More Than Meh

A blog about the good things of life.

Violet April 22, 2014

Filed under: Pop Culture,Theatre — dwhren @ 8:43 am

As always when I’m in New York I like to take in a Broadway show. This time I was excited to see Violet. Technically I saw it in it’s last night of previews. When I decided I wanted to see the show and looked at the dates I realized it would still be in previews the next time I was in New York, but given that it opened the next night I didn’t figure a lot if anything was going to change between when I saw it and when it officially opened. So bear that in mind just in case, you know, they completely overhauled the entire thing in the 24 hours between when I saw it and when it opened.

This production of Violet is a sort of revival of an off-Broadway production from 1997 that never managed to make it to Broadway. It was originally revived as a one night Encores! show back in the summer, and ultimately spun up to a full-fledged run from April 20-August 10. The show stars Sutton Foster as the titular Violet, who was badly scarred across her face when her father accidentally hit her with an axe blade at the age of 13. Now 12 years later she is traveling from her small town in North Carolina to Tulsa to meet a televangelist she believes can take away her scar. Along the way she meets two military men going to their station in Arkansas before possibly shipping out to Vietnam (the show is set in 1964), who she befriends and who start to make her see her life differently.

If you’ve read anything about the show you’ve probably seen that Sutton Foster goes completely make-up free during the show. They decided to let the audience use their imagination regarding her scar, and it did work for me. Foster does a good job of portraying someone who is trying to hide a large scar across her face, and the rest of the cast members recoil when they first meet her and see her face.

I saw this show referred to in a couple of places as a bluegrass musical. There are definitely some bluegrass and country influences in some of the songs as well as a strong gospel influence, but overall the music still sounds like it came from musical theatre. I liked it a lot though, and will probably pick up the cast recording once they actually record it.

The show is fairly minimalist for a Broadway musical. The musicians are set up on a riser on the back of the stage, and the rest of the set is a fairly low-key bus station set. There isn’t really anything in the way of dancing, but there is some interesting choreography throughout. It sort of reminded me of Once in that way. As with that show I thought the whole thing was very lovely even though it’s not a giant production.

The role of Violet is definitely a departure for Sutton Foster, who has in the past played much more lively roles that include a lot of song and dance. Not that I had any doubts, but she handled a much more subdued character wonderfully. The show-stopping applause however went to Joshua Henry, who plays one of the soldier named Flick, for the performance of “Let It Sing”. I read the same thing in the New York Times review of the show, so I’m guessing that will be a nightly thing as well it should be because he was amazing. I was also suitably impressed with the 14-year old Emerson Steele, who plays the younger version of Violet. That young lady has quite a career on Broadway ahead of her I expect.

It wasn’t really going to take much for me to like this show. I love Sutton Foster, and I hunger for Broadway shows that are neither based on a movie or music previously in existence. Those are sadly few and far between these days. I adored everything about the show, and I don’t think it’s just because it was something I was completely in the bag for from the start because the reviews I’m seeing from last night’s opening night are equally as positive. If you’re in New York before August and are looking for a show to see I would highly recommend Violet.

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Easter in New York City April 21, 2014

Filed under: Family,Travel — dwhren @ 9:46 am



Paul and I went up to New York City for the weekend to spend Easter with his sister and her family including our 3 year old niece and nephew. It was a beautiful day on Saturday, so after lunch we headed over to Central Park. There are no shortage of playgrounds for them to play at. I think I’ve now been to 5 different ones with them. 2014-04-19 14.14.05 2014-04-19 14.12.34


They colored some Easter eggs. 2014-04-19 17.37.42 2014-04-19 17.37.40 2014-04-19 17.37.33 2014-04-19 17.37.18


Ryan and Uncle Paul draw on Uncle Paul’s tablet while Lily and Daddy take a nap.

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We were still asleep when they found the goods that the Easter bunny left for them, so here are some pictures of the aftermath. Ryan had apparently adopted the giant ducky at the Duane Reade and would say hi to him every time they went in. After the “Easter Bunny” bought it, Ryan went looking for it and was sad that he couldn’t find it in the store. Luckily for him the ducky lives in his apartment now thanks to the Easter Bunny.

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I don’t have any pictures of the plastic egg hunt, but apparently Lily refused to believe that there weren’t more eggs hidden around the apartment that she wasn’t finding. Also true to form she is the only 3 year old I know who was more interested in the eggs that had quarters in them than the ones with the candy. Ryan on the other hand was very interested in the candy. He collected all of it and put it in the bag he is riding around on his big wheel with.

