The Boxes We’re Kept In: Humanizing the Mythical Feminine

Written by TeenTix Writer Esha Potharaju

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Told for thousands of years, ancient mythology seems intransigent. How can one alter something so long standingly accepted? Enter Carolynne “Caro '' Wilcox and Hannah Votel: two playwrights who’ve built their careers on challenging rigid narratives. Together, they’ve combined forces to write and direct The Boxes We’re Kept In, which retells--and completely subverts--three Greek myths that each follow a woman who appears to succumb to a unique form of temptation.

There’s Persephone, who eats a pomegranate that traps her in the Underworld despite the fact that she was warned against it. Psyche, who was instructed by the god of love, her husband, to never look upon his face (spoiler: she did anyway). And finally, Pandora, who is said to have been the first woman on Earth. Gifted a box that she could never open, Pandora gives in to her curiosity, only to realize that she’s released every plague on humanity that one could imagine.

“The common thread in these three pieces is these women aren’t necessarily told what would happen if they did the thing. They just expect you to make the right choice,” said Wilcox.

Describing how these mythical women are typically vilified or infantilized for their choices, Votel said, “People have these preconceived notions of these characters.” Their goal with the play is to challenge such notions. Rather than painting a picture in black and white, Wilcox and Votel chose to represent them as complex, relatable characters who possess flaws, strengths, and desires.

Plays in this style aren’t new to Wilcox. Greek theater captivated her early in her life, which led to her decision to do something from Ancient Greece for her graduate school performance thesis. But there was one pitfall: “The thing that’s really annoying,” said Wilcox, ”is that so many of the Greek female characters are so passive and unresponsive. They’re often not the protagonists in their own stories.”

Wilcox knew that instead of following a preexisting Greek story, she had to write one of her own. The result was Loom, which casts the three Fates of Greek myth as its protagonists. Loom explores the agency of these female figures, a theme which is also prevalent in The Boxes We’re Kept In. “With a snap of the fingers,” said Wilcox, “a woman can be deemed as somebody who made a terrible choice that destroyed the entire world and all of its creations because she dared to open a box. Or she dared to follow an intriguing man down into the underworld. Or she dared to have the desire to look upon her husband’s face. These are all very simple choices that anybody could have made. And I think that these stories and these characters would be looked at in a very different light if they were men.”

In addition to subverting mythos of the female archetype, The Boxes We’re Kept In also challenges the notion of what theater can look like. The play is fully relayed in audio format. A singular actor plays a variety of roles through the usage of voice modulation technology. “Theater doesn’t have to look like a proscenium stage where the audience sits in the back and claps their hands and then leaves,” said Votel, who has been acting since the fourth grade. Their desire to overcome “this Eurocentric and able-bodied norm that we have right now” stems from their personal experiences as someone who is physically disabled. “Theater still exists--it’s valid and valued--even when it’s not big and everyone is doing high kicks and twirling around…Just because we don’t usually see [voice modulation], it’s not necessarily lesser than. Part of the goal is to put out a piece of theater that’s unlike something that some people have seen.”

Wilcox and Votel’s commitment to breaking the molds of myth and theater shines in this fresh new piece. The plights of Persephone, Psyche, and Pandora, while immortalized, have never before been told in this way. By pushing the boundaries of storytelling, the two playwrights demonstrate that imagination will allow them to dismantle established narratives and reshape them into meaningful, resonating tales.

The Boxes We’re Kept In is presented as part of the Strawberry Jam Director's Festival running June 8th-July 8th, 2023. With new titles every weekend, SJAM is dedicated to providing local directors with the opportunity to grow their craft through practice. Check out the full SJAM 2023 Line Up Here

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A Vivid Portrait of a Playwright

Review of How I Learned What I Learned at Seattle Rep

Written by Teen Writer Daphne Bunker and edited by Aamina Mughal

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The Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s production of August Wilson’s How I Learned What I Learned at the Seattle Rep is a striking one-man show from the moment the Rep’s spacious yet intimate space darkens. It’s then that performer Steven Anthony Jones, in the role of playwright and poet August Wilson himself, walks through the aisle under a spotlight and up the stairs to the stage. On the stage are clusters of grass and stones, a street light, a desk with a glass of water, two chairs, and a formation of brick wall set pieces. On the foremost wall, white serifed letters are projected, reading “How I Learned What I Learned (And How What I Learned Has Led Me To Places I’ve Wanted to Go. That I Have Sometimes Gone Unwillingly is the Crucible in Which Many a Work of Art Has Been Fired).”

