Anne with an E- for “Evolution”

I recently binge-watched the newest Anne of Green Gables adaptation, Netflix’s “Anne with an E.” All seven episodes moved at a brisk pace, complete with emotional story lines, sweeping landscape shots, and some damn talented actors (both young and old). To me, someone becoming acquainted with Miss Anne for the very first time, it played as a story about finding strength and hope no matter where you are. I thought it was truly beautiful, despite all of the hatred it’s been receiving from diehard fans of the original books and TV series. I’ve been reading through the reviews on Netflix because I was curious to see where it’s not hitting the mark with these fans, and there’s one thing that keeps coming up that honestly baffles me–people keep saying that the abuse flashbacks and PTSD-esque symptoms make Anne somehow weak.

What’s interesting to me is that these are also the people decrying it as “dark.”

Now bear with me because I haven’t read the original books yet (although they are now on my list for the summer), but I didn’t find this series dark in any way. I understand that the books were written for children and didn’t include such explicit descriptions, but there’s a difference between something being completely invented and something being untold. The abuse in Anne’s past may not be laid out as such in the source material, but it is what very well could have been an orphan’s life at the time. Would these things have been talked about in a family setting at the time they were written in? Probably not. But in 2017, we’ve reached a point as a society where they can be. I read a review stating “Netflix Should Not Pervert ‘Anne Of Green Gables’ To Make It More Realistic,” but I want to know why adding some realism is a bad thing.

What about the realism perverts it? Without being overly idealistic, Anne is still portrayed as an aspirational young girl. She is genuine and sharp witted and prone to getting lost in her own beautiful world. She is firm in her ideas and sense of self. She is not afraid to speak up.

She has suffered in her past and is yet boundlessly optimistic despite that fact.

It honestly shocked me that viewers interpreted any of that as weakness, because those are all the things that made her feel so real and so relatable. I cried several times watching the series, because throughout my childhood I have known her in the strength of my friends and I have been her in my own trials. I’m willing to bet that almost every woman I know has experienced something similar. I found myself wanting to reach into the screen to hug Anne; I wanted to adopt her myself. Even set in the 1800s, it brought me right back to my own childhood because many of the lessons stay the same (particularly the viciousness of classmates).

Why should it have to remain soft to remain cherished? Real life is hard and that’s not a secret to the youth of today. All they have to do is look at the news to see suffering and violence. It’s important that they know that things can be okay despite that and that it is worth it to keep looking ahead, especially as anxiety is becoming more common in children. If they have a loveable mess with red braids to model their perseverance after, then all the better. Obviously some scenes in the show are more mature and graphic, but it presents parents a great opportunity to watch with their children–to share a story together and to discuss in a safe and comfortable environment what exactly is happening in it. It is rated TV-PG for a reason.

So it’s not a word for word page to screen transfer–that’s why it’s called an adaptation. Merriam Webster defines adaptation as such: modification of an organism or its parts that makes it more fit for existence under the conditions of its environment. It boils down to change for the better.

We are living in changing times. It stands to reason that beloved stories of the past can and should change right alongside them, lest they fall behind. Sentimentality and nostalgia should not be prioritized at the cost of relevance.

In other words, I can hardly wait for Season 2.


Thank you, Lily Tomlin (and Jane Wagner)

I’m working at a day camp for the summer, like plenty of college students do. As far as summer jobs go, you can definitely do worse than camp counselor. So I really don’t have much to complain about. 

I’ve worked at a day camp in the past that resulted in me being surrounded by children with picket signs saying “down with the clown,” almost having my arm dislocated as part of closing ceremony, and the unfortunate nickname “Noodlearms.” Needless to say, the camp I’m working at now is… infinitely better. We’re half way through the summer session and the experience has been interesting in a far less ominous way. The first time around I’d run arts and crafts, but this time I’m teaching “environment education”- so, nature. 

