Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas in New York City

Even the Empire State Building was feeling the holiday spirit, so why didn't I?

My first Christmas in New York City. I can write about it romantically or I can write about it truthfully.

Romantically, my first Christmas in New York City was relaxing, some much-needed alone time to gather my thoughts and reflect on how far I've come this year.

In actuality, I spent Christmas weekend drinking hot chocolate, watching old episodes of "How I Met Your Mother" and having too many mimosas at Sunday brunch (which was more overpriced than normal and I met up with a fellow friend who did not go home for Christmas). And other than the phone call from my parents to wish me a Merry Christmas and a phone call from my oldest sister who was making a cake for her son's birthday party on Christmas day and wanted to know how to make whipped cream, I didn't speak to many people this past weekend. Not to say that I was lonely, but the quiet was palpable.

But one thing about the holiday season, you're not allowed to feel indifference. And there's not much place for pretending that all of the romanticism of mistletoe, snow, presents and "How are you spending Christmas? Are you going back to California to see your family?" does not affect you.

In fact, it was shaking me and asking me frantically why I wasn't feeling more cheerful, why I was spending the holidays alone and why I didn't have a Christmas tree. To answer those questions: I feel slight amusement, that's enough; my mom wanted me home for Tet and I can only afford to fly back to California once this year; and I have no room for a Diep-sized Christmas tree.

Because this year, I was not in the holiday mood. Maybe it's that transition from childhood to adulthood, or perhaps that's the byproduct of spending a season that everyone (religious and non-believers alive) was spending with their family alone. You can't help but feel out of the norm; in the land of twinkle lights and garlands, you are an alien.

So yes, my first Christmas in New York City was quiet. But when you consider that I live in New York City, quiet is pretty atypical and kind of great. And I'll celebrate with my family when I come home to California in January.

"Once" in a Theater

A perfect moment of theater does not necessarily happen in a show that is entirely good. It's likelier in a show that is entirely good from start to finish. But it can also happen in one of those shows that leaves you mostly emotionless, where you didn't entirely dislike it but you didn't like it very much either. That happened to me with the musical version of Once, a charming little Irish movie about two socially awkward yet musically talented people who develop feelings for each other, make music and then not make love.

But this post is not about what struck me (or didn't) about the musical version of the film, currently playing at the New York Theatre Workshop (it's also written by Enda Walsh, whose Penelope was my first moment of theatrical bliss in New York City). No, this is the story of that rare and perfect theatrical moment.

Monday, December 12, 2011

God is in the Details

Thou shalt remember that less is more.

It's about two weeks until Christmas and c'mon, mommy needs some new Sondheim!

Reposted with love from

Friday, December 9, 2011

Stalking Stephen Sondheim

I have never considered myself a Stephen Sondheim (or as others call him, "God") expert. Yes, I enjoy the man's work but I haven't seen enough of his shows live to peg myself as an expert. Yes, I listen to the cast album from his shows for fun (sometimes while at the gym) but that's more fan than expert.

These past two weeks, I've taken my fanaticism to a whole new level by attending not just one, but two Sondheim events in New York City, part of the press tour to promote his new book: Look, I Made a Hat.

You can find a more reported version of the events where we went to here at my (platonic) date's blog: Theatre-Words.

To quote myself: "We have officially become Sondheim groupies." So much so that we noticed the Master wore the same outfit to the first event (The Colbert Report, click on the link for potential free tickets to the show) as he did the second event (a conversation with Anna Quindlen at Barnes & Noble). We're fashion-savvy like that.

Here's a nice little excerpt from his interview with Miss Quindlen: when asked about which one of his works he would like to take to a desert island, he answered with A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, because if you have to listen to something night after night, it should be something that makes you laugh.

And here's the interview with Stephen Colbert, where Stephen squared sang an up-beat, let's call it lounge, version of "Sorry Grateful" from Company.

"My performance of Harry, great interpretation of Sondheim or greatest interpretation of Sondheim?"

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Stephen Sondheim
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogVideo Archive

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

In the Bathroom with Frank Gehry

The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre, part of the new Signature Center designed by Frank Gehry

I was chatting with Frank Gehry, architect extraordinaire, while waiting in line to the bathroom. With famous people, the best way to humanize them, is to see them go into a bathroom, it's the great equalizer (next to death).

Let's pull back a little bit, how did I encounter architect Frank Gehry in the bathroom? It was during a press tour of the new in-progress Signature Center, New York City's Signature Theatre's new home, designed by Gehry at a discounted price of only $66 million.

During his speech at the luncheon, which you can read a bit of in the linked article, he demonstrated just how famous he was by calling the greatest playwright who ever lived as "The guy said, 'All the world’s a stage', and I believe that." Did I mention the man is in his 80's and hilarious? He also responded with "Thank God," when I told him I don't write about architecture.

And he's also going to live longer now, because I said that he can. So you're welcome architecture-fanatics. You're welcome.

