22 October, 2011

I've Been [*Special Edition*]: A Word Puzzle

Directions: Find all of the words from the list below- the remaining spaces will reveal the hidden message!




B R P A T R T O F B E I N G H
S A E A R E E S T I N G A C T
R I D T T R R E S S I S A A E
C E N C N D R A I L L I U J B
T U B G R E A L B L Y G D S A
E T T O I I C I N A G A I D Z
Y D I Y T N M Y R E C S T N I
T N C E U C G E D Y L H I E L
G H N H G N O E D E X Z O I E
P K P O I X T B R R N E N R A
D S W T G R E Q A V A N S F R
W F I V O A C K T T R M E O R
R R A I F J H N C E Z D A K E
W A T P I O S A R I E L L E I
A S T O R I A U M F U Q M I S




ARIELLE
ASTORIA
AUDITIONS
BADCRIMEDRAMA
CABARET
DETROIT
DIY
ELIZABETH
FRIENDS
JUILLIARD
KENNEDY CENTER
MAHAGONNY
OCTOBER
SIERRA
SINGING
WRITING 

__ __ __ __   __ __   __ __ __ __ __   __   __ __ __ __ __ __ __ 
__ __ __ __ __ __ __   

__ __   __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __   __ __ __ __ __ __ __ 
__   __ __ __ __ . 
 

17 October, 2011

Autumn Reads: A List

Inspired by the NPR autumn reads School Daze list of autumnal books, I present to you my very own list of books for the harvest season. This season of cozy. The season of pumpkins and gourd-related soup, root vegetables, the best-holiday-of-them-all (Halloween), of cardamon and cardigans...of my kick ass red coat...

Read on.

1. The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis

I should start by saying this: "The Magician's Nephew is the first in the 7-volume collection of C.S Lewis' beloved Chronicles of Narnia." But I am not going to say that. [*Insert: inflammatory hand gestures and angry face*] Oh and WHY do you ask?! Because I am stubborn and opinionated and get allll kinds of crazy when it comes to the "'order' of The Chronicles of Narnia debate."

Hi my name is Al and I am that crazy woman in Barnes and Nobel who goes to the children's section and rearranges all of the Chronicles so that they are in the "correct" and ORIGINAL order.

Hi Al...

Yes. I am absolutely that woman.

Have you never heard of this debate? Googlerightnow. Go on! It is huge. It is heated. It is beyond the realms of what anyone would consider 'okay.'  I can talk to people about social politics more level-headedly than I can about The Stupid Stupid Waste of Time Narnia Order Debate. And, like most bigots, I prefer to surround myself with people that agree with me thankyouverymuch.

::sigh::

Anyway, although what is called the "chronological" (aka IN-CORR-ECT post 1994) arrangement has become the "official" order for numbering the Chronicles, it may (read, IS) not be the best order for reading them!

The long and short of it is this: Lewis wrote most of the books in order, telling a linear story about the events in Narnia in  
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
Prince Caspian
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and  
The Silver Chair.
However, the fifth book published, The Horse and His Boy, actually takes place during The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,
and the sixth book, The Magician’s Nephew, is a prequel.
The seventh book, The Last Battle, tells about the end of Narnia and should be read last.

My argument is this:
Often, a story is not entirely about it's chronological holdings-- what makes a story juicy, what indeed makes good storytelling great, it is the way in which the story is told. The order in which we receive our information. Red herrings. Flashbacks. Plot twists. Big reveals. Cliffhangers--These are all story telling devices that make the experience of reading (or watching or listening) so much more fruitful and enticing.

When the Pevensie children discover Narnia in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, they are discovering it alongside us, the readers. They know nothing of this magical place and have as many questions as we do. As we continue to read the books we learn more and more, become more intrinsically involved in the inner workings of the land, we fight for it, believe in it as a place, and, just as we are about to defend it for what feels to be the final and most important time, we as readers go back in time to learn all about how Narnia began, before we re-engage with how it is all about to end. That is the main bulk of my argument. It is better storytelling that gives the reader herself a more profound experience and relationship with the story arc and most crucially, the place of Narnia itself. My argument is simple: better storytelling is not always chronological storytelling. The original order is a far preferable literary and emotional reading experience.

There is a contemporary school of thought that favors The Magician's Nephew (technically a prequel if you will --and I will NOT) should not indeed be read as a flashback/prequel, but should launch the reading experience altogether, and is thus now commonly placed before The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. 

Wrong. Answer.

I believe, (as do a several of scholars who have written about the Chronicles), that thematic effects in the stories depend on beginning the Narnia experience with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and are lost when The Magician's Nephew is read first.

