Sunday, November 27, 2016

Peter Pan: Landmark Musicals

On a scale from 1 to 10 where 1 is falling asleep at  the theater and 10 is believing that you just saw a production which somehow literally is made of magic, Landmark Musical's production of Peter Pan ranks a 7. Peter Pan, or the original 1904 The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up, is a fantastical musical which brings 3 children into the world Neverland where you don't have to grow older. In this process, Wendy comes to learn about herself and how ultimately growing up isn't such a bad thing.

This play begins in the nursery of the Darling Residence where the parents leave for the night after putting the kids to bed. Peter Pan soon enters the room in search of his shadow, which he had previously left behind. Between Wendy sewing his shadow back on, the grand introduction of Tinkerbell and her snide remarks, and the process of learning to fly with fairy dust, the first scene got the play started off on a high note which only went up from there. The flying team did a fantastic job lifting the energetic Zoey Reese, actress for Peter Pan, off the ground. She lifted our heart and our views.

From "the second star to the right and on 'till morning," we were introduced to the magical world of Neverland where you can experience spring, winter, summer, or fall all on the same island, depending on which part you go to. Here we soon meet the Pirates, the Indians, and the Lost Boys. Ultimately, the pirates kidnap the Lost Boys and the Indians and Pan are able to outwit the pirates and make the dreadful pirate Hook walk the plank! With this, Wendy returns back to Earth ready to grow up, accepting every good and bad consequence this brings.

There are 3 moments in this play I wish to discuss further because they were the scenes which truly made this play magical for everyone present.

Firstly, every dance of the Indians was completely, jaw-droppingly, spectacular. Specifically, the "Indian Dance" and "Ugh-A-Wug" dances were unlike any I've ever seen in a musical before. The "Indian Dance" was an outstanding display of athleticism with great themes such as a repeated shoulder shrug to suggest the beating of the drums as the beating of the heart. I can't get their leaps, jumps, spins, and circular formations out of my head because I wish I was one of them up on that stage! Then when they began to use walking sticks and drumsticks on the stage during "Ugh-A-Wug," I couldn't help but pulse my body with the fantastic rhythms created. For these outstanding creations, I personally applaud choreographers Courtney and Louis Giannini.

The next outstanding moment was Pan's hilarious piece "Oh, My Mysterious Lady." Here, Pan drapes himself in a cloak and tricks Hook into thinking he is a wonderful lady because of his lovely singing. This trick kept the audience laughing for minutes on end. Moments like this, more than anything else, helped drive home Pan's personality and why he wants to cling onto his youth with all he has. In the coming scenes when Pan lets all his friends leave him because he refuses to leave Neverland, it makes the audience begin to realize a cost of his clinging. In centuries past, people have wasted lifetimes searching for the fountain of youth and today people spend thousands of dollars on products and surgeries to try to fight aging. With this in mind, these scenes played beautifully by Pan help elucidate two matters in this discussion: first, for him the youth meant more than current friendships and the promise of loneliness and second, that the youth was so important to him because he feared that with age he would no longer be able to have complete creative freedom to be the trickster that brings him so much joy. Everything has a cost.

Finally, just before the intermission was perhaps the most magical moment of the show, the moment when the audience's belief in Tinkerbell helps save her from the threat of death by Hook's poison. As Pan described that Tinkerbell needed people to believe in her or she would surely pass on, we heard the cries of children in the audience yelling out, "I BELIEVE!!" Even if we know fairies don't exist, we, the adults of the audience, felt ourselves wanting to mimic these children and so we joined together in a roaring applause when we were told that was the key to help her live. This moment was perhaps the most magical moment of the night because in it, even we adults were longing to have faith if that meant we could help one being continue to live. That faith is exactly the definition of humanity. It is the hope that our loved ones don't have to suffer, it is compassion for strangers, it is love for all living beings. That is what makes childhood magical, that children instinctively know that everyone can have a "happily ever after". These magical moments of the show which help us realize that we haven't lost our inner child are what Peter Pan is all about.

This show is $22 for adults for the cheapest seats and discounts are available for youth and senior citizens. The show goes on in the Rodey Theater at UNM until December 11th, 2016. These are the times you can check out the show according to

10 PERFORMANCES • The Rodey Theater

Miami: Fruit and Spice Park

On a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 is the first time you bit into a lemon