April’s Showers and Flowers

Teen Editorial Staff April 2021 Editorial

Written by Teen Editorial Staff Members Anya Shulka and Lucia McLaren

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As vaccination rates rise, we can see the tail end of the pandemic on the horizon (knock on wood!). In this uncertainty-filled year, it's a huge relief to see improving conditions, though exercising caution is more important than ever. Still, warmer weather is peeking around the corner, and there's plenty of art and media for you to explore this month—no matter what you're looking for.

It’s no secret that the news has gotten everyone thinking about what comes next. For those interested in what life might look like in the future, look no further than Unexpected Productions’ Seattle Theatresports, a now in-person improv show. For those who prefer to see what teens envision the coming years to look like, check out SIFF’s Futurewave, an exciting lineup of movies and shorts curated for youth audiences.

Of course, post-pandemic life—or let’s be honest, life in general—may also evoke a wide range of emotions. For those interested in laughing, crying, or just feeling, we have a great selection for you. UW School of Drama’s Accidental Death of an Anarchist is a comedic farce sure to make you forget about the piles of homework you have sitting on your desk. PNB’s Rep 4 and Seattle Opera’s Big Opera Show are two other pieces—replete with beautiful dancing and singing, respectively—that will give you goosebumps.

So as you coast out the end of a crisis that's sure to make the history books, be sure to check out your local arts venues and their productions! It’s the season to take on the future, good or bad, and our hand-picked selection is sure to help you along the way. Make sure to wear your mask, and stay safe out there.

Lead photo credit: Photo by Boxed Water Is Better for Unsplash.

The TeenTix Newsroom is a group of teen writers led by the Teen Editorial Staff. For each review, Newsroom writers work individually with a teen editor to polish their writing for publication. The Teen Editorial Staff is made up of 6 teens who curate the review portion of the TeenTix blog. More information about the Teen Editorial Staff can be found HERE.

The TeenTix Press Corps promotes critical thinking, communication, and information literacy through criticism and journalism practice for teens. For more information about the Press Corps program see HERE.

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Dacha Theater Invites Everyone into an Ingenious Zoom Celebration of Enduring Friendship

Review of Secret Admirer, presented by Dacha Theater

Written by Teen Writer Rosemary Sissel and edited by Teen Editor Triona Suiter

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We have all, at this point, had that one quarantine experience. I will title it the Zoom Quest of Trying to Have an Online Conversation and Awkwardly Failing, or ZQoTtHaOCaAF, for short. Dacha Theater’s latest brilliant creation, Secret Admirer, invites watchers to journey through every possible Zoom adventure, from ZQoTtHaOCaAF to EFRtBTEaORC (Estranged Friends Reunite to Battle Their Evil and Outdated Robot Consciousnesses), in a heartwarming, inclusive, and hilarious test of the limits of virtual—and interactive—theater.

In a positively perfect ode to 90s-era kitsch, Secret Admirer centers around an answering machine board game in which a group of four friends compete to discover which cute dude is their fated prom date. The dudes, played delightfully stereotypically by four live performers, drop clues in the form of strange, but touching, in-game messages.

With the aid of a handy fillable PDF deduction sheet, players (and any audience member who loves a retro logic puzzle), can determine who is meant for who and whose locker hides the crown, sash, scepter, and corsage. These items, apparently of utmost importance to any true 90s girl (and no one else ever), give players extra points when guessed correctly—and may or may not be the one thing separating us all from artificial intelligence domination! But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The four players are old high school best friends (“the carpool crew”) who have reunited at long last for a bridesmaids party (in-person wedding yet to be rescheduled). So the show centers around a group of somewhat estranged friends and their computer screen reunion over a childhood board game. What else could offer such a tantalizing opportunity for delicious awkwardness? Secret Admirer does not disappoint, spicing their conversations with authentically halting small talk, decades-old half-truths, and bombshell, if vintage, revelations.

But the effortlessly natural performers do not hold back on the sweeter side of things, either. There are age-old bestie traditions, adorable jokes, and, eventually, the heartfelt apologies we were all waiting for. Somehow, the four friends manage to make watching people play a simple, if protracted, board game into some of the most wholesome and emotionally authentic acting Zoom has to offer. Secret Admirer. Photo by Brett Love.

Dacha Theater manages to not only create some old-friend-reunion magic through a series of pixels, but invites the audience into the gooey mess of emotions, too! We get to play along, filling out our own deduction sheet, voting on the best ways to help out the carpool crew, and ultimately—through a complex set of increasingly suspicious phone calls and bit.ly quests—saving the day.

Or at least, that’s how it was the night I went—the performers are all playing the game for real and the spins are truly randomized, resulting in different pairings, and a whole different show, every night.

The audience is encouraged to participate in polls from the Zoom call that opens the evening and chat in the Twitch feed that broadcasts the main bulk of the show. (In order to message in Twitch, you need to make an account, but it’s free and super easy; I did it in under half a minute.)

The whole experience is a deeply collaborative effort: everyone is always willing to remind each other of clues in the chat and the ever-helpful BFF 2000, an artificial intelligence played by ​Emily Huntingford, cheers on every success or failure.

Through this show, Dacha Theater manages twin exceptional computer-era feats: real human connection between four tiny Zoom squares—and all while throwing an audience into the action, too! You can participate as much (or as little) as you want. There are many different ways to experience the show and many different audience member types you could choose to embody.

If you buy tickets at least a week in advance, they will send the deduction sheet by post, you can print it out from their website, or you can stare obsessively at the computerized version from the ticket confirmation email—all of those comprise the enticing option of going full Sherlock and poring over every checkmarked detail. Or you could be the audience member who’s just in it for drama, drooling over the interwoven dynamics and dusty secrets. And then there always has to be somebody who just sits back and occasionally hits up the Twitch chat with commentary on various 90s posters in the exquisitely personalized backgrounds—Leonardo DiCaprio fans, I’m looking at you.

The Twitch stream that brings us the carpool crew and all their amusing quirks is wonderfully technologically fluid. At some points, it plops us down in the standard Zoom layout we all know and love. At other times, it incorporates the digital board game, complete with spinner and satisfying moving parts. Things get especially exciting when it unseats individual Zoom squares and throws them across the screen. Computer difficulties are convincing (though hopefully not real), and in lieu of ruining some of the more exciting twists, let’s just say that the show pushes the very boundaries of live streamed-face-square-acting. My favorite moments of Zoom adaptation come in the form of the hilarious potential prom dates, who, being supposedly pre-recorded messages, get the joy of interrupting things right when they get awkward—which, given the internet delay, is truly a feat.

Secret Admirer, created by Danielle Mohlman, is an extraordinary addition to the quarantine theater hall of fame. Its fluid combination of the fun of various live streaming technologies is genius, but it’s also very easy to participate in. If you are worried, they have a very helpful FAQ link on their webpage, or if you, like me, like running into problems before asking for help, they have backup for that, too. Everything is explained thoroughly before the show by the house manager, and tech support is always ready in the Zoom chat, so it’s super easy to attend—as easy as choosing a player color between ‘bubble gum pink’ or ‘watermelon’. Secret Admirer. Photo by Brett Love.

Speaking of varieties of tints that pretend to be different but are actually all reinforcing the fake capitalist gender binary of color, it should be acknowledged that the board game is, well, obnoxiously dated. Decorated with cutesy graphics and pink everything, it flings strictly gendered heteronormativity all over the place.

The carpool crew is aware of this overpowering girliness and they actively deconstruct the way that they used to buy into that outrageously pink aesthetic. Now, several of them are openly queer, one is non-binary, and all of them laugh at the silliness of a game whose only purpose is to pair straight people up so that they can attend an event that the game doesn’t even include.

Ultimately, the four friends embark on a computer-screen-separated journey through some sumptuous awkwardness to question their past selves and discover who they are now, along the way becoming closer than they have in years, or possibly ever. (And all with our wonderful audience help.)

Secret Admirer is the perfect antidote to every dull Zoom call you’ve ever been on. It welcomes everyone into an inspirational, and hilarious, journey from awkwardness to real human connection.

Dacha Theater is known for a variety of improv and devised works and they have adapted perfectly to our computerized world with a sweet, funny, and, at times, delectably awkward celebration of enduring friendships and authentic connection. Their performance tickets are on a sliding scale and always offer a pay what you can option—and it’s playing for one more week!

Free yourself from Zoom boredom by hitting up an old friend and inviting them to join you virtually for Dacha’s inclusive, hilarious, heartwarmingly real ode to enduring friendship.

