Flora the Red Menace among other things

I have many things to say and I am not totally sure where I am going with this yet… So try to keep up? No, I suppose I should say: I will try to be as clear as possible.

I guess I will go back in time and start at last Tuesday (May 15th). It was 11AM and I had just turned in my two final papers of the semester and had all of my finals completed. I was sitting in my room packing when I remembered that I needed to make a phone call to Mark Krikstan. Who is Mark Krikstan you might ask. Well Mark is one of the founders and the Artistic Director of the 1st Stage Theater in Tysons Corner, Virginia. I had talked to him a few weeks earlier and he offered me a summer internship at the theater, however it was not until that Tuesday morning that I had any idea when I would be starting. Our conversation went something like this… Me: I am moving out of Mason today. Mark: Oh great, well can you start tomorrow? We are opening the show Flora the Red Menace this week and the stage manager could really use some extra help. Me: YES!… *Hang up* Talk about jumping into something.

Before I talk about the internship, let me talk about the 1st Stage. It is a great, small, theater that opened its first season about four years ago. Mark Krikstan was actually a theater teacher at a local high school who “retired.” By retired he actually meant giving himself more work to do. Mark along with the other founders wanted to create a professional theater in the Fairfax County area because at the time there were only two other companies. I fell in love with the space and the theater after seeing The Glass Menagerie about a year ago. Then I went and saw the endearing play Almost, Maine. I unfortunately did not get to see Side Man play that finished its run a couple of weeks ago, but it was critically acclaimed. It was also reviewed by well-known papers like The Wall Street Journal. Basically, I am saying the 1st Stage is very up and coming and is a wonderful theater to have the opportunity to work with.

Wednesday night came around and I made my way to the theater. I still had no idea what I would be doing. When I got there I was told to do odd jobs and I was eventually told to watch the rehearsal of Flora to get a feel for the show. I felt this sense of tension over the subject of the play and as I sat waiting for the rehearsal to begin something felt off. There were sounds of frustration from the director, stage manager, and choreographer. The head of lighting was cranky because he had not slept and still had to design the lighting cues (and I was thinking… The show opens in two days and you are not done yet?). Then I was looking at the set wondering if it still needed completion or it was supposed to look that way (thankfully it was the former). You can imagine that I was also thinking, oh goodness this show has too many problems, no wonder everyone is so stressed. Much to my relief, I decided it really was quite good and there were just a few kinks that needed to be worked out, but nothing major. If nothing else the acting, singing, and dancing (especially the tap dancing!) were amazing. I immediately knew there is a lot I can learn from these actors. As for the issues with the play, they don’t really impact me and well it is not necessary to go into them.

When the director, Susan Devine, called for a break half way through the rehearsal I introduced myself to her and the stage manager, Colleen Stock. I was told that there was no one who would be backstage during the show. My job would be to be present at each show to be back there to pick up the pieces if there are any catastrophes. Because I am almost always in a state of confusion, I agreed, I was just thrilled to be there, but really I had no idea what I was agreeing to. Susan had me stick around at the end of the play so I could be introduced to the cast. My thoughts at that moment: Oh no. I am literally being thrown into this show two days before it opens; the actors are going to think I am this annoying college girl. I will just be in the way. I have no tech experience so I do not even know what I am doing. I have no idea what it is like to work with real non-high school actors. I have not even worked with college actors yet. Great. Cool. Yay. When I met them they all seemed glad that I was there, but this was kind of public, no one was going to fulfill the actor stereotype yet.

Thursday night, I returned to the 1st Stage and talked to Colleen. She told me to go put glow tape everywhere and to reintroduce myself to the actors and ask them what they would need from me. I found out that my main job would be to help a couple of the actors with their quick-changes. And no one seemed to hate my presence! Whoot. They seemed really happy to have me there as a matter of fact. After some drama with props being misplaced I learned my second job: keeping track of the props. Score. But really. No sarcasm. I had another job that is slightly helpful! Realistically for most of the show I read or get angry at a Rubik’s cube. Nonetheless, I would say my first two nights as an intern were a success.

As questionable as it may have initially seemed, this production of Flora is really great. Admittedly, it is kind of an odd play. I have wondered what the playwright, David Thompson, was thinking when he wrote certain scenes. I guess it would also help if I explained the musical. Flora the Red Menace is focuses on Flora (Dani Stroller) and her “family” who are poor artists trying to make a living in New York City in the 1930s. Flora is introduced to Harry (Joshua Dick), who introduces her to the world of Communism. That is basically the play in a nutshell. It is not the most plot filled play ever written. However it is really funny and the choreography and blocking are very creative and clever. The music is another fantastic reason to see the show. The musical director, Paul Nasto, is basically a genius. He wrote a completely new score for the show that is absolutely incredible. Also, each actor really captures the essence of his or her character and brings this fantastic energy and vibrancy to the play. If you like over-the-top characters you should really come see Flora.

