More Than Meh

A blog about the good things of life.

New York Theatre Weekend August 8, 2017

Filed under: Friends,Pop Culture,Theatre,Travel — dwhren @ 8:12 pm

This Broadway season has had an unusual number of shows I was dying to see including several plays. A lot of times I don’t get too sad about not getting to see some musicals on Broadway because I know they’ll eventually tour and I’ll see them then. That doesn’t really happen with plays in the same way, so I was exceptionally keen to get up to New York and see a number of shows.

April, May, and June were too crazy with other travel and things going on in my life, so I wasn’t able to go up at any point in the spring. My passion to make this happen got reignited after watching the Tony Awards at the beginning of June. Sadly, I did not realize until that night when I started thinking about planning a trip that two of the plays I wanted to see were closing June 25. There was no way I was going to be able to make it to New York before then, so I was very sad that I was going to miss out on seeing Sweat and Indecent.

But then the theatre gods smiled upon me and I got a little bit of a reprieve. I did indeed miss out on Sweat, but they wound up extending the run of Indecent at the last minute through August 6. After I found that out I vowed to make it up before it closed for real. I also planned to see Doll’s House, Part 2 during the weekend. It supposedly is not closing until January, but if it continues to be as empty as it was on Sunday, I suspect it’s not going to make it that long. I also decided I could fit in three shows over the weekend, especially since everything I wanted to see was only 90-100 minutes with no intermission, so I also added in the musical that was highest on my list, Come From Away.

I took the train up early on Saturday morning. I was happy that all my trains ran on time despite all the crazy track work that is happening at Penn Station right now and ruining everyone’s life. In a Smalltimore moment I wound up in a train car with another librarian from Baltimore that I know who was going up to New York for the weekend with her daughter. They were seeing Come From Away at the same time I was. I stayed with a friend who lives in mid-town, which of course was super convenient for all the theatre I had planned. It was nice to spend time with her between  all my shows.

The first show I saw was Come From Away. I loved every show I saw over the weekend, but Come From Away was probably my favorite. It’s a musical based on the true story of the small town of Gander, Newfoundland that wound up taking in 7,000 plane passengers after their planes were diverted there when U. S. airspace closed on 9/11. The music has sort of a Gaelic feeling to it with both rock and folk influences. I loved everything about this show. It’s funny, moving, I adored the music and dance, it made me cry, and it reminded me that humanity does have good in it even when it’s being horrible. If you get the chance I highly recommend seeing this show. It’s probably the Broadway show I’ve loved the most since seeing Hamilton.

Saturday night I went to see Indecent. It is also based on a true story about the life of the play The God of Vengeance and the people involved with it.. It was written in 1905 by a Jewish Pole and was the first play to feature two women kissing on stage. It was an international sensation until anti-Semitism grew stronger around the world and obscenity charges were brought against the actors during a 1923 production in New York. The story continues into the 1950s after World War II when many of those involved with the play are killed. It’s a great story about the power of art and love to prevail over the worst in humanity. I do wish that I had read The God of Vengeance prior to seeing it, but I’m probably still going to read it now to get a better understanding to reflect on.

My final show of the weekend was A Doll’s House, Part 2. It’s a newly written play, but it is a sequel to Henrik Ibsen’s 1879 play, A Doll’s House. It takes place 15 years after the events in the original play with Nora returning to confront the husband she left after she finds out that he had never filed their divorce papers. The original play is pretty serious, so I was not actually anticipating how humorous A Doll’s House, Part 2 was going to be. It’s a very dry, sarcastic humor but very amusing nonetheless. I just missed seeing the original cast which included Laurie Metcalf who won a Tony for the role, but Julie White does an excellent job in the role of Nora. I would highly recommend this show as well if you can see it before it closes in January. You don’t even really need to be familiar with A Doll’s House to enjoy it. The play pretty much sets up everything you need to know. There was only one line that I think probably would be lost on you if you hadn’t seen the original show but it doesn’t really affect anything.

It was a great weekend with three great shows. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect weekend of theatre. I’ll definitely have to do it again sometime.

