Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Haviland Sings "Release Me" From Nicholas & Alexandra

So... I'm not quite sure I realized how personal these lyrics were when I wrote them. Sure, I don't have a sick child-- I don't know what that's like. But at its core, this is a song about anxiety. The way life feels under the oppression of it; the threat of it... as compared to how it feels to be free of it; not afraid of it. 

Haviland is one of my friends who is most privy to my struggles with anxiety and so in addition to being a beautiful singer of this tune, she has a super insight into whatever deep well I pulled these lyrics from. I remember when I finally emailed these off to Steven, he wrote back soon after, "Where the hell did that come from!?"

I wasn't conscious of it then, but I am now. 

Not only did Haviland lay the smack down on this song, she put that concert on lock down. One of her best vocal performances I've ever heard. More of night like those please, Miss Stillwell, thankyouverymuch. 

And even though this is Alix's song in Nic & Alix, I sure wouldn't mind seeing Hav as Tatiana... a regal and enchanting Grand Duchess she shares a striking resemblance to. Not to mention, I can hear her all over Livadia. Until the next step... 

Monday, April 29, 2013

Music Monday - Natalie Maines Sings Jeff Buckley

On Natalie Maines' newest album, Mother, one of the highlights is her cover of "Lover, You Should Have Come Over." One of my favorite songs from youth, reinterpreted by another one of my favorite singers from youth. Natalie and Jeff's vocals share a similar flesh-searing quality. They've always cut through the meat, straight to the bone. 

This album is a prime example of that. Ben Harper has a lot to do with what works about this album too. It's no wonder she got hooked up with Harper, who, despite his successes as a vocalist, etc etc will first and forever be known as an amazing pedal-steel player. (Like my dad! And Natalie Maines's dad, Lloyd-- one of the best EVER.)

I'm not sure I realized initially how many covers would be on her new album. But I'm loving it all so far. You too can stream the whole album as part of NPR's First Listen. The album goes on sale May 7th.

Happy Monday!

My kingdom for a kiss upon her shoulder...

Buckley was meant to be sung in a church in Texas by Natalie Maines.

Here's my other fave.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

French Sky Art

French artist, Thomas Lamadieu, is making amazing sky art with a combination of photography and sketching. I love the strange and skewed perspective. I love the mix of grand and comedic. It's so French. Just a little something for what's left of this beautiful Sunday. 

For more.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Shaping Sound Tour Video Series

Here's some of what I've been working hard on the past few weeks. It's been so inspirational to watch this tour come together so far-- to see the hard work and creative energy put into something that I think will really amaze audiences. It's been nice to make these new friends. 

The first (of seven) videos I'll be doing documenting the tour got 3,000 hits in the first 24 hours it was up and the numbers keep climbing. This group of dancers deserves as many fans as the internet and theatres can accomodate. Stay with us as we keep moving forward towards their first National Tour!

Get tickets here! And join the conversation on twitter with #shapingsoundco. Don't forget to follow, either @shapingsoundco

Friday, April 26, 2013

Replug into Poetry Friday Links

Hands down, this was the busiest week I've had since choosing to go to work for myself. There seems to be some kind of strange axiom of the universe that everything happens, is due, requires your attention all in the same window of time. 

I'd always rather be busy than bored, but ooh boy, this week was timed within an inch of its life. It even cut into my leisurely breakfast time and Griffith Park time-- aka-- my favorite parts of living. On the up side, so many exciting projects going on though and I'm so honored and inspired to be a part of them. 

Luckily, I was also able to squeeze in a trip to a poetry potluck on Wednesday night. When I'm away from communities like the one I had at St. Andrews, I feel like I'm leading an alternate life. I feel like I have many alternate lives. Like an undercover agent or something. But then I plug back into one of those other sides of myself and I'm reawakened. 

