Posts by: styleboston

By Thomas Brennan

You might be forgiven if you thought that Boston’s businesses, colleges and hospitals were preparing for a storm. And, perhaps, they were in a way. As election day 2020 (finally!) arrived, the city prepared for unrest and fall out from the election.

With the presidential election coming in the middle of a devastating pandemic and just months after protests that roiled Boston and cities around the country, businesses and institutions around the city boarded up storefronts and protected property. As of this posting, the moves were more for caution than action as no protests or violence and property damage had emerged by November 4.

It was in May, that Boston faced turmoil with tensions between protestors and police. In the aftermath of peaceful protests there were stray instances of property damage, though few places faced anything besides cracked windows and graffiti that was washed away by the end of the next day. 

Boston, as always, found its feet quickly. Public servants and private citizens worked together to tidy up the city and go onward. Though it’s clear the memory of division still lingers over the city. Election Day has only served to worsen the instinct to shore up barriers.

Nothing better sums that up than the preemptive measures various Boston businesses are taking in boarding up again. Various construction and repair companies have been hired to place wooden paneling over glass windows again. Stores ranging from as basic to 7-Eleven to Lululemon are all going the cautious route. Even Suffolk College has shuttered their campus buildings and residences.

Suffolk University boarded up the glass entrance of its Law School on Tremont. Photo by Thomas Brennan

When asked about potential rioting or property damage as a fallout of the election, a construction manager from Belfor Property Restoration said: “I don’t think it’s going happen, it’s just more a drill as I see it.” Properties along Boylston, Newbury, and South streets were boarded up along with Washington in Downtown Crossing, and even spots in the North End we’re all taking the extra caution. 

Photo by Thomas Brennan

This decision of boarding up might not have even come about were it not for the recent event shots fired on between Boylston and Newbury street just one week before the election. No one was injured in the crossfire and Boston Police made arrests a short time later, but it only added to heightened anxiety.

The news of the arrival of the National Guard was the biggest note of concern for the vitality of Boston businesses. The rolling out of soldiers patrolling with machine guns did very little to set people at ease the last time they were present. The normally lion-like bravery of Bostonians shrunk to the size of street mice. Sending most people scurrying to minimize time on the street rather than feeling safe enough to stroll or peruse stores like they used to. Hopefully the National Guard’s stay is brief during the government’s transition and normalcy can return to the city’s streets.

Over the last few months worry has been building, but Bostonians are nothing if not adaptable and capable of meeting whatever comes next face on. When the election comes to a close and change arrives, let’s all keep faith Boston will stand strong and prevail as we usher in the next chapter of our democracy.

Photo by Thomas Brennan
 

By Thomas Brennan

It was hard to find any orange jack-o-lanterns under all that white powder. Halloween in the Boston area looked more like Christmas with the recent record-breaking arrival of some four inches of snow. 

The luminous wonder of winter has returned once again to the city of Boston. The beauty of pearl-white covering spread over the sidewalks, the rows of buildings, and along the trees is always a sight to see. The bay winds have turned from their usual Autumnal briskness to a more cutting chill. The visual factor of the snow is something to behold; trees who have yet to shed leaves coated in white, sprinkles of snowflakes dripping down like baking flour every so often. The sky has turned from white to a frosty silver. Walking along Commonwealth Avenue feels like something straight out of a C.S. Lewis storybook, though unfortunately the weather’s effect on the city could sour a few people’s aim for a happily ever after.

Commonwealth Mall looked like a Winter wonderland more suited to Christmas than Halloween. Photo by Thomas Brennan
Photo by Thomas Brennan
Photo by Thomas Brennan

Some Boston businesses are going into hibernation with seasonal closing such as the Emory on Beacon Street. Many Boston Businesses are still able to stay open with the snowfall, though there are limitations that now arise. In the past few months exterior restaurant patios have opened up to give more room to customers for social distancing. Unfortunately, with the snowfall those exteriors are closing for time being, leaving the interior to solely handle customer service. Places such as Stephanie’s on Newbury, Wen’s Yunnan noodle restaurant, Joe’s American Bar and Grill, Saltie Girl, and Buttermilk and Bourbon all had their exteriors caked in fresh white powder.

Though the closure of exterior seating will undoubtedly limit patron capacity for a bit of time, Proper social distancing protocol is still being followed by all Boston businesses. The city and all its businesses remain committed to keeping their patrons safe and healthy. It sadly won’t be able to change the fact some places won’t be doing as well financially as before, though if anything over the last few months have shown, it’s that Boston is indomitable when it comes to facing new challenges. The snow, while beautiful, isn’t meant to last. If it doesn’t melt by the end of tomorrow it’ll likely turn to pure slush by Sunday with forecasts predominantly pointing to rain. Boston businesses will then have to make a choice whether to reopen their patios for more open space, or simply keep business limited to interior settings. And, even that could change this Fall.

Restaurant patios that overflowed with patrons were (briefly) closed by a surprise snow fall. Photo by Thomas Brennan

Halloween was always going to be an odd situation this year given the nature of going door to door isn’t quite a viable activity for public health. Snow isn’t the worst trade-off for candy. Regardless of all other factors and stressors. The best thing to do as of this moment is to just take some time to enjoy the enchanting nature of the snowfall. It was great to get a chance to enjoy this window of winter joy before it melted away.

 

By Thomas Brennan

An ingenious business model for distributing healthcare items and toiletries was born not in a marketing office or board room, but in a corporate bathroom. The idea sprung from a shared moment of solidarity in the workplace between two strong-minded and thoughtful business women.

Susanna Twarog and Robina Verbeek formed their business in 2017 when Twarog, like many women in the modern working world, needed feminine healthcare items, but had no access to proper resources. Her friend and future business partner, Verbeek, was in the bathroom at the same time. Verbeek had a tampon on hand and quickly offered it to her friend. This prompted a discussion between the two in how difficult it was to access these items outside the home and how many barriers it set for women in public life. The two left the bathroom with the shared goal to eradicate the vulnerability women face in the workplace.

The result is S/O/S, a female-owned and operated, Boston-based technology company unveiled its first S/O/S Smart Vending Machine at the Prudential Center. The S/O/S smart vending machine will provide femcare necessities and PPE supplies to Prudential Center shoppers, visitors and workers. The Prudential Center location is the first of three locations—to be followed by South Station and Innovation Center/District Hall in the Seaport. 

S/O/S’s founders Susanna Twarog and Robina Verbeek.

S/O/S’s distribution system comes in the form of a large, touchscreen based, vending machine. It’s a more sophisticated take off of traditional tampon dispensers with several improved attributes. The initial plan of the business was to place these dispensers to be in corporate bathrooms, though this aspect of SOS’s model placement had to be adjusted, like so much else in 2020, because of the onset of Covid-19.

“Our machines bring you the most convenient and elevated on-the-go retail experience, delivering premium femcare, skincare, haircare, PPE, and beauty products from today’s top brands,” Twarog said in a release. “People deserve to have their needs met—whether it’s buying a mask, a tampon, or a dry shampoo.”

They first pivoted placement of the machine to public spaces instead of private offices. The next move was the dispenser’s selection growing to include toiletries such as deodorant, dry shampoo, hand sanitizer, clean wipes, floss, mouth wash, and, most timely, disposable masks. The masks are a top-seller for the vending machine, as people in this time are always in need of germ spreading preventatives. One of the best aspects is each item comes in a small cardboard box, allowing a level of privacy. People who menstruate and are need of a tampon don’t have to worry about any awkward onlookers seeing them pick up items they need.

Another nice touch from S/O/S’s dispensers is the listing of ingredients in the production of their products. It allows potential buyers to get more information about what they’re purchasing for themselves. It’s possible to make purchase selection purely on one’s phone. The device is able to take electronic payment through credit card and apply pay. It’s optimal in every aspect for users in need with common healthcare needs in a public space.

