Wednesday, December 25, 2013

One of my Favorite Christmas Special Moments - The Church Scene from "Home Alone"

Plenty of Christmas specials have memorable moments. There's the love story between Rudolph and Clarice, The Grinch's heart growing three sizes Christmas Day, Ebenezer Scrooge's sheer happiness when he discovers that he has not missed Christmas, George Bailey running through the streets wishing people a Merry Christmas, and of course, Linus's brilliant speech about what Christmas is all about.

But then there are the ones that aren't talked about too much or even noticed. One that comes to mind is the church scene from Home Alone (1990). This movie is about a little boy named Kevin, played by Macaulay Culkin, who is accidentally left behind at home when his family goes away for Christmas vacation. Thereafter, while the family is away, it is up to him to protect his home from a pair a burglars.

However, the part I really love involves the subplot, which concerns Kevin's fear of his neighbor, Old Man Marley, played by the late Robert Blossom, because of rumors about him and Marley's scary old man demeanor. Towards the middle/end of the movie, Kevin goes to sit in a church and ends up meeting a rather friendly Marley there, thus easing his fear of him. Marley explains that the rumors about him aren't true, but that he does have an estranged relationship with his son and the only way he can see his granddaughter is by watching her perform in the church choir, which is singing in the scene. Kevin suggests that Marley should patch things up with his son, which he eventually does in the final scene with Kevin watching from his window and the two wave at each other.

In a movie where everything is pretty much slapstick crazy, this church scene is a nice juxtaposition to the rest of the film. It's nice to see a Christmas movie have a spiritual vibe, an acknowledgement for the reason of the season, no matter how brief. It's kind of rare to see religion and spirituality even mentioned in Christmas specials, oddly enough.

Mass isn't even taking place in the scene. Very few people are in the church at the time, the lights are dim, and it is very peaceful and quiet. It shows how welcoming the church is, that you can walk in at any time and just sit there to have one on one time with God. It reminds me of church during the Christmas season in real life and even brings back some of my childhood memories involving church and Christmas.

Another thing that is so great about this scene is that at church Kevin gains a better understanding of his so-called enemy and ultimately a friend (Marley plays a huge part later on in helping Kevin when he is in trouble), therefore suggesting that God is involved.

Isn't that part of what Christmas is all about? Looking beyond differences and fear and just loving one another? In the midst of all the slapstick and humor, this movie manages to teach valuable lessons about having Christmas spirit as well in a serious, well done way.

I unfortunately couldn't find a decent clip of the scene to include in this, but I definitely think you should check it out.

Merry Christmas, everyone! :)

Friday, November 15, 2013

Great News to Share!!!

I got published in Baristanet!!! And what is it? A review of a Montclair State University Department of Theatre and Dance production!!!!

This is what I've been wanting all summer! I've wanted a job that would let me write about MSU's shows professionally since before I even graduated because I was leaving The Montclarion, and after searching for so long I finally found one! This is my very first post graduation theater review.

Thank you so much to the editor, Liz George, for giving me this awesome opportunity!

Okay. Let me calm down a little bit.

The play is A Streetcar Named Desire, which I expressed in a previous post that I was interested in seeing, and I did.

Here is my review. Enjoy. :D

Friday, October 11, 2013

Sexual Healing in the Octavio Solis Play, "Lydia"

A couple of weeks ago today in the L. Howard Fox Studio Theater at MSU I saw a play reading of Octavio Solis's Lydia performed by MSU's Acting majors for the New Play Festival. It is about a brain damaged teenage girl named Ceci Flores. The play explains how this happened to her while also showing how it has affected her bilingual Mexican immigrant family living in El Paso, Texas. She wasn't born this way, but I'm not going to spoil you by telling you why and how it happened. The audience hears her inner thoughts, but outwardly to the rest of the characters she is in a semi-vegetative state and doesn't speak. Ceci's mother, Rosa, hires a non-American maid from Mexico, Lydia, to help take care of her daughter when she is out to work.

I actually read Lydia for my first theater class in my first semester at MSU and the play reading was directed by the professor of that class.

When I first read the play a few questions rose for me and the live play reading rose the same questions and even more.


For instance,

The maid sleeps with Claudio, apparently a few times. Why?

This part came out of nowhere to me when I first read it. Claudio, Ceci's father, is mainly an angry guy and is pretty much abusive to everybody but Ceci, so Lydia tells him off for both accounts. Then she straddles him on his chair IN FRONT OF CECI.

It seems to add nothing to the plot or have anything to do with Ceci's story, so why is it there?

After seeing it performed, it made more sense to me and I realized that it was included in the play for not just one reason, but three:

1) Claudio misses Mexico - This idea came to me at the end of the reading through one of Rosa's lines when Claudio asks where Lydia is and she confronts him about his infidelity indirectly. She says something like, "You miss Mexico that much?" as if to mean, "Then go back." Claudio doesn't sleep with Lydia because he has an unsatisfying sex life with Rosa. We don't see them ever interact romantically, but if this were the issue she would've probably included this in her confrontation, unless she was too scared to. The real reason he cheats is that he misses the homeland he abandoned, appears clearly miserable in America, and Lydia, being the only character not an American citizen but a Mexican one, gives him the little connection he has to his home. A good majority of Claudio's lines are in Spanish, which makes this argument more evident.

Ceci states in her opening monologue that Rosa pretty much dragged Claudio to America with her. Rosa is "clerk for the County" and Claudio a short order cook. Claudio could have animosity towards his wife for these reasons, so perhaps romance with her isn't that satisfying after all.

2) Lydia's sexual conquests mirror Ceci's sexual desires - Ceci makes it no secret that she desires sexual contact. When I read the play I thought that the Claudio and Lydia sex was real, but the play reading made me question it. Ceci recites one of her inner monologues during this point and starts off by saying "I dream..." making me think that Ceci imagines this instead of it actual happening. During the play Ceci looks up to Lydia as her caretaker, so it would make sense to have Lydia perform the sexual acts that Ceci is imagining, as if she is experiencing sex through her. It would also explain why it happens right in the room with her.

But then future lines and scenes prove that this actually did occur, more than once, so this theory isn't very plausible but more disturbing considering that it is done in the same room as Ceci in reality.

Even so, why would Ceci imagine Lydia having sex with her FATHER though? Is it because her sexual life is that warped?

This kind of suggests that she is sexually attracted to her father, though this idea is never really explored much nor does it seem important to the plot. I didn't really want to go here because not only is it disturbing, I thought this was the only clue. However, while rereading part of the play, I came across an earlier scene when Ceci has a flashback (or it could be happening in real time) of her father singing to her and giving her a pair of pearl earrings as she "sleeps." Thereafter she asks "Oh what is this yearning inside? What does it mean?" It turns out that later on she discovers she just wants sex. Perhaps this is some kind of Electra Complex (female version of the Oedipus Complex).

3) It gives Rosa motivation to get rid of her - Ceci's love interest and cousin Alvaro patrols the border so he comes to take Lydia away. For the entire play Rosa and Lydia are friends and Rosa even offers to help Lydia get American citizenship. However, once Rosa finds out that Lydia has been sleeping with her husband, all of this goes out the window and she doesn't hesitate in letting him take her away. Chances are if the sex didn't happen or was revealed, Lydia would still be there with them.

Let's talk briefly about how Ceci is in love with her cousin.

Okay so Ceci is in love with her cousin Alvaro, which is actually a catalyst for plenty of the action in the play. Perhaps nowadays this wouldn't make sense or not be widely accepted, but the play takes place in the seventies. Back in older days it was more acceptable to marry your cousin, so this point isn't as far-fetched.

But basically the entire story surrounds the fact that Ceci just wants to have an orgasm.

Sure she is in "love" with Alvaro, but even Ceci herself towards the beginning proclaims the real truth: "I'm just horny!" Even though she is brain damaged, she still has the human sexual desire. As she dances with her cousin in one of the scenes, she apparently urinates. However, this is not how I see it. What she releases to me is the moisture of her sexual excitement, perhaps mixed with urination.

