drama

2017 Reading List #2: Lady Windermere’s Fan, by Oscar Wilde

The best thing about attending/working at a university where winter break is 5-6 weeks long is how much reading can get done in that time frame.

I’m doing my best to get off to a good start in 2017, and so far, I feel good about my progress.

I’m currently juggling three reading projects at once—sometimes I don’t know how to stop—but I try to balance various genres and goals when reading multiple things at once.

My mom and I are reading the illustrated edition of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets together (which is how we first read them when I was much younger), and after finishing Swing Time yesterday, I started on another book that’s helping to cross off one of my 2017 goals: A Room of One’s Own, by Virginia Woolf (I’ve never read her before, so I decided it was time to start).

But, since A Room of One’s Own can be complex and less readable that a typical novel, I decided to throw a play into the mix, which is how Lady Windermere’s Fan happened late last night.Reading two plays by Oscar Wilde is also a goal in 2017, and I’ll soon be able to cross that one off.

Lady Windermere’s Fan shows off Wilde’s characteristic witticism and is entirely enjoyable. Like many of Wilde’s plays, this one has it’s fair share of farcical elements, but it’s also a bit sweeter and sadder than something like The Importance of Being Earnest. The play takes place over 24 hours in the life of Lady Windermere, a young woman led to believe that her husband is having an affair with the new harlot in town. In truth, the relationship between her husband and the woman is more complicated, and all kinds of fun ensues during the play’s progress.

I sped through this play much quicker than I’d expected, so I’m planning to continue my Wilde reading alongside Woolf. I’ve got a collection of Wilde’s plays with three more to read, so I think I may just power through the entire thing before setting it aside.

Look for more reflection on my various reading projects in the coming days.

Happy reading!

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Favorite TV Shows of 2016

Writing about my TV-viewing habits as the year winds down brings about mixed feelings for me—I love TV and I love watching it, but I do get just slightly horrified upon realizing how much of it I’ve consumed.

In 2016, I have watched/caught up on 35 TV series/miniseries (you can see my complete list here). This does not include shows I watched multiple times during the year or anything I watched during its regular airing (and honestly, this number could grow in the final days of December). This adds up to something like 735 episodes of television, which is a lot. Basically, I like TV.

Bearing that in mind, the following is a list, in alphabetical order, of my favorite shows of the year. This includes shows that I both streamed and watched in real time. You’ll also find a list of honorable mentions at the bottom.

What TV shows did you love in 2016?


Call the Midwife

I’m a sucker for a good British period piece (as you may deduce from other listings to come), and Call the Midwife is the perfect balance of wholesome, kindhearted English entertainment that feels like ideal viewing on a cold winter night. I watched the first four seasons of the show in early January and quickly came to love the women of Nonnatus House, where a group of nuns and midwives works to serve underprivileged women of 1950s London. While Call the Midwife is undeniably charming, I think the thing I love most about it is its refreshing take on a diverse group of women without the cattiness that is so often represented in working women on the screen. Also, there are cute babies, so how could you not enjoy it?

Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones is essentially what my entertainment life is built around (if you exclude Hamilton, of course). I watched the entirety of Game of Thrones at least twice over the past year, not to mention that I watched each episode of season 7 twice during its normal airing. It might be obsessive, but come on—Jon Snow is alive and the Battle of the Bastards was the most stressed I’ve ever been. Also, please don’t speak to me about Margaery. I’m still not ready.

Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life

As a fan of Gilmore Girls for more than a decade, I’m a bit jaded about the immense surge in popularity it’s had in the past year or two. I love that people love the show, but I was here for a long time and I like to keep some things to myself. Because of my long love for this show, the thought of a reunion was both thrilling and terrifying, but I’m so very pleased with the result. Lauren Graham and Kelly Bishop especially gave such beautiful performances in this miniseries, and I certainly hope they’re recognized after being overlooked by major awards when the show originally aired. While I’d love to see more of this revival, those last four words left me more satisfied than the entirety of season 7, and that’s more than I could ask for.

Insecure

It’s probably a little inaccurate to say that Issa Rae is basically my best friend, but that’s the kind of positive thinking I’m looking to implement in 2017. Insecure was one of the funniest shows on TV this year that also knows how to pack an emotional wallop when needed. I love a show that confidently hits its stride from the get-go, which is exactly what this show does in depicting twenty-something black women looking for love and success. Set yourself an afternoon to catch up on season 1 if you didn’t enjoy it this fall.

