Throwing the Nazis an Artistic Middle Finger: The Story of Lucy Schwob and Suzanne Malherbe

Review of Jeffery Jackson: The Artists Who Risked Their Lives Using Art to Defy the Nazis from Town Hall Seattle

Written by Teen Writer Bayla Cohen-Knott and edited by Teen Editor Lily Williamson

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There are a lot of things wrong with the world right now. I don’t even have to list them; just saying ‘wrong’ and ‘world’ makes my stomach clench and a multitude of problems rush to my head. When I get these feelings and thoughts I feel overwhelmed and anxious. I feel like I have no power and I’m jealous of those who’ve figured out their plan.

It is in these times of feeling lost in what to do that it’s useful to learn about people who found creative ways to support causes they found important. A lesser-known, but striking example is the story of Lucy Schwob and Suzanne Malherbe. Their story is told by author and historian Jeffrey H. Jackson in his new book Paper Bullets: Two Artists Who Risked Their Lives to Defy the Nazis. I was lucky to hear Jackson tell part of this story at an event hosted by Town Hall Seattle. His reading of a few select excerpts from his book and continued talk put me directly in the lives of Lucy and Suzanne and made me notably curious as to what was going on in their heads.

Lucy and Suzanne are better known by their artistic aliases Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore. They lived in Paris in the 1920s where they immersed themselves in the thriving arts scene. Lucy was a writer and Suzanne was an illustrator. Together, though, they produced hundreds of photographs, often with Lucy in the male persona of Claude Cahun, that confronted traditional ideas about gender and sexual identity. Photo courtesy of Town Hall Seattle

In 1937, Lucy and Suzanne moved to the island of Jersey to lead a more quiet life. That quiet life was disrupted, however, when WWII began. The Nazis saw Jersey as a strategic spot to hold and quickly took it over. Lucy and Suzanne now lived in occupied territory. This was dangerous for many reasons, but because of a few specifically. First, Lucy and Suzanne were in love. Secondly, Lucy had Jewish heritage. And thirdly, the two were communists. All three of these things made them targets of the Nazis, so they kept their lives secret, living very privately as “sisters.” These things could have scared them into submission, but instead, they motivated Lucy and Suzanne into action.

That action was passing notes. Well, not like in math class, more like to German soldiers. Lucy and Suzanne wrote hundreds of notes on little slips of paper that they then left on tables, under windshield wipers, and even in the pockets of soldiers themselves. The notes were meant to demoralize German troops. They signed the notes “The Soldier With No Name.” This gave the Nazis the idea that the notes were coming from the inside, a worrying notion. In case they were caught, they carried with them a powerful sedative to use to end their lives, instead of being killed by the Nazis. For four years Lucy and Suzanne left these notes for the soldiers and risked their lives every day to do so.

Their action was halted, however, when German police arrived on their doorstep. The Germans searched their home, uncovering incriminating evidence that they were, in fact, both “The Soldier With No Name.” Lucy and Suzanne were arrested, interrogated, put on trial, sent to prison, and sentenced to death.

Against the odds, they survived the war after nearly a year of suffering in prison. Jeffrey Jackson, the author of Paper Bullets, was able to piece together this complex history and show the reader a real look into the turmoil of wartime resistance. As Jackson said at the closing of his talk, Lucy and Suzanne show us how “small acts of protest have significance.” This story of their protest against the Nazis is one that is important to tell, especially in a time like ours where many people’s values are threatened by those in power. Learning about Lucy and Suzanne can show us how to draw on our own experiences to make change. They were motivated by their love for one another, their heritage, and their politics. They drew on their creativity as multidisciplinary artists and their experimentation with gender and sexual identity. And with that, they put together a personal rebellion to do their part in defeating the Nazis.

Lead photo credit: Jeffrey H. Jackson, photo courtesy of Town Hall Seattle

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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Twisted Flicks: Jet City Conquers the Pandemic

Review of Twisted Flicks: Santa Claus Conquers the Martians presented by Jet City Improv

Written by Teen Writer Kyle Gerstel and edited by Teen Editor Triona Suiter

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Laughter is contagious. Unfortunately, another (much less enjoyable) thing called COVID-19 is too, which has forced theaters across the country to shut down for the majority of 2020. Luckily, the theatermakers at Jet City Improv are masters at saying “yes, and” and have invented new, creative ways to share their art in quarantine. I had the opportunity to watch their most recent venture, Twisted Flicks: Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, and I’m happy to report that they are on their way to conquering this pandemic with laughter, the best medicine (note: TeenTix does not endorse laughter as a replacement for vaccines).

Since 1997, Jet City’s Twisted Flicks have entertained audiences by irreverently voicing new dialogue and sound effects for the scum de la scum of cinema. Now, they’re utilizing Twitch to perform with a similar format from their homes, screen-sharing the film on a live-streamed Zoom meeting and receiving audience suggestions via a virtual chatbox. The bridge between audience and performer is one of the things I cherish most about theater, so this replication of that interaction felt refreshing and rare in quarantine. I hope non-improv theaters borrow this device for their productions as well to inject some of the energy of live theater that is lost online.

As for the actual show, improv either whisks you away or it doesn’t—this, unfortunately, didn’t. The performers were sensationally silly and Art Koshi’s improvised score seamlessly blended in with the emotions of the scenes, but I wasn’t captivated by the show’s structure. In the post-show Q+A, improviser Daryl Ducharme commented, “We’re still figuring out virtual improv. It’s okay to experiment and even fail a little bit because that’s how improv became what it is now.” While I believe it was a worthwhile experiment, the long form’s confinement to planned visuals as well as the lack of audience participation for the bulk of the production made it less engaging online. Behind the scenes of Jet City Improv's Twisted Flicks: Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. Photo courtesy of Jet City Improv.

