Do Something Awesome

Dear Readers,

There’s something urgent that I want to tell you about. It’s so cool that I’m letting you know about it before I actually do it myself.

As I was browsing through City Paper this weekend I noticed ad for “Delicacy,” a French film from 2011 featuring Audrey Tautou (who I happen to have an enormous lady-crush on). I immediately googled it, and found out that the movie is playing at the Ritz 5, a fabulous movie theater that I consistently forget about. Ritz 5 is one of several Landmark theaters in Philadelphia. Landmark is the “largest theatre chain dedicated to exhibiting and marketing independent film” in the nation.

Students with ID get in for $7.25 any time except Saturdays & Holidays. Read as: students get in cheaper than they will to pretty much any other movie, even at matinee hours.

In addition to “Delicacy”, the Philadelphia theaters are featuring critically acclaimed films that you may have heard of including “We Need to Talk About Kevin,” “The Artist,” and “Coriolanus”.

The moral of this short story? If you’ve been wanting to expand your horizons, and want to sit in a cool theater on one of our hot spring days, check out the Landmark Theaters.

You’re welcome,
Tori

P.S. This is a great date idea. It’s cheaper than a normal movie and you get to seem cultured. Double win.

Time Stands Still

On Saturday, February 25, at 7:25pm, my friend Leah and I got onto the regional rail from Temple University toward Doylestown to see a play. 30 minutes later, we got off at Ambler station. Had we not taken a wrong turn first, it would have only taken us  2 minutes to reach our destination, Act 2 Playhouse.

We went inside and were immediately handed the two tickets that had been left for me at will call. We were about ten minutes late, but the show had started promptly and everyone was already seated and engaged as we were shown to our row. The theater seats 130, and it was sold out (mostly with adults over 40). Instead of making us climb over everyone, the entire row scooted down so that we could have the end seats and didn’t even glare. I was already impressed.

After shuffling around getting my coat and over-stuffed bag situated, I finally focused on the stage, and was sucked in almost immediately. First of all, the set was awesome. Set up like the inside of an apartment that was decorated by grown-up hipsters (who, instead of thinking they’re too cool to care about material objects actually don’t care and just happened to end up with an assortment of furniture from Ikea and the Middle East). My favorite touch was that the kitchen sink had running water. (The “rain” that actually left the window panes wet was a close second).

Time Stands Still is a Broadway play that is making its Philadelphia debut at Act II Playhouse before moving on to the People’s Light and Theater Company in Malvern later this Spring.

The story follows a middle-aged couple who were brought together by their shared experience as journalists in war zones. After the woman is almost blown to pieces in the Middle East and the man has a meltdown after seeing other people blown to pieces one too many times, they are forced to re-evaluate their careers and decide if documenting suffering is what will ultimately make them happiest, or if they want a more conventional life. I won’t give it away, but I will say that the story is woven together beautifully, and that the mixture of anger, angst, tenderness, and humor feels effortless and makes the two hours fly by.

As a journalism student, the heated discussions about the true merit of journalistic work hit home for me in a profound way. My favorite scene in the show, however, was the dinner party discussion about whether seeing a play about world issues and educating oneself is a valuable use of time. It was as though the writers were winking at the audience the entire time, saying, “you’re not off the hook, here- it’s not just the characters who are going to have to think about the tough questions- you’re in this too”.

The acting was well executed and the leads, Susan McKey and Kevin Kelly, looked vaguely reminiscent of Amy Pohler and Jason Bateman, which was entertaining in and of itself.

Overall, I thought the show was very well done, and definitely worth the trip to Ambler. Though my friend and I ended up making our train back to Temple, we were crunched for time at the end of the show, so I would definitely recommend getting tickets for a matinee showing and then making an afternoon of hanging out in Ambler (which is adorable).

Act 2 Playhouse offers discounts in your PEX passport, and Time Stands Still is only running until March 11, so buy your tickets now and go see the show over spring break!

SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE

She did it again, ladies and gentlemen. She said she was going to something, she got really excited about it, and then it fell through. Such is life. Luckily, not doing something still won’t stop me from writing about it, so here’s the deal with Slaughterhouse 5 at Curio theater

