What does a hip 20-something comedian wearing a frog suit have to offer a dozen children on a rainy day in Bryant Park? Plenty. If you can survive the gaggle of self-actualizing yuppie parents, then Flaubert the Frog’s weekly performance at Bryant Park is a winner.

Daniel Kitrosser’s character, Flaubert, provides one-hour of storytelling, games and general revelry for children from 3 to 8. The show is supported by the NYPL Research Division on 42nd Street and utilizes public space in Bryant Park.

Flaubert combines engaging children’s entertainment with a nightclub feel as Kitrosser effectively works the adolescent crowd in a green suit complete with big foam ears. After a few technical glitches were ironed out, Flaubert’s microphone could not fit over his big green ears, the show began with a book reading. This ended quickly as rain began to pour down on the crowd.

Thankfully, the staff at the NYPL acted swiftly directing the children and their swamp-dwelling host into the dry confines of the Research Library’s Children’s Room. The room is brightly lit and welcoming – a perfect refuge for a rainy day.

Flaubert’s shtick was not confined to childish jokes, though there were many of those. At one point, while directing a game of Mad Libs, he pointed out the dangers of violating copyright law. He renamed the game Frog Libs and led the children in a chant of “heavily copyrighted.”

Flaubert is just one example of a broad array of activities in the park. Though activists seeking march permits have reported problems dealing with the murky “Friends of Bryant Park,” there is much to like about the programming being done out of Bryant Park. At a time when library budgets and hours are being cut throughout the City, the folks at NYPL research library seem intent on making positive use of public space.

Flaubert’s performance was accompanied by a mobile children’s lending library. The Park also hosts a popular movie-in-the park event in the summertime. Speakers and musicians also appear regularly. All free of charge. Perhaps most importantly, unlike fenced-in downtown parks such as Tompkins Square, Union Square and Washington Square, Bryant Park offers a vast open green space for park-goers to enjoy.

Not surprisingly then, most of the parents at Flaubert’s performance appeared to be quite well-heeled. The rich know how to use public dollars for free entertainment. I sensed that I was one of the few people from an outer borough when one of the organizers expressed surprise that I had come down from the Bronx.

Flaubert performs on most Saturdays at 1pm just outside of the carousel ($2 a ride) in the Park. Working class parents are encouraged to turn up for a fun hour of entertainment. Being entertained by a man in a frog suit is one just one of our many rights as residents of the city.

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Billy Wharton is the editor of the Socialist WebZine. His articles have appeared in the Washington Post, Monthly Review Webzine, NYC Indypendent and the Links Journal.

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Flaubert's performance is one of many listed in the "We Won't Pay" guide to free summer events in NYC. The guide can be downloaded at:
 http://www.box.net/shared/xdqyhtymo8