Tuesday, November 10, 2015

#InCaseYouMissedIt: HAMILTON on 60 Minutes

If your musical theatre tastes are anything like mine (and, if you're sitting at your desk perusing this blog, chances are, they are), then most likely you are just as obsessed with all things Hamilton -- especially after Lin-Manuel Miranda's TV appearances this week.  First up: his appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon last Friday, where Lin-Manuel talks about the hip-hop revolution he's currently setting on Broadway, and performs his Lin-Manueliest freestyle rap to-date, a la Jimmy's Freestyle Generator (see: above video).  They also mention the voicemail he left on Jimmy's phone, which is definitely worth a re-watch after this.

Next, a special behind-the-scenes look on 60 Minutes on Sunday night, where Lin is interviewed by Charlie Rose about the history behind the show, its inception, and the process from concept album/mixtape to off-Broadway to full-fledged Broadway production.  They bring cameras in as they record the cast recording (with the help of none other than Questlove himself, NO BIGGIE OR ANYTHING.).  They also revisit the White House performance that started it all, and how Lin felt to see Obama see the final product.  (Also, Charlie gets a backstage tour!)

With all the continued buzz as the show journeys on the road to the Tonys, I think it's safe to say that, Lin, everyone's gonna know your name, what's yo naaaame?!  (Yeah, I know, I know, I had to do it.)

#Spotlight: In Conversation with... THE MIRACLE OF LONG JOHNS' David Lefkowitz

(Photo by Bill Bradford)

After a bit of a hiatus, #Spotlight is back for another round -- this time, I sit down with playwright and critic David Lefkowitz (@radiodave2 and @RabbiSolSolomon on Twitter)!  Having recently been appointed the Theater Editor of StageBuddy.com, David is also a former editor of Playbill.com and the founder of TotalTheater.com.  In his twenty-plus years' experience as a working critic, he has also published plays -- one of which includes his solo show The Miracle of Long Johns, which recently played both the 2015 Boulder Fringe Festival and the United Solo Theater Festival at the Theater Row Theater.   

Despite some (tech-)connectivity problems at the beginning, what results is a highly informative conversation (which unfortunately had to be cut short because David had to interview someone else!).  We talk about what spurned his love for theater, his play The Miracle of Long Johns, what it's like to write about your own life and act it out, and that oh-so-conniving mistress to which all us critics are beholden from time to time...The Deadline!  If you're interested in the aspects of theater that happen on the other side (insert requisite Adele "Hello" meme here) of the Fourth Wall, then you should certainly give this interview a listen.

(Sidenote: Please excuse the awkward "ums" and "likes" -- listening to it back, I realize it throws a bit of the rhythm off, so I'm definitely gonna try to work on not doing to much of that in future!)

Some more fun, Dave-related links:
The Miracle of Long Johns Official Facebook Page
Shalom, Dammit!

Monday, September 14, 2015

#QuoteOfTheMoment: Woody Allen

(via deniseesposito)

"That's all easy enough to attribute to a character in a movie, and one could make a case for that -- that the job of the artist is to show why life, despite all its horror and brutality, is worth living and is a valuable thing.  But one could also take the position that there is no job of the artist.  The artist does what the artist does.  If you make a comic movie like Duck Soup, then you're an artist there.  If you paint a pretty picture of apples in a bowl like Cezanne does, you're an artist there, and it's not the job of the artist to do anything at all -- just to make the best art that he can, because art gives pleasure and pleasure gives distraction, and distraction is the only thing that gets us by, really."

Thursday, August 6, 2015

#ScreenReview: Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal's THE WORDS (2012)

Stranger Than Fiction
Director-Auteurs Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal pay tribute to the written word by weaving their own tale of intrigue and ambition 

One of the many reasons I write about drama -- or write at all, period -- is not just because of the films and Broadway shows that I was lucky enough to be exposed to as a young girl living in New York.  Yes, I live for costume dramas and shows with spectacle, but it's always been more than that: it was always, above all else, about the storytelling behind the smoke and mirrors.  In many ways, stories are what drive us; they connect us to those long gone, bridging the gap between generations past and present.  Nowhere in modern film, apart from Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris (2011), has that idea been so strongly represented on celluloid than in Klugman-Sternthal's collaborative effort, The Words (2012).

