By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Focusing on a wide variety of ecological concerns, the American Museum of Natural History offers ongoing lectures and workshops on topics as diverse as coral bleaching in the Bahamas to whale watching in Massachusetts. In addition, the museum holds seminars on infectious diseases in the city, indigenous jewelry making, and arts from around the world, among others. Local university professors also hold astronomy and physics classes in the evening, including the upcoming "Status of Pluto: Is It Really a Planet?" Most lectures cost $12 each. For more information, call 769-5000.
Does the city that never sleeps leave you with a clear case of information overload? Find yourself grappling to decide which play to see, movie to catch, or restaurant to dine at? The "Brain Gym," a class offered on weekends by CUNY's Baruch College, will show you how to flex your mental muscles and sift through information rapidly and comprehensively. Other courses offered by Baruch include language immersion, creative development, and computer skills programs. Held on evenings and weekends, the classes start at $35. For more information call 802-5600 or see http://cstudies.baruch.cuny.edu.
Is someone close to you prone to making aggravatingly cryptic remarks that drive you up the wall? Well, analyze this! Learn how to decode their indecipherables over the summer by registering at the Center for Modern Psychoanalytic Studies (260-7050). Workshops run two to four weeks in June and range in price from $50 to $100 each . Ginger Otis
Squash the Y2K bug before it attacks! With the prospect of obliterated files, disabled finances, and crippled computer games only eight months away, you should be running to the nearest year-2000 computer-protection course. To help make the millennium transition worry-free, The Learning Annex (371-0820) is offering a quick preparation seminar on April 28 for about $40.
What should I do if my computer crashes? How can I manipulate photographs and compose my own digital artwork? These and other basic questions will be answered at the Seminar Center's "Computer Series." Classes are ongoing and cost $189 for members and $199 for nonmembers. For more information, call 655-0077.
Does the thought of your corporate-climbing colleagues leave you shedding tears every happy hour? Then trade in your beer money for after-work classes at the Universal Business and Media School (360-1210), which was founded to serve underprivileged minorities. Sharpen your software, Internet, and HTML skills and, by promotion time, you might be serving up some stiff competition for the window office. Classes run "all the time" and are 15 hours. Karen Mahabir
Learn how to toss the "Best Dressed Salads" at The Natural Gourmet Institute for Food and Health's one-day workshop. The three-hour class, taught by Myra Kornfeld, is on April 17 and costs $65. Registration will be open until then. For more information, call 645-5170 or see www.naturalgourmetschool.com.
Why should mothers spend their honorary day over a stove? Because, at the New School, you and your little one can cook until your heart's content without having to wash the dishes. Held on May 9, "Moms and Kids Cook Together on Mother's Day" costs $35 per person and $15 for material fees. For more information, call 229-5690.
Go on a caffeine craze at The Seminar Center (655-0077) and learn what it takes to "Own Your Own Coffee Bar." While you daydream of how many points your trendy franchise will rack up in Zagat's, the center will grind out a dozen or so techniques to keep your café up and running. The three-hour class will be held on April 21 and June 2 and costs $38. Jazell Andujar
An 8000-square-foot, four-studio complex in Soho, the Abizaid Arts: World Dance and Fitness Studio (941-8480) was started by Carol Abizaid, known for the body alignment and creative movement program she developed for women, injured athletes, and dancers. In addition to modern, ballet, jazz, and hip hop, the studio conducts a range of classes with an emphasis on African styles. Classes are accompanied by live percussion and cost from $11 to $13 each, with the option to purchase discounted five-, 10-, and 20-class cards.
With offerings at the basic, intermediate, and advanced levels, the New Dance Group Arts Center (719-2733) has a slew of open classes, including "Hip Hop Flavors," "Funk Fusion," "Capoeira," "Martial Arts," "Body Conditioning," and "Theatre Dance." NDGAC evolved from the New Dance Group Studio, which was founded in 1932 and focused on innovative methodology in performance and education. Single classes cost $10.
