Dork for New York: How to See a Broadway Show for Free

***Check out the other posts in this ongoing series here.  All the cool kids are doing it.

Guess what I did last Friday?


Aw… c’mon!

Just kidding.  You don’t have to guess.  (No one likes to play that game.)  I’ll just tell you.

***Disclaimer:  In case you’re not a fan of musicals and theatre and all of those good things, you might as well stop reading now and check back tomorrow, because I am about to NERD. OUT. HARD.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Josh and I visited the Theatre on Film and Tape Archive (TOFT) and saw a Broadway show for free!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(That’s zero dollars!)

TOFT, located at the Lincoln Center Performing Arts Library — which is a magical land of wonderment unto itself — has an extensive archive of numerous Broadway productions (and tons of off Broadway and regional, too) since about 1970.  That’s musicals, straight plays, all that good stuff.  And for a whopping zero dollars, you too can have the same experience!

File:LPA at night.jpg

Image source: Kosboot via Wikipedia

But let’s back up a bit, I got excited…

I first heard of TOFT when I was in school, but at the time, I was far from living in NYC so I just sort of filed it away in my “When/If I Ever Live in NYC” rolodex.  Well, recently I had an “aha!” moment and remembered that this great resource existed.  I did a little research, checked out their website, and browsed through their catalog to see what was available.  Believe me, I typed in some pretty obscure stuff and they’ve got it… not to mention the age old classics (and no, I don’t mean Cats… though they have that in their archives too… unfortunately).

I wanted to surprise Josh (because I was pretty sure he forgot this place existed, too), so I scheduled a viewing of The Full Monty, a musical that we are notorious for singing at the top of our lungs when we’re home cleaning the apartment or cooking (this is a daily occurrence).  All I had to do was call TOFT (phone number on their website) and schedule the appointment, explain that my reasons were for research (we’re both actors and singers, so we’re always collecting research and experiences in this regard) and that was it!  They’re closed on Sunday and Monday, and only open 12-6, Tuesday through Saturday, but I found a Friday that we were both off to go.

I’d heard the place was set up kind of like a computer lab, so I made an unusual request in that I asked for us to be on neighboring monitors.  It was no problem though, since it wasn’t a busy day and they already have so many monitors anyway (like 23, I think?).  We just put headphones on, pressed play, and our show began.  And the video quality was surprisingly good; no wobbly-heavy-breathing-home-movie stuff here!

File:Theatre on Film and Tape .jpg

Image source: Kosboot via Wikipedia

And one more time, did I mention it was free?!? (except for, you know, taxpayer dollars and any donations they receive).

OK, so here are all the important details (via the TOFT website)

What:  Theatre on Film and Tape Archive at the Library for the Performing Arts

Where:  3rd floor of the library, 40 Lincoln Center Plaza, NY, NY 10023

When:  Tuesday-Saturday, 12:00-6:00 (Closed Sunday and Monday)

Looks like I’m going to be doing a lot of research from now on :)

Check out the other posts in the series “Dork for New York”

Dyker Heights Lights

Lower Manhattan Walking Tour

NYC Holiday Windows

Midtown Walking Tour


Dork for New York: Lower Manhattan Walking Tour

Yesterday I offered a map highlighting some of NYC’s free (like really free) landmarks and attractions in Manhattan’s Midtown (and surrounding area).

Today: Lower Manhattan. When I had visited NYC prior to moving here, I had never really spent that much time in Lower Manhattan, beyond “Oh cool, that street sign says ‘Wall Street'” and “Why is that bull significant again?”

File:Charging Bull statue.jpg

I have since learned the Bull's significance (click on the pic to learn for yourself).

But beyond the brief walk through I’d done, along with knowing that this area was home to the New York Stock Exchange, Ground Zero, and a pretty respectable view of the Statue of Liberty, that was about all I could say for Lower Manhattan.  However, once Josh started working in Lower Manhattan (and not as an occupier OR a Wall Street Suit, by the way), he got to know the area very well, as did I.
It’s no secret that NYC is an oooold city; it was once our nation’s capital, after all.  And Lower Manhattan is a neighborhood teeming with some of the most interesting… old stuff (which translates to major cool points for a super history dork like me).  So with the help of my husband (that’s GPP web designer/social media guru/everything-else-I-can’t-wrap-my-head-around-fella/”no, he still doesn’t have a proper title” guy), we created a walking map of some of the more interesting landmarks, some with huge plaques next to them, others that you’d miss if you blinked twice (no blinking allowed).

