Family Is Always the Most Important Thing In Our Heart

Review of This Girl Laughs, This Girl Cries, and This Girl Does Nothing presented by ArtsWest

Written by Gia Tran during an Arts Criticism workshop at Cascade Middle School

RM 2611

In the play, This Girl Laughs, This Girl Cries, and This Girl Does Nothing by Finnegan Kruckemeyer, there are three sisters - triplets - who live together with their parents. Some big events made them separate from each other. Then, each of the girls goes through their own interesting experiences and grows up. The themes of this play are about family, identity, childhood and being alone, so if you are the person who loves stories about family and self-expression, this one is the perfect movie choice for you.

First, in the play, they show you about how the family is important to you. For example, the dad left the triplets in the forest but instead of getting mad, the first thing they think about is finding him. To me, this shows that as a family, we are never going to be mad at each other for a long time and that family is always the most important thing in our heart. Secondly, the experiences that each of the sisters go through made me really impressed and it showed me about how we find out our identity. For instance, Carmen, the girl who chooses to stay in the woods, has her own way to go and she is helping people and then has her own family. Or Albienne, another sister who chose to go, to fight for her love and protect the village. This shows how we have to deal with being alone in real life. This movie reflects the experiences that we will have to go through to grow up and become mature in our real life.

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Everything Happens for the Best

Review of This Girl Laughs, This Girl Cries, and This Girl Does Nothing presented by ArtsWest

Written by Natnael Ayele during an Arts Criticism workshop at Cascade Middle School

RM 2690

The play This Girl Laughs, This Girl Cries, and This Girl Does Nothing by Finnegan Kruckemeyer, is a story about three sisters who live with their dad. The three sisters are Albienne, Carmen and Beatrix, and each have a different idea/identity. The themes of this play are find your own way for your future, find yourself and family.

When the sisters get lost, they have to find their own way for the future and find themselves. After their dad abandoned them, Carmen, who was the one who did nothing and stayed in that place where their dad left them, was friends with the animals. It shows that Carmen doesn't want to go forward or backward. The second sister, Beatrix, went to the west where her dad left and where the sun set to find her dad. This shows she doesn't want to lose the things she has so she decides to go backward and find her dad. And the third sister Albienne goes to the east and she becomes a soldier and a woman who helps people around that area. This shows she doesn't want to go forward and she wants to try new things.

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Family Is So Important To Us Even If We Don’t Realize It

Review of This Girl Laughs, This Girl Cries, and This Girl Does Nothing presented by ArtsWest.

Written by Roshelyn Munoz Cu during an Arts Criticism workshop at Cascade Middle School

RM 2772

In the play, This Girl Laughs, This Girl Cries, and This Girl Does Nothing by Finnegan Kruckemeyer, three sisters grow up with their father until they are thirteen years old. In a dark night, the three sisters got lost in the woods so each one decided to go a different way. As time passed the sisters had different lives that they did not imagine they would have. But as the years passed and they found their own way, they noticed that they missed their previous lives with their father and their sisters.

One theme of this play is about growing up alone. Growing up can be so difficult because sometimes you have no idea how to face situations on your own without help, without anyone else who can explain the things you don't understand. But also over time things may change the situation because we can find ourselves that we like, the different opportunities that we have and learn to be independent. For example, in the play when the father abandoned them in the forest, all of them took different paths. At the beginning it was not easy because they spent many years apart. But they found a way to do well in life. That is what the play also wants to show.

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Love Your Family When You’re Already With Them

Review of This Girl Laughs, This Girl Cries, and This Girl Does Nothing presented by ArtsWest

Written by Sina Tesfagabir during an Arts Criticism workshop at Cascade Middle School

RM 2705

In the play, This Girl Laughs, This Girl Cries, and This Girl Does Nothing by Finnegan Kruckemeyer, there were three sisters who lived with their dad and mom. They were a family at first but then somehow they separated and they all wanted to get back together, so at the end they found each other again.

The theme of this play is that family is important.

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Dragon Mama: Are We the Same or Could We Not Be More Different?

Review of Dragon Mama by Sara Porkalob at American Repertory Theater

Written by Franklin High School student, Kalie Vo.

