Thoughts on How We Experience Theater before Seeing Miss Saigon Tonight

Tonight I am super excited to see the second preview of Miss Saigon. I’ve been waiting to see this revival for years and already have tickets to return two more times. But you will probably be surprised to know that Miss Saigon is not my favorite musical. I don’t even consider it in my top tier of favorite musicals. Sunday in the Park with George is one of my favorite musicals, and it is also in what is supposed to be an amazing revival, which I’m seeing in a few more weeks.

But I’m way more excited for the Miss Saigon revival. Why? I think it has to do with how I experienced both shows as a young person, one in live performance and one on video. I’ve written my thoughts on filmed productions before, albeit in a different context, and I really think there is something to how we experience theater as a young person and how that affects how we experience the same piece as an adult.

When I was 9 my mother took me to see Miss Saigon. She got me out of school, and it was a magical day that included the stage door, the show itself, and a backstage tour given by one of the swings, Leonard. I have no photos from that day but it lives in my memory as part of my mythology.

In contrast, I discovered Sunday in the Park with George on VHS, which is the original production, when I was about 15, a sophomore in high school. I became so enamored with it that I watched it and listened to the CD constantly. I related so much to the characters–it probably helped me through my adolescence now that I think back on it. I saw the 2008 revival, which was fine. I hear this revival is really good and I’m looking forward to seeing it, but I’m not excited about it, I think because my love for that show has nothing to do with being in the room with it.

So to quote my other blog post about this idea, when we preserve a production, are we, in a small way, ruining that magic of seeing it live? I am so grateful for the filmed production of Sunday in the Park with George, but it does affect how I experience the show now. I enjoy watching it on video (now DVD) and listening to it, but man, I can’t wait to be in the theater tonight to experience Miss Saigon again.

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DAYS OF RAGE at New York Theatre Barn’s Choreography Lab

Days of Rage will be part of New York Theatre Barn’s Choreography Lab on Monday, February 20th at 2pm.

4 choreographers explore dance from 4 different moments of the new musical Days of Rage, a musical inspired by the activities of the Black Panthers and The Weather Underground in the late 60s/early 70s. Currently in development with New York Theatre Barn, Days of Rage is written by Shoshana Greenberg and Hyeyoung Kim.

2.20.17 |  2PM @ The Cell |  338 W 23rd St., NYC
Tickets: $10 in advance / $15 at the door
Purchase Tickets


Photograph by Michael Bonasio
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Countdown to 2017: 2016 TV

Disclaimer: I only rank shows that I watch and I’m not a TV critic. Also, there are some spoilers. Read at your own risk…

Just as it was last year, almost all of these shows have a woman as the main character. The ones that don’t are the family shows which have good mother and daughter characters. Also, THREE of these shows have Jewish female leads.

1. The Americans
The Americans has been my number one show for the past two years, and I’m happy it has maintained its status. The show manages to be both about the characters’ interior lives and the external events of the early 80s (now relevant again). A lot happened this season, but what sticks out is Martha, Paige and Pastor Tim, and Elizabeth and Philip’s slow descent into questioning their actions and choices. I always tell people they must watch this show, and now it’s on Amazon Prime so one can catch up. So, watch this show.

2. Agent Carter
I’m actually not sure which of Agent Carter‘s two seasons I liked better–each was so different, not only because one was set in New York and one in Los Angeles. But in season two, Peggy had already proven herself to her coworkers, so the relationships could deepen and they could all have a bit more fun. Needless to say, I was devasted when this show was cancelled. But I shouldn’t be surprised: shows with female leads don’t often last that long. But even though this was a Marvel show, Peggy didn’t have a super power. As a friend of mine said, her super power was being good at her job. And even though the love story was fun to follow, this was always a show about women in the workplace.

3. The Middle
The Middle is my favorite sitcom on television, and falls into my long-loved subcategory of family sitcom. Even in its 7th season, the series manages to explore more about the characters. I appreciate that the kids can go to college and explore that side of themselves while other sitcoms find ways to keep the children at home (it helps that they are both going to the school close enough to home that they are often there). After seven seasons most family sitcoms would have run their course, but The Middle seems like it could keep going forever, and I wouldn’t mind.

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Countdown to 2017: 2016 Movies

I saw 8 movies this year. This is a major drop from last year’s 18, which had already been a major drop from the previous year’s 25. Last year I said that I kind of gave up on movies, and this year I really saw the effects. Without the movie series we do at my company (Movies for the Mind), I would barely have enough films to warrant an end-of-year list (I don’t really have enough as it is). I usually see movies at MoMA–this year I saw none. I was only in a regular movie theater 4 times this year, but surprisingly that’s one more time than last year (last year I went to MoMA way more). With everything I do, something had to go.

I saw 3 new movies this year, all in a regular movie theater. Last year it was 4 new films. In total, I saw 0 films (both old and new) at MoMA (6 less than last year) and 4 at my company’s Movies for the Mind series (4 less than last year). Of the 8 movies I saw this year, I saw 7 for the first time.