The scenes worked best when the actors were fully committed to their characters, impressively mimicking the emotions portrayed on-screen while supplying the story with much-needed emotional weight. Incorporating flourishes such as sound effects and pop culture references added splashes of entertainment value, but they only succeeded when held together by strong characters. There were quite a few moments that caused me to laugh aloud, from anti-humor one-liners such as “be there or come later and be there then” to inevitable quips about COVID, but the improvisers often didn’t build upon the situations for maximum comedic synergy, which made the piece no greater than the sum of its one-liners.

While some of the humor was lost in translation online, the charisma and communal values of Jet City weren’t. From the preshow to the Q+A, the cast made me feel more in touch with the local arts community than I have for months, effortlessly creating a collaborative environment despite the challenges of performing virtually. One actor even dressed in a Santa suit and performed the show as Santa performing the role of Santa in the film (“so meta,” as one improviser cheekily commented). However, this casualness was a double-edged sword, causing many performers to not act with a straight face, which snapped my sense of escapism and detracted from the jokes.

Despite the foundation not succeeding for me as an audience member, the show was a pleasant change of pace for quarantine entertainment. I look forward to seeing how Jet City improvisers continue to refine their craft and provide laughter to our community at this time when all we have is each other.

Check out Jet City Improv’s improvised romps from now till the end of time, on their website.

Lead photo credit: Screenshot from Jet City Improv's Twisted Flicks: Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. Photo courtesy of Jet City Improv.

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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An Auditory Exploration: The Canterville Ghost

Review of The Canterville Ghost presented by Book-It Repertory Theatre

Written by Teen Writer Nour Gajial and edited by Teen Editor Mila Borowski

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As we approach the holiday season, who doesn’t love getting cozy and watching a performance? Even during a time where we cannot enjoy an in-person play, Book-It Repertory Theatre continues to bring the arts community together through broadcasting Oscar Wilde’s Canterville Ghost, converting the play into an auditory performance. Although viewing this production online is not the same as viewing it live, I had the opportunity to enjoy it in the comfort of my own home, and given that it was pre-recorded, I had the flexibility to view it at my own time.

The Canterville Ghost is a short story by Oscar Wilde about the Otis family, who move to an English country house which they soon find out is haunted. The Otis family, who are from America, do not find the eeriness of their house intimidating. In fact, they decide not to mention it at all. We soon discover that in their basement lives a ghost with a troubled past. Although we do not know the name of the ghost, we know that he was the first owner of this country house and was looked down upon in his past life since he killed his wife. Every morning he leaves a bloodstain in the living room near the fireplace to prove his existence and to scare the family, but the Otis family is unphased. Every night, the ghost attempts to scare the family, but instead, the young Otis twins ridicule him and play tricks on him instead. Even Mr. and Ms. Otis offer him medicines and supplies to help him instead of reacting to his tricks. By this point, the ghost feels offended and decides to stop scaring the family. However, it soon becomes evident that the elder daughter of the Otis family, Virginia, has some fear building up around living in the haunted house. One day she comes across the ghost and he confides in her. They both share vulnerable stories and the ghost confesses that he wants to die officially and doesn’t want to continue his presence as a ghost. Virginia is destined to help the ghost and as she helps him confront death, she learns an important lesson that love is stronger than death.

One of the most exciting features about this performance is that it can only be viewed as an audiobook. Personally, I thought this fit perfectly with the theme of the Canterville Ghost since it is a fantasy story and it gave me an opportunity to create my own image for the performance. However, given that there were no visuals, the story was heavily dominated by the voice of the narrator, which created continuity between the scenes. I could tell that the audio was high quality since it was extremely clear and had many dimensions (background noise, character noise, and narrator voice). Often the narrator would lead the plot with the characters in the scene talking in the background. In this audiobook style, it was extremely helpful that I was able to distinguish each character by their unique voices and tones. Just by hearing their voices, I was able to track character development throughout the storyline which added depth to my understanding of the plot. Even though there were no formal transitions between scenes, I relied on the background sounds and pauses to establish a change in time in my head which strongly imitated a set change on a stage in real life. Although I have not listened to very many audiobooks, I had a great experience listening to the Canterville Ghost and am inspired to check out more auditory performances.

Overall, I was very satisfied with viewing this performance. Even though I didn’t see the production in person, or have visuals to aid my understanding, I had the freedom to create my own fantastical visuals in my mind which was equally enjoyable. The Canterville Ghost was humorous, exciting, and kept me on my toes even in the comfort of my own house. Although audiobooks are not the most conventional method of viewing a performance, Book-It Repertory Theatre did a very effective job in conveying the story while keeping the viewer entertained. During this time in quarantine, it can be difficult to view live performances, however, I had an awesome experience listening to this audiobook and encourage others to check it out!

This event is streaming from December 8th, 2020 through June 30th, 2021. For more information see here.

Lead Photo Credit: Photo courtesy of Book-It Repertory Theatre

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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Una manera única de celebrar: ¡Navidad!

Review of ¡Navidad! presented by Pacific MusicWorks

Written by Teen Writer Jaiden Borowski and edited by Teen Editor Lucia McLaren

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I began ¡Navidad!, Pacific MusicWorks’ most recent show, with a certain sense of anticipation. I have been desperate for the holiday spirit this year and was eager to experience holiday cheer in any form. Without the usual winter activities and just a light sprinkle of snow in Seattle, the only Christmas spirit that I have found this year has been through time-tired songs and classic movies. In ¡Navidad! I hoped to find a fresh way to celebrate the holiday season. The impressive vocals by Danielle Sampson and Tess Altiveros, combined with creative instruments, gave me the sense of newness I craved.