Opening weekend ended up being a success. There were only a couple of clothing disasters- thank goodness. One guy liked the musical so much on Friday night that he came back Saturday night with flowers for each actor and made a donation to the theater. Apparently, this was also the only musical he has ever liked.

I am just truly excited for the next few weeks and honored to have the opportunity to work in this production. Everyone has been so nice to me and I am really grateful for being able to work with such a kind and talented group of people.

 

If you would like to watch Flora the Red Menace here is the link to the 1st Stage website: http://1ststagespringhill.org/

There are five shows a weekend. Friday and Saturday night at 8PM. Saturday and Sunday afternoon at 2PM. Sunday night at 7PM. It runs until June 17th.

If you want to say hello to an unknown blogger after the show, I will be backstage probably sitting on a sofa in the dark.

Also, if you are interested read this interview with Paul Nasto: http://dctheatrescene.com/2012/05/18/paul-nasto-new-sound-for-flora-the-red-menace/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+DcTheatreScene+%28DC+Theatre+Scene%29

 

Advertisements

Hot Chelle Rae at Mason Day!

Last Friday (May 27th), I got to see the band Hot Chelle Rae perform for free at Mason Day (WOOT!). Not expecting anything too great, I went basically because HCR is a slightly known band and it was free. Much to my pleasant surprise, my expectations were greatly surpassed. They were actually really good.

I have little knowledge and understanding of music. In fact, many would say that my taste in music sucks. My response: Whatever (see what I did there?- If not look it up). Because I shouldn’t, I am not going to talk about musical ability and vocal skill.

To all of you “hipster” music people who are already rolling your eyes, hold on and give me a second. There is one thing I can talk about, which is stage performance. Obviously Hot Chelle Rae has stage presence, they were the only ones on stage, but it goes past that. The band is so funny and they really want to get the audience involved in the show. They brought a couple of girls on stage to rap part of their song “­­­­­­­I Like it Like That”. They also showed off one of their first songs ever written “Emo” (it was written by Ryan Follesé and Nash Overstreet, before HCR I believe). This song is hilarious though because they are just making fun of the emo era of music. I just wish it was on ITunes. They also performed a cover of Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream and it was pretty awesome actually. It was just a fun concert to go to.

If you like HCR’s song Tonight Tonight then I am recommend that you listen to the rest of their album because you will probably like it. If you don’t like it, well you’re lame. They also have some great summer-driving-let’s-blast-the-music-in-my-car songs and who doesn’t like that?

In more exciting news, if you live in NoVa, you still have the chance to see Hot Chelle Rae perform with Demi Lovato at Wolf Trap in June. If you are interested you should get on that, well actually you can’t because the tickets are not on sale yet, but keep a look out.

Okay, I’m done.

“Emo”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWyp71ZU1BY

“Tonight Tonight” because I think the music video is amusing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QzlNFcT2aOE&ob=av2n

 

My Top 5 Movies: Summer 2012

This summer is going to be huge. Over a hundred movies are being released from May through August.

Here are the five movies I am most excited about:

1. The Dark Knight Rises

Directed by: Christopher Nolan

Release date: July 20

Description: “Eight years after Batman took the fall for Two Face’s crimes, a new terrorist leader, Bane overwhelms Gotham’s finest, and the Dark Knight resurfaces to protect a city that brands him an enemy.” (IMDB)

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GokKUqLcvD8

Do I even need to argue this one? The Dark Knight Rises is the third (and supposedly) final installment to Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies.  It is likely the most anticipated film of the summer. Not only do we have the original team of Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, and Liam Neeson, Nolan decided to bring in some of his favorites Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Marion Cotillard. As if that was not enough, Anne Hathaway plays Catwoman. This movie will not disappoint. I mean, it is Christopher Nolan.

2. Brave

Directed by: Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman

Release date: June 22

Description: “Determined to make her own path in life, Princess Merida defies a custom that brings chaos to her kingdom. Granted one wish, Merida must rely on her bravery and her archery skills to undo a beastly curse.” (IMDB)

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TEHWDA_6e3M

I am always ready for a new Pixar movie (unless it’s Cars *shudder*). It just so happens that Brave is the first Pixar film with a female lead. Merida (voiced by Kelly Macdonald) is the daughter of the Scottish King and Queen, but she does not want to get married as her parents would like. All she wants to do is go horseback riding, climb, use her sword, or shoot her bow and arrow. I wish I could do that.

