We arrived late and wet Tuesday night to 5th floor of the Time Warner Building, which, ironically, happens to be the Allen Room and Atrium of Lincoln Center. (We absurdly assumed that this place would be located at Lincoln Center.) Unfortunately, our tardiness meant we missed the ”Performing Arts Salute to Science” show that kicked off The 2012 World Science Festival. Although we did happen to catch either How to to Success in Business‘ Rose Hemingway or her costar Paige Faure sing the last bars of “Defying Gravity” from Wicked (it was hard to see from where we were standing), we were furiously disappointed when guests began to file out of the auditorium.
The evening’s host Alan Alda had spent an hour juggling presentations from Debra Monk, physicist Brian Greene, the MOMIX modern dance company, LeVar Burton and others, but all we caught was the after party, where guests noshed on little takeout boxes of lo mein and mussels in red sauce (one of the more original catering ideas we’ve seen in awhile) while mingling around the small science exhibits set up.
Well, we weren’t going to miss our chance to ask Mr. Alda and Mr. Burton–one of our favorite actors and one of our favorite PBS hosts, respectively–some fawning, Chris Farley Show-style interview questions. Or were we?
What we planned to ask Alan Alda:
- Even though it wasn’t that great of a film considering the director’s canon of work, don’t you think your character Ted in Manhattan Murder Mysteries stole the film?
- Or do you maybe feel like he was an extension of the sleazy director Lester from Crimes and Misdemeanors?
- Follow up: What was it like acting with Joy Behar?
- How many people, approximately, do you think got that MASH reference with the chicken on 30 Rock?
- Would you be impressed if we told you we thought it was a brilliant Easter egg? Would we be diminished in your eyes if we told you we only found out after we read a recap of the episode the night after?
- What’s Woody Allen like in person?
- Do you like Bill Hader’s impression of you on SNL?
- What is Kay Cannon like in person?
- Will you take this picture with us?
What we actually asked: So…what do music and musicals have to do with science?
Mr. Alda: Oh well, a lot when you think about it. Of course, there isn’t just one “right” answer in music. You can’t use the scientific method while performing.
New York Observer: Right! Hypotheticals!
Mr. Alda: Hypotheticals?
NYO: We meant hypothesis! The scientific method? Math?
Mr. Alda: Excuse me for a moment…
Meanwhile, Mr. Burton has joined in our conversation.
Mr. Burton: Hi…
What we wished we had asked LeVar Burton:
- Was it weird to play yourself in that episode of Community where Donald Glover cries because you were his hero and he couldn’t face meeting you?
- Does that happen a lot in real life?
- Do people remember you the most from Star Trek, Roots, or Reading Rainbow?
- Which do you wish they remembered you for?
- What do science festivals have to do with musicals?
- Did you know you were on TMZ yesterday for getting rear-ended by the police?
- Any comment on that?
- What have you been up to recently, besides getting into it with the LAPD and showing up on Community?
- Wait, is that how you know Alan Alda? Because you both did cameos on NBC comedies?
What we actually asked Levar Burton: Do you mind if we ask you a question?
Mr. Burton: Actually, they are asking for Alan and I to pose for some pictures together.
Mr. Alda: Excuse me for a moment…
We spent the rest of the night watching a silver penguin blimp fly around the room and sulked until we ran into Ms. Hemingway and her husband, Geoffrey Hemingway, who were both very nice and asked us if we liked Bill Hader’s impression of Alan Alda as much as they did.
Then, as if to make up for our failure to engage the hosts of the evening, Ms. Hemingway proceeded to discuss the Met Ball (“It was awesome, they just gave me an outfit for free!”), which SNL cast members had to go home to their wives and miss the after party when Daniel Radcliffe guest-hosted (Bill Hader, again, leading somehow to us swapping terrible impressions of Fred Armisen), and Barack Obama’s pretentious college love letters about T.S. Eliot and running that Vanity Fair published (the actress hadn’t read them, but her husband had).
We left the World Science Festival Gala still unsure of what we had just witnessed…or rather what we had missed. What did science have to do with Alan Alda and Wicked? The world may never know.
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