students’ neighborhoods, ITNY hopes to spark their love for it and inspire them to continue skating. 

“We introduce them to their local rinks and then we say, ‘Look, come back, come skate again,’” Ribbens said. “Not only is it an activity that they can do safely outdoors in the winter, but they can also learn about all the different jobs that are at the rink, from ticket taker to zamboni driver, which is usually everybody’s favorite.”
In addition to the New Works and Young Artists Series, ITNY offers weekly classes at Bryant Park and Sky Rink during the season. 

It also holds several concerts to engage the community, including one at Bryant Park on Feb. 21 during Kids’ Week that spotlights young performers. 

“We cater the programming to the audiences that are coming, but they’re all free,” Ribbens said. “We try to reach as many audiences as possible. We’ve even done programming at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum. They have a small synthetic ice surface.” 

To learn more about ITNY’s programming, visit, e-mail or call (212)-929-5811.

Museum of Broadway comes to Times Square

By Stephanie Meditz

“Rent” memorabilia included costumes for Angel Dumott Schunard, Roger Davis and Mimi Marquez.

After Broadway’s longest-ever hiatus for the COVID-19 pandemic, the Museum of Broadway permanently opened its curtains on Nov. 15 to remind NYC of the joy of live theater. 

Located in Times Square in the midst of the landmark theaters it features, the Museum of Broadway allows visitors to explore a visual, interactive timeline of Broadway that spans three floors. 

The Museum was founded by Julie Boardman and Diane Nicoletti, and it traces the origins of live theater in NYC, along with iconic productions’ historical contexts and influences on both later shows and society at large. 

The first room is a hall of Playbills that features all currently running Broadway shows, followed by a brief film tracing the history of Broadway. 

It features props from some of the earliest performances in the 18th and 19th centuries, followed by Florenz Ziegfeld Jr.’s infamous “Follies” that solidified the revue as the defining style of the early 20th century. 

Classic Broadway shows with recent revivals such as “Oklahoma!”and “West Side Story” also originated in the 20th century. 

“Oklahoma!”, a collaboration by the iconic duo of Queens composer Richard Rodgers and librettist Oscar Hammerstein II, opened on Broadway in the midst of World War II and became a household name because of the escape from reality it allowed audiences. 

Other landmark Rodgers & Hammerstein musicals include “The Sound of Music,” “Carousel,” “The King and I” and “Show Boat.” Like each show-specific room in the Museum, the “Oklahoma!” exhibit captures the show’s essence and Wild West aesthetic with rows of corn across the floor. 

The “West Side Story” room resembles an Upper West Side store in the ‘50s, complete with a “dance along” screen featuring Jerome Robbins’ choreography to the iconic tracks “America” and “Cool.” 

The room dedicated to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “The Phantom of the Opera” features a costume worn by Michael Crawford, who originated the titular role. 

Broadway’s longest-running musical, “The Phantom of the Opera opened on Broadway in 1988 and will close on April 16 of this year.

The show boasts a whopping 13,907 Broadway performances, which the Museum commemorates with a crystal to represent each one. 

From a certain angle, the crystals form the shape of the Phantom’s signature mask. 

The Museum designates one crystal for each performance of “The Phantom of the Opera,” and the crystals form the shape of the Phantom’s mask.

Other iconic artifacts include the glittery red dress worn by Ozone Park native Bernadette Peters in the 2017 revival of “Hello, Dolly!” and the matching headpiece worn by Peters, Bette Midler and Donna Murphy. 

Among the artifacts in the museum is the iconic dress and headpiece worn by Ozone Park’s Bernadette Peters in the 2017 revival of “Hello, Dolly!”

In addition to the glitz and glamor of Broadway sets and costumes, the museum does not shy away from the tragedies in Broadway’s history. 

The AIDS epidemic in the ‘80s and early ‘90s had a drastic impact on copious Broadway actors, many of whom died from the disease. 

The museum honors the lives lost with their names on the walls in a room dedicated to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS (BCEFA), an organization dedicated to providing medical assistance to individuals affected by HIV/AIDS.

Courtesy of BCEFA, it displays the AIDS memorial quilt, a symbol of unity despite differences that bears renowned Broadway productions’ titles or identifying symbols, including “Company” and “Cats.”