I was also pleasantly surprised by the tone of the music, which, with its Cuban, Mexican, Guatemalan, Bolivian, and Peruvian origins, was completely distinct from the style of classic European and Western Christmas music that I had anticipated. As a member of the Latinx community, it was wonderful to experience and learn more about music from Latin America and its intricacies. Although the words (translated to English through subtitles on the bottom of the screen) were centered around the usual religious stories of Jesus’s birth, the tone of the music was refreshingly original to me. As opposed to Western holiday songs, ¡Navidad! provided a new way to enjoy the season through music. Pacific MusicWorks' ¡Navidad!. Photo by Philip Tschopp.

While the instrumentalists wore matching masks, the two sopranos stood maskless, (six or more feet apart), and artfully conveyed the emotions of the songs through their voices and facial expressions. Sampson and Altiveros’ voices were at once powerfully distinguished from each other and beautifully combined. One did not have to understand the words to fully appreciate the impressive, clear, and strong notes of the singers. Distinct drums and various other percussion instruments, played by Antonio Gomez, added to the unique and layered sounds.

The intermission provided a short film shot during this past summer in 2020, with the piece Sonata Seconda for Violin and Continuo as its audio. With the simple scene of a group of friends coming together for a feast, it evoked in me, and I’m sure many of the other audience members, a certain sense of nostalgia for pre-COVID times. At once both a feast for the eyes and ears, the bright tableau contrasted with the lonely and darker times of 2020’s version of the holidays.

Tekla Cunningham, the piece’s co-artistic director, shared a thought during the intermission about the power of the audience which resonated deeply with me: “Concerts have always been a kind of sacred space, outside of the demands of day-to-day life. A shared moment when time can truly stand still… One in which you as a listener play an equal and essential part.” Even during quarantine, when in-person performances and audiences are impossible, shows like these can still bring us together in some manner. The enjoyment of these songs unifies us even beyond the screen, as art always has the potential to do. The novelty of ¡Navidad! specifically accomplished this because it felt like a new experience that the audience could discover together. Both a relaxing and powerful take on Christmas music, ¡Navidad! is sure to add cheer to your holiday season!

This event streamed online on December 12th. For more information see here.

Lead photo credit: Pacific MusicWorks' ¡Navidad!. Photo by Philip Tschopp.

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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Revisiting Wong Kar-wai’s Fallen Angels

Review of Fallen Angels

Written by Teen Writer Owen Chilcote and edited by Teen Editor Eleanor Cenname

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Few filmmakers are able to highlight the longings of modern people as stylishly as Wong Kar-wai.

The Chinese-born director has made a name for himself with an exceptionally consistent filmography. Ranging from the hyperactive and kaleidoscopic Chungking Express to the internationally renowned In the Mood For Love, each of his films manages to accomplish the astonishing balancing act of being both stylistically unique and emotionally resonant. However, of all of his exceptional work (most of which are playing in a glorious new 4K restoration at SIFF), no film is a sharper distillation of his signature hyper-kinetic melancholy than his 1995 masterpiece, Fallen Angels.

Fallen Angels was originally conceived as the third part of 1994’s Chungking Express—a movie divided into two distinct stories linked together primarily through motifs—and an observant viewer could find the traces of that film in this one. The fragmented structure, based upon two different relationships, is certainly familiar, and symbols of blond hair and cans of expired pineapple (which feature prominently in Chungking Express) reappear and gain new meaning in Fallen Angels. But the movie really works much better as a darker foil to Chungking Express than as a direct sequel. Brigitte Lin and Faye Wong in Chungking Express (1994).

Take, for example, the brooding contract killer and his “partner,” whose character dynamic—along with some John Woo-style shootout sequences—make up the first half of the movie. While the primary conflict in Chungking Express was the characters’ inability to express their feelings to each other, in Fallen Angels it is their unwillingness to allow themselves to be emotionally connected to another person. The film lets us know this fact almost immediately during the opening monologue: “We’ve been business partners for 155 weeks now. We’re sitting next to each other for the first time today. We seldom see each other because it is hard to control one's emotions. Partners should never get emotionally involved.”

Interior monologues like the one quoted above appear regularly throughout the film. Along with well-placed pop song selections, they take up the majority of the soundtrack, replacing conventional dialogue. And for good reason, as they act as the glue that holds this film together, connecting each of the deeply atmospheric vignettes into a whole.

There’s really very little tangible narrative structure to Fallen Angels. Even as someone who’s seen the movie multiple times, it’s hard to pin down a concrete plot. Each scene gives way to the next at such a quick pace that all that’s left are images and snatches of dialogue. It’s hard to make a great argument for the overall value of these structural choices (or lack of such), but this high a density of memorable moments is incredibly hard to find in any other film.

Fallen Angels is ultimately defined by its late-night neon-soaked atmosphere, not its story. Much of the credit for this atmosphere is owed to Wong’s go-to cinematographer, Christopher Doyle, who assembles a stunning collage of seductive pop-art imagery. Shot primarily at night using only extreme wide-angle lenses, the film's visuals are kinetic and propulsive, each shot more exciting than the last.

The movie is a barrage of seductive images: a motorcycle ride, a woman's face reflecting onto a jukebox, a ride in an ice cream truck, a digital video ode to a father, the best shot of someone eating noodles I have ever seen on film. Each image gives way to the next in a rapid-fire montage of gleeful improvisation. Every moment, however mundane, manages to be funny or moving or cool or even all of those at once.

