Friday, January 23, 2009

Happy Birthday Roe

Sorry this post is coming late in the evening but Lady AWesome and I just got back from seeing Slumdog Millionaire. I’ll blog more about that soon, but suffice it to say, if you have not seen it, DO. That is some fantastic storytelling. For now, I want to participate in the national Roe Blogathon.

I know this is not why many of you read this blog, but I could not let the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade pass without mentioning it. I’ll try and related this to arts and culture, I promise. Thirty six years ago today (yay double chai) the Supreme Court handed down the landmark decision that made abortion legal in the United Sates. Since then we have been working hard to insure that that right is also a reality. I hope I won’t offend anyone by bringing this up, but I am a believer in a woman’s right to chose and I’d like to tell you why. And I shall do it in a way that emulates Tarak McLain, who is my new hero.

I believe that freedom is the cornerstone of democracy. I believe that God created us in God’s image by making us moral agents. I believe that one of the ways we demonstrate this is by using all of our intelligence and all of our spirit to make our own responsible decisions. I believe that women, if given the means, can and should make responsible and healthy decisions for themselves and their families. I believe that the government has no right to legislate sexuality or morality. I believe that “no one is free until everyone is free” (MLK). I believe that you should have the right to choose not to have an abortion. And I believe that we all need to work harder to ensure that we can live in a system where everyone is entitled to their beliefs and nobody is oppressed because of them.

But how does this relate to arts and culture, you ask. Here are some movies you might rent this weekend in honor of Roe v. Wade and some questions to get you thinking:

Knocked Up - I didn’t like it, but lots of people did. I think the real question that one might ask about this movie is, “is the ultimate message of Knocked Up that the best possible thing for a child is to have two parents, regardless of how little they like each other? Do you agree with this message? Also, what does it say that the there is no character in the film that can even utter the word ‘abortion’?”

Juno - I thought this was a fantastic movie. I think it really portrays young people making tough choices and dealing with the consequences of their actions (to the extent that any kid in the movies does). The question for this movie is, “how would Juno’s story have been different if, at of the many moments in the film (telling her parents, trying to go to Planned Parenthood, etc.) she had been told ‘no’ instead of ‘yes’. Juno is lucky because she has supportive parents, the means to make whatever choice she wants, and the education to know what her choices are. That is so incredibly rare.”

Dirty Dancing - This is a classic. Another great movie about people making tough choices. If you saw this movie when you were younger, my colleague Matthew suggests that you ask yourself “how aware were you of the issue of abortion as a part of it? Did it surprise you to think of this as a movie that raises issues of reproductive justice? What does that say to you about how the media handles issues of reproductive justice?”

Cider House Rules - This movie is a really powerful portrayal about what life was like before Roe. I think seeing Toby McGuire’s transformation is really powerful. “Why do you think he comes back in the end? What do you think his journeys teach him?”

That’s all. I hope you all will forgive this rare departure from our usual format. We will be back on to our usual reviews soon.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

What a day!

What a fantastic day! Congratulations America.

There will be posts on arts stuff for later in the week. For now I am still speechless so here are a few photos of the weekend:

My view of the capitol today:
A few friends when we got down there at dawn (including Lady AWesome)
Me and the capitol
Also, remember that time that I got to see Aretha Franklin and Nuttin' but Stringz? I do!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Updated: Free shows for the inauguration and MLK day. Who wants to go?

I’ve heard of two amazing free shows for the inauguration. I plan to go to both, so if you want to go with me to either, shoot me an e-mail and we can work out details. Here’s the info:

1) Inauguration Opening Celebration

Sunday 1/18, free concert @ the Lincoln Memorial

Info here and here

2:30 PM (note that this is updated)

“Musical performers scheduled for the event include Beyonce, Mary J. Blige, Bono, Garth Brooks, Sheryl Crow, Renee Fleming, Josh Groban, Herbie Hancock, Heather Headley, John Legend, Jennifer Nettles, John Mellencamp, Usher Raymond IV, Shakira, Bruce Springsteen, James Taylor,, and Stevie Wonder. Among those reading historical passages will be Jamie Foxx, Martin Luther King III, Queen Latifah and Denzel Washington. The Rt. Reverend V. Gene Robinson will give the invocation… Additional performers will be announced as they are confirmed.”

