Archive | March 2011

New York in Film

Alright, so it seems that the theme for this week is New York and how much I’m going to miss it. You can’t fight your subconscious! So, I’ve decided to fully embrace this theme. Of course there are many more movies that are either filmed in NYC or are about New York than I can list here: New York Stories, Sex in the City, Die Hard, The Professional, Once Upon a Time in America, almost all of Spike Lee and Woody Allen’s early work and the list goes on.

I’m highlighting my absolute favorites and you can click on the movie titles to watch trailers and clips on YouTube. Enjoy! Mari


Woody Allen’s classic opening with George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue playing. Could it get any better than this? Although I have qualms about Allen as a person, you really can’t beat his early filmmaking. *Notice the VW van that drives by around 24 seconds!


New York, I Love You

I also recommend Paris, J’taime that follows the same concept: shorts directed by different well known directors all taking place in the same city.


The Godfather

I couldn’t leave this one out! I also liked The Freshman, which is a nod to this original with Matthew Broderick and Marlon Brando.


Radio Days

Another stellar Woody Allen – notice how the trailer starts with the War of the Worlds broadcast! I would have also included Annie Hall but I didn’t want to make this list too Woody Allen heavy.


A Bronx Tale

What a classic. I still think of this movie when I unlock someone else’s door. I once met someone who was an extra in this film when he was a little boy and was still bragging about it at age 25!



The opening scene at the New York Public Library is classic. Who ya gonna call?


How to Succeed in Business…

I just love watching scenes of NYC in other decades. This opening scene has some really beautiful images of 1960s NYC.


West Side Story

Boy, boy, crazy boy! This was filmed and takes place where the Lincoln Center complex is now. Boy have things changed!


Saturday Night Fever

John Travolta plus The Bee Gees equals perfection. Another person I don’t love but whose work I respect…


When Harry Met Sally

How can you forget the gorgeous walks through Central Park in Fall or the famous Diner scene?


Breakfast at Tiffany’s

You gotta love the classic opening scene with Moon River playing in the background.



Despite a tragic re-make, Fame will live forever and so will this “Hot Lunch” scene!


Do The Right Thing

I wish Spike Lee would make more New York centric movies like this one!


Little Manhattan

It’s nice to know that newer movies are paying homage to NYC as well.


I Am Legend

Also a newer movie, I had to throw this one in there because of the Times Square after the fall of mankind scenes.


The Game

A totally under-rated movie. Rent it now!


Wall Street

Oh, Charlie Sheen! We miss you!

A Tale of 3 Bway Shows

At first glance you might not think that the Broadway shows RENT, In The Heights, and American Idiot have a lot in common. However, I saw American Idiot last night and even during the show I couldn’t help thinking about both RENT and In The Heights (which I have just learned actually share a producer: Kevin McCollum).

The Similarities

1. Each of these stories is set in a city—New York City (though it is not said outright in American Idiot all of the postcards the narrator sends to his friends are of NYC). The urban landscape is essential to each of the narratives and comes across in the set and lighting design. Fire escapes and scaffolding are a part of each of the set designs.

2. Each of the shows represents events and issues that continue to resonate today. While each of the shows was timely when they premiered, none of the shows feels dated and in fact the oldest show, RENT will return to NYC this summer.

While the issues may differ, each play addresses some of the most prescient concerns of young people coming of age in America. Further, the stories and characters are critical of aspects of America. RENT shines the spotlight on AIDS, gentrification on the Lower East Side, and the lives of struggling artists in the early 1990s. In The Heights tackles immigration, gentrification of Washington Heights, chasing the American Dream in the late 1990s. American Idiot focuses on war, drug abuse, the alienation of suburbia, and young parenthood in a Post 9-11 America.

3. Each of these shows is the passion project of one charismatic individual (interestingly enough they are all men). Jonathan Larson wrote the rock opera RENT in the early 90s and it officially premiered off-Broadway at the New York Theatre Workshop in 1996. In a truly operatic footnote to this story the show’s creator Jonathan Larson died suddenly the evening before the off-Broadway premiere.

Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote In The Heights as a sophomore at Wesleyan University. It was work-shopped at Wesleyan’s student theatre company, Second Stage, and it opened off-Broadway in 2007 with an official Broadway opening in 2008.

Billie Joe Armstrong, the frontman for the band Green Day, collaborated with the creative team behind Spring Awakening to create American Idiot based on the band’s concept album of the same name. The show premiered at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre in 2009 and then moved to Broadway in 2010.

