Lauren Horn: Dancing Her Way Through the Unanswerable

Interview with choreographer Lauren Horn, presented by CHOP SHOP Dance Festival

Written by Esha Potharaju during TeenTix’s Arts Journalism Intensive with CHOP SHOP Contemporary Dance Festival

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Illuminated by cool lights that switch from moonlight blue to pale green to an ethereal violet, Lauren Horn dances lithely. Her powerful figure, clothed in loose white pants and a flowing shirt, catches text and images projected onto the stage. She is dancing her own choreography, in a piece called Techn0Whore. Through this dance, she takes on the personality she assumes online and through social media to invoke the audience to question their own internet identities. To Horn, that’s what her work is about: Using performances to incite conversations about one’s identity and worth. Worth can mean a lot of things. The worth of an art form. The worth of a person. The worth of a relationship.

Some of the first things people tend to notice about Horn are her brilliant grin and clever words. When asked about her stage name, Lauren Horn // Subira Vs. Movement, she responds that it reflects much of her identity. Subira is her middle name, which means “patience is rewarded” in Swahili. Horn constantly challenges herself to be patient. “Vs. Movement” is a postfix communicating how she never cowers in the face of new things, but rather prefers to face them head-on. On the topic of identity, Horn has deep pride in her Blackness, a core piece of her work.

“I’m proud of the fact that my family is here,” she said. “I’m proud of the fact that I’m the sum of my family and the sum of my ancestors.”

Horn’s work is unique. A movement-and-text-based artist who describes herself as one-of-a-kind, she fuses written text, speaking, and dance into beautiful performances. Her choreographic process begins with an exploration. First, she comes up with a prompt, or some sort of question she wants to answer. Then, she answers organically—both through her words, and through movement. Talking while dancing, that is her craft. After going through multiple prompts, her body and mind are in the zone to create. This art form that she has created for herself is expressive and distinctive.

Professional dancers often face many external obstacles in their careers, but Horn’s biggest struggle is the “dream of dance.” In the professional dance industry, the worth of a dancer depends on their success.

“If you’re good enough, you can make it to a top dance company, perfect and happy. But what happens to everyone else who tried to get to the top? If I'm in a higher level dance company, that means my ideas are meaningful and others’ aren’t?”

Battling with the lie that is “what it means to be a dancer,” Horn is always asking herself how to make dance something for everyone, without some people’s ideas being deemed unworthy.

Horn spoke about how shifting as a dancer from in-person to virtual performances has affected her work. “Smaller,” she started. She doesn't like to feel this small. The shift made her realize what matters is not what her work is, but what her work makes her feel. @Me, her newest piece premiering in the CHOP SHOP 2021 festival on February 4, is immersive, meant to express these feelings of being trapped in a house in a pandemic with a computer as her only outlet.

Horn’s big-time goal is to create a sustainable career for herself. Not something determined by external standards like whether or not she’s a dancer from a prestigious company, but a career where she can set the standards herself. She seeks creative liberty, and wants to be compensated for her worth. And that’s what she’s all about. Always seeking to make choices that respect her worth.

The worth of artists is often dismissively decided on the surface level by viewers who will never glimpse the blood, sweat, and tears that went into the artist’s work. But Horn pushes back by determining her own worth. She’s unique for getting her viewers to reassess their own worth. Dancing her way through unanswerable concepts like worth and identity is what makes Horn an artist.

You can see Lauren Horn's work at CHOP SHOP Dance Festival’s online offering. The dance films are available on their website through March 31, 2021.

Lead Photo Credit: Lauren Horn performs her work FemmeFactional.mp4, photo Ernesto Galán.

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 Journalism Intensive with CHOP SHOP Dance Festival which was held January 10-31, 2021. The workshops was taught by Press Corps teaching artist Gabrielle Kazuko Nomura Gainor.

This workshop was generously sponsored by Case van Rij and the Glenn Kawasaki Foundation.

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Nicole von Arx Explains Her Creative Process During a Pandemic

Interview with choreographer Nicole von Arx presented by CHOP SHOP Dance Festival

Written by Kenna Peterson during TeenTix’s Arts Journalism Intensive with CHOP SHOP Contemporary Dance Festival

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A trio of dancers flow through breathtakingly graceful motions. They fly across the stage, sweeping their arms up above them and reveling in the fluidity of their movement. Audience members sit before the performers. Many of the viewers appear to be lost in awe at the artistry and communication between each dancer.

Audiences are essential to the performing arts. A piece might be thought-provoking for a viewer, or make them see a reflection of themselves in the work performed on stage. Dancers on stage paint a vivid image; it’s up to those seated under the dim light of a theater to interpret it.

Unfortunately, audiences no longer get to experience the thrill of live theater. COVID-19 has put a temporary halt on the world of live performing arts that dancers and audience members alike crave. Over the course of the past year, many artists have had to alter their creative process due to challenges, such as social distancing, putting the dance community on hold. Brooklyn-based choreographer Nicole von Arx, for example, is exploring ways of performing to reach a new audience in a new world; in many cases, that audience is a virtual one.

Her dance film titled Bright Night, premiering at Seattle’s virtual dance festival CHOP SHOP on February 4, embraces these challenges that quarantine has brought to both performers and audience members. As the pandemic rages on, theaters that many dancers call home and the hundreds of seats that fill them have been left dormant. Von Arx’s latest piece is inspired by the feeling of isolation the pandemic has brought. While filming Bright Night, she felt a lot of sadness, as did the dance community as a whole, not being able to perform live or connect with audiences in real-time.

