All Posts By Celia Spana

Christmas DIY’s: The Dos and Don’ts

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A good Christmas DIY is something light, fun, and relatively inexpensive. When I want to decorate my apartment I do not aim to be spending $100 + on 400 vintage Christmas light bulbs and a wire hanger just to spend four hours making a mediocre wreath. The key to cute, festive decorations is simplicity, they don’t have to look like a modern art exhibit on ice. Here are some wonderful DIYs I’ve discovered that are cheap, adorable, and incredibly festive.  

    

  • Snow covered pine cones: I love the aesthetic of a good pine tree on Christmas, the smell, the colors, even the pine needles all over the carpet. It’s all part of the Christmas spirit. The perfect decoration that’s easy to do and brightens up your tree are snow covered pine cones. I would not recommend grabbing some from outside, those usually aren’t preserved and will rot away when next year comes around. Buy your pine cones for 79 cents a piece at your nearest craft store, some white paint, and a little bit of fake snow. Paint the edges of your pine cone and roll it around in the fake snow. Wait for it to dry, then tie a string to it and hang it from your tree. Or, if you live in an apartment like me that doesn’t allow Christmas trees, hang them all around the room. They are so pretty and give off the feeling of a nice snowy day without the cold water or wind burn.    
  • Snowman Tea Lights: Tea lights are no longer those weird electric candles your grandma leaves around her house. With just a set of markers, you can turn those uncanny things into adorable little snowmen faces. Leaving these cuties around the apartment have made my friends laugh so much, although they’re simple they get quite a bit of attention. Plus, since they’re electric they’ll be glowing and not melting the faces away.   
  • Glitter Candles: It wouldn’t be Christmas if there wasn’t any glitter. Christmas glitter candles are very easy to make, all it requires are glue, thick white candles, and red, green, and/or gold glitter. Cover the bottom half of your candle with glue, then roll into whatever color(s) you like. Wait for them to dry, then display them around your apartment. I found that clusters of three are the most gorgeous, and of course once they’re lit they just bring in the whole aura of Christmas.

  

A bad Christmas DIY is something that can add on to the stress of the holidays, which is a big no go in my book, and will not only lead to mediocre decorations but downright tacky ones. Anything that will demand your attention for hours while making your credit card cry is just not worth it, especially if it’s bringing nothing but cringiness to the table. Here are some examples of DIYs you should avoid this year.    

    

  • Tree branch centerpiece: A DIY craft I saw while scrolling through Pinterest that just made me think, “Ah yes, I love all this dead wood you’ve put onto your kitchen table, are your ornaments also made of garbage?” was the tree branch centerpiece. Now hold your fire, I know some of us have pine tree branch decor around the house and usually those are very fun. What I’m talking about is bare, dry as a bone, branches that were probably picked up while walking the dog. No matter how many ornaments or ribbons you tie on it, that’s just a piece of dead wood.    
  • The Light Disco Ball: Upon watching a 5 Minute Crafts’ video, this monstrosity popped up. I don’t know how this got labelled as a 5 minute craft, there’s no way in Krampus’ hell this can take 5 minutes to make. This craft requires you to punch hole in and stable together a ton of clear plastic cups into two dome shapes. Then take a cluster of Christmas lights and carefully put each little light through the hole. Then put both domes together to make a Christmas disco ball. Honestly, when I saw this it gave me a massive headache. The idea seems cool, but the execution and the outcome is so not worth it. Unless I wanted to really piss somebody off this Christmas, I would never attempt this.

    

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Christmas DIYs: The Dos and Don’ts: Featured image credit: simplemost.com

Fresh Drinks to Serve Up this Holiday Season

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December is upon us, which means it’s time to start buying gifts, decorating trees, and planning festive parties. Although we love the season, there is nothing more stressful than hosting a holiday party. As hosts, we worry about everything under the snowfall, from the aesthetic of the log fire to seating arrangements. Most of all, we worry about how much fun our family and friends are having, at the end of the day everybody wants to have a good time and make lasting memories with one another. If you want your holiday party to be a memorable one, try serving up some new fresh drinks this year. Enjoy some, or all, of these flavorful holiday cocktails that will be sure to spice up your party (some of which can be made without alcohol).

 

1. Eggnog with a Twist: Everyone knows the Christmas classic, Eggnog. Originally I found this recipe on delish.com and it is as creamy and sweet as anyone could hope for, but I found that adding a secret ingredient will meet the high Christmas standards for your party.

    • For a serving of 4: In a large saucepan, whisk together 5 egg yolks and ⅓ cup of sugar. Add 2 cups of milk, ¼ teaspoon of nutmeg, ½ a teaspoon of cinnamon, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla, lower the heat to a medium-low flame. Then cook until the Eggnog is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Take off the heat and mix in ¾ cups of heavy cream, 1 cup of Rumchata if you’re feeling boozy, and (get ready for it) 1 cup of freshly brewed coffee. Finally, refrigerate until cold and serve with whipped cream.

I know it’s a pretty basic Eggnog recipe, but if you’re like me and don’t enjoy drinks that are overly sweet, adding the coffee becomes a necessity. It takes away from the overpowering sugariness of the Nog and mixes well with the cinnamon and nutmeg spices.

 

2. The North Pole Cocktail: I found this amazing cocktail on halfbakedharvest.com and, honestly, it’s one of my favorites. It has the aesthetic of a hot chocolate with the flavor of a gingerbread house.

