Posts Tagged ‘CATF’

Media Update 8/1/19

August 1, 2019


Support Group for Men

When I saw this title, the ridiculous concept of Men’s Rights groups flashed into my head but I knew that a festival like this would not do something like that (unless maybe it was satire). Instead, this is about a group of guys who meet regularly to talk about their problems and their thoughts. They are comfortable with each other and things can get a bit deep and they try to be there to support each other. An unexpected visitor interrupts the meeting and changes it, sending all of the guys in different trajectories. The play examines masculinity, how we treat others, and how we treat each ourselves. The show was so good about putting a lot of positive messages about there about old school machismo, homophobia, gender identity, dating, age, mental health, and so many other issues men are presented with. Some of those topics are things that most men try to ignore but must be confronted with. The show deals with a lot of these deep moments with lots of healing humor. Which is to say that the show definitely takes important topics seriously but keeps things light and sweet to make the medicine go down. I definitely recommend it if you can find it.


Antonio’s Song/ I Was Dreaming of a Son

This was the one-person show of this year’s festival which is always interesting. A one-person show is often like listening to an audiobook. One person plays all sorts of different characters and must act out the whole show by themselves. This is a risky kind of play to write and perform because when it does not work, there is no way to get it back. It helps that this play was at least partly autobiographical. The actor, Antonio Edwards Suarez, was also one of the playwrights. He tells the story of his life from growing up in Brooklyn. He is the child of a Black man and a Latinx woman. He is stuck between two worlds but is also stuck in a world of gang violence brought on by toxic masculinity. The show is ostensibly about being caught in and trying to break out of a generational cycle of violence and anger. It is also about how creativity and the arts can help kids find who they are and who they want to be. It approaches defying traditional gender roles, cultural classifications, and trying to rise above where we should be. It is a really touching piece full of hope. Parts of it made me feel uncomfortable but that was obviously its intention. I also recommend it if you can find it.


Chester Bailey

I do not want to play favorites in this festival but I really, really liked this one and not only because I was able to meet and talk with its stars, Reed and Ephraim Birney. The show reminded me a bit of shows like Equus except that it was way lighter and smarter. The show follows a psychologist dealing with his patient in a mental hospital after a horrible accident. This all takes place during World War II when young men who were not overseas were embarrassed. Ephraim plays the patient, a young New Yorker who was struggling to find himself when one of the worst things ever happens to him. Reed Birney plays a snarky but highly insightful doctor who is dealing with his own personal problems when one of the most difficult cases of his career lands in his lap. The play has a lot of twists and turns and presents a lot of intriguing psychological problems. It does not dwell too long in tragedy but definitely has a dark edge. The show is told mostly in dueling monologues, sounding like journal entries from the characters told directly to the audience. The few scenes between the actors are charged with energy and definitely help drive the play forward. In this way, the show is kind of like two one-man shows that repeatedly collide. I definitely recommend it if you can find it.

 

Music of the Week:
Ashnikko – Hi, It’s Me

Dirty Heads ft. Rome of Sublime – Lay Me Down

Ferals – Gone

2 Chainz – Stay Woke Freestyle

Alice Chater – Hourglass

 

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “CATF 2019 Pt. 2”
– I finished Game of Thrones Season 3
– I finished Slasher Season 1
– I finished Losers Season 1
– I watched more How to Get Away With Murder Season 1
– I watched more Supergirl Season 4
– I watched more The Flash Season 5
– I watched more Arrow Season 7
– I watched more Star Trek: Voyager Season 3
– I watched more Supernatural Season 14
– I watched more Riverdale Season 3
– I watched more Stargate: Atlantis Season 1
– I watched more Defunctland and Yesterworld
– I started Wynonna Earp Season 3

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Media Update 7/25/19

July 25, 2019


A Welcome Guest: A Psychotic Fairy Tale

The subtitle of this show is definitely accurate as this is definitely a weird show. It is not exactly Theater of the Absurd (which is hard to make sense of) but this was in truth an interesting fairy tale. The show is set in a post-apocalyptic United States which has been devastated by some sort of disaster but continues on. In the rubble, dormant weapons dumps left behind by the military sometimes detonate and take out whole cities. The government has clamped down on everybody and has imposed a sort of stable martial law in order to protect the rich from all of the homeless refugees. The homeless are assigned derelict buildings to live in. One family who has lived a hard but noble existence now has a neighbor for the first time and he is really weird. The show feels a lot like a modern fairy tale, with so many lessons and metaphors for our own daily life. The cast of this one was really great at comic timing, feeling a bit like a sitcom on acid while we watched their adventures. A special shout out goes to Wade McCollum who plays the title character. He is so good at acting almost like a cartoon, a madman in the style of Daffy Duck. It takes every bit of his physicality and his vocal range but he pulls it off beautifully. I definitely recommend this one.


