My mother raised me to love pie, action movies, and musical theatre. It is because of her theater snob persona that I have seen upwards of thirty Broadway shows, and am a total elitist myself. So what really creams my corn is when studios put movie stars in movie musicals.
Film actors are awesome, don’t get me wrong, but some of them really shouldn’t be onscreen singing. Look at Audrey Hepburn! Amazing actress and human being, but she couldn’t carry a note worth a damn. In My Fair Lady, that’s not her voice singing about “wouldn’t it be loverly,” it’s Marni Nixon wasn’t even mentioned in the credits. But of course, they had to cast Audrey. Julie Andrews, who had played Eliza Doolittle on Broadway, wasn’t famous enough yet.
Julie Andrews as Eliza Doolittle on Broadway. Courtesy of The Seattle Times.
Studios don’t cast Broadway stars for precisely that reason, really: mainstream America doesn’t know who they are. Of course, some Broadway musical actors do make the transition, Julie Andrews being one of them, but mostly the two spheres of theater and film remain separate.
And so, we have Meryl Streep in the film adaptation of Mamma Mia! and Russell Crowe as Javert in Les Miserables. These are awesome, award-winning actors, but they should not have been cast in those movies. It’s not that they can’t sing, it’s that they can’t sing at the level of a Broadway star. Russell Crowe wasn’t bad as Javert, he just didn’t have the vocal skills needed to portray the character. Listen to Norm Lewis singing “Stars” once, and you’ll understand what I’m trying to say.
Of course, there have been some pretty good movie musicals. High School Musical, for one. I’m just kidding! Mostly. No, I’m talking about the old favorites: Singin’ in the Rain, The Sound of Music, West Side Story, Cabaret. But those movies were made back in the time when movie musicals were the norm, not an excuse to haphazardly throw together famous people singing. Movie stars were made because they could sing and dance; it was expected of them. It was a simpler time. Audiences would be happy with Gene Kelly dancing and wooing the girl. They didn’t need explosions and CGI and ridiculous plot twists.
Times have changed, and studios realize now that in order for movie musicals to be successful, there needs to be something to bring the audience in. What’s better than watching respected actors wear embarrassing outfits and sing awkwardly? As critics are so fond of saying, Hollywood’s “Golden Age” is over, and the age of the singing star with it.
The obvious caveat to everything I just said: animated musicals. Those are the bomb diggity.
So they’re making a movie adaptation of Into the Woods. This is worrisome on many counts, because Into the Woods features music written by Stephen Sondheim. As any theater buff can tell you, Sondheim is basically God and the Devil, because his music is beyond brilliant but also ridiculously difficult.
I’m excited in part, because the movie has Christine Baranski, James Corden (Craig from Doctor Who), and Billy Magnussen in it. I’ve seen all three on Broadway, and they were all awesome. However, I saw all of them in three respective plays, not musicals. Still, I have hope. The film will also have Anna Kendrick, whom we know can sing from her performance in that modern classic, Pitch Perfect. Chris Pine’s in it too, but he’s just so pretty, so I have no critical words yet.
Chris Pine and Anna Kendrick on the set of Into the Woods. Courtesy of Fame Flynet/Huffington Post.
Now here’s where I’m worried: Johnny Depp and Meryl Streep are cast in two of the biggest roles, the Wolf and the Witch, respectively. Depp proved in Sweeney Toddthat he has a good voice, but I don’t know if he has the power to pull off the Wolf. Hopefully his acting skills will help him pull it off. But Streep as the Witch? The Witch is an incredibly complex part, both vocally and dramatically.
The film comes out almost exactly one year from now, Christmas 2014. My expectations aren’t high, but I suppose the theater snob in me will just have to wait and see.
And here we go again. This time, however, there’s half the rehearsal time, twice the number of plays, two directors, two playwrights, and a quarter of the pages to be memorized in comparison to Lend Me a Tenor. Bare Bodkin’s Play by Play is officially under way and I could not be more excited.
Obviously it’s hard to compare a full-fledged farce to smaller student-written pieces, but the cycle of rehearsals has started again. From the first read through to finally having the show blocked and even delving into costume design, the same steps are being taken even though these two theatrical pursuits are radically different. Play by Play, however, happens in rapid succession. After only three rehearsals, I’m bringing costumes in to try on and getting myself off book. It’s been fast, but it’s been wildly fun. Though most of the theatre at Tufts is student-run, this really feels like it’s totally in our control and the creative license has been incredible. Plus, we have the opportunity to bring student-written work to life for the first time and even though it’s a worldwide debut in Balch, it’s a worldwide debut nonetheless.