    • For a serving of 4: In a cocktail shaker, combine 4 tablespoons of chocolate syrup, 3 teaspoons of molasses, 1 teaspoon of vanilla, ⅛ teaspoon of ginger, ½ a cup of vodka, and ¼ cup of optional Kahlúa, then (OutKast voice) shake like a polaroid picture, hey ya! Add some ice and shake it, shake it, shake it. Strain the beverage into four glasses, and add ½ a cup of heavy cream. Top it off with whipped cream and a candy cane.

I find this drink really gets me in the mood for the holidays. It smells and tastes like the spices that make up the pleasing aroma of Christmas, and that bite of peppermint from the candy cane makes it even better.

 

3.The Sufganiyot Cocktail: When I first saw this on thedailymeal.com I thought it must have been very intimidating, but “sufganiyot” is actually Hebrew for “jelly doughnut,” traditionally eaten on Hanukkah. This drink is very potent but still carries the taste it promises in its name.

    • For a single serving: Rub a lemon wedge on the rim of a martini glass and dip in powdered sugar, then add ice. In a cocktail shaker combine ⅛ a cup of vanilla vodka, ⅛ a cup of citrus flavored vodka, and ¼ cup of Manischewitz sweetened blackberry wine. Then shake it up like a magic eight ball being passed around at a slumber party. Finally, strain into your glass and enjoy.

The Manischewitz wine in this cocktail is so delightful, when mixed with the vodkas it creates a harmony in the mouth.

 

4. Holiday Punch: This is a delicious traditional drink in my household. Funny enough, I’m not sure who created it or how it began, but every year we throw this bad boy together and enjoy.

    • When I say throw this bad boy together I mean that literally. The measurements for this drink are whatever you want (except for the alcohol). Firstly, grab a punch bowl fill the bottom with ice. Then pour in a carton of cranberry juice, followed by half a carton of orange juice, and finally a bottle of 7Up for extra fizz (stir in ⅓ cup of gin if desired). Based on how you like your drinks you can switch around the cranberry and orange, however I like this beverage a little more tart. Finally, garnish with whole cranberries and orange slices.

If you like something that’s fruitier than Eggnog with plenty of fizz, you will want to try making Holiday Punch. From my family to yours.

 

5. Apple Pie Shot: This simple yet tasty drink will be a favorite at your party this year. I found this recipe on allrecipes.com after searching for a dessert beverage. I was lucky the link for this little guy popped up.

    • For a single serving: In a shot glass pour ⅛ a cup of apple cider and ⅛ cup of Tito’s Vodka or ¼ cup of apple cider if you don’t want it dirty. Then top it off with whipped cream and a large sprinkle of cinnamon.

You may think that this would taste like nail polish remover, as most shots do, but surprisingly this one is rather pleasant. It doesn’t taste completely like a warm apple pie, no beverage can ever be that good, but it does have a nice apple flavor.

 

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Fresh Drinks to Serve Up this Holiday Season Featured Image Credits: castbox.fm, chowhound.com, allrecipes.com, thedailymeal.com, halfbakedharvest.com, and delish.com

How to Survive Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving is the most monstrous holiday in America. All of our extended family members gather together from far and wide to eat massive amounts of food and watch football. I’m sure for some people this sounds like an absolute dream, but for me and my crazy family it’s a survival challenge. Every year there are explosive political debates, close-minded relatives telling me my writing degree will leave me homeless, and absolute chaos of football fans screaming at the TV and each other. Over the years I have learned how to handle the stress of Thanksgiving and withstand until Christmas. Please enjoy my survival guide and hopefully it will lead to a happy, stress-free holiday.       

 

  1. Step One: Deflect, Deflect, Deflect: In our extended families we all have either that one ultra-conservative uncle that believes President Trump is the equivalent to Jesus Christ, a hypersensitive vegan aunt that cries and turns Thanksgiving into a protest whenever the turkey is brought out, or both if you’re like me and have a family of total nutcases. The best thing to do when one of these loonies corner you in and start asking your opinion on the treatment of animals in slaughterhouses or gun control is to deflect. In this moment, act as if your guests are in need of more wine (even if it’s not your party), the phone is ringing and you have to take it, or the zombie apocalypse has just begun and you need to get in your bunker. Any excuse you can come up with to run away is worth it. Or you can flip the conversation on its end and make the situation positive. Just compliment like crazy and hopefully they’ll forget what uncomfortable question they asked you and are unlikely to erupt into a heated political debate.
    • “Well I think the treatment of animals is so…wow, where did you get those earrings? They really bring out the color in your eyes!”
    • “That’s an interesting question about gun control, but first can I ask you what the best move in football is? I thought an athlete such as yourself would know the right answer.”
  2. Step Two: Play With the Kids: If you’re sitting around bored out of your mind because your favorite cousin couldn’t make it or you’re tired of talking about your major for the 99th time, go find your little cousins. Kids are a whole lot of fun, all they want to do is play games and throw mashed potatoes at each other. Honestly, they’re probably looking to get away from their elderly relatives scolding them for being (crotchety old lady voice) “Twittering, lazy, millennials.” Kids also love it when anyone older gives them attention. Play a game of hide and seek, Simon Says, or freeze tag– it’ll be a blast. Plus, if one of them breaks something or starts to throw a temper tantrum, you can just walk away and blend back in with the grownup crowd.
  3. Step Three: Wear Stretch Pants: I am absolutely convinced that we still celebrate Thanksgiving because everyone wants to cheat on their diet. It is the only acceptable day to eat an absurdly large about of sugar and carbs, and there’s no way I am filling up on green beans when there’s a plate of cheesy biscuits going around. Which is why every year I pull out my classiest pair of yoga pants and my loosest blouse. No matter how much you eat, those pants will be right there with you supporting that food baby while your blouse covers it up. It’s the most strategic outfit to wear when your plan is to devour sweet potatoes and apple pie.
  4. Step Four: Be the Bartender for the Night: Sometimes assuming a role at the party has its benefits. If you don’t want to be washing dishes or refilling pretzels for the football fanatics, the best thing to do is play bartender. It’s nice to do something fun that keeps you busy for the night while lightheartedly socializing with people. Everyone loves the person who gives them alcohol, plus if they make special requests that you don’t know how to make you can just look up a recipe from under the counter. This is the best way to be the most liked guest at the party and maybe sneak a few drinks.
  5. Step Five: Make a Smooth Exit: When you feel your eyelids drooping and the Thanksgiving spirit wearing off, it’s great to have a polite exit. Don’t slap together a poor reason for leaving– nothing says, “I don’t appreciate the hard work you went through to prepare for this mess” like a sorry excuse. Instead, what you want to do is say something believable and short:
    • “I have to be up early tomorrow. I promised my friend we’d exercise together in the morning.”
    • “I have to be ready for the Black Friday madness.”
    • “I drove Grandma here, and I have to make sure she gets home alright.”