Additionally, the classical pattern of The Magician's Nephew also fits better as sixth than as first in the series. The Magician's Nephew and The Last Battle are sister volumes practically begging to be read back to back, rather than to bookend the series. They intertwine the accounts of the ends of two worlds: of the old world of Charn (ruled by the evil Queen Jadis who would eventually leave Charn and come to rule Narnia as The White Witch for 100 years) and of Narnia itself. They also chronicle two beginnings: of Narnia and the New Narnia. The two books use a depiction of seasonal cycle imagery meant to mirror the full cycle of life, and of course the history of Narnia. The symbolism reinforces plot detail in unifying the beginning of Narnia with the end. This archetypal pattern is most effective if The Magician's Nephew and The Last Battle are read together: the immediate juxtaposition of the two books brings out well the completeness and unity of Narnian history, and it is this completeness that plagues me so.

Listen, I am not an overtly religious, nor am I an irreligious person, but I know Symbology when I see it, and I know how to write and tell a good story, and the central point Lewis is trying to convey is that our experience with Narnia as readers, as well as the Narnian world itself, has a beginning and an ending. It is one of the essential themes of the stories, and it is easily missed if five other books separate The Magician's Nephew from The Last Battle in the reader's experience. Moreover, The Magician's Nephew compliments The Last Battle-- and the books, when read together move as the season's do-- from lighter tone, to darker then light again.

Which is why (coming back around to the point!) The Magician's Nephew is on the autumn list-- The Magician's Nephew took Lewis over 6 years to write, the longest of any Narnia book, and references several autobiographical experiences throughout. It is written in a lighter tone than other Narnia books, (in particular The Last Battle which is incredibly dark and adult in tone), and frequently reflects the sense of "looking back"-- a very nostalgic quality many associate with autumn. It looks upon childhood with great affection (just as Lewis as a middle-age man recalled his childhood during the early part of the 20th century), the "old days," and in particular, school life. It is an autumnal book. It prepares you for (okaaaaay either) wintery book that follows it, and is so chock full of colorful characters, fantastic twists, connections and parallels, as well as intricately drawn characters that somehow speak in the most authentic voices of all the books. 

Wherever you begin your journey with Narnia, it is crucial that you begin, and at this time of year The Magician's Nephew does indeed beg to be read, or perhaps re-read... though you can't say I didn't try to make my case... just sayin' they are so readable and addictive you could toooootally make it through the first five before the end of November I am just. saying..

  
2. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I have a family friend who recently told me he re-reads To Kill a Mockingbird every couple of years.

I happen to find the symbolism in Harper Lee's Pulitzer Prize winning novel to be very simple-- beautifully so, a quality best experienced in autumn before winter makes us long for decadence. While the symbolism might be simple, the themes are immense-- growing up, small town life, the co-existence of good and evil, morality, and of course, prejudice. The book is as true and vivid today as ever.

A perfect mix of actual "I read this in school" memories and a classic tale set in autumn, you can almost smell the burning leaves as Scout walks down the streets. The gunpowder, the closing in of the evenings...


3. Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino

Cosmicomics is a book of short stories first published in Italian in 1965 and in English in 1968. Each story takes a scientific "fact" (though sometimes a falsehood by today's understanding), and builds an imaginative story around it. An always extant being called Qfwfq narrates all of the stories save two, each of which is a memory of an event in the history of the universe. Qfwfq also narrates some stories in Calvino's t zero. All of the stories feature non-human characters with very human qualities.

My favorite story is the first, "The Distance of the Moon" of which I was inspired to write "Elegy" for the Edwin Morgan Poetry Prize in 2003, and is one of the most exquisitely heart-wrenching stories of unrequited love I have ever come across.

Writer Salman Rushdie writes: 
According to Calvino's story "The Distance of the Moon," the moon was once so close to the earth that lovers could jump across to it and — literally moonstruck — tryst and dally on the shining satellite, which was, by the way, dripping with moon milk, a kind of cream cheese. Then the moon started moving away, and lovers had to choose whether to return to Earth or remain trapped in the land of love.
Read the rest of Salman Rushdie's beautiful love letter to Cosmicomics on NPR's You Must Read This blog here.


4. Our Town by Thornton Wilder

I cannot even think about Our Town without bursting into tears. It is my favorite thing on earth. It is so dear to me in fact, that I do not think I can go on about it.
Just read it.
It is perfect.
There is a moon. A quiet cemetery. A love story. A small New England town. An omniscient narrator. And the most important message in the world.



