Thursday, July 1, 2010

Never too old for toys

Toy Story is one of the movies I remember most vividly from my childhood. I was 6 years old when the first film came out, and as Disney and Pixar’s first collaboration, it was a very exciting release. Then, in 1999, the sequel was released, which, though not as good as the original, was very entertaining.

Eleven years later, the third and final installment, Toy Story 3, has finally graced us with its presence, in 3D no less.

After seeing Toy Story 3 very recently, I must say that it was well worth the wait. Those of us who were young when the first movies came out are now right around college age, which is exactly where Andy is in the movie.

I don’t want to spoil it for you if you haven’t seen it, but let’s just say Andy’s goodbye to his toys was a very emotional one.

Growing up, I think we all go through a phase where we can’t wait to be adults and “on our own,” but then once we get there, we would give anything to go back to being that carefree six-year-old dreaming up adventures with your toys.

As I approach graduation from college, it is hard to imagine being truly “grown up.” While I am kind of on my own for nine months out of the year, there is still always a room for me in my parent’s house.

I think the lesson we need to take away from Toy Story is that, no matter what, we will always have a support system backing us up, whether it be our families, our friends from our childhoods, the people we meet in college, or even the stuffed animals sitting on our beds at home.

My favorite line from the newest Toy Story movie is this one, spoken by Andy:

“Now Woody, he's been my pal for as long as I can remember. He's brave, like a cowboy should be. And kind, and smart. But the thing that makes Woody special, is he'll never give up on you... ever. He'll be there for you, no matter what.”

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the movie.

Photo courtesy of Google Images.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Tonys 2010

It’s that time of year again: the Tony Awards broadcast live this Sunday on CBS. Being the Broadway junkie that I am, I obviously love this annual celebration of live theater. But what is the most exciting about the Tonys is that it allows greater America the opportunity to get a taste of Broadway’s biggest shows for free.

We all know how expensive a ticket to a Broadway show can be. The lowest priced tickets for the biggest named shows right now are going for more than $75, according to, which is way more than any college student or average person can afford. Even when shows go on tour, tickets can still get pretty pricy. So I offer a huge shout out to CBS and the American Theatre Wing for letting us in on the magic of the New York stage.

What is also fabulous about the Tonys is that it brings past and current Broadway stars together to celebrate. I love seeing stars at the Tonys that got their big breaks in New York theater but are now doing even bigger things, like movies or TV shows, and are still committed to remembering where they came from and supporting something that was once (and hopefully still is) so close to their hearts.

Here are the top five things I’m most excited about for this year’s Tony Awards:

  1. Sean Hayes hosting. I am a huge Will & Grace fan of course, and I am so excited for him to have made his Broadway debut this year, with Kristin Chenoweth in the cast no less.
  2. Matthew Morrison and Lea Michelle’s performance. If you read my previous post, you can tell what a huge “Gleek” I am, but I loved Lea and Matt before their asent television. Spring Awakening (Lea) and The Light in the Piazza (Matt) are staples on my iPod.
  3. Performance of “A Little Night Music.” Angela Lansbury and Catherine Zeta-Jones on stage together? ‘Nuff said.
  4. Liza Minelli. I have no clue if she is presenting or not (she is not on the line up according to, but she will be there, and I will find her.
  5. American Idiot. A mash-up of a classic artist from (gasp) my generation and my love of Broadway. What could be better? (If they do 21 Guns, I will die happy.)

So, America, take advantage of this great opportunity to get a taste of what the Great White Way has to offer, and live vicariously through the lives of your favorite Broadway stars (like I do.)

I will be live tweeting my thoughts during the event, so follow along with me (@amshowen). My good friend @ohonestly will be live tweeting as well, so check her out too!

I would love to hear your favorite moments from the awards on Sunday, so please leave comments.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

"Glee" encourages diversity

“Glee” has become a sensation across the country, and does not seem to be slowing down. While those of us who were heavily involved in show choir in high school watch it to reminisce about the “old days” of rehearsing, performing and competing, broader themes make it applicable to all audiences.

In its two seasons, “Glee” has addressed such issues as body image, bullying, gender inequality and discrimination in general. Through many tear-jerking moments, most including epic power ballads, “Glee” opens America’s eyes to problems present in the school systems and broader society and offers solutions to these problems.

My favorite part of the show, other than the all-star cast of Broadway big shots and the endless supply of show tunes, is that it encourages its audience to go against the status quo. In several episodes, characters can be seen initially conforming to the things that will make them “popular” or at least “fit in,” but by the end of each episode the characters realize that being themselves is more important than what anyone else thinks.

