Frank Sinatra coined the phrase “a city that never sleeps”, when he sang New York, New York – and the words sum up the atmosphere of this city. Vibrant, diverse and dynamic, it has been the inspiration for films, plays, novels and poetry for centuries. Whatever genre interests you, school trips to New York will satisfy your interests in literature and the performing arts.
Broadway, in Upper Manhattan, is the theatre district of New York and is probably the only one in bazinga the world to rival the West End in London. There are forty theatres on Broadway and the diversity of the plays being shown reflects the diversity of the city. Everything from Macbeth to The Lion King is being performed in a theatre on Broadway, and the history of this area has offered up shows from The Ziegfield Follies to plays by Eugene O’Neill and Oscar Wilde.
Many playwrights have been praised or pilloried for performances of their work and history has taken place on this street; Abraham Lincoln was shot and killed by the actor John Wilkes Booth in 1865 while he was watching a performance of Our American Cousin by the English playwright Tom Taylor. Arthur Miller was born in New York and his plays The Crucible and Death of a Salesman are as popular today as when he wrote them. He was married to Marilyn Monroe and wrote the film The Misfits, which was the last film Marilyn Monroe appeared in.
New York Novelists
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s work has been studied by literature students for many years and school trips to New York would not be complete without exploring his links to the city. Baz Luhrman’s recent production of The Great Gatsby has once again brought this wonderful novel back into the public eye, and its depiction of the development of the city of New York is vivid and dramatic. The novel is set in the ‘roaring twenties’ when prohibition was at its height – which ironically resulted in New York becoming one huge party. F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda were part of New York society at this time and his novels reflect this. Fitzgerald’s character in The Great Gatsby, Nick Carraway, describes New York as offering the “first wild promise of all the mystery and the beauty in the world.”
Norman Mailer was brought up in New York and his novels The Naked and the Dead and The Executioner’s Song raised him to the top echelons of respected writers; he won the Pulitzer Prize for The Executioner’s Song. He is considered to be one of the founders of the genre “Creative Non-fiction”, which makes narratives out of accurate facts.
New York Poets
The Beat Generation of poets were prolific during the 1940s, 50s and 60s and many of them made their homes in New York. Students can prepare for school trips to the city by reading some of the words these writers used to describer her. Jack Kerouac wrote On the Road while living in Manhattan and the novel examines the diverse social groups that were emerging in post-war America. Other members of the Beat Generation include William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg, both of whom spent time living in New York.
Fortunate students on school trips that focus on literature and the performing arts will be surrounded by the resonance of the words of the wonderful writers who have lived and worked in this city.
Angela Bowden works for STS (School Travel Service), the UK’s largest educational travel company, providing school trips for secondary schools, primary schools and colleges. School trips with STS can encompass art/design, foreign languages, history, science/nature, geography and more, to worldwide destinations.