Andrew Keenan-Bolger on returning to the stage in ‘Seven Deadly Sins’ and his guide to the Meatpacking District
Andrew Keenan-Bolger didn’t have performing in live theatre on his 2021 bingo card, but when director Moisés Kaufman DMed him on Instagram to ask if he’d be interested in auditioning for Seven Deadly Sins, everything changed.
“I just didn’t think it would be an option,” Keenan-Bolger says of returning to the stage. “But [Moisés] has figured out a way to bring live theatre back to New York that is truly innovative and just really exciting.”
Keenan-Bolger is no stranger to innovation when it comes to the theatre. He was on the forefront merging technology and social media with theatre marketing, shooting his own videos backstage at shows he appeared in and even co-creating and starring in the web series phenomenon Submissions Only. He’s also been performing in New York since he was 10, from Beauty and the Beast to Mary Poppins to Newsies.
In Seven Deadly Sins, he takes on a non-musical role in Jeffrey LaHoste’s Naples, one of seven 10-minute plays tied to one of the sins that are performed in empty storefronts in New York City’s Meatpacking District with audiences listening in on the action with headphones. Keenan-Bolger describes the play as Moliére-style farce, in which a woman confronts her husband’s gay lover, played by Keenan-Bolger.
“The fact that we’re performing in the streets, it goes back to just the origins of theatre,” Keenan-Bolger says of the show. “It feels like the most earthy, pure form of theatre. It’s like theatre for the masses. And I think it also has helped with accessibility a little bit. Obviously you have to pay to come and see our project because there are working actors and crew people, but there are a lot of pedestrians who see our show every night, at least a glimpse of it. And I think getting to walk by something unexpected, a bit of art, is just a really nice thing for the public and for theatre in general.”
We chatted with Keenan-Bolger about his unconventional return to live theatre and his top recommendations for how to have a great night (or day) out in and around the Meatpacking District.
Why the Meatpacking District is Awesome
The Meatpacking District is just such a cool neighborhood with an interesting history. It started literally as a meatpacking area and it was all industry. And then in like the ‘60s, ‘70s when big grocery stores began happening and became huge brands, it kind of killed that industry. And so it fell to ruin a little bit and actually became kind of a big area of vice.
So there were a lot of strip clubs. There was a big BDSM scene, a lot of really raunchy gay clubs, all throughout like the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s. And then, like a lot of New York, artists moved in and converted it into places that now tourists want to take selfies. So it is really fun that our play is definitely a little bit raunchy and certainly adult and explores obviously the seven sins.
Where to Eat and Drink in the Meatpacking District
Old Homestead Steakhouse
There’s a great food scene, both some really new places and some really historic restaurants, like the Old Homestead Steakhouse, it’s one of the oldest steakhouses in the nation.
I’ve passed it a million times and I just ate there recently and it is delicious. And it makes sense when you think of the history of the Meatpacking District, and you’re like, steak had never been fresher than in this area. Now it’s a very upscale restaurant. You can get like a $45 burger there, but there are also a lot of good affordable places.
My go-to before the show is in Chelsea Market, and it’s called Miznon. It’s an Israeli restaurant and it’s a fast-casual place. My husband went to Tel Aviv a few years ago and came back and would not shut up about what sounded to me like a fast food restaurant. And I’m like, “Okay, let’s calm down.” But then they opened one in Chelsea Market and he brought me to it and he was not lying. That place is amazing.
You can get like a folded cheeseburger pita, which sounds simple and is just like the best burger. A whole roasted baby cauliflower, another good pre-show dinner for me.
We went there after a show and truly had a hard time finding it, which I guess is a sign that it’s a very good speakeasy. There’s an “open” sign just out on the street and you go down into the cellar and it’s a very cool craft cocktail bar with a lot of cool vintage furniture and feels just very Meatpacking and very hip.
Tea & Sympathy
It’s a British tea house, very eclectic. You feel like you are in someone’s grandmother’s house. All the mugs are different and you can get like tea for two. It’s really one of the coziest places in New York.
Things to Do in the Meatpacking District
One of my favorite things that just opened is Little Island. It’s this new green space on the Hudson river as a part of the Hudson River Park. And right now it has timed reservations, so you can book a time online. It’s not very crowded, but it’s totally free to the public. It feels like you’re walking around in a game of Sim City.
And I went for the first time, right before our show, you can catch a perfect sunset. A great thing to do right before you come and see Seven Deadly Sins.
Whitney Art Museum
In Seven Deadly Sins, the first thing that you see is our mistress of ceremony, Shuga Cain, doing a performance welcoming everyone. Shuga Cain is a drag queen, most notably from RuPaul’s Drag Race, and she does a performance right in front of the Whitney. And it feels very right, for just a drag queen to be performing in front of a lot of famous artwork.
There’ll be a lot of people sitting on the steps of the Whitney being like, what is going on over there?
The High Line
The High Line actually starts right at the place where Seven Deadly Sins, our first scene is like the steps up to the High Line basically.
You get a lot of tourists walking down the stairs and then checking out what’s going on behind these windows and asking questions.