Secret Admirer presented by Dacha Theater is being live-streamed March 19 - April 4. For more information see here.

Lead photo credit: Secret Admirer. Photo by Brett Love.

The TeenTix Newsroom is a group of teen writers led by the Teen Editorial Staff. For each review, Newsroom writers work individually with a teen editor to polish their writing for publication. The Teen Editorial Staff is made up of 6 teens who curate the review portion of the TeenTix blog. More information about the Teen Editorial Staff can be found HERE.

The TeenTix Press Corps promotes critical thinking, communication, and information literacy through criticism and journalism practice for teens. For more information about the Press Corps program see HERE.

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Charting Uncharted Waters

Review of Uncharted Waters presented by Cornish College of the Arts, the University of Washington, and Seattle University

Written by Teen Editor Lucia McLaren and edited by TeenTix Teaching Artist Misha Berson

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Artists of all walks of life have taken quarantine’s challenges and made them into opportunities, not limitations. But community acts can seem distant online, an echo of their pre-COVID counterparts, serving as nothing more than a solemn reminder of a year gone by in isolation. Is it possible to cultivate a sense of genuine togetherness when health guidelines keep us apart? Uncharted Waters, a three-way theatre collaboration between Cornish College of the Arts, the University of Washington, and Seattle University, aims to bring to light what social intimacy 2020’s various crises have endangered.

Uncharted Waters begins with a production of Twelfth Night, a well-known Shakespearian comedy. Directed by Cornish professor Rosa Joshi, the play follows the misadventures of Viola, a shipwrecked young lady who disguises herself as a man and throws the whole island of Illyria into cheerful chaos.

Though Shakespeare’s plays have been reinterpreted for centuries, the work done by such a large production team (their names can be found on the show’s website) pays off in the form of an enjoyable and creative experience. Video frames, so limiting through most Zoom engagements, are rearranged and given colorful backgrounds, allowing the viewer to discern a scene’s mood. Modern costumes and mannerisms make the Elizabethan play more accessible to today’s audience. For a teenager like myself, someone more concerned with the story than the historical language or context, this was part of what made the experience so pleasant.

Similarly engaging were the actors. Each character in their own right was a compelling individual; live and breathing through the screen. Though I couldn’t suspend my disbelief enough to forget I was watching an online production, this represented the team’s choice to adapt to their circumstances instead of ignoring them. Bodies of Water. Photo courtesy of Cornish College of the Arts, the University of Washington, and Seattle University.

Bodies of Water, directed by Sheila Daniels and Porscha Shaw, was a performance devised in response to the former piece’s thoughts about the body and its role in society. It revolves around a series of short, but difficult questions used to explore individual stories and perspectives on current issues. The cast employed a diverse set of media to express their ideas, from interpretive dance sequences to monologuing phone calls. This piece had the same creativity in an online medium that drew me to Twelfth Night. Where the two differed was in their content — where the Shakespearean production included a set script, this original piece was an expression that was achingly personal. It felt reminiscent of the scribbles on post-it notes, of the half-formed words no one else is meant to see.

It was unafraid to shy away from the messy, painful parts of today’s struggles. From the pandemic of racism plaguing the nation to nurses being too afraid to continue their jobs, Bodies of Water engaged with many facets of the individual experience, and was honest in its portrayals.

Though Twelfth Night is comedic and Bodies of Water is more solemn, both have variety in their tone, expressing reassurance, inspiration, and caution throughout. The production as a whole built a sense of community between the artists and their audience. As I watched, I never felt as though I was in a theatre, lights, sets and all, but I could see the honest emotion in the actor’s faces, the way the live-stream chat bubbled with supportive messages from loved ones.

By representing togetherness, not shying away from difficult discussions while still maintaining a sense of hope, Uncharted Waters cultivated a sense of community rarely found within Zoom’s limits. Artists know there’s a part of us that longs for a certain kind of connection with others, so they explore it. If nothing else, this year has proven humanity’s ability to adapt to whatever life may bring.

Uncharted Waters, presented by Cornish College of the Arts, the University of Washington, and Seattle University ran March 11-14, 2021. For more information see here.

Lead photo credit: Twelfth Night. Photo courtesy of Cornish College of the Arts, the University of Washington, and Seattle University.

This review was written as part of mentorship program where members of the Teen Editorial Staff receive one-on-one mentorship by Press Corps Teaching Artists and professional critics. The Teen Editorial Staff is made up of 6 teens who lead the TeenTix Newsroom and curate the review portion of the TeenTix blog. More information about the Teen Editorial Staff can be found HERE.

The TeenTix Press Corps promotes critical thinking, communication, and information literacy through criticism and journalism practice for teens. For more information about the Press Corps program see HERE.

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Nod When You’ve Got It

Review of A Thousand Ways (Part Two): An Encounter, presented by On the Boards

Written by Teen Writer Kyle Gerstel and edited by Teen Editor Lily Williamson

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“The truth is rarely pure and never simple.” - Oscar Wilde

A man sits alone in a barren theater, awaiting my arrival. Upon the table before him lies a stack of index cards bursting with inquiries and fantasies to guide participants, a script to be performed for no one but one another. I take a seat.

A Thousand Ways (Part Two): An Encounter at On the Boards builds upon the shared language established in Part One: A Phone Call to explore how we engage with each other in shared space. In my interview with Michael Silverstone, co-creator of the A Thousand Ways triptych, he told me that with this piece, “We’re back to the problem we had before the pandemic.”

While A Phone Call thrived on the safety ingrained in audience members’ anonymity, An Encounter challenges participants to interact just as vulnerably without that layer of protection. The result is an engrossing scripted experience that “picks at the same question in a completely different mode,” as co-creator Abigail Browde put it.

Oftentimes, as in A Phone Call, the most seemingly basic questions prompted the most intriguing reactions. For instance, one index card listed a series of yes-or-no questions for me to ask, such as:

“Have you gone fishing?”

“Yes,” replied the man.

“Have you gone hunting?”

“Yes.”

“Have you served in the military?”

A pause. He sighed.

“Yes.”

Why did he sigh? Does he have PTSD? Or am I simply overthinking this? That type of idiosyncratic behavior engaged my imagination as we constantly reassessed one another, just as we do in our day-to-day lives. As Silverstone explained, “You’re a stranger and I don’t know anything about you, so I’m going to make all these assumptions and construct a narrative from the moment we sit down together.”

The unique relationship between audience members that develops over the course of the piece begs the question: is theater about what occurs on stage or in the auditorium? Before experiencing A Thousand Ways, I thought theater had to be a one-sided medium where there is a distinction between performers and audience members, but after witnessing the deceiving simplicity of An Encounter, I believe that the act of creation as a shared experience is what makes the medium so invigorating.

Suddenly, an index card forced me to take a pack of cards and leave (a sentence I never thought I’d be typing). “It felt more important to break the bond in order to bring the bonding into focus,” said Silverstone. Browde continued, “It seemed like if people left the theater together, it’d ask them to revert their way of talking to one another and would remove some of the power of the piece.” When I asked the theatermakers what they wanted audiences to walk away from the show with, they passionately passed. Why? As Browde put it, “It’s not our job to have them leave with specific takeaways.” Silverstone continued, “It’s not open because we don’t know how to make something more specific, it’s just that we don’t want to.”

As I left On The Boards, I opened the pack of cards, which followed a similar process of constructing narratives about a stranger in the distance. By completing the experience outside the theater, An Encounter shifts the way audience members perceive others in their daily environment without demanding a specific point of view, and isn’t that what art is all about?

A Thousand Ways (Part Two): An Encounter was presented by On the Boards and all future performances are temporarily postponed. For more information see here.

Lead photo credit: On the Boards. Photo by Everything Time Studio.

The TeenTix Newsroom is a group of teen writers led by the Teen Editorial Staff. For each review, Newsroom writers work individually with a teen editor to polish their writing for publication. The Teen Editorial Staff is made up of 6 teens who curate the review portion of the TeenTix blog. More information about the Teen Editorial Staff can be found HERE.

The TeenTix Press Corps promotes critical thinking, communication, and information literacy through criticism and journalism practice for teens. For more information about the Press Corps program see HERE.

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Now Accepting Pitches from Outside the TeenTix Newsroom!

Submit a pitch today!