So, what is offered in an S/O/S machine? Feminine care, personal care and beauty products – and now masks and hand sanitizers. The inaugural products—in ready-to-use, single size portions– include Cora feminine essentials, DryBar hair care assistance, First Aid Beauty skincare, Korres beauty products, and Kosas cosmetics. Every S/O/S product was personally selected by Twarog and Verbeek.

These sleek dispensers are going to be essential in several ways going forward. For the common health of all Boston citizens in having access to clean disposable masks to prevent the spread of Covid-19. There’s an even larger and more long-term benefit for women in the worksplace.

 

By Thomas Brennan

Boston restaurants are starting to take off again. And no business seems to be doing better than Stephanie’s on Newbury. The Boston stalwart has done more than merely bounced back after the last few months of quarantine; it seems to be doing extraordinarily well in foot traffic. It’s a comfortable and fun spot with flavorful food, the perfect place to go as the summer season unfolds.

Stephanie’s has always been a delightful bar and restaurant. With a great selection of, and various other delectable entrees. An elegantly furnished yet still approachable decor interior. The restaurant has developed a strong exterior, even adding fenced seating along the street for additional customer seating. One of the restaurant’s greatest strengths is its centralized location and easy access to passersby. Situated right at the corner of Exeter and Newbury streets, it’s smack dab in the middle of the most upscale areas while still being an easy block from the calm bustle of Commonwealth Avenue. It takes up the better part of the corner and is to spot from a block down in any direction, acting almost like a beacon for safe harbor for Bostonian passersby. 

The restaurant just reopened much like many other Boston establishments. Though it hardly seems to have skipped the crawl to walk stage most restaurants are taking, instead pushing up right out of bed, bolstering speed to hit the running mark. There doesn’t seem to be any need for this restaurant in stretching itself after the months long business slumber of the last few months due to Covid-19. Stephanie’s is serving plenty of people already and has attracted a large body of customers, having a healthy stream during off hours, and being filled up to maximum permitted capacity during lunch and dinner hours.

The staff was considerate and diligent. They were as polite as they were precautious in how they went about abiding by social distancing safety measures. Every server is gloved and masked whenever around patrons. Stephanie’s is providing a bottle of hand sanitizer spray for patrons to use and disinfect before each meal; It’s a nice and helpful touch that feels personable while also curbing any chance for spread of germs. The setup felt more than safe, an incredibly impressive feat with all the customer traffic. 

Stephanie’s menu has a great selection of appetizers, salads, entrees, sides, and deserts. The Back Bay burger section is especially filled with delicious variable choices. While their Prime Blend certainly snatches the gold for most delicious burger meat choice, the Turkey and Salmon options are also more than worthy of adulation for their deliciousness. Their drink menu also has a myriad of great options of all kinds. The Bloody Mary they served definitely ranks in my personal top five of Boston restaurants. Though I didn’t get it on my last visit, I also know the girdled chocolate-flecked pound cake is beyond mouthwateringly delectable. 

The burger is always a good choice at Stephanie’s with a Bloody Mary, of course, and now served with some hand sanitizer nearby and paper menus. Photo by Thomas Brennan

Seeing a Boston business not only reopen, but actually do this well after months brings a lot of reason to be optimistic going forward in coming months. Boston has always had an indomitable spirit, and seeing a business such as Stephanie’s set such a strong example helps to keep hope alive. I can’t wait to visit this Boston staple again sometime soon.

 

By Thomas Brennan

There finally seems to be a break of sun over the dark and cloudy last few months of quarantine and shutdowns. Businesses throughout Boston are starting to open more frequently and even expand their avenues for summer. From the Back Bay to the North End doors are opening, tables are filling up with patrons and business is getting going.

The North End has reopened for business. Photo by Thomas Brennan

Boston feels like it’s had a resurgence while still managing to maintain the caution of social distancing. The boards lining the windows of Boston storefronts have all but entirely come down. There are still a few spots with boards covering glass, but those places are limited to only one to two spots per block instead of covering the whole street. The complete departure of the military police has certainly cut out a great deal of the tension for the Back Bay residents. No longer being under the eyes of armed men has restored a sense of safety that Boston has lacked for too long.

Various restaurants and retailers have been reopening or expanding back toward regular functionality. Exterior setups were the first setup to reopen for many restaurants. Hanover Street in the North End is booming as of right now. There are plenty of restaurants who’ve established patio setup. Carmelina’s, Artu, Bella Vista, are all booming with business Newbury street institutions like Stephanie’s patio business are thriving and it seems they’re opening up their interior as well. Serafina, Buttermilk & Bourbon, and Met bar are just a few of the restaurants expanding out to their patio. The opening patio setup of eating outside is in high demand for many after months of quarantine. The chance for customers to eat in the warm summer sun with fresh air is exactly what people have been holding out for.

Visitors keep their distance while shopping and dining in the North End.
Photo by Thomas Brennan

Wen’s Noodle shop had previously only been open in a patio function with more limited hours, but as of this week they are extending their hours and have reopened their interior shop for customers to sit and enjoy a delicious meal. These kinds of amenities are definitely needed. Eating outside can be more than refreshing after quarantine and social distancing, the heat can be extreme for some and air conditioning is a utility anyone can enjoy. 

Ben & Jerry’s on Newbury’s interior was still closed until Phase 3, but they are still selling ice cream out the front door through orders. They planned to have an exterior deck setup for customers soon, though some transportation issue for the patio equipment in storage has held it up from opening. Hopefully this can arrive soon, with the upcoming heat every denizen of Boston could use more space to lounge and enjoy classic Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. 

A few restaurants are still going through some form of setup adjustment or reconstruction with the intent of reopening. Joe’s and Piantini’s are still undergoing some internal work and seem like it’ll take time to be back to full functionality. It certainly provides the chance to fix up these Boston establishments, if not even provide improvements. Boston mainstays like the Pour House are still closed up tight with little signs of reopening to previous functionality.

In the Back Bay, things are opening up and will open up further in Phase 3, when patrons can come inside eateries. Photo by Thomas Brennan

There’s still progress to be made before things are fully back to functional as before. As we go about everyone must remain vigilant in keeping to social distancing and wearing masks in public. Progress isn’t always a straight road, slips ups can happen if we’re all not working hard and remaining careful. There’s a lot of hope though and still plenty of beauty and pride to be found in Boston and its people.

 

By Thomas Brennan

Business is moving again in Boston. After a tough couple of months with ongoing quarantine and shutdowns due to Covid-19, things are finally starting to open again with Governor Charlie Baker approving stage 2 of recovery plan for Massachusetts businesses. Things aren’t quite perfect, but Boston’s reopening seems to have the majority of carrying a sense of optimism.

Even on the first days of outdoor dining, patrons were “hungry” to get back outside. Photo by Thomas Brennan

Restaurant reopenings have each taken various different approaches on how to provide service again. The business owners and workers on Newbury have proved themselves to be consistently resilient while also meticulously careful and considerate in providing a safe environment for their clientele. Quite a few restaurants have reopened their doors with limited capacity.

Photo by Thomas Brennan

Stephanie’s on Newbury took down the board across their glass paneling and is doing a strong job of building a nice interior setup for customers. Some restaurants like Wen’s Yunnan Noodle & Ramen interior were still closed off, but the exterior deck was open with tables for customers to sit outside and enjoy the fresh air as they waited for their food. A few businesses, such as Buttermilk and Bourbon have managed to open both their interior and exterior dining areas, allowing customers the choice of staying inside for some shade or taking some time in the sun as they eat.

Photo by Thomas Brennan

The waitstaff in many restaurants are tasked with the particularly difficult task of maintaining clean conditions for all customers that come in. It seems though that most waitstaff industry workers are being more than diligent. Masks are ever present on waitstaff workers, they’re consistently through in making sure areas are cleaned when customers depart, and that hand sanitizer is available whenever patrons desire. Walking into Wen’s and several other restaurants carried a level of care and caution that made getting comfortable in the food service environment surprisingly easy. In many ways the last few days has been a homecoming for Boston businesses, though not everyone is up to the running point yet.

