Category: Non-Fiction

Celebrate National Theater Day With 7 Amazing Plays

As you may have seen all over your Instagram feed, today is National Theater Day! To celebrate all things theatrical, we’ve got seven great plays that definitely deserve a spot on your TBR (cast)list.

1. A street Car named desire 

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This play is the instant classic written by Tennessee Williams. It’s the story of how Blanche DuBois, the once beautiful, southern belle, is pushed over the edge by her brother-in law Stanley Kowalski. It’s not a story for the faint of heart, but it is very important in the canon of American theater.

2. Who’s Afraid of VIRGINIA Woolf? 

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Another play important in the American canon is Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? The play takes you into the dysfunctional lives of George and Martha. They are hosting a party for a new history professor and his wife. George and Martha use their new “play things” to stir up drama and expose the horrors of not only their own lives, but of the couple who just wanted to have a nice evening.

 

3. A raisin in the sun 

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Lorraine Hansberry’s classic A Raisin in the Sun is another book that all who love both great writing and great theater should read. The story is a bit of a tragic one, following an African-American working class family hoping to get out of the South-Side of Chicago. It gives a look into the aspirations and hopes, but also what can hold back a black family in the mid-20th century.

4. Medea 

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Medea is a Greek myth by Euripides, who’s english translations are done by Gilbert Murray. The myth is about a proud Amazonian women who’s left by her husband Jason. Jason leaves her to marry the kings daughter, so he himself can one day hold the throne. The short play is about Medea’s revenge, and execution of said revenge on her ex-husband.

5. Angels in America 

angels in america

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Tony Kushner’s Angels in America shows an insight into the horrors of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s. It follows the stories of three groups; a proud gay man with AIDS and the impact it has on him and his lover, the closeted Roy Cohen who has “liver cancer” (or so he says), based on the real-life figure, and a man in an unhappy marriage who’s slowly coming to terms with his sexuality.

6. The curious incident of the Dog in the night-Time 

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time book cover

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This modern play by Mark Haddon is on its way to becoming a classic for theater lovers. It tells the story of 15-year old Christopher Boone has Asperger’s Syndrome. Although living a very sheltered life, the boy is a whiz with numbers and mysteries. He observes his neighbor’s dog being killed one night, and that starts his journey to not only finding who killed the dog, but finding himself along the way.

 

7. Our town 

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Thornton Wilder’s Our Town is a glimpse into what living in a small town in America was like during the early 20th-century. The play, set in Grover’s Conner, New Hampshire, is split into three acts with the first act focusing on the daily happenings of the town, the second on love and marriage, and the third is the most grim, discussing death.

feature image via commentary magazine

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Inspirational Doctor and Author Has Six Tips For Productive Quarantine

Judy Ho, Ph. D., ABPP, ABPdN is a licensed and triple board-certified Clinical Neuropsychologist based in Los Angeles, a tenured Associate Professor at Pepperdine University, podcast host, and published author. As if that wasn’t impressive enough, she’s also a regular on the set of The Doctors. Inspirational both in her achievements, and her extensive resumé, she’s here with six amazing tips to help you adjust to the new normal!

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image via DR JUDY HO

The COVID-19 pandemic has a lot of us grappling with fear, stress, anxiety, grief, and feelings of being overwhelmed. With the new directives to practice social distancing (maintaining > 6 feet of physical distance from other people, or avoiding direct contact with people or objects—no hugs or handshakes—in public places during the current coronavirus outbreak to minimize exposure and reduce the transition of infection), we are urged to work from home, avoid gatherings of more than 10 people, and do so to protect ourselves and the larger community.

These directives, while imperative and clearly necessary, have direct tolls on our mental and physical health in addition to our growing fears of the unknown and the fact that news updates seem to present an everchanging picture each day. With no specific end in sight, the unknowns of how long this new normal will last and what it will look like as the situation unfolds is bound to cause heightened anxiety. Unknowns are very stressful for the human mind. We want to feel in control of our lives, as the more we feel is in our control, the more our chances for survival increases. The social distancing directives isolate from others, and we know that loneliness and perceived dissatisfaction with social interactions can wreak havoc on our well-being. Being in one place most or all of the time will also lead us to experience symptoms of cabin fever, lethargy, sadness, problems concentrating, irritability, feelings of being stuck, claustrophobia, and difficulty dealing with minor stressors.