Join our

Extra! Extra! Read all about it! The TeenTix Newsroom is now accepting pitches from outside the Newsroom. If you are a young person from 13-19 years old and you would like to tell a story about art or review an art piece, use this form to be considered for a pitch piece. If your pitch is accepted you’d have the opportunity to work with a teen editor to polish your piece for publication.

The pitch process is a chance for you to have your voice heard about art events you are specifically passionate about! You can either review art or write a feature or opinion piece about your arts community. This will NOT be a paid opportunity; however, if you review art at a TeenTix partner, you can use your TeenTix pass and your ticket will be only five dollars! Check out the calendar if you need inspiration; we've got loads of awesome things going on at our partner organizations this month. SUBMIT YOUR PITCH HERE

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So Bad It’s Good: Celebrating Cinema’s Greatest Catastrophes

Review of So Bad It's Good presented by MoPOP

Written by Teen Writer Leyla Richter-Munger and edited by Teen Editor Anya Shukla

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Not all films have to be good to be good. While I’ve seen my fair share of terrible movies over the years, I only recently discovered just how true this concept rings. About a month ago, out of COVID-related boredom, I stumbled upon the 2013 Neil Breen cult classic, Fateful Findings. What I watched was a one-hour-and-forty-minute dumpster fire of a film illustrating the sheer force of one man, one greenscreen, and zero plotline—and somehow, I could not tear myself away. Over the past several weeks (admittedly to the mild detriment of my grades), I’ve become a bit obsessed with these wonderfully awful films and now jump at the chance to share them with others. It was only natural that I would be immediately drawn to So Bad It’s Good.

MoPOP’s latest film series, So Bad It’s Good takes my innate human craving for terrible media and transforms it into a biweekly screening, where fellow awful movie lovers can come together to view and comment on cinematic catastrophes. Every other Saturday, So Bad It’s Good host Kasi Gaarenstroom teams up with the special guest of the week (who also happens to be a lover of the film in question) on Zoom to watch and discuss these truly horrible movies. Gaarenstroom starts off by introducing the film of the week and the guest (when I attended, it was the 1997 classic Anaconda accompanied by herpetologist Chelsea Connor) and then it’s straight into the film! Though you do have to provide the movie for yourself on your own device, there are several links to different streaming platforms with the film available in the chat, and even if you should experience tech difficulties at one point or another, the main screen during the viewing is a timer, so you can sync back up with the group.

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Announcing the Mentorship for Teen Artists of Color Summer Cohort!

Applications are now open!

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TeenTix, in partnership with The Colorization Collective (a teen-run organization that promotes diversity in the arts) is excited to announce our 2021 Summer Cohort of our Mentorship for Teen Artists of Color (M-TAC) program. This program will specifically allow teen artists of color to hone their artwork under the guidance of professional mentors. This is a great way for teens to better their craft, build connections in the arts community, and present their art!

This mentorship is for teens interested in visual arts (painting, drawing, sculpture, etc.) and performing arts (musical theater, acting, etc.). Teens will be put into either a visual arts or performing arts cohort, and each group will be paired with a professional artist/mentor of color to create or workshop a piece specifically for the program showcase.SCHEDULE

The Summer M-TAC program will meet for 5 weeks (July 7-August 6), every Wednesday from 2-5 PM PST. The meetings dates are: July 7, 14, 21, 28, and August 4. There will also be a one-hour showcase the week of August 9 (exact time TBD).

Teens in the M-TAC program will also have the opportunity to participate in workshops during the school year, as well as present their finished work during the TeenTix Teen Arts and Opportunities Fair in June of 2022.

Applications are open now and close at 12 AM (midnight) PST on May 31, 2021. APPLY HERE!

Applicants must be ages 13-19 and a current TeenTix member to participate. (Not a TeenTix member yet? Don't worry - sign up for free right here!)

If you need assistance filling out this application, please contact Anya Shukla at [email protected]

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Cinematography and Fashion Redeem The Queen’s Gambit

Review of The Queen’s Gambit

Written collectively by the Teen Editorial Staff

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The Teen Editorial Staff teamed up to write mini-reviews of the popular Netflix show The Queen’s Gambit. Read on to enjoy these six different perspectives on what worked, what didn’t, and why it might still be worth a watch. Triona

The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix follows chess prodigy, Beth Harmon, as she navigates both the world of competitive chess and the general struggles of transitioning from adolescence to adulthood. Though some of Beth’s hardships feel simplified—no one gets over a lifelong drug addiction by just deciding to—the story is captivating nonetheless.

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Heathers: Distasteful and Violent or a Witty Take on High School Reality?

Review of Heathers

Written by several TeenTix Newsroom writers, edited by Teen Editor Lily Williamson

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This month, three writers from the TeenTix Newsroom sat down to watch and discuss a dark comedy classic, the 1989 movie Heathers. The film follows a feared clique of teenagers all named Heather; Veronica, a girl who dreams of popularity; and an unstable school bomber named J.D. as they make their way through high school. Read on to learn what our teen writers think about this controversial film. Esha Potharaju

The bratty politics of high school cliques dashed with murder, Heathers might be a pretty accurate representation of what it’s like to be a teenager. The teenage mind tends to blow things out of proportion—in J.D.’s case, perhaps literally so. When your crush doesn’t like you, the whole world feels like it’s about to end. By capturing these overexaggerated feelings and twisting the whirlwind of high school into a dark tale, the film is actually quite relatable. It’s reassuring to see someone with similar circumstances take a dark path, because you know you can’t manage to do something worse than that despite all your embarrassments. So while there aren’t literally any Heather-cides taking place in the average school, the emotions that Heathers depicts aren’t too far off from that of the average teenager. But this morbid appeal of Heathers, viewed through the eyes of a watcher from 2021, is easily drowned out by the obvious problems: the film features homophobia, fatphobia, and dismissive attitudes towards eating disorders and suicide. It’s hard to ignore how different J.D.’s actions, particularly his casual use of a bomb in a school setting, would be interpreted if he wasn’t white. A classic, though rightfully not through the eyes of all, Heathers provides a dark kind of comfort to teenagers. Winona Ryder and Christian Slater in Heathers © 1989 New World Pictures Frances Vonada

The edgy cult classic Heathers, directed by Michael Lehmann, holds a certain appeal for teens today, especially after the popular off-Broadway musical of the same name and the resurgence of ‘80s culture and fashion. Heathers is highly entertaining, upping the stakes of highschool popularity politics and taking the phrase “social suicide” to a new level. However, the characteristic violence and characters’ cavalier attitudes have not aged this movie well.

So many issues are treated with indifference in this film including school shootings and bombings, eating disorders, and suicide. The film is darkly humorous and intended to be satirical, but a bleak look at the world is not comforting right now.

I’m sure Heathers will always be appreciated by people with nostalgia for the ‘80s and those who like Mean Girls with more death, but it is not my cup of tea currently. Winona Ryder and Christian Slater in Heathers © 1989 New World Pictures Kyle Gerstel

Although campier than an East Coast kid’s summer, Heathers is a brilliant black comedy that deserves to be studied just as much as To Kill A Mockingbird. Its fearless screenplay twists high school movie cliches into macabre messages both about teenage angst and society as a whole. Like Veronica accidentally falling into the dark schemes of J.D., the film reveals its satire in a way that allows the audience to enjoy the violence before realizing they’re part of the problem. While the film could’ve easily become “low art,” as many chick flicks and teen slasher films do, its witty balance of the creepy and comical makes the film a “killer” exploration of the teenage mind that maintains remarkable relevance and entertainment value today.

Lead photo credit: Shannen Doherty, Lisanne Falk, and Kim Walker in Heathers 1989 New World Pictures

The TeenTix Newsroom is a group of teen writers led by the Teen Editorial Staff. For each review, Newsroom writers work individually with a teen editor to polish their writing for publication. The Teen Editorial Staff is made up of 6 teens who curate the review portion of the TeenTix blog. More information about the Teen Editorial Staff can be found HERE.

The TeenTix Press Corps promotes critical thinking, communication, and information literacy through criticism and journalism practice for teens. For more information about the Press Corps program see HERE.

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The Reason I Jump Combats Stereotypes of Autism

Review of The Reason I Jump presented by SIFF Cinema

Written by Teen Editor Anya Shukla and edited by TeenTix Teaching Artist Vivian Hua

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I’m not sure if I was overly emotional last Tuesday, but I started crying about five minutes into The Reason I Jump; the waterworks didn’t stop until the end of the hour-and-a-half-long movie. Each new beautifully-shot scene added new depth to my understanding of autism.

