Blog Post: Why We Need This Ghostbusters Reboot

Last night I watched the original Ghostbusters in anticipation of the reboot that opens this weekend. I have a discordant reaction to this film in that I always laugh through it but I also get so angry that one of the few female characters, Dana Barrett, is so awesome (she’s smart, she’s an accomplished cellist, she’s too busy to call her mom but still talks to her mom when she calls to check in) and yet Dana does absolutely nothing but get abducted and then possessed halfway through the film–but it’s FUN! because she’s acting so SEXUAL! (ugh). The sequel may be bad, but at least Dana has something to do when she goes after her abducted baby. At least she isn’t the one being abducted this time.

But now the genders are switched, and the Ghostbusters are female. Now the women are the active characters. Women will get to watch a film in which one of two supporting female characters isn’t getting abducted, possessed, and then rescued only to kiss someone she barely knows as the credits roll. All stories should have active women, but having active women in this new Ghostbusters film is especially important because the film is taking something that did not have active women and changing that.

This photo from the premiere has been making the rounds on social media (it was first shared on Twitter by Anna Spiess, a 16-year-old fan, according to the Facebook page “A Mighty Girl“). The young girls are dressed in Ghostbuster gear. They are smiling, and one has reached out her hand to connect with one of the film’s stars, Kristen Wiig. This image moved me to tears because it’s the manifestation of the contact young girls make with women on screen with whom they can identify, women who are active, who drive the story, the ones who bust the ghosts.

ghostbusters

Whatever you think about the Ghostbusters franchise–whether you love it, don’t care, or think the new film ruins your childhood–please know that this new Ghostbusters is important, at least to me, a woman who does things who wants to see women on film doing things as well.

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Reading of LIGHTNING MAN at Turtle Bay Music School

The musical Lightning Man, my collaboration with composer Jeffrey Dennis Smith and bookwriter Maggie-Kate Coleman, will have a public reading at the Turtle Bay Music School this Monday as part of Jeffrey Dennis Smith’s residency there. We are excited to present a new draft of the show with never-heard-before songs.

Logo by Elisa Schneider

Logo by Elisa Schneider

Monday, June 27, 2016 7:00 pm

Turtle Bay Music School
244 E 52nd St New York, NY, 10022
Free. RSVP.

Inspired by actual experiences, the musical LIGHTNING MAN tells the story of National Park Ranger and seven-time lightning strike survivor Roy Sullivan. Roy is relentlessly pursued, seduced, toyed with, adored, tortured and repeatedly struck by Lightning, appearing to him in the form of four very different but equally dangerous women, who may or may not also be his wives and ex-wives. As Roy struggles to regain control of his life in the aftermath of the strikes, he attempts to strike back against a force of nature.

Book by Maggie-Kate Coleman
Lyrics by Shoshana Greenberg
Music by Jeffrey Dennis Smith

Director: Jessica Beck
Music Director: Julianne Merrill
Continue reading

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Park and Bark: 12 Mini-Operas About Fort Greene Park

parkbark150For the past three months, I have been participating in a class at my former graduate program (the Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program at NYU). In the class we wrote mini-operas about Fort Greene Park, a park with a fascinating history that has a crypt containing the bones of Revolutionary War soldiers. The class is a mix of both alums and current students and is a collaboration with American Opera Projects. My opera, “Margaret,” with composer Paulo Tirol will be presented this Saturday, May 7th at 2pm at the GMTWP black box.

In “Margaret,” Mark and Hattie, a young couple, stumble home drunk through Fort Greene Park in the early morning. Mark is frustrated because Hattie won’t take an important step in their relationship and he accuses her of not taking risks. When she insists she does take risks, he dares her to prove it by breaking into the park’s crypt where she finds the ghost of a mad woman whose husband died on the Revolutionary War prison ships. The opera features the singers Blake Friedman (tenor), Sarah Heltzel (mezzo-soprano), and Amelia Watkins (soprano).

