An Update on My 2019 Goals

I thought I would do a quick update on my 2019 goals before I share my goals for 2020. I stopped doing "resolutions" a few years ago and instead like to do measurable goals that I can feel like I properly check off. I certainly didn't achieve all of my goals this year, but I made significant progress on a fair few.

One. Write at least one blog post a week. 
I don't know that I wrote one post a week for this blog, but I did plenty of other writing for BroadwayWorld, Next Best Picture, and In Their Own League. Thus, I'm still considering this a success though I'm aiming to create more content for this blog in 2020.

Two. Reach 450 subscribers on YouTube.
I only made six videos in 2019, but I managed to get my follower count up to 446. It's still a few away from my goal of 450, but it's rather close! I kind of fell out of making videos in 2020 but I have some filmed and ready to edit and have lots of ideas for content in 2020. 

Three. Visit five new historic sites. 
I visited lots of new historic sites this year while on vacation in London, while on a work trip to Colorado, and while living in New York City. Some of my favorites were Winchester Cathedral, the Molly Brown House, and Fraunces Tavern. 

Four. Watch 100 movies. 
I didn't quite hit 100 movies this year, but I watched 94! For this goal, I only included movies I hadn't seen before or films that I hadn't seen for at least six or seven years. I caught up on a lot of 2018 films, watched a lot of 2019 films, and rediscovered ones that I had missed in years before. My favorite film that I watched this year was "Little Women" (2019) and my least favorite was "Burnt" (2015). 

Five. Watch and rank all of Lily James's films. 
I did manage to watch all of Lily James's films within the year of 2019. It was such an interesting thing to see all of an actress's work close together and I love that if I continue to watch her new films as they come out, I can continue to say that I've seen them all. Keep an eye out for my ranking coming soon! It was such a fun challenge that I've decided to continue it next year; I'll be watching all of Saoirse Ronan's movies in 2020. 

Six. See 30 shows. 
Between theatre in London, New York, and Raleigh, I saw 46 shows this year. Not bad at all! A lot of them were luckily through being a reviewer for BroadwayWorld, first in New York and then here in Raleigh. I will have a top shows of 2019 post coming soon.

Seven. Read 20 books. 
I basically failed at this goal as I only read nine books this year, though I'm halfway through two different ones right now. Part of this is because it's taking me forever to get through Oscar Wilde's De Profundis and it kind of threw my reading off. My favorites were the To All the Boys I Loved Before series by Jenny Han and Persuasion by Jane Austen. My least favorite was definitely The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway. I'm setting a less ambitious goal for 2020, but hoping I'll have more luck finishing it.

Eight. Read War and Peace
I actually didn't even start War and Peace to my absolute shame. But this is a goal that I'm going to carry over into 2020 -- and every subsequent year until I achieve it, I suppose. 

Nine. Finish reading all of Jane Austen's novels. 
I actually finished this fairly early on in the year. I didn't care too much for Mansfield Park but fell head over heels for Lady Susan and Persuasion. I'm so happy that I can now say I've read all of her work. 

Ten. Cook a proper meal in my apartment. 
Not long after moving into my apartment in Raleigh, I decided to cook a vegan chili based on the recipe they use for the chili they serve at the intermission of Broadway's Oklahoma. It was surprisingly a success and I was able to take it for lunch for several days. I'm looking forward to cooking more in my lovely new kitchen!

What were your goals or resolutions for 2019? Did you achieve them? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter

"Little Women" and Me: A Love Letter to Jo March and Greta Gerwig

I recently returned home from an advanced press screening of "Little Women." (This will luckily prevent the inevitable fight with my family when I would have left Christmas Day celebrations to go see it.) I have a proper review for In Their Own League forthcoming, but I needed to get my more emotional, personal feelings onto the page about what this novel has meant to me throughout my life and how well this film has captured it. What can I say, Jo March would definitely approve.

I don't remember when I first read or watched "Little Women." It feels like it must have been a part of me since birth, though in truth I was likely eight or nine when I first read Louisa May Alcott's masterpiece. Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy were as much my childhood friends as my elementary school classmates were. Laurie was my first love and Beth, my first loss. In short, I was one of many girls raised on "Little Women."

Growing up, I wanted to be Jo March more than anything. It was Jo who inspired my love of writing and Jo who taught me what it meant to be a writer. I was forever scribbling on something, though I don't know which was worse: my childish short stories or my angsty high school poems. Now, at twenty-five, I have circled back to being a writer as a blogger and film and theatre critic. And at times, I feel that there's a script rustling around in my head, begging to be written.

Director and writer Greta Gerwig captures what it means for Jo to be a writer better than I've ever seen before. Perhaps, it is because Gerwig is a writer herself. There is a great scene towards the end of the film in which we get to see Jo's writing process as she gives birth to her great novel. She eats and sleeps amongst its pages, tirelessly working and reworking. Jo taught me that being a writer means to work hard.

As much as I idolized Jo in my childhood, I came to the realization in my teens that I was as much a Meg as a Jo. I am the mom friend extraordinaire, forever ready with a tissue or a Bandaid and always getting told off by my younger sister for attempting to mother her. I yearn for fine things, romance, and a family and often was a bit ashamed of this part of myself when I was younger. I thought that to be strong and smart, you had to be a Jo or an Amy. It was only as I grew older that I could accept this Meg-like side of myself.

I've always felt that film adaptations didn't do Meg justice, didn't understand that Alcott shows that both Meg and Jo's paths are equally valid. But this film has a beautiful portrayal of Meg by the wonderful Emma Watson. It feels like a special blessing to have an actress that I've admired for so long play one of my favorite literary characters and she does a splendid job. In this version, we get to see Meg fall in love with John Brooke (played perfectly by James Norton, my coworker once upon a time when I was an intern at the Donmar Warehouse) and then we get to see them struggle to raise a family and keep their love as they deal with being poor. We see that Meg's decision to follow her heart and marry a "penniless tutor" (Aunt March's words, not mine) is as brave as Jo or Amy's decisions to pursue their passions.

When I was eight years old, to my delight, my parents gifted me with the younger sister I'd always wanted. Hannah is the Amy to my Meg, the Beth to my Jo. She has never understood my frustration with Amy, declaring the spoiled brat her favorite character. I cannot wait for her to see Florence Pugh's performance because Gerwig has somehow made me appreciate and even like Amy. In this portrayal, I can see my younger sister reflected back to me.