The Museum provides ample unique photo ops, including a ‘70s-inspired swing as a nod to “Hair” and an Instagram filter inspired by Disney’s “The Lion King.”

In this same spirit of modernity, current or recently closed productions like “Hamilton” and “Dear Evan Hansen” receive recognition with memorabilia in the Museum. 

The polo shirt and cast worn by Sam Primack during the final performance of “Dear Evan Hansen” keep the show and its message alive, reminding visitors that they are not alone. 

With music by Cyndi Lauper, who grew up in Ozone Park and attended Richmond Hill High School, “Kinky Boots” brought love, acceptance and self-expression to Broadway for six years until its closure in 2019. 

The famous boots from “Kinky Boots.”

However, Lola’s glittery red thigh-high boots live on in the Museum. 

The Museum also displays boots worn by Lin-Manuel Miranda in the titular role of his hip-hop Broadway sensation “Hamilton,” as well as Eliza Schuyler’s trademark blue dress. 

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton” tells the story of America’s founding with a diverse cast to represent America’s population.

Although it opened in 2015, “Hamilton” still makes theater buffs long to be in the room where it happens at the Richard Rodgers Theatre because of its interpretation of America’s past through the lens of the present. 

At the 70th Tony Awards in 2016, the show won 11 out of its 16 nominations. 

Miranda won Best Original Score, and Best Lead Actor in a Musical went to Queens native Leslie Odom Jr. for his portrayal of Aaron Burr. 

In addition to onstage action, the museum dedicates an entire floor to the often overlooked superheroes of Broadway, namely stagehands, producers, general managers, agents, makeup artists, costume designers and many others. 

With its dim lighting and real equipment, this floor simulates the feeling of being backstage at a real show.

Designed by David Rockwell and presented by,  it details the roles of the many people besides actors who bring a show to the stage. 

The Museum also reserves space for rotating special exhibits, which is currently occupied by curator David Leopold’s “The American Theatre as seen by Hirschfeld.”

Broadway veterans such as Anthony Rapp, the original Mark Cohen in “Rent,” and Andrea McArdle, who originated the titular role in “Annie,” have recently visited the Museum. 

Tickets are available from $39 at

The Museum will donate a portion of each ticket sale to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

Maggie’s Little Theater to open Agatha Christie’s ‘The Mousetrap’

By Stephanie Meditz

Rehearsals for The Mousetrap began in November and took place both in-person and on Zoom.

On Feb. 11, Maggie’s Little Theater in Middle Village will open the curtains on its production of Agatha Christie’s 1952 murder mystery, “The Mousetrap.”

The whodunit follows Mollie and Giles as they open their guest house for the first time, only to find themselves snowed in with a murderer. 

Producer and founding member of Maggie’s Little Theater, Dolores Voyer, said that several of the show’s rehearsals took place on Zoom to protect the cast from COVID-19.

“We rehearsed in person most of the time, but when we started this show, our director [Thom Harmon] suggested…to have certain rehearsals not in person. Things that don’t need to be in person, individual work between the director and an actor…don’t need to be on the stage,” she said. “We wanted to keep everybody as safe as possible…when we’re in the theater on the stage, the actors are free to and often do wear masks.” 

This past summer, Maggie’s Little Theater put on a production of “Kiss Me, Kate,” its first performance since before the pandemic. 

Last summer, Maggie’s Little Theater put on its first performance since before the pandemic, Kiss Me, Kate.

“I didn’t realize during the pandemic how much I missed it until we started again, and I think that a lot of people feel that way,” Voyer said. “We kind of got used to being in our own little bubbles, and now that we’re able to safely come out and enjoy live theater again, it’s such a great feeling to be able to collaborate with people and to bring something to the audience.” 

Voyer is especially grateful for the cast of The Mousetrap and their motivation to produce quality work for the audience. 

“This cast is wonderful. We are really lucky to have a couple of longtime veterans of community theater in Queens as well as several people who are new to Maggie’s Little Theater…they’re very dedicated, they’re very interested in the process,” Voyer said. “The amount of chemistry between the actors has really developed so nicely.” 

