I just wrote an exhibition review about tennis shoes

Many Saturday mornings my younger brother gets up at the crack of down to get in line at the Finish Line store 30 minutes from my parents’ house. He is frantic and desperate to get a hold of the latest Michael Jordan tennis shoe, and I never understood why until I saw Josh Luber’s TED Talk about the $380 million underground sneaker market. “Sneakerheads,” many of them teenagers and men younger than 40, buy and sell coveted limited release sneakers online for bragging rights and a lot of money. Granted, my brother is quote unquote wearing his wealth, but he is not alone, and the High Museum of Atlanta’s “Out of the Box: The Rise of Sneaker Culture” exhibition is proof.

I was assigned to review the exhibition for a magazine called Burnaway (read my review), and I had never seen so many people of color, especially young men in the midtown art institution in my life as I did on opening day. Many of them were swapping sneaker stories, wearing their best kicks, and sharing the experience on Snapchat. What a curator’s dream!

The exhibition offers a great overview of the history of tennis shoes in the western world and has over 150 pairs of sneakers from the 1800’s to today. There are some areas that warrant more depth, like the materialism and greed that fuel the sneaker market, the exclusion of women, the role racism plays in the showmanship of having cool kicks, and I also wish there were some more artistic looking sneakers, but, overall it is worth checking out. Read my review for more details.

 

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Who are we without our memories?

Recently I reviewed a play called Informed Consent by Deborah Zoe Laufer at Horizon Theatre in Atlanta, who produced it after it concluded at the Duke on 42nd in New York City.

In the play, a genetic anthropologist named Jillian is conducting genomic testing to try to find a cure for Alzheimer’s– a disease that took her mother when she was young, and is threatening to take her from her own daughter. In the middle of her research, a colleague calls on her to help him conduct genetic testing on the Havasupai Indians to see if they have a genetic mutation that is causing a 50 percent rate of diabetes in the tribe. The Havasupai believe that blood is sacred, and should never leave the body, but desperate to save their tribe, they consent to being tested for diabetes. However, Jillian sees rich research possibilities in this tribe whose blood is completely untainted, so she sends the blood to other labs to be tested for other things. One of those things is migration patterns that reveal that the Havasupai came from Asia, and not from the bottom of the Grand Canyon, as their origin story says. Embarrassed and hurt, the tribe sues the Arizona State University for lack of informed consent and in order to get the remaining untested samples back from the universities.

The play is based on a real incident that happened between a genetic anthropologist at Arizona State University and the Havasupai Indians in the Grand Canyon.  The real life genetic anthropologist was fired from her job and now works at a university in San Diego.

I have seen a lot of plays this year, but none has made me think for days after like this one. Though, the script is dense and the production I saw was okay, the message in the play about wanting to save one’s memories resonated with me. There is no history of Alzheimer’s or memory loss in my family, but I started thinking, who would I be if I didn’t remember who I am? How would I show up in the world without the knowledge of the day, week, month, and years before? I think that I, we, would be forced to only live in the moment for the moment without our memories. It goes back to that “the present is a gift” thing. And that is the ultimate lesson that the scientists in the play must learn– where facts are limited in their scope, love is limitless in its power. I love seeing plays that scratch at the core of what we believe and force us to ask why, and though Informed Consent is not a perfect play, it is definitely worth seeing and discussing. Check out my review below.

Read the full review of the play: http://www.artsatl.com/2015/10/review-horizons-informed-consent/. 

Reflections after attending the National Critics Institute

I spent the past two weeks at the O’Neill Theatre Center in New London, Conn. at the National Critics Institute— the only writing workshop for early and mid-career theatre critics. In a cottage in New England I pondered about the state of theatre, the state of journalism, writing about people of color, how to incorporate dining content into theatre journalism, and how to find my voice. The latter was my greatest revelation– the disconnection between the way I speak and the way that I write hinders my ability to develop my voice as a writer. This voice is critical to me making this a career, so I better invest a good chunk of my time into finding it.

I left with a sense of clarity and action items. I am going to meet with my mentor, put together a pitch for an arts column, and use the friends I have with telecommunications degrees to help me put together an interview reel, so that I can pitch myself to cover the arts in broadcast news outlets.

Here are some gems from the Institute:

“Theater is about getting under the skin of different types of people.” -Linda Winer, Theater Critic, Newsday

“Be good to yourself as a critic when you watch a show. Be in a place that is fair to the work and to your ability to respond to the work.” -Matt Wolf, Theatre Critic, The Guardian and The Times London

If you’re doing something worthwhile, isn’t it worthy of analysis? If you’re not supporting criticism, what are you saying about your art form?” -Robert Simonson, Cocktail Writer, New York Times

“Competition is good, but if it flatlines, then no one knows what’s going on. Criticism is good, because it makes you better.” -Ann Nyberg, WTNH, ABC Affiliate, Connecticut

“Travel widely. Explore lots. Read lots. Eat lots.” -Sam Sifton, Deputy Food Editor, New York Times

“Appetizers are the off-Broadway of the food world” -Chris Jones, Theater Critic, The Chicago Tribune

“I didn’t get into this business to kill art; I got into this business to create art.” -David Stone, Producer, Wicked, If/Then, Next to Normal

“I don’t buy the idea that a good, solid play that does not wow the New York critics will not have a life a life after that.” -Dan Sullivan, retired theater critic, LA Times

“Theater that is not written about well is not going to make people want to go.” -Charles Isherwood, Theater Critic, New York Times

“Broadway is mostly singing animals and movie stars.” -Charles Isherwood

“Make yourself an interesting autobiography.” -Linda Winer