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    Into the Woods, Into rethinking fairy tales

    The new Disney film Into the Woods delves into fairy tales by looking at them through a psychological lens. Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine also wanted to ask the question "What happens after fairy tales end?" when they produced the musical on Broadway.

    Should fairy tales be re-told and re-imagined? As I explained in this article on the ISU Media Relations site, "Into the Woods fractured fairy tales right on track," people are constantly looking at fairy tales as a kind of mirror to understanding contemporary times. Fairy tales, which were once mainly told to adults around fire on cold winter nights, are now routinely seen as children's literature. Yet, they are still scary, still intended to teach about harsh reality, and are riveting entertainment. For further thoughts, check out the article.

    Thanks to Rachel Hatch for interviewing me for the ISU Media Relations article.


    Peter Pan play marks 110th anniversary

    Tonight is the 110th anniversary of J.M. Barrie's play "Peter Pan" first being performed. Laura Kennedy, the local NPR station WGLT, interviewed me about Peter Pan and its multitude of forms that Barrie created. Thanks to Laura Kennedy for being such a great interviewer and making me sound so good.

    Here's the link to the interview.

    In the interview, you will hear how Peter Pan is linked to the legendary Victorian Pantomime's that filled theaters with laughter during the holiday season. I also talk about how Barrie befriend a family of boys and then based much of the Peter Pan story on playing with them as well as missing his younger brother, David, who died in childhood. Barrie published numerous versions of the story in adult novels, as a play, as a novel for children and more.


    Richard Linklater's film Boyhood an interesting study in kids growing up

    The compelling acting in Richard Linklater's, Boyhood, which follows a family over an arc of 12 years, is what isEllar Coltrane as he ages in Boyhood kept my son and I rivted during the three-hour film. The film is as much about parenting as it is about a boy growing up. All four main actors -- Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette, Lorelei Linklater, and Ellar Coltrane -- bring a poignancy and intelligence to their characters. The film follows Patricia Arquette and her two children as she is estranged from her husband (Hawke) although they are both intent on raising the kids. 

    The storyline seems to be somewhat autobiographical for Linklater. It ends, coincidentally, just where Dazed and Confused might begin.

    The interested buzz on the film is coming from my teenage son, Linklater fans, people aware of indie films, and even family members over 80 who occassionaly see films. What does that say? To me it's that this film is going to be around for awhile, maybe into Oscar season. I would like to see it again before that.

    Read the review on for a more thorough analysis.


    Mary Poppins, P. L. Travers & ISU connections, an interview on WGLT

    Thanks to Judy Valente for her delightful interview of me on WGLT about Mary Poppins as both a delightful filmJulie Andrews as Mary Poppins and P. L. Travers, author of the book and a popular children's book as well as a small, but interesting connection of ISU to P. L. Travers. Judy is such a great interviewer.

    Disney's Mary Poppins film was released 50 years ago this week. As we learned in the recent Disney film Saving Mr. Banks, P. L. Travers, the author of the Mary Poppins series, was never happy with the adaptation. Pamela Travers was opinionated, but thoughtful, and certainly had a wide range of interests including Zen Buddhism and mytical Sufism. 

    In the WGLT interview, Judy asks why Mary Poppins, the film, has such a long-standing appeal with both adults and children. I think that it is partly because Travers understood that children whose lives are in even a small amount of dissarray fantasize about order and everything working out. But it is also because Walt Disney understood the humor and charm of the story and could add the studio's magic to make it wonderful entertainment. Finally, the film causes adults to not only reflect back on their childhood but to consider how they are as parents; are they fulfilling their own hopes and dreams for their family?  The film is more complicated than we perhaps realized when we saw it as children, but that, in turn, makes seeing it again just as fulfilling.

    Thanks, again, to Judy Valente for the opportunity to thoughtfully reflect on the delightful film as it turns 50.


    Why do dystopian stories, such as Divergent, appeal to teens?

    Adults wonder why bleak, dystopian novels — such as The Hunger Games and Divergent series — appeal to teens. I try to answer that question in this Q&A with Rachel Hatch at ISU's Media Dept. In the article "Professor: Divergent movie hits dystopian nerve with teens," I explain that in these books and films there is:

    a sort of allegory of the highly competitive social experience of high school where there is a ruthless struggle for popularity in an environment of seemingly arbitrary rules where teens assume that their every move is constantly observed by others. That makes sense to me and is clear that these dystopian novels and films hit a nerve with teens and Millennials who imagine their futures in rather grim terms.

    I think that while adults are disturbed by the violence and killing in these books and films, teens are more drawn to the way the characters try to solve problems and survive.  Of course, there's also the romance, particularly in the Divergent series, that's heightened by the possibility that any moment one or both of the characters will die.

    Shailene Woodley in Divergent.