This is by no means an exhaustive Lower Manhattan tour; there are still plenty of museums and landmarks that we haven’t seen and aren’t included in this map.  However, if you have a free afternoon and you’re trying to cram as much as you can into a three day trip, this is a good way to do it!

Hope you enjoy!

lower manhattan walking tour map

Lower Manhattan Walking Tour Map

And here’s a printable MS Word doc version:  Lower Manhattan walking tour DOC

And… here’s a more detailed itinerary, because sometimes the buildings don’t speak for themselves.

(Letters below correspond to the map above.)

A.  Sphere Sculpture:  For years, this sculpture was by the World Trade Center Twin Towers.  As a result of the terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001, this sculpture was damaged.  However, it was not completely destroyed, and the ruins of it were re-located to Lower Manhattan’s Battery Park as an interim memorial.  On the one year anniversary of the attacks, an eternal flame was lit in memory of those who lost their lives on this day.  To see what the Sphere looked like before it was damaged and to read more about its significance, check out this Wikipedia article (there’s also a plaque by the actual sculpture that explains some of this).

the sphere nyc sculpture

The Sphere sculpture in Battery Park, NYC. You can see the eternal flame in the lower left hand corner of the picture, as well as the soon-to-be Freedom Tower (still under construction) in the upper left hand corner.

B.  Castle Clinton:  Currently a national monument, this sandstone fort has served as a beer garden, theatre, aquarium, and exhibition hall, as well as America’s first immigration station (yes, even before nearby Ellis Island!).  Because of its geographic position, it is also a departure point for those visiting Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty (and you can get some pretty good views of both of those landmarks from here).

Battery Park is also home to the East Coast Memorial, an area of eight 19-ft. tall granite pylons commemorating the WWII U.S. servicemen who lost their lives in the western Atlantic Ocean.

C.  Museum of the American Indian (housed in the U.S. Customs House):  While we have never been in the museum, the building itself is a work of art in the Beaux-Arts style, and the nearby informational signs offer some interesting tidbits about the building and its original site.

us customs house

U.S. Customs House, now home to the Museum of the American Indian

D.  The Charging Bull statue:  This bronze statue, an iconic image of aggressive financial optimism and prosperity, was originally a guerrilla art installation.  When artist Arturo Di Modica placed the statue beneath the Broad St. Christmas tree in 1989, police seized it and placed it in an impound lot.  Due to public outcry, The NYC Department of Parks and Recreation installed it two blocks south of the NYSE in Bowling Green Park. (Where did I learn this?  Right here.)

E.  Federal Hall National Monument:  Perhaps my favorite part of the Lower Manhattan tour, this is where George Washington was inaugurated as our first president!  Did you know that?  I guessed if I’d thought of it, I could have figured it out, but this was a cool surprise to me when I read this sign in front of it:

federal hall

F.  New York Stock Exchange:  Maybe you’ve heard of it?  Often considered the financial center of the world, it is the world’s largest stock exchange in terms of market capitalization (Source).  Not to mention, it’s a lovely building with some intense high relief going on in the building’s pediment and a colonnade of Corinthian columns that’ll bring out the architecture nerd in anyone (or at least, me).

G.  Trinity Church:  An ooolllddd church, and by “ooolllddd” I mean founded in 1696.  (However, it has suffered a few fires and some rebuilding, but still… it’s ooolllddd.)  Take a free stroll through the church, as well as its museum in the back.  You can also check out the cemetery which is the final resting place for many historical figures, including John Jacob Astor (the business guy), Robert Fulton (the steam engine guy), and Alexander Hamilton (the first Secretary of Treasury/ten dollar bill/died-in-a-famous-duel guy).

