Category Archives: Big Picture

5 Amazing Podcasts for Your Commute | BEDA Day 5

As a fan of funny people talking in my ear on my way to work, I’ve really been enjoying the Podcast Renaissance. So many smart, funny people are launching their own shows on a range of topics. Not only do these shows make me laugh, they are also incredible educational tools that showcase the work of talented up-and-coming writers. My cup (or really, my Overcast feed) runneth over. Here are 5 podcasts I’ve been obsessed with lately.

The Ensemblist
Want to know what really happens behind the scenes at a Broadway show? Ever wonder what life is like for the ensemble members #werking it in that big musical number? The Ensemblist podcast, hosted by Nikka Graff Lanzarone and Mo Brady aims to give listeners “an inside look at all aspects of being on Broadway.” The show features interviews with seasoned Broadway professionals and newbies alike, with each episode focusing on one aspect of the business of show, such as the unions, being a parent and a performer, and live TV musicals. Each episode usually clocks in at less than 30 minutes, which, incidentally, is perfectly timed to my commute.

You Must Remember This
Guys, WHY did it take me so long to listen to this show? You Must Remember This, hosted by Karina Longworth, tells the secret history of old Hollywood, one episode at a time. I’m a huge nerd for Hollywood History, so I pretty much lost my mind the first time I listened to an episode. This season focuses on the Hollywood Blacklist, a direct result of the Communist witch hunts that took place after World War II. These stories are fascinating and still incredibly important. I’m loving this series so far.

Can I Pet Your Dog?
This podcast from Renee Colvert and Allegra Ringo was basically made for me. Each episode features these two funny ladies talking about their unabashed love for dogs. They also invite awesome guests like Noel Wells, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Lesli Margherita on to talk about their favorite dogs. Most of the time I just want to talk about dogs, so this show is perfect. Also, it’s part of the comedy and culture behemoth that is the Maximum Fun network, so you know it’s good.

Scriptnotes
I’ve been a Scriptnotes fan for going on 3 years now, and it remains one of the most consistently awesome podcasts in my feed. Hosted by screenwriters Craig Mazin and John August, Scriptnotes features conversations on the TV and film industry, writing craft, and basically everything interesting to screenwriters. When I was completing my undergrad program, the podcast was a great supplement to my classes. Now that I’m out of school, each episode keeps me up-to-date on the biz and motivates me to keep working. So thanks for that, John and Craig.

Spirits
Okay, so I’m obviously biased because this podcast is hosted by two of my friends, Amanda McLoughlin and Julia Schifini. However, I’d probably still recommend it even if I didn’t know them. In this podcast, Amanda and Julia enjoy some adult beverages and talk about mythology, legends, and lore. They only have a few episodes under their belts, but I’ve learned more in these episodes than I ever knew before about the myths and legends of Greece, Ireland, and the Philippines. Plus, they’re both hilarious. If you support them on Patreon (shameless plug), you’ll receive drink recipes catered to each episode. Yum.

What podcasts have you been loving recently? Let me know in comments! I’m always looking for new shows to add to my feed.  

Shut Up and Write, Already | BEDA Day 1

I’ve been thinking about identities a lot recently.

DON’T CLICK AWAY YET. This won’t take long.

I, like many others, kind of define myself by what I do. Vlogger, performer, assistant, traveler, they’re all hats I’ve worn over the years. One title I’ve felt particularly distant from recently is one of the one’s I’ve held the longest – writer. I talk so much about writing and wanting to write and other people’s writing…and yet I’m not actually writing all that often.

Part of it is the job. I work 50 hours a week, 90% of which is spent in front of a computer. It’s pretty difficult to motivate yourself to sit in front of a screen and churn out words after doing so for 10 hours straight. Of course, plenty of writers can make it work. I just haven’t quite gotten to that point yet.

Another part of it is that I’ve started writing for other people – and getting paid for it. Which is great! Side hustles are super-important in this economy. However, I’ve found it hard to motivate myself to work on my own stuff when I can whip up a post for a client and make a few bucks. This all sounds more like a #humblebrag than a complaint, but it’s something I’m feeling. I only have so much creative energy to give.

It’s time to put those excuses aside. For this month at least.

