Posted in Personals

Throwback Tuesday: Lou Rawls

Have you ever had a song become inextricably linked to a life event? Of course you have. Now, was that song’s subject matter completely unrelated to the event? That’s probably less common.

Here’s the story of how Lou Rawls’ “You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine” (1976) connected to one of my earliest life lessons.

As a child, I heard a wide array of opinions about race. Stereotypes, codes of conduct, historical roles…you name it! But one doctrine that was repeatedly drilled into me surrounded interracial marriages- it isn’t right to “mix the blood,” especially since “your kids won’t know what they are.” With no concrete examples for this idea, I took it at face value. But that changed when I was about nine years old.

Bizarrely, my nine-year-old self was to be the only bridesmaid in my aunt’s wedding. (Incidentally, I remember my dress very clearly: it was a spaghetti-strap gown with two shiny tan panels on the side, overlaying white fabric underneath.) As we prepared for the ceremony, I met Mariana, a close friend of my aunt’s; I thought she was very pretty and sweet, so I liked her a lot.

I hate to say it, but I was actually surprised when I realized that she was married to a black man. But…I didn’t know any better.

At the wedding reception, I went to my stepmother and expressed my confusion. To her credit, she debunked my preconceived notion in a way that made sense to a kid: “Mixed babies are often very beautiful. Look at Derek Jeter.” Satisfied with this explanation, I joined Mariana and her husband on the dance floor; the song playing at that moment was “You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine.”

Sixteen years later, whenever it comes on the radio, I’m instantly taken back to the dance floor that day. That day, when I took the first of many subsequent steps toward accepting people just as they are.

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Posted in Personals

Welcome to Seb’s.

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It has been one year, two months, and two weeks since I saw La La Land in full for the first time. It’s also been that long since I’ve seen it in full, period.

So much has happened in the wake, and yet this movie is still so hard to watch.

The greatest stories just have that effect on you, you know? Furthermore, we all have those moments where we say “I related to that character” or “that part of the movie reminded me of something that happened to me.” But even rarer are the stories that seem to appear at just the right time, and in which you not only see a part of yourself, but a part of your whole life playing out in front of you.

It’s pretty surreal.

One more little detail- when La La Land first booted up in the cinema, and the wonderful “Another Day of Sun” number began, I was convinced that the actors were playing actors on a film set. Giving a nod to old musical films, if you will, within the context of the plot that was about to unfold. But when the song ended and the cast just got back into their cars as if nothing happened…that’s when I realized that there was no tribute here. It WAS that kind of movie. I knew that I was in for a helluva ride.

Sometimes life doesn’t turn out the way you planned. Sometimes an art form crystallizes your feelings better than words alone.

Always and forever, the story goes on.

Posted in Personals

How to Be Saved

Howdy! Sorry this post is so delayed…it may be “the most wonderful time of the year,” but it’s gotten off to a bit of a rocky start. I’ve been stressed out for a while and finding it difficult to buckle down on what I want/need to do.

There’s a certain line in Hugh Wheeler’s book for A Little Night Music

“I should never have gone to flirt with rescue when one has no intention of being saved.”

These words are spoken by Fredrik Egerman right before his soulmate, Desiree Armfeldt, sings “Send in the Clowns.” Fredrik and Desiree regret that their paths didn’t cross at the right times; they are now both changed people, and frustrated that their present circumstances will likely keep them apart.

Of course, for those two, the musical comedy world mandates that they overcome this obstacle and get together in the end. In the real world, it’s more complicated.

I often think about myself, and how I’ve always felt a need to “save” people. But I also think about how I occasionally think that I, too, need to be “saved.” What does it all mean? Why do I feel this compulsion to make people happy, to lighten their burdens? It doesn’t fall on me to do it for them, especially if they don’t want to be “rescued” from whatever they’re going through.

But Lord, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to be the one who makes it better from them. As for me- to name an example- I look at this one relationship of mine. How one of the things I really like about it is that it enables me to “escape.” But at the same time, I don’t think I am doing all I can to save myself…for reasons both internal and external. And tethering the “escape” to an interpersonal relationship creates unnecessary pressure for the other party, and dependence within myself.

I suppose the point of this whole thing is the following: do I keep trying to rescue others, or know when to stop? And at the end of the day, can I gain a new life for myself?

