Recap: Dance Journalism Workshop at Hiplet

Teen Reviews of the Hiplet Ballerinas at Edmonds Center for the Arts

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The TeenTix Press Corps partnered with Edmonds Center for the Arts to host a Dance Journalism workshop around the performance of the Hiplet Ballerinas, February 20, 2020. Taught by multimedia journalist and dance artist, Imana Gunawan, the workshop covered the basics of dance criticism and how to approach writing a dance review. In our initial lesson we learned some context for the performance by discussing the roots of both hip hop and ballet as art forms. Before the performance, teens also attended the pre-show talk curated by Dani Tirrell (movement artist centering dance around the African Diaspora) featuring Erricka Turner (Ballet and Graham Techniques) and Fides Anna Banana Freeze Mabanta (B-Girl and Hip-Hop), along with Hiplet company representatives. The discussion further framed the performance by asking questions like: How do race and class play into both of these dance techniques? Does Hip-Hop need Ballet to make it more legitimate to white audiences; and does Ballet need Hip-Hop to make it feel relevant to Black and Brown audiences?

After attending the show, participants met for a final meeting to discuss and reflect on the performance. Teens worked on their writing, did some peer editing, and also reflected on how to confront bias while reviewing dance. Below are the reflections on the Hiplet performance written by some of the workshop participants.

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Recap: Dance Criticism Workshop at Grupo Corpo

Teen Reviews of Grupo Corpo at Meany Center for the Performing Arts

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The TeenTix Press Corps hosted a pop-up Dance Criticism workshop at Grupo Corpo’s performance at Meany Center, February 22, 2020. Taught by dance artist, writer, and teacher, Kaitlin McCarthy, the workshop covered the basics of dance criticism and how to approach writing a dance review. After a pre-show lesson, teen participants attended Grupo Corpo’s performance, and then met the next day for discussion and writing practice. Below are the reflections of the performance the participants wrote during the workshop.

Written by Hana - 8th grade

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Recap: Theater Criticism Workshop at Snow White

Teen Reviews of Snow White at Seattle Children's Theatre

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The TeenTix Press Corps hosted a pop-up Theater Criticism workshop at a performance of Snow White at Seattle Children’s Theatre on February 29, 2020. Taught by playwright and arts journalist, Danielle Mohlman, the workshop covered the basics of theater criticism and how to approach writing a review of a play. After a pre-show lesson, teen participants attended a Snow White performance, and then met the next day for discussion and writing practice. Below are the reflections of the play a few of the participants wrote during the workshop.

Written by Faith - 9th grade

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A Remake Becomes a Surprising Reinvention

Review of Little Women at SIFF

Written by Teen Writer Taylar Christianson and edited by Press Corps Teaching Artist Kathy Fennessy

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My first thought when Greta Gerwig’s Little Women adaptation was announced was “Do we really need another Little Women?” There are already over a dozen adaptations of Louisa May Alcott’s classic, some very recent, and this one felt like an Oscar-bait installment in Hollywood’s reboot fever. It’s another iteration of a well-known story, adapted by a famous director with an A-list cast, and all for another white woman’s take on a story about white women—not exactly groundbreaking in terms of representation or social commentary. What was the point of this?

However, I admit I’ll have to eat (some of) my words on this one. Gerwig’s Little Women isn’t without flaws, but it has beautiful cinematography, a strong cast, and a generally well-executed storyline—and as a literary adaptation, and especially one with so many predecessors, it deserves its praise. Gerwig’s screenwriting and directing give fresh new meaning to the tale of the March sisters’ lives in Reconstruction America, but keeps enough of its charm to feel familiar anyway.

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Magnificent March-ing

Review of Little Women at SIFF

Written by Teen Writer Audrey Brown and edited by Press Corps Teaching Artist Kathy Fennessy

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Set in the 1860s, Greta Gerwig’s Little Women presents the lives of the March family during the Civil War. With the girls’ father away at war, the four sisters and their mother foster deep companionship and sisterhood. The film features the sisters’ lives, daily challenges, and character growth, and proves itself as essentially a coming-of-age fiction piece.

The production stars Saoirse Ronan as the strong-willed Jo, Emma Watson as the responsible Meg, Florence Pugh as the undaunted Amy, and Eliza Scanlen as the reserved Beth. With a skillful cast, alluring sets, and meaningful script, the film hosts a diverse range of personas, and Louisa May Alcott’s timeless novel is magically brought to life on the big screen.

