Headiversary!

Saturday was my headiversary. Three years ago, on October 13th, 2015, I had brain surgery to remove a tumor. I had only been diagnosed four months, but after a week of feeling more awful than normal and nice little trip to ER because of seizures, the tumor had grown exponentially.  Okay, I guess it’s time for surgery. It was one of the scariest days of my live. While I love to celebrate the importance of that day—I’ll take any reason to celebrate something—it’s a little discouraging. They took out my meningioma—scraped out the whole thing, leaving me with a crescent moon scar on the right side of my head. I had a shitty pathology report—tumor was atypical (not malignant or benign)—and my doctor said there mostly would be reoccurrence in the next 5-10 years.  Then BOOM! One year later, the tumor is back. I’m swept up into seven weeks of radiation therapy where I lose my hair, blow up from steroids, and sleep all day, every day. It was some of the worst few months I’ve had in the 27 years I’ve been chillin’ on this planet. All that nonsense and I still have the fucking tumor.

So, despite still having the tumor, I like to celebrate my headiversary to make myself feel good about conquering such a giant feat. Plus, when someone complains about something so very mundane, I get to respond with: “Well, at least it’s not brain surgery.” After sleeping in, going to dinner and movie with my momma, I ended  Saturday in bed early with an ice pack and a migraine. Well, at least I know how to stay on brand.

Writing Chronicles, Vol. 4

I feel like I’ve finally found my groove. Ever since I established this writing goal of essentially doing NaNoWriMo over the course of three month, I’ve been writing more than ever. At first I had some trouble decided which story to run with during this writing time because I have two stories that have been battling out in my head, but I’m really happy with my choice. I’ve plotted out the whole narrative, even going as far as writing out plot points on index cards as an easy way to look at the story all at once. This also allows me to move and order things different without making a mess out of a word document. As I write more and more, I’m getting into the heads of my characters—learning and crafting their personalities. However, I have been questioning myself: Is it okay to write about something I myself have never experienced?

I’ve had writing teachers tell me: Write what you know. I’ve had others tell me the complete opposite: Write what you don’t know. So where do I go? My novel has to do with sexual assault and the abuse of power and authority in the dance community. Thank God, I have never had to experience this, but it’s not uncommon and more and more people are coming forward with their stories. The #MeToo movement is at the forefront of not only pop culture and the entertainment community, but the political climate as well. At every turn, men and women are finding their voices. As an observer of all this, I’m angry. I feel so much for these people who have to go through these inexcusably situations and who are too afraid to speak up and speak out.

This is something I want to explore, but I want to do it in the most respectful way. Do I have the authority or the right to dive into such an issue if I have no experience? If I do my research, am I “allowed” to contribute to the discussion? Is it not my place and I need to leave it to the professionals? The last thing I want to do is hurt or offend. Obviously, I’m not the first writer to tackle a subject they personally haven’t experienced. I would love to hear your thoughts on the topic of “writing what you don’t know.”

 

Musical Theater Tag

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This week the novelization of the musical Dear Evan Hansen is being released. The YA book by Val Emmich, takes this beloved musical and bringing it to a wider audience. Earlier this year, I read the book for the musical—essentially, the script that included the lyrics to the songs—and I really fell in love. I then scoured the internet and watched all the clips to the show I could find and listened to the soundtrack incessantly. The novelization is just the next step in the obsession.

I have never been in any kind of theater production—I always said you could put me on a stage to dance in front of thousands of strangers, but open my mouth to talk or sing? NO WAY. However, I do have a great love for musical theater that has only grown since the openings of Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen. For the release, I thought answering questions about my love of musical theater would be fun. There are probably musical theater tags already out in the universe, but I put together these questions myself. Let’s begin:

  1. How Many Shows Have You Seen (if you can, name them):

I’ve technically only seen one musical in NYC on Broadway (Grease), but when I was living in LA, we had a lot of opportunities to see different shows. However, I watched many movie musicals so I included those too.

Stage: The Lion King, Grease, 42nd Street, Movin’ Out, Stomp (this counts, right?), Hamilton, Book of Mormon, Finding Neverland, Chicago, An American in Paris, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Bat Boy, Urinetown, Seussical, Aladdin, Rent, Phantom of the Opera, Wicked, Billy Elliot

Film: Funny Face, Rent, Grease, Singing in the Rain, Cabaret, An American in Paris, My Fair Lady, Chicago, Hairspray, Phantom of the Opera, The Sound of Music, West Side Story, A Chorus Line, Little Shop of Horrors, The Producers, Nine, Dreamgirls, Jesus Christ Superstar, On the Town, Les Miserables, Annie, All That Jazz, all Disney musicals

That’s all I got, but I’m probably missing some.

