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Expos and Conventions

Midtown Hotel Transformed Into Performing Arts Venue This January

For at least the last two decades or so that I can remember, The Association of Performing Arts Professionals (that’s APAP) transforms the New York Hilton Midtown on 6th Avenue between 53rd and 54th (1335 6th Ave), into a multi-room venue packed with performers of all stripes from all over the world. And it presents this amazing thing every January. The organization brings performing arts professionals together to explore and present the best and newest in dance, music, theater — all disciplines and genres — at APAP’s annual membership conference and pre-conference.

Happening January 12th through the 16th, 2018, there were more than 1000 world-class artist showcases held around the city; an EXPO Hall with nearly 400 booths and dozens of professional development sessions. Keynotes included well known and cutting edge artists and arts leaders. And there were pre-conference forums, many of them free and open to the public. This year’s conference theme, trans.ACT, focused all on the transformative power of the arts.

Socks in the frying panAnd, if you knew about it in advance, you could have attended these performances that take place from morning until late night. Anyone can — it’s a little secret about New York I will let you in on. The talent abounds. Here’s a little rundown on just some of the folks I saw in play — and a bunch of pix to entreat and tantalize. It was there that the Estonian Voices did an amazing jazz tinged a capella performance which surprised me through their charm and expressiveness. They not only expressed themselves in sound but in body — a discovery I hope won’t go unapprecaited in the States any longer.

Among the dozens of performers, some of the best there were from IrelandLúnasa, Socks In The Frying Pan and The Prodigals among others who had performed. I not only reveled in them all but it proved that such musicians play not for ego but for the sheer joy of it all.

Some great classic acts such as the Persuasions with their rich vocals acrobatics ad proved to not only alive but doing well in keeping alive the pure expression in soul jubilation. There were also lots of tribute bands including an ear busting faux Jimi Hendrix who did soaring rendition of such classics as “The Wind Cries Mary” and “Purple Haze.”

[But there were many more — detailed in the photo accompaniment.]

In addition — upon qualifying for a pass — one can view the three floors of exhibitions deep in the hotel floors two, three and fours. Agents of all stripes touted their clients while a few touted themselves fully in costume and wondered the halls sometimes with chocolates in hand.

LunasaIn its 61st year, nearly 3,500 arts professionals from nearly 30 countries and 49 U.S. states attended the conference which united interests that support the strength and vibrancy of the industry. Based in Washington, D.C., this organization hails a robust, performing arts presenting field and the professionals who work within it. APAP’s 1,600 national and international members represent leading performing arts centers, municipal and university performance facilities, nonprofit performing arts centers, culturally specific organizations, foreign governments, as well as artist agencies, managers, touring companies, and national consulting practices that serve the field, and a growing roster of self-presenting artists. 

APAP|NYC is also a founder of JanArtsNYC, the most comprehensive annual celebration of the performing arts around the globe and annual convergence of 11 major performing arts industry forums and public festivals. Some of the 11 events will run beyond the timeframe of APAP|NYC again this year, through February 4th. 2018 event dates and descriptions of all 11 partnering events available at

And when it closed its annual gathering with remarks by Egyptian comedian and social commentator Bassem Youssef who addressed the industry's responsibility to stay relevant and carry out the duties of artists to be activists, As he said “….to make art that is annoying, destructive and unconventional, and to celebrate art, humor and the love of performance, know that if you are making certain people angry, furious, and uncomfortable, then know you are probably doing something right.” 

APAP|NYC returns to New York on January 4-8, 2019. 


"Eat This!" Event & Try New Trendy Treats

One of the great pleasures of being a pop culture journalist is the being invited to sample and taste new products — particularly a variety of foods meant to simplify life while hopefully enhancing it.

Part of the pleasure is in seeing conventional brands — ones that aren’t always thought of as either so tasty or healthy — so affected by the nutritional and organic trends that they have unveiled new products that support those trends. Or they’ve made new items that just taste better.

Of course with a site like, there’s a presences for those product perfect for the traveler — compact, easy to open and quick to prepare. Here’s a portfolio that’s a self-explanatory sampling of the some of the cool foods sampled during Eat This! expo at the New York Marriott Marquis.








Beyond the Longbox - Special Edition: NYC

After moving from the Javits Center to Pier 94, Special Edition: NYC continues to be a great convention in its second year. Sure, there was significantly less natural lighting at the Pier, but con-goers compared it to the hideout of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or some sorta cyberpunk dystopia, so nobody seemed to mind too much.

The regular New York Comic Con is definitely a tremendous spectacle and a great show, but it can be utterly draining. Meanwhile SENYC has a much more leisurely feel to it. There were enough people attending to make it feel lively, but it was not so jam packed that you could barely walk around. Marvel’s series of panels on its Secret Wars mega-event drew attention (and suspicion from fans believing the comic company would be excising any characters they didn’t also own the movie rights to). but I spent most of my time traversing the Artist’s Alley section. In attendance were plenty of cape book old guards (Peter David, Brian Michael Bendis), some indie impresarios (Brandon Graham, Colleen Coover), and a batch of webcomic folk (Jeph Jacques, Meredith Gran) rounding the show out so things had a nice something-for-everybody feel.

Beyond the Longbox caught up with some of these authors and artists to ask them about the comics that gave them the drive to create their own works.

Hopefully Special Edition: NYC will remain a staple in the New York con scene.

Beyond the Longbox: MoCCA Fest 2015

Photo by R. Gandhi

Since 2002, the MoCCA Festival has been one of the premiere events in NYC for small independent comics. But even a convenient little categorization like “independent comics” belies the wide breadth of variety and ingenuity from the artists and creators exhibiting at this show. There are the old guard, people whose roots can be traced back to Zap Comix and Raw, artists breaking away from superhero and sci-fi stories, and other artists reinventing those tried and true stories in new way. Webcomics have now become such a prevalent part of the comics scene that now you have authors that got their influences not from the print comics from years past, but from the trailblazing authors that put their comics online.

mccloudgandhiMichel Fiffe was there showing the second collection of COPRA, a reimagining of 1980’s era Suicide Squad in indie-style trappings. Molly Ostertag and Brennan Lee Mulligan showed their own twist on the cape genre, Strong Female Protagonist, while publisher Youth in Decline had the comically dark Snackies. Understanding Comics author Scott McCloud was signing autographs and showing his new book The Sculptor with First Second Books. And then there are your stapled together zines that take their own weird approach, like the comics of Will Laren, who does one page comics of strange, wrinkly, and bizarrely colored people spouting nonsensical dialog.An all around odd mix, but that combination of different kinds of comics is what makes MoCCA a great show.

We met up with a few authors to ask them what comics sparked their own creativity.


MoCCA has gained something of a reputation for how much it moves from location to location. Originally starting off in the Puck Building, then moving the the 69th Regiment Armory, MoCCA 2015 was at Center 548 in Chelsea, adjacent the High Line. But all this is a moot point since Publishers Weekly has reported that MoCCA will have to move yet again due to Center 548 getting new owners. But wherever it winds up in 2016, MoCCA will remain a convention I hold near and dear.

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