Posted in Fine Arts

“The Sun Also Rises” on Hemingway’s 2nd String

You are all a lost generation.

In literature, the “Lost Generation” refers to the post-World War I mentality of people (more specifically, writers) who lost their sense of purpose and contentedness in the aftermath of the conflict’s horrors. Many of them seemed to travel aimlessly, some suffered from a degree of PTSD, and all of it is reflected in their work.

The above quote is attributed to Gertrude Stein, a close friend of Ernest Hemingway, and is used in the opening of The Sun Also Rises…Hemingway’s novel that is considered to be a seminal expression of the Lost Generation’s feelings.

It saddens me when I think of the despair felt by so many during this time. Sure, it led to the genesis of some great literary art, but at what cost? Famously, Hemingway never seemed to recover from these sentiments and took his own life in 1961.

As I spend time with my peers these days- and read their outpourings on social media- I cannot help but fear that a 2nd Lost Generation is fast forming.

Many current events are grim, just as they were a century ago. (In different ways, to be certain, but nevertheless unfortunate.) And I’d venture that a fair chunk of them are linked to the U.S. political climate that has reared its ugly head within the past three years. Never in my life have I seen neighbors so ideologically divided.

What has happened?

And never in my life have I witnessed friends, colleagues, and assorted young people have so much disillusionment for their world. I see many of them take stands for causes they believe in- which is great- while at the same time numbing the pessimistic impulses with alcohol, drugs, and broken relationships.

Even in the arts, the subject matter has shifted. Where was once musical comedies and disco beats now sit topical dramas and tributes to those who experienced untimely deaths. You could argue that global trends (political and otherwise) will ebb and flow; assuming that’s true, I still never expected it to occur in my lifetime.

I feel like I’m dancing around a point here, but I somehow can’t manage to say it outright. I guess what I’m saying is that I lament this 2nd Lost Generation. So many of us have this untapped potential that is being weighed down, like Atlas. I can only pray that a new horizon comes about quickly enough to save the lives of those who weren’t born idealists to begin with.

It was too late for Ernest Hemingway.

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Posted in Writing

Is Regina George the Real MVP of North Shore High?

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Disclaimer: This is an extended metaphor.

If you’ve seen the hit movie Mean Girls, you know that protagonist Cady Herron collectively refers to the behavior of her female classmates as “Girl World.” At the beginning of the story, Girl World is in a state of chaos- cattiness, backstabbing, manipulation, you name it. But by the end of the film, as Cady says: “Finally, Girl World was at peace.”

You may wonder how Girl World came to that point, and there could be many correct answers. Was it because Cady and her friends decided to take down the main instigator of the problems, Regina George? Perhaps it happened because Ms. Norbury held the mass intervention in the gymnasium, enabling the students to come clean and heal their wounds. But there’s one other possibility- that Regina herself was the unintentional catalyst. Say what?!

Long story short: For the entire movie, everyone was doing terrible things in secret and behind a smiling veneer (Cady included). When Regina spread the contents of her damning Burn Book, the situation’s true severity came to light, and it was only then that it could be fixed for good.

I’ve felt a similar sentiment in my struggle with cliques of smaller theatre communities. To use a hypothetical example, suppose there is a local actress who repeatedly gets cast in major roles with one company. To me, this is problematic because it would appear that the company has her in mind from the start. They will insist in the audition notice that “all roles are open.” So you mean to say that of EVERY young woman that showed up, NONE came even close to the “repeat offender,” so to speak?

Look, if you’re going to use the same closed pool of actors in every production, like a “troupe,” that is totally fine. In fact, this isn’t that uncommon! But at least own up to it. Don’t waste the time and get the hopes up of people who audition for your shows. It’s not transparent and reflects embarrassingly on your organization.

Maybe, in towns across the United States, somebody ought to call this stuff out. Some thespian should take on the role of Regina George.

(Happy Tony Awards week, everyone!)

Posted in Writing

“Sky Full of Stars” (Theme from…)

by Amanda DeLalla

We were kindred souls
Even with our clearly-set roles
I could tell from your sparkling eyes
How my heart was in for a surprise
In my head
I would remember every word you said
Carved craters on the moon
In my head
Stained like the surface of Mars with red
Giving both life and ruin
(Refrain) And all I see when you’re with me
Is a sky full of stars
Complex as cosmology
And so very far
Maybe one day you’ll understand it
How I might as well be on another planet
Just me where you are in a sky full of stars (End refrain)
Circumstance isn’t kind to me
I know well that this never should be
You’ve got plenty of things to do
I fear nothing when I’m standing with you
All this time
I’ve felt I’m guilty of some awful crime
Floating up on some cloud
All this time
Loving you like this is an endless climb
Loving you ain’t allowed
(Refrain)
Take me on a rocket to fly
So I’ll never have to say goodbye
Take me on a rocket to fly
No I never wanna ever have to say goodbye!

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Posted in Music

What Happened on May 14th, 1998?

