Friday, December 4, 2020

A visit to Paradise Alley at Duane Park

Text and photos by Stacie Joy

Since mid-October, 308 Bowery at First Street has been home to Paradise Alley, Duane Park’s elegant outdoor dinner theater.

This twice-nightly COVID-safe outdoor sophisticated supper show includes a reservations-only set-price three-course meal (adult beverages not included), while roving performers and live band ALMALUNA entertain the diners, semi-ensconced behind partitions that block the wind.

Since the event is outdoors, onlookers and passersby get in on the experience as well, and I watch several truckers pause from unloading goods nearby to enjoy ariel artist Marcy Richardson and 
peignoir-clad glamour burlesque star Tansy as well as contortionist Ellie Steingraeber on the hula-hoops. Knife-tossing Paris the Jugglermagician Albert Cadabra and stripteuse artist Lilin Lace are also on hand keeping the crowd entertained.
Marisa Ferrarin, owner of Duane Park, stops by to chat with my tablemates, Chi Chi Valenti and husband Johnny Dynell. I take a few minutes between performances to ask her some questions about the show, the space, and what live entertainment looks like during the time of coronavirus. 

How did the idea of Paradise Alley at Duane Park come about?
After seven months of closure, we felt we had to do something to get everyone back to work and thanks to 310 Bowery Bar next door allowing us to use their sidewalk frontage, we realized we could make it work. The entertainment is a very edited version of what we have been doing for the past 12 years and we are complying with the rules set out by the state so the performances are incidental and all staff, performers, and customers are safe.
Were you surprised by the customer reaction and the subsequent need to extend the experience through November? 

No, people are starved for entertainment and what we do is unique in this climate!
The performers, including a magician, juggler, aerial and burlesque artists, and musicians have modified their art for an outdoor audience. What factors came into play when creating and producing this experience? How have East Village passersby reacted to the production?
Everyone has modified their act slightly to suit the outdoors, but basically, they are still doing what they do best, just without the stage and lights. Passersby are enthralled by what’s going on and often stop to watch. 
How does the new-ish 10 p.m. curfew affect the dining and performance experience?
We had to act fast to modify our timing to fit in with curfew, but we have done it. Although, people want to stay later to enjoy the vibe.  
You are not, at the time of my visit, using space heaters or a tent, and you tell patrons to dress warmly and bring a blanket, how do you plan to extend this al fresco experience when the temperature drops even further?
We have tents and heaters ready to go as the weather drops. The tents will modify what we are able to do for the performances, and we are trying to keep those artists engaged as long as possible.

Thoughts on the future of Duane Park as we head into winter? What’s next for the space?
We’re hoping to be able to get back inside to do what we do best. We will keep going outside as long as we have to. Everyone is happy to be performing and making customers smile. The Winter Wonderland version of the show is going on now. Tents and a blizzardlike experience for outside for all!
This month, Duane Park is now presenting Winter Wonderland on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. (There’s a 5:45-6 and 8 p.m. seating for up to 20 guests.) You can keep up with Duane Park on social media here.


Anonymous said...

I am able to hear the music from my window. I quite welcome it. It's funny to see all the neighbors flock to their window in unison once the commotion starts.

Anonymous said...

Marcy Richardson is a very gifted opratic soprano whose roles in Baroque opera have been outstanding.
I saw her as the mesmerizing "Amour" in Gluck's "Orphée." Truly a performance to remember: Clad like a Cupid with gold wings, Marcy sang beautifully while doing a routine on a stationary trapeze high above the state. Stunning! Gluck would have loved her.

Dirty Martini said...

Hooray for Duane Park for keeping burlesque alive in the pandemic! I may not be working there, but I so appreciate the extra effort they are going through to keep performers and audiences engaged during this tough time.

Marcy Richardson said...

Awww thank you so much!!!❤️❤️❤️