As for the new center, with three theaters opening into a central space with a cafe and bookstore, it's a theatrical piazza (which was the point). Hopefully I will be able to get in when the place finally opens in January.

So yes, just another day at American Theatre magazine.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

In Defense of Criticism

 I defend the art of criticism in the TCG Circle blog. Choice snippet:

Based on what I was taught and what I noticed in practice (reviewing for student dailies, websites, print publications and my personal blog), the respect of the theatre artist is a sometimes-handy byproduct of a review. It is not why critics write.

In the words of Chris Jenson, a stage columnist for the SF Weekly, “My primary role is not to be a cheerleader for local theatre, but to be of service to readers.”

 Read the rest at the circle (and see if you can get the play reference in the title).

Friday, November 4, 2011

Me and Hugh Jackman

I saw Hugh Jackman on stage. And he was marvelous. Granted, it's not because of his Australian-accented singing voice (which, while full and deep, isn't very nuanced) but rather, the star stage presence. And because of how pleasant he looks standing there singing and shaking his pelvis.

The older lady who sat in the theatre box in front of me would also agree, mainly because in the opening of the second act, Hugh Jackman came to her box (dressed in a tight-fitting gold shirt and gold pants) and sat on her lap. "Ohh, you're warm," he gushed as she rubbed his arms. Then his hand.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Oversaturation that is Online Dating

It has been said that my generation is the cyber generation. After all, the democratization of the internet, the creation of chat rooms, Myspace, Facebook and Twitter all came to pass and were popularized as I came of age. Not only that, but my generation also remembers a time where people did write letters and talk to each other on the phone, or, shockingly enough, in person.

Well no more. Since we spend most of our waking lives behind a blank screen, connecting to the rest of the world via pixels, it was inevitable that I would come to this point: online dating. Just last year, the thought of online dating would send the normal person recoiling. And now, as I was talking to different people at my workplace, "Everybody's on OkCupid!"

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Family Play

I blog about the family play for the TCG Circle Blog, the official blog of Theatre Communications Group, my parents at American Theatre magazine.

A choice excerpt:

Perhaps it’s the commonality within the theme of family. After all, not everyone finds themselves battling AIDS (Angels in America) or unwittingly becoming cannibals (Sweeney Todd). But everyone has a mother who drives them crazy (Gypsy).

You can read the rest here.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

5 Things I'm Discovering Now That I Work Full-Time

When you're in college, it's impossible to see past college. To put it even more specifically, it's impossible to see into a time where you will do anything but go to class, do homework and get drunk on a weeknight (going to work hungover is not nearly as fun as going to class, mostly because your friends won't be there to comment on how legendary last night was). So now that I am an adult (for the most part), here are the things that I have discovered about living in the working world.

Friday, October 7, 2011

A "Threepenny" for Your Thoughts

 A couple of days ago, I was lucky enough to be able to see the Robert Wilson production of The Threepenny Opera at BAM, which unfortunately is only running for a limited engagement, courtesy of the Next Wave Festival. While Threepenny is an oft-mentioned work in the musical-theater cannon, it's rarely successfully mounted. Consider it the lower-maintenance sister of Cabaret, Chicago and Sweeney Todd; the slightly-grungier one who likes to bite and knows German.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Why Make Art? Are We Still Asking This?

I was at work today in the midst of finishing up on editing the November issue of American Theatre magazine (since the last time I posted, two issues have come out that had my name as part of the masthead, pretty cool!) and I got distracted by a blog post. Brooklyn-based playwright Matthew Freeman, whose work I have not yet seen, was addressing an article from the Wall Street Journal, one that questioned why playwrights write plays.

Not surprisingly, most playwrights (like most artists) do not make living from writing plays. Tony Kushner makes his living as a screenwriter, eventhough Angels in America is an established piece of the American theatrical canon (and he has also inspired a theatrical tribute, a sure sign of immortality). Terry Teachout, whose work I also have not seen, writes that the reason playwrights write is because you meet the "nicest" people in the theater and because of the audience's reactions.

Freeman's rebuttal (emphasis mine):

Honestly, I do like that I've met nice people, but as a playwright, that is not why I write plays. I also don't write plays because I really like sitting in the room and hearing the reactions (a luxury, apparently, that TV writers don't get?) I don't do it for applause, or to satisfy myself or feel the love of others. Frankly, the theater I like is usually a bit terrifying and difficult: the sort that makes people leave feeling unsettled, and not like they love you.

I write plays because they are the long-standing, traditional form of art that I've chosen for my medium. Does there need to be further explanation than that? Just because photographs exist, does that mean painters need to explain why they still paint?

I'm more inclined to agree with Freeman. People write, paint, play music, act, sing, are generally artsy for the reason that they cannot do anything else. It's a compulsion. Artists that I've spoken to say it's because they do not feel like they were meant to do anything else. "It feeds my soul." "I just fell in love and it wouldn't let me go."

As for myself, I wonder why the question of "Why be a playwright?" exists. It goes without saying. And for that matter, why engage in the arts and humanities at all? Why work in non-profit? Why am I a journalist? Why do anything that doesn't pay a salary or ensure financial stability?

