An accidental discovery

A stumble into Buffalo's Theater District reveals new attractions to one student


Last Friday, I went to the police department for the first (and hopefully last) time in my life. No, college did not turn me into a delinquent. My friend and I were involved in a minor car accident so we had to file a police report.

We figured we’d go to the Buffalo Police Department and then return to North Campus in an hour – my friend had a meeting to go to and exams to study for and I needed to clean my room before my parents visited me for the weekend.

We hopped on the metro-rail at University Station on South Campus. It took about 20 minutes to reach the Fountain Plaza station – the closest station to the police department. When the train emerged from the tunnel and looked out the window we realized we were in the heart of Buffalo’s Theater District.

Somehow, our responsibilities suddenly seemed far away and one hour turned into four hours. We walked down the sidewalk and felt relieved to be somewhere other than North Campus. The sidewalk was dotted with tables outside of a couple of restaurants and baskets overflowing with flowers dangled from the dark green lampposts. The district had an air of elegance and our brisk pace faded into a gentle stroll.

As we walked through the district, we found a medley of culture: classic Broadway shows, handmade Indonesian jewelry and Italian pizza. All of it was in less than a one-mile radius of the Fountain Plaza station.

On our way to the police department, we passed Shea’s Performing Arts Center, one of the most famous theaters in Buffalo. You shouldn’t leave Buffalo without seeing a performance at Shea’s. This year, you can see unforgettable Broadway musicals such as Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Chicago as well as other classics such as Mama Mia.

The Irish Classical Theatre Company presents productions of both traditional and modern dramatic literature, according to its website. The company performs at the Andrews Theatre, located at 625 Main St. As Buffalo’s only theatre-in-the-round, no audience member has a seat further than ten feet from the stage. This weekend, you can catch the last showings of The Liar, a romantic comedy by David Ives, on Oct. 11 at 3 p.m. and Oct. 12 at 2 p.m.

Want to plan ahead for the holiday season? Purchase tickets for the annual performance of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol at the Alleyway Theatre, located at 672 Main St. Neal Radice. Each year, the Alleyway Theatre holds plays from September to May as well as educational workshops on play writing and acting.

Before (or after) you watch a play, be sure to grab something to eat at one of the theater district’s well-known restaurants. I personally recommend the Bijou Grille, which is located across the street from Shea’s at 643 Main St. After my friend and I picked up the police report, we went to the Bijou Grille and split a Bijou Pizza – a crisp, golden Italian pizza topped with goat cheese, spinach, roasted red peppers and marinated artichoke hearts – for only $10.

After lunch, we wandered into the Market Arcade Film and Arts Centre. Even though the center showed its last movie this June, there is plenty else to do there. One of the first shops we saw was Sasmita Batik Indonesia, a small business that sells authentic Indonesian jewelry, clothing, handbags and home décor. My friend and I ended up having a nearly 40-minute conversation with the storeowner, Novi Poluch – and it wasn’t just small talk. The warmth and friendliness from a stranger was refreshing and we’re definitely going to visit her again.

Poluch, the founder and general manager of Sasmita Batik, moved to Buffalo from Jakarta, Indonesia in 2008. After working for one year at the West Side Bazaar, she decided to open Sasmita Batik at the Market Arcade Film and Arts Centre. Sasmita Batik is open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The store is also open by appointment.

While you’re there, be sure to check out the art galleries on the upper floors. Put your phone away for a while and meditate on the meaning of each piece. You’ll be surprised at how rejuvenating a few moments of quiet, uninterrupted thought can be.

Last Friday, my friend and I left Buffalo’s theater district not only with a police report in our hands, but also with the memories of good conversation, tasty pizza, interesting artwork and plans to return for a Broadway musical.

I hope you never have to file a police report during your time at UB. But I do hope you have a chance to experience the culture of Buffalo’s Theater District.