Cast members who are recurring Maggie’s Little Theater actors include Bernard Bosio, Sarah Nowik and Mark York.

Although Maggie’s Little Theater typically produces more musicals than straight plays, it is primarily interested in producing shows that the audience would like to see. 

Maggie’s Little Theater’s production of Kiss Me, Kate was directed by Bill Logan and choreographed by Amanda Montoni.

“We’ve done some straight plays that are well known, some that are a little less well known,” Voyer said. “This one is kind of both well known and not, because it’s Agatha Christie but it’s a show that’s never been produced on Broadway.”

The Mousetrap has been running in London for 70 years, but it has not seen a Broadway stage in that time per Agatha Christie’s wish. 

The show’s original contract states that it could not move to Broadway or be produced as a movie until it closed in London, and it has not closed. 

“It debuted in 1952, and Agatha Christie herself thought it wouldn’t run more than a few months, but except for the pandemic, it has run continuously from 1952 until now,” Voyer said. 

Performance dates for The Mousetrap are Feb. 11, 17 and 18 at 8 p.m. and Feb. 12 and 19 at 2:30 p.m. 

Tickets are available at and are $20 for adults and $18 for children 11 and under and seniors over 65.

Woodside comedian brings Japanese culture to NYC

Kilara Sen, the “Pink Unicorn” of comedy

By Stephanie Meditz

Sen is grateful to do standup comedy in NYC, where audiences accept and relate to her unique personality.

Originally from Tokyo, Japan, Kilara Sen always knew it was her destiny to move to New York City.

Sen is a bilingual, feminist comedian whose humor deals with mental health, diversity and critiques of gender roles.

Sen was inspired to pursue comedy when she saw Chris Rock perform at Essence Music Festival in New Orleans as a Theatre Arts student at Hampton University.

She was shocked by the difference between American and Japanese comedy.

“He totally killed it,” Sen said. “It was a music festival, but he didn’t use any music. He just talked for an hour and he nailed the night, so I was really impressed…I thought to myself, ‘I’m gonna do this when my English is good enough.’”

Kilara Sen poses as Rosie the Riveter for Women’s History Month. Photo via @kilaracomedy on Instagram.

Sen started a career in Japanese comedy upon returning home, but never truly felt like she belonged in the industry.

“Standup comedy in Japan is nothing. Nobody knows about it,” Sen said. “Especially as a woman bringing her opinion and sometimes telling jokes criticizing politicians…people didn’t like it at all.”

As a survivor of childhood abuse and mental illness, Sen was inspired by comedians like Tiffany Haddish and Hannah Gadsby to incorporate her trauma into comedy.

“Japanese women are usually recognized as good wives, both in and out of Japan,” she said. “I really want to represent a new image of Japanese women.”

To achieve this goal, Sen refers to herself as a “Pink Unicorn” and calls her fans Unicorns.

“I used to blame myself for a long time because I was different, but now I feel my uniqueness is my value,” Sen said. “I love my uniqueness, and I think that everyone has their own uniqueness.”

Sen uses pink, a traditionally feminine color, to reject sexist stereotypes about women.

“From Japan…there is kind of a social system to make all women be a good wife. I have a lot of experiences of that kind of sexual harassment too,” they said. “I want to deliver the message to everybody: don’t live as somebody’s wife or somebody’s something. Just be yourself.”

Sen visited New York before the pandemic, but officially moved to Woodside in June 2022.

Kilara Sen performs at open mics and comedy shows all over Queens.

They performed at various open mics and comedy shows in Queens, and loved to see Queens’ younger crowd of comedians perform.

Sen has performed at The City University of New York, where students were intrigued by Japanese comedy and culture.

“For those audiences, I do jokes introducing and making fun of Japanese culture,” she said. “It’s more based on my experience.”

Before moving to the U.S., Sen made various TV appearances, including Asia’s Got Talent, Paul Hollywood’s Food Adventure and Henry Golding’s Welcome to the Railworld.

All of her TV credits were facilitated by her social media presence — she got invited to perform on Asia’s Got Talent after her YouTube video went viral.