The other six mini-operas will be done the following day, Sunday, May 8th at 4pm. These performances are actually in the park. Here is more info about the event:

Continue reading

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Spring Singing

New York PopsMy final chorus concert this spring is the New York Pops 33rd Birthday Gala: Do You Hear the People Sing on Monday, May 2nd at Carnegie Hall. We get to celebrate the collaborations of Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg, the songwriting team behind Les Misérables, Miss Saigon, and more.

To say that singing in this concert is a childhood dream come true is an understatement. When I was 9 years old, I was obsessed with Miss Saigon, and my mom took me to see the show on April 1, 1992. I knew every single word, every single note. It remains one of the most thrilling theater-going experiences of my life. I returned in January of 2001 to see the show in its last two weeks when Lea Salonga played Kim one last time (I had missed her the first time) and now I get to sing on the same stage as Lea Salonga when she performs in the gala.

Continue reading

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Chorus Concert: The Composer Speaks Series

The chorus I sing with, Essential Voices USA, has a concert coming up!

The Composer Speaks Concert Series
Austrian Emigres: Schoenberg, Von Trapp and the Power of Music
This program will explore the stories of Austrian emigres whose experiences have been captured in important musical compositions
Wednesday, March 30th, 7:30pm
The Di Menna Center for Classical Music

We are performing the music of Schoenberg and Rodgers and Hammerstein–a great combo! The program also includes a discussion with musicians and scholars, including Von Trapp family member Elisabeth Von Trapp and Schoenberg’s son, Larry Schoenberg. Ted Chapin, president of the Rodgers and Hammerstein organization, will be there to speak as well. It’s going to be a special program.

Composer Speaks 2016

Program:
Schoenberg – Am Scheideweg, Op. 28 n. 1 – Brettl-Lieder (Cabaret Songs)
Schoenberg – Dreimal tausend Jahre, Op. 50A – A Survivor From Warsaw
Rodgers and Hammerstein – The Sound of Music Suite (US Premiere)

Speakers and Performers:
Judith Clurman, Conductor
Tedd Firth, Piano
Essential Voices USA
Naomi Lewin, moderator
Joseph Beutel, Ted Chapin, David Chase, Larry Hochman, David Ludwig, Maureen McKay, Larry Schoenberg, Elisabeth Von Trapp

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Countdown to 2016: 2015 TV

This year, I think I can identify a theme: Almost all of these shows have a woman as the main character. The ones that don’t are Mad Men, which is as much about the women as the men, and The Middle, a family show in which the mother narrates and the daughter is my favorite character. Also, THREE of these shows have a Jewish female lead.

americanstop5
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…

1. The Americans
The show gets better and better every season, and Paige’s slow journey from season one paid off big time in season three. Plus, we got a stunning episode featuring Lois Smith and an episode built around the early 1980s band Yaz. This is the best drama on television.

2. Mad Men
Like many have said, Mad Men stuck the landing, which is important in a show that’s been building toward something for so many years. Though I may not agree with the reasoning behind what they did to Betty, the other characters had endings worthy of them.

3. The Middle
The Middle may not be the best comedy on television, but it is my favorite, and there have been some great episodes this year that put characters in situations I never expected to see them in (Sue having to tell her high school boyfriend that she did not want to marry him) and familiar situations that felt new (Sue going off to college).

4. UnReal
UnReal was my favorite new show this year. It gave us a true female antihero and what I think is the first leading Jewish woman in a drama series. It also had so much to say about reality TV, relationships, and our responsibility toward other human beings.

Continue reading

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Countdown to 2016: 2015 Books

Last year, I read 12 books! This year I also read 12, although, like last year, 2 of them were A Series of Unfortunate Events books that I am reading to my babysitting charge. I’m glad I’ve kept up my reading pace.

books 2015

Overall, I read 2 fiction books,  6 non-fiction books (1 feminism book, 2 journal/memoir books, 2 business books, and 1 regular non-fiction/data book), 3 Children/Young Adult series books,  and 1 book of poetry. All were by American authors. 3 I read for my company book club. 1 was by an author I work with. 1 I read because it related to something I was writing. 3 were women authors. 3 were by the same author (Lemony Snicket). These stats are fairly similar to last year’s. I still didn’t read one non-American author, but I did add more fiction books. I did not read a biography this year, but I needed a bit of a break from biographies. Next year: Continue with this variety–make sure to read 1 poetry book a year and 1 feminism book a year–but make sure to read a biography. Also, try to read at least 1 more fiction book for a total of 3 and more women authors. 3/9 is too low.

