Give Me the Streets of Manhattan

Greetings all!  I’ve been noticeably absent since Saturday the 13th; a fact of which I am very aware and will now spend this post apologizing for by regaling you with tales from my spring break trip to New York City.  I didn’t mean to take such a long break from my blog.  Unlike most of my fellow twenty-something collegiate peers around the world, I wasn’t re-enacting scenes from Jersey Shore, doing shots of tequila out of weird crevasses on strangers’ bodies at crowded beaches or getting myself into situations worthy of recognition/embarrassment on the hilarious website Texts From Last Night.

My spring break was more like a business trip than a vacation.

I spent over a week in New York City attending free workshops with casting directors, Broadway actors, choreographers, etc.  My university has a great spring break program sponsored by our NYC alumni (and our wealthy board of directors) group who put together a week of workshops and a mock audition for aspiring Broadway actors, singers, and dancers at my school.  And it’s FREE. All I have to pay for is my plane ticket and a place to stay (which in my case, is nothing, since my aunt and uncle live in the City).  Great, right?

The truly fantastic thing about my school’s spring break program is it provides a safe environment for students to test their performance skills in a real-world setting in front of real, working Broadway professionals.  I look forward to this special week the entire school year, because each time I go, I learn new things about myself as a performer and as a person.  It also strips everyone of their school identities and equalizes us so we all have to work hard to prove ourselves instead of just relying on our reputations/popularity from school.  I’m pleased to say that I received extremely positive feedback from my mock audition and feel absolutely recharged in my abilities to actually excel at this crazy profession I’m getting into.  Believe me, no completely sane person would ever go into such a profession as acting.

New York City is like an electric charge too.

There is a palpable energy there like no other place in the world.  I feed off that energy every time I go.  Granted, I have a completely romantic notion of Manhattan (and its boroughs).  I swoon over the sight of the Brooklyn Bridge, taking long walks in Central Park, the lights of the Broadway marquees, the skyscrapers that reach high into the heavens, the paintings of the Impressionists at the Met, riding the subway, the noise of the traffic, the beauty of the Statue of Liberty.  The city is so full of history and extraordinary people it gives me goosebumps when I’m there amongst it all.  I feel the nervous excitement the immigrants felt as they left their old lives for a brand new one in the City That Never Sleeps.

New York City is my drug.  I’m addicted, and I can never get enough of it.

People in my hometown never understand what I’m studying or why I’d want to live in New York.  They say, “it’s a great place to visit, but not live.”  I disagree.  Where better to live than in a city so constantly alive?  I need a place like that; a place where I am surrounded by culture and art and history and people.  I feel free there.

While in New York, I saw four shows: Twyla Tharp’s new show Come Fly Away, Memphis, A Little Night Music, and Hair. I loved each show for different reasons.  I ended my week by seeing Hair, and I think that was the perfect show to close out spring break.  The energy of the cast is infectious, and I love all the audience interaction.  It really makes you feel a part of the show, especially a show about hippies!  Not only that, but I got to go dance onstage after the curtain call with the cast, and it was a blast!  You can watch my “Broadway debut” here.

“Keep your woods, O Nature, and the quiet places by the woods…give me the streets of Manhattan…with their powerful throbs, with the beating drums, as now; Manhattan crowds, with their turbulent musical chorus—with varied chorus, and light of the sparkling eyes; Manhattan faces and eyes forever for me.

—Walt Whitman

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Daniel Radcliffe Films PSA for “Trevor”

When I get annoyed by the silly, shenanigans of rather vapid, young stars (like those that try to act “older” by pole dancing on an ice cream cart during an awards show watched by mostly thirteen year olds…uh, great role model, parents), I am always delighted to find out that sensible, intelligent, artistic young people do, in fact, exist in this tabloid-obsessed world.  Among these enlightened few, I must give special attention to Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe.

Beyond my intense crushing on this good-looking, talented actor, I admire his eloquence and charitable demeanor.  Daniel has been involved with numerous charities in the U.K. (such as the Demelza House Children’s Hospice Center) and the United States, using his fame (and size-able paycheck) to bring attention to issues sometimes overlooked by the rest of the world.  Unlike many other celebrities, Daniel takes a personal interest in his charities, donating frequently and (in the case of the Demelza House) visiting with the people he’s helping.

