Wednesday, November 6, 2013

How to Not Offend People (Intercultural Edition)

Just two snakes hanging out. Nothing strange at all...

The other week, I traveled to the exotic land of New Jersey (exotic to me because I have never been there except that one time where I needed to rent a car and didn't want to drive out of Manhattan). I wanted to catch a matinee of Mary Zimmerman's "The White Snake." This was my first Mary Zimmerman production, so from her reputation, I knew what I was getting into: fairy tales, puppets, intricate costumes and a general sense that the entire thing was a magical fable rather than a naturalistic play.

"White Snake" was based on an ancient Chinese fairy tale, about a magical snake who can turn into a woman. She then falls in love with a man. Like other fairy tales/myths about inter-species relationships, you can probably guess that it doesn't end well. But you don't come to a Mary Zimmerman show because you want to be preoccupied with plot. You go to a Mary Zimmerman show for the same reason you go to a Julie Taymor show, because it looks so damn beautiful. Just look at this picture:

I want costume designer Mara Blumenfeld to make me a Halloween costume.

Yet what "The White Snake" also showed me was how an artist of a particular background, in this instance a white woman, can represent a background different from her's, ancient China, and do it respectfully without stereotyping or exoticizing the people in it.

How did she do it? Inspired by the recent protests around a touring production of "Miss Saigon" (a musical that is a textbook example of how not to write about a foreign culture), I've developed an easy list of 5 bullet points, inspired by "The White Snake" about how to successfully play with another culture and not offend the people in that community.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Bringing Back Faith

It's all fun and games until Michael Cerveris makes you cry.

This past Saturday, I took a friend to see “Fun Home” at the Public Theatre. It’s based on Alison Bechdel’s comic book, about growing up in a funeral home, discovering she was a lesbian and, around the same time, finding out that her father had been secretly gay. It was alternatively heavy and hilarious stuff, the kind of things that make people with daddy issues cry. Michael Cerveris played Alison’s father and gave one of the most nuanced performance I had ever seen on the stage. It was a performance that was all subtext. Here was a man that had lived in the closet his entire life, and could only step a foot out of it when he thought no one else was looking. He was both an attentive father and a dismissive one, who both saw things and didn’t see them. It was masterful, where you could see a glimpse of the real man underneath but you had to first wade through all of the surface in his character.

It was one of those times where I was really happy to have been there, to say, “I saw that and it was awesome!”

Whenever people talk about live performances, they talk about how nothing can replicate it, how TV and film can’t compare to being in a room and sharing the same space with both performers and the other audience member in the room. How the sense of community both informs and enriches the viewing experience.

I think they’re wrong.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Blurred Lines (Theater Edition)


This past Saturday, I caught the theatrical equivalent of a double feature: seeing two plays in one day. With a Shake Shack break in-between. And the more I thought about it, the more I realize these two plays shared a very common (and I do admit, slightly arbitrary for the sake of this post), thread: they cross boundaries.

I started my day by waking up at noon, having cereal, and then heading into Manhattan for "Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play" by Anne Washburn at Playwrights Horizons. It deals with a post-apocalyptic world, where immediately after, a group of people act out old episodes of "The Simpsons" from their memories to keep themselves entertained.

And with "The Simpsons" becoming oral history, in the style of "Othello," it becomes something like a Greek drama in the second act (set 75 years after the apocalypse). It's a powerful concept: At the end of the world, after the power goes out, "The Simpsons," a work originally presented in the most philistine of mediums: sitcom television, have become the new classics: a Grecian-style tragedy with chorus, masks, and overtones of morality.

Low art has become high art. Or maybe it has always been high art and it just took the lights going out to realize it.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Summer? What Summer?

So I've been thinking about my New Year's Resolutions. What? You may ask. It's only fall, isn't it a bit too early to think about resolutions? Yes, it would be if I was thinking about 2014. Instead, I'm thinking about 2013. One of my resolutions was to blog more this year, for no other reason than I think people (mainly arts-loving people) would benefit from hearing my opinions. Or at least, I like to think so. Not really, I just like to bitch and moan online like a majority of the populace.

