03/29/17 10:04am

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The audience never sees the monster in Julia Jarcho’s new play, The Terrifying, but the lack of blood and gore does nothing to temper the fear. While definitely corporeal for residents of the unnamed small town it targets, its real power is emotional rather than physical. The fear is so severe, it’s almost beside the point whether you end up as a victim; your life is forever altered by the knowledge the monster exists.

It’s going to be difficult to actually see this version of the play– the remaining shows are sold out and when we called the theater to ask about waitlist tickets they advised showing up an hour before showtime to make sure you’re first in line to put your name on the waitlist when the box office opens 30 minutes before show time. “There are no shows…sometimes,” the very nice man we spoke to said in a not very encouraging tone. The way the show plays with fear though, exploring it in the abstract while scaring your pants off in a very real way, is worth thinking about, in this uncertain age of paranoia and the unexpected.

Jarcho’s Big Bad plots its course of destruction by following the desires of each victim. To wit, victim one is killed; the person that victim loves the most is next. It’s a great argument for never revealing one’s crushes, and an unusually cruel form of psychological torture. Teenagers are the first targets, and even in the vague time period of The Terrifying (phones, landlines to be precise, exist, but not everyone has one), their currency is rumors and gossip. (more…)

03/23/17 10:15am
37 Problems is a new bingeworthy web series that deals with fertility and ambivalence towards motherhood. And it's funny!

37 Problems is a new binge-worthy web series that deals with fertility and ambivalence towards motherhood. And it’s funny!

What does it even mean to “have it all?” 37 Problems, which describes itself as “a raunchy new series about fertility and growing up” explores that well worn question with welcome hilarity and a considerable edge.  

A 37-year-old screenwriter (played by creator and director Lisa Ebersole) has Sundance dreams and wants to borrow $10,000 from her mother to finish her project. Her mom gives her the money, but wants her to use it to freeze her eggs instead. Panic and hijinks ensue, with a cast of eccentric characters like an elderly ex, her father’s ghost, a charming yet slightly sleazy fertility doctor and a kooky editor who lives in a garage with his daughter. Ambivalence toward parenthood permeates throughout.

In an extremely crowded webosphere, Ebersole is an emerging talent worth getting to know. While she’s already an award-winning playwright and filmmaker, 37 Problems is her first web series, and it’s been selected for the Austin Film Festival, Brooklyn Web Fest, and the Hollyweb Festival. 

You can binge watch the entire NSFW series on 37 Problems and on Vimeo. In the meantime, Ebersole took time out of her busy schedule to answer some questions about Lena Dunham, fertility and Obamacare for us.

(more…)

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03/16/17 10:59am

We all spend a lot of time in the bathroom, managing (what might be seen as) embarrassing fluids, hairs and smells. Here’s a roundup of items to make your personal daily and monthly rituals more convenient, productive and all-natural. You might be surprised by the updates to your favorite bathroom gadgets and products, and how they’ll simplify your life and de-stigmatize what happens behind the bathroom door.

This toilet stool will change the way you poop, although it won't make unicorn flavored ice cream. Photo: Squatty Potty

This toilet stool will change the way you poop, although it won’t actually deliver a unicorn to your door. Photo: Squatty Potty

Squatty Potty ($29-$99)

One of the best things about the squatty potty is the commercial. The ad wiz who came up with this campaign compared a good bowel movement to soft serve unicorn ice cream. (Genius!) They claim that this toilet stool will change the way you poop. I was interested, but dubious. I ordered the basic 7” Ecco model ($29), and was immediately happy with how space saving it is; it fit snugly around the toilet when not in use. In terms of aesthetics, there are upscale models to match any decor including a $99 clear ghost version, but I’m happy with the basic white.

