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La Traviata

One of the best parts of New York City, however obvious, is the art scene, of which I haven’t even scraped the surface. I had always been told of New York City’s often-cliched though nonetheless legendary, ballets, operas, art shows, fashion shows, art museums, bad standup, and of course, theatre. Never turning down an opportunity for any of the above, I went with my Italian class to see another opera at the Met.  

Like last time, I dressed to impress, which came in the form of a solid gold sheath dress that touched the floor and has an open back. This time, we were able to eat some snacks before we went to the opera, which consisted of cheese, grapes, and cookies. Having just rewatched “Ratatouille” earlier in the week I couldn’t resist the urge to bite into a piece of cheese and a grape at the same time, like he does in the movie. I sat at the table where they were serving the food and kept on slipping my hand into the box of cookies. I stuffed my face with so many chocolate cookies that when people asked which ones to try, I could actually give them recommendations. 

Since we still had time to kill before the opera, I drank some hot chocolate outside of the Met with my friend Hannah, as we stared at the moon. Then, it was time for us to usher into the theater, which had a scrim covering the stage with a large dew-soaked flower covering it. 

The opera that we were going to go see is called “La Traviata,” otherwise known as: the fallen woman. For those of you who don’t know “La Traviata” is an opera about a man who falls in love with a prostitute. It therefore was the opera that they watch in “Pretty Woman,” which is both clever and on the nose. They tell us that she is going to die from the beginning of the opera, even though they don’t really need to pregame us for the death of the heroine. It’s an opera; we know that the woman is going to die. 

It all begins with a down-pouring of snow onto a bed in the middle of the stage. Violetta, the fallen woman, emerges from the bed, wearing a puffy-sleeved nightgown that looks the way snow angels are supposed to look. She wakes up but no one else in the room notices. The music starts to play, initially beginning with a singular violin and then dramatically swelling into an overwhelming and awe-inspiring overture. She is dragged out of the room, reaching out in front of her, being literally pulled from a world that she isn’t ready to leave. The people make up her bed, as if she was never really there in the first place, and the opera commences. 

The whole set looked the way that the live action “Beauty and the Beast” should have looked. The actress who played Violetta looked and sounded immaculate. My throat hurt just listening to her. The whole opera was slick and gorgeous, taking place in aristocratic 19th century France, so the characters filed onto the stage wearing colorful but potentially anachronistic costumes. Her bed never leaves the stage, a friendly reminder of how she makes her money and that she will soon be needing it as a death bed. There was a dance interlude with the gypsies, who looked like the woodland fairies from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The whole stage was bathed in a sensual orange glow as one of the dancers was tossed from one dancer’s arms to another, moving so lightly that they might as well have been tossing around a rag doll. 

Violetta staggers around stage for the entirety of the third act, flopping around against her bed, singing her heart out as she dies for several minutes, because why die quickly when you can die agonizingly slowly while singing about how you’re dying agonizingly slowly? When it comes time to finally die, she spins in her bed and collapses perfectly into her lover’s arms only for the scrim to drop down immediately and flash the audience the watered flower one last time before curtain call. 

As New York culture shuts down for a bit, one thing remains: women always die in operas. 

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel 

Theatre in the rough

A week or so ago, my friends Theo, Chiara, and Petra, invited me to go and see a play with them at an NYU theater. Naturally, I wouldn’t turn down an opportunity to see live theatre, so I only asked a few questions before saying yes. My initial plans for Saturday night were to eat an entire sleeve of Thin Mints alone in my dorm room while rabbit-holing on internet videos. Just a reminder that Girl Scouts of America support transgender youth and teach girls leadership values. I, therefore, show my love for them by eating their cookies by the box.

A picture of me with my weekend plans

I postponed my cookie plans so that my friends could take me into the city to see experimental, post-traumatic theatre about the Japanese economy. Before the play, my friends and I went to a restaurant called “Tipsy Shanghai,” which, as their awning boasts, has been around for 100 years. The Chinese food could perfectly be described using the word “yummy,” filling me up with hot pork dumplings and noodles. 