H.  Zuccotti Park:  This park — famous or infamous, depending on your ideological views — was the campground of the Occupy Wall Street protesters (and still sort of is, though they mostly just protest during the day as of this writing).

WTC Memorial:  Continue down Trinity Place (northwest) and you’ll begin to see signs pointing you in the direction of the WTC Memorial.  While the memorial is a free attraction, you must reserve passes to see it (check out this website).

Brooklyn Bridge:  To access this famous NYC landmark by foot, you can enter the promenade at Centre Street by City Hall (easily found on a Google map, just type in “Avenue of the Finest and Centre Street, NY, NY”).


You might also enjoy:

Dyker Heights Lights

Midtown Walking Tour

NYC Holiday Windows


Dork For New York: Midtown Walking Tour

New York City:  It is darn expensive.  Like, you can sneeze and somehow lose twenty dollars.  In less than an hour.  And twenty dollars is perhaps a conservative number.

However, in this wallet-sucking city, there are still plenty of sights and sounds to take in for… are you ready?… FREE.  No, really.

You may remember from my previous posts, I talked about checking the insane extravagant holiday lights displays in the Dyker Heights nabe in Brooklyn, as well as the holiday windows and FAO Schwarz tour in Manhattan.  Yep, those were good, free times.  Well, when my in-laws — who had never seen any of NYC beyond the Statue of Liberty — visited for New Year’s, we wanted to cram in as much as we could into the three days they were going to be here.

Josh and I planned and mapped it out, and we think (hope) it was a successful/educational/entertaining/hopefully-all-three trip, hitting some of the better known touristy highlights, as well as a few lesser known surprises thrown in as well.  If I gave you our entire itinerary, it may be more confusing than if I just provide you with a walking map, pointing out some of the (free) landmarks we checked out (I’ll also point out some landmarks we didn’t get to check out).  For today, I’ll show you our map of Midtown and the surrounding area.  (Tomorrow’s all about Lower Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge.)

The total walking tour is about 3.6 miles, so maybe not the best for a novice walker or someone with back or knee problems, however there are plenty of subway options along the route and if you break up the walking by stopping for lunch in between, it’s really not so noticeable (and you’re going to stop and take pictures anyway, right?)

Click on the map for an enlarged version:

Click on this image for an enlarged and printable version

For an even better printable version, check out this MS Word doc:  gpp midtown walking map

Hope this is helpful for future trips!  And if your ideal Midtown itinerary varies a bit from mine, type it into Google maps and select the walking option (or mass transit or whatever).  You can re-arrange the order of the letters/landmarks so you’re not doubling back or wasting time — though every corner of Midtown Manhattan has some famous name, landmark, and street sign, so no matter where you end up, you’d hardly be wasting time.

Check back tomorrow for a (slightly more detailed) Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridge walking tour!


You might also enjoy:

Dyker Heights Lights

NYC Holiday Windows


This blurry picture of Josh and I at Grand Central Station.  We were yawning and pretending like Grand Central Station isn’t one of the most beautiful places ever.  We’re actors.

Twelve Weeks of Christmas, Week 3: DIY Tile Coaster Tutorial

Part 3 in a series of 12

Pause.  Before you read on, you should check out the previous posts of this series, The Twelve Weeks of Christmas:


Week 1: Online Shopping Tips and Tricks

Week 2: How to Make a Bowl out of an Old Vinyl Record

It can’t hurt, right?

Oh boy! Oh boy!  Since I began this series three weeks ago, I’ve been more than a little excited about this particular post as it is one of my FAVORITE and most beloved gift ideas, ever!  I thought I might save this as one of the final posts, but the sun was shining today and my fire escape, i.e., my photography studio was calling my name, so I answered!  The answer was “Yes,” clearly.

(I can’t take very useful pictures inside my apartment, so I have to wait for days when it’s not raining to get shots… something we’ve been lacking here lately.   Also, my camera has been at the residence of one Maria Aparo, being used to take pictures of her $100 apartment makeover – an exciting, future post on this in the next few weeks!)

So, after a stellar fire escape photography session with my less than stellar camera, I am ready to give you this tutorial.  But before we dive in to the how-to’s (and how-not-to’s), let’s take a gander at the things we’re going to be making:

Tile Coaster

Ta da!