She finally does climax (or rather I think she does) in the final scene...


... and then she dies, which tells me that this was her goal the entire time. Right after it finally happens for the only time in her life, she is okay with giving up her spirit. Think about it. She dies through sexual pleasure and puts herself out of her misery with sexual healing. Maybe that was her plan all along! Maybe she actually wanted to die after climaxing!

In the final scene of the play Ceci puts her brother Miguel's (referred to as "Misha" by the rest of the characters) hand down her pants and he...masturbates her.

Let's recap this. First she's connecting sex to her father, then she connects sex to her cousin, now she connects sex to her brother. There's a pattern here.

During these few moments Ceci puts a pull tab in her mouth and swallows it.

But here's the thing...

Did Ceci commit suicide intentionally or was it an accident?

When I read the play I thought it was intentional to put herself out of her misery, and I actually thought that Misha did the same thing with her, but the way it was performed in the play reading made me think otherwise.

What takes place in the earlier scenes of the play is the "Chekhov's Gun" principle. This is based on a playwriting device utilized by Russian playwright Anton Chekhov. What it means is that if you see a gun in the first act, chances are it will be used by the third or fourth act. It's basically a foreshadowing technique.

The same rule is somewhat incorporated in Lydia. We see pull tabs plenty of times throughout the play as the family often drinks canned soda, beer, and place them in plain view. Claudio even throws one out of frustration. I remember them constantly mentioned in the script when I read it too. If you are familiar with Chekhov's rule, or the play itself, you know something is going to eventually happen with these pull tabs considering you keep seeing them. Other foreshadowing is that Misha looks inside of Ceci's mouth in the first scene of the play for no reason and Ceci puts other characters' hands down her pants in other early scenes. There is even a time in an early scene when Rosa shows concern that Ceci would cut herself with the pull tab Claudio drops on the floor, so she enlists Misha to pick it up.

So she puts a pull tab in her mouth as her brother masturbates her so it could be assumed that she did it on purpose. However, we must remember than she is a brain damaged girl that sometimes lives in a different realm than the rest do. Also, when a person is in a sexual ecstatic state, he or she may not think clearly then either. So technically Ceci is not in her right frame of mind for not one reason but two. She could've very well put her the pull tab in her mouth and swallowed out of sexual excitement and not thinking about what she is doing. Or maybe she is just so turned on in this scene that she put the pull tab in her mouth on purpose just for the dangerous sexual excitement it can produce.

On a side note, think about this too. This must've really messed up Misha pretty badly. This is how the play ends so we don't know how he reacts to this. Not only was he performing sexual acts on his SISTER, but she also dies afterward. How is he supposed to explain this to his family? Claudio beats him up earlier in the play for claiming to put a certain plot important dress on Ceci, so what's to stop him from doing it again? How is Misha supposed to live with himself after this?

So why is the play named after Lydia anyway?

Ceci is clearly the main character of the play. Everything circles around her. She obviously is the one that should have the title's namesake.

I questioned this when I first read the play and it still remains a mystery to me now. But let me take a crack at this. Maybe it's because Lydia is a catalyst for some action in the play, she helps unravel some family secrets, she brings change to the characters, she's a connection to Mexico, ...?

Here's something I don't understand about Lydia at all. Every time Ceci mumbles or shrieks something, Lydia is able to translate it into English for the rest of the characters with no problem. Nobody else understands how she has this ability, and frankly neither do I. She claims that she has something in common with Ceci, that the two of them share something, which kind of suggests to me that maybe Lydia's brain experienced some kind of trauma itself in the past. Whatever the reason, it is never really explained.

However, after analyzing while writing this piece, I think I got it.

Lydia represents Ceci's sexual self in the flesh simply because Ceci's sexual self is now only in her mind. From what I can tell, Ceci's only exposure to men in her life have been her father, her cousin, and her two brothers. The seemingly incest feelings she seems to have for these men isn't necessarily as disturbing when explained. It's just all Ceci knows. Since they are they only men she knows and quite possibly has seen in her life, this explains why they are the only men that are featured in her sexual feelings, fantasies, and activities.

It just so happens that these are the men who connect to Lydia sexually. Ceci's brother Rene has a sexual background that influences Ceci's life as well, but I'm not talking about him because his sexual self is a pivotal part of the conflict and twist. Rene lusts after Lydia, Misha falls in love with her, and Claudio has sex with her. Ceci observes all of this while her heart still yearns for Alvaro. Lydia experiences the sexual events that Ceci herself wants to experience, so that's why the two have such a connection.

You know, I didn't really want to do this since I feel like I always look at things through this criticism, but I have to say it again: Lydia is a feminist play. And it is one simply because Ceci, for a brain damaged young woman, is able to tap into her sexual feelings and take at least some control (depending on how you look at it) of both her sexuality and death by combining the two. After being dependent on everyone, especially Lydia, throughout the play, she finally takes matters into her own hands...and Misha's.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Reasons Why it Actually Makes Sense that Cris is the "Whodunnit?" Killer

At first I thought it was a joke.

Throughout the whole flashback sequence it was not registering. I even laughed a few times in disbelief.

I thought there was going to be some kind of catch, cliffhanger, anything that would disprove the revelation of ABC's "Whodunnit?" Killer. That wouldn't be unusual for a show like this.

But alas, Cris Crotz was revealed as the Whodunnit Killer and Kam won both his life and the quarter of a million dollars for the first season's finale that aired on ABC Sunday night, August 18.

There she is. This is our Killer, people.
Photo from "Whodunnit?" Wiki

I never really thought SHE would be the Killer. I was dead (haha) set on Lindsey as the Killer ever since she stated that she is a preacher's daughter. How ironic would it be if a PREACHER'S daughter was a murderer? Plus, Lindsey never seemed to know anything unless somebody told her and yet she would always be spared or even impressive to the Killer, much to the chagrin of the true Killer, Cris. She was labeled by the rest of the contestants as untrustworthy and a crafty liar because she bounced back and forth between two groups of people. And, of course, she often acted peculiar to make you suspect her. I actually thought towards the end that Cris was going to win. She carried herself very intelligently, which is not necessarily associated with beauty queens as much as other professions, so it would be terrific if she won this for all the beauty queens out there.

Even when the credits of the season finale rolled I still wasn't convinced that Cris was the Killer but that night and days after I began to think of clues that point to her more and more. I also guarantee you that if we were to re-watch the entire season, which is all on the "Whodunnit?' YouTube channel (AWESOME!!! :D), it would probably all make sense now that Cris is the Killer. Watching them now knowing that she is the Killer is pretty different than speculating them all.

Cris has been answering fan questions on her Twitter (@CrisCrotz) and her answers, as well as some articles I have read, have actually kind of helped me understand it all better to write this piece. :)

Just so we all know, Cris knew the entire time that she was the Killer and actually wanted to be it, but to prevent bias, she had to play the game as well. However, I am writing this as if she did actually commit the murders to better explain why it is fitting that she is the Whodunnit Killer.

Reason #1: Cris Takes her Beauty Queen Career VERY Seriously

The only way I was accepting Cris as the Killer is because how cool would it be to have a Beauty Queen Murderer??? No one would expect that because beauty queens aren't really known for their diabolical villainy or violence.

A lot of the other contestants had jobs in or related to the crime field. For example, Don is a former homicide detective, Ronnie, a bounty hunter, Ulysses, an attorney, Adrianna, a crime reporter, Sasha, a journalist, Dana, a cardiac nurse, and of course Kam, a homeland security attorney. It would be kind of odd to have someone that normally fights crime be a murderer, so that leaves very few people leftover.

To go along with this, we have possible female angst between Cris and Sheri.

Well, the two didn't have bad blood (haha, pun) between them, but I have an interesting theory as to why Cris used Sheri's death to kick everything off. Keep in mind that the Killer spared the people that she felt matched her in stature and smarts. As Giles always said, "the Killer's most worthy adversary."