A few years ago, my sister suddenly fell ill. She was diagnosed with a heart condition and eventually received a heart transplant. For months, it felt like my world was teetering on its axis. Now, our life is largely back to normal, but we know that, as Jo says, it can never be the same. I have always been sensitive to stories about sisters (catch me crying over "Frozen" or "The Hunger Games"), but "Little Women" suddenly hurts in new and fresh ways. I understand Jo's struggle to understand a world that could hurt Beth, her desperation not to be left behind.

I started crying about halfway through this film and never really got it back together. I don't want to spoil it, but the way that Gerwig builds the narrative around Beth's illness and death is exquisite and poised for optimal emotional impact without ever feeling manipulative. I cried because I now know what Jo was feeling, sitting at her sister's bedside, trying to bring about her recovery by sheer force of will. I know because I've sat there. And as someone who has, I can attest to the fact that Saoirse Ronan's performance was perfect.

Like Jo, I had dreams of living in New York City and making some large contribution to culture and the world. I moved to New York a little over a year ago and, like Jo, found that the city didn't inspire my creativity as I had hoped. (Unfortunately, I did not meet any dreamy professors too willing to offer advice; Louis Garrel makes Professor Bhaer seem like quite the catch in this film.) After several months of misery, I began to feel that I would be better off at home, back in North Carolina where I could be near my family. My sister's illness has made me realize how important each moment together is and I had already had my grand year abroad doing my Master's in London.

And yet, leaving New York felt like giving up, not just on the city, but on some part of myself and my dreams and who I imagined I would be. I spent many therapy sessions trying to come to terms with my decision; I knew it was best for my mental (and financial) health to leave and yet, I struggled. Everything clicked into place one day when I realized that Jo March had also left New York to be near her sisters and that it was back home, not in the city, that she wrote her masterpiece.

Please, don't expect a great novel from me anytime soon, but since moving home, I've reviewed many theatrical productions, attended my first film festival as a member of the press, written countless reviews and blog posts, and been accepted into the North Carolina Film Critics Association. I feel comfortable that I, like Jo, made the right choice.

It felt very special to see this with my mother. Saoirse Ronan is my favorite actress; Meryl Streep is hers. We share a love for Laura Dern, who brilliantly portrays Marmee in this film. (My sister actually calls my mother "Marmee" as a pet name, on occasion.) Marmee is the calm amongst the storm, who holds down the fort for her daughters, and yet this version allows her to be more than that, too. By incorporating Marmee's best line from the novel, "I am angry nearly every day of my life," we are given a glimpse into who this woman really is. I think that "Little Women" is something that is special for many mothers and daughters; it has certainly been inextricably linked to mine and my mother's life.

All of this is to say: Greta Gerwig is a genius who took a novel that is over a century old and made it feel fresh while still respecting and loving it. She brought the characters to life in a way that allowed me to recognize all of my old friends, while also seeing them each from new angles. She didn't leave out a single important thing -- from Amy's limes to Laurie's promise to be a saint. This film feels made for me and yet, I also feel oddly comforted by knowing that there are people out there -- namely, Gerwig and Saoirse Ronan -- who understand exactly what Jo March and "Little Women" mean in the same way that I do.

Sunday Summary | November 17

My family all went to the cinema to see "The Current War." (Yes, because of Tom Holland.) Unfortunately, it's a film that definitely doesn't live up to its premise. The story doesn't really tell the story of the men it's about and while the acting is good, it's otherwise fairly poorly made.

I watched "The Beguiled" to write my review for In Their Own League's Top 50 Films of the Decade directed by women list. I love Sofia Coppola's films and was so impressed by how atmospheric this one is.

Of course, there was no way I would miss a biopic starring Cynthia Erivo, Joe Alwyn, and Leslie Odom Jr. I went to see "Harriet" with my friend, Lexi, and while it's not a perfect film, I think it's a lot better than many are giving it credit for. It is formulaic, but it also has gorgeous performances and is a really important story to be told. Read my full review here.

I'm a big fan of Aidan Turner's, so I thought I ought to give his new indie film "Love is Blind" a try. Unfortunately, while I appreciated that it had a unique view on grief and relationships, it is a bit of a mess. You can read my full review here.

As part of our preparation for our upcoming DisneyWorld trip, my family finally watched "Avatar." Yes, ten years late. I was so impressed by the technology and the message of the film and it made me so excited to go to Pandora in Animal Kingdom.

I reviewed my first national tour at DPAC earlier this month. I got to see "A Bronx Tale" and was surprised by how much my dad and I both enjoyed it. It's a really lovely show about family and ambition and love with fun retro-inspired music. You can check out my full review here.

I also got to see "Having Our Say" by North Carolina Theatre, a really wonderful two woman show about two actual African-American women who grew up in Raleigh and went on to become trailblazers. It was fascinating to hear their stories, based on actual oral history given to a journalist when the two ladies were still alive, especially about their father who was born a slave. You can check out my review here.

This month, I've been listening to Anthony Ramos's new album, "The Good & The Bad." You might know Anthony Ramos from Broadway smash hit "Hamilton" or his role in last year's "A Star is Born." It's a really solid first album, full of bops. You can listen on Spotify here.

1) Ashley from bestdressed has made a gorgeous look-book of office attire, with the help of Amazon Prime Wardrobe. I always love seeing fashionable people put together work-friendly outfits. .

2) I loved the teaser trailer for Pixar's upcoming movie, "Soul." I'd watch anything with Daveed Diggs, but it looks really great!

3) Carrie Hope Fletcher's vlog from her trip to Disneyland Paris earlier this year isn't new this month, but I finally got around to watching it. It brought back such great memories of my trip to Disneyland Paris last year!

Sunday Summary | October Edition

Yes, I know. It's not a Sunday. And it's no longer October. But I saw tons of wonderful movies during the month of October that I didn't want to get lost. So normal Sunday Summaries will resume soon, but for's my catching up on October and in particular everything I saw at Film Fest 919.

The opening night film for Film Fest 919 was "Marriage Story," a film I still haven't recovered from. It's currently my number one film of the year and I can't say enough good things about it. It's hilarious and heart-breaking and features some of the best acting of the whole decade.