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Dragon Mama is a production that delivers emotional moments to create one life-changing experience. The story is unforgettable not only in the drama, but also in presentation. Regardless of the viewer’s perspective, this story holds the potential to leave an impact. Brought to life through the talent of solo actress—Sara Porkalob, this performance highlights being an anti-model-minority in a nonfiction approach unique to her mother’s life and demonstrates the events of what happened before and after Sara’s own birth.

The play focuses on Maria, with a complex family structure along with financial and emotional struggles while growing up. She is burdened in her childhood with the role of being a parental figure to her four siblings whose single mother is busy working to provide for them. The viewer spectates Maria as she grows from being an irresponsible teenager into an adult struggling to find her path in life. She also explores her sexual identity while raising her child and copes with mental issues. Maria’s coming of age is nothing like what most people imagine their life to become. This piece exists to let people know that the value of their experiences do not have to be measured by the common standard of success and that Maria, despite her bad choices in life, was able to strive for a fulfilling purpose and attain happiness, while moving the audience along the way.

One notable aspect of the play is the strong portrayal of family relationships. The one-sided connection between Maria and her mother, and Sara to her mother, is representative of many immigrant family dynamics. Maria’s mom was often too busy working to spend quality time with family as shown by a time where without notice, Maria and her younger siblings do not see their mom come home for over 24 hours. Not being able to spend time with family means not being able to guide them, not being able to give affection, and not being emotionally present while they grow up. This lack of guidance influences Maria into making many irresponsible choices later on. For some viewing her play, they might resonate with the experiences of feeling like their parents never loved them since they never showed up for them. Despite this, Maria still receives silent displays of support, like when her mom pays for her abortion or lets adult Maria leave the household to find herself. These events cause the audience to reflect on their own relationships and memories with their parents.

Part of what makes this performance unforgettable is how the play does not sugar-coat the reality of mental health. When Maria gives birth to Sara, she experiences depression and her whole family is there to see it happen. Her depressive episodes are uncomfortable to watch but remind us that Maria is a real human with flaws and she was never meant to be a role model. With that in mind, witnessing Maria’s life at her extremes can create a sense of relief for young people watching because it tells them that it’s okay to be doing terrible.

Whether the audience relates to, or could not be more different from Maria, watching this life-changing production offers the audience a new perception of life along with insight. It forces spectators to acknowledge stigmas and issues that often come with the reality of living in poverty as an immigrant. For those who have lived a privileged life, it brings awareness and growth. For those who resonate with Maria’s experiences, it brings healing and growth. Regardless of perspective, the personal story each audience member has to compare and contrast with Maria’s is what creates this special awakening.

Lead photo credit: Sara Porkalob in Dragon Mama at American Repertory Theater. Photo by GretjenHelene.com

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

This review was written as part of an Arts Criticism 101 workshop at Franklin High School in Ms. Roh's Asian American Literature class, taught by Press Corps teaching artist Omar Willey.

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Dragon Mama: The Trials and Tribulations of an Asian-American Woman

Review of Dragon Mama by Sara Porkalob at American Repertory Theater

Written by Franklin High School student, Veronica Bunnell.

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Late night karaoke, drama, humor, love, heartache and complex characters all in an hour-forty-five-minute show created by one person? Writer and creator, Sara Porkalob, makes it seem so effortless. The second story in the Dragon Cycle Trilogy, Dragon Mama, is an incredible one-woman show starring Porkalob herself. It details the story of her mother, Maria Porkalob Jr. before and after Sara was born. The actress shares her mother’s journey and the unfortunate, heart-wrenching situations their family experienced during the late 1970s to early-1990s living in America. Sara Porkalob’s play emphasizes that there is much more to a person’s life than meets the eye.

The show recreates two time periods within Maria Jr.’s life. The first act focuses on her early life with her mother and siblings in Hawaii, as well as their life in Bremerton, Washington after they move from Hawaii. There, Maria Sr. works tirelessly as both a waitress and a worker at a bingo hall while raising her children as a single mother. As a result, thirteen-year-old Maria Jr. is left to take care of her younger siblings. The second act deals with Maria Jr. as an adult living in Alaska. Throughout the story, the family faces financial challenges and food insecurity.