Beauty queens are judged based on their elegance and posture, among other things, and they are very invested in their competitions. The motivation Giles gives is that the Killer murdered Sheri because she "had to make an example of Sheri because she showed her incompetence by breaking a champagne glass. Her clumsiness cost her her life." The worst thing a beauty queen can do to eliminate herself from a pageant is be clumsy or do something idiotic. The same thing goes for being a cheerleader really, which was Sheri's profession. Cris could've very well originally felt that she was on the same level as Sheri because her career requirements matched hers more than they did the others. But then, Cris felt that Sheri disgraced them both by dropping the champagne glass, so she took her revenge out on her because of her pageant competitive nature.

Then there is the use of the word "mortals." The Killer refers to the contestants as mortals, meaning that the Killer considered herself immortal, or to me, not of this world. Well obviously the Killer is immortal in the sense that he or she would never die on the show, but this word could take on a whole different meaning when regarding Cris. Not of this world could mean that the Killer is an outer space alien. A bit of a stretch, but stay with me. There's also such a beauty pageant as a Miss UNIVERSE.

Ehh? ;)

In the very first episode Cris is the first one to point out the "greetings mortals" thing to the rest of the contestants and evidently called herself a sociopath. From the very beginning she wanted to establish herself and instill fear in her, as Giles says, "compatriots."

Reason #2: Her Dad was a Cop

Another thing Cris establishes in the first episode is that her father was a policeman and throughout the rest of the season shares her knowledge about guns, especially in the episode where they are investigating Geno's death by a silent gun.

She even tweeted that she purposely was hinting at herself as the Killer by stating these gun facts.

Reason #3: Ulysses's Death Episode

Let's talk about the episode "Bum Ba Dee Da", which is the episode where they all investigate Ulysses's death.

First of all, what a lame murder that was! Seriously?! He was poisoned by a flower?! Oooh! Scary!

When compared to the rest of the very gruesome murders, this one is rather tame. Even when they were inspecting his body they had difficulty finding marks on the guy. But here is a theory as to why Cris was easier on Ulysses than she was on everyone else: She didn't want to kill him.

Their knowledge about the facts of the murders determines whether or not they are the next to be killed. Apparently Ulysses failed the most in regards to the previous murder and Cris had to kill him whether she liked it or not in order to follow the rules of the game.

As the season went on, the contestants developed two teams on their own. One consisted of Cris, Kam, Lindsey, and Ulysses, and the other consisted of everyone else led by Ronnie. It pained Cris to have to kill her teammate. If you notice, she and the rest of her teammates were the final three and she worked to keep it that way by conspiring with them. She took down the rest of the others beforehand.

Not only this, but it is a rather "girly" murder to commit, isn't it? It wouldn't surprise me to hear that an ex-beauty queen performed this one.

But she was a BEAST in this episode. I never really noticed her until this one and she was cracking codes like crazy and her sleuthing skills remained this way throughout the rest of the season. It was as if she wanted to work hard to avenge her friend's death that she had to commit.

Reason #4: The Shoes and other Stuff from the "All the World's a Stage" Episode

Here is another example of Cris's cunning in the following episode. She's really a beast in this one too.

This reason isn't as riveting considering anybody could've done this, but Cris was the only one to discover that the shoes used for Dana and Sasha's murders were stuffed. This means that the true Killer's feet are too small to fit this otherwise gigantic shoe, framing Geno for the murder, but therefore suggesting that the Killer is probably a female with small feet. Cris was the tiniest person there.

Cris kept the information to herself and whispered to Kam that she didn't look inside the shoes, and was the only one to find the hidden quarters where these murders were performed. She also knew exactly how to open the bedroom doors from the outside by using a metal contraption. It doesn't take her long to figure it out.

Of course she would be the only one to know this stuff so well. She's the Killer.

Reason #5: Giles Straight Up Suggests it in the Next to Final Episode

Giles the Butler, who plays the host of the show and was enslaved to Rue Manor until the Killer was revealed, pretty much pulled the same thing Chris Harrison of "The Bachelorette" did when he suggested that Desiree was invested in Brooks.

This was the exchange:

Giles: Have you ever been "scared"?
Cris: I have not.
Giles: Interesting.

Getting a "scared" card means that you are a person up for elimination. Giles here points out that Cris never received one all season, and was the only one not to, thus suggesting that she is indeed the Killer.

Gee, thanks Giles! :P That was totally unnecessary! Why did you have to ruin it?

Reason #6: Cris and Kam Have Pretty Much Been Best Friends the Entire Season

If you notice, Cris was kind of invisible during the first few episodes. She laid low a lot, which alone suggests that she is the Killer. The only thing we really knew about Cris is that she was on Kam's team early on and offered him more information than anyone else. She clearly had a loyalty to Kam until the very end and looks genuinely proud of him when she reveals herself as the Killer and proclaims him the winner.

Cris showed friendship to others as well of course, though briefly. In the episode where they investigated Geno's murder, Cris invited Melina to join her team to take her away from Ronnie. However, when Melina decided to take Cris up on her offer, Cris refused her in front of Kam, thus proving her loyalty to him even more.

A lot of backstabbing went on during this show, but Cris's relationship with Kam remained pretty close, so therefore it is no surprise that she is the Killer and he the Winner. When Giles drove Kam home I was wondering why the rest of the contestants were just awkwardly standing there not leaving themselves.

It dawned on me. It's because they're dead and their souls are symbolically trapped at Rue Manor forever. Cris and Kam, the two besties, are the only ones that come out alive. Kam gets to live his life like a normal person while everyone else has either died or been arrested, in Cris's case. He is the only person in the whole show that didn't have anything bad happen to him, and Cris helped him the whole time to remain this way.

A little eerie, isn't it?

Reason #7: Cris Kept Lindsey Alive Up Until the Very End Just to Take Revenge on Her

Cris's relationship with Lindsey was pretty much the exact opposite to hers with Kam. Even though Cris and Lindsey were on the same team, Lindsey was Cris's biggest competition as well. In addition to the fact that Cris had an on and off relationship with her, in the "state your case" segment of every episode Lindsey always accused Cris of being the Killer. Cris technically knew this because during "state your case" they are speaking directly to her. Basically Lindsey was Cris's biggest threat because of this. I don't think anyone thought Cris as much as she did so if Cris were to kill off Lindsey, it would look too suspicious.

Cris often accused Lindsey right back of being the Killer, therefore placing the blame and focus on her rival and taking it off herself. For the times Cris spared her, especially when Lindsey was named the best performer and Cris showed suspicion of this for the viewers, it was once again putting the blame on her but also like a peace offering to try to keep Lindsey from selling her out as the Killer again. But every time it didn't work.

Cris finally got her revenge on Lindsey in the final episode when she set up a death trap for her. A knight shoots her with bow and arrow. The arrow coincidentally lands in her throat, symbolically keeping her from talking anymore by puncturing her voice box.

Cris was very clever in keeping her friend (Kam) close and her enemy (Lindsey) closer so that they were the last three for the finale. What's interesting too is that the guy who never thought Cris was the Killer won (Kam thought it was Lindsey and even said this to Cris during her big reveal) but the girl who surmised her as the Killer every week died at the very last minute, so not only did Cris take away her rival's life, she also took away her victory that she worked so hard for the whole season and was so close to getting, making her revenge that much more sweet.

But one question remains here: Who was dressed as the knight then? Are we supposed to assume that it was a robot?

Reason #8: This Guy's YouTube Channel

His name is KingofJaperica and he has a whole playlist dedicated to his "Whodunnit" musings. They are interesting videos that actually brought some tidbits to my attention. He's pretty analytical and observant.

Then I thought about his videos' thumbnails. Check out who is featured in one of them.

WHAT. What is Cris doing there???

Here's why it's so weird. The thumbnail in which Kam is featured discusses him. Melina is featured in her thumbnail because it was uploaded after the most recent episode sparked debates that she was either killed or the Killer. The video with Giles in the thumbnail talks about the first episode when they all first meet Giles. The video with Cris in the thumbnail doesn't focus on anyone specific, so why is she featured?