Well, as you can see from the lack of entries this year, I've failed miserably at putting my snarky thoughts to type. Instead what have I been doing? Writing for pay! Because I hate having free time.

Here is what I accomplished this summer, while everyone else was out of town. And this list does not include watching all 13 episodes of "Orange is the New Black" and the first three seasons of "Breaking Bad."

  • I filed a story for the July/August issue of "American Theatre" about the immersive theatre movement, which has gotten an insane amount of hits and also, one (that I know of) lovely response. And in that issue, I also wrote about my trip to Alabama, where I saw some new plays about bunnies and had a lot less fried chicken than I hoped to have.

  • I also wrote a 4,000-word piece about the TCG Conference (aka the biggest theatre conference of the year!) for the September issue of AT.

  • I did a podcast interview with my personal writer hero David Henry Hwang where I talked to him about "M. Butterfly," "Yellow Face" and YouTube videos. And this time, I was only moderately enthusiastic (as opposed to the first time I met him where the reaction was more "Oh my god, you inspired me so much and you are so important!"). Listen to it here.

  • I wrote three theater reviews at the New York International Fringe Festival, for "Time Out New York." My last review was in 2011 and I have to say, this time around, the snark came out much easier. I'm guessing that's just one of the side-effects of living in New York City, like knowing how to weave through crowds or ignoring the break-dancer spinning right in front of you on the subway. Though this little dance into criticism aside, I think I may leave it for the more seasoned professionals, because while it's fun, having this much power in my hands is unsettling. And then, because the Fringe refused to let me go, I did a small post for "Back Stage" about the best performance I saw at the festival. 

  • I wrote two pieces for "Stages," the theater magazine for Theatre Development Fund (who, coincidentally enough, works in the same building as TCG, the publisher of AT). One was about "King Kong" at SummerStage and the other was about "Monkey: Journey to the West" at Lincoln Center. Read the second one if you want to see a great example of how to take a 10-minute interview and turn it into a 600-word story. It wasn't David Foster Wallace-style of thumb twiddling, but it was still challenging.

And lastly, I went to Maine for my one mini-vacation, where I killed some lobsters, with a knife.

Now, with three shows this week and four next week (two of which will be in Chicago), I say: Bring on the fall. And the return of blazers and life-changing dramas.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Last Word (Or Is It?)

My reaction to most things these days.

It's officially at the midpoint of summer, and it's also around the time when the last thing I want to do is sit in front of a computer. Instead, all my brain wants is play with my niece, have sangria and make strawberry cake.

Which is why I have been meaning to write this post earlier, but then I couldn't quite wrap my head around what I wanted to say about the topic in question. Because the humidity makes 85 degrees feel like 100, I feel like my brain is one hop, skip and a jump away from melting into a giant puddle. Not to mention the fact that on Twitter, a lot of people had many things to say about it, some very emotional, others very astute, others all of the above.

But this past week has been an interesting one for criticism and it's made me ponder one question: Who has the last word these days?

First, let's recap. A critic named Lily Janiak for "HowlRound," a theatre blog that is read primarily by theatre artists, wrote a review of "American Nights" at California Shakespeare Theater. Criticism of said review came from staffers of the theatre (including the artistic director Jon Moscone), and other artists. Criticism of the criticism also followed.

And then editor Polly Carl posted up an apology, saying that, "There is a way that the tone of Lily's piece can be read as disrespectful. This is not a tone we want to promote on HowlRound." I initially saw the apology as an abandonment of the writer, because in the journalism world, to quote Mitt Romney, there are "no apologies," unless you spell someone's name wrong or report a false fact.

But in the ensuing hubbub, I now just see it as an editor's comments to her readers. And for those who read "HowlRound" regularly, this kind of clarification of intentions is common on the blog. Call it transparency.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Victim Blaming and Trayvon Martin

Jim Morin, The Miami Herald

A lot of artists use the term turning point when they talk about that moment where they knew they wanted to pursue being a painter, a director, a playwright. For me, one of the turning points of when I knew that a career as a reporter was the right one for me was this article, by crime reporter R. Scott Moxley for "OC Weekly" (where I interned for and wrote a couple of pieces back in 2009).