Posted in Personals

In Which I Purchase an Instax Camera

Last week, my boyfriend and I attended a party for one of his friends. There, I saw said friend (Veronica) snapping pictures with a Fujifilm Instax camera. I hadn’t seen one of these firsthand, so I asked her about it. And Veronica raved, telling me how much she loved the camera and how many creative (or sentimental) uses she found for the little Polaroid photos.

This, combined with my recent fascination with Amelie, a movie in which photo booths play an important role, intrigued me enough to purchase my very own Instax four days later. They come in all different colors; for me, it was a toss-up between the Flamingo Pink and Ice Blue. I went with the latter, then bought two packs of 10-sheet film rolls.

Reading the instructions and examining my new gadget on the bus, I couldn’t wait to try it out. When I disembarked, I loaded the first film roll and looked around for a suitable subject to photograph. Of course, a suburban neighborhood doesn’t have as many interesting things as the big city, but I improvised. I first thought I would find some colorful flowers- but then I spotted a lady walking her adorable dog and knew that it made for a better guinea pig (so to speak).

I asked the lady for permission to try out my camera on Lucy the beagle, and she agreed. Ultimately, I couldn’t get Lucy to look directly at the camera, so I settled for a clean profile shot. It was so cool watching the little Polaroid come right out of the top and develop before my very eyes! I offered to let the woman keep the picture of her dog, but she said I could have it.

Throughout the evening, I took a few more photos. Here are the four best ones…

Polaroids

Clockwise from top left: Lucy the dog, Domino the cat, Tsum Tsums from Disney, and a woman (my mom).

It was a process of trial and error, for I also scrapped three shots that turned out pretty badly. Interestingly, all three were of objects, rather than living things or scenery. The picture of my Tsum Tsums is nice, but I learned that the Instax is not particularly suited to inanimate objects.

Flora

Just for fun, this is a picture of my doll, Flora, which was taken with my iPad. As you can see, the Polaroid photos have a very different feel than these digital images. My iPad also doesn’t use a flash, whereas the Instax has a flash that always fires. A dial on the lens lets you control what kind of flash is used, and the camera helpfully suggests which one to select…but I’m still figuring that part out.

All in all, I’m really fascinated by this product. Once I fine-tune my usage of it, I think my Instax camera will be another good outlet for my creativity. And, a little retro flair never hurt anyone!

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Goodbye, Miss Kathleen: Reflection on a Teacher

“Goodbye Miss Kathleen,

From the young girl in the 22nd row

Who sees you as something more than what we know,

More than just our sophomore hero.”

Knowing the subject of this post in high school taught me some important lessons…and not just the ones I got from her classroom.

Kathleen Nolan taught a few religious studies courses at St. Joseph Hill Academy high school. She was a soft-spoken woman, probably in her sixties, with short mouse-brown hair and spectacles. She was rarely seen not wearing a sweater-and-long-skirt ensemble. This God-fearing educator was also fighting for social justice…as well as a long battle with cancer.

It was she who first told me to “keep things in perspective.” She was also one of the select people who found amusement (rather than annoyance) in my histrionics. At the innocent age of 15, I admired Ms. Nolan’s strength and tact, and yet her existence also confused me greatly. I couldn’t wrap my head around why such a gentle person had to suffer in such a manner. I remember crying over her more than once. Her cancer ultimately went into remission, but she still retired the following year.

Through my fleeting experience here, I learned that bad things would happen to good people. But I also figured out that if we spread charity and decency…and maintain optimism…happiness is still a very tangible goal.

I’ve sadly come to accept that I will never see Ms. Nolan again, at least not in this lifetime. I guess it’s often impossible for teachers to know whether or not they made a difference in their students’ lives. I think everyone fails to recognize just how many people drift in and out of his or her life; that doesn’t diminish their significance, though.

So…do as Ms. Nolan did…and be good to others.

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Do you love him, Loretta?

“Love don’t make things nice. It ruins everything. It breaks your heart.”

Dearest Anonymous…we had a good talk last night, I think. It always feels good when you get things out on the table, because then you can work on fixing them. Step by step.

Of course, in our case, that will take quite some time.