“I didn’t want to put a facade on top of that feeling,” von Arx said. “I actually really wanted to embrace that feeling of desperation and loneliness.”

The title of the piece is a contradiction in itself; it’s about brightening the darkness we feel. According to von Arx, “... it’s important as artists to allow people to feel sad, as well as happy.”

Von Arx has a powerful relationship with her dancers who bring her visions to life and play a key role in her work. She often collaborates with dancers who are already familiar with her movement style and choreographic vocabulary, in order to communicate with them best.

“There’s a moment in the rehearsal process where I really have to step back and look at what I have to say,” she said. “You can give emotions and imagery to a dancer, but there’s a point where you have to step back.”

What she has to say with her choreography often has a lot to do with the audience.

Von Arx explains that her recent creative process has more to do with the audience ark, what the audience members feel, than the performance on stage. She believes a performance is relative to the viewer, and instead of just the performers on stage going on a journey, she wants to have the audience be involved on that journey as well.

In December 2020, she premiered her solo Nine. Von Arx had the opportunity to perform for a limited live audience, in which everyone was spread apart and wore masks to adhere to social distancing guidelines. Having not performed for months, she wanted so desperately to connect with the people seated before her who were also yearning for performance. For that reason, during the performance, she incorporated moments of collaboration with the small and intimate audience. She performed a free and easy-going monologue, in which she asked questions such as, “How are you?” and “What are you feeling?”, and gave them directions to stand up or turn around 360 degrees.

For von Arx, witnessing these moments of interaction, laughter, and joy after months of their absence was extremely compelling. In regards to her creative process and inspiration, she said, “I think that’s my journey and how I’m going to delve more and more into connecting with audiences and taking them into a journey because, why not?”

You can see more of von Arx’s work on her website.

Nicole von Arx's work is featured in CHOP SHOP Dance Festival’s online offering. The dance films are available on their website through March 31, 2021.

Lead Photo Credit: A still from Bright Night, choreography and performance by Nicole von Arx, videography by Dan Gross.

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 Journalism Intensive with CHOP SHOP Dance Festival which was held January 10-31, 2021. The workshops was taught by Press Corps teaching artist Gabrielle Kazuko Nomura Gainor.

This workshop was generously sponsored by Case van Rij and the Glenn Kawasaki Foundation.

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Nicole von Arx: Changing the Definition of What It Means to be an Audience Member

Interview with choreographer Nicole von Arx presented by CHOP SHOP Dance Festival

Written by Clara Kang-Crosby during TeenTix’s Arts Journalism Intensive with CHOP SHOP Contemporary Dance Festival

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In our world today, we eject our opinions onto others. We lack the capacity to merely listen. However, choreographer and artist Nicole von Arx does not want to continue with this norm. With her art, she hopes to connect with the audience and give viewers a space to raise questions, find answers for themselves, and be able to engage in ambiguous discussions with those around them.

During the pandemic, people have been isolated in their homes, not interacting with others as much as they used to. The global pandemic, social unrest, and changing economic situation has led people to question the world that we live in, and finding answers to those questions proves to be extremely difficult. But, von Arx offers audiences a unique and fulfilling experience through dance; one that is not typical to stumble upon. She provides an immersive experience where the audience is a part of the journey that the dancers are creating. Through this mutual relationship between the audience and von Arx’s choreography, emerges an area for one to unpack questions and attempt to find the answers we all need.

Open, grounded, and present. Inquisitive and real. Strong, passionate, with expressive brown eyes; von Arx is a storyteller, not only through dance, but also through words. Earlier this year, she was able to performoutdoor and socially distancedher solo Nine. There’s a part in the show where von Arx is not dancing, but instead asking the audience specific questions such as: “Hello. How are you?” and “How are you feeling right now?” In addition to her monologue, von Arx incorporates moments of interaction and has the audience stand up, do a 360 degree turn, or raise their hands.

She vividly remembers the audience laughing, engaging with the show, and talking to those around them.

“It was beautiful… To be on stage and witnessing that after months and months of not interacting with audiences and having them go through all of these emotions, was super powerful,” von Arx said. “I think that’s my journey and how I’m going to delve more and more into connecting with audiences and taking them into a journey.”

This was the moment von Arx knew she wanted to make art not only for herself and the dancers on stage, but for and with the help of the audience.

The revolutionary idea von Arx has reintroduced of allowing others to work ideas out for themselves starkly contrasts with how our society operates. Instead of viewers choking on a barrage of various opinions, von Arx instead allows one to breathe and think for themself.

“I want to raise questions that give answers,” von Arx said. “I’d rather give a chance for people to express themselves than try to tell them what to think.”

Von Arx stands out in the dance community. She is an artist who cares about the audience and whose purpose is to connect with them in order for the viewers, or rather participants, to grow individually.

A pivotal moment in von Arx’s creative journey was when she received an enlightening piece of advice. The advice? Listen to others. When the moment comes, when one feels like inserting a comment into another’s story, “That is the moment where you have to take a deep breath and let the person tell the whole story,” von Arx said. “Let them shine and go through that journey because they also need to let out those emotions and tell you that story. And it will feel different… you have to let people express themselves.”