While I didn't love "Honey Boy," the performances in it (by Shia LaBeouf, Lucas Hedges, and especially Noah Jupe) are undeniable. It's definitely a cathartic work by LaBeouf who wrote it during rehab based on his own relationship with his father and his childhood as a young actor. You can read my full review here.

I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked "The Report," a grueling look at the creation of the Torture Report that detailed what the CIA did in Afghanistan. It features a great performance by Adam Driver and really opened my eyes to things I only partially knew. You can read my full review here.

I also saw two French films, "The Truth" and "Portrait of a Lady on Fire." I thought that "The Truth" was a fascinating look at an aging actress and her relationship with her family, even if it did drag at points. "Portrait of a Lady on Fire" is one of my favorites of the year. It's a gorgeous period drama, a beautiful lesbian love story, and just an incredibly well-made film. Reviews for both are coming to Next Best Picture soon.

"The Two Popes" will drop onto Netflix late December and I think it'll make quite a splash. Jonathan Pryce and Anthony Hopkins play Pope Francis and Pope Benedict and a fascinating look at two opposing factions of the Catholic Church follows. The two are clearly some of the best actors of their generation and it's a movie that challenges its audience just as it delights them.

I saw two movies about the death penalty at Film Fest 919: "Clemency" and "Just Mercy." While I thought that Alfre Woodard's performance was stunning, I didn't much care for "Clemency." (Review coming later to Next Best Picture.) However, I absolutely loved "Just Mercy." It has a really touching story, fantastic performances, and it got me all fired up and wanting to help change the way the justice system is failing our country.

One of my favorite movies I saw all month was Netflix's "The King." (In fact, I loved it so much that I've watched it again this month!) It's a loose adaptation of Shakespeare's Henriad, starring Timothée Chalamet and Joel Edgerton, who also co-wrote it. Chalamet really continues to prove his skills in it and it's a great medieval epic that questions if a ruler can ever really remain uncorrupted by power and paranoia. You can hear more of my thoughts on the NBP podcast.

The closing film of Film Fest 919 was "Jojo Rabbit" and it absolutely blew me away. Taika Watiti is absolutely a genius and this film proves it. It's the perfect anti-hate satire while also being a really heartfelt story about a boy who has been brainwashed by those around him discovering that his beliefs might not be what they seem.

The two films that I saw outside of Film Fest 919 in October were rather disappointing. Renee Zellwegger is absolutely outstanding as Judy Garland in "Judy," but the film around her doesn't live up to her performance. I truly don't have anything good to say about Netflix's "The Laundromat." It's currently clocking in as my least favorite film of 2019. If you want my full thoughts, you can find them here and on this podcast.

Mostly in October, I listened to a lot of different versions of "Sweeney Todd" to prepare for our Next Best Theatre podcast episode about it. I'm not sure I realized before just how clever this show's lyrics are. I also made a playlist of tons of spooky musical theatre albums in honor of Halloween that I listened to a lot. 

I got to see a darling family show, "80 Days Around the World" by Theatre Raleigh. It was a really charming adaption of the well-known classic and well adapted to be enjoyed by children and adults alike. You can read my full review for BroadwayWorld Raleigh here.

1) I went cruelty free with my makeup and skincare a few months ago and this guide by Lucy Moon on how to go cruelty free is super helpful. If anyone ever wants to hear more about my decision to go cruelty free or my favorite cruelty free products, let me know.

2) This interview with Saoirse Ronan and Timothée Chalamet on the set of their Entertainment Weekly photoshoot is probably my favorite thing to hit the Internet all month. I couldn't possibly be anymore excited for "Little Women"!

3) This one's rather NSFW, but man is Anthony Ramos's music video for his new song "Mind Over Matter" hot. It features his real-life girlfriend and former "Hamilton" co-star Jasmine Cephas Jones. The song's also an absolute bop.

Getting Ready for Film Fest 919

I'm very excited to share that I'm attending my first film festival as a member of the press next week. Film Fest 919 is back for its second year and I'll be there covering quite a few films for Next Best Picture. For those that aren't being reviewed by me for Next Best Picture, I'll be writing a short review here on my blog (partially to help me remember my thoughts so that I can be on the NBP podcast reviews of them). I will also be writing a piece for Next Best Picture recapping the festival so make sure to keep an eye out for that.

I attended a couple of screenings last year at Film Fest 919 ("Boy Erased" and "The Favourite"), but wasn't able to do more because it was the weekend that I was apartment hunting in New York City. I'm thrilled to be in town for the whole time and there four out of the five days. Last year, they had movies like "Roma" and "Green Book" that went on to win major awards so it seems that this might be a good year for their opening and closing films, "Marriage Story" and "Jojo Rabbit."

Film Fest 919 has an impressive array of films, many of which have great reviews from Cannes, Sundance, TIFF, and other previous festivals. One of my favorite things about it is that it is run by two women, Randi Emerman and Carol Marshall. It takes place at the Silverspot Cinema in Chapel Hill and runs from October 9 to 13.

I'm thrilled to get to see these films, some of which I'm not sure we'll get here in Raleigh in cinemas like "The King" which may skip us and go straight to Netflix or foreign film "The Truth." Here is a list of the films I'm planning on seeing:

  • Marriage Story 
  • The Report
  • Honey Boy
  • The Truth 
  • Clemency
  • Portrait of a Lady on Fire
  • The Two Popes
  • Motherless Brooklyn
  • Just Mercy 
  • The King
  • Jojo Rabbit
Is anyone else planning on going to Film Fest 919? Does anyone have tips for attending a smaller film festival as a member of the press? Let me know on Twitter. x

Review: Byers-Evans House (Denver, Colorado)

During the summer, I traveled to Denver, Colorado for the first time for a work trip for my last job. I decided to fly out early on the day I had to get there so that I could visit a couple of museums since I had never been to the area before. One of the museums I visited was the Center for Colorado Women's History which is housed within the Byers-Evans House.

The Center for Colorado Women's History seeks to celebrate the role that women have played in the state's history. They host great events; I really wish I lived a bit closer than the other side of the country so I could attend some of them. While I was there, they had a Women/Work/Justice exhibit on in the museum where you buy your ticket to tour the house.

The Center gives guided tours of the house for a reasonable cost. I was lucky enough to catch the last tour of the day which only had one other person on it. Our tour guide was very knowledgable and very happy to answer questions. I also appreciated that he let me have as much time as I wanted to take photos in the house (photography is allowed without flash). I would recommend allotting an hour to visit the house.

