Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Student Blogs for Spring 2015

The tradition of posting my "Writing for Online Media" students' blogs continues.  Here they are for the new Spring semester.  It's always rewarding to see how they evolve over the next few months.

Twenty-Something Gentleman
A Blog for those with big ambitions and small budgets.

Apollo's Radio
Apollo's Radio is a humorous blog dedicated to pop music and men's fashion in NYC.

Finger Flickin Good Flicks
Finger Flickin Good Flicks reviews both old and new movies.

Boozed On A Budget
Boozed On A Budget is the saga of a gal trying to drink her way through NYC, all while on a dime.

The Green Mile
The Green Mile describes the lifestyle of a competitive middle distance runner

Timeless Tunes
Timeless Tunes reflects on hit music from the past that is considered to be "Ageless"

Abandoned to Fiction
Abandoned to Fiction is a blog dedicated to breathing new life into abandoned spaces through writing.

Powered By Estrogen
Powered By Estrogen offers insights into life as a modern young woman.

Media About Media
Media About Media is a blog that seeks to analyze the American news landscape.

On a Whim
On a Whim is a weekly online commentary of one hoyden's pursuit of random wildness.

The First Gear
The First Gear is a blog dedicated to helping beginner auto enthusiasts enter the car scene.

College Budget Eats
College Budget Eats is a weekly blog committed to helping college students to live on their own without a meal plan.

Shake it off, Shake it off.....Said Coach
The trials and tribulations of a senior trying to make it through one last off season training.

Euroligen
Euroligen is a blog that analyzes the news and highlights occurring in the major European soccer leagues.

RAMSVERYOWN
RAMSVERYOWN is a sports controversy blog that covers all the latest drama in worldwide sports

The Beer Garden
A common place for those with the appreciation and passion for a cold one; highlighting what's on tap in the beer industry.

The Sports Solver
Solving sports controversies, debates, and hypothetical scenarios, one analysis at a time.

If you see any posts that catch your eye, don't be shy -- leave a comment.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Return of Shakespeare Uncovered

I'm excited to see the return of the enlightening series Shakespeare Uncovered on PBS.  The first season was excellent and Season Two begins on Friday, January 30.  Here's a breakdown of what to expect:
Friday, January 30, 2015  
9 p.m. “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” with Hugh Bonneville
10 p.m. “King Lear” with Christopher Plummer

Friday, February 6, 2015 

9 p.m. “The Taming of the Shrew” with Morgan Freeman
10 p.m. “Othello” with David Harewood

Friday, February 13, 2015 

9 p.m. “Antony & Cleopatra” with Kim Cattrall
10 p.m. “Romeo and Juliet” with Joseph Fiennes

 Shakespeare Uncovered is made possible by the National Endowment for the Humanities.   Major funding is also provided by The Joseph & Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation, Dana and Virginia Randt, the LuEsther T. Mertz Charitable Trust, the Lillian Goldman Programming Endowment, The Polonsky Foundation, Rosalind P. Walter, Jody and John Arnhold, the Corinthian International Foundation, and PBS.

Tune in and let me know what you think.

-- 

Monday, January 26, 2015

Theater Worth Seeing

Broadway went dark on Monday night because of the snow storm, (I hate you, Winter), but the shows will go on.  Allow me to list some good theater productions for you to catch.


The Elephant Man
If you haven't seen Bradley Cooper in Bernard Pomerance's classic at the Booth Theater on Broadway, good luck finding a ticket before it closes on February 21 and moves to England for a run on the West End.


Finding Neverland
Produced by Harvey Weinstein, based on the motion picture about Peter Pan creator J.M. Barrie, this new musical stars Glee's Matthew Morrison, Kelsey Grammer, and Laura Michelle Kelly. Previews start on March 15 with opening night on April 15 at the Lunt-Fontanne Theater on Broadway.


Hand to God
This critically acclaimed play about a shy student whose hand puppet develops a personality of its own comes to Broadway's Booth Theater for previews on March 13.