This is why Fallen Angels works so well. Even though the movie is loose, goofy, and sometimes more ambitious than it needs to be, Wong’s ultra-romantic sensibilities and clever writing add a surprising amount of emotional depth and technical savvy to an exhilarating romance movie destined to be a future cult classic.

Lead Photo Credit: Wong Kar-wai's Fallen Angels (1995).

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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Being Kazakh, Watching Borat 2, and Being Kazakh While Watching Borat 2

Review of Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

Written by Teen Writer Isabelle Nurzhanov and edited by Teen Editor Anya Shukla

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From the Kazakh paper Karavan, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan is "... certainly not anti-Kazakh, anti-Romani or anti-Semitic… It is a cruelly anti-American movie.”

Pardon the melodrama, but Borat has always been a bit of a specter hanging over my head. Thankfully, most people my age have not seen the film, or at least don’t recall it if I say my ethnicity. For a certain section of movie-goers aged around 25 to 50, however, the Kazakhstani character Borat is usually what first comes to their minds when I answer some variation of, “What are you?”

With the sequel, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, being released this past October, I was curious to see how exactly the Borat films portrayed Kazakhstan, and what the years of “my wife” jokes were all about. The sequel to the 2006 film, a mockumentary based upon a fictional Kazakhstani reporter visiting America, follows the same titular character as he attempts to give his daughter as a diplomatic gift to Vice President Mike Pence.

The movie is…fine. It fulfills its purpose of satirizing the American culture and, more specifically, a particular strain of American patriotism. But the political satire moments are not surprising, nor do they ever seem to go further than the same kind of humor that has propped up SNL for the past four years. This film isn’t doing anything groundbreaking by documenting bigotry or complacency, even if they are being expressed in absurd ways. Yes, we shouldn’t let ourselves get desensitized to that absurdity, but it’s what we’ve been seeing for a while now. The escalating absurdity of COVID and politics is the set-up and punchline to joke about 2020. And with the election already over and bigger systemic problems still existing and causing harm, the satire here feels insubstantial. Is this it? Do we really need scenes of Borat dressing as President Trump to go to the Republican National Convention, or convincing anti-maskers at a rally to sing a song about the “Wuhan Flu”?

As good as the intentions are in exposing the ugly racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, and sexism (and tolerance of that discrimination) beneath the veneer of old-fashioned Americana, these issues seem obvious to anyone who is Jewish, nonwhite, female, LGBTQ+. Of course, it can be cathartic to see your experiences on screen, but it can also just be frustrating to have a movie be what validates your oppression as truthful. It’s exhausting to know that people will believe a movie over what minorities are actually telling them.

The comedy is a toss-up; since the film is so heavily reliant on uncomfortable scenarios, it’s truly dependent on whether you’re a fan of cringe comedy or not. I admittedly had to pause multiple times throughout the movie to catch a break. In addition, the emotional throughline of Borat and his daughter’s relationship falls flat, with the ridiculous and unscripted nature of the premise barring any kind of big character development between the two. Tulebaev Steet, in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Photo by Nurgissa Ussen on Unsplash.

Beyond the content of the film, I question the usage of Kazakhstan, specifically. The screenwriters could’ve easily used a fictional country. But then again, it is darkly humorous to see American’s perceptions of “strange foreigners” from a real, albeit obscure, country. Even funnier is the idea that some people may think the country portrayed does not exist at all. (Note: True story. After I had told someone I was from Kazakhstan, they informed me that they “thought Borat had made it up.”) Despite this, the usage of Cyrillic and vague Slavic accents does make it seem as though Russian culture is all there is and all there ever was in Kazakhstan, which is slightly worrying with the context of Russian imperialism in Central Asia and the knowledge that most Westerners are unaware of the region.

The character of Borat didn’t intend to portray the real-life experiences of being Kazakh, but he has become a part of those real-life experiences. Despite Cohen’s intention of using Kazakhstan as a commentary on American’s ignorance of foreign nations, Borat seems to be the first thing Americans mention to any Central Asian person they meet. From the other Central Asian folks I know, online and in my family, most of them have had Borat references and jokes directed towards them. Do the films’ benefits outweigh those jokes towards Kazakhs and Central Asians? In the age of asking for more representation in American film and television, is it okay that this is what we get? I can’t speak on any kinds of anti-Semitism or anti-Romani sentiment, but I don’t think Borat Subsequent Moviefilm is anti-Kazakh, and I largely agree with the quotation from Karavan above. Despite these concessions, I’m still left wondering: is this the best filmmakers, comedians, and celebrities can do?

Lead photo credit: Sascha Baron Cohen in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm. Amazon Studios/TNS

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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Exploring the Italian Identity Through Food and Film

Review of Bread, Love, and Cinema: Italian History Through Film and Food presented by SIFF

Written by Teen Writer Lily Parker and edited by Teen Editor Lily Williamson

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When someone says Italy, most people think of things like the Roman Empire, pizza, Catholicism, Mussolini, spaghetti, gelato, and pizza. Maybe I'm just hungry, but food is certainly a defining element of Italy. And so, argues Dr. Antonio Iannotta, is film, though that is an area fewer people consider. In his virtual SIFF class Bread, Love, and Cinema: Italian History Through Film and Food, Iannotta explores food scenes from nine Italian movies and connects them to the broad historical context in which they were created. Having visited Italy before, I have experience with Italian food and culture, but I have also seen exactly zero of these movies. With that said, looking at food through film was an eye-opening way to understand the Italian identity. I was especially impacted by the scenes from the films Bicycle Thieves, Rocco and His Brothers, and Big Night.