There are unfortunately some bumps in the road. Though the helicopters are gone, military police still stand on the corner of every block; some of the officers are content as pigeons to mull on their corners, others carry an almost hawk-like focus over the street. Restaurants, such as Met Back Bay that are still boarded up and don’t appear to be taking any customers in their interior and exterior areas. Not every business is going to hit the ball on the first swing. Recovery from Covid-19 and opening will require as much patience as it will hard work. The open hours of various businesses remain tight as well, certain businesses content to close as early as mid-afternoon, but hours are seeming to loosen, and having doors open is a positive in itself.

Photo by Thomas Brennan

Not all of the graffiti has been scrubbed away on Newbury. Two notable spots are sticking out for their high-quality art depictions. The Childs Gallery on Newbury is sporting some very lovely and colorful paintings of flowers along the wood panels covering the windows front. It’s a nice dash of simple, positive art amongst the scattered austere wood panels that are still present. Though not all art on Newbury street is so flowery. A block down at City Smoke Shop there’s a beautifully candid but also heartfelt painting of George Floyd with the Word “LISTENING” painted on the wooden panels covering the store. The art piece was done by Brooke Trefey, who is currently taking commissions for other wood frame paintings in exchange for donations to the ACLU.

Photo by Thomas Brennan

There’s still a great deal of progress to be made. All Boston citizens should remain assiduous in their day to day going about, keep hands clean, wear masks, and be considerate of others from all walks of life in their ongoing struggles. Recovery isn’t always a straight line. It’s a path we must get up and continue to walk every day. There’s a great deal of hope, for if there’s one thing Boston’s known for is its strength in the face of adversity.

Photo by Thomas Brennan
Photo by Thomas Brennan
Photo by Thomas Brennan
 

Back Bay and Downtown Crossing are rebounding following a day of peaceful protests that devolved into vandalism and arrests

By Thomas Brennan

It is as if Boston’s Back Bay and Downtown Crossing lived through a week in just 24 hours when, earlier this week, the city saw a day of three peaceful marches to protest the death of a Minneapolis man while in police custody only to have the night end in vandalism and looting in Boston.

What followed, however, showed the city’s true spirit as residents, business owners, and other volunteers joined city crews to clean up from the protests and get ready as the second phase of the openings from the COVID-19 shutdowns takes place.

A day of peaceful protests in Boston was followed by a night of unrest in the Back Bay and Downtown Crossing. Thomas Brennan photo

The vandalism and chaos coming on the heels of the pandemic was a tough sequence for the business community to endure. “The thing is that most of the businesses on Newbury Street and Boylston Street really do support what the marchers and protesters were working for,” said a manager of the Back Bay boutique who asked not to be named in this article. “I don’t think one act of vandalism was caused by the marchers. That came later.”

It did.

The upheaval that started after Sunday’s initially well-organized and peaceful Black Lives Matter protests spread out to various areas of Downtown Crossing and the Back Bay after 9 p.m., not long after the 6:30 protest march had made its way from Roxbury to the State House on Beacon Hill.

Some businesses were boarded up before Sunday night’s vandalism and others were boarded up on Monday and Tuesday so that the stores could reopen. Photo by Thomas Brennan

Some businesses, including the Apple store on Boylston and some three dozen on Washington Avenue, had boarded up their locations prior to Sundays marches. When things opened up on Monday, it appeared that most of the damage had been vandalism such as smashed store windows and graffiti.

Crews, both volunteer and city of Boston employees, had picked up most of the garbage by mid-afternoon Monday, with a week of work scheduled from cleaning the monuments slated for Wednesday and Thursday and grass cutting on Thursday.

Crews were out throughout the weekend an into the first part of the week preparing for and cleaning up from the protest marches that turned violent. Photo by Thomas Brennan

By the end of the week, Governor Charlie Baker had sent members of the Massachusetts National Guard to the Back Bay, where they could be seen on Newbury and Boylston streets, to assist the city in keeping the peace while businesses worked for the second phase of the re-opening.

Even with the pandemic precautions, larges groups of people came out to assist and help out in the restoration of public areas. They were more than successful on various measures, and had accomplished a great deal of cleanup by Monday afternoon.

In regards to trash and litter, the common actually seemed more tidy than usual. The various taglines along the streets, sidewalks, buildings’ walls and windows were still present.

The cleanup from vandalism continued while crews also worked to get ready to reopen for the first wave of business. Photo by Tom Brennan

Some businesses turned the vandalism into a positive thing like the Back Bay real estate office that tapped an artist to paint a beautiful piece over some graffiti.  There are still positive signs of the revitalization of the city and strong signs of the city’s ongoing spirit for betterment.

The only real efforts on Monday to wash the graffiti were reserved for the painted inscriptions along the State House. Though most, such as ones along the bridge public gardens, were washed away by Tuesday. The city has put in a considerable effort to wipe away any vestige of the tags. It’s a large-scale endeavor, though Boston seems more than committed to see these painted words to be scrubbed away. Those they haven’t wiped out, they’ve seemingly covered to clean at a later date.

Windows are being boarded up at various ground level stores. Many were initially done to cover just the stores that were damaged or the graffiti tagged alongside the buildings. The CVS on Newbury experienced a large amount of graffiti and has boarded their windows. The cover precaution is being extended by various businesses and store widows that did and didn’t experience damage.

The CVS on Newbury Street was covered with graffiti and later boarded up. Photo by Tom Brennan

A fair share of affected businesses are still open, though open hours are far more limited now. The constant drone of helicopters and the arrival of military police has also added a contentious obstacle to the city’s and day-to-day functionality. The fact things are still running and adapting does provide some semblance of hope for businesses to still be reopening despite being boarded up or experiencing vandalism. Other businesses can follow suit. Although it might be a little less sunny with windows blocked out, there’s still the chance for citizens to return and support local businesses.

City crews and scores of volunteers worked hard to get Boston Common cleared of debris following Sunday night. Photo by Thomas Brennan

Various businesses were damaged, but broken glass can be cleaned up, paint can be washed away, wooden boards can be taken down. These are all things that are coverable or at the very least fixable within the long term. There are many deeper core issues to face within Boston before proper freedom and equality can be restored to every citizen who calls this city home.

City crews and volunteers helped get the Ugg store cleaned up after it had been looted on Sunday night. Photo by Thomas Brennan
 

By Thomas Brennan

This year, the Elliot Norton Award show “went on” but it was a decidedly different event from years past. The annual awards ceremony, at which the best of Boston’s theater offerings is recognized, was broadcast online by the Boston Theatre Critics Association on May 11, th

The nominations ranged from Boston productions from April 1st 2019 to March 2020. 

There were fears over how the show would go on with the current quarantine and need for social distancing, but the curtain still rose. The show was concise yet still heartfelt and enthused in its celebration of the efforts and accomplishments of Boston’s theater community. There were ever present ASL translators throughout the award show, ensuring those who are deaf could still also enjoy the event. The ceremony lasted just under an hour. The presenters – the members of the Boston Theater Critics Association, whose votes determined the award recipients – all streamed from their homes. Despite the distance and this year’s difference in production, the event stood as a resounding unification of the community, as well as a celebration of Boston’s artists, the productions of the past year, and the indomitable spirit of theatre in harsh times.

Clips from this year’s productions added to this year’s awards ceremony.

The ceremony displayed clips from various productions, highlighting the great work and love put into various plays. Actors from “Caroline, or Change” opened with a powerful song, followed by powerful and uproariously entertaining clips from productions such as “Moby Dick,” “Sunset Boulevard,” “Pacific Overtures,” and “Parade.” Each clip showed off some of the greatest performances of the season while complementing the masterful production work that has gone on over the last year. 

The ceremony’s penultimate event was an especially whimsical and merry original song about the theatre surviving under social distancing, performed by various members of the New England acting community. Each of the performers did so from home, some in more subdued settings, others that were more dramatic. There’s nothing quite like seeing a man dressed as King George sing alongside a girl trying her best to play Xbox.

“Nortons” president Joyce Kulhawik.

