There was a time when I wished the brooding, cape-wearing dudes of my favorite novels would hit me up on my Nokia 5110 (that time, of course, was 1999). But you know what? Those guys were jerks. So Happy Vday from your favorite jerks of classic literature, and me of course (and also Jane Austen, Daphne du Maurier, Shakespeare, Tennessee Williams, Gaston Leroux, and the Brontës).
Do 3 pages of being pretty nice and having a great house make up for 300 pages of being kind of a dick? I definitely used to think so.
The amount you are into Edward Rochester is directly proportional to the amount of daddy issues you have.
What's Working and What Could Be Next by David Brush, Librettist/Lyricist
If the Rob Marshall-directed (and Oscar-Winning) adaptation of Kander & Ebb’s Chicago re-ignited the return of the big screen musical, then NBC can safely be credited with leading the charge for the live television musical theatre event. Although I would argue Baz Lurhman’s Moulin Rouge is really to thank, there is no denying that everyone is throwing their hat in the ring. Fox (who also successfully re-invented the musical TV series with Glee) recently offered their own take on Grease – and rumor has it CBS, ABC and other networks are considering similar options. Here is what seems to working:
NUMBERS. NUMBERS. NUMBERS. - There is no denying the Nielsens. Love it or hate it, people ARE tuning in AND in pretty impressive numbers. NBC has never been a network to hang on to programming that wasn’t performing in the reports the following morning. So NBC’s recent announcement that their 4th live musical event (this time it’s Hairspray) will return for Christmas 2016 is a good sign that things are looking up. Fox’s Grease Live! – taking a very different approach that NBC - also proved successful and will follow next year with (the pre-taped) Rocky Horror Show. This trend will either prove to be an annual must-watch OR become quickly over-saturated and burn itself out. Only time (and numbers) will tell.
THE RIGHT PEOPLE - Both NBC and FOX thus far have realized that in order to do the material and the projects justice, they have to rely on seasoned theatre professionals both in front of and behind the cameras. Even the celebrities they sign have been carefully selected because of their previous musical work. Yet, for every Vanessa Hudgens in Grease, there is a Christopher Walken in Peter Pan. Casting will continue to make or break these projects on an individual basis.
THE LIVE AUDIENCE DEBATE – After Fox’s Grease Live! aired, NBC was condemned for not using a live audience. NBC (and its live musical producers) argues that in wanting to honor the original heyday of the television musicals, a live audience flies in the face of history. I would argue that they are both right. Fox is doing what Fox does best and the same goes with NBC. The debate only means that people are talking – and caring. It also means people will continue to tune in – compare and contrast as they may – they are still watching.
THE RIGHT SHOWS – Everyone wants their favorite show to be performed live on a major network. And everyone has their dream cast lined up. Either way, these networks HAVE to cater to audiences beyond musical theatre die hards. And so far, they are doing just that. I, for one, have never been a huge fan of either The Wiz or Grease, but I recognize how important those selections were for both networks in appealing to audiences. TV audiences are not likely to turn in huge viewing numbers on a lesser known or even original musical – just yet! The groundwork that is being laid could – if handled carefully – lead to that – but for now – let’s celebrate and be aware of what is happening: a Broadway musical is being performed LIVE on national television for crowd numbers Broadway would kill for. And Broadway is reaping some of the benefit. I’ll take it!
So what’s next? With the recent launch of BroadwayHD, PBS’s Fall Arts Festival programming amazing shows, and the success of the new musical series Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, it is only a matter of time before Netflix, Hulu and other major streaming services will jump on the bandwagon. NBC launched the idea, Fox took the reins with edgier material that NBC simply cannot do with their audiences, so the logical next step for me is Netflix. I am excited to see what might be next. With Grease Live! and The Wiz, a new gauntlet has been thrown – let the race begin.
The only way I know how - EATING A LOT By Jennifer Lin (Music Director)
Happy slightly belated Lunar New Year! I'm glad that NY is finally letting its students celebrate by giving them the day off, and am also jealous that I never got any holiday time when I was younger. So, to make myself feel better, here are a some excuses to eat Chinese food for the next couple of days (to celebrate)!