“[Social media] has brought me a really great network with a lot of talented young performing artists all over Asia,” they said. “Usually, in the Japanese TV industry, managers always bring auditions or TV show offers. In my case…I was really looking for some opportunities outside of Japan but I didn’t know how. I was very lucky to get those offers from my social media directly.”

“In Japanese media, women really cannot be so loud, but I’m basically very loud and hyperactive…and have a very tomboyish personality,” she continued. “People all over the world outside Japan found me and they like who I am. It’s a really great place to connect people who speak the same language.”

A key illustration of Sen’s goal with her comedy is kintsugi, a Japanese traditional art of fixing broken pottery with gold.

“As a survivor…the message is not to give up, even if you fall,” she said. “Scars can be your gold sometimes.”

To see Sen’s comedy in action and learn about her upcoming shows, follow their Instagram, @kilaracomedy and subscribe to her YouTube channel,

Queens College professor premieres “Action Songs/Protest Dances”

Telling stories of racial injustice through dance

By Stephanie Meditz

After a two-year creative process conducted via Zoom, Kupferberg Center for the Arts will host the world premiere of Edisa Weeks’ “Action Songs/Protest Dances.”

“Action Songs/Protest Dances” is a live performance that combines original music by Martha Redbone, Spirit McIntyre and Taina Asili with modern dance to tell stories of past and present racial injustice in America.

Three songs incorporate Queens College Professor Edisa Weeks’ research on civil rights activist James Forman, especially his book, “The Making of Black Revolutionaries.”

Edisa Weeks is a Brooklyn-based choreographer, educator and director of DELIRIOUS Dance

The Queens College Rosenthal Library is home to an archive of Forman’s personal documents, including his FBI files, collection of political pamphlets and original drafts of his books.

Weeks was interested in researching Forman’s archive because of his critique of capitalism as an exploitative system.

“As a choreographer, I really believe in a researched performance process where it’s looking at history, looking at what has gone before and to bring it forward into the present. And so, for me, it’s been really satisfying to be able to do that with this project,” she said.

“What are things that James Forman cared about and how many of those issues like reparations are we still needing to address in America? And what are things that we actually have achieved?” she continued. “For me, as a Black woman, it would’ve been impossible for me to teach at Queens College 60 years ago, but now that’s something that’s actually possible because of the work and efforts that people like James Forman did.”

The other two songs reflect current social justice issues and were inspired by the chain of racial hate crimes in 2020, including the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.

“I kept on wondering what is a way that I, as a choreographer, can lend a voice to a lot of the ferment or protest that was happening,” Weeks said. “Or just for America to be a just and truly great nation.”

Weeks’ choreography is inspired by African dances from her childhood and modern dance that she has studied.

The creative process paired each of the three composers with two dancers, and each group drew parallels between current social issues and relevant topics in James Forman’s archive.

Taina Asili wrote a song related to the idea in Forman’s “Black Manifesto” of financial reparations for direct descendants of enslaved people.

Composer Taina Asili wrote a song about financial reparations for descendants of enslaved people.

The song and accompanying choreography both incorporate Afro-Caribbean elements.

“Each song is unique to the dancer and also to the message of the song,” Weeks said.

This project began at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, so Weeks worked with the dancers and composers via Zoom until this September.

“I’ve had a month to work with the dancers and to choreograph, so it’s been a little intense and stressful,” she said. “However, also incredibly generative. I think, partially because we were in such a long gestation period, the dancers really are invested in the songs and the songs are coming from them.”

Weeks hopes that the performance will expose a new generation to James Forman’s ideas and motivate people to strive for justice in their communities.

“I’m hoping people can…experience a work that engages song and lyrics and dance and be inspired,” she said.

“Action Songs/Protest Dances” is the inaugural work of the Kupferberg Arts Incubator, an initiative that began in 2020 to give professional artists who teach at Queens College a two-year residency.

“Without the immediate prospect of resuming live events, we decided that we wanted to devote significant resources and energy toward the development of new work, which obviously takes time,” Jon Yanofsky, Kupferberg Center for the Arts director, said.

KCA’s mission is to provide accessible cultural entertainment for both the Queens College community and the entire borough.

The Kupferberg Arts Incubator is geared toward artists of color, artists who live and work in communities of color and artists whose work addresses social inequities.