Wrecked

Horrible things happen many times in our lives, especially if we live long lives. Sometimes those horrible things are caused by us and then we have to deal with that trauma but also the guilt of what we have done to others. These events have been amplified by the invention of the automobile. I think you know where I am going with this. In the middle of a bad night, a couple must deal with the horror of tragedy, their own relationship, their minds, but also some unexpected house guests. How long can you keep up appearances with everybody else when your world is detonating? How long can you keep up appearances with yourself? This show could have been really dark but it keeps things light. It definitely explores both dark and deep subject matter but the dialogue remains witty and reminded me a bit of Neil Simon. The show explores both the twists and turns our mind makes when dealing with reality. It also deals with relationships and what makes a good one and what people think makes a good one. This one felt almost like a Twilight Zone without any supernatural elements. It was definitely a journey and I felt so satisfied when it was all over and the dust cleared. I recommend it for sure.


My Lord, What a Night

In the late 1930s, famed singer Marian Anderson performed in Princeton, sponsored by a program for young black artists which she was happy to do to inspire the next generation. After the performance, she was barred from the whites-only hotel in town. Albert Einstein, who had attended her performance, invited her to stay at his nearby home. A lifelong friendship was formed between two people who seemed, on the surface, unlikely to be friends. The truth is that Albert Einstein was a fervent supporter of the American Civil Rights movement because of his experiences as a Jew in Nazi Germany. This play tries to imagine what that night must have been like, the meeting of two incredible people. It plays a little with history by also adding in Mary Church Terrell, the first president of the National Association of Colored Women, an activist, and a DC school teacher. Abraham Flexner is also imagined to have been present, a renowned college professor and education reformer. Ms. Terrell and Einstein’s activist spirits clash against the more timid philosophies of Flexner and Anderson. The show is funny and deep and explores humanity and the best ways to go about saving humanity from itself during some of the most pivotal moments in each person’s careers. I definitely recommend it as it has a lot of great messages and warm dialogue.

Music of the Week:
Wallows – Scrawny

Baby Goth – Mary

SonReal – Parachute

Lizzo – Boys

The Regrettes – I Dare You

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “CATF 2019 Pt. 1”
– I finished Game of Thrones Season 3
– I watched more How to Get Away With Murder Season 1
– I watched more Losers Season 1
– I watched more Slasher Season 1
– I watched more Supergirl Season 4
– I watched more Riverdale Season 3
– I watched more The Flash Season 5
– I watched more Star Trek: Voyager Season 3
– I watched more Arrow Season 7
– I watched more Defunctland and also the similar Yesterworld
– I finished Designated Survivor Season 3

Media Update 7/26/2018

July 26, 2018

This week’s Media Update covers the five plays I saw at the Contemporary Arts Theater Festival in Shepherdstown, WV. The festival has a few days left so if you are in the area, you might want to swing by and see what tickets are left over. Find out at CATF.org.
#NotSponsored #HashtagsOutsideofTwitter

Ronald Reagan
A Late Morning [in America] with Ronald Reagan

I hate Ronald Reagan. I really do. He was President of the United States from the year before I was born until I was six. He was a joke of a president who had horrible policies that wounded this country and those wounds are still healing very slowly. He targeted black people, the gay community, and the middle and lower classes. He dumped money into the military and stupid programs that cost this country a lot. He also helped spread the paranoia that still pervades this country. Anyway, this show is about Ronald Reagan reflecting on his life as he nears the end. I was prepared to hate this show but I actually loved it. It is not a pro-Reagan show but it is also not an anti-Reagan show. Most of the show covers Reagan’s life outside of politics which included his college days, his radio career, his movie career, his military service, and his television career. The play succeeds in humanizing Reagan without excusing his crimes. It made me feel sorry for the Reagan at the end, a man whose memory was riddled with holes so that when he said “I do not recall” this time he actually meant it. It does dip into politics here and there and at the end, it dives headlong into his “achievements” in the Cold War. This was a very timely play to watch last week. If you get a chance, see this play.

