Monday, October 15, 2012

Spring's Awakening

October 15, 2012

Spring's Awakening
, Off-Broadway at The TBG Theatre, located at 312 W. 36th Street (just west of 8th Avenue), a Marvell Rep production. Tickets only $25, and it runs through November 4th. 

Starring: Giuseppe Bausilio (Billy in Billy Elliot), Lizzy DeClement, and Dalton Harrod, and featuring an incredibly talented supporting cast lead most notably by Steven Braunstein, Ethan Navarro, and Anne Newhall

Some of you will say that rape, abortion, masturbation, suicide, teen gay romance, sadomasochism, atheism, and circle jerks aren't your thing.  I understand.  But you know what is one of my...things?  Great acting.  So if seeing absolutely fantastic, amazing, award-worthy acting is, you know, your thing?  Then you must, must, must see this beautiful show.

Last night, I attended the Opening Night performance, and I have to tell you, I was completely blown away at the talent up on stage.  Imagine if there was a machine that could locate and collect the best teen actors from around the world and put them all together in one show in New York City.  That's what seems to have happened.  The subject matter is intense.  Like, really, really powerful stuff.  And yet these kids show up, scene after scene, and they act with a passion that's rare in theatre.  They act their hearts out on stage as if there's a camera on their face and a Tony waiting for them in the wings.

Giuseppe Bausilio, most recently on Broadway in the title role of Billy Elliot The Musical, plays Melchior Gabor, the sad, confused, angst-ridden central figure in this story of kids being kids in a time in their lives when the adult in them is aching to get out, or at least just be found.  Melchior, influenced by his mother's open-minded upbringing, doesn't understand why the facts of life should be hidden at all, why everyone can't be who they were made to be.  He is the champion of free thinking, even though as the story progresses, this reality is revealed to be more complex than he at first realized.  Giuseppe, well known to many as one of, if not the best ballet dancers of his age, proves his acting chops are top-notch too.  Is there anything he can't do?!  His presence on stage is entrancing, his performance both gripping and sad, and he makes us feel all the confusion and intensity along with him.  Bravo to this young master of so many crafts and talents for pulling off such a complex, dark and brooding role!

Lizzy DeClement plays Wendla Bergmann, a 14-year-old girl aching to truly experience life and all its truths and pains.  She begs to understand everything, and sees in Melchior a boy who cannot only teach her through words, but also through actions.  Yet her eagerness is also her ultimate demise, as her passions and curiosity bring her everything she always wanted and even some of the things she didn't want all at once.  Lizzy DeClement is an extremely gifted young actress, and you are in a privileged position getting to sit there and watch her talk through her character's development and confusion.  She has a magic in her face and in her performance through and through, and it's clear she is destined for greatness on the Great White Way!

Rounding out the leads is one of those performers who brings his gifted acting to you subtly at first before springing on you with unmatched gusto and energy.  Dalton Harrod as Moritz Stiefel is equal to the best on Broadway and film.  He speaks with a haunting passion ready to let loose like a monster, and wrestles with his inner demons with a frightful power not of this world.  The role is built to be completely embodied, and not taken on by the faint of heart, which proves Dalton Harrod is a true star.  One can only imagine how difficult it is to step into that role day in and day out, lose yourself and your sanity, and still maintain a real life outside of the part.  He does an absolutely incredible job, and his performance is one for the ages!

In featured roles right up there with these powerhouses are three more stars that make this show absolutely rock.  As Mrs. Bergmann (Wendla's mother), Anne Newhall is exquisite in her performance.  She is a really wonderful actress, and brings the audience along with her with each smile, each tear, and even each thought through her head.  We love her, we ache for her, we understand her.  And as two of Melchior's friends who are secretly in love with one another, Steven Braunstein (Hanschen Rilow) and Ethan Navarro (Ernst) are as loving a couple as you will see in any storybook romance past or present.  Their pure affection and beautiful love story is a secret affair they both assume cannot carry over to their future, adult lives, but it is an electrifying romance of youth and passion performed gorgeously.  Not one second of their performance as lovers feels artificial.  And you can't help but be, how can I say, tickled to the bone by Braunstein's sexual soliloquy elsewhere.  It's a scene you will not soon forget!

The entire cast is just fantastic, especially the ensemble of young men and women playing the teenagers, who are all at or right around the actual age of their characters.  This show is only running until November 4th, so do yourself a huge favor and buy your tickets here right now.

Sean Patrick Brennan

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Flunked and Defrocked

Flunk: to fail

Defrock: to remove someone's rights to exercise the functions of ministry

When I was 15 years old, I failed out of my high school. By failing three subjects at the end of my freshman year, I could not return in September, and would have to find a new school and make new friends. It was an incredibly traumatizing experience. Not only would it mean a difficult transition, it would also mean I would be branded as a complete failure to everyone who knew me.

Sometimes God has a sense of humor.

Three years later, in the spring of 1993, I was called to the religious life. Though the process of thinking and praying over such a big decision had begun as early as my sophomore year in high school, it was in the last few months of my senior year that God really called me. That's another story though. The irony was that as "Brother Sean" I would now be living at the same high school I was thrown out of! The Brothers' house was attached to the high school because they taught there and ran the school.

Yet as we've already established, God has a sense of humor. And the other half of my title (and part of my blog's name too) gives the rest away.

Four years later, in the summer of 1997, I was, well I was getting my hair cut. Engaged in a friendly conversation with Brother Peter, my barber, I suddenly felt my pager buzzing. Because I recognized the number as the Provincial's office (the head of our community and Province) I called him right away during my haircut. He sounded serious and asked me to come right down once my haircut was finished.

