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

NOTK Koné Bakary Courtesyof NEON

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!

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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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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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One Year Later

Teen Editorial Staff March 2021 Editorial

Written by Teen Editorial Staff Members Triona Suiter and Eleanor Cenname

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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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Is Disney Ever Going to Stop Making Live-Action Remakes?

Editorial about Disney's live-action remakes

Written by Teen Writer Valentine Wulf and edited by Teen Editor Lily Williamson

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In 2010, Walt Disney Studios remade their 1951 animated adaptation of Lewis Carrol’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland as a live-action film. The cult of Walt had dabbled in remakes before, with their first live-action adaptation of The Jungle Book coming out in 1994 and two live-action adaptations of One Hundred and One Dalmatians released in 1996 and 2000, but none of them had made anywhere close to the whopping $1.025 billion that Alice in Wonderland made.

Disney’s next live-action remake, Maleficent, riffed on their 1959 animated film Sleeping Beauty. Maleficent made $700 million at the box office. After that, the live-action remakes of classic Disney-renaissance era animated films became more frequent, creeping into movie theatres like an infectious, CGI-heavy plague. Cinderella came next, then The Jungle Book. The most recent films (with the exception of Mulan) all made over $1 billion at the box office.

Despite doing well at the box office, Disney’s live-action remakes are all widely agreed, by both critics and audiences alike, to be pretty mediocre. They receive lukewarm reviews and are torn apart online, especially on Twitter, with tweets like “I think I’ve finally come to the realization that I can’t wait to die so I won’t have to be around for the animated remakes of the live-action remakes of Disney Animated Films” (Hernandez 2021), and “The amount of people willing to die on this hill of defending the live-action remakes makes me wish the world ended in 2012” (Gladiator 2020). Twitter user @danny8bit says, accompanied by images from four Disney remakes, that they are “forever grateful to these movies for proving, once and for all, that animation is superior to live-action” (Barnes 2020). Mairi Ella Challen and Johnny Depp in Alice in Wonderland (2010) © Walt Disney Studios 2010

The downgrade from animation to live-action is what puts many people off. Disney’s excessive use of autotune and CGI in their remakes creates a soulless carbon copy of the original, with an uncanny valley spin. Alice in Wonderland is the only film that attempted originality in its design, with its relentlessly bleak post-apocalyptic Wonderland. It’s visually interesting, but substanceless. In my opinion, the original charm of 2D animation simply doesn’t translate well to live-action.

But my opinion means nothing, nor does anyone else’s. Critic and audience reception is meaningless to Disney, and it’s clear they’re going to continue churning out remakes so long as they’re making a profit, because to them, the number on Rotten Tomatoes means nothing compared to the number next to the dollar sign.

There’s a reason people keep coming back. Clearly, from the reviews, it’s not because of the quality of the films. It’s the nostalgia. The adults who grew up on their animated films and now have children of their own watch them with their kids to relive the memories and then complain to said kids about how much better the original was. The adults without kids also watch the remakes to relive the memories and then complain on the internet about how much better the original was. Either way, there’s a lot of complaining happening. Mena Massoud and Will Smith in Aladdin (2019) © Walt Disney Studios 2019

It’s clear from the criticisms of these remakes alone that the sole motivation behind people watching them is nostalgia. No one goes to watch a Disney remake expecting fine art. You watch a Disney remake expecting to see the exact same scenes from your childhood redone with three-dimensional people instead of two-dimensional people. This lust for the familiar comfort of the original films stifles any room for genuinely reimagining them. Audiences complain that the movies are exactly the same as the originals, and then complain when they’re not exactly the same as the originals.

The constant buzz around every new live-action remake, whether negative or positive, just means more money for Disney. In fact, they’re already planning on remaking Snow White, The Little Mermaid, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Hercules, to name a few.

Maybe you love Disney’s remakes, maybe you hate them. Maybe you agree that they’re outstandingly mediocre. So is Disney ever going to stop making live-action remakes? The record-breaking box office numbers speak for themselves: nope.

Lead photo credit: Emma Watson and Dan Stevens in Beauty and the Beast (2017) © Walt Disney Studios 2017

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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