The film is based on the book of the same name by Naoki Higashida, a nonverbal autistic teenager from Japan. Directed by Jerry Rothwell, The Reason I Jump tells the story of five youth— Amrit, Joss, Ben, Emma, and Jessina—with autism. The movie strives to emulate the experience of living with autism, featuring crisp, detail-filled shots and a soundtrack with large amounts of ambient noise. The Reason I Jump also highlights lines from Naoki’s book, interspersed as voiceovers.

The Reason I Jump begins by telling the story of young Amrit and her mother, Aarti, both of whom live in India. Amrit’s story begins with a blue and white blur, almost like eyelashes blinking double-time. Hazy colors and facial features shift in and out of focus. As the camera zooms out, the object onscreen becomes apparent: a black, faintly-rattling fan. As the voiceover mentions, this is how those with autism view their surroundings: “For me, the details jump straight out first of all, and then gradually, detail by detail, the whole image floats up into focus.” Bright red honeycombs that transform into the fabric for a curtain. A flame that turns into a candle, sitting in a pool of water. As someone without personal experience with autism, this idea showed me that autistic people have a different—but no less valuable—way of seeing the world.

However, Aarti initially tried to make Amrit follow social norms. “I tried to stop her from being herself,” her mother said, holding her face in her hands. But when she read Naoki’s book and realized what life with autism is like, she began to think differently. “I am so estranged from my own child,” she admitted. “I do not know how I fit into a mother’s role.”

The camera did not look away from her pain; the moment felt like a violation of personal privacy. My tears, which had slowed to a trickle, came back in full force.

Contrary to stereotypes of those with autism—that they tend to pursue STEM and enjoy numbers—Amrit is an artist. She paints, sculpts, draws; her creations feature vivid colors, stylized faces. A smiling girl sitting in a rickshaw, hand up in a wave. Two women holding hands in front of a turquoise, apartment-building-filled background. My first thought when I saw her paintings was that they should be in an art gallery. And by the end of the movie, they were: Amrit held her first solo show. Film still from The Reason I Jump directed by Jerry Rothwell.

The relationship between Ben and Emma, two friends who are both nonverbal and autistic, is similarly heartwarming. However, instead of art, their method of communication is the letter board. Each board has the entire alphabet printed on it, and the two point to individual letters until they slowly spell out sentences. The process is time-consuming—both of them sometimes find themselves losing focus while speaking—yet exciting. Before they learned about letter boards, neither Ben nor Emma could participate in extensive coursework. “They wasted our time,” Emma said. Now, they can take charge of their learning.

Even without spoken communication, the two have been close since childhood, as evidenced by a series of pictures with the two of them together. “He was my first friend,” Emma says of Ben while they are on a walk together. Ben reciprocates: “Emma is my North Star.” As the voiceover mentions, Ben and Emma’s story exemplifies that people with autism also crave human connection and should not be pigeonholed as loners.

My one issue with the movie came at its end. Throughout the film, voiceovers from Naoki’s book had been paired with shots of a nonverbal autistic boy (Jim Fujiwara) exploring nature, climbing over bridges, holding tight to chain-link fences. However, in the last five minutes of The Reason I Jump, the boy walks with purpose through a neighborhood, making his way to a house. Inside sat the English translator of Naoki’s book, David Mitchell, who had been interviewed several times during the movie. Now, he translates a page from Japanese to English. The boy presses his face against the window, then leaves. Mitchell looks up, and sees the ghost of the boy’s breath on the window. There seems to be some meaning to this sequence of events, some symbolic connection. But for a movie without overt symbolism, a movie about human beings and their unfettered, organic relationships to one another, it feels like an unwelcome intrusion.

That being said, all of The Reason I Jump’s subjects overcome many barriers—societal and cultural stigma, lack of resources—to communicate with others. And most importantly, the movie demonstrates that autistic people are whole humans, with emotions, dreams, and a desire for interaction.

The Reason I Jump screened at SIFF Virtual Cinema, January 8 - February 25, 2021. For more information see here.

Lead photo credit: Film still from The Reason I Jump directed by Jerry Rothwell

This review was written as part of mentorship program where members of the Teen Editorial Staff receive one-on-one mentorship by Press Corps Teaching Artists and professional critics. The Teen Editorial Staff is made up of 6 teens who lead the TeenTix Newsroom and curate the review portion of the TeenTix blog. More information about the Teen Editorial Staff can be found HERE.

The TeenTix Press Corps promotes critical thinking, communication, and information literacy through criticism and journalism practice for teens. For more information about the Press Corps program see HERE.

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The Henry Celebrates Art That’s Public, Free - and a Complete Surprise!

Review of Set in Motion presented by The Henry Art Gallery

Written by Teen Writer Rosemary Sissel and edited by Teen Editor Mila Borowski

Dupille We Will Dance Again

It’s an average, nameless day in the middle of February. A busy Seattle street is littered with mask-obscured faces, socially-distanced storefronts, cloud-colored skyscrapers, rain-slicked cars, lingering snow-dirt-mush, a city bus, and, then, suddenly, in a flurry of color - figures - hair - legs - wheelchair - dancing!

Wait, dancing? That can’t have been right. Not here. Not now. In the middle of a street. In the middle of COVID. In the middle of 3rd Avenue and—where did it go?

The aerosol-protected faces are still here, storefronts still proclaiming the same pandemic precautions, skyscrapers still reflecting the dreary clouds, cars, and slush still accounted for, and the bus is just turning onto the next street. Then it’s gone. And so is the dancing.

For a few otherworldly moments, the bus carried a magical spell of transportation. Not to a different physical place, but to a different mental plane. It carried adventure, enchantment, and mystery. It carried color as a celebration, not as a trap to force the eye towards an item for purchasing. Instead of an ad, COVID announcement, or other PSA in the long rectangle underneath the bus windows, it carried art.

University of Washington’s Henry Art Gallery placed its latest art installation on buses.

This art installation proudly flaunts its free, completely public design—and it’s cheeky. It’ll drive past without a second thought, show off while flirting with stoplights, or glare up at you while you pay your fare and climb inside it.

Throughout the city, a total of ten stunning, evocative, vibrant pieces peer out at the world from the sides of buses, RapidRide bus lines, and routes from north to south.

These art-surprises do a lot more than just upend the average, nameless day: they ask questions about femininity and race, collage identities over borders, photograph histories, soar between people and land, implore us to “find one another,” splice pain and rebirth, test the poetry of computer-generated messages, memorialize incarcerated family members, knit metaphors between immigrants and naturalized plants, and celebrate dancing-to-come.

There is so much in every fascinating, multilayered piece that it is really difficult to grasp any of them in a fleeting, average-day moment. Almost as difficult as it is to make it through my detail-heavy, comma-drenched summary of them. Photo courtesy of Sound Transit.

COVID has been full of difficult sentences like that. Days that run into weeks that run into months, all full of terrifying numbers we need to scrounge up emotions for, when it’s becoming hard enough to scrounge up enough anything to pay attention to the teacher talking to me through a computer screen while I destroy my attention span by checking emails or finishing something I forgot about because I was too busy dissolving into sentences that never end, just linger…

And then the dancing. Is just. Such. A delicious surprise!

We have time, here in this cocoon of a review, to reflect upon it. Time to let our eyes twirl from the bouncing arms to the jangling bracelets to the swirling hair to the smiling faces, all celebrating in the midst of the words: “we will dance again”. We can savor Natalie Dupille’s work, a fountain of watercolors raining down, cleaning away the dreariness for a few welcome moments. The Henry’s website tells us that she’s inspired by queer dance parties—havens of connection, identity, and community. What a beautiful message in just one small bus ad. And every art piece is just as fabulously nuanced and important!

COVID is forcing the art world to do many things, from rethinking art as an experience and redefining ideas like ‘share’ and ‘group’ to asking questions like “what is public?” and “how does physical space exist?”. The Henry has driven up to meet the challenges of our time, offering a beautiful and convincing argument in support of art for everyone, art for free, and—best of all—art that comes as a completely unexpected surprise.

This exhibition ran on Seattle buses through the end of February. Either traveling on foot or gazing out through the windows of one’s closest route, this event gave anyone the opportunity to be catapulted outside the average, nameless day to a world filled with societal change, wonder, and magic!

Set in Motion ran from December 2020 to February 2021. For more information see here.

Lead photo credit: Natalie Dupille, We Will Dance Again, 2020. Image courtesy of the artist.