Although the last one means you may have to take a ride with your grandmother, they are nice ways of stepping out of the party. And don’t forget, it is Thanksgiving so remember to say thank you!

 

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How to Survive Thanksgiving Featured Image Credit: The Washington Post.

 

5 Horror Books That Will Put You in the Halloween Spirit

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Halloween is my favorite holiday: costumes, candy, and fright, what’s not to love? Aside from practicing my zombie makeup and watching D.I.Y. videos of jack-o-lantern displays, one of the best things to do in celebration of the festivities is read horror books. There’s something so nice and spooky about flipping—or scrolling if you have a Kindle—through the pages of a thriller in the crisp fall air with a cup of hot tea. The scarier the book the better. So, here are my top five recommended novels that will be sure to get you in the haunting spirit of Halloween.    

 

The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris:

I know we’ve all seen Jonathan Demme’s cinematic masterpiece, however there is so much more terror in novel it was based on. Thomas Harris’ The Silence of the Lambs dives into FBI agent-in-training Clarice Starling’s experience as she helps track down a serial killer with the alias Buffalo Bill. Starling has to try and stop Buffalo Bill with the help of Hannibal Lecter, a famous serial killer, cannibal, psychiatrist. Harris writes from the perspective of Starling, Bill, and Lecter throughout this thriller novel, but Hannibal’s by far is the most chilling. Hannibal is disturbing, he’s a genius held behind bars, a straight jacket, and a muzzle to prevent his violent outbursts. When he speaks to Starling we can tell that he’s picking apart her psychological identity. He doesn’t want to help catch Buffalo Bill, he wants an opportunity to get inside someone else’s mind just for the fun of it. Hannibal is a true psychopath, and comes alive on the page unlike any character I’ve ever read before. The Silence of the Lambs will make you think about the complexity of the crimes within it for days, it’s utterly fascinating.  

 

The Shining by Stephen King:

The Shining film directed by Stanley Kubrick is a great movie, however it doesn’t even hold a candle to the Stephen King novel it was based on. The Shining follows the Torrance family: Jack, father and aspiring playwright recovering from alcoholism, Wendy, mother who is overwhelmed with anxieties, and Danny, their five-year-old son with a sixth sense and a strange imaginary friend. Jack’s last hope at getting back on his feet after a number of career failures is working as the caretaker at the Overlook Hotel in the Colorado Rockies. He and his family are trapped there in one of the harshest winter storms and all hell breaks loose. The Overlook Hotel is plagued with a massive amount of tragedies, and a lot of insane spirits which can only be seen by Danny. They possess Jack and put his family in grave danger. This is one of the scariest books I have ever read. The ghosts in the hotel actually have real histories and the entire novel, cover to back, holds this tension that becomes tighter and tighter until it ends with a bang. If you’re looking for a story that will make you jump at shadows and have you sweating bullets, this is the book for you.

 
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie:

If you want to read a real mystery, you need to get Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. This book follows ten people who have all been mysteriously invited to a house on an isolated island by unknown hosts. During their stay, they are accompanied by a gramophone accusing each one of them of murder and escaping the justice they deserved. One by one, each of the guests are dying and it’s up to the remaining visitors to find out who the murderer is before everyone dies. There is nothing straightforward about this novel, it is full of twists and turns that will puzzle you until the very end. It’s one hell of a mystery.  

     

 
Hammers on Bone by Cassandra Khaw:

Hammers on Bone is full of magical creatures, demons, gods, and even aliens. It starts off with John Persons, a private investigator and ancient magical being, in present day London receiving an unusual request from an unusual client. A ten-year-old boy wants to hire Persons to kill his abusive stepfather. However, Persons discovers that the stepfather is not totally human. Khaw writes in a way that’s easy to read and very entertaining. This horror-fantasy is fast and monstrous, you’ll be gripping the pages until the very end.

