Actually, my girlfriend and I just moved to the neighborhood (and the borough) about six months ago. Before that, I was all over Brooklyn for about 12 years – Williamsburg, Bushwick, Bay Ridge, Lefferts Gardens, Midwood, Ditmas, you name it (provided you just name those neighborhoods).
How did you get involved in theater?
I started acting around 5 years old, first in some school stuff and then community/regional type stuff. I became obsessed with Shakespeare in first grade (no kidding: he was introduced to me by my teacher in an effort to try to stem my class-interrupting, curse-shouting, fire-starting tendencies) and made the decision to dedicate my life to theatre around that time. Once I started producing my own work and realizing how little money was to be made in the medium, however, the curse-shouting and fire-starting tendencies started to come back.
What do you love most about Queens?
Ugh. It’s just so goddamned nice. Across the board. It’s so friggin nice it actually makes me mad. I spent so much time fighting the idea of ever moving to Queens. I mean, most of my family is from Queens (my mom was born in Astoria and raised around Deepdale), so it never felt exciting to me. And I always felt a much more visceral connection to Brooklyn–I think because I was young and thought that being angry and miserable all the time somehow validated one’s city living experience.
No one wants to visit you when you live in Brooklyn, it takes 45 extra minutes to get anywhere from Brooklyn (including other neighborhoods in Brooklyn), the landlords are all faceless monsters, you’re essentially stranded wherever you are on the weekends, rents explode so exponentially that the only way to find a place you can afford is to move farther and farther out and keep displacing others who are worse off than you, everything you love is taken away from you, and your joy turns to ashes in your mouth (served to you out of a mason jar in your paleo coffee shop that just kicked out a family restaurant that had been there for 9 generations).
Now I’m in Astoria, where the buildings are nowhere near as tall so I actually get to see the sky, there are trees everywhere, there are restaurants and museums and parks, everyone doesn’t act like they’re auditioning to be on GIRLS all the time, I’ve actually had conversations with my landlord, and my commute went from sometimes 90 minutes to usually 30 or under. I mean, no neighborhood is perfect (living in NYC is still an insane thing to do), but so far I’ve just been able to relax more in Queens.
It’s almost … it’s almost like when I switched from an Android phone to an iPhone. I realized that almost the only things I really liked about the former where the things that were trying to mimic the latter. Queens is the Apple Products of New York City boroughs. There are just fewer bugs. (Unless you live off the 7 train, which I hear is like still having an iPhone 3G or something.)
Do you have an “only in Queens” moment you’d like to share?
Not gonna lie, in the six months I’ve lived in Astoria, I have run into SO MANY people I know that I’m actually starting to think that maybe I died and my life is just slowly flashing before me. Over a decade in Brooklyn, I think I unexpectedly ran into maybe three people TOPS. I run into that many people in Astoria DAILY. It’s like the freaky flash-sideways final season of LOST. I run into best friends. I run into people I did shows with a thousand years ago. I run into people I just met the week before at a reading. It’s insane. Seriously. Did I die? Is Astoria actually some sort of purgatory? Is it like Down Town in Monkeybone?
(Do you know where I got that reference? WHEN I RAN INTO A FRIEND OF MINE ON THE STREETS OF ASTORIA THE OTHER DAY AND HE REMINDED ME ABOUT THAT MOVIE. HE DOESN’T EVEN LIVE IN QUEENS AND YET I RAN INTO HIM IN QUEENS. R.I.P., ME HE DIED DOING WHAT HE LOVED: NOT COMMUTING FROM BROOKLYN)
Your top Queens picks (food, entertainment, sights, etc)?
There are so many restaurants and places I want to try that I actually get a little bit of a panic attack thinking that I’ll never get to try them all. The Sparrow Tavern (http://thesparrowtavern.com/) and The Bohemian Beer Garden (http://bohemianhall.com/) are essentially our downstairs bars, so we go there a lot. Mosaic is also great (http://www.mosaicastoria.com/). I’m in love with Astoria Park. We also walk over the Kaufman Astoria movie theater when it’s nice, as well as the MoMI (http://www.movingimage.us/). Off the Hook (http://www.offthehookastoria.com/) is a fantastic raw bar we like to go to. Bubba’s Bistro is my preferred Southern joint (http://www.bubbasbistroastoria.com/). QED is also fantastic (http://qedastoria.com/) and I want to start spending more and more time there, ’cause they have a ton of storytelling/open mic things. And speaking of open mics, I’m in the process of producing/writing/directing a webseries all about people who play at open mics and the amazing folks at Albatross Bar (http://www.albatrossastoria.com/) has been invaluable making that a possibility–everyone should go there and buy many, many drinks so they stay in business forever.
Oh, and the Guitar Center (http://www.guitarcenter.com/) on Northern Boulevard is really nice.
At the moment, nothing too specific. I’ve been working a lot more on film/TV projects lately as an actor–I just went through my first pilot experience, which was wonderful and super fascinating. Besides the webseries I just mentioned, I’m also working on a serialized radiodrama project that I’m really excited about, as well as starting my first novel in like 15 years (so, hopefully, my first one that isn’t terrible). I just finished my newest playscript, too, which I’m very happy with. For those that don’t know, I mainly write horror and, based on the reaction this script has gotten so far, I think I might have topped myself a little bit. Appropriately enough, the script is based VERY loosely on our experience moving to Astoria. See? Moving here has paid off already. Nat Cassidy can be seen in our upcoming Launch Pad Reading All Systems Go: Mission 4