Friday, December 16, 2016

Social Media: The Good, Bad, & Ugly

We all use social media for different reasons. Keep up with old friends. Share photos of that trip you just took. Group watch your favorite TV show. Sell a product. Talk about a film, book, album you are crowd-funding for ... so many reasons.

The other side of that is when it gets ugly. I will be the first to admit, I often fall into this category on twitter. Hate-watching a show and making snarky remarks. Being political. Being political. Being political. The past year has been rough and many days I swear I'm not going to make a political post, but then I check a certain person's tweet and I can't stay quiet.

I'm just regular Joe. I'm not running for office. I'm not a celebrity. Yet we often see those people held at very different standards when they get involved in tweet conversations. We've seen Broadway performers attacked for their views on the Hamilton/Mike Pence event. We've seen regular people lose jobs because of a tweet they have done/photo shared and social media grabs the pitchforks and goes after them.

I stand behind my tweets. Rarely will I remove a tweet (unless I did something in so much anger and I need to delete it). I've had many heated discussions with people of opposing views and yes, have had to block many, MANY people when they are simply trolling me and not truly debating. Fine. Believe what you believe.

However, even small indie artist have to be careful because you never know what someone may do. Oh sure, I've had bad reviews written about me that I know came from a place that had nothing to do with my product. But recently, I was accused of something that was simply not true. I had made a humorous/snarky tweet, someone replied that I was anti-military (when my tweet had nothing to do with our military) and next thing you know - this person is tweeting a photo of my tweet, their reply, and the cover of my book telling people to make it go viral as I'm some sort of anti-American. Attack me for what I say, totally fine: make up crap...not right.

It simply goes to show the underbelly of social media that has nothing to do with facts or what is right or wrong. People can say whatever they want (hence the fake news stories) and people will believe. Yes, there were people that retweeted this person without ever questioning anything about it. Without noticing I had tweeted that VERY day a photo of a military family's Christmas card and sending my thoughts to them. That I come from a military family where my dad, brother, sister-in-law and numerous uncles and cousins have all served. None of that matters on social media. In the long run, it doesn't matter to me either as I know the truth. But for a moment, I thought "wow - this is what it's like to be a celebrity and be attacked!" (Who knows, perhaps she gave me publicity to a parent that will actually WANT to buy my children's books when they realize this person completely jumped to a strange conclusion from my tweet and I hit a new parent market!)

So to my fellow indie artist friends - stay true to yourself. Use social media as you see fit. If you stand up for a certain subject, don't stay quiet. But be prepared that even we are not immune to the ugly side of social media.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Emotional & Beautiful Night at The Music Box

For the second time in six months, I was found at the incredible musical Dear Evan Hansen which moved from Off-Broadway to Broadway and opened this past Sunday at the Music Box Theater to rave reviews. Believe me, it deserves every rave that it gets. An original story. A kick-butt score. An amazing ensemble of performers. It has it all.

I first talked about the show when I saw it before, so I don't want to repeat myself too much. I do however need to praise the courage it takes for producers to bring a small scale show to Broadway. A show geared towards a younger crowd (and already embraced by them) that discusses themes they know: social media, feeling alone, trying to find your place in the world. The musical by Steven Leveson and Benj Pasek & Justin Paul goes beyond the old "after school specials" I would watch about these subjects. They take us inside that world with projections designed by Peter Nigrini that remind us how social media is a constant around us at all times; often making people feel even more alone while connecting others. 

The story has parts in it that one shouldn't give away in a review (much like Next To Normal also directed by Michael Grief who tackles family issues in this musical as well), so I don't want to share the synopsis. I tell people the show addresses the question that if you disappeared, would anyone care at all.

At the center of it all is a nerdy, anxious senior whose therapist has suggested he write letters to himself to have a good day. (Hence the title) I praised Ben Platt the last time I saw it and I have to say he's even better now. This young man is a gift to Broadway. His voice absolutely beautiful rather singing in falsetto or full-out. He LIVES Evan Hansen and every emotion that he goes through. Every tic, movement, delivery endears him to the audience and you want to take him in your arms and hold him. This time, I found myself looking at Ben Platt the actor (and not just Evan) wondering what his career will be as he ages and hoping he will never fully say goodbye to Broadway. I hope he sticks around a long time even though Hollywood will always want him as well.  He's just that good, but he deserves to be seen live...again and again.