2. First Show You Saw:

My dad showed me Grease the movie version at about five years old and I was obsessed, but my first live show was The Lion King at age nine. It blew my mind! My favorite Disney Movie was turned into this beautiful and colorful stage show, what more could I ask for?

3. Last Show You Saw:

The last show I saw was Aladdin in Los Angeles. I’m on the email list for when tickets go on sale for Hamilton in Jacksonville for the 2019/2020 season

4. Bucket List Shows:

Dear Evan Hansen, Waitress (both of which I saw bootleg versions on YouTube), Heathers, Rogers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast

5. Dream Casting:

Hands down, original cast of Hamilton. I don’t know what could be better than that.

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6. Favorite Obscure Show:

It may not be obscure but I’ve never met anyone else who has even heard of this show but Billy Joel’s Movin’ Out. I saw this when I was 13 and I think the main reason why my parents took me to this was because all the choreography was done by Twyla Tharp, a goddess in the dance community. I remember Act 1 being really cool, but Act 2 was kind of out there and weird. But the dancing as a whole was incredible.

7. Favorite Female Role:

Eliza from Hamilton gets me every damn time. I also think that Christine in Phantom of the Opera is one of the hardest roles to play.

8. Favorite Male Role:

Collins from Rent, Evan from Dear Evan Hansen

9. Best Soundtrack:

If you had asked me this five years ago, I would have said Rent, Chicago, and Wicked, but Hamilton kicks all their asses ten times over. Very few soundtracks can I sit there and listen in full.

10. Favorite Song:

“Candy Store” from Heathers is CONSTANTLY stuck in my head and I love it, “Turn It Off” from The Book of Mormon is genius, and the triplet of Schuyler Sisters songs from Hamilton: “The Schuyler Sisters”, “Helpless”, “Satisfied”.

11. Favorite Film Adaptation:

Nothing can compare to Cinderella starring Brandy and Whitney Houston. I also think they did a really great job of adapting Chicago for the screen. It’s a hard show to make translate in a movie setting, but it’s amazing.

 

12. Most Overrated Musical:

Cats. I mean I’ve never seen it but everything I know, I just don’t get it.

13. What Musical Made You Cry:

I was really REALLY obsessed with Rent for a while and it would always make me cry, but once again, Hamilton wins

14. Made You Laugh:

Book of Mormon, come on.

15. Best Choreography:

Mia Michael’s choreography has always been some of my favorite pieces of work from her time on So You Think You Can Dance and bringing it to Broadway was a little risky. However, it added so much whimsy to Finding Neverland, I loved it. An American in Paris is another one where the dancing is so important to the overall story. I remember sitting there and wishing I was up there dancing that classical lyrical jazz that is so rare nowadays.

16. Favorite Show Experience:

For my college graduation present, my family went to London. It was my first trip to Europe and I was beyond excited (it still goes down as my favorite trip I’ve ever taken).

We got tickets to Billy Elliot on the West End and I was ecstatic. I had been dying to see the show for years and to see it in London was a dream come true.

Another incredible experience was when I got to see Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal (the original Mark and Roger) in Rent. They were performing in LA for only two weeks and my sister and I got tickets. It was especially great because the first time I saw Rent it was pretty disappointing.

Oh, and Grease because it’s the only show I’ve seen on Broadway. Such a full-circle moment.

17. What Song Makes You Cry When You Hear the Opening Bars:

Oh, so many! “I’ll Cover You Reprise” from Rent, “Words Fail” from Dear Evan Hansen, “She Used to be Mine” from Waitress, and of course, “It’s Quiet Uptown” from Hamilton.

If you’ve never seen this performance of Chris Jackson singing “One Last Time” from Hamilton at the White House for President Obama, you are seriously missing out.

18. All-time Favorite Show:

It’s so hard to really pick a favorite because I’ve matured throughout my life and my favorites have changed through the years.

Nostalgia reasons: Grease

Middle school time: Rent and Chicago

High School time: Wicked

Currently: Hamilton

If you couldn’t already tell, I really like Hamilton…

 

October: The Month of Spooks!

 Spooky Books:

I don’t do spooky. I don’t do scary. Gremlins fucked me up as a kid, my scare tolerance is that low. I can go for weird or thriller, but if anyone gets split in half or jumps out at me, I’m out of there.