It was a profile of Gunnar Jay Lindberg, who, with an accomplice in 1996, brutally murdered the 24-year-old Vietnamese-American Thien Minh Ly in Tustin, CA as he was rollerblading on an evening in January. What the story told me was that, 1) unfair things happen, especially when you're a person of color, and 2) journalism can be a way to bring light to that kind of injustice.

What brought this old case to my head again was Travyon Martin and George Zimmerman, and how Zimmerman, despite killing Martin, was acquitted of 2nd degree murder and manslaughter. This isn't 1996, it was 2013 and injustice is still alive.

Of course it's false to equate a pre-meditated hate crime with manslaughter, but the reason Thien Minh Ly came to me now was because of the racial motivation. Zimmerman followed Martin because he was black. Lindberg targeted Ly because he was Asian.

But I'm not going to go into whether I think Zimmerman's acquittal was the right decision or not (it wasn't), or whether he had the right to shoot a teenager (he didn't). Instead, I want to go into discourse, or whether, the state of discourse in this country about race and victim blaming.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Why I Want to Be Lois Lane When I Grow Up

"Man of Steel" Lois Lane, hard-hitting investigative report
who is not fooled by a pair of glasses.

When I was little, I wanted to be many things. I wanted to be Belle, I wanted to be Snow White, I wanted to be the Yellow Ranger in Power Rangers, I wanted to be Hermione and, I wanted to be Lois Lane.

She's the female comic book character I looked forward to seeing at the theaters when the superhero films started making a come-back in the early 2000s. Superman was an inevitability and the only thing that made me bite my nails was seeing who would play her. And Amy Adams was my perfect Lois Lane.

I am a big geek, which means I grew up watching the DC Comics cartoon versions of "X-Men," "Spider-Man," "Batman," "Batman Beyond" (which I believe is next to "Gargoyles" and "Animaniacs" as the best cartoon show ever written) and "Superman." And out of all the superhero girlfriends, I wanted to be Lois Lane.

The main reasons were two-fold: she was a writer, I wanted to be a writer, and she was female. Considering the utter lack of female heroines who were not princesses, I took what I could get. Side note: I never wanted to be Mulan, because even at that age, I could see that me being a Chinese warrior was a little too on the nose.

Friday, June 14, 2013

World War Z Takes Me Back

If you haven't noticed, either from reading my blog, chatting with me on Twitter, or stalking my Facebook page, I am a geek. Well, I write about theatre for a living so there's the artsy geek, but the other day, my editor-in-chief called me an "aficionado" of geek films, when I told him I was seeing "Man of Steel" (aka: "Henry Cavill's Abs"), tonight.

But one of the things I love about summer, and what I've always loved about summer, were superhero and fantasy films, which takes that human pathos and realism that you see the other days of the year, and adds in superhuman strength and dragons. What I'm looking forward this summer is the movie "World War Z," about the zombie apocalypse and the ensuing war, adapted from the book by Max Brooks.

Judging from the reaction from my brother-in-law to the trailer, it's not quite clear that the movie is about zombies. He thought it was about a virus (a la "Contagion"), because the trailer never hones in one blood-thirsty individual zombies, instead utilizing wide, tracking shots of zombies as a virus-like hoard, as you can see in the poster below.

I love this poster, I think it's both striking and horrifying, as well as very old-school cinematic. And that last part may be because it references, I don't know if it's conscious or not, this iconic photograph by Hubert van Es of the end of the Vietnam War, taken in Saigon at the American consulate of the CIA evacuation.

I may be reading too much into a summer movie poster.

While I don't enjoy the jump-off-your-seat-horror, "Night of the Living Dead," "28 Days Later" type of zombie films, I do enjoy zombies as an allegory, such as in "The Walking Dead." That show is similar to "World War Z" (or what I know about it), which focuses on living characters reacting in a hostile post-apocalyptic environment, rather than running and shooting zombies Milla Jovovich-style. And when it seems like civilization is ending (which was the fall of Saigon seemed like to a large number of people), the ones still standing turn into a mindless hoard focused on one thing: survival. For the living, it's the way to keep on living. For the dead: it's brains.