As Joyce Kulhawik, the President of the Boston Theatre Critics Association, put it best, “I actually find myself very inspired by the opportunity for reinventing everything- and I can’t wait to see what this incredibly creative community comes up with.”

The final note on the remarkable ceremony was a collection of poignant and loving testimonies from those who had worked alongside Johnny Lee Davenport. The stories and descriptions of this extraordinary actor and the work he’d given to his art were beyond heartwarming. He lived for 70 years, bringing great joy, kindness, professionalism and his indisputable talent to every production he was a part of. The entire community mourns his loss, but there’s no doubt he’ll stand as inspiration to all those pursuing the New England stage.

Below and the list of nominees and Winners for the ceremony. (Winners in each nomination category are marked with a * .)

Elliot Norton Prize for Sustained Excellence 

Johnny Lee Davenport

Special Citation 

“Shear Madness” which opened in Boston and just ended its 40-year run as one of the longest-running non-musical plays in the world

The 2020 Elliot Norton Award nominees 

Outstanding Musical Production 

*“Parade,” Moonbox Productions 

“Moby-Dick,” American Repertory Theater  

“Sunset Boulevard,” North Shore Music Theatre 

“Caroline, or Change,” Moonbox Productions  

“Pacific Overtures,” Lyric Stage Company of Boston 

Outstanding Production, Large Theater 

*“The Purists,” Huntington Theatre Company  

“Sweat,” Huntington Theatre Company  

“Detroit Red,” ArtsEmerson 

Outstanding Production, Midsize Theater 

“Pass Over,” SpeakEasy Stage Company and The Front Porch Arts Collective 

“The Children,” SpeakEasy Stage Company  

*“Cloud 9,” The Nora  

“Cambodian Rock Band,” Merrimack Repertory Theatre  

“Vanity Fair,” Underground Railway Theater 

Outstanding Production, Small or Fringe Company 

“The Return,” Israeli Stage  

*“The Stone,” Arlekin Players Theatre 

 “The Ebonic Woman,” Ryan Landry and the Gold Dust Orphans 

“The Seagull,” Arlekin Players Theatre 

“The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart,” Apollinaire Theatre Company

Outstanding Solo Performance

Billy Meleady, “the smuggler,” Boston Playwrights’ Theatre

Outstanding Direction, Large Theater

*Rachel Chavkin, “Moby-Dick,” American Repertory Theater 

Billy Porter,” “The Purists,” Huntington Theatre Company 

Kimberly Senior, “Sweat,” Huntington Theatre Company 

Lee Sunday Evans, “Detroit Red,” ArtsEmerson; 

Kevin P. Hill, “Sunset Boulevard,” North Shore Music Theatre

Outstanding Direction, Midsize Theater 

*Lee Mikeska Gardner, “Cloud 9,” The Nora 

Benny Sato Ambush, “black odyssey boston,” Underground Railway Theater and The Front Porch Arts Collective 

David R. Gammons, “Vanity Fair,” Underground Railway Theater 

Marti Lyons, “Cambodian Rock Band,” Merrimack Repertory Theatre 

Eric Tucker, “The Crucible,” The Nora in association with Bedlam 

Outstanding Direction, Small or Fringe Theater 

Jason Modica, “Parade,” Moonbox Productions 

Danielle Fauteux Jacques, “The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart,” Apollinaire Theatre Company 

*Igor Golyak, “The Stone,” Arlekin Players Theatre 

Igor Golyak, “The Seagull,” Arlekin Players Theatre 

Guy Ben-Aharon, “The Return,” Israeli Stage

Outstanding Musical Performance by an Actor 

*Aaron Patterson, “Parade,” Moonbox Productions 

Nicholas Rodriguez, “Sunset Boulevard,” North Shore Music Theatre 

Rashed Alnuaimi, “Oliver!,” New Repertory Theatre 

Tom Nelis, “Moby-Dick,” American Repertory Theater 

Peter Mill, “The Rocky Horror Show,” Moonbox Productions 

Outstanding Musical Performance by an Actress 

Yewande Odetoyinbo, “Caroline, or Change,” Moonbox Productions 

Alice Ripley, “Sunset Boulevard,” North Shore Music Theatre 

*Katrina Z Pavao, “Little Shop of Horrors,” Lyric Stage Company of Boston 

Haley K. Clay, “Parade,” Moonbox Productions 

Outstanding Actor, Large Theater 

Will LeBow, “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead,” Huntington Theatre Company 

Morocco Omari, “The Purists,” Huntington Theatre Company 

*Eric Berryman, “Detroit Red,” ArtsEmerson

Outstanding Actor, Midsize Theater 

Nathan Malin, “Admissions,” SpeakEasy Stage Company 

*Kadahj Bennett, “Pass Over,” SpeakEasy Stage Company and The Front Porch Arts Collective

Hubens “Bobby” Cius, “Pipeline,” The Nora and WAM Theatre 

Brandon G. Green, “black odyssey boston,” Underground Railway Theater and The Front Porch Arts Collective

Albert Park, “Cambodian Rock Band,” Merrimack Repertory Theatre 

Outstanding Actor, Small or Fringe Theater 

*Nael Nacer, “The Return,” Israeli Stage 

Brooks Reeves, “The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart,” Apollinaire Theatre Company

Alexander Pobutsky, “Hir,” Apollinaire Theatre Company 

Seamus G. Doyle, “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” Apollinaire Theatre Company 

Minh-Anh Day, “Wolf Play,” Company One Theatre

Outstanding Actress, Large Theater

*Analisa Velez, “The Purists,” Huntington Theatre Company 

Izzie Steele, “The Purists,” Huntington Theatre Company 

Nora Eschenheimer, “Cymbeline,” Commonwealth Shakespeare Company 

Jennifer Regan, “Sweat,” Huntington Theatre Company 

Tyla Abercrumbie, “Sweat,” Huntington Theatre Company 

Outstanding Actress, Midsize Theater 

Cheryl McMahon, “Admissions,” SpeakEasy Stage Company 

*Paula Plum, “The Children,” SpeakEasy Stage Company 

Ireon Roach, “School Girls; or, The African Mean Girls Play,” SpeakEasy Stage Company 

Karen MacDonald, “The Children,” SpeakEasy Stage Company 

Debra Wise, “Vanity Fair,” Underground Railway Theater 

Outstanding Actress, Small or Fringe Theater 

*Darya Denisova, “The Stone,” Arlekin Players Theatre 

Anne Gottlieb, “The Seagull,” Arlekin Players Theatre 

Lily Kaufman, “Cry It Out,” Apollinaire Theatre Company 

Becca A. Lewis, “The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart,” Apollinaire Theatre Company

Philana Mia, “The Return,” Israeli Stage 

Outstanding Ensemble, Large Theater 

“Moby-Dick,” American Repertory Theater 

“The Purists,” Huntington Theatre Company 

*“Sweat,” Huntington Theatre Company 

“Quixote Nuevo,” Huntington Theatre Company 

“Sunset Boulevard,” North Shore Music Theatre

Outstanding Ensemble, Midsize Theater

“School Girls; or, The African Mean Girls Play,” SpeakEasy Stage Company

 “Cloud 9,” The Nora  

“Choir Boy,” SpeakEasy Stage Company 

*“black odyssey boston,” Underground Railway Theater and The Front Porch Arts Collective “Pipeline,” The Nora and WAM Theatre

Outstanding Ensemble, Small or Fringe Theater 

“The Ebonic Woman,” Ryan Landry and the Gold Dust Orphans 

“Parade,” Moonbox Productions 

“The Seagull,” Arlekin Players Theatre 

*“The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart,” Apollinaire Theatre Company 