“We picked Edisa Weeks, a choreographer and professor that Kupferberg had the opportunity to work with on multiple occasions. She led the dance program at Queens College, and we were just all so impressed with the way she connected with students,” Yanofsky said. “She soundly met that criteria.”

“Edisa just has such a unique dynamic point of view and she pulls people along by the strength of her conviction, just her incredibly ebullient spirit and this collaborative nature that is truly authentic,” he continued. “It was really wonderful and refreshing to see the hard work that true collaboration requires…The piece is a composite of all the people involved.”

The Kupferberg Arts Incubator’s next iteration will be in 2024 with Queens College professor Chloe Bass.

Action Songs/Protest Dances will premiere at Kupferberg Center for the Arts on Saturday, Nov. 12 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 13 at 3 p.m.

Tickets are available for $20.

After each performance, audience members are invited to participate in a discussion with Weeks and the rest of the creative team.

Vinyl Revolution Record Show returns to Astoria

By Stephanie Meditz

Vinyl Revolution Record Show invites over 50 record vendors to set up shop in one venue. Photo via their website.

On Saturday, Nov. 12 and Sunday, Nov. 13 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Vinyl Revolution Record Show will return to the Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden in Astoria for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Father-daughter duo Mike and Amanda Schutzman started hosting record shows 10 years ago at the Brooklyn Bowl. 

Mike Schutzman initially ran the show with the manager of his record store in Valley Stream. 

Amanda Schutzman has always been involved in the show, but she now works in records full-time and co-organizes it with her father. 

“Now I work for a large vinyl distributor that deals with record stores all over America for new releases and reissues and stuff like that. So I deal with 200 record stores every day,” she said. “So I was just like, hey, I’ll take over. I know enough of the business at this point.” 

Since it began, Vinyl Revolution Record Show has hosted several shows a year in Queens, Brooklyn and Long Island. 

“I think it just got bigger than we expected it to get, and we just kept doing them,” Schutzman said. 

The show invites roughly 50 record dealers, personal collectors and record store owners from all over the country to set up shop in the same venue. 

Vendors sell a range of merchandise, including vinyl records, CDs, 45 RPM records and record supplies like sleeves, boxes and collector bags. 

Steve Lobmeier of Steve’s Record Cleaning cleans records that attendees buy or bring to the show for $1.50 per LP. 

At a whopping 80 tables, the most recent show was the largest one yet, and the Astoria show will be the first two-day show. 

“It’s basically just a giant flea, but it’s all records,” Schutzman said. 

Mike Schutzman, an avid record collector, often sets up shop at record shows around the country, including Vinyl Revolution. 

He passed his love for vinyl and music onto his daughter, who is also a collector. 

“I was raised in a record store, so I’ve always been into music. I didn’t start collecting myself until about 10 years ago, maybe even more than that,” Amanda Schutzman said. “And I’m addicted like the rest of them.” 

She is grateful to work with her father and share this hobby with him. 

“We have all the same hang-ups and we’re constantly back and forth on the phone making sure everything’s planned properly, but we have a great time working together,” she said. “We’ve never really butt heads or anything like that. He seems to really know what he’s doing, so I fall in line and listen.” 

The Astoria show will also feature special guests DJ Shangri-La, DJ Nina Day and DJ Spag of punk band Two Man Advantage. 

DJ Shangri-La and DJ Nina Day will play music at both Astoria shows.

Tickets are available on their website for $5. With the price of admission comes a ticket for the raffles called every half hour. 

Early admission is also available from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. for $10. 

“It’s just nice to have the Queens, Brooklyn, New York City crowd come back to the shows because we haven’t done them in a while,” Schutzman said. “The atmosphere is the most exciting at Astoria.”

Contemporary classical music comes to Ridgewood with ‘Laminaria’

By Stephanie Meditz

Laminaria combines evocative contemporary classical music with costumes and other visual elements.

With Halloween around the corner, Ridgewood’s live music scene shifts towards dark themes reminiscent of the horror genre.

This Saturday, Oct. 15 at 8 p.m., Concetta Abbate and her 10-piece chamber orchestra will perform her folk-horror epic, “Laminaria,” at Footlight Underground at the Windjammer.