Just recently, Daniel filmed a Public Service Announcement for the Trevor Project, a 24-hour crisis and suicide prevention hotline for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth (to learn more about it, visit their website here).  After his stint starring in Equus on Broadway back in 2008, Daniel took an interest in the Trevor Project.  He says:

“I grew up knowing a lot of gay men and it was never something that I even thought twice about — that some men were gay and some weren’t…And then I went to school and (for) the first time … I came across homophobia. … I had never encountered it before. It shocked me.  Now I am in the very fortunate position where I can actually help or do something about it.  I think it’s important for somebody from a big, commercial movie series like ‘Harry Potter’ and particularly because I am not gay or bisexual or transgendered. … The fact that I am straight makes not a difference, but it shows that straight people are incredibly interested and care a lot about this as well.”

As an ardent, straight supporter of the LGBTQ community and their desire for civil/marital equality, I applaud Dan’s efforts to bring light to the struggles of these youths.  Having dealt with many of my friends coming out to their parents, I know how hard it can be for young people to make these sometimes brutal declarations to their families and peers.  One of my very best friends became the subject of a near witch-hunt at my high school because he was open about his sexuality (and was one of the few who was at the time).  Luckily, he came from a very supportive family and had the love and support of a tight-knit group of friends (including myself), so he never felt too ruffled by the comments of the outspoken few.  Now in college, he’s flourishing in a more accepting, open-minded environment where he’s able to live his life without fear of retribution or persecution.  Isn’t that how everyone in this country should be treated: with love and respect?

After hearing about Dan’s support of the Trevor Project back in 2008, I was intrigued and wanted to learn more.  It’s a great charity, and I think a vitally important, much needed source of support for these youths.  I think if they knew that someone out there loved and supported them for who they are without question or judgement, these kids wouldn’t feel so helpless and hopeless. The Trevor Project provides these kids a place where they can talk and receive that kind of support.  If you’re interested in helping out this great cause, please check out my SocialVibe sidebar.  By just answering a few questions, you can provide 8 seconds of crisis and suicide prevention for these teens.

Thanks to Daniel Radcliffe and the Trevor Project, we may be able to keep a whole generation of youths alive and loved.

Women Making History: Oscars 2010

Last Sunday, the rich, famous, beautiful (in some cases, botoxed) faces of Hollywood gathered at the Kodak Theatre for the most important night of the year: the Academy Awards.  Normally, I follow awards season with vigor (as long as the nominated bunch are films I’m really invested in), and the Oscars are one of my favorite nights of the year.

The Hurt Locker took home six Academy Awards overall, but the Academy Award it received I was most excited about was the one that made Oscar history: Kathryn Bigelow became the first ever woman to win Best Director. The fact that the Oscars have been held for 82 years and only 4 women have ever been nominated is ridiculous.  To have a woman finally win will hopefully mean more support, acceptance, and respect for female filmmakers.  Women have been making great strides in film, a heavily male-dominated field.  Female filmmakers like Jane Campion, Nancy Meyers, Nora Ephron, and Mira Nair, just to name a few, have been writing and directing prolifically over the years.  I hope Ms. Bigelow’s big win will shine a light on these talented ladies, because we as women deserve it!  Not only that, but don’t you think it was also just a little bit of a revenge-on-her-ex-husband-James-Cameron moment?  ha.

Now for some snap judgements.

Best Dressed Woman: Sandra Bullock

Runner-up: Demi Moore

Best Dressed Man: Tom Ford (Obviously.)

Best Speech: Sandra Bullock

Runner-up: Michael Giacchino

A Few Favorite Moments: John Hughes tribute, Best Score dance presentation, Neil Patrick Harris’ opening number

Just because I’m a big arts advocate (a topic I’ll discuss at a later date), I’m going to post Best Score winner Michael Giacchino’s (Up) speech.  It was very inspirational:

“When I was nine I asked my dad, “Can I have your movie camera? That old, wind-up 8mm camera that was in your drawer?” And he goes, “Sure, take it.” And I took it and I started making movies with it and I started being as creative as I could, and never once in my life did my parents ever say, “What you’re doing is a waste of time.” Never. And I grew up, I had teachers, I had colleagues, I had people that I worked with all through my life who always told me what you’re doing is not a waste of time. So it was normal to me that it was OK to do that. But  I know there are kids out there that don’t have that support system, so if you’re out there and you’re listening, listen to me: If you want to be creative, get out there and do it. It’s not a waste of time. Do it. OK?”—Michael Giacchino’s acceptance speech at the 2010 Oscars

Happy Belated Birthday, Vivaldi!

I’m a big music nerd (among many, many other things), especially classical, so I thought I’d take a moment to wish Baroque composer Antonio Vivaldi a Happy Belated 332nd Birthday!  He was born March 4, 1678 and was one of the leading Italian string composers of the Baroque Period.  His Four Seasons is one of his most notable works.  FUN FACT:  Vivaldi was an ordained priest and had blazing red hair, hence why he was nicknamed “the Red Priest.”