Hearing everyone's poems on Wednesday was so needed. I even read one of my own. And it was nice to be open to more American poets. I've definitely been largely unplugged from them the past few years. And yet. American poets make me long for British poets. Who are the soul of my soul. Leaving the potluck, all I wanted to do was listen to Simon Armitage read Mist. And so I promptly took a moment to myself and did. 

If you need a moment in the chaos, I recommend you do so as well. 
Here are your links. 

- Kate Walsh on succeeding after 35
- I sent this to Torcuil. My most favorite primitive hunter-mystic.
- Speaking of Scottish men.
- Anne Carson.
- Cool NYC art project!
- Innnnnteresting
- More on creative people! Like seriously, what's wrong with us?
- Happy 67th Birthday, John Waters! Here' 67 quotes.
- Stop saying the wrong thing.
- Cool Forbes write up of my homey Mark Fisher's Fitness Empire
- More Claire Vaye Watkins!
- This list is a travesty. Jon Snow only the 17th hottest man on GoT? LIES. 
- RIP George Jones


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Broadway Want to See - PIPPIN

I have huge soft spot in my heart for Pippin. It was the first musical I ever had a non-acting creative role on back in college. (Prepping me for an entire career in under-appreciated, non-acting creative roles in theatre.) I always thought the Leading Player should be played by woman, as a jealous woman. Basically, I wanted a female Ben Vereen. And lo and behold! It's all that plus Cirque du Soleil! 

It looks about as high concept and spoof of high concept and meta as it could possibly be. And that's just how it should be!

The positive buzz on this is off chain and I can't wait to get back to NYC in June to see this little jewel. I'm super jealous of my old friend Sonny who's playing keys on this. With the exception of the terrible cheat lyric "Doodle-ee-doo" (wisely edited out of  this promo video) this is one of my favorite scores. Some of Schwartz's best. I still get pretty misty-eyed in the most classic musical theatre-y way when I hear "Morning Glow" in a capela harmony. And I've been known to throw a little "Spread a Little Sunshine" around after an alcoholic beverage or two. 

If you're in NYC, head to the Music Box and report back to me ASAP!!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Stillwell At Rockwell - TONIGHT

An exciting night awaits me -- and all who care to join me!-- at Rockwell TONIGHT for the latest concert from the lush and luxurious Haviland Stillwell. All of Haviland's concerts are a treat as far as I'm concerned, but tonight will be extra special since Haviland is singing one of our new songs from Nicholas & Alexandra, "Release Me." (AKA my anxiety anthem. For a preview, here's the first time it was ever sung in public. Did I mention that was at Lincoln Center? I blush.) 
You can also rock out to Haviland's new singles. Both songs are written by Haviland Stillwell and produced by Mike Schlosser, with cover design by Heather J. Weiss and photos by Sabrina Bringuier. Buy them on iTunes ("MKE"; "Infinity") or stream them on Spotify ("MKE"; "Infinity") and pump yourself up pre-show. I know I will be!

Get your tickets now if you don't already have them and hope to see you tonight! McC and I will be clapping loudly and gettin' rowdy in the front. Shoes will be thrown. 
Haviland Stillwell & Amir Levi perform live at Rockwell: Table & Stage, 1714 N. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles, CA on Tuesday, April 23 at 8pm (Amir Levi) and 9pm (Haviland Stillwell). Haviland and Amir will be performing with Anthony Starble (piano), Alex Vega (drums), Kristy Hanson (guitars and vocals), Ed Goodman (guitar), Julia Davis (vocals) and Lauren Lograsso (vocals). Tickets are $12 and can be purchased on Rockwell's ticketing site.This is the Facebook invitation.

And here's a little ditty we wrote just for her awhile back. With my signature lyric!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Music Monday - Still Corners

Some pretty rad options have my summer plans a bit up in air. It's nice to know whatever happens is going to be a fun and new experience for me. One of those things may have me out of town fro while. Which would be hilarious, considering all the trouble I went to to finally get CHVRCHES tickets (I love a challenge!) and the concert would be while I'm out of town.