The TeenTix Newsroom is a group of teen writers led by the Teen Editorial Staff. For each review, Newsroom writers work individually with a teen editor to polish their writing for publication. The Teen Editorial Staff is made up of 6 teens who curate the review portion of the TeenTix blog. More information about the Teen Editorial Staff can be found HERE.

The TeenTix Press Corps promotes critical thinking, communication, and information literacy through criticism and journalism practice for teens. For more information about the Press Corps program see HERE.

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Virtual Teen Nights with TeenTix!

Announcing a series of Virtual Teen Nights featuring local performances and discussions led by teens!

General Teen Night Graphics

Join TeenTix for a series of Virtual Teen Nights this March and April! Each Virtual Teen Night includes a screening of a performance from a local arts organization and a facilitated conversation and reflection activity on what you just saw. The post-screening discussion will be led by teens from TeenTix programs. Each Virtual Teen Night will focus on a different genre of art including film, dance, and theater, and we have events for both high schoolers and middle schoolers! Did we mention the best part? They’re all FREE! Sign up below to experience amazing local performances and connect with other arts-loving teens!

Each event will be hosted by TeenTix teaching artist Alethea Alexander and two teen facilitators from TeenTix programs. These events are produced in partnership with the Creative Advantage and Seattle Parks Department. All events will be hosted on the Webex platform. A link to Webex for the class will be sent to your email, two days prior to class.

Teen Nights with NFFTY Films

Saturday, March 13, 7-8:30 PM - High School (ages 14-19) - SIGN UP HERE

Saturday, March 20, 7-8:30 PM - Middle School (ages 11-14) - SIGN UP HERE

The NFFTY films that will be screened are:

Joychild by Aurora Brachman - A young child tells their mother "I'm not a girl" for the first time.

Yellow Cards of Equal Pay by Maia Vota - Members of the Burlington, VT High School girls soccer team recount the launch of their viral #EqualPay movement, inspired by Megan Rapinoe and the U.S. women's national soccer team, from its humble beginnings to national media coverage.

GHAZAAL by Ragini Bhasin - A 13-year-old feisty Afghan refugee hustles around in a refugee camp as she experiences her period without having access to any sanitary napkins.

Teen Nights with On the Boards Dance Performance

Saturday, March 27, 7-8:30 PM - High School (ages 14-19) - SIGN UP HERE

Saturday, April 3, 7-8:30 PM - Middle School (ages 11-14) -SIGN UP HERE

The dance performance screening will be of When the Wolves Came In by Kyle Abraham/Abraham In Motion at On the Boards. The performance, by award-winning choreographer and performer Kyle Abraham, presents a new work inspired by jazz great Max Roach’s "We Insist Freedom Now." Watch the trailer here.

Teen Nights with Macha Theatre Works Plays

Saturday, April 10, 7-8:30 PM - High School (ages 14-19) - SIGN UP HERE

Saturday, April 17, 7-8:30 PM - Middle School (ages 11-14) - SIGN UP HERE

We will screen two, 17 Minute Plays from Macha Theatre Works. The two plays are:

Ancestral Trauma and Healing for Dummies, Co-written by Maddy Nibble and Christine O'Connor performed by Maddy Nibble: A tragicomic trauma-romp through the ages exploring the consequences of White Supremacy and Internalized Capitalism on a perfectly well intentioned, deeply abusive Irish-Italian immigrant family. Co-writers Maddy and their actual real-life mom, Christine O'Connor, travel across time and space to delve deep into the origins of false ideologies, shame-based addictions, and other bewildering heirlooms — and all in just 17 minutes!

In the Crosshairs, Written and performed by Roz Cornejo. The story of a mixed chick untangling her relationships with her hair, her skin, and her identity.

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One Year Later

Teen Editorial Staff March 2021 Editorial

Written by Teen Editorial Staff Members Triona Suiter and Eleanor Cenname

Sid sun j Fu Y Ve N5 K3 Y unsplash

Congratulations, everyone! We have made it to March 367th, or maybe 370-something by the time you read this. In any case, March is the longest month of the year. Well, not literally, but it sure does feel like it sometimes. Perhaps it is because March is both too cold for shorts, yet also allergy-inducing, or maybe it is because the powers that be deprive us of an hour of sleep. In any case, the great news is that once we are done with March, we will have turned a corner. Down this new street, the signs in storefronts advertise longer days, a little more sunlight, and maybe a bit of optimism. But until we reach these brighter times, we at TeenTix have the art to get you through the one year anniversary of March.

If you’re craving some lighthearted fun, why not check out So Bad It’s Good at MoPOP for a collection of failed movies to watch and laugh at? Or if you’re wanting something a little more serious, SIFF Cinema’s Night of Kings is sure to be captivating (note that this movie is rated R, watch at your own discretion). For those of you looking to learn something this month, Seattle Art Museum is hosting a virtual presentation on March 6, to discuss how historical genocides in Java, Indonesia impact the dance scene there today. Or if you’re truly desiring the absurd, Dacha Theatre’s board-game-inspired, 90’s-themed, interactive zoom show, Secret Admirer, could be just the thing for you.

Keep your eyes out on the blog to catch teen coverage of these events, as well as a small anthology of Heathers reviews from some of our Newsroom writers. And don’t forget to check out the TeenTix Arts Podcast, with new episodes released every month!

However you decide to get through March, we hope you’re staying safe and healthy, and please, wear your mask.

Lead photo credit: Photo by Sid Sun for Unsplash.

The TeenTix Newsroom is a group of teen writers led by the Teen Editorial Staff. For each review, Newsroom writers work individually with a teen editor to polish their writing for publication. The Teen Editorial Staff is made up of 6 teens who curate the review portion of the TeenTix blog. More information about the Teen Editorial Staff can be found HERE.

The TeenTix Press Corps promotes critical thinking, communication, and information literacy through criticism and journalism practice for teens. For more information about the Press Corps program see HERE.

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Ser o No Ser: Opening the Narrative of Shakespeare

Review of house of sueños, presented by Seattle Shakespeare Company

Written by Teen Writer Esha Potharaju and edited by Teen Editor Triona Suiter

House of suenos recording photo courtesy of Seattle Shakespeare Company

I’m brown, a girl, and rather opinionated. Shakespeare’s words were never meant for me; I recognized that early on. Sure, I’ve acted out a few lines for English at school. I took some reading comprehension tests on why a midsummer’s night wasn’t much to do about nothing, or something like that. But it’s not like I could ever relate to them. If Shakespeare’s narratives don’t reflect me, like stories are meant to, why must I consider them classics? Out of all the real, beautiful stories from around the world, from the Mahabarat to the Genji Monogatari, why must Hamlet be the only one universally recognized as a shining gem?

In Seattle Shakespeare's new podcast house of sueños, playwright Meme García retells Hamlet in their own Salvadorian-American voice, nuanced by intergenerational and personal trauma, to ultimately ground the play in a narrative that, for once, isn’t just for white people. house of sueños is an audio drama about two sisters investigating their father’s mysterious disappearance in the wake of their mother’s wedding. house of dreams in Spanish, the drama explores Latinx identity, colonialism, and trauma.

"I think that one of my things that I'm most excited about house of sueños is that you take this classic—quote unquote ‘classic’ story, right, 'cuz white supremacy's told us this is a classic story. And you're like how—I'm not pulling myself up to that story. Rather, I'm forcibly dragging that play to meet my life. And that I can use these words to kind of talk about things I've had to sit with for most of my life,” García says in a bonus episode, a conversation about their play.

García’s use of language is a central pillar of the play, something the play’s audio format allows it to focus on. The story is spun purely through words and voices. Actors make excellent use of the medium, seeming to have poured their souls into this work. Characters’ personalities are conveyed through tone and speech patterns alone. Emotion is raw in the actors’ voices, which are complemented by an eerie yet beautiful soundtrack composed by Coby Gray. García's poetic writing, heavy with surreal imagery, only serves to enhance the experience of this play. “It is an old place. And it sits like a bug caught in amber. Floating in time.” How beautiful is that?

While the majority of the play is original dialogue, during particularly intense scenes, its Shakespearian roots surface in the form of Hamlet lines retold in a combination of Spanish and English. García reframes these dialogues into contexts completely different from how they were used in Hamlet. Yet, they do it in a way that the weight of the lines still rings clear, if not clearer, because García is allowing these lines to resonate with a wider range of people, specifically Spanish-speaking Latin-Americans.