I also read 10 New Yorkers (3 more than what I read last year) and 10 New York magazines (2 more than I read last year) in between each book, plus the New York Times and various other magazine and website articles. Plus, every Time Out New York. Next year: Continue with these numbers.

My favorite book(s) of the year:
Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions by Gloria Steinem
The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver

Worst book of the year:
I didn’t read any bad books this year, although I can’t say I truly love the business books. They’re at least informative.

The List:  Continue reading

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Countdown to 2016: 2015 Movies

I saw 18 movies this year. This is a major drop from last year’s 25, but I knew it would be low, and frankly I’m surprised it’s as high as it is. I kind of gave up on movies this year, and without the movie series we do at my company (Movies for the Mind) and a few scattered films at MoMA, the count would be abysmal. I was only in a movie theater other than MoMA 3 times this year. With everything I do, something had to go.

The Associate

The Associate

I saw 4 NEW movies this year. Last year it was 12. Of these 4, 1 was in a regular movie theater, 2 were at MoMA, and 1 was at Barnard’s Athena Film Festival. In total, I saw 6 films (both old and new) at MoMA (6 less than last year), none at The Paley Center (1 less than last year), and 8 at my company’s Movies for the Mind series (1 more than last year). Of the 18 movies I saw this year, I saw 12 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:
Selma

Runners up (3.5 stars):
None

My favorite old movie I saw for the first time:
The Associate

My favorite old movies I loved seeing again:
The Trouble with Angels
Jaws
Romancing the Stone

Some Extra Fun Favorites:
Barnard’s Athena Film Festival

Worst new movie:
None

Worst old movie:
Star Wars episode IV (BORING!)

The (Not-So) Big List:
Selma****
Groundhog Day (Movies for the Mind)***1/2
The Trouble with Angels (MoMA)****
Rosie O’Donnell: A Heartfelt Standup (Athena Film Festival)***
The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution (MoMA)***
Pina in 3D (MoMA)***
The Tales of Hoffman (Film Forum)***
Mount St. Elias (Movies for the Mind)**1/2
Star Wars episode IV (Movies for the Mind)**1/2
Jaws (40th Anniversary Screening)****
Particle Fever (Movies for the Mind)***
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (MoMA)***1/2
Trading Places (Movies for the Mind)***
Romancing the Stone (MoMA)***1/2
Most Likely to Succeed (Movies for the Mind)**1/2
Design & Thinking (Movies for the Mind)**1/2
The Associate (Movies for the Mind)***1/2
Meadowland (MoMA)***

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Countdown to 2016: 2015 Theater

Last year I saw 73 shows/readings/concerts, which was a huge drop from the previous year of 90. This year I saw 89… I’m on the upswing! I thought the number would be much lower because I never feel like I’m seeing as much theater as I could be (or as I used to), but I think not having a major writing project happening in the fall, when so much theater is opening, helped boost the number. I still do a lot of non-theater activities, so without those number might have been a little higher. I’m happy with the balance, though.

My third (out of four) time seeing Hedwig with John Cameron Mitchell

My third (out of four) time seeing Hedwig with John Cameron Mitchell

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 28 of them–10 more than last year. I guess paying for more shows also helped bring my number up, although I only paid a huge amount for the Hedwig tickets). Aside from performing the holiday concert at Carnegie Hall twice and seeing Hedwig with John Cameron Mitchell FOUR times, I did not see any show more than once. I sang in 5 of these concerts/shows. 16 performances were connected to articles I wrote for two websites (9 more than last year). 3 shows were autism-friendly performances or for people with autism (I volunteered at 1 and attended 2 with my brother)

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):
Hedwig and the Angry Inch (all four times, but if I had to rank them it would be 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 1st)
An Octorron (Theatre for a New Audience, from Soho Rep)
The Visit
Fun Home
Significant Other (Roundabout Theatre Company)
Hamlet in Bed (Rattlestick Theatre Company)
Whorl Inside a Loop (Second Stage Theatre)
John (Signature Theatre)
A Wilder Christmas (Peccadillo Theatre Company)
First Daughter Suite (Public Theater)
Hir (Playwrights Horizons)

