Saturday, June 30, 2018

Writing Plays!

Lately I haven't been blogging (although I am working on some drafts) because I have been focusing on another type of writing. Yes, my freelance writing of course, but also tapping into my creativity...playwriting!

I've been playwriting for most of my life, but this is the first time I really felt so connected to one of my plays and feel like it can go somewhere. I think this might be the one. :D

This month, the night before the 2018 Tony Awards actually, I finished the complete first draft of a play I have been working on! It felt like such an accomplishment for me because I have been brainstorming this story since about 2012, so this has been almost a decade long project. In fact, it is going on that.

Finishing this draft made me more confident to finally improve it for a submission and even write sequels to it, which I have already started. But I need to calm down because I still need to perfect the original, which is proving to be a little difficult for me, but it is coming along.

I love how excited I feel about this play. I don't know how often I talk about this on here, but I'm often in search for something to excite me, something to look forward to working on everyday. This is proving true for my play(s). I've also deactivated my social media in order to not get distracted. This is so beneficial for both my writing and well being. Removing myself from social media helps bring myself up. (My frustrations with social media is another blog post in itself.)

I am so consumed by my plays and developing these characters that they are feeling more and more like real people. Everywhere I go I think, "Hmm. What would my characters do in this situation?"

The piece is loosely somewhat autobiographical, with the main character serving as my alter ego. I feel like the concept is very relevant to today, especially for millennials like myself, and it's also an ensemble piece, something I have always wanted to write! So I have a great feeling about this, especially because the one act I wrote not too long ago isn't really much of a success due to its nature (but there's probably a home for that too!). But I think that this new story is much better.

I am so proud of it that I'm afraid to let more people see it, although I am feeling confident enough that it might be worthy of someone else's read. Right now the only people who have read my work are some of my fellow writer lady friends. I could think something is brilliant but someone else might think it's stupid. I know my plays are going to have their critics (In fact, I welcome them.), but I'm also not prepared to share this with the masses just yet because I fear that all of my work on this will be in vain. But I do want to do something with it. I even have some people in mind for the roles!

I just love the fact that I am being so non-stop productive with my creative writing right now. Sometimes I hit hiatuses that last for too long because I either have no ideas or the ideas I have are hitting roadblocks. That's what happened with this story multiple times, hence why it has taken me a few years.  I didn't know what to do with them next, and so therefore I don't want to lose my adrenaline again now that I am facing some struggles with it again. 

'Tis the life of a writer, I guess. :)

-Stef :) 

P.S. I really like how short and sweet and to the point this blog post is. Hopefully I'll be able to deliver more like these too. I want to bring some changes to Taking it One Stef at a Time, much in part inspired by my dad's blogs (Click the link and then hover over the "BLOGS" tab). :)

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Is Nostalgia the Only Effective Marketing Scheme Nowadays?

What do "Spongebob Squarepants" (1999-present), Mean Girls (2004), The Band's Visit (2007), and Frozen (2013) all have in common?

Why, yes! They are all movies and a TV show that came out at least within the last 20 years that have gained quite the followings.

They're also all up for the Tony Award for Best Musical this year! I'm not kidding!

Let's talk about the Tony Awards! Particularly this observation (and my observations of people's reactions to these musicals).

When I first saw these nominations, my first thought was, "That's it? Surely you jest. Is there really no other new musical right now?"

But no. These are the ONLY nominees for Best Musical. Basically, there's nothing new here. They are just staged musical versions of movies. I thought at least The Band's Visit was an original idea, but nope! I was notified that this too is a pre-existed piece.

This is somewhat equivalent to the consistent popularity of books becoming movies. Now movies are becoming staged musicals.

Most specifically, in this case, nostalgic movies.

This isn't an entirely new thing, but looking back, I think this might be the first time EVERY nominee for the Best Musical Award is based on a film, hence why and how I took notice of it. Plus, these are films that I am very familiar with, so therefore at least nostalgic for me and my generation.

Nostalgic connections have been running rampant as of late. On June 15 we are getting the long awaited sequel to The Incredibles and in August we're getting a live action Disney film called Christopher Robin, with Jim Cummings voicing Pooh! And not to mention all of the TV and film remakes, revivals, and the live action adaptations of Disney franchises we are getting in the next few years!!

It seems as though Broadway is now using this same formula...