Ladri di biciclette, or Bicycle Thieves, is a 1948 movie that tells the story of Antonio (Lamberto Maggiorani), a father who embarks on a wild goose chase with his son Bruno to find his stolen bike and save his job. The scene Iannotta played from this movie follows the pair at a restaurant. The dichotomy between Bruno and a rich girl at the other table is especially striking, as she continues getting dish after dish while the boy eats fried bread and mozzarella (a cheap peasant dish made from leftovers). After WWII, Italy was wracked by divisions and debt, as well as an unstable government and weak law enforcement. This made security uncertain, with life easy for thieves and difficult for decent people like Antonio as well as filmmakers. Director Vittorio De Sica funded the film out of his friends' pockets, shooting only on location and using amateur actors (Maggiorani was a factory worker). Despite this, the film was a huge success worldwide, and it had special meaning to Italians who saw Antonio's struggles mirrored in their own lives. Its appeal to all audiences comes through the compelling relationship between father and son who, like bread and mozzarella, are much better together.

Made and set in the sixties, Rocco e i suoi fratelli (Rocco and his Brothers) follows a family from southern Italy that moves to newly industrialized Milan. The story of moving North for opportunity related to many Italians at that time, as the country quickly gained economic power in the North while the agrarian South remained almost as poor as it had been during WWII. The core of this movie, however, is family. The selected scene focuses on their mother, clearly the glue of the household, feeding her boys coffee and bread before shoving them out the door to find work. Despite poor food and little means, the family works together to make life better, revealing the deep ties and perseverance of the Italian spirit.

Big Night is actually a 1996 American film starring Tony Shalhoub and Stanley Tucci, but Iannotta included it because it accurately represents the experiences of Italian immigrants. The stars play two brothers, Primo and Secondo, who open a restaurant in New Jersey in the fifties. The problem? Americans have a very different idea of Italian food than Italians. One scene shows a customer who asks for spaghetti and is appalled when no meatballs come with it. This is because southern Italy was much poorer—meat was almost never available, and diets consisted mostly of breads and vegetables. Spaghetti and meatballs is an authentic Italian dish, but one that originated in America, where meat was much more commonly accessible. It is here Iannotta emphasizes the diversity in Italian food, both within Italy and throughout the world. From city to city you will find different dishes, but each is grounded in a strong Italian identity.

I have never truly looked at Italy from an Italian point of view, only from textbooks and tour guides. Iannotta’s depth of knowledge and passion for the subject area revealed a side to Italian culture I had not seen before. The flow of the class worked well for an online setting. Iannotta would briefly introduce the movie, play a clip, and then dissect it, allowing people to first draw their own conclusions before adding his take. Though the films weren't played in exact chronological order, it was still easy to grasp the general arch of the stories and how they fit with one another. Zoom’s chat and Q&A functions are no replacement for in-person relations between teacher and student, but Iannotta made the content accessible and answered every question posed with grace and depth. Through this class, my eyes were opened to the Italian identity, capturing perfectly how food is inexplicably tied to culture, and to family. One thing is for certain. I am going to buy a vat of gelato and watch every single one of those movies.

Bicycle Thieves (Ladri di biciclette) | 1948, dir. Vittorio De Sica

Poverty and Nobility (Miseria e nobiltà) | 1954, dir. Mario Mattoli

An American in Rome (Un americano a Roma) | 1954, dir. Steno

The Gold of Naples (L’oro di Napoli) | 1954, dir. Vittorio De Sica

Rocco and His Brothers (Rocco e i suoi fratelli) | 1960, dir. Luchino Visconti

The Big Feast (La grande abbuffata) | 1973, dir. Marco Ferreri

We All Loved Each Other So Much (C’eravamo tanto amati) | 1974, dir. Ettore Scola

Big Night | 1996, dir. Campbell Scott, Stanley Tucci

Facing Windows (La finestra di fronte) | 2003, dir. Ferzan ÖzpetekLead photo credit: Courtesy of SIFF

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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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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Written in Water: A Dance of Snakes and Ladders

Review of Written in Water by Ragamala Dance Company at Meany Center for the Performing Arts

Written by Teen Writer Linda Yan and edited by Teen Editor Anya Shukla

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Presented by the University of Washington’s Meany Center for the Performing Arts and performed by the internationally acclaimed Ragamala Dance Company, Written in Water is a stunning masterpiece for both the eyes and ears. Despite being only educated in Indian culture at the surface level, I was repeatedly touched by both the emotional and artistic qualities of the musicians and dancers.

Originally founded in 1992 in Minneapolis, the Ragamala Dance Company is today led by the mother-daughter duo Ranee and Aparna Ramaswamy, who also serve as the directors and choreographers of the company’s productions. Both first-generation Indian-American artists, the two, in their own words, are driven by their mission to create productions “influenced by their cultural hybridity” that “explore the myth and spirituality of their Indian heritage.”

