Moving to the Theater District and Finding His Community

Peace and quiet don’t come simple in Midtown, however Alexander Tom has managed to discover it throughout the avenue from the Gershwin Theater’s depraved witches.

Mr. Tom, 29, is the affiliate program head of the musical theater program at Pace University in Manhattan; he additionally moonlights as an audition coach, understanding of his house and native studios.

Moving from his earlier house in Harlem to one in all the metropolis’s busiest neighborhoods this May has, for him, meant surrounding himself not simply with theater, however together with his group: He’ll usually depart his dwelling and see a buddy dipping right into a theater for rehearsal. West 51st Street can really feel, at instances, much less like a two-way thoroughfare and extra like a small city. Moving earlier than rental costs began to rebound from the pandemic stoop turned out to be the proper transfer for Mr. Tom.

Mr. Tom prefers to adorn his house with summary artwork, which provides him a “creative mind break” whereas he’s working at his desk or piano.  Credit…Katherine Marks for The New York Times

“It’s quiet, but it feels like I can make it as loud as I want,” Mr. Tom mentioned of his one-bedroom house. His largest pandemic buy was a Kawai piano, which he can play with gusto thanks to his constructing’s prewar partitions. In truth, his next-door neighbor performs the piano too — they might duet, if solely they might hear one another.

“I don’t hear the hustle and bustle of Midtown,” he mentioned, “but I can walk outside and be just where I want to be.”

$2,025 | Midtown West

Alexander Tom, 29

Occupation: Associate program head of the musical theater program at Pace University in Manhattan.
Favorite native espresso store: “Bibble and Sip is an AAPI-owned coffee shop, with a llama as their mascot,” Mr. Tom mentioned. “They’ve got great cream puffs, the coffee is great — I love me my Bibble.”
The present you want to see proper now: Antoinette Chinonye Nwandu’s “Pass Over.” “The writer does an amazing job of having a conversation onstage, but also provoking the audience to have the conversation with themselves,” he mentioned.

Earlier this 12 months, whereas dwelling in a studio on 125th and Broadway, Mr. Tom discovered himself itching for extra space. The studio was so small that it had taken him months to correctly prepare all his furnishings in a means that felt livable. He had plans to spend two months this summer season in South Carolina, to work on a scholar manufacturing of “Hello, Dolly!” and he nervous that rents would enhance considerably by the time he returned to the metropolis.

Moving downtown was a high precedence. The commute from Harlem to Pace’s campus in the monetary district — which may take up to an hour and a half, relying on the whim of the M.T.A. — had begun to put a pressure on Mr. Tom. Many of his workdays started with 9 a.m. courses and ended with rehearsals that went late into the night time, that means that he would arrive dwelling after midnight and want to be up at 5 a.m. to begin once more. “I’m young and sprightly,” he mentioned, “but I’m not that young, and I’m not that sprightly.”

Mr. Tom remains to be ready on the marble-topped kitchen island he has ordered, which is able to double as a eating desk. “At a certain point I just said: Ikea is cute, Amazon is cute, but I do need to get real human furniture,” he mentioned.Credit…Katherine Marks for The New York Times

The commute would wish to shorten. So he set his eyes on an house under 72nd Street and above 14th, wanting primarily at flats in Hell’s Kitchen and Midtown West, or close to Lincoln Square. In Harlem, he had develop into accustomed to sure facilities that he knew he wouldn’t need to half with, specifically a dishwasher and a fuel range, which helped slim down his choices. (He loves to bake and recurrently makes recent pasta by hand.)

He in the end discovered a one-bedroom house on 51st avenue in the coronary heart of the Theater District, with laundry in the constructing and a small however well-appointed kitchen. The part-time doorman was a bonus, and he was thrilled to be throughout the avenue from the Gershwin, the place he has plans to see “Wicked,” his favourite musical, for the eighteenth time. It’ll be a celebration of his birthday in early September, but additionally his first musical post-Covid, and a return to the second musical he ever noticed as a baby rising up in Arizona.

His new lounge is about the dimension of his outdated house, and stuffed with mild regardless of the density of the neighborhood, which has allowed him to develop his plant-rearing abilities. “I’m no longer an over-waterer,” he mentioned with cautious satisfaction. “Some of the plants are thriving, but with some of them, I’m unsure if they’re the angry middle child or just don’t want to exist.”

The ample mild in his house has allowed Mr. Tom to develop his abilities as a plant proprietor. Next, he hopes to purchase a bigger tree or monstera for his lounge.Credit…Katherine Marks for The New York Times

With an inflow of crops and an upgraded sofa, Mr. Tom has been cautious not to crowd his house with too many crops, given the significance of acoustics to each his private piano follow and his work as a coach. When a room contains extra issues that sound can bounce off, the sound fades extra shortly. In his comparatively spare lounge, he mentioned, “I can play music, and I feel like I’m immersed in the music.”

The one piece of artwork hanging in the room is a big summary piece that Mr. Tom commissioned from the painter Ariel Messeca, who’s a buddy. A trio of summary work from Joseph Dermody, a Connecticut-based artist, dangle in his bed room. Abstraction appeals to Mr. Tom: “I sit at my desk and my piano a lot,” he mentioned, “and I like to look at something that doesn’t have a prescribed meaning to it, so I can give myself a creative mind break.”

Beyond the ample house and saner commute, this new house has allowed Mr. Tom a greater work-life stability even when he works in the neighborhood. The location has allowed him to take freelance teaching jobs he would have beforehand turned down for commuting causes. Now, when he will get a break for lunch and dinner, he can go dwelling to recharge.

For these in the theater business, “the pandemic forced us to ask: ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if the industry was better to us?’ And I think part of that is making sure you can advocate for yourself, and take care of yourself,” Mr. Tom mentioned. “Being around theater is great because I can step into it, but also step out of it for a moment when I need to.”

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