The New Wave of diversity in American theatre

The New Wave of diversity in American theatre

Here they are boys, here they are worlds..here's diversity!

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As seen on the 72nd annual Tony's Awards, presented this past Sunday, the topic of diversity was extremely. Anyone who tuned in witnessed the practically perfect sweep by Itamar Moses' adaptation of the 2007 Eran Kolirin movie , The Band's Visit, a tale of an Egyptian band stuck in a small town in the Israeli Negev Desert. The evening of the Tony Awards, two award winners, Lindsey Mendez (Carrie Pepperidge in Roger and Hammerstein's Carousel) and Ari'el Stachel (Haled in The Band's Visit) both commented on personal acceptance of personal acceptance of their diversity with Mendez stating, "When I moved to New York, I was told to change my last name from Mendez to Matthews or I wouldn't work. And I just want to say how proud I am to be a part of a community that celebrates diversity and individuality." This statement reigns superbly true. Theatre is the community of inclusivity and most people may attest to that, but it wasn't until a recent trip to New York until I realized how far we have come and how far we have to go.

This past March I flew to New York City with my Model United Nations Delegation to compete at the National Model United Nations Conference. Given a free trip to NYC, it was obvious that I would spend any free time I was given on theatre as well as navigating my less familiar teammates around the city (willingly, lots of love for Goatia). Since my time was short, I was only able to see two shows—Rogers and Hammerstein's Carousel and Lindsey Ferrentino's Amy and the Orphans.

Only a 6 minute walk from the Imperial Theatre (home to Carousel), one would find the Roundabout Theatre Company's Laura Pels Theatre which was home to Amy and the Orphans

Headlined by Actress Jamie Brewer (American Horror Story, Switched at Birth, and Southland) during the Tuesday- Sunday Primetime Performances and Edward Barbanell (The Ringer, Workaholics, and Dumb and Dumber to)

This was it, the moment where I can say I was truly in awe from a theatrical experience, a sensation that I haven't felt in a long time, if ever. For the first time in my life, I witness not only a down syndrome character represented in a play, but a down syndrome actor. Amy and the Orphans is the true story of play write Lindsey Ferrentino's aunt Amy who was sent away as a child to a live in state institute because of her grandparents inability to raise a child with down syndrome, with the only real interactions with her family being their sparse visits and trips to the movies—movie quotes playing a huge part in Amy's speech. As the show progresses, Amy's siblings realize the distance between them and her and that leads to an eager fight to regain ties with their estranged sister.

I sat in awe, and frankly, covered in tears. To see an underrepresented community finally gaining light felt as if a door had been open to a facet of the arts that people have never seen before. One thought couldn't leave my head was, "it's not about if they can do it, it's about when they will do it." This is something I have always known to be true with the Down Syndrome community, things will be accomplished, but time needs to be taken and opportunities need to be given. Without mentioning names, I want to shout-out a very important friend in my life who has Down Syndrome but hasn't let any obstacle interfere with living her perfect life. Not only can she dance a circle around anyone, but her wit could outdo even the greatest of comedians. Like I said, it's not about if, it's about when.


Jeter Weiss


Finally, I leave you with the moral of the story: people are people, and if one falls under that "People/Person" classification, there isn't anything stopping them from greatness. Amy was one of many to face cruel circumstances like her upbringing, but she serves as an inspiration to fight for those who can. Amy, who finds most of her words come in form of movie quotes leaves us with the following:

"I'm a human being, damnit.
MY LIFE HAS VALUE.
You don't understand.
I coulda been a contender.
I coulda been somebody. I coulda been somebody. I coulda been somebody. I coulda been somebody."
-Amy and the Orphans
Cover Image Credit:

Photo by Mohammad Jangda

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Why High School Musicals Should Be As Respected As Sports Programs Are

The arts are important, too.
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When I was in middle school and high school, I felt like I lived for the musicals that my school orchestrated.

For those of you who don't know, a musical is an onstage performance wherein actors take on roles that involve singing, and often dancing, to progress the plot of the story. While it may sound a little bit nerdy to get up in front of an audience to perform in this manner, this is something you cannot knock until you try it.

For some reason, though, many public schools have de-funded arts programs that would allow these musicals to occur, while increasing the funding for sports teams. There are a few things that are being forgotten when sports are valued more than musical programs in high schools.

Much like athletic hobbies, an actor must try-out, or audition, to participate in a musical. Those best suited for each role will be cast, and those who would not fit well are not given a part. While this may sound similar to trying out for say, basketball, it is an apples to oranges comparison.