I'm not even going to point to the sociological reasons of why art is important and keeps man in touch with his humanity, his compassion, spirit. Or that helping others is its own reward.

No, I'm more inclined to think that it's something more primal than that. It's a need to do devote your life to this thing because it's what you love and what makes you happy and what you feel like you're the most skilled at and what you felt like you were meant to do. 

As a great man, my dad would say, "Making money is easy. The important thing is to do what you love. Money is not important." 

Saturday, July 30, 2011

On Employment (Finally!)

I meant to write this post as soon as I got the job. But as soon as I got the job (after I jumped up and down in the apartment and called my entire family and some close friends), I promptly went out and got a couple of drinks to celebrate. And then promptly forgot about writing this post. And then I started work.

Here's the thing about 40-hour work weeks, they take some getting used to. It's the end of my second week as an editorial assistant for American Theatre magazine. Besides having designated sections of the magazine that I am now in charge of (look for my writing in the awards sections, entrances & exits, and production notebook), I also edit, fact-check, process photos and make misc changes to magazine copy as they come in. And if I come up with a brilliant idea (still waiting on that one), I can write a feature article for the magazine.

At the moment, I'm trying to refresh the well on the ideas. It's writing about theaters (which is spelled theatre in the magazine, that takes some getting used to) on a national scale, which I am getting used to.

So upon getting home everyday at around 7 p.m., all I want to do is eat and watch Netflix. The exhaustion is not nearly as bad this week as it was the first week. And hopefully, it will not be as bad next week as this week. I'm just taking it one day at a time and hoping for some good ideas to write/blog about in the process.

In the meantime, I wake up everyday and I am excited about going to work. And for a job, that's all you really need, I think.

Then again, I've only been a real adult for two weeks.

P.S. How did I find the job?

An alumni who interned at the magazine was forwarded the job opening by the managing editor, who forwarded the listing to my Goldring adviser. Who knew that I loved theater, so she forwarded the listing to me. A month later (with a follow-up e-mail two weeks after I sent the resume), I was called into interview where I promptly tried to be my wittist, most likable self. A second round of interviews later, a copy-editing test, multiple phone calls to my mother telling her to pray, and a phone call to my old editor at one of my old internships...I got the job.

The lesson in all this:

  1. Follow-up
  2. Stay in contacts with your old bosses and forge good relationships with your academic advisers
  3. Job hunting takes longer than you usually think it will
  4. Never underestimate the power of sheer luck (a quick aside: as another alumni said: "There are, like, three theater writing jobs out there." And by sheer luck, I got one of them.)

Friday, July 1, 2011

New York City: the Land of Free Goods

So here is a problem: a narrow doorway into a two-bedroom apartment, a too-wide couch, and three 20-something girls. What do you do?

Well, with some advice by a very nice neighbor, we took the door off the hinges (with only a pink screwdriver) and pushed the couch in. I imagine giving birth to be something of the same concept.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

My First Byline in Time Out New York: "Batz"

At the behest of a fellow journalism alumni, I was given the name of the theater editor at Time Out New York, David Cote, who was looking for some new theater critics. And as of now (I just mailed in the contract today), I am a freelance theater reviewer for "Time Out New York." It's amazing to think that I am now published in two New York City magazines.

So here's another lesson for those wanting to break into communications, relationships are everything in this business. Journalism is not for the anti-social types. Network!

Read my review at Time Out New York.

And this one, I'm actually paid for it. Which led me to promptly jump around my room shouting, "I'm a writer! I'm a writer!" Not that I had not been a writer prior to "Time Out," but this was the first time I have actually gotten paid in cash (instead of school credits) for my writing. To say it's a surreal experience would be understating it. I feel like my career is actually starting...

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Real World (Not Like the TV Show)

I'm no longer a student. For anyone who has been a student at university, especially those with advanced degrees, you feel like you are never going to stop being a student. Before graduation, I could never see past the cap and gown hour.

I have been a real adult for approximately one week and two days. I moved into my New York City apartment four days after coming back from covering the Spoleto Festival.

How does it feel?

Adulthood is like being on summer vacation though with an added dose of anxiety because I am, presently, unemployed. Not without trying to be employed. Here's a handy piece of advice about the communications industry (excluding PR), they hire as needed so if you have not graduated yet or, like me, will be truly finished after graduation, chances are (75%) you will be spending a month or two unemployed.

So for the first time in my entire life, or at least my life after 18, I do not have a laid-out plan. I have a plan of attack (and a couple of months worth of savings to pay the rent) that I am using to hopefully score a job. But ask me what I'm doing one month, two months, six months from now, my answer will be... "Working?" Working on getting a job. Working at a job. Working on something... It's an endless question mark at the moment.

My sister says that's part of life. The alumni's from Newhouse said that I'm doing the right thing by moving to New York City and trying to find a job. I can tell you that a year ago, I would have moved back to California rather than risk going someplace new without a job. After all, there are worst things in life than moving back to Orange County. At least I won't have to deal with snow anymore.