Am I, as a theatre major, really qualified or educated to do this? Not at all, and I made sure they knew that in my interview. But I learn quick and can create a mean lesson plan, so I got the job. And it’s been great- I love teaching, and as I make my plans for each lesson I get to learn a little bit myself. Did you know that lemurs are considered pollinators?

The more interesting things that I get to learn, though, are from my students. These are young girls, so I’m not teaching them anything crazily science based. During one particular lesson, I was talking about reading the rings of a tree, and one camper had a whole well of information to add. She can’t have been older than third grade, but it seemed like for each fact I told them she’d have a hand raised and three more facts to contribute to the conversation. 

Pretty dang impressed, I jokingly said to her, “You know more about this than I do! You should be teaching this lesson!” Which, if I’m being honest probably isn’t that far from the truth. Her reply just cracked me up- deadpan, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world, she said, “Well, I watch a lot of The Magic Schoolbus, so yeah.”

I laughed a little, and my conversation starter for the rest of the day with coworkers and family members was “shoutout to Lily Tomlin for making my job easier.” Because really, what self respecting kid wouldn’t take Miss Frizzle over a normal science lesson any day?

It was just a little quirky I-love-my-job type thing, but in the weeks since then I’ve noticed Lily Tomlin popping up in almost every conversation I have. A car ride chat that started off about musical theatre quickly made its way to 9 to 5, and from there Lily took center stage for a solid twenty minutes. Post-meal  conversations at family dinner about what’s good on Netflix inevitably lead to Grace and Frankie, and every woman in the room lights up and joins in. 

I saw 9 to 5 for the first time when I was about 12 years old and absolutely loved it, so if you had asked me at any point in the last few years if I was a Lily Tomlin fan my answer would’ve been a casual yes. Since Grace and Frankie first streamed, that answer has changed to an emphatic of course. It’s a fun show to bond over with my mother, and all my friends that make fun of me for acting like an old lady at 19 have a hell of a time comparing me to Frankie. 

In the span of just 13 half-hour long episodes (with the obligatory 36 seconds of singing along to the intro, every single time), Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda just suddenly became a part of my daily life. The show is stomach-cramping funny and unapologetically real in the way it addresses topics. I’ve heard plenty of people call it this decade’s The Golden Girls. 

Who’d have thought the “old ladies with gay husbands and a vibrator business” show could become such a household brand (or, at the very least, make my friends less startled when I launch into lengthy speeches extolling the benefits of masturbation)? 

My senior year of high school and freshman year of college were a huge turning point in being able to figure how much of my personality was actually me (as opposed to my parents and family) and Lily Tomlin just fell into the position of role model. I didn’t (and still barely) know who I was, but a smart, funny, lesbian seemed like it was in the general ballpark of who I wanted to be. When I had the opportunity to create a presentation for a playwright and one of their works, I knew exactly what I wanted to do: Jane Wagner, The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe. The one woman show starring Lily Tomlin, written by her partner and produced by the aptly named “Tomlin and Wagner Theatricalz.” 

Going into the project, all I really knew was that they were partners and they made this show. As I continued my research on the two of them- because it’s impossible to talk about one in a creative context without at least mentioning the other- I had one of those “I found my people” moments.

I know this has been pretty long winded, but a post I made in the past on another blog really sums up my feelings best: 

As soon as I began my research on Jane Wagner, I realized that you can’t talk about her career without also talking about Lily Tomlin. They are just so deeply interconnected in their work that it speaks to a love beyond description. 

The two of them make me feel proud to be a lesbian. They make me feel like I can create things and make contributions to the world of theatre and beyond. They make me feel like whatever reception my future work gets from the general public, it will find somebody who needs it desperately and for that reason alone it will be a success. 

Reading such a layered, witty, absurd play was a definitively life changing experience. It was an existential comfort. 

Looking at the script in my hands and knowing what I know now about it, that it was a creation of love and concern and care, knowing about the two unstoppable women behind it–it told me that I will be okay. 