The brick house was built in 1883 by William Byers, the founder of Rocky Mountain News. However, only a few years later, the Byers family moved out of the house and it was purchased by the son of a family friend. William Gray Evans and his wife Cornelia Lunt Gray moved in during 1889. Evans was the son of the governor of Colorado at the time.

William and Cornelia expanded the house and went on to have four children: John, Josephine, Margaret, and Katherine. In 1900, William's mother, Margaret Patten Gray Evans, and William's unmarried sister, Anne Evans, moved into the house. Anne Evans was an important figure to the cultural institutions of Denver throughout her life, both as an artist herself and as a philanthropist and organizer.

The Evans were a very cultured family. Several of the daughters spent time abroad, either in Paris studying or in France during World War I as a volunteer. The house is filled with books and artwork. I personally enjoyed seeing the amount of Dickens that they owned, as I used to volunteer at the Charles Dickens Museum. For any other bibliophiles, the house is a treat.

The Evans family lived in the house until 1981 and for many decades it was a house of only women. (There are some who say that at least one of the daughters' spirits occupies the house now.) In 1981, when the last of the original Evans family died, the house and its contents were donated to the Colorado Historical Society.

After being donated, the house was restored as closely as possible to the 1912-1924 period. I didn't think to ask why this period was chosen, but perhaps they felt it best represented the most exciting history of Denver. Most of the modern improvements to the house have been removed. I believe that the building that now houses the rotating exhibit and the ticket desk was once a carriage house or another outbuilding.

Almost everything in the house belonged to the Evans family and much of it has been in the house since the early 1900s. I've visited a fair number of historic homes and this might be the one with the most items, ranging from furniture to books to trinkets to hairbrushes. One of my favorite parts was looking at items on top of dressers and dressing tables and examining bookshelves. It was a great peek not only into the Evans family, but also into life in the early twentieth century.

I also couldn't write about the Byers-Evans House without mentioning how much I loved the storage system in one of the daughter's bedrooms. Look at this gorgeous built-in mirrored wardrobe. I'd like one of those for my bedroom, please.

The house feels incredibly lived-in. I know that it's a cliché, but I truly did feel like the Evans family might walk through the door at any point and demand to know why I was in their home. As you might be able to tell from the photos, for the most part there are no ropes or glass keeping you away from anything. You're allowed to freely roam each room as the tour guide provides information. In all honesty, being there towards the end of the day with only two other people in the house had a bit of an eerie feel to it, almost like I was intruding. It was easy to imagine what the house must have been like in its hey day when it was home to a leading Denver family with four children, extended family, and multiple servants.

To find out more about the house, ticket prices, or tour times, you can visit the Byers-Evans House website. I certainly would go for another tour if I am ever back in Denver. It's a lovely and educational way to spend some free time in the city.

The Sunday Summary | September 29

And just like that, September is gone and October is only a few days away. I'm very excited as this fall and early winter hold so many fun things I can't wait to see, from theatre to movies. I'm also very excited for the start of Victober, a reading challenge from a group of BookTubers, that involves reading as many Victorian books as possible. What are you looking forward to in October?

In addition to seeing Downton Abbey a second time (with my friend Kathleen!), I watched the 1971 "Fiddler on the Roof" film in preparation for a Next Best Theatre podcast. Keep your eyes peeled for that to come up on my Twitter once it's done being edited. I wasn't the biggest fan of the movie but I did appreciate its scope and I could tell that I would really enjoy the show onstage. 

On Friday night, my dad and I went to see Raleigh Little Theatre's "Blood at the Root." It's a bit of a heavy play, based on real events in a Louisiana high school in 2006, but it's well worth a watch for its commentary on race relations in America. Check out my BroadwayWorld Raleigh review.

People who follow me on social media will likely already know of my love for former Disney Channel star, Dove Cameron. She released her first two singles this week and both of them are perfect autumnal bops. While I love "Bloodshot"'s moodiness, it's the more playful "Waste" that has my heart.

1) I'm aware that it would be silly to go all the way to Disneyland just to get a Spiked Hard Apple Float and yet Maxwell Glick's video makes me want to.

2) Does anyone else like watching children's clothing hauls even though they don't have kids? I loved Louise Pentland's autumn clothing haul for her two little girls, especially the little boots and tutus!

3) I always love Lucy Moon's videos, but I especially enjoyed her second-hand shopping video which I finally caught up with this week. I love watching hauls, but it's nice to have a way to get to watch someone go shopping while being more environmentally-conscious.

The Sunday Summary | September 22

It's crazy how quickly September is going by. September is definitely my favorite month of the year; I'm an autumn girl at heart.

I recently rewatched "Bride and Prejudice" for my first article for In Their Own League, a new film website focused on women in film. This movie is a Bollywood-style adaptation of "Pride and Prejudice" set in modern-day India. It's such a delight, and a clever adaptation of Jane Austen's classic as well.

Naturally, I went to see the "Downton Abbey" movie when it had a special early release across the country on September 12. I absolutely love the series and the movie was the perfect add-on, full of heart and warmth and fun (and zingers from Lady Violet). You can find my full thoughts in my review for Next Best Picture.

If you're looking for a song with some great autumn vibes, then check out Zach Adkin's recent release "Dexter Hall." It's part of his EP which comes out later this year. You might know Zach from playing Dmitri in Broadway's "Anastasia" and I'm very excited to see him as Tony in North Carolina Theatre's "West Side Story" next month.

1) Another Sunday Summary, another bestdressed video? You bet. In this video, Ashley shares some tips for keeping a journal consistently, something I've always struggled with and am trying to get better at.

2) My favorite BookTuber, Lucy Powrie, is one of the hosts of an October reading challenge called Victober. The hosts have set different challenges all related to Victorian literature and I can't wait to take part. This video contains more information.

3) I'm so thrilled that SophieBelleBrown is posting to her personal channel again. This Primark haul is adorable and full of wonderful floral things.

The Sunday Summary | September 8

Happy Sunday! I've decided to do these every other week if I don't have enough content to warrant doing one. I hope that works for you all. x

I finally got around to seeing Blinded by the Light on Memorial Day and it's so absolutely endearing. It's the story of a young Pakistani man living in Luton, England in the 1980s who wants to be a writer against the wishes of his more traditional father. He falls head over heels for the music of Bruce Springsteen and it catapults him into following his dreams and finding his voice.

