Nothing like going to a snack-filled reading with some amazing writers.
At the New School, I listened to a barrage of American poets: from Dan Albergotti, Mary Jo Bang, David Barber, Bruce Bond, Jericho Brown, Allison Cobb, Carl Dennis, Vievee Francis, Jeffrey Harrison, W. J. Herbert, David Brendan Hopes, John James, Rodney Jones, Meg Kearney, John Koethe, Jamaal May, Judson Mitcham, John Murillo, Joyce Carol Oates, Sharon Olds, Matthew Olzmann, Rowan Ricardo Phillips, Robert Pinsky, Taije Silverman, Emily Van Kley, Crystal Williams, and to Monica Youn. (Whew!)
Jericho Brown is a notable visitor, who I had seen read before about 4-5 years back at a Boldface Writing Conference at the University of Houston.
The event introduced me to poets who had not entered my Mental Reading List consciousness.
I approached Joyce Carol Oates through a barrage of fans greeting to the poets and deliberated whether I should climb the stage to save her the trouble of looking down on me. Right when Oates made eye contact with me to smile and say, “Hello,” an autograph person got in the way, cutting me off to ask Oates to sign her book. So Oates forgot about me for a second, signing the woman’s book, before turning back to me, looking down from me from the stage.
She shook my hand and said, “Nice to meet you.”
“I remember studying your short story!” I was referring to her stranger danger short story “Where You Going, Where You’ve Been,” which is infamous study material in literary classes.
And she kind of gave me an expectant glance, maybe processing what I just said. I realized that she might be wondering if I have something for her to sign. Maybe, I was better off buying the poetry collection book for her to autograph, instead of just going up to her and giving her a random compliment.
And I thought, great. Way to blow it. Joyce Carol Oates will just remember you as the annoying fangirl who had nothing for her to sign.
Poetry inspirations and progress of writing ideas after reading:
- Writing about celebrities
- Created a folder for celebrity-related poems
- New Draft: “[Making a Fool of Myself Before] Joyce Carol Oates”
- Can’t forget about writing the verse where I observed her using a pencil/pen to trace the words in the program’s poetry book on her lap.
- Continuing Old Draft: “Apologies to Elizabeth Bishop”
- New Draft: “[Making a Fool of Myself Before] Joyce Carol Oates”
- Created a folder for celebrity-related poems
- Writing about current events (inspired by Dan Albergotti’s poem chilling “Weapons Discharge Report”)
I was honored with an acceptance from the Critic’s Academy fellowship at the New York Film Festival (NYFF55). This opened an overwhelming flood of opportunities and placed me into rather momentous social occasions.
- Post-screening of Last Flag Flying at NYFF55, I sat three rows from Bryan Cranston, Lawrence Fishburne, and Richard Linklater at the Q&A press conference.
- Last Flag Flying, for all its shortcomings, was an overall amiable film.
- Had a successful job interview where I showed off my press badge of the New York Film Festival to mention that “Less than 12 hours ago, I saw Bryan Cranston, Laurence Fishburne, and Richard Linklater speak live” to spice up my qualifications.
- At the New School American Poetry event (unrelated to NYFF), I made a fool of myself in front of author Joyce Carol Oates, as I remarked, “I remember studying your short story in class” and receiving some kind of non-committal glance from her and realizing maybe I was better off buying the poetry collection book for her to autograph, instead of just going up to her and giving her a random compliment.
- As a Critic’s Academy recipient of the New York Film Festival, I was invited to the opening night party of the festival. And I had this conversation with some dude:
“How are you feeling?”
That was the gist of my chat with Ethan Hawke. Basically, my fellow critics noticed his presence, a casual dude in a cap in a flood of suit-wearing men. Since the lighting was dim, I had to double-take with my friends, “Wait, who is this dude?” And they cajoled the really kind Hawke into having a momentary chat (“We’re fans, and we didn’t know how to approach you!”) and he acknowledged my presence, even though I was two bodies down from him at the bar table.
I am just so acquainted with seeing actors’ faces on-screen to really recognize them in real-life sometimes.
“Trey, where should we get a swaddled baby? I mean, something to wrap in a blanket to pass as a baby?”
“We could wrap a melon.”
“If they drop that melon and it cracks, we got a big problem.”
“But that raises the stakes. It will make them perform better and be more careful so they won’t kill the baby.”
“The baby is already dead!”
Two directors. One professionally hanging in the background with her cell phone. The other lazily reviewing the script (@treynormal). "Matriarch, Mother, and Maiden" will premiere at The Duke on 42nd Street for @nynw_theatre_festival. Grab tickets at www.nynwtheatrefestival.com. #theatre #drama #shortplay
His fusion of somberness and wit in the midst of surviving the explosions and passing chaos of the Israelis and Palestinians conflict overwhelmed me. He speaks of having a triangular slice of American pizza after being in traumatizing proximity to a bombing, where he knew he couldn’t be deaf to “people not living.” He states that even when there are explosions out there, the writer survives with their fingers still dancing on the keyboards. Englander is quite committed to his cause of peace.