Dumplings Dumplings are often shaped like the little gold ingots that were used as currency in ancient China, so they're eaten to encourage windfall in the new year. If you're feeling fancy, you can try making them yourself. Or, here's an excellent dumpling crawl through L.A.'s San Gabriel Valley where you can stuff yourself at nine different locations.
Gold is pretty to look at, but not so nice to eat. These dumplings, on the other hand... (Sources: 1, 2)
Fish The Chinese word for "fish" (魚) sounds like the word for "surplus" (余). There's a greeting in Chinese that translates to "may you have a surplus every year", but also sounds like "may you have fish every year". Thus, eating fish is thought to bring good luck in all aspects. The fish should be served with its head and tail intact, so as to encourage a strong start and finish to the year.
Noodles Thought to symbolize the length of one's life, eating noodles during the new year is encouraged as long (unintentional and slightly unavoidable pun) as the noodles are not cut short. The longer, the better! As my favorite kind of Chinese noodles are the ones in Taiwanese beef stew, here's a list of the top bowls around L.A., so you can eat your way to a longer (and fuller) life. Happy eating and monkeying around in the new year!
One of my favorite beef stew noodle places, Bull Demon King Cafe. Image sourced from my own Instagram because why not.
JENNIFER LINhas very emotional connections to inanimate objects and is obsessed with polka dots. She works in and around Los Angeles as a music director/teacher, which means she drives way too much, drinks a lot of tea, and is constantly eating. EMAIL HER | INSTAGRAM | TWITTER | OTHER POSTS BY THIS AUTHOR
When is a renewal not a renewal? When it's a junior version of its former self. Behold the future of So You Think You CanDance. By Owen Panettieri (playwright, lyricist)
There's a scene in the second act of the musical Into the Woods where the characters are facing a very angry giant who wants revenge on Jack for killing her husband. Jack's not there and the other characters have to figure out what to do. The Witch suggests they give her one of Cinderella's blind and hobbled step sisters. Cinderella's Stepmother protests. The witch rationalizes, saying, "Put them out of their misery!" The girls respond with a deadpan: We're not that miserable. This is how I've come to think the programmers at Fox have come to deal with my beloved So You Think You Can Dance which has gone through an amazing amount of changes over the past few seasons. It always escapes cancellation, but at heavy costs to format and content. I have begun screaming, "Put them out of their misery!" but Fox still responds, "We're not that miserable."
But aren't we? Over the past few years we've seen the cancellation of the Results Show, several seasons with unnecessary double winners, the horribly misguided Justin Bieber-led dance crew competition sandwiched into the audition rounds of Season 11, the dumping of Ballroom expet Mary Murphy for Paula Abdul and Jason Derulo in season 12's Stage vs. Street edition (which also dumped much of ballroom) and endless changes to the set and lighting. At least Cat Deeley was always there to help us absorb it all. I always tried to give the changes to SYTYCD a chance, but they always seemed to be trying to fix a problem the show simply did not have. At its core, it's always been about amazingly talented dancers becoming stronger artists week after week. That's why we tuned in.
…sometimes you have to stop and let yourself be. By Kathleen Choe (actor/singer/writer)
It’s a cold and rainy January morning. I’ve just finished a hard-core, no wussies allowed workout:
Think you're a hard core because you do Cross Fit? Two words: Brooklyn Bodyburn. Go for it.
Usually after an hour of this class--if I’m lucky enough to snag a Classpass spot—I’m invigorated and feel like I can whoop King Kong or take over a small nation, whichever comes first.
Not today. Today it’s just left me just cranky and tired. That and the ankle support part of my no-nonsense weather boot:
Through rain or sleet or snow or hail...I will cut you.
is digging into my left ankle.
I grit my teeth and walk on, determined to do the 35 minute walk back to my house to get in my required amount of steps for the day. A faulty boot is not going to stop me.
A faulty boot which I paid $200 for.
I’m getting angrier and angrier. It’s cold and wet out, and I’m exhausted. That combined with the sticky-inny ankle support part of the boot that’s gouging its way into the soft part above my left ankle is just symbolic of all the road blocks that seem to be popping up in my life as of late. Auditions, day jobs, life, rejections.
I breathe. Remember to be grateful. You can walk. You’re healthy. You’re…
I scowl. Fuck that shit. I am not in the mood.
