An Ode to the Whimsical World of Kate Spade ♠️

My first big girl purchase was a cranberry colored, Kate Spade bowler bag. Its pebbled leather, marked with a signature golden spade, accompanied me to my first job interviews. The pockets of its interior were ready to be filled with notepads and meeting agendas and file folders. As I carried it, I felt like I was being carried into my future. It was the perfect comfort, and a necessary accessory to bring with me over the precarious bridge from college to career.

Once I landed a job, more Kate Spade accessories ushered me into my New York City life as a journalist. A backpack with heart-shaped clusters of flowers hauls my laptop every day, a card holder carries my work i.d., a classy black crossbody bag escorts me to events, and an adorable pink pencil pouch is my companion in press rooms. Its bow-shaped zipper tab opens to reveal an eraser that says “To err is human.”

It's these zappy phrases and inspiring slogans that bring the playful wonder of the Kate Spade lifestyle brand to life. “Make Every Day Saturday” and “She is quick and curious and playful and strong” are posed on tumblers and tea pots and phone cases, illuminating the quotidian events of life. The delightful novelty purses shaped as flamingos, pineapples, and ice cream trucks make me smile. 

My personal collection now even includes a bed sheet set, bespeckled with blue dots, on which I have spent many weekend mornings unabashedly practicing my favorite Kate Spade mantra: “Eat Cake For Breakfast.” The brand is in part a marker into adulthood for young women yearning to carry the iconic bags—and a fanciful reminder that #adulting can be fun, too.

And someday I suspect that the bedazzled white kicks and beautiful silver cake platters engraved with the saying “How sweet it is!” as part of the Kate Spade bridal collection will guide me into yet another phase of life. (I may have already started a list of my would-be registry items and wedding must-haves.)

In short, I’m thankful for this whimsical world that Kate Spade has created. Her vision to craft a simple handbag, and the billion-dollar business that bloomed thereafter, is inspiring. The bags are a rite of passage of sorts for young women looking to build something of their own. And in a time where capsule wardrobes and closets of beige and black are the goal, my splashy Kate Spade accessories and home goods remind me to “Live Colorfully,” and with purpose.

Thank you, Kate.

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

An Ode to Opera 🎶

I saw my first opera in the Czech Republic when I was seventeen years old. My high school madrigal choir was traveling to compete in an international competition, and our tour took us to the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, and Austria. (We took home the top prize!) After a long day of rehearsals in the city of Olomouc, we slunk into the red velvet seats of the 1830 Moravské divadlo Olomouc opera house to see Giuseppe Verdi’s Nabucco. The surtitles were in Czech. I didn’t quite follow the plot, but I marveled at the elaborate set pieces and the heavy, ornamented costumes. I watched in amazement as the tiers of Solomon’s temple flew above the stage, and as fire ignited along the footlights to illuminate a battle scene. It was all so grandiose—the opera house, the music, the drama. Much to my surprise, the audience burst into song in the Third Act. The crowd of well-dressed patrons joined in on the famous chorus “Va, Pensiero," and it was kind of magical.

I didn’t return to the opera for seven years, and now I’m on a roll seeing contemporary operas. Many luminaries in the theatre world develop and direct operas, and in my recent trips to the opera I have found that the form mirrors contemporary musicals in surprising ways. Arias in operas are much like the "I Want" songs in musicals—characters step aside to reveal their innermost feelings. The songs can be indulgent, emotional, and don't have to drive the plot. This emotional storytelling can also teach the audience how to listen to subsequent recitative songs. 

In December, I went to the Metropolitan Opera for the premiere of Kaija Saariaho’s L'Amour de loin. It was opening night, and women ascended the stairs of the Met with their gowns trailing behind. Men were dressed to the nines in tuxedos. And there was such excitement bubbling about the premiere—it was the first staging of an opera by a female composer at the Met since 1903. (Which was staggering to me and didn't seem like cause for celebration, but I happily attended the celebratory post-show soirée anyway.) Surtitles for the French-language libretto by Amin Maalouf were neatly displayed on the seat in front of me, but my eyes were transfixed on director Robert Lepage’s staging. The sea separating the opera’s long distance lovers—the Prince of Blaye and the Countess of Tripoli—was brought to life with rows of twinkling, tubular LED lights. They seemed to stretch upstage forever, rising and falling with the billow of the baritone’s voice. It was mesmerizing, and so beautiful.