What: Slaughterhouse 5 (the play!)
Why? Because Curio is that cool. Honestly, I would seriously doubt their judgement for attempting to adapt a novel like Slaughterhouse 5 to the stage, but their acute awareness of how strange of an idea it was(“How are we going to present Vonnegut’s classic story?  Come and See!”) is precisely what gives me confidence in their ability to pull it off. In my experience, when people take calculated risks, that’s when genius comes in. This show has been getting buzz from a slew of local press outlets, and I have high hopes for the outcome of their bold choice.
When: Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm from February 2nd – March 3rd
How much: $15.00- $20.00 (+ the discount in your PEX passport!)
Where: Curio Theater, 4740 Baltimore Avenue
Transportation: Is tricky, because it’s in a weird part of West Philly that’s kind of far from Temple (as far as city distances go). Google maps told me that it would take me a bus and a trolley to get there (or a subway and a trolley), so I recommend inviting someone with a car and making your life a hell of a lot easier.
I still hope to make it to the show before it closes since a large part of my heart is occupied by Vonnegut, but even in the event that I don’t, I still heartily encourage you to make the trip. The PR staffer at Curio was amazingly kind to me, which, interestingly, has so far (in my year and a half of doing this job) been a pretty good indicator of how fun a place is.
Go. Be cultural. Your parents will be proud.

Philadelphia Arts Alliance

Where: The Philadelphia Arts Alliance is located at 251 South 18th Street, aka right across from Rittenhouse Square Park. It’s a quick walk from the Broad Street Line, and particularly beautiful at this time of the year when Christmas decorations are just starting to go up.

Cost: $5 for adults, $3 for students, FREE with your PEX passport.

When: Tuesday-Sunday, 11 am- 5pm (I went at around 1:30 on a Thursday)

Who (would like it): This particular exhibit is great for all types of people. Because it’s interactive and fantastical, it was a hit with the kids who we saw there (adorable), as well as each of the people in my group, whose art experience ranged from full-blown Tyler student to a friend who was just open to trying something new.

What: The current exhibit showing at the PAA is called “Let Me Tell You About A Dream I Had,” an installation created by Miss Rockaway Armada that embodies the adage that “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”. PAA is all about innovative contemporary art that inspires “dynamic interaction between audiences and artists,” which this exhibit definitely accomplishes. The best way that I can describe it is to tell you to picture that obligatory scene in every movie where someone does acid and ends up at a crazy bohemian circus (when I said this to my friends they didn’t seem to get it, so maybe this only happens in the movies I watch- if so, click the link and see what I’m talking about). It’s a multi-media art environment, so you can touch things, play around, watch a movie, listen to music, go behind the creepy curtain etc. The PAA is basically a really large, beautiful house, with lots of open space that has been transformed into another world.

How (I felt about it): If you couldn’t tell from the descriptions above, I fell head-over-heels in love with this exhibit. Of all the art installations I’ve seen in my life, this one ties for first place (with Black Acid Co-Op by Deitch). Maybe I just have a thing for Please-Touch-Museum-On-A-Drug-Trip experiences, but based on the reactions of my friends, I know I’m not making up how phenomenal this is. The materials are all ordinary things that come together to be something extraordinary. It’s only here until December 30, so get there ASAP.

A quote from one of the exhibit rooms:

“Papa Beutrino: He chased his dreams and was never paralyzed by fear of what may lay in the path ahead. His boldness and bravery inspired me and many from our crew. Crossing the Atlantic on a raft made of scraps was only one of his great feats. He just did his thing.

Tori Gets Lawlz-y at ComedySportz

Unprofessional title? Keepin’ it.

Anyway, as you may have gathered, I finally got to go to ComedySportz, a PEX activity that I’ve been super excited about for a while now. I know that this is longer than my typical post, but know that I’m not wasting your time, I just really really liked it.

I was planning to go the weekend before Thanksgiving, then couldn’t. I meant to go last weekend, but I was in a tryptophan coma and missed it. After lots of shuffling around, I got all the pieces to fit together- I had a friend, a ticket waiting for me at will call (thank you, Don!), walking directions and a subway token and finally got to check out the 7:30 pm show (there’s also one at 10 pm) at the Adrienne theater on 20th and Sansom Streets.

Essentially, ComedySportz is what the Olympic event in improv would look like. No obscenity (or you get shamed and have to sit with a brown bag on your head for a few minutes), no bad puns, and 100% improv-ed material. The teams are red (Jersey turnpikes) versus blue (Philadelphia Amish) are are made up of four players each.

The show consists of a series of improv games, some of which are judged by applause from the audience, others by pre-chosen audience judges and the rest by the referee (who, to give you an idea of the seriousness of the game, gave a point to the blue team when they asked for it, and took two away when a red player hugged him too enthusiastically).

At the very beginning, Referee Sean told us, “This isn’t television, this is Theater. I can see you,” which set the tone for the entire evening. Audience participation is crucial, and ComedySportz is serious about their commitment to theater as an art form.  From clapping to chiming in topics, to actually getting up on stage, the audience is treated as a living element of the show. When a huge group of people with reserved tickets walked in 10 minutes late, they were welcomed by everyone on stage and in the audience. The atmosphere is light and silly and the energy of the crowd is a huge factor in the kind of experience you have. Read as: go with a huge group of really fun friends that you know you’ll have a blast with.