My rating system uses stars and equates as follows: 1=bad, 2=ok 3=really good 4=great.

My favorite new movies (4 stars) this year were:
The Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened
Jackie

Runners up (3.5 stars):
Hidden Figures

My favorite old movie I saw for the first time:
The King of Comedy

My favorite old movies I loved seeing again:
Ghostbusters

Worst new movie:
None

Worst old movie:
Ghostbusters–I both love and hate this movie.

The (Not-So) Big List:
Code Girl (Movies for the Mind)***
Spare Parts (Movies for the Mind)***
The King of Comedy (Film Forum)***
Ghostbusters (Movies for the Mind)***
Pirates of Silicon Valley (Movies for the Mind)***
The Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened (Film Society of Lincoln Center)****
Hidden Figures (AMC Times Square)***1/2
Jackie (The Ambler Theater, Ambler, PA)****

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Countdown to 2017: 2016 Books

Last year, I read 12 books! This year I read 11, but the drop is due to only reading 1 A Series of Unfortunate Events book with my babysitting charge this year instead of 2. I’ve still read 10 books on my own, like last year. I’m glad I’ve kept up my reading pace.

Overall, I read 4 fiction books (2 classics, 2 new–and this is 2 more than last year!), 3 non-fiction books (1 theater book and 2 investigative journalism/memoir books), 3 Children/Young Adult series books, and 1 book of poetry. All but 1 were by American authors (Proust being the exception). 2 books I read for my new virtual book club. 1 was by an author I used to work with. 1 I read because it related to something I was writing. 5 were women authors (2 more than last year!). 2 were by the same author (Lemony Snicket).

These stats are fairly similar to last year’s but with some improvements. Last year I still hadn’t read even 1 non-American author, but this year I read 1. Last year I had added more fiction books, and this year I added even more. However, one of my resolutions last year had been to read a biography this year, and I did not do that. I also did not read a feminism book, and my resolution has been to read 1 a year. I did, however, keep my resolution to read 1 book of poetry a year. I don’t think I stated this in the past, but I also have a resolution to read 1 Thornton Wilder book a year, and I have kept that up as well. Most exciting, though, is that I kept my resolution to read more women authors. Last year, 3/9 authors I read were women. This year, it’s 5/10. Gender equality! Next year: Continue with my 50:50 ratio and my reading variety–make sure to continue to read 1 poetry book a year and 1 Wilder book a year–but make sure to read a biography and 1 feminism book a year as well.

It should also be noted that this year my friends and I started a virtual book club in the latter half of the year. I read 2 books for that book club (out of 3), and I’m looking forward to more.

I also read 9 New Yorkers (1 fewer than last year, after I had a  nice jump the previous year) and 8 New York magazines (2 fewer than I read last year after a jump, but I’m back to what I was at the previous year) in between each book, as well as various other magazine and website articles. Plus, every Time Out New York. I suspect the slight decrease in New Yorkers and New York magazines read this year is the fact that I read a longer book this year (Swann’s Way) and still maintained my 10 books a year goal. Next year: Try to bring myself up to last year’s numbers of 10 New Yorkers and 10 New York magazines a year.

My favorite book(s) of the year:
Far from the Tree
All the Wrong Questions Book 4: Why Is This Night Different from All Other Nights?
The Woman of Andros
Tuck Everlasting
(well, it’s always my favorite book)

The List:

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Countdown to 2017: 2016 Theater

Last year I saw 89 productions, which was a significant jump from the previous year’s 73. This year I saw… 69, the lowest it has ever been (yes, I’m aware I still see way more than the average person). I was hoping the number would be a little higher, but it’s understandable given how busy I was in other areas this year, especially during the fall when so much theater is opening. I’m also trying to balance life even more than in previous years to get my output to be equal to or to surpass my input. In other words, I think I’m at the point at which I should be producing more than I’m consuming, so while in previous years it was normal to have the number be in the 80s and 90s, I should accept that a lower number in the 60s and 70s (and maybe even lower) is going to be more typical.

I saw a good number of these shows for free and paid a discount rate for most of the others (I actually only paid for 27 of these–the same number as last year–and none was a huge purchase). Aside from performing in the Pops holiday concert twice, I did not see any show more than once, although this was my third time seeing Fun Home. I sang in 6 of these concerts/shows, and 4 of them were my own work or featured my own work. 7 shows were connected to articles I wrote or am writing for 3 websites/publications (9 fewer than last year but on par with the previous year). 1 show was an autism-friendly performance for people with autism, which I volunteered for, 1 was an opening night, and 1 was a gala.

I used to do a star rating system, but since I know people involved in many of these shows, I’ve done away with that and just highlighted my favorites. After the favorites is the HUGE list of everything I saw. Then, I have listed some fun panels, exhibits, and events I also attended this year.

