Theatresports: A Spark of In-Person Light

Review of Theatresports, presented by Unexpected Productions

Written by Teen Writer Lauren Rohde and edited by Teen Editor Lily Williamson

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To be honest, I had forgotten what it was like to see live theater. It had been over a year since I had seen any kind of theater in person; every production I’ve either seen or have been a part of during this time has been on Zoom. To drive to a real theater again, to stand outside waiting to be let in, and to get our tickets taken and led to our seats after fourteen months of no live theater was certainly a surreal experience. Of course, Unexpected Productions and the Market Theater took many safety precautions for this showing of Theatresports, including running the house at less than 25% of their usual audience and temperature checking every patron who entered the theater. Despite the changes, what they were able to foster through improv was as much performance as it was a social space, fulfilling an audience with much-needed laughter and joy.

Entering Post Alley, I felt a buzz of excitement among the staff at the theater. It was very clear everyone was anxious and itching to be back and doing improv, and the smell of fresh popcorn and busy chatter of voices only heightened the reality of being in a theater space again. I walked into the theater to find about three-fourths of the seats covered by t-shirts decorated with the faces of donors; these enforced social distancing and marked out areas audience members couldn’t sit. A large projector behind a keyboard showed a camera navigating the theater, panning over to patrons as they waved to the camera and to the empty stage as it awaited performers. This camera streamed the show live on Twitch for the viewing pleasure of people remaining at home, and occasionally, a chat with a suggestion popped onto the screen.Theatresports. Photo by Bill Grinnell.

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FutureWave: Connection Across Time and Space

Review of FutureWave, presented by SIFF

Written by Teen Writer Lark Keteyian and edited by Teen Editor Eleanor Cenname

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As much as I enjoy seeing my peers' work showcased and celebrated, I'm often hesitant about grouping artists together just by their age because it suggests that young artists are all telling related stories. But in the case of SIFF's FutureWave series—seventy-five minutes of short films from artists under the age of eighteen—this categorization allowed me to approach the festival with a different critical eye than I would have applied to films by young artists mixed in with films by artists with more experience. I spend most of my time around young artists, and I've noticed that while our art is as compelling as art by adults, the work put into it is more visible because we’re often still sorting out how we want to tell our stories. The moments where this effort was present in the work of the young artists showcased at FutureWave were just as compelling for me as the moments that broke outside of their form and context to deliver beautiful, emotionally impactful scenes.

"Sparring", directed by Victor Xia, tells a stylized story about two relationships: the fractured, abusive one between a boy and his father, and the healing friendship between the boy and his friend. Both are built around cyclical violence, moving from the shock of the father hitting his son to an exceptionally beautiful scene that I will be thinking about for months to come: the boy boxing with his friend in slow-motion, the close shots moving with the boys' bodies, Simon Kwan's original score creating an intimate atmosphere out of the physical space between the actors. Xia is also a poet, and it shows—this three-minute film is concise and impactful, only using the shots it absolutely needs to get its deep and complex feelings across. "Looking Forward From Yesterday". Alexis Bigby. Courtesy of SIFF

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Bringing an Italian Crime Scene to Life on Screen!

Review of Accidental Death of an Anarchist, presented by UW School of Drama

Written by Teen Writer Nour Gajial and edited by Teen Editor Triona Suiter

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Although the pandemic has been restricting to many, it has not stopped the UW drama department from curating a professional show. Last weekend, I had the privilege of viewing Accidental Death of an Anarchist performed by the UW School of Drama. Through an online livestream, the performance reached a broad audience while respecting safety precautions during the pandemic. The show was two hours long with a ten-minute intermission—perfect for a lazy Sunday evening! The livestream started promptly and the actors took their spots on screen.

Accidental Death of an Anarchist is a story written by playwright Dario Fo based on real-life events in Italy in 1969. In the first scene, we jump into an interrogation of the protagonist called the Maniac. Throughout the show, we follow the Maniac as he conjures up new plans to figure out who killed the anarchist. Although the Maniac is portrayed as a male character in the main storyline, the UW drama team decided to have a female lead play this character. The actress playing the Maniac was full of energy and stayed immersed in her role. As a viewer, the character’s expressions kept me engaged and brought a lot of excitement to the performance. In my opinion, the character’s demeanor could have been enhanced if the background of the actors’ screens were unique to the setting in the story. That being said, through costume changes, the group was still able to portray time changes during the show. Unlike many other shows, Accidental Death of an Anarchist ends with a question posed to the audience where the viewers decide what happens next. Although this is not a conventional conclusion to a performance, it left the audience to form their own opinion about the plot which felt very engaging and left me thinking about the performance even after it had ended. Accidental Death of an Anarchist. Photo courtesy of UW School of Drama.

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GiveBig SUPERSTARS Leah Fishbaugh and Beth Weisberger on Living the Arts Life with TeenTix!


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Introducing our 2021 TeenTix GiveBig SUPERSTAR Duo, Leah Fishbaugh and Beth Weisberger! Leah and their mom Beth have been long-time supporters of TeenTix ever since Leah entered Cornish College of the Arts and interned with TeenTix freshman year. We caught up with Leah and their mom to tell us about their exciting history with TeenTix and recent arts experiences.