As a Western viewer, I did not have a lot of context for the dance form, nor the cultural and historical events it was inspired by. Lacking this information, I likely missed many of the subtle cues and symbols hidden in this performance. However, as a self-proclaimed board game enthusiast, the first thing that caught my eye was the artwork projected on the auditorium floor, which reminded me of the classic board game snakes and ladders. As it turns out, Written in Water was inspired by the second-century Indian board game Paramapadham, also known as the original snakes and ladders. Deeply rooted in Hindu mythology, the grid of this game is representative of a person’s life. The snakes represent sins such as theft and anger while the ladders are representative of virtues including honesty and humility. The Paramapadham board projected during this performance was designed by Keshav Venkataraghavan, a cartoonist and illustrator for The Hindu newspaper. Written in Water performed by Ragamala Dance Company, Photo credit: Bruce Palmer

Written in Water is performed in the style of Bharatanatyam, an ancient Indian classical dance form. It follows the epic Sufi Poem, “The Conference of the Birds,” in which the birds of the world meet to determine who their sovereign leader will be; as well as the Hindu creation story, “The Churning of the Ocean of Milk,” where the world, along with all its evil and good, is created by the churning of the Ocean of Milk. In doing so, Written in Water explores the journey each of us undergoes throughout life as we search for the answers to our personal identity, as well as our connections to the spiritual world. As the dancers travel up and down the game board, they tell stories of individual encounters with good and evil throughout their own game of life. Through delicate hand gestures and facial expressions, the dancers convey complex emotions such as sorrow, joy, and hope as they each navigate through life’s struggles and delights. For instance, melancholy sections of the dance were slow and labored as the performers used their hands to accentuate acts of crying, defeat, and hopelessness. In contrast, the joyous movements were energetic and filled with fast-paced footwork. In the unique Bharatanatyam-dance style, the torsos of the dancers remain upright throughout the performance while their body movements are concentrated in the arms and legs.

The score for this performance was written by Amir ElSaffar and is performed by the company’s own South Indian musical ensemble, which consists of vocalists, as well as musicians playing the nattuvangam, santur, mridangam, violin, and trumpet. Unfortunately, the recording did not provide translated English captioning, so I could only guess at the meaning of lyrics, but they were sung and spoken in a poignant mix of Arabic, Tamil, and other languages. While this language barrier detracted a bit from my experience, the music was truly mesmerizing and successfully accentuated the emotions and energy of the performance.

What I found especially intriguing about it was that each dancer has bells secured around their ankles which tinkled every time they moved. In other words, the music came from within the dancers. Because of this artistic choice, part of the music featured in this performance is actually improvised based on the movements and actions of the dancers.

Written in Water is a beautiful piece that weaves music, visual art, movement, and history to create a unique show that explores South Indian culture and dance. If you, like me, were completely amazed by this incredible production and just wish that you could see it live, then you are in luck! Next year the Ragamala Dance company has plans to come to Seattle live to perform their newest work, Fires of Varanasi.

Lead photo credit: Written in Water performed by Ragamala Dance Company, photographed by Bruce Palmer

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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NEWCOMER: The Best Thing

Review of NEWCOMER at NWFF

Written by Teen Writer Lauren Rohde and edited by Teen Editor Triona Suiter

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The week before we officially went into lockdown, I had one last hurrah at a Saint Motel concert. Looking back on it, I can’t believe I was in an enclosed space with so many people as a pandemic loomed on the horizon. Nine months in, loud throbs of music, air-sharing with strangers, and general feelings of exuberance are nowhere to be found, at least not in person. Enter NEWCOMER: A Seattle Hip-Hop Mixtape: a virtual look at Seattle’s vibrant hip-hop scene.

In a tour around Seattle’s small venues, NEWCOMER guides the viewer through black-and-white footage of various hip-hop concerts. Artists rap, sing, DJ, and in the case of Chong the Nomad, play the harmonica while beatboxing. Each clip is both fully immersive and beautifully shot; if it weren’t for the lack of sweaty crowds in my room, I’d believe I was actually there. The footage feels like a concert clip on your phone, but better, and the black-and-white cinematography serves to both clearly contrast the artist and audience as well as evoke a feeling of nostalgia. The past nine months have felt like a lifetime, and indeed, the cinematography emphasizes the fact that these events happened in the past. The presence of crowds is a shocking reminder of our pre-pandemic memories, when seeing live music wasn’t dangerous. Seeing people be able to be together and share an artistic experience is sad, yes, but a thought-provoking time capsule into the lives we once lived. In this sense, NEWCOMER is a perfect film for our time in that it allows us to immerse ourselves in the one thing there is no good online alternative for: the live concert experience. Film still from NEWCOMER. Shot and edited by filmmaker Gary Campbell.

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Mustard Seeds: Writing Redemption, Not Excuses

Review of Mustard Seeds at Pork Filled Productions' Unleashed Festival

Written by Teen Writer Anabelle Dillard and edited by Teen Editor Lily Williamson

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In recent years, the worlds of film, theater, and television have seen a drastic increase in diversity, but with that diversity comes a tendency to follow the same tropes over and over again. Media with Black protagonists sometimes falls into Black pain or white savior narratives, media with LGBTQ+ protagonists often lands on the Bury Your Gays trope, and media with female protagonists often ends with vague declarations of girl power. Pork Filled Productions works to combat the stagnation of diverse media by providing a space for BIPOC voices in speculative genre fiction. Their most recent festival, Unleashed: New Pulp Stories for the 21st Century, featured staged readings from POC playwrights. The festival ended with Mustard Seeds, written by Michelle Tyrene Johnson and directed by Valerie Curtis-Newton, which follows two groups as their stories intertwine: four campers on the bank of the Missouri River and three spirits known as the Unborns. Over the course of a single night, the campers—Liz (Erika Fontana), Anna (Elisa Chavez), Ronnie (Vincent Orduña), and Mack (A. Fontana)—reveal personal truths and confront their own biases, while the Unborns—Taurus (Lauren DuPree), Gemini (Jose Ruffino), and Aries (Sarah Russell)—observe and comment on the behavior of the humans.

