Brave Girl

As an artist, I like being supportive of those that are still growing in their craft. I always applaud my younger friends who are still in high school or college who take risks and chances. It takes a lot of courage to get up and sing in front of a large group of people. It takes a lot of rehearsal and preparation to make your song good enough for public consumption.

However, these standards somehow dissipate when the “public” is invisible and tuning in through computers. People will put anything up on YouTube, no matter how unprepared and unrefined the performance is. Sometimes, this leads to moments of raw brilliance. Other times, it leads to…well….

Just watch the video.

To be fair, this girl is not a complete train wreck. There is a big instrument in that not-quite-petite frame. With about six months of solid vocal coaching to get her powerful voice under control, some English lessons, and a crash course in how to sensibly apply eye makeup, I think she could really be a force to reckon with. Until then, I hope she keeps posting videos. While she may not be vocally brilliant, the messy runs and botched pronunciations still bring a smile to my face.

Cat Deeley is a Loose Cannon

Life gets hard. Sometimes you just have to blow off some steam. Preferably not in front of a live audience, but who really has that much self-control?

Project Hotel Key – Fredonia, New York

Days Inn


I’ll be honest, this hotel was pretty terrible. After a string of rather nice accommodations, this Days Inn was a let down. The hallways smelled like smoke. There were no refrigerators or microwaves, and the beds were a bit too firm for my liking. However, this hotel gets by with its location. Fredonia, home to one of many SUNY campuses, is located an hour south of a little Canadian border town called Niagara Falls. With a free night in Fredonia, we would be crazy not to drive up.

The falls were gorgeous. I took a lot of video footage, which I am currently editing together, that I cannot wait to show you. For now, enjoy a few still pictures I took.

Mist everywhere. Casinos in the distance. Sun starting to set.

Simply gorgeous.

After watching the sun set on the falls, we hit up the Niagara-Seneca Casino for dinner and some gambling. We decided on La Cascata, an Italian restaurant named after the Italian word for waterfall (I wonder where they got the idea to name it that), splitting two bottles of wine and eating a variety of delicious entrees. I had a tasty Penne alla Vodka with grilled chicken and red peppers. Delicious.

Interesting tidbit: There are either an insane amount of heroin junkies in Niagara Falls, or this casino is really friendly to their diabetic patrons. How often does one see a biohazard disposal for hypodermic needles next to a restroom sink?

After dinner, we decided to try our hands at the slot machines. I’d been to Las Vegas once before and, though I walked through every single casino on the strip,  I didn’t play a single machine because I was not yet of legal age. Now well into my twenties, I thought it was about time I try my hand at some gambling. I thought, since it was my first time, I should start big. Of course, for me, “starting big” means I went straight for the penny slots with a five dollar bill. I inserted my money and pressed a button. I couldn’t make much sense of what happened after that due to all the crossing lines and shifting images, but when the world stopped spinning I heard a ding and my five dollar bill turned into six. The fates were obviously on my side, so I pressed the button again. More spinning lines and colors flashed before my face, except this time, when they stopped, there was no ding. My six dollars did not turn into seven, but instead went back to five. I pressed the button again. Again. Once more. I was sure my luck would turn around if i kept pushing the button long enough, but no. What started as five dollars quickly became two cents, and the machines don’t let you play with two cents. I inserted another five into the machine, in hopes that some fresh green would brighten the slot machine’s generous spirit, and continued my button pressing. In an odd turn of events, the gambling gods actually accepted my offering! That is to say, they ate it. Ten dollars. Gone. Poof. I’m magic.

Sound Engineer Nathan Lively marveling at the wonders of money wasting.

What a great day in Fredonia and Niagara Falls!

QUESTION: What’s the most impressive “world wonder” you’ve ever seen in person?

New Interpretations

Sometimes, a song becomes so familiar that it needs a little shaking up before you remember how good of a song it actually is.

For example, “I Can Do Better Than That” from Jason Robert Brown’s wonderful song cycle/musical The Last 5 Years, which chronicles the rise and fall of a relationship from the perspective of the man and the woman…in reverse order. He starts at hello while she starts at goodbye. This song occurs during her “first date” moment, where she realizes that this new guy she’s on a date with could really be something. It’s funny and touching, with very clever lyrics and a compelling melody. I listened to the original cast recording, featuring Sherie Rene Scott as Cathy, so many times that it’s not even on my iPod. I can just listen to it in my head from memory. Anyway, Sherie Rene Scott is wonderful. In case you’ve never heard her perform the song, you should view this clip:

Now that I’ve established Sherie’s brilliance, take into consideration that this song is in the audition book of nearly every young (and some not so young) white female in the musical theatre profession. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard the song used in acting master classes or vocal recitals. It’s gotten to the point where I don’t even pay attention to the words anymore. That is, until I heard this rendition:

This performance, by the incomparable Anika Noni Rose (of “Frog Princess” and “Dreamgirls” fame) marks the first time I’ve ever heard a non-white woman sing this song. What took so long? Her acting and vocal choices are so refreshing. She’s not trying to imitate any previous performance of this song. Along with the sexy brass arrangement, Anika gives this song the spice it needed to make me actually listen again and thank goodness, because it’s a wonderful song!

