By Merle Exit
With the anniversary celebrations of the 1939 and 1964 World’s Fairs in full swing, it is not difficult to find people who have amassed Fair-related paraphernalia eager to share their collections. But for Forest Hills fair aficionado Sharon Weinman, who was not even born when the ’64 Fair opened, the souvenirs go beyond the usual pennants, booklets and plastic knickknacks.
As a college student, Weiman combined her passion for theater and love of the fair and wrote a musical play based on the 1939 World’s Fair called “Behind the Trylon.”
“This is history in my backyard,” Weiman said.
In the show, Weiman creates her version of what it must have been like to experience the wonders of the Fair as they promised a shiny and sleek future.
The play opens with a voice-over from a fictional NYWF radio announcer welcoming the audience to the New York World’s Fair of 1939.
“Just five more months to go before this marshland in Flushing will be the beautiful world of tomorrow,” he proclaims.
Weiman even wrote a song titled “The Future is Here,” where the lyrics tap into the excitement of what’s to come.
“You can see the future at the Fair of ’39. You can see the future just get behind the line. It’s a world of peace and harmony where everyone’s in luxury. A world of progress, a world of hope, where people are happy, where people can cope in the future. And the future is here.”
Although Weinman’s play has not seen a full-blown production, other writers using the World’s Fair as a jumping off point will have their visions staged as part of the Queens Theatre’s World’s Fair Play Festival.
As part of its 25th anniversary celebration, the theater has commissioned a slate of celebrated national and international playwrights to create 10 original 10-minute plays inspired by the fairs.
“I’m very excited to see new works by many playwrights who have long histories with Queens Theatre, and to welcome new writers to the QT family,” Rob Urbinati, director of new play development at Queens Theatre, said,
Participating writers include Kristoffer Diaz, a Pulitzer Prize finalist; Wendy MacLeod, “The House of Yes”; Harrison Rivers, 2011 GLAAD Media Award for “When Last We Flew” and Craig Lucas, a two-time Tony nominee for “Prelude to a Kiss” and “The Light in the Piazza.”
“Queens Theatre had its first life as the Theaterama in 1964,” Queens Theatre Managing Director Taryn Sacramone said. “We can honor the great history of our venue by producing great new work now and in the future. I am really excited and proud of this festival.”
Weiman’s “Beyond the Trylon” will not be part of the Queens Theatre performance, but later this summer she will help organize a World’s Fair anniversary event at Regal Heights Rehabilitation and Health Care Center, where she will display her collection.
“I have been a collector since I was a child. I mostly started with stamps and antique postcards,” Weiman said. “These tiny pictures of artwork not only transported me to another time and place, but also sparked my interest in history.”
The event, held at the Jackson Heights facility where Weiman works as a recreational therapist, will be open to the public and will include songs from the Fair, performed by the Regal Heights chorus, as well as exhibiting memories and memorabilia from the center’s residents.
“It’s important for me to share my collection and not have it sit in a drawer,” Weiman said. “I like to use many of my collections for entertainment, educational and therapeutic purposes. I’ve used them as props for walking tours I’ve conducted. I conduct reminiscence, education and discussion groups with the residents using some my collection.”
If you go
The World’s Fair Play Festival
When: July 18 – 20 and July 25 – 27, Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 2 pm and 8 pm, Sundays at 3 pm
Where: Queens Theatre, Flushing Meadows Corona Park
Contact: (718) 760-0064
World’s Fair Anniversary Event
When: Wednesday, Aug. 6
Where: Regal Heights Rehabilitation and Health Care Center, 70-05 35th Ave., Jackson Heights
Contact: (718) 663-5100