Thirst

Thirst

The second show I saw at the festival was with my second cousins and my brother and I had no idea what I was in for. This show is set in a near future after nuclear bombs have dropped on New York City and Washington, DC. The obvious result is a destabilization of society and a return to a more tribal way of life. The play covers one such tribe built around a well with clean water that starts to come apart due to domestic conflicts. A painful memory has caused a clash within and now the tribe must deal with and move on or continue to suffer. Things are brought to a boiling point and there is a lot of action and great dialogue. I really loved the worldbuilding the playwright was able to develop. Although the play needs work, it was a real pleasure to watch a mystery unfold until that painful memory had been dug up and put on display. Part of that was the great acting on display in this one especially the physical acting. Everything felt so real and that kind of turned my stomach in a good way as the show continued. The show also really made think about how a story is constructed and how it is resolved. I definitely recommend this one too.

House on the Hill

The House on the Hill

Speaking of mysteries, this is another play driven by the slow and painful digging into the past. Two cousins meet at a lonely house on the hill years after they last saw each other. Together, they start to go through the memories that have kept a divide between them. Reluctantly, the two start to relive the memories on stage. They both see visions of their younger selves, dealing with the events as they happen. The show is very emotional as the tension lies heavy in the air. There is civility and politeness but the audience could pick up that something was very wrong right away. The question was: What was wrong? As the truth starts to come out, the show became a roller coaster of emotions and then it became a hurricane. The show gets very ugly but it was so powerful to watch. All four actresses did such a great job and I was left with a chill in my spine that had nothing to do with being damp from the earlier rain. All families have secrets and, although my family never had anything this bad, I could empathize with the trauma. Definitely check this one out too.

Berta Berta

Berta, Berta

This one was a little bit of a throwback to last year’s festival as we once again visited the black experience in America. Set in the southern US in the 1920s, it is about how the system is rigged against people of color. It, like all of these shows, was also about memory and exploring the memory of a love affair that never quite worked out. The chemistry between Berta and Leroy was absolutely magical. They go from fighting to joking to consoling to loving and back and forth between so many emotions. The play evokes a lot of tales that I have heard and read previously about how the legal system railroads black men into the system. This time, the story took on an almost supernatural element that made it all the more frightening and dark. The play is a long discussion between the two as they hash out their differences and reminisce about the good times. Ghosts of the past come up and we learn what exactly has gone down between the two. The set was also just a few feet away from me as the space was very intimate. Although this one was a little long (with no intermission), I recommend it as well.

 

Memoirs

Memoirs of a Forgotten Man

In Russia under Stalin, enemies of the “Great Leader” were forced to perform in show trials. In these trials, the accused was forced to rehearse and deliver false confessions. These completely false admissions were an example of state-sponsored theater and the Russian people were supposed to nod their heads and move on. This show explores how difficult it is to hold the memories of what happened and what everybody says happened in your head. It explores how we deal with other people through our memories and also how we approach the world through that same memory. In a very dark, unstable time in Russia’s history, it is dangerous to hold onto the memories of what actually happened. Not towing the party line can be the difference between life and death. Lying and telling the truth to the right people is a way of life in a world of paranoia and a society obsessed with control. This was hands down my favorite play of the festival as it was big and left me with interesting questions and uneasy worries. This one also felt really timely considering the waves of misinformation that get thrown around in our more modern society. I highly recommend this one too.

 

Music of the Week:

Bryson Tiller – Sorry Not Sorry

Niall Horan – Slow Hands

Gorillaz – Sorcererz

Lindsey Sterling and Lzzy Hale – Shatter Me

Tone Trump – Thuggn

 

Weekly Update:
– This week has two themes: “Memory” and “Contemporary Arts Theater Festival 2018”
– I watched more NCIS Season 15
– I watched more Agents of SHIELD Season 5
– I watched more Supergirl Season 3
– I watched more Blue Bloods Season 8
– I watched more Luke Cage Season 2
– I watched more Glow Season 2
– I watched all of Joel McHale Show Season 2

Media Update 7/27/17

July 27, 2017


Welcome to Fear City

This was a matinee and I was excited to see the first show of our bunch of shows we had tickets to. Fear City is what they called New York City in the seventies. One of the points this show tries to put forward is that if Manhattan was considered Fear City, what was the Bronx? Terror Town? This was the area where the poorest black people lived at the height of disco, funk and the early days of the hip hop lifestyle. The show follows a mother, her grown son, her grown daughter and the son’s friend. Each has been through a hard journey and each still has a hard journey ahead. The show is stylized but also allows for fantasy bits like asides, monologs, and the appearance of a giant talking rat. Nothing good happens and I felt for each and every character most of whom had to keep dark, painful secrets. In the end, there is more to the story than this dark tale set in 1977. Afterall, things were hard for black people in 1977 but they were also hard from the 1500s and all the way to the 21st century. It is a great exploration of race, poverty, and morality. If you ever get a chance, I highly recommend it.