It’s easy to fall in love with love. It makes your brain run on all cylinders. It makes your heart race in the best way. You get this stupid grin on your face for no discernible reason. And you feel at peace with your world. In my humble opinion, love is the most important driving force of the human spirit. It’s what keeps us together as a species. When channeled, it can move mountains.

Unfortunately, no matter how powerful love is, sometimes it gets misdirected. When that happens, you get what Nicolas Cage describes in the above quote from one of my favorite movies. Or you get what’s transpired between you and me over the past year.

Neither of us may have regrets, but I will still maintain that leaving me was a mistake on your part. Maybe that’s at the core of why I seem to get pulled into your gravitational field over and over. Because I don’t believe I got a fair chance to prove that I could be what you needed.

Near the beginning of Moonstruck, Olympia Dukakis asks Cher if she loves her fiancee. When Cher replies “No,” Olympia says that this is a good thing: “When you love them, they drive you crazy because they know they can.” Well…I don’t think you are quite that sadistic! But, you will lie in the bed you made.

102-moonstruck-quotes

For now, Anonymous, have a lovely summer, good luck with your new gig, and may we both find the happiness we deserve. See you on the flip side.

Posted in Personals

It Ain’t Festivus, but I’m Airing Some Grievances

  1. The Broadway.com Awards are the epitome of why “the public” can’t be allowed to vote for anything in the entertainment industry. Why? Because “the public” voting on their smartphones is mostly comprised of close-minded teenagers who are just getting exposed to the theatrical world. Disclaimer: There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Hell, my first “gateway show” was Wicked. Everyone’s got to start somewhere. But unless voters adequately acquire the breadth of knowledge required to judge performances…awards turn into a popularity contest. Which is fine, but then it should be touted as such. Call the category “Favorite Working Actress” instead of “Best Performance by an Actress,” so that when Idina Menzel or Laura Osnes win for shows that close in less than 6 months, it’ll make sense.
  2. On that note, the notion of “parody” adaptations being protected from copyright suits is starting to bother me. You make a mockery out of someone else’s work, and it’s totally fine. You lovingly adapt someone else’s work because you respect the material and want to see it anew, and suddenly you’re cutting legal red tape. It hardly seems fair…but as a friend pointed out to me, it’s also hardly about the art when dollar bills start falling into people’s laps.

breaking

…So to speak.

Okay, my rant’s over.

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Shine…Again?

Thank you to everyone who took an interest in my NYC cabaret debut!

I’m pleased to announce that thanks to this show, I have booked another gig- this time at Don’t Tell Mama. I’ll be singing in the April 4th edition of Seth’s Showcase, emceed by Seth Bisen-Hersh, alongside 5 other performers. We’ll each be doing a set of two songs, and all of the sets will either share a theme or tell a story of our choosing.

I don’t want to give too much away, but here are some clues as to my rep for this show:

  1. Both songs will surround a theme.
  2. Both songs are from modern musicals.
  3. One song is an uptempo and the other is a ballad.

My kingdom for a Tony Award…

Get tickets!

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Ruminations on the Babes Who Dream

On this Inauguration Day, I reflect on people’s common dreams and the strife with which we strangle one another in the wake of the volatile election. One person breaks ties with a friend over politics, so-and-so cries in the night with fear or anger. And for what? Who lets it get to that point?

Can’t we admit that deep down, we all want the same things out of life? Is the “American Dream” really so out of reach? When will we realize that no man is an island, and even two polar opposites can be interdependent?

But no- right now, what “matters” is that I don’t interpret the world as you do, and so that makes you my adversary. No middle ground in sight.

I have a niece who is about 18 months old. Understandably, everybody loves her. She is a well-behaved child and a cutie. Although she’s too young to vocalize this now, one day she will have dreams and opinions for herself. She’ll learn in school that she can be whatever she wants to be, to believe in herself and have hope. I fear that as she matures, this bright encouragement will stop…as it did, in some regard, for me.

The bottom line: Alexandra, enjoy it while you can. It’s an illusion to some degree. It’s propelling you to that moment in time when you’re not cute anymore and your dreams stop mattering and you become a candidate for unkindness. Where is it that we lose our youthful protection, I wonder? Are we not that same child you wouldn’t dare frown at, once upon a time?

Quoth the lad called Tiny Tim, “God bless us everyone.”