But there are things you should do and things you want to do. 8 times out of 10, the things you want to do win out. Because those are the things that bring you joy. So for now, I'm comfortable with my question mark of a future plan. There are worst things than spending summer in New York City.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Sarah Jarosz, or, How a 20 year old made me feel like an underachiever

Bluegrass singer-songwriter Sarah Jarosz
I've been in Charleston covering the Spoleto Festival for the "Post and Courier" for about two weeks now. I got in on May 12 and the days have the flowing by like molasses. Not to say that I have not been working. My days begin at 10 a.m. and end sometime after midnight (depending on if I have to submit an overnight review). I've written a feature story, I've done three multimedia videos, five overnight reviews, and five blog posts/reviews for the "Theater Talk" blog. And in my spare time, I either catch up on news or I go see shows. I may or may not review those productions for this blog. So not exactly slacking.

And then I went to a concert by 20-year-old singer/songwriter Sarah Jarosz and all such feelings of productivity flew out of the window. She has two albums out, plays multiple instruments (including banjo and guitar), and she writes lyrics so poetic, I was placed into a haze. And then brought out of when I realized that no matter how hard I try, I'll probably won't be able to write anything quite as beautiful as:

I peruse and conjure
Sit and ponder
Then go under
The blanket of your words
The way I feel
The things I sing
The songs I write
The joy you bring
To me my muse
That song placed me into a haze, which only intensified when she played this piece, one she wrote based on an experience in an NYC subway. I was close to crying, perhaps because I wanted to be in that city but also, because of how hopeful it made me. It was like all of the worries I had - about jobs, about money, about entering adulthood - disappeared in that moment. It was like I was floating in a sea of guitar strings, playing a reassuring refrain, everything was going to be all right.

That's what I love about the arts, how it can transport you to more beautiful, tranquil places. It calms you down and untangles all of the worries you previously had. Though other than those feelings, it was a perfect summer night in the South and I felt peaceful in a way that I had not felt in quite some months. 

The concert, at the beautiful tree-covered backdrop of the College of Charleston

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Theater Review (Spoleto Edition): "Impromptu Splendor"

What happens when you take David Mamet, add some references to a certain cheating Governator and leave it out in the Charleston sun? You would have “Unemployed Heat,” a play NOT written by David Mamet. But it very well could have been, provided Mamet wrote it while drunk on scotch.

At “Impromptu Splendor,” presented by the National Theatre of the World (who are actually just from Canada), that’s the idea. The trio – made up of co-artistic directors Ronald Pederson, Naomi Sniekus and Matt Baram – choose a well-known playwright, takes some ideas from the audience and builds a fully improvised one-act play.

Read the rest at the Post and

Monday, May 30, 2011

Notes on Graduation (and How to Find a New York City Apartment)

So I graduated. This time last year, I thought there would more hoopla and celebration, and some marvelous bursts of insight upon receiving a Master's degree. But what seems to have happened is more like excitement mixed with fear, mixed with a shrug that says, "Onto the next." Maybe it's because I don't receive my degree until after I finish covering the Spoleto Festival for the Charleston "Post and Courier" so there's no elation that you would usual expect would come after you get a Master's degree. Maybe it's because I haven't had time to bask in that graduation afterglow. Right before graduation, I was on a Canadian road trip with my parents and after, I was in New York City looking for an apartment.

I found a place in two days (How? Craigslist and a good pair of walking shoes). I signed a lease a week after graduation for a two-bedroom apartment. Here is a tip about apartment-hunting in New York, it's usually apropos to look for an apartment two weeks before you plan to move in. Anytime before then is too soon and no one will rent to you.

I had a job interview, which I am still waiting to hear back from.

Then I headed off to Charleston a week and one day after graduation for Spoleto. The work continues indefinitely.

Someone I knew asked me, "How does it feel to get a Master's degree?" My answer, "It hasn't hit me yet." So ask me again in two weeks. For now, it's as it's always been.

Though I'm beginning to get a clearer picture of life after graduation. So perhaps the answer is, it's both satisfying but unsettling. But that's real life, no grand epiphanies. If anything, it's more questions.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Where Were You? (Obligatory Osama Post)

Where were you when Osama Bin Laden died? That will be the question asked 10, 20, 50 years from now. It will be one for the history books, not only because of the event but also, how it fully exemplified the role of social media on this generation.

Case in point, where was I?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

And Now for Something Completely Different: Bún Riêu!

Well, it's been a long while since I've posted, and I've noticed my output this year is not as prolific as last year (when I first started). Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that since I've been interning in Syracuse this semester and covering local events in a small city, my life has been less eventful (and not as much of a fodder for a blog post).