In an attempt to get back in the swing of things, I’m taking part in BEDA – Blog Every Day in April. I have attempted these “create something every day” challenges before to varying degrees of success (High Point – completing Vlog Every Day in August in 2011, Low Point – giving up on VEDA after 3 days in 2012). The key to these challenges I’ve found is two-fold:

  1. Preparation – I’m writing some of these posts ahead of time. This might go against the rules in some writers’ minds, but I take “Blog Every Day in April” to mean “Post on your Blog Every Day in April.” And it’s my blog so I make the rules, punk.
  2. Being Okay with Imperfection – When you’re posting something new every day, sometimes it’s more important to just get something online than to make sure it’s the best thing you’ve ever written. Not everything I post this month is going to be great. It probably won’t even be that good. But it’ll be there.

So here we go. 30 posts in 30 days. Will it actually happen? We’ll see. But it doesn’t hurt to try. And I’m trusting y’all to keep me accountable. Comment, share with your friends, nag me on Twitter, whatever you feel like doing. I’m looking forward to this month, y’all.
Here we go.

Snapshots | Fall 2015

I’ve decided to try something new. I know you all fear change, but just bear with me. In an effort to put all my recommendations, life updates, and little snippets that don’t necessarily warrant full posts in one place, I’m launching a new series called “Snapshots.” I haven’t decided if this is something that’ll happen every month, every couple of months, or every season, but for now I want to give you a peek into my life over the past few months. This is all heavily influenced by my girl Emily Diana Ruth’s monthly digest, which I adore (along with everything she makes).

Okay, enough disclaimers, let’s do this.

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Queen’s County Farm Museum

In an effort to experience some semblance of fall in the big city, my friends and I ventured out to the Queen’s County Farm Museum for some pumpkin picking. The trip was a bit of a haul from Manhattan, especially without a car, but it was totally worth it. The farm offers pumpkin picking, a petting zoo, a corn maze, and plenty of sweet treats in the fall. Plus we got to hang out with chickens, which is always a good time. I’d definitely go back to the Farm Museum at some point during the warmer months to get my nature on.

 

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Skyn Iceland Hydro Cool Eye Gels

Now that I’ve (sort of) passed my acne-prone teen years, I can move on to other skin concerns, specifically protecting the skin around my eyes. I received a few of these eye gels in my Ipsy bag a few months ago, and I’ve been obsessed with them ever since. I can’t really justify spending $30 on a pack of 8, but the $15 pack of 4 I bought at Ulta seemed totally reasonable. I don’t get my logic. Regardless, they take care of my sensitive skin and make me feel nice and refreshed. Maybe I’ll actually spring for the big bag one of these days.

 

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Forever Twenty Somethings

I’m happy to announce that I’m now contributing to Forever Twenty Somethings! FTS is “an on online magazine that helps millennials navigate life in their twenties as they endure the “quarter life crisis.” Their content is fun and informative, very much in the vein of Thought Catalog and HelloGiggles. My first three posts are up now! Give them a read and check out some of their other content while you’re at it.

My School Had A Quarter System And It Prepared Me For The Real World

The Pros & Cons Of Being An Only Child In Your 20s

50 Thoughts I Have During Zumba Class

 

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Must Reads

It’s almost the holidays, which means you’ll have plenty of time to dedicate to those longreads you’ve been saving for later. Here’s a few more pieces to peruse while you’re avoiding your family (and their political opinions).

Racial Profiling on the Main Line  – Philadelphia Magazine

How I Plan to Spend No Money This #NoSpendNovember  – The Financial Diet

Which of Your Favorite Websites Have Money And From Where – The Billfold

The Movie That Taught A Generation of Misfits To Let Their Freak Flags Fly – Buzzfeed

 

Fall Playlist

Traveling to visit family for Thanksgiving? You’ll need some tunes. Here are a few song I’ve had in heavy rotation over the last few months. This playlist includes some Grimes, some Carly Rae Jepson, and some Jesus Christ Superstar. Clearly my musical taste has been a little all over the place this season.

Thoughts on Validation, Social Media, and Essena O’Neil

I struggled with this post. When every website and their mother (on Facebook) are covering a story, jumping on the bandwagon feels like clickbaiting. I had a lot of feelings about the whole thing that I wanted to share, but I didn’t want to sound like a jerk. Ultimately, I don’t know what this girl’s going through. But I had something to say. And y’all wanted to hear it, apparently.