5. The Ballad of The Sad Café by Carson McCullers

The Ballad of the Sad Café opens on the set of a small, isolated Southern town. The story introduces Miss Amelia, a strong character of both body and mind, who is approached by a hunchbacked man with only a suitcase in hand who claims to be of kin. . .

                ...um.... how can you not want to keep reading that?!

Generally considered one of McCullers's best works of fiction (and her most successful exploration of her signature themes: loneliness and the effects of unrequited love). Citing her remark that "everything significant that has happened in my fiction has also happened to me" I add this little Post Script: McCullers was 24. I repeat: twenty-four-years-old when she began writing the novella during the winter of 1941. I know I am 28 and have had a colo(u)rful life and all but come on! Her writing style is one I find to be astonishingly original, complex and above all, honest.


6. The Crucible by Arthur Miller

Look.
It's brilliant and plays *are,* without question, meant to be seen (else 'what on earth are you doing with your life' her inner voice inquired),  but this is a gem, and Arthur Miller's stage directions are as lively and poetic as Ionesco's (without a doubt the very best stage direction writer of them all), and as intelligently observed as any journalist.

Based on historical people and real events, Miller's play about the Salem witch trials uses the destructive power of socially sanctioned violence unleashed by the rumors of witchcraft as a powerful parable about American McCarthyism. This is a truly magnificent play about what happens when hysteria takes over a society. When the wrong people gain access to the levers of power (sound familiar?)
It is Halloween in bonnets.
It is part Mean Girls, part Fatal Attraction, part Good Night and Good Luck.
It is horror story meets psychological literature meets history meets "based on a true story."
....um...so why aren't you buying it right now

 
7. Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman

My literary agent (and pal!) Louise first introduced me to the great Anne Fadiman, essayist upon such great subjects as ice cream, early rising, married libraries, re-readings, and many others. This slim (and pleasingly red) volume is not only perfect for all things commuting, but a delightful collection of essays regarding the nature of, character of, reading of, acquisition of, and visceral love of books. Start with Anne Fadiman, and her incredibly smart but still utterly readable prose will win you over, make you laugh and swoon all in one, (again) pleasingly slim, red companion.

[*NOTE: In attempting to find an image for this book I did a search only to discover, TO MY HORROR that the American edition of Ex Libris is.... not red. It is a beautiful pastel green. Um, it is a very nice green, but if you want the red version you must purchase it from England. I suggest you do so...*] 


8. The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R Tolkein

In my opinion, there is no better time to begin reading The Lord of The Rings Trilogy. You can feel autumn closing in around The Shire as the tale begins for Frodo and his companions on arguably one of the greatest adventure stories ever written. What feels so right this time of year to begin is that if you continue (a what I call a "savory" pace) you will be going through the most action packed, as well as emotionally desperate sequences at the height of winter which matches perfectly with the tone of the piece, and feeling the resolve of the story just as spring is beginning to break. These books are not to be skimmed, so really enjoy them, and take three-quarters of the year to do it. You can always pace yourself with other works if you need to space it out.

But just as nothing can compare to "destination reading" (reading The Alexandria Quartet in Egypt, A Room With A View in Florence, The Fountainhead in New York City, or toting Tolstoy on your trip to Russia), nothing beats matching your reading to the change of the light outside your window, the feel of curling up with a good book that deserves a hot cider to accompany it, just as a beach read deserves its beach.


... Happy Reading.

13 October, 2011

09 October, 2011

Ten Years.

I don't know how to begin this post.
I wasn't even sure if I should write this post.

Sometimes in life we entertain, other times we share, inform, revel, reflect. And rarely, we risk revealing a crack in the door enclosing the "other things." The things that cannot always be seen, or held in your hand and observed in words. The unutterables. The deeply felt.
The loss of my father has been the defining mythology of my entire adult life.
I wanted to mark this moment.
Readers: today is the ten year anniversary of the death of my father, Michael Silber.
Mike to some.
Mikey to others.
Papa to me.

Sometimes my inner ocean still swells about it.


I think about those moments that I connect with him in the present as an adult.
I think about his charisma, his star power, his blinding intellect and vision. 
I think about all of the things he loved about me and vice versa,
     all the things he wanted for me, fought for, in many ways literally gave his life for.

I think about him.

Grief is a place, a land we all shall visit, a familiar yet foreign land. You sit at the tables in the town square and without warning the skyline transforms before you, the seats below you shift, the beverage you are drinking morphs into another. One can never feel at ease there, only become more acclimatized to the nature of the ever-changing place, learn the rules, the language, the customs--to embrace the cold and strange, but be at peace with it. Because you must: in the Land of Grief it is not only the cushions that alter, you alter too. And often, you don't always notice when you do.