Currently run by Fazil Cengiz, the Times Circle Rehearsal Studios is one of the oldest rehearsal studios in the city and was once graced by the likes of Fred Astaire. Although some at the studio admit that it's lost a bit of glitz and sits in a "seedy part of town," an impressive number of top-flight instructors rent teaching space here. The emphasis is on Middle Eastern dance and flamenco, but classes in hip hop, house, argentinian, tango, tap dance, and mime are also offered. With 25 regular teachers, and another five to 10 guest teachers, Times Circle is an excellent, affordable resource at about $15 per session. Classes at all levels of expertise begin in the evening. For details, call 541-4455 or 245-9504. Hillary Chute
Located in the Flatiron district, the Acting Studio Inc.(228-2700) touts its instruction as "serious training for the actor." While it offers the standard round of classes, what sets the studio apart is its two performing forums, the Chelsea Repertory Company and the Off-Off-Broadway Theater Company, in which students are sometimes invited to participate. Class lengths vary, as do costs, ranging from $225 to $1250. Registration is ongoing and an interview determines placement.
What do Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Alec Baldwin, and Uma Thurman have in common? They all studied at the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute (533-5500), where students learn the basics of the Strasberg method and can choose from electives such as directing, writing, and acting for film and TV. The school's summer term starts June 28 and costs $950, electives an additional $160 to $445.
Describing theater as a "joyous, developmental activity," the staffers at Performance of a Lifetime (343-2884) liken their studio to "a performance school for nonperformers," in which students are encouraged to experiment in a supportive environment. Courses include public speaking, improv techniques, communication skills, and a month-long program devoted to the creation and performance of an original play. Costs range from $50 to $300 per series of courses. Registration is ongoing.
Drawing on Meisner training and the Method while emphasizing physical acting techniques, the Total Theatre Lab (799-4224) curriculum includes scene study, monologue, voice and speech technique, and audition coaching. Classes are small 12 pupils or less and students are often invited to perform in Equity showcases sponsored by the Lab. Classes cost $135 to $260 per month and registration is ongoing. Alexis Soloski
Proving that the appeal of fashion is an international affair, the Fashion Institute of Technology (217-7999) helps sharpen industry skills by teaching the dos and don'ts of pattern making and draping in English, Spanish, Chinese, Russian, and Korean. Classes cost $315 and an additional $25 in lab fees. Basic ESL courses are recommended in conjunction with bilingual classes. High- school students can also choose from a wide range of courses comparable to those in the school's degree programs as part of "Summer Live." Running from July 12 through July 29, courses costs $135 each plus a $5 fee. For more information on these programs, call 271-7882.
So, you're a beauty school dropout? Il-Makiage founder Ilana Harkavi and her team of top makeup artists will help turn your dreams of glamor into a career. Master "Make-Up Basics," for $325, and "Advanced Make-Up," for $425. Enrollment in the latter comes with perks such as free brushes, membership in the Il-Makiage Club, and inclusion in its national referral list. For more information, call 800-722-1011. Denise McNicholl
What do Kurosawa, Coppola, and Godard have in common? The answer can be found at the "Film Studies" summer program at Brooklyn College (718-951-5664), which also offers complete training in directing, screenwriting, editing, sound, and animation for very reasonable prices for New York State residents, $160 per credit.
Learn how to write, shoot, direct, and edit your own film at the New York Film Academy(674-4300), which emphasizes small classes and individual attention. Four-, six-, and eight-week intensive filmmaking workshops are also available. Tuition for most programs is between $4000 and $5000.
For those who want to walk in the steps of Scorsese, opt for the NYU School of Continuing and Professional Studies summer intensive workshop. But beware, the six-week program runs from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. and will have you racking up 350 hours of class time. The workshop costs $5775. For more information, call 998-7140. Ioana Veleanu
You're among the few, the very few . . . who have extra cash. Perhaps your first investment should be in the "Fundamentals of Personal Financial Planning" or the "Fundamentals of Individual Investing" at the NYU School of Continuing and Professional Studies. Each course costs $395 and could be the first straw to turn that nest egg into a giant Flintstone omelette. Yabba-dabba-doo! For more information call 790-1319.
Let's attempt to solve one of history's great catch-22s: how do you learn the ways to save money without actually spending the bucks to find out? The Open Housing Center Inc.(941-6101) is a free resource for first-time minority home buyers, building on a 35-year legacy with workshops on such subjects as figuring out closing costs and finding ideal mortgages. A $25 materials fee is necessary for the four sessions.