“The Stone,” Arlekin Players Theatre

Outstanding New Script 

“The Purists” by Dan McCabe, Huntington Theatre Company 

“Moby-Dick” by Dave Malloy, American Repertory Theater 

“Wolf Play” by Hansol Jung, Company One Theatre 

“The Ebonic Woman” by Ryan Landry, Ryan Landry and the Gold Dust Orphans 

*“Detroit Red” by Will Power, ArtsEmerson

Outstanding Design, Large Theater 

*“Moby-Dick,” American Repertory Theater Scenic design by Mimi Lien; costume design by Brenda Abbandandolo; lighting design by Bradley King; sound design by Hidenori Nakajo; puppet design by Eric F. Avery; wig, hair and make-up design by Rachel Padula-Shufelt 

“Sunset Boulevard,” North Shore Music Theatre Scenic design by Kyle Dixon; costume design by Anthony Powell and Kelly Baker; lighting design by Jose Santiago; wig and hair design by Rachel Padula-Shufelt 

“Detroit Red,” ArtsEmerson Scenic and costume design by Adam Rigg; lighting design by Alan C. Edwards; sound design by Justin Ellington; projection design by Ari Herzig

“Sweat,” Huntington Theatre Company Scenic design by Cameron Anderson; costume design by Junghyun Georgia Lee; lighting design by D.M. Wood; sound design by Pornchanok Kanchanabanca 

“Quixote Nuevo,” Huntington Theatre Company Scenic design by Takeshi Kata; costume design by Rachel Anne Healy; lighting design by Brian J. Lilienthal; sound design by David R. Molina

Outstanding Design, Midsize Theater 

*“Vanity Fair,” Underground Railway Theater Scenic design by David R. Gammons; costume design by Leslie Held; lighting design by Jeff Adelberg; sound design by David Wilson; properties coordinated by Ciara McAloon

 “black odyssey boston,” Underground Railway Theater and The Front Porch Arts Collective Scenic design by Jon Savage; costume design by Nadine Grant; lighting design by Aja M. Jackson; sound design by Dewey Dellay; property design by Elizabeth Rocha 

“Cloud 9,” The Nora Scenic design by Allison Olivia Choat; costume design by Elizabeth Rocha; lighting design by Whitney Brady-Guzmán; sound design by David Bryan Jackson; property design by Stef Tivan 

“Pass Over,” SpeakEasy Stage Company and The Front Porch Arts Collective Scenic design by Baron E. Pugh; costume design by Chelsea Kerl; lighting design by Kathy A. Perkins; sound design by Anna Drummond 

“The Cake,” Lyric Stage Company of Boston Scenic design by Matt Whiton; costume design by Charles Schoonmaker; lighting design by Aja M. Jackson; sound design by Arshan Gailus; props artisan Lauren Corcuera

Outstanding Design, Small or Fringe Theater 

“Parade,” Moonbox Productions Scenic design by Lindsay Genevieve Fuori; costume design by Chelsea Kerl; lighting design by Steve Shack; sound design by Elizabeth Cahill; hair and wig design by Peter Mill 

*“The Seagull,” Arlekin Players Theatre Scenic design by Nikolay Simonov; costume design by Nastya Bugaeva; lighting design by Jeff Adelberg 

“The Stone,” Arlekin Players Theatre Stage design by David R. Gammons; costume design by Nastya Bugaeva; lighting design by Jeff Adelberg; videos designed by Vladimir Gusev

“Vietgone,” Company One Theatre Scenic and projection design by Izmir Ickbal; costume design by Debra Kim Sivigny; lighting design by Jennifer Fok; sound design by Aubrey Dube; properties by Kelly Smith 

“The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart,” Apollinaire Theatre Company Set/lighting design by Danielle Fauteux Jacques; costume design by Elizabeth Rocha; sound design by David Reiffel

Outstanding Musical Direction 

*Catherine Stornetta, “Parade,” Moonbox Productions 

David Freeman Coleman, “Choir Boy,” SpeakEasy Stage Company 

Dan Rodriguez, “Caroline, or Change,” Moonbox Productions 

Milton Granger, “Sunset Boulevard,” North Shore Music Theatre 

Or Matias, “Moby-Dick,” American Repertory Theater

Outstanding Choreography 

Yewande Odetoyinbo and Ruka White, “Choir Boy,” SpeakEasy Stage Company 

Kira Troilo, “Parade,” Moonbox Productions 

*Ilyse Robbins, “Swan Lake in Blue,” Greater Boston Stage Company 

Outstanding Visiting Production, Non-Musical

“Indecent,” Huntington Theatre Company

Outstanding Visiting Production, Musical

“American Utopia,” Ambassador Theatre Group

Outstanding Visiting Musical Performance

Ben Levi Ross, “Dear Evan Hansen,” Broadway In Boston

Outstanding Visiting Musical Ensemble

“Six,” American Repertory Theater (Adrianna Hicks, Andrea Macasaet, Abby Mueller, Brittney Mack, Courtney Mack and Anna Uzele)

 

By Thomas Brennan

BOSTON — The world is in a state of upheaval and Boston is no exception. Yet, even with empty streets, businesses closing doors, and people sealing themselves inside as part of the quarantining efforts, Boston is finding a way to maintain its spirit and fun in the face of a greater challenge.

Commonwealth Avenue’s colors are often limited to the grey of the cement walkway, the green of the grass, and the brown of the trees, (with an occasional flash of white from a certain legendary squirrel), but in the wake of quarantine there’s been a dash of brighter colors. Kindness rocks have been scattered along several points along Commonwealth avenue. Carrying refreshing bits of lively painted colors with either a painted picture, or an encouraging message.

Kindness Rocks on Commonwealth Mall. Photo by Thomas Brennan

The initial kindness rocks project was started years ago by Megan Murphy, but since then it has taken on a life of its own as a national movement that has made its way to Boston when needed most.

Among the many themes of the Kindness Rocks are words of encouragement for frontline workers. Photo by Thomas Brennan

Quite a few of the painted stones relate to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, providing encouraging messages for frontline workers who are being heroic and providing much needed service in these critical times. What they’re doing is not just heroic, but stands as the epitome of the conviction of humanity and the indomitable nature of the American spirit.

There are quite a few stones commemorating some of Boston’s other moments of fortitude in the face of hardship. A stone bearing Big Papi’s now legendary quote “THIS IS OUR F***ING CITY!” calls back to when Boston came together after two bombs exploded near the Boston Marathon finish line on Monday, April 15, seven years ago, killing three and injuring hundreds. Seeing this message is an empowering reminder of what the city has survived before and is capable of surviving again.

Big Papi’s words still ring true in Boston. Photo by Thomas Brennan

In these times masks are critical, and part of the necessary steps in preventing spread of the virus. Masks are more than an option, they’re outright essential. This new practice (for most of us, that is) of wearing masks can carry some level of insecurities and anxiety but only until you realize how much such measures are needed. Other stones are providing compliments to those taking the safety measures of wearing masks, proving cautious and considerate has become the new fashionable.

A small reminder of the space between us. Photo by Thomas Brennan

Many of the messages on these Kindness Rocks are tied into empowering boosts such as “BE BRAVE” and “ONE STEP AT A TIME.” Though there are more specific references and compliments amongst the bunch. A pair of kindness rocks with a paw print and a heart were put alongside the memorial treat bucket in honor of the late Commonwealth Mall dog, Woodrow. Seeing the memory of a resident dog treated so kindly and paid such kind tribute is more than heartwarming for any passersby, whether they are walking their own dog or not.

Boston has always been a sports centric city as well. Sports events have been the lifeblood of people coming together and enjoying an ongoing event. Even with sports seasons shut down it’s no surprise symbols of Patriots and the Celtics mascots are scattered amongst the kindness rocks, one even calling for the return of a certain high-profile athlete.

The Celtics get some love.
The quarterback formerly known as TB12 gets some love.
And the Patriots’ “Flying Elvis” fits on a Kindness Rock. Photos by Thomas Brennan

Most people have been practicing social distancing for only a few weeks, but these iconic ladies of Boston history, Abigail Adams, Lucy Stone, and Phillis Wheatley have been seemingly practicing social-distancing since they first returned to Commonwealth avenue 18 years ago. The three women have always been symbols of the great power and potential of the people of Boston. Set several feet apart the statues have been one of the prolific landmarks for the women’s history of Boston.