Afterwards, we walked over to the theater at NYU. During the first act, I went cross-eyed trying to keep my eyes open. There were several lulls, I assume to make it seem pensive, and there were rows of tennis balls on stage despite having nothing to do with tennis. The play was entirely in Japanese, with the exception of subtitles projected onto the wooden panels hanging over the stage. The play did not consist of actual characters, scenes, or dialogue but instead was just people speaking in Japanese while touching the copious amount of objects on stage. Apparently, the play was supposed to be about the decline of the Japanese economy in the 90s and its ramifications. I could figure that out by the fact that the whole beginning part was about a washing machine that wouldn’t work, but then a time machine showed up that nobody used and that had something to do with immigration. I am unsure as to how it ended but it did seem like a fair amount of philosophizing happened in the final act but I was already too far gone to pay any attention. 

The underbelly of New York City theatre rears its ugly head. The play used “the emperor’s new clothes” model, meaning that it wasn’t good but no one will admit it out of fear of looking dumb. However, my friends did seem to like it and went on about what they thought the best parts of it were. My friends thought that I would like it the best, and quite frankly so did I, so you can imagine our disappointment when the play was done. 

I don’t think that it has anything to do with my imagination, education, or upbringing, but there are some things that I will never be able to wrap my head around, like abstract art, micro-food, extreme haute couture, and now conceptual fringe theatre. To some people, it might seem like I only like mediocrity, because I like more conventional media, such as, Hamilton, John Mulaney, and Fleabag. The truth is though that your average junk means everything to the person who likes it, despite whatever you might say about the “artist’s intentions” or “the underlying themes of the broken capitalist system” or what have you.

I like things that more closely resemble the human condition and the things that do show it deserve my love. I would rather give my money to profiles in humanity than participation-trophy-theatre. I don’t want to be the type of person who tells someone that there is something wrong with them for not understanding the meaning of art when in reality there was no meaning or art in the first place, nor do I want to be that liberal arts college student who annoyingly thinks that they have everything figured out and that they are artistic and deep because they once wrote rhyming couplets about breast milk. I do however want to be a great artist, since art is the spice of life. 

So go out into the world so that you might make good art and buy a box of Girl Scout cookies!

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel

How should we feel about celebrities making political commentary?

With the super bowl and award season wrapped up, there is no shortage of examples of celebrities using their clout to further a social agenda. In recent years, we can observe, with greater frequency, celebrities using their platform to make political messages, and being met with mixed reactions. Ricky Gervais’s recent Golden Globe speech impaled many of the people in the audience by calling them out on their hypocrisy and discouraging them from getting political in their speeches. The Super Bowl sparked a debate that the whole country weighed in on about female sexuality in performance art and the Latin American themes of the evening. 

Oftentimes, I hear celebrities making statements that I agree with, while other times it’s hard to read their comments without rolling my eyes. Unfortunately, it would seem that I can’t have it both ways. I can’t wail in frustration when a famous person says something that I disagree with, but support them when they say something that I do agree with. 

Maybe it’s Lady Gaga calling out Mike Pence’s wife at a concert or Spike Lee’s Oscar acceptance speech. Maybe it’s Kristin Bell saying that she does not allow her kids to watch “Sleeping Beauty” because it teaches problematic lessons in consent or maybe it’s Joaquin Phoenix’s recent BAFTA acceptance speech in which he calls for more diversity in Hollywood. Maybe it’s the Hamilton cast calling out Mike Pence at their performance or T.I. forcing his daughter to go to the gynecologist, but celebrities’ opinions on social issues can be found everywhere.

Celebrities have been pulled even further into the sociopolitical landscape with the “me too” movement and on top of that, the Trump administration has become a very contentious time of vocal activism regardless of where you look. The modern-day concept of cancel culture does have celebrities thinking more before they speak, but the ubiquity of celebrity political commentary can be overwhelming. Since people can’t decide on what social input is appropriate and what isn’t, it leaves us with a gaping question: how should we feel about celebrities making political statements?

Like many people, I find it annoying when an out-of-touch celebrity attempts to discuss a serious issue that they know nothing about and I am definitely not alone in thinking that most famous people are in no position to lecture the public on moral issues. On the other hand, it feels unfair to demonize an entire group of people and to tell them that they can’t express their opinions, especially when it can lead to positive social change. Freedom of speech does mean freedom of speech for everyone and I am not comfortable with telling people that they shouldn’t speak up about issues that they care about.