 
The Missing by Sarah Langan:

This novel takes the zombie epidemic to a whole new level. The Missing takes place in Bedford, Maine where an inexplicable mill fire has created sulfuric clouds that have killed off the surrounding environment. Since then, the town has been abandoned until fourth grade teacher, Lois Larkin, decides to take her class on a field trip. They are exposed to a virus that causes all those infected to become flesh-eating monsters. Langan has masterfully created her own insane disease. The Missing has interesting characters, horrific details to describe the disturbing scenes of zombism, and frightening tension that will keep you on the edge of your seat.  

 

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5 Horror Books That Will put you in the Halloween Spirit: Featured Image Credit: superbookwormgirl.blogspot.com, penguin.com.au, penguinrandomhouse.com, deadline.com, tor.com, and goodreads.com 

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: The Worst Musical on Broadway

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As a musical fanatic and a huge Gene Wilder fan, I was absolutely ecstatic to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on Broadway. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was a large part of my childhood and still is one of my favorite movies of all time. I couldn’t wait to see what kind of large, glamorous sets were going to be rolled out on stage displaying the crazy Wonka-Word. I was expecting something that would blow my mind with that same childhood wonder and a little bit of fright I’d experienced when I saw the movie for the first time. What I saw put the Gene Wilder classic to shame.

The saddest candy world ever: japhyweideman.com

Let’s start with the set, or lack thereof; when I think of Wonka Factory and the candy world seen in “Pure Imagination,” I imagine an intimidating yet magnificent building, and a giant, psychedelic display of gumdrop trees and, of course, the iconic chocolate waterfall. The set choice for this production: a minimalist set to encourage the audience to picture the world with “pure imagination.” Although the idea seems clever on paper, it made me confused: where was the fun? The creativity? The hint of spookiness? I felt my heart break seeing something that looked so lazy and slapped together. There was even an entire scene where all the odd characters go through an “invisible obstacle course,” in which the actors mimed around the stage exclaiming, “Watch out!” It felt extremely underwhelming. There were no set pieces for Veruca Salt’s episode when she tries to steal a nut cracking squirrel, except a lame shadow on a backdrop of a conveyor belt with nuts. The biggest let down of all was when they rolled in the candy world on the stage and it was miniature, I don’t think all the characters could fit on it at once. It was so unspecial and pathetic, there was a sinking feeling in my chest. In my opinion, one of the most important parts of a musical, especially Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, is a creative set, and I was completely let down as an audience member to see nearly nothing.

Incoherent singing: seatplan.com

“The characters are okay, I guess,” is never a good thing to hear from the audience, and that’s exactly what I felt and heard from several other theater enthusiasts during intermission. I really liked the idea of making the characters more contemporary, I thought it could have been really creative. However, these characters were totally one dimensional and over the top, and not in a good way. Augustus and Mrs. Gloop looked the parts but were barely audible, they sang incoherently until they finally disappeared into the shallow chocolate pool. Violet Beauregarde’s “Queen of Pop” with a dad-manager was actually very funny to me, yet the two were nothing but loud and annoying. Veruca Salt and Mr. Salt were a Russian ballerina and her stoic father, honestly they weren’t very interesting except for the outbursts of “Mine! Mine! Mine!” Mike Teavee was probably the most dynamic out of the other children; he played the part well and acted like a spoiled millennial brat, and his mother’s character of a mom drinking to escape her awful kid was the only thing that made me laugh out loud. Then we are left with Charlie, Grandpa Joe, and Mr. Wonka himself. Charlie and Grandpa Joe were simple, the boy was sweet and the grandfather was senile, once again, nothing extraordinary. Willy Wonka was alright, he was a great singer but his attitude was surprisingly sarcastic. I didn’t feel like I was in the presence of Willy Wonka, I felt like I was in the presence of an actor who treated the entire musical like it was a joke which, by the way, it was.

Veruca about to get ripped apart by squirrels: broadwaymusicaltrades.weebly.com

Last, but not least, the tone of the production was unclear. Sometimes, we don’t realize how much the tone affects a musical until it’s just not right. With an eccentric plot like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, there’s so much room for artistic choice in how the scenes evolve: they can be light hearted, dark humored, or sinister. In this version, all of the tones listed were used, and still the tone of the musical made no sense. There were cheerful jokes, yet the bad children were dying evilly in the factory. This threw off the momentum of the performance and caused it to be stagnant. There was no consistency and it came out so awkward and confusing.       

The performances were unmemorable, I would never have guessed a Tony Award winner had directed the musical. Overall, it was a huge waste of time and money to see and I feel like part of my childhood has been disgraced. If you were thinking of seeing something magical and cool go see Spongebob: The Musical and save your money.

 

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Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: The Worst Musical on Broadway Featured Image Credit: musicfeeds.com, broadwaymusicaltrades.weebly.com, japhyweideman.com, and seatplan.com         

Miss America Changing for the Better

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The Miss America Competition was under fire last year when CEO Sam Haskell and other board members in the Miss America Organization had their emails uncovered to reveal sexist content concerning the pageant participants. These emails were extremely hurtful to the organization, the contestants, and women across the United States. Miss America is a very controversial topic; there’s a lot wrong with the organization, which has been the center of objectifying contestants, and the generator of sexism, xenophobia, and racism towards women since its birth in 1921. Miss America was always meant to be a reflection of the social and political situation of  women in the United States. Miss America has always been evolving it was not until the 1970’s when a pretty lady involved in charity work was no longer the standard for a winner, but an educated successful role model for young women. Now, with the rising social status of women, feminism, and especially in light of these emails, the Miss America Organization has officially decided to try and change the pageant for the better.