Sensible even in the figure, the Boston Women’s Memorial is a picture of social distancing.
Ah, Abigail Adams always had a great deal of sense.
Poet Phillis Wheatley showed courage more than 250 years ago and some support for those vulnerable populations.

The Wheatley statue carries that message in another kindness rock with writing “BE THE CHANGE YOU WISH TO SEE” placed alongside Phyllis’s quill, representing her groundbreaking work as a poet during the Revolution. 

Lucy Stone, suffragist, abolitionist, and orator, was known for her no-nonsense style in the mid-19th century and her statue is showing some practicality today. Photos by Thomas Brennan

Even as statues these women are still making history as the first statues to don face masks, reminding passersby the necessity of minimizing the spread of germ transmission. They apparently started a trend amongst other statues in Boston: Antonio Mendez’s statue, Teammates, depicting Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr, Johnny Pesky, and Don DiMaggio is also ready for action with the famed baseball stars sporting bandanas as well as baseball caps. 

The Teammates outside Fenway Park. Here’s hoping that social distancing gives us even a truncated season at the old ballyard on Van Ness Street. Photo by Thomas Brennan

Boston’s spirit is still going strong even in these tumultuous times. These kindness stones and additions to local statutes might be small features, but they’re powerful symbols and reminders for the people of Boston. These efforts display that ultimately the way forward is founded in optimism, practicality, caution and strong will of a united community.

For more information on the Kindness Rock Project, click here.

 

By Thomas Brennan

In the difficult times we all face going forward with “social distancing,” it can get to the point where certain activities run tiresome and the streaming service runs low on fun accessible content. It never hurts to take a step outside one’s comfort zone. It might even be possible to find something to keep going even after this phase the world is going through moves on.

READING: There’s nothing more basic and enjoyable than a good book. Whether it’s something wholly new or revisiting an old favorite, every book is a world of its own. Reading essential pastime that can be occasionally overlooked in modern times. A bit of a plot twist considering its possible to read anything now with e-books and access to various online libraries. There’s plenty of great new releases of any genre, from literary classics like Moby Dick to the newest Stephen King novel, almost anything is readily available to enjoy at your own leisure. 

BOARD GAMES: A childish pastime to some, but that just means it’s a further opportunity for fun if you have a couple of restless kids in the house. Puzzles as well as traditional fare – Jenga, Candy Land, Clue – are all fun and lightly competitive games that can help whittle away time easily. Having a little competition is an easy way to fill the hours with rich fun, You can even for more intellectual strategic games in chess, checkers, scrabble and backgammon. Try taking a crack at Monopoly and the whole weekend is likely to disappear down Park Place. Say a person doesn’t have any material games available, you can access many games online through social media. It’s possible to play a game of Scrabble with a friend on the other side of the planet. 

BRAIN PUZZLES: This one is a little tied into the previous point, but is still relevant enough to have its own spot. Unlike boardgames plenty of puzzles run at the pace of the single person playing it. Games like Sudoku or crosswords puzzles can be a great challenge for the mind. The brain is always seeking things to preoccupy time and there’s plenty of Sudoku and crosswords in the newspaper and online. There’s even the option to turn the brain puzzles competitive; competing with family or roommates to see who can complete certain puzzle sets before the other. It’s possible to spend months on these activities, striving to improve thinking and problem-solving skills.

EXERCISE ROUTINE: A must in the times with a health crisis. Exercise is something everyone should be trying to find a way to practice. This can be rather simple or complicated depending on access to resources and equipment. If you have access to weights or a treadmill it’s a perfect way to work out in simple ways even with gyms closed. Even without equipment there’s workouts like sit-ups, push-ups, air kicks, or even just stretching. If you want to be especially ingenuitive there’s also the option of lifting like large containers of water in arm lifts. Any day spent moving is time well spent.

YOGA OR MEDITATION: A practice that requires patience, but is capable of yielding total serenity. For those dealing with heightened anxiety over the current state of the world outside their home, meditating can be a great option to center themselves. It doesn’t require anything besides a little space, enough quiet to focus and the willingness to look inward. For a lot of people slowing down can be a difficulty, but that just makes it a greater challenge and all that more of an accomplishment when overcoming it. It can be a great feeling to just seek a deeper sense of calm and inner peace.

MUSIC PRACTICE: This one more so requires access to a physical instrument. Working on honing the skills of guitar, piano, violin, drums or even chimes can take years of rigorous practice to master. Though with all the free time many have on their hands, now is as good a time to start. It’s doubtful anyone will stumble into being the next Freddie Mercury, though you might discover a talent, or even more rare than that, a passion. Sometimes there is merely fun to be found in merely trying to practice and creating a sound for the sake of the music itself.

SEWING AND CROCHET: An activity that requires supplies, but can still offer you something for your time that will last beyond the joy of the time spent on the activity itself. Sewing and crochet can be a great skill to hone. It’s a difficult ability to pick up as it relies on repetitive patterns, keen focus, consuming large amounts of time, but these exact factors can be great in yielding something to utilize one’s energy. It’s possible to make something small like a doily to as big as a couch cover. There can be a great sense of pride in seeing the products of labor, revisiting that sense of accomplishment in time spent finding focus through patience.

ORIGAMI: Folding paper might seem a ‘lil’ boring, but it’s actually quite a difficult skill to nail. It’s possible to fashion next to anything as simple as a paper airplane to as complicated as a unique structure. Colored paper is often a more fun choice, but it’s not a requirement by any margin. There are numerous shapes to work, creatures to make. Instructions for different designs are quite easy to access through online instructional videos. The only real risk in this activity is a papercut.

DRAWING: Illustrating can often be a skill where there is seemingly never any time to practice; thankfully there’s time to spare. The only question is if you have supplies available, and there are many instructional videos to start with for ways to develop the skill and a personal sense of artistic style. Even if pencil and paper aren’t in immediate supply there are online drawing and artistic programs to experiment with. It could range from something simple to mere edits of pre-existing pictures, to something wholly original.

WRITING: A pastime with endless possibilities. If you have an old notebook laying around or access to something to type, writing can be the best escape possible. Whether it’s just journaling and musing about things you miss or want to do in the future, either can be quite easing on the nerves. Having the time to spend alone to explore your own voice might be a little scary, but it’s a truly great way of looking inward and exploring yourself through journaling. There’s also the option to create an original story all your own; whether it’s just an everyday fiction or a whole fantasy universe, the only limits are what the individual person’s imagination sets.

ONLINE VIRTUAL ACTIVITIES: One thing that’s certain is that even in these difficult times there are people willing to step up and provide things to do and explore online. Various musicians are doing online concerts daily via Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube live. If music isn’t quite one’s forte, there’s various live tours being offered through various museums, art exhibits, animal farms and national parks. It’s possible through these means to see the full beauty of a national park or the entire closed off collection of a European historical museum. A lot of full explorations of sites most people wouldn’t be able to reach are being offered readily to everyone. It’s a great show of the capability of technology to be able to bring the world to people even when stuck at home.

 

By Thomas Brennan

In light of the recent events keeping us all inside and deprived of more public forms of entertainment. Here’s a list of 10 shows that are best to binge while stuck at home:

Parks & Recreation, Netflix

A Comedy that defines Classic. While this show may have wrapped five years ago and never got the praise it was worthy of in its time on air; it went on to launch the careers of some of the most popular and respected names in entertainment today Amy Poehler, Audrey Plaza, Nick Offerman, and Chris Pratt. The show is a testament to the workplace comedies. On a deeper level, the show always manages to find the idea there is fun to be had in friends and doing good for your community.

Veep, HBO

It’s rare to see a show able to balance a comedy in a setting based around politics, let alone do it well enough to deliver one of the best crack-up series of the 2010s. If Julia Louis Dreyfus had not solidified her position as the queen of comedy in any of her previous works, she does it here. The show highlights the back handed immature handling of politics. Every barb that the show throws out is a crackup. The wider ensemble is brimming with talent and always find a way to distinguish themselves with their own brand of witty cruelty. The series evolves, or rather devolves, from highlighting how the incompetence of government inner workings, to showing how greed and power are a path that leads nowhere; when you pursue power for the sake of no one but your own sake, you’re truly left with nothing. 