The Heidi Chronicles
Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss plays the lead in Wendy Wasserstein's classic at the Music Box Theater. She's joined by Jason Biggs and Bryce Pinkham. Previews begin on February 23 and it officially opens on March 19.


Pretty Filthy
Subtitled "A New Musical About the Other Hollywood," this world premiere production by The Civilians, the Artists in Residence at the City University of New York, kicks off the 100th anniversary of the landmarked Harry De Jur Playhouse at Abrons Arts Center in Brooklyn.


Nevermore: The Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe
Here's a fantasy musical focusing on one of America's greatest writers. It's as imaginative as Poe's own tales. Tickets are available now at New World Stages.


The Woodsman
This play by James Ortiz about the Tin Woodsman from L. Frank Baum's Oz stories has earned such marvelous reviews, you should run to see it at 59E59 Theaters before it closes on February 22.


You Can't Take It With You
You have until February 22 to see the legendary James Earl Jones in the comedy classic by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman at the Longacre Theater on Broadway. It also stars Anna Chlumsky and many other fine performers.

Buy your tickets now for some live theater entertainment to make you forget the chill of winter.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Ladies of Verona

In the days of William Shakespeare, women were forbidden to perform in theater, so all the female roles were done by young boys. Yes, Juliet was played by a guy. Ophelia, Rosalind, Titania, Cleopatra, Desdemona, and Lady Macbeth were all portrayed by dudes. A lot has changed since the days of Elizabethan theater. It's only fair that now, in the 21st century, Red Monkey Theater has presented Two Gentlemen of Verona with an all-female cast.  The good news is that the gimmick is quickly forgotten thanks to the talents of the ladies on stage and the creative choices by director Tal Aviezer. This is what it must have been like in the glory days of the Globe Theatre, as audiences watched Shakespeare's troupe, Lord Chamberlain's Men, not distracted by the gender switches, but connected to the characters and caught up in the story.


The story has always been a light one about friendship and infidelity, not my favorite of the Bard's comedies, but this production succeeds in keeping my attention from scene to scene, drawing hearty laughs and other emotions from me, with quite a few surprises even though I knew the plot. I'm not exaggerating when I say that it truly is the best production of the play I've ever seen.

While everyone on the crew deserves praise, from the set designer, the choreographer, the costume designer, the lighting operator, the musical director, and all the rest, the success of the show rests squarely on the capable shoulders of these fine women who have brought each of these characters to life in such a fresh and engaging way.


The bond between young friends Valentine and Proteus, realistically portrayed by Holland Renton and Julie Thaxter-Gourlay, is captivating to behold.  Lust-at-first-sight threatens their relationship. More than just nailing the male mannerisms that their roles require, they also deliver the emotional goods.  Ms. Thaxter-Gourlay is especially wonderful, delivering a tour de force throughout, making me relate to her love-struck heart-breaker, who does foolish and hurtful acts in the name of passion. Sure, Proteus is a cad, a reprehensible lothario who would backstab his buddy Valentine and toss aside his girlfriend Julia (played marvelously by Rebekah Madebach) for the attention of another.  That "other" is Sylvia, a strong portrayal by Amelia Huckel-Bauer. Still, we cannot help but be enthralled by what Proteus is doing, sitting on the edge of our seats to witness what he will do next, thrilling at how far he will go, and loving the vulnerability that Thaxter-Gourlay brings to the character at the end.


There is no weak link in the cast, each actress bringing her all to the tale.  Kelly Kirby is magnificent as the bearded Duke and Jessica Rodwick is a delight as Thurio, bringing an exotic and hilarious vigor every second she has on stage. Sandra Ehrlich does a fine job as the comedic Launce, and Emily Gordon Seif is equally memorable in multiple roles, not the least of which is Crab the Dog!  Abby Wilde and Kimberley Lowden also have dual roles and bring their "A" game, making each distinct and notable. Zoey Rutherford is playful and endearing as Speed.


They all execute both the over-the-top moments, which draw easy and welcome laughs from the audience, and the more challenging subtle instants that nevertheless are powerful enough to embed themselves in my memory. One example is a dance scene in which Valentine says more with her silent glances at Sylvia than any of Shakespeare's poetic lines ever could.