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The Evolution of Little Women Throughout the Decades

Review of Little Women at SIFF

Written by Teen Writer Disha Cattamanchi and edited by Press Corps Teaching Artist Kathy Fennessy

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After many years, we finally have another remake adaptation, but is this remake really worth the hype? Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, a classic tale about the sisterly bond and womanhood in the 1800s, covers aspects of navigating romantic relationships and careers throughout this harrowing time period. Throughout the years, there have been many adaptations of the story of the March sisters, and Greta Gerwig now adds to that stockpile following Gillian Armstrong’s widely received 1994 version. Gerwig’s Little Women is anything but little, giving it its own unique but strange voice in the myriad of these adaptations. It crumbles boundaries set up in the previous one, but also introduces a rather deeper and equal connection with the sisters, although it relies on an audience with previous exposure to Little Women.

One of the many differences in Gerwig’s rendition, is how the plot is expressed; in this case, through a non-linear timeline. Both the book and many previous adaptations have relied on a linear timeline to grow our relationships with the characters, as they themselves grow up. Though it surprised me, the non-linear timeline does not take away from this; in fact, it adds to it. When we see all of the characters grown up, the flashbacks of childhood make it seem like we are traveling back with them. As we know bits and pieces of the present, our minds have to work to connect the dots, making it feel like we are the ones involved in the relationships, as well. When this happens, however, it can also disrupt the emotion of certain scenes. During some scenes that are meant to be sorrowful, for example, a memory might pop up, adding to a more cheerful mood, disrupting the already established tone. This is fine, but the effect may be jarring, and sometimes takes away the emotional climate of certain scenes. Emma Watson, Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh, and Eliza Scanlen in Little Women (2019).

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Bridging the Gap Between Lack of Arts Funding and Career Pathways in Technical Theatre

Feature about the STARFISH PROJECT, a program by the Intiman Theatre.

Written by Maire Kennan, during TeenTix’s Beyond the Review Press Corps Intensive.

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We met Sam, Adem, and Faith along with Kyle Hartmann, around a large table on a cloudy day in April. Sam, Adem, and Faith are all students at Franklin High School in South Seattle, and members of STARFISH PROJECT and Kyle, is the STARFISH PROJECT program manager. The focus of our meeting: to learn and gain insight and information about STARFISH PROJECT.

STARFISH PROJECT, which started in 2017 in a woodshop at Franklin High School, works to provide professional access to education and career opportunities in theatre craft. The program takes place anywhere between six and nine weeks, three days a week, for three hours. Each iteration works to put on a show. The program usually starts with the school’s existing theatre program (if there is one), and works with actors from the drama club as well as students interested in carpentry, set design, lighting design, stage managing and more. Although STARFISH PROJECT works with three high schools: Chief Sealth, Franklin High School, and Rainier Beach High School, the program is not limited to students at those schools. Any 14-18 year olds (and older) in the Seattle area are welcome to join the program, although it is geared toward high school aged kids, and they hope to expand.

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The Art of Backstage Storytelling

Feature about the STARFISH PROJECT, a program by the Intiman Theatre.

Written by Triona Suiter, during TeenTix’s Beyond the Review Press Corps Intensive.

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The world of theatre is slowly getting more diverse. Actors of color are finding more jobs, female directors are gradually gaining recognition, and most shows are providing more representation as a whole. But the backstage world is still ruled by straight white men. Technical theatre is an extremely important aspect of stagecraft that is often overlooked. People prefer the flashy and glamorous onstage action to the quiet and stealthy work backstage. Because of that, technical theatre training is almost nonexistent. The STARFISH PROJECT is looking to rectify that.

Through a partnership with Sawhorse Revolution, the Intiman Theatre launched the STARFISH PROJECT in 2017. The project’s goal is to provide accessible training in all aspects of technical theatre to teens in the Seattle area, especially in high schools that have underfunded or nonexistent arts programs. Already, it has had a powerful impact on students’ lives.

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What is Going On in Feathers and Teeth?

Review of Feathers and Teeth presented by Washington Ensemble Theatre.

Written by Sitara Lewis during TeenTix’s Theater & Dance Press Corps Intensive.