Thinking about starting your own business? Broke? Learn "How To Get Rich on 'Other People's Money"' and track down loans, grants, venture capital, private-lender funding, and much more at The Seminar Center on May 12. The course costs $38. For more information, call 655-0077. Andrew Aber
Entering its 22nd year as one of the leading foreign-study institutions in the nation, TraveLearn (800-235-9114) continues to offer adults between the ages of 30 and 80 the opportunity to fufill the "delayed dream" of study abroad. The program's unique itinerary is designed to acquaint older students with the people and cultures of the world so that they become true citizens of this planet. Ten- to 20-day courses available all year round and students attend daily classes taught by local professors. Log on at TraveLearn.com.
Living vicariously through movies like Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Romancing the Stone, or Crocodile Dundee? Well here's a chance for you to get up off your ass and have the adventure of a lifetime. The Costa Rica Rainforest Outward Bound School (800-676-2018) provides 10 to 85 day trips. College credit can be attained. Tuition ranges from $1695 to $7400, depending on length of stay. Applications are taken over the phone or through the Web at www.centralamerica.com/cr/crrobs. Remember, you too can become an alligator slayer. Adamma Ince
France is more than cheese and wine. Put aside your stereotypes and dig into the real thing at your own pace. The Independent Language Learning Center of the French Institute (355-6100) is the right destination. Tools such as computer and video stations, dictionaries, vocabulary and grammar books, and a specially trained tutor are available to you. Packages are available for $20 an hour, $80 for five hours, or $150 for 10 hours.
At the Embassy CES (Center for English Studies, 620-0760) you can perfect your English by supplementing a general-language program with private lessons, group speaking and listening classes, or through a professional setting related to your field of interest by completing a four-to-eight-week unpaid internship with an American company or organization. Ioana Veleanu
Learn indelible American catchphrases and idioms like "Dancing cheek-to-cheek" and "May I have this dance?" in the morning, then do just that all afternoon! Rennert Bilingual (867-8700), in collaboration with Dance Forum, offers a progressive four-week dance/English program of individualized lessons in all levels of American, English, and dance classes at your choice of one of New York's most prestigious dance schools. Tuition costs about $1128 for the dance section and $760 for the English program. Soo-Min Oh
Work out the kinks in your performance and writing in a nurturing, nonjudgmental atmosphere. At Downwriters' open-mike night (Thursdays from 5 to 7:30 p.m) at Downtime (695-2747, 251 W. 30th St.), musicians of all skill levels take the stage to perform original songs. Equipment is available and participation is free. See Melissa Cross.
Home-recording equipment and MIDI systems provide musicians with a reasonable alternative to the high cost of professional studios. For $390, the New School's (229-5873) "Producing Demos at Home" explains multitrack recorders (reel-to-reel and cassette), mixers, signal processors (reverbs, compressors, gates, etc.), digital recorders, MIDI sequencers, and multitimbral synthesizers. Tina Whelski
The New York Botanical Garden (718-817-8700) workshop "Bonsai for Beginners" will teach you an ancient art that's been practiced for centuries in China and Japan. May 8, 1 to 4 p.m. Cost is $69 for nonmembers and $65 for members.
Discover the real meaning of Mother Nature at the Prospect Park Wildlife Center (718-399-7339). This Mother's Day take your little one(s) to a sleepover at the zoo. Learn how animals care for their young. Then awaken and experience all the hard work that goes into preparing the zoo before it opens. May 8 and 9 from 7:30 p.m. to 9 a.m. Cost is $60. Kids should be between 6 and 11years of age. Call to register and hurry because there's a limit of 20 adults and 20 children.
Go fishing in Central Park (860-1370). The Charles A. Dana Discovery Center offers "Catch-and-Release Fishing" at the Harlem Meer. The season kicks off April 17 and is open Tuesdays to Sundays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Free fishing poles and bait will be provided with valid photo ID. Jazell Andujar
Peek over the shoulder of Earl Miller, Penthouse magazine's most published photographer, as he transforms housewives into centerfolds. Through the New York Institute of Photography's five-videotape "Glamour Photography" home course (867-8260), you too can learn how to produce the look that Earl describes as "Creating a fantasy that doesn't really exist." Pay $99 plus $5.50 shipping and handling.