The production is splendid and sublime, magnificent and magical. However many adjectives I could muster to describe my reaction to the play, it is all insufficient to truly capture how much fun this show is. You'll all have to go experience it for yourselves.  The Two Gentlemen of Verona closes on Sunday, so reserve your tickets now at RedMonkeyTheater.org.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Meet the New Supergirl

CBS has cast Melissa Benoist as the lead in its new Supergirl television series.

She's an extremely talented performer who kept my interest on Glee when the show was otherwise jumping the shark. She played the role of Marley Rose with a vulnerability that made her completely endearing.

It's that personality and charm that likely landed her the part. She's not just a pretty face. If she can bring some of that empathy and emotion to the character of Superman's cousin Kara, it's one step in the right direction for the latest DC Comic to make it to the screen, following the current success of Arrow and The Flash on the CW (and apparently, Supergirl will be in the same "universe" as those other superheroes, so there might be some crossover possibilities.)

Let's hope this doesn't turn into another Wonder Woman fiasco. I'm rooting for it to be a hit.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The 12 Monkeys TV Show Is Even Better Than the Movie

I consider Terry Gilliam's 12 Monkeys to be one of the most underrated movies of the 1990s.  It was one of my favorites, even better, in my humble opinion, than the great short French flick that inspired it, La Jetee. I was pleasantly surprised to see Syfy's TV series remake, which surpassed both.  (Beware, some spoilers ahead.)

Unlike the Gilliam film, which neatly kept the audience guessing until the end whether or not the lead character Cole was a time traveler or just insane, the television reboot is upfront about the time-hopping. From the opening scene, we see that Cole is sent back to change history, and we're presented with enough cool scenarios that set up the stakes and establish how paradoxes will be played out. Aaron Stanford may not be as engaging as Willis was when he was doubting his own sanity, but he's still fun to watch.

The first episode ends with a nice surprise as we meet the young institutionalized Goines, played in the movie by Brad Pitt, and here by Emily Hampshire. A character gender flip worked wonders for Starbuck in the reimagined Battlestar Galactica, and I have high anticipation of it being handled well here too.

In the movie, Madeleine Stowe was the wonderful female lead Kathryn Railly. Here we have Amanda Schull portraying Cassandra Railly. Despite the heavy-handed first-name change, evoking the tragic prophetess from Greek mythology, Schull does a fine job of making the audience relate to her.

I was especially impressed with Zeljko Ivanek as the elder Leland Goines.  (I think Christopher Plummer played Dr. Goines in the movie.) The good news with a time travel story is that we might see more of him one way or another, despite his seemingly permanent end at the climax of the pilot episode.

If you're looking for an entertaining science fiction adventure, give 12 Monkeys a chance.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Recommending Amazon's The Man in the High Castle

Amazon is riding high after its original series Transparent won a Golden Globe award. It has more shows in the pipeline. The most promising of its new pilots is The Man in the High Castle, based on Philip K. Dick's alternate history masterpiece. While there are some notable differences from the novel, it still does an admirable job with the premise -- set in the 1960s after the Axis powers have won World War II, America has been divided between the Japanese Empire, which rules the Western coast, and Nazi Germany, which controls the Eastern half (with a Neutral Zone splitting the two).

One of the producers is Ridley Scott, who gave us one of the best adaptations of a Philip K. Dick story, Blade Runner, based on Do Androids Dream of Electric Sleep?  I thought I caught a little origami homage to that classic flick in this high quality drama.


The show benefits from fine performances by Alexa Davalos, Luke Kleintank, Rupert Evans, Rufus Sewell, Joel de la Fuente, DJ Qualls, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Michael Rispoli, Conor Leslie, and all the rest.

The production values are excellent with subtle and not so subtle touches that depict a world that might have been. I hope this goes on to become a full series, because I'm eager to see where they go with the story, building upon the intriguing morsels they've laid out for us. The cliffhanger ending alone was a satisfying jolt that begs a continuation.