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Where did Lily go? I wonder what the magician will pull out of his magic hat?

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Where did Ryan go?

2014-04-20 08.52.12Do you see him now?
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After Easter brunch we took another walk through Central Park. Ryan had fun using a giant tree that had fallen over as a balance beam.2014-04-20 12.53.29 2014-04-20 12.54.59


Lily was more interested in picking “daffodils”. I pointed out the actual daffodils that were growing all over the park to her and then she kept calling all the flowers daffodils.

2014-04-20 12.53.49It was a lovely spring weekend in New York. Stay tuned tomorrow for my review of Violet, the Broadway show we saw on Saturdya night.




Songs I Love: Stay with Me by Sam Smith April 18, 2014

Filed under: Music,Pop Culture,Songs I Love — dwhren @ 10:41 am

“Stay with Me” is the third single off of Sam Smith’s forthcoming debut album In the Lonely Hour. It seems kind of crazy that there are already three singles and the album isn’t out for over another month. It’s making me really look forward to the full album. Though I really like the first two singles “Lay Me Down” and “Money on Mind”, “Stay with Me” is my favorite of the three so far. I love the deep soulful feeling behind the song as a whole and then the chorale sound in the chorus. He reminds me a lot of James Blake. I also for some reason find it really endearing that his English accent still comes across in this song when I feel like so many English accents seem to disappear when the artist is singing. I highly encourage you to check out this song because it is lovely.



Say Anything April 14, 2014

Filed under: Movies,Pop Culture — dwhren @ 1:17 pm

Last night I was alerted to the fact that today marks the 25th anniversary of the release of the movie Say Anything by the headline on this post in NPR’s MonkeySee blog. I haven’t actually read it yet because I decided I wanted to get my own thoughts about the movie down before I did, so any similarities are purely coincidental. Not that I expect there to be a lot because my reflections on the movie are mostly going to be my personal experiences with it rather than stuff about the movie itself. Weirdly this morning at work in helping a theatre professor convert some recordings of productions from this year onto DVD I noticed a scene in one of the plays they put on included an homage to the scene in Say Anything where John Cusack holds the boom box playing “In Your Eyes” over his head. Part of me wonders if the college students watching the play even got the reference. I hope they did, but given that none of them were alive when this movie came out I have my doubts. I thought it was too funny though that I was already thinking about writing this post today and then I saw that. It was like a sign. Of what exactly I’m not sure, but a sign nonetheless.

The first time I saw Say Anything was a few years after its theatrical release. For the two and half years my family lived in Massachusetts due to some error we had free Cinemax with our cable. My parents never subscribed to any of the movie channels when I was growing up, so this short period was the only time we ever had access to any of them. I remember watching Say Anything when it was on Cinemax and loving it so much I recorded a copy of it onto a VHS tape. I upgraded to a for real VHS tape of the movie when I went away to college. I remember special ordering a copy of it from the Sam Goody in the mall my freshman year of college. (Man this paragraph is making me sound super old.) At some point I upgraded my VHS copy to a DVD, and now Say Anything is streaming on Netflix Instant.

No matter how many more format changes occur during my lifetime I have no doubt that Say Anything will remain one of my favorite movies. I couldn’t even possibly tell you how many times I have seen that movie. My friend Lauren and I must have watched it a hundred times when we were in high school. I also remember buying the soundtrack to the movie while on a trip to the mall with her. I have listened to that CD a lot over the years as well.

There are so many things I love about that movie, but the relationships between the characters really are what makes it a great movie. You have Diane and Lloyd obviously, but also Diane and her father, Lloyd and his sister, and Lloyd and his friends. All seem like real relationships rooted in all the things that actual relationships are based on. I don’t know one girl from my generation who did not want Lloyd Dobler to be her boyfriend, and who would not count the famous “In Your Eyes” boom box scene as one of the most romantic scenes in a movie ever. And just in case you forgot or didn’t ever see this video, let me remind you about the time John Cusack gave Peter Gabriel a boom box while attending one of his concerts. It makes me so happy, and it’s all obviously because of this movie.