Most memorable soundbite: “I like books with no answers.”
Attended my first New School reading, the LIT #31 launch! As its been months since I’ve been to a reading, it’s great to get inspiration refreshed, especially when hearing works from the mouths of its own authors. I had a lot of fun, tuning into the poets and story writers about post-9/11, the heat of climate change, a necrophilic mermaid, a harrowing sample of a true-story regarding escape from North Korea.
On Sunday September 3rd, the blaze of the Great Comet of 1812 faded into oblivion.
There is no production like the Great Comet of 1812. I could see Hamilton (if I win the lottery), I could re-view Wicked or the Lion King, but the grand design of The Great Comet 1812 is so exclusive to the space it occupied in the Imperial Theatre. The visual immersive set-up of the Imperial Theatre is nigh impossible to replicate for traditional stages.
I can’t imagine it going on tour, even if, yes, there are plans for it.
Personal concerns on translating the Great Comet to other theaters:
- The accessibility of ALL seating floors. The actors can easily access the 2nd-floor mezzanine seating, since the stairs from the orchestra to the mezzanine are visible to the mezzanine view.
- As an attendee of the Houston Hobby Center touring productions, this extends my concern to whether the people situated on 3rd-floor galley seats would be left out of the immersive experience. While the Hobby Center has been the venue for mainstream productions like Wicked and will be the venue for Hamilton, I picture the intimate Alley Theatre as more suited to the style of the Comet of 1812.
- The near-omniscient visibility of the audience interaction.
- The way its stealthily plants its lighting setup within the audience for a sensory payoff.
Thank you, composer, actor, and original Pierre Dave Malloy for making me starry-eyed.
Goodbye, my Gypsy lovers.
There’s not much to say about the Groundhog Day musical excepts that it delivers the expected package. I entered Groundhog Day musical at the August Wilson Theater, forecasting a three-out-of-four stars romp. With the fondly remembered 1993 Bill Murray classic movie to work off, all motions in the musical are the identical blueprints of the movie, though it has all the charm it can give for a theatrical stage production with a talented team.
While I’m tired of a trend of non-musicals movies being converted into stage musicals (with the exception of movies like Billy Elliot that at least had explicit stage elements translatable to live musicals), Groundhog Day at least adapts a non-musical movie that lends itself well to musical material, with the premise involving the motif of repetition. Overall, the production compresses all the scenarios, lifted from the movie, that a man in a magical unexplained time-loop would undergo, from existential denial, to hedonist consequence-free pursuits, to suicidal attempts, to time-killing philanthropy.
Phil Connors (Andy Karl), a cynical weatherman, returns to the small-town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania to cover the Groundhog Day festival, an annual routine which he so loathes. When he’s not complaining about his dead-end job or moaning about leaving ASAP, he’s making passes at the producer Rita, who bears his assholery with patience and irritation. But the town is snowed-in, and he is forced to spend another night, only to wake up to the same Groundhog Day again and again, reliving déjà vus of the minuscule details, to the point where he attunes himself to the everyday choreography of the policeman dropping his holster and the scripts of the townspeople quips.
But admittedly Act 1, while well-focused on the plot motions, does not quite gel with the entertainment. Some of the ha-ha moments, with Danny Rubin reprising his screenplay authorial-ship with the musical’s book, do not age well. Haha, misogynistic hedonistic weatherman making passes at co-worker. Even the most amusing number, “Stuck,” where he turns to unhelpful quark doctors and priest to cure his “stuckness,” feels oversaturated with Tim Minchin’s assaultive rhymes.
But the passable-ness of Act 1 somehow skillfully allows the heart to kick in at the start of Act 2’s opening number “Playing Nancy,” performed by Rebecca Faulkenberry, giving a memorable limelight to what seemed like a disposable female character, which sets up the tint of existentialism and heart to segue into the plot, and a number that pleads for the audience to see that despite the surface-level hickness of the townspeople, perhaps we should be encourage to see their nuances.
Andy Karl as the leading man is a walking fun, bouncing from egotistical humor to pathos, and once the character settles into despair and solemnness, he avoids sacrificing his humorous edge along the way. Jenna Rubai, the Rita of the Sunday matinee, also has a cheery charm, while also being no-nonsense. The ensemble cast do get their points to shine, with Sean Montogomery (matinee understudy) as the perky insurance salesman Ned Ryerson singing a few comedic jingles before having his own melancholy solo.
And with the team of Matilda the Musical reunited for this production, the scenic design is unsurprisingly atmospheric and aesthetically pleasing, fashioning an intimate small town without overplaying its quirks. The massive stage turntable does its swift job at showing the momentum of Phil’s cyclical day-by-day world. Peter Darling’s choreography is eye-catching as expected. While Tim Minchin’s lyricism is not on par with the smartly Roald Dahl-realm of his wickedly clever wordplay and rhymes in Matilda the Musical, his score is still serviceably and jazzily ear-wormy and echoing with tints of the right quirks in its comedic tone.
Although I wish its Act 1 promised me a better romp, I was grinning after Act 2.