 

 

 

 

Conferencing in Chicago July 3, 2017

Filed under: Family,Friends,Travel,Work — dwhren @ 7:59 am

Last week I set out on a trip that took me to Chicago for a conference and to Cape Cod for a short vacation with my family. I’m going to write about Chicago in this post and Cape Cod in the next one. This year’s annual American Library Association conference was in Chicago. As I am sure I’ve probably mentioned here before, I hate Chicago for this particular conference. Chicago is a fine city, but its convention center is in a terrible location not near to anything. You have to rely on shuttle buses to get back and forth from hotels as it’s not walkable to anywhere. After my last experience doing this a few years ago I decided I was going to skip the conference this year, but then an opportunity for me to be on a panel at the conference came up so I wound up going anyway.

It turned out to be a lovely conference, and I’m glad I went despite my still existing hatred of the logistics of the convention center. Luckily this time everything I had to be at and most of the stuff I wanted to be at was either scheduled in the convention center or the hotel attached to it, so I was able to just go over there in the morning and stay through the afternoon instead of trying to maneuver back and forth between the convention center and hotels for meetings multiple times per day. I also learned from my last trip and made reservations at a hotel that made it more convenient to get back and forth on the shuttle buses than the one I stayed at last time while also still leaving me walkable to lots of things to do in the evenings.

I had a great time at the conference. It was productive in that my panel went well as did the other program one of my committees was involved in planning. I’m not sure that I wound up going to anything that was super enlightening to me, but I left feeling good about my profession and my place in it so I’ll count it as a win.

The weather while I was there was pretty good. Friday night I couldn’t find anyone who wanted to play with me. My hotel was very close to Millennium Park where they were having a free Stravinksy concert, so I grabbed some take out and went over to listen to it. It was a lovely evening sitting outside in some beautiful weather listening to music.

Saturday night I got to meet up with an old friend who I used to work at Barnes & Noble with in Baltimore, but who moved to Chicago a number of years ago. It was great to catch up with her face to face rather than just over Facebook for a change.

I got to do the same on Sunday with another friend who just left Baltimore six short weeks ago for a job after finishing her masters at Hopkins. When she told me she was moving to Chicago, I told her I was going to be there for a conference and we should get together while I was in town because she wasn’t getting rid of me that easily. It hadn’t been that long since I’d seen her, but I got find out how she’s faring in her new life and then be sad all over again that this person I like very much is now so far away from me.

Sunday afternoon I also got to finally put a real face to a Twitter pal over lunch. She is also a big music fan like I am and we’re always making each other jealous of the concerts we’re at from across the country. Of course she lives in Colorado so always gets to pull out the Red Rocks card. One day, Red Rocks, one day. It was fun to meet up with her and chat in real life for a change.

I wasn’t really looking forward to this conference at all, but it wound up being a good time and I’m really glad I wound up going.

 

Outdoors, Friends, Fun: AKA Summer is the Best June 5, 2017

Filed under: Baltimore,Friends,Life — dwhren @ 7:51 am

After a terribly cool, grey, and rainy spring we seem to have finally turned somewhat of a corner and are getting some warmer sunnier weather (of course as I write this it’s supposed to rain and be cooler this week) at least for the past week. It’s been wonderful and has done wonders to improve my mood. Life is just so much more pleasant when the weather is nice enough to do things outside.

The previous weekend there was a 30th birthday party for one of my friends. We got to sit outside on a lovely screened porch and enjoy a firepit out on the patio. I love sitting around a firepit on a summer night.

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The following night one of my friends from college got married at The Elm, which is an event space a few blocks from my house. I was always kind of curious about it, so I’m glad they got married there so I could finally check it out. It was rainy off and on earlier in the day, but it cleared up just in time for them to have their ceremony outside as planned. It was a lovely wedding, and I enjoyed getting to walk there and back. I don’t think I’ll ever go to a wedding closer to the place I’m living than this one.

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On Thursday one of my coworkers and I finally got to try blacksauce kitchen for lunch. I’m a long time lover of their food from the farmers markets and festivals, but I hadn’t yet managed to make it over to the storefront they opened a few months ago. It’s only opened on Thursdays for now and it’s carry out only, so we were waiting for a Thursday when we were both free and the weather was nice enough for us to eat outside. We took our delicious food (blacksauce never disappoints) and ate it on a bench in Sherwood Gardens. It was perfect, at least until the part where we had to go back to work.

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This past Saturday I went down to Georgetown to meet another friend from college who was there for work. We had brunch outside and then wandered around Georgetown for awhile. It was great to catch up with her, and it was nice to walk around Georgetown. It’s been a really long time since I’d been there.