So where does that leave us? I arrived at the conclusion that we shouldn’t look at it like it’s a binary question: should celebrities speak up or not? Instead, I think that it can exist on a spectrum, by gauging celebrity responses the same way that we gauge the opinions of people in our everyday lives.

If the person isn’t well-educated in general or is ill-informed about the topic that they are discussing, then the public as a whole should take what they say with a grain of salt. Sometimes the decision does get easier, like supporting Jon Stewart’s crusade to get health benefits for 9/11 first responders. Since Stewart’s whole career consisted of him being a political commentator, it seems only fair that he should get involved in the actual participation and not just the commenting on the process. But should Jimmy Kimmel be taken seriously when discussing a complex and nuanced topic such as health care? Since his insight on the issue came from personal experience then probably so, but otherwise we would have to question why we’re listening to him. 

Despite his lack of knowledge in the area, Tom Cruise stated in 2004 that psychology wasn’t a real science and that postpartum depression did not exist. He is a prime example of someone who did not receive what is typically considered a substantial education in America and did not know what he was talking about, but still made dangerous comments on serious mental health issues anyway.

While Gwynth Paltrow did attend high school, she did not graduate from college and is now making more of a name for herself as an influencer. She has received some controversy for her advocacy of vaginal rocks, vaginal steaming, and many other “alternative medicine” products that she sells. Her selling of these products shows an alarming disregard for legitimate medical practices and women’s health, but as a public figure she has a massive following, giving her a platform to make these assertions. 

The next question should be if they are articulating their point in a comprehensive way. If they’re spouting off opinions with little to no filter then it doesn’t feel appropriate to take their ideas too seriously. Robert De Niro opening up an acceptance speech with “Fuck Trump” is a sentiment that you might agree with, but does not result in his cause being taken seriously and serves to make Trump supporters feel like they are being unfairly vilified. Kanye West’s pro-Trump rants on SNL did not come across as very wise, leading to further backlash. 

If their opinion does not have the merits of a well-crafted argument to back it up, then it might work against whatever they’re trying to achieve. Taylor Swift’s introduction to politics came when she endorsed a congressman running for office in her district, something that actually has some relevance to her life. Her statement, which she posted via Instagram, was well-written and well-thought out, making it a respectable entry into politics and in the state in which she votes. 

Finally, I believe that we should take into account whether or not they’re being hypocritical. If so, then they deserve the backlash that they receive. Sean Penn claimed that people should have their guns taken away in order to quell ensuing gun violence and yet has starred in countless films glorifying gun violence. Leonardo DiCaprio telling people to take action against global warming in his Oscar speech and then boarding a private jet to get to an after party, is a peak example of “do as I say, not as I do” and might explain why people are tired of celebrities lecturing the public. Mark Ruffalo led protests down Wall Street and rallied against the one-percent, despite being in the one-percent himself. Natalie Portman wore a Dior dress that was embroidered with the names of female directors that she believes have been snubbed by Hollywood, despite the fact that her production company has only ever produced one film directed by a woman— and that woman was Natalie Portman. 

However, not all political commentary is bad. I would argue that Meryl Streep’s now-infamous take down of Trump is an example of political commentary done well. She had remained silent on social issues for most of her career, she is well-educated having attended Yale, she is at the top of her field, she articulated her point well, and she brought up a specific event that took place that bothered her. 

In a similar vein, Jane Fonda’s recent escapades for climate change is another example of protesting done well. She has famously been an activist her whole life, she is willing to get arrested for her cause on a regular basis, and she has stopped buying new clothes in an effort to protect the environment. 

Matt Damon, who attended but did not graduate from Harvard, has taken a stand for teacher’s rights, having a mother who is a teacher. Matt Damon has also helped millions of people in developing nations receive clean drinking water through the water.org and the water equity foundations, which he co-founded. 

Jennifer Lawrence has recently taken time out of filming to speak to young people across the country about the importance of getting involved politically. In her quest to elevate the political-consciousness of teenagers she has attacked both sides of the aisle. She did not receive any higher education, having dropped out at age 14, but she was well-spoken and did not make lofty claims on topics that she could not speak on with authority. 