Von Arx allows her audience to shine and have the space to disassemble and explore ideas, so that we can better understand ourselves and each other. And from there, move forward.

And now, von Arx is giving audiences a chance to utilize this priceless space to engage in her journey and explore ideas for themselves. On Thursday, February 4, CHOP SHOP is presenting the world premiere of von Arx’s dance film Bright Night.

“The moment we filmed it, I had a lot of sadness, and I think in dance, there is a lot of sadness right now for our community and not being able to perform and connect with audiences. I didn’t want to put a facade on top of that feeling, I actually wanted to embrace that feeling of desperation and loneliness.”

It’s a contradiction between the utter darkness of the night and how we can brighten up those moments. In von Arx’s short film, she allows us to reflect on those darker moments and validate them, so that we can begin to engage in conversation around our harder times.

See the CHOP SHOP premiere of von Arx’s short film Bright Night on Thursday, February 4 to embark on a journey, explore questions and answers, and to participate in von Arx’s connective craft.

You can see Nicole von Arx's work at CHOP SHOP Dance Festival’s online offering. The dance films are available on their website through March 31, 2021.

Lead Photo Credit: A still from Bright Night, choreography and performance by Nicole von Arx, videography by Dan Gross.

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 Journalism Intensive with CHOP SHOP Dance Festival which was held January 10-31, 2021. The workshops was taught by Press Corps teaching artist Gabrielle Kazuko Nomura Gainor.

This workshop was generously sponsored by Case van Rij and the Glenn Kawasaki Foundation.

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CHOP SHOP: From Studio, to Stage, to Screen

Feature on CHOP SHOP’s adaptation to COVID-19 and the future of dance

Written by Jack Haskins during TeenTix’s Arts Journalism Intensive with CHOP SHOP Contemporary Dance Festival

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Mere weeks after a successful CHOP SHOP Contemporary Dance Festival in February 2020, the world was fully enveloped by the maw of a 100-year pandemic.

When festival administration duo Lizzy Melton and Eva Stone began conceptualizing what next year’s performance might look like they were left wondering…

“How do we plan for this?”

What quickly became clear was that CHOP SHOP would rely on artists unlike ever before in the event’s 13-year history as a virtual approach—while uncharted territory—was a given.

“[The choreographers are] all artists that have already been presented at CHOP SHOP, and they’re artists that we each chose...not just for loving their work, but because we thought they would have a particularly interesting perspective creating dancework in this moment,” Melton said.

Rather than following their typical process and operating under an application period, Melton and Stone believed letting go of the reins was a more appropriate model for this season.

“We love these artists and we trust them so...we just got out of the way,” Melton remarked. “Artists are dealing with enough, they don’t need a couple of arts administrators telling them what to do.”

The virtual format also lent to surprisingly broader horizons that wouldn’t have occurred otherwise. For instance, at least four different states were represented in a Zoom Master Class hosted by choreographer Nicole von Arx last month, a scenario which would have never occurred any other year.

Accessibility is a recurring theme this year, and not only with respect to schedule accommodations or distance. All of the programming involved with CHOP SHOP 2021 is either free or “pay what you can.” Melton reported that such a model wouldn’t be possible if they were dealing with the typical challenges and costs associated with gathering in a physical space.

“I think we have to explore these opportunities because even after the pandemic, so much has to change...this moment is asking us to get more creative than we have been in the past, and I think we have to.”

When asked for her prediction on where the arts will fit into society in a post-pandemic world, Melton’s definitive appreciation for creators is more than apparent.

“If you’ve enjoyed [books, music, movies, TV, furniture, housing, food] and any of those things have made the pandemic easier for you or lifted your spirits, then you have relied on arts and culture to get through this,” Melton said. “I think we have to honor that.”

Following a year marked by civil strife, loss, and isolation Melton believes artists should serve as a primary inspiration as people move forward.

“Artists embody so many qualities that I think we need more of in the world—collaboration, recognizing each other for our unique gifts, willingness to be vulnerable with one another and share, the way artists build trust with each other to get their work done...I want to see arts and artists embedded into every aspect of society”

In the meantime, Stone and Melton will continue to serve their community the way they know best, and that’s through sharing the joys of dance.

"As the producer of CHOP SHOP, I am thrilled that despite a pandemic and a devastating blow to the dance community, we have kept this festival alive!” said Stone. “Creating a platform for these brilliant choreographers to be innovative during a very challenging time is the one true joy. With careful thought, collaboration with our artists, and good planning, we found a way to pivot our festival to an online format that supports these incredible artists and benefits them as well as our viewers."

You can see CHOP SHOP Dance Festival’s online offerings of dance films on their website through March 31, 2021.

Lead Photo Credit: Fausto Rivera and Michele Dooley of Spectrum Dance Theater perform Donald Byrd’s OCCURRENCE #8 REDUCED at CHOP SHOP 2020, photo by Bret Doss.

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 Journalism Intensive with CHOP SHOP Dance Festival which was held January 10-31, 2021. The workshops was taught by Press Corps teaching artist Gabrielle Kazuko Nomura Gainor.

This workshop was generously sponsored by Case van Rij and the Glenn Kawasaki Foundation.

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New Hope?