Yesterday my church held its service followed by a potluck brunch outside at the pavilion at the Baltimore Museum of Industry. Last year the school that we normally meet at had a water main break and some enterprising person managed to think of and snag the BMI pavilion for our service instead. It worked out so well they decided to do it once every summer. The weather was perfect for it this morning, and it was lovely to sit out and stare at the water and the boats.

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I didn’t get all my steps in earlier in the day, so we went for a walk after dinner. I love that it’s still light enough at 7:30 to go out for a walk. It’s a billion times better than when it gets dark hours earlier in the winter. Everything in this post is why summer is better than winter and why I love it so much.

 

New York Theatre Trip March 2, 2017

Filed under: Friends,Theatre,Travel — dwhren @ 8:18 pm

There are approximately 1000 shows currently on Broadway or set to open soon. There is sadly no way I’ll get to see them all, but I decided to take a trip to New York to mark at least a couple off my list. I get way more vacation time than my husband, so I decided I’d take a few days off work and take a mid-week solo trip up to see a Tuesday night show and Wednesday matinee. Hotel rooms in NYC mid-week at the end of February are fairly reasonable, and it turns out we had enough points on our credit card to pay for my hotel that way anyway.

Thanks to the credit card points I actually wound up staying at the Doubletree Suites in Times Square because it was the best deal with the best location for what I was doing. I really didn’t need a suite to myself especially just for one night, but I pretended I was all fancy for a night. The hotel was a perfect location and I was surprised at how quiet it was at least where my room was located. No usual traffic noises keeping me awake. The hotel itself could use a little updating. It was looking a little tired, but the bed was comfortable enough so I don’t have any real complaints.

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My suite. I even had 2 sinks in the bathroom.

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View from my hotel room.

I took the train up on Tuesday afternoon. Happily it worked out that for reasons both my friends in NYC were not at work during my trip so I got to steal them away to meet up. Tuesday night I met up with one at the bar in an Italian restaurant for called Casa Nonna for an early happy hour dinner. It was great to catch up with her in person and enjoy some delicious pizza.

After that I headed to the newly renovated and reopened Hudson Theatre for Sunday in the Park with George starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Annaleigh Ashford. Sunday in the Park with George is one of those classic Sondheim musicals that I had never seen, but always felt like I should so I was super happy when this production came around and it started getting such good buzz. I immediately put it at the top of my list of shows to see given its limited run. It was great. Turns out Jake Gyllenhaal can sing. Who knew? He made an excellent Georges Seurat. Despite her Broadway bona fides this is the first show I’ve seen Annaleigh Ashford in as well, so I’m glad I finally got to see her perform too. The theatre itself was beautifully restored, though I suspect they’re soon going to regret their decision to serve wine in actual wine glasses instead of the normal Broadway sippy cups given the cream colored velvet seat covers.

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Wednesday morning I of course got myself a bagel for breakfast and then took a walk on the High Line. I’d walked part of it in the past but not the whole thing. I figured it would be a good way to get my steps in for the day. Scenes from the High Line:

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In the afternoon I met up with another friend for lunch and then we went to see Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 together. The reviews for this show had been really great and my boss who also sees a lot of Broadway shows but doesn’t care that much for musicals told me she loved it, so that’s why it was also one of my top choices of shows to see. I’m definitely glad I saw it on Broadway because there is no way it’s going to translate into a touring production even remotely close to what it is now. The staging is set up in such a way that the actors are everywhere in the audience a lot of the time with staircases from the stage leading up into the Mezzanine. There’s no way they’ll be able to do that on a tour. There’s lots of seating on the stage as well, which will also be something can only be approximated to a degree.

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The show itself is based on War and Peace, which is something I’ve never read so I have no idea how faithful the storyline was. Condensing a book that long into a Broadway show I’m sure results in a lot of cuts. I certainly felt the story lacking in certain places. Entire plot threads seem to show up in a song and then just completely disappear. The overarching love story was the heart of the show and made sense to me, but most everything else including Pierre and the Great Comet left me slightly confused. It’s a sung through musical, which I’m not sure I realized going in. It made me wish I had listened to the cast recording ahead of time as I know I always miss things when they’re solely in song form on first go around. At any rate none of that really mattered because it’s just such a fun production full of delightful dancing and costumes and hey did you know that guy Josh Groban can really sing? There were a lot of fun audience interaction touches too. At one point the second act they pass around Great Comet branded rhythm eggs for people to shake along to the song. Now I have a little souvenir from the show I can annoy everyone with. If you’re thinking about seeing a Broadway show I would definitely recommend this one because it is a really good time and you’re never going to get the same experience from a touring production.