Though with the approaching deadline of graduation looming ever the closer, the stress seems to be melting. Not completely, but dripping down bit by bit. Maybe it's the frog effect and I'm not really feeling the heat because it's rising ever so gradually. Or perhaps I've become desensitized to it at this point (more on that later). Which gives me more time to blog about something completely random: Vietnamese food!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

I need it to be sunny (a repetitive poem)

Dear Syracuse and your lack of anything other than cloudiness in freaking late March/early April,

I need it to be sunny
I need it to be sunny so I can greet the day with happiness instead of a groan
I need it to be sunny so I don't feel cold when I go outside
I need it to be sunny so I can finally wear open-toed shoes and put away my heavy coat
I need it to be sunny so I can know that it's spring instead of having to remind myself everyday
I need it to be sunny so I can get some Vitamin B, which is good for complexion and morale

I need it to be sunny so I don't have to look inside myself for joy

I need it to be sunny so I can finally feel hopeful about my future, even when that future is foggy

(This sentiment is seconded, and etc, by all of my friends who live here and cannot wait to get out of here)

(Don't criticize the poem, I am very well aware it's rudimentary and repetitive (I was a lit major, for God's sake!). But sometimes you need to let it out.)

(Now back to your regularly scheduled programming...and rain and snow in April).

The Fear (Updated)

So I'm petrified. It's like those dreams where something horrible is chasing you and no matter how fast you try to run, you feel like all you're really doing is crawling. You always wake up before you're caught. But this is real life, and you can't wake up from that. You will get caught.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Burn-Out, Baby, Burn-Out!

School resumed again this week. And I've been, predictably, tired. After all, Spring Break screwed up my sleeping schedule.

Yet was it really Spring Break? Then how does it explain my generally lethargic attitude? I have work I need to do, projects to turn in, deadline to meet. But instead of bucking up and losing myself, even rejoicing in the work, I'm dragging myself to my computer and to the books.

I've hardly even wanted to write in this blog.

Burn-out. Also known as senoritas. Also known as being generally lazy.

It's general weariness about everything you're doing. It's exactly what the name entails, you're running on empty, there is no fire and no fuel, sooner or later, you either recharge yourself or die off.

I realized today that I haven't had a real, let's not worry about work, deadline, sit around the house-and-do-nothing break since last year, in that week between graduation from undergrad and moving across the country to Syracuse for post-grad. It's been steady working

In the words of Bilbo Baggins, "I need a holiday, I very long holiday."

My editor at the "Post-Standard," said I didn't sound like my normal, happy self. That I was "too quiet." I'm moving slowly along, getting my stories and assignment finished, maybe not with my usual aplomb, but finished.

For now, that needs to be enough, until I find that fire again. Or it finds me.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Theater Review: "Good People" on Broadway

Why do bad things happen to good people? Sometimes it's because they weren't lucky enough in their lives. And with that depressing thought is David Lindsay-Abaire's "Good People."

Similar to "Rabbit Hole," his naturalistic drama about a couple coping with the death of their child (and who earned Nicole Kidman an Oscar nomination for the movie adaptation), Lindsay-Abaire explores the plight of working people in his newest play, "Good People." It's drama that is centered around the domestic, real world.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Art of Doing Nothing

I'm a workaholic. I blame my father, the great multitask-er, even when he's retired and supposed to sitting all day reading and relaxing, he's currently landscaping my sister's backyard.

Of course, to be a journalist, that's a prerequisite. After all, we are the lords of multitasking, always reading, researching, interviewing and writing. The news cycle is never-ending these days and there are always updates and things to be caught up with. Because a journalist is not a journalist if they don't know the news.

And if you're a freelancer, that's double the amount of work because you spend your work time in that job that makes you actual money to pay for the essentials (rent and food), your spare time is spent being a journalist because that's where the passion lies and that's why you wanted to be a writer in the first place.

My adviser told me to stay centered, after I expressed to her that I feel guilty even watching movies because then I feel like I'm wasting time. "That's not good," she said.

Doing nothing is an art as of itself. Because in a world now where information is consistently streaming in and the avenues to get that information is convenient, there's a desire to be constantly stimulated.

It gives birth to a nation of pure neurosis.

I once wrote an essay for speech and debate in high school about finding your inner hobbit. It was about finding that creature inside that is able to relax, to do nothing and not feel ashamed for it.

So since this is Spring Break at Syracuse University. It's what I'm going to do. Yes, there's still work and a deadline to deal with. But I'm dealing with it at a leisurely pace, while still leaving ample time for bad movies, catching up on my reading and visiting New York City again.

Because sometimes, doing nothing is as much work as doing something.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Theater Review: "Radio Golf" at Syracuse Stage

When I spoke to Timothy Bond, Richard Brooks and G. Valmont Thomas, the director and actors (respectively) of "Radio Golf" at Syracuse Stage, I asked them: "Why do you think that the original production was not as successful?"

Brooks answered with "Because we didn't do it."

And indeed, it's obvious this production of "Radio Golf" is rendered with love and reverence for the late August Wilson, who died in 2005. "Radio Golf" was his last play and he had died before it opened. It is also the last play in his "20th Century Cycle" and thus contains refrains of the prior works.