To help us cope, here are some evidence-based tips on how we can make the most of these times, attend to our mental and physical wellness, and stay productive and motivated.

1. Take deep breaths and combat defeatist thinking

In these unprecedented times, it is easy to lose hope or feel absolutely inefficacious about how you can improve the circumstances. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by the challenges, take deep breaths. This resets your brain and body and tells it to chill out and veer away from a state of emergency or fight or flight. Then, manage any negative, catastrophic thinking. Thoughts are just mental events and not necessarily reflective of the truth, even when it feels that way! Try this evidence-based technique from the ACT literature called defusion. Whatever negative or catastrophic thought you are having, put the clause, “I am having the thought that …” in front of it. This takes the wind out of the sails of that negative thought just enough for you to feel more proactive and in charge of your life. So “I won’t be able to survive this” becomes “I am having the thought that I won’t be able to survive this.” This simple exercise of distancing from harmful thoughts without trying to change them is extremely helpful in helping to curb subsequent negative emotional or behavioral reactions.

 

2. Accept negative feelings and thoughts, and let them be

You are bound to have negative emotions right now, and one of them may be grief. Grief can be conjured not only be fears of death and dying (and this pandemic certainly has aroused that existential fear in many of us), but it can be about saying goodbye to a former type of lifestyle, the end of a job or career, the fracturing of relationships; all of which are possible outcomes many are dealing with during this uncertain time. Rather than grief processing occurring in stages, I actually think it’s a circle of grief. People don’t move linearly. When we grieve, we bounce back and forth between depression, denial, anger, acceptance, and bargaining. One day you might feel accepting of the situation, the next day when a news story hits, you are back to experiencing anger. And that emotional swing can be tough to manage, so we have to be kind to ourselves and allow these feelings to happen. Know that they are normal and that they won’t last forever. The more you struggle with feelings the longer they linger, but if you accept them as normal and fact, they tend to dissipate easier.

3. Find creative ways to socially engage

We are social animals and we need meaningful social engagement. We can do this by making sure we touch base with loved ones in real life by calls or video chat. This can be additionally bolstered by having a shared experience. For example, eat lunch or dinner with a loved one over video chat. Watch a movie together while on video chat and share commentary and opinions about the film during or after. Make sure you do this a few times a week.

4. Open the shades (and get outside)

Whenever possible, try to get outside, even for a few minutes a day, to take in the fresh air and the outdoors. Research shows this is especially effective in the morning hours to align with human beings’ circadian rhythm which can also help promote better quality sleep. If you are unable to get outside, open the shades. This can help ward off claustrophobia and boost your mood.

 

5. Avoid binge-watching anything (or binge video game-playing)

It would be so easy to pass the time with hours of Netflix or Call of Duty. But doing this can actually lead to feelings of depression and hopelessness, according to research. Limit yourself to two hours per day for video and media consumption. This would include leisure shows, the news, and social media.

6. Keep a routine

Routines are comforting to the human mind. Make sure you devise a daily routine that mimics what you did prior to social distancing directives. This means getting up at the same hour every day (set an alarm clock if you need to), showering and getting dressed as if you were going to work outside the home (and direct your children to do the same), and having “work hours” when you focus on industrious activities and “home hours” where you focus on family togetherness and relaxation.

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Bookspot of the Week: Blackwell’s Broad Street of Oxford

Although most retailers have temporarily shuttered their doors to the public in the wake of the pandemic, we still want to shine a light on some of the incredible bookspots around the world for you to visit when the travel ban is lifted. So cozy up with a warm tea and dive into our conversation with sales manager Dave Kelly of Blackwell’s Broad Street in Oxford.

How did your bookstore transition from concept to reality?

We opened over 140 years ago, so it’s a bit difficult to recollect, but I do know that it had been the dream of Benjamin Henry Blackwell to open a bookshop in Oxford even though some people in the book trade doubted the location opposite the Sheldonian Theatre and Bodleian Library. On opening an account with Macmillans, Frederick Macmillan said, “Very well Mr. Blackwell, we shall be pleased to open an account with you but I fear you have chosen the wrong side of the street to be successful.”

image via Blackwell’s

What do you feel is unique to your bookstore?