Top 10 Favorites (in no order, I swear):
Marjorie Prime
Motherstruck
The Secret Garden
I’ll Never Love Again
She Loves Me
The New York Pops Gala: Do You Hear the People Sing
Runaways
The Crucible
Fun Home
Falsettos

Runners Up (Also in no order):
Red Speedo
Tuck Everlasting
Alice Ripley & Emily Skinner: Unattached
Shuffle Along
Small Mouth Sounds
Dog Days
Vietgone
Party People
Fiddler on the Roof
The Light in the Piazza concert

The Big List:

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DAYS OF RAGE Reading

Tonight, New York Theatre Barn presents a reading of our musical:

DAYS OF RAGE

days-of-rage-concertBook + Music by Hyeyoung Kim
Book + Lyrics by Shoshana Greenberg  
Directed by Joe Barros (Gigi, Cagney)
Musical Direction by Christopher D. Littlefield
Associate Director Emily Briggs
Stage Manager Savannah Kurtz

With Adam Theodore Barry, Ben Bogen, Michael Enright, Luke Forbes, Jeremy Gaston (Sister Act), Michelle Beth Herman, Bruce Jones, Charlie Levy, Kelly McIntrye (A Night With Janis Joplin), Zurin Villanueva (Shuffle Along), Noah Zachary, and EJ Zimmerman (Les Miserables)

How far would you go for something you believe is right? Who is responsible for violence and how do you break the cycle? Inspired by the activities of The Weathermen/Weather Underground Organization and The Black Panther Party in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Days of Rage captures the passion and conviction of that turbulent era and questions how far one should go in defense of what they believe is right. Days of Rage was featured in Theatre Barn’s New Works Series earlier this month

11.28.16 | 7pm @ The Cell | 338 W 23rd St., NYC

Photo by Michael Bonasio.

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“Days of Rage” at NYTB New Works Series

My musical Days of Rage with composer and co-bookwriter Hyeyoung Kim will be part of the November 7th New York Theatre Barn New Works Series! I’m thrilled to showcase songs from this politically-charged show the night before the election.

days-of-rage
Monday, November 7th, 7:30pm
The Cell: 23rd street between 8th and 9th Avenues

Days of Rage
Book and Music by Hyeyoung Kim
Book and Lyrics by Shoshana Greenberg
Directed by Joe Barros
Musical Direction by Christopher D. Littlefield

How far would you go for something you believe is right? Who is responsible for violence and how do you break the cycle? Inspired by the activities of The Weathermen/Weather Underground Organization and The Black Panther Party in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Days of Rage captures the passion and conviction of that turbulent era and questions how far one should go in defense of what they believe is right.

Casting was just announced today! The cast includes Drew Arisco, Adam Theodore Barry, Ben Bogen, Michael Enright, Luke Forbes, Jeremy Gaston, Michelle Beth Herman, Jonathan Hooks, Kelly McIntrye (A Night With Janis Joplin), Alexis Tidwell, and EJ Zimmerman (Les Miserables).

Purchase $20 tickets (or $15 student tickets).

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Blog Post: Natalie Babbitt and Tuck Everlasting, an Appreciation

tuck_everlasting25I want to say a few words about the author Natalie Babbitt, who passed away on Monday at age 84, because Tuck Everlasting was my favorite childhood book and remains one of my favorite books to this day. When people talk about the power of childhood books and their influence over how we see the world, that was Tuck Everlasting for me. We read it in my second grade class, and I remember everything.

I remember learning vocabulary words like “melancholy” and when I reread the book and I get to that word I still see it on my vocab list and am taken back to the exact moment of learning it.

I remember Winnie’s line: “I’m not exactly sure what I’d do, you know, but something interesting– something that’s all mine. Something that would make some kind of difference in the world.” And thinking, yes, that’s me, this book and this character is me.

I remember the opening paragraph with the first line: “The first week of August hangs at the very top of summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning.” And how I came to view time as a circle, like a wheel, and how years later I wondered why and traced it back to this book.

I remember so many images, like the cows walking around the wood, and I remember the language, so beautiful and ominous and made me want to be a writer, although I didn’t realize that then, but somewhere there are some pages of writing from me at seven years old “in the style of Natalie Babbitt.”

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What I Did on My Summer Vacation

We’ve made it to fall! Soon leaves will turn brown, we’ll dust off our boots, and life will get crazy (because that’s what always seems to happen in the fall). But for now, let’s look back at what I did this summer.

Rehearsing Lightning Man

Rehearsing Lightning Man

Most of my summer writing activity happened in June when my collaborators and I had a reading of our show Lightning Man at Turtle Bay Music School. We had a wonderful cast and band, and we learned a lot about our show, which is what readings are really all about. Stay tuned for more updates about Lightning Man as it moves forward.

Lightning Man Reading Collaborators

Lightning Man Reading Collaborators

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