Samie Spring Detzer as Carol in WE Ts Feathers and Teeth. Photo credit: Chris Bennion.

Something is a little off here in the Feathers and Teeth produced by Washington Ensemble Theatre. "It’s Such a Pretty World Today" by Nancy Sinatra accompanying the typical American household set certainly sets the initial mood. This 80 minute play is a unique comical horror show, illustrating grief stricken Chris (Rachel Guyer-Mafune) after losing her mom and now dealing with over enthusiastic perky step mother Carol (Samie Spring Detzer). With Chris’ anger against the world thoroughly expressed through her love of rock music and her multiple attempts of stabbing people (and the successful attempt at a strange animal in the pot that the play revolves around), Carol’s bipolar moods and manipulation over her husband Arthur (Brandon J. Simmons), and Arthur’s introduction is with him having blood on his hands and maybe just killing an animal (on accident, though), this play keeps the audience guessing on who exactly is the psychopath. Rachel Guyer-Mafune as Chris in WET's Feathers and Teeth. Photo credit: Chris Bennion

The artistic touches were great. I will not give any vital spoilers away. In one striking scene, Carol smokes at the table in the dark with the red light highlighting her, and below her in the crawl space (that is viewable to the audience) someone is maliciously being attacked in all red light. It was a great contrast, unique use of multiple levels of staging, and a scene that was ultimately wonderfully twisted. Feathers and Teeth certainly could have been scarier, though. It consisted of a few jump scares with the animal jumping in the pot or with the lighting design by Ryan Dunn, but it could have had more of a variety of scares.

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Feathers And Teeth: Horror With Rotten Messages

Review of Feathers and Teeth presented by Washington Ensemble Theatre.

Written by Francesca Vinci during TeenTix’s Theater & Dance Press Corps Intensive.

Rachel Guyer Mafune as Chris in WE Ts Feathers and Teeth Credit Chris Bennion

Feathers and Teeth is a short play with a small cast delving into ideas of grief, madness, and manipulation. A delusional daughter, a manipulative stepmother, and an oblivious father take the stage around a mysterious death and supernatural beasties—but what does it mean?

Created by Charise Castro Smith and directed by Bobbin Ramsey, the play centers around thirteen year old Chris, her father Arthur, and her stepmother Carol. Chris is convinced that Carol, her deceased mother’s hospice nurse, is a demon, while Arthur sees no substance in his daughter’s accusations. The wonderfully designed set by Pete Rush and the lighting design by Ryan Dunn pull the piece together, but the overall meaning of the play is ambiguous at best.

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Secrets, Betrayal, and 70's Rock

Review of Feathers and Teeth presented by Washington Ensemble Theatre.

Written by Makenna English during TeenTix’s Theater & Dance Press Corps Intensive.

James Schilling as Hugo and Rachel Guyer Mafune as Chris in WE Ts Feathers and Teeth Credit Chris Bennion

A sinister secret within a traditional family dynamic, or is it all just a paranoia-filled quest for vengeance? Feathers and Teeth, by Charise Castro Smith and directed by Bobbin Ramsey, was a 70’s-esque thriller that embodied the eerie vibes in Hamlet, Hereditary, Pet Cemetery and It Follows that both theater and horror fanatics will love.

Feathers and Teeth, a suspenseful story involving a nuclear family in the 70s, leads the audience down a twisted backstory. Events and secrets are revealed, accusations introduced and action taken by the teen protagonist Christine, who is played by Rachel Guyer-Mafune who has a grudge for her becoming spunky step-mom Carol, played by Samie Spring Detzer.

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Kyle Abraham Channels Greater Power

Review of Kyle Abraham's A.I.M. presented by STG and On the Boards.

Written by Rosemary Sissel during TeenTix’s Theater & Dance Press Corps Intensive.

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Out of the smoky darkness, Kyle Abraham emerges, opening the magnificent four piece Abraham in Motion (A.I.M.) with one explosive solo, "INDY." Four stand-alone pieces that touch on police brutality, love, human connection, powerlessness, and pain, and everything begins with one gloriously powerful solo. An entire piece performed by one man.

Abraham enters through a veil of smoke, walking into an ethereal ray of light. His arms shake, pelting the light with a barrage of questions. It does not answer. Then, slowly, things calm.