The Mindy Project

At the moment, I’m still making my way through The Mindy Project (though this journey has progressed at an alarmingly fast rate). I saw some of the shows first 2 seasons when they aired on Fox and never felt inclined to watch religiously, but after reading Mindy Kaling’s second book, Why Not Me?, a few weeks ago, I jumped in headfirst. Turns out, I love it. Kaling is hilarious and ridiculous as heroine Mindy Lahiri, a woman who’s smart enough to be a gynecologist but otherwise, generally an idiot. The biggest surprise for me has been how much I enjoy the supporting cast (though my crush on Chris Messina has been serious for a few years now, so everyone else should just back off). Though I’m glad this show is still in progress, I’m a little sad that I’ll soon be waiting until February for new episodes, and even then only on a weekly basis. This show has been a perfect excuse to lounge around and “accidentally” watch 7 episodes without moving.

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries

There are few fictional heroines I want to be more than Miss Phryne Fisher. The girl is rich, has a great wardrobe, a generous spirit, perfect hair, a cool job, and a flirtation with a hot detective—what could be better? Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries is the kind of show you hope will magically have 50 more episodes waiting for you when you finish the three seasons currently on Netflix. Phryne is an unofficial detective with a knack for solving crime in 1920s Australia. She’s basically the cool girl you’d really want to be friends with if that cool girl was also nice and smart. 2017, I’m counting on you to get season 4 in the works.

My Mad Fat Diary

One of the saddest moments for a TV lover like me is suddenly realizing you’ve come not just to the finale of a season, but of a series. This is what happened to me last week when I fell in love with the British teen dramedy My Mad Fat Diary. The show follows the life of Rae Earl, a teenager who’s just been released from a psychiatric hospital after being admitted for self-harm. Rae’s life post-hospital features a supportive and sometimes frustrated single mom, a new group of friends and potential love interests, and therapy with a kind-hearted and stern psychiatrist (spoiler: her therapist is Professor Quirrell!). MMFD is an honest and real show that I came to love in an astoundingly quick time, especially considering the entire series only lasts 16 episodes.

Outlander

It would be wrong to say I only watch Outlander for smoldering shots of Sam Heughan, but those certainly don’t hurt the show’s cause. In truth, Outlander is like my little pet show. I’ve read the first three books in Diana Gabaldon’s series (books 4 and 5 are on my shelf and ready to go for 2017) and I rewatched season 1 more often than I care to admit. Thankfully, season 2 did not disappoint. It’s still beautiful, steamy, violent, and surprisingly funny (Ryan, insert your soixante-neuf comment here). Gabaldon’s narrative goes on a surprising journey from book to book, so I’m glad to see the show successfully keeping pace. I can’t wait to follow this journey further in the new year.

Rick and Morty

Okay, Rick and Morty is the undeniable outlier on this list, but that doesn’t mean I love it any less. Who knew a bizarre little animated show about a young boy and his mad scientist/weirdo of a grandfather could be equally hilarious, insane, and heartbreaking? If you’ve never seen Rick and Morty, here are a few things to look out for: a surprising amount of burping and stuttering, lots of aliens and alternate realities, some Tiny Rick songs that you’ll want on a playlist, and a character named Mr. Poopy Butthole. This show is a national treasure.

Sex and the City

I’m pretty sure watching Sex and the City is a rite of passage for millennial women, and since I was seven when the show started on HBO in 1998, this year seemed like the time to get myself initiated. I watched Sex and the City embarrassingly quickly—seriously, I watch a lot of TV, but this was scary fast. Here are some things to know: I hated Miranda for a very long time but also I kind of am her (so I want a Steve, please), I thought Samantha Jones was too much but turns out she’s an icon and I adore her, and Mr. Big is the worst character to ever grace a TV screen and I hate him and do not comprehend why people like him. Though I’ve not yet watched the film sequels, I bought used copies this fall and look forward to a viewing party complete with drinking and lots of discussion with some people I love in the near future.

Stranger Things

I was a month or two late to the Stranger Things party because my roommate and I decided to watch together. We were both skeptical of the hype, but then the hype was correct and we loved it. We virtually adopted Dustin as our son. I generally hate child actors, but I loved this show and pretty much everything about it.


Honorable Mentions: American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson, Catastrophe (season 2), The Crown, Felicity, The Girlfriend Experience, Girls, Grantchester, The Good Place, O.J.: Made in America, Pushing Daisies

Managing entertainment with a full-time job

Hello, long lost blogging world. Apologies for my absence (not that I assume anyone noticed).

Life has been odd lately, mostly because I’m a person who goes to work every day and teaches people and isn’t a student anymore. These are new things and they’re nice things, but they’re also still a little strange.

