Category: The Arts

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 

IMAGE VIA AMAZON

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? 

IMAGE VIA AMAZON

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 

IMAGE VIA AMAZON

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 

IMAGE VIA AMAZON

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

IMAGE VIA AMAZON

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

IMAGE VIA AMAZON

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 

our town cover

IMAGE VIA AMAZON

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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Finally! A Book Club Anyone Can Join Anywhere

“Introvert Happy Hour”. Three words that Guinevere de la Mare would use to describe the Silent Book Club. Bookstr had the chance to (virtually and cross-coastal) sit down with the group’s founders and get an SBC blurb.

Silent Book Club is a renowned hobby-turned-business that longtime friends Laura Gluhanich and Guinevere started back in 2012. What began as two friends carving out reading time in their busy lives, grew into an ever-expanding organization of groups of readers meeting to read together, in public, in silence. According to the founders themselves, SBC is an easy, low-friction way for people to connect with a shared passion.

The Silent Book Club has an origin story worthy of a New York Times bestselling novel. Laura and Guinevere are both incredibly busy women and in 2012, they decided to meet at a local bar in San Francisco, committing to reading at least one chapter of the books they had on the go at the time. They followed this up with gossiping and chatting, before deciding to make it a regular occurrence. Guinevere herself even harks back to the early days of SBC as “an excuse to have a glass of wine!” Whenever Laura or Guinevere posted on their social media about their meet-up, they deployed an instagram hashtag. Friends started asking to come along, and for the first year or two, it was a core group of ten or so. When a friend moved to New York, they decided to co-ordinate bi-coastal meetings, using their trusty hashtag to virtually link up.

 

 

This new chapter starting up in Brooklyn, alongside another in L.A., was “the seed that put it [Silent Book Club] into the world”. Afterwards, a Facebook group was launched, along with a website. Suddenly SBC was not just a core group of friends, but strangers started joining and the group took on a life of its own. The growth hasn’t stopped since.

image via silent book club

In February of 2019, Silent Book Club was featured on Oprah’s website – that’s right THE Oprah. Later the same year, in August, they were featured in an NPR article. This article, in particular, caused an explosion of growth. Within six weeks, they had doubled the number of active chapters. Positive press, alongside word of mouth, have benefited Silent Book Club immensely, allowing for continual growth and movement from strength to strength.

What this growth meant for Laura and Guinevere is that they now had an organization to run. Luckily, as self-professed “tech veterans”, they were no strangers to start-ups. Their familiarity with that world gave them expertise they could tap into. Most importantly, they both had experience in building communities and at the end of the day, Silent Book Club is one big reading community, connected by a shared love of books.

The community aspect is hugely important to the group’s founders, and requires active effort. Guinevere points out that the twitter community of readers (or book twitter) used to be a wonderful, nurturing, intellectual and funny space, before it was “eaten alive by marketing and all that it is now”. Silent Book Club tries to avoid the same fate, keeping the ethos of understanding and lack of judgement paramount. Judgement does sometimes come externally, though, but the people that are scornful of the groups or look down on them generally don’t come out from behind their online avatars.

 

 

A Silent Book Club, while not stringent in its execution, does follow a formula. Turn up, order (or not), take a seat, have a chat, an hour of reading, and maybe some more chat. The administrative side of operations has its own formula, too. When you join the network, you have to agree to some guidelines. Rule number one is Be Kind and that stays true online. On their Facebook page, all members answer screening questions, are monitored for spam and all posts are pre-approved. Guinevere points out that neither she or Laura have any qualms about kicking people out if they aren’t adhering or are being rude as “Facebook is not a public town square” for arguments. The group share a set of core beliefs and acceptance is one of the most important aspects. “All readers are welcome, even e-readers!” Now that’s truly inclusive.

 

image via pinterest

While book clubs often have a stereotype of being inherently female, the SBC has a more balanced demographic. Their London chapter is fronted by a male organizer and he is one of the longest running organizers of the group. By taking the pressure of an assigned book off, the book club is opened up to a lot of different people with different interests. Publishing and book selling or buying is often skewed towards women, but as Guinevere points out; “men read”. The SBC offers a space for anyone and everyone, so long as you come bearing a book!