In terms of actual use it’s not like you need a flexible yoga squat to make this work. Just like a little foot stool for your throne, the squatty potty helps to correct your form for that important daily delivery. At first my family was bewildered, but within a few days of use, we all quickly came to love it. After you’ve finished your business, you actually feel cleared out. The stool works, and begs the question: how have we been living without it for so long? And who designed toilets anyway? A converted friend of mine says she refuses to go without one. When she’s in a public restroom now, she has “to kick over a garbage and put my feet on it.” There is a $29 travel version, should you become as completely converted and refuse to vacation without a plan for efficient evacuation. Once you’ve had the best poop of your life, it’s impossible to go back. (more…)

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03/14/17 5:24pm

Let me be blunt for a moment. All those delicious Pi Day pies and snow day stews aside, this is the worst time of year for cooking. Late winter and early spring are a challenge in in the kitchen. The chicken pot pies, roasted vegetables and bean soups I was so excited to make in October feel heavy and boring now, and it’s going to be more than a few weeks before the first spring edibles show up at the farmer’s market.

We’re in luck though, fellow cooks. A new book came out today that will help get us all over the hump and into nettle, asparagus and pea season.

Vibrant India, Fresh Vegetarian Recipes from Bangalore to Brooklyn is the first cookbook from Chitra Agrawal, cook, writer and owner of Brooklyn Delhi. She wrote a great guide to eating all over the subcontinent by taking a day trip to Edison and Iselin, N.J. for us a few years back, and if you’ve always wanted to try your hand at cooking South Asian food, but have never quite been able to make sense of all the spice roasting and grinding, this is the book for you.

Agrawal’s recipes are not the heavy butter chicken and saag paneer type fare–which is generally Northern Indian in origin–that often represents Indian cuisine in the U.S. In the foreword she explains that her cooking is very much informed by the vegetarian cuisine of South India, Bangalore specifically, which is based around rice, beans, pulses, fresh vegetables and spices like mustard seed, hing and tumeric.

What does South India have to do with late winter cooking?

Many of the recipes in Vibrant India are variations on rice and dal, which are not just hearty, durable, winter fare, they’re also fragrantly spiced and lush with coconut, ghee and curry leaves. This combination of new flavors and cooking techniques is sure to hold your attention until the farmer’s market is full of ingredients for her spiced spring vegetable and coconut polenta recipe.

I’ve tried to wrap my head around how to build up a pantry of spices and the techniques for cooking Indian dishes at home several times, never with much luck. There are several South Asian cookbooks on my shelf and I’ve never prepared a single dish from any of them. I get overwhelmed by planning what to make, gathering the ingredients and understanding the techniques. This book feels so much more accessible and easy to understand than my past forays into subcontinental cooking. (more…)

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03/02/17 1:23pm

I need to be the adult here and break it to you, someone does. Just because it was 70 last week does not mean that summer starts at the end of the month. We still have a ways to go before the glorious outdoor movies and free concerts of summer are here. Until then, you’ll have to make do with some excellent art, scary theater, absorbing new books and the return of the best show on television.

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10. The Terrifying

Everything about The Terrifying, a new play written and directed by Obie-winner Julia Jarcho sounds, well, terrifying. It’s an intimate theater experience for just 60 guests who are seated on the stage “close enough to hear a faint whisper.” The setting is described as a “creepy little village on the cusp of modernity” and there’s a warning about strong language and sudden loud noises. We’ll be reviewing so check back for the full scoop on just how scary The Terrifying really is. The show runs from March 12-April 2 at the Arbons Arts Center, and tickets are $25.


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9. Art on Paper, March 3-5
As the name would suggest, Art on Paper is a giant show devoted to art committed to paper, like drawings, prints and photos. It’s also home to an incredibly inventive collection of three-dimensional work constructed with paper and some video work as well. The show is held on Pier 36 in Manhattan, March 3-5 (with a preview on March 2), and with participating galleries around the city. A pass costs $25 for a day, $30 for three days, and $40 if you want access during the preview as well. (more…)

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02/28/17 8:54am
Photo: Amanda Duarte

Photo: Amanda Duarte

We never forget the one that got away. No, I don’t mean your last Tinder date. I’m talking about missed connections of the creative variety. The song that was just a catchy chorus short of Top 40 euphoria. The webseries one clever concept away from Comedy Central success. Drafts languishing in drawers and hard drives all over the city. Murdering your darlings is essential writing advice, but sometimes you’ve got to wonder what it would be like to bring them back to life.

Amanda Duarte understands. The voice-over artist, singer, actress, and creator of the Pussy Grabs Back campaign has a monthly show called Dead Darlings, dedicated to all of those creative corpses, the ideas that were just too pretty to live.