Okay, so let's check out some of the possible debates regarding this:

1) Broadway has officially run out of ideas.

We see this argument everywhere. Anytime Hollywood produces something seemingly dumb, overdone, or most commonly, unnecessary, or remakes something that was once prevalent, it's "Hollywood has officially run out of ideas." Audiences then voice their opinions about wanting to see new stories and leaving the past in the past.

Is Broadway suffering from the same ailment? It sure as heck seems like it, at least this year.

Remember, these aren't in the Best Musical Revival category. These are brand new shows.

2) Why?

I actually have been seeing this argument more than anything. Why do these movies need a staged musical adaptation to begin with? Just leave well enough alone and stop ruining our childhoods, darnit! :P

Though these shows have grown on audiences now, this wasn't always the case from my perspective. The interesting thing is, if banking on nostalgia to sell tickets is what they are going for, it initially wasn't working.

When the conception of these musicals were first announced, people reacted more like "No!" instead of "Yay!" I don't know about you, but I saw more complaints about all three even happening than anything, involving comments asking why these particular films were even chosen. "What's next?? Blah Blah Blah The Musical??"

The funny thing is that Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two, which is up for Best Play and is of course associated with the nostalgic Harry Potter series, didn't get the same dread or flack from fans. This play excited them and still does. Maybe it's because it's not a musical but rather a successor, so therefore not necessarily "ruining" anything. Maybe it's simply because it is Harry Potter.

Or maybe people just have something against musicals... Are Broadway musical versions just too corny for our precious nostalgic films?

I clearly don't know a great deal about The Band's Visit, so unfortunately I can't speak on that one as much, but let's talk about the other three.

Well, I guess I understand the issue with Frozen. The most recent of the movies, people were constantly getting tired of this film's hype. It's a musical already, but because it's a Disney movie, it already gets points against it for just following the Disney Broadway musical trend. There were objections urging to "let it go" for awhile so we can miss it and give the spot to another deserving, perhaps less prevailing, Disney film, but nope. The Frozen mania is still alive and well.

People's problems with the Spongebob Squarepants musical are similar, not only against the musical itself, but the television show as well. It is currently one of the longest running animated series of all time, so therefore viewers are starting to consider it stale and lacking the flavor it once had. Like with Frozen, for Spongebob Squarepants it's more like, "Why are they doing THIS now??" and "They're really milking this franchise for all it's worth..."

Sometimes these musicals are somewhat at a disadvantage because they aren't creations being first introduced to us but are instead rather reminiscent (and therefore nostalgic) of their source material. Thus, comparisons are inevitable. This feedback was especially frequent with the Spongebob Squarepants musical. I had some of my own same criticisms as others about that one's portrayals without even seeing it, such as the whole "But they don't look like animals! Spongebob doesn't even look like a SPONGE!" protest. But then my friend Abby, who saw it for her birthday, convinced me otherwise while we were chowing down on Applebee's after suffering through a screening of Downsizing (2017).

Spongebob Squarepants still has the same humor, sound effects, and overall tone of the TV show, with the performers impersonating the characters so well that it raises audiences' suspension of disbelief. This, according to Abby, matters much more. It's just a different take on the show.

If you think about it, this is actually surprisingly an ADVANTAGE to the Spongebob Squarepants musical as well. No one would believe that Ethan Slater is playing a sponge unless we already knew the sponge the character was based on. Otherwise, if Slater was developing this character from scratch without any original source material to fall back on, he's just a giggling guy in a yellow t-shirt and we'd ask, "Why are we supposed to believe that he is an underwater sponge?"

The Mean Girls musical receives the least amount of beef I'd say, because Mean Girls is considered a classic, especially for people my age. It resonates so much with my generation but is still so relevant in today's American society as well (There are always catty women in every generation.) with just enough changes to perhaps make it more current. Also, people just love Tina Fey.

Mean Girls can be considered the most "grown up" of the three too, and we have seen this type of show accomplished before, so why not, I guess? The style resembles Broadway's Legally Blonde the Musical, Bring It On the Musical, and especially even the Off-Broadway Heathers the Musical, all of which were pretty successful and nostalgic in their own right. Taylor Louderman (Regina George) and Barrett Wilbert Weed (Janis Sarkisian) both have experience with these other musicals (Louderman with Legally Blonde and Bring It On as lead character Campbell Davis and Weed with Heathers as lead Veronica Sawyer), so audiences probably trust them more to do a good job with this one. Also, unlike the others, we haven't really been seeing Mean Girls everywhere throughout the years to the point where now seeing a musical version of it would bother us. This is the only one of the four that never had musical numbers before, so this is a new path for the story altogether.