Much like the book, and what I'm hoping the film will be, the "World War Z" poster is a reference to past failed wars and future wars. Not that I'm saying "World War Z" is an allegory for the Vietnam War in particular. It's an allegory for wars in general. And it's always fun to get a reference that may not be the most overt.

Enough about wars and death. Let's close on a more upbeat, Jonathan Coulton note.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

J-School, or Justifying My Questionable Financial Decision

I'm back from Dallas, from a very exhausting week of reporting on the 2013 TCG National Conference.

Background: TCG stands for Theatre Communications Group, a membership organization for non-profit theatres across the country and the publisher of "American Theatre" magazine (aka, where I work). During the week, besides getting trapped in the elevator of the Borg-like Dallas Theater Center headquarters (seriously, it's shaped like a cube), and getting to finally meet certain artists in person (shout-out Desdemona Chang, Tlaloc Rivas), I was struck by how very lucky I am to be able to write about an industry that I adore, and to see as much theatre (good and bad) that I want.

There are people going to school to do exactly what it is that I'm doing. And if I made it, others might, right?

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

25: My Quarter Life Crisis

Here's a funny thing that happens when you graduate college and become an alumni, especially when you are living in New York City: You suddenly become a repository of advice.

I just turned 25 in May. And along with a promotion at work (I'm now an assistant editor, which means I am qualified to edit other people!)--and renewing an apartment lease for the first time (which meant I bought a bed frame and will finally be decorating my apartment), and traveling for work (which will never not be awesome)--here are some things that I've learned in my 25 years of life, and two years post-college as a working professional. These are stemmed from my experience as a writer, for other young writers trying to make this crazy thing called life (and love!) work.

I'm writing this blog post from my hotel room in Dallas. Because I am an adult now, and with adult work comes adult business/reporting trips. And while I have learned these things, I don't always follow them, so this is a good reminder for me as well when I'm feeling useless and hack-like.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Because 4,000 Words Wasn't Enough

"Speakeasy Dollhouse" the play, the only time you can ever
witness a murder live and in close up be kind of happy about it

So it's been a busy month for me, which explains why I have been negligent on this blog.

Besides the fact that I turned 25 earlier this month (drinks for everyone!), I also did a bit of freelancing and a giant amount of research for two articles I'm writing for the July/August issue of "American Theatre." One article required me to visit the Alabama Shakespeare Festival (hey guys!). And the other had me write 3,000 (which then turned into 4,000) words and go undercover (fancy!) as an actor for "Speakeasy Dollhouse," an immersive and interactive theatre experience set in a speakeasy bar in the 1930s. It also required me to spend an inordinate amount of time on YouTube looking for 1930's make-up and hair tutorials. Of anybody needs help with their wave curls, I can do them now!

I go into it in more detail about my acting "debut" in the "American Theatre" article. Let's just say I was required to talk to the audience and do some sketching of the murderer pictured above. Here's what I drew in 10 minutes. My roommate said I was a "natural" at acting, I'm glad I went into a more invisible profession.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

So That Freelancing Thing

Jose Llana, credit: Joan Marcus

So the thing I've been trying to do ever since I got to New York City, besides get a job, was do some freelancing. And then I got a job and realized that while I loved writing, I also loved drinking, and going out to dinner, and taking long walks. So there went the freelancing idea...until now!

Hello world! Diep is here and she takes assignments! And she is not monogamous to "American Theatre" magazine.

Why just last week, "Time Out New York" ran a story I wrote about Filipino-American Broadway-leading man Jose Llana, who I was first introduced to via the "Flower Drum Song" 2002 cast album (my reaction back then was something like, "Who is this hot-sounding Asian-American man? And where has he been all my life?). Well in real life, Jose has a boyfriend and he is also my co-worker's cousin. I did not know that when I pitched the story.

But here is the link to the story, about Jose and his work in "Here Lies Love," a new David Byrne and Fat Boy Slim musical about former Filipino first lady Imelda Marcos, currently at the Public Theater. And if you have not bought tickets, you should, the music is super catchy and the performances are electric. The whole thing is set in a disco nightclub (da club) and it's like I time-traveled back to 1975 and Studio 54, where David Byrne dressed all in white and was on the dance floor bopping his head to the beat. I may have done some (a lot) dancing.

