Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Hamilton's Record Breaking Tony Nominations

Photo by broadwayinchicago.com
By now, I think almost everyone on the planet has at least heard of Lin-Manuel Miranda's latest musical masterpiece, Hamilton. If you haven't, where have you been for the past year? Hamilton is a musical centered around the life of, you guessed it, Alexander Hamilton. The musical follows his life, his successes, his failures, and just about everything in between. Not only is the storyline enthralling, but the music is the kind of music that sticks in your brain, at least for me it did. I haven't always been into musical theatre and a year ago, if you told me I would be listening to a Broadway rap about history, I would have laughed in your face. Now, being a self-proclaimed "theatre nerd," I now know just about all of the lyrics to the entire Hamilton soundtrack. Why the change of heart? I discovered that I had always been wrong about what I thought musical theatre was. In my head, I had always imagined a group of cliquey people singing over the top, cheesy songs about something I had no interest in. Don't get me wrong, I loved to sing, dance, and act, but I could never bring myself to do theatre. Not until this year. Once I made the choice to finally give theatre a try, I absolutely loved it. When all my friends said, "Hey August, you should listen to Hamilton," you better believe that I went home and bought the entire album that same day. Having experienced just the music of Hamilton, I can definitely understand how this musical snagged a record breaking sixteen (yes 16) Tony nominations.

The nominations are as follows:
Best Musical
• Hamilton
Best performance by an actor in a leading role in a musical
• Lin-Manuel Miranda, “Hamilton”
• Leslie Odom Jr., “Hamilton”
Photo by hamiltonbroadway.com
Best performance by an actress in a leading role in a musical
• Phillipa Soo, “Hamilton”
Best performance by an actor in a featured role in a musical
• Daveed Diggs, “Hamilton”
• Jonathan Groff, “Hamilton”
• Christopher Jackson, “Hamilton”
Best performance by an actress in a featured role in a musical
• RenĂ©e Elise Goldsberry, “Hamilton”
Best book of a musical
• “Hamilton,” Lin-Manuel Miranda
Best original score
• “Hamilton,” Music and Lyrics: Lin-Manuel Miranda
Best direction of a musical
• Thomas Kail, “Hamilton”
Best scenic design of a musical
• David Korins, “Hamilton”
Best costume design of a musical
• Paul Tazewell, “Hamilton”
Best lighting design of a musical
• Howell Binkley, “Hamilton”
Best choreography
• Andy Blankenbuehler, “Hamilton”
Best orchestrations
• Alex Lacamoire, “Hamilton”

Wow. Not only was Hamilton nominated in 13 categories (see a complete list of all nominations here), but multiple cast members from the show were nominated for the same role. Both Lin-Manuel Miranda (Alexander Hamilton) and Leslie Odom Jr. (Aaron Burr) are up for best performance by an actor in a leading role in a musical. I personally find it funny how even long after his death, Burr is still competing with Hamilton for what he wants. I think that this one is going to be a tough decision because on one hand, you have Odom Jr., whose vocals are outstanding and who is someone that truly developed the character of Burr and brought him back to life. On the other hand, you have Miranda, who takes you on a journey through Hamilton's life and makes you love him and hate him at the same time. I'm interested to see the results on that.

GIF by giphy.com
The other category that has competition within Hamilton is best performance by an actor in a featured role in a musical. The three people nominated from Hamilton, Daveed Diggs (Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson), Jonathan Groff (King George III), and Christopher Jackson (George Washington) all play diverse characters. I can barely bring myself to think about who I would choose over the others because I love all of these characters so much. Lafayette, first of all, raps with a French accent, which I find amazing! Not only that, but his character brings an element to the musical (and to history) that really completes the story of Hamilton and I think that he is a very important character to the storyline. Jefferson, especially during the cabinet battles, brings a sort of opposing force against Hamilton that I think is really important and adds more layers to the musical and makes the storyline even that more intricate. King George, might be in my top three favorite characters in the show. Despite the fact that he has little interaction with anyone, every scene and song that he is in is so memorable. To me, he provides a little break from Hamilton's life and shows something fresh and new, especially with his song You'll Be Back. I would say that Groff would have my vote for the Tony award. Despite that fact, Washington, to me, also plays an important role in this show. I feel like he is the closets thing to a father figure that Hamilton can get to in this show and I feel like he is the one who really helps shape Hamilton into the man that he is near the middle of the show. I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if any of these men won this award.