Jones, as Wilson, finishes his ascent and stands beneath the words projected on the bricks. He stands still in the silence before he begins speaking, his voice sounding through the theater with the strength and conviction of a storyteller with something to say. From these first moments, How I Learned What I Learned makes it clear that it is not simply an extended monologue; it’s a back-and-forth between performer, script, and audience, in which Jones brings the intricacies of Wilson’s writing to the theater, and the audience responds with rapt attention. Steven Anthony Jones in August Wilson’s How I Learned What I Learned at Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Photo by Jenny Graham.

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Dance and Sing Toward Summer

Teen Editorial Staff May 2023 Editorial

Written by Teen Editorial Staff Members Esha Potharaju and Yoon Lee

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The month of May is the last month of spring—enjoy it before the hot waves of summer hit us with our exclusive curation of art to experience this month!

If you’re in the business of unfiltered, unscripted stories, then The Moth Mainstage is the May event you’re looking for! Watch five storytellers develop and shape their stories with the Moth’s directors.

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Following Fairy Tales

Review of Into the Woods at the 5th Avenue Theatre

Written by Andrea Romero during an Arts Criticism workshop at Glacier Middle School

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Into the Woods is a very famous musical, following the story of four very famous fairy tales, Cinderella, Rapunzel, Jack and the Beanstalk and Little Red Riding Hood. This play takes place in a forest most of the time.

This musical is about a baker and a wife who have always wanted to have a child of their own, when unexpectedly the witch from next door comes to them and tells them if they really want to have a child they have to find four special items, which are, a cape as red as blood, a cow as white as milk, hair as yellow as corn and lastly a slipper as pure as gold. From there it’s the baker’s and wife’s mission to find those missing items before the time limit or else they will never get their child.

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“Zach” is Hilarious, Retro, and Relevant

Written by Cordelia Janow, TeenTix Alumni

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90s teen sitcoms find a new home on the stage with “Zach” by Christian St. Croix at Artswest. The play follows Gina (Amber Walker) and PJ (Michael Nevárez) as they traverse their newfound popularity when Zach, a new student, selects them to be part of his clique. Gina is a fashionista, a secretly skilled carpenter, and one of the few black students in her school. PJ is goofy, a great dancer, and Latino. Zach, who is “American. Caucasian. Heterosexual. Capricorn,” creates many problems for Gina and PJ as they traverse through their primarily white high school. The two face average teenage problems such as dating, friendships, and popularity, along with blatant racism from those around them. This element is woven throughout familiar sitcom tropes, blending the two together to point out harmful stereotypes and real-world struggles that marginalized people face. Throughout the play, the two help each other to find themselves and navigate Zach’s oppressive domination of the school’s social scene.

Actors Amber Walker and Michael Nevárez shine in this production, playing over 10 characters throughout the play. The direction and minimal set/costume changes allowed for these actors to quickly jump from one character to the next, often switching back and forth between who is playing who. This was incredibly effective as each actor made strong distinctions between characters, bringing the world to life. This innovative choice also aided the comedy throughout, as the actors were able to switch their voices, personalities, and demeanors on a dime. The two played besties, lovers, enemies, and more, all with eminent chemistry. The play was fast-paced, clocking in at 75 minutes, keeping the audience thoroughly entertained. The 90s sitcom effect was achieved with laugh tracks, montage sequences, and (at times) goofy over-the-top exaggerations. I was laughing throughout the show during both moments of genuine comedy and so-bad-it’s-funny one-liners.

The more serious elements of the play point out the struggles that low-income, nonwhite, and queer teenagers face, marking something that is starkly left out of 90’s sitcoms: diversity. St. Croix brings Gina and PJ’s stories into the conversation and shows how they would really face the high school worlds portrayed in films. In doing this, “Zach” takes the tropes of well-known films and flips them on their head as commentary. Though this was generally effective, certain moments felt simplistic and left without nuance. In order to keep the lighthearted and comedic tone, the topics discussed were often right on the nose. Though this did serve to call out the biases that many people hold, I also felt that these portrayals were at times simplistic, dividing the world into two categories: Good Guys and Bad Guys, and leaving no room for those who are subtly or even unintentionally discriminatory. This choice was effective for capturing the feeling of a sitcom but made certain issues seem overly simple. However, the main goal of this play is achieved by bringing comedy, joy, and friendship to the stage in a new way, which can often be as powerful as tragic stories. The effervescence of “Zach” is what makes it special, and it brings an important representation of joy to the stage while still acknowledging real-world issues.