That moment is obviously what made me fall head over heals in love with this movie, but there are so many other great moments in it too. If I sat here and listed them all out from the humorous to the heartbreaking I would essentially be recreating the script here, so I will just leave you with one more of my favorites which is towards the end when Diane goes to see Lloyd after their break up and after she finds out about her father’s misdeeds. Lloyd asks her if she’s there because she needed him or because she needed someone and I always thought that was such a poignant question. I really do just want to keep listing things, but I’m going to stop because really you should quit reading things about Say Anything and just go watch the movie.

I now realize it has been far too long since I have watched Say Anything. That is something I’m definitely going to have to remedy soon.




90s Hip Hop Playlist April 10, 2014

Filed under: Music,Pop Culture — dwhren @ 8:16 am

Last Friday it had been a long week at work and it was super gloomy outside. I decided listening to some would be the perfect way to jump start my Friday. The day before I had heard Kris Kross’ “Jump” on the radio and was thinking about how great 90s hip hop was. I think we can all agree that 90s hip hop was the best, and that at least for people my age if you say hip hop that is the music they’re thinking of. Since I was obviously at work on Friday morning, I just used Spotify radio to have it throw some at me. I wasn’t super happy with the results because it didn’t stick with 90s hip hop, but it was good enough for a little while that morning.

I still wanted a playlist of what at least for me were the definitive 90s hip hop songs though, so last weekend I put together my own Spotify playlist. I’m pretty sure every song on this list is from the 90s, though I won’t guarantee it because I didn’t bother confirming. There could be some late 80s or early 00s that slipped in. It was interesting to me in putting it together to think that all of it was from the 90s. I kept thinking some of it should have been from another decade. At least in my mind there is a clear delineation between stuff from groups like Kris Kross and Bel Biv Devoe and stuff from people like Nas and Jay-Z. It’s probably because there was a shift in the music itself between the first half of the decade and the second, but also because there was a big shift in my own life at the time. In the first half of the decade I was in middle school and high school and the last half of the decade I was away at college. The shift from high school to college obviously is a big demarkation in my mind and I can clearly pick out music from between the two times in my life.

So here’s the playlist I put together. Have some fun listening to some 90s hip hop, and let me know if I missed anything that should clearly be on this list.



Giving of My Time April 7, 2014

Filed under: Life — dwhren @ 1:21 pm

I feel a little weird about writing about any volunteer stuff I do here because it feels like I’m looking for a pat on the back or saying hey look at what a great person I am for doing this. Thus the reason that I’ve never done it before. I especially say this because I don’t feel like I do that much or enough. I’m quite honestly someone who would rather give of my money than give of my time. A lot of that has to do with the fact that I don’t like dealing with unfamiliar situations or people I don’t know, and volunteer work almost always involves both of these things at least initially and usually the people part every single time. My introverted tendencies mean I am horrible at small talk or generally engaging in conversations with people I don’t know, which is why I’m a little terrified of meeting new people. This anxiety increases even more with people who I have hard time communicating with for any additional reason such as a heavy accent I have a hard time understanding or a disability that may limit communication in some way.

In the past year or so though I feel like God has been calling on me to grow a little in this area. Last summer my position at work took on some new responsibilities that now involve me managing a lab with a bunch of adaptive technology for people with disabilities. As part of that last November I went to a conference on disability support in higher education institutions where a lot of people in attendance had disabilities of some kind. It was a really good learning experience for me. All around the same time last fall my church was doing a sermon series focused on all the ministry areas it is involved in. As I have mentioned before my church has two campuses now. I attend the smaller city one now, but for a long time attended what we affectionately refer to as the mother ship or big Grace. Big Grace has been very involved over the past 5 or 6 years in making the church a welcoming place for people with disabilities. One of the sermons during that series was about the disability ministry at big Grace and asking people to consider volunteering at something they call REST day. It was just another sign to me that God was saying hey this is an area I want you to be involved with so I went.

So what exactly is REST Day? Four times per school year (generally September, December, February, and April) families who have children (under the age of 21) with disabilities can drop their kids off at the church for a day of fun so that they can have the afternoon off to do whatever without having to worry about their kids. Both children with disabilities and their siblings are welcome so as to allow the parents complete freedom. It is completely free and open to the community not just people who attend the church. Other than the fact that it is held in a church and the families are given a packet with information about the church the event is completely secular so that non-religious or families of other religions are comfortable participating. It is just a way for the people of my church to serve the community and be the hands and feet of Jesus for a day to these families.