Buon compleanno, Vivaldi!

 

My Favorite Moments From the 2010 Vancouver Olympics

First, let me apologize for my absence.  The last week and a half have kept me busy with paper-writing and auditioning for summer work.  You know, typical college performing arts major stuff.  ha.  Now on to the good stuff.

On Sunday, the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games came to an end while thousands of athletes and millions of viewers watched as Canada brought out some of its best and brightest native talents to celebrate their homeland.  As I sat and watched the ceremony go from funny (spoofing the torch-lighting malfunction of the opening ceremonies) to touching (the tribute to the Georgian luger who tragically died during a training run) to crazy (the Russian presentation for the 2014 Olympics) to campy (William Shatner and giant inflatable beavers!), I thought about all of my favorite moments from my obsessive Olympic-watching.

Without further ado…My Favorite Moments from the 2010 Vancouver Olympics:

Kim Yuna Lives Up to Her Hype The Korean figure skater had a lot, A LOT, of pressure on her little shoulders (she’s a national hero and celebrity), but not only did she live up to her hype as the best female figure skater in the world, she absolutely KILLED the competition.  This is fitting considering her short program is to music from James Bond.  But I digress…after her masterful, gorgeous long program, Kim Yuna (once sent angry letters from her fellow Koreans for getting second in a skating competition) blazed into first place with a score of over 250 points, a new world record.  The silver medalist, Mao Asada of Japan, was more than 22 points behind her.  Awesome!

Apolo Anton Ohno’s Awesome Wins When it comes to speed-skating, nobody has more spectacular wins than Apolo.  My favorite was during the 1500m race where Ohno was sitting in fourth behind the South Koreans coming into the last turn when suddenly a fall took the two in front of him out.  He finished with a silver medal, which tied him with Bonnie Blair for most Olympic medals won by an American (6).  Of course, Ohno now has 8 career medals, making him the most decorated American Winter Olympian.  Plus, the guy has the most positive tweets of any celebrity I follow, and he’s handsome.  What’s not to like?

Shaun White’s 2nd Consecutive Gold Medal Win First, I fully admit to having a crush on the guy once dubbed (or still dubbed?) “the Flying Tomato.”  Shaun, the figure of snowboarding, didn’t disappoint.  After a scary accident at the X Games on an insane new trick, Shaun’s first run at the 2010 Olympics scored him a record 46.8 out of 50.  It was clear no one was going to catch him.  After his main competition scored much lower than that on their second run, Shaun knew he’d won gold and basically did an exhibition-style second run with the most badass, spectacular Double McTwist 1260 I’ve ever seen.  Shaun White is a BAMF.

The Gold Medal Hockey Game: Canada vs. USA I’m not exactly a huge hockey fan, but I wasn’t going to miss watching the hockey game of the Olympics (and probably the century) between Canada and the United States.  Hockey is Canada’s national pastime, much the way Americans cherish baseball and football, so after USA beat Canada in the preliminary match, the Canadian team fought hard to win what they felt was the most important Gold medal of the Olympic games.  The US men, anchored by awesome goalie, Ryan Miller, played spectacularly, forcing the game into sudden-death overtime.  Unfortunately, the Canadian men were able to slip the puck past Miller, winning 3-2.  It was a thrilling match, especially for someone who never watches hockey…like, EVER.

Evan Lysacek Wins the Men’s Figure Skating Gold

For me, this was THE moment of the 2010 games.  I actually jumped to my feet and screamed at my television (possibly alarming my dorm neighbors) when his scores came up.  Evan skated absolutely brilliantly with beautiful footwork, artistry, and clean jumps.  What I love most is that he won without doing a single quadruple jump, a fact which caused much harumph-ing and griping from Yevgeny Plushenko and the Russians.  My future husband kept his composure and class despite the mudslinging coming from Plushenko after medals were awarded.  Not only that, but Evan (my future husband) became the first American man since Brian Boitano in 1988 (my birth year!) to win the men’s figure skating gold.  History in the making!

HONORABLE MENTION

Joannie Rochette She skated a beautiful short program just days after her mother suddenly died.  Then the Canadian figure skater did it again in her long program, after which, the tears flowed from her cheeks.  When she hugged her dad afterwards, there wasn’t a dry eye in the rink.  She rightly earned the bronze medal, which was a fitting tribute to the memory of her mother.  Such amazing strength displayed!

Lindsey Vonn Despite a hurt ankle, the American skier managed to win the gold in Ladies’ Downhill.  While I like Julia Mancuso, I’m glad Lindsey doesn’t wear a tiara every time she gets a medal.

Michael Buble in a Tear-Off Mountie Uniform at Closing Ceremony Need I say more?