February’s edition at the historic Judson Church began with Duarte’s rendition of the Stephen Sondheim classic, “I’m Still Here,” reengineered for life under the Trump administration. She’s an Elaine Stritch in training, and a reminder that the revolution must include humor.

After the rousing opening number, the performers and their darlings for February included work from cartoonist Emily Flake that was passed over by the New Yorker, a killed article and video short about a polyamorous commune that just happens to raise wolves by journalist Jessica Bennett (Duarte’s partner in Pussy Grab’s Back), and scenes from an abandoned play about rehab from playwright Jaclyn Backhaus. In what was perhaps the most surprising (and surprisingly emotional) moments of the night, comedian Bowen Yang lip-synced along to the infamous moment on Cycle 4 of America’s Next Top Model, when Tyra Banks screams “I was rooting for you, we were all rooting for you” at recently-eliminated model hopeful Tiffany Richardson.

I didn’t know I needed that moment in my life, but Amanda Duarte did. Post-show, I chatted with her about her inspiration for the show, what it’s like to go viral, and what’s next for Pussy Grabs Back in the Trump era. (more…)

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02/16/17 10:00am
Mozart's Sister - credit: Rebecca Storm

Mozart’s Sister | Photo: Rebecca Storm

If Mozart’s Sister, Canadian indie pop musician Caila Thompson-Hannant’s current project, has got you wondering whether Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart actually had a sibling, then let’s start with a quick musical history lesson. Yes, the famed composer had an older sister named Maria Anna (1751-1829). Like her brother, Maria was also a musical child prodigy who toured with Wolfgang and performed for audiences throughout Europe. Some have even said that Maria had an influence on her younger brother, according to a Smithsonian article, she transcribed Wolfgang’s first symphony, and another researcher claimed that she composed works for her brother so he could learn how to play the piano. But her music days ended when she turned 18, (and her family insisted she focus on getting married) while Wolfgang’s career continued to flourish into adulthood and eventually legend. Over time, Maria Anna’s life and contributions have surfaced in articles, books, a play, and a movie, after she had been relegated throughout history as a footnote to the career of her more famous bro.

It’s fitting that Thompson-Hannant named her project after an unsung female musician who was independently talented in her own right. For her new album, Field of Love, Thompson-Hannant called her own shots throughout production and recording. The follow-up to her 2014 full-length debut album Being, Field of Love is a celebratory, romantic electropop record: dizzying atmospheric synth sounds, infectious dance beats and Thompson-Hannant’s child-like yet soulful vocals buoy uptempo tracks like “Eternally Girl,” “My Heart Is Wild,” and “Moment 2 Moment.”

If Field of Love sounds like something out of the ’90s, that was by design–it was during that period that Thompson-Hannant developed her love for dance pop.

Thompson-Hannant, who previously played in the band Shapes and Sizes, is returning to the States for some upcoming show dates, including one at Brooklyn’s Silent Barn tonight, as well as several showcases at SXSW in March. Brooklyn Based spoke with this emerging musician who, unlike the Mozart’s actual sister, has stepped out on her own without being in someone else’s shadow. (more…)

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02/14/17 10:50am
Photo: MNDFL Williamsburg

Photo: MNDFL Williamsburg

Taking deep breaths and closing your eyes to meditate in your cluttered bedroom, under fluorescent lights at your desk, or even on a crowded train is not exactly ideal, but it’s still an effort that many of us put forth as often as we can. Studies showing that meditation helps with everything from stress to fatigue to monkey mind, plus convenient apps like Headspace and Calm have inspired a new interest in the ancient practice and devotees swear that even the F train can yield moments of inner calm. Still, imagine that there was a dedicated space–a soft, undisturbed room in the middle of the city–the only function of which was to house a group of people who wanted to escape the hubbub and work on their mindfulness. Sort of like a yoga studio for meditation.

Now there is, and you can find it in Williamsburg.

