The Hunger Games – The Exhibition (Discovery Times Square, New York, NY)

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While I was in New York City on Thursday, I managed to squeeze in a lot of pop culture. I was in the city mainly to see two plays – more on that to come – but I also was hoping to squeeze in a stop at the newly opened The Hunger Games exhibition at Discovery Times Square . As much as I generally loathe going anywhere near Times Square, I do generally enjoy the exhibits that they put on at Discovery Times Square. Last year I went to see The Art of the Brick, which I loved, and since then I keep an eye on what they have to offer. As soon as I heard that they would be unveiling a The Hunger Games exhibition on July 1st, I knew that a visit was in my near future.

Now while I really enjoyed The Hunger Games books and the movie adaptions, I wouldn’t call myself a huge Hunger Games fan. Some people are really into this series, while I consider myself more of a casual fan. Part of that is because I am not in the target demographic for this franchise – I am always the oldest non-chaperone in the theater – and part of it is that because I consume so much pop culture on a regular basis, I don’t tend to revisit things. So while I definitely enjoyed The Hunger Games franchise (book and movies), I’ve only experienced them once; I haven’t re-read the books or given the movies a second viewing and I certainly haven’t spent any time pouring over the internet to find out more about Suzanne Collins and her inspiration for the books. I’ve taken the series at face value and haven’t dug much deeper.

The context of my fandom is important, because it directly impacted what I got out of The Hunger Games exhibition. While more hard core fans might have gotten bigger thrills over seeing some of the costumes or pouring over some of the minutia of some of the exhibition, I definitely felt like I learned a lot about what helped inspire both the story and the look of The Hunger Games. I’m always fascinated about the thought process that goes into production design and how they build the world, so I was particularly interested in the sections of the exhibition that discussed the real-life influences that created Panem and all the subsequent districts. I was not surprised to find that the Roman Empire played a big role in the look of The Hunger Games, but I didn’t know that the name Panem was also drawn from a Latin description of how Roman emperors kept the masses content. I’d heard the term “bread and circuses” before, but I didn’t know that phrase in Latin was “panem et circenses.” I should have paid more attention in Latin class so I would have made that connection on my own. I was also unfamiliar with the Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur that was a source of inspiration for Collins in writing the books. The people of Appalachia at the turn of the 20th century were the inspiration for the look of District 12 in the movie. That kind of info might not be very interesting to some people, but I love that kind of stuff. I’m always curious where writers find inspiration, since I know how hard that sometimes can be. So I felt like I walked out of The Hunger Games exhibition with a better understanding of where this story came from and their reference points in creating the people and places.

Of course, the flashiest part of the exhibition are the costume displays. Some were more recognizable to me than others – Woody Harrelson’s Haymitch isn’t exactly a snappy dresser – but it was still very cool to see some of the costumes that play a pretty integral part in the movie. There were also plenty of props and set designs, including those from a scene in the District 13 Hydroponics lab which was ultimately cute from the movie. There were interactive elements to the exhibition, where you could learn more about the tributes, the flowers and fauna (where may characters draw their names) and practice your fighting skills for the games.

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The many looks of President Snow

Katniss and Prim's outfits for The Reaping in District 12.

Katniss and Prim’s outfits for The Reaping in District 12.

Effie's outfit for the District 12 Reaping

Effie’s outfit for the District 12 Reaping

Haymitch's outfit on the train ride to the Capitol.

Haymitch’s outfit on the train ride to the Capitol.

More Effie, who has the best costumes anyway

More Effie, who has the best costumes anyway

Katniss and Peeta's outfits for the chariot scene

Katniss and Peeta’s outfits for the chariot scene

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Capitol Party

Capitol Party

Peeta and Katniss' "Girl on Fire" dress

Peeta and Katniss’ “Girl on Fire” dress

Peeta and Caesar

Peeta and Caesar

Capitol 13 outfits

Capitol 13 outfits

Weapons from the Hunger Games

Weapons from the Hunger Games

Katniss and Gale

Katniss and Gale

Katniss hunting outfit

Katniss hunting outfit

Katniss wedding dress

Katniss wedding dress

Katniss Mockingjay costume

Katniss Mockingjay costume

Katniss Hunger Games outfit

Katniss Hunger Games outfit

Mockingjay pin

Mockingjay pin

Die hard fans of The Hunger Games might a little more excited to see all of this up close, but I still enjoyed the exhibition quite a bit. My only complaint about it was that tickets aren’t exactly cheap – I think with tax it cost me a little over $30 – but I think that there are also discounts that can be taken advantage of if you know what time you will be visiting the exhibition (the tickets are a timed entry, though you can wander around the exhibition as long as you want). $30 wasn’t bad for me, but I could see how this exhibition may be a little cost prohibitive for a family. But if you or someone in your family are really into The Hunger Games, it is probably worth the trip (though I’m biased, I think anything is worth a trip to NYC). I went on the second day that the exhibition was open and while it wasn’t super crowded, there were still plenty of people milling around; I imagine it will be even more crowded as more people discover that this exhibition exists and on weekends. I was in and out of The Hunger Games exhibition in a little under an hour, but I also moved pretty efficiently through and didn’t wait to try a lot of the interactive portions since you can’t really shove a twelve year old girl out of the way (so I’ve been told). All in all I dug The Hunger Games exhibition and even learned a little something, which wasn’t a bad way to kick off my day in New York.