Essena O’Neil is a content creator, primarily on Instagram, who you probably had never heard of before her video and new website went viral on Monday. I hadn’t, as her audience skews younger and I’m more of a casual user of Instagram (Instagrammer? IDK, I’m old). A few days ago, Essena decided to quit social media and move all her content to a new site, letsbegamechangers.com. For years, she sought validation through likes and followers. Her posts were perfectly curated to show her “living her best life” when she was really struggling. She posted pictures in dresses for thousands of dollars that never made her feel quite right.

I’ve spent most of my life comparing myself to my peers. In middle school, I thought the girls who looked great in Soffee shorts and played multiple sports and were actually able to straighten their hair had perfect lives. I felt inadequate in high school because I knew I’d never get into an Ivy League school. Even now I compare myself to people with better jobs, apartments, and more frequent flier miles. Instagram was invented after I graduated from high school and started to figure myself out. I can’t even imagine going through most of my childhood with the giant magnifying glass of social media.

There’s a huge lack of guidance on social media available to teens. Platforms grow and change so quickly that it’s difficult for even huge corporations to create best practices. People tend to take very polarizing stances on social media, particularly when it comes to young users. It’s a fun way for people to keep in touch with each other and share their lives with the world, yet we’re quick to damn it. It’s hard to find rational opinions in a sea of voices.

Essena’s Instagram account now reads “Social Media Is Not Real Life.” This is inarguably true. What you see of someone’s life on YouTube or Instagram or wherever is a curation of their life, the best parts of themselves. When you don’t see someone outside of a little box on a little screen, it’s hard to imagine them complexly. This isn’t that far removed from middle school me imagining the perfect lives of the girls in the Soffee shorts. I didn’t see them at home. I didn’t know what they were going through. I couldn’t imagine them crying on the floor because they felt like they looked hideous in every piece of clothing they owned. In this case, I think that Essena is doing something special for her young audience.

When you’re a content creator, you constantly have to reevaluate your goals. What am I trying to say with this blog post? Will this video help someone? Why am I sharing this photo? I will often catch myself considering a post that I know will get lots of traffic, but ultimately serves no purpose. Clearly, that’s why I felt weird about this very post. I felt like I needed to get my feelings on the virtual page, though, despite my lack of eloquence. It meant something to me.

Emma Gannon put it pretty damn well with this quote from her Medium article:

Social media is not to blame here. It’s up to us not to treat it like a game. Treating it like a numbers game will only end in tears. Chasing clicks will leave us hollow. Creating meaningful content that people enjoy will make the difference. Social media can be fantastic if we keep it fucking real.

I don’t think teenagers are dumb. They astonish me with the things they create and the influence they wield. But when you’re at an age where social validation is such a huge part of your existence, chasing clicks seems natural. Will it lead to brand deals/recognition/whatever the teens want these days? Sure, but it might feel icky after a while.

Make things for yourself. The views might follow, they might not. Just do what feels right.

Here are some people who had some more eloquent thoughts on this than I did:

Rosianna: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G5Q-_2BHSYc

Lucy: https://twitter.com/meowitslucy/status/661710497520230400

5 Amazing Moments from Nerdcon: Stories 2015

After 6 Vidcons, I can count on Hank Green and his team to run a great conference that caters to both fans and creators. Their events manage to be equal parts variety show, public forum, master class, and party, which always leads to a good time. While Vidcon centers around the more specific world of online video, Nerdcon: Stories tackles storytelling, an artform as old as…well, people. I was curious to see how this event, the first of its kind, would play out, so I bought a pass and headed to Minneapolis.

What I experienced at NC:S was a celebration of how stories are created and how they connect us all. “We are all made of stories,” was the general refrain of the weekend, and both attendees and presenters brought stories to share. I left on Sunday feeling emotionally energized and inspired to create, albeit physically exhausted from three days of walking around the giant Minneapolis Convention Center. Here are some of my favorite moments from this year’s conference.

Paul Sabourin’s Opening “Why Stories Matter” Keynote

Throughout the conference, several special guests were invited to give their take on why stories matter. Paul Sabourin, one half of Paul and Storm, kicked off the first morning session on Friday in his hilarious and high-energy fashion, running through a (very) brief history of storytelling. Sure, it mainly focused on storytelling in western civilization (as most history classes in America do), but it gave us all a good idea of why stories have been so prominent throughout history. Ultimately, we tell stories to feel less alone in the world, to relate to each other. Whether their true or not, stories have the power to connect us. 