At a basketball try-out, those who have the most experience doing a lay-up or shooting a foul shot will be more likely to succeed, no questions asked. However, for an audition, it is common to have to learn a piece of choreography upon walking in, and a potential cast member will be required to sing a selected piece with only a few days of preparation.

There are many more variables involved with an audition that makes it that much more nerve-racking.

The cast of a school musical will often rehearse for several months to perfect their roles, with only several nights of performance at the end. Many sports practice for three or four days between each of their respective competitions. While this may seem to make sports more grueling, this is not always the case.

Musicals have very little pay-off for a large amount of effort, while athletic activities have more frequent displays of their efforts.

Athletes are not encouraged to but are allowed to make mistakes. This is simply not allowed for someone in a musical, because certain lines or entrances may be integral to the plot.

Sometimes, because of all the quick changes and the sweat from big dance numbers, the stage makeup just starts to smear. Despite this, an actor must smile through it all. This is the part of musicals that no sport has: introspection.

An actor must think about how he or she would respond in a given situation, be it saddening, maddening, frightening, or delightful. There is no sport that requires the knowledge of human emotion, and there is especially no sport that requires an athlete to mimic such emotion. This type of emotional exercise helps with communications and relationships.

Sports are great, don't get me wrong. I loved playing volleyball, basketball, track, and swimming, but there were no experiences quite like those from a musical. Sports challenge the body with slight amounts of tactic, while musicals require much physical and mental endurance.

The next time you hear someone say that it's “just a musical," just remember that musicals deserve as much respect as sports, since they are just as, if not more demanding.

Cover Image Credit: Cincinnati Arts

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10 Shows To Watch If You're Sick Of 'The Office'

You can only watch it so many times...

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"The Office" is a great show, and is super easy to binge watch over and over again! But if you're like me and you're looking for something new to binge, why not give some of these a try? These comedies (or unintentional comedies) are a great way to branch out and watch something new.

1. "New Girl"

A show about a group of friends living in an apartment in a big city? Sound familiar? But seriously, this show is original and fresh, and Nick Miller is an icon.

2. "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend"

Ya'll have been sleeping on this show. It's a musical comedy about a girl that follows her ex boyfriend across the country. I thought it sounded horrible so I put it off for WAY too long, but then I realized how incredible the cast, music, writing, and just EVERYTHING. It really brings important issues to light, and I can't say too much without spoiling it. Rachel Bloom (the creator of the show) is a woman ahead of her time.

3. "Jane the Virgin"

I know... another CW show. But both are so incredible! Jane The Virgin is a tongue-in-cheek comedy and parody of telenovelas. It has so many twists and turns, but somehow you find yourself laughing with the family.

4. "Brooklyn Nine-Nine"

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Brooklyn Nine-Nine has been in popular news lately since its cancellation by Fox and sequential pickup by NBC. It's an amazing show about cops in, you guessed it, Brooklyn. Created by the amazing Michael Schur, it's a safe bet that if you loved "The Office" you'll also love his series "Brooklyn Nine-Nine".

5. "The Good Place"

Another series created by the talented Micael Schur, it's safe to say you've probably already heard about this fantasy-comedy series. With a wonderful cast and writing that will keep you on your toes, the show is another safe bet.

6. "Fresh Off The Boat"

Seriously, I don't know why more people don't watch this show. "Fresh Off The Boat" focuses on an Asian family living in Orlando in the mid 90s. Randall Parks plays a character who is the polar opposite of his character in "The Interview" (Yeah, remember that horrifying movie?) and Constance Wu is wonderful as always.

7. "Full House"

Why not go back to the basics? If you're looking for a nostalgic comedy, go back all the way to the early days of Full House. If you're a '98-'00 baby like me, you probably grew up watching the Tanner family on Nick at Night. The entire series is available on Hulu, so if all else fails just watch Uncle Jesse and Rebecca fall in love again or Michelle fall off a horse and somehow lose her memory.

8. "Secret Life of the American Teenager"

Okay, this show is not a comedy, but I have never laughed so hard in my life. It's off Netflix but it's still on Hulu, so you can watch this masterpiece there. Watch the terrible acting and nonsense plot twists drive this show into the ground. Somehow everyone in this school dates each other? And also has a baby? You just have to watch. It might be my favorite show of all time.

9. "Scrubs"

Another old show that is worth watching. If you ignore the last season, Scrubs is a worthwhile medical comedy about doctors in both their personal and medical life. JD and Turk's relationship is one to be jealous of, and one hilarious to watch. Emotional at times, this medical drama is superior to any medical drama that's out now.

10. "Superstore"

I was resistant to watch this one at first, because it looked cheesy. But once I started watching I loved it! The show is a workplace comedy, one you're sure to love if you can relate to working in retail. If you liked the Office, you'll like Superstore!

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