Even for someone with limited Springsteen knowledge like me, this film is a beautiful love letter to the power of music and art and one generation's relationship with the one before. The cast are phenomenal, particularly Viveik Kalra and Meera Ganatra. I love the 80s fashion, the British slang, and how the main character's love interest Eliza seems like an actual high school girl -- and he's interested in her for her personality and her activism. God bless female directors!

Today, I got to see Theatre Raleigh's production of The Scottsboro Boys which is an incredibly powerful piece of theatre. It's a minstrel show-style musical about the trials of the Scottsboro Boys in the 1930s and while it's uncomfortable to watch at times, I think it's very important. Check out my full review for BroadwayWorld Raleigh here.

1) If you've recently gone back to school, you might be starting to run out of cute outfits. One of my favorite YouTubers, Ashley (known as bestdressed), has a great video with 30 back to school outfit ideas. Or even if, like me, you're done with school, it's just great autumn outfit inspiration!

2) I love food and I especially love food at Disney parks, so I adored this video of Disney YouTuber Maxwell Glick reviewing the three course prix fixe meal at Epcot's Les Chefs de France.

3) It's no secret that I'm a big fan of Dove Cameron's and while I absolutely can't wait for her to release her original music, I love this beautiful video and cover she made of Kacey Musgraves's "Slow Burn."

What have you been reading, watching, and listening to this week? Let me know in the comments x

The Sunday Summary | August 25

I apologize for completely missing last week's Sunday Summary. Things have been a bit crazy! I decided to roll everything from the past two weeks into one post.

I watched The Big Short for the first time for a Next Best Picture podcast and was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. I actually liked director Adam McKay's controversial Vice last year, but The Big Short was a cool learning opportunity for me as I didn't know much about how the housing bubble bursting caused the economic crash. You can read my full review for NBP here.

I used my Regal pass for the first time to see Lulu Wang's The Farewell and it blew me away. It replaced Booksmart as my number one film of 2019 thus far. It's a gorgeous tale about identity and different cultures and family and grandparents. It's beautiful in its specificity and yet universal. Wonderfully acted and written, The Farewell is a movie that I recommend that everyone see as soon as possible.

I saw my first Raleigh Little Theatre production last week, with Hannah as my plus one. It was my first introduction to the delightful A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder and even if it isn't one of my favorite musicals, it was a lovely production. You can read my full review for BroadwayWorld here.

Taylor Swift's latest album, Lover, dropped on Thursday at midnight and I've thought about little else since. This is definitely one of my favorite albums of all time (okay seriously..."London Boy"? "I Forgot You Existed"? This album is a gift), but I'm also still formulating my ideas about it. Would you all be interested in me doing a ranking of the songs on the album or a write up about it?

1) I'm so thrilled that my favorite YouTuber Carrie Hope Fletcher is back to backstage vlogging now that she's in the concert version of Les Mis in London. She put up her first "Follow Me, Fantine!" and I was so excited.

2) I love to see people's morning and nighttime routines and Lucy Moon has a knack for creating super aesthetically pleasing videos. Check out her morning routine for days when she wants to be productive.

3) Sara Bareilles is releasing an album of songs that were cut from Waitress and as part of that, she's been previewing some of the songs. This gorgeous cover by Jeremy Jordan (who I saw earlier this year in Waitress!) is absolutely stunning and sure to tug at your heartstrings.

What have you been reading, watching, and listening to this week? Let me know in the comments x

The Sunday Summary | August 11

I've decided to introduce a new weekly series to my blog. This series, called "The Sunday Summary," will detail all of the art and media I've consumed in the prior week including books, films, theatre, YouTube, podcasts, and albums. I wanted a place that I could talk about films that I didn't want to do a full review of and share links to the theatre reviews that I'm doing for BroadwayWorld Raleigh. I thought it would also be fun to highlight some of my favorite YouTubers and their best content.

I'd also like to say a little thank you to my dear friend Lexi who helped brainstorm names for this series and was the one to eventually hit on "The Sunday Summary." I get by with a little help from my friends (who are more creative than I am). 

It's been a light week for movies for me (expect more next week!). But I did watch the 1984 filmed version of Sunday in the Park with George, which you can actually get on DVD from Amazon and Barnes and Noble. It stars Mandy Patinkin and Bernadette Peters and is a real treat. It's my third favorite Sondheim (after Company and Assassins) and Next Best Theatre has a podcast about it coming later this month.

This week, I saw my first show as a reviewer for BroadwayWorld Raleigh. I'm so excited to be reviewing shows in my hometown and I couldn't have had a better start than seeing Theatre Raleigh's The Bridges of Madison County. It's a beautiful show and this production couldn't possibly be any better. You can read my whole review here.
Janine DiVita in The Bridges of Madison County

In preparation for my podcast, I've also been listening to the Sunday in the Park with George albums, namely the Original Broadway Cast and the 2017 Broadway Revival Cast. While the former has the gorgeous Bernadette Peters and Mandy Patinkin, the later has the equally gorgeous Annaleigh Ashford and Jake Gyllenhaal. Dare I say I might prefer the 2017 version? My favorite songs on both of them are "Color and Light" and "We Do Not Belong Together".

I watch a lot of YouTube so I thought I'd share a few favorite videos every week. I'll try to include a variety of different types of videos.

1) Fellow theatre YouTuber Katherine Steele did a fascinating video looking at why Broadway ticket prices are so expensive and why making filmed versions of shows is so difficult.

2) One of my long-time faves Fashion Mumblr did a video looking at the upcoming Autumn 2019 trends. I'm thrilled to hear that dark florals are going to be in fashion because I wear them all the time!

3) One of the most original videos I've seen this week was bestdressed's video reviewing her middle school outfits based on old photos her mom sent her. What a cool idea and how horrible to be reminded of what fashion was like when I was younger!

Of course, I'm hoping that you all will share the media and art you're consuming in the comments with me! x

Review: Hard Hat Tour of Ellis Island

The General Hospital
My friend MaryClaire and I both love going to a historic site (especially one that's likely to be haunted) so for her combined Christmas and birthday present, I bought us tickets for the Hard Hat Tour of Ellis Island. As someone who had been to Ellis Island several times, I was very interested in getting to see some of the hospital that sits across from the immigration station, looking eerily empty and dilapidated. We went in April which turned out to be the perfect time as it was neither too hot nor too cold and we didn't even experience any rain (the tour weaves in and out of buildings and many windows are missing glass).