You might disagree with some of the people listed above, but it is worth mentioning that when political commentary is done well, it can do so much good. In previous decades, celebrities helped get the U.S. government to tackle the AIDS crisis and to help end Appartheid. I believe that overall, the rule should be about whether or not they have skin in the game. If a famous person is practicing what they preach, knows what they’re talking about, and stands up for it in a cohesive way, then they are deserving of our attention.   

Recommending TV shows

Scene from “Arrested Development” pilot

Though I know that it’s not true, I feel like I have seen a touch of every TV show out there. Like many people, I feel as though I spend too much of my time watching TV, even though I never used to. Despite this, there are plenty of shows that I have not yet watched (I have not seen “Friends” for instance, nor do I intend to). 

I feel bombarded by all of the TV show options out there. Even good tv shows don’t feel that special, because there are so many well-made shows out there, that make it so that even great shows can’t stand out. But whenever I do see a show that I really like (or really loathe) you can count on me to have hard opinions on them.

Here is a list that I have compiled of current TV shows that are most likely in your Netflix queue. Glean from it what you will:

Criminally underrated: Bojack Horseman

“Bojack Horseman” is surprisingly gritty for an adult cartoon since it fleshes out the dark, depressed mind of a washed up celebrity from the 90s. The show starts off as a dark comedy but eventually evolves into a story about a guy (actually a horse) battling his inner demons. This Netflix original series takes place in a world that is half-human and half-animal. That might not appeal to you, but it does garner some praise for its accurate depiction of mental illness, something that Netflix previously failed at with its controversial, and irresponsibly negligent, show “13 Reasons Why.” The show has some zany characters but when it dives into more emotional terrain it does so with grace. Sometimes, it is a character going through a divorce or a character hitting rock bottom. Either way, it does show how soul-sucking these character’s lives can be in a way that can still be upbeat. 

Entirely overrated: Breaking Bad

I’m sorry but it’s true. I watched the pilot with the promise of being hooked from the start, and while the stakes were definitely high, I didn’t find it to be the thrill ride that others seemed to think it. I feel like one of the only reasons that people continued to watch this show was because each episode ended on a hook and they were curious to see where it lead, so they started the next episode. Otherwise, I wouldn’t feel very attached to the main character or his plights. I will however state that it had a great production value and the actors were great, it was just the overall story that I did not particularly enjoy. 

Guilty pleasure: Sex and the City/How to Get Away With Murder 

While it might be a bit of a cliche pick, “Sex and the City” redefined what could and couldn’t be considered guilty pleasure television. I watch the show, relate to the women, judge their outfits, agree with their commentary on male-female relationships and call it a day, but since calling “Sex and the City” my guilty pleasure is kind of a cop out, I’ve also added that “How To Get Away With Murder” is the best guilty-pleasure show I’ve seen in a while. Personally, I don’t really believe in guilty pleasures, I really only believe in pleasures; the shameless things that we like and the natural reasons why we like them. But since “guilty-pleasure” is a real concept, there are some pretty great shows out there that fit the profile. “How to Get Away With Murder” has all of the fixings of good guilty-pleasure TV: murder most foul, sex, courtroom drama, and unlikeable conniving characters. Watch and enjoy!

Go-to feel good: Arrested Development

If you enjoyed a family farce like “Modern Family” then you’ll love this show, since it is “Modern Family” but with the volume turned up. It’s a show about a wealthy, dysfunctional family of assholes, in which Jason Bateman’s character is the only sane one. When the patriarch of the family is arrested for his fraudulent business practices, Bateman’s character must run the family business as well as the family, and hilarity ensues. The storylines can get quite ridiculous, so be sure to suspend your disbelief. The show was cancelled after three seasons (a mark of its authenticity, in my opinion) only to be picked up by Netflix over a decade later. The show’s ability to wholeheartedly commit to a running joke is exceptional and part of what makes it so excellent. While it does have some subtle commentary on the American family that they heavy-handedly parody, this show does not need to be taken seriously and will induce some serious belly-laughs.

Good but not great: The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

“The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” is Netflix’s sleek and stylish revamp of “Sabrina the Teenage Witch.” The show does take its cues from other YA fictions out there: a teenager must live with her aunts after being orphaned in a tragic accident, learns to study magic, goes to school to study magic, and despite growing up in our human world, our character is special in her magical world for some reason (Harry Potter much). The show does have some good elements to it though. Kiernan Shipka was the perfect choice to play Sabrina Spellman, the action of the story keeps you engaged, this series’ version of magic is interesting since it blatantly involves satanism, and you’re always curious as to how the teenage heroine will balance her old world with her new world and all that entails. It could be a bit stronger and less derivative, but overall pretty entertaining. The series just entered its third season and is apparently still going strong. 