The Unborns are revealed to be the unborn children of the slaves who died while attempting to cross the Missouri River on the Underground Railroad. They each have a connection to different elements—Taurus with earth, Gemini with air, and Aries with fire—and learn important lessons from those elements: “listen,” “be patient,” and “burn what you think you know,” respectively. The Unborns also embody the elements they represent: Taurus is grounded and patient, Gemini is wise and spiritual, and Aries is passionate and impulsive. I found the way the Unborns evolved linguistically over the course of the play especially interesting. At first, they speak in mostly African-American Vernacular English and use antiquated vocabulary, hinting at the time period they came from, but as they spend more time listening to the campers, they adopt a more modern, academic dialect and use 21st-century slang. On the night the play takes place, under the light of the pink moon, the Unborns have a chance at life, and all they have to do is pick which of the campers they will be born to.

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Liminale: The Art of Transition and Resilience

Review of Liminale at Cornish College of the Arts

Written by Teen Writer Disha Cattamanchi and edited by Teen Editor Lucia McLaren

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Even after eight months of a pandemic and the constant quarantine and mask protocols, the reality of COVID-19 and its predicaments has yet to set in for many. We are in a suspended limbo where events around the world pass through us like the wind, all left in our rooms peering at our computer screens for work or school. It’s exhausting, to say the very least, and without the reprieve of art or performance to look forward to, it seems even more hopeless. This very feeling of entrapment is thoughtfully explored through Liminale, a Zoom-adapted dance performance at the Cornish College of Arts, which escapes the boundaries of our homes as it transforms living spaces into a blank canvas. Performed by students Margaux Gex, Ashley Glen, Vivian Larsen, Lola Mahaney, Hannah Owens, Alexandra Pelzer, Kennedy Polovich, Madeleine Selby, Kristin Skelley, and Audrey Wright of Alice Gosti’s Dance 257-Creative Process for Remote Spaces, it utilizes the Zoom platform, altering our perceptions of proper creative spaces into something new and interesting in this transitional period of COVID-19. Liminale by Alice Gosti. Photo credit: Sarah Haskell

Critically acclaimed and award-winning choreographer Alice Gosti sought to transform the boundaries of Zoom into new horizons by expanding the reach that dancers had in their own homes. As viewers, we experimented with Zoom’s multitude of features, switching back and forth between viewing the dancers through gallery or single speaker mode. It was interesting to play around with these features and to see where I wanted to focus my attention the most. I found that I liked the gallery more, as I could draw parallels on all the dancers and their synchronous movements all at once.

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Spontaneous Starts Off With a Bang and Ends With A Letdown

Review of Spontaneous

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

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Paramount Pictures’ Spontaneous (2020), directed by Brian Duffield, starts off with a bang. Mara Carlyle (Katherine Langford), a high school senior, is in class when the girl sitting in front of her explodes. Not like a bomb, but “like a balloon,” Mara explains later to her friend Tess McNulty (Hayley Law). Soon, more and more students begin exploding out of nowhere and the phenomenon is dubbed, after the high school where it occurred, “the Covington curse.”

Only a few days after the explosion, a boy named Dylan Hovemeyer (Charlie Plummer) suddenly confesses that he has a crush on Mara, and just as spontaneously as children began exploding, the movie takes a jarring shift from a blend of dark comedy, horror, and mystery into coming-of-age rom-com territory. This isn’t the first shift in genres, as the movie swings between horror movie, science fiction, action, and teen drama in a truly bizarre mashup that doesn’t work with the plot.

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It Can’t Happen Here Celebrates the Struggle

Review of It Can’t Happen Here at Berkeley Rep via ACT Theater

Written by Teen Writer Rosemary Sissel and edited by Teen Editor Eleanor Cenname

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Berkeley Rep's It Can't Happen Here is a celebration of hope amidst dark times. Fighting through the pandemic and revitalising an old form of storytelling, this radio show sends out a message to uplift our spirits.

Based on a 1935 novel written by Sinclair Lewis to warn about a possible American Hitler, this radio show centers around the authoritarian rise to power that we’re all very tired of by now. The first episode pelts listeners with nameless voices, all spouting different, but equally divisive, views of the (arguably) charismatic populist, Buzz Windrip. Revered by some, mocked by others, feared by the smartest, Windrip (played by David Kelly) cavorts into the Oval Office through a series of lies and mirage-like promises. But we are told by the creators of the show in a free pre-show introduction not to take these similarities to our current times too seriously, and I certainly don't.

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This November, Let’s Give Thanks to Art

Teen Editorial Staff November 2020 Editorial

Written by Teen Editorial Staff Members Eleanor Cenname and Mila Borowski

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We’ve made it to November, and we’ll need thirty more chicken scratches drawn on the wall before we can say we’ve made it to December. Between now and then, our calendar is full of activities—all of which will be happening in the confines of our own homes. If you, like us, need an escape from the same, familiar backdrop of wherever you Zoom from, we suggest going on some audio adventures.

This month, as we brace ourselves for the election, check out It Can't Happen Here, a satirical audio drama written in 1935 about a president promising to return the country to greatness; can it get any more relevant than that? Mustard Seeds, part of Pork Filled Production’s Unleashed Festival of pulp stories, explores the Underground Railroad through a staged reading. Explore a different underground phenomenon through Northwest Film Forum’s Newcomer, described as “A Seattle Hip-Hop Mixtape.” Newcomer packs in hundreds of local performances from Seattle’s vibrant hip-hop underground into 82 minutes.