One thing that definitely hasn’t changed in my life, though, is my constant pursuit to watch and read as much as I possibly can in a day. So, to catch you up on my latest reading and viewing ventures, here’s a quick recap of my life lately.

Books — A few weeks ago, I reached my 2016 goal of reading 52 books, so now, I’m free to enjoy my reading just a bit more. I still have three other reading goals to accomplish: read Arthur Miller’s collected plays, read something by Jane Austen, and read something by Charles Dickens. Thankfully, I’m 5 plays away (out of 18) from checking Miller off the list, and I’m about 1/3 of the way through Sense and Sensibility. Progress! Otherwise, my roommate and I have been enjoying more read-aloud projects (we’ve done a 700+ page collection of Edna St. Vincent Millay’s poetry and Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto so far), and I’ve read both Amy Schumer’s and Jessi Klein’s comedy memoirs in recent weeks.

Movies — I’ve been in a bit of a movie slump lately, mostly because my attentions have been taken up by watching all kinds of TV. Recent viewing experiences have included The Light Between Oceans and Fruitvale Station, both of which were tear-inducing in very different ways. I’m also planning to watch Straight Outta Compton today. Otherwise, I’m doing my best to keep up with all the film festival coverage and anxiously awaiting the release of La La Land and Manchester by the Sea.

TV — This is the area where I’ve been shining my brightest lately. After finishing Felicity a week or two ago, I’ve wandered through lots of viewing. I finally finished rewatching Game of Thrones, including the most recent season, I rewatched most of Rome with my mom, I sped through Netflix’s The Get Down and Amazon’s One Mississippi, and my roommate and I have just started Stranger Things. My current solo TV project is Sex and the City, which I’m slightly embarrassed to say I started watching last Tuesday, and I’m already halfway through season 4. Turns out not having homework means I have a slight struggle making myself turn the TV off.

And in exciting TV news, the Emmy awards are tonight! Here’s hoping for lots of Game of Thrones victories and unexpected wins.

What are you watching and reading these days? I’m always open to suggestions. 🙂

2016 Reading Lis #46: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Perhaps the quickest version of this post is to say that Harry Potter and the Cursed Child left me feeling… conflicted.

But I can’t really just leave it there.

In anticipation of Cursed Child, my feelings waffled between trying to limit my expectations and really, really wanting to like it. And I did like it. But I didn’t love it. At all.

Here’s my biggest problem: in the scope of all things Harry Potter, nothing can match the magic of the original series. Though I preordered my copy of the play months ago from Amazon, I paid a visit to the local Barnes & Noble midnight release party because I so enjoyed them years ago. None of this experience could be the same. The anticipation I felt was more anxiety than excitement this time around. I didn’t want to read something that would mess with a perfect series.

And Cursed Child doesn’t really mess with the original series, at least in my opinion. Because I see the original seven books as sacred, I refuse to allow something new (that wasn’t even really written by J.K. Rowling) to affect that world. Cursed Child is fine—likable, funny, sweet, somber—but it’s a mere shadow of the original works.

There are many reasons for this, I think, apart from Rowling’s limited input. First, jumping from a set of long and detailed novels to a two-part play is a big leap. The play is comprised of lots and lots of minuscule scenes, and by the end it felt like a Shondaland TV show to me—every scene break had a dramatic cliffhanger that kept the pace moving ever-forward. There’s no time to live in the show’s moments, especially when the expanse of the play crosses decades of time.

Though I might feel different seeing the stage production rather than just reading it, I also felt like the magic was heavy-handed. I’m curious to know how so many of these effects are done (the play contains Polyjuicing, dementors, Time Turning, underwater stunts, Transfiguration, etc.), but it reads like someone trying to cram in as many oohs-and-ahhs as possible before the curtain falls. At its core, Cursed Child is meant to be about the difficulties Harry faces with his son, so I’d have preferred a much simpler play to tell an intimate story.

In fact, the way this difficult relationship is pushed forward is through an odd and complicated overarching plot that I found really unnecessary. For one, when we came to know Voldemort as a villain over the course of seven novels, trying to introduce and conquer a new villain in one play seems doomed to fail. And without giving anything away, I personally predicted the villain and their connection to the characters from early on. The “big reveal” isn’t exactly on par with, say, the revelations of “The Prince’s Tale.”

And speaking of the Half-Blood Prince… I may have been most disappointed by the Snape and Dumbledore cameos (done in alternate reality and via portrait, so no one is resurrected or something equally strange). Though these are two characters I love dearly, they both had beautiful final scenes in the original series, and neither of them felt at all authentic to me in the play. Their individual dialogue was clearly an imitation of the real thing, and I wish they’d remained in the past where their stories belong.