4. All of these shows is told from the perspective of one young man. We see the world through his eyes – Mark, Usnavi, and Johnny. Each young man is grappling with his specific context and confronts issues of manhood, poverty, purpose, and leaving home.

5. The story is communicated through popular music. While they are all considered musical theatre, each of these productions has been recognized for how it breaks the “musical” mold. RENT was one of the first commercially successful rock operas, In The Heights showcased the music of Latin America and Hip Hop, and American Idiot represents the blend of punk and pop music that has made Green Day such a success.

6. Each musical was critically acclaimed each one earning a Tony Award with RENT winning the pulitzer prize for Jonathan Larson and American Idiot winning a Grammy for Best Musical Show Album.



I saw the Boston production of  RENT in 1996 for my 16th birthday with my sister **Sarah**. That evening was a special fundraiser for AIDS Action, an organization I had supported throughout high school as a participant in the Annual AIDS Walk. How do you describe the magic of live theatre? Goose bumps? Butterflies? Tears in my eyes? I had all three that night. I was deeply moved by the story and I grew to love the music (I can still recite most of the lyrics by heart), idolizing the struggling artists on stage. Some of my fondest memories of being a camp counselor were dancing and singing to “La Vie Boheme” with my bunk of 13 year-old girls. I related to the Bohemian aspirations of the show’s characters—their self-expression, self-consciousness, and self-discovery—all spoke to me as a teenager.

In The Heights

I saw this in 2009 with the Teen Ink Summer Writing Program when I was the co-Director and Chaperone. I had heard some of the buzz but had no idea what to expect from the performance. I was too busy worrying about getting all 30 teenage girls through Times Square safely to build up my expectations too high.

Wow! Was I amazed. I don’t think I stopped dancing in my chair for the entire performance. I bought the soundtrack immediately and felt like one of my teenage students when we had the opportunity to talk with the cast after the show and to get my Playbill signed. I related to the in-betweenness of the show’s young Latino characters. The mix of Spanish and English—the conflicting feelings of what home means and living up to the expectations of a legacy.

American Idiot

It seems that I’ve experienced each of these shows at a particularly formative time of my life. This was no exception. This was the perfect show to see as I prepare to leave New York City at the end of the week. I guess it was lucky I didn’t win the lottery for tickets to The Book of Mormon! I knew I was going to like this show from the moment the curtain went up. The set looked like a version of my teenage bedroom—posters covering every square inch of wall punctuated by 50 television screens of varying sizes. I’ve always been a fan of Green Day so I already loved the music and could sing and dance along.

However, what stuck out to me was how current this show feels. While the other shows do deal with problems our society continues to face, American Idiot includes the words and images of ex-president Bush and his cronies as well as television clips from current news and reality programs. In addition, American Idiot features a character who serves in the US Army and must deal with the aftermath of his service. I may be wrong but I believe this is the only show ever to be on Broadway with a character who sports a burka. This is truly a post 9-11 product.

In Conclusion…

All of these works of art speak to me as a young person growing up in the United States, as an artist responding to my environment, and as a New Yorker. Above all else, though, musical theatre, and these productions in particular, makes me feel like a teenager again basking in a communal experience that I think we often strive for growing up. There’s something about the emotions of adolescence that are so clearly represented on stage and in music. These works force me to suspend disbelief and remind me to keep striving towards my dreams.

Adios Artists

Some Starting Artists came over the other day to decorate cupcakes, play games, and have fun one last time as a group. Above is a preview of some images from the party and below is a silly video I made. Once I get a chance to scan the Polaroids I’ll upload all of the images to share. I’ll miss you all! Enjoy, Mari

NYC To Do List

It’s officially our last week living in New York and in true New York fashion our internet has stopped working at home (hence the lack of posts this weekend). Thanks Time Warner Cable! If I made a list of things I WON’T miss about NYC, Time Warner’s monopoly of the City’s cable and internet service would be on that list. Luckily we have a solution. Leave it to Paul’s Google Phone to save the day so that we can now tether the internet for our computers. I love technology.

Anyway, this is supposed to be a post about wonderful things in NYC, specifically the things that have been on our “To Do” list for years. We’ve been able to cross off some of the items (as you can see) but alas if it doesn’t happen by Saturday of this week, we’ll have to attempt to cross off more items when we come back to visit. Enjoy, Mari & Paul

Paul has done
Mari has done
Mari & Paul have both done
Neither Mari nor Paul has done (yet!)


