High Five / 15


High Five 15Happy Friday, friends! How are things? I myself have had a quiet week at home, and, save for a day trip with friends tomorrow, my Christmas weekend is shaping up to be the same. It’s no secret how much I love this time of year, so I’m looking forward to celebrating the day with my family (and wrapping up my current reads, Girls in the Moon and A Family Christmas, by the Christmas tree).

In the meantime, I’ve been itching to write something other than an academic paper after wrapping up my finals last week. With that in mind, I hope you’ll indulge me with a new High Five – I know it’s been quite a while! What’s new on your end?

[1] To start, I saw Lady Bird a few weeks ago with friends, but I’m still thinking about it: the story, the characters, the cinematography, even the soundtrack! Inspired by the director Greta Gerwig’s own adolescence, the film focuses on Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson throughout her senior year of high school in Sacramento. It’s been called one of the “best coming-of-age films in years,” and I would agree: the acting, particularly of stars Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf, is top-notch, the design is the perfect blend of nostalgia and youth, and the script feels, for lack of a better word, so real. Additionally, as someone who is constantly pushing for more womxn in the entertainment industry, I’m hoping director Greta Gerwig gets the credit she deserves this awards season. I believe it’s being phased out of theaters at this point – I’m several weeks late to the party, I know – but do see it this winter vacation if you get the chance.

[2] Since coming home for the holidays, I’ve been baking up a storm. I’m not complaining: making cookies is one of my favorite Christmas traditions, and after the mad dash that marks the end of the semester, I’ll take any opportunity to spend the day away in the kitchen with music blasting and ingredients everywhere. My family typically packages and passes out boxes of our favorites (think gingerbread men, shortbread cookies, and toffee bars), but we also like to sneak in one or two new recipes. This year’s choice was Gingerbread Brownies from A Farmgirl’s Dabbles. They’re such a fun twist on a holiday classic, and the dusting of confectioner’s sugar reminds me of early season snowfalls; in other words, they’re as festive of a treat as they come. Make them for a post-Christmas dinner dessert, of course, but also to fill your house with the scent of cinnamon and other spices. What fun.

[3] I mentioned in my last post the podcast “Hurry Slowly,” but I love it so much, it deserves a greater shout-out! Jocelyn K. Geil, who has dedicated years to the intersection between creativity and work, explores the same topic in her weekly episodes, interviewing everyone from marathon swimmer Kim Chambers to sleep scientist Sigrid Veasey. I discovered it earlier in the semester and have since found myself all the more aware of what distracts me, when I’m most productive, and what gets my creative juices flowing. Listen to it if you’re looking to be more mindful in the new year, wanting to structure your working time more efficiently, or simply in need of a good podcast. I’m a fan. (And since I’m always on the hunt for new ones to listen to: do you have any podcasts to recommend?).

[4] The recent snowfalls with which New England has been hit, though brief, have me wanting to curl up with a blanket and hot chocolate and binge a show. My recommendation for those feeling the same? The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, the newest project by Gilmore Girls creator and producer Amy Sherman-Palladino. Following a Jewish housewife as she breaks into the 1950s stand-up comedy scene, the first season is all at once witty, charming, and empowering. Actress Rachel Brosnahan is incredible in the leading role, supported by the stellar comedic timing of the entire cast and the writers’ rapid-fire dialogue. Even better may be the costume and production design, which transports viewers to the Upper West Side of New York City. Unfortunately, the show is only available through Amazon Prime, a result of modern-day streaming services, but the pilot is free to watch and Prime offers a thirty-day free trial – plenty of time to finish the first eight episodes! Have you been watching any shows lately?

[5] Finally, I know Christmas is only a few days away, but can I add a few more songs to your holiday music playlist? My sister Lulu recommended Ingrid Michaelson’s wintery EP, Snowfall, and, as I should have expected, her suggestion was spot-on. Ingrid’s voice lends itself beautifully to classics like “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and “Winter Song,” but I’m partial to her original song “When the Leaves.” I’ve had all five tracks playing as I wrap presents for family and friends, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I continue to listen to them into January (I suppose it’s also no surprise that I’ve enjoyed fellow Great Comet co-star Brittain Ashford’s holiday album, Auld Lang Syne, too, should you want more carols for weekend listening).

Have the most wonderful Friday!

Psst. You may notice that Ciao Bella looks a little different – I’ve been playing around with a more minimal design! Please bear with me through any technical difficulties as I continue to polish pages and posts :)

High Five / 14

Hello friends!