Many quirks, but most notably the Norrington Room which is a cavernous basement that runs beneath Trinity College offering over 3 miles of bookshelves. Many people come into our shop expecting it to be quite small but soon discover its vastness.

If you had infinite space, what might you add to the store?

Although we’re big, we’d always like more space for books… although, if I could do anything I would run an underground tunnel to our two dear neighbors the White Horse and the New Bodleian Library, providing swift access to both liquid and further literary refreshment.

 

How do you feel your bookstore fits into your local community?

Having been in Oxford for so long, which is such a book-loving city, we feel despite the competition that we are the natural second home of all local book lovers and visiting tourists and students.

What does your store offer that a chain or online retailer can’t?

The way our shop is particularly set up means that we have expertise across all subjects from translated fiction and poetry to religion and science, so we’re able to help readers of all ages and abilities. Our Classics bookseller has been with us for fifty years and knows as much as most Oxford Dons! Events are crucial for us, particularly our monthly ‘Philosophy in the Bookshop’ or annual theatre in the bookshop where the local Creation Theatre takes over the Norrington room and performs every evening.

image via Blackwell’s

Do you hand-pick your staff to create a specific environment?

Absolutely a love of books, bookshops, and recommendation is crucial and then we try to align each bookseller with their preferred subject area.

How else do you create a welcoming environment?

There’s a fine line between welcoming and offering assistance whilst allowing our visitors to browse in comfort. We feel as though we manage it well and want the shop to be their shop as much as it is ours.

What about your store do you think appeals to your neighborhood?

The sheer vast range of books, knowledge, and friendliness means that everyone can trust us with anything – quite often not even book related!

image via Blackwell’s

Do you have any staff picks or releases we should watch out for?

We’re slightly biased about Daisy Johnson as she used to be a bookseller with us, but she is truly outstanding, her first two books Fen and Everything Under were brilliant but her new book Sisters is a masterpiece – all our booksellers have been gripped by it and fighting (nicely) over proofreading copies.

Do you tailor your inventory according to your community?

Being so big, some customers expect us to have everything, which of course even we can’t – (although our neighbors the Bodleian Library do!) We’re still really lucky to be able to offer choice in all areas though, and part of my job is looking at trends in the shop and adapting the size of sections to suit what our customers want. We’ve recently expanded our Social Science and Philosophy sections, for example, and have provided a more prominent space for memoirs.

 

Is there anything else that you’d like our audience to know?

So many stories from our past, but every book lover should know that we used to also publish books and were the first publisher of J R R Tolkien for his children’s poem Goblin’s Feet. Dorothy Sayers used to be Sir Basil Blackwell’s secretary, too!

There you have it, our wonderful book spot of the week! Don’t you want to teleport there right now? If you have a book place that’s special to you too, contact us through any of our social media platforms and you might just see them here next week!

featured image via Blackwell’s 

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Strand Bookstore Shuts Due to Corona Virus

In the midst of the pandemic, a lot of workers are unfortunately being laid off, and Strand Bookstore, unfortunately, is no exception. The store closed its doors last week, until further notice. Now, due to the closure, and the unknown of how long this pandemic will last, the store had to lay off about 188 of their workers.

Image via Gothamist

The lay off is hopefully temporary, and the workers did get paid last week, but considering the store is independent, and has no money coming in right now, the store had no choice. When things are back to normal, they are hopeful that they can hire everyone back, bur for now, they only have twenty-four remaining employees. They thought they would be able to keep their online shop open, but as of Sunday night, the Governor put that on pause, so nothing can be shipped out of the store.

 

Barnes and Noble closed it’s doors over the weekend as well, along with many other bookstores. Right now the only stores open are ones that carry essential needs, like grocery stores and pharmacies. Amazon isn’t shipping books until the end of April, so readers have no choice but to use ebooks for now. The libraries are closed as well, so this is a sad time for book lovers, without access to any paper books, but right now, the important thing is staying indoors and washing your hands. In order for things to go back to normal faster, we have to follow the rules and do what’s best for ourselves and the world. A big round of applause to the essential workers who go to work every day to ensure our safety. It is unfortunate that workers are being laid off, but this shall pass. Stay safe!

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