Having performed in quite a few new works festivals and participated in student-run workshops in high school, I have to say it’s one of my favorite things to do. Beyond introducing the world to new pieces, there are no rules. No one has played this part before you and you have the freedom to make artistic choices separate from any sort of prior influence. There’s no pressure to outdo the previous production of the play because there has never been one. Every aspect of the show is completely yours, along with your fellow cast members and production team. You’re creating something new and fresh. This isn’t a chance actors get very often and it’s always an extreme pleasure to be able to work in these circumstances.
As I traversed the country last week, destined for the high desert plains of Albuquerque, I carried both of my newly minted scripts in my backpack, along with some notes for a few papers and my trusty computer. No one in the airport knew what I was holding onto two brand spanking new plays with two characters that I get to call my own. I kept a creative secret stored away between the pages of sheet music, textbooks, and whatever else I managed to fit in my carry-on.
Now that I’m back from feasting endlessly during break, we launch ourselves into the third week of rehearsal, which for us happens to be tech week. Though it has been a whirlwind experience, I cannot wait to see and perform the premiere of these plays. It’s all quite riveting.
In case I’ve piqued your curious side, these theatrical mysteries will be revealed Friday December 6th in the Balch Arena Theatre at 8 pm.
Six original plays and one freshly baked pizza musical all during one fantastic evening. You know you want to.
“Western societies have established the confession as one of the main rituals we rely on for the production of truth.” – Foucault, French Philosopher and Social Theorist
Confessions, as Michel Foucault understands them, were the first way people began to speak the seemingly unspeakable: to speak about sex. They turned to priests (as symbols of the church) and to doctors to find out the intangible, to find a way to make sense of their desires. The inherent issue, however, was that the clergy and doctors, in many respects, knew just as little about sex as those behind the veil. Quite figuratively, it was the blind leading the blind. So sex, and moreover desire, became taboo. Desire and questioning became shameful. The one place constructed to negotiate such unknowns was now riddled with guilt.
The influx of psychiatry, psychology, and therapy began to undo some of this constrictive work, but there was still a conflation of shame connected to speaking about physical desire. Without unpacking the stigma around mental health, we still have a problem with confession; with confessing desire. This stigma has taken the form of ridiculing confession in parody and exaggeration. But in doing so, we lose the ability to see the power of real confession. To reference the epigraph, what productions of truth are we gaining from Tufts Confessions? People don’t like certain foods, a cute redhead was spotted in the campus center, but also that we don’t know how to talk about very serious things.
We are all familiar with the Tufts Confessions phenomenon. Seedy and revelatory tales about weekend exploits, taboo desires, and personal quirks seep through our social media consciousness. But what is it to confess? How can we understand the potential power of confession? And what can we learn about ourselves?
It is so easy to disregard Tufts Confessions as a hot bed of trolling and white guilt, or as yet another platform for “bleeding hearts” who fall victim to pejorative distancing and invalidation. But what do even the least controversial posts (“I’ve never tried bacon”) say to us? I’m reading too much into this, I self-referentially reflect. But the curiosity motivates me. Can we conflate a lack of understanding of angry people of color and a distaste for nutella? In short, no, but the attempts to do so problematize our understanding of confession.
Sexuality, as well as race, class, and inequality are somehow taboo on this campus. There is no way to air ignorances, defend injustices, or question intention. At some point, to be the most “liberal,” “diverse,” “globally conscious” school, we have fostered this false idea that we are unable to question ourselves. Though data may suggest we are doing “so much better” than other schools in terms of racial issues, LGBT issues, or sexual violence prevention, we have pushed ignorance to this hyper-stigmatized space where conversations and actual education on these areas falters.
My mentor and professor once told me that sometimes you still have to hear the craziness people say to at least know where they are coming from. This is not saying to not hold problematic language and hate speech accountable for their wrongness, but there are those who do not know where to begin. There are those who have the potential to reevaluate their perspective, but are shamed into silence, letting their ignorance fester. These back and forths on Tufts Confessions show us how far we are from productive conversations.