"Radio Golf" details the conflict between the African-American middle class and the lower class, of the tragic sundering of ties. Wilson believed, as it says in the program for "Radio Golf," that those who were able to rise up from poverty should try to help the community they came from. This viewpoint is apparent through the main character, Harmond, who is in conflict over this very issue, in his attempts to become the first Black mayor of Pittsburgh.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

How Being a Writer is Less Writing and More Everything Else

Just because I'm a writer doesn't mean I'm writing all the time. Because really, if I was writing all the time, I wouldn't have anything to write about. It's an odd conundrum. What came first, the chicken or the writing?

Instead, actually composing sentences and putting my thoughts to electronic document takes up about 20% of my time, the other 80% is doing the things that will lead to the writing. Because you can't make a cake out of thin air, and you can't write if you don't do anything worth writing about.

So here is what I do instead of writing. Which consequently influences the writing:

Monday, February 21, 2011

"Some Enchanted Evening" with Brian Stokes Mitchell

I was serenaded by Brian Stokes Mitchell.

Broadway leading man, dreamy baritone with the power to melt a thousand women with his voice, Brian Stokes Mitchell.

And now I know what heaven sounds like.

It was the opening of his concert in Syracuse. A trio band of piano, bass guitar and drums began the first notes, quick beats in succession, a happy number. Then the spotlight lit on a man in a lilac suit, who smiled at the audience as he walk out from stage right towards stage left.

He stopped to where I was sitting in the audience.

looked at me, I looked at him and the first words from his mouth were:

"Some enchanted evening,
You may see a stranger,

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Theater Review: "Love Letters" and "You've Got Hate Mail" by Not Another Theater Company

It’s said, through advice columns, self-help books, and many (many, many) romantic comedies, that the most important aspect in a relationship is communication. In the Not Another Theater Company’s double feature of plays, “Love Letters” and “You’ve Got Hate Mail,” in light of Cupid day, that sentiment rings especially true.

Love Letters

The first half of the evening was dedicated to “Love Letters,” by AR. Gurney, which was a Pulitzer Prize for Drama finalist.

The play is a series of letters exchanged between Melissa Gardner and Andrew Makepeace Ladd III. It details their 50-year relationship. And while it’s obvious to the audience that they are soul mates, being more honest to each other through letters than they are to the other people around them, the relationship never heads towards that juncture. It’s a bittersweet and simple movement.

Read the rest at the NewsHouse

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Sound of Silence

My first week back for my final semester as a student (thank god!), I had a meeting with my adviser Johanna Keller. And there, sitting in her office, she pursed her eyebrows together and said, "You know, I think your writing is your weakest point."

My response: "That's really depressing."

"No it's not," she said, smiling again. "We can fix that, it's not like you have a boring personality or a sloppy dresser."

That's how you know you're talking to a journalist, they go for the blood-filled artery when they speak to people. Especially when it's criticism.

Her suggestion for fixing this dilemma: get in touch with my creative side. "I want you to read novels, make your writing more literary," she said.

Wait, are we talking about journalism or fiction writing? In the 10 commandments of journalism, it usually states that fiction and journalism are two different things and never the twain shall meet. Fox News notwithstanding.

But I have been taking her advice to heart because at this point, what do I have to lose. And who knows, it might make the writing fun again, instead of what it has become for me, endless work and thus dry.

So I've been reading, besides my daily blog posts and "New York Times," I've been reading more books. I checked out a Nabokov novel last week, I'm going to try to get to it after I finish a series of essays about art from Times art critic Michael Kimmelman.

And I'm drawing again, those aren't as good as they used to be since I haven't picked up a drawing pencil in a little more than a year. But it's not just to be a better writer, it's to not center my life on any one thing. And to inspire some creativity in other arenas.

Because you write about what you know. So everything you do informs your writing. Perhaps being silent for a while, and taking it a bit easy on the output of words, will open up my brain to looking at things in terms of colors and metaphors, rather than observing what I see. Because not every writer produces work in the same manner. Perhaps I'm not meant to be Stephen King and produce 2,000 words a day.

I'm finding my own routine this semester.

At the very least I'm a little bit more relaxed now.

Now let's see if that will make a difference in the writing. Watch what happens.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

I Interview Brian Stokes Mitchell

So I've been interning this semester at the "Post-Standard" in Syracuse, a decision which spawned from two factors:

1) "Playbill" did not respond back to me on an internship
2) I need to save money so I can move to New York City after graduation

So here I am, getting accustomed to the daily grind of news, which had me working on an article before my first official day at the office and as of now, I've had two stories filed and two stories in the process.

This past Thursday, on the first day of the new lunar year (Happy Year of the Cat), I received a pleasant surprise when I came into the office and there, on the front page of the culture section, was the first article I had written for the "Post-Standard."

And it was just not any article, it was one where I interviewed Broadway leading man Brian Stokes Mitchell, that baritone who, whenever he sings, causes all women (and gay men) in the immediate vicinity to melt into puddles of hormones.