3. Dark Shadows

Directed by: Tim Burton

Release date:  May 11

Description: “An imprisoned vampire, Barnabas Collins, is set free and returns to his ancestral home, where his dysfunctional descendants are in need of his protection.” (IMDB)

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wpWvkFlyl4M

Here is a shocker: Johnny Depp stars in Tim Burton’s newest film, Dark Shadows. I know this is so surprising. In this comedic-thriller Barnabas Collins (Depp) wakes up confused and in a tomb after two hundred years—I am not exactly sure how he gets out yet—also in the year 1972. Collins finds himself uncomfortable and does not like what he sees. Based off of the 1966-1972 gothic soap opera, Dark Shadows promises to be the perfect mix of Burton’s darkness and humor.

4. Savages

Directed by: Oliver Stone

Release date: July 6

Description: “[It] follows two best pals and marijuana growers, Chon (John Carter’s Taylor Kitsch) and Ben (Kick-Ass’ Aaron Johnson), who run afoul of a Mexican cartel leaser names Elena (Salma Hayek) seeking to control the guys’ crop of superstrong weed. Ben and Chon wind up declaring war on the cartel after Elena and her henchmen (Benicio Del Toro) kidnap Ophelia (Blake Lively), a Laguna Beach hippie who’s in a relationship with both Ben and Chon.” Entertainment Weekly

                Trailer: http://www.metacafe.com/watch/8330818/savages_movie_trailer/

I am not really sure why I want to see this movie so much. Maybe it just reminds me of Pineapple Express. Savages is based on the widely accredited novel by Don Winslow and sounds like a mix of everything, “’It’s a full-blown epic story of greed, violence, the border, the drugs, the relationships, the values of people’” (EW). I can say this with certainty: it is definitely a family friendly movie.

5. The Campaign

Directed by: Jay Roach

Release date: August 10

Description: “Two rival North Carolina politicians with presidential aspirations tangle with one another.” (IMDB)

Trailer: Not yet released

The movie description I provide does not really help but maybe this will: In The Campaign, Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis are running against each other for President and “’rip each other to pieces’” (EW). Drawing inspiration from the news and political shows, Galifianakis claims that, “’You look at the climate of political ads these days, and [this movie] isn’t too far from the truth’” (EW). To me this movie sounds hilarious, but maybe it’s just because I am a nerd and like political humor…

 

 

Kramerbooks & Afterwords Café

To all of you college kids new(ish) to our Nation’s Capital or to all of you kids who have lived in the Metropolitan area for most of your life, or to just anyone else, I am about to do you a favor. No need to thank me. I will, when I feel so inclined, share with you some of the treasures of Washington DC.

I am going to start with a place that I have loved since I first walked in. My love rekindled when I strolled in there after a visit to the National Cherry Blossom Festival last weekend. This wonder is known as Kramerbooks & Afterwords Café. You walk into Kramerbooks and it is exactly the way a bookstore should feel: small and crammed yet it has every book you could ever think of. It has books you never see at Barnes and Noble like these random Oxford Introduction books on every subject you would ever need to know. There is even greatness found in the classics: there are probably five unique and interesting additions of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. If you are like my lovely suitemate and want to collect as many additions as possible, I suggest you go over to Kramerbooks as soon as possible. I am pretty sure I cannot adequately put into words how brilliant this bookstore is.

There is also a café and bar at Kramers. I unfortunately cannot attest to their quality because I have yet to eat there. And of course I cannot judge the quality of their alcoholic beverages… However I can assure you that it is popular. When you walk around the block and end up behind the indoor/outdoor sitting area, it appeared as though every table was filled. Personally, I am waiting to go over there on a Saturday night and pretend to be a hipster while I listen to their live music.

Any who, if I haven’t convinced you enough, Barack Obama and family have also stopped by.

Really though, if you love bookstores or have that dream of opening your own bookshop one day, check Kramerbooks out. It is an experience.

Location: 1517 Conn. Avenue, NW. – Just Above Dupont Circle

Website (Don’t be discouraged by their sad looking website): http://www.kramers.com/index.html

PS. I have really missed blogging so hopefully I will not go on a hiatus anytime again soon!

 

The 84th Academy Awards

For everyone who lives under a rock, the 84th Academy Awards took place two nights ago. It is the event I have personally been waiting for all year, although it helped that my birthday also happened to be on the same day. I would like to let the record show that I liked this year’s show. I was very much entertained watching the Oscars (although my entertainment was also generally higher due to nerdy excitement).