Teen Editorial Staff February 2021 Editorial

Written by Teen Editorial Staff Members Lily Williamson and Triona Suiter

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It’s finally February, and while 2021 has been more like 2020 than we’ve hoped, things may be starting to look up. Spring is coming, Washington is in Tier 1 of the vaccine rollout plan, and you can even see art in-person at museums now. With all that, we’ve decided to bring you art this month that is, in some sense, optimistic, including new and unconventional works from Seattle Shakespeare Company and On the Boards, and events in celebration of Black History Month.

This month, On the Boards continues their optimistic pandemic project, A Thousand Ways. The unconventional performance begins in February in the form of a phone call with a stranger—two members of an unseen audience following a set of directions for conversation. Though the dates are not yet set for parts two or three, On the Boards hopes to be able to gradually progress to in-person performances over the next several months, starting with small audiences and growing larger as restrictions begin to lift.

Unfortunately, that may still be a long way away. So in the meantime, why not check out Seattle Shakespeare Company’s modern retelling of Hamlet in the form of the multilingual podcast, house of sueños? Or maybe tune in on February 9, to Seattle Arts and Lectures to hear Pulitzer Prize winner Lawrence Wright talk about his new pandemic-inspired thriller novel, The End of October. In addition, you can see the Henry Art Gallery’s Set in Motion, which is presented on sixty public buses throughout the Seattle area.

Or, better yet, enjoy art about, by, and for Black people in honor of Black History Month. At The Frye, experience Anastacia-Reneé’s work addressing the struggles of her character, Alice Metropolis, as she fights her way through everything from white supremacy to cancer. And, visit the Northwest African American Museum to see Iconic Black Women: Ain’t I A Woman, a visual celebration of influential Black women through portraits.

Although COVID-19 is far from over, and we’re still not close to experiencing art normally again, we have reason to be optimistic. This month, be inspired, be hopeful, and see art!

Lead photo credit: Photo by Faris Mohammed for Unsplash.

The TeenTix Newsroom is a group of teen writers led by the Teen Editorial Staff. For each review, Newsroom writers work individually with a teen editor to polish their writing for publication. The Teen Editorial Staff is made up of 6 teens who curate the review portion of the TeenTix blog. More information about the Teen Editorial Staff can be found HERE.

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

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90.TEEN: Modern Sound in an Old-Fashioned Medium

Review of 90.TEEN presented by KEXP

Written by Teen Writer Lauren Rohde and edited by Teen Editor Eleanor Cenname

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For myself and many other teens, the radio was a staple of car drives with parents. From All Things Considered to classical music stations to pop radio, the sounds of our childhoods can be easily defined by disembodied voices and sounds playing from a car stereo system. A group of teen DJs have the opportunity to hone skills such as DJing, radio technology, and curation through 90.TEEN, KEXP’s youth-run radio show. The DJs, who are part of KEXP’s Youth DJs program, produce and program the show under the mentorship of KEXP’s DJs.

KEXP, whose offices are located in Seattle Center, specializes in alternative and indie music, usually rock. Since the station was founded by undergraduate students at the University of Washington, it seems fitting that students would once again have an opportunity to contribute to Seattle’s radio scene. The four young DJs of 90.TEEN, Vega Vi, Sofiiak, Sebastian Mendoza, and 9 Coleman-Harvey, have established interests in music production and broadcasting, and it’s clear to see their joy while they broadcast. Their excitement to be broadcasting, even in the wee hours of the morning, is evident in their voices. The January 16 episode features a selection of laid-back but funky beats, each song flowing into the other and occasionally interjected by the mellow voice of DJ 9. The songs put you in moods that range from chilled-out to wanting to get up and dance, a great backdrop for homework, relaxing on the couch, or an early morning commute. 90.TEEN DJ, 9 Coleman-Harvey. Photo by Tariqa Waters

As a form of media, radio is relatively antique. Radios became popular for general use in the 1920s, where the cheap cost of broadcasting provided the masses with entertainment. Throughout the 20th century, radio has been a mainstay for providing us with news, entertainment, and background noise to soundtrack our days. In the advent of the digital age and the rise of podcasts and streaming, most radio has been relegated to the car. 90.TEEN creates an opportunity to spark young peoples’ interest in broadcasting and radio, giving the broadcasters of the future the skills they need to produce high-quality broadcasts. In a way, KEXP is keeping radio alive: driving up interest in young people and increasing their involvement in broadcast not only gives them an outlet for self-expression, but also ensures that the medium will be a constant in our lives for generations to come. Left: DJ Sebastian. Photo by Diego Mendoza. Center: DJ Sofia K. Photo by Kennady Quille. Right: DJ Vega Vi. Photo by Niffer Calderwood.

The tastes of teens often inform pop culture, and the organizers of 90.TEEN know this. By giving youth an outlet to play music they enjoy, listeners gain a better understanding of what’s “hip with the kids” and teens see their interests represented. One thing all the teen DJs have in common is their passion for music. Each of them are multimedia artists, but much of their inspiration is driven by music. Some work in record shops, some are part of high school music groups, and others even make music themselves. The teens’ passion for music shines through in their broadcasts and in their biographies on the 90.TEEN page of the KEXP website; it is clear that they take pride in their art and work hard to produce a great show.

Through 90.TEEN, young people have the opportunity to breathe new life into an old-fashioned art form. Producing sounds that are distinctly modern, youth DJs hone their skills and produce a high-quality radio broadcast that is fully entertaining and inspiring. They are provided expert mentorship and taught skills needed to succeed in an area of high interest. And succeed they have: the broadcast is a blast to listen to, not only for the selection of music but also for the clear dedication of the DJs.

