Looking Back

School

After adding a handful of my papers and projects from graduate school, I went back and tracked down two papers from undergrad that I am still pretty proud of. Both are about Broadway and if you knew me during college, you’ll probably understand why. I spent a lot of time in Times Square during college. I love theatre and for a long time, I thought I was going to work in a field that somehow related to theatre. Well, until I took TV Newscast with Mike Ludlum, but that’s a different story.

My very first internship was at a Broadway press company, Boneau/Bryan-Brown, which represented what seemed like half the shows on the boards. Working there gave me the opportunity to see theatre from the other side of the curtain. Well, not quite the curtain. I didn’t get to do too much in the actual theaters (though I did go to one or two press preview events), but I got to see the nitty gritty stuff, like how the Playbills get made (an intern types in the bios) and how press photos are selected (the stars help decide). I even got to work the opening night party for Flower Drum Song. But mostly, I clipped mentions of the shows Boneau/Bryan-Brown represented, answered phones, filled ticket requests and compiled press kits. But in doing that, I also learned a ton about the relationships between press agents and the media. Knowing that side of things definitely helped years later when I was dealing with PR folks on a regular basis as a booker.

The best part about that internship though? Free tickets. I saw so many shows both on and off Broadway that season, mostly for free. I saw almost all the shows represented by Boneau/Bryan-Brown (though, to this day, I still haven’t seen The Lion King, which was a client back then). Other production companies were generous with their invites, as well. I saw a lot of shows.

So when I had the opportunity to choose a topic for my papers, I usually chose theatre. And the two new additions on the work samples page are products of that. The first, written for my musical theatre history class, looked at how September 11th affected the Broadway community. It was the first time I’d ever done an interview for a paper. A friend had introduced me to Larry O’Keefe, who had a show off-Broadway at the time of the attacks, and he was willing to answer a few questions. The final product is nearly ten years old, but I think it still holds up. I can definitely see how my writing abilities have grown since then, but it’s still a decent paper.

The other addition is about what it takes to survive on Broadway. That paper, for my interview class, was the first real journalism article and all my quotes were from interviews I conducted. I went out with my brick-sized tape recorder and stalked outside theatre stage doors for a chance to chat with the shows’ stars. And I ended up getting quotes from a number of big names in the Broadway community, like Idina Menzel and Daphne Rubin-Vega, and at least one bona fide move star, Hugh Jackman. Jackman was starring in The Boy from Oz at the time and I waited outside in the cold for over an hour for the chance to ask him for a quote. He is an incredibly charming and kind man. He had apparently studied journalism at university and after I asked my question (and a follow up!), he wished me luck with my studies. Rereading the paper, I realized I also spoke with Matthew Morrison, who was in Hairspray at the time, but is now known for his work on “Glee.” Reading over that paper I realized, with amusement, that only two shows whose stars I spoke to are still running. Everything else is closed. Few things survive that long on Broadway.

Theatre definitely filled a significant role for me in college. I made friends through the shows I saw, many of whom I’m still friends with today. When I was having a difficult time in school, I could escape to the theatre and lose myself in a show. And even as I think back to how much money I spent on those shows, I have zero regrets. I met some of my oldest friends at the theatre and I cherish the memories we shared there. I don’t go to the theatre as much any more. I don’t follow the shows and actors. I barely know what’s even on Broadway these days. But I still love it. Because there are few things quite like a live show.

Website Updates

School

I’ve added some of my academic work to the work samples page. In my graduate school studies, I’ve focused a lot on the connection between the media and politics. Somehow, this led to a number of papers about ACORN, the difference between voter fraud and voter registration fraud, and the problems with hidden camera “journalism” and deceptive editing. I’ve been pretty proud of my work, so please check it out and let me know what you think.