 

The group’s founders find it rewarding to see the spread of Silent Book Club, and to see how many people it impacts. Laura and Guinevere also cite their continued connection as one of the best things to come out of their hobby-turned-business. Starting a business with a friend can destroy a relationship but theirs has flourished. Every once in a while, they even meet up just the two of them like the days of SBC yore.

 

Guinevere and laura | image via silent book club

The Silent Book Club has over 250 chapters in twenty-seven countries. Check out the crew in Pasadena, Innsbruck, Fort Wayne, New York, Newport, Geneva, London.

Take a look at their finder here to find one nearby, and if you can’t, start your own – bring a little slice of the Silent Book Club community to your own city! One thing is for sure, the SBC is only going up, and we for one, can’t wait to see their trajectory.

Featured image via read it forward

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Top 10 Literary Places to Explore in NYC!

January and February are the coldest and toughest months in New York, and if you’re feeling the blues, we got some good news to cheer you up! Because, guess what, now is the perfect time to huddle around and explore the best literary places this magnificent city has to offer all you book nerds out there! So, without further adieu, here’s a big list to keep you busy!

1. The new york public library

image via the nation

The main branch of the NYPL lives up to its hype and is just as magnificent as you would imagine. They hold interesting exhibits frequently enough and the Rose Main Reading Room is beautiful and worth a visit just to get lost in the architecture, and of course — the books!

2. the morgan library and museum

image via conde nast traveler

If you haven’t heard of this magnificent library yet, you need to change that right now! They have ongoing exhibitions all year round, including Walt Whitman, Charles Dickens and many more. Also, fun fact: Did you know this library actually belonged to the famous J.P Morgan, and was opened to the public by J.P Morgan Jr? Well, now you do!

 

3. strand book store

image via downtown magazine

Strand! Everyone’s heard of the famous bookstore and its 18 miles of books, but did you also know that they have a whole floor dedicated to banned books? How awesome is that? Also, they host frequent events, so check out their calendar to be in the loop!

4. poets house

image via pinterest

If you’re a fan of poetry, you’ll love Poets House! It’s literally a massive poetry library, free and open to the public, located in Tribeca. It has over 70,000 volumes of poetry (insane, I know!) and hosts awesome events all year round.

5. edgar allen poe cottage

image via nycgo

Fans of “The Raven” can gather around and make their way to The Bronx, where Edgar Allen Poe’s cottage still exists! Poe spent the last years of his life there and the park where its located is actually called Poe Park, how neat! It’s open to the public and gathers tons of tourists all year long, and you could be one of them too!

6. the jefferson market library

image via millie fiori

This location of the New York Public Library was actually a courthouse originally, and has served the Greenwich Village community for over 50 years! And also, the Jefferson Market Library is now considered a national monument as well, so definitely worth a visit!

 

7. bluestockings

image via bluestockings

Bluestockings is a volunteer-initiative based and collectively-owned super cool, one of a kind bookstore! They also have a fair trade cafe, and an activist center, located in the LES. The store specializes in feminism, queer and gender studies, global capitalism, climate & environment and many other pressing issues– so we’re sure you’re dying to check it out, and you should!

8. forbidden planet

image via facebook

Calling all comic nerds! Forbidden Planet, located right next to Strand, is THE place for graphic novels, figurines and T-shirts! So feel free to head your way over there and geek out to your hearts content!

9. housing works bookstore cafe

image via wikipedia

Housing Works Bookstore Cafe and Bar is a non-profit, donation based bookstore, run solely by volunteers and their proceeds go towards people affected by homelessness and AIDS. So, every time you purchase a book or a baked good from there, know that you’re giving back to the society directly! And if the great cause wasn’t a good enough reason to visit the store, know that it’s also gorgeous inside!

10. drunk shakespeare

image via nytimes

If you haven’t seen this radical show in performance yet, can you even call yourself a literary enthusiast? Drunk Shakespeare is exactly as enticing as it sounds. One actor shoots five shots of whiskey, then attempts to act as the lead in a performance of a Shakespeare play, while the other four try to keep up. It’s rowdy, literary, and wildly entertaining, and trust us when we say that you don’t want to miss this!

So, while this list keeps you busy, we’ll go compile some more cool stuff for you to do, so these dreary months don’t feel as long! Until then, keep reading!

featured image via the crazy tourist


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Sex, Drugs and Greek Rock and Roll

George Gordon Byron, referred to these days as simply Lord Byron, was one of the leading poets of the English Romantic period. Born on this day 232 years ago in 1788, he died aged 36. Byron was known for being subversive, racy and more than a bit eccentric – and just wait until you hear about his pet in college.