Through music and vocals, Laminaria tells the story of an underwater sea witch who emerges to the surface and ascends to the sky in death, only to be pulled back into the ocean.

The musical arrangement depicts the plot with its contrast between low, ominous notes and whimsical, borderline comedic elements.

“I always have a hard time explaining my genre,” Abbate said. “I think our ensemble is just covering all ends of the spectrum, music-wise. There are moments that sound a little more like a traditional cinematic orchestral score, and then there are parts of it that sound like you’re at a free improvisation show, and then there are parts of it like you’re listening to a rock band.”

Abbate, a classical violinist and vocalist, will be accompanied by an orchestra consisting of woodwind, string, brass and percussion sections.

The ten piece chamber orchestra consists of woodwind, string, brass and percussion sections.

Laminaria’s vocals and simplistic lyrics were inspired by medieval Gregorian chants and closely resemble incantations.

The orchestra also includes an array of homemade instruments played by Skip La Plante that create haunting sound effects without the use of technology.

“It’s really dipping into a lot of musical worlds and soundscapes,” Abbate said. “I think that’s what makes it so exciting because it’s really unexpected.”

Laminaria will be accompanied by modern dancers from Wendy Osserman Dance Company in Manhattan later this month. Photo by Alice Teeple.

The word laminaria means “kelp” in Latin, which is used to induce labor.

Kelp is also notorious for the destruction of boats and is known in New Zealand’s folklore as “the devil’s apron,” which is the title of Laminaria’s first movement.

“For me, this sea witch is trying to emerge and is kind of stuck in this crux between living and not living,” Abbate said. “I think there are also more tangible messages in the piece about access to healthcare and our mental health systems being so broken. So I think that this metaphor of this substance that is used to induce a change in life, whether it be birth or death, really encapsulated a lot of the message of the piece.”

Abbate was inspired to compose Laminaria during the COVID-19 pandemic when she watched many horror movies in quarantine.

“I started to question why I was so interested in horror movies and I realized that it’s a cathartic way to process traumatic events,” she said. “ And a lot of the time, the monster in the movie represents the trauma in itself, and it’s the physical embodiment of whatever real, terrifying thing is happening in your life.”

Abbate drew upon her own experiences of witnessing loved ones struggle with mental health issues and the healthcare system’s inability to help them.

“It literally looked like demon possession to me because when you’re a child, you don’t know the medical terminology for things,” she said. “And so I wanted to, in this piece, explore that childlike understanding.”

“I think the piece can be taken on many levels,” she continued. “You can come in and watch it and it could just be this silly, fun horror thing. Or if you wanted to seek out the deeper, cathartic meaning in it, if that feels relevant to the audience, I think that that part of it is also there.”

A native New Yorker, Abbate holds a master’s degree in music education from Columbia University.

She grew up on Long Island and has lived in multiple boroughs, but she now resides in Glendale.

“[The Windjammer] is just such a great local spot to get people in the neighborhood to know about the work,” she said. “I think it’ll be really fun at Windjammer.”

Tickets are available on a sliding scale starting at $10 at or $12 at the door on the night of the performance.

After Laminaria’s Oct. 15 performance at the Windjammer, Abbate will perform the piece on Oct. 21 and 22 at Theater For The New City in Manhattan, accompanied by a modern dance routine choreographed by Wendy Osserman.

“When we did the first show, people were crying at the end of it. It’s a very moving experience to come and see this piece.”

Arts Gowanus hosts 26th annual Gowanus Open Studios

By Stephanie Meditz

Natale Adgnot’s unique sculptures protrude from her studio walls.

This weekend, Gowanus artists will open their studio doors to the public, art connoisseurs and curious minds alike.

Arts Gowanus will host its 26th annual Gowanus Open Studios on Oct. 15 and 16 from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m., where artists in the community will allow their neighbors to see them in their creative element.

The first GOS took place 27 years ago when a small group of artists opened their workspaces to the public.

Johnny Thornton, Councilwoman Shahana Hanif and MarktheArtisan attended GOS in 2021.

This year, more than 350 artists in 100 locations will participate in the event.