There is no way this guy knew she was the Killer, in fact he clearly thought it was Kam, but it's still a coincidence to see her there.

Check out his "Whodunnit" videos when you're done reading this. He recently uploaded a brand new one. Enjoy! :)

Reason #9: Cris is a Great Actress 

After all is said and done, I thought she did a great job acting the part. She wasn't suspicious like Lindsey or Kam but rather played the part of a clueless contestant well. Her wide-eyed shock and fear were very convincing. Even Gildart Jackson (Giles) said the Killer was "someone I completely overlooked." It didn't really dawn on many people, myself included, that she "dunnit." I mean, I didn't write her off completely, but let's just say that she was the last person of the final four that I thought would be the culprit.

Some of her tweets state that she has an acting background, thus proving my assumption about her having this kind of background correct. However, she now works in fashion but would like to get back into acting.

These are of course some clues that point to her and I'm sure there are more. How many can you come up with?

I know I went into this maybe a little TOO in-depth as I come up with these conspiracy theories, given that it is a REALITY SHOW, but it's still fun to think about and I enjoyed writing this. I hope you enjoyed watching the show and reading my explanation of its outcome. :)

Monday, August 19, 2013

Check this Out! My Favorite Scene from Sight and Sound Theatres's JONAH on YouTube!

Remember in my piece about Sight and Sound Theatres's production of Jonah where I discussed my favorite song from the musical? Back then I really wished that I could show you my favorite scene or at least let you listen to my favorite song, but I was unable to...

But now I can do both!

Since the DVD is now available, the Sight and Sound Theatres YouTube channel was kind enough to provide a clip from the musical, which happens to be my favorite scene! Cool, right?! I was so excited when I saw this to show you. We bought a copy last week when we went there once again to see their revival production of Noah. What is funny too is that when I first played the DVD at home, I went straight to that scene to watch, which was my plan. And now I see that it's on YouTube for me to finally share with you all! :D

I don't think their channel allows me to embed their videos for some reason, so to watch the scene please click here and enjoy! Now you'll finally get to somewhat experience what I did and get the full effect without just relying on my description of it. I can just let you see for yourself.

Keep in mind that it's not the most epic scene of the musical, but I believe that it's the most fun. I'm so happy that I can actually show this to you so we can share this together because I thought I would never get the chance to. :)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Why I'm Not Crazy About the New "Whose Line"

The revival premiere of the improv show "Whose Line is it Anyway?" premiered last night on The CW. Unfortunately, needless to say, I was underwhelmed.

First let's look at the positives. I love that they brought back the original cast, which consists of Ryan Stiles, Colin Mochrie, and Wayne Brady. They even brought back the original musicians for the song games, Laura Hall and Linda Taylor. The coolest part is that the set looks exactly the same. Basically, to quote a tweet of Wayne Brady, it's like they never left. They still have the same chemistry with each other. I also really like the new game "Sideways Scene", which is when they perform the scene lying on the floor and the camera films them from above. The audience is also just as cheerful and interactive.

Then there are the minor changes that I'm not crazy about, but I think I can live with. First of all, the guys have aged and gained a little weight, except for Wayne Brady because that guy never changes. It's kind of depressing to see that they have gotten older, but they don't look that drastically different. They still have the same flavor that they did back then. It's like the show never ended but decided to fast forward a few years. The original red background curtain is now blue and the intro music from commercial and title card in the beginning have been altered. There are also new guest performers. These all are actually pretty good changes because it makes it not just like the original U.S. program. It's a clean slate, a fresh start. The red to the blue symbolizes that this is the revival.

Now I'll bring up my true problem with the show. Drew Carey isn't there but Aisha Tyler is.

Don't get me wrong. I love Aisha. I was first introduced to her as a host of CBS's "The Talk" and she is actually my favorite host on that show. I find that I agree with her most on what she has to say about topics and find that she is the one that speaks for me. I even took a "Which 'The Talk' host are you?" online quiz, wanted her as my result, and got her. I even fangirled when I saw her make a cameo appearance on "Glee" as Jake Puckerman's mother.

However, she does NOT fit the "Whose Line" family at all.

I'm sure the guys like her, but you can tell that they feel awkward around her. She's just not funny and tries too hard to be, as if trying to live up to the franchise, and ends up just being too loud or annoying. Every time she tries to crack a joke, they seem to find it difficult to respond. They just grin. She is not that funny on her own show either. I mean, she has some chuckle worthy lines here and there, but on "The Talk" she is more of the serious person of the group, which is fine. You don't have be that funny for a talk show, especially when you're a foil to those funnier than you as your co-hosts. Even though she's not humorous she's still very intelligent and well spoken, which is what a talk show needs. But, you kind of have to be funny for "Whose Line".

As much as the guys made fun of Drew Carey for doing nothing on the show, he made "Whose Line" what it is today. In fact, they actually look a little depressed not having Drew there with them. He wasn't as good of an actor as the rest, but he still made an excellent, funny host. The show originated in Britain, and that host was as boring and unmemorable as can be. Not only this, but the guys are friends with Drew and they made fun of him for everything: sitting behind the desk, pressing the button, having two shows on ABC, his occasional screw ups, his movie Geppetto, everything about him. And then Drew would make fun of them right back. He was one of them. Can you imagine the guys, especially Ryan, who was notorious for mocking Drew, making fun of Aisha? For what? It would be so weird.

They are just a bunch of dudes used to joking around with each other, with the occasional female guest performer, whom sadly is never really as into it as they are. With Aisha as the host, it's like a bunch of goofy teenage boys replacing their fellow goofy teenage boy friend with a little girl, which is kind of how I see this! They are older men hosted by a younger woman. Just looking at them together in photos doesn't feel right. She looks like she doesn't belong. I can see maybe having Aisha as a guest performer, but definitely not a host. Now if you were to see Aisha on "The Talk" with her female co-hosts, she fits right in with their banters, but she's also one of the quieter ones as well, which is another reason why her loudness is so off-putting. It's just not her.

I keep trying to figure out who would be a good replacement host for this show, and I can't think of anybody but Drew! Now, would I feel better if another guy replaced Drew? Possibly. It depends on who it is. And maybe I wouldn't feel as bad about Aisha hosting if there was a female host all along. But I still think Drew is the only one who deserves the title.

From my understanding Drew couldn't host "Whose Line" due to his obligations to "The Price is Right". I don't understand this because Wayne Brady hosts "Let's Make a Deal", which airs an hour before Drew's show on the same station, and Aisha hosts "The Talk". At the time of the original "Whose Line", Drew starred in his own sitcom "The Drew Carey Show". If other people can juggle more than one TV show and he has done it in the past, why can't he do it again?

I will admit that although I was excited about the show's revival, I wasn't really keeping an open mind about Aisha, and I felt this way since finding out that she was the new host months ago on Twitter. I think this is what ruined my perception of the rest of the show. I just couldn't enjoy it fully and found it a little boring. I was so upset when I found out that "Whose Line" and "So You Think You Can Dance" landed on the same night and time, and was grateful when I discovered that there was an All-Star baseball game in place of "SYTYCD" this particular night, leaving me free to watch the "Whose Line" premiere without having to swap channels back and forth. It was a sign for me to watch it. I didn't know what I'd do in the future when "SYTYCD" returns, but now that I was given the chance to view "Whose Line", it was a sign for me to leave the show from that point on. I think I'm going to dedicate my Tuesday nights to "SYTYCD", which was my plan anyway, even though I'm STILL upset that they eliminated Jasmine Mason!

"Whose Line" is a show I turned to on YouTube to cheer myself up when upset or sick, to relieve boredom or stress, or just because I felt like it. I was so excited to look forward to brand new jokes in addition to the reruns with jokes I expected. I hate to say it, but I'm very disappointed and kind of sad, especially seeing how a lot of people seem to like Aisha in the host seat, though I discovered today via social media that I am not alone in my feelings either. I feel like I won't like the show fully unless Drew Carey returns. I'm definitely willing to give it another chance, but yet I feel like not tuning in. I don't see how she got the job.