In September I saw the world premiere of the “hiphopera” We Shall Not Be Moved, by Daniel Bernard Roumain and Marc Bamuthi Joseph, at the Wilma Theater in Philadelphia as part of the Opera Philadelphia’s O Festival. The performers soared through spoken word, hip hop, and opera singing—all directed and choreographed by Bill T. Jones. The opera follows a group of displaced North Philly teenagers who find refuge in the exact location of the MOVE organization, the black liberation group that was bombed by the Philadelphia police in 1985. It was a dark slice of history, folded into the harrowing present, and told through beautiful projections and words. 

Earlier this month, I ventured to BAM’s Howard Gilman Opera House in Brooklyn for the first time to see Crossing as part of the Next Wave Festival. The opera was composed, written, and conducted by 27-year-old Matthew Aucoin, and directed by Diane Paulus. The English libretto was inspired by excerpts from a diary that Walt Whitman kept while volunteering as a Civil War nurse. It explores the line “What is it, then, between us?” in Whitman’s poem “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry,” taking it so far as to imagine a relationship between the author and a patient at a Washington, D.C.-based Union hospital. The set was a one-room ward filled with varying shades of Prussian blue, the color of the Union Army uniforms. Projections of the outside world fluttered across the shiplap walls, and soldiers moved about the space dancing as waves and shifting as wind, all while the lines between good and evil, and life and death, criss-crossed and blurred. It brought forth a divisive period of U.S. history, all while shedding light on the discordance in our country today.

I’m struck by how the images from the operas I have seen—a towering wall, strings of lights, fires blazing—have cemented in my brain. Opera is as much a visual form as an aural experience. It offers the perfect mold for over-the-top, operatic spirited characters, and gives virtuosic artists freedom to explore. I'm excited to see hip-hop dance moves and diverse casts and current events finding a place in opera houses.

While at the Philly Fringe, I happened upon an outdoor screening of Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro and was unable to find a seat on the three-block long Independence Mall. Hundreds of people of all ages watched and sang along. It was another magical moment. I'll happily add more trips to the opera to my calendar of regular theatre outings.

Prepping for the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center

I never went to sleepaway camp. It is funny because I grew up in rural Pennsylvania, which is chock-full of camps in forests with lots of trees and bodies of water for kayaking and paddle-boarding. 

Maybe I never went because my older brothers were banned from Camp Orchard Hill in my hometown after they demolished two of the organization’s brand-new go-karts. (Which was actually really funny and not as terrifying as it sounds.) Perhaps my perspective of sleepaway camp was tainted after I dropped my brothers off at Camp Woodward in Lancaster and visited the bunk rooms of the bikers and roller bladers, which reeked of sweat. Or maybe it is because my brother shattered his tooth on his bicycle handle one summer there, and I didn’t want to have my own catastrophic trip to the dentist while being away from home.

I did have my fair share of summer day camps, though, learning about constellations in science camp, mixing potions in wizardry camp, and even smashing geodes in rock camp.

The closest thing to a sleepaway summer camp that I ever experienced was an acting bootcamp for kids. I traded the great outdoors and star-gazing for the twinkly lights of Times Square, and stayed in a hotel with my gracious mother for a whole week when I was 12 years old. Instead of playing capture the flag, activities included memorizing commercial copy and mastering the art of audition tapes. (And making some pretty great memories with my mama.)

In high school I witnessed the true merit of sleepaway summer camp when one of my best friends demonstrated her ability to change her bra and underwear all without taking off her clothes while we prepped backstage for the annual dance recital at school. She also can french braid her own hair and tie a cherry stem with her tongue, all skills perfected by many summers spent at Camp Kresge in the Pocono Mountains.

This weekend, I feel like I’m finally getting a real camp experience. I’ll be venturing to Waterford, Connecticut for the National Critics Institute at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center. I’ve packed plenty of bug spray, a pair of boat shoes, and saved my dentist's number in my phone. I might be sharing a room with a stranger and there will be a communal bathroom. And while I don’t think there will be s’mores or Kumbaya around a fire, there might be titillating games like “Name That Theatre Critic,” or we might win prizes for filing reviews in a timely manner. And I’m excited. 

Whatever these two weeks have in store, I’m trying to not worry about my non-critical nature or think about all the things in the theatre field that I don’t know yet. And I’m trying to get over my bad case of imposter syndrome. I plan to go into this experience knowing that I have a lot to learn—and institutes are for learning, right?

Who knows, in addition to coming back more opinionated I might even learn how to tie a cherry stem on my tongue.