Miss America 2016

 

From now on, the Miss America Competition will be judging competitors based on their intelligence and talent over their physical appearance. The biggest change the organization has made is the decision to eliminate the swimsuit section. Beauty has always been a prominent aspect in the competition, however, forcing the candidates to walk across the stage in high heels and nearly no clothing places too much emphasis sexualizing them. Instead, the swimsuit component will be replaced with an interactive session between each participant and the judges. The judges will be able to interview the candidates and discuss what their goals are, how they want to use their talent to make an impact on the world, and what they want to achieve with their passions and interests. The focus should be on how well-rounded and cultured the girls are, not on their cup-size.

Miss Illinois 2017

Another part of the competition that will change is the evening gown contest. Earlier in the year, Chairwoman of the Miss America Organization, Gretchen Carlson, claimed that this would be eliminated along with the swimsuit modeling. Yet, there was a fair bit of pushback— instead of eliminating the evening gown, the girls preferred to dress sophisticatedly and have intelligent conversations. They want to be allowed to choose the evening dress they feel best represents themselves and the image they are trying to promote. Officially, this has always been the case but the pressure from previous winners’ looks were limiting the contestants’ styles: dresses were typically form fitting, sparkling, with cleavage exposing, paired with stilettos and long shiny hair or a classy up-do. It was very uncommon for a girl to break away from this unspoken standard. This freedom is very new to the Miss America Competition, and it will be interesting to see how each candidate’s individuality comes through in her dress and speech. Perhaps it will encourage them to challenge what society has deemed “beautiful” for so many years.

The judges criteria for each candidate will also be completely revamped. Physical appearance, aside from posture and grace, comprised of the majority of the criteria for the Miss America candidates. In future competitions, talent will be the most compelling aspect. Although, a guide for the judges has not been released yet, we do know that talent will make up nearly half of each participant’s score.

Miss America has been struggling to define itself in a world of female empowerment. It was very clear to the Miss America Organization board that the competition needed to modernize and relate to ambitious young women. Not everyone agrees that recreating the system is going to fix the years of hatred these contests have promoted towards women. Yet, they are beginning to represent an American society that values and respects women.

 

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Miss America Changing for the Better: Featured Image Credit: Press of Atlantic City, Philadelphia Magazine, and Cosmopolitan

Natalie Paul: From Center Stage to the Big Screen

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Natalie Paul is absolutely inspirational. She went from stage acting with theatre groups such as The Classical Theatre of Harlem to writing and directing her own short films, Everything Absolutely and Sweet Tea. Now, she’s an incredible film actor who has taken on roles in Crown Heights, The Deuce, Show Me a Hero, and most recently Heather in The Sinner. Natalie has been impacted by many tough female actors and loves to play strong women with complex personalities. Through her film career and work with the Epic Theatre Ensemble, she hopes to help change the film industry for the better.

   

Have you always been interested in acting? Who’s your biggest inspiration?

Natalie Paul: I’ve always been interested in storytelling- whether it was through acting, writing, dancing. My biggest inspiration has always been the women in my family – listening to them tell stories, hearing them make everyday dramas to be larger than life. I was always in awe of them; I think that was the beginning of it.

What has your experience been like working on a stage compared to working on a film set?

On stage you get the instant knowledge of whether you’ve got the audience or not. In film, you often have to wait months! Sometimes the crew will come up to you and say, “good work” after an exceptionally difficult scene – that can be sweeter than any round of applause at times, because they see you day after day and they’re working really hard right alongside you.

Theater is more athletic; it takes more energy to keep something fresh night after night. I love both mediums a lot though.

How is playing Heather in The Sinner different from any other role you’ve had?

In so many ways, Heather has a lot going on. Our showrunner, Derek Simonds, said to me early on that because Heather’s a junior detective she has to clean up a lot of messes in town. She knows the different sides of people that they try to keep hidden. I’m not sure I’ve ever played a character like that before. But at the same time she’s got things to hide herself, as you ‘ll see in the show. So I guess juggling that professional side with the personal side of Heather has been really juicy and complex.

What goes into acting on a crime series? Do you have to do a lot of research to prepare for such an intense role? How does it affect your everyday life?

Yes – I got to talk to some experts about the investigation process, the criminal justice system, and the juvenile detention system, as well as the personal consequences of the job. As for mindset, I watched some documentaries and read a few personal essays to get inside the head of a police officer and a detective – since Heather is transitioning from one to the other. The biggest thing I’ve learned is that as a woman you have to be twice as tough, you really can show no weakness. They’re waiting of you to fail or get emotional, so you’ve got to be impervious.

As for me, I just had to get really used to being totally contained. I’m a pretty joyful person, I love dancing and singing and sharing a big hearty laugh with my co-stars, so it was always about knowing a police officer might be the same way and they would have to contain all of that as well. Wearing a uniform every day can be a little pampering on your personality but it’s been interesting to really embody that strength and power. So it’s a bit of a trade-off.

Who is your dream character to play? Why?