Runners Up (Also in no order):
The Heidi Chronicles
Big Love (Signature Theatre)
Lea Salonga in Concert (Town Hall)
Les Contes D’Hoffman (Metropolitan Opera)
Be More Chill (Two River Theatre)
The Christians (Playwrights Horizons)
Empanada Loca (Labyrinth Theatre Company)
Spring Awakening
Before Your Very Eyes (Public Theater)
Aladdin (Autism TDF performance)
Preludes (Lincoln Center Theatre)
King Liz (Second Stage Theatre)

The Big List: Continue reading

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Celebrating Rodgers and Hammerstein

TEVUSA2011-07-28-choironight my chorus, Essential Voices USA, performs a concert celebrating the work of Rodgers and Hammerstein at Carnegie Hall with the New York Pops and soloists Sierra Boggess and Julian Ovenden. In anticipation of the concert, I posted on Facebook every day this week about one Hammerstein lyric or Rodgers melody or whole song from the concert that I love and why. Here are the entries:

Monday
Today’s entry is from “I Whistle a Happy Tune” from The King and I. The line:

“Make believe you’re brave and the trick will take you far.
You may be as brave as you make believe you are.”

One element I love about Hammerstein’s lyrics is their simplicity, even when conveying complex ideas, and I think this line is a perfect example. In two lines he is able to convey two levels of bravery–when you tell yourself to be brave even when you think you aren’t, and when you truly are being brave–and question where the line between these two levels actually is. He’s also doing that with a little turn of the phrase “make believe” and the simple rhyme of “far” and “are.” Add to that line Rodgers’s tune, which makes the lines particularly fun to sing–and I have been singing it over and over.


Tuesday
Today’s entry is from Carousel, the song “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, specifically the lines:

“When you walk through a storm, hold your head up high,
And don’t be afraid of the dark.”

Before we even get to what comes after the storm (a golden sky and the song of a lark) or what it’s going to be like to walk through the storm (windy, rainy, your dreams blowing every which way) or how you should feel (hopeful), and before we get to the song’s hook (that you’ll never be walking through this storm alone) there are two simple directives, instructions on how to walk through any storm. These lines are both a lullaby and a pep talk, and the simple melody has the chord changes point to the important words: “Head”, “Don’t,” “Afraid,” and “Dark.” I find so much strength in these two little lines. They go somewhere deep in me, and probably many others. These lines are this song, to me.

 

Wednesday
Today’s entry is from The Sound of Music: the popular song, “Do-Re-Mi.”

To many, this is a song for children, and not the most interesting or beautiful in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s oeuvre, and I think that’s all true, but it is thrillingly fun to sing, and of all the songs we’re singing on Friday night, I’m most looking forward to performing this one. There’s such an energy to it, as though everything wonderful about childhood were bubbling up and bursting out. The day after we sang it at Carnegie Hall three years ago, I watched the film on the couch with my babysitting charges. When I sing this song, I feel that breadth and reach–from childhood through adulthood, from Salzburg to New York City, from the thrill on the grandest of stages to the intimacy of small living rooms.


Thursday

Today’s entry is from “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning” from Oklahoma, which a soloist is singing, not us, but I love this lyric so I’m going to include it, specifically the first two repeated lines of each verse.

The song begins with “There’s a bright golden haze on the meadow,” purely descriptive, setting you in the place. The verse continues about the corn. The second repeated line, “all the cattle are standing like statues” is also descriptive, and continues about the cattle. But then in the third verse, we get the beautiful line, “all the sounds of the earth are like music” which takes us from the corn and cattle to another place entirely. You could be anywhere with that line, and it surprises and delights me every time. It brings the farmland into the ethereal. And each of these lines is repeated, with the first musical line going up and the second going down, so it feels like he’s breathing it all in–breathe it in, breathe it out. Because everything–the corn, the cattle, the music–is just breathtaking.

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