It was an excellent trip. I’m really glad I decided to plan it for myself. Everything worked out perfectly. I should probably do it again some time.

 

DC Day October 24, 2016

Filed under: Concerts,Food,Friends,Life,Music,Pop Culture — dwhren @ 7:54 am

Awhile back my husband, knowing that I like the band The Head and the Heart, pointed out to me that they were going to be playing at D.A.R. Constitution Hall in DC. I had already seen, but decided not to go because I didn’t feel like going all the way to DC and was hoping they would swing back through Baltimore later in their tour as they had in their previous tours. He pointed out to me that he was going to be in DC for a conference that day, so if I decided to get tickets I could come down and meet him and we could go. So I went ahead and bought tickets. Of course two weeks after I bought tickets, they announced a show in Baltimore in December. Looks like I’ll just have to see them twice. Poor me.

Anyway, shortly after buying tickets to the concert my former boss passed away and I saw that the memorial service was going to be in Olney, Maryland the same day as the concert. After looking up where the heck Olney was and realizing it was in DC suburbs, I decided it didn’t make sense to go back home in between. Instead it made more sense for me to drive into DC and spend the afternoon there. So I made plans to do just that.

The memorial service was lovely. They had ten people speak and share stories and remembrances. It was a very fitting tribute to man who was loved by many, and tried to live life to the fullest despite his long battle with MS. He will be missed.

After the memorial service I headed to my friends Alison and Dave’s house. They just bought a house in DC and happily they were free so we could hang out yesterday afternoon. I got to check out their new digs, and spend some time with them. Now that Alison sadly no longer lives in Baltimore I obviously don’t get to see her as often. They still come up this way a lot, but I know once they settle into their DC life more and more I know that drive will seem even less appealing. Alison and I thought about going to a museum briefly, but I had no slept well and was really tired so we decided just to hang out their house until dinner.

One of the problems with D.A.R. is that there is nothing else immediately around it in terms of commercial things like stores and restaurants. Within a mile or so there’s a handful of places, but you still don’t have a very big selection if you want to grab drinks or dinner before a show. I made us reservations at Founding Farmers, which I had heard good things about and is insanely popular based on the number of people waiting to get in there. Perhaps at one point it was amazing and is now just resting on it’s popularity, or maybe it’s just one of those places that has a reputation for whatever reason that it doesn’t really live up to. After waiting almost an hour after our reservation time for our table (normally that would have made me leave a place, but in this case there wasn’t really anywhere else to go), the food was just middling. I’m not sure why everyone was fighting to get in there. At least everything came out fast since we were pressed for time by the time we got to sit. The carrot cake was tasty too.

Because dinner took so long we did miss the first bit of the opening band, Declan McKenna. I didn’t know them going in, and after seeing what I saw of their set I wasn’t really sad that I missed part of it. They weren’t completely terrible like whoever the opening act was the first time I saw The Head and the Heart in concert, but their music didn’t do a whole lot for me.

Last night was the fourth time I’ve seen The Head and the Heart in concert. Once at the Newport Folk Festival and then once on each of the tours they’ve done for their three albums. They always put on an excellent show. Last night was no exception. They obviously played a good chunk of music from their new album, which I really like. They still tend to play a lot from their first album as well, which the crowd eats up. At this point especially for those songs but for some of their more recent material as well, it was really just one big sing-a-long with the crowd. That doesn’t work with every band, but it totally does with them and I was happy to be able to sit there and sing with everyone. I’m already looking forward to seeing them again in December.

 

Aberdeen IronBirds Game August 30, 2016

Filed under: Friends,Sports — dwhren @ 8:32 am

Sunday night we headed out to an Aberdeen IronBirds baseball game. The IronBirds are a Short Season A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles. They are owned by former Oriole Cal Ripken hence their name being a combination of Ripken’s nickname The Iron Man along with birds for the Orioles.

I’ve been to other minor league team games before, but this was my first IronBirds game. My other minor league games have been in places where there isn’t a major league team. We live within a couple of miles of Camden Yards, so there’s no need to trek all the way out to the northern reaches of Maryland to watch a minor league team play. One of our friends got a group of people together to go up on Sunday though because they have a crab deck at Ripken Stadium where you can order crabs and sit out at picnic tables and eat them during the game. It’s all very Maryland. I figured it would be a good time to check out the IronBirds and spend some time with friends.