Many of the cast have worked together at other incarnations of the show at Arena Stages in DC or Second Stage in NYC. (Most have been with the show since the beginning.) It is obvious they know each other so well in how they work off of each other. Rachel Bay Jones killed me even more as his mom that is struggling raising her kid alone and just trying to do the best that she can. Laura Dreyfuss as the object of his affection has a beautiful voice and incredible presence. Mike Faist stood out more to me this time for both his brooding AND humor (try and figure that one out). Jennifer Laura Thompson (who has played her share of teen roles in the past) as their mom knows how to display wealthy mom without making her a caricature. Will Roland and Kristolyn Lloyd gave me more dimension this time than the original comic relief I had thought they supplied off-Broadway. 
I am really glad to see Michael Park back with the show (original dad at Arena Stages, but was in another Broadway show when this was off-Broadway). He is the dad everyone would want to have. His moment with Evan and the ball glove - incredible without going over the top. Subtlety is a great attribute for any performer to have and he uses it to his advantage (after an amazing career both on stage and TV).

I could go on and on about this show because I love it so much. It speaks to the geek buried deep inside of me that has spent a lifetime trying to fit in. In some way, we all do that no matter what our age is. Worried if we're making a difference, if we're making the right decisions - and here we see that from the kids to the adults...all wondering the same thing. Go see this show before people give away too much of the subject matter. Bring tissues. Cry if you want. Don't worry, you will be found. You are not alone.


Wednesday, November 2, 2016

O Captain! My Captain!

There are teachers in this world that teach and then there are those that you know are driven by a love and desire to shape minds, impart wisdom, and truly care.

When I saw the 1989 film "Dead Poets Society" I recognized professor John Keating because I was lucky enough to have several like him when I was in school. Teachers that thought outside the box in how they taught. That took extra time because they loved their students so much. I was drawn into Robin Williams' performance in that film along with all of the young men (many who went on to so many more films in their lives).  

Skip ahead to 2016 and Classic Stage Company, an off-Broadway theater in New York City, is producing a stage version of the show written for the stage by the film's screenwriter Tom Schulman and directed by the always smart John Doyle. I don't like to write about shows that are still in previews, but I'm breaking my rule because if you're in the NYC area - you need to be doing the lottery daily to see this show.

Jason Sudeikis & Cast
I didn't think it would be able to translate to the stage, but for me it was a perfect translation. I also spoke to patrons afterwards who had never seen the film and everything made perfect sense to them. And why shouldn't it under the careful watch of Mr. Doyle. A simple set. Immersive theater where the audience is part of the school. Clever lighting and sound. All thanks to Scott Pask, Japhy Weideman and Matt Stine. 

However I'm sure deciding to do this for the stage was a tough decision as people's minds would think of Robin Williams' beautiful performance in the film. I have to say - boy, did they find their captain with Jason Sudeikis. I didn't think of Mr. Williams ONCE while watching. Sudeikis has made the role his. He is witty, he knows how to play the drama, he is genuine (and so comfortable on stage in his NY stage debut), and you can tell he loves these boys. He is the entire package.

Robin Williams in Film
The rest of the cast is just as wonderful. I love David Garrison in everything that I see. I'd never seen the rest of the cast, but I'm sure I will in the future. Zane Pais, Thomas Mann, Cody Kostro, Bubba Weiler, William Hichman, Yaron Lotan, Stephen Barker Turner and Francesca Carpanini are all incredible actors - giving their all and taking us to the time of 1959 that doesn't feel all that different from the 80s when I was in school.

Thank you to Classic Stage Company for producing this and sending me out with a lump in my throat. And thank you to those teachers I had that taught me to go against the grain and to just be ME!