A peak into the General Hospital
Ellis Island opened in 1892 as a station to filter third class immigrants on their way into the United States. While first and second class passengers had their health checks onboard the boats they sailed on and could immediately enter the country, most of those coming to America had to flow through the new station in between New York and New Jersey for a health check and questioning.

The original structure burnt down in 1897 and a new station was built along with a second island for the hospital to be built upon. Later, a third island was added and the contagious disease hospital was opened in 1907 at which point the other building became a general hospital. As immigrants went through line in the large hall of the immigration station, they were marked with white chalk on their coats if they were suspected of having a physical or mental illness. These evaluations were done so quickly, they were called "six-second examinations."

Most immigrants only spent a few hours at Ellis Island before moving through to their new lives, but some spent days, weeks, or even months at the hospital complex. About nine out of ten people pulled out of line for further examination or treatment later passed through to the United States. The rest died on the island or were sent back to their home country, after failing to be healed by treatment or failing a mental questionnaire. (Anarchists, for example, were refused entry.)

The Ellis Island Hospital saw over a million patients between its opening in 1902 and its closing in 1930. They had about 3,500 deaths -- 1,400 of which were children -- which was a very impressive mortality rate for the time. The 750 bed hospital was the largest Public Health Service facility in the United States in the early twentieth century.

It used methods that were very advanced, based on Florence Nightingale's discoveries, including mattress sterilization and individual air ventilation. People were grouped into wards based on the illness they were suffering from, rather than all put into the same room as was normal at the time. It was also a teaching hospital, which is very obvious from the autopsy theatre which has rows for seating.

The tour starts in the laundry facilities which houses much of its original equipment. While the pressing was done by women, only men worked in the large laundry room because of the intense physical labor it took to launder all of the sheets and clothing for the hospitals. This room also shows the state of "arrested decay" that much of the hospitals are in. This indicates that rather than attempting to restore the buildings to their original state, they are trying to freeze its decay and not allow it to become further dilapidated while also making it safe for visitors to enter.

The tour goes through the kitchen, mortuary, autopsy rooms, and infectious and contagious disease wards. We got a peek at the general hospital as we passed by and it was in a state of complete disrepair. The state of both hospitals is actually rather alarming. They're surrounded by overgrown plants (sometimes spilling inside), most of the windows are missing glass, and rust covers many surfaces. And while the historian in me shudders, there's an otherworldly charm to it. It feels more sinister than the castle ruins I've visited in the UK, but somehow similar.

In the autopsy room, the bodies were stored in this frozen container
The main diseases that the people at Ellis Island were concerned about were trachoma, a very contagious eye disease, and tuberculosis. The tuberculosis wards of the hospital are perhaps the most eerie today and the ones with the most reported ghost sightings. These wards have two sinks: one that had normal running water for washing up and the other for patients to cough up blood or sputum into. This part of the hospital was tightly quarantined to keep the disease from spreading and the nurses who worked in it even had to live in the hospital.

From one of the tuberculosis wards, there is a clear view of the Statue of Liberty. It's heartbreaking to think of the people who had come seeking a better life, only to find themselves isolated from their families and suffering from a terrible disease, often caught onboard the ship during the voyage. Tuberculosis was one of the diseases at Ellis Island that claimed the most victims. Despite translators, many of these people were surely confused and frustrated, being treated by doctors who didn't speak their language and with new and modern techniques that would have been largely unknown to them. And while experiencing all of this, they could see the symbol of the life they had come in search of from their window, a tangible reminder of how close they were. 

The view from one of the TB wards
The psychopathic ward is also rather chilling though it can only be seen from the outside, with the large cage on the front. Our tour guide shared that people were pulled for further psychopathic testing if they seemed dazed, confused, or nervous. They were given a hot meal, a warm bed, and a night's rest before having further questioning where they were asked simple math questions (with a translator if necessary) or to match shapes. Many were disoriented after getting off of a boat they had been on for weeks and were able to easily pass the next day's questioning and enter the United States.

The psychopathic ward
The psychopathic ward was originally the pregnancy ward. I was shocked at first to hear that visibly pregnant women were detained on Ellis Island until their baby was born, but it was actually because the public health service workers knew that immigrant women would receive little healthcare once entering the US. They were thought to be much better off giving birth in a clean and regulated hospital than in the cramped tenement homes that awaited them. There were 350 babies born on Ellis Island and not a single mother or baby lost, which was astounding for that era. It's easy to imagine that the women appreciated the care they received as many of the babies were fondly named after doctors or nurses in the hospital.

The art exhibit by French artist JR called "Unframed - Ellis Island" is dotted throughout the buildings on the interior walls. There are installations on sixteen interior walls of photographs of people at Ellis Island blown up very large. They add to the feeling that there are spirits still very much present in the buildings.

One of the pieces of the art installation
During WWI, wards were dedicated to treating soldiers suffering from what was then termed "shell shock." This may explain the blue paint still visible in some of the wards they were housed in, as it was thought to be calming for patients. After the hospital closed in 1930 as immigration was slowing down, it was used for other purposes including as an FBI center and a treatment center for disabled soldiers returning from war. Ellis Island finally closed as an immigration center in 1954 and it would appear that the buildings have sat mostly empty since then.

It was actually rather jarring to come out of the onsite physician's quarters at the end of the tour and walk back around to see the 'normal' Ellis Island building across the water that I've visited many times. Sometimes that building feels a bit overly restored, with lots of exhibits and glass cases, a stark contrast to the broken-down hospitals nearby. While some of the stories might seem cruel today (looking for trachoma by inverting the eyelid with a buttonhook, for example) and were certainly traumatic for many immigrant families, the hospitals themselves were actually incredibly modern. They were state of the art for the early twentieth century and many immigrants were healed and reunited with their families in America. 