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Leslie running the story circle like a champ.

Leslie’s Story Circle

Have you met my friend Leslie? Aside from being a fabulous human and great friend, Leslie created and curates “One Time Stories“, a storytelling web series in the vein of The Moth and StoryCorps. It’s truly amazing and I suggest you check it out and submit if you’re so inclined. As a featured guest (#proudmama), Leslie hosted a storytelling circle on Friday night which drew a huge crowd. People shared heartfelt and hilarious stories of firsts: first kisses, first times crying in public, first poop explosions (go with it). There’s something so simple and great about just sitting in a huge circle, kindergarten style, and listening to people sharing their truth.

“Honing Your Craft” Panel

As a writer, I’m always looking for ways to embetter my word-doing, so I jumped at the chance to listen to a panel of great writers talk about their process. The panel featured several novelists who write across several genres – including Lev Grossman, Stephanie Perkins, and Nalo Hopkinson – whose processes are as diverse as their writing styles. They were each brutally honest about their struggles to get words on the page. Nalo spoke in particular about working with ADHD, which was incredibly important to me. Once again, I had a moment of feeling less alone.

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From left: Paul Sabourin, Paul DeGeorge, Cecil Baldwin, Sarah Mackey, and Leslie Datsis on the “Communities and Fandom” Panel

Dylan Marron’s “Why Stories Matter” Keynote

Speaking of representation, Dylan Marron’s take on why stories matter was one of the most powerful moments of NC:S. Marron, known for his “Every Single Word…” video series and for playing Carlos on Welcome to Night Vale, touched on how storytelling helps us build empathy by showing us how we fit into the world. When we tell universal stories with only white faces, we essentially deny the existence of people of color. The fact that hundreds of (mostly young) people got to hear this in the convention center’s main auditorium gives me hope for the future. You can check out a video of the speech here.

Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind

Sometimes, you have to fly to the midwest and attend a major conference to see a show that’s performed twice a week in your own city. Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind is an ever-changing show by the New York Neo-Futurists, in which a group of actors attempts to perform 30 plays in 60 minutes. They introduce new plays each week, and the order of plays is determined by the audience, so you never know what you’re going to see. I was incredibly excited to see TMLMtBGB, and the Neos did not disappoint. Each play managed to be poignant, true, and funny within the limited time. Above all, the Neos are genuine, and I love that. Kevin R. Free is a delight. I want to be best friends with Desiree Burch and Kate Jones. And Jeffrey Cranor brought me close to tears more than once over the weekend. I’m now determined to get to a Neos show in New York before the year is out.

It’s safe to say I had an amazing time this weekend at NerdCon: Stories. I’ll definitely be back next year, hopefully with some stories of my own. In between all this awesome, I learned that Minneapolis is a wonderful city that we should all move to (6 months out of the year). Stay tuned for more on my Minneapolis adventures next week!

The Incredible Motivating Power of Hamilton

I’ve always had a complicated relationship with running. In elementary school, I dreaded running laps in gym class, and tried to come up with as many excuses as possible to get out of the mile run test. The first time I finished the test without stopping, I thought I was having a heart attack. I avoided running as much as possible from then on. Still, I’d always get a little envious of my friends on the cross country team. A nice run in the woods after school seemed appealing, but at what cost? I knew I was never going to be a runner, so I never actively pursued it.
Until last week.

Last Friday I woke up early and went to the gym, as I usually aspire to do 2 to 3 times a week. As most of my usual cardio machines were taken, I went for the treadmill. I started running. And then I kept running. After a while I realized I had run a full mile, and I didn’t feel like I was about to collapse and die. “Who am I?” I thought. “Are we in the end times?”

This dramatic change of character was all (well, at least 80%) thanks to the release of the Hamilton original cast recording. As I made my way through each brilliantly-written, produced and performed number, I just wanted to keep going. I was involved in the show, reliving each scene and step in my head. Once I finished up my whole walk/run cardio portion, I actually felt really good and ready to take on the day. Weird, right?