Hamlet is a play that tackles mental health and suicide, issues that anyone of any background can experience. “The speech, ‘to be or not to be,’ has just kind of haunted me most of my life,” García says in the bonus episode.

In house of sueños, the line “ser o no ser” is uttered by older sister Rina, a seventeen-year-old deadset on finding her papi and rejecting societal norms. Rina’s character brings up colonization and its inflictions on generations of her community. Seen as “rebellious” and “unstable” by her mother, who believes assimilating to the white mindset is what’s best, Rina is rejected by the members of her own family. This line, meaning “to be or not to be” in Spanish, opens an iconic and meaningful line in Hamlet—a line carrying the heaviness of suicide and contemplation—to groups of people with experiences that will cause them to interpret the line in a way vastly different than the white perspective it has always been looked at.

By opening up the narrative of Hamlet, García provides a space for Spanish-speaking BIPOC who have similar experiences to feel a sense of belonging. “Belonging is protection,” therapist Marlene H. Kenny says in the conversation with García. In a world where the white narrative is pervasive, works like house of sueños that turn pieces over-glorified by whiteness into real-life cultural experiences are extremely important.

Shakespeare’s words may not be meant for me, but house of sueños has taught me that I can pull those words down and look them right in the eye by telling a narrative of my own.

house of sueños runs from January 27 to March 17, 2021, and is available on Rough Magic, Seattle Shakespeare Company's podcast. For more information see here.

Lead photo credit: house of sueños recording photo. Courtesy of Seattle Shakespeare Company

The TeenTix Newsroom is a group of teen writers led by the Teen Editorial Staff. For each review, Newsroom writers work individually with a teen editor to polish their writing for publication. The Teen Editorial Staff is made up of 6 teens who curate the review portion of the TeenTix blog. More information about the Teen Editorial Staff can be found HERE.

The TeenTix Press Corps promotes critical thinking, communication, and information literacy through criticism and journalism practice for teens. For more information about the Press Corps program see HERE.

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The End of October: A Journalist Writes a Pandemic Thriller

Review of Lawrence Wright: Online presented by Seattle Arts and Lectures

Written by Teen Writer Yoon Lee and edited by Teen Editor Anya Shukla

End of October

There’s a certain existential dread that comes with reading pandemic stories, but compared to the other major book about massive, species-threatening diseases (World War Z), The End of October has a certain flair of dread: influenza. As I learned during Lawrence Wright: Online, a recent event at Seattle Arts and Lectures (SAL), the author has surprisingly firsthand knowledge of infectious diseases.

The flu is so common that the “usual” variants of the disease are seen as regular occurrences. As such, the impact of influenza is often lost on us. However, Lawrence Wright’s The End of October drives home the now all-too-familiar terror of a hidden killer that is transmitted through the very air we breathe; a danger that we cannot see.

The End of October documents an epidemiologist, Henry Parsons, as he scrambles to contain a newfound disease that has killed dozens in an Indonesian refugee camp. Deemed Kongoli flu, the disease rages through the camp and soon breaks out into Mecca, Saudi Arabia, in the midst of its three-million-strong pilgrimage—a nightmare for an epidemiologist hoping to contain a deadly disease. Now, stuck in Saudi Arabia, Henry has to figure out how to fight this epidemic as countries begin to go to war and the chances of his family’s survival in the US continue to wane.

Wright may seem an unlikely author of The End of October, as he has written extensively about politics and Al-Qaeda, both in books and as a journalist for the New York Times. However, he began his career in journalism by covering diseases.

“I think the hardest part of writing is where the ideas come from. Sometimes they take decades to become realized,” said Wright during the SAL event. “They all stem from being a young reporter in 1976, I was living in Atlanta, and that was where the Center for Disease Control was located. I did several stories out of there.”

One of the stories Wright followed as a reporter was the swine flu epidemic of 1976. At this time, many believed the disease to be a rebirth of the 1918 flu which had killed between 50 and 100 million people. “That experience was very meaningful to me. I would go over the Center for Disease Control, and the people I met there I thought were remarkable. Noble, in a way. They were intelligent, they were humble, they were brave, they would go to these hotspots that I wouldn’t be caught dead in,” Wright said. “It really made an impression.”

His roots in reporting on epidemiology are skillfully woven into The End of October. Almost every health official, epidemiologist, biologist, and researcher is portrayed as brave, intelligent, and humble, all traits that Wright evidently picked up on when reporting at the CDC 45 years ago. His experience as a political reporter is palpable. The fictional Kongoli flu first started in a refugee camp in Indonesia, a refugee camp largely made up of gay Muslims with HIV. In the novel, Henry automatically fears the political and religious outcry as conspiracy theorists begin honing in on these already oft-targeted communities. Additionally, the next major Kongoli outbreak is during a historic migration to Mecca, in Saudi Arabia. Wright here excels through his experience in Middle Eastern politics and religion, navigating the significance of this event, as well as the nebulous workings of the Saudi Arabian government. He seems to make similar political commentary during the later conflict of the story, a fleshed-out portrayal of Russian cyberattacks and eventual worldwide bio-warfare. Wright covers these issues with intelligence and maturity.

I have two major complaints, however. Henry Parsons functions as a protagonist, but he exemplifies the stereotype of a good doctor with a horrible past. Other characters also lack development: almost all are either cartoonishly evil and uncaring or extremely humanist and sympathetic. (This excludes the characters that follow a subplot regarding Russian intervention in US affairs and their attempt to bring it into the public light by publishing it in a newspaper—once again, demonstrating Wright’s expertise in politics and journalism.) There are also a few, painfully-written sexual scenes. They aren’t long, at most a paragraph, but most could have easily been excluded without significant impact to the plot. These scenes often took me out of an otherwise serious and professional atmosphere.

The End of October is a bit lacking in the character department, but as documentation of a civilization-threatening disease, and the political gun-pointing that follows a deadly pandemic, is impeccably written and strikingly relevant to our current times.

Lawrence Wright: Online was presented by Seattle Arts and Lectures on February 9, 2021. To learn more about Lawrence Wright and The End of October click here.

Lead photo credit: Lawrence Wright author photo. Courtesy of Lawrence Wright website.

The TeenTix Newsroom is a group of teen writers led by the Teen Editorial Staff. For each review, Newsroom writers work individually with a teen editor to polish their writing for publication. The Teen Editorial Staff is made up of 6 teens who curate the review portion of the TeenTix blog. More information about the Teen Editorial Staff can be found HERE.

The TeenTix Press Corps promotes critical thinking, communication, and information literacy through criticism and journalism practice for teens. For more information about the Press Corps program see HERE.

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You’ve Come To The Right Place

Review of A Thousand Ways (Part One): A Phone Call, presented by On the Boards

Written by Teen Writer Kyle Gerstel and edited by Teen Editor Lily Williamson

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“I regard theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being.” - Oscar Wilde

My cellphone illuminates a face as I sit alone in my bedroom. With every answer to the AI bot’s line of prompts and questions, her figure strengthens. What is something you walk around with? A hand appears. Can you speak more on that? A limb. She sits on the carpet, rolled up in a ball. We gaze at one another, hypnotized by the strange sense of intimacy. This is more than interactive theater—it’s theatrical interaction.

When first given the opportunity to review A Thousand Ways (Part One): A Phone Call, I was slightly nervous—there’s a social stigma around experimental theater and I wasn’t sure if it would be too “artsy” for me to appreciate. At the beginning of my journey, an unsettling voice emerged, like a cross between Alexa and Hal from 2001: A Space Odyssey: “You’ve come to the right place.” Had I?

That depends: did I wish to be challenged, touched, and transcended in space through the power of voice alone? In my interview with the creators of A Thousand Ways, Abigail Browde and Michael Silverstone (known collectively as 600 Highwaymen), they expressed that the show was about “two people trying to imagine one another across this distance, but also about two people trying to create something together.” These ideas make the piece particularly resonant at this time of isolation without ever feeling nauseatingly relevant.

Questions, prompts, and bits of narrative are delivered by an AI bot to facilitate the conversation, establishing place and context in order to unlock less tangible details and create the possibility that audience members might be able to not only visualize each other, but gain a deeper understanding of their own character in the process.

I admit that it did feel awkward at the start, but as Silverstone said, “Awkwardness is useful—once you pass through it, you arrive at a place of poetics and comfort, you’ve accomplished something.” To engage in a shared experience at this time when there are so few was incredibly refreshing, even if it was with a stranger and an AI bot.