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A.I.M. Should Strike a Chord Within All of Us

Review of Kyle Abraham's A.I.M. presented by STG and On the Boards.

Written by Prama Singh during TeenTix’s Theater & Dance Press Corps Intensive.

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“Shut your eyes….”, played repeatedly and the beep, beep, beep, of the sound effects rippled through the theater as the audience watched the fluid dancers take up the stage. Kyle Abraham and his company Abraham In Motion (A.I.M.) presented four pieces on stage at the Moore Theatre this March. They were all beautiful pieces, but there was one piece in particular that stood out along with a specific part of another.

In Abraham’s fourth piece, “Drive”, the music seemed to get louder and louder as fog filtered onto the stage. The dimmed lights were on the dancers as they pulsated in synch, the rhythm of the music pounding along. The feeling of desperation, and the intense need to convey something filled the air as the dynamic dancers unhesitatingly continued to flow and sway. They were swift and unstoppable in their need to get the audience to understand. An ominous feeling filled the theater, yet eyes remain locked on stage. This feeling was amplified after the previous message commemorating any black man who reached age twenty-one from the piece “Meditation: A Silent Prayer.” As the lights dimmed further and the curtains went down, the audience stood for an ovation.

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Broadway or 2.7 Million Dollar Debt? The Ballad of Phillip Chavira

Interview with Phillip Chavira, Executive Director of Intiman Theatre.

Written by Lark Keteyian, during TeenTix’s Beyond the Review Press Corps Intensive.

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"The biggest question is, why would I come to Seattle after that?"

Phillip Chavira used to be a Broadway producer. His job was to raise money to invest in shows, and if they made a profit he got paid—which was rare, but glamorous when it happened. In 2016, he was nominated for a Tony Award for co-producing ECLIPSED, a play about the Second Liberian Civil War with an all women of color cast, director, and playwright. He worked with Stephen C. Byrd and Alia Jones-Harvey, the only current African-American producers on Broadway. But in 2017, he moved across the country to work with a theater company struggling to get out from under its 2.7 million dollar debt.

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Phillip Chavira: Desert Boy

Interview with Phillip Chavira, Executive Director of Intiman Theatre.

Written by Beezus Murphy, during TeenTix’s Beyond the Review Press Corps Intensive.

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On Wednesday, April 10th, I had the opportunity to interview Phillip Chavira, alongside two other members of the TeenTix Press Corps Intensive. Chavira is the Executive Director of the Intiman Theatre and, prior to coming to Seattle, was nominated for a Tony Award for his work as co-producer on the groundbreaking Broadway play Eclipsed. Eclipsed’s cast, director and playwright were all women of color.

Beezus Murphy: Yeah, I read that you were nominated for a Tony.

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ACT’s Romeo + Juliet: Beautiful but Problematic

Review of Romeo + Juliet at ACT Theatre.

Written by Faith Elder during TeenTix’s Theater & Dance Press Corps Intensive.

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Police sirens wail as officers dressed in riot gear rush in, followed by parents who cry for their children. To an unknowing spectator, this could be the beginning of a crime thriller. But this is no murder mystery, it is a four hundred year-old tragedy.

ACT Theater’s Romeo + Juliet, directed by John Langs, brings a Shakespearean classic into the modern world to address the violence and anger that today’s youth face. The production, part of the season’s goal of bringing new life to older works, also added a new dimension to the story with the casting of Deaf actors in the roles of Romeo and Friar Lawrence. But while this production incorporates stunning performances by both Deaf and hearing performers, the romance becomes questionable when brought into today’s societal norms.

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A New Twist on Romeo + Juliet

Review of Romeo + Juliet at ACT Theatre.

Written by Linnea Fast during TeenTix’s Theater & Dance Press Corps Intensive.

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ACT’s production of Romeo + Juliet, directed by John Langs, added new aspects to the play like American Sign Language that intrigued and mesmerized the audience. Everyone knows the story of Romeo and Juliet, the love, the laughter and the pain. But this production added a new form of communication, American Sign Language. Although the play Romeo and Juliet has been done time and time again, this production was able to make it new with the sets, actors, and directing they used. The new communication used in the play added parts to the story not used in the original play, allowing a deeper look at the characters’ lives not seen before.