Here's an important snippet of the chat between me and Jose that I could not fit into the article:

I’m getting old enough now, I’m 36, where I’m beginning to work [chuckles] with younger Asian guys who were in grade school when I was in "The King and I." For them to say to me, "When I fell in love with theater, you were the only Asian-American man  I could look up to who was not from the '50s." When I think of all my heroes growing up as a musical theater geek, they were Caucasian or African-American. There weren’t many prominent Asian-American musical theater stars. If I can be that person to a young Asian kid who thinks, "If there are roles for Lea Salonga and Jose Llana and Telly Leung and Paolo Montalban, maybe I can do it too." For a young kid to see someone who looks like them, doing what they want to do, it's really really important. I used to shy away from that but I really own it now.

Isn't he someone who you just want to hang out with? Not many people realize the importance of seeing yourself reflected on the stage, so it's so refreshing to hear a theater artist acknowledge that. And mini-soapbox over.

Here's some more links for things I've done lately:

I created a video for "American Theatre"
AT also launched a new podcast series, which I also edited. Two episodes are up. I conducted the third episode, which should be up next week, in case anyone is wondering what my wonderfully soothing voice sounds like (oh if I could sound like Terry Gross).
I created a tumblr for arts journalists, because I love the fact that gifs are back in fashion. I also take submissions! What Should We Call Arts Journalists?

And I'm in the middle of writing two pieces. 2013 is going marvelously.

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Future of Theater Criticism and Me Playing Devil's Advocate

This image has no relation to theater. I just wanted to use it.

So this past week was an eventful one. "American Theatre" finally launch our podcast series (the idea sparked by yours truly and edited by me as well). Howlround ran a very well-written series of essays about theater criticism, curated by my colleage Rob Weinert-Kendt. Roger Ebert died (though not before filing his very last review, proving that right up to the end, your movie sucked). And "Back Stage," the august trade publication for actors, got rid of its film and theater reviews.

And the Internet (or at least my tiny corner) fell apart. Or rather, regarding "Back Stage," there were comments like this, this and this. And many others. In short, people were not happy.

But to this I ask, was anyone really surprised? After all, "Time Out Chicago" announced that they were going online-only and eliminating 60% of their staff. "Variety" is no longer printing out a daily edition and fired its longtime film and theater critic in 2010. And downsizing and depression rages in publications across the nation. Arts journalism is floundering and it's scary. I've been scared ever since I decided, during a recession, that I was going to be a journalist and that print was dying and I should count myself lucky if I ever got a job. 

Were we surprised that "Back Stage" decided to follow what is already an industry-wide trend in downsizing? And if the reasons truly were, as executive editor Daniel Holloway explained, "the metrics," aka the lack of hits, can we blame them?

These days, not even theater artists can seem to agree on why reviews and criticism are important, if they're important at all. In this age of lacking arts coverage, you'd think people would argue less about "Why can't artists be critics?" "Why can't critics hang out with us first?" "Why can't we get better critics?" and more about, "How do we save criticism which is how we get publicity?"

The quandary as I see it (at the moment because I'm young and prone to changing my mind) is the question for any theater artist: how do you get the audience to engage with your work? For theater artists, it's how do you get the audience to engage so that they will buy a ticket and then tell their friends. For journalists it's: how do you get people to read the article?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

That Run in "Girls"

It all started when my sister asked me to come over to her apartment for the weekend to help her babysit her 7 month old, since my sister's husband was out for the weekend. And that led her to tell me that she had HBO Go. That, plus my roommate having HBO Go, meant that I now have HBO Go. I will now take overtures of friendship (preferably with booze).

So that was how I started watching the rest of "Girls." I'd only watch the pilot and at the time, it didn't seem like a show that I wanted to search the far (and Trojan-filled) Internet to find. But now that I have binged-watch both seasons of "Girls" in five days, I want to hone in on that scene at the end of the second season finale, "Together."

