CAUGHT ON THE 7: Steven Hitt and Handan Ozbilgin

Handan Ozbilgin and Steven Hitt at BAM reception

Handan Ozbilgin and Steven Hitt at BAM reception

Saturday, June 6th, Queens Art Express rolls to Long Island City and Sunnyside. LaGuardia Performing Arts Center, 5 subway stops into Queens (33rd St), has an innovative event at 2pm with dance companies from both sides of the Queensboro, Graham II and MAD About Dance. To celebrate the centennial of the Queensboro bridge, Queens and Manhattan are playing nice.

Speaking of playing nice, Steven Hitt, the towering Managing Director of LPAC, and Handan Ozbilgin, his lovely young Assistant Artistic Director told us about the LPAC LAB program and transitioning LPAC from a traditional performing arts center to an artistic incubator for up-and-coming local talent.

Handan and Steven what are your subway stops?
StevenH.: 207th Street on the A-Train. My subway stop for work is 33rd Street on the 7 line.
HandanO.: I take the 7 train to the N train and N train to the 6 train, to East Harlem. It sounds like a long journey but it is not as bad as it sounds.

Wow, you have such a positive attitude. I always want to jump in a taxi and watch the skyline of Manhattan take me in as I cross the Q-boro. O.K., let’s keep our focus on the 7 train, what is the best musician or artist you saw performing on a subway platform?
StevenH.: I’ve seen many talented people performing in the subways over the years I’ve lived in New York. Last week I was in Times Square waiting on the A Train and heard an incredible Jazz Singer.
HandanO.: There was a guy dancing with a baby doll at 42nd street. They were a great couple. I think he believed she was real. The way he held her was very real. I haven’t seen them for a long time though.

The blind accordion player I see him every once in awhile. He changed the song he is playing. However he hasn’t changed his opening line “your donations greatly appreciated”.

Steven H.: Lately on the 7 and A trains I have heard a lot of Mexican musicians. Some are good others are ok. I also see a lot of kids Break Dancing on the subway cars. I think it is kind of dangerous and worry about people getting hit. At the same time I love their energy and enthusiasm, as well as admire some of the moves they make.

What do you do for fun in Queens or the metropolitan area?
StevenH.: I like to eat out with friends and see films and shows. I see a lot of live performances because that is my job, but I also really enjoy it. It does keep me from seeing other things I really want to see for enjoyment.

HandanO.: I used to live in Astoria so I really like Astoria. I used to go Greek Restaurants; Uncle George, Athens Café, and I loved Astoria park. Now thanks to Queens Art Express I discover other parts of Queens. Last Saturday I discovered Queens Botanical Garden.

Do you have any questions for us at Queens Art Express?
HandanO.: No questions just a comment I am very happy to be part of this festival as both a host venue and also as an enthusiastic audience member.

What was your first art/performance experience like? Where was it?
HandanO.: I formed a theater group as a child in Turkey. I was the director and producer. Of course I didn’t know what “director” and “producer” meant . We performed in my backyard and there were other groups competing against us to bring the most audience. But my group always won. I knew how to draw an audience. I gave away free gazoz( soda).

StevenH.: As a performer I was 11 years old when I first walked on stage in the Music Man. The curtain rose and I knew I wanted to be an actor for the rest of my life. I got lucky and worked, but the dreams change. The first professional show I saw was a tour of Sound of Music when I was 13 starring Ann Blyth. The sets were beautiful, the acting and singing were incredible. I never knew anything could be that good, and it became an inspiration to fill my own dream.

What are you working on now?
HandanO.: Now. Bridging The Arts. I am sending an email blast to remind people the event is this Saturday at 2pm. I can’t wait to see Martha Graham and Michiyo’s group MAD About Dance at the same event.

StevenH.: The Future. Building a season for next year. The success of our LPAC Lab program has proven that working with local talent pays off. We are partnering with several emerging theatre groups and choreographers to give them space to develop new work. We tried it this year and I was very pleased. We are going further in that direction next year. I think it is very exciting. I love the creative energy I see in our theaters every day.

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