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?