There’s something about this show that makes me want to do something. Alexander Hamilton, or at least the version portrayed in Hamilton, was incredibly prolific throughout his relatively short life. He was always working on something, writing like he was “running out of time.” He wrote 51 of the 85 essays that make up the Federalist Papers, over the course of six months. That amount of writing of that caliber blows my mind. I’ll be impressed if I write that many blog posts over the next six months.

I first saw Hamilton in previews at the Public Theater back in January (#humblebrag). I cried profusely at the end, which almost never happens. It is amazing to watch something come together over 6 years, even if it’s just as a bystander on the internet. But I didn’t know it was going to be that good. More than that, it came into my life at a time when I really needed it. I was just starting out in a new job and wasn’t sure where it was going to take me. When a new assistant position opened up, “My Shot” started playing on a loop in my head and I knew I had to go for it. And I’m incredibly glad I did.

So thank you, Lin-Manuel, for sharing this story. I know I’ll keep coming back to this cast recording for years when I need a kick in the pants, words of comfort, or just something to dance around to in my apartment. And, of course, it will always be in heavy rotation at the gym.

Broadway Christmas | Broadway Flea Market 2015 and Elsie Fest

I’ll admit to being a little skeptical when Elsie Fest was announced for the same day as the annual Broadway Flea Market & Grand Auction. Two major Broadway events in one day? Won’t one take away from the other? Despite this, I found the idea of a “Coachella for showtunes” intriguing to say the least. I decided to go for it. Take my money, Darren Criss.

Broadway Bears from Fun Home, The King & I, and Hand to God for auction.

Broadway Bears from Fun Home, The King & I, and Hand to God for auction.

I started out my day in Times Square, navigating the throngs of shoppers at the Broadway Flea Market. I look forward to this event every year. Much like your average flea market, you never know who you’ll run into or which hidden treasures you’ll find. If, in your mind, hidden treasure equates to vintage Playbills from the original Broadway production of Chess, then this event is for you. I shared my haul from this year in the video below. I’m particularly excited about the shot glass.

The Broadway Flea isn’t just an amazing fundraiser for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. It also acts as a massive gathering of the theatre community. Stars, community leaders, producers, and fans alike get together to celebrate the new season and our favorite shows. I saw lots of friends reunite, taking a break from their busy schedules to scour the tables together for the perfect find. It all makes for a super-fun (albeit sweaty) day out in midtown.

The Hudson from JBL Live.

The Hudson from JBL Live.

After a few hours, I tore myself away from the flea market and headed over to JBL Live for Elsie Fest. I really didn’t know what to expect heading in, but the set-up was similar to many outdoor concerts I’d been to before: stage, merch booths, porta potties. In addition to the standards, Darren Criss & Co. brought in a couple of food trucks and set up beer garden/piano bar on the opposite end of the bar (sponsored by the legendary West Village haunt, Marie’s Crisis). My friends and I scouted out a spot in the back where we could lay down a picnic blanket and set up base camp for the day.

Aaron Tveit

Tiny Aaron Tveit

Bringing showtunes out of the theatre and into a concert setting like that of Elsie Fest is tricky, but I think everyone pulled it off really well. Some of the acts seemed more tailored to a smaller venue like 54 Below, but most adapted to the huge stage pretty well. Aaron Tveit opened his set with a rocking rendition of “I’m Alive” from Next to Normal, Leslie Odom Jr. turned “Cheer Up Charlie” from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory into a soulful R&B ballad, and Darren Criss closed out the show with a punk cover of “Cabaret.” Plus, the whole Starkid gang got together to perform numbers from the hit parody musicals, most notably “Gotta Get Back to Hogwarts” from A Very Potter Musical.

When you go see a show, there’s really no opportunity to get up and dance to your favorite songs like you might at home (unless you’re seeing Mamma Mia). Elsie Fest gave us theatre dorks the opportunity to do just that, to relax and celebrate our favorite shows and performers. One of my favorite parts of the day was bonding with a bunch of rad ladies in the food truck line over Hamilton and more. That’s really the best part of any fan gathering and why I keep going to them. I’m sure Elsie Fest will be even better next year. I know I’ll be back.

Five Reasons Why Fall is the Superior Season

I have a confession to make. I, Charlotte Dow, am a basic fall bitch.