But assuming I'm in LA, on May 31, I'll get to also see this London group, Still Corners, as an opener. I heard buzz about them last year while living in London and I'm glad I finally have an excuse to check out Tessa Chambers and Greg Hughes promote their new album, Strange Pleasures.

Hope you're having a great Monday!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Amy Poehler's Smart Girls

While there are so many reasons to appreciate Amy Poehler, today, let's take a minute to revel in her creation of Amy Poehler's Smart Girls. It's a whole channel and website of content expressing appreciation for the awesomeness of ladies and living true to your authentic self. 

They have several fun series, including Ask Amy, Meow Meow Music, Operation Nice (love it!) Boy's Minute (even) and Smart Girls at the Party, where they interview inspirational women. The website also features a nice rotating reminder of all the kick ass women who have changed the world. It features a good many of my favorites right up front: Dolly Parton, Bernadette Peters, Michelle Obama and Suzanne Vega. 

Basically, this is one of the happiest, funnest places on the internet and one of the best ideas ever. Appreciation rules. Change the world by being yourself. Word up. 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

This Week Felt Like This - Stars - Your Ex-Lover Is Dead

After a week spent in a fictional revolution, in chaos, in shock, in the air, in rehearsals, in awe, in despair, in gratitude, I am returning to this song, which is one of my favorite numbers from the upcoming Shaping Sound tour. Watching dancers apply energy to this. I wish you could see what I've seen all week. Soon you will. This is how I feel about this week. Get it all out. 

Friday, April 19, 2013

What is going on? Friday Links

What is going on out there, you guys? I'm having a lot of feelings. Personally, so much is going right for me... it makes me feel a tad guilty to feel it all. I get sucked back into the feeling I've had so often for the past few years that things were so bad out there, it became a conflict to feel personally happy. 

I know that's not advisable, or even possible, but it's a very heavy pull to resist. I'm not sure anyone realizes how much time I spend thinking about safety, danger, and terrorism. Both personally and professionally. In addition to my own traumas, I've literally spent years living in the emotional world of my characters where Russian terrorism is the heart of their identity. And so much information. It feels like that has seeped into reality and the present day. It's not the truth, it's just how it feels. 

I feel a lot more about these brothers in Boston, but here is not the place for them. Instead, perhaps, it's best to remember how much is going on in the world on all ends of the spectrum. So here are you links:

- I spend a lot of time on this blog.
- Always enjoy a good Elizabeth Warren bank smack down.
- UGH.
- Sylvia Plath's New York
- Let's move back to St. Andrews and live here!
- Um... the tunnel people of my hometown? Vegas, who ARE you?
- My fabulous fellow Rice '04 classmate, Caroline Shaw, just won the Pultizer in music!
- A map of NYC's inequality based on subway stop.
- You guys. The English language is rich and diverse. Try harder. Instead of Awesome.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Want to See - I Give It A Year

Self-deprecating British rom-coms! Though I'm not sure how I feel about Rose Byrne as a Brit.... I mean, I know she's Australian, but still... it doesn't sit well... other than that, I can't wait to see this with my hetero life mate, McC. It came out in February in the UK and I don't see much in the way of info about when we sad Americans (who just can't have nice things) will also get to have it. Don't make we who miss Britain wait, please. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

BRAVE - New Sara Bareilles

Brave is pretty much my favorite word in the English language. (Snacks, perhaps a close second.) Which is why I couldn't be happier that one of the foremost voices for joy in pop music today, Miss Sara Bareilles, has a new single called just that. Brave. Not Snacks. That'd probably be a good single too. 

I'm 100% behind the message of this jam. Let your words be anything but empty.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Legacy - Some Thoughts on Boston

It was strange and poignant to be in our reading yesterday when we all received the news about the Boston marathon bombings. I had just been saying to Steven the day before that even though Nicholas & Alexandra is a period piece about historical figures, I think its issues are contemporary to today. Most of Nicholas & Alexandra's actions were rooted in a deep sense of fear that they had felt since childhood-- the fear of living under constant threat of physical violence. 

