The first thing to know about PLATFORM, the New York Transit Museum’s “show-and-tell for creative musings on mass transit,” is that everything happens at once. Well—not everything, but many things. It feels like a microcosm of Brooklyn nightlife in the twenty-teens: with so many different performances at the same time, how do you decide what to see? Do you wait to find out whether the opera-goers in the play “Caution, This Bus Kneels” make it to their destination? Or do you dash downstairs to get a good spot for the shadow-puppet show “What Goes Down: Shadows from the Deep,” which is going to begin the minute the play ends? Or do you pause to see what this artist is painting, or what that photographer is talking about, or what exactly is going on in that train car covered with post-it notes, or the one with long strips of fabric lining the seats? How do you choose what to experience??
This is, obviously, an excellent problem to have. Though it might make you feel an undercurrent of FOMO, rest assured that no matter which performances you choose to see, they will all be terrific.
The PLATFORM program was started in in 2014 by Julia Malta-Weingard, the museum’s producer of public programming. “We were looking to bring in new adult audiences, to create space for them to connect their experiences moving through the city with our historic collections, and to leave their individual imprints on and engage with our physical space,” she told Brooklyn Magazine. Last week was the sixth PLATFORM, and over those half-dozen events, the museum has presented more than 100 artists and performers in all kinds of disciplines, from an interactive symphony to a transmedia soundscape to a crowdsourced visual diary. There have been performances and presentations by dancers, actors, photographers, poets, filmmakers, puppeteers, yarn-bombers, and clowns.
The PLATFORM evening (which felt much too short) was spent taking in as many of the multidisciplinary offerings as possible, and unraveling the mysteries glimpsed while zipping from one performance to another. The train car with the fabric-lined seats turned out to be “The Making of a Book with Sewing Machine in New York City Transit,” a story, delivered in a mellifluously Italian-accented monologue, of the artist stitching an accordion book while riding the subway for 26 miles. The train car covered with post-its housed an interactive storytelling workshop with Plan It Brooklyn: people had written prompts on the post-its, and others wrote and shared subway tales based on those prompts.
Another car featured the interactive “Subway Stories”: the windows were full of sketches of different people, and when you stepped inside the train, you could use a joystick to choose which character’s inner monologue to hear. And you couldn’t possibly have an evening of transit-themed performances without the inclusion of some “It’s showtime!”–type dancers. That role was filled by WAFFLE NY, a LightFeet crew that got their start performing on the Q train. They were terrific. (And they’re trying to get to France in July—help ’em out!)
Of course, one of the best parts of the evening was getting to dash hither and yon throughout the incredible Transit Museum. The museum, which was opened in 1976, is housed in a decommissioned 1936 subway station. The lower floor, which was the station’s platform, is an entire city block long and showcases a rotating fleet of vintage train cars dating back to 1904. The upper floor features exhibits and selections from the museum’s permanent collection of artifacts highlighting “the cultural, social and technological history—and future—of mass transit.” It’s a fantastically cool place, and filling it with pop-up performances makes the experience that much more unique and exciting.
“Everyone you meet in New York has a tale to tell about their experience riding the subway or traveling via public transit in this city,” Malta-Weingard said. “And it’s part of my job to connect all those crazy stories to the larger historic narratives that are part of our the museum’s legacy.” PLATFORM does that beautifully.
The next PLATFORM will be in mid-September. Proposals for art are accepted on a rolling basis; check nytransitmuseum.org/
Photo credits, from top to bottom:
Lacey Ann Moore’s modern dance performance
A moment from Theatre 167’s “Caution, This Bus Kneels”
A moment from Brian Soliwoda’s shadow-puppet play, “What Goes Down: Shadows from the Deep”
A few of the characters in Alon Chitayat & Jeff Ong’s Subway Stories
WAFFLE NYC killin’ it
All photos by Maximus Commisar