Sara Porkalob’s versatile portrayal of her mother’s family is fascinating and draws in the audience. Her storytelling is both humorous and emotional. The stage only has a chair accompanying Porkalob as she performs. It emphasizes that the story is not centered around the setting but rather the actions and the dialogue. By using various tones and expressions, Porkalob is able to differentiate the roles in a way that captures their unique personalities. With numerous characters being added, it is easy to lose sight of the situation that occurs on stage. But with the right body movement and lighting, the audience cannot take their eyes off the story that is unfolding as well the valuable lessons it holds. In addition to the lighting and movement, the music choice makes an impact on her performance. Each song sets the tone and energy of the scene, and the audience gets hooked. The variety of music Porkalob plays during nerve wracking scenes symbolizes that music is the gateway to release her emotions. However, the show has so many quick transitions which can confuse the audience. There are moments where Porkalob goes from an outdoor to an indoor setting or from a flashback to the present and it takes a while for the audience to realize the change.

The turbulent life of Maria Porkalob and her family allows others to comprehend the struggles that Asian Americans face in the United States. Both Maria Porkalob Sr. and Jr. sacrifice their time with their children to make ends meet and provide the family with necessities. Whether it is through working two jobs or consistently moving to secure jobs, such as going to Alaska to work on a fishing boat, these women have to fend for themselves and make difficult decisions to survive.The overarching theme of resilience continues to make itself known throughout the many scenes, particularly to those who may not understand and relate to their actions.

Dragon Mama is the depiction of fortitude of spirit and perseverance in the midst of adversity. Maria Porkalob Sr. and Jr. are matriarchs who undergo unpleasant experiences for self-preservation and choose what’s best for their children. Being Asian Americans in a society full of limited opportunities, they epitomize true grit and express what it really means to rise up against hardships.

Lead photo credit: Sara Porkalob in Dragon Mama at American Repertory Theater. Photo by GretjenHelene.com

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

This review was written as part of an Arts Criticism 101 workshop at Franklin High School in Ms. Roh's Asian American Literature class, taught by Press Corps teaching artist Omar Willey.

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She Came, She Saw, She Shouted

Review of Shout Sister Shout! at Seattle Rep.

Written by Franklin High School student, Clara Olson.

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When I think of rock ‘n roll, I think about the legends like Mick Jagger or Elvis Presley. I don’t think about a black woman from Arkansas playing gospel music with an electric guitar. And I’m sure the average person doesn’t either. But the newest play being shown at the Seattle Repertory Theater showcases this woman—who pioneered the way for these later legends.

Shout Sister Shout!, written by Cheryl West, showcases the talents and achievements of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, a black woman who is considered the “godmother of rock ‘n roll”. Sister Rosetta, played by Carrie Compere, was born in 1915 in Cotton Plant, Arkansas, but the play begins in 1962 behind the scenes of a televised performance of a Sunday special. The show soon flashes back to 1933 when Rosetta is eighteen and singing in her mother’s church. As the show progresses, the audience follows Sister Rosetta’s life from her husbands, to her performances, to her gains and losses of both friend and family relationships, and her own personal journey.

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An Emotional Sing Along

Review of Shout Sister Shout! at Seattle Rep.

Written by Franklin High School student, Julie La.

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Elvis Presley, Little Richard, and Chuck Berry are few of the many artists that became famous and overshadowed their influencers. Sister Rosetta Tharpe is considered to be the Godmother of rock ‘n’ roll, but she wasn’t recognized for her contribution until 2018, where she was inducted into the Roll of Fame.

Playwright Cheryl L. West along with director Randy Johnson brought to life, Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s story through the play Shout Sister Shout! at the Seattle Rep. The musical had a powerful and intriguing storyline of an artist whose legacy was forgotten. Sister Rosetta Tharpe's story has many twists and turns. She crossed boundaries and disregarded social and cultural norms of her time. Throughout the play, there were many interactions with the audience. Carrie Compere who played Sister Rosetta Tharpe along with many others, included the audience into the play. They encouraged the audience to clap along and sing along if they knew the lyrics to a song.

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The Godmother of ROCK’N’ROLL

Review of Shout Sister Shout! at Seattle Rep.

Written by Franklin High School student, Kiet Duong.