But sometimes there is nothing you can do about pure, unadulterated, weighted, roaring sorrow...

We may, we have the choice, and frankly we have every right to curl up and die.
I would not blame those that do.
All I know is something within me refused to.
Something within me would not allow it.
I chose to live.
To really live.

Were there days when all I desired was to merely wake up and breathe, to just allow my heart to beat, not truly caring whether it continued? Yes.
But I did not chose to live because there didn't seem to be another choice,
     not because it is what my Dad would have wanted,
          I lived because I wanted to.

Ultimately, I found a place deeper than that; an invisible but palpable place with ground as sturdy and immovable and as glittering as diamonds-- to lift up. To surface, and eat at the banquet of the living, even when that meant doing so bite by painstaking bite.

I look back at the child I was, the gifted, old soul, yes; but mostly the inexperienced child facing so much, so many grown up troubles on top of the already heavy decisions and changes associated with that time in everyone's life.
She was cut off at the knees (for no matter how much we think we know when we are 17-18, we are not done being raised. Are we ever?)
I look back at her as if she were someone else and I want to hug her and tell her it will be alright.
Tell her that she is stronger than she knows.
That even though she has no reason to believe that she will ever be happy again, that she will
Tell her that because she will survive this, she never has to be afraid again.
I would not judge her now as I judged myself then.
I would not tell her (because she would scarcely have believed me) that she will soar to the top of every one of her dreams.

I learned in Scotland that sometimes we must "act as if."
I learned in London that life does get better. That it ebbs and flows.
I learned from the people that loved me before, and the people I met along the way, that love is infinite.
I learned from Fiddler on the Roof,  that when you utter "Papa, God alone knows when we'll see each other again..." every day, that the only choice is to believe the response "Then we shall leave it in His hands..."
I learned from Carousel to understand the nature of what my mother lost-- what it really means to not merely lose someone, but to lose the only one.
I learned Fear.
I learned Shame. And Regret.
and Endurance
I learned Ugliness.
and a deeply personal kind of Faith
I learned that Love Keeps Going
I learned Patience, Serenity and Courage.
and Gratitude...
...for it is only in the depths of Grief that we truly learn to value Life.

I have had the greatest adventures anyone could ever hope for. I pinch myself almost every day asking myself "is this real life?" does one person truly get to experience every kind of dream? The people I have met, the places I've been, the quantity and quality of every experience, every opportunity, every travel, conversation, job, every glorious triumph, every accomplishment and celebration and happiness...

Reader:

I would trade it all for only. one. thing.

...But that is not how it works.

We cannot make such trades, and so, we must accept with all our hearts what is, what we cannot change, and do as much as we can with the circumstances we've been handed. Do not wish or pray away the pain, ask for the strength to endure it so that we may use it for further understanding, to view each trial as an opportunity for blessing. Before we can rebuild our life, we must come to know the peace that accompanies acceptance, for out of peace arises the willingness and the wisdom to greet each day with the freedom of an open, loving, trusting, and resilient heart.

It has been said that wisdom is a map upon which to follow the journey of the spirit.
     Wisdom is precious.
          And wisdom is earned. 


Thank you Papa.
Thank you Grief.
A decade on, I feel stronger, and more grateful than ever. 

"She was no longer wrestling with the grief,
but could sit down with it as a lasting companion
and make it a sharer in her thoughts."
- George Eliot

06 October, 2011

05 October, 2011

London Still at The Kennedy Center

All! Today you can book your tickets for my solo cabaret show "London Still: A Classic Tale of 'There and Back Again'" -- The cabaret will in many ways be a 'musicalization' of this blog-- which is why it bears the same title.

There will be stories, familiar and new.
There will be songs (of course) familiar and new (to name a few: Weill, Kander, Herman,  Kern, Blumenkrantz, Horne, Bock & Harnick and Rodgers & Hammerstein... of course...)

Musical direction and arrangements will be by the in-cre-dible Grammy Nominated Andy Einhorn (MD of the famed Sondheim on Sondheim at the Roundabout last season.





And see you there...


"Not your typical ingénue" (Los Angeles Times), Alexandra Silber's compelling stage presence  and sweet soprano push her deeper into the roles she's brought to West End and Broadway audiences. Her credits include an arresting Julie Jordan in the West End production of Carousel, the fiery Hodel in Fiddler on the Roof, and the entangled Laura Fairlie in The Woman in White. Silber also played Sophie De Palma in the Kennedy Center production of Master Class opposite Tyne Daly as well as its subsequent Broadway production, and made her American stage debut in Reprise Theatre Company's Carousel. Now with her cabaret act London Still, she is set to entrance the Spotlight audience"

03 October, 2011

Elementary School Crushes

Sweet baboo
Who were they?
And where are they now? 
I am not on Facebook so this investigative reporting is OLD SCHOOL.