There are 7.4 million people in New York. Get to know some of them this summer though classes at the International Center for Photography (860-1776, ext. 156). Take "Photographing People" and do just that. Misanthropes should take "The Expressive Landscape." Registration begins May 12. Prices vary.
What's important to you and how can you prove it? Try taking "Photography on Assignment: Witness to Our Times," offered at the School of Visual Arts (592-2050). Students will produce a photo essay composed of strong visual images of what they find important in today's warp-speed world. Classes begin June 1 and cost $525. Karen Mahabir
Dr. Pepsi ToGar, author of Born To Dream, is conducting a class at The Seminar Center (655-0077). "The Healing Power of Dreams" can help you understand the hidden messages in your dreams. April 27 from 6:30 to 9 p.m. The cost is $27 for members and $38 for nonmembers.
The Tarot School (800-804-2184) offers continuing study in basic and advanced tarot through regular classes and a correspondence course. Degrees, workshops, and retreats are also available. Preregistration is not required for the ongoing series of three-hour classes that meet every Monday at 6 p.m. Tuition is $22 per class.
The Learning Annex (371-0280) will teach you "How To Create Magical Spells and Powerful Potions." The class will be lead by modern-day witch Lexa RoséHan. She will teach you how to use everyday household items in creating the concoctions that can help change your life. April 28 at 6:30 p.m. The course fee is $29 for nonmembers and $24 for members.
Witches' Voicepresents Witch Sites on the Web, http://www.witchvox. com/xlinks.html. Break your stereotypes or satisfy your curiosity. Interested in meeting other Witches, Wiccans, or Pagans? Or maybe just looking for reference and research purposes? This comprehensive Web site is constantly expanding. Updated weekly. Jazell Andujar
Spring Studio (226-7240) doesn't specialize in bootleg critiques and flowery lip service. Fourteen of the 20 weekly sessions at the figure-drawing hideaway simply involve a model and three or four hours of quiet drawing time in a variety of poses. Individual sessions are $10 or less and walk-ins are welcome. Monday to Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 10 p.m, Sundays 10 a.m. & 5:30 p.m. Bryan Zimmerman
Inexpensive and accessible: Art Students League of New York (247-4510) offers a variety of visual arts classes year-round for the best price in town. Learn from teachers like Ronnie Landfield, who paints a better color-field than Rothko, and join a friendly community of artists. Monthly tuition costs range from $52 to $177 per class, plus an annual registration fee of $10.
If you're in Manhattan and you're in the mood for a summer journey, take the train to the Staten Island Ferry and sail across the bay. From there take a bus SI40 or 44 to Snug Harbor. Located at this sleepy sailor's retreat is the Art Lab (718-447-8667). It offers a full range of classes, from airbrushing to watercolor to computer-generated art, for a relatively cheap price. All ages may apply. Call for a free brochure and more information. Lou Bardel
Jill Hoffman (219-9278), when asked if she knew of any other worthy NYC workshops, responded resolutely, "No, this is the only good one" with such obvious confidence that you might be tempted to just take her word for it, especially since Hoffman has run her poetry/fiction workshop for nine years. The Mudfish magazine creator holds court in her Tribeca home on Monday, Wednesday, or Friday nights for groups of up to 10 people. Refreshments served; postsession group soup an ongoing ritual. You can try once for $25, or go whole hog and dish out $250 for 10 weeks.
Write, produce, and distribute the badass zine you've always longed to mastermind. Sabrina Margarita Sandata of Bamboo Girl fame will show you how in a class sponsored by the Asian American Writers' Workshop (228-6718). Wednesdays from April 14 to June 2. Students and members pay $100, all others $125.
Other Countries is a coalition of writers and artists devoted to black gay expression. They host a workshop for writers of all levels Saturday from 5 to 8 p.m. at the New York Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center (620-7310), which kindly asks for a measly donation of only $2 per session. Planning to show up? Come prepared with five to 10 copies of your work (all genres encouraged), which will be distributed, critiqued, and discussed among the group. Those intent on sharing should show up early, as one's turn in the limelight is realized in order of arrival. Hillary Chute