I would just love to continue to play strong, complex women – full characters that go through a transformation. But if I had to choose a person, I’d absolutely love to play Pam Grier, she is an absolute inspiration to me. She is always so kick ass, strong, intelligent and sexy. To me, she is the full package! Not only that, she also overcame so much adversity. She’s definitely a huge inspiration to me as an actress.

What are some of your greatest challenges that you would like to overcome?

I have to acknowledge that I’m still pretty lucky to be able to do what I love to do. Being an actress was a dream ever since I was a kid, making faces in the mirror with a turtleneck hanging off my head and trying to make myself cry (haha). So I feel really happy to be on the journey I’m on but I do feel that there’s a long way for the industry to go as far as seeing actresses who happen to have a different skin color or ethnicity for who they are and how hard they work. We project possibility onto some people and limitation onto others and it needs to stop. I feel like I’m often misunderstood because people might assume that I’m certain way just because of my skin, or that people might not relate to me because of it. It really goes beyond roles. We have to start seeing each other for who we truly are, past appearances.

What made you want to work with the Epic Theater Ensemble?

Throughout my life there were people there that took me under their wing and mentored me. If it wasn’t for them I have no idea where’d I’d be today. It helped me feel like I had a future and that I could make a difference. So, it’s natural for me to pay that forward, you have to “lift as you climb.” And you can do that at whatever stage you’re at on your journey. Epic is an amazing organization that really changes lives, and it’s really more of a gift to me to be a part of it than it is for the kids. Seeing their faces after they’ve written their own play or performed is priceless.

You have written and directed a few short films (“Everything Absolutely” and “Sweet Tea”), do you want to continue writing and directing in your career? What are some of your top goals?

Yeah! I’d love to keep writing and possibly direct one day. Right now I’m pretty in love with acting so it’s about trying to find time around shooting to really delve into some of my independent projects. I am writing a few things that I want to wrap up soon. We’ll see! Just want to continue honing my craft as I work always.

As far as the future, I just hope to continue telling good stories that move people, that get people to think and that remind people that we’re all connected. I’d love to play a variety of characters, I don’t want to be in a box. And hopefully I’ll help change the real world too.

 

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Natalie Paul: From Center Stage to the Big Screen. Photo Credit: Jai Lennard

The Top 3 Relaxing Shows on Netflix

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There are so many fantastic shows on Netflix right now, ranging from the mysterious Black Mirror to the bone chilling Mind Hunter. However, in our busy lives we don’t always want to binge the next crime drama in our little free time. There are moments where I come home from a long day of work and just want to sink into my couch or bubble bath and turn on something calming to forget my troubles for a while. That being said, here are the top three relaxing shows on Netflix suggested from yours truly.

 

The Great British Baking Show: During finals week a friend of mine suggested I watch “this very calming show about English bakers.” Naturally, I didn’t take her advice until I was home from college for the summer and work was getting me down. After a stressful day, one of the best shows to watch is The Great British Baking Show, a series about amateur British bakers politely competing against each other for a Star Baker title (seriously, they don’t win any money just the title). Food is always a comforting topic for a little leisure, at least it is for me, and watching a group of bakers enjoy the thrill of pounding dough or piping meringue can be very relieving. Everything on the set looks so aesthetically pleasing and watching the judges take a bite into each dish makes one wonder just how tasty it must be. Unlike most competitive shows, the contestants on The Great British Baking Show never put the desire to win over traditional English charm. Aside from baking the most incredible treats, most of the content is competitors helping one another and engaging in friendly conversation. Is there anything more relaxing than listening to the sound of twelve British bakers talking about biscuits? Now, at the end of a long day my favorite thing to do is make myself a cup of tea and watch my favorite set of bakers.

 

Queer Eye: Although it is a high energy show, I have found Queer Eye to be very relaxing. Queer Eye follows a group of gay men, the Fab 5, using their fashion and flair to remake their lucky contestant’s house, outfits, hair, and cooking routine. The Fab 5 don’t just come in, clean, and move on, they also try and improve their guest’s self confidence and overall happiness with their new style. These men are also very open with their audience about the limitlessness of love. They share their personal stories about their families learning to love them and their own self acceptance. I’ll admit that there are times when the the show gets emotional, but there’s nothing like squeezing out a few tears to destress. It’s nice to come home to a show like Queer Eye that brings people together while satisfying my need to have things clean.

 

Bob Ross: My mom always used to tell me that her favorite show to watch when she was done with work for the night was Bob Ross: Beauty Is Everywhere. When I feel super anxious all I have to do is turn on an episode of Ross’ smooth gentle voice describing his landscape painting, then I drift right off into dreamland. Everything this man paints always turns out to be beautiful and it makes me absolutely delighted. There are never any problems, drama, or fighting, only “happy little bushes” and “happy accidents.”

There’s a lot of pressure to watch the hottest series on Netflix, but sometimes the best shows are the ones we can curl up to in our favorite pj’s with a glass of wine or a cup of hot chocolate and forget about life for awhile.

 

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Top 3 Relaxing Shows on Netflix. Featured Image Credits: worldlifestyle.com, pbs.org, netflix.com, newsweek.com.

Jenna Marbles: A YouTuber To Look Up To

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Jenna Marbles is one of the most successful YouTubers in the world. She began her YouTube career eight years ago in 2010 with her first hit video, “How to Trick People Into Thinking You’re Good Looking,” a makeup tutorial done by a non-beauty guru for the average girl. Since then her fame has grown and so has her collection of beauty tutorials, impressions, dog vlogs, and random silly videos of her trying new things. Jenna has that spark that draws people to her, she’s an entertaining personality to watch and she has an interesting life. Throughout the years her fans have seen her be the amazing queen she is, she is truly a YouTuber to look up to.