They obviously weren’t high school sweethearts. It took them awhile to find each other, but God, once they did… they give me so much hope that my person is out there.

(Original post, in full, here)

So, thank you Lily Tomlin and Jane Wagner. I’m saving up to buy a copy of The Queer Cultural Works of Lily Tomlin and Jane Wagner because I know that I’ve barely scratched the surface, but they’ve given me a hell of a start. 


I have had my breath taken away very few times in my life. But I can say with absolute certainty that the only words to describe this play come from the script itself: I can’t breathe.
Playwright Paula Vogel and director Rebecca Taichman’s “Indecent” is anything but. The whole walk back from the theatre, I was utterly speechless while ruminating on this beautiful and heartbreaking play. It felt like something coming full circle- on the train ride into the city, I was reading Diana McLellan’s “The Girls: Sappho Goes to Hollywood” and there was a passage about the rise of censorship in the theater.

One of the plays mentioned? Sholem Asch’s “The God of Vengeance.” It felt like a sign of some sort.

Indecent. A play about a play. A Jewish play that pushed boundaries and portrayed Jewish people as complex and flawed individuals; a Jewish play featuring a lesbian love story. A play about a Jewish play that is most importantly about censorship and passion and why art matters.
Indecent. A word used to condemn and shame.

As an artist and a lesbian, I never realized how much I think about censorship until I was walking out of the theater today. Yes, censorship from others, but more importantly censorship of self. When typing the paragraph above, I first wrote “a love story between two women.” For some reason, I always stumble over the word lesbian even though I am proud to be one. I for some reason find it easier to say “I’m gay” than it is to say “I’m a lesbian.” I know there is nothing indecent about it. Yet I choke on it.

I think about censorship every single day, and Paula Vogel’s wonderful play has made me realize that it is my greatest fear.

Since I got to my all-women’s liberal arts college, I’ve been steeping myself in Queer history and learned that it is a history of censorship. I can pinpoint watching “The Celluloid Closet” in my theatre as commentary class as the turning point that began my thirst for knowledge. I wanted to know why I still rarely see lesbians on TV, why I can barely find myself represented in movies, why we keep getting killed onscreen. And as I continued my reading, I found the place where I can actually relate to the stories being told: the theatre. My heart broke for Martha Dobie and I felt an immense surge of pride when I discovered Jane Wagner and I kissed a girl other than my best friend for the first time in a scene from Weldon Rising. I have long regarded the theatre as my home, but I discovered in a new capacity that it is the one place where I will always find myself. I can be a complex and flawed individual, not just the subject of a sleazy sex scene thrown in to entice male viewers. I can be flesh and blood.

There is a line from “Indecent” that I haven’t been able to get out of my head: when you write a play, you are not alone (or something to that effect). I won’t spoil the last scene, but this concept is hauntingly played out in the final moments of the play. I didn’t understand why I began to sob in that moment; all I knew was that I was experiencing a euphoric mix of joy and loss that is truly indescribable unless you have seen it too. But now, being rocked gently side to side by the sway of the train, I know why.

Nobody goes into the theatre to make money. We do it to express something when we have no other voice, we do it to find a community and a family; we do it because we believe in the story we are telling and the message that goes along with it. We do it because art matters.

I will never dance in the rain the same way again.
The show was originally supposed to close on June 25th, but due to an outpouring of support and ticket sales it was extended until August 6th. After the curtain call, one of the cast members joked that it was a little bit like the Chanukah story: the lamp kept burning.

Take advantage of it. Go see this show. I had resigned myself in mid June to not being able to see it, and I nearly wept when I saw the extension announcement. Support this play. Tell all your friends. If I had the money, I would see every remaining show.

I have no doubt that your experience will differ from mine; theatre is like that. But I guarantee you will find something in it that captivates you. Find the reason that art matters to you.