I’m also trying to work up the nerve to post my video midterm for my gender, culture and the media class. I decided to answer the question of what feminism means to me. I submitted the video yesterday and will probably wait to post it, at least until I get a grade back! I also interviewed my husband, Paul, about his involvement with the campaign to abolish corporate personhood. I ended up with a lot of great soundbytes and will probably post some of that interview later on this week.

The Final Semester…

School

Unless I decide sometime in the future that I want another master degree (unlikely, but possible) or I want to pursue my PhD. (very unlikely, since I’m not writing a thesis), I am in my final semester of academic life. Well, academic as a student.

Somehow, my final semesters have always been surprisingly difficult. In college, my last semester included an eight-hour class producing a 30-minute newscast from start to finish with my fellow classmates. Plus, my only Friday class in my entire college career was my final semester. This time around, I’m taking my last two classes of graduate school online. The online aspect makes them challenging, because it’s on me to log on and post in the discussion forums. Having a brick-and-mortar classroom to go to helps define deadlines and all the discussion happens in that two-hour time period allocated for class. But it’s hard to beat the flexibility online classes provide. I can post my response in the wee hours of the morning and I can work right up to the due date and time, because there’s no commuting required.

But more than the online aspect, both classes have proven challenging for different reasons. First, my research for media activism has been pretty work intensive, but so far, interesting. My other class, gender, culture and the media has been incredibly interesting especially as women’s issues have taken center stage in the news these days.

In my research class, I’ve been looking into the Citizens United decision and how it has been effecting campaign financing. Specifically, I’m looking into the campaign to amend the Constitution to strip corporations of personhood, as the Supreme Court defined it in the Citizens United decision. What’s been interesting in my research so far is the rights corporations do and do not have. From my situational analysis:

Though corporations have been legally defined as persons and thereby entitled to certain rights, they are not entitled to all rights in the Constitution. Corporations are entitled to due process under the Fourteenth Amendment and equal protection. The have Fourth Amendment protection against illegal search and seizure, but they do not have Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination. They are entitled to free speech and the right to a trial in civil cases. Like persons, corporations are required to pay taxes, but due to a number of loopholes, write-offs and favorable policies they lobbied for, rarely do corporations pay as much as they should, though they benefit from the services those taxes pay for, such as national security and infrastructure. Corporations cannot vote, but they also enjoy limited liability for criminal misdeeds and corporations themselves cannot serve jail time.

That’s why I find this debate so interesting. Shouldn’t a person be entitled to all the rights guaranteed by the Constitution? If so, how can a corporation be a person?

In the coming weeks, I have to conduct an interview on my research topic. I’m looking into sitting down with constitutional or corporate law scholars, so hopefully, I’ll be able to get answers to a lot of the questions I have about this. The Citizens United decision was pretty unpopular, so I’m interested in learning more about the jurisprudence behind it.

My gender, culture and media class has also been really interesting as we look at representations of women in the media. I’m hesitant to post about this, for fear of an influx of spammers, but we’ve spent a lot of time talking about pornography. While there is feminist pornography out there, a lot of pornography objectifies women and eroticizes power and violence against women. New York magazine had some excellent reporting on the porn industry last year. One of the best articles of the bunch was about the effect porn has on young girls. Girls and women are expected to live up to the expectations men see in porn and there’s no way to meet that impossible standard. But porn is really just performance art rather than an accurate representation of sex. And ultimately, it comes down to teaching that to our children.

Now, I’m not suggesting we should teach children about porn, necessarily, but rather that we need to do a better job of promoting media literacy in our society. This week’s readings focused on portrayals of women in advertising. Beauty sells, but girls wouldn’t be so quick to desire to be thin and beautiful to the standards set by advertisers if they were taught to have a healthy skepticism about the portrayals they see in the media.

It’s the same conclusion I’ve had throughout my time at the New School looking at the relationship between politics and the media. While I would like the media to move away from the horserace, he said, she said, dynamic, I think overall we’ll have more success changing the landscape by introducing a healthy amount of skepticism into the audience. People need to understand that they shouldn’t believe everything they see on TV or read on the internet.