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by Glena Thade

The Theatre at St. Peter’s was pleased to welcome esteemed American crooner Frank Sinatra tonight, as he premiered his new Afterlife Tour. The excitement in the room was palpable; much of the audience had long admired Old Blue Eyes from afar.

After warming up the crowd with his usual banter, Mr. Sinatra introduced the newest member of his traveling orchestra: Raphael the harpist. In an interesting artistic choice, Sinatra opened with “That’s Life,” perhaps as a tongue-in-cheek reference to his former performance locations.

He recalled his encounters with many people in the space between death and the pearly gates, which seamlessly segued into a poignant “Strangers in the Night.” This number was followed by a visually stunning performance of “I’ve Got the World on a String,” in which Sinatra (with the help of some divine power) literally bounced Planet Earth like a yo-yo. Some worldwide seismic movement was reported.

But the definite crowning point of the evening was a special appearance from the Good Lord himself, who restored Sinatra’s youthful vigor before our very eyes. He then joined him for a wonderful rendition of “You Make Me Feel So Young.”

The concert concluded with the Chairman gaining his wings and encouraging the audience to singalong to “Come Fly with Me.”

Originally published in The New York Host and reprinted with permission.

Posted in Theatre

Daily Prompt: Tide

Oh, and how they are a-changing.

As you know, dear readers, I am (first and foremost) a creative soul. Specifically, I love to express myself with the fine arts- lyricism, playwriting, and acting. In the time I’ve come to take my craft more seriously, I’ve deduced that my strengths lie in “heartfelt dramedies.” As I see it, these are a myriad of story types, but they are all quite sanguine in their evaluation of the human experience.

(The lone exception to this would be the historical drama I’m trying to put together for a graduate-level course, but that’s something for another day…)

Now, enter the article that showed up on Playbill this week. For those who don’t feel like clicking: it’s a brief spread of three female artists whom the author describes as “poised for major career breakthroughs.” She suggests that you “learn their names before their work hits it big.” As I read the trio’s reflections on their goals, I noticed an all-too-familiar trend. This trend is one that has been permeating the subject matter of many new plays, particularly ones that find artistic and/or critical success.

Dear Evan HansenThe HumansEclipsedFun Home…almost anything written by Lynn Nottage or Tracy Letts…the list goes on! And they are all (to paraphrase The New Yorker) “problem shows.” They deal with very serious, socially relevant topics and sometimes feature dismal endings. Even the current projects of the three aforementioned female artists (the women’s suffrage movement, queer POC) fit this bill.

Boy, am I screwed!

Now you could argue that recent hit shows like AnastasiaMean Girls, or even The Play That Goes Wrong don’t fit the mold- and you’d be right. But there’s a difference: those pieces usually have the benefits of being adapted from a beloved property and/or an already-established writer or actor.

What’s a woman like me to do, one who is still trying to make her mark AND cannot bring herself to formulate plots where the main character dies, loses their faith in humanity, or both?! I often wonder if I was born in the wrong “age of theatre,” so to speak. So I’m going to ask an open question.

Friends, when it comes to stage, screen, or otherwise: do you prefer to escape current events, or engross yourself in them? Please answer honestly! How beneficial might it be to step outside my comfort zone as a writer?

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Posted in Film and Television

Happy 30th Anniversary, MOONSTRUCK!

As far as I’m concerned, Moonstruck is one of the finest comed- no, roman- no, FILMS, period…ever made.

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It really has it all: a wintry NYC setting, a moving story, plenty of smart humor, Italian-inspired music, and a phenomenal cast giving knockout performances. Here’s my one problem, ironically…the movie is so perfect that I find it difficult to watch. Why? Well, because it makes me feel a lot of things.

You guys must know by now that I’m a sucker for a good Puccini aria. Combine that with thoughtful, hard-hitting love commentary and I’m a dead woman. Honestly, it’s hard for me to adequately put into words how good Moonstruck is. Maybe it’s because its screenplay was written by John Patrick Shanley- a bona fide Broadway baby- and its direction done by the great Norman Jewison.

Maybe it’s because of Cher and Olympia Dukakis’s Oscar-winning performances, in which they nail their characters with perfect line delivery and emotional introspection. (Also, this might be Nicolas Cage’s only film that you can’t poke fun at.)

Or perhaps it’s due to the fact that it follows a stereotype-free Italian family in the Big Apple…something I only rarely get to connect with.

Whatever the source of its magic, it’s impossible to deny that Moonstruck is a very special movie. And I couldn’t be happier that 30 years after its debut, it is still being celebrated by cinephiles, Italians, and hopeless romantics alike. Want to know a secret wish of mine? That the story will come to Broadway someday, with Shanley writing the libretto…and myself penning the song lyrics. Mr. Shanley, if you’re reading this, don’t forget about me!

(Check out this fun fantasy list of potential leads for a musical adaptation. Also, if you’ll be in the Astoria area tomorrow, attend this very cool screening…I wish I could!)