Maybe it's not her that is the problem. Maybe I'm just seriously missing Drew Carey and nobody else compares to him. Maybe any other host would get this reaction out of me as well.

I just needed to vent this. Oh, and I also decided to watch the premiere of a new dating game show following "Whose Line" on The CW called "Perfect Score". Boy was that quality TV.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Is Social Media Considered a Genre of Writing?

Last Tuesday night I was watching my most favorite TV show, "So You Think You Can Dance". I normally have my computer on during that time but this particular night I decided to turn it off and just express my opinions on the show the following day to my friends.

Then the unspeakable happened. One of my favorite contestants, Jasmine Mason, got eliminated! So after the show I quickly signed back on to express my UTMOST DISTASTE about what unfolded that evening online. Here's what I did.

I started with this. This was supposed to be my Tweet about the show for the night:

Then my tweets gradually became bitter from that point:

As you can see I felt pretty passionately about this. Still do. And these don't even include my responses to other people. But there you have it. I felt so inclined to post these tweets to get my feelings out there. I feel the need to express my feelings in writing online because I want my opinions to be read. You know, with all of my tweets, I could've just written a blog post, but normally if I'm not going to dedicate a lot of analysis to it, I would just tweet it. The same with Facebook. I don't want to waste a blog post for just one paragraph of me just making a statement. So this all being said, here is the question I pose to all of you: Is social media considered a genre of writing?

This thought came to me the night of the show after these events occurred and I went to bed. I ask because it's certainly not as creative or in-depth, and a lot of times not grammatically correct because of aim speak use. Twitter, annoyingly, limits a person's tweets to only 140 characters, so for a person like myself that needs more than that, it can be frustrating. Tweets are mainly for announcements and small statements. They're also good for real time reactions. I do this with "The Bachelorette" too. As I watch I have my computer handy to make comments and my mother has made the observation that by doing this I do not enjoy the program fully, which is part of the reason why I took my computer off Tuesday night. But yet I still had the impulse to post my opinions.

This is what is happening lately with society. We want to post our thoughts on the internet for the world to see or else it feels like they don't exist if we don't. Sometimes I attach my Twitter to Facebook and my tweets land on there as well. I try to justify what I do to myself by saying that while I am job hunting for an arts and entertainment writing job, I will tweet about TV shows in the meantime. At least I'm still doing something in my potential field. However, I get concerned that people get annoyed with my updates. At my graduation celebration dinner I asked my friends Bonnie and Kelly if this annoyed them, and they both applied with a no, and Bonnie even said that people like real time reactions. I think my problem more is that I feel like not a lot of people share in my fandom of these shows and so therefore do not care about what I post. I do this to interact with others and discuss the developments of the shows. Then I constantly have to check to see if I get a "like," "favorite," "retweet," or response in order to feel like what I have to say is validated. If nobody does this, I feel like my posts don't matter and are just random things on everyone's timeline.

Or could it also be just like creative writing, prose writing, grant writing, proposal writing, business writing, screenwriting, playwriting, etc.? There are times when I go job hunting online I notice that the job description duties in the ads include social media, so it's actually important in the business world nowadays.

I just feel like although it is important, it doesn't require as much skill nor does it look as impressive. Should social media writing be held at the same level as the other writing I mentioned?

Dontae, a former contestant from my new favorite reality show "Whodunnit?", actually said on the first episode that he was a writer because he writes on Facebook and social media, so that counts.

I brought this question up at a book signing for author Linda Rawlins at the Fairfield Public Library this past Thursday night, and she said that social media does not count as writing but only as a place to announce something and share blog posts by putting the link to your actual writing. My dad who was there with me shared his opinion with me. He told me that it does count as writing because you take the time to figure out what you are going to say. This is something that crossed my mind as well when contemplating this. Social media is a place where grammar doesn't necessarily matter, but yet I personally still have to make my writing perfect because since I am a writer and have an English degree I want to lead by example. Since Twitter allows only 140 characters, you definitely put editing into practice when tweeting to fit this format, so perhaps it can help teach writers how to say something more concisely.

What are your thoughts?

Monday, July 8, 2013

Sight and Sound Theatres Jonah DVD is Now Available! :D

Remember when I wrote that huge piece about Jonah from Sight and Sound Theatres last summer?

Well, it's finally on DVD!!! :D I just saw that they posted the trailer on my Facebook newsfeed. :)

Check it out. Now you'll finally see what I saw haha. I was kind of disappointed what I wrote my blog post about it that I couldn't find footage of it to show you. Now I do!

Last year when we went I noticed that they were selling DVDs of past productions and was disappointed to see that Jonah wasn't being sold. I was so pumped from it that it was a little saddening that the one musical I actually wanted wasn't on DVDs for sale yet. Maybe now I'll find get to obtain my own copy. :)

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Children on Broadway: Why Being Repulsive Brats Actually Works

At this year's Tony Awards on Sunday night June 9, "Kinky Boots" won it all with Best Musical, but it's obvious who the true winners are: the kids.

And it's just as well too, since everybody on Twitter claimed that "Matilda the Musical" had been robbed of the ultimate victory.

There are a lot of child cast members on Broadway lately, with "Annie", "Matilda", and soon "A Christmas Story". And every single one is extremely talented. Please keep in mind as you read this that I am not talking about the child actors themselves, but rather the children they portray.

I was never a huge fan of children in shows. They're supposed to the adorable character everyone is supposed to fawn over, but in reality they're only annoying, repulsive little brats. These kinds of characters exist everywhere. The next time you watch a sitcom, especially those consisting of family units with children, check out the younger/youngest kid. Chances are this kid is the most intelligent, smart-aleck of the litter, and we can't even loathe the kid entirely because he or she is there to charm the audience with his or her one-liners. This happens EVERY. TIME.

This is no different from Broadway musicals, apparently.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The MSU Peak Performances Student Production 2013-2014 Season!

Ladies and gentlemen, my first blog post after graduation! And what better way to celebrate than to showcase next year's theater season! :D

What? Did you think I wasn't going to care anymore because I graduated? ;)

I went to Sprague Library on campus yesterday with my dad and of course traveled to Life Hall to see if they had the list hanging up. Before I graduated and last I checked, the heading was there but the list itself was blank. But now, lo and behold, the lineup is up! :D

Normally the list consists of plays I have never heard of before, except for a select few. Out of this list I am most looking forward to A Streetcar Named Desire and 42nd Street. However, I am also anticipating the rest of the shows as well, to see what they are about. Not to mention the dance productions.

Looking forward to it!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Why Carousel is Totally Unfair to Billy Bigelow, its Main Character

(The following is my final column and favorite assignment I wrote for my Column Writing class from my Spring 2013 and final semester at MSU. My professor wrote some minor corrections on it which I have incorporated here and I also included my own changes. He told me that he liked the ending and to chose words that are appropriate for all forums. We were supposed to chose something we passionately disliked and to rip it apart, so that is the reason for my choice of words. Naturally I chose to rant about Carousel because my friends and I have been making fun of it ever since we saw it in Kasser last semester. I could've ranted about the musical in its entirety, but decided to take it a step further and discuss how unfair the writers are to Billy. Somebody has to stand up for the guy and take him down at the same time. I received a B- for this assignment. Enjoy.)

Carousel (1945) is a Rodgers and Hammerstein classic. The music is memorable, the dance sequences heartwarming. Too bad the storyline and characters are STUPID.

From my understanding Carousel is one of the first musicals about domestic violence yet a prime example of how horrible Rodgers and Hammerstein are at tackling controversial issues. However its main character, or anti-hero, Billy Bigelow, is the greatest victim because the writers put him into situations where he is doomed to fail because society just works that way.

