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Violence and/or Absurdity at Astor Place


Astor Place Riot, 1849., Digital ID 809559, New York Public LibraryHave you lived in New York City long enough to remember when it used to be dangerous? Even the Worst Case Scenario Handbook:Travel has a section on how to handle riding the subway here! While this city is now arguably a safe place to live it certainly has a history marked with violence.

Take riots for example. New York City has had many of them; in fact the anniversary of a bloody and misguided riot is upon us. On May 10, 1849 violence erupted, due not to a draft, or a food shortage, or low wages. The Astor Place Riot ensued over a petty dispute between two actors, Edwin Forest, an American and William Macready, an Englishman. The deeper issue, however, was one of nationalism and classism as expressed in this surviving broadside. You can read a very dramatic account of the riot and the events leading to it in The Great Riots of New York City, by J.T. Headley. The event was so dramatic that it actually inspired Richard Nelson's play Two Shakespearean Actors.

Can you think of a present day equivalent to the Astor Place Riot? The closest I came was a fight between the Blue Man Group of Berlin and the one working at Astor Theater over which city has the hippest art scene. But that wouldn't be dangerous, that would just be bizarre.


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Blue Man Group

Bizarre, yes. But man would that sell tickets! Thanks for an amusing post, Sachi.

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