Finally, on that same note, it’s very touchy to revisit such beloved characters and try to make them what readers know them to be already. Harry felt most true in the first scenes of the play, which are just lifted from the Deathly Hallows epilogue, but otherwise, he’s a big drag and kind of bad father. Ron is a caricature of himself—sure, Ron’s always been the most light-hearted of the trio, but he’s also got substance—and Hermione is a leader without having the characteristic bossiness that makes her so endearing.

Okay, I want to stop complaining to talk a bit about the good. The Albus/Scorpius dynamic is very sweet, and I’m glad no one tried to turn it into a second-generation version of Harry, Ron, and Hermione. I was very happy to see several young people—people who would’ve been too young to be original Harry Potter readers—quickly walking to the shelves when I went to a bookstore yesterday. I’m glad to know a young generation might be getting excited about the theatre and seeing that very real magic happening live.

In the end, though, I’m much more excited about the prospect of the Fantastic Beasts film adaptations for two reasons. First, J.K. Rowling really wrote the screenplay and I’d trust her with anything, and second, though we’re staying in the Wizarding World, we’ll be meeting an entirely new crop of characters and can’t be disappointed by recreations of people we already know and love.

In 2011, when the final film in the series was released, J.K. Rowling said Hogwarts will always be there to welcome us home. She’s right. But for now, I think I’ll stick to those perfect books she gave us nearly a decade ago.

2016 Reading List #45: The Creation of the World and Other Business, by Arthur Miller

As I said it my last post, I broke my pattern of reading Miller’s collected plays in threes to add this fourth selection because I was curious about it. The Creation of the World and Other Business is a modernized telling of the events in the Garden of Eden, and I couldn’t really ignore the chance to see how Miller would tell the story.

It wasn’t my favorite play ever, but it was fun to see Miller do something that veers closer to comedy than many of his other works. Seeing God, Adam, and Eve talk in very contemporary ways is jarring and enjoyable, though I’m not really sure I understand what Miller hoped to accomplish with this play.

Ah, well. Onto the next one, I suppose!

2016 Reading List #44: The Price, by Arthur Miller

Something I’m learning from having read nine of Arthur Miller’s plays this year: if you run into a play about two brothers with an unsettled familial past, you can pretty much bet who the author is.

The Price is another simple work by Miller, featuring only four characters and a single set. The action follows a middle-aged man who’s brought an appraiser to buy the remaining possessions of his parents, who lost their fortune during the Depression, before their home is demolished. When the protagonist’s long-absent older brother suddenly returns for the appraisal, unresolved conflicts quickly emerge.

The Price is likely a lesser-known of Miller’s works because it has many of his classic elements without being particularly groundbreaking. If you’re looking for this brother-to-brother dynamic, why go any further than the American classic that is Death of a Salesman? There’s nothing wrong with this play, it just lacks the emotional punch present in Miller’s most famous and beloved works.

Though I’ve been reading Miller’s plays in threes and this would mark the end of my latest trilogy, I’m going to knock one more out before moving on to something else because I’m curious about it. Stay tuned to see my reaction to The Creation of the World and Other Business.

2016 Reading List #43: Incident at Vichy, by Arthur Miller

My journey with Arthur Miller continues.

After rereading After the Fall (which I’m not posting about), I was both excited and a little nervous to move into the later years of Miller’s writing career that I know little about. I’ve already worked through his most famous titles, but knowing that 11 plays remain in this collection after his best-known works, I know there’s much more to see from Miller.

Incident at Vichy surprised me. It’s a one-act play that takes place in a waiting room in Vichy, France, where a group of (presumably Jewish) men have been brought to show their identification papers during World War II. Though the play is just short of fifty pages in length, Miller is able to capture the increasing anxiety in this group of strangers as they slowly realize why they’ve been brought together.

One of the most upsetting things about the dialogue here is that the action takes place fairly early in the war, and the characters are discussing the rumors they’ve heard about concentration camps. The action precedes knowledge about what exactly was done to Jews, and though someone mentions rumor of gas chambers, the characters mostly think that’s too horrible a story to be true.

Perhaps the most striking aspect of Incident at Vichy was its relevance to contemporary society. When discussing hatred and war, one character asks, “why does loving your country mean hating all others?”

We might ask a certain Republication presidential nominee that same question.

In Incident at Vichy, though a lesser-known work, Miller continues to prove why his works are some of the best loved in American drama.