Byron was born in London to parents Catherine Gordon and Captain John “Mad Jack” Byron. Mad Jack married heiress Catherine, allegedly for her money. He gambled most of her fortune and fathered George before then dying in 1791. Rumors circulated that he had a grisly end, but tuberculosis is more likely.

 

One thing that Byron was known for, both in the 1800s and today, was his rampant promiscuity and his hazy sexuality. Like a lot of other literary heroes (looking at YOU, Joyce), he got it on with many people, to the detriment of his own health, and he was diagnosed with syphilis and gonorrhea by the time he turned twenty-one. His romantic history includes a roster of relatives, like cousin Mary Chaworth and half-sister Augusta. While in education he experimented with young men, young women, not-so-young married women. Basically, he was busy.

thinkin’ bout boys (and girls) via wikipedia

Always the rebel, Byron was constantly breaking rules and basically being the O.G. Romantic Bad Boy. One of his lovers once described him as “Mad, bad and dangerous to know”. You know the type. He’ll write you poetry one day but break your heart two weeks later by asking your sister out (or his own, apparently). He is said to have enjoyed scaring people or making them uncomfortable. Allegedly, he had a tame bear during his time at Cambridge that he would walk around campus. This was in answer to his college denying his request to have a dog. Disclaimer: Bookstr does NOT recommend this as a method of working around your dorm’s pet allowances!

 

Since Byron was so busy ahem, dallying, with so many people, it should come as no surprise that he fathered a few children. He had some rumored, out-of-wedlock children, like Allegra Byron, alongside legitimate daughter Ada Lovelace. Allegra sadly died of typhus, aged 5. Ada, however,  grew to be one of the first software developers, having worked on very early computer software, a.k.a the Analytical Engine.

image via brittanica

Aside from writing, shocking and sinning, Byron’s other passion was Greece. No, not the 1978 classic film, the country. George donated a lot of his own fortune to the revolution in Greece. A War of Independence was being fought and Byron wanted to take part and fight alongside them against the Ottoman Empire. Sadly, he caught a terrible cold while abroad and it was a resultant fever that took him out in the end.

 

Bad Boy Lord Byron is celebrated today as a true Romantic poet. His narrative works Don Juan – all seventeen cantos of it!! -and Childe Harolde are renowned still. He moved in some seriously impressive circles, staying with the Shelleys in Italy as Frankenstein was being concocted. Despite his debauchery and his less-than-savory hobbies, he was passionate about his craft and wrote some beautiful poems which still resonate in a more modern age.

image via pinterest

Happy Birthday, Byron! Were he alive today, we have little doubt that his birthday bash would be of the strip club and shots kind. After all, he wasn’t Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know for nothing!


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Featured image via Poetry Foundation

 

 

 

 

Bookstr’s Three to Read This Week 10/15/19

Autumn is here. It’s getting cold outside, the sun is sinking below the horizon earlier and earlier. The sand on the beach is easier to walk across barefoot, yes, but the water is freezing. All the pools are closing, all the water parks are closed. It’s depressing, but think about the bright side: all the leaves are changing, giving us a rainbow of colors.

And just as the leaves fall, we’d like to fall into a great book.

Check out Bookstr’s Three to Read, the three books we’ve picked for you to read this week!

OUR HOT PICK

Movies (And Other Things) by Shea Serrano

 

 

Synopsis:

Movies (And Other Things) is a book about, quite frankly, movies (and other things).

One of the chapters, for example, answers which race Kevin Costner was able to white savior the best, because did you know that he white saviors Mexicans in McFarland, USA, and white saviors Native Americans in Dances with Wolves, and white saviors Black people in Black or White, and white saviors the Cleveland Browns in Draft Day?

Another of the chapters, for a second example, answers what other high school movie characters would be in Regina George’s circle of friends if we opened up the Mean Girls universe to include other movies (Johnny Lawrence is temporarily in, Claire from The Breakfast Club is in, Ferris Bueller is out, Isis from Bring It On is out…). Another of the chapters, for a third example, creates a special version of the Academy Awards specifically for rom-coms, the most underrated movie genre of all. And another of the chapters, for a final example, is actually a triple chapter that serves as an NBA-style draft of the very best and most memorable moments in gangster movies.