One of the saddest things about terrorist activities-- and why violent methods are used to make a point-- is the cloud of fear they attempt to create in large groups of people. But no one makes their best decisions out of fear. It's encouraging to hear so much light-based rhetoric after yesterday. The messages going viral are largely about looking for the helpers in terrible situations, and how as many people who try to do harm in the world, there are more of us who want to do healing, creating, and loving. So look for those people. And decide that it's those people, that idea, those messages that will remain when we're gone and serve as our legacy. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Day of the Show - Singing & Dying with Nicholas & Alexandra

What an exciting day! Later this afternoon, we'll be premiering Nicholas & Alexandra for the first time ever in its entirety in a private reading in NYC. The people in this cast make me kind of giddy and there's years-long connections galore in that room. After meeting our Nicholas & Alexei yesterday, I started to even out my nerves. 

I've spent years trying and failing and grieving with the Romanovs. It's just been me, Steven, and their story for a long time. (Well, and Autumn!) It feels really good to flesh out the rest of Autumn's family. To give them shape and channel their empathy along with ours into this story. To have the support of so many people behind how we've chosen to tell this story. I have a feeling I'm probably going to cry at least once today.

Since we can't have all of you, we're making some of the tracks from our concept album available to listen to for one day only. 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

See Our Nic & Alix Sing & Die...in a comedy

Just one more day until our Nicholas & Alexandra reading! I can't wait to see everyone and get crackin. But our Nic and Alix have worked together before so I thought you all might enjoy watching that first (and also musical) encounter between Autumn Hurlbert and Matt Lutz. Singing and dying... these guys are pros at it. 

I'm off to rehearse with him now! Hope  you're having a lovely Sunday!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Aurora Borealis in New York?

Though I'm significantly farther North than I usually find myself these days, I'm still probably not as far North as I'd need to be to see Aurora Borealis tonight-- though some predictions say tonight's projected showing might reach as far South as New York

I'm a big fan of the Northern Lights. But seeing them somewhere other than Northern Europe might feel rather alien. As if they aren't alien enough to begin with. 

In case you won't see them, here's a showing from Norway in 2010. 

Friday, April 12, 2013

Birthday Part 2 - NYC - Friday Links

Greetings from gross and rainy NYC! When I was here this exact time last year-- much like this year, to celebrate my birthday as well as a career milestone-- it was GORGEOUS. It made me wonder why I had ever left NYC in the first place while back in London it was raining for months and months. 

Now, I'm quite thankful I reside in Los Angeles. Spring time forever! 

I am quite excited to celebrate another year with my core NYC people, however. New Yorkers! Head on down to Lillie's Union Square tonight for some libations with me. 

Also to premiere Nicholas & Alexandra to an extremely select group of folks on Monday. Yep, that's right. FINALLY. More on that to come. Off to finish up the details of the reading. Here are your links. 

- This rad hotel in Mexico
- VERY happy for the good Matilda reviews. LOVE. THIS. SHOW.
- What to do when someone you love likes music you hate.
- New music from Boy, "Little Numbers."
- Cute new home goods line.
- On the recommendation of Claire Vaye Watkins: post-feminist life in arts & letters
- I want to EAT THIS!
- Drop Dead Gorgeous + Disney Princesses, woot. 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

I Will Steal You Back - New Jimmy Eat World

Hey there, burgeoning youth of the early aughts. This is the sound of your teenage years calling. And we have Jimmy Eat World on the line for you. Remember being 19? If you were having a hard time recalling, you won't for long.