Show that is constantly recommended to you, but take it from me, isn’t really worth the watch:

Big Mouth

Since I love everything John Mulaney does, it breaks my heart to have to say that this show just isn’t cutting it. The show is an honest and introspective look into puberty, but unlike “The Wonder Years,” this show can get pretty gross, pretty fast. With it being animated, it gets away with its adult humor, but if it were live-action the show’s creators would be in some serious trouble for sexualizing children. Many of their running jokes long overstay their welcome, unlike “Arrested Development” where the running jokes are executed flawlessly, and often times it is difficult to understand the rules of the world that these characters live in. It has been renewed for three more seasons, but I would just skip it all together.

Dark and complicated: Russian Doll

“Russian Doll” is a Netflix original show in which a woman must relive her 36th birthday after continuously dying and restarting at her birthday party. It has a flawed character, who you might find unlikable, unless you’re like me and you like that sort of thing. Like many of the shows that I like, you get a glimpse into her emotional state and what it all means. Natasha Lyonne was born for this role and is a large part of what makes this show so good. The show is not super dramatic, but might fill you up with some existentialist dread. I have absolutely no idea how the ensemble of all-female writers intends to continue the series, but they do have plans in the works for a second season. 

Show that everybody needs to see a little bit of: The X-Files

It was recently brought back for a reboot, but the series was at its best when it first aired in the 90s. Mulder and Scully have been labeled the perfect duo, and quite rightfully so. The show even is credited with creating the “Scully Effect,” which is when women pursue careers in STEM after witnessing Agent Scully kill it on the X-Files. Being cool and spooky, it not only supplemented your lust for spectres and aliens, it also made it acceptable to have conspiracy theories against your government, and if it didn’t have all of that, it still would be an excellent piece of television.

Shows that I just want to recommend:

The West Wing (not current but still topically relevant). 

For those of you who don’t know, “The West Wing” is a fictional political show that depicts the lives of White House staffers working in the west wing and opened up the floodgates for every political show you know and love: “Veep,” “House of Cards,” and “Designated Survivor.” You can start this show and witness the characters discussing things that we are still being discussed today: statehood for Puerto Rico, abortion rights, gun control, the death penalty, prison reform, public school education, police brutality, college debt forgiveness, and a whole smattering of others. It might not be the escapism you’re looking for during an election cycle, but it still is a well-written and well-acted TV show for the ages. 

Fleabag

Fleabag pulled off the impossible task of garnering both critical acclaim and mainstream appeal.This might be because Phoebe Waller-Bridge adapted it from her one woman show, starred in it, wrote it, and created it. She also makes artistic choices such as constantly breaking the fourth wall, with reasoning behind it, which is something that critics ate up. Being a dark comedy, the show is both serious and light hearted, by swinging back and forth between the character’s grief and her amazing sense of humor. The show has mainstream popularity because it manages to never take itself too seriously, while being genuinely funny. The show also goes in depth with her sexual escapades but is not salacious just to be salacious.Overall, the show is an amazingly written look into a young woman’s life that may get to be too real at times. 

How do you feel about these shows? Be sure to discuss them in the comment section afterwards.

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel

Galentine’s Day

So, Valentine’s Day is shaping up to be my favorite holiday. As a board certified single girl, Valentine’s Day could very easily become a day in which I face my own inadequacy or a day of inescapable hell. Thankfully, it was neither. Last year, my Valentine’s Day consisted of me eating chocolate cake and taking a hot bubble bath and if anything, I did nothing but double down on that energy this year. 

“…packages tied up with strings. These are a few of my favorite things.”

The day started as any good day should: with me being productive. I woke up and went to my restorative yoga session for my psychology class, as I do every Friday. At the end of class, my professor said “Happy Valentine’s day! How’s everybody feeling?” to which I jokingly replied, “Single.” Everybody laughed and my professor assured me that Valentine’s Day is about having more than just a date for the day, but I was already way ahead of her. Anyone who has studied the teachings of the prophet Lizzo knows: 

True love ain’t something you can buy yourself/ true love finally happens when you’re by yourself/ so if you’re by yourself then go and buy yourself/ another round from the bottle on the higher shelf.” 