The show originated before the pandemic as a commissioned project for an art gallery regarding listening. “Oftentimes, we find that our first idea is not so great,” they told me, “and this idea of listening wasn’t so exciting. What was more exciting was the idea of making yourself visible and holding one another in the stillness and the darkness of this moment.” Thus, A Thousand Ways was born.

“It just started with me getting on a conference call with two people who didn’t know each other and asking them questions, giving them prompts,” Browde shared. “We would listen to how they responded, what gave people permission to expand upon things, and what sort of questions elicited reactions that we were interested in as makers. Sometimes it was the more pedestrian or simple things that felt the most meaningful.”

Silverstone added, “Early on, when we were working on this project, it always seemed like people were having a miserable time, and it took a while to get comfortable with the idea that they’re not miserable, they’re just having an experience, and even though they’re not performing enjoyment, that doesn’t mean they don’t like it.” Removing the “performance” aspect of performing arts made the experience even more provocative for me—I felt comfortable letting my guard down, which allowed me to fully participate in and enjoy the project.

Despite the immense vulnerability and active imagination required to fully participate in the piece, it’s both highly entertaining and rewarding to reflect upon. 600 Highwaymen achieved this by building the show on principles of gaming: “The audience is behaving in a way where there are incremental steps forward and a built vocabulary over time, always reaching for the thing right in front of you instead of focusing on the show as a whole.” This task-based approach makes it much more accessible than what is felt after the fact.

By requiring a “rigor to your presence as an audience member to show up, both for yourself and the other person,” A Thousand Ways fosters a connection between theatergoers that other pandemic art has failed to pull off. However, these are only fragments. “It is experienced by the participants on the call; all we’ve done is make the invitation.”

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Anastacia-Reneé Tells the Story of a Queer Black Woman

Review of Anastacia-Reneé's (Don’t be Absurd) Alice in Parts presented by Frye Art Museum

Written by Teen Writer Alyssa Williams and edited by Teen Editor Lucia McLaren

AR Promo 2 video still

Anastacia-Reneé’s exhibit at the Frye Museum, (Don’t be Absurd) Alice in Parts, tells the story of her character, Alice Metropolis, who is a queer Black woman living in a neighborhood that’s in the process of gentrification. The exhibit tells its story through furniture, objects, poems, and short video clips. Alice has breast cancer, a story element that sheds light on the inequities of medical treatment based on race. Not only does Alice fight cancer of the body, but she also fights cancer of the mind: white supremacy and racism.

One part of the exhibit that stuck with me long after the show was a short clip of Alice holding a bottle of alcohol and talking to the camera. She talks about how when she goes through tragedies and unimaginable hardships in life because of her race, she has to just “keep it moving.” This speaks to society’s expectation for Black women to be caretakers in the home, in society, in the Black Lives Matter movement—to care for everyone but themselves and never slow down. The bottle of alcohol symbolizes how these standards damage her mental health and cause her to be in desperate need of a break.

At the end of the exhibit, Alice dies from cancer. There is no victory in Alice’s story. Her story sends a message about how we as a society have failed Black women, how receiving support has to be destigmatized, and that we have to give more support to each other. Alice physically died from cancer, but she also symbolically died from facing the cancer of white supremacy and racism without the support that she needed. (Don’t be Absurd) Alice in Parts is not just Alice’s story. It’s the story of many Black women living in America today. Anastacia-Reneé. Alice in Parts. 2020. Photo by Michael B. Maine.

After virtually visiting the exhibit, I listened to Anastacia-Reneé and her team discuss the exhibit and its messages (this discussion is available on the Frye Art Museum YouTube channel). Her team is a wonderful group of Black women who are deeply in touch with today’s societal issues, so listening to them was an eye-opener for me. They said that Anastacia-Reneé’s work represents the words that Black women fear to say in public today. These words are about how people treat Black women like puppets and make decisions for them and define how they should act. These words are about the expectation for Black women to be “strong” and get through everything on their own without struggling. These words are about not feeling safe in their own home.

Despite their struggles, they also talked about having hope, finding support among each other, experiencing joy in their hobbies and in life, and continuing to fight back. When asked “when the fight (for racial justice) is over,” one team member responded saying that the fight won’t end until people like Alice can go to sleep at night not wondering if they’ll become the next hashtag (a reference to Black victims of police killings), and until they can go out in public bringing their full self and not worrying about retribution. We have a long way to go as a community, but I believe that this exhibit is a message of hope for the future.

This exhibit and its messages around affordable housing, police brutality, and gentrification are especially important in the perspective of recent events, such as the Black Lives Matter movement, the storming of the capital by white supremacists, and the inequities and discrimination in America based on race, class, gender, or ability becoming more apparent. The exhibit was wonderfully put together and made me think deeply about where we are as a society with respect to race. I highly recommend this exhibit to those who want to better understand the struggle of living as a Black woman today.

(Don’t be Absurd) Alice in Parts is available to view at the Frye Art Museum from January 30 - April 25, 2021. For more information see here.

Lead photo credit: Anastacia-Reneé. Alice in Parts (video still), 2016. Digital video (black and white, sound) 30:36 min. Courtesy of the artist.

The TeenTix Newsroom is a group of teen writers led by the Teen Editorial Staff. For each review, Newsroom writers work individually with a teen editor to polish their writing for publication. The Teen Editorial Staff is made up of 6 teens who curate the review portion of the TeenTix blog. More information about the Teen Editorial Staff can be found HERE.

The TeenTix Press Corps promotes critical thinking, communication, and information literacy through criticism and journalism practice for teens. For more information about the Press Corps program see HERE.

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Mark Haim: Finding a Place Within the Wider World

Interview with choreographer Mark Haim, presented by CHOP SHOP Dance Festival

Written by Lucy Carlin during TeenTix’s Arts Journalism Intensive with CHOP SHOP

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Staring. Bending. Waving. With intention, these movements are all dance. Dance is everywhere. Each and every human being can find it within themselves. From the most well-known choreographer to an individual dancer just starting their career, everyone represents tiny parts of a greater community. This concept, being small parts of a whole, is the driving force behind choreographer and artist Mark Haim.

Vibrant, laughing, and quite talkative, Haim draws people in. His words and storytelling have a unique quirkiness to them, moving the conversation along in a fast-paced yet informative manner. These personal qualities are reflected in many of his works. His dances open up into impactful and profound reflections of his thinking. Watching clips of his The Goldberg Variations, This Land is Your Land, Overflow or any one of his multitude of works, it takes only a few minutes for the depth of his ideas to hit, pushing one to break down greater reflections on concepts such as humanity and time. In This Land is Your Land, dancers move along a pattern, then explore mutations of it carrying coffee cups, plastic guns, and even cellphones. The bright colorful costumes and everyday objects paired with his choreography in This Land is Your Land are a doorway into Haim’s thoughts on consumerism. There is thoughtful passion and humor in his works emphasizing the connectivity of life. Each little person, concept, and object is relative to the other, their presence ebbing and flowing with the rise and fall of each.

Haim’s choreography is a spirited, everlasting dance of balance between purely beautiful movement and firmly intentional timed expressions of thought. His experiments with this relationship are present in every piece.

“If I’m working on movement—just trying to develop movement—I start to look for the thing that isn’t there, which would be the expression and vice versa,” he said. “I don’t know if I am able to do just one. I think it's important for anyone who is making creations to feel like everything is in everything. There might be less of one thing than another but they’re all still there”

Fans of contemporary dance might remember his piece from 2019, Parts To a Sum, which explores how Haim is impacted by those dearest to him. He created a solo incorporating movements sent to him from 371 friends and relatives, ages ranging from 1.5 to 93. Videos averaging 15 seconds filled with jumping, falling; slow, focused arm movements; and even eating were sent with love and support. The final performance of these movements honored the interconnectedness of humanity. This emphasizes the building of a great artist from a foundation of many, and how the end result is the sum of all those efforts.

Haim is not interested in perfectly packaging his work, preferring to allow audiences to draw their own ideas with his choreography. Audiences are given the freedom to interact with his work in the moment rather than come to a performance with set parameters of how they should experience it. In his newest piece, choreographed in quarantine for film, his goal was to “almost get the focus to go from me to what was around me.” He hopes the audience will engage with parts that speak the most to them. Here, he again explores the theme of a greater whole, however instead of a community of people, it is humans, trees, wind, and air adding up to make the environment. Demonstrating a goal of chipping away at the self-importance of humans and to build towards working in unity with life around us; to respect the environment. Aiming to be part of something that is more than just himself, Haim’s choreography in this piece is almost secondary to the movement of nature around him.