My heart is heavy today, and my mind routinely returns to the events that happened in Charlottesville. It, sadly, comes as no surprise given the hateful rhetoric and underlying violence from the alt-right and silent white supporters that has festered for years and intensified in recent months, but I nevertheless found the news deeply painful and angering to watch (and I can only imagine the hurt and harm it has caused to marginalized groups who are no strangers to this treatment). Nevertheless, I’m processing the events from this weekend as I always do: by reading often and reading widely, so if you have any articles you have found of help, please share.

With all that said, I’ve had this post in the works over the past few days with plans to post it this morning. I decided to still share it, not to turn a blind eye to what’s happening in America – and largely, the world ­– but instead to stand as a reminder, mainly for myself: that one can discuss books and theatre and art AND make a stand against bigotry, online and/or off the screen (Author Adam Silvera summed this thought up nicely last night). I want to know how your week went. I also want to know your thoughts on current events and actions you hope to take. I’m one to think we can discuss both here in the blogosphere.

Here’s a new High Five to kick things off.

High Five 14[1] I would ask if you’ve heard of The Bold Type, but I think it would be better to question: who hasn’t caught wind of Freeform’s newest television show? After reading a number of glowing reviews across various platforms, I figured it was high time for my sister and I to check it out ourselves. I’m glad we did, as we were both hooked minutes into the pilot. Starring the fierce trio of Aisha Dee, Meghann Fahy, and Katie Stevens, the show follows the lives of three fashion magazine staffers as they encounter both the highs and lows of their emerging careers, friendships, and romantic relationships. If it sounds like an idyllic representation of millennial city life, I won’t lie: it sometimes is, but it’s also wholly refreshing to see a program tackle contemporary issues – social media trolling, breast cancer awareness, racial profiling, and numerous others – with such attention and grace. To put it simply? I’m a fan – and plan to watch through to the finale when it airs in September.

[2] After wrapping up the tenth and final episode of A Piece of Work, I was – and continue to be! – on the search for new podcasts to listen to (I know, I know, I’m incredibly late to the podcast craze, but better late than never?). I have the Rookie edition to try out next, but in the meantime, I’ve enjoyed listening through the archives of Switched on Pop, a podcast devoted to analyzing the hit songs of the radio. Run by musicologist Nate Sloan and songwriter Charlie Harding, it’s a fascinating take on such songs as “Bad Liar,” “Sign of the Times,” and “I’m the One.” I find them both engaging and funny hosts, and as someone with little musical theory knowledge, I like that they break down the tracks in great detail, explaining each aspect of the song’s popularity as they go. It’s definitely worth a listen, whether you enjoy the Top 40 playlist or not! Do you have any podcast recommendations? I’m all ears.

[3] With The Great Comet on its way out and Bandstand nearing its end, Broadway is ready to welcome the newest season of shows, among them a revival of Once on This Island (the cast looks incredible), a musical adaptation of Roman Holiday (love me anything inspired by Audrey), and a new piece titled The Band’s Visit, based off of an indie film of the same name. While there’s still a few months until previews open for The Band’s Visit, my theatrical curiosity couldn’t wait to see what the story was about, and so, my sister and I held an impromptu movie night earlier this week. Released in 2007 by Israeli screenwriter and film director Eran Kolirin, the movie brings an Egyptian ceremonial police orchestra to Israel after a miscommunication, forcing them to find shelter for the night with a local small restaurant owner. Neither Lulu nor I had any idea what to expect, but we were pleasantly surprised in the end: the film is both heart-warming and hopeful, and we’re now looking forward to seeing its translation to the stage.

[4] As we’re all about recommendations this Sunday morning, can I suggest a new band to add to your playlist? I’ve been listening to English folk rock band The Staves to no end as of late, but I like to think it’s for good reason. The three sisters’ signature harmonies know no match, their delicate blend of rock, folk, and pop is music to my ears, and they’ve got an admirable style to boot. I haven’t heard word on a third album – here’s hoping one is in the works – but if you too would like to check them out, my current favorite tracks are “Tired as F*Ck,” “Blood I Bled,” and “Train Tracks.” What music have you enjoyed this summer?