 

Halloween has never been something that I loved. I have great memories of trick-or-treating as a kid—I lived in a great neighborhood with an abundance of houses, eagerly handing out candy by the handful. Even in college I had some fun outfits: Minnie Mouse, Where’s Waldo, and my personal favorite, Cruella de Vil. While I don’t go out to celebrate anymore, I’m slowly accepting more “horror” based forms of entertainment into my life. This year, I would like to continue my quest in broadening my horizons:

Books:

My version of scary is more thriller, and in just the last year I’ve been branching out to more mysteries. I don’t have many titles that are spooky scary, so I thought I would read some recent thriller new releases as well as some old favorites:

Sadie by Courtney Summers: This has received nothing but praise sine it was released last month.  I actually got an ARC copy of this book at the LA Times Festival of Books. They were literally passing them out every time you made a purchase at one of the booths.

Sadie hasn’t had an easy life. Growing up on her own, she’s been raising her sister Mattie in an isolated small town, trying her best to provide a normal life and keep their heads above water.

But when Mattie is found dead, Sadie’s entire world crumbles. After a somewhat botched police investigation, Sadie is determined to bring her sister’s killer to justice and hits the road following a few meagre clues to find him.

When West McCray—a radio personality working on a segment about small, forgotten towns in America—overhears Sadie’s story at a local gas station, he becomes obsessed with finding the missing girl. He starts his own podcast as he tracks Sadie’s journey, trying to figure out what happened, hoping to find her before it’s too late.

The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas: Last year, after much hype, I read Little Monsters, also by Kara Thomas and I LOVED it. It’s one of those books that totally sucks you in and has you unable to stop reading—the best kind of reading experience.

There are no more cheerleaders in the town of Sunnybrook.

First there was the car accident—two girls gone after hitting a tree on a rainy night. Not long after, the murders happened. Those two girls were killed by the man next door. The police shot him, so no one will ever know why he did it. Monica’s sister was the last cheerleader to die. After her suicide, Sunnybrook High disbanded the cheer squad. No one wanted to be reminded of the girls they lost.

That was five years ago. Now the faculty and students at Sunnybrook High want to remember the lost cheerleaders. But for Monica, it’s not that easy. She just wants to forget. Only, Monica’s world is starting to unravel. There are the letters in her stepdad’s desk, an unearthed, years-old cell phone, a strange new friend at school. . . . Whatever happened five years ago isn’t over. Some people in town know more than they’re saying. And somehow Monica is at the center of it all.

There are no more cheerleaders in Sunnybrook, but that doesn’t mean anyone else is safe.

Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker: I’ve heard good things

From the bestselling author of All Is Not Forgotten comes a thriller about two missing sisters, a twisted family, and what happens when one girl comes back…

One night three years ago, the Tanner sisters disappeared: fifteen-year-old Cass and seventeen-year-old Emma. Three years later, Cass returns, without her sister Emma. Her story is one of kidnapping and betrayal, of a mysterious island where the two were held. But to forensic psychiatrist Dr. Abby Winter, something doesn’t add up. Looking deep within this dysfunctional family Dr. Winter uncovers a life where boundaries were violated and a narcissistic parent held sway. And where one sister’s return might just be the beginning of the crime.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart: I’ve actually been wanting to reread this for a while now, so why not now?

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from New York Times bestselling author, National Book Award finalist, and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart. 

Collected Poems and Short Stories by Edgar Allen Poe: let’s throw in some spooky Edgar Allan Poe into the mix. Also, I highly recommend watching Edgar Allan Poe’s Murder Mystery Dinner Party—a web series featuring some of the world’s most renowned authors trying to solve a murder mystery.

TV:

I want to start watching Bates Motel. I think it will be creepy enough, but not scare me. And of course, I must watch the classic It’s the Great, Pumpkin Charlie Brown.  This is one of my all-time favorite TV specials. I own it on DVD, I love it so much.

And just in time for Halloween, Netflix will release The Chilling Adventures of Sabrinathe dark reboot of the 90’s classic WB show, Sabrina the Teenage Witch—which I loved and avidly watched reruns for years after their original airing.

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Movies:

Now I always try to watch a few mild “scary” movies each year. One year was Rosemary’s Baby and Ghostbusters, another year was Zombieland and The Birds (as a child, this movie ruined me). This year, I’m going to try to tackle The Shining. I’ve been kind of avoiding it, but not getting the quotes and references from this hugely popular movie is so annoying. I think Adam Scott’s Netflix movie, Little Devil, to add some comedy to the mix. Would you believe me if I told you, I’ve never seen Hocus Pocus? I have a feeling my mom never showed it to us growing up because we were afraid of everything. But I did watch, and absolutely adored, the first three Disney Channel Original Movies Halloweentown. Marnie Cromwell was the coolest

My sister is the queen of horror. Every year she does the 100 Horror Movie Challenge where you have to watch 100 horror films in the month of October. Because she’s seen probably seen every horror-like movie in existence, I can go to her for recommendations, so this list will grow. You’ll just have to stay tuned for my monthly wrap-up.