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The blaring colorful lights amplified the room. Loud gospel music playing. The sound of laughter and clapping filled the room. Many people may think this is a musical. These were the characteristics of Shout Sister Shout!, an engaging play that shows how Sister Rosetta Tharpe has perseverance because she overcame hard times, which have shaped her into a better person. If you did not know, Sister Rosetta is the godmother of rock’n’roll. Born and raised in Arkansas, she grew up playing instruments and singing Gospel music in a church. The superstar then inspired the likes of Elvis Presley, Little Richard, and more. With so much explosive energy on stage, it was like you were a part of the play. Overall, the play was a pleasant experience, leaving me feeling delighted and connected at the end. From the small details of moving props, to the beautiful costume, and the lovely wedding at the end. The character development, plot, and interactive parts were very enjoyable from the start to the end.

Shout Sister Shout! had many moments, including the death of Marie’s kids to Sister Rosetta’s wedding, where the audience got to play along and interact with the show in many ways. Some acts were very funny and some were serious. One moment in the play where she performs in the Cotton Club and had us clapping along with one of her catchy songs such as “Down by the Riverside” and “The Train”, the feeling I got from that was like being in a Gospel, rock concert. The play was so realistic, I could feel the happiness in the air. With the audience clapping to “Down by the Riverside” and shouting praises, it felt like being in a church on a Sunday morning. Another scene that had an impact was when Sister Rosetta got a letter from her first husband demanding her to go back to him. She replied with a funny response and the audience bursted out laughing with her response. The feeling of laughter filled the room, being able to laugh can release your stress you are having, which brightens the whole mood from the scene before and prepares us for the next scene. This shows the play can have some light and dark parts to it leaving the audience with discussion questions.

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Rockin’ and Rollin’ with Sister Rosetta

Review of Shout Sister Shout! at Seattle Rep.

Written by Franklin High School student, Ngoc-Linh Truong.

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Johnny Cash? Elvis? You may have heard of those names when thinking about rock and roll, but what about Sister Rosetta Tharpe? If you didn’t know, she was a black woman who many called “the Godmother of rock and roll”. In Shout Sister Shout!, from director Randy Johnson, a tornado of sounds and colors flew through the theater as we follow Sister Rosetta from her juvenescence to her final years.

Despite her illustrious career, Rosetta faced lifelong obstacles offstage. “Devil’s music” was what her mom called it. Rosetta, played by Carrie Compere, started out as a young girl performing at church before leaving for New York City. Her mother (Carol Dennis) disapproved of the new music that Rosetta was playing. Their meeting in New York City was the beginning of a difficult relationship in the upcoming years. Her lovers, from her first controlling husband to the singer, Marie Knight, were also unsteady. Career and love clashed in Rosetta’s personal life, where reality eventually sets in. Her church, a place where Rosetta started performing, didn’t accept her because of her new music. These stories from different parts of her life are weaved between the bright lights and energetic singing, playing a quieter role that captured Rosetta’s loneliness as an artist.

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An Over Decent Play Called Indecent

Review of Indecent at Seattle Rep.

Written by Franklin High School student, Tommy Trenh.

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As the warm air began to fill with a cold breeze, the drops of rain hit the wooden floorboards. The dull and dark lighting began to lighten up as the lights reflected through the raindrops to create a glistening effect. These were the characteristics of a play called Indecent, where a group of Jewish actors travel through America and Europe during the early 20th century to spread the works of a writer named Sholem Asch and his play God of Vengeance which featured a love between two women which did not end so well. The play was an overall great experience, with how realistic the scenes were and the story that was being shared about a group of Jewish people before, during, and after World War II.

Indecent had many moments where the stage became very realistic and felt like a 3D movie. One moment that stood out was at the end when Rifkele dances with Manke and rain starts to drop down on the stage. When real rain started to pour down from the ceiling, it began to feel colder and made it feel as if I was in the scene with the actors as well. It made the anticipation for this rain dance scene even more exhilarating as lots of people had been waiting for this scene throughout the play. Another scene that had an impact was when the actors were reenacting God of Vengeance near the end for a small crowd. In the middle of a scene being acted out, tremendous bombs were dropping down and the vibration could be felt throughout the entire theatre. With feelings of fear and tension left from the bombs, it became more suspenseful as the audience did not know what to anticipate from the next scenes. This also connects to how Jewish people had to live in constant fear of being targeted and killed at any time in World War II.