90.TEEN airs live on KEXP Saturday mornings from 6-7 AM. It is available to stream anytime on the KEXP website.

Lead Photo Credit: 90.TEEN, a youth show on KEXP

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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A New Way To Interface With History

Review of Behind the Seams: Fabulous Footwear presented by MOHAI

Written by Teen Writer Frances Vonada and edited by Teen Editor Lucia McLaren

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Fashion serves as an extraordinary mark of humanity because it is such a personal channel of expression, yet countless outside forces also influence it, including the political and social climate of the time. This is why Behind the Seams: Fabulous Footwear is a window into not only the fashion history of Seattle but also the lives of people who lived years ago.

Curator of Collections at the Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI), Clara Berg, presented this hour-long event, which is currently available for free on MOHAI’s YouTube channel. The event features 13 pairs of shoes designed or sold in Seattle, from the early 1900s to the present, sorted into categories such as “small details” or “embellishments”.

The artifacts themselves were stunning. One silver pair of shoes from the 1920s featured delicate silver and gold leather woven across the strap—a detail that could have only been hand-sewn. A pair of brown leather pumps with a narrow spike heel came straight off the runway of the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, with black leather contrast around the toe box, forming a sort of harness around the front of the wearer’s foot.

A pair of 1920s evening shoes made of pale pink silk include a delicate detail at the toe: two silver leather wings clasped together by a button. The outer sides of the heels mimic this element with two more dainty buttons. Berg points out that these details were small enough that they would likely not be noticed by people other than the owner. And yet, we are privy to these details, giving us a glimpse into this person’s life. Peach silk heels with silver decoration, sold by Turrell’s, ca. 1925-1929. MOHAI.

Berg says, “Artifacts are really powerful because they’re these physical objects that have outlived people… [They] can tell you a lot about what people had valued, and what people spend time with, what kinds of things they thought to save. But there’s also this mystical quality of artifacts. We can sort of imagine it: ‘Why did they love this pair of shoes?’, ‘What did they wear it to?’, ‘What kind of events did this pair of shoes get to see?’”

The event is a feast for the eyes, but the most memorable aspect is the context that surrounds each piece, especially the shoes in the “referential” category. Inspired by previous eras, the designers of these shoes incorporated the signature silhouettes or embellishments of a previous time, creating a new piece that is reminiscent of the original style.

This type of inspiration and reinvention is not limited to shoes, and you can trace parallels in design throughout fashion history. The bold shoulder pads of the 1980s exaggerate the strong uniform lines that were fashionable in the war-time of the 1940s. Similarly, platform shoes from the 1940s also inspired the platform shoes of the 1970s. The relationship between styles in different eras connects and unifies history tangibly and visibly, which is fundamentally different from an academic understanding of history.

When I asked Berg about what the markers of current fashion are, she touched on the pandemic, the topic of race, and climate change, all of which are major issues today. In light of climate change, designers are looking for sustainable options for clothes and textiles that are created with green farming practices. Designers are also focusing on creating clothes without exploiting workers, as well as making pieces durable enough to last several years to avoid contributing to the literal millions of tons of textile waste per year. This is a tall order in addition to the effort to lift up and support Black and Indigenous designers, who have been historically sidelined in the industry.

On a lighter note, the pandemic has influenced fashion by evolving comfortable clothing to be more stylish, lending some flare to outfits for around the house. I asked Berg what she believes style will be post-pandemic, and she was unsure. Will people rush out of their house dressed to the nines to celebrate? Or will comfortable clothes prevail?

Whatever the future holds, viewing fashion pieces like shoes in this new light provides a window to a previous era. By dressing in vintage styles, studying the artifacts, or simply admiring the aesthetics, these extant pieces allow us to interact with history at an emotional level normally inaccessible in a classroom. They connect us to past lives and unite us in the long continuum of human history.

Lead Photo Credit: Hand painted "You're Turning Violet, Violet" heels, artist Rachel J. E. Sprauge for Hourglass Footwear, 2013 MOHAI, Gift of Hourglass Footwear.

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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Ryan Murphy Proves, Once Again, How It Is Possible To Be Both Gay And Homophobic

Review of The Prom, a Netflix film

Written by Teen Writer Anna Martin and edited by Teen Editor Anya Shukla

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The Prom opens with a musical number sung by Meryl Streep and James Corden. Streep grins and sings with generous help from autotune, while Corden twirls around the screen, in a limp-wristed impression of a gay man. This is one of the best scenes in the movie—it only gets worse from here.

The Prom is based on the Tony-nominated musical of the same name. It follows four washed-up Broadway actors (two of whom are played by Streep and Corden) in a misguided attempt to restore their reputations by forcing themselves into the life of a teenage lesbian, Emma (Jo Ellen Pellman), whose prom was canceled after she tried to take her girlfriend (Ariana Debose) as her date.

The musical numbers are over the top and colorful, Murphy, at the very least, understands how to do a musical. That being said, he does lean too much into it at certain key points. “Campy and fun” is a weird energy to bring to a scene where Emma is being bullied for her sexuality. The goofy acting choices and bright colors may work for some of the more upbeat musical numbers, but for scenes trying to address the trauma of homophobia, it felt offensive and in bad taste. I was left once again wondering if Murphy has ever even met a lesbian and if he thinks this is a normal reaction to death threats.