Music

My favorite Halloween song has always been “Dead Man’s Party” by Oingo Boingo. My family used to dance to this song anytime of year. And we can’t forget about The Nightmare Before Christmas soundtrack, which happens to be done by the lead singer of Oingo Boingo, Danny Elfman.

Did you know, Ryan Gosling is in a band? More importantly, did you know that it is a spooky band? Dead Man’s Bones only have one album but it’s filled with love songs about ghosts and monsters.

You’re welcome to send me any recommendations, as long as they’re mild.

Have a Spoopy Halloween!

Monthly Entertainment Recap: August

Hello! Pop culture and entertainment rule my life. I decided that it would be fun to do a little recap of all the media I consumed each month:

BOOKS!

Reading list is a little shorter than usual this month. I do my reading at night and I’ve been pretty exhausted this month with all the packing and cleaning. And honestly, I wasn’t very inspired with these books this month. I ended up starting and stopping a few books this months too. I really hope I’m not in a slump.

The Last Summer of the Garrett Girls by Jessica Spotswood—3 STARS

The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily Danforth—4 STARS

August and Everything After by Jennifer Salvato Doktorski—2 STARS

Stay Sweet by Siobhan Vivian—3 STARS

Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between by Jennifer E. Smith—4 STARS

 

TV!

Orange is the New Black (Season 6) 

Season 5 of OITNB was really great—everything with the lockout and the aftermath of Poussey’s death—but the newest season was a huge let down. I only made through half of the episodes before calling it quits, probably for good.

Barry (Season 1)

Now this show is fantastic! I love seeing actors going against what they’re most known for. Bill Hader created a really great and complicated character—the whole cast is really outstanding and hilarious. Highly recommend!

MOVIES!

Although I didn’t read much, I did see plenty of movies. All of them were pretty great!

Blindpsotting

This was out of this world. Daveed Diggs and writing partner/co-star Rafael Casal told a story with such lyric prose that it just hits you in the gut. Outstanding.

Sorry to Bother You

Bat shit crazy, but so much fun!

Most Likely to Murder

I love Adam Pally. That’s all.

Before I Fall

I haven’t read the book yet but I enjoyed the movie a lot as a YA adaptation.

Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again

Ok, here’s the thing. I never saw the first movie, despite my strong love of Colin Firth and Julie Walters, because I hate the music of ABBA. Years later, I still hate ABBA, but watching the trailer for this prequel/sequel, for some reason I had this urge to see the movie. It love Lily James and I think she did a wonderful job as a young Meryl. So I guess I better watch the first one…

Blame

I really missed having Chris Messina in my life.

Crazy Rich Asians

Beautiful! Gorgeous! And I don’t just mean the main guy, Henry Golding. Can’t wait for the sequel!

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

Oh, my heart! Planning on writing a full post on this soon. Stay tuned!

The Miseducation of Cameron Post

This will also be a post coming soon.

Juliet, Naked

I loved this book by Nick Hornby when I first read it back when it first came out. Not gonna lie, I kinda forgot what it was about before going into the movie but I did enjoy it. I enjoy anything with Chris O’Dowd, even when playing a narcissistic asshole, he is effortlessly goofy and charming.

LIVE SHOWS!

This is probably the last time I’ll have any live shows to report on the count of moving across the country. Happy to have closed out my summer with these two shows:

How Did This Get Made Podcast Live at Largo

If you haven’t heard of this podcast here’s the logline: Comedian Paul Scheer and his two lovely co-hosts, June Diane Raphael (also Paul’s wife) and Jason Mantzoukas (one of the funniest comedians around) watch and discuss universally terrible movies, usually with a guest or two. This live show was sans June, but did include comedian Nicole Byer and one of my favorite people, Adam Scott, to discuss the new movie The Meg. I bought these tickets for my sister’s birthday, my comedy buddy that I’m really going to miss when I leave.

Hanging with Paul Scheer: Disney Edition!

A few weeks back I did a post about the pop-up event and auction called That’s From Disneyland. Throughout the few weeks it was around, they held different events and shows in honor of Disney and the pieces in the exhibit. Hanging with Paul Scheer is a show he does once a month at Largo where different comedians, writers, musicians etc, bring an item of significance to tell stories. He brought this same format, but Disney-fied it! With guests Jeff Garlin, Allie Goertz, Rachel Bloom, and another one of my favorites, Ben Schwartz, there were stories, songs, and many rants from Mr. Garlin.