There has been a transformation of Jenna from her 20’s into her 30’s. Her humor isn’t as crude and she seems more elated than ever before. Some of her followers have been put off by her no longer screaming curse words all the time, but Jenna has addressed this simply by stating, “I’m just not angry anymore.” She has grown as a person to accept what life throws at her, and to take it with a great sense of humor. Part of her personality is that she doesn’t care if doing what she wants makes her look weird. We’ve watched her glue rhinestones all over her face, marry her dogs (to each other, not to her), make useless hot glue crafts, dye her own hair, and everything else in between. At the end of those videos there’s a smile on her viewers’ faces. She truly shows us that being happy and having fun is much more important than fearing judgement from others.   

In the YouTube community it is upsetting to see YouTube celebrities become so toxic by taking advantage of fans and putting their wealth on display. The best part about Jenna’s YouTube channel is that it’s a place away from all the clickbait and jackassy videos. Jenna is not a sell-out; in all her years on YouTube she’s never made the shallow content that other celebrities with just as many or more subscribers as her have done. The doors to her YouTube haven open for us as if to say, “Hey friends, let’s forget about all this drama for a few minutes and watch my dog sniff soap.”

(It’s a real video)

Although she is such a large YouTube personality, Jenna has had to work extremely hard to get to where she is today. There has never been a moment where she’s hidden how hard life can be as a young woman trying to make it in the entertainment world. Her content shows her good days, adopting a new dog, as well as her bad ones, the struggles of being a Go-Go dancer. She understands what it’s like to get the short end of the stick and still pulls through to give advice and motivate young women to achieve their goals. If there’s anyone who is the essence of the phrase “hard work pays off” it’s Jenna Marbles.

If you’re interested in more of Jenna Marbles’ videos click here to see her channel!

 

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Jenna Marbles: A YouTuber To Look Up To. Featured Image Credits: MadameTussaudes.com

Dr. Pimple Popper Is Bursting With Fame

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Warning: the video at the end of this article contains graphic content.

Although pimples and skin problems seem disgusting, there is something inexplicably relaxing about watching them removed. Many people have been following the pimple popping queen Dr. Sandra Lee, a cosmetic dermatologist known on YouTube as Dr. Pimple Popper. She has unearthed an entire network of pimple popping fans (Popaholics) and has provided them with years of content; all kinds of pops from various sized lipomas (overgrowing fat cells), a plethora of cysts, and the deepest of blackheads. Dr. Lee has created a YouTube heaven for us Popaholics and it has finally gotten the television spotlight on TLC.

Dr. Pimple Popper has just begun airing this July and is attracting all kinds of attention. Similar to her YouTube channel, the stars of the show are people from all over the United States with severe protuberances who need help. Dr. Lee examines their lumps and bumps and, in the end, gives them all a good squeeze. However, the television series covers a lot more than just satisfying pops. Unlike her original channel, the audience sees how these skin conditions impact Dr. Lee’s patients in their everyday lives. The thrill of the show is not just seeing their growths removed but also seeing them relieved of their insecurities and pain to gain their confidence back.

We also get to see much more of Dr. Lee as a person and a medical professional. Having a television show allows her to explain her thought process as a dermatologist. She describes what kind of medical problem she’s examining, how it grows, and what the consequences could be if she operates or if the growth continues to fester. For those of us without a medical background, her brief lessons are not only fascinating but also very helpful to understand the plot of the show.    

Please be aware that Dr. Pimple Popper is not for the faint of heart. Some of the patients’ conditions range from lipoma the size of three grapefruits to hundreds of red boils all over a person’s body. There are a lot of scalpels, needles, and stitching; needless to say it can be very gross for someone who’s squeamish. However, for any Popaholics out there it’s a whole new adventure: the pops are bigger, the personalities are stronger, and stories are deeper. Seriously, don’t knock it until you’ve seen it. If you’re interested in something weird and calming, Dr. Pimple Popper releases new episodes on TLC every Wednesday at 9 p.m. and believe me it’s not something you’ll want to miss. 

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Dr. Pimple Popper Is Bursting With Fame. Featured Image Credits: TLC Official Site.

Lance Reddick Gives us his Experience as an Artist

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Lance Reddick, is the man who can do anything. He’s been in a range of acting positions from comedic roles like the hilarious yet tyrannical Christian DeVille from Comedy Central’s Corporate to dramatic roles as commanding officer Irvin Irving on the crime television series, Bosch. His smooth distinctive voice has made many appearances in video games, animated shows, and of course his classical music. In this interview Lance gives us insight as to what it’s like to be an artist involved with acting and music. Despite his setbacks, Lance is a man dedicated to his craft and a wonderful talented human being. 

Cliché: What has your experience been like working on Bosch and Corporate?
Lance Reddick: It’s been great on both accounts. Obviously they are different experiences because the genre, style and characters are so different. But it’s been great to go from playing Irving, who is so understated, and Christian, who is such a maniac.

How do you handle the switches from working on a drama to a comedy?
Well, in some ways it’s more about the character and the tone of the show than the genre per say. It’s all about finding the truth of who the person is physically, psychologically and rhythmically. Part of what makes Christian so funny is he takes himself so seriously, and he’s fearless in his extreme point of view. In his mind, he is never wrong. Being wrong is for other people.