To summarize: Hannah, suffering from an OCD breakdown because she can't meet her book deadline, calls Adam, her boyfriend who she called the cops on in the second episode of the season. He answers the phone, sees her ticks (and her haphazard bowl haircut) and runs to her apartment shirtless (which according to Vulture, would have taken him 30 minutes).

In the Inside the Episodes commentary for the finale, Lena Dunham calls the scene "both the first step for Hannah's recovery and the first time she's actually been there for [Adam], which she couldn't be before" as well as describing Adam in that moment as needing to "get his woman."

And that is the heart of what I find problematic about "Girls." Viscerally, as a single woman who was dumped late last year, the sight of a man running to the rescue made me (literally) giggle madly. It was so grand, so romantic and so unlike anything that ever happens in real life. Because the character of Hannah has been brought so low and was so alone, just seeing a guy she loved race to be with her was heartwarming, in that way that Hollywood likes to tell you is heartwarming, when really it's just reinforcing gender stereotypes.

And in reality, making a guy run to you in the middle of the night shirtless is not a healthy barometer for a relationship. He might just really like running. I'm still trying to figure out if Hannah's OCD spell was written in by Dunham to give sympathy to an unlikeable and self-absorbed character.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Freedom to be Poor

I've been thinking quite a bit about money. Not the least of course because I'm a millennial who is a first-generation immigrant, working in journalism, with student loans to pay back. If there was a recipe for someone who doesn't have money, that would be it. Luckily, I don't eat very much and I haven't outgrown any piece of clothing since puberty.

Lately though, I've also been thinking about privilege. Or rather, the things that allow people like artists and journalists to do what it is that we do. I was reading this article in the New York Times titled: "The No-Limits Job," about how young people in the creative class are taking steadily lower paying jobs but are working longer hours despite that.

“We need to hire a 22-22-22,” one new-media manager was overheard saying recently, meaning a 22-year-old willing to work 22-hour days for $22,000 a year. Perhaps the middle figure is an exaggeration, but its bookends certainly aren’t. According to a 2011 Pew report, the median net worth for householders under 35 dropped by 68 percent from 1984 to 2009, to $3,662. Lest you think that’s a mere side effect of the economic downturn, for those over 65, it rose 42 percent to $170,494 (largely because of an overall gain in property values). Hence 1.2 million more 25-to-34-year-olds lived with their parents in 2011 than did four years earlier. 

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Jogging Instead of Sprinting

"This is the worst pain ever!"

Back in November, I was at the wedding of a close friend. I was a bridesmaid. The bride and I have been friends since we were 16, and we promised each other that when one of us got married, the other would be a bridesmaid. And that's where the similarities between us ended. After high school, we both went onto different roads. She has an associate's degree and never moved out of the city we grew up in. Her and her husband both work at Disneyland, where they met, and they share an apartment and eventually want to share a pet and a baby together.

As for me, I'm trying to make it work in New York City, with my master's degree and job in journalism, barely having enough money for rent and food. I've become a very good cook, not because I love cooking (which I do), but because I can't afford to eat out.

And I wonder, what it must be like to be satisfied with such simple things, to be happy with just going to work, coming home to a husband, make dinner for that husband and occasionally take a trip to Vegas and call that vacation. Talk about the future, a new apartment, maybe have a baby... If I had a husband, I would be so much more financially stable...

As it is, I have no daily routine. Some days I go home and cook. Other days I go to the gym (where I run while thinking about food). Most days I go to the theater. And other days I come home and keep working, reading, blogging and thinking up pitches. The extent of my long-term planning is a maybe-summer-vacation, where I'll hopefully be on a sandy beach somewhere having a margarita.

And I tend to be hard on myself. When I see the bios of other journalists and see who they've written for, I think, why haven't I written for these places? Why is my resume not longer? I need to work harder, I need to be putting out more content, be a better editor. I need to update my blog more.

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to be a person like my friend, who has never traveled internationally, who is just happy with a job and her husband. There are still financial struggles and worries about the future, but at least she is satisfied with her life. As for me, I'm in a position now where people have said, "I would kill for your job" and I answer with, "Really?" I'm not satisfied, I want more.

Back in graduate school, I thought if I could just get a job writing about what I love, I would be happy. And I am happy with the work I've done and with the magazine that I work for, but I can't help feel like there's more that I can give. I wonder, will there ever be a time where I'll be happy exactly where I am?

