Queens Theatre in Flushing Meadows Corona Park is not one of the park’s better-known attractions. The iconic Unisphere gets much more attention, and the Queens Zoo probably sees a lot more foot traffic, but the Queens Theatre is a lesser-known gem in the large park.
This past weekend it was the sight of a recent performance by Doktor Kaboom, a comedic science performer who has a family-friendly show that targets impressionable young children and works to give them a love of science.
The good Doktor, with his spiky blond hair and thick faux-German accent, looks and sounds like the love child of Guy Fieri and Angela Merkel (who has a PhD in Physics), but he’s actually a native of North Carolina who lives in Seattle and found a way to combine his love of comedy and science.
The whole family went and we were lucky enough to have extra tickets for a friend and his daughter. The Queens Theatre mainstage theater seats 472 and the rows are on a gradient generous enough to provide decent viewing from all angles.
After a brief introduction, Doktor Kaboom took the stage and we were on our way. The entire show is geared towards children, working to spark an interest in science and there’s no better way to do that than to show them that science allows you to make a mess. Using a catapult to try to help a young volunteer from the audience catch a piece of banana in his mouth, the bit had the stage littered with banana pretty quickly and it was good fun. I vowed to never feed my children bananas the same way again, but I’m not sure I am going to be able to build a catapult fast enough to realize this dream.
One of the best parts of the show was when the good Doktor implored the kids there to have confidence and faith in themselves. He said that at a previous show a 10-year-old kid said that he was a failure, even though he was a bright young man who could speak three languages. That base level of self respect is sadly missing from a lot in our society.
Unfortunately, some basic theater manners are also lacking. The Doktor had to remind the audience to refrain from using mobile phones, which is Theater Manners 101. Lack of civility as well as a dropping aptitude in the sciences are general signs of societal rot and sad to see, but at least there’s one guy out there fighting the good fight. That guy wears old-fashioned goggles, a bright orange lab coat, and shoes with flames painted on them.
But that didn’t slow down the show. There is a lot of safety instruction in the Doktor Kaboom show, even though the worst you may be exposed to is high-velocity banana and some soapy residue. He manages to use some optical illusions to trick your mind in ways that even jaded adults will find fascinating, and he takes time to explain what is happening in terms that children can understand. There are also plenty of under-the-radar jokes for adults as well.
There were no loud explosions as the Doktor Kaboom name might imply, but fear not. The show is well worth the time and has a big impact.
Weekends during the spring and summer are crowded in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. You can tell how bad the crowds are when you pull off the highway and every inch of available parking and then some is taken up on 111th Street. Keep in mind that a minority of people arrive by car too. When you get there on the 7 train and look down 111th Street towards the park you can see a sea of humanity clogging the sidewalks and moving toward the park.
Still, despite the crowds, Flushing Meadows Corona Park is not a bad place. It can be crowded, for sure, but you can still have a pleasant stroll through it on a busy Sunday.
This past Sunday the wife and I went to the Queens Zoo to visit with my friend Jay Levitz and his wife and infant son. Jay is an awesome musician and plays lead guitar for Endangered Feces, one of my favorite bands of all time. Small world: ace punk rock drummer Chris Ara, freshly graduated from the New York Fire Academy, was also in the park that day and it was cool to offer my congratulations to him in person.
After the walk through the zoo with children, we were tired, and my wife thought it would be nice to stop by the Lemon Ice King of Corona on the way home. It was a great idea.
This modest ice store is an essential place to go during the warmer months.
The Corona neighborhood is dominated by Hispanic immigrants from a multitude of Spanish-speaking countries. That brings with it teeming crowds, obnoxious music and bad traffic with worse drivers but it also comes with some awesome food street vendors. Walking down 111th Street you can encounter some delicious empanadas or roasted corn on the cob that’s out of this world.
The celebrated lemon ice store—it is officially named Benfaremo – The Lemon Ice King of Corona—is on 108th Street and the 111th Street stop on the 7 train is the best way to get there via public transit.
The Lemon Ice King of Corona offers flavored ice. Would you like to have some ice cream or a shake too? Too bad. The Lemon Ice King has a lot of flavors to choose from (but won’t mix them).
My wife went and stood in line while I found a place to temporarily park the truck and wait. Our babies were sleeping after a long day at the zoo (a long day for a 15-month-old can be about two hours when you let them walk most of the way). The line was long but moved quickly and my wife soon returned with our ices. I went with the classic lemon flavor and my wife had strawberry banana that had pieces of real strawberry in it. Our babies got nothing; you snooze, you lose, girls.
I ate my first lemon ice of the year sitting in my truck parked in front of a fire hydrant. I powered through the large lemon ice, pausing only to wait out some brain freeze. It felt like I was starting the New York summer on the right foot.
One place I feel I should mention is Uncle Louie G, which operates a chain of stores in the five boroughs and Long Island. They have some of the best ices you’ll ever eat as well, but they also have regular ice cream.
Either way, it is going to be a long, hot summer (it always is in New York City), so don’t forget to treat yourself to a refreshing ice.