I’d get there early if I were you. It’s going to be a zoo. The concert will also be broadcast on HBO @ 7. Hat tip to Nallen for the time correction.

2) Let Freedom Ring

Monday 1/19, free concert at the Kennedy Center

6 PM

Info here

“Featuring Aretha Franklin, Nuttin' but Stringz, and the Let Freedom Ring Choir

“Free tickets are required. Tickets will be distributed one (1) per person in line on Monday, January 19, 2009, in front of the Concert Hall, beginning at 4 p.m. The ticket line will form outdoors, on the south side of the Center, adjacent to the South Plaza. Patrons are advised to wear warm clothing.”

I plan to get there EARLY. If you want to come, let me know.

Quick hit because I’m sick :-(

Washingtonian has put out their list of Cheap Eats 2008. If you’re looking for inexpensive bites, you should try some of these. And if you do try any, share your thoughts in comments.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

West Side Story revival=muy bueno

Performance: West Side Story
Theater: National Theater (1321 Pennsylvania Ave NW)
Metro: Metro Center (blue/orange/red) Directions here.
Genre: Classic Musical
Cost: from $25 with student ID (must be picked up in person) for select performances -- These may be sold out already as there are only a limited number.
Dates: Through January 15
Rating: 3.5/5 Starving Artists

Last night Lady AWesome, some friends, and I went to see the 50th anniversary revival of West Side Story now playing it's pre-Broadway engagement at the National Theater. You can read more about this historic re-imagining of the play in Jay's guest post that I put up a few weeks ago, but I will share a few reflections of the show here.

All told, I thoroughly enjoyed this production. It had a lot of the elements of the original that it needed to have to feel authentic. Most importantly, they reused most of the original choreography by Jerome Robbins. This ballet inspired dancing was as much a joy to watch today as I imagine it was in 1957. I agree with the WashPost that the introduction of Spanish really made the show much more authentic. I don't speak a lick of Spanish (please don't judge me, I took it in middle school and promptly forgot every word except "ocho" and "mucho gusto") but even with that, or especially with that, the introduction of Spanish really helped me to feel the divide between the Sharks and the Jets. It created a distinct feeling of two worlds. And Lady Awesome's roommate points out that "I feel pretty" sounds much less cheesy in Spanish, though that may also be because I don't speak it. Apparently they were going to have opera style translation across the top of the stage but they cut it in previews because it was distracting and unnecessary. Even as a non Spanish speaker, I didn't miss it. I enjoyed this change from the original.

The performances are mostly good. Josefina Scaglione and Karen Olivo stand out as an adorable Maria and a powerful Anita (respectively). However the male leads impress less. Matt Cavenaugh leaves a lot to be desired as Tony, the Romeo of the story. I really wanted him to blow me away and he just didn't, and his vibrato was overpowering to the point that he became unintelligible. And Cody Green (winner of BRAVO's "Step it Up and Dance" ) was only passable as Riff. There were stand-out performances from some of the ensemble in the comic relief songs, "America" and "Gee, Officer Krupke".

I loved the set and the lighting. The sides of the stage were lined with structures that suggested buildings and the windows lit up during scene changes. There was a white screen in the back of the stage that changed color to suggest setting and time of day. I thought the stage elements were well used and that it was kept simple and to the point. All told I thought they made some excellent decisions in this area.

Some people had some strong feelings about the other changes made to the show, so I hope they will share them in the comments. All and all, I give it 3.5 out of 5 Starving Artists (my rating system). It was a great production and a lot of fun, if not amazing or revolutionary. If you saw it, please share your thoughts below.

And in case you are in the mood from some West Side Story-y-goodness, here you go:

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