Or is it like a song from "Avenue Q" that goes, "Everyone's a little bit unsatisfied." If so, my parents lied to me. Or they were very good at ignoring how unsatisfied they were with their lives.

Which is to say, in short, I don't know what I'm doing. All I know is that I need to keep working. I have a couple of projects in the pipeline that I'm excited about. And I just need to keep the momentum and keep on working towards my present goals, and to stop being angry at myself for not reaching them fast enough. As a friend and I were talking about last week, it's a marathon, not a sprint.

I wonder what will happen when I reach the finish, will I have to keep running?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

A Cricket Chirping

A common question that I get asked, because I work for a fairly well-known theater publication, and I know a great deal more than the average person about theater (for better or for worst), is, "Do you have a theater background?" I have decided to come clean with all of you and say...nope. Nada. Nothing.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Lack of Diversity in Damning Numbers

I leave town for a week to get a much-needed vacation away from New York City, and to clear my head. And while I'm gone, what comes out? A continuation of the Asian American Performers Action Coalition (which I wrote about last year here and here) 2012 survey of the racial breakdown of actors on Broadway and in the not-for-profit theater in New York City. The news was the numbers in the 2011-12 season.

And they were not pretty.

On Broadway, the casting breakdown was as followed:

  • Caucasian: 74%
  • African-American: 19%
  • Latino: 2%
  • Asian-American: 3%

For the top 16 not-for-profit theaters in New York City, the numbers were:

  • Caucasian: 77%
  • African-American: 16 %
  • Latino: 3%
  • Asian-American: 3%
  • Others: 1%

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Best Thing About the "Smash" Premiere

Womanizing director Derek Wills, played by Jack Davenport, flipping through what looks like February 2010 issue of "American Theatre" magazine (aka my employer). It looks like he's reading the news section.

Good to know those magazines I sent to "Smash"'s prop department finally made their way onscreen.

And it gave me another reason to re-watch that bore of a two-hour premiere. Well, besides Ivy Lynn (Megan Hilty) belting out "They Just Keep Moving the Line."

Friday, February 1, 2013

I Make a Video

I feel like every time I get ideas for a blog post (so that I could post more on this blog and get some more traffic), I get distracted by this horrible thing called "day job." Then again, my day job is putting together a theater magazine so it's not actually horrible. Unless you count going to see theater for free horrible. Horribly amazing, maybe?

The February issue of "American Theatre" was released online today and I wrote an article in it about plays that utilize multiple languages. An abstract:

The double-sided question of what is being said and how to say it is popping up more frequently these days in bilingual plays, which differ from standard plays in a key respect: They bring in another language to help get the point across.

You can read the entirety of it, in layout, here.

Also in the same issue, I put to use that fancy degree that I got from Syracuse University and made a video about the costume design in "My Fair Lady" at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. How did I do it? A recorded Skype interview and some fighting with FinalCut.

Watch that video and look at all the pretty costume pictures here.

In non-Diep-being-a-journalist news, I feel like Twitter has become the primary way I connect with other theater artists and get ideas/inspiration for stories. Which is how this post by Erin Quill fell into my lap (seriously it did, she tagged me on Twitter with it). It's about brownface in a Roundabout Theatre production of "The Mystery of Edwin Drood," which led to me asking, "Why do artists have to be so racist?!" I left a comment after reading the responses that, in short, said, "It's a play within a play, so it's okay!" Which shows you how far we still have to go before we can all respectively have the race talk in this country.

There's probably going to be a very belated podcast from this.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to get back to putting out a magazine.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Metatheatricality and Perils of Creation

"Ganesh Verses the Third Reich"
Apparently trains are the transport of choice of Hindu gods

"Sunday in the Park with George" is my favorite musical, the reason because it has the song which has served as the testament to how frustrating and alienating, and essential, the process of making art is. Yes, I am talking about "Finish the Hat," and "watching the world from the window while you finish the hat."