Growing up in Rochester NY and Denver, CO respectfully, Beth and Leah both were raised with a rich arts scene around them. Visiting museums or watching local plays was a frequent feature of both of their childhoods which impacted the way they see the world. Leah in particular experimented with a vast variety of arts classes from pottery, to dance, to theater and improv. As a college-aged student, they attended Cornish College of the Arts to continue this arts inspired life.

In the Cornish Financial Aid Office, Leah found a Work-Study program at TeenTix that had their name written all over it. After interviewing and getting the job, Leah’s work at TeenTix ended up extending far beyond the expectations of their internship eventually evolving into an exciting 10 year long career with us. Bouncing around from intern to social media manager and eventually Director of Communications, Leah’s work at TeenTix was integral to our organization and to their development into a working professional. Watching from Colorado, Beth was excited about Leah's work and has been a regular follower and donor to us ever since. Selfie of Beth, from Denver Colorado.

Both Leah and Beth have had a life of plentiful arts experience and we asked them to reflect on any particular shows or experiences of late. Beth noted the exciting opportunities that Hamilton’s deliberately diverse casting presented while Leah told us about a striking piece at Spectrum Dance Theater. The show, called SHOT, used the language of dance and motion to serve as biting social commentary about police brutality, a topic that has proved very poignant given the past year’s demonstrations against police violence, Beth noted.

But just as Beth and Leah have gotten to see some of the best art Seattle has to offer, they share humble beginnings from their schooling days. As a sixth grader, Beth snatched the role of Scrooge from the boys because she was the only one with the memorization skills required. Leah, on the other hand, remembers a hilarious incident from a production of Peter Pan, where Captain Hook went backstage and said “This is a total disaster!” only to find that their mic was still on. Leah is happy to know that their parents still have this priceless moment on video somewhere.

It is for these priceless memories and experiences that Leah and Beth keep arts in their lives even now as it has become exponentially more difficult. Beth continues to seek arts experiences that support her mental health and connect her to the rest of humanity. Meanwhile, Leah has concerted their efforts to creating online burlesque acts with their troop, The Devil’s Advocates, who, in partnership with several other troops created the Seattle Burlesque and Cabaret Co-op which is set to take over the space previously owned by Copious Love (a TeenTix partner). There are so many ways that art is persevering in spite of this moment, and it is thanks to the work and support of people like Leah and Beth that we are assured of a prosperous and bright arts future.

Thank you Leah and Beth for your extended support over the years and for being GiveBig SUPERSTARS!

Become a GiveBig SUPERSTAR yourself by donating [here.]

Lead Photo: Leah Fishbaugh, 2020.

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Big Ambition from the Big Opera Show

Review of The Big Opera Show, presented by Seattle Opera

Written by Teen Writer Jaiden Borowski and edited by Teen Editor Mila Borowski

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Having seen the art world respond to a global pandemic in a myriad of ways, from a socially distanced movie theater to pre-recorded modern dance (confined by a computer screen), I was eager to see how opera would adapt as well. The online production of The Big Opera Show, and online fundraiser for Seattle Opera, seemed the perfect way to explore this art medium digitally. Because I have not seen much opera in person, I was hopeful that the medley of performances The Big Opera Show provided would give my fresh perspective much to enjoy.

Although I am quite new to the opera form of art, I was not going into this experience completely clueless. An opera that I had the chance of viewing during the long-ago pre-covid times was The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs, which made a point to inform the audience that the performers were using microphones. This was notable because, traditionally, performances by the Seattle Opera do not utilize microphones. While microphones can be used to blend operatic voices with electrically amplified instruments to create a cohesive piece or assist a performance that consists of more dialogue than usual, it is not the norm. Because of this, I was curious to see how the required use of microphones for the online format would affect the gravity of the performance. Thankfully, the performers’ voices translated powerfully even through my laptop’s speakers.

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Rep 4: Online vs. On-Stage

Review of Rep 4, presented by Pacific Northwest Ballet

Written by Teen Writer Serafina Miller and edited by Teen Editor Anya Shulka

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From The Nutcracker to new works, if you’re thinking about dance in Seattle, you’re probably thinking about the Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB). In their most recent online release, the PNB showcased several premieres—designed to be performed in a virtual world, as well as filmed in early February and March by dedicated PNB dancers—along with older pieces that had been recorded in years prior. As a lover of dance, I was quite excited to see how a professional company had been adapting to this new presentation style.

The show opened with a Western-inspired piece by Donald Byrd. The dancers explored this new frontier with a dance style to almost mimicked line dancing. Using sharp angles and movements one would be hard-pressed to deem classical, the dancers shadowed a style that the audience would typically associate with the Old West. Yet, the movements still held a rigidity typical of older ballets, a far cry from the unfettered appearance I associate with Western dances. This first piece was interesting to watch; the concept was fairly easy to grasp but felt too removed as an audience member. Without being able to feel the collective environment of a theatre, it almost felt too peculiar to grasp through a screen. Rep 4. Photo by Angela Sterling.

