Oh, hey there.
It’s me again, back with some fresh content and unfiltered thoughts that should have an editor but don’t and some recommended media that’s often extremely niche. This week, we’re talking about unappreciated! hard-working! visionary! female! creatives! AKA, this week is pretty much like every other week. BRB, taking a nap now.
thanks sorry love u bye,
SOME THOUGHTS I HAVE BEEN THINKING
miss may does not exist
I was never really big on horoscopes. For starters, I’m a cusp, and was never exactly sure whether I should be reading the Taurus outlook or the Gemini one; the two always seemed to feel like they only half fit. Then there was the fact that the horoscopes I grew up with were of the Seventeen or CosmoGirl variety — You’ll talk to your crush on Wednesday! You’ll feel shy this weekend but go to that party on Saturday anyway! — so questionably specific that they were easy to mock. But I, like so many millennials, have found myself in recent years pulled into the astrology world, mostly by memes, but finding a good horoscope that talks more about vibes than outright life moment predictions (shoutout to Madame Clairevoyant at The Cut) helped, too.
This morning, my horoscope dragged me in a spectacular fashion, touching upon my fear-adjacent love of playing it safe before concluding that this week I should “try to embrace the reality that every action contains some risk, and every risk contains some magic.”
Talk about a drag: I took an enormous risk last night hoping for magic, and I got it — just not how I expected.
Last night, I went to the Tony’s* (*the press room across the street), which is exciting enough on its own — your girl loves awards shows, loves VERY New York things, still sometimes misses the almost-but-never-quite-the-full-stereotype theatre girl she was in high school, loves any opportunity to feel like an old school reporter in the ~press pool~, and LOVES any excuse to get dressed up, especially if the dress code is black tie. (Yes, even to sit in the press room! How extra! We love it!)
But beneath all the excitement was anxiety around the huge risk I was taking in hope of a big payoff. I was there for one thing and one thing only: to score an original quote from the elusive Elaine May for a feature about her on which I’m working. May is notorious for her aversion to press; the rare interviews she’s given in recent years have often been with trusted longtime friends and collaborators like the late Mike Nichols or satirical, both sides of which she writes herself. Unsurprisingly, my attempts to reach her — albeit full of the kind of gumption afforded only to young, precocious writers like me with nothing to really lose or female leads playing journalists in rom coms — have been in vain, met with dead air. Here, I thought, was my chance — my last chance — to get something. And what a get that would be. She was going to win Best Actress in a Play. Everyone was certain of it. Not only had she given a truly stunning and surprising performance in The Waverly Gallery as a once-gregarious family matriarch now navigating her slow slip into dementia. She was a living legend who had never won an acting award; here was a chance to finally recognize her.
I had stressed over my questions for weeks after getting the confirmation I was in — when you get one shot to ask such a complex subject (and personal hero) one question, how do you pick the best one? I went hoping for magic. Surely, I thought, she would make a rare, relatively painless 5 minute appearance in the pool room. Still, I prepared myself for any one of the other outcomes: she might not win; she might not even show up at all, having skipped all other celebrations for awards she won this season; she might skip the press room altogether if she did. Spoiler alert: The latter is exactly what happened.
It was quietly devastating for a moment, in a small, sad way. A heavy, disappointed, slightly heartbroken sigh, a fleeting moment where I selfishly and unprofessionally thought “I guess I’ll never be in the same room as my hero now.” There was a brief blow of humiliation, feeling foolish that I had worked myself up so much for this one small moment that didn’t happen and wondering if my story would suffer by being just another write-around.
But it passed almost as soon as it came. I chuckled, texted friends “I want to cry but also I’m laughing and I’m bummed but also I love her even more for this???” It wasn’t a giant surprise, after all. I had, in the back of my mind, almost expected it to happen this way. I thought maybe it was actually better that she didn’t show up. It would be so unlike her if she did, and I wouldn’t want her to change a bit. May has been unfairly vilified as being “difficult” for behavior including, but certainly not limited to, this sort of thing. But that’s precisely why I admire her so much: I see that difficult part of myself in her — the part I feel ashamed of, the part that makes me feel inherently unlovable even as I love it in the female role models I admire and aspire to be like — and how she unapologetically embraces that characteristic in a way I wish to someday. To her, being “difficult” is not a flaw. It’s not even "difficult" at all. It’s a label attached to being strong-willed, passionate, and opinionated — things men are encouraged to embody and women are punished for — and not caring what others think about it. She doesn’t owe anyone shit. She gives just as good as she gets and continues to do things her way. And the people who really love her love her anyway.