The film -- which boasts an ensemble of stars such as Dennis Quaid (CBS's Vegas), Olivia Wilde (HerBradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook), Zoe Saldana (Star Trek: Into Darkness), Jeremy Irons (Showtime's The Borgias), to name a few -- is told in three different timelines, each one being told by the other.  At the film's opening, we see author Clay Hammond (Quaid) giving a reading of his novel, The Words.  He tells the story of Rory Jansen, an aspiring novelist played by Cooper, who struggles to get his work published.  While he struggles, living on whatever loans his working class father (J.K. Simmons, in a surprise cameo) could willingly provide.  Eventually, after many tireless attempts at courting various publishers, Rory and his wife Dora (Saldana) fall into a daily routine as live-in lovers before marrying and subsequently honeymooning in that city of cities for writers: Paris, of course.

Bradley Cooper and Zoe Saldana as Rory and Dora in 2012's The Words.
(Photo source unknown.)
It is in Paris where, after visiting his literary hero Ernest Hemingway's plaque on the Rue de Cardinal-Lemoine, Dora finds an old briefcase in an antique shop and buys it as a present for her new husband, not knowing the secret he'll eventually discover in it.  The secret, as it turns out, is an aged manuscript that seems to have been tucked away in the back pocket of the briefcase for years.    Upon finishing it, Rory is simultaneously in awe and intimidated at the words he'd just read on the page.  Before we know it, he is sitting at his desk, re-typing the words from the manuscript onto his computer because, as our narrator Hammond describes it, he "needed to feel what it was like to touch it."  With no intentions of doing anything with it, he comes homes to find Dora in tears, having read the manuscript herself on his laptop and -- ignorant of its true source -- insists that Rory take it to his publishers at once.

The story – which Rory titles The Window Tears – is published and welcomed to great fanfare as the newest literary darling, winning a plethora of awards.  It is at one of these awards ceremonies that another character in the story reveals himself: an Old Man lurking in the shadows (played by the inimitable Irons himself).  That next day, he sits down on a park bench next to Rory and starts conversation with him, feigning the role of just another fan of the young man's work.  However, behind the Old Man's affability seems to belie a different motive and sensing this, Rory starts to make his leave.  That is, until the Old Man starts to tell him a story "about a man who wrote a book and then lost it -- and the pissant kid who found it."

This grabs Rory's attention long enough to stop in his tracks, and the film heads into its third act, with the old-timer describing in detail the story from which the words in Jansen's supposed novel are derived.  Like layers of an onion, the years fall back in time to Paris in 1944, at the tail-end of the Second World War.  The Old Man is now 18 years-old, and though sent abroad as a young soldier, he never saw battle.  During this time in Paris, he not only falls in love with books and words, but also with a French woman named Celia.  What transpires afterwards is a heartbreaking series of events which finally inspires the man to finally write.

Jeremy Irons and Bradley Cooper as the Old Man and Rory Jansen.
(Photo source unknown)

Upon hearing the true story behind the words he'd paraded as his own, Rory is simultaneously awed and guilt-ridden.  After finally confessing to both Dora and his agent, Rory goes back to the man and offers him payment in kind -- which the old-timer adamantly refuses.    He advises Rory to just walk away, stating, "We all make choices in life.  The hard thing is to live with them."  The Old Man walks away, his last statement ringing in his younger counterpart's ears like the bell on a typewriter, signalling finality.

Only, it doesn't quite end there.

When we return to the world of author Clay Hammond, his audience -- grad student Daniella (Wilde) -- is left bereft at the ambiguity of the story. At one point, Hammond states: "That's it, the end.  No moral, no comeuppance, no incredible gain of knowledge other than the belief that, after making a terrible mistake in life, that one can continue to live and perhaps even live well."  Daniella is convinced that there's more truth to the fiction than the author lets on.  Perhaps he has been able to forget and write and "fool a few people," she challenges.  Or perhaps, she further ventures, "when he's alone late at night, he can't sleep, because when he closes his eyes he still sees the face of that old man."

It is through this exchange with Daniella that we realize that Hammond himself may be the troubled young author portrayed in his own story.  Suddenly, that "mask of confidence" the woman before him alluded to fades, only to reveal a tired, worn face -- perhaps one tired of hiding from the truth.  As the film finally draws to a close, he tells Daniella: "Sometimes you have to choose between life and fiction -- the two are very, very close but never actually touch."