One of my friends said it's prophetic, an indication that this is going to be a good year for me. I don't know, I'll just take it as it comes and enjoy the bylines as long as they flow in continuously. For now, I'm still smiling and singing in my head. And yes, his speaking voice is just as deep and dreamy as his singing voice.

"Broadway actor and singer Brian Stokes Mitchell considers himself a “California boy.” After all, he started his career there. But Stokes defies the California stereotype in one key respect: He likes snow.

The likelihood of lake-effect snow makes him all the more excited about performing in Syracuse.

“Syracuse in the winter — what can be better?” he says, without a hint of sarcasm." - Diep Tran, The Post-Standard

Why is seeing your byline in print so infinitely more satisfying than seeing it online?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Of that Pain in My Side Known As New Media

So one of the terrible repercussions of being a modern, young, up-and-coming journalist is this little thing known as: the Internet. Who knew that magical device which made it easier for me to kill hours of time like a super stealthy ninja, and research from the comforts of my laptop when I was a naive youngster, would also make it that much harder for me to get a job?

Because the consensus I have heard since I have started this career path is that the old model is disappearing (ie: the paper newspaper). Instead, to be a journalist now, you cannot just be a writer. Oh no, you must be like Leonardo da Vinci, a Renaissance man or someone who knows how to do a lot of things and has a lot of free time on their hands.

That's because with the growth of blogging, social media, and Wikipedia with its mass-editing format, it's becoming increasingly easy for anyone to write and to shout into the universe. And with all of those voices, you have to fight to be heard now, and to attract paying readers.

Hence new skills for the journalist.

In addition to learning how to write better, I have been trying to master the art of the following things: blogging regularly, gaining more Twitter followers, shooting and editing video, master website coding and designing my own logo. All in the name of attracting readers into my story and keeping them there.

So far, I've gone through the first three and I'm kind of getting the hang of it. But then there's that last two.

And somehow, doing all of this new media work will land me a job, or at least put me in the running for one. At the very least, I get to play with the Adobe suite for hours on end...

I miss the days where all I had to do was worry about writing. Instead, it's not just about the writing, but how you present it. What new, eye-popping way can you present the information that will make people want to read it? And even more-so than that, how many skills can you show off to a potential employer, like a juggling monkey? In an increasingly slimming market, where there is more information coming out than there are writers, for perhaps the first time in publication history since the invention of the newspaper.

But on the upside, I have become quite skilled at the intricacies in Final Cut Express, so much so that I've gotten this little bit published. If you're not a Syracuse University admirer, or student, then the following piece might be a bit dull.

The Big Orange in the Big Apple (I designed the map myself)

P.S. And why did I decide to put Eve from "Wall-E" as the photo? Because she was designed by Apple.

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Staging of "La Traviata" at the Metropolitan Opera

I never thought I'd ever go to the opera and see this: couch-surfing.

In the Met's newest production of Verdi's "La Traviata," the main character, Violetta, reclines on a red couch while she is held aloft by a barrage of be-suited men and women, in a moment reminiscent of "Hello Dolly" or "Chicago."

In fact, if there is anything that should get you to this opera, it's the droves of men in black suits, their deep, masculine voices singing strongly, ecstatically, in Italian. Is there anything else that as a woman, you can ever want at the theater?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Dissecting the Tiger Mother

I had a conversation with a close Vietnamese friend who admitted one thing which knocked me cold and silent: "I hate my mom."

Mind you, she is 24, not 15. And her mom is that traditional Asian-American parent that Yale law professor Amy Chua wrote so favorably about in her article in the "Washington Post," entitled "Why Chinese Mothers are Superior." The slightly hyperbolic and seemingly article, a snippet from Chua's book, "Hymn of the Tiger Mother," was about the values of Chinese parenting.

Of course, when Chua said Chinese parenting, she should have said Asian instead, because her painful descriptions of her daughters not being allowed to participate in school plays and sleepovers, of her calling them 'garbage,' rang true with parents that I know who, while not Chinese, are definitely traditionally Asian.

I have previously stated that I love my parents. My overbearing, sometimes contradictory, ambitious, optimistic, maddeningly traditionally Asian parents. Yet while I admire their resilience in raising four girls, in a land where both of them spoke stunted English and worked minimum-wage jobs, I also see their flaws. That's one of the amazing things that comes with age and not living at home.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Why Critics Should Review "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark"

Did I tell you guys that I've started writing a weekly pop culture criticism column for called "Culture Ninja?" No? Now you know. Here's one that I particularly liked, which means I'm posting part of it on here. It's about theater, so of course it's going here.

Waiting for "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark" to finally open is like waiting in really bad traffic (think Los Angeles traffic at 5pm). You’re angry, you’re frustrated and technically, you can exit the freeway at any time. But you refuse to give in because it’s been an hour already so what the heck, you’re going to see this car crash!

And it better be good.