I am Not Okay With This, Netflix

This new Netflix show is tough to place genre wise. On the surface it seems like a more copy and paste of the uncontrollably powered psychic girl trope seen in countless other pieces of media. Despite the trappings of the show’s concept, I am Not Okay With This still manages to often subvert its own premise; bringing out something almost boundary pushing with just the smallest steps. It doesn’t build a sense of fear of a greater external horror like similar shows. but a more relatable internal fear of losing control of one’s self that is neatly tied into the messy plight of being a teenager.

The Witcher, Netflix

Toss a coin to your Netflix account, cause The Withcher is another must see. Henry Cavil leads the brutal fantasy series as the monster hunter Geralt, the titular Witcher. The series is endearing and entertaining on a number of levels. Each of the three storylines that goes on carries a weight of real danger, fun, and adventure. It sometimes seems to stumble on bigger themes, but always lands on its feet with solid character writing and strong performances. The choreography of certain scenes and battles are absolutely cinematic. The Witcher likely would have landed higher on this list were it not for it’s very out of sorts timeline that can be vexing to almost anyone and has been a major point of criticism for the show. 

Grace & Frankie, Netflix

A comedy that’s simple on the surface, but elicits both laughs and tears for people all ages. shows no matter how old you are it’s possible to make someone laugh. The whole ensemble of the titular women’s families is delightful, but Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin’s chemistry carries this show. The back-and-forth between these two characters is as likely to make viewers bust out giggling as they are to shed tears. Every episode brings a new rush of joy in what will be Grace and Frankie’s next endeavor. The core of this show, and likely why it relates to audiences young and old, is the fact it says nobody is too old to make a friend or a change.

The Dragon Prince, Netflix

From the minds that created the masterpiece of Avatar: The Last Airbender, comes The Dragon Prince. Don’t let the fact it’s animated let you dismiss this phenomenal world and story. It’s a fantasy series of children of opposing sides uniting to try and to end the war their parents and forefathers started. The story manages to capture the creativity and gravitas of Game of Thrones, but still be a joy to watch for both kids and adults. It pushes the envelope, catches the imagination, and pulls in the viewer with mature character work. It handles topics like grief from loss, the cost of war and hate, alongside the way friendship and love knows no borders. If you choose to pick up The Dragon Prince, be sure to also watch the end credits for Easter eggs, profound and relevant of things to come in this groundbreaking adventure.

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Amazon Prime

The best adjective to describe this show is right there in the title. The show’s wit and humor are so sharp it makes a bed broadswords seem as soft as a pillow. The central story builds off the career launch of the title character’s comic act after being dealt the surface level idea of the worst blow a woman of her time could endure in divorce; but Mrs. Maisel is as indomitable as she is marvelous. The rest of the cast packs humor and fun in tight paced and perfect delivery. Every beat of dialogue is a laugh. The set work determination to nail the ear of the 50’s is a sensation in itself and will arise nostalgia for older audience members. The best joke is on the viewer is it perfectly presents the concept that failure can just be the greatest opportunity that can knock on your door. 

The Boys, Amazon Prime

Worn out from the constant peddling of recycled material from the superhero genre. The Boys have you covered. Don’t let the show’s simple title fool you, The Boys packs a punch as powerful as an evil star-spangled Superman. This show itself likely wouldn’t have the same resonance if our current world if we didn’t have the Marvel cinematic universe. The Boys highlights in the most horrifying way what a world with superheroes would look like. The depravity of a world of people with god like power is on full display in this show from the first episode. This isn’t a story of hope and heroics, rather the show works to peel off the human evil underneath. The show tackles relevant issues to our own world as well and handles its political themes with deep thought and nuance. It at times has a little too much fun with its more mature tone and freedom, but it’s still a perfect watch for anyone looking to see heroes taken down a peg.

Harley Quinn, DC Universe

The most surprising breakout show of the year. Harley Quinn, produced by Kaley Cuoco, who also voices the titular character, has found its way to be one of the most hilarious and emotionally resonant series in years. The show brings a graphic level to animation, blood and violence abound, but the series never gets bogged down in its more brutal elements. The show always finds clever ways to be humorous and action packed. Interestingly, past all the profuse amounts of blood and liberal use of cursing, the show’s heart is in its characters and deeper themes. Harley Quinn tackles issues like coping with abusive relationships, sexism in the work field, and learning to trust after trauma in ways that grip the soul itself. It’s a must see show that shakes the very idea of what animation and television can be.

The Good Place, Netflix

Just another classic crafted by the genius of Michael Schur. The show has just concluded its four-season run, ending the story of four dumpster fires of human beings evolving into better people even after they’ve died. The Good Place has cemented itself one of the greatest and most intelligent comedies of all time. It’s a show that is not just content to be hysterical with top notch performances from its talented cast. It raises deep philosophical questions about the nature of humanity and what being good truly means. The Good Place is never afraid to shine a light on their characters and their flaws, showing how hard it is to be good, but still standing by the theme doing good is worth it in itself. The saddest thing to say about this show is that it was so short compared to most serialized television, though this is also one of its greatest strengths. The series delivers its message of optimism in the nature of humanity in perfect fashion before saying one final and truly bittersweet goodbye.

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By Thomas Brennan

Based on a real-life, 1960s, bank heist pulled off by four criminals, the chase by a corrupt law enforcement officer, and the siege where the criminal protagonists make their final stand, Plata Quemada is a play that carries itself on both strong performances and bold direction with its integration of graphic novel elements.

It at first seems like a production where there are no heroes, only a story where each character who enters is competing to be even harsher than the last. This production isn’t content to do that though. It takes its time in humanizing the criminal protagonists while never fully justifying the atrocious actions or depriving them of consequence. The story builds a sense of intimacy and rawness in the criminals’ dynamics. It’s obvious how awful and dark these characters are and that they’re still relying on one another like a castaway to wreckage. Each of the actors play multiple roles in the story, and though it can be hard to track at certain moments, each performance is always either a gut-punch or a heart-wrench in some form.

Plata Quemada is the latest play of the season, adapted from Ricardo Piglia’s novel, and at the Emerson Paramount theatre from March 11 to 15. Directed by Juan Carlos Zagal and is produced by Teatrocinema, which Zagal co-founded.

All of the technical aspects of the production are as much a delight as the performances themselves. The graphic novel elements and animation on a stage seems like a risky concept, but this technical choreography works. The use of lighting and the backscree are done to a masterful degree. From the starting scene it’s obvious the power this play will have with its use of props, angles and lighting. It brings a dynamic and energetic movement to what could have been otherwise straightforward and less interesting scenes. 

The only thing that distracted was the use of subtitles. The choice to assure all the spoken lines were kept in Spanish was definitely the right move as it kept the feel of the production authentic in a historical context and made it feel more immersive. In certain moments the subtitles kept from giving full focus on the performances. It was surprising the play never went the route of word bubbles as traditional graphic novels do; potentially adding even more to the play from the medium they’re pulling inspiration from and sidestepping more inherent issues with subtitles altogether. 

The film is provocative and mature in its portrayal of violence, but it balances itself that while it pushes the envelope, that it never feels like a line is crossed unnecessarily. The climax is heartfelt while still feeling like an inevitable path for the story. The end message and its motif of the burning money was also incredibly poignant. It creates the question of how material wealth is able to incite more anger in the populace than the actual gruesome loss of human life along the criminals violent trail.

Plata Quemada is definitely a unique piece with a strong message that amounts to an absolute must see for anyone looking for a great show.

 

SAN DIEGO – Six days brought the film world to San Diego as the 18th installment of the San Diego International Film Festival stole the focus from Los Angeles last week and saw the Southern California premiere of several films that are already generating award season buzz.