The Hard Hat tours are operated by the non-profit company, Save Ellis Island, which has been giving tours of the hospitals since 2014. Hard Hats are required to be worn by everyone, no children are allowed, and they require a significant amount of walking. The tours last approximately 90 minutes and our guide was very knowledgable and friendly. The cost seems a bit pricey but is actually reasonable as it includes your ferry ticket and admission to the main Ellis Island Museum. For more information, you can visit their website. If you have any questions about the tour or the information we learned on it, feel free to reach out to me on Twitter or in the comments. 

In addition to getting a completely different look at Ellis Island and delving deeper into its history, your admission helps fund the restoration and upkeep of the island. I would highly recommend going if you're in New York and look forward to returning at some point in the future. (And maybe having a proper ghostly encounter?) 

LIFE UPDATE: I'm Moving to North Carolina!

I have a very exciting announcement that you may have already seen if you follow me on Twitter or Instagram. I did a post back in October announcing that I had moved to New York City after my year in London.

After eight months in New York, I am moving to Raleigh, North Carolina. It wasn't long after I moved to New York that I realized that it wasn't for me. It's hard to put exactly into words what I dislike about New York (other than the subway and the weather, of course). I've discovered that while I like New York to visit, it's not a good fit for me to live in. New York's not for everyone -- just like any city won't suit everyone. It took lots of talks with my parents and friends, therapy sessions, and journal entries to make this decision but I'm thrilled to have made it.

I do think that part of the problem for me was that I longed for New York to be more like London and was continually disappointed when it wasn't. It's sort of like if you dated Chris Evans and he was perfect and then dated the guy that you had a crush on at university after. Maybe I would have liked New York more if I hadn't fallen head over heels for London first. Who knows?

All of that said, I'm very excited to be moving back to North Carolina where I'm from. I've never lived in Raleigh as an adult so I'm excited to explore more of it. I can't wait to see my family a lot more; my mom's entire family lives in North Carolina, so I'll get to see my aunts, uncles, cousins, and cousins' children a lot more. And I'm looking forward to exploring North Carolina's historic sites and theatre scene!

I will be starting a job as a Content Developer and Producer at Relative Scale, a digital studio that creates experiences for spaces, in early July. I move this coming weekend which will give me a week to get settled (and relearn to drive a car!) and a week to spend at the beach for Fourth of July. 

I call these my 'British army commander' shorts because they remind me of old
British army uniforms from the Boer War or WWI so I couldn't resist this pose
I'm keen to get involved in the North Carolina blogging scene so do let me know if you have any NC based blogs or vlogs that you like. I'll have more updates once I'm settled in North Carolina, but for now follow along on my Instagram and Twitter for my move! x

2019 Tony Award Predictions!

With the Tonys just around the corner (I can't believe they're tomorrow!), I thought it was time to share my predictions with you all here. If you'd like to hear a lot more detail about what I'm predicting, you can listen to our Next Best Theatre predictions episode. I've gone out on a limb with a few of these (notably the acting categories for musicals) because I always like to make a couple of risky predictions!

Best Musical 
Prediction: Hadestown
Alternate: The Prom

Best Play
Prediction: The Ferryman
Alternate: What the Constitution Means to Me

Best Revival of a Musical
Prediction: The Waverly Gallery
Alternate: The Boys in the Band

Best Revival of a Play
Prediction: Oklahoma!
Alternate: Kiss Me, Kate

Leading Actor in a Musical
Prediction: Alex Brightman, Beetlejuice
Alternate: Santino Fontana, Tootsie

Leading Actor in a Play
Prediction: Bryan Cranston, Network
Alternate: Paddy Considine, The Ferryman

Leading Actress in a Musical
Prediction: Eva Noblezada, Hadestown
Alternate: Stephanie J. Block, The Cher Show

Leading Actress in a Play
Prediction: Elaine May, The Waverly Gallery
Alternate: Laura Donnelly, The Ferryman

Featured Actor in a Musical
Prediction: André de Shields, Hadestown
Alternate: Patrick Page, Hadestown

Featured Actor in a Play
Prediction: Bertie Carvel, Ink
Alternate: Brandon Uranowitz, Burn This

Featured Actress in a Musical
Prediction: Amber Gray, Hadestown
Alternate: Ali Stroker, Oklahoma!

Featured Actress in a Play
Prediction: Celia Keenan-Bolger, To Kill a Mockingbird
Alternate: Fionnula Flanagan, The Ferryman

Book of a Musical 
Prediction: Hadestown
Alternate: Tootsie

Prediction: Hadestown
Alternate: The Prom

Scenic Design of a Musical
Prediction: Beetlejuice
Alternate: Hadestown

Scenic Design of a Play
Prediction: The Ferryman
Alternate: Network

Costume Design of a Musical
Prediction: The Cher Show
Alternate: Hadestown

Costume Design of a Play
Prediction: Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus
Alternate: The Ferryman

Lighting Design of a Musical
Prediction: Hadestown
Alternate: Beetlejuice

Lighting Design of a Play
Prediction: Network
Alternate: The Ferryman

Sound Design of a Musical
Prediction: Hadestown
Alternate: Beetlejuice

Sound Design of a Play
Prediction: Network
Alternate: The Ferryman

Direction of a Musical 
Prediction: Rachel Chavkin, Hadestown
Alternate: Daniel Fish, Oklahoma!

Direction of a Play
Prediction: Sam Mendes, The Ferryman
Alternate: Rupert Goold, Ink

Prediction: Kiss Me, Kate
Alternate: Hadestown

Prediction: Hadestown
Alternate: Oklahoma!

Do you agree with my predictions or not? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter. I'll be watching on Sunday night with my theatre podcast co-host Dan. I'll be live-tweeting, so reach out to me there if you're watching too!

All About: Sophie Germain, Female Mathematician

When my little sister told me that she was doing a paper on a female mathematician from the eighteenth-century, I was surprised as I'd never heard of Sophie Germain. I did my undergraduate degree in history, with a specialization in intellectual and cultural history and focusing on women in particular. I've been working to incorporate more of my love for history into this blog with reviews of historic sites I've visited and thought that a biography series of interesting (and largely forgotten) female historical figures might be a nice addition.

No one could have guessed that Marie-Sophie Germain, born in France in 1776 to a wealthy middle class family, would become a world-famous mathematician. However, her work on the subjects of acoustics, elasticity, and the theory of numbers are considered to be important to the history of mathematics even though she suffered from her lack of a formal education her entire career. She struggled from a lack of resources and access due to her gender that kept her from making the mathematical discoveries she otherwise might have.