QUESTION: Mostly for the actors and singers among us – how do you make a piece your own? What do you do to distinguish YOUR performance from the many that came before you?

Project Hotel Key – Blytheville, Arkansas

Quality Inn

Quality Inn…poor quality photo. Isn’t it ironic?

Arkansas is SO windy – windy enough to make me think I was back in Oklahoma. After such a hot easter weekend in Columbus, Georgia, where I spent the nights sweating without A/C, the wind came as a shock. It also hinted at what might be headed our way as we travel northward.

We stopped through Memphis, Tennessee on our way to Arkansas. My castmate Brian spent a few months working with Playhouse on the Square in Memphis, so he had a good idea of the lay of the land. Most importantly, he knew where to go for food. Central BBQ was the place to be. Not only is it in the heart of bluesy Memphis, it produces the best barbecue I’ve ever had in my life.

Elvis drank Pepsi. Fact.

I ordered the 1/2 chicken, and they do not lie about this. It is literally HALF a chicken. Baked to perfection in a sweet and smoky barbecue sauce. I finished my portion and felt very tempted to go ask for the other half. It was that good.

However…their spelling…not so great. Observe.

MEMPIS?

Some people are only good at one thing in life. If that one thing is making mind-numbingly awesome barbecue, I can let the spelling errors slide.

QUESTION: What was the best experience you’ve ever had with barbecue? Tell me about it in the comments!

Easter Sushi!

If you know me well, you know that my perfect afternoon includes some unagi rolls, a cup of green tea, and a good book – either essays or an intriguing novel. That said, you can imagine my reaction when my good friend Shira shared THIS with me on twitter today:

They call it Peepshi. The idea is to make sushi out of the severed heads and bodies of peeps, using rice krispy treats and fruit roll-ups instead of the traditional rice and seaweed. While I think the idea is fascinatingly creative, I would never eat these creations, and I can’t help but be slightly disturbed by the appearance of chicken heads popping out of sushi rolls.

What do you think?

Have you found a new easter tradition?

Are you running for the nearest bucket?

Let me know in the comments!

Original Article with Recipes: “How to Make Peepshi = Peeps Sushi” – Grace Kang

Espresso – The Great Unequalizer

The act of ordering espresso has a way of revealing a person’s true nature. I often like to enjoy a small shot of espresso after eating a nice Italian meal. It caps off the experience in a way that dessert can only attempt.

I had lunch at a rather lackluster Italian restaurant called Amalfi’s last week. After my over-salted chicken and spinach entree, I thought some espresso might help better my opinion of the establishment. I ask the waitress, who did not possess a great command of the English language, and who I am fairly certain was not Italian, to bring out two shots of espresso for myself and my dining partner. After nearly 10 minutes, they deliver this:

There is nothing like pre-sweetened espresso (which tasted suspiciously similar to coffee) served in the same ramekins as marinara sauce to make one realize exactly how spoiled he is.

I’m currently reading a collection of essays by actor and writer Wallace Shawn. He opens the book with an essay titled “The Quest for Superiority,” making several acute observations on life as a member of the upper, or upper-middle class.

It’s obviously a characteristic of human beings that we like to feel superior to others. But our problem is that we’re not superior. We like the sensation of being served by others and feeling superior to them, but if we’re forced to get to know the people who serve us, we quickly see that they’re in fact just like us. And then we become uncomfortable–uncomfortable and scared, because if we can see that we’re just the same, well, they might too, and if they did, the might become terribly, terribly angry, because why should they be serving us? So that’s why we prefer not to talk to waiters.

Reading that passage, I couldn’t help but grit my teeth. I like to think that I am not a superior human being, that I see equality in all around me, but how can I say that when I fully expect my espresso to look like this:

QUESTION: Are you ever put face to face with things you dislike about yourself? Have you ever scoffed at the presentation of a meal, or complained about the way your maid folds your clothes? Things to ponder….

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