The List

See Shakespeare in the Park
Visit the Statue of Liberty
Take the Staten Island Ferry
Go to the Cloisters
Do the 7 Train Food Crawl in Queens
Go to a Yankees Game
See a Broadway Show
Ride the Roosevelt Island Tram
Attend an Improv Class
Take Cooking/Baking Classes
Visit the Top of the Rock Observation Deck
Participate in an Improv Everywhere Stunt
Play a Game of Tag on Wall Street
Enter a Broadway Show Ticket Lottery (and win!)
Take Salsa Dance Lessons
Take Music Lessons
Go Apple Picking
Attend the Rocky Horror Picture Show

See a Concert at Carnegie Hall
Take the Water Taxi
Go Swing Dancing at a Club
Swim in the East River
Watch the 4th of July Fireworks
Paint an Outdoor Mural
Attend Restaurant Week
Visit all 5 Boroughs
Attend a Protest March
See the Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center
Have Tea at the Ritz

Visit the Fulton Fish Market
Go Contra Dancing
Make it onto a Billboard in Times Square
Attend Trapeze School
Go Rock Climbing
Go Ice Skating
Mentor a Student with NFTE
See the Cherry Blossoms at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens
Do the Polar Bear Plunge
Live in a Brownstone
Go to the Metropolitan Opera
See an Outdoor Movie

Tour the Empire State Building
Attend a Taping of This American Life
Belong to the Park Slope Food Co-op
Earn an Advanced Degree in the City
Go Boating in Central Park

Take a Double Decker Bus Tour
Have a Birthday at a Karaoke Bar
Go to Midsummer Night’s Swing at Lincoln Center
Attend a Taping of Selected Shorts at Symphony Space
Visit the Art Under the Bridge Festival

Appear on NY1
Ride the Cyclone at Coney Island
See the Circus Elephants on Parade
Attend the Mermaid Parade in Coney Island
Attend a Taping of a Television Show
Be a Game Show Contestant
Go Kayaking on the East River
Go to the Brooklyn Flea Market Indoors & Out

Go to a Comedy Club
Bike Around NYC
Walk Over the Brooklyn Bridge
Play Soccer in a Charity League
Drink Frozen Hot Chocolates at Serendipity 3
Have Drinks at Chumley’s
Ride a Train from the First to the Last Stop
Attend a Taping of RadioLab

Go to the Russian Baths
Go to the Ballet
Take a Cruise from Brooklyn
Spend Thanksgiving in NYC
Fall in Love

New York Playlist

As Paul and I prepare to leave NYC after nearly 10 years living here, I’ve been thinking about New York-themed songs. Below find the names and artists of a few NY songs, listen to clips and learn where to buy the songs at my playlist HERE. Happy listening, Mari

New York State of Mind – Billy Joel

New York, New York – Frank Sinatra

New York Minute – Don Henley

The Only Living Boy in New York

Simon & Garfunkel

The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)

Simon & Garfunkel

New York Times – Cat Stevens

New York, New York – Ryan Adams

Empire State of Mind – Jay-Z Featuring Alicia Keys

New York City Boy – Pet Shop Boys

The Boy From New York City – The Ad Libs

New Things I’m Lovin’

Here’s another installment of my favorite things of the moment. Peace, Mari

Billy Berg Socks

I bought these adorable socks for Paul at Urban Outfitters but you can find them other places online. Made by Billy Berg, they come in several different face designs.

Luna Tattoo Concert Ukelele

Another present I bought for Paul – for his birthday – is the Luna Tattoo Concert Uke. Besides looking beautiful, it sounds great, too (not as high as other ukes, which I like). Paul is taking classes and has learned: Rocky Raccoon, This Land is Your Land, Stand By Me, Don’t Worry Be Happy, American Pie, and more. Singing these songs together we’re transforming into full-fledged hippies before your very eyes!

Zoom H4n Digital Recorder

I researched digital recorders for days and finally settled on the affordable Zoom H4n Handy Recorder based on hundreds of positive reviews. We’re hoping to take documenting to the next level with professional sound clips, interview recordings, and who knows, maybe we’ll start recording Paul on the uke! We haven’t used it that much yet since we just got it but it’s been terrific so far.