The Niceties

I consider myself pretty knowledgeable when it comes to language about race and minorities. I do recognize that I can still improve and I try to do that every day. We all have prejudices, even ones we do not realize we have until we are put into certain situations. This show is about the verbal battle between a student of color and a white professor and the different kinds of racism that can manifest in us and in society. It also explores how we look up to people from history who we find to be problematic later on as our perspective is enriched. The claim is made that as long as each generation is five percent better than the last, then we are still striving in the right direction. The counter is that this is not enough. The claim is made that white people are still trying to learn what not to say but the counter is that we should already know what not to say. It also explores how invisible whole groups are from history because they could not write down or pass on their history and therefore we are only left with a general picture of slaves rather than actual specifics. It is a very intense show and I wholeheartedly recommend it.


Byhalia, Mississipi

This was a story about how quickly your life can be upended by a single mistake. People build a life together but you never realize how fragile those relationships can be until they are shattered and you are left to pick up the pieces. The main focal point is a husband and wife waiting for a baby and then everything goes horribly and they have to figure where to go from there. The show is a comedy until it stops being a comedy and things get very real. Hovering around the edges of the tale are old enemies, old friends and a mother in law who all have an opinion on what needs to happen. I cannot talk much about the show without revealing too much about the sudden roadblocks. Check it out if you have the chance.

 

Music of the Week:
Beastwars – Realms

Ihsahn – Introspection

DM – Mueka ft. Cosculluela

Lacuna Coil – Trip The Darkness

Run The Jewels – Close Your Eyes

Weekly Updates:
– This week’s theme is “Contemporary Arts Theater Festival 2017”
– The CATF will be ending this weekend so if you somehow see this before it ends, go see a show or more
– I also saw “Wild Horses” and it was great but not as impactful as the above shows
– I watched more Agents of Shield Season 3
– I watched more NCIS Season 13
– I watched more Glitter Force
– I watched more House of Cards Season 2
– I watched more Blood Drive
– Not much this week since I was swamped with the festival

The Other

July 25, 2016

I have been thinking about this post for a while. Over two weeks ago I went to see a play called The Wedding Gift by Chisa Hutchinson. I will not spoil it for those who have not seen it yet but it is at the Contemporary American Theater Festival in Shepherdstown, WV. If you are reading this before July 31, 2016 then there is still time to see the production I saw. After seeing it, I wanted to briefly discuss some of the ideas and memories it awoke in me. So this is not exactly a review but instead a reflection on how the play affected me. If you want a non-spoiler review, here it is: It’s really good. I have said before that I do not get political on this blog because that is what Tumblr is for. This is not about politics. This is about culture and morals and human beings.

All during the play, I had fleeting flashes of memory and thought. I remembered the first time I read about slavery and really understood what the word and the situation meant. I thought about how those first African slaves must have felt as they were unloaded in the New World. I can barely fathom the mix of emotions they might have felt but I imagine that none of them were good. I thought about the manner in which a certain part of the family says the word “black” and how it irks me every time. Sometimes it makes me just a little sick. It made me think about the two Muslim kids in my graduating high school class.

Most of all, it actually made me think of a small part of my life that ended up being incredibly important to my worldview. At the end of my Freshman year at Mason Gross School for the Arts, I was looking for a summer job and my mother had a lead through my brother. He was working with a theater and dance company called Wombworks Productions and I was encouraged to work with them too. I ended up working for a program called Yoasis! which was funded by Yo! Baltimore. It was a program where older kids from youth centers could learn their way around a recording studio, acting, dance and music. It was the first year of the program and they wanted to call it Oasis but I mentioned that there was already a music group called Oasis.

This program was operated in West Baltimore nearly at the end of North Avenue. This was completely foreign territory to me but I trusted my brother and my brief experiences with the company earlier in the summer. When the program began, I found out that for the entirety, I would be the only white employee and the only white person at all around at all. It was eye-opening. The company was mostly inspired by African culture and some Native American culture but this program also reflected the culture these kids lived every day. There was rap, there was African dance, there was poetry and so much more. In fact, I remember writing one particular poem that was included in the show we were putting together.

I remember one incident where I was working with the kids and the other staff and one of the staff pulled me out of the room. They said that I “probably did not want to be in there right now.” The director of the program came in and started to speak to the kids about how the black man and woman were oppressed by the white man. I was just outside of the room but I could feel the tension, frustration and anger building up inside. It was not violent but it was honest and it felt to me like an old wound being ripped open again right there in that room. It has taken me a long time to really understand that moment. It made me understand privilege, oppression, racism and allowed me a glimpse of what it is to be the other.