“Zach” is a wonderful story brought to life by two thoughtful actors and an innovative creative team. This play offers its spin on the world it inhabits, bringing back memories without missing a single trope, while also offering a new and previously overlooked perspective. Gina and PJ are lovable and they make the perfect team, hitting you with familiar sitcom bits from the start. If you are looking for a funny, joyful, and important story, “Zach” is the way to go!

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As It is in Taproot

Review of As It is in Heaven at Taproot Theatre Company

Written by Teen Writer Vada Chambers and edited by Yoon Lee

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Taproot Theater is a small theater staged sort of like a blackbox—there are three sides to the stage and a balcony to watch from above. This leads to a uniquely intimate theater experience and complicated, interesting movement from the actors who need to speak to all areas of the audience. As It is in Heaven, their performance for April, was no exception. As It is in Heaven, premiered in 2009, is as moving as it is witty. It follows the story of nine Shaker women navigating the troubles of their supposedly utopian life—led by three girls supposedly receiving messages from ethereal angels. Tradition battles faith, passion battles reality, and the women faithful must choose between rebellion and safety.

Taproot’s productions typically induce the same feeling as watching a Wes Anderson movie or an opera—sleepy, beautiful, and perfectly executed. All performances there are polished and smooth, but this piece in particular showed off how impressive creating such an immaculate performance really is. Every single movement is thought of, every word spoken perfectly. The show was full of intricate dancing, a dozen songs, and snappy dialogue that seemed precarious—one wrong phrase and everything would have unraveled. However, this amusing, intellectually challenging piece was handled beautifully, creating an impressive, immersive experience. Kristen Natalia, Jenny Vaughn Hall, Chloe Michele, Ashleigh Coe, and Justine Davis in As It is in Heaven at Taproot Theatre. Photo by Robert Wade.

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Reinvigorate Yourself This Spring

Teen Editorial Staff April 2023 Editorial

Written by Teen Editorial Staff Members Aamina Mughal and Audrey Gray

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Even though we’re on the tail ends of the UW cherry blossoms, the spirit of reinvigoration, renewal, and reinvention remains in the air in the Seattle arts scene. In April we traveled from Jet City Improv to the Henry Art Gallery quintessential spring atmospheres. We hope you’ve been taking advantage of the nice weather and visiting all of our amazing arts partners!

We first see this theme of reinvention at the Henry with Thick as Mud, an exhibit that explores how mud represents the relationship between humanity and geography. The multimedia showing explores the violence inflicted against the environment as well as the potential for preservation and reinvigoration. Similarly, Ikat at the Seattle Art Museum uses an immersive experience to remind us of the importance of the tangible in terms of fashion. SAM describes this as “A radical departure from today’s factory-made cloth, Ikat serves as a reminder of the power of slow fashion and the sacredness of clothing as art”.

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Outstanding Performance with the Main Elements of Theater

Review of Into the Woods at the 5th Avenue Theatre

Written by Yohan Chahal during an Arts Criticism workshop at Glacier Middle School

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Imagine if you went to a really, really fancy theater called the 5th avenue theater, and saw a live musical performed by outstanding teenagers. I left the theater, greatly impressed. The 5th avenue theater in Seattle is really fancy, and old. There were chandeliers too, the pattern designs were really beautiful. The musical was mind blowing! The set was big enough for them to move around a lot. The lights changed color depending on the character or how intense the situation was. The actors/actresses were outstanding and really talented for their age. Especially the solo singing, which went on for 5+ minutes straight, no breaks! Into the Woods is an amazing play and you should see it because it has dramatic plot-twists.

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Very Entertaining and Unique Play

Review of Into the Woods at the 5th Avenue Theatre

Written by Sharleen Cruz during an Arts Criticism workshop at Glacier Middle School

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Have you ever seen the play Into the Woods It is a very entertaining and unique play. It's a musical and fairytale play consisting a bit of romance , betrayal , suspense , action , and mystery. The play has dramatic plot twists and has a theme to it. It is hosted in the Fifth Avenue Theater in Seattle W.A. In my opinion I would say to go watch the play Into the Woods in the Fifth Avenue Theater and here are my reasons why.