Their manipulations go straight down to his gender and make his life terrible simply because he’s a guy. Billy is this flirtatious carousel barker that is quite possibly banging his dead boss’s promiscuous wife Mrs. Mullin and sets his sights on millworker Julie Jordan. Billy touches Julie and Mullin kicks her off the carousel. Now we can say that Billy broke the law because back then men weren’t allowed to touch women, and still aren’t really, but it’s safe to say that the catalyst for Mrs. Mullin’s actions is that she is just a jealous bitch. Billy argues with Mrs. Mullin and gets fired. Mullin returns to the story every so often to seduce him back but Billy refuses Mrs. Mullin because he is aware of her sexual intentions and is a “respectable married man” now - that hits his wife. This is where gender problems really take off. Billy marries Julie and stresses out because he’s jobless and can’t support his family. Why they got married then is beyond comprehension. It’s stated throughout that he hit Julie once out of frustration about this and everybody makes a big deal out of it, for good reason.

Men were always breadwinners, so his concern makes sense. Julie reveals to him that she’s pregnant with their kid and at the end of Act 1 he has this soliloquy song thinking about his future child. Once it dawns on him that he could have a daughter he starts to panic again, suggesting the idea that women need men to take care of them. He doesn’t seem to have any other skill besides his barker job with the ONE carousal in the area, so what else is he supposed to do? Rob someone?

That’s exactly what he and his sailor pal Jigger Craigin decide to do.

Thanks writers. That’s one point against you.

Another reason why it’s evident that these writers hate Billy so much is that Billy Bigelow is a New Yorker with attitude. They throw Billy’s New Yorker personality into a Maine population where everyone else is singing and dancing about how “June is bustin’ out all over.” Chances are if this musical were set in New York Billy wouldn’t stand out so much as a bad guy but rather blend in more with other people like him. Billy comes across as a jerk because the writers decided to make him represent the aggressive New York stereotype in a setting where everyone else does not.

After an agonizingly long and unnecessary group musical number opens up the second act about what a wonderful clambake they just had, Billy and Jigger try to pull off their heist. It goes wrong and Billy decides that instead of going to jail where he cannot look after his daughter, he stabs himself to death because apparently him DEAD would help her more. He goes to Purgatory and though Billy really doesn’t give a crap the Starkeeper decides to help him gain entrance into Heaven. The key is to get his daughter Louise, who is now fifteen, to accept a star he gives her and then he’s good. So that’s all it took to get into Heaven back then? Billy agrees and returns to Earth as a ghost.

Don’t worry. He screws this up too. He tries to talk to Louise and she freaks out so he slaps her. Julie comes out because she hears her daughter screaming. Then Louise states the most insulting line in the history of insulting musical lines: “Is it possible that when he hit me, it felt like a kiss?”

No. No it is not. That is a terrible lesson. But of course Julie stupidly justifies her daughter’s dumb conclusion by responding “Yes.”

It turns out that the kid has been ostracized because nobody liked her father. Gee, that’s shocking. So Billy shows up at her graduation and whispers encouragement. Oh and Julie accepted the star that Billy left on her front porch, so he’s all clear for Heaven now. Yay.

Writers, Billy did nothing to redeem himself so stop acting like he accomplished something. Not only do the writers set Billy up for disaster, they force him to make stupid decisions because of the stupid scenarios they create. He fails again and again and never fixes anything. The best part is he is not somebody we root for, but yet that is the perceived intention for the character.

But that’s okay. The music is still nice.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

End of Semester and College Career

Hey all!

I made a promise to myself that I don't want any month to go by without a blog post, so consider this Taking it One "Stef" at a Time's "April 2013 blog post" because I don't think I'm going to be writing anymore this month at the moment.

There is a lot going on with articles, school assignments, graduation, etc., that I can't really sit down and relax to write a blog post. I have topics in mind, but haven't been able to focus on them thoroughly.

I hope to write for you again soon. In the meantime I will probably be providing you with videos and articles on other sites. Feel free to follow me on Facebook and/or Twitter for these updates.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

My Final First Montclarion Article of the Semester...

...and it's a double feature! :D

Look! My final semester as a staff writer for The Montclarion they include my middle name in the byline. Cool!

I took a photo of my one page feature as soon as I grabbed the brand new issue off the shelf!

A full page double feature! This is the first page of the Arts and Entertainment section of The Montclarion. I open up the section! :)

I am so honored to have come so far as a Montclarion staff writer for four years and am proud that something like this is the beginning of the end for me.

Here is a little behind the scenes story about these two articles and my feelings about them.

This semester the Arts and Entertainment section of The Montclarion got a new editor. His name is Jonathan and I love working with him. He is always on top of things and always gets back to me right away. Those are great qualities for an editor. In the past if a show was not playing anymore The Montclarion would not really want to run my story about it after the fact. Jonathan was okay with my Equus review, and I am grateful. I had been wanting to do this since last summer after all! I wrote it like a reflection as opposed to a review that suggests whether people should see it or not. Most reviews are just opinions pieces anyway so this was good practice for me. Upon receiving my articles and photos, Jonathan replied with "Did I ever mention that you're the best? Thanks for being on top of the game. I really appreciate it." and "You da best!" These definitely stroked my confidence.

Jonathan suggested that I could also do a story on an Equus cast member and since he is friends with some people in the show he would be able to organize an interview. I have done this for freelancing before so I agreed to it and asked who he had in mind. He suggested Taylor Dear, and I was proud to do the story about him. Why?

If you remember my background story about my review of Attempts on her Life from Fall 2012, I had a brief difficulty with the play at first. Taylor happened to have been in this show as well and I interviewed him after opening night to get a quote for my article. First I asked, "What do you want audience members to take from Attempts on her Life?", which he answered. Then I asked him something like, "How does a person GET Attempts on her Life?" meaning what should audience members do to accomplish understanding the play. This is actually one of the most difficult questions I have ever asked an MSU cast member considering its broadness and how ambiguous the play is and I could tell that Taylor struggled a tiny bit with it. However, he stayed with me and took the time to think about the question and answer it even though his friends were outside waiting for him. Now, this is not to say that other cast members would not have done the same thing, but because of this I have a lot of respect for the guy nonetheless.

This past Thursday as I walked down to the Student Center to get my copy of this week's issue, I was pretty nervous because 1) I stressed a little bit about these two articles because I wanted to do justice to them since I had planned it for awhile, worked on them throughout Spring Break, and am a perfectionist with my writing in general and 2) I had not seen my articles on The Montclarion website yet so I was wondering whether or not my article would even be there! I mean, I submitted the articles and photos in good time and Jonathan acknowledged them, plus I was told ahead of time that I was the feature full page article for the week, but this has happened to me before with The Montclarion so that was from where my concern was stemming. When I was about to walk through the door coincidentally Taylor was walking out with a copy in his hands. He told me that the article is great and thanked me. I immediately felt relief, grabbed my own copy, and took the picture up above, proud of myself.

It is because of reactions like Taylor's that I love my job and what I do.

Here are my articles:

Equus review

Taylor Dear Profile

Enjoy! :D

It is always so exciting to take your own copy of a freshly printed newspaper issue from the bunch and then open it up to see your article in it after much anticipation. I was shaking and very thrilled.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

PBS Kids TV Shows and their Unexplained

My gigantic PBS Kids analytical essays are back again, this time not to poke fun at useless new characters, but to discuss details of the shows that are often left unexplained. These are details that I have come across and wondered about.

PBS Kids does everything from academic lessons to moral lessons, but there are some aspects of PBS Kids that seem to miss the mark.

For example...

What exactly do the hordes/hoards (spelling?) look like in "Dragon Tales"? 

In "Dragon Tales" the dragons have these pouches on their abdomens called "hordes" and they treat them like kangaroo pouches. The dragons store random objects in them. It's like their version of backpacks, only it's built in.

However, there is something I always wondered about these things. How big are they? What is the depth of these hordes? I know this is a cartoon, but these hordes have infinite space in there. The dragons constantly and often conveniently pull out random objects from these hordes, objects that look like they wouldn't fit in them. I keep recalling Ord taking a 7-foot sandwich out of his horde in one episode. Where did he store it? How did it fit? In another episode, Zak tells Wheezie that her side of the horde is messy. Do two-headed dragons have two separate compartments in their hordes?