That hum intensified into a roar with the red-carpet arrivals of actors Jared Harris, fresh off the Emmy Award-success of the mini-series Chernobyl, and prolific performer Laurence Fishburne.

Things kicked off on Tuesday, Oct. 15, at downtown’s Balboa Theater with a screening of the controversial and much-lauded satiric sendup Jojo Rabbit and the festival closed on Sunday, Oct. 20, with Marriage Story, an emotional domestic drama. In a bit of a plot twist, both films star Scarlett Johansson, but the similarities end there.

These Southern California premieres bracketed a lineup that included a wide range of 107 full-length films, with five in the narrative spotlight competition, 20 in the narrative contest, nine in the documentary competition, and almost 70 short films, combining major regional premieres with a focus on social and environmental issues, Variety reported. The festival is produced by the nonprofit San Diego Film Foundation.

As always, the festival offered an array of social gatherings, including its “Night of the Stars Tribute”, which this year honored actor Fishburne, Harris, and others. The festival returned to the Pendry San Diego hotel and ArcLight La Jolla theater, and the 2019 box office was at the Gaslamp Quarter in the stunning multi-level Theatre Box, in downtown San Diego, which opened in June.

At the “Night of the Stars Tribute,” Fishburne received the Gregory Peck Award for Cinematic Excellence, Pitbull received the Music Icon Award, Lindsay Wagner received the Humanitarian Award, Harris received the Cinema Vanguard Award, Jillian Bell received the Fairbanks Award, and Camila Morrone receiving the Rising Star Award.

Terri Stanley, Laurence Fishburne and Jared Harris

Harris, whose fans have launched a campaign to have him be the next James Bond, was a dynamic presence on Friday night charming both on the red carpet and in the VIP party. Another notable attendee was Bell, star of the wonderful film Brittany Runs a Marathon, who clearly is making a name for herself.

Yes, Laurence and Jared were in the same room and we even sneaked a photograph of them with styleboston/LeftCoast.LA creator Terri Stanley. “It was such a pleasure to meet both Laurence and Jared, but I have to admit I am smitten with the latter,” Stanley said. “Loved him in Mad Men, The Crown and most recently, Chernobyl. I told him the story of my connection to Chernobyl–the explosion happened on the day of my wedding, April 26, 1986. Our honeymoon was in Italy and Greece and the skies over Italy were very grey! When Laurence made his way over to Jared to say hello it was very sweet the way he spoke to him, genuinely thrilled to see him.”

Stellan Skarsgard and Jared Harris in Chernobyl. PHOTO COURTESY OF HBO

“I’m still overwhelmed that I would be given something called the ‘Gregory Peck’ award. He was singular,” Fishburne told local FOX station. The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that Fishburne received the award from Peck’s daughter, Cecelia, who was sitting with San Diegan Geri Warnke, a close friend and former board president of the La Jolla Playhouse, which Peck co-founded.

Among the VIP crowd were representatives from the major sponsors including the Pendry, a new Montage brand, financial powerhouse Morgan Stanley, and luxe automaker Maserati.

The 2019 edition of the festival had a global reach and a social-justice conscience. The festival received more than 3,000 submissions from 68 countries, including feature films, shorts and documentaries. Panel topics ranged from technology and streaming services and what lies ahead for digital platforms while others included “Unstoppable Women” and “Social Impact.” SDIFF screened films from Brazil, Congo, France, Indonesia, Japan, Romania, and South Korea.

Most of the film showings were followed by Q&As with their casts and crews, something that sets the festival apart with attendees having access to many filmmakers.

On Oct. 19, the festival presented “Filmmaker Awards Show & Party” at the Pendry. The competitive categories included narrative (fictional) and documentary. After receiving nearly 70 short films, the competition was divided into categories: “Twisted Humor,” “San Diego Scene,” and “Global Consciousness.”

The winners of the SDIFF competitions were: 100 Days to Live, best world premiere; Angelique’s Isle, Kumeyaay award; Babysplitters, best comedy; Breaking Their Silence, best documentary; The Steed, best feature film; Inside Game, best ensemble cast; Safe Spaces, artistic director’s award; Love In Kilnerry, best original screenplay; Philophobia, best global cinema; Portraitist, best international short film; Riptide, best animation, Safe Inside, best thriller feature; Long Time Listener, First Time Caller, best short film; Sonora, best student film, and, Flourish, best local film.

In addition to the screenings at the Pendry and Theatre Box, ArcLight La Jolla hosted the SDIFF’s popular “Culinary Cinema” on Oct. 20, which paired the screenings with delicacies provided by top local chefs.

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LOS ANGELES, CA — An Emerson College student turned instructor has been recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (the “Oscar” people).

Georden West is one of 16 students as winners of the 46th Student Academy Awards competition for the film Patron Saint. For 2019, the Student Academy Awards competition received a total of 1,615 entries from 255 domestic and 105 international colleges and universities, which were voted upon by a record number of Academy members, according to an Academy press release.  The 2019 winners join the ranks of such past Student Academy Award winners as Patricia Cardoso, Pete Docter, Cary Fukunaga, Spike Lee, Trey Parker, Patricia Riggen, and Robert Zemeckis.

West was recognized in the category: Alternative/Experimental (Domestic and International Film Schools).

West (Emerson MFA ’18) used a number Emerson students in making Patron Saint, which reimagines religion and history as queer deities wearing Jamall Osterholm’s fashions interact with a mystical landscape, according to an Emerson College news story. The film was West’s graduate thesis project.

Hao Zheng (Emerson ’15), who attended a graduate program at the American Film Institute, was among those recognized in the Narrative (Domestic Schools) category for The Chef. 

 “I am so immensely honored to be recognized by the Academy and extremely proud of my crew – all of whom I met while at Emerson and remain my closest and dearest collaborators,” West, also an affiliated faculty member in the Visual and Media Arts Department, said for the Emerson website.

“Taking the risks that are necessary to convey and heighten concepts of underrepresented creatives within the fashion industry is something that makes [Georden] so special,” said Osterholm, a Rhode Island School of Design graduate and former Project Runway contestant. “Through [Georden’s] collaboration with myself and many other queer, LGBTQ+ creatives, [their] rise into the highest spaces of excellence is paving way for our community to be recognized and respected.”

Zheng’s The Chef is set in a world where human workers are being replaced by humanoid robots. Pu, a Chinese chef, is ordered to pass along his cooking skills to his humanoid replacement, according to Emerson’s website.

Medal placements — gold, silver and bronze — in the seven award categories will be revealed October 17 in a ceremony at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills.

This year’s winning films are also eligible to compete for this year’s Oscar competition in the Animated Short Film, Live Action Short Film or Documentary Short Subject categories. Past winners have garnered 62 Oscar nominations and won or shared 12 awards, according to Deadline.

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Styleboston creator Terri Stanley talked to American Repertory Theater Artistic Director Diane Paulus in 2009 for the TV show’s “Power Player” segment.

CAMBRIDGE – After 10 years and tons (probably, literally) of glitter, The Donkey Show will end its run this week at the American Repertory Theater’s Club Oberon on the fringes of Harvard Square.

The immersive theatrical experience was part of Artistic Director Diane Paulus’ first season in the “Shakespeare Exploded” festival that also included The Best of Both Worlds and Sleep No More, which took over a school in Brookline.

Paulus created The Donkey Show with her husband, theater producer Randy Weiner, and they staged it Off-Broadway in 1999 to rave reviews.

During its run at the ART, the show was extended because of popular demand and later moved to weekends only, where it continued as a destination stop for brides-to-be and superfans. The Boston Globe’s Meredith Goldstein documented the show’s long run. The show succeeded in at least one area, Goldstein writes, it attracted audiences considerably younger than had been seen at the ART.

The show’s closing also opens a coveted timeslot for local or smaller productions and marks a new chapter for Oberon.

Styleboston’s host and creator Terri Stanley interviewed Paulus prior to The Donkey Show’s opening as one of the TV show’s “Power Player” segments. (See clip above.) This segment originally aired 10 years ago this month.

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