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Finding Balance

Review of Indecent at Seattle Rep.

Written by Franklin High School student, Savannah Blackwell.

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*Please note, this review includes spoilers

A show that beautifully demonstrates how Jews (and all people, really) are multidimensional, individual, human beings. Indecent, by Paula Vogel and directed by Sheila Daniels (with the Seattle Rep), weaves the complexities of one’s identity in a powerful hour and forty-five-minute show. Indecent is a play within a play. It follows the playwright, Sholem Asch, and his actors’ process in performing the controversial play, God of Vengeance. In the show, props, light, words, projection, and music come together to create a full and complete story. It was a privilege to witness their interpretation of intersectionalities all humans carry and the commonalities of them with others. We see two lesbian Jews, a playwright with “taboo” ideas, and a Black Jew all in one show. These are identities we rarely see, but they’re very real.

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Indecent: One Hell of a Ride

Review of Indecent at Seattle Repertory Theatre

Written by Franklin High School Student, Sarah Luong.

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The tale of a Jewish play featuring a kiss between two women, a piece of art that was refused by many, an edge-of-the-seat story of how this little play boosted to the top of the charts and made its way on Broadway; we are introduced to the Seattle Rep’s Indecent.

As we are taken back in time, we are focused on Sholem Asch, a Polish playwright who wrote the play The God of Vengeance. This play in particular contained “scandalous” themes, two of which were homosexuality and the rejection of one’s faith. Because the play contained such themes, the play could not be produced. A man by the name of Lemml, an amateur towards theater arts, saw its magnificence and helped Asch make his play a sensation. From Berlin to Moscow and to all of Europe, they made their way to America. As things begin to go downhill, Asch became more focused on the tragic events happening back at home, leaving The God of Vengeance in Lemml’s hands.

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A Not-So Queer Story About A Queer Story

Review of Indecent at Seattle Rep.

Written by Franklin High School student Cecilia Carroll.

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Halfway into the performance, there is a moment where the entire cast within Indecent reveal yellow Jewish stars on their clothes, and one person stands out against the crowd. One star is not just yellow, but a black triangle and a yellow triangle, put together to make the star. The black triangle was used to mark many things, one of those being the mark for lesbians. At first the addition of it was shocking to me, as the black triangle isn’t too often used as a queer symbol, but it rather became a nice addition in a play that concerns a queer Jewish story. Written by Paula Vogel, Indecent tells the story of the writing, producing, success, and censoring of the play God of Vengeance by Sholem Asch. God of Vengeance was the first performance on Broadway to feature a kiss between two Jewish women, one the daughter of a brothel owner and the other an ex-prostitute, which gets the cast of God of Vengeance arrested after their first performance on Broadway. While Indecent is not a queer story itself, the way it choses to explore how people intake queer theater, and how intersectionality plays into that, makes it an interesting and worthwhile play to see.

Within Indecent there are two ways in which the characters view God of Vengeance, one view is with disdain, the other is a love for something that dares to show what some may see as obscene within a beautiful light. The romance between the two female leads in God of Vengeance is brought up many times within Indecent, with one particular scene being mentioned above the rest, this is what is referred to as the rain scene. The rain scene is mentioned over and over, and it is most often described as beautiful, one of which that shows the most wonderful love between two characters who just so happen to be women; one character even compares this scene to the balcony scene from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Within this, Indecent shows how queer media and theater can easily be normalized within the eyes of many, allowing some to see it simply as another love story. Meanwhile, there are others within the story that see the love between two women only as something wrong. Within the scene where Sholem Asch first shows God of Vengeance to others, he is met with a clear message: That the story of two Jewish women falling in love at a brothel is not what the world needed to see, especially of the Jewish population. This carries on into the opening night of God of Vengeance on Broadway, in which the one who reports the play to the police, which, in turn, gets the cast arrested, is himself a Jewish man. This man gets an entire monologue to explain his motives, about how he cannot understand why the Jewish author of the play would try to show something, seen by many at the time as obscene, as acceptable. Through God of Vengeance, Indecent shows how one’s ethnicity and religion affects how one views a form of media, especially queer theater.

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