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All Black Women Are Iconic

Review of Iconic Black Women: Ain't I A Woman, presented by Northwest African American Museum

Written by Teen Writer Carolyn Davis and edited by Teen Editor Eleanor Cenname

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Hiawatha D.’s Iconic Black Women: Ain’t I A Woman virtual exhibit is a beautiful way to give much-needed appreciation to Black women. It is available virtually at Northwest African American Museum (NAAM) and is filled with paintings of iconic Black women of the past, present, and future. Women like Oprah Winfrey, Serena Williams, Michelle Obama and her children and many more to come are part of this collection. I am grateful to have been able to see Hiawatha D.’s art in person, before the pandemic, and enjoy the commemoration of iconic Black women. This collection of artworks originated as branding for his business partner and now wife Veronica Very’s nonprofit. There were originally going to be only 15 women in this exhibit, but Hiawatha D.’s passion for appreciating Black women expanded that number to more than 50 pieces. Each painting fits into one of three categories: elders, ancestors, and queens.

Artists seldom create an entire exhibit dedicated to Black women, although the power it holds to educate and inspire viewers makes it vital. Black women have been fighting to succeed and be seen for so long, and artwork is a perfect tool for people to understand this fight. Entering a space that an artist created solely to worship the many iconic Black women of the past, present, and future is extremely powerful and is what I think makes this collection so formidable. As Hiawatha D. says, “all Black women are iconic”, there will never be an end to appreciating them. Yet Hiawatha D. understands the versatility of Black women who need to be celebrated, which is needed when trying to narrow down the iconic Black women of the world to about 50. The variety in the women shown in his exhibit is important and shows viewers how many known and unknown Black women have made an impact on the world. Furthermore, the beauty of his paintings makes the experience all the better. Hiawatha D.’s career has consisted of illustrating Black people, and the skillful artistry showcased in his work transforms the experience.

Iconic Black Women: Ain't I A Woman? Photo courtesy Northwest African American Museum.

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Jacob Lawrence’s The American Struggle: Remembering Those History Forgets

Review of The American Struggle, presented by Seattle Art Museum

Written by Teen Writer Yoon Lee and edited by Teen Editor Lucia McLaren

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The idea of the American struggle is one often mentioned in discussions around U.S. history—the American Revolution, the War of 1812, the Civil War, and all of the not-so-glamorous areas in between that lend credence to our current status of “world superpower” and therefore our so-called moral superiority. One facet of this struggle is rarely remembered: the effect people of color and women had on the foundation and mettle of the United States. Even with the efforts of historians, new school curriculums and media like Hamilton, this essential part of the American soul is often forgotten.

One lesson in this perception of history can be found not by looking forward, but by looking back. More appropriately, by piecing together the past, which is exactly what the Seattle Art Museum exhibition for Jacob Lawrence’s The American Struggle sought to do.

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Night of the Kings: A Love Letter to Storytelling

Review of Night of the Kings, presented by

Written by Teen Writer Audrey Liepsna Gray and edited by Teen Editor Mila Borowski

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A slow-moving shot of a thick forest opens Night of the Kings, slowly panning up and revealing a massive penitentiary in the midst of the trees. Shouting voices fade in to join the gentle ones of the birds and cicadas, and the prison looks grey and imposing. The camera cuts to a distressed boy sitting in the back of a police truck, looking back and forth between the forest and the dingy prison wall on either side of him. It’s in these very first reels that we’re given a taste of Night of the Kings’ unique sensory atmosphere. The film intrigues our senses through its vivid depictions of the domain we’re pushed into, right from the beginning up until the end of the film. Rich colors, precise use of lighting, and ambient use of sound play important roles as the film establishes its environment in a way that felt more thoroughly brilliant the longer I watched.

Night of the Kings is a 2021 film written and directed by Philippe Lacôte. It begins with an introduction of La Maca, a prison ruled by its inmates with their own laws and customs. We follow a young new prisoner (Bakary Koné), who arrives at La Maca to turmoil inside. The Dangôro, leader of the inmates and sole authority within the microcosm, is old and sick, and tradition dictates that when the Dangôro is no longer able to lead, he must take his own life. The current Dangôro, Blackbeard (Steve Tientcheu), is being challenged and pressured from all sides to step down. In a pitch to bring peace to the prison on the night that he must die, he designates the newest inmate as the prison’s storyteller called the Roman. On the night of the red moon, the Roman must tell a story to last the hours of the night and keep his audience enraptured. If he doesn’t, he pays a price—in his own blood. It’s through the story he tells and the night’s events in the prison, coupled with expertly used sensory depictions, that we’re shown the complex world of the prison and the world outside it. It’s a place of vibrant color, expressive art, and a fascination with the fantastical and spiritual. As the bright day turns into a vivid and spiritual night, we can see the importance of storytelling to the inmates and the film’s attitude towards the art it depicts.

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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.

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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.

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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 Seattle University 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.

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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.

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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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