Review: Adam Driver Scorches the Stage in 'Burn This'
We're told a lot about a young, dead man's family in the talky first 20 minutes of Lanford Wilson's 1987 play "Burn This," now at the Hudson Theatre. It's easy during that time to let your mind wander and think of other things.
And then the man's brother Pale explodes onto the stage, embodied by the actor Adam Driver, and grabs your attention. His first monologue is a masterpiece of characterization, telling us all we need to know. He is abuzz with chaotic energy, tying his shoe on the arm of the couch, glaring out the large window of the loft apartment, stalking around every inch of stage. All he says he wants is to pick up his dead brother's things, but we know immediately that he's actually looking for connection and to be understood.
Wilson's low-stakes romance is a bit worn around the edges, despite Michael Mayer's sprightly direction. Its outrage over the obliviousness of Pale's family that his brother, a respected dancer, was gay, and the warm acceptance of another gay character, Larry, is welcome, but is no longer as fresh as it must have been when the show first premiered on Broadway in the 1980s. And Pale's love interest, Anna, as played by Keri Russell, is an especially tired character: the ice queen dancer/choreographer who is disconnected from her emotions and must be set ablaze by the married Pale to make really good art.
Yet Driver's Pale is so vibrantly real, vulnerable and caring, despite all his angry posturing, that we're immediately drawn in. In one of the best performances on Broadway this season, Driver is such a compelling character that we want him to find peace within himself and to find the resolution he seeks so desperately.
Unfortunately, Driver and Russell don't have much chemistry, partly because her performance is stiff and uncertain. The production is bolstered, however, by two strong supporting actors, Brandon Uranowitz as the kind (and sharply comic) best friend Larry and David Furr as Anna's rich boyfriend Burton. When they're all together at the climax, there are fireworks.
" " by Lanford Wilson, directed by Michael Mayer, through July 14 at the Hudson Theatre.
On School Integration, More Views Within Asian-American Community Than Often Reported
The fight over the SHSAT, the test that determines admission to New York City’s specialized high schools, is often framed as a struggle between reformers who want to boost integration, and predominantly Asian families who want to preserve the status quo.
But there's a diversity of opinions within the Asian-American community, and Asian New Yorkers on many sides of the current debate argue that the coverage often misses the nuance.
“We’re talking about a diverse community that also has a diverse perspective on the test,” said Vanessa Leung, co-executive director of the Coalition for Asian American Children and Families. “And I think that all gets lost.”
Her group opposes the high school test.
“There is always this hope and belief that when you work really hard you will benefit,” she said. “We’ve realized many of our families don’t have the same access. It doesn’t mean that they’re not working hard or don’t deserve to be in a great school.”
Leung pointed to recent refugees who don’t know how to navigate the complex school system, the many Asian New Yorkers in poverty who can’t afford test prep; or the 6,000 Asian students who took the test and didn’t get into the specialized schools.
"For those who are unfamiliar with the system, for those who are limited English proficient, for so many immigrant families [the test] is an additional barrier that has been set up," she said.
The coalition joined the civil-rights group the NAACP in a against the SHSAT in 2012.
Meanwhile, SHSAT supporters also feel misrepresented.
"I think the worst thing is when reading the newspapers they say opponents of integration," said Chris Kwok with the Chinese American Citizens Alliance of Greater New York.
The alliance also the city to stop the first phase of the mayor’s plan from going forward.
“We oppose getting rid of the test. We care tremendously about diversity,” he said. “We care that there are not enough black and Latinos in the schools but we think the policy prescriptions that flow out of that should be something different.”
His group is calling for more gifted and talented programs, more specialized schools, and more opportunity for everyone.
At a recent forum in Queens, Linda Lam — a parent leader who supports the test — said the way the debate has been portrayed "pits minorities against each other."
Alana Mohamed — who opposes the test — agreed. She said it's time for communities of color to work together to improve the system. "I sincerely hope that we can move past the rhetoric and educate ourselves about the complex racial dynamics at play," she said. "Otherwise we are just stuck in the gridlock."
What I Learned From 3 Years of Living Zero Waste
One way to reduce your footprint this Earth Day is by creating less trash. I’ve been living a lifestyle for the past three years. Here’s what I’ve learned.
When people take on a new challenge, like running a marathon or becoming a vegetarian, they often find themselves changing their habits and routines. Zero waste is no different, and my life now involves planning ahead, buying in bulk and carrying around reusable everyday tools (for example, you’ll never catch me without a reusable coffee mug or a cloth napkin).