Words to live by. 

You see this place on Valentine’s Day. What are you going to do, not go in it?

It was in that spirit that I donned a ruby-red Valentine’s Day dress, white knee-high boots, a matching white leather jacket, and a white overcoat, and planned a perfect day for myself. I wanted to celebrate Galentine’s Day, where I hang out with, and subsequently spoil, my gal pals, most likely by taking them to my favorite coffee shop and bakery in town. Valentine’s Day is about love, and friendship is, of course, one of the best kinds of love. 

Unfortunately, my three friends had their own plans going on, (one was swamped with school work, one had class and one was in Los Angeles) so I exercised a different type of Valentine’s Day love: self love. I did everything all by myself.  As if more than an hour of yoga wasn’t productive enough, I went into town and registered to vote, making me eligible to cast my vote for the Democratic nominee in the upcoming New York primary. (Sleep tight America). 

Then, with that big dick energy fueling my every move, I pranced into Bronxville in my white go-go boots. For those of you who have never been to Bronxville, just know that it is a clean and cozy affluent nook of the north east. 

I started first at “Slave to the Grind,” the greatest coffee shop I have ever been to, and had their insanely divine chai tea. I worked my way down the street, dipping into every store and swiping my card in almost every one. I went into a bookstore, a shoe store, a candy store, a papyrus store, a florist shop, and a bakery. It did not take me long to buy $80 worth of jewelry for myself although if you’re looking for me to express any regret then you’ll be disappointed. 

A succulent for a gal pal

I pressed on to the florist across the street and bought some gifts for my funny galentines. I bought them miniature plants; the idea being flowers for significant others and plants for significant friends, and unlike a long-stemmed rose with baby breath, their potted Echeveria succulent will last for as long as they let them; not unlike our friendship. 

As a final Galentine’s Day treat for myself, I stopped by “Topps Bakery,” another one of my favorite Bronxville landmarks and bought myself some of their black and white cookies, cleverly dyed to be black and pink for Valentine’s Day. With my arms draped in shopping bags, I strutted into campus, feeling like the epitome of the phrase “living my best life.” I dropped my stuff off at my dorm and began watching “To all the Boys: p.s. I love you,” since I was obsessed with the original. The sequel had all the things I loved about the original like it’s aerial shots and quirky soundtracks, as well as of course, the escapism of a wholesome teen romance. 

That night, my friend Anahat and I attended a party on campus that was so Sarah Lawrence that it was actually a fundraiser for Planned Parenthood. According to them sex/valentine’s day= planned parenthood. Since it was all going to a good cause, we both paid our fair share and partied hard. The whole place was so jammed packed that it felt like a mosh pit. We were all being pressed up against each other’s bodies and being jostled around so much that it honestly is the closest I have ever come to sex on Valentine’s Day. Afterwards, Anahat and I kicked it with some others of New York’s finest college students. Girls from Barnard, Columbia, and Pratt had come for the party and stuck around with us afterwards. 

These didn’t make it longer than a day

Overall, I loved every part of my Valentine’s Day and although it put a dent in my bank account, my shopping spree felt amazing. There’s something about having disposable income and putting it towards whatever you want that just feels right, like when you open up your closet and put together a flawless outfit just for yourself. It’ll give you some newfound zeal. 

But Valentine’s Day did get me thinking about why I don’t treat myself like this on all the other 364 days of the year. Granted, I’d probably be broke if I shopped til I dropped on your average day, but going into town and buying myself some immaculate chai tea? That seems doable and I won’t have to break the bank trying.

Love always,

The Tragic Queen

Double, double toil and trouble

I just saw an all female “Macbeth” in the city at Hunter College, and can honestly say that a female Macbeth being a distressed human disaster is the most relatable thing I will probably ever see. 

This version of Macbeth, cleverly titled “Mac Beth,” features an all-female cast of school girls reenacting the bard’s play throughout their daily lives. I didn’t know that I needed to see Lady Macbeth throw a bunch of tampons into the air whilst denouncing her femininity, but that was exactly what I needed to see. Water poured down onto the stage as they brewed their potion, getting everybody soaking wet, and I was having fun living vicariously through them as they galavanted in the pouring rain. Overall, the whole play had me wanting to brew some potions, cast some spells, start a few wars, and topple the patriarchy. In other words, it was a quality theatre experience.    

