Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot with Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart

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On a chilly New York Sunday morning, I was sitting outside the Cort Theatre near Times Square.  For three hours, a small group of about fifteen huddled in our coats, hats, and scarves.

You may ask what we were doing sitting out in the cold.  Well, we were waiting for Waiting for Godot.

At noon, we were able to purchase our rush tickets, and about ten of us were lucky enough to get front row seats to see Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Patrick Stewart perform in one of the world’s most famous plays.

For anyone unfamiliar with Waiting for Godot, it concerns two men who are awaiting the arrival of a figure named Godot.  That’s it.  It really is a play about nothing.

A little more than a year ago, I wrote about my experiences discovering the works of Samuel Beckett in a course I took on him.  The experience, to say the least, was frustrating.  But after I saw McKellen and Stewart (joined by the second talented duo of Billy Crudup and Shuler Hensley) perform the play, I finally felt like I got Godot.

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“Hitting the Fan”: Musings on The Good Wife

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The Good Wife is on fire.

The first five episodes of this fifth season have been some of the most consistently strong of its entire run.  And Sunday night’s “Hitting the Fan” was perhaps the greatest episode the show has produced.

A kind of episode like “Hitting the Fan” could only work this far into a show’s run.  By this time, we have become so accustomed to the characters.  So used to the idea of Lockhart & Gardner pulling through the hard times.

But this fifth season of The Good Wife – actually, starting much, much earlier – has begun to dismantle that well-oiled machine.  And after “Hitting the Fan,” there will be no turning back for the show.

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The Force of Gravity (2013)

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When I was a kid, I wanted to be an astronaut.   I was serious about my dream.  I wrote school reports on the career, had the chance to meet Sally Ride, and even went to Space Camp the summer before I started middle school.

I don’t know when I lost my dream of becoming an astronaut.  But when I saw Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity in 3D, the dream came hurtling back at me.  Literally.

Moments of sheer beauty and moments of sheer terror punctuate Gravity.  The opening scenes reminded me of the serenity in space, the possibility of dancing weightlessly.  For more than ten minutes, the camera glides uninterrupted in space, fluidly showing us the earth down below and our main characters floating by the space shuttle.

Through the IMAX 3D screen, I was in space alongside Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) and Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock).  Immersed in space, I thought, Why did I give up the dream?

But when debris from a destroyed satellite came ripping through the silence, I remembered.  For all its seeming serenity, space is dangerous and terrifying, vast and unrelenting.  Situations can go from peaceful to harrowing in a matter of seconds.

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A Very Brontë Summer, Part III

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Today I bring you the third and final installment of my series on my very Brontë summer, ending with an account of a rock musical about the family.  Make sure to catch up with Parts I and II!

The Brontës Get the Rock Treatment

This year, the New York Musical Theatre Festival celebrated its tenth anniversary. Ten years of bringing the best musical theatre from around the country to New York City. One show intrigued me above all: Dizzy Miss Lizzie’s Roadside Revue Presents: “The Brontes.”

The show was advertised as a rock musical satire in which a group of gypsies visits the four Brontë siblings. (Yes, Branwell is as important as his three sisters here.) The only day I could see it was the evening of the day I arrived from Europe. Even with jetlag, I did not regret this decision at all.

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A Very Brontë Summer, Part II

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Today I bring you the second installment of my series on my very Brontë summer.  The first installment covered visiting the Brontë plaque in Brussels and my first afternoon in Haworth.  The third and final installment will be posted Friday.

The Parsonage

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Stepping into the Brontë Parsonage Museum that morning, I felt as though I had gone back in time.  Although other people lived in the Parsonage after the Brontës, the Brontë Society has since reverted the house to what it most probably looked like when the Brontës were living there.  Each room is a treasure for Brontë enthusiasts, allowing them to peek into the historical reality of this famous literary family.

We paid for our tickets right next to the main door and were immediately ushered into the first room, Mr. Brontë’s study, which contains a number of artifacts of the patriarch of the family, helping visitors get a sense of who this “father of genius” (as one biography calls him) was.

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A Very Brontë Summer, Part I

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Today, for something a little bit different, I bring you the first of my three-part account of my very Brontë summer, my chronicle of discovering the Brontë family through activities in Brussels, Haworth, and New York City. Parts II and III will be posted, respectively, on Tuesday and Friday.

“I see it – that cluster of trees over there!”

“No, Mom, look. See the dip at the top? And just under it? That lone dark spot? That’s Top Withens.”

I pointed to the spot, one tiny speck in the moor in front of us – and the realization hit my mom.

We were standing near the top of Penistone Hill, outside Haworth, West Yorkshire, England, and we were looking at the abandoned farmhouse that just may have inspired the setting of Wuthering Heights. It was the last day of our little mother-daughter trip through Brontë Country.

But this wasn’t the beginning – or the end – of my very Brontë summer.

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Musings of a Former Network Television Devotee

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In 2005, the Emmys rewarded what were at the time – and still are – my top two favorite television programs: Lost and Everybody Loves Raymond. The awards confirmed that network television could still play in the big league.

The next year, 24 and The Office took home the top prizes – and that was the last year that two network programs did so.

Since that year, network television has been in a slow decline. The Emmys still pay attention to the networks when it comes to comedy, but it is comedy of a different sort. With Everybody Loves Raymond gone, the heyday of the family sitcom – or, more broadly, the traditional multicamera sitcom – was gone. And with the dramas, after the success of Lost, networks tried in vain to replicate its success without truly understanding what made it so successful.

Lost was a phenomenon that can never be repeated. For a program that is so heavily serialized, contains a large and ethnically diverse cast of characters, and has a complicated mythology to survive on network television says something about how it was conceived. The pilot episode of Lost is generally considered one of the greatest of all time. Why? Because it immediately hooks you with a few main characters and a very simple problem: how are they going to survive on a deserted island?

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