Producing these shows in innovative ways gives them new structure instead of just copying the original movies. Theater is always going to be a different medium from film anyway. The musicals have the same tones to draw us in but they also offer something fresh.

The only musical that doesn't do this for me much is Frozen. Aside from a few new songs and some diverse casting, it doesn't really seem that much different from the movie. But there is also the criticism that the actresses playing Elsa and Anna, Caissie Levy and Patti Murin, don't look age appropriate for their characters. (Then again, I've seen this complaint for Mean Girls as well...) Otherwise, the approach looks pretty exact, down to the color schemes and costume design.

BUT, why SHOULD everything change just because it's onstage instead of onscreen? There are probably audiences that would prefer not many alterations anyway too so that they can connect the musicals to the films that much easier. I don't mind it. However, I will say that I love Janis's hairstyle in the Mean Girls musical much more than in the film.

Like I said, constant comparisons. But that's not really a bad thing.

However, this all being said, with these shows now moving onto performances and music distributions, more people seem to be jumping on board the nostalgic Broadway musical train. The shows are gauging plenty of approval now, and hey, they're now all up for Tony Awards. Maybe nostalgia does have something to do with it in a positive way.

The only thing is that none of them are really groundbreaking like the past couple of Best Musical Award winners Hamilton (2016) and Dear Evan Hanson (2017), which is seemingly a requirement to obtain this particular achievement. Instead, these are all just feel good, fun musicals that reinvent well known characters and stories. But maybe that's okay. My friends are pleased with them, stating that as long as they are good musicals, they deserve this acknowledgment.

Regardless of this blog post, I'm not complaining myself here. I would love to see all of them. This is just a trend that I felt was worth discussing. I'm excited to even write this because I feel so qualified enough to do so, partially because I am indeed very knowledgeable about the initial films.

By the way, isn't it cool how they are all kinda color coded? Mean Girls, Frozen, Spongebob Squarepants, The Band's Visit.

As for my Tony Award predictions, I think Spongebob Squarepants is actually going to be the one to take the trophy home considering how uniquely they reimagine the cartoon and it has been a family favorite of many for years. Mean Girls is my close second choice, Frozen is "meh" to me in regards to winning everything, and unfortunately, The Band's Visit doesn't stand a chance simply because I never really hear about that one as much, which is interesting because I am now seeing that it is up for 11 nominations as opposed to Frozen's three.

What do you think?

The New York Times Reviews:

'Spongebob Squarepants'

'Mean Girls'


'The Band's Visit'

The 2018 Tony Awards airs on Sunday, June 10 at 8/7c EDT on CBS.

Monday, April 30, 2018

I'm Extremely Heartbroken and Angry Over "Digimon Adventure Tri." and Now I'm Here to Complain About It.

(I have since calmed down a bit about the following, but I am still disappointed and not pleased. Here are my thoughts about this that I have been working on throughout the month of April.)

I would normally say beware of spoilers if you haven't watched or heard about what happened in this, but frankly I am so annoyed about it that I don't even care.

But seriously though, I guess beware of spoilers here.

There's a lot to not like about this series, but this is the part that hit me the most. I felt the need to write this because I feel alone in my misery.

I can't believe I want to cry over an anime. That is so not me. But hey, it's "Digimon".

Before "So You Think You Can Dance" took over as my television obsession when I was 16, there was "Digimon".

"Digimon Adventure" was an anime that eventually came out as an English dub in America in 1999, so this was my thing during my late childhood, early preteen years. I was about 10 years old, let's say. I talked about this a bit when detailing my childhood friendships.