Today it seems that students are more afraid than ever to stand up for themselves, or worse, to stand out. “Glee” reminds us that being different is a good thing and encourages its audience to keep pushing boundaries and reach for equality.

Photo from Google Images.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Performing Arts Series brings the "big city" to Athens

For 51 years, the Ohio University Performing Arts Series, originally named the Visiting Artist Series, has offered the Ohio University community countless national touring events at a price that can’t be matched. Touring Broadway shows such as “Avenue Q” and “The Drowsy Chaperone” and performances by nationally-known artists like Ben Folds are just some of the unique events that happen frequently at the Templeton-Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium (MemAud), the unofficial “home” of the Performing Arts Series.

Drew Holzaepfel, associate director of the Campus Involvement Center at OHIO, has been working with the Series for over ten years, and said his job never gets boring. He is constantly contacting agents and production companies to discuss potential events for the future and confirm and negotiate current events on the line-up.

I have seen many productions brought by the Performing Arts Series since my arrival at OHIO, and I am always impressed, not only with the caliber of performers, but with the seemingly effortless organization of Holzaepfel’s crew.

But the performance on show night is just a tiny part of what goes into organizing and producing the Performing Arts Series. According to Holzaepfel, the whole process starts in late spring when he or one of his employees attends an annual showcase conference, during which those in the “biz” get a chance to preview touring shows so they get an idea of whether or not they would like to bring them to their venue.

After the OU crew has seen what is available, they survey the Athens community, including the OHIO population, to see what it is that people want to see. With the results, Holzaepfel can get a better idea of what shows or artists would be best for the Series.

Holzaepfel said he loves being able to give the Athens community a taste of the national arts scene.

“Through the Performing Arts Series, we can really bring the ‘big city’ feel to Athens,” he said.

The Performing Arts Series is partially funded through the general student fee, grants and private investors, which allows the University to charge lower ticket prices.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 27.4 percent of the Athens community is in poverty. That being said, it would normally be extremely difficult if not impossible for most residents to afford the normally pricy tickets to touring Broadway productions or to see A-list performers, but the Performing Arts Series offers tickets for “a third of the price” they would normally be in a larger city, according to Holzaepfel.

As I’ve discussed before on my blog, experiencing the arts is extremely beneficial to intelligence. This article published by the Dana Foundation discusses new findings that suggest an “openness and creativity” fostered by exposure to the arts increases cognition.

I asked Holzaepfel what his favorite arts performance has been of the over 150 shows since he became the associate director of Campus Involvement, and while he couldn’t narrow it down to one specific event, he mentioned the Moscow Circus that took up residence in MemAud for a week in 2002, and last year’s Wilco concert as events that stick out in his mind.

While Holzaepfel could not confirm any performances planned for the next season, he did mention that there will be some very exciting add-on performances coming up this spring. To stay informed about any upcoming performances at OHIO, visit the Performing Arts Series Web site.

My favorite performance was the Broadway tour of "Hairspray." Below is one of my favorite scenes from the show:

Photo courtesy of

Friday, March 12, 2010

Art fosters change

This quarter I have been in a voice and speech training class through the School of Theater. The class discusses the importance of communicating in a coherent way, namely through the delivery of speech. But what I’ve realized is that making your voice heard doesn’t always mean the literal way, as in the poetry and speech exercises in my class, but also pertains to what artists strive to do with every piece of art they create.

As I was sitting in my English class last week listening to student presentations and one of my peers cited this quote from former National Endowment for the Arts board member Bill Strickland:

“Creativity is the catalyst for change.”

This statement got me thinking about the massive amounts of art we take in every day that cause a stir, or at least make us step back and think about our society or our actions in general.

In high school, I performed in social action plays with a local theater company, and developing the passion and proximity to the subjects we were addressing to the audience really pushed me to develop my voice on stage, literally in my vocal performance and figuratively as an actor trying to portray such deep and difficult topics.

Art that aims to create some sort of social change is abundant on a college campus, putting students, faculty and staff and the surrounding community in a unique position to hear the voices of countless young artists.

This quarter, student artists have performed such crowd-shocking, yet poignant shows such as “The Vagina Monologues,” a series of one-act, one person scenes exploring the ups and downs women face, and more tame yet comical performances by Ohio University’s improvisation troupe, Black Sheep, Inc.

Black Sheep, Inc. performing in the Front Room.

Students that are not involved in a group or in a specific production often take advantage of open mic nights at venues like Donkey Coffee and the Front Room. My friend and roommate Jenna Siska discussed this on her blog.

No matter what your passion, I challenge you to make your voice heard, across the room as in my voice class, or across the world if you have that kind of ambition.