The song came to me as I was in the audience for two pieces this winter. One was "We Are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as South West Africa, From the German Sudwestafrika, Between the Years 1884-1915" (whew!) by Jackie Sibblies Drury at Soho Rep in November, and the other was "Ganesh verses the Third Reich," from Back to Back Theatre in Australia, as part of the Under the Radar Festival this month.

And two other works I saw in January, as part of the P.S. 122 COIL festival, "Inflatable Frankenstein" and "Seagull (Thinking of you)" had the same quality to them as well. It was all meta-theatrical, or, works about artists making work, about the questions, frustrations, egos, emotions and (in the case of "Frankenstein" since there was pink goo involved) the messiness of creation.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

I Don't Date Because I Tweet

On HBO's "Girls," a hook-up turns into a relationship.
Which almost never happens in real life.

I was looking through the most popular article on the "New York Times" (because I have a subscription and I like to make the most of it) and one came up which was: "The End of Courtship?" The article posits that texting and Facebook has turned dating and courtship into "hangouts and hook-ups."

Instead of dinner-and-a-movie, which seems as obsolete as a rotary phone, [millennials] rendezvous over phone texts, Facebook posts, instant messages and other “non-dates” that are leaving a generation confused about how to land a boyfriend or girlfriend. 

Another day, another article talking about how millennials such as myself are ruining courtship and making the good ol' days of wining and dining as dead as the dodo. And another article using the TV show "Girls" as an example of how millennials date, even though that show is only representative of a very narrow, very specific slice of 20-somethings (aka trust fund babies with artistic ambitions who live in Brooklyn).

I'd also recently read an "Atlantic" piece which claimed that dating sites, such as OKCupid, threatened monogamy. It followed one man, Jacob, who blames his lack of commitment on the binders full on women on display online. But you only needed to read the opening of the article to get a clue into why Jacob is still single:

“I’ve never been able to make a girl feel like she was the most important thing in my life,” he says. “It’s always ‘I wish I was as important as the basketball game or the concert.’ ” An only child, Jacob tended to make plans by negotiation: if his girlfriend would watch the game with him, he’d go hiking with her. He was passive in their arguments, hoping to avoid confrontation.I'm sure his inability to have a real relationship doesn't stem from him "not putting his girlfriend's needs first."

Jeez ladies, why wouldn't you want a gem like that? So it's not Jacob's infantile behavior that's the cause of his dating woes. Nope, it's all the Internet's fault. You hear that love? We don't need you anymore! We have Facebook...

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Les Mehserables

"Don't worry Anne, you're gonna win the Oscar."

If I was to characterize a theme for December, besides as "the month I spent way too much money", it would be, "the month I was let down by movies I was really excited for." The first was "The Hobbit," which I vented about here, and the other was "Les Miserables."

But before I say another word, readers, listen to me! There is something I must do! I must confess that I've never seen a musical production of "Les Miz" (I use a z because it has more glitz, Broadway glitz). My only exposure to it was through the 10th Anniversary Concert (Judy Kuhn! Lea Salonga!) and the 25th Anniversary Concert (Lea Salonga again! Norm Lewis!), both of which I enjoy for different reasons, none of them being Nick Jonas. But from reading the synopsis of the musical, I got the idea of what was happening in-between musical numbers. And truthfully, I have a theory that you can either be a "Les Miz" fan or a "Phantom of the Opera" fan. Loving too many bombastic, 80's musicals will make your head explode. And I was more of a "Phantom" girl (what can I say? I love my doomed love stories).

We're like Romeo and Juliet! Except British! I mean, French!

So being a relative "Les Miz" virgin, I was excited for the film version. This was not going to be like Joel Schumacher's "Phantom" movie where the Phantom of the opera couldn't hold a note without growling and Christine cheated the cadenza. No, this had Hugh Jackman (who I had seen on Broadway before), Anne Hathaway, Samantha Barks and Aaron Tveit, people who have proved that they could sing to the back of the house. And if the various "Les Miz" concerts have taught me anything, it's that "Les Miz" is a showcase for beautiful voices singing with every single instrument in the orchestra, while waving revolutionary banners. This would be a transcendent experience, not just with beautiful voices, but with gorgeous scenery, sweeping shots of Paris and crowds rising up and fighting while singing!