What have been some of your favorite experiences in your career? Who’s been your favorite character to play?
My favorite experiences have always been working with great people when everybody is committed to doing the best work possible, supporting everyone else to do their best work, as opposed to egos addicted to being the center of attention. Highlights for me have been The Wire, Bosch, John Wick, American Horror Story, and Corporate.

As far as my favorite character to play, I don’t have one. I’ve loved too many of them – although I must say Papa Legba in American Horror Story was so completely different from anything I’ve ever done that it was fantastic, and getting to work with Angela Bassett, Jessica Lange, and Kathy Bates (one of my idols) feels like a once in a lifetime kind of experience – almost surreal.

Image Credit: Comedy Central

Before getting into acting you studied music, and you released an album back in 2007. Do you still try to focus on music in your life?
Off and on. It has been on my mind a lot lately. I was trying to make more time to write and compose after we wrapped season four of BOSCH, but my acting plate has been so full this year, it’s been very difficult to make the time. But it’s still a major part of who I feel I am, and it’s an outlet for my creativity that acting will never satisfy.

How did you get involved with voice acting? What’s that experience like compared to acting on screen?
Well, I think that voice acting for me really started with doing commercials, and then moved into video games and then story form animation. For me the biggest difference between voice acting and on screen acting is how much more input you expect and need from the director to guide your performance in voice acting, particularly in video games.

What is the most important thing you’ve taken away from your career so far?
If by that question you mean what have I learned about life or myself, I would have to say that consistent hard work pays off. But, it’s has to be the right kind of hard work, and it has to be on two levels at once – artistic and business. The business part was the hardest thing for me to wrap my head around, and took a very long time, because I just didn’t want to think about it. I just wanted to create and let other people worry about that other stuff. But realizing that the buck stops with me if I don’t want to be a victim of other people’s actions and choices means a constant battle with yourself about the standards for both the quality of the work you do and the quality of the work you are able to have to do, which often means holding other people accountable to their commitments to you as well. For artists, that’s really hard because we want to be liked and we want to focus 100% on our art.

What has been one of the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The biggest challenge hands down has been race. Spending so much time waiting around for the “black” or “ethnic” roles, so there were just rarely leads to even audition for. And then as the 90’s and early 2000’s progressed watching rappers and stand up comedians being pushed ahead of the line in front of trained actors of color, it was really disgusting and disheartening. And then of course the next trend was to promote train theatre actors from England, instead of those here, claiming it’s because they are better trained after spending so much time not giving a damn how well trained American actors of color were…well… Anyway, that’s my experience.

Is there anything left that you haven’t done in your career that you still want to try?
Plenty. Don’t get me wrong, I have been really fortunate, and almost can’t believe how great my career is right at this moment.

But since you ask, my bucket list left to achieve would be to star on Broadway, to be the lead of my own television series, to win an Oscar, and to do a movie with Meryl Streep.

(Oh, and to cure cancer and be the first man on Mars… 😉 )

 

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Lance Reddick Gives us his Experience as an Artist: Featured Image Credit: Storm Santos, Groomer: Blondie for Exclusive Artists Using MAC Cosmetics

Modern Shakespeare Is In

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Everyone knows the work of William Shakespeare. We’ve all picked up Romeo and Juliet in high school English classes or have had zealous debates with friends about which of his plays are best. The truth is we love Shakespearean theatre; although his literature is over 400 years old we still connect with his work as if it was written just for us, even if his language was a little funky. The openness of his plays inspires many theatre fans to form incredible acting troupes that perform all over their counties with one idea, “modern Shakespeare is in!” These thespians go the extra mile when it comes to making Shakespeare modern, often they center the plot around problems that affect our environment or society everyday that need attention.

LawnChair Theatre Official Facebook Page

 

One of the groups that takes Shakespeare to a whole new level is LawnChair Theatre based in Port Chester, New York. They have triumphed some of Elizabethan playwright’s shows from Taming of the Shrew to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and are currently working on The Tempest. LawnChair has decided to add an environmentally conscious message to The Tempest by focusing the plot on litter and harmful wastes that are problematic for animals in our oceans. 

The National Players’ Official Facebook Page

 

Another band of actors that have taken up the Shakespearean mission are the National Players based in Olney, Maryland. They are the longest running touring company in America and have performed wonderful shows to millions of people over the years. The National Players bring Shakespeare’s work to life in the modern world by holding community activities such as dynamic teaching sessions to aspiring actors, prison outreach productions, and storytelling workshops in senior living facilities and schools.

LawnChair and the National Players’ performances have old jokes that are still funny and stimulating monologues that will motivate audiences to help their cause. The ideas that theatre should entertain yet educate are upheld through their grace and hard work. They are on the track to use Shakespeare to bring people together everywhere they go.

Everyone in the “Modern Shakespeare is in Movement” are theatre enthusiasts who voluntarily set up, direct, and act because they love the art itself and want to spark a change in their area. Whether they hold performances outside in a community park or inside your local library, contemporary Shakespeare is passionately done with awe inspiring spirit.

If you’re interested in seeing Shakespeare done right and happen to be in the New York or Maryland area check out LawnChair Theatre and the National Players’ showtimes!

 

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Modern Shakespeare Is In: Featured Image Credit: design.org