If you use Tufts Confessions, I only ask that you consider what your confession says about you. What truth about yourself are producing, interrogating, or revealing? I can’t ask the trolls to stop, but I hope people can read through confessions and see their concerns and fears and joys validated, even anonymously. If confessions speak to you, read through the comments, question the discourse, and learn something about yourself. Not all fads are created equal and I think it’s time we use the act of confession to gain some self-awareness.
Though feel free to keep congratulating our talented artists after all our shows. We love that sh*t.
Every year for the past five years or so, my mother and I have spent Thanksgiving on the couch eating turkey and marathoning movies. It’s a glorious tradition, one that we will undoubtedly continue this year. We usually have a theme as well: last year we watched Academy Award-nominated movies that did not win Best Picture.
So, in case you want to escape your family and are totally sick of everyone this Thanksgiving, I’m going to recommend a bunch of movies that are always fun to watch. I tried to find some Hanukkah movies to recommend for all my Jewish readers celebrating Thanksgivukkah, but there isn’t a single good mainstream Hanukkah movie out there, so I stuck with movies pertaining to Turkey Day. Disclaimer: they might not all actually be Thanksgiving movies, but every one of them will at least involve food, fighting, and/or football, all of which are holiday traditions anyway.
Addams’ Family Values, starring Anjelica Huston and Christopher Lloyd. It may take place during the summer, but there is one memorable Thanksgiving-themed scene that will have you falling off of your couch from laughter. This is one movie where the sequel is actually better than the original. The Addams family is hilarious and intensely weird, and yet somehow more functional than my own. Wednesday Addams is a national treasure, and should be appreciated by all on The Day Before Black Friday.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, starring Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson. It has the word “hunger” in the title, and there’s lots of fighting! And dudes, it is really awesome. Engaging, fast-paced, and (mostly) faithful to the book, Catching Fire is definitely the movie to see this week. Sam Claflin is perfect as my favorite character, Finnick. If I ran an awards show, I would give him the Robb Stark Memorial Award for Excellent Portrayal of an Attractive Side Character. Go see it!
We all know that the real star of the movie is Effie Trinket, fashion icon. Photo courtesy of Murray Close/EW.
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, starring Steve Martin and John Candy. It’s a John Hughes movie sans Molly Ringwald or angsty teenagers, and it’s hilarious. I’m sure students can relate to the protagonist’s plight of trying to get home before Thanksgiving, and the annoying people you can meet along the way. Actually, you can meet annoying people anywhere. It’s not just a travel thing. But I digress.
You know it’s an old movie because Steve Martin’s hair isn’t completely white yet. Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures/celebuzz.com
Every single Thanksgiving episode of “Friends.” It’s technically a T.V. show, not a movie, but whatever. Come on, the Thanksgiving episodes of “Friends” were the best episodes! Relive the 90′s, back when broadcast T.V. was more popular than cable and everyone had a V.C.R. My personal favorite is the one where Monica dances around with the turkey on her head.
Remember the Titans, starring Denzel Washington. You could watch actual, real live football on Thursday, but if you’re anything like me, you don’t understand how football works no matter how many times your mother has tried to explain it to you. But, if you are anything like me, you can appreciate a good movie about football that doesn’t require knowledge of how the game is actually played. So watch a high school football team beat the odds while you eat your turkey this Thursday, and don’t be ashamed when you cry. It’s Remember the Titans, man, everyone cries.
L.A. Confidential, starring Kevin Spacey and Guy Pierce. This has absolutely nothing to do with Thanksgiving. I can’t even make a vague connection to it. My mom and I just watched it last year, and it’s a really freaking awesome movie. It’s the L.A. gangster movie that all L.A. gangster movies rip off today, complete with mystery, great dialogue, and violence. I seriously cannot recommend it enough.
So that’s all, folks! I hope you all have very happy holidays and not very much homework. See you in December!
This blog post is dedicated to the international fan experience, in all of its insane glory. For your own nerdy edification, you should know that a fan base is generally referred to as a “fandom.”
Next Saturday, November 23, 2013 is the day I have been looking forward to for months. More specifically, it is “The Day of the Doctor.” If you will allow me to geek out a little for this article, I would like to express my great love for that excellent British sci-fi phenomenon, Doctor Who.
Doctor Who is a show that is nearly impossible to explain, although I will try anyway. In very basic terms, it focuses on a time-traveling alien called the Doctor, who is a Time Lord. The Doctor goes on adventures through space and time, often bringing along “companions” to share in the journey. When the Doctor dies, he is regenerated into a new body, giving a different actor the opportunity to explore the character. So far, there have been eleven official Doctors. This has allowed the show to continue for decades; five, to be precise. This Saturday, the show will be celebrating its fiftieth anniversary with a 70-minute special that will be simulcast across the world. East coasters can watch it at 2:50 pm.