Because it’s bound to be different every time, I won’t bother explaining which games they played or how they went, but I will tell you about the players. Each team member had a ton of personality and though you could definitely tell that it was the first show of the night and that they were warming up, each one had something inherently hilarious about them. For instance, one player had a contagious laugh that made me giggle every time I heard it. It was also evident that everyone had a theater background, if not for their stage presence then for their awesome singing voices that came out during random parts of games. You know those people that sing along to the radio and demolish the high notes without thinking about it? ComedySportz is where those guys go to thrive.

Singing–> music–> sounds–> this is the part where I tell you about my moment of stardom.

Whenever people in a show ask for audience volunteers, I always raise my hand because I assume I won’t get picked. Well, ladies and gentleman guess who got brought up on stage tonight? This girl, of course. The game was for the actors to create a scene involving two honeymooners in Alaska who get their room crashed by a random old guy. My job was the provide hilarious sound effects. When I say you get out what you put in, this is a perfect example. Before I went up, I was really enjoying myself but after I put myself out there and got a supportive, positive response from the audience and the players alike, I liked it even more. Because really, who doesn’t like being clapped for?

This is where I will put the picture of me with all the players, assuming I can get my hands on it. For the time being, enjoy this gem of me eating a lime.

ComedySportz performs every Saturday night at 7:30 pm and again at 10 pm. Because they are extremely conscious of keeping it PG during these performances (so feel free to bring your 5th grader cousin when she visits), they have recently added a raunchier version called The Blue Show, which happens on the last Friday of every month during the 10 pm show. As an enthusiastic potty-mouth, I’ll definitely be checking this out later this month.

Tickets are $12 for students with ID, but $10 for Temple students who bring their handy-dandy PEX passport. Read as: great deal.

Thanks again to Don who was kind enough to accommodate my ever-shifting schedule, to the players and of course the friend I coerced into coming with me.

The Not-Quite-Macy’s-But-Still-Thanksgiving-Day Parade

I am a big fan of exploiting seasonal topics. Thus, instead of telling you about a museum that you aren’t going to remember through your food coma later this week, I’ll tell you about something going on in your backyard that will help you make the most of your holiday.

There are no good Google pictures of the parade, and I love Pooh Bear, so this gets to be featured even though it's not totally related.

Apparently, Philadelphia has a Thanksgiving Day Parade. They have had this parade every year since 1920. I have lived in the area since 1998. I am clearly not a very observant person. For those of you who are either new to the area or, like me, simply watch the Macy’s parade on TV instead of making yourself aware of what’s going on in real life around you, this will be exciting news.

From  8:30 a.m.-noon on Thursday, Nov. 24, 2011 (Thanksgiving day), floats, bands, dance teams and scores of other performers will parade through town starting at 20th and JFK Boulevard, continuing down JFK Boulevard to City Hall and then taking the Benjamin Franklin Parkway to the Philadelphia Art Museum.

If you can’t make it into town/ aren’t a fan of crowds, you can watch the parade on 6ABC where Phil-ebrities Cecily Tynan and Rick Williams will host and commentate on the festivities. In the event that you aren’t napping by 8pm, you can turn your TV back onto ABC and watch the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving special (one of my personal holiday favorites).

Have a very happy Thanksgiving and get excited for next week when I visit Comedy Sportz at the Adrienne theater!

Behind the Scenes of Eastern State Penitentiary’s Terror Behind The Walls

First of all, Happy Halloween! I hope everyone has had a safe and shenanigan-filled Halloweekend.

Second of all, I have a confession to make in the spirit of journalistic full disclosure. I know I promised to go to Terror Behind the Walls, but then I remembered that I hate being scared, and decided not to. Luckily, my roommates all made the trip and thus enabled me to compile a list of tips and highlights for those curious about the experience. And just think, now you have a whole year to chew on these hints before deciding if you want to subject yourself to the terror behind the walls next Halloween. (See what I did there? I think I’m pretty clever). On to the list!

  1. Go with people you aren’t afraid to look like an idiot in front of. This is not a good first date idea. Yes, you’ll end up clutching them for dear life, but you’ll probably also end up crying and panicking, which isn’t cute.
  2. Bring a guinea pig who’s brave enough to take the lead. They’ll take the majority of the hits on being grabbed by surprise, giving you a little relief.
  3. Don’t caffeinate before you go. You’ll just end up giving yourself a heart attack or an anxiety attack or something which isn’t worth it.
  4. Try as hard as you can to avoid driving. Parking is challenging, particularly as you get closer to Halloween, and it’s a much better idea to just take the trolley, a bike, your legs…pretty much anything other than a car.
  5. Reward yourself afterward. Fairmount Pizza and Philly Water Ice are less than a block away from the Penitentiary, and are a satisfying way to end a night of fright.