 Nora Arnazeder and Ben Barnes as Celia and the Young Man.
(Photo via IndieWire)
As previously mentioned, this film features a cast of familiar faces, and in that regard -- as far as acting is concerned -- it does not disappoint.   Cooper delivers a compelling performance reminiscent to that of his turn in 2011's Limitless, wherein he also portrays a writer desperate for a break.  Other standouts include: Quaid, in his best Creepy Lit Professor impression; and Irons, as the spurned Old Man struggling to live with past traumas.  But perhaps the most notable performance are the two actors, Ben Barnes (The Chronicles of Narnia trilogy) and newcomer Nora Arnezeder (Paris 36), who portray the lovers Young Man and Celine, respectively, during the Paris sequence.  Their portion of the film was heartbreaking and encompassed for me a bulk of my emotional investment in the story; this is no doubt owed much to their chemistry, as well as their commitment to their roles.

The Words, just as its title implies, is a visual ode to the written word.  All obvious Hemingway references aside -- lots of obvious and not-so-obvious easter eggs abound throughout, including an actual copy of The Sun Also Rises featured in close-up at one point -- it is a provocative portrait of the fine line between reality and fiction, and how sometimes the two collide more often than we realize.  It's a daring premise that sometimes the lengths artists will go to in order to tell a story...may not have any moral tied to it, after all.

Because ultimately, it's the stories -- not us -- that go on living forever.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

#Randomosities: The "Oh, Those Summer Ni-ii-ights!" Edition (High Falsetto Singing Abilities Not Included)

(via funnyordie)

The thing about taking a "hiatus" during the summer is that a lot of interesting things start happening, even when you've already hit that sweet spot on your couch (and/or bed), laptop perfectly perched ever-so-comfortably atop your stomach, season 3 of Girls poised to be marathon'd.

Ahhhh, yes.  Summertime.

Normally, this is the point where I would go into what I've previously been calling #LINKLOVE, but what will henceforth be known as #RANDOMOSITIES.  Basically, for those unfamiliar with the blog, some bits and bobs of links pertaining to places, people and things that have piqued my interest lately.  Without further ado, here are this week's randomz:

That's it for today.  'Til then, stay cool guys (literally).


(p.s., I [finally!] posted my review of TITAN Theatre Company's ALL-FEMALE production of Othello!  Check it outttttt.)

Monday, June 1, 2015

#QuoteOfTheMoment: Haruki Murakami

"People change," Sara said. 

"True enough," Tsukuru said. "People do change. And no matter how close we once were, and how much we opened up to each other, maybe neither of us knew anything substantial about the other."

- Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage,
Haruki Murakami

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Saturday, May 30, 2015

Oh, that Sweet Refrain, or: I'm Not a Playa, I Just Crush a Lot.

I've been thinking about repetitions a lot, lately.  In fact, so much so that when I read this post by fellow writer/blogger (and unabashed wielder of feminist badassery) Christina, I was all, "YES!  SOMEBODY ELSE WHO GETS IT!"

For those who were too lazy to click on that link above, here's a little TL;DR for you.  Basically, Christina wrote about something called an anaphora poem, which she defined as:

“...the repetition of a word or expression several times within a clause or within a paragraph”. In poetry the repetition of the phrase can be just at the beginning of each line, setting the tone as a meditation or a mantra, or it can be utilized more subtlety within the poem. The poem can be free verse or prose style.”

This whole anaphora-mantra thing struck me mainly because I'd recently been trying to write a poem around the word refrain, which can mean one of two things: a) a phrase or verse that is repeated regularly in poem or song, and b), to stop yourself from doing what you want to do.  Refrain.  In response to the actual post, I told Christina:

“..anaphora sounds a bit like a prompt I’ve been toying with lately: refrain. Been trying to connect the idea of something you hear repeated in a song that moves you, with the idea of something (or someONE) you keep coming back to."

...Yeahhhhhh.  It's that kind of prompt, that thing that you need to really sink into -- even though it's already found its way to sink under your skin.  And the other day, as reality did not live up to expectations (as it is often wont to do), I finally sunk down into the music of that repetition.  Having Karen O's Crush Songs filling my ears all the while certainly did help, too.

Here, the results of the last few days.  Not sure if I'm completely happy with it, and I know it'll go through even more changes than it already has, but for now, it'll do.