The play had been adapted and directed by award-winning playwright and director Erica Schmidt. In Schmidt’s version, the Scottish play has been abridged, excising all fight scenes except one; a bold move seeing as how Macbeth has a reputation for having the highest death count. Despite using the original English, this version flips the script in many ways. Although it is established that no man of woman born can harm Macbeth, and that MacDuff and MacDuff alone fit this description, it ends up being the weird sisters who slice Macbeth up, drown her in a pond, behead her, and then take a selfie with her severed head. The reason for this change was because the school girls in this production were well aware of the fact that they were just acting out the play Macbeth and not legitimately living it. It wasn’t until the end, when the weird sisters took it too far, that they murdered someone for real.

The stage is set

Oddly enough, this sociopathic look at reckless teenage girls, didn’t feel too far-fetched. In recent years, there has been a growing trope in YA films where teenage girls are secretly murderous and their actions are framed as being necessary for surviving adolescence and, above all, high school. Their violent actions come about due to their pent up anger towards a patriarchal society and how they’re not allowed to express their feelings in a constructive way. 

While this theme of conniving teenage girls could date back to “The Crucible,” it also can be observed more recently in “Jawbreaker,” “Heathers,” “The Craft,” and “Jennifer’s Body.” These films fit the stereotype that men are violent just for the sake of being violent, whereas women are more methodical with their cruelty. “Macbeth,” with its lofty assertions about masculinity makes it the perfect choice for an all-female cast to deconstruct attitudes towards women. I wholeheartedly approve of aggressively feminine works of art.  

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel

Cast photo

The Painted Canvas

Over winter break I took part in a painting class in my hometown Valdosta, entitled “The Painted Canvas.” It was being held at our local art gallery and my former place of employment “The Turner Center.” I love that place and attended an art show there the week prior. The art show was stellar, with several local artists showcasing their works for the town to see. 

The painted canvas

The painting class was held in a vacant building across the street. Easels were laid out in a row up front, cups of water were placed in front of us for different functions, and hair dryers were at the ready in case we needed to dry a canvas. I was the youngest by far, since I will not be eligible for retirement anytime soon, and learned some valuable lessons that I would otherwise not have learned in my younger and more formative years, particularly when it comes to motherhood and alcohol. As it turns out, red wine is good for your heart and you should drink as much of it as you can in the aftermath of a heart attack. At least one woman there had previously had a heart attack, and knew what she was talking about. The more you know!

Baby steps

One woman was also pondering the reasons why she would have one paint brush in her mouth, one in her left hand, and one in her right hand that was actually doing the painting. The woman teaching the class said that it was because when you’re at home you’re used to multi-tasking. You’re beating one kid for their behavior, berating your other kid for raising hell, and folding all of the clothes in your house all at once. Multi-tasking.

More importantly from this seminar, I learned that the actual artist rarely likes their own artwork. We were all much harder critics towards ourselves than anybody else was, despite the fact that everybody’s looked fabulous. Starting over and over again until my painting had ten layers of paint on it and was starched and ironed to perfection was inevitable. 

It was surprisingly peaceful to paint my flower for four hours, even in the moments when it was frustrating. Staring so intensely at the contrasting colors made my head spin and I had to step back to see how it looked. I started by lathering the canvas in dark green paint and then free-handed my flower with a red colored pencil. Blending paint while still maintaining the finer details was trickier than I thought. 

The finished product

I applied a few layers of paint and felt like Amy in “Little Women,” making me suddenly wish that I was painting and doing yoga all across the world. 

The finished product was a resplendent concoction of vibrant colors and, given its size and subject matter, I’m sure it will make a solid bathroom painting; the kind that you would set on the back of a toilet in a half-bath. According to my teacher, my flower was impressionistic with a leaning towards abstract and therefore, completely “New York” of me.

The class gave me a newfound zeal for painting and has me wanting to harken back to my old-school days of starting a new art project on a whim. Even though my dorm room is too cramped for full-fledged art projects, a girl can still dream.