Tomorrow is the first day of fall and I couldn’t be more excited. Don’t get me wrong, every season has its perks. My fragile constitution just can’t handle the extremes of summer and winter. I much prefer the more temperate, in-betweeny seasons of spring and fall. Since spring comes with allergies that have me sniveling for weeks, that leaves fall as the supreme. I feel like fall never really got the respect it deserved until recently. Now every #brand cashes in on the change of seasons well before the calendar even turns to September. I don’t even mind the fall-sploitation. Bring on the pumpkin-flavored everything.

Not convinced? Here are five reasons why fall is the superior season.

1. New TV Shows! New Theatre! New Everything!

The drop in temperature gives us all plenty of excuses to stay inside and enjoy an avalanche of new entertainment. September and October are chock full of season and series premieres on TV. I’m particularly looking forward to the returns of The Leftovers and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Luckily, they both air on Sundays, so I can balance the completely grim with the completely silly. Plus, as I mentioned in my Broadway on a budget post, the new theatre season has plenty to offer. Between Allegiance, Spring Awakening, Fiddler on the Roof, and King Charles III, my sippy cup full of theatre wine runneth over.

2. Dat Fall Foliage, Tho

While I still live in the northeast, I feel like I haven’t seen fall in its full glory since I moved to the city. The lack of trees is a bit of a problem and I haven’t had a ton of chances to go frolic in a pumpkin patch (or whatever it is that country folk do this time of year). This year, I’m determined to get in some quality time with the changing landscape. The vibrance of the fall colors up here make the brutal winters almost worth it. Almost.

3. HALLOWEEN

I mean, this should be reason enough to love fall. Yeah, putting together a costume (and plans) for Halloween tends to stress me out, but the night is so fun that I don’t even care. I’m not a huge fan of horror, but I love getting a little spooky. I’m so ready for some witchy-themed drinks, Hocus Pocus reruns, and thinkpieces on the occult. Plus, adorably-packaged candy never really gets old.

4. Peak Sweater Season

Once we hit about mid-October, I start rocking my cold-weather uniform: boots, leggings/pants, and a comfy sweater. I’ll admit, this ensemble does kind of lose its charm around February, but fall is a time to enjoy the novelty of being fully-covered and cozy. After months of freezing in my over air-conditioned office, I can wear something warm without sweating through my commute. I truly thrive in jewel-toned cashmere.

5. Pumpkin. Beer.

Do I really need to justify this one?

Now that I’ve convinced you all of autumn’s superiority, what are you looking forward to this season? If you’re in New York, Buzzfeed has compiled a list of killer fall activities in and around the city.

I have truly proved myself basic. Pass me a PSL.

The 3 Best Indie Albums…Of My Middle School Years

 

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The ladies who taught me all I know about music.

The majority of my favorite musical acts were most active around 2003 and 2004. When I was in middle school. What does that say about me? Don’t answer that.

I spent a lot of time on my own in my early teens, lost in the world of my headphones. I spent my afternoons combing through iTunes, looking for my new favorite musical act. They couldn’t sound like the pop artists and emo bands the rest of the school was listening to, but they still had to be palatable for my 13-year-old brain. I was in a band with a group of awesome, tuned-in girls who would make me mix CDs and lend me copies of SPIN magazine, turning me on to the next big thing. I was far from cool, but at least my iTunes library didn’t suck.

I kept looking for new music as I got older, but I’d always come back to the indie hits of the early aughts. I still do. I hate to sound like an old fart but music was just so good then. The acts that debuted around then are also still active and making great stuff. I mean, have you heard the new Brandon Flowers album? It’s amazing.

In honor of my decidedly dated taste in music, here are some of the albums Middle School Charlotte was rocking out to from 2003 to 2006.

Franz Ferdinand, Franz Ferdinand (2003)

If my memory serves me, I believe I first heard Franz Ferdinand in the car with my dad, heading home from a day at Coney Island. I could just be combining formative memories here, but bear with me. “Take Me Out” was unlike anything I’d ever heard before, but still sounded so familiar. Between me and my friend group, this album got a ton of play. We giggled over “Darts of Pleasure,” danced like crazy to “This Ffffire,” and commiserated over all the boys and girls we hated to “The Dark of the Matinee.” I’ve since seen the Glasgow boys play four times in three different countries. My love for this band has outlasted a good portion of my relationships. Good choice, Middle School Charlotte.