 

Why?

We hyped this book up and boy did it not disappoint. Following Serrano’s Basketball (and Other Things), which notably made Barack Obama’s 2017 year-end list, Shea Serrano’s Movies (and Other Things) is a must-have for any movie lover, pop culture aficionado, or someone who just wants to read a great book instead of a good book. This book puts each piece of media in its proper place in the pop culture sphere. I can’t in the right mind tell you this book is a page-turner, because it either had me laughing so hard I could barely finish a page or I had to stop and take in something truly poignant. As Serrano himself jokingly said, “Please buy a copy of it or go to hell.”

 

 

Our COFFEE SHOP Read

Not Our Kind by Kitty Zeldis

 

 

Synopsis:

With echoes of Rules of Civility and The Boston Girl, a compelling and thought-provoking novel set in postwar New York City, about two women—one Jewish, one a WASP—and the wholly unexpected consequences of their meeting.

One rainy morning in June, two years after the end of World War II, a minor traffic accident brings together Eleanor Moskowitz and Patricia Bellamy. Their encounter seems fated: Eleanor, a teacher and recent Vassar graduate, needs a job. Patricia’s difficult thirteen-year-old daughter Margaux, recovering from polio, needs a private tutor.

Though she feels out of place in the Bellamys’ rarefied and elegant Park Avenue milieu, Eleanor forms an instant bond with Margaux. Soon the idealistic young woman is filling the bright young girl’s mind with Shakespeare and Latin. Though her mother, a hat maker with a little shop on Second Avenue, disapproves, Eleanor takes pride in her work, even if she must use the name “Moss” to enter the Bellamys’ restricted doorman building each morning, and feels that Patricia’s husband, Wynn, may have a problem with her being Jewish.

Invited to keep Margaux company at the Bellamys’ country home in a small town in Connecticut, Eleanor meets Patricia’s unreliable, bohemian brother, Tom, recently returned from Europe. The spark between Eleanor and Tom is instant and intense. Flushed with new romance and increasingly attached to her young pupil, Eleanor begins to feel more comfortable with Patricia and much of the world she inhabits. As the summer wears on, the two women’s friendship grows—until one hot summer evening, a line is crossed, and both Eleanor and Patricia will have to make important decisions—choices that will reverberate through their lives.

 

Why?

Gripping and wonderfully compelling, this tale weaves together themes of friendship, class, prejudice, and love expertly with the care and skill of a seamstress. The period piece details engross you—from the clothes, the glamour, the excitement, the feeling of 1947 New York. The characters live and breath 1947 New York and have a rich history, yet at the same time, Zeldis manages to effortlessly craft a story that not only fits the decade it’s set in, but transcend it.

 

 

Our DARK HORSE

Inheritance by Evelyn Toynton

 

 

Synopsis:

After the sudden death of her husband, Annie Devereaux flees to England, site of the nostalgic fantasies her father spun for her before he deserted the family. A chance encounter in London leads Annie to cancel her return to New York and move in with Julian, the disaffected, moody son of Helena Denby, a famous British geneticist. As their relationship progresses, Annie meets Julian’s sisters Isabel and Sasha, each of them fragile in her own way, and becomes infatuated with visions of their idyllic childhood in England’s West Country. But the more she uncovers about Julian’s past, the more he explodes into rage and violence. Finally tearing herself away, Annie winds up adrift in London, rescued from her loneliness only when she and Isabel form an unexpected bond.

Slowly, with Isabel as her reluctant guide, Annie learns of the emotional devastation that Helena’s warped arrogance, her monstrous will to dominate, inflicted on her children. The family who once embodied Annie’s idealized conception of England is actually caught in a nightmare of betrayal and guilt that spirals inexorably into tragedy.

 

Why?

When you take away all the romance and all the illusions, what’s left of love? Is there any love? Or can love only survive on us not truly understanding our partner? Toynton’s third novel asks these questions and follows through to the answers and what it means for this disintegrating aristocratic family. A small story, the real drama comes from the family and how you could cut the tension with a knife in every scene, but are afraid to, because of how everything can shatter at a moment’s notice. Frighteningly intense, it explores class and the way we react, and don’t react, to tragedy when it hits us in the face.

 

 

All In-text Images Via Amazon.