You've been to the Strand. You've seen the stone library lions. You've even been to that carousel from The Catcher in the Rye. Now what? If you're looking for a literary night out in NYC, then you've barely scratched the surface: beyond the big, marble libraries and tiny, hip bookstores, there are plays, open mics, reading series, and so much more for a book lover to enjoy in the Big Apple. So check out these unique literary activities that you can be a part of in New York City.
New York has always been a literary city, after all. Years ago there was the Algonquin Round Table, where authors like Dorothy Parker and George S. Kaufman first congregated. Today there are rap musicals about Shakespeare and comedy shows about Hufflepuffs. Truly, this is progress at its most beautiful. You won't find shows and events like these anywhere else. Whether you're a life-long New Yorker, a recent transplant, or a visitor looking to avoid the more touristy crowds, you can enjoy these weird, wonderful homages to the best of literature.
So here are a few great ways for a literature nerd to enjoy the city! And act fast, because some of these events won't be around forever:
1. Othello: The Remix
Othello: The Remix is the latest offering from the Q Brothers: an inventive, high energy hip hop musical based on Shakespeare's famous tragedy. In this version, Othello is re-imagined as a successful rapper, with Desdemona as his soulful back-up singer, and Iago as his resentful opener. While the show may not preserve all of Shakespeare's original language, the lyrics are wickedly clever, and it all makes for a thoroughly fun evening of song, dance, and insidious jealousy.
Othello: The Remix, now playing at the Westside Theatre
2. Edgar Allan Poe and His Ghostly Neighbors of Greenwich Village
Did you know that Washington Square Park is the most haunted site in America? Neither did I. But apparently you can head downtown to the park to meet Edgar Allan Poe and His Ghostly Neighbors of Greenwich Village. The tour will take you through several creepy Edgar Allan Poe sites, as well as visiting the spirits of Aaron Burr, Eleanor Roosevelt, and her dog, Fala. Some of the other tours offered by the Ghosts of New York organization will also introduce you to a deceased Mark Twain, Washington Irving, and Oscar Wilde.
Edgar Allan Poe and His Ghostly Neighbors of Greenwich Village at Ghosts of New York Tours
Ready to meet your literary heroes? BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music) is bringing them straight to Brooklyn with Unbound, a series of book launches featuring celebrated contemporary authors. BAM and the Greenlight Bookstore in Fort Greene have hosted authors like Zadie Smith, Colson Whitehead, and Gloria Steinem as they launch their newest books. Keep an eye out for the next installment of Unbound, because it just might feature your literary fave!
Unbound, through Brooklyn Academy of Music
4. The Moth StorySLAM
Not all literature has to be on the printed page—live storytelling has always been an integral part of the literary world. You might know The Moth as a storytelling show from radio or podcasts, but did you know that you can watch storytellers live, or even get up onstage and perform your own story? The Moth StorySLAM is an electrifying open mic storytelling competition, open to everyone with a story to tell.
The Moth StorySLAM, Housing Works Bookstore Cafe and other venues
5. The Poetry Brothel
For a truly unique night of literature, head to House of Yes in Brooklyn to visit the The Poetry Brothel: an interactive performance series, complete with burlesque, drinks, cabaret, and, of course, poetry readings. For an extra fee, you can even book a one-on-one poetry reading with one of the poets in a back room. The "brothel" models itself on a Parisian bordello, with lush decor and avant-garde art for all.
The Poetry Brothel, House of Yes
6. Drunk Shakespeare
Five actors meet in a hidden library. One of them has five shots. And then all of them attempt to put on a Shakespeare play. Drunk Shakespeare is a delightful, boozy celebration of the bard (and yes, you can drink while you're watching the show). It's a rowdy Shakespeare nerd's dream come true, and every show is completely unique, depending on who's been drinking (and what they've been drinking).
Drunk Shakespeare, now playing at The Lounge, 300 West 43rd St
At long last, we get to hear the Hufflepuffs' side of the story. Puffs is a must-see comedy about the underdogs of the wizarding world, set at a "certain school of magic and magic." You might know the story, but you've definitely never seen it from this angle before. No matter your Hogwarts house, you can find something to love about the loyal, hardworking, badger-loving Puffs.
Puffs, now playing at The Elektra Theatre
Images: Edwin H. Manchester/Wikipedia Commons,