I have no doubt Pellman is a fine actor, but her constant smiling is unnerving. Her introductory song is about being out as a lesbian in a small, intolerant town, but she never once breaks from a cheerful grin. The only emotions she shows throughout the whole movie are just happy or sad, making her performance feel stiff and robotic.

Her girlfriend showed more emotion in her practically nonexistent screen time than Pellman did the whole movie. Dubose’s performance is by far the best acting in this movie. The couple's chemistry was excellent, but the lack of screen time made every scene with the two girls together feel like dropping in on a much better romcom halfway through. In a movie that was 20 minutes too long, Murphy somehow didn’t spend enough time with the main couple.

Instead, that time is devoted to James Corden’s impression of a gay best friend from a ‘90s sitcom, and Meryl Streep’s aforementioned singing. It felt clueless at best and mocking at worst. Both of their performances were playing to the back row, making these characters seem campy and ridiculous in moments that were supposed to feel sincere.

Not only were Murphy’s edits from the original plot in bad taste, but they also made the writing worse. He cut most of the screentime from the gay couple and gave it to the Broadway actors, making the plot make less sense while also feeling insufferably long.

The only redeeming parts of this movie are Nicole Kidman and Andrew Rannells. If you are going to, watch The Prom for Rannells’ character following a group of teenagers around a mall, trying to sing the homophobia out of them, and Kidman’s character trying to Fosse dance the fear of being the victim of a hate crime out of a traumatized seventeen-year-old lesbian. Both of these instances work and are the best parts of this movie.

On the flip side, the worst part about all of the terrible casting and directing choices was that all the Broadway actor characters, and Emma to some extent, were based on real people, who played themselves in the Broadway show. Murphy took a show that was one of the first positive, lesbian-centered musicals and shifted the focus away from the main characters. Not only was this movie badly directed and acted, it grossly misunderstood its own source material, ruining everything that made it great.

Netflix, next time save us all the trouble and just film the musical.

Lead photo credit: Tracey Ullman, James Corden, Andrew Rannells, Jo Ellen Pellman, Ariana DeBose, Nico Greetham, Logan Riley, and Sofia Deler in The Prom (2020). Photo by MELINDA SUE GORDON/NETFLIX/MELINDA SUE GORDON/NETFLIX - © 2020 Netflix, Inc.

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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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.

So, I ask you: What is something you believe in? A movement you think is important? What are your passions or interests? And how can you use your personal experience and creativity to make a difference?

To learn more about Lucy Schwob and Suzanne Malherbe and hear from author Jeffrey Jackson you can watch the recorded video of his talk with Town Hall Seattle on their website media library. The event was put together in collaboration with Third Place Books, and Paper Bullets is available for purchase through their website and in stores.

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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The 2020 (Virtual) Teeny Awards: The Results!

Teen Tix Teeny Awards Website Banner

On Saturday, November 21, teens, parents, artists, and arts leaders tuned in for a YouTube viewing of the The 2020 (Virtual) Teeny Awards to celebrate the resilience and creativity of TeenTix’s 70+ Arts Partners from all corners of the region. This event marked TeenTix’s Sweet 16th Birthday and the 13th annual Teeny Awards Ceremony.

Although the audience couldn’t gather in the same space together, the excitement was palpable as attendees exclaimed and cheered in the comments section throughout the evening. Co-hosted by David Rue and Randy Ford, the dancer duo also known as Dandy, the ceremony featured musical performances from local playwright and theater superstar, Sara Porkalob, as well as teen folk artist, Mirabai Kukathas. Teens continued to take the spotlight with a reading from 2020 Youth Poet Laureate cohort member, Helena Goos, and a presentation by young artists of color from the Summer Mentorship Program in partnership with The Colorization Collective. TeenTix’s New Guard youth advisory council presented a steady stream of unique, Sweet 16-inspired awards: squishy fake cupcakes with a toy car, candle, and teen-made tag affixed to the top. Here are the results of The 2020 (Virtual) Teeny Awards:

TEENS RUN THE WORLD AWARD – for the work that best showcased the work of young artists or engaged topics related to youth: The Winner: Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play, Young Americans’ Theatre Company

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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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2021… A New Beginning?

Teen Editorial Staff January 2021 Editorial

Written by Teen Editorial Staff Members Anya Shukla and Eleanor Cenname

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For many of us, 2021 has been the light at the end of the tunnel as we begin to envision a pandemic-free future. We do not see a return to normal on the horizon — and maybe that is a good thing— but we can see the inklings of hope. As we continue to social distance and meet with each other over Zoom, we can let art fuel this desire for a better future.

Maybe you will find hope in the future leaders and art creators… if so, be sure to look into KEXP’s 90.Teen, a radio program created by Seattle teens. (For those interested in audio-based storytelling, be sure to check out our next TeenTix Arts Podcast!) Or you may want to learn about history’s arts activists through Jeffrey Jackson’s livestream, The Artists Who Risked Their Lives Using Art to Defy the Nazis, hosted by Town Hall Seattle.

MOHAI’s Fabulous Footwear program will guide you in an exploration of the history and stories of shoes, one garment that we might be wearing less of from behind our computer screens. And if, during this gloomy month, you would like to stay inside and watch a movie, Northwest Film Forum’s screening of Film About a Father Who will transport you through three decades during which filmmaker Lynne Sachs researched, filmed, and explored the life of her father. On the flip side, for those who doubt whether any of this is even real, Whim W'Him’s Season 11 of their Choreographic Shindig is based on the idea that we are all living in simulated reality.