The Hunger Games: The Exhibition is currently open at Discovery Times Square.

 

 

Live From New York – It’s Saturday Night Live: The Exhibition

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While my main goal in the city Wednesday was to visit the Seinfeld pop-up, I was hopefully that this particular activity wouldn’t consume my entire day. I was prepared to wait on line as long as needed, but I did have some other activities on my agenda that I was hoping to squeeze in: I wanted to finally visit the High Line (beautiful), have a lobster roll at Chelsea Market (always a good idea), sample a sushi burrito (delicious), bring back some cookies from Momofuku Milk Bar (worth walking 16 blocks for) and finally head over the 5th Avenue to check out the newly opened Saturday Night Live: The Exhibition. Amazingly, I was able to accomplish absolutely all of this AND catch an earlier train home. It was a Festivus miracle.

My relationship with Saturday Night Live has ebbed and flowed over the years; right now we’re in an ebb period where I rarely even watch the show (unless the guest is The Rock, Louis CK or Justin Timberlake), but in the 1990s and early 2000s SNL was definitely appointment TV for me. Now I’m more likely to watch a clip or two online rather than a whole episode, but I still have an affinity for the show in my heart – especially those casts from my high school and college years – and getting a ticket to see it performed live is a holy grail that I’ve been chasing for years. I’m always interested in behind the scenes info and though I think the quality of the show right now is not as high as it used to be, I am always blown away by the fact that this show is done from cradle to grave in one week every week. That’s mind blowing when you really think about it. So my interest was definitely piqued when this exhibition opened last month and while I wasn’t sure what I would actually get out of it, I was looking forward to learning more about the show and its process.

The exhibition is set up to walk you through a typical week in the life of SNL – from the writing to the pitches to costuming, set design and make-up to rehearsal, re-writes and the final show. Each day has a milestone that needs to be accomplished and while the exhibition provides a clearer template for how the show is created, it is also full of memorabilia and interviews from cast and crew to full flush out the development of an episode week to week, as well as some historical context of SNL in the larger world of comedy. Because it was a Wednesday in the middle of the day, the exhibition was pretty empty which meant that I could really take my time and read all of the placards and watch all the videos without feeling rushed. I found the whole thing really interesting and even though I’ve seen many of the clips that they show many, many times before, I would still stand there and laugh until they had cycled through. Apparently the eras of the show that I like the most are generally the most popular as most of the costuming and video clips used were from this time period, though there was of course some special attention paid to the early days of the show.

Lorne Michaels' desk - notable because he has the same Paul O'Neill bobblehead that I do.

Lorne Michaels’ desk – notable because he has the same Paul O’Neill bobblehead that I do.

The Killer Bees - SNL's first recurring characters

The Killer Bees – SNL’s first recurring characters

Nick the Lounge Singer's jacket

Nick the Lounge Singer’s jacket

The Land Shark

The Land Shark

Buckwheat costume

Buckwheat costume

Mister Robinson's Neighborhood

Mister Robinson’s Neighborhood

Stuart Smalley costume

Stuart Smalley costume

Tentative schedule for the show - note that this is from the recent episode that The Rock hosted

Tentative schedule for the show – note that this is from the recent episode that The Rock hosted

The Church Lady costume - isn't that special?

The Church Lady costume – isn’t that special?

Wayne's World! Party Time! Excellent!

Wayne’s World! Party Time! Excellent!

From SNL 40th

From SNL 40th

Celebrity Jeopardy!

Celebrity Jeopardy!

Turd Ferguson (aka Burt Reynolds)

Turd Ferguson (aka Burt Reynolds)

Dooneese (I don't think that I ever knew this character's name)

Dooneese (I don’t think that I ever knew this character’s name)

Conehead prosthetic

Conehead prosthetic

Goat Boy

Goat Boy

Dick in a Box

Dick in a Box

Products from commercial parodies

Products from commercial parodies

King Tut costume - my first memory of SNL

King Tut costume – my first memory of SNL

Spartan cheerleaders

Spartan cheerleaders

Stefon

Stefon

Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton

Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton

Matt Foley

Matt Foley

Mary Katherine Gallagher

Mary Katherine Gallagher

Opera Man

Opera Man

I just loved this old photo of Jim Belushi and Gilda Radner

I just loved this old photo of Jim Belushi and Gilda Radner

Night at the Roxbury

Night at the Roxbury

SNL Stage

SNL Stage

Jimmy Fallon's photo from the wall of head shots of all cast members. His hair cut is terrible.

Jimmy Fallon’s photo from the wall of head shots of all cast members. His hair cut is terrible.

I was surprised at how much that I learned about SNL and I really got a kick out of seeing all the costumes – especially Wayne’s World, which was one of my all-time favorites. The exhibition does an excellent job of highlighting the people that aren’t in the spotlight – like the crew that designs and builds all the sets and the makeup and wardrobe people – but are essential to the show’s success week in and week out. As someone who fancies herself a writer, it was also nice to get the insight from current and former head writers about their process. The exhibition also walks you through what it’s like to sit in the control room during the show and ends with a (brief) simulated show where you get to see what is happening on the other stages during sketches (I had no idea that the seats on the floor are on a swivel). All in all, it was both an educational experience and a trip down memory lane of some of my favorite moments from the show. I’m glad that I was able to squeeze it in – anyone that’s a fan of SNL should try and check it out.

Saturday Night Live: The Exhibition is located at 417 5th Ave, New York, NY 10016.