With nothing left to really stay for, I left early and walked from Radio City Music Hall to the train at Columbus Circle which, if you are not from New York, is a pleasantly short distance on a normal night but laughably too far when you’re on your sixth hour in 4-inch strappy stilettos. Still, the night air felt crisp and refreshing and midtown just seemed to have an extra sparkle to it and I couldn’t help but think that maybe that huge risk didn’t end in disappointment, after all. Maybe it was just some sort of unexpected magic.
I may not have gotten my quote, but I wasn’t walking out of there empty handed: I got material — I was already re-writing the perfect lede to my piece in my head. I got a chance to dress up and feel more grown up than I actually am. I got a chance to feel both like the scrappy underdog reporter I sometimes feel like and the confident journalist who belongs in the room where it happens. I got a moment of clarity. And I got a gift bag with a giant Tony Award-shaped hunk of chocolate. And that had to count for something, right?
Hadestown - Anais Mitchell
Hadestown, a musical reinterpreting the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice to Steampunk Depression-era New Orleans, won big at the Tonys this year. It’s a brilliant story with a brilliant backstory, labored over for nearly 10 years, beginning with auteur Anais Mitchell’s 2010 folk concept album of the same name before making it to this point.
The story of how she stayed committed to this weird passion project has inspired many creative types, myself included. I remember first discovering her music in 2016 when I saw her open for Deer Tick to practically no one at a free event on Pier 97 in the middle of the afternoon on a sweltering summer day. Her music was so captivating, like nothing I had heard before — reaching into the past but making it feel current. (Look no further than the eerily prescient “Why We Build The Wall.”) At the time, Hadestown was an off-Broadway show at New York Theatre Workshop; she played songs from it and asked so sincerely if we could please give it some love and check it out. Most of the audience talked over her. Three years later, she was the first woman in years to have a solo nomination for Best Book and Best Original Score, and the passion project she refused to quit on won Best Musical.
It was a welcome jolt, a reminder, as writer Rachel Syme said in a wonderful thread on Twitter, that we all have our own Hadestowns inside us, work we wish we could somehow get people to say yes to and believe in the way we do. We just can’t give up on that.
Just Break Open the Establishment Already - Noreen Malone
ICYMI: Last week the EIC of the Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg, did an interview with the magazine’s executive editor (who oversees the site) about their efforts to diversify and include more women. Goldberg discussed his perceived difficulties in achieving gender and racial parity when it comes to cover stories (11 out of the last 15 were written by men), by saying that, basically, uhh… *checks notes*... it’s hard to write a 10,000 word cover story and the only journalists who seem to have proven their ability to do it are men. LOL, okay.
It of course went viral, and New York Magazine writer Noreen Malone weighed in on the debacle, perfectly tapping into just why it made so many women and people of color mad. We want to be doing this work. We can do this work. It’s just that the chances offered to do so are few and far between, and we’re so tired of it being like that.
It’s My Turn (1980)
You can pretty much count the number of female filmmakers in the ‘70s — the height of a feminist revolution, for god’s sake — on one hand. Maybe two. Elaine May was only the third female director to be admitted to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences; Claudia Weill was the fourth.
Hollywood wasn’t much more fair to Weill than it was to May. After her revolutionary debut Girlfriends (1978), she made It’s My Turn (1980) for Columbia. The movie is charming and snappy rom com that has the lovely worn in feeling of those films you find yourself returning to on rainy days or whenever you see them pop up on TV:
Jill Clayburgh plays a mathematician who, not even three minutes in, calls a student (a young Daniel Stern!) “fuckface” behind his back after he mansplains obnoxiously. There’s great dialogue, great apartments, and Michael Douglas is downright swoon-worthy. Sure, a lot of it is dated, but a lot also feels like it could so easily be remade today with few changes and feel current. And yet. Weill never made another theatrical film after it. Finding the making of the film to be a difficult ordeal in dealing with “a patriarchal [studio] system,” full of “#MeToo moments which I had little means of understanding or dealing with,” Weill left Hollywood altogether in favor of directing theatre and television. It’s My Turn, like so many creations from women of this era, is full of sad promise of how much more she could have given us if only we had let her.
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okay that's it that's the end thanks bye