“It started out very small and over the years it has just become, I think, Brooklyn’s biggest art celebration,” Johnny Thornton, executive director of Arts Gowanus, said. “It grows a little bit each year. More artists and more people hear about Gowanus and hear about all the amazing creative stuff that’s happening here.”

Fortunately for Brooklyn’s many bikers and pedestrians, GOS is navigable for people traveling on foot.

There are multiple studios that are walking distance from several subway stations, and some artists even have studios in the same building.

As a result of the event’s increased popularity over the years, artists look forward to participating every year and sharing their work.

“This drives itself a little bit,” Thornton said. “This is the best time of year for artists to make sales, to meet curators. A lot of art insiders come here to scope out new artists in the neighborhood. So this is really something that artists are excited about year-round…It can’t come soon enough.”

Gowanus Open Studios includes designated studio spaces for artists who have been displaced from the neighborhood.

“Rents have been going up in the neighborhood for a while. We’ve lost a couple of large studio buildings over the last decade. And so we make our best efforts to be able to include artists who either can’t afford a studio in the neighborhood or have lost their studio,” Thornton said.

These artists will have the opportunity to exhibit their work at 82 St. Marks Place, the Gowanus Dredgers Boathouse and 540 President St., the Arts Gowanus office.

Gowanus Open Studios reflects the neighborhood’s diverse range of artists, including jewelry makers, painters, printers, muralists, photographers, video artists and sculptors.

Natale Adgnot, a wall sculptor in the community, attended her first GOS in 2014.

Her work consists of acrylic and thermoplastic mounted on birch panels in a three dimensional effect.

She is currently working on a series entitled “Bird Brains” in which each piece represents a bird referenced in common English idioms.

Natale Adgnot poses with one of her favorite pieces from her Bird Brains series, “Appeal to Vanity (Peacock Square)” (2022).

Each idiom is then connected to a cognitive bias or logical fallacy.

“There are so many expressions in the English language that sort of borrow a bird, and the bird stands in as a metaphor for some irrational behavior or belief that humans hold,” Adgnot said. “We humans are kind of bird brains for believing these things.”

Adgnot will showcase parts of Bird Brains at GOS this weekend at TI Art Studio #5 on the third floor at 183 Lorraine St.

“[Gowanus] is just the best place to be an artist. I lived in Japan for three years and, honestly, 75 percent of the reason we came back to New York was because I missed my art community in Gowanus,” she said. “I’m really lucky to have a studio in this neighborhood.”

In 2023, Adgnot will reveal a new installation of her work that takes her sculptures off the birch panels and mounts them directly onto walls or floors.

Adgnot’s “The Duck Test” (2022) is made from acrylic, enamel on
thermoplastic and panel.

Thornton himself is a photorealist painter, and he participates in local community projects.

On Monday, he and Arts Gowanus programming director Emily Chiavelli installed a community photo mural across the street from the Gowanus Dredgers Boathouse.

The mural features most of the artists who live and work in Gowanus, including Adgnot.

Thornton and Chiavelli will also showcase a painting and photo series in the Arts Gowanus office.

One of the goals of GOS is to make art more accessible for all, meaning that people do not need to know anything about art to attend.

“[Gowanus Open Studios] kind of takes the gallery out of it. You can see a lot of art in one day and it makes it completely accessible for the public and anyone who wants to see what’s happening in the neighborhood,” Thornton said.

Adgnot especially enjoys when children visit her studios — she lets them choose a postcard of her work to take home.

Thornton became executive director of Arts Gowanus in 2020, in the midst of both the COVID-19 pandemic and the neighborhood rezoning.

During these hard times, Arts Gowanus was dedicated to advocacy for local artists — it negotiated 30,000 square feet of affordable artists’ space inside the new developments in Gowanus.

“We want to keep this neighborhood the vibrant creative community that it’s always been. Art requires accessibility and diversity. It requires an organization looking out for the artists’ best interests in the neighborhood,” Thornton said.

All year long, Arts Gowanus helps artists secure workspaces, pair with businesses, find work opportunities and navigate the administrative aspects of being an artist.

To conclude and celebrate GOS 2022, there will be a party at the Gowanus Dredgers Boathouse at 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 16.

“It’s really just a celebration of the entire creative community in Gowanus, which is so strong and vibrant,”  Thornton said.

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