Except as the opening date inches ever closer, you realize, wait, there’s still another row of cars between you and the wreckage.

Then you wonder: are we ever going to see the real "Spider-Man?"

As a writer, the question in my mind is, will the critics ever get to review it? It has already been pushed back a record-breaking five times, now to March 15.

So now that bloggers and MTV, among others, have had their say about "Spider-Man," can the big critics finally be allowed in?

Read the rest here...

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Journalists in New York City

What do you do when you put 15 graduate students together into one hotel and herd them around a snow-filled New York City for a week and a half?

Well, if you were are part of the Goldring Program at Syracuse University, then you get a germ-filled group as two were struck down with stomach flu, one with a chronic cold, another with an ear infection, and by the end three were developing cold-like symptoms. The rest fearfully stayed away though you can hear the germs beating down and crackling evilly outside of the immune system doors.

But joking about "Oregon Trail"-like bouts of sickness aside (whoops! Someone just died of dysentery), the trip was both awe-inspiring and almost frightening. It was an exercise on how little sleep you can get and how much you can force yourself to write invigorating, analytical prose despite it. All while meeting established writers and networking like your life depended on it (and for those whose career will become our lives, this applied).

It will forever become the week where I drank my weight in coffee (I recall one day where I had about three cups of black coffee in succession), where down-time was spent not exploring the wonderful Manhattan but napping, and where I fell asleep for about two seconds standing up at the MOMA (don't tell my adviser that). Then again, I lived there part-time last semester so I don't feel too guilty.

And within that, there was copious amounts of starchy, meat-based food (vegetables optional and need not apply) and shows! So many shows! Like two or three a day shows! Art shows, theater shows, jazz shows, an modernist classical music show!

Of which I will attempt to write about a small number of them in the upcoming days (and I already have, check the last two posts), as well as other thoughts I discovered during the trip. So watch for that.

Now back to reviewing...

Friday, January 14, 2011

Theater Review: "La Cage Aux Folles"

If one is to take the songs of “La Cage Aux Folles” seriously, then without a hint of irony, the “best of times is now.” And the production currently on Broadway at the Longacre Theatre proves it.

“La Cage Aux Folles” is based on the French play by Jean Poiret, the book was written by Harvey Fierstein with lyrics and music by Jerry Herman. It won the Tony for best musical when it originally opened in 1983.

It takes place in St. Tropez, France, the home of the drag nightclub, La Cage Aux Folles. It is run by Georges, whose gay lover Albin is the headliner. The two have a son, Jean-Michel who has fallen in love with the daughter of a prominent homophobic politician. Consequently, he has lied to his prospective in-laws about his parents’ true orientation and occupation.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Theater Review: "John Gabriel Borkman" at the Brooklyn Academy of Music

It is winter and a storm is raging. Unfortunately, this one is located not outside but inside. “John Gabriel Borkman,” now playing at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, takes place on a set where no walls separate the house inside and the outside snow.

“John Gabriel Borkman” is Henrik Ibsen’s penultimate play and deals with a late 19th century household trapped in a perpetual emotional winter.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

A Very Belated New Year's Reflection

One of the key moments that made me realize I'm not as neurotic as I was last year, a constant point I like to make, is the fact that instead of worrying about writing this post during my Christmas vacation, I decided to put it off until I got back over to the East Coast.

So here I am, on a graduate program trip with the rest of my arts journalism program-mates, and doing a quick write-up before bedtime (and another full day of gallery visits, fancy lunches, and shows).

If I think about who I was at the beginning of 2010 and who I am now, at the beginning of 2011, it's like looking at two different people and two different lives.

I graduated with a BA and moved across the country. I've become a better writer, a little more knowledgeable, a little more perceptive, and a lot less awkward when talking to people. And that has resulted in more confidence, in who I am, in my abilities and in what I want my life to turn out.

Considering such a large change has taken place, it's strange to think that I am still in that transitional state. I'm not a kid anymore but at the same time, not a full-fledged, independent (ie: out of school and working) adult. Yet this time next year, I will be. And the thought is both terrifying and exhilarating.

Then again, big question marks tend to be. They are also part of what makes life so exciting and splits up the years, which can seem monotonous sometime if you're restless with where you are and long for things to be different. Right now, I don't long for anything and am just satisfied with where I am, whether it's home in California during winter or running around New York City.

As for resolutions, I don't like to making them because I find that you tend to forget about it after a month has gone by. So instead, I have chosen to just make some doable realistic goals that before the New Year, I had already decided I was going to do.

1) Go to the gym. Since I will have more time this upcoming semester, I will go back to the gym and weight-lift again.

2) Get a job after graduation, preferably in New York City, hopefully in something arts-related.

Modest, easy to remember, and if I don't do them, I'll be both fat and unemployed. It's an unsavory thought which will force me to meet them.

And my resolution last year? I searched through my old entry from last year and I only had one: fall in love. I did. Though that's a tale too personal to share for now. Talk to me in another couple of years and I'll probably write all about it, and in nicer prose too.