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 Film and Television

Spotlight: A Talk with Michael Anderson of Purple Cloud Entertainment

Here on the blog, we’ve made it our mission to bring the very best in theatre/film/art to the forefront. That, my dear friends, is why this post exists!

Michael Robert Anderson and I first met during a production of The Heiress on Staten Island. He was Morris Townsend and I was the maid, Mariah. He’s a real Renaissance man: actor, writer, director, filmmaker, singer. And he is also the head honcho of his own company, Purple Cloud Productions.

Their latest project is a short film- Major Key– which is set to premiere at Staten Island’s Atrium Cinema on December 5th. Mike was kind enough to sit down with me over the weekend to talk about his movie and give a little behind-the-scenes info!

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Amanda: So Mike, I know you’ve been into filmmaking for quite some time now, but is Major Key your first feature? If not, what was?

Mike: Major Key is in fact a short film- clocking in at 25 minutes. However, it is NOT my first. My first film was titled The Colors of Perception– which was a 45 minute short about a young man who dealt with disabilities/perceptions of life/love/family/etc.

Amanda: As we know, the “war love story” genre has been done a lot over the years. What makes Major Key different and what inspired you to tell this story?

Mike: I’d like to think this genre hasn’t really been as tackled as many people believe. But regardless, I think Major Key differs from the rest because of the main focus being based around music. Major Key is a story that’s surrounded by love, tension, action, and humility. At its heart, the short is an uplifting story about the power of connection through music during tumultuous times. The film centers on an American band of brothers in the height of WWII who are hosted by a German family. Our lead soldier, John Key connects with the German host’s daughter Ilse Brauhn over their mutual love of jazz music. The rest, as they say, is history.

Amanda: What was it like to both write the screenplay and star in the finished product? Was it a difficult task?

Mike: It was my worst nightmare on top of my biggest dream! I had a blast and wouldn’t trade it for the world… but then again, I could’ve used a lot more coffee and downtime to prepare myself on the acting aspect of things. As you can imagine it’s tough to wear all of the hats at once- especially when you have to switch them instantaneously. But again, I’ll treasure that feeling forever.

Amanda: I’m assuming the film was not shot in a studio lot. Where did you go on-location, and did that factor into the actors you wound up casting?

Mike: The location was actually found by our incredible production manager, Jessica Davies, who recommended the odd idea of AirBNB. But lo and behold, she found us a beautiful early 19th century home in the middle of the woods in Millville, New Jersey- where we shot for a full week with no interruptions, beautiful weather and an incredible cast and crew! In regards to the casting side of it, I cast the best of what I saw. I cast the people who I KNEW could bring it all to the table. Location wasn’t a factor in who I got. In fact, the home was the LAST thing we found in the pre-production days, even after casting it.

Amanda: One more thing! What’s next for Purple Cloud Productions? Are you taking this project further, starting something new, or both?

Mike: Purple Cloud Entertainment is always making work. We just love to create. It’s a passion that drives us fay in and day out. Without this craft, without art, I would be no one! So to answer your question- there’s ALWAYS something going on. We’ve got our webseries out now, “Pipsqueak & Stretch”, which can be found on YouTube. And another project that we shot for a dear friend is in post-production, AND I may or may not have something very special in the works moving into 2018! But you’ll have to keep up with us to see!

Hungry for more? Check out Major Key‘s official webpage.
Posted in Writing

Daily Prompt: Trademark

Exciting news from your humble author!

My first collection of essays and lyrics, Tragedy Tomorrow, has been published and is now available for purchase! You may recognize some of the writing as posts made right here on Puccini’s Chronicles.

The book is currently being sold through McNally Jackson independent booksellers- based in SoHo- but I am looking for other outlets as well.

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Of course, the essays are themed to the arts and living with autism in the Big Apple (that is my trademark). The lyrics come from my original musical shows and some standalone songs. Tragedy Tomorrow only costs $10 and can be ordered very soon.

Posted in Writing

“Elton John”

by Amanda DeLalla

I told you once as we lied in bed
A memory that doesn’t leave my head
The fish was seared; there were lights on the tree
And for one night a year
I felt like I had a family
Sharing a laugh with my cousin Helene
Wine flowing free on a snowy scene
The music plays and the candles burn
Then in a week, the loneliness returns
The trouble with me is that I feel too much
Or do not feel enough
Or simply out of touch
Whatever I felt then, don’t worry, it’s gone
I’ve only got Christmastime
And Elton John
Fast forward to the summer and suddenly
You steal my heart, you’re loving me
And your song plays on a crocodile rock
I expected forever
I was in for a shock
To my soul you held the key
And now you wanna be a memory
Never mind, you’re already gone
Leaving me with Christmases
And Elton John
Why can’t things ever stay so simple?
People die, they despair, they have grown
Life won’t promise to be that simple
So I’ll wait and I’ll dream alone
Friday night, he holds me close

Candy canes and a silver bell and it snows
I can smile at him despite what we shared
The time is now; I’ve left it all there
Something’s in the air, could I ever move on?
Taking my Christmases
And Elton John

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