Friday, December 16, 2011

An Average Theater, A Fun Place To Go: Lincoln Center For The Performing Arts.

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The Good: A decent site for intimate concerts or giant productions, Visually stunning
The Bad: Parking is a bear, This is actually an entire complex of buildings
The Basics: An incredible set of buildings, the Lincoln Center For The Performing Arts is a great place to visit . . . when there are people performing there you want to see.

Have you ever gone to review something here and suddenly discovered that the thing you were all set to review is not quite what the place actually is? I find this happens to me every once in a long while when I am considering the places I have traveled because I will suddenly discover, while doing background notes for my review, that the place I am reviewing was actually much larger than I thought it was. To wit, as I considered my experience at the Lincoln Center For The Performing Arts, I was quite excited to write about my experiences when I went for a concert to support a friend when she performed for the Jazz At Lincoln Center a few years back. I was prepared to write about finding my way to the Allen Room and looking out at Central Park from the massive window in that tiny hall. But then, I needed the street address for my review.

That is when I discovered that the Lincoln Center For The Performing Arts is actually a whole complex of buildings! My experiences now come from my in-person experience with the Frederick P. Rose Hall at Columbus Circle and a series of virtual tours of the rest of the buildings of Lincoln Center.


The Lincoln Center For The Performing Arts is located in New York City, in the upper west side of Manhattan. While virtually every on-line map program I have used – Googlemaps, Mapquest, etc. – will accurately find a building within Lincoln Center by typing the number at Lincoln Center as the address. But for those who are thinking of parking and the like, Lincoln Center is located between Amsterdam Avenue and Columbus Avenues in Manhattan between West 60th and West 66th Streets. This makes the building complex a six-block long chain of buildings near Central Park.

That Lincoln Center is so large is of no surprise to me, even though it suddenly went in my mind from being a single building to a whole complex today. While driving around on Columbus Avenue the last time I visited New York City, I recall seeing banners for programs going on in different parts of the Center and when I saw the recognizable building at Columbus Circle, it was a few blocks after landmarks became recognizable to me!

Ease Of Transportation/Parking

New York City is a pain in the butt to get around and the Lincoln Center complex is no exception. I had to park four blocks away from Rose Hall when I went for my friend's concert. And come to think of it, I just now recall walking around the more secure squares of Lincoln Center. For those who have not been to New York City, it is (mostly) laid out like a grid, squares like on graph papers. This is why residents of the City seem to think a “block” is an actual steady reference distance (whereas rural and suburban visitors quickly realize that the distance between blocks is heavily variable). Parking just outside what is traditionally considered Lincoln Center – there is an artistic neighborhood with on-street parking that I risked for the concert – I walked through the complex of buildings. The buildings of Lincoln Center are massive theaters with artistic gardens outside them. Once one gets off the streets, the sidewalks actually have large maps of the buildings for visitors to understand where they are in relation to the building they want to be at. These maps, however, refer to each building in the complex by their building name (i.e. Frederick P. Rose Hall) as opposed to their street number address (i.e. 2300 Lincoln Center). As a result, it is important to know exactly which building one is looking for. On the outside, most of the buildings look like bank offices or insurance headquarters with surprisingly stark architecture. However, driving around the one-way streets around Lincoln Center – especially Columbus Avenue – can be a real pain. I recommend finding a point a few blocks away and hoofing it the final half mile.

Which brings me to parking. Parking around Lincoln Center For The Performing Arts is frequently limited, especially the closer one gets to the time of the performance they are there for. Tour buses and parking for performers is reserved on several of the cross streets within the Center. This leaves visitors to pay for parking in one of the few subterranean parking garages or leaving the area to find on-street parking. For the latter option, visitors will likely find themselves disappointed that most on-street parking is for less than two hours worth of time. So, even those willing to feed a meter will likely be forced to leave their performance to move their car, which is likely to take a significant amount of time. Despite the fact that it costs money, parking in the pay garages is likely to net the visitor the best chance of finding parking proximate to Lincoln Center For The Performing Arts. There is a parking garage under the complex.


The reason I had no qualms about relaying my experience with the Lincoln Center For The Performing Arts was that the complex has about a dozen buildings and each one is devoted to . . . wait for it . . . the performing arts. One building has a 2,800 seat theater for theatrical performances, another has a 1500 seat theater for musical performances, still another has places for about two thousand people visiting to hear an orchestral concert. On any given night, virtually every building in the Lincoln Center For The Performing Arts will have something going on, from dance concerts to theatrical performances to musical concerts.

In the Frederick P. Rose Hall, visitors come for jazz. I visited for the Jazz At Lincoln Center program that a local high school I taught at was participating in. This led me to the Allen Room, which is one of the smaller venues within the Lincoln Center For The Performing Arts. Several stories up, it looks out on Central Park, but the Allen Room is intended to be a more intimate venue for vocal and instrumental jazz performers, with just over five hundred seats. The theaters in Rose Hall are much more starkly decorated than some of the major theaters, which have classic architecture and a real sense of history to them. Rose Hall is very modern and the works of art on the walls are contemporary pieces with bright colors set against the beige tones of the walls. The emphasis in Rose Hall is clearly on the performers, who are intended to bring the light and life to the venue.

That said, every theater in the Lincoln Center For The Performing Arts has extensive sound systems and stage space, but with thousands of different performances in the complex each year, it would be impossible to review them all (and most of them are unique performances). As well as performance space, the Lincoln Center For The Performing Arts includes a huge amount of space for rehearsals and education. In Rose Hall alone, there is a whole Education Center where those who come for Jazz At Lincoln Center take classes!

Lincoln Center is exactly what the name states; a place where those who want to see live music, dance, and plays performed may go to see them in comfortable, safe settings. But for those looking for a place to DO something, this is basically a clump of giant theaters. Walking around the grounds between the massive theaters takes about fifteen minutes and while there are a few sculptures there, most of the purpose of the Center comes on the inside of the buildings and the people who perform there.


Many of the places in Lincoln Center have a place to eat or drink. So, for example, at Rose Hall, there is a jazz club where visitors can get something to drink and there was a concession stand outside the Allen Room. Some of the buildings, notably the ones with the bigger theaters, have fine dining available, usually open at times of major performances. I did not sample any of the cuisine there when I visited (I tend to do this whole area of the City on a budget), nor did I partake from any of the vendors on the streets and in the courtyard.


To the best of my knowledge, none of the buildings in Lincoln Center For The Performing have permanent places devoted to shopping. Some of the major shows that come to the bigger theaters in the complex undoubtedly set up stands with swag (i.e. a visiting tour of a theatrical production from London, might bring recordings of the soundtrack to sell). There was nowhere in Rose Hall when I visited selling anything but food.


The Lincoln Center For The Performing Arts is a clump of buildings in New York City that one has to go into and see human beings doing things in order to get the most out of. While some buildings in New York City have an amazing history, the history of Lincoln Center is basically devoted to what it is devoted to now: the creation and presentation of art. Go there when you have something to see there, but it's tough to say this is worth stopping by just to see.

For other places to visit, be sure to check out my reviews of:
Green Lakes State Park
Tuscany Casino
Salem, MA


For other destination reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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