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I Dream Of COVID-19: The Evolution of Theatre in the Age of Coronavirus

Review of COVID Dreams at 18th and Union

Written by Teen Writer Audrey Liepsna Gray and edited by Teen Editor Lucia McLaren

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On March 23, 2020, Governor Jay Inslee issued the first stay-at-home order for Washington state in response to COVID-19. Plans were canceled, events were rescheduled. Inslee tentatively scheduled the first shutdown to last at least two weeks, but now self-quarantine and social distancing have been going on for seven months with hardly any sign of stopping. Being alone with ourselves has made things bleak and dire, and for artists all across the country, COVID-19 has signaled a substantial shift in the way we direct our creative energy. Forced out of venues but fueled by the crises of our day, a brilliant example of the adaptability of art has been revealed by the quarantine. Out of the ashes of the on-hold artistic scenes across the country, new art has emerged with new formats made for safety and perfected for the current age. COVID Dreams, a new play from Radial Theater Project and 18th & Union Seattle, is a perfect example of the evolution art has gone through in the one-of-a-kind time we’re living in.

COVID Dreams, directed by Merri Ann Osborne and written by Jacqueline Ware, is a part of a new era of innovative theatre that’s emerged during quarantine. It combines the necessary precautionary measures now needed to produce art with the easy intimacy and emotion of live production, despite the lack of an in-person audience. The play follows the conversation and personal connection between two college students as they wait for their professor to arrive for class and find themselves the only ones there. During the wait, they engage in lively talks about their lives in the age of coronavirus and impromptu a cappella performances about the stresses that consume their days. I had the amazing privilege to be able to talk with Osborne and Ware about COVID Dreams and gain insight into the world of play production and inspiration in quarantine. I quickly realized it’s been very strange and very, very limited.

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The Dance Must Go On: Pacific Northwest Ballet Returns with Online Performances

Review of Pacific Northwest Ballet's Rep 1

Written by Teen Writer Carolyn Davis and edited by Teen Editor Lily Williamson

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Ballet is a raw expression of emotions. Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Rep 1 includes excerpts from Jewels, inspired by iconic choreographer George Balanchine’s trip to Van Cleef and Arpels, the elegant and romanticized story of Swan Lake, a story of forbidden love between a man and a black swan, and Mopey, a ballet I had never seen before that transcended the constraints of typical ballet, offering a contrast in performances. Anyone can appreciate Rep 1, which offers a complex mix of divergent emotions that keeps you on the edge of your seat and is enjoyable both for ballet newcomers and veterans.

What intrigues me about ballet is its artful conveyance of emotion and message through movement. Most of us think of it as a structured dance form because it is commonly formatted the same way, but costumes, movement, and music can vary, producing different emotions in the audience. In Jewels, dancers embodied different types of gems through costumes and acting. Emeralds had one dancer with a flowing dress, elegantly dancing to the music. Rubies was performed by two dancers, dancing with a fiery passion to quick-paced music. Diamonds features two main dancers who, along with background dancers, dance around the stage gleefully and innocently. In all three of these performances, dancers kept their weightlessness and intention, each provoking a specific emotion for the audience to enjoy.

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Bite-Size Shows from Rising Star Project’s RadioActive Musicals

Review of the Rising Star Project's RadioActive Musicals, presented by The 5th Avenue Theatre

Written by Teen Writer Frances Vonada and edited by Teen Editor Anya Shukla

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Theater is characterized by careful rehearsal, yet there is a reason for the saying “the show must go on”: surprises always crop up, requiring creative problem-solving. A week before rehearsals for The 5th Avenue Theatre’s Rising Star Project were supposed to start, Governor Jay Inslee issued the shelter in place order, requiring the students and mentors to adapt quickly. Their solution was to live-stream the musicals on Facebook.

This year, the musicals are inspired by a true story from KUOW’s RadioActive podcast. Each production explores a different issue in the modern world. Beyond Boundaries, with book and music by Lydia Hayes, utilizes a science fiction premise to create an insightful allegory about the significant link between one’s name and one’s identity. The Pen With Four Colors, with music by James McGough and Lucas Oktay and book by Morgan Gwertzman, is a testament to the healing power of art. However, I felt most strongly about the shows Bad Trip and Gut Feeling, which I have expanded on below.

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A Celebration of All Things Verse

Review of Spotlight Poetry livestreamed by the Hugo House

Written by Teen Writer Bayla Cohen-Knott and edited by Teen Editor Mila Borowski

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It just wasn’t fitting for such an event to end with the Zoom window closing. More fitting would have been a standing ovation before reflecting in a dim lobby while eating scones. Instead, I closed my laptop, left alone to contemplate the words of visiting poets Tess Taylor and Julia Guez, who joined the three hosts of The Poet Salon podcast, Gabrielle Bates, Luther Hughes, and Dujie Tahat. The event was described on the Hugo House website as “a celebration of all things verse.” It truly lived up to that.

Gabrielle Bates, who started, showed us the immersive side of verse. She admitted to us that she was quite nervous, as it was her first virtual reading. Often I assume that professional writers are comfortable with vulnerability, so I appreciated her candor. Bates’ openness set the stage for a genuine atmosphere where she delved into spooky fall feels. The first poem she read was entitled “How Judas Died.” Her voice softened and she won us over with her haunting imagery. She continued with “Conversation with Mary,” where she tells us of a nightmare in which she was impregnated by God. Her language was so certain, I was itching to have the lines in front of me to re-read and explore. During her reading of her poem “Pre-Elegy for Dad,” in response to the line “He is my mother,” the Zoom chat was flooded with awed remarks. She finished with “The Mentor.” My favorite line from this poem was “keeping language close to my mouth,” which evoked thoughts of a certain tug-of-war between speaking and voice. Her surreal images and thought-provoking lines threw me right into the deep end, where I would stay for the entire evening. Gabrielle Bates reading at Spotlight Poetry hosted by the Hugo House. Photo courtesy of Hugo House.

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