They used a small stage, with the seats surrounding it like a colosseum. Throughout the three hour long play, the actors interacted with the audience. In one scene, Mercutio jokingly asked a little girl to dance, and Benvolio complimenting a woman’s pants in an attempted joke at Romeo. The props, including a table and three small chain link fences, were used and moved by the actors for each scene. With these, they were able to create a surprising variety of different scenery. From the intimacy of Juliet’s balcony, to the streets of Verona where Tybalt and Mercutio are slain, to a scene reminiscent of the rumble scene in West Side Story, the chain link fences and lighting resembling the same dark alley, gang violence notions.

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R+J, Old and Tired or New and Relevant?

Review of Romeo + Juliet at ACT Theatre.

Written by Kessa Claire-Woldt during TeenTix’s Theater & Dance Press Corps Intensive.

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ACT Theatre’s Romeo + Juliet touched the heart and tickled the soul. The actors continuously took the audience from laughing to holding their breath in suspense. I was constantly on the edge of my seat, waiting for what came next. In a play as familiar as Romeo + Juliet, there were vulnerable moments and heart-wrenching scenes that came as a surprise.

Chain link fence, tarp, and concrete surrounded the audience and stage. The set reminded me of the immigrant detention center in Tacoma, where I have witnessed children travel hundreds of miles to spend a few minutes with an exiled parent. Like immigrants in the detention center, Romeo and Juliet had a hard choice to make. They could leave their homes and families for a better life together. A life without fighting and death. Leaving means losing the life they have known. If they stay, their true love could be killed in the cross-fire, but they would have their family and parents around them.

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The Triangularity of Dance

Review of Director's Choice at Pacific Northwest Ballet

Written by Elisabetta Pierazzi, during TeenTix’s Theater & Dance Press Corps Intensive.

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PNB Artistic Director Peter Boal has exalted the path of ordinary life, and sometimes that of thousands of dancers, selecting three different productions that are both well linked and assorted, giving the public a real and proper representation of the stages in which the individual audience member can be encountered.

The number three is one of the recurrences that the audience can see in the production: three different acts, three different stories by three different choreographers. Matthew Neenan's "Bacchus" opens the show, continuing with "The Trees The Trees" by Robyn Mineko Williams, and the curtain falls on the latest movements Justin Peck's "In the Countenance of Kings." The minimalism of the neoclassical ballet is a perfect conductive line for the different technical aspects. The lights and the dancers communicate the stories and emotions instead of extravagant or pompous costumes, cumbersome set design, or too-perfect lines in the movements. All this makes us as audience members focus more on the feeling of self-recognition as if to say ''This is me! ''Pacific Northwest Ballet soloist Margaret Mullin in Matthew Neenan’s Bacchus. PNB is performing Bacchus as part of DIRECTOR’S CHOICE, March 15 – 24, 2019. Photo © Angela Sterling.

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PNB’s Director’s Choice Is a Menagerie of Contemporary Ballet

Review of Director's Choice at Pacific Northwest Ballet

Written by Isabell Petersen, during TeenTix’s Theater & Dance Press Corps Intensive.

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On March 15th, Pacific Northwest Ballet presented Director’s Choice, a collection of three pieces ("Bacchus," "The Trees The Trees," and "In The Countenance of Kings," respectively), two of which ("Bacchus" and "The Trees The Trees") were world premieres.

The first piece of the evening was "Bacchus," set to music composed by Oliver Davis, and choreographed by Matthew Neenan. As a whole, "Bacchus" was quite enjoyable, from the costumes, to the score, to the dancers’ movements themselves. The stage was clean, and the only backdrop provided was the mezzanine. All of the dancers were draped in deep, rich purple hues, which evoked the color and smoothness of wine (costumes designed by Mark Zappone). The movement of the dancers was almost birdlike in the beginning vignette of the piece, with dancers pairing off to intertwine themselves with one another in a courtship dance. James Moore, whose costume was a slightly brighter purple than the others, and which had a cape-like attachment- remained onstage during the entire piece, and his character’s movements seemed to influence the others. During the second vignette, when Moore danced alone, his movements were large, sweeping, and reminded me of a storm or a tempest. A third intriguing choice was when, during the third vignette, the music stopped altogether, allowing the heavy breathing and squeaking of shoes to be heard as the dancers moved around the stage.

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