The 84th Academy Awards had two things going for it: Billy Crystal and (some) celebrity spontaneity. This was the first time I saw Billy Crystal hosting the Oscars and from what I have read online, his performance was expected. (This is not the spontaneity I refer to). As EW writer Ken Tucker worded it, “Crystal has achieved that status of being as reassuring as he is funny — you feel relaxed watching him, knowing he’s in charge and alert to the mood of the house.” The idea was that the Academy was able to expect a show that wouldn’t be bashed the next day. The way I see it is Billy Crystal, as scary as he may be, is a natural born entertainer. Sorry James Franco, as great of an actor as you are, you just didn’t have it. Crystal is not that host that is a side thought. He understood what was happening and made you want to listen to him. And he also had this funny running joke about the Oscars being located in the “Chapter 11” Theater. Yeah, I giggled.

As for celebrity spontaneity, let us just relive a Jim Rash moment. The moment when Rash was standing back as his co-writers accepted Best Adapted Screenplay for The Descendants (yay!), he was mimicking Angie’s right leg pose. What made it even better was that Jolie was in this stance a few feet behind him. Then there was the truly touching moment when Octavia Spencer seemed genuinely surprised to have won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. It was adorable. Obviously you can’t prepare for moments such as this, but clearly the feeling at 2012’s Oscars was more relaxed. Everyone came to celebrate the movies and no one was falling asleep from boredom.

For a professional opinion: http://watching-tv.ew.com/2012/02/27/academy-awards-2012-oscars-billy-crystal/

Snubbed: Harry Potter at the Oscars

The last chance for the Harry Potter franchise to be recognized in a major category at the Academy Awards has come and gone and as always it was not. I realize this was announced weeks ago, but better late than never.

The film received only three nominations, all of which were technical aspects of the film: art direction, make-up, and visual effects. Don’t misunderstand, these are all well-deserved nods, but I have two problems with this. First, I almost wonder why the Academy bothered because I do not think HP will win in any of these categories. Six of the eight Potter films have been nominated in technical categories in the past, yet none have ever received the prize. This seems pretty ridiculous to me. For example, in 2011 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 was nominated under the visual effects category, but lost to Inception. Both films had exceptional visual effects, but what made Inception better than HPDH1? In 2005, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban lost to Spider-Man 2 in the visual effects category. This one bewilders me because the visual effects team for HPPA expanded the Hogwarts castle to be bigger than ever, had to create a hippogriff, a werewolf, dementors, and the several other creatures new and old to the story.   

My second problem with the film solely getting technical aspects is that the Harry Potter films have actually become good movies. The acting and adaptation aspects were always the weakest points of the franchise, however that has definitely improved. Moreover, HPDH2 is at least at the level of the other films nominated this year. It was better than the incomprehensible The Tree of Life. It was at least as good as (but indeed different) Midnight in Paris. HPDH2 received the best reviews from critics of any HP film and it is internationally the third highest grossing film in history. This is not just because it is a Harry Potter film. If that were the case than every movie would have made the same reviews and made the same amount at the box office. Being the last film of the franchise helped, but being a high-quality movie brought it to the top. It bothers me that the directing of David Yates was ignored because creating these films is certainly no small task. He had to deal with Warner Brothers, a very detailed author, and very vocal fans. Further, the brilliant acting of Alan Rickman and Ralph Fiennes was pushed aside. Alan Rickman embodies Severus Snape in the films and was able to capture the character’s complexities. Ralph Fiennes expertly embodies Lord Voldemort through his chilling slithery voice and physical decisions. It just does not make sense that the Academy did not acknowledge any of these men.

I cannot come up with a reasonable argument for the Academy in this case. As someone who loves movies, HPDH2 really deserved more recognition than it received. Hopefully the Academy can prove me slightly wrong and award the film with at least one Oscar, but that is probably asking for too much.

Links:

http://oscar.go.com/

http://www.usmagazine.com/entertainment/news/daniel-radcliffe-harry-potter-deserved-more-oscar-nominations-201272

http://www.imdb.com/boxoffice/alltimegross?region=world-wide

The Mason Improv Association

Don’t worry guys, I have returned. I know you were worried.

I want to discuss a group that you will most likely only see if you attend George Mason University. However, I feel like bringing it up anyway. The Mason Improv Association, MIA for short. The MIA is run through Mason’s theater department and performs what is called long form improvisation. Basically at each of their shows, they ask someone from the audience to come on stage who has an interesting story to share. After getting enough information, MIA performs a number of short scenes that were inspired by the details of the story. It fascinates me how these actors are able to integrate these details into a scene they make up on the spot and it always seems to be hilarious. I am not even going to bother trying to give an example because you would just stare at your computer screen thinking that I am an idiot. I will say that there was always someone in the audience laughing.

At MIA’s shows they also invite a local comedian or improve group to perform. This time around it was a guy named Andrew Cook. I would provide a link or something so you too could bask in his hilarity, but he does not seem to obviously exist in the internet world. So never mind. Just believe me?

The bottom line, if you go to GMU or just decide to show up one day I recommend checking out MIA.