Kids are assigned groups based on age and disability. Kids who are lower functioning and need additional help are assigned an adult to work with them one-on-one for the day. Though I think the ratio for other kids is still about 1 and half adults per one child so there is a lot of adult supervision. The kids then rotate in their groups through various activity rooms (crafts, gym, music, games, face painting/nail polish, and movie/snack). In addition to the adults that are assigned to a group of kids there are also people who stay in each room to help out with whatever activity as the kids rotate through. Families are also sent home with a dinner prepared for them to eat. People from the church donate food and then there are also volunteers who work in the kitchen the day of to put all the meals together and to cook any additional food that is needed.

In the past I have worked as a room volunteer and in the kitchen. This past Saturday was the first time I have worked in a group of kids. I was nervous going in because I wasn’t sure how being responsible for an entire group of kids all day was going to be as opposed to just dealing with the kids for a short rotation while they were in my activity room while other people were mostly responsible for them. It turns out I liked being with the kids in a group a lot. My group of kids was composed mostly of younger kids (probably between the ages of 3 and 8 with a couple of older outliers) most of whom had some sort of hearing disability. Most of them had cochlear implants so had some hearing, but the majority also communicated via ASL. When I was in college one of the “blowoff” classes a lot of people took their senior year when they had fulfilled all their requirements but needed more credits was sign language. I took it with several of my friends. For some reason aside from the alphabet the one sign I remember is the sign for socks. Do not ask me why, and let me tell you how not useful knowing that particular sign is. I even could have used the word shoes to tell the kids to put their shoes back on when we were leaving the gym activity, but did I remember how to say that? Nope only socks. It worked out fine though. There were some adults in my group that are fluent in ASL so they helped out and were able to teach the rest of us a few useful signs. And some of them I could just pick up from context or we just used a lot of gestural communication. One little boy who kind of adopted me for the day at one point signed to me that he wanted me to sit down so that he could sit in my lap. It was very sweet and the since I had by that point learned the sign for sit (though I have already forgotten it) I knew what the sign for him sitting on my lap meant because the gesture made so much sense along with the sit sign.

It was a really fun day, and though I know I’m not a natural at this stuff (some of the people I was volunteering with really were) it’s something I want to continue to grow at doing. They don’t do it over the summer, but I look forward to participating again in the fall when they hold the next REST day.


O’s – Red Sox Game April 3, 2014

Filed under: Baltimore,Friends,Sports — dwhren @ 4:47 pm



Anyone who knows me knows I don’t really care that much about baseball, but I do enjoy going to a game every once in awhile. I don’t normally go this early in the season because it’s usually too cold for my taste. Though this isn’t the first O’s/Red Sox game I’ve been to in April before. It was about a decade ago, so I don’t know if this record still holds, but that game set the record for the coldest starting temperature of any Orioles game ever. So that was delightful. I’m happy it was much warmer last night. I didn’t even put my jacket on until halfway through the game and then it kept me plenty warm.

My friend Alison is from the Boston area and a Red Sox fan, so her boyfriend decided to give her an early birthday surprise with tickets to the game and invited Paul and I along to add to the surprise. We met them at the park and she was really surprised when the people climbing over her to get to their seats were us. Surprise! Thanks to Dave’s work we got fancy club level seats that I am never willing to pay for on my own. You get a waitress for your section who will bring you food or drink off a specific menu. However it was limited and we couldn’t find her for the first few innings when presumably lots of people were ordering stuff so we just went out on our own anyway. I was happier with the food I got that wasn’t on the menu anyway. The Boog’s pit beef on the club level is a great deal. It had the sandwich and then I could get baked beans, chips, cole slaw, and salad all included in the price. Plus the line was short. If you go to the one on the Eutaw Street concourse where the unwashed masses can all go the line is always super long and every thing that you get in addition to the sandwich is an additional charge. I was quite pleased with my dinner.

I have split loyalties between the Red Sox and the Orioles. When I go to games it’s typically between those two teams. I adopted the Red Sox as a team when we lived outside of Boston in my adolescence, but now that I’ve lived in Baltimore for 14 years it’s hard not to root for the Orioles as well. (Though time and an actual degree from University of Maryland have not resulted in me sharing my loyalties between them and Wake Forest. Go Deacs!). Basically last night I was just cheering for any good plays as opposed to for a specific team. The Red Sox won last night, so at least the birthday girl’s team won. Though I think she may too have split loyalties at this point.

It was a fun night out, and I think the first O’s game I’ve ever been to on a weeknight. I’m sure I’ll make it to one or two more games before the season is over. Go O’s!



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