[5] Finally, this summer has flown right by, but I’ve tried to fill it with as much day trips, good books, and, of course, performing arts as possible! I saw a performance of American Idiot this past Friday (my friend rocked it in the role of Whatshername) and just recently wrapped up the last weekend of shows for my local community theater’s production of Smokey Joe’s Café, a musical revue using the songs of Leiber and Stoller – think “Hound Dog,” “Charlie Brown,” and “Stand By Me.” I had the pleasure of stage managing and running the light board, and though the tech week was intensive, I’m delighted I was able to fit in another musical before my move-in date. The fun was furthered by the fact that the cast, crew, and band all demonstrated such a range in age and experience –  I find it so neat to see how people work their love of theatre in their everyday lives! I’m looking forward to diving head-first into the Brown theatre community, but before that fun, I’ve been playing the Smokey Joe’s cast album to count down the days.

Thank you, as always, for reading. Wishing you all a lovely Sunday.

With love and fight and activism on my mind,

High Five / 13

Hi friends!

High Five 13
Happy Sunday! How was your week? Are you finding time to read and relax? I have a few assignments to wrap up and a number of emails to catch up on, but my Sunday otherwise looks quiet, a welcome pace after a busy week at school. All that said, it’s been a few weeks since I last shared a High Five – we’re long overdue for a chance to catch up! Here are a few highlights from my March, but tell me first, what’s new on your end?

[1] To start, if you’re in need of a new artist to add to your spring playlists, let me recommend my current favorite: Nadia Reid, a talented singer and songwriter from New Zealand. I stumbled upon her second album, Preservation, earlier this month, and it was, as they say, love at first sight. Taking an alternative approach to the folk genre, Reid lends her gorgeous, haunting voice to each track, including my favorites “Richard” and “Te Aro.” Her first album, Listen to Formation, Look for the Signs, is just as good, and both, I’ve found, are perfect to listen to while baking or studying. In short, she deserves a listen – or more! What music have you been enjoying lately?

[2] My sister and I are slowly, but surely, making our way through this past season’s set of Oscar nominees: Arrival was a stunning depiction of language and science, Loving brought history to life through a stellar cast, and Moonlight, as promised to us, was nothing short of incredible. Our latest pick? Jackie, the biopic that takes audiences into the life of Jackie Kennedy in the week following her husband’s death. Starring Natalie Portman as Jackie herself, the film deserves the high praise it has received; the costumes and sets are both impeccable, the cinematography had my eyes glued to the screen, and Portman carries the story with a breathtaking performance. I want to watch it again to catch the little details, but after that, it’s on to Lion. Have you seen Jackie?

[3] If I’m not in a show, the next best thing is seeing the work of my pals who are! A number of my friends were cast in a local production of My Fair Lady, the classic musical that follows Cockney flower girl Eliza Doolittle and phonetics professor Higgins. I haven’t seen many musicals outside of the contemporary realm, and so, I was curious to see how they would pull it together. I needn’t had feared; the company never fails to put on a good show, and this one was no exception, with high-energy numbers, a neat set, and terrific leads {I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have “With a Little Bit of Luck” stuck in my head all day}. Furthermore, seeing the story on stage has me wanting to watch the film adaptation once more. Thankfully, I’m never one to turn down an Audrey Hepburn movie night :)

[4] I too was recently involved in a show: Eurydice, my school’s one-act play festival entry. The cast and crew competed in the semi-final round among several other talented schools last weekend, and though we didn’t move on, we all enjoyed making friends with students who love theater just as much as we do. For me, it was a bittersweet end to an activity that defined my four years of high school {we former directors are all above}, telling of how quickly this school year is going by! It wasn’t the only sign that senior year is entering its end: I was accepted into one of my top schools this past week {Go Ephs!}, my friends and I have picked out our prom dresses {I have this floral piece now hanging in my closet}, and my fellow class officers and I are already discussing our unofficial traditions {Senior Skip Day, anyone?}. With the last day of school only two months away, I’m doing my best to soak each and every memory in.

[5] Finally, if you have an hour to spare today, consider reading the first issue of Stay Bookish, a new online magazine devoted to YA literature. I was delighted to join the staff – headed by the wonderful Hazel – as a designer, and I was even more excited to see the hard work of the entire team come together! I don’t want to speak for the entire group, but I certainly had a blast working on it, and with everything from an interview with Becky Albertalli to a playlist based on this spring’s releases, I believe there’s an article in there for every bookworm. Rehearsals and homework prevented me from designing more than a few articles this time around, but I look forward to contributing more for our second edition. In the meantime, do you have any zine recommendations?

Have a lovely rest of your weekend!