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A Great Play Worth Watching

Review of Into the Woods at the 5th Avenue Theatre

Written by Sebastian Fajardo-Moreno during an Arts Criticism workshop at Glacier Middle School

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The play Into the Woods was a beautiful play there were many characters like The Baker, Like the Baker's Wife, Jack, Cinderella, Rapunzel, Cinderellas Mean sisters, Etc. But Into the Woods is a play about It's a Musical with action drama Characters. It has thoughts in it there's many different movies in one play. and imagine if there's a Witch that could put a horrible curse on you or a Cow as white as milk or hair as yellow as corn or A cape as red as blood and A slipper as pure as gold and Into the Woods is about community and helping one and another and I would recommend to watch it yes it’s very expensive but you only live once and that's why I think you should watch Into the Woods.

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Beautiful Story but Also Tragic

Review of Into the Woods at the 5th Avenue Theatre

Written by Jasmin Hernandez Romero during an Arts Criticism workshop at Glacier Middle School

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Would you believe me when I say that the play Into the Woods was the best play I ever saw. The play was amazing, the avenue theater was so fancy and the actors were amazing and everything in the play felt so realistic and the actors really played their character well. The plot was so lovely it went to love to loss. The characters were really funny.

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Shocked the Audience

Review of Into the Woods at the 5th Avenue Theatre

Written by Mohammed Ali during an Arts Criticism workshop at Glacier Middle School

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Into the Woods is a Musical about drama, love, and loss.

It's about a group of people: The baker, The baker's wife, Cinderella, Rapunzel, Jack and the beanstalk and more facing different challenges along the way.

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Shows A Lot of Emotions of the Characters

Review of Into the Woods at the 5th Avenue Theatre

Written by Isabel Ixcoy-Osorio during an Arts Criticism workshop at Glacier Middle School

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I think that into the wood is a great movie because it shows a lot of emotions of the characters that is I'm so surprising like when the big girl wanted to take write this hurt she started screaming like acting that she was getting so sad about it because it was hers and her grandma did with her and the person the baker's wife cheer cheated on him was so sad the banker never noticed because he never thought that of her wife he thought that he was so incredible. And she cheated with the prince. The prince cheated the princess. The prince never noticed that the princess. I think if the princess noticed she would be so sad. I think if somebody got to be in that place I think that it would be so sad and so sad because it's not good at cheating on another person and I noticed that people are so good at acting because the lights were not on them they didn't move it was like they were freezing.

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A Very Worthwhile Experience

Review of Into the Woods at the 5th Avenue Theatre

Written by Zoe Underland during an Arts Criticism workshop at Glacier Middle School

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Have you ever been to a musical where you felt like you were in the story? Well that’s what I felt like when I went to the 5th Avenue theater, and watched Into the Woods. The theater itself was a whole another story. It was very beautiful and fantastic. Also how they tied in each and every character into the same story was VERY creative too. The musical was amazing, the singing was beautiful, the dancing was awesome, and the lighting was full of emotion. You really should watch Into the Woods because the music is outstanding!

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A Musical with Spectacle

Review of Into the Woods at the 5th Avenue Theatre

Written by Owen Tran during an Arts Criticism workshop at Glacier Middle School

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Into the Woods is a Musical about drama, love, and loss.

It's about a group of people: The baker, The baker's wife, Cinderella, Rapunzel, Jack and the beanstalk and more facing different challenges along the way.

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Slaps You In the Face with Action

Review of Into the Woods at the 5th Avenue Theatre

Written by Milena Wiggen during an Arts Criticism workshop at Glacier Middle School

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Have you ever wondered what the Fifth Avenue Theatre looks like? Don't worry, I’ll tell you all about it. At first glance from the outside, the sign is very big with bold neon letters spelling F-I-F-T-H A-V-E-N-U-E T-H-E-A-T-R-E. Once you walk into the building on the first floor, there's a big lobby with stairs going up to the second floor in the middle splitting once it's a good 6ft in the air. When you walk on the top seats and look up, the ceiling is glorious. I mean it's like a dragon hanging from the ceiling, of course you can see it from the bottom floor as well but I think you can see more detail from the top. So I think you should go see Into the Woods because the melody is super catchy and sticks in your mind like glue.

