The initial result of that thought, 400 Years in Manhattan: A Tour Guide's History, was first seen in a workshop production at HERE Arts Center in 2007. Directed by Amanda Sisk, the show combined the city's history with my experiences telling its story, accompanied by a multimedia presentation which allowed the audience to watch Manhattan change over the course of four centuries, in ninety minutes. It went well, but a planned commercial run fell through, and other projects came along, and 400 Years has remained "something to get back to one of these days."
Two events have brought me back to it:
In 2016, the New York Public Library released its priceless archive of over 180,000 public domain images, including a vast collection of photographs, artwork, maps, documents, and artifacts from the city’s past. Sifting through the treasures, all I wanted to do was revamp the visuals which accompany 400 Years in Manhattan, drawing on the bounty of the NYPL archive, as well as the multimedia tools of 2018.
Last year, for five months of weekends, I went back to the buses! It had been years since tour-guiding had found its way into my ongoing shuffle of jobs and projects. Returning to the grind stimulated my thinking about the text of 400 Years in Manhattan, and what a new version would be like. The city has changed, and so have I, and we both have different stories to tell.
Rewriting the monologue has further convinced me that the time for 400 Years in Manhattan has come. In 2007, it played as a post-9/11 reminder of the city’s resilience. In 2019, it’s as much a reminder not to take resilience for granted, that history is still happening and its outcome depends on our participation.