New album Damage is out 6/11. Bring me back, Jimmy. Steal me back to then. I'm ready.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

New Project! Shaping Sound Dance Co's National Tour

My only real frame of reference about dance is Broadway centered, but I know a good many of you have been quite obsessed with So You Think You Can Dance. If you put that all together, you might enjoy the lads of Shaping Sound Dance Company. At its core, Shaping Sound is four guys comprised of So You Think winners, runners up, choreographers, improv specialists and classically trained folks. (I'll let you guess who is who.) 

Well, they're going on a multi-city National Tour and the fabulous Nikole Vallins is producing. Yours truly over here will be shooting, producing, editing a series of promo videos tracking their rehearsal process and life on the road. Fun gig, right? 

Yesterday, I was climbing to the top of book cases to get cool angles on their unbelievable routines. As someone with barely enough coordination to keep my feet moving forward without tripping every day, let's just say I was extremely jealous. 

The guys are super funny, with loads of personality (also, dimples, if you're into that kind of thing) and I think it goes without saying, TALENT. On top of all that, what a group of gents! They helped me retain a small shred of grace as I climbed and got down from my furniture perch. Chivalry is not dead, apparently. 

Here is the first video I did announcing the tour with adorable Nick Lazzarini, Travis Wall, Teddy Forance, and Kyle Robinson. 

Check out the dates for their tour here. And follow them on twitter: @shapingsoundco

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

New, Rare John Keats Portrait Discovered

A previously unknown miniature of a young, chubby John Keats has been found by Bonham's... in America no less. Little is known of this history of this particular miniature, but those at Bonham's are working to uncover it prior to the piece going up for auction in London later this summer. 

If I had a spare 10-15,000 pounds, I'd sure try to scoop this up. Sigh.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Music Monday - CHVRCHES + Game of Thrones

When the band CHVRCHES promises something to their fans, they don't disappoint. While Frightened Rabbit may only be teasing fans with their own cover, not so with FR's fellow Scot group. They contemplated a Chvrch-ified, Synth-ified version of the Game of Thrones theme song and response was strong. This morning, they delivered. 

I feel like I'm still swimming my way to the surface from the under water relaxation haze that was my birthday weekend. In the meantime, enjoy this silly little diversion for your Monday. 

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Scenes from The Churchill

Much to my chagrin, I pulled out my camera at The Churchill to start taking perfectly lit, ambient photos, only to realize that I have left my memory card in my computer at home. Disappointed. So here at the few photos we took. I was really happy with my costume. I was even happier with my Caol Ila. 

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Happy Saturday

Hope you're having as glamorous a Saturday as Tigerlily here. 

Friday, April 5, 2013

It's My Birthday! Friday Links

Hey, guess what... it's my birthday! I'm feeling pretty good about it this year. The past few days have really instilled a nice hopeful feeling about the next at least six months or so and that's a feeling I haven't had in a while. 

Tonight, I'll be celebrating with friends and later this weekend, I'll be partaking of the lovely gift from my guardian angel, Dena, and hitting up Burke Williams Spa with McC. We'll be sure to document our luxuriating in review form of the famous Burke Williams. 

Then, next week it's off to NYC for round two of celebrating, and more specifically, for the first ever reading of Nicholas & Alexandra. I'm so happy. Spring in New York and a brand new musical. That, my friends, is living. 

- What it's like to be a real life mermaid? I always wanted to be one of those...
- Birth of the NHS
- The dark side of ex-pat life
- Most beautiful abandoned places
- TONX ethical coffee
- Duane Allman's daughter gives us a low down
- This is probably the best article about Rosie I've ever read.
- I laughed. Those annoying poor people.
- This book.
- Lindy West. Killing it as always.
- How to fail for a decade and be okay.
- Terra Incognita is SO beautiful!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Some Musical Early Birthday Gifts

My birthday's not until Friday, but clearly, many of my favorites know me well and are joining me in celebrating my birthday all week. And I thank them for their musical gifts. 