The Present (Sydney Theatre Company)

Blaring punk and a lovely black and white projection of (what I vaguely remember to be) foliage. If anything could wake me up after walking around the city for five hours, that certainly did the trick.

That, and the anticipation of seeing Cate Blanchett live. That’s a pretty good pick me up as well. And I needed it-my mother and I were the second people in line for rush tickets, so a good portion of the morning had been spent standing in one spot outside the Barrymore waiting for the box office to open. We ended up snagging two box seats for the matinee for $45 each. Adapted from Chekhov’s Platonov by Andrew Upton and directed by John Crowley, it was probably the best $90 ever spent. 

An usher shuts the curtain on our box; the house lights go down. We’re so close to the stage I almost cry. 

There’s no easing into it, it just blasts- Billy Bragg’s “A New England.” Nothing like some 80s Brit punk to get you in the mood for upheaval and rebellion. I looked up the lyrics of the song after the fact, and it sets the tone for the play perfectly. 

I don’t want to change the world. I’m not looking for a new England, I’m just looking for another girl. 

In this case, it’s more like a new Russia. With an Australian cast. It just sort of worked, in a way I didn’t expect. Going into it, I thought the accents might be distracting but with the quality of the acting that just wasn’t the case. By act two I barely noticed. Of course, I may be biased- I would listen to Cate Blanchett read the phone book. 

To be fair, she is absolutely captivating onstage. Lord knows I’m a fan of her films (I still think Carol deserved the Oscar), but onstage she just keeps giving. It was honestly electrifying. For as talented as she is on the big screen, she expresses something extra onstage that just can’t be captured on camera. 

The rest of the cast was just as brilliant, weaving a complex web of characters and relationships. To vaguely reference Carol (as I am known to do), It’s like physics. Bouncing off eachother like pinballs. Some things don’t even react, but everything is alive. That is how conflict is created within the play; with each new reaction (or lack thereof) from characters bumping lives, something is revealed. Whether a detail from the past, plans for the future, or a decision for the present; the plot unfurls before the audience’s eyes. 

Richard Roxburgh (playing Mikhail Platonov) has the most delicious chemistry with Blanchett (Anna Petrovna). From their first interaction in the opening, you see that subtle reaction that speaks volumes- and what it says it that they are the two to watch out for going forward. There is a constant push and pull between them that keeps you itching for more. Amidst a slew of other dalliances, it all comes back to Anna and Mikhail. 

Overall, it definitely had what the poster in the box office promised: vodka, gunshots, and more vodka. And then more vodka. 

I laughed, I cried; I even peed myself a little (the gunshots were loud). I cried a little bit more after curtain call, because I saw it on International Women’s Day and the whole cast came out with red heart balloons while Cate Blanchett made a small speech about all the women that keep the Barrymore running. All in all, it was a beautiful experience. The cast was beautiful, the story was beautiful (albeit messy- I feel bad for the people that do the laundry), and the sets were beautiful. 

The show closed last week, but I would without question have paid full price to see it again. You know, if I had the time or money. I’ve seen a couple musicals on Broadway, but this was my first straight play. As a freshman theatre major trying to figure out what I really want to do, it was kind of a life affirming experience. 

In my senior year of high school, all the underclassmen in drama club decorated the seniors lockers for their last show- my friends put a framed picture of Cate Blanchett in mine. It started off as a joke; I kept her in the dressing room and then brought her to the diner with the whole cast after the show. She makes frequent appearances on my twitter, but now she lives on my desk in my dorm room. And to be honest, that’s what motivates me. If I start to procrastinate coursework or put off running lines, I look up and feel like the picture is totally judging me. 

My motto has essentially become “do it for Cate Blanchett.” Is it a little creepy? Totally. But it is definitely making me work my ass off. I just keep telling myself, if I work as hard as Cate Blanchett I can be the one onstage with college girls losing their minds.