I trudge on, miserable but resigned to make the 45 minute walk home in pain. Then suddenly I see a storefront in my peripheral vision:
Michael’s Shoe and Watch Repair
I stop. For some reason the storefront speaks to me. I don’t know why. Maybe because it looks like it’s been part of the neighborhood for a zillion years. Maybe it’s the neon sign in the window, or the the many coats of lacquered black paint that have been put on the trim, or the glass windows with ancient shoes and even more ancient repair machines on display.
Give yourself a break.
I stand on the sidewalk across from the store and weigh the options. Where do I have to be? Home, working.
I’m always working. Five minutes out of my life to see if they can fix this boot.
I can spare that.
I pop my head into the store. Directly to my left is a glass counter full of watches with an elderly man leaning on it, wearing a yarmulke and watching a Russian movie on his iPad. Directly in front of me is another man with no yarmulke, watching his companion’s IPad from behind his respective counter.
I explain my dilemma, unlace my boot, and hand it over to man sans yarmulke. He looks at it, turns it over, places his hand inside.
“This part, here?” he says.
“Yes. It keeps sticking into my ankle.” My eyes wander down to my sock, which I push aside to look at the angry red welt that has formed on my leg. It suddenly occurs to me I’ll probably have to leave the boot here and then how the hell am I going to get home with one boot which means I’ll have to go back home and get another pair of shoes and then come all the way back here with the boot which means more time out of my day oh ughhhh it’s always something…
“All you need is a heel lift.”
I blink. “Huh?”
“Here,” he walking around the counter to where I’m standing and pulling a package off a hanging rack. He pauses, places them back, scans the display, and takes one off another hook. “Let me give you black. It will match the inside of the boot.”
I smile. No one is going to see the inside of the boot except me, but it’s nice that he cares.
He places one inside the left boot. “Try and see if it works, first.”
I lace on the boot and walk around, and…
…no pain. The sticky-inny ankle support part is now in the right place. More importantly, it is not sticking into my ankle.
My face brightens. “That’s all it is? This is amazing.”
The man smiles at me. I smile back. The sound of the Russian movie is playing in the background. I glance over at the screen of the iPad, on which there’s a group of men looking very serious standing around the table. Suddenly one of the serious looking men on screen gets shot.
The two men in the store laugh. I gasp.
The man with the yarmulke looks at me. “You speak Russian?”
“I wish,” I say, smiling.
“Give me the other boot,” says the shoe man. “I will put them in for you, so you are not walking lopsided.”
$10 and two heel lifts later, I pop out of the store. I’m not in pain anymore, but screw walking home. I’m going to take the subway.
The one going in the wrong direction, which I found out three stops into my ride.
Audition Season makes Morning People of Us All By Sam Perwin
A few months ago, I wrote a piece about my staunch refusal to be a morning person despite the pressures of society, and the fact that I'm getting older and want to go to bed early (for me, that means before midnight, just to be clear). Then mid-February rolls around and every day offer an opportunity to audition for some of the best regional Summer-Stock theaters in the country. That means early mornings no matter what. I've found that generally speaking, the magic time to arrive is around 8:30. No matter how crowded the EPA, if you get there before or at 8:30, you'll most likely get an appointment time. I've been wrong before in both ways - either been shut out or shown up early to a no-line situation. But depending on my day (i.e., do I have to be dressed and ready to be somewhere by 10?), that probably means I'm getting around 7 or 7:30.
Now, I realize for normal humans that have to be at work by 9, that doesn't seem early at all. Similarly, I need to check my privilege here because I live in Hell's Kitchen which is basically walking distance from most audition studios. I have nothing to complain about on this front. The purpose of this post, on the other hand, is merely to marvel at the city before 8am. Particularly my neighborhood. These days, Hell's Kitchen is known mostly for bars, restaurants, and gay people - all known to be creatures of the night. In contrast, 9th Ave is one of the gateways to the Lincoln Tunnel, and is therefore always a traffickey mess from about 2pm to 8pm. In the early morning, though, it's blissfully empty. Almost eerily so. Yes, people are going to work and walking their dogs, etc., but it feels peaceful and almost suburban. There are barely any cars; the sun casts long shadows across town from the East Side; it's beautiful.