Now that I've told you all about one of my favorite musicals this year, I want to know about yours. What's your favorite musical? And who do you predict the awards will go to this year? Don't forget to tune in to the Tony Awards Sunday, June 12, 2016!

Monday, May 16, 2016

Influential Books That I've Read

As someone that is highly involved in many aspects of the arts, I naturally love to read. I started reading as soon as I knew how to and I never stopped. Reading is what inspired me to start writing, mainly because I loved reading about things like fictitious lands and supernatural powers and I wanted to create my own. For me, reading can be an escape from what's going on in my life and a way to relax and relieve stress. That is, until the book gets really interesting. Once I've started reading, there's a small chance that I'll stop, I'll become extremely invested in the characters of my books and what will happen to them (but I mean if you read the books that I do, you would be too). For my first post, I want to share some of the books that I've read over the past couple years that have really influenced and impacted me.

GIF by giphy.com
The first book, or series rather, has been my favorite for about a year. The City of Bones by Cassandra Clare was a book that I just happened upon at Barnes and Noble one day. This was back when I didn't have to study for AP tests or memorize lines for theatre, so I read the book in one sitting. I was so enthralled by the plot line that there was no way I was putting the book down. The basic storyline involves a girl named Clary Fray. She finds out very early in the story that she is a shadowhunter, which is a person that is part angel and dedicated to protecting the human race (or mundanes as they are called) from the demons that come from alternate dimensions. I enjoy this book (the whole series, actually) for a million reasons. One of these reasons is that there are countless supernatural elements throughout the series. From vampires to werewolves to warlocks, this book has it all. City of Bones also has a lot of female empowerment and strong female characters as well. One of the main characters, Izzy Lightwood, is an extremely powerful female character throughout the entire series, but at the same time likes to wear flowery dresses and bright lipstick, which I still think is extremely empowering and shows girls that that can be, and do, anything that they want to do. This book series has actually been made into a movie and a tv show (watch the tv show here).

Photo by wikipedia 
The second book series that really impacted me was the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas. This series has an extreme amount of female empowerment. Set in a dystopian setting filled with royal hierarchy and castles made of glass, the main character Celaena Sardothien has been banished to prison to work in coal mines for the rest of her life. All of this changes when she is chosen to be taken to the castle to compete in a competition in which the winner will become the king's champion assassin. As the only woman in the competition, she works ruthlessly to defeat all of the other competitors and try to decipher who could be killing off the competitors one by one. This story obviously did not encourage me to become an assassin, but it did inspire me to fight for what I believe in. Reading about strong female characters always makes me want to become more like them and I felt that in this book especially. I am currently reading the third book in this series, Heir of Fire, and Celaena (despite all that has happened to her in the first two books) still remains very powerful and strong.

The third book series that influenced me was Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi. This series mainly influenced me as a writer. The story surrounds a girl named Juliette who, unlike most 17 year old girls, has a touch that is fatal. The beginning of the story shows Juliette locked in a prison compound with no human company. After hundreds of days of solitude, Juliette is released from the prison and brought back to the failing society. She then has to choose what to do with her gift in the destroyed world. This book had so many plot twists and unexpected events, I was on the edge of my seat the entire time I was reading. Just as you think one thing is going to happen in the series, something completely different happens that changes the entire course of the story. After finishing the series, I was completely awestruck and I realized that I wanted my writing to do that to people as well.

Photo by fan pop.com
The fourth and final book series that completely changed my perspective on storytelling is The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin. This series has one of the most beautiful story lines that I have ever read. Mara Dyer wakes up one day in a hospital with no recollection of how she had got there. After an incident at an abandoned asylum, Mara's friends are left dead and Mara doesn't know how she survived, or how her friends died. Mara's family moves to give her a fresh start, but soon odd things start happening. Mara begins hallucinating and not even she can tell if something is psychologically wrong with her or if paranormal feats are causing her to loose large pieces of her memory. This trilogy is hauntingly beautiful and filled with stunning imagery and vulnerability of the mind. All of these aspects are those that, for me, make a book stand out and along with that the writing.

Now that I've shared some of the books that have influenced me over the past few years, it's your turn! What books have you read that you feel have influence you today?