While we continue to live in this new normal, let art be your guiding light, helping you maintain your equilibrium amidst the uncertainties of the pandemic. And hopefully, we will be back to seeing artwork in-person soon.

Lead photo credit: Photo by Edwin Hooper for Unsplash.

The TeenTix Newsroom is a group of teen writers led by the Teen Editorial Staff. For each review, Newsroom writers work individually with a teen editor to polish their writing for publication. The Teen Editorial Staff is made up of 6 teens who curate the review portion of the TeenTix blog. More information about the Teen Editorial Staff can be found HERE.

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

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14/48:HS: Adapting Youth Theater to a Modern Pandemic

Feature on 14/48:HS

Written by Teen Writer Audrey Liepsna Gray and edited by Teen Editor Eleanor Cenname

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Back in March, the COVID-19 pandemic introduced challenges that no one could have predicted just a few months earlier. For artistic communities nationwide, these hardships took shape in the accessibility of art; venues for creative exhibition and exploration closed, groups could no longer meet safely, and artists began to struggle under the challenges of just staying afloat. Organizations like 14/48:HS, a local community-oriented youth theatre group, were pushed into a virtual platform, their resources and activities stifled by quarantine. Even inspiration suffered under the toll of the pandemic. Days began to blend together into a surreal quarantine landscape, and the sudden depression of social distancing pushed many artists’ creativity into a background hum. Financial instability, social isolation, and the stress of self-sufficiency in a country that seemed to be collapsing were common issues among adults. But what about teens?

For teenagers all across the country, school and extracurriculars spelled out an escape from tumultuous relationships and home lives. Now, home life is all we know. Even school, something that used to be a welcome time for stimulation and friendships, is one hundred percent virtual and isolated. Most extracurriculars were postponed indefinitely or forced to move to an online format, including groups that promoted artistic expression through their activities. One such group is 14/48:HS. They’re dedicated to producing their student theater festival and being a supportive artistic community that fosters the creative growth of members in various artistic mediums. Their community is so strong, they’ve won the Teeny Award for Best Youth Engagement Program— twice. Since quarantine began, they’ve been trying to continue their group online. Finding solutions to the challenges that plague artistic communities during the pandemic hasn’t been easy. The inability to come back to a physical theater space has left a 2020 14/48:HS festival impossible, and they’ve struggled with engagement and creative work over a virtual medium. But 14/48:HS is overcoming these challenges, and they’re doing it in a fashion befitting their mission as a youth-led, directed, and produced organization.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, organizations have had to adapt to online meetings and employ creative problem-solving. 14/48:HS is a great example of how groups of young artists can use online tools at their disposal to explore their creativity and serve their community. I attended one of the 14/48:HS meetings and found an open, friendly community. Creative ideas seemed to bounce off every member and the atmosphere was relaxed. During the quarantine, they’ve been unable to meet in person and do many of the things that they normally do as a theater group, so they’ve changed up their mission and began focusing more on their community. Being a safe space to let members focus more on themselves and the social issues plaguing our community was important for them. However, they’re now beginning to get back to the artistic aspect of their organization and planning to use the internet, the one reliable tool at their disposal, for creating. Photo courtesy of 14/48:HS.

Social media may serve to be the most important tool in 14/48:HS’s shift back into theater during the pandemic. Community engagement has always been an important aspect of their organization, but during the quarantine, their artistic endeavors have suffered. A way to get back to creation whilst honoring these values may be through TikTok, an app with an overwhelmingly young user base. 14/48:HS plans on using the platform to create short musicals and skits, all recorded through the ideas of the members and from the safety of a home recording. The idea seems perfect for a modern theatrical response to a modern pandemic. The engaging, youthful peer-to-peer nature of 14/48:HS reveals just how well they’re making their group work even in these difficult times. They’re peers, and they’re a community; they know each other’s struggles, conveniences, and the trends of their generation. Because of this, they know how they can help each other through the dark tunnel of quarantine. Through this intrinsic connection, they’re able to more effectively understand their platform, their peers, and the world of virtual theater. Their use of other virtual sources than the more obvious video-chatting services shows their mindfulness, as it's an excellent way to combat the widespread phenomena known as Zoom fatigue.

These times may be rough and isolation may run rampant, but communities are still very much alive. The empathetic and engaging work of 14/48:HS proves this. Although creativity may take a backseat for many young artists in these times of strife and discord, nothing shows the strength of community and togetherness like knowing that that’s okay. Even a group as artistically oriented as 14/48:HS recognizes this. Their theater is made by and made for today’s youth. They use the internet mindfully to make a powerful point as they transition back to art. After all the fatigue and challenge of functioning solo in quarantine, the 14/48:HS community is a breath of fresh air and a sign of more creative youth theater to come in the future. It shows just how far a community can go towards making an event as universally stressful and isolating as a pandemic a little bit more bearable, and a little bit more creative. No other organization shows an intrinsic understanding of this better than the exemplary 14/48:HS.

More information about 14:48/HS can be found on their website.

Lead Photo Credit: Photo courtesy of 14/48:HS. Spring 2019 Festival.