As the play unfolded and ended, I thought about my brief experience being The Other. I thought about how vulnerable I felt walking across the street to New York Fried Chicken. I thought about talking to young black kids who had been shot at and had lives so different from mine. I thought about the things we shared and how they accepted my poem into their artform. I thought about how our country as a whole is treating the trans people and how we are disrespecting them because they are Other. I thought about how All Lives Matter misses the point of the statement and movement of Black Lives Matter. I thought about how those things are politicized when they should not really be about politics. They should be common sense.

The Other is anything that is any person or group who you feel is not like you. A rich and rewarding life is going to involve running into The Other over and over. It is important to understand The Other and its boundaries. However, while you are recognizing and understanding those boundaries, you should remember that they were made by people. Deep down we really are all the same. We can be smart, stupid, kind, cruel and all sorts of other descriptions. Recently, I have been interacting with a lot of people who have not really experienced The Other so they are afraid and prejudiced. Instead, I wish I could get them to go out and meet a gay person or meet a black or Muslim and realize that they are people too. It is important to remember that we are all The Other to some other group of people. All we can do is try to have sympathy for each other and try to understand each other and figure out what we need to do to effect positive change.

Media Update 7/30/2015

July 30, 2015


The Penguins of Madagascar

I did see one and a half Madagascar movies but I never really liked them. It felt like they weren’t written for me and also they had David Schwimmer in them. However, those movies did produce a pretty enjoyable spin-off tv show starring the penguins. The show was surprisingly funny which was a bit of a surprise for a spin-off of something I didn’t really like in the first place. Anyway, the movie is pretty wacky and ends up being non-stop action. However, there’s a lot of clever humor and ballsy puns thrown in that make the movie pretty enjoyable. I’m a little sorry they didn’t get the voice actors from the show but it’s worth a look if you’re looking for something to watch.

 

Contemporary Arts Theater Festival

This is my first year attending shows at the Contemporary Arts Theater Festival which is held at Shepherd University. So far I attended two shows and they were both really good.

The first show was We Are Pussy Riot which was definitely an eye opener. I am definitely guilty of following the news of Pussy Riot extremely loosely and then giving up on the story when they showed up on Colbert. The show was really informative about what exactly I was missing from the story. The acting was excellent and you really got a feel for what the Russian justice system must be like. Sometimes the show was funny and sometimes it was sad but it was always horrifying. It reminded me that we cannot be complacent in our society.

The other show was The Whole Catastrophe which was more Neil Simon-like about a linguist/confirmed bachelor who gets tapped to be a live-in marriage counselor. It was a very funny and thoughtful piece about love, communication and the mistakes we make. It had a lot to say about suburban life, family, academia and pop psychology. One surreal thing about this show was that it shared a few actors with We Are Pussy Riot in completely different roles.

I would reccomend seeing both of these and probably any of the other shows. There’s still a few days left in the festival so if you’re in the area, check it out.

 

Radio Dead Air

I love the radio. I used to listen to it a lot more before Youtube and podcasts took over the time I spent in the car listening to the radio. I always loved hearing the music. Whether it was old favorites or stuff completely new to me, I loved getting lost in it. However, it was also about the friendly DJ or hosts chatting away. There’s something about the conversations that come out of somebody just sitting down and talking that I always liked. Radio Dead Air is a live internet show from 9 to 2 am every Monday night.

The host, Nash, plays whatever he feels like playing and also plays requests from viewers. He talks a lot about whatever’s going on in his life or in the news. It also includes a live show called What the Fuck is Wrong With You? that is co-hosted by Tara Deenihan where they riff on the news of the weird from the past week. It’s a really calming show to listen to and Nash is dedicated to making every show really good. It’s worth a listen and a watch, even if you just put it on in the background and listen to someone else’s taste in music for a change. This past Monday he even had his 15 year anniversary of doing the show.

 

Chuck

I had actually meant to watch this show a long while ago as my youngest brother went to Stanford just like the main character. The show is kind of dorky but it’s enjoyable enough. Chuck is a big box store employee who gets all of United States intelligence’s secrets beamed into his head. Because he is now the only source for these secrets, he is employed as an asset for the CIA and NSA. Zachary Levi is pretty good as Chuck and he often reacts as I would if I were suddenly a secret agent. However, he mugs a lot which hopefully they cut down on. Yvonne Strahvoski is great as his CIA handler as she kicks a lot of butt while being charming and insightful. Adam Baldwin is great as Chuck’s NSA bodyguard because at this point he was used to playing amusing jerks. The rest of the supporting cast is kind of annoying but hopefully that fades with time. Overall, four episodes in, it’s pretty rocky but a pretty interesting show. I don’t know if I’ll continue to watch it.


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