7 Train Food Crawl Through Queens

More on this to come but it’s been on our “Things to do in NYC before…” list since 2008. Yup, we never got around to taking this incredible adventure until this past weekend. We had a blast exploring Queens and eating our way through the borough enjoying Colombian empanadas, Indian dosas, Thai BBQ Pork Salad, Argentinian Steak, and American Doughnuts!


I can see why Glenn Close earned the Golden Globe and Emmy for her portrayal of Patty Hewes, a ruthless “high-stakes litigator,” in this exceptional series. I would describe Patty as one part Cruella Da Vil, one part Robin Hood, and one part Clarence Darrow. The thing is, you never know what you’re going to get with her – the carrot or the stick. This show is successful, I believe, as a result of excellent writing, interesting plot twists, a stellar cast (also Emmy winners), and inspired visuals (excellent editing, cinematography, direction). It doesn’t hurt that the story lines appear to be  “ripped from the headlines” and that we see the greedy corporate bad guys (and their associates) get punished. Check it out on Netflix or buy the DVDs.


Our roomie, **Arrun,** turned us on to Kale. I’d never really prepared it before but it’s surprisingly satisfying steamed with some lemon juice (sprinkled on after you cook it) and Parmesan cheese.

Catan Online

My name is Marisa and I have a game playing addiction. Seriously. I LOVE playing games! I hadn’t played Settlers of Catan in a while (we were introduced to the board game by **Sarah** and **Dan** and often played with **Matt** and **Kerry** when they lived in NYC). It’s kind of a chore to set up and ideally is played with 3 or more players but now that I have found Catan Online I can play alone! It’s free (a subscription is also available) but heed my warning – you’ll get addicted!

Watch This Now

I can’t get enough of TED Talks. Watching TED Talks is like going to the most fabulous university in the world where experts from all different areas share knowledge in surprising and exciting ways. Here are some of my favorites related to Arts and Education. Enjoy! Mari

Sarah Kay – spoken word

“I use spoken word to help my students rediscover wonder, to fight their instincts to be cool and unfazed and instead actively pursue being engaged with what goes on around them so that they can reinterpret and create something from it.”


Miwi Matreyek – video performance art


Jose Abreu – music education

“Today we can say that art in Latin American is no longer a monopoly of elites and that it has become a social right, a right for all the people.”


Kiran Bir Sethi – inspiring youth

“Contagious is a good word…laughter is contagious…passion is contagious…inspiration is contagious.”

“When children are inspired not only do they do good, they do well!”

Photo Challenge – Edition 6

This is the last entry for the 30 Day Photo Challenge. Enjoy, Mari


A picture of yourself and a family member

This is **No Sé**. He has been a member of our family from the beginning and was named after **Julia’s** dog (see more about **Julia** below). His name means “I don’t know” in Spanish. Paul adopted him from Guatemala when he was studying there and he has had many adventures with us, including traveling around the world to Puerto Rico (where the above image was taken), South Africa, the Dominican Republic, India, Mexico, and across the United States.


A picture of something you’re afraid of

Loss…of sight, of mind, of people I love.


A picture that can always make you smile

I’m obsessed with animated gifs these days. And, I’m obsessed with **Paul** so it all works out.


A picture of someone you miss

**Julia** was like a grandmother to me. She met me before my adoptive parents did. This is us in Colombia before I was adopted. I am holding my sister Sarah’s school photo. The last time I was in Colombia I visited with her and then she passed away a year later.

To the Dreamers…

I made this video for the last Starting Artists Student Presentation Night. Paul and I recently purchased a new audio recorder – the Zoom H4N (so far it’s a great little toy) – and I re-recorded and re-mixed the audio track for this piece using the music editing software Reaper (also so far so good). Enjoy! Mari


80s Theme Songs

What was I doing in the 1980s? I was growing up and watching a lot of TV. Below I’ve listed some of my favorite 70s/80s TV theme songs. To see all of videos of opening credits, visit my YouTube Playlist. Mari

Welcome Back Kotter

Gilligan’s Island

Greatest American Hero

The Love Boat

The Brady Bunch

Laverne & Shirley


Family Ties

Growing Pains

Diff’rent Strokes


Silver Spoons

Gimme A Break


Who’s the Boss

Punky Brewster

Charles in Charge

Happy Days

Golden Girls

Knight Rider

Digrassi Junior High

Cosby Show (Season 3) and Cosby Show (Season 6-7)

Fresh Prince of Bel Air


Perfect Strangers (Original)

Perfect Strangers (Great Cover)

Mr. Belvedere (Original)

Mr. Belvedere (Great Cover)

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