One of my experiences with Sondheim, which I wrote about immediately after it happened, and I’m glad I did. I think it’s probably similar to many people’s experiences seeing him in the theater, but at 22 I felt like it was really special. And it was to me.
January 30, 2005
In third grade I could recite the entirety of Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods and did so for my family on several occasions. In high school I discovered his Sunday in the Park with George, and suddenly the stage was a portal into aspects of myself, revealed through art. One by one I discovered each of his shows – Merrily We Roll Along, Follies, A Little Night Music.
Finally, at age 22, I was seeing Pacific Overtures for the first time, but the mundane start to the day belied what was ahead for me.
I am so thrilled that one of my singer-songwriter and musical theater faves Sarah Aili recorded the song “I Wish I Could Want,” which I wrote with Gaby Alter for my one-woman show Not Coming Back a few years ago.
Last year, I read 14 books!This year I read 11. Not as many as last year but I still surpassed my usual goal of 10 books per year. I also listened to a lot of podcast and have started including those at the end of this list.
Last year I saw 89 shows, my highest in a while. This year I saw 87. 22 of those were in person, and 65 were streaming, after the shutdown. This is the first year ever that I’m counting streaming shows, of course, but that was my only option after March 12th. I’m glad I was able to see so much theater in person before the shutdown, and I’m glad I was able to see so much streaming theater afterward, theater that I had missed when it was in person or it was something from abroad or another city that I could not have seen.
Of the in-person shows, I saw most of them for free or paid a discount rate. I also performed in 1 of them: The Pops Rodgers and Hammerstein concert. 1 show (same as last year) was connected to an article I wrote, this one for American Theater Magazine. That show was in Atlanta. 3 were comedy (standup or variety) shows, 1 was an opera, and 1 was virtual reality. Of the streaming shows, I preferred full productions from the past to live Zoom readings, but I did watch some of those too. I watched 10 operas (including all three Philip Glass operas in his trilogy). 28 streaming shows that I watched were made during the pandemic, either a new work or something being done again live. I participated in 4 of the readings for the Thornton Wilder Society. I also listened to three pieces, which I’ve mentioned separately: two plays and a radio show.
Last year I saw 15 movies, a record high! I’m glad I brought my total up before movie theaters went away this year. Sadly I only saw 1 movie in theaters before the shutdown, and it wasn’t even a new movie, so I guess this year I am segmenting my list of films a little more. This year I saw 1 movie in the theater, 7 new movies and older movies streaming from movie theaters, 18 older movies streaming, and 3 of the SXSW shorts streaming, all for a total of 29 movies! I’m glad that I saw a few new movies streaming and supported movie theaters this year.
I saw 8 new feature-length movies either in the theater, from theaters, or new movies streaming that would have been shown in theaters this year. 5 were big releases, and 1 of those was with my company as a field trip. 1 was at the IFC, 3 were from film forum, 1 was from Metrograph, 1 was from BAM, 1 went to Disney+ for streaming, and the other went to Amazon for streaming. 2 were older films and 6 were new. I saw all but one of these movies for the first time.
Something I wrote last year made it onto a Best of 2019 list! Thank you to WQXR and David Patrick Stearns for being a fan of our work and writing about it throughout the year. I’m honored to have been a part of this project and recognized with all the great writers who got to explore The Stonewall Riots in operatic form on this historic anniversary.
“Stonewall 50 operas: I saw five — the big one, in June, being New York City Opera’s Stonewall, created by composer Iain Bell, librettist Mark Campbell, and director Leonard Foglia. How can you not walk in with pre-conceived notions? Though expecting something treacly, I was completely swept up by it, and looking at the production photos now brings it all back, especially the shady Mafia-controlled culture of the West Village at that time. What also makes Stonewall fascinating is that nobody is all that clear about how the riots unfolded. The chaos — not to mention the partying that led up to it — means that this great historic occasion was incredibly murky. And with the four one-act operas produced by American Opera Projects, you also saw how gays were so low on the social totem pole that they had nothing to lose by fighting back.”
Baby Universe: A Puppet Odyssey, January 7, 2011 Wakka Wakka Productions at Baruch Performing Arts Center Wakka Wakka has become one of my favorite theater companies, and it all began with their production of Baby Universe in 2011. Both wildly innovative and incredibly emotional, the show used puppets to tell the tale of a government program to save the population of an unnamed, dying planet in a dying universe. I have since seen Wakka Wakka’s SAGA and Made in China, which were wonderful, but the expansiveness of Baby Universe eclipses them, and I still think back on that production as one of the most beautiful shows I’ve ever seen. It felt like these were puppets doing what they were born to do. Wakka Wakka doesn’t usually revive their shows in NYC, but I wish they’d bring back this one.