How much stuff can they fit in there? What do they look like inside?

The Ghost Town Universe in "Sid the Science Kid"

First of all, I really want to commend "Sid the Science Kid" for getting kids excited about learning science. It's very rare that you see a show do that. The last time we saw this on PBS Kids was "Bill Nye the Science Guy", which is oddly enough a similar title.

"Sid the Science Kid" is about a biracial little boy named Sid that is fascinated by science. Every episode he has a different science related question which is answered later on because coincidentally it is what he and his classmates end up learning about in that very episode.

Maybe perhaps one of these episodes can discuss the lack of life forms in the show.

The next time you watch "Sid The Science Kid", see if you take notice of this. The only people viewers see are the main characters. Oh, and there was also a dog in one episode. But you never see any other random people walking on the sidewalk or cars out and about. It looks like they are the only inhabitants in their town. You know how in "Arthur" even though they aren't important characters you still see random civilians around? That's not the case in "Sid". It's actually kind of scary. Almost post-apocalyptic. I guess we can say that this is because "Arthur" takes place in all different settings whereas the "Sid" setting is limited, but it is still very eerie.

The show also makes it look like there are only four kids (Sid, Gerald, Gabriela, and May) and one teacher (Teacher Susie) in the entire school because you never see anybody else on the playground or in the building. One explanation for this that I've seen people state is that perhaps Sid attends a special education school. This makes sense because special education schools often consist of smaller class sizes. We also never meet any of the other kids' parents.

But there are even episodes where Teacher Susie takes the kids on a field trip to the local science center. Guess what? You don't see anybody else in these places either.

This is a public place! Where is everybody? It often looks like the place is closed and Teacher Susie and the kids just broke in.

Wait a minute. I just found this on Wikipedia.

Well there goes that.

There's a picture of this character on Google, but I've never seen her before. She must be new. Maybe they're starting to add new characters now.

But still, she's only one character. The rest of the atmosphere is still very empty.

Additional Puzzlement: The only thing these kids learn in school is science and no other subjects. I know that the show is dedicated to science, but yeah, just wanted to point this out.

Talking Dogs in Various PBS Kids Shows: Why Dog from "Word World" was Cheated

"Word World" is an interesting show with an interesting concept. Everything in Word World is built from the letters that spell the word. For example, the character of "Dog" takes the shape of the letters D-O-G. The characters consist of animals (and objects) shaped in this way and they all speak English (and probably other human languages as well depending on where the show airs and what languages it provides).

"Dog" from "Word World"
That is, except for Dog. Even though Dog is living in a universe where there are no humans and animals can talk, Dog is the only character that acts like an everyday dog and is treated as such whereas the other animals in this universe don't act like regular everyday animals. The other "Word World" characters are personified. They speak with words and walk on their hind legs, especially characters like Sheep, Bear, and Pig. They are almost equivalent to human beings in their world yet Dog barks, walks on all fours, and is sometimes treated like a pet rather than one of them. Why is this? Why isn't he (or she) considered equal to them? See, I don't even know what gender this dog is because he or she never speaks to help me determine this, but I'm pretty sure Dog is often referred to as a "he."

When compared to other PBS Kids shows that involve talking dogs, this makes even less sense. First, let's look at the show that makes the most sense, which is "Clifford the Big Red Dog". Imagine that. A cartoon series about a red dog the size of a house being the most realistic. Well it is when it comes to talking animals. To the humans in "Clifford", Clifford and the rest of the dogs are normal pets that bark. The only time these dogs speak English is when they speak to each other, and when the dogs speak English, the only thing the humans hear is barking.

Then there is "Arthur". Recently Pal and the other pets of the series, like Francine's cat Nemo (I just found out that this is the correct spelling. This whole time I thought it was spelled "Mimo".) and Alberto's dog Amigo (Get it? Pal? Amigo? Ha! Clever!) are all of a sudden speaking English to each other like the dogs in "Clifford". However, the only difference in this show is that they are taking it a step further and the animals are also able to communicate with Baby Kate, Arthur's toddler little sister. Yes, Kate is now speaking perfect English as well, to the animals at least. This is fine I guess because normally dogs and younger children have this sort of connection in fiction.

The worst and most offensive comparison is "Martha Speaks". Ha! This is the actual title of this series, which is about a dog that walks on all fours and is able to speak English and communicate with her human peers. It is explained in the opening theme that Martha can do this because she ate alphabet soup and instead of it going to her stomach the soup took a wrong turn and traveled to her brain instead...

I'm not kidding! See for yourself! This is seriously what supposedly happened!

Hey, it's PBS Kids, people!

But here's what's so offensive about it. So you're telling me that Martha, from eating alphabet soup and having a weird digestive tract, is able to talk fluently with humans in a human run everyday world like our own? Where dogs normally don't speak and she actually lives with another normal barking non-speaking dog, Skits? But Dog can't speak in a non-human world, a place only populated by animals, where animals much like himself can but only HE cannot?

What a slap in the face! He's like the one dog on PBS Kids that doesn't speak and should considering the world in which he lives and that the rest of his peers do. Dog should totally take this up with his creator and sue PBS for this injustice!

Additional Puzzlement: Not only do Pal and Nemo speak English, they also have English accents. How did that happen? Amigo has a Latin accent because he lives with a Latin family, but the other two don't live with British families, so what influenced their British accents?

"Daniel the Tiger's Neighborhood": Daniel No Longer Lives in the Clock Factory

When I saw this "Daniel the Tiger's Neighborhood" for the first time, I found so many things wrong with it, so much that I was planning on dedicating an entire blog post to it. I originally thought that the people creating the show got everything wrong, especially names, and were failing at being loyal to the original "Mister Rogers" franchise, making things up and just changing things out of nowhere.

Then after awhile I got my explanation. It turns out that this show is much like a "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood: The Next Generation" type of show with Daniel getting his own spinoff starring the descendents of the original characters. Daniel hangs out with X the Owl's nephew O the Owl, Henrietta Pussycat's kitten Katerina Kittycat, King Friday's son and Prince Tuesday's younger brother Prince Wednesday, and Lady Elaine Fairchilde's daughter, Miss Elaina. Now that this is all explained, it is all well and good. But, there is one detail that still doesn't sit right with me.

Remember how back in the days of "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" Daniel lived in a clock tower and any time the human characters wanted to talk with him, they simply walked over to the Clock Factory and he would pop up.

This isn't the case anymore. Now the Tiger family lives in a hut and Daniel's father simply works at the Clock Factory. Why was this changed? This is an unnecessary change because Lady Elaine Fairchilde and her family still live in the Museum-Go-Round like she originally did, so why doesn't he and his family still live in the Clock Factory? Unless I only thought that he lived there...

I just found this on Wikipedia. See, I'm not crazy! He did actually live there!

But this suggests that the original Daniel the Tiger from "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" is the father of lead character Daniel from "Daniel the Tiger's Neighborhood". But I don't recall the original Daniel being called "Daniel the Striped Tiger".

Wait. From "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" Wikipedia:

Unless they edited this Wikipedia page to make it match the "Daniel the Tiger's Neighborhood" Wikipedia page, but probably not.

I had to look this up to confirm because I was starting to remember. Apparently this was his name. The fact that his kid's name is Daniel as well threw me off. I thought the lead character of the spinoff series was the original Daniel. This does explain a bit why Daniel from the next generation hangs out with Prince Wednesday and not Prince Tuesday, giving a little insight into why Prince Wednesday was created. The original Daniel used to be the same age as Prince Tuesday so they had to create a younger prince to hang out with the original Daniel's son. That is, if that is their intention here and I am guessing the characters right.

Well, perhaps Daniel felt that living in a clock factory was no place to raise a family so he moved out of his bachelor pad into the hut with his family. It does make sense why Daniel still works there. He still wants to be connected to the old days. I'm just glad that he's not totally removed from the Clock Factory.

Whew! PBS Kids TV shows weren't this complex when I was a kid...