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

ENTER BORAT MOVIE REVIEW 1 MCT

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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Sweet Six Teenys in Quarantine

Feature about the 2020 Virtual Teeny Awards

Written by Teen Writer Sumeya Block and edited by Teen Editor Mila Borowski

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In this day and age of 2020, any chance to dress up, socialize, and enjoy a party drink or two is a Zoom call worth attending. Full of glitter, ball gowns, fun crazy wigs, bright makeup, and a red-carpet, this annual celebration really is the heart of TeenTix, and a sweet ode to its beloved pass program.

Last year, I went to the TeenTix Gala and Teeny Awards as a representative of the Newsroom. The Teeny Awards celebrated Arts Partners, and the TeenTix Gala celebrated TeenTix’s supporters. At the gala there were lots of crowns, masks, and references to the TeenTix board members’ teenage selves, whose photos accompanied lively centerpieces on each table. The Teeny Gala was just a week after the Teeny Awards, and many of the arts organizations who were nominated for awards were now present at the gala. Through the connections formed at these events, communities grow and opportunities unfold. What is so special about the TeenTix Gala is that it provides a space to meet others who crave creativity and serves as the jumping off point for us to grow in our love for the arts together. This year, TeenTix has split up the two events and the TeenTix Gala will be held in April 2021, while the Teeny Awards were hosted this November.

When I joined TeenTix New Guard this past January, I was most excited to help plan the Teeny Awards. When the planning committee started brainstorming back in June, we realized that this year would be different from the 2019 awards show. This year, we had to harness the same community-building atmosphere of our annual event onto a virtual stage; no longer would we be mingling at the SIFF cinema, now it would be set in people’s living rooms. We included different aspects from The Teeny Awards and the TeenTix Gala and combined them into the 2020 Virtual Teeny Awards. Initially, everyone was split into breakout rooms, which functioned as proxies for the round tables at the previous gala. The workshops and awards show was like the Teeny Awards part of the evening. For me, what was perhaps the hardest to say goodbye to this year was the infamous TeenTix snack table. The double stuffed Oreos and unlimited access to Rachel’s Ginger Beer were certainly missed, but it was cool to enjoy the signature drink of this virtual evening: a Sweet Sixteeny (YUM!).

TeenTix is 16 years old this year, and just like with any other sweet 16th birthday, there comes change: the mood might be different, the decorations more sophisticated, and there may be some new faces along with the appearance of the ones we know and love. I, like many other New Guardians and pass holders, share a birth year with TeenTix, and any birthday during a pandemic is no doubt bittersweet. The connection that all 16 year olds share, including TeenTix, is that during this pandemic, it is a weird and exciting time to turn 16. We are all trying new things, and making our way in a COVID-19 world. During social distancing, intimate times with friends and family can feel lonesome when their warm faces are just pixels projected from your TV. It might feel like the only benefit to all this is getting to have all that cake for yourself. So when it came to planning this year’s virtual event, our goal was to avoid that empty feeling and make the awards feel more personal, just like a birthday party where you finally get to see your friends after a month away at summer camp.

Since August, the Teeny Awards committee, Teeny Awards intern Daisy, and the adult TeenTix staff have been brainstorming how to make this a COVID friendly yet fun show. This year has been a time filled with a lot of new things, new routines, and new hobbies, and likewise we approached this with a new mindset. This year, the Teeny Awards stretched out over two days instead of one. We also combined what was previously the New Guard’s Teen Arts and Opportunities Fair and the many workshops we hold throughout the year into the Teeny Awards through Community Day, the second day of events. The TeenTix website is currently housing a virtual gallery displaying the works from a new mentorship program, and shares about what each teen accomplished in the mentorships. On the first day, before the Teeny Awards show, everyone played games over Zoom, socializing while coloring a TeenTix coloring sheet (drawn by a fellow New Guardian!).

This year, the Teeny Awards show was streamed on YouTube and a couple of us teens got to see the awards announced in a Zoom watch party, so we could all celebrate the winners and drink our Sweet Sixteenys! During quarantine, there aren't always a lot of chances to meet new people, so it was refreshing to have that during the two days of the Teeny Awards. People dressed up, (I wore a tiara in true Sweet Sixteen fashion), and we were treated to performances by Mirabai Kukathas, Helena Goos, and many more. The dance group DANDY hosted the show, bringing their lively and fresh performances to our screens. Teens and Teaching Artist Martin Douglas during a Music as Activism workshop at Community Day

The following morning, at Community Day, we were in for a treat with a workshop hosted by Martin Douglas, from KEXP, where we learned about rap and the cultural significance of the Black communities it is grounded in. We learned from Martin about many rap songs that discuss issues of incarceration and police brutality against Black people, and we discussed the role of music within activism and how that is presented. In the afternoon, I attended an Art as Activism panel where we got to share our own experiences and learn from the panelists, all local artist/activists about their work. It was exciting to have discussions with such talented artists and to learn about their creative process and intentions with their art. Just like last year, I feel so inspired by my experiences from the Teeny Awards. My own creativity has been refueled, and I feel like—for the first time in a long long time—I actually had fun on a Zoom call! And an extra bonus: I found a new artist to obsess over. The Teeny Awards always inspire me to write more, to use my TeenTix Pass frequently, and to make friends and engage in more art.

BRB, logging off to follow Mirabai Kukathas on Instagram!

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

Bread

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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