Andrew Moylan
Andrew and I sat next to each other in both Mrs. Overmeyer's 6th grade World Cultures class, as well as one kick ass, legendary quad-table in last period Art. He was so cute. And freckly. And he got stung by a bee in the face once. I think we hung out at the local town fair and went on the "Kamikaze" twice in a row (which I only did to try to be cool). Crucially, this is the kicker: he had red hair...and you know how I feel about that...

Andrew studied Political science at University of Michigan and is now Vice President of Government Affairs at National Taxpayers Union. He is married and lives in Arlington, Virginia.
And, I am only deducing this from the internet, but I think he is.... in the Tea Party...which iiiiis deeply... a lot of adjectives I won't bother to write... But! On a lighter note is apparently an accomplished "Cross Fitter" which sounds super bad-ass. ...And, happily, he still appears to be a redhead (though wears his beard in what I would declare to be a rather controversial look commonly referred to as the "Chin Curtain" --this is a beard unaccompanied by a mustache that grows down from the sideburns and along the jawline, completely covering the chin. It was Abraham Lincoln's style which is why it is sometimes referred to as the "Lincolnic"...which sounds.... not so great...)


Josh Grant
JoshGrant (he is one of those people whose full name you felt inclined to say inonego) and I attended theatre summer day camp together in 1994-- this is before Interlochen (that is seriously going back in time...). That summer, we did Peter Pan. I played Peter Pan and JoshGrant played Captain Hook.

Later on I would (prepare yourself, this entire sentence is ridiculous)
1. go to a Orthodox Hillel Middle School performance of
2. The Sound of Music to
3. support my friend Shira from Ballet who was
4. playing the role of Max Detweiler, only to discover that
5. Josh Grant was playing Captain Von Trapp (I suppose he enjoyed playing middle school versions of sea-faring men?) and
6. The entire production was to be performed in Hebrew on
7. Groundhog Day. 

Josh is now an Ophthalmology Resident at University of South Florida.


Tavi Stutz

Tavi Stutz: AERIALIST.
Ohhhhhh Tavi Stutz. Tavi and I were in what I consider to be my first "proper" show, and you are all going to laugh because it was indeed a little ol' musical called Carousel. I know. I know. You may gasp if you wish. It was absolutely the formative experience that convinced me I wanted to pursue a life in the theatre professionally. I was twelve and played the part of Louise because I was primarily a dancer at the time, and Tavi played the Carnival Boy. Even though I was twelve it was all pretty swoon-worthy (both the theatrical experience and Tavi). It was flirty and there was a kiss and let's just say Tavi was the first person whose name ever made it onto my binder. It was pretty cute.

Tavi now? I am not joking, he is an aerialist in the circus and currently in Cirque Du Soleil. Whatever. Amazing. (Oddly I know quite a few people involved in Cirque-- who would've thunk?) Tavi had never really  danced before Carousel and I always wonder if the Dream Ballet ever influenced him?


Erik Wagenheim

A couple of weeks ago I went to the opening of Follies on Broadway. I was pleased to casually drop the following piece of trivia:

          "I really don't know this musical at all. I know the premiss and some of the songs, but mostly I'm a Follies virgin. Though, I would be totally lying if I said that I didn't close the 5th grade talent show with 'Broadway Baby.'"

Well, I did. I want to say I closed the 5th grade talent show with "Losing My Mind' but it would be a lie.  A great, funny lie, but a lie nonetheless and anyhow I was adorable with my suitcase and full-on period concept costume. (In an related note: one of the weirdest elements of it looking back is that my accompanist was actor Jonathan Hammond, whom I just recently reconnected with in New York playing opposite in Hello Again..... I mean talk about "helloooooo AGAIN," right?!)

Anyway Eric played a Smashing Pumpkins song on the guitar in that talent show and it was pretty good. I have no idea where he is now but he was always a bit of a jerk to me and I recall when I worked in a diner in High School he came in, didn't remember me, was sort of rude and the Greek girls I worked with insisted they spike his food with mischief and I let them. I'm sure he's a perfectly nice adult.

...What about you?

02 October, 2011

Sometimes I spend a lot of time alone...


The holiest of all holidays are those
Kept by ourselves in silence and apart;
The secret anniversaries of the heart.

- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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