A trainer at MFF, Mr. Wonderful, Geoff Hemingway, suggested something in a class I took a while ago: he suggested that we start the day with at least 10 minutes of absolute silence in the morning. No TV, no radio, no computer, no phone for at least 10min when you get up in the morning. Just silence. I think it was sort of a gateway to meditation - something I've been very eager/terrified to add to my routine. Getting up early for auditions has really helped me appreciate the quietness of the morning, especially in my endlessly busy/noisy neighborhood. When I was doing The Artist's Way a few years ago, I found the ritual of Morning Pages to be almost meditative by the end. Maybe it's time for some morning mediation after I get back to sleeping in.
Part one of a series on art, artists, anxiety, and antidepressants. by Meghan Stanton
Wellbutrin is one of several trade names for the anti-depressant bupropion hydrochloride, and it is the one printed in bold, blocky letters on the side of my pill bottle. It is among the most frequently prescribed anti-depressants in the United States because of its relative lack of side-effects.
Relative being the key term.
Common side-effects of Wellbutrin include: anxiety, irregular heartbeats, shaking, shortness of breath, insomnia, nausea, weight loss, pharyngitis (sore throat), dizziness, headache, constipation, and xerostomia (dry mouth).
In some cases, patients experience constant buzzing or ringing in their ears, blurred vision, a change in their sense of taste, debilitating migraines, and hives or itching. (One drug fact website I looked at while doing this research also listed "unusual feeling of wellbeing" as a potentially harmful side-effect. Which seems counter-intuitive.)
In rare cases, bupropion causes persistent confusion, delusions, paranoia, hallucinations, and severe seizures; people with epilepsy or other seizure-inducing disorders are never prescribed wellbutrin because of that last one.
Hey, girl, I can see from your racing pulse and shallow breathing and trembling hands that you're excited to see me, and- okay, no, nevermind you should definitely go to the hospital.
When I started taking Wellbutrin, I was already on my way to recovery. I was no longer trapped in a thick miasma of apathy and anxiety. I was, however, very, very tired. All of the time. Getting out of bed remained a challenge, simple errands like going to the bank seemed insurmountable. I would say I was completing an average of one task a day. Which was a very slow going-rate for rebuilding a life.
But by this time, I had finally landed in therapy with a psychiatrist I liked and trusted, which made all the difference.
My anxieties around medication were fairly common ones, I think:
I felt like I was giving up. Taking medicine felt like admitting that I was broken, weak, pathetically incompetent at living.
I worried about side-effects. Most antidepressants cause weight gain and smother sexual impulses, neither of which would do anything to heal my crippled self-esteem.
Finally, and most critically, I was convinced that my pain was my art. Sure, writing was like pulling teeth at times, and cutting through my own emotional sludge to act caused a blind fatigue to hover around my eyes for the rest of the day. But I was still doing it. I was still capable of creativity, of production, and I clung to the faint echoes of my talent like a barnacle to a ship.
Hadn't I always known it would be like this? The romantic notion of the doomed, brilliant artist. Men and women who lived fast and died young and left behind blazing canons of work. One white-hot blast of perfection and then gone. And wasn't I giving up my chance, putting out my fire, with this little white pill?
John Keats, at work on a new poem: Ode to the one with long hair, who does not care.
My therapist at the time, wonderful, insightful, and intelligent as she was, didn't know the answer to that question. She was frank with me, describing potential dosages and dangers, and how her husband - a writer - had been unable to produce anything for a few months until his doctors hit upon the correct cocktail of drugs. After a lot of hemming, hawing, and hedging, I agreed to give the meds a try.
After I filled my first prescription, I went home and obsessively read through the small but thick booklet filled with miniscule print that came with my bottle. I read about side-effects. I read that it might help me quit smoking (it didn't). I read it from cover to cover three times, put it down, and took my first non-recreational brain-altering substance.
My brain, my art, and my life are better because of that decision. I am one of the lucky ones. The side-effects I experience - shaky hands, increased anxiety, trouble sleeping, and lack of appetite - come and go. Sometimes they are severe, but mostly they are mild and manageable and I can get things done again. I maintain a calendar and move through to-do lists and balance three jobs: all things I was completely incapable of doing seven months ago. My medication isn't everything, wasn't even a central instrument of my recovery, but the physical and emotional stamina it gives me is definitely worth the occasional bout of dry-mouth.
Meghan Stanton is a writer and actor from Baltimore city.