Even with these tips, I’m not sure I’ll be woman enough to make the trip next year, but at least I feel a little more prepared for it and hopefully you do too. The most important thing at any haunted house type of experience is to remember not to take yourself (or your surroundings) too seriously and to have fun. As long as screaming is followed by laughing (which it definitely was for all of my friends who went), it’s well worth the trip.

The Love Letters Tour

What is the Love Letters tour?

I’m glad you asked! It’s 50 rooftop murals that tell the story of a man who was madly in love with a SEPTA worker, who refused to talk to him after he was sent to jail for graffiti writing. In order to get her attention, he attempted to speak to her through a series of murals along her route on the L-train.

This series was done in collaboration with Stephen Powers (a graffiti writer originally from Philly who now makes his living as an artist in NYC).

The cost is $10 with your PEX passport, which may seem steep but is well worth it for the experience. Of all the PEX activities I’ve attended since I was hired here, this ranks in my top three. I’m a sucker for art, culture, graffiti, and romantic gestures, so this one hit all my soft spots.

Hints:

I definitely recommend bringing a companion for this one, since the romantic nature of some of the murals could be a little depressing if you’re by yourself. The tour moves quickly and many of the murals are hard to see, so bring a camera but don’t be attached to the idea that you’ll be able to document the entire journey. Also, avoid drinking too much before you go, as bathrooms will not be easily accessible during the 90-minute tour (a lesson I learned the hard way).

For departure information and other tours, visit the mural arts website.

Special thanks to the Mural Arts Program for comping me tickets and to the owner of the pharmacy next to the gas station outside of the 63rd street L-train stop who let me use his private bathroom.

Art Museum Part 2

I recently dragged my mom to round two of the Philadelphia Art Museum and I am sad to say that this excursion was significantly less impressive than my previous one. I went specifically to check out the “Unsettled: Photography and Politics in Contemporary Art” exhibit because it boasted work by my all-time favorite artist, Barbara Kruger.

Though the exhibit was designed to cover all social-political issues in the last 40 years, it lacked a distinct message, which made the pieces feel disconnected and the “meanings” behind the images contrived. Without proper context, a portrait of a gay couple performing fellatio is less a powerful statement and more pornographic. If you’re not an obsessed Kruger fan like I am, I wouldn’t bother make the trip.

Other exhibits on display in the Tuttleman building are “The Peacock Male: Exuberance and Extremes in Masculine Dress” and “Collab: Four Decades of Giving Modern and Contemporary Design“. The former boasts an array of flamboyant articles of clothing ranging from beautiful ivory vests to Phillies tracksuits. The latter exhibit is kind of like going through a high-end Ikea showroom. Though it was an interesting visual experience, unless any of these exhibits fall under the umbrella of one of your specific passions, I would recommend satisfying your curiosity with photos in the gallery below.

10 Things I Love About CHF

CHF = Chemical Heritage Foundation

I took three years of chemistry in high school (yeah that’s right, I’ve synthesized acetylsalicylic acid) so this museum was right up my ally. If you’re a fellow chem-lover (or you’re just trying to appease a friend who is), you’ll definitely want to check this one out.

View from the second floor

1. You can get up close and personal with elements. A flask full of the body’s quota of nitrogen? Don’t mind if I do.

2. It’s free.

3. You can check out the entire process of synthesizing plastic.

4. You can check out the history of chemistry, including actual lab equipment- very impressive (and large).

5. They have engravings of 17th century alchemy books. If the geek in you isn’t wide awake at this point, there is no hope for you.

6. Hilarious gems of wisdom on the walls including, “The loveliest theories are being overthrown by these damned experiments. It’s no fun being a chemist anymore” (Justus von Liebig, 1834)

7. There’s an interactive periodic table where you can learn all about each element (even the weird ones).

8. There are two floors. The staircase, as well as the floor on the second level, are clear, creating an insanely cool (if not slightly unsettling) effect.

9. Just by going, you’re committing to your nerdy-ness, so there’s no need to hold back.

10. Conveniently located at 315 Chestnut Street, it’s a great location to stop by and then explore the beautiful surrounding area. (You’ll probably run into some historical tours, which, if you’re like me, is an added entertainment bonus to any afternoon).

Have I sold you on it yet? Thought so. Let me know how you like it!