But the most noticeable changes in my life are in my daily interactions. Because we live in a world based on disposables, I have to enlist the help of everyone around me to be zero waste. If I’m at a restaurant, for example, I have to ask the servers to bring me my drink without a straw. I was worried about this aspect of zero waste at first, because I didn’t want to come across as demanding or pretentious. But if you acknowledge that you’re asking the other person for a favor and express gratitude for their help, 9 out of 10 people are very accommodating.
And once someone has been an accomplice to an act of “trashlessness,” they often think about it in their own lives. So in a sense, zero waste is a form of personalized activism that’s less about getting in someone’s face and telling them why they should change their mind about something, and more about modeling behavior and giving people something to think about.
The hardest part for me about zero waste has been resisting the convenience that is all around us—like ordering take-out or buying things on Amazon. But producing any new product takes a huge amount of resources. By some estimates, of the environmental impact of a product happens before you open the package. That’s why I consider recycling to be not much different from trash, because even if the end product is recyclable, it still has to be produced. You get much more bang for your buck, environmentally, if you focus on consuming less.
Another thing to consider is that the pollution created at each step of the production cycle — including the extraction of natural resources, manufacturing, and transportation — disproportionately affects . It’s up to people who have the time and resources to take waste-reducing actions to push back against a system of production that is poisoning marginalized communities. Not everyone has access to bulk stores and a large second-hand market the way I do in New York City, and I think it’s important to acknowledge that access is a key component to making this lifestyle possible.
Living zero waste also takes upfront investment of time just like any lifestyle change, and that requires a certain level of privilege. In terms of actual cost however, a lot of products that create waste, like bottled water, are than their zero waste counterparts. And shopping in bulk is cheaper than buying packaged food. With many products, what you’re paying for is the packaging. I’ve also noticed a significant decrease in my expenditures by buying almost exclusively second-hand (although I do make exceptions for things like soap, medicine etc.).
There's certainly an argument to be made that for any meaningful change to happen, it will have to be undertaken by industries and governments rather than individuals. For example, New York just became the second state to , which will undoubtedly save more trash from the landfill than I could save in a lifetime.
But because zero waste is a part of my daily life, it can prompt a cognitive shift around resource awareness in a way that policies can’t. I think that’s really powerful and I hope that people who decide to try zero waste will be inspired to challenge the current system and push for policies like plastic bans. Zero waste is a positive and energizing experience in a world that’s filled with a lot of negative news about climate change. It’s refreshing to do something that is empowering rather than overwhelming.
People often ask me what habit they should change to decrease their waste. But changing one thing doesn't accomplish the same sort of awareness as trying to eliminate trash entirely— even if it’s for a short period of time. There’s something powerful and shocking about being confronted with the reality of your own consumption patterns that can’t be replicated any other way. With Earth Day coming up on Monday, my challenge to people is to try living without creating trash for a day, and see what happens.
Immigrants Then vs. Now: Busting Misconceptions
It was during this week in 1907 that Ellis Island experienced its busiest day ever, with 11,747 immigrants processed on April 17. In terms of immigrant arrivals, that was also its .
This prompted researchers at the immigration think tank New American Economy to ask: How do immigrants from that era compare to today's immigrants?
So they sifted through census data then and now.
"In 1907, only 1.3 percent of immigrants who arrived were professionals," said Andrew Lim, NAE's Director of Quantitative Research. "These are people like doctors, lawyers, engineers."
At the time, 5 percent of the American workforce were professionals.
By contrast, 27 percent of American workers today are professionals. But among immigrants, Lim said over 34 percent are professionals, well above the American average.
In other words, immigrants now are far more skilled than they were more than a century ago. They're also far more likely to know English today: 83.8 percent of immigrants who arrived in 2017 spoke English partially or fluently, while nearly half of all immigrants who came to the country in 1907 spoke no English at all.
Still, historians and educators say the public clings to the myth of yesterday's immigrant: someone supposedly more skilled than today's immigrant.
"We're remarkably ignorant sometimes of our own history," said Kevin Jennings, president of the Tenement Museum, located in the Lower East Side.
He said many visitors think earlier immigrants weren't just more skilled, but more law-abiding.
"You would be amazed at how many people come to this museum and say that to us: 'My grandparents came here legally.' Well of course your grandparents came here legally. There were no laws."
It was basically open borders, he said. Unless you were Chinese, in which case it didn't matter how qualified you were, because in 1907 into the country.