When faced with challenges or lack of motivation in this time of isolation, Haim again brings back the idea of smaller parts of a whole. In the face of uncertainty, he advises people to break challenges down and approach a single part first to trick themselves into achieving the larger goal.

Haim awaits the day people gather together to experience live music and dance as part of a whole audience rather than separate viewers. He recounts “I started to cry… feeling the music live...you can’t replace that'' after watching a live dance performance by Whim W’Him in Volunteer Park this past summer where a mariachi band nearby happened to be playing. Assembling to experience a live performance is something many are craving, and he hopes the pandemic will show people the importance and universality of dance.

In Haim’s upcoming dance film WALDO: 2020 for CHOP SHOP’s virtual contemporary dance festival, viewers can watch him give back to the world around him, blending into the trees and shrubs that characterize the beautiful scenery of the Pacific Northwest. Filmed in the I-90 corridor and on the lands of the Muckleshoot, Coast Samish, Duwamish, and Tulalip peoples, Haim provides a space for people to reflect on being part of a greater whole and humanity in relation to themselves as they are presented during the viewing experience. Emphasizing dance’s ephemerality compared to the seemingly everlasting presence of plants, this work is inspired by his reflection upon nature and its generosity in quarantine. He explores the ways he takes up space in comparison to the greater community and world. Try to spot him, first obviously in the frame, then partially hidden amongst the foliage, and finally almost disappearing into the woods to give the plants a chance to speak. Catch the world premiere of this work on Thursday, February 25, 2021.

You can see Mark Haim's work at CHOP SHOP Dance Festival’s online offering. The dance films are available on their website through March 31, 2021.

Lead photo credit: Mark Haim performs his solo Parts to a Sum, photo by Deb Wolf.

The TeenTix Press Corps promotes critical thinking, communication, and information literacy through criticism and journalism practice for teens. For more information about the Press Corps program see HERE.

This review was written as part of an Arts Journalism Intensive with CHOP SHOP Dance Festival which was held January 10-31, 2021. The workshop was taught by Press Corps teaching artist Gabrielle Kazuko Nomura Gainor.

This workshop was generously sponsored by Case van Rij and the Glenn Kawasaki Foundation.

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Mark Haim’s Everlasting Creative Process

Interview with choreographer Mark Haim, presented by CHOP SHOP Dance Festival

Written by Wyoming Rios-Brennan during TeenTix’s Arts Journalism Intensive with CHOP SHOP

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This year Chop Shop Contemporary Dance Festival is bringing a variety of talented choreographers. One of those creators is Mark Haim. Haim has resided in the Seattle region for about 17 years now, since he got a job offer at the University of Washington to be artist in residence with the dance department back in 2002. In the Seattle dance scene, he is well known for his work and unique creative process. Dance has been his outlet of expression and movement for 35 years. And in those 35 years, he has developed his own individualistic way of expression through the art of dance.

“That being said, I’ve been choreographing for 25 years before I got here so I already kind of had a way of choreographing and an idea of what my work was about.” Was Haim’s response when asked how living in Seattle affects his work.

Haim’s love of dance started when he realized how isolating playing piano was, after playing it since he was six years old. He was already someone who liked to move, so dance was the obvious next step due to its incorporation of movement and human connection.

Haim considers his creative process to be “illogical” and “scattered” so he has an appreciation of dancers who trust him and his process. He ensures that movement and expression are balanced in his work because he feels the utmost need for both.

When Haim reaches a block in his creative process, he takes it step by step. He always tries to keep moving forward by breaking the choreographic process down. And just trying to get something done and tricking himself into getting the task completed by making himself think he is getting it completed. He continues moving forward even when it is hard.

Haim stated that “all artists are queer in their own way.” He means that artists all go in their own artistic directions even if it goes against norms in this “capitalistic, commodity-driven society.” He wants to create works that are different—even if they are harder to sell or a struggle to create—because he believes that dance is constantly evolving. He wants art to be shared with the community and is something that helps people to bond.

You can see Mark Haim's work at CHOP SHOP Dance Festival’s online offering. The dance films are available on their website through March 31, 2021.

Lead photo credit: Mark Haim performs his solo Parts to a Sum, photo by Opal Patterson.

The TeenTix Press Corps promotes critical thinking, communication, and information literacy through criticism and journalism practice for teens. For more information about the Press Corps program see HERE.

This review was written as part of an Arts Journalism Intensive with CHOP SHOP Dance Festival which was held January 10-31, 2021. The workshop was taught by Press Corps teaching artist Gabrielle Kazuko Nomura Gainor.

This workshop was generously sponsored by Case van Rij and the Glenn Kawasaki Foundation.

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The Power of Improvisation: How Daniel Costa Discovered His Love of Dance

Interview with choreographer Daniel Costa, presented by CHOP SHOP Dance Festival

Written by Carolyn Davis during TeenTix’s Arts Journalism Intensive with CHOP SHOP

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The dancer gracefully approaches center stage, wearing a tight yellow bodysuit contrasting the deep red lighting. He pushes the ground away from him with each step and the smooth movement gives the illusion of the dancer gliding on water, his feet slicing through the surface and stopping cleanly at the center of the stage.

Upper and lower body movements coincide with the beat, creating funky and rhythmic movement while sustaining the grace of traditional dance. Energy moves through his body and distributes force, allowing powerful and delicate movement. His torso and head simultaneously swayed slowly, while his limbs moved silently and smoothly.

What the audience were oblivious of was some of the dance was never choreographed step-by-step. It was instead improv that impressively looked natural on-stage. The dancer closes the performance with a cartwheel into a kneeling position and a downward gaze. It officially concludes when the ruby lights turn off, and all the audience members begin to clap and cheer for the adept dancer. Audience members erupt in applause in response to this transformational experience.

Daniel Costa is the choreographer who incorporates the “beautiful mystery” of improvisation into performances.

“I love freestyle,” he said. “I love dancing—the way I’m feeling to the music, to my body—at that day, at that time, at that hour. It’s going to shift and change all the time so it’s the most authentic, I believe, through improvisation.”

Costa is a multi-faceted artist whose style exists at the intersection of hip-hop, ballet, and contemporary dance. He believes dance can be used to express one’s true self, especially when it’s through improvisation. He understands the power of dance and how it can connect to many aspects of one’s identity.

At 16, Costa’s passion for improvisation was ignited. He enjoyed watching others improvise on YouTube, and these videos inspired his own direction as an artist. At 17 or 18 years old, improvisation furthered his devotedness to dance to the point where he woke up early every day to improvise in the theater before classes began. His beginnings in hip-hop also let him carry his love for improvisation throughout his career, connecting him to his authentic self any time he improvised.

The first person to formally teach Costa improvisation was Laura Peterson, a professor at Rutgers University at the time (where he got his BFA). Her teachings inspired him as he continued to study dance. Costa has always been drawn to improvisation throughout his life and career as a dancer and choreographer.

Sometimes it is important for people to distance themselves from their corporate reality, and Costa understands that movement is a gateway to one’s spirituality, physicality, and sexuality among other things—all aspects of authenticity. Authenticity is an essential part of dance, which is exactly why Costa begins choreographing dances by improvising. He believes it is the best way to communicate with others and “access a part of ourselves that we cannot articulate with other forms of language.” He continues to make improvisation a large part of his choreography, though the audience never knows how much is incorporated. Check out Costa’s upcoming performance as a part of Chop Shop’s annual contemporary dance festival.

You can see Daniel Costa's work at CHOP SHOP Dance Festival’s online offering. The dance films are available on their website through March 31, 2021.

*The dance described in the first paragraph of this article is not a depiction of an actual performance, but instead a creative depiction by the writer inspired by Costa's style of movement.

Lead photo credit: Daniel Costa, photo by Michael Esperanza.

The TeenTix Press Corps promotes critical thinking, communication, and information literacy through criticism and journalism practice for teens. For more information about the Press Corps program see HERE.

This review was written as part of an Arts Journalism Intensive with CHOP SHOP Dance Festival which was held January 10-31, 2021. The workshop was taught by Press Corps teaching artist Gabrielle Kazuko Nomura Gainor.

This workshop was generously sponsored by Case van Rij and the Glenn Kawasaki Foundation.

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