Monday, March 4, 2013

Equus is Finally Premiering this Week at Montclair State University!!!

You read me talk about it for like a year now, and now after weeks of anticipation, and some personal preparation on my part to get ready for it, it's finally here. The Department of Theatre and Dance's production of Equus premieres this week at Alexander Kasser Theater! :D

It's funny that when I was reading the book for the first time this past summer, I thought it would be staged in L. Howard Fox Theatre, but normally shows that are a big deal like this are staged in Kasser, so this makes sense. I am interesting to see how it is going to be performed and staged after trying to picture it for so long.

Since the beginning of my Spring 2013 semester, I've been seeing flyers and framed pictures of this all over the place, and every time I see it I get so pumped! :) There's always that one big show they advertise like this.

I've been looking forward to seeing this play by doing some countdowns up to this week and wondering what to expect (and if it is going to be what I am expecting), so we'll see if its theatrical nudity goodness pulls off a good show! I'm also bracing myself for any potential uncomfortable moments considering the subject matter.

I think I am going to brush up on the script again before I see it. I will also be reviewing for The Montclarion, so stay tuned! :)

For more information about Equus at MSU, click here.

To read my book review of Equus, click here.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Theater Musing Series

"Theater Musing Series" is actually a video series I created when I was a sophomore at MSU but just came up with a title for it now. These are a series of videos in which I was musing about something in the theater field and decided to interview someone from MSU to get more insight on it.

The "From the Vault" portion of the titles of these episodes so far refers to the fact that these are old videos that have existed before on Facebook and have just now been uploaded to YouTube. They are from specific blog posts on here and I had uploaded them to my Facebook page then because I didn't have a YouTube channel at the time. I had been debating about doing this for a while and so I finally decided to dedicate today to it. They are going to stay on my Facebook page, but I decided to upload them to YouTube as well to give them a broader audience. I might add to this series in the future.

As for my other Facebook videos, I may or may not upload them to YouTube as well. As for me continuing to upload videos onto the Facebook page, I am yet to determine this.

For my "Taking it One 'Stef' at a Time" Facebook videos, click here.

For my "Theater Musing Series" on YouTube, click here.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Anti-Feminist Feminist Scene in THE PATRIOT

So I discovered this movie, The Patriot (2000), starring Mel Gibson and the late Heath Ledger, during the final week of my winter break. It literally played four times on the same channel, thisTV, in one week. And I watched it every time (some in their entirety and some just in clips as I switched channels). I normally don't go for war films, but this one continuously grasped my attention. There's a lot I could talk about in regards to this movie but of course for right now I am going to focus on one of the movie's few FEMALE characters. :)

Watch the scene first and then read on. ;)

Whoa! Slow down there, outspoken feminist of the 1700s! :P

This young lady is Anne Howard (Lisa Brenner), love interest of Heath Ledger's character, Gabriel Martin. And she has a lot to say.

Why it's a feminist scene:

This scene consists of a great monologue delivered by Anne standing up for what she believes. Not only does she do this, but the men in the room don't stop her from doing it and are ultimately moved by her words.

This movie takes place during the Revolutionary War and the last I checked women had little to no rights back then so it is actually pretty shocking and inaccurate to me how they let her go on and on and actually look guilty as she tells them off. This young woman speaks her mind, a full speech, and not one man in the scene tells her something along the lines of "Shut up and sit down, little girl! You have no idea what you're talking about!" Actually, they do the complete opposite. They listen to every word she has to say and are convinced to join the militia BECAUSE of her words. It is because of her, a character we know very little about, that the plot of the film shifts and moves forward. Gabriel doesn't influence them to join the militia. A woman does.


Why it's not a feminist scene:

It's easy to talk tough when you're not the one doing the dirty work. I originally didn't like Anne at first because of this reason and felt that this monologue was an ongoing rant that ultimately doesn't really mean anything. She convinces them to show their patriotism with their values and claims that they are just as much patriots as she, but yet never does she say something like, "If I had the right to fight in the war I would, so why won't you?!" I do understand though too that her fighting in the war would have been unheard of then, so therefore a thought like this would never cross her mind anyway. Then again if she were to say this line, this is still talking tough without action. Sure she talks the talk, but does she walk the walk?

She makes a persuasive argument, and a well spoken one at that, but in the long run she's also going to be safe and sound (well, at least for a majority of the film she's safe) in her town while the guys she speaks to so passionately are the ones constantly in harm's way on the battlegrounds. She speaks to convince THEM to go while she stays put. It's like she's saying "You guys said all of this so you go do it even though I believe the exact same way you do and I am currently speaking about it like you do. But you guys can still go and be in danger and I'll just stay here." It's like a "speak for yourself" kind of scenario.

But, I'm probably looking at it the wrong way because the scene is clearly not intended to be perceived this way. It is portrayed as a very inspirational scene and audiences seem to really appreciate it. Perhaps this scene is trying to prove that women back then would have been willing to fight as well and to portray them in an encouraging, influential light, but yet I feel like she just does this to impress Gabriel, a man and love interest, as well. But then again this isn't a very effective enough explanation and I may not be giving her enough credit.

A bit about my reaction to the film itself as a whole:

I didn't have much internet access my final week of break, so for some entertainment I turned to TV. Perhaps if I had internet I wouldn't have watched this film. Four times.

If you haven't seen it I recommend you doing so. It was directed by Roland Emmerich. I knew that name looked familiar so I had to look it up. That is the same guy who directed Anonymous (2011).  I'm sure you remember my YouTube review of it. :P Anyway, perhaps that is a reason why I really like this movie. I had been wanting to watch another Roland Emmerich film and I did so without making this connection until now.

Okay, so I was still shocked at myself for actually enjoying a war film, considering I have had bad experiences with war films in the past, so I decided to look up details on IMDb, which says that it is rated R and I had a feeling it would be, and on here as well. Kids-in-Mind is a fantastic site for parents looking up films to monitor what their kids watch. It can also help people that are squeamish like me because it gives specific details as to what exactly happens that might be considered questionable in any film so people can be well prepared ahead of time.

I know I'm not a kid! Shut up! It's still a very useful site! :P

See the thing is I knew it had to be rated R considering the subject matter, but yet I was surprised to discover that R is its true rating, along with the high levels of gore on the Kids-in-Mind website. It didn't strike me as a rated R film as I watched it and I do not recall some of the details given on Kids-in-Mind. In fact, I was amazed at how tame the film seems for a war film.

The only conclusion I can draw, and I drew this even before I looked any of this up because it made no sense to me why a rated R gory war film did not showcase that much gore in my opinion or bother me in this way, is that the content of the film was edited for TV, so the version I watched and was okay with was the censored version, excluding most of the really gory details. In other words, I didn't get the full affect of the whole movie and was spared of some of the gruesomeness and people in pain, which is something else I really hate watching in any form of media. Keep that in mind if you are like me but are also interested in watching the film. I'd say perhaps before you rent it wait to watch it on TV if you want to avoid certain moments. Either that or read Kids-in-Mind or other sites like that, ask around for advice if you'd like, and determine for yourself what you can handle, which is better.

On a side note, does anybody else think that this actress looks a lot like Rachel McAdams? I thought it was her!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

New Year Brings Good Cheer! January Brings Me Writing Job!!!

Happy Anniversary, "Taking it One 'Stef' at a Time"!

To celebrate "Taking it One 'Stef' at a Time's" second year anniversary, coincidentally Awesome NJ posted my articles I wrote for the site just now!

That's right, I got a writing job!!! I didn't want to say anything until the articles were posted on the site. How "awesome" is it that they were published on the same day? This is so exciting! I am very appreciative. :D

One article is a review of The Sound of Music that was playing at Paper Mill Playhouse. The other is a profile about Erica Cenci, the show's assistant director and choreographer.

I am so proud to finally include both of these articles in my portfolio. They are my first ones for the site and I enjoyed writing them.

Here's to plenty more! :D

To follow Awesome NJ, check them out on Facebook and Twitter.