Upon my eventual arrival, I saw that he wasn't alone. With him were the assistant Novice Master as well as the priest who had recruited me to the order. They told me that it was obvious I wasn't happy there (again, that's another story), that they had decided I should leave the religious life, and that I should leave right away that day.

In 7 years' time, I was thrown out of the same building twice. Sense of humor.

To say that my life has been "different" would be an understatement. The fact that I flunked out of high school and was later defrocked in that same building would be ironic if it wasn't just so sad. Both times, I was devastated and confused, tear drenched and lost. Though my life's story goes on, this story within does have a happy ending. My losses and failures have been dramatic and serious. They have wounded me to my core. But they have also changed me for the better, taught me and inspired me ever since.

After I failed out of my first high school, I pressed on and worked hard to be a better student. In 1997, I graduated cum laude from Manhattan College with a dual Bachelor's degree in both English Literature and Theology, making the Dean's List several times, and achieving membership in multiple honor societies.

Even though I was removed from ministry and dispensed from my vows that year too, I continue to pursue ministerial work today. I've been honored with a Humanitarian of the Year Award, have planned and written several Interfaith Services, and write and preach spirituality constantly.

So what is the moral to this tale? When you've been knocked down in life, when you're literally devastated by the reality you face, trust that the story isn't over yet. Have faith that the second part of a particular story in your life's book hasn't been written yet. Your happy endings won't erase the beginning of your story, but you wouldn't want them to anyway.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Writer's Stock

I find myself lately on a precipice, the safe ground of private writing behind, and the leap of writing for the masses ahead. There's a stack of notebooks in my home right now filled with writing I've done over the years, their covers in need of dusting. It's not that I'm scared to have my words read by so many, I just don't know how to go about finding that audience.

When I write for Websites like Examiner and Patch, I get some, but very little feedback. Some articles are more popular than others, and I track them to see which ones are only shared a little bit, and which are shared scores of times. It's hard to guess which articles people will like most, but I'm already studying the trends seriously, and learning a lot.

Yesterday I spent two hours collecting data from various pieces I've written, documenting their locations, statistics, and comments on the World Wide Web. It's fascinating to see which topics people seem to care most about, and which ones get snubbed due to disinterest. That isn't to say I'll stop writing about something just because it's an unpopular topic, but it does mean that I need to focus my energies on the "big ticket" stories that people will want to share on Facebook and Twitter with their friends.

I've studied high-traffic reports on other Websites too, and learned what kinds of titles encourage people to "click through" to read more. Getting people to view your article is one thing, but writing so well that they want to tell others about your article is another.

Anyway, this whole blog today is really just my way of letting you know what I'm up to lately. My writing is voracious, and I'm excited about what my future holds. Besides Examiner and Patch, I wrote something for another Website in September which earned me over 3,000 views and over 2,000 Facebook shares. The site staff are difficult to deal with and don't respond to e-mails well, so I don't know if I'll write for them again, but the taste of a greater audience has stayed with me.

I also have two or three books I'm working on right now. I say two or three because I'm honestly not sure yet if two of them might be pointing themselves toward one another for a cool merger. I guess time will tell.

So that's where I am. Writing, writing, writing. The feedback and scope are still slim to none so far, but I'm not discouraged. The amount of pages that I've created from thin air is encouraging me to keep going. And I continue to trust that a very cool future waits for me just up the road.

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Friday, January 27, 2012

Did You Just Say FML?

If you're over 30, or just out of the loop with the newest lingo, you may have never heard this phrase. So for those who need a quick definition, FML stands for "F*** My Life", and it's a phrase some people use to indicate how, well, f***ed their life is.

It's really quite disturbing. Apparently it's not enough anymore to say that your situation is bad. Now, kids--and far too many adults--are saying that their entire life is just completely f***ed. FML. F my entire life. Everything sucks so much--FML.

Where has this come from? How did a phrase start this quickly and become an acronym so fast? Well, here in Generation Text, it may have even started as an acronym that had to be explained as a phrase. I don't know, and I don't care. What I do care about is how awful this is, and how important it is that we encourage people to stop this, once and for all. I know that my life is not f***ed, and neither is yours. Do we have struggles, challenges, maybe outright disasters and upheavals? Yes. But our life itself is not in any way f***ed!

I'm not going to feed you some New Age baloney that you won't want to listen to anyway. But I am going to plead with you not to throw around phrases like this that reduce your life to the equivalent of a squashed bug on the sidewalk. Besides it being a gross exaggeration anyway, it's also far too pithy a throwaway phrase for something that should be treated with a lot more respect than the letters F, M, and L could possibly contain.

What's even crazier is that some have found FML to be too weak! FML is just not doing it for some people. So they've found a way to add another modifier to the phrase, to the acronym. And that's when FMFL was created. That's right, F*** My F***ing Life. How nice.

This has gone from sad to ridiculous in no time, but more importantly it's once again just a horrible example of people turning the most insignificant stumbles in their life into something much more dramatic than it is. I have to work overtime again. FML. I got only 3 hours' sleep last night and have to drive 300 miles today. FML.

Really? I'd point people to cancer patients or rape victims, widows of fallen soldiers or children starving to death. Does your use of the phrase FML really hold water now? And more importantly, not even cancer patients would use such a phrase. And that's because the more you struggle in life with something really horrible, the more you appreciate all of the great things you do have in your life.

So if you use this phrase, please stop. And if you hear someone else use it, please consider telling them to stop doing so. Your life is not f***ed. Your day, week, month, or year may not be the greatest. Maybe entire years of your life have been really hard. But your life is a whole lot more than the sum of its recent parts. And it should never, ever be reduced to such a throwaway definition.

ILML, and I hope you will love yours too!

Sean Patrick Brennan
Malverne, New York

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