MNDFL exists to enable humans to feel good,” says Lodro Rinzler, meditation teacher, author, and co-founder of MNDFL, a meditation studio with locations in Greenwich Village, the Upper East Side, and now Williamsburg. “It was a natural partnership from the beginning,” says co-founder Ellie Burrows, who met Rinzler while volunteering for his non-profit. “I knew that I wanted to open this studio, but I couldn’t have done it on my own. I’m not a meditation expert, I’m just a lover and practitioner of meditation.” (more…)

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02/08/17 2:19pm
Allison Crutchfield (Jesse Riggins(

Allison Crutchfield Photo: Jesse Riggins

If the lyrics on indie rock artist Allison Crutchfield’s latest record, Tourist in This Town, feel incredibly raw, it’s because their source is real heartbreak and disillusionment. Crutchfield’s punk group Swearin’ broke up in 2015 following the end of her five-year relationship with the band’s bassist Kyle Gilbride. (“It was literally like my world was turned upside down,” she recently told Brooklyn Vegan about that period.)

So the trials and tribulations of the heart had an intense influence on her wonderful new record, whose theme of love gone south is hinted at on tracks like the poppy “I Don’t Ever Wanna Leave California” (“We’re pretty far away from Philadelphia/And that’s fine ’cause I’m really starting to hate you”); the New Wave-ish “Dean’s Room” (“There are no photographs of us/There’s nothing left to discuss”), and the ’60s girl-group-sounding “Expatriate” (“I know people change/And we’re both moving on”). Yet the catchy and driving music offsets the heartache woven into the lyrics, providing some really gorgeous moments like on “Charlie” and “Sightseeing” as well as butt-kicking ones as well such as the electrifying “Mile Away” to the punkish “The Marriage.”

It’s almost as if Crutchfield saying through this album, that sometimes you have to go through the motions for awhile, but eventually with time and self-discovery, you’ll emerge resilient.

Aside from its introspective lyrics, Tourist in This Town is notable for two reasons: First, it’s Allison Crutchfield’s full-length solo debut after her spending the last several years being in bands like the Ackleys, P.S. Eliot (with her twin sister Katie Crutchfield, who currently leads her group Waxahatchee) and Swearin.’ Second, the music on Tourist in This Town is represents a stylistic departure from her previous indie punk sound with its emphasis on synthesizers.

Originally from Alabama, Crutchfield is no stranger to Brooklyn even though Philadelphia is her current base. Both she and her sister lived in Brooklyn during their tenure in P.S. Eliot and it was in Brooklyn where that band did their final shows in 2011. Now Crutchfield is returning to the borough for a show at Sunnyvale on Feb. 9 with her backing band the Fizz. We spoke with her about the new record and the experiences that led to its creation. (more…)

02/07/17 11:17am
PS 123 in Queens. Photo: NYC DOE

PS 123 in Queens. Photo: NYC DOE

Today the Senate, plus Vice President Mike Pence, voted to confirm Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. DeVos is by many accounts the worst possible Secretary of Education and her policies will affect students in New York City, the only question is how.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, perhaps realizing that he’s running for reelection, has presented himself as a progressive defender of civil rights, including the right to education. As Chalkbeat reported, he stated that the latest New York City budget was devised “with the assumption of profound challenges from Washington.”

What he didn’t explicitly outline was how profoundly those challenges might impact the NYC Department of Education.

Dr. James Kemple, Executive Director of the Research Alliance for New York City Schools at NYU Steinhardt, told Brooklyn Based that “the role of the federal government in education is pretty narrow.” Current federal education legislation, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was passed in 2016, and, Dr. Kemple points out, gives states much greater discretion over their education budgets and educational standards than its predecessor, No Child Left Behind. It would usually take an act of Congress to rewrite legislation like ESSA, but with Trump’s penchant for executive orders, it’s hard to say what the future of education policy from a federal vantage point will be.

Federal money makes up only about 10% of the New York City’s DOE operating budget, but 10% of $23 billion is a significant sum. Trump has demonstrated something like eagerness to yank federal funding from Sanctuary Cities, like New York, including the provision to do so in  the executive order he signed on Jan. 25, though the legality of cutting off federal education funding is unclear.

We spoke to several education policy experts for clues on how DeVos and the Trump administration might affect New York City public schools, which we’ve outlined below. If slashing funding for schools with a high proportion of low-income students, taking away reduced-price lunches, and laying the groundwork for more charter schools and school vouchers aren’t part of your New York values, we also have some ideas for how to fight back. (more…)

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