Tile coasters

Sassy and askew. Silly coasters.

Tile coaster cork bottom

Work it, cork contact paper.

Tile coasters

Sassy and askew, part 2

Ooh… ahhh…. These coasters are of one of my favorite gifts to give because nearly always the gift recipient says something along the lines of “Wow!  Cool!  Where’d you find these?”  To which I reply “I made them, silly!”  (Actually, that’s not true… more often than not, I initially reply with “Not telling you, but you should know they were VERY expensive and I will not be spending this much money on you next Christmas.”  Actually… that’s not true either.)

I also love these coasters because they cost nearly NOTHING to make.  In fact, a set of four coasters puts me out about $3.  No, I know.  For real.  A cost-effective, yet high quality gift like this makes me sing opera notes spontaneously.   (Ooh! -what if one of those words from that last sentence was a link of me singing an opera note?  Fun!  Sorry, you’re just going to have to imagine it for now).

So… without further ado, I give you:

The GPP’S DIY Tile Coaster Tutorial

Supplies needed:

4 X 4 Tiles (my tried, true, and tested, personal fave)

Aluminum foil

Hair dryer (optional)

Photocopied images (more on this below)


Elmer’s Glue

A foam brush or small paint brush

Varnish: Mod Podge, Minwax Polycrylic, whatever strikes your fancy, as long as it’s non-yellowing and weather-proof, i.e., WATERPROOF

Cork contact paper or felt/cork furniture pads

A rockin’ coaster making playlist (optional, but highly recommended)

tile coaster supplies

Supplies. Don't be overwhelmed -- you do not need ALL of these necessarily. Keep reading...

Step One: 

First things first – You need to decide what you want on your coasters.  With an amazing thing out there called Google Image Search, the sky’s the limit, really.  Of course, if you are making these coasters to sell them, that’s another matter entirely, as many pictures have trademarks, copyrights, or royalties attached to them.  Going forward, I’ll assume you are making these coasters as gifts, so again… sky’s the limit!

Here are some ideas for coaster images that I have done (or plan to do one day):

Family photos

Movie poster images

Fine art images

Comic books

Vintage ads

Beverage related art


Once you figure out what images you want to use, make a photocopy of these.  Typically, what I do is find four images, download them into my computer (you know: right click, “Save as,” etc.), and format them in Paintbrush and/or Microsoft Word so that they are only 3.5” X 3.5” each.  As you can tell, I am NOT particularly high-tech, BUT you absolutely do not have to be for this project.  Most everyone has Paintbrush and/or Microsoft Word, and with both of these programs you can resize or crop an image easily (let me know if you have trouble with this in the comments below, and I can put together another tutorial J ).  Since my color printer leaves much to be desired – and honestly I don’t like to waste color ink – I usually send these images electronically to a copy center website and pick them up in the store (ink jet pictures will NOT work).  After trial and error, I have found that Staples is the most cost-effective resource, and I am always pleased with the end results.

Simply go to, make a free account, and click on the “Copy and Print Services” link.  Click on “Start a Copy Project” and upload your document or images (for me, it’s always a MS Word document with four images on each page, as this minimizes paper usage).  After your image or document uploads, they will give you a series of options: the most important ones to pick are “color copying” (as opposed to black and white), and the cheapest paper option which is the “Letter Standard White (24 lb.)”  — only 59 cents a page!  Once you get your confirmation e-mail, you can pick it up in the store.  Easy.

Here are some of my pre-cut images I have in mind for future projects.

Step Two: 

(Wow, that was a long Step One, but I assure you the others will not be quite that verbose.)

Clean your tiles.  Just get a damp cloth to brush away the dust that is inherent in these types of tiles.  Let dry completely.

Agora Tiles

Step Three:

Lay out a sheet of aluminum foil and place your tiles upon it.  This is to protect your work surface from the varnish you will use in future steps.  I have found this to be the best solution because when I am done with the project, I can simply throw away the aluminum foil and nothing has been damage by dried globs of varnish (they’re almost impossible to clean up).  The aluminum foil acts a lot like wax paper does when you’re making chocolate covered pretzels or the like – when dry, you can peel things off of it without sticking.