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The Spectacle is Outstanding

Review of Into the Woods at the 5th Avenue Theatre

Written by Raimundo Romero de Jesus during an Arts Criticism workshop at Glacier Middle School

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Have you ever gone to a theater and watched Into the Woods? It's a big theater that is really beautiful.

It was big and had a lot of red chairs and people. When we arrived it was cold and the buildings were really cool. When we all walked in the theater it looked really cool when we all sat down the lights went on then they started the show with a song. The props are so cool and the sparkles coming out the ground then the background was so cool the way the led lights were changing to different colors. Another thing that I liked was when they were changing clothes really fast. Also the giant stomps are really loud and funny the way they were screaming and the giant was speaking really loud.

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A Beautiful Play with Great Morals and Characters

Review of Into the Woods at the 5th Avenue Theatre

Written by Luna Walker during an Arts Criticism workshop at Glacier Middle School

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I am reviewing Into the Woods which we saw as a school it is a musical by Stephen Sondheim is a mix of a bunch of classic fairytales mixing the morals plot and characters and intertwining their stories in the first act and then in the second act creating a completely new story with all of the characters. It also introduces new morals from the intertwined stories and uses the woods as a metaphor for change. My opinion is that Into the Woods is an amazing musical having seen the play many times before 5th avenues acting lived up to the musical's name. It has great actors and the set works really well with the transitioning between scenes and most importantly the morals of the story are amazing and still relevant despite this musical being written in 1986.

But the acting itself makes me say everyone should try to see the 5th avenue production of Into the Woods. Into the Woods is about Cinderella, a baker and his wife, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and his mother, and a witch’s wish. Cinderella wishes to go to the ball, the baker and his wife wish for a child, Little Red Riding Hood wishes to visit her granny, Jack and his mother wish for money, and the witch wishes for her youth and beauty back. All of these wishes take them IInto the Woods and all their stories intertwine, mostly held together by the baker and his wife, and also a mysterious old man who keeps appearing in all of their stories. And then in the second act there is a giant in the land which is when this becomes its own story not based on the plot of the fairytales at all the second act follows they’re journey attempting to defeat the giant and losing beloved ones along the way and how they react to said losses.

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A Mystical and Immersive Experience

Review of Into the Woods at the 5th Avenue Theatre

Written by Khaison Le during an Arts Criticism workshop at Glacier Middle School

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The play Into the Woods at the 5th Avenue theater, is a bewitching world that brings fairy tales to reality. It is a tale that follows a great cast of characters who find themselves in the woods attempting to carry out their wishes. With beautiful costumes and lighting the musical creates a mesmerizing world that takes the viewers into the story. The musical numbers and coordination add to the spectacle and create an immersive experience. The play follows the theme of consequences and the importance of taking responsibility for one's actions, while the characters are well developed and brought to life by talented performers.

Into the Woods follows the tale of characters who find themselves in the woods trying to carry out their wishes. Nonetheless, they discover that their actions have great consequences. The tale follows a baker and his wife as they pursue items to break a curse that prevents them from having a child. Along the path, they run into famous characters from many different classic fairy tales such as Cinderella, Jack from Jack and the Beanstalk and Little Red.

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All Over the Place

Review of Into the Woods at the 5th Avenue Theatre

Written by Shizuka Minamoto during an Arts Criticism workshop at Glacier Middle School

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Before the play began above the stage with the words "wish", The play then began. When the lights go out then you start seeing the narrator, later on the actors appear on stage and begin to bring the fairytale to life. More hanging lights with multiple colors, as well as props and colorful costumes appear. The narrator provides a brief hint to each character's storyline to give you a sense of excitement for what is about to come. Well, the issue is the narrator sounded like they were mumbling something loudly into the microphone and so did the first speaker way before the show began.

The plot and theme was telling us there are consequences to our actions. Even the smallest actions, it all has consequences. They show this by putting famously known fairy tales together into one (the tales that were mentioned are: Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, and Jack and the Beanstalk.) Each character has their own wishes but there are obstacles (and consequences) to get what they desire. At one point all the characters meet up and try to work together to defeat the giant to rescue the boy.

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