‘Water by the Spoonful’ causes tears by the bucketful

Quiara Alegría Hudes’ Pulitzer Prize winning play “Water by the Spoonful” just wrapped up production here at UW Tacoma. The performance was spectacular.

In particular, junior Lucas Gomez’s interpretation of Elliot Ortiz was captivating. Throughout the play, Elliot fights with his birth mother over past and present familial deaths, all while hiding a dark secret from his service as a Marine in Iraq. You could really feel the visceral anger and hurt in Gomez’s acting.

If you’re not familiar with the “Spoonful,” it can seem confusing due to the two different, yet equally prominent storylines — online chat room conversations and real time occasions with the Ortiz family.  However, by intermission, everything came together seamlessly in an epiphanic moment. The strings that tie the play together create a whole-picture vibe that lends itself to the realness of the story.

Each and every actor pulled you into the show, enough to want to respond to their wondering questions and painful testaments. The Cherry Parkes’ Broadcast Studio Theatre, was the perfect home for this play. The intimate set up better allowed for the actors to bring you into their lives as a member rather than viewer.

“Spoonful” was written to be real, which definitely works in its favor. It’s not soap opera dramatic, nor is it obnoxiously hopeful. It’s real life that each and every person can relate to in one way or another. It leaves you questioning your life, and what others had to go through. It leaves you happily mindless, with your brain doubtlessly replaying some of the most intense moments over again.

One instance of this was during a moving monologue by Writing Studies professor Walt Moore. His portrayal of FOUNTAINHEAD, a crack addict in denial, summarizes his upper class life to the existing chatroom members was astounding — especially when he is immediately shut down for his pompous attitude.

Having a faculty member audition and cast in “Spoonful” was a big step in the right direction for UW Tacoma’s ever-growing and diverse theatre community. Moore’s philosophy on acting alongside students was one future auditionees should follow.

“I feel like I am an equal with everyone else in the performance,” said Moore. “My experience is leaving my faculty label at the door.”

I’m no acting aficionado, but the cast also did a remarkable job at maintaining the reality of this tragic, funny and heartwarming story.  There is a friendliness and familiarity amongst the cast, as well as believable hurt and betrayal that lends itself to the realistic feel of “Spoonful.”

Overall, UW Tacoma’s production of “Water by the Spoonful” was a hit, performed exceptionally well by UW Tacoma affiliates and community actors. I would implore you to attend any coming UW Tacoma productions — you won’t regret it.

What study abroad can do for you: It’s not as hard as you think

97 percent of students who study abroad will find a job within just one year after graduating, according to the University of California.

Courtney Kroll, the University of Washington Study Abroad Manager, believes traveling abroad could benefit many students.

Kroll started traveling when her school considered studying abroad a prerequisite. She earned a double major in French and elementary education while studying abroad several times throughout college. Kroll said studying abroad “Completely changed [her] life.” She continued to travel after graduating college and now works in UW Tacoma’s Office of Global Affairs.

Many people often believe that only the wealthy can afford to travel abroad as a student. While it’s not untrue that international travel can rack up some bills, Kroll believes it’s realistic. She acknowledges finances aren’t necessarily a debilitating hurdle students can’t overcome.

The way for students to study abroad regardless of income: planning. “Taking a step back and saying OK I want to do this, how can I make it happen” proves the best way to surpass these barriers, Kroll says.

She acknowledges the difficulties of studying abroad, some of which financial. However, that shouldn’t stop students.

“Not thinking about this early enough and planning early enough” can make these hurdles even harder Kroll said.

Most universities offering travel abroad also offer scholarships, as well as financial aid, including the University of Washington Tacoma. Many would agree these are indispensable when planning to travel abroad.

Donna Kopmar, a recent graduate of the University of Washington, just got back from Moscow, Russia.

“Study abroad was something I always wanted to do. I tried to do it the year I graduated but couldn’t … because of financial reasons. Later I realized I missed a great opportunity to study in a different country.”

Kopmar continued to have interest in studying abroad. A few years after her missed opportunity, she decided to “go for it” even though finances still factored in. She believes the experience greatly outweighed the struggle. She recommends “that every student should study abroad … to learn to communicate with people who have other views/ways of living is so important.”

According to the International Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the number of students participating in study abroad programs has risen several million since the mid-1970s. This number will continue to rise 12 percent every year.

In 2012, Harvard Business School began sending hundreds of students abroad. Studying abroad continues to become an important point of academic success in America, as well as other countries.

 

“International experience is one of the most important components of a 21st century resume,” said Dr. Allan E. Goodman, a former faculty member at Georgetown University and a current leader at the Institute of International Education.

The benefits of studying abroad don’t even compare to the minimal downside. If at all able to study abroad, do it, you won’t regret it. Those who have would likely agree with Kopmar:

“It’s such an adventure. It’s a little uncomfortable, but it’s good to get out of your comfort zone every now and then.”

Analysis: ‘The Newsroom:’ An HBO series that changes the way we think about news

What if the news was reported incredibly well, with “no demographic sweet spot, a place where we can all come together.” What if this was the type of news station we all gathered around. Someplace where we could get facts and decency with no party biases getting in the way. Will McAvoy, the lead of “Newsroom” had this same dream.

“The Newsroom” was a short lived piece of HBO drama that young journalists dream of. The fast-paced fact checking, the witty banter with fellow employees, and a community of people all searching for the truth — what aspiring undergraduate wouldn’t watch this?

There are some series that make the audience want to take action. This television show inspires the younger generation by subtly pointing out problems in society. Similar to shows like “Mad Men” and “Grey’s Anatomy,” “The Newsroom” speaks to the youth of its day. While some may not fully understand the lure of a newsroom drama, what makes it so good is the way it looks into an ideal version of an industry that could use improvement.

The main criticism of this show (and there’s not many) is that it’s not realistic. “The Newsroom” may not be realistic, but that is the entire point. The purpose is to show people the disparity between the current state of media and what it could be if the news was reported ethically and level headed. The method behind this series is to show the viewer how the news world would be if high profile networks didn’t have to tow the party line, worry about profits, or have fair sources.

“The Newsroom” features a cast of talented, serious actors including Sam Waterston, Emily Mortimer and Olivia Munn. The writing of the show paired with the strong crew succeeds at creating a dignified yet witty and friendly feel to the show. The importance of the stories the show’s television network, ACN, reports on is balanced by friendly wit when the characters interact. There’s also a little piece of relationship drama with Maggie and Jim, because it wouldn’t be an HBO show without a touch of romantic drama.

The cast also introduces some amazingly strong women in powerful positions. It shows the reality of being a woman, as well as an executive. One example appears in season two.

Sloan, the economics anchor, is dragged by her wrist through the newsroom by her executive producer. She demands that “if [he] ever lead [her] by the wrist through that newsroom again, [she’d] take out each of [his] … knuckles with a ball-peen hammer.” While this is a very extreme situation, it shows the mistreatment that women often times have to deal with in the workplace.

“The Newsroom” calls attention to workplace harassment, especially with Sloan’s character — likely because she seems to go against all stereotypes. She is beautiful, smart, sarcastic, socially awkward, yet charming. Who better to spit in the face of female stereotypes?

“The Newsroom” is a brilliant drama on what our news could — and should — be. It is an intricate display of journalism and feminism that is definitely worth a watch!

 

Review: ‘Black Mirror’ and the issues we didn’t know we had

Do you ever wonder what the world will be like in five years? Or in 10? Do you wonder what technology will look like, or how it will change our society? The British series “Black Mirror” explores these questions and many more.

“Black Mirror” started airing in 2011. After a couple years of success, Netflix contracted 12 episodes of the show in 2015. However, the British drama’s popularity has picked up speed in recent months.

Lately, British shows have unexpectedly been at the forefront of American viewership. From “Peaky Blinders” (which is AMAZING by the way) to “The Night Of,” England’s awesome television has been taking over Netflix as well as American air waves.

It is no surprise that “Black Mirror” has become a part of this trend. What is most fascinating about this series is its ability to critique everything we take for granted. Looking at social media, spending time with family, condemning criminals — this show finds issues with things we didn’t even know we had issues with.

“Black Mirror” does a stupendous job at creating a world that we can believe and live in. This is not the next sci-fi world, it is our world and society — with the addition of one advancement that changes some or every aspect of life. An example of this would be in the third season episode “Nosedive”. In this episode, everyone is able to see others’ social media popularity as soon as they look at them, essentially having Facebook in their eyes. In this society, popularity determines every aspect of life and if someone is unpopular, they eventually go to jail. The technology is not necessarily bad, it’s how it is used that will determine the outcome.

The overarching theme in “Black Mirror” is that with a lack of empathy and compassion, society will not be in a good place. To depict this, “Black Mirror” will often introduce a mechanism or technological advancement that is not inherently bad. It shows that how we use it is what can change society for the worse. Just like Facebook and Twitter can keep people connected, they can also distance you from those nearest.

This Peabody Award-winner makes you question what you’re doing in life, it makes you mad, it makes you wonder, and it starts some pretty insightful conversations. What is so lovely about “Black Mirror” is that it makes you go down a line of thinking you never thought you would explore. It might sound like school work, but it’s actually pretty awesome.

Fifteen Million Merits in season one is one of my favorites. The episode takes place in a society where no one is allowed to go outside. Instead, you use a stationary bike in a dreary inside world to rack up merits. If you earn enough merits, you can buy a ticket to an American Idol like competition to potentially make it out of the dull world of biking. However, not many people do this because they are so plagued with other things to distract them and spend their money on, almost no one gets out.

In season two, White Bear, follows a young woman who has amnesia as she tries to find answers about who she is and what happened. She finds a creepy world where everyone is following and filming her rather than interacting or helping her. Later in the episode, we find out this is punishment for a crime she committed. The whole town is in on it and the people in charge wipe her memory every day and repeat the same torture again indefinitely.

This definitely isn’t the show to watch when you’re trying to sleep or are distracted, but it will surely grab your attention and keep it long past the 60-minute run time. As a show, “Black Mirror” gets an A.

Pros:

  • Makes you think about how technology is used
  • Very believable episodes.
  • New cast and plot each episode.
  • Great acting and direction.

Cons:

  • Can sometimes lag or be confusing.
  • To understand what’s going on you have to watch carefully.

4/5 stars