Three Doctors in one poster! Looks totally epic. Image courtesy of Adrian Rogers/BBC America/EW.
Doctor Who is not just a show, it’s a religion. More than that, it’s basically an international cult. This past summer, my mom and I made a pilgrimage to Cardiff, Wales, where the show is filmed. There is an interactive museum there called the “Doctor Who Experience” that allows visitors to see costumes, sets, and props from different episodes. Because the show wasn’t filming at the time of my visit, I even got to go inside the set of the TARDIS, the Doctor’s spaceship!
Who’s that cool-looking girl in the TARDIS? Oh yeah, that’s me having the greatest day ever. Photo courtesy of my mom.
But I’m done bragging and fangirling. What’s almost as cool as the television show is the opportunity it has given me to make friends from all around the world. At the “Doctor Who Experience,” I heard people speaking several different languages, all with tones mirroring my own excitement. I know people from Ireland, America, Asia, and South America who are all adherents of Doctor Who. It’s the show that originally brought us together, and this type of community does not only apply to Doctor Who.
Meeting a fellow fan entails instant connection; if you watch one of my shows, we are automatically friends. Since coming to Tufts, I have made at least three friends by intensely discussing Game of Thrones conspiracy theories. The Internet has made being in a fandom an even more interactive experience. Social websites such as Facebook, Reddit, and especially Tumblr connect people to other viewers.
For awkward introverts like me, it’s nice to have an automatic conversation starter. I wear nerdy t-shirts as kind of a beacon to other fans (when you see me wearing my Supernatural shirt, you should totally come up to me and talk about it with me). In a weird way, being in a ridiculous number of fandoms has made me better at putting myself out there and talking to new people. I may not know you, but if you like the Lord of the Rings series, then I will literally talk about it with you for hours.
When I was younger, my passion for fiction is what made me the target of bullies and general elementary and middle school meanness. But as I matured, I realized that my entertainment tastes were what made me unique, even cool. When I found other people who were also into Harry Potter or what have you, it was like an instant validation. I was no longer alone, and I could express my love freely with others. Being in a fandom is so cool because it’s a whole bunch of people who are like me, expressing their passion through discussion, art, and writing.
This is why it’s so fantastic that “The Day of the Doctor” is premiering at the same time around the world. All the fans will be together, kind of like we’re watching it in the same room. And if you watch it on the 23rd, find me on campus – I’d love to talk about it with you.
This past Friday, I walked into the Balch Arena Theater with a rather jovial mood and a bright and sunny outlook on life. I left the theater, however, wallowing in some uninvited sadness and trying to understand how in a mere two hours, my entire disposition had changed.
Eurydice, written by Sarah Ruhl, is a modern retelling of the Greek tragedy, depicting the love-struck Orpheus’ sorrow alongside the struggle of his deceased wife (for whom the play is named) to come to terms with her own demise. As with any adaptation, there are some differences between the original tale and what the contemporary audience sees on stage. While the Greek myth focuses on Orpheus’ musical redemption, Ruhl’s production puts Eurydice under the magnifying glass, trying to understand the time she spends in the underworld and how to retain what seems lost.
3Ps took on this ambitious script for the major fall production, which ran from November 14-16. Even though Greek theatre is no small performance feat, the cast and crew of Eurydice made their production organic and accessible. From the tearfully read letters to the actual running water on stage, 3Ps married the historical legend and the raw grievance that has transcended the centuries.
I had seen a production of this same play a few years prior, so although I had a smile plastered across my face when I sat down in my seat, I prepared myself for the eventual emotional downturn I’d experience during the performance. I thought that, because I knew the arc of the plot and had studied the show before, I would not be as affected by it as I was the first time.
I was sorely mistaken.
There were a few tears shed throughout the evening as the themes of family, love, and loss all plucked at particular memories for me. However, I wasn’t alone in my somber mood. When the house lights finally rose at the end of the show, I saw a few hands wiping eyes even throughout the well-deserved applause. When the Greeks say that a story is a tragedy, they certainly are not lying.