This show has gone through many incarnations, but my favorite will always be the absolute first season (aka the only season that really matters) with the original eight DigiDestined, Tai, Matt, Sora, Izzy, Mimi, Joe, T.K., and Kari. Given that I was their age when the show came out, it's like I grew up with them. As I age, they age, so that's pretty cool. This is unique to "Digimon" because it's very rare to watch animated characters age through time. I had a lot of "Digimon" merchandise regarding these characters growing up and the show influenced a lot of my creativity that I still have today. For example, I too tend to create large ensembles of characters with my own writing. :P

I'm actually surprised that I haven't blogged about this show more. I plan on sharing some more "Digimon" material on here in the future. :)

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Stef's Female Friendships, Women's History Month 2018

These recollections of the female friendships I have made throughout my life are some of my favorite blog posts that I have ever written. They took me a couple of years to prepare because I wanted to make sure they were right, so I feel extra accomplished having finally published them all. Here they all are now in one blog post! :)

My Early Childhood Friends

My Childhood Friends

My High School Friends

My College Friends

My Adult Friends

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Stef's Female Friendships - My Adult Friends

I'm posting this one now because it's Holy Week and I don't want to blog on Good Friday.

I refer to this group as my more recent set of friends because I met them gradually toward the end of my college life and then we stayed in touch after graduation. Like me, they too are writers. I met plenty of female writers during my college and adult life, forming a community with them, but these are the girls with whom I correspond the most. I also graduated the same class from Montclair State University with most of them. Unfortunately I don't have a group shot of us all for this blog post. lol

The following women have all attended Literally! writing group meetings that I have hosted and give me great, helpful feedback regarding my writing. I am thankful that I feel at ease sharing my pieces with them.

One of the first times Kacie and I hung out
I consistently refer to my best friend Kacie as my right hand woman. We're usually always on the same page about things and hang out quite often. We met towards the end of college but corresponded earlier on Facebook. In my sophomore year, I saw her in an opera on MSU's campus called Albert Herring, which I actually blogged about in the past. I somehow found her Facebook page, reached out to her, and shared my blog with her. Then we kept in touch. Eventually we found a way to meet each other face to face and the rest was history. She is a family-oriented only child like myself, so I believe we bonded over this, and we have a lot in common.

Kacie is very kind, patient, understanding, and always there for me, and like Abby, I feel like I can always go to her without receiving any judgment. Anytime I am upset about something, I seek advice from her and she automatically makes me feel better and calmer with her perspectives. I feel comfortable with her.

Kacie is definitely who I would call my creative friend. She is a music teacher but also a singer/songwriter and musician. We have the same artistic goals and are constantly encouraging each other's work.

I met my friend Lindsay (not pictured because we haven't taken a photo together lol) on a Montclair State University Facebook group. She was a fellow English major graduating a year or two before me asking for suggestions on another course to take to finally reach the credits in order to graduate. I commented on her post, recommending theater classes (of course), and then the two of us started talking from there. I would sometimes visit her at her job on campus and we also attended another writing group meeting together. That was fun. :) I also like her unique sense of humor. lol

I consider Lindsay one of my most logical friends. She contributes advice to the business side of things and gives me a taste of reality. It's nice to have a companion who knows the technicalities of a lot of things, particularly the freelancing life. That's true too. Lindsay is a fellow freelancer like myself, but while I mainly do journalism, she does more copywriting.

Next is Evaline. I actually met her through Bonnie! Although she was not a broadcasting major, she and Bonnie took a broadcasting class together called "Electronic Journalism". Evaline needed writers to interview for a video project for this class and so naturally Bonnie thought of me and I agreed to it.

Here is the final product.

Since then Evaline and I have stayed connected. A creative writer herself, at one point she said to me that if I ever needed a writing partner, she was available. So then, as a result, I invited her to Literally! meetings and she, along with Kacie and Lindsay, was one of the group's initial members and participants.

She is always such a kind, sweet, patient, and grateful person.

Finally there is Sashel. I met Sashel, and a bunch of other fellow writers with whom I still keep in contact, in my Intro to Fiction Writing class my senior year at MSU. I always thought that she was very quiet, but it turns out that she is actually very bubbly and outgoing once you get to know her. She is always laughing and smiling. Like many of my friends, I see her as my religious, spiritual friend as well. She incorporates plenty about God and strength in her written work and I appreciate this trait.

She's a delight. ;)

And for some reason, she and I have bonded over our mutual love of food... Random, but yes. lol

So, there you have it! My Women's History Month blog project "Stef's Female Friendships" is complete for this year! To all of the women that I have wrote about in this series (or not), thank you for being positive influences in my life. Happy Women's History Month! :)