Sophie's interest in mathematics began when she was thirteen. When the French Revolution started, she turned to her father's library as she had to stay inside. She was fascinated by Archimedes who inspired her to study mathematics. Her parents disapproved and tried to dissuade her, but eventually relented in the face of her determination.

When Sophie was eighteen years old, in 1794, the École Polytéchnique was founded as a school for science and mathematics. Using the name of M. LeBlanc, she obtained notes from lectures since she couldn't attend them herself. She submitted a paper at the end of term about number theory that impressed Professor Joseph-Louis Lagrange. Even after finding out she was a woman, he agreed to mentor her. He introduced her to other scientists and mathematicians including the German Carl Friedrich Gauss who didn't learn that she was female until several years into their correspondence.

In 1809, the French Academy of Sciences held a contest to explain the law about the vibration of elastic surfaces. Sophie's entry was the only essay the first year, but her lack of formal education was too apparent and she was not awarded the prize. Lagrange aided her and she entered again two years later, earning an honorable mention. She entered one last time after three years and finally won with an essay called "Memoir on the Vibrations of Elastic Plates." The committee noted that there were errors in the essay, but those would not be corrected for decades.

In 1816, Sophie befriended Joseph Fourier who managed to get her tickets to attend the Academy of Science's session, a privilege only normally allowed to the wives of members. She was also invited to attend the Institut de France's session, a great honor for a woman. However, her career was cut short at the age of fifty-five when she died of breast cancer on June 27, 1831. She was buried in Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.

While she didn't have the opportunities within her lifetime that would have made her name well-remembered after her death, Sophie did receive some recognition. Sophie's nephew published some of her works after her death. She has a prize named after her at the Academy of Sciences, in addition to a street and a girl's school named in her honor. Unfortunately, her gender held her back from achieving what she might have but she still managed to forge a way to become a mathematician despite the odds being against her.

A big thank you to my sister Hannah for introducing me to Sophie Germain!

Source 1Source 2Source 3Source 4 

A Love Letter to Eliza Doolittle and the Lincoln Center My Fair Lady Revival

As a woman living in the current political climate we have in the United States (in which women are losing legal control over their own bodies), sometimes I question whether some Golden Age musicals in their original form are appropriate to revive right now. Often, the women have little agency and the relationships are worryingly unhealthy. Especially as someone with a teenage sister, I worry about the ideas that these shows can give to young girls (and boys) in their formative years.

I'm not against revivals of these shows, but I'm a fan of ones that aren't afraid to update the show a bit to alter problematic lines or to highlight the gender politics that are occurring. For example, the current Roundabout production of Kiss Me Kate hired a female writer, Amanda Green, to make some tweaks to the script to make it more appropriate for a modern audience to great success. Similarly, the 2013 Broadway revival of Cinderella was updated fairly heavily to preserve the general story and score but give the character of Ella more agency (and political awareness) and the prince more of personality.

A shining example of this in my eyes is Bartlett Sher's revival of My Fair Lady at the Lincoln Center. It harkens back to the show's original roots -- George Bernard Shaw's play Pygmalion -- much more than the musical or the movie based on it traditionally did. The current production plays up the gritty reality of Eliza's former life a Covent Garden flower girl and even tweaks the ending in a beautiful and brilliant way. I wasn't able to see the original Eliza, Lauren Ambrose, but I've seen the new Eliza in the show twice in the past few months.

Much of this is due to Barlett Sher's brilliant direction and some of the glory has to go to Harry Hadden-Paton for his Henry Higgins, a man every bit as changed by Eliza as she is by him. However, one has to laud Laura Benanti for what she has done with the character of Eliza Doolittle. I've loved Laura Benanti's work for years and also have a lot of admiration for her as a working mother and a woman who stands up for causes she believes in. The fact that she's a wickedly funny comedic actress and has an impressively soaring soprano voice is also pretty cool.

On the evening of this Eliza Doolittle Day (so called this for the line in "Just You Wait" which calls out May 20th), I wanted to take some time to appreciate the Eliza of this Lincoln Center revival as played by Ms. Benanti. She is the Eliza that I wished for as a little girl watching the movie and hoping that the flower girl might learn to stand on her own two feet. She's no ingenue, and not because Laura Benanti is older than the 18 years old the character is originally meant to be, but because she's wise to the ways of the world already.

For as much as she wants to learn proper elocution from Higgins, never once does she need him. She is smart and fierce from the first time we see her onstage. In fact, it's him who needs her and the show becomes a powerful statement that you can be right for someone and them not be right for you. Her bond with her young suitor Freddy (played delightfully by Christian Dante White as a Mr. Bingley sort who is utterly lacking in the cold reserve that characterizes most of the upper class characters) is less her searching for someone to take care of her and more the meeting of two outsiders in high society.

The show is a shockingly real glimpse at gender relations at the time, that often feels surprisingly modern. Benanti's scenes with Rosemary Harris's Mrs. Higgins show a connection between two women who are used to putting up with less clever men. There's a recognition of the sort of emotional labor that women often perform for men. Her relationship with her father is also given nuance, with her skittishness with him suggesting the physical and emotional abuse that the script hints at.

This Eliza Doolittle is funny and not just circumstantially. I saw the My Fair Lady panel at BroadwayCon and Laura Benanti discussed that she had done research on the conditions of life that Covent Garden flower girls experienced and decided that Eliza's humor is a coping mechanism for the life she leads. It makes sense that a woman who had survived through such experiences with her courage, wit, and determination intact would have the wit and good humor to laugh at her circumstances. It's best on show in the scene where she finally is able to pronounce her h's which drew raucous laughter from the crowd both times I saw the show.

Essentially in the right hands and with the right director, I think that a Golden Age musical can still have much to say to women today. Laura Benanti's Eliza Doolittle is everything that I could ever hope for in a musical heroine. This revival, in both its revision of Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins, fixes every issue I can remember having with the show when I watched the movie over and over as a young girl. When Eliza sings "Without You" to Henry Higgins near the end of the show, I honestly believe her that she'll get on fine without him -- just as George Bernard Shaw would have me think.

 If you're going to be in New York before the show closes on June 7, I highly recommend getting a ticket as the Lincoln Center's costumes and sets can't be beat and this is obviously a very special production.

Photo Credit: Joan Marcus 
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