Aluminum foil: varnish-tastic projects::wax paper:chocolate covered pretzels. There, I just used my SAT skills.

Step Four:

Attach the images to the tiles.  Cut out the images so there is no white border showing, then use Elmer’s Glue or Mod Podge (or an off brand version of either) and glue the images to the tiles. Make sure you coat the entire surface using a foam brush to spread the glue so there are no lumps later.  Then, center the image on the tile and smooth out to the best of your ability.  This is a crucial part of the waterproofing process, because if there are lumps or bubbles, especially at the edges, water, i.e., sweat from your glasses will be able to seep under these vulnerable places and ruin the seal.  I like to use a clean towel to rub the image and work it into the nooks and crannies of the stone façade (these tiles are not perfectly smooth on the top, but that will add to the character later, I promise!)  After that, I use a blow dryer on a low setting so that there is no opportunity for moisture to seep in – if you don’t have a blow dryer, place the tiles on the floor in front of your refrigerator  (this is a Teresa Foster tip and it always works if you want to dry something quickly, especially wet shoes).

Dollar Tree Represent!

Step Five:

Apply 4-5 coats of varnish.  My preference is a foam brush because they leave behind no brush strokes.  I allow at least 30 minutes in between coats, but I’m sure it wouldn’t hurt to wait longer.  In between coats, I wrap a Ziploc bag around the foam brush and seal with a rubber band around the handle, that way I can reuse the same brush for each coat (because I promise, the foam brush will dry just as fast as the coasters).

Step Six:

Allow tiles to cure over night.  Very important because if a tile is even slightly tacky, it will not be a functional and waterproof coaster.  (If you used a glue-like varnish like Mod Podge, I recommend spraying with a sealant of some sort.)

Step Seven:

Once tiles are completely dry, attach cork contact paper or furniture pads to the bottom.  This will protect whatever surface you place your coaster on and will also prevent scratching other coasters when they are stacked on top of each other.  I am a big fan of the cork contact paper because: it can cover the entire bottom of the tile; it’s already sticky so it requires no glue; and it just has a more finished look this way… but furniture pads are okay, too (you can get a pack at Dollar Tree for… a dollar.)  But contact paper is better.  Just so you know where I stand on the issue.

Step Eight:

Sign the bottom of the coaster.   After all, it is YOUR work of art!  I like to sign my name on the edge (that isn’t covered by contact paper), and then put the occasion and the date, e.g.,” Christmas 2011,” “Happy Birthday!,” “25th Annual Dragon-Con,” whatever.  Put a note in the gift box/bag that offers cleaning instructions (by the way, ONLY wipe with a damp cloth – no soap or cleaning products, no abrasive scrubbers, no immersing in water).

And… You’re done, and it was super easy and cheap!  So cheap in fact, I felt compelled to do a price list.

After the initial purchase of varnish, which usually runs somewhere between $4-$10 a bottle, you’ll have enough varnish to make a hundred coasters (really).  Same goes for the Elmer’s glue, which is usually no more than a dollar a bottle (and if it’s more than that, go to Dollar Tree where it’s always…a dollar.)  Cork contact paper is usually $3 a roll, but it will also last you a while.  Assuming you have aluminum foil somewhere in your kitchen, the only purchases per project you’d have to make would be:

4 tiles X 33 cents/ea. = $1.32

I page of images from the Staples Copy Center = $0.59

I foam brush = $0.25

For a grand total of:   $2.16, plus tax

So, not counting staple items that will last you for MANY projects to come, each set of coasters is less than $3!  YES!!!  GPP approved — Especially considering similar coaster sets can run anywhere from $15-$30 in most gift shops.  Better still, you can personalize these to fit the taste of the gift recipient (so, you only have to give them coasters with kittens and butterflies on them if you really want to).

One more time...

Tell me what you think in the comment section below!  Does this seem like a gift you’d like to give someone (or keep for yourself)?  If so, who will be your gift recipients?  Will you give ME any presents?  (You don’t have to answer the last one.)