It turned out to be a really nice night for a baseball game. Perfect summer weather in my opinion. So even though I didn’t wind up eating crabs, it was still a fun outing. It was also dollar hot dog night, so by the time people decided to move to the crab deck I had already eaten a hot dog and fries and decided I wasn’t going to bother with crabs. Other people seemed to enjoy them though.

In addition to dollar hot dog night it was also Halloween in August, so all of the people working there were in costumes as were a lot of people in the crowd. I was actually surprised how many people actually showed up in costume. Good for them for getting into the spirit of things. That’s the thing about minor league baseball, everything seems just slightly goofier, but in a good way. There’s lots more stuff they do to try and keep the crowd entertained. It’s all very low budget, but I find it endearing.

The baseball itself was not great. There’s a reason these guys aren’t playing in the big leagues. The game went into extra innings. I gave them one more inning to win before we left. Based on how the last few innings had gone I had a feeling it was going to be awhile before anyone scored and broke the tie. I was right.We had driven the 45 minutes home before the game was over. Our friends that stayed said it went into the 13th inning and they were there for a good hour after we left.

It was a fun night and it’s a completely different experience than going to an O’s game, but I would probably need a pretty good reason to trek up there again for a game. We spent just as much money on tickets for the IronBirds as for an O’s game. Granted that’s comparing fourth row seats at Ripken Stadium to upper deck seats at Camden Yards, but it’s still comparing what we would actually pay to see a game at each place. Plus you can bring in food and drink to Camden Yards, which you can’t at Ripken Stadium. I guess at least the hot dogs at Ripken Stadium were better. I don’t like the ones they have at Camden Yards. Aberdeen is a little far to drive just for a hot dog though. Probably if I want to see a baseball game in the future I’ll stick with the Orioles, but I’m glad I got to check out the IronBirds after so many years of driving past their stadium on 95.

 

 

Escape Room Fun August 15, 2016

Filed under: Friends,Random — dwhren @ 7:40 am

I’ve been curious about these Escape Rooms since I first heard of them a year or so ago. Yesterday I finally got to find out what it was all about when a group of friends and I went for someone’s birthday yesterday. If you’re not familiar with the Escape Room concept, there is basically some sort of themed room that usually up to 10 people get “locked” into and have an hour to figure out how to get out. There are lots of locks in the room and you have to use clues you find behind the locks in order to unlock the final key to get out of the room. Basically it’s a race against the clock to win the game and escape.

I wasn’t really quite sure what to expect, but I was excited to try it out. These things seem to be popping up all over the place these days, but the one we went to was called Escape This Live in Catonsville. They have three different rooms there. We did the easiest one they have called Queen Anne’s Revenge and it was a pirate themed room. Even though it’s the easiest one there, it was still rated moderate difficulty and we were told that only 24% of people who do it make it out within the hour.

The first thing I found out was that they don’t really lock you in the room, at least at this one so no worries for the claustrophobic.  You could technically get out whenever you want. There were two doors. The main door that you enter the room through is left unlocked the whole time. There was a second locked door that was the one you needed find the key for and open in order to win.

There was a short 1 minute video intro with a sort of starting clue and then the timer started. Again I don’t know if this is typical of how all of these places work, but at least at this one you were left with a walkie talkie and could contact the people who work there to get up to 3 clues throughout the hour. They obviously had cameras in the room watching us because every time we asked for a clue one would pop up on the video screen related to the puzzle we were obviously working on at the time, so they could obviously see what we were doing while we were in there.

We did actually manage to make it out with only 1:34 left on the clock. It was really harrowing there at the end. We still had three locks left with less than 5 minutes and had been working on one for at least ten minutes. Once we got that one finally open we got the other two lickety split and got the door open just in time. It made the end really exciting. It was fun no matter what, but I’m glad we managed to get out. It would have been disappointing to get so close and fail.

It would be interesting to try another one now that I’m familiar with the concept to see if I would be any better at it knowing some of the way things were set up in this one. Also having done it, I do think it’s probably the most fun with a large group of your own friends so that you buy out the room. I feel like there could be a weird dynamic trying to do it with people you don’t already know. I would definitely do it again.