The Killers, Sam’s Town (2006)

Technically, this album came out when I was in high school, but I hadn’t matured that much upon entering freshman year. We’ll count it. Sam’s Town was actually the first Killers album I bought and I drained my iPod battery more than once listening to it on repeat. At the time I really clung to the album’s strong theme of growing up in (and getting out of) a small town. Today, I love how big every song on this album sounds. I can’t really find a better way to describe it. Sam’s Town didn’t get great reviews when it first debuted, but now it’s popping up on all these “underrated album” lists. Welcome to the party, people. Glad you’re coming around. Have some guac.

Arcade Fire, Funeral (2004)

I will never not love this album. If you told me today that Win Butler sacrificed a cage full of bunnies during the recording process, a) I wouldn’t be entirely surprised, and b) I would still be obsessed. Arcade Fire can write songs that are perfect for tiny basement hangs and huge stadium concerts at the same time. This has to be some kind of dark magic. Funeral totally blew my middle school mind, and I find something new every time I give it a listen.

It’s one thing for me to rave on about these tunes, but I’d rather just let you hear them for yourself. Check out the Spotify playlist below with some of my favorite indie jams of middle school. Share some of your favorites songs of yesteryear in the comments!

An “Expert’s” Guide to Doing Broadway On a Budget

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It’s almost that time, kids. In a few weeks, exciting new productions will be popping up all over the Great White Way. Personally, I’m incredibly excited for the upcoming season. Productions like Hamilton, Allegiance, and the revival of Spring Awakening are bringing fantastic stories and much-needed diversity to Broadway. How do you keep up with the season without losing your shirt? Here are some of my favorite ways to catch a show on a budget.

Cheap

The TKTS booths – located in Times Square, South Street Seaport, and Downtown Brooklyn – have been the go-to outlets for discount theatre tickets for years. Head to your location of choice early in the day to grab same-day tickets at up to 50% off face value. Since availability varies every day, TKTS is a great way to go if you’re not too picky about which show you want to see. I’d recommend downloading the TKTS app as well for real-time updates on ticket availability.

You can also save a great deal of money by simply planning ahead. Contrary to popular belief, not all Broadway tickets have a face value of $100+. Mezzanine seats for weekday performances can cost as little as $35. If you can buy your seats directly from the box office and avoid online fees, even better.

Cheaper

The TodayTix app has been a true game-changer for me. This app offers discounted tickets to almost every show in New York up to a week in advance. Buying tickets for a show 3 days ahead of time is about as spontaneous as I get, so TodayTix is perfect for me. The app also runs e-lotteries for shows like On the Town and Fun Home, offering heavily discounted tickets to winners. There is a service fee for TodayTix purchases (roughly $10 per ticket), so do keep that in mind when perusing the app. Otherwise, this is by far my favorite way to snag a ticket.

If you’re under the age of 30 (let’s be real, if you’re reading this blog, you probably are), there are even more ways to get discount tickets in advance. My TDF membership is one of the best investments I’ve made since moving to New York. TDF offers members of certain demographics (students, teachers, recent grads, seniors, members of the armed forces, etc.) discount tickets to select performances of plays, musicals, concerts, cabaret performances, and more for just $30 a year. While selection is sometimes limited, tickets are never more than $50 each. Plus, your membership supports TDF’s amazing theatre education and outreach programs. Non-profit theatre companies like Roundabout and Manhattan Theatre Club also offer heavily-discounted tickets to young theatregoers. Sign up and keep an eye on your email to find out when these seats go on sale.

Cheapest

Most Broadway shows offer a limited number of discounted tickets through a rush every day, depending on availability. In many cases you can get a great seat for under $40 by simply showing up to the box office early on the day of the show. Rushing can be a bit of a crap shoot. During the busy seasons (the holidays, post-Tonys) you’ll need to get in line before the box office opens to secure your spot. If you really want to try your luck, many of the hottest shows on Broadway (Hamilton, Book of Mormon, Wicked) run a lottery for discounted tickets. Head to the theatre about two and a half hours before curtain to get your name in the drawing. While lottery tickets are probably the least certain way to get tickets, the experience itself can be pretty fun. You can find more information on Broadway rush policies here.

With the average theatre ticket price climbing into the triple digits, it’s nice to know that there are still ways to take in a show without going into crippling debt. Have you tried any of these services? What did you see? Share your experiences in the comments!