Even though I left the show feeling far too many things at once, I was reminded why theatre is great even when it revives unwanted sentiments. Eurydice is a fine theatrical specimen in which the ending is completely undesirable and it angers you because you care so much about the characters and their stories that you forget, for a moment, the memories that the plot triggers in your own head.
Bravo, to the cast and crew for a night of truly beautiful theatre.
Thursday, November 15 at 7:30PM the Japanese Culture Club organized yet another thrilling event during which a movie screening of “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” (2011) was accompanied by free sushi.
Myriads of hungry students rushed to Barnum to line up for the sushi station located just outside the lecture hall. Standing ready at the station, all of the JCC members vigorously welcomed every guest to try out different types of ingredients that make up good sushi. Rice, seaweed, avocado, fermented tofu, crab meat, etc. The sushi options were endless. On the side, the members also served steamed mushrooms and natto, traditional Japanese food composed of fermented soybeans. Of course, who can forget to grab some hot green tea, particularly during this freezing weather?
When asked about the purpose of this event, a JCC member Fendi Chen enthusiastically said, “We want to spread more knowledge about Japanese culture to a greater student body.” She jokingly continued, “We hope everybody enjoys today’s sushi and the movie, which is also about sushi. It’s a day filled with sushi.”
After students got a taste of the Japanese delicacy, they quietly stepped inside the auditorium to watch the aforementioned documentary. The film follows Jiro, an 85-year-old sushi master chef and owner of a successful sushi restaurant who devoted all of his life to sushi making.
Jiro is a perfectionist. His journey showcases his persistence and resilience as he claimed, “I do the same thing over and over, improving bit by bit. There is always a yearning to achieve more. I’ll continue to climb, trying to reach the top, but no one knows where the top is.”
As the movie came to an end, President of JCC, Kentaro Okazaki, gave some concluding remarks thanking everyone who joined the sushi night. “Please look out for our biggest event of this semester – Matsuri – happening right after Thanksgiving,” said Kentaro as he encouraged all of the participants to continue supporting the club.
Not only did the event prove to be a great turnout for JCC, but everyone present was also able to learn something more about Japanese culture.
The 21st century queen of pop has returned after an anticipatory two years. Little Monsters everywhere rejoiced when Lady Gaga’s third studio album, ARTPOP, was released on November 11th. The album contains fourteen new songs in addition to the single “Applause” which was released earlier this year. Spanning from typical pop ballads like “Gypsy” to far-fetched cosmic sounds in “Venus,” ARTPOP displays a breadth of Gaga that we’ve never seen before.
ARTPOP Album cover Courtesy of Wikipedia
The Lady Gaga we saw back in 2009 with The Fame has seen the transformation from clean-cut pop star to a true performance artist, complete with exploratory melodies and nontraditional sounds. ARTPOP reveals Gaga’s rebirth and expands her designated genre into new territory with coarser – yet still catchy – soon-to-be Billboard staples.
As a diehard Born This Way-era Little Monster, I reminisce about the politically-charged and motivational Gaga that I fell in love with. The title track, along with songs like “Bad Kids” and “Hair,” became mantras of the misfits of my generations. ARTPOP, however, is a sexually-charged record and finds a new sphere of empowerment for the artist. For instance, the acronym from the song “G.U.Y” is defined as Gaga sings the lyrics: “I wanna be that G.U.Y., girl under you.” That’s a subtle example of ARTPOP’s outright sexuality. I mean, there’s a song called “Sexxx Dreams.” It doesn’t get more overt than that.
Though the album is packed with sexual innuendos that might make new listeners uncomfortable at times, Gaga reels them back in with her inexplicable humor scattered throughout the record, both musically and in conjunction with her lyrics. Perhaps the most hilarious, at least to me, is embedded in “Jewels N’ Drugs.” The song opens with a swelling orchestra, promising a different style than it delivers. Suddenly, the soft sounds of stringed instruments warming up switches into gritty rap and lyrics that feel like they’ve been rolling in dirt. While that might seem unappealing, Gaga makes it work, combining genres and musical themes in inexplicable ways. Also, the opening spoken lyrics in “Donatella” are absolutely priceless. I would highly recommend listening to them.
Overall, ARTPOP does make a departure away from the past versions of Lady Gaga that her Little Monsters grew to adore, but that’s to be expected. The revered queen is a master of reinvention and ARTPOP is just another example of her innate skill. Complete with strong vocals, new styles, and a dash of controversy, ARTPOP is sure to delight the original Little Monsters as well as invite in a few more to join to ArtRAVE.