New live tracks from Milo Greene, there's a a few new tracks from CHVRCHES, and even Lennon and Maisy Stella kicked The Lumineers to the curb with their cover of "Ho Hey." You guys. Buy this

Before I was a writer, or a New Yorker... Before I went to Scotland...Before I was anything at all, I was a country musician's kid. I think that's at the most fundamental bedrock of my DNA. In fact! Speaking of being a country musician's kid, even my dad sent along some new and old school tracks he's been working on lately. 

Which is why I like bands like Milo Greene at the end of the day. And why Nashville is the show I most look forward to every week. Lennon and Maisy Stella make me cry. If I'd had a real sister, we would have been like them. Because I would have bullied us into being so. Also... they're Canadian. I cannot. I overflow with love. 

Thanks for these bitchin' birthday gifts, guys. I share them now with my small but mighty readership. 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013


Daniel Clay's Broken was one of my favorite books that I read while I was in the UK. It was such a well-drawn microcosm. If a little bleak... And a child at the center of the action like the one here-- Skunk-- is always a plus as far as I'm concerned.

Also, you'd be hard pressed to find better inspiration than To Kill A Mockingbird. So then: a British To Kill a Mockingbird set in North London. Score. Okay, not that Broken comes anywhere near To Kill a Mockingbird. But I always thought it'd fare well as a movie.

Which is why I'm so delighted to see it realized in film with so many great people behind and out in front of it. (Including theatre director Rufus Norris and delicious Cillian Murphy.)

Will the litany of bad occurrences end up over the top (as they were there for a while in the book)? Will the performances make us forget how nicely written the book is at the level of the sentence? Or will we miss that? Or will  the movie balance this all out?

I'm willing to find out. Reviews have been mixed so far. But praise is unilateral for young Eloise Laurence as Skunk. Which is great because the world needs more child actresses to give Quevenzhane Wallis a run for her money and Abigail Breslin and the Fanning sisters have basically aged out.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Jay Shells - Rap Quotes Street Signs

New York artist Jay Shells (the man we can all thank for Subway Etiquette) is going around NYC posting fake street signs with the lyrics from rap songs calling out that particular spot. He doesn't expect the signs to be up too long. Either the city will take them down, or, more likely, rap enthusiasts will bring them home. 

In any case, it makes me smile thinking about them there. Maybe I'll find one or two when I'm back in NYC later this month.

And in case rap lyrics for some reason still elude you (and this makes me recall one of my favorite life memories-- that of Spellman translating/explaining the lyrics to "Regulate" to young Brit, Tom on the way to a Dodgers game) I'll throw in this bonus: Understand Rap. There's also a companion book. Enjoy. Happy Tuesday.

Monday, April 1, 2013

All The Buildings in New York

Australian artist/illustrator James Gulliver Hancock started this project while he was experiencing a nomadic period in his life I'm well familiar with. He lived in Vienna, Paris, London and started drawing the buildings as a way to become more intimate with the cities he was in and distance himself from the feeling of being a tourist. 

Now that he spends most of his time in New York-- a city he says we all romanticize in one way or another (preach.)-- his mission is to make his way through the boroughs drawing all the buildings in New York. You can sort by type, by neighborhood, by borough... just... AH!

It fulfills a deep part of me to both romanticize, fetishize, fixate and also to organize, to put something huge and complicated and beautiful into an artistic space feasible to wrap my brain around. That's one thing I've always liked about NYC anyhow... my ability to conceptualize its entirety because of its geographical size, prevalence of landmarks and organization into grids, boroughs and neighborhoods with relatively neat borders. (Same goes for Edinburgh. Not for London or for LA.)

I have to tell you,art projects like this turns me into a kid on a sugar high. I love it. I love it. Happy Monday. 

(Also, Happy April Fool's Day, if you're into that sort of thing. I don't really participate in that because feeling foolish is perhaps my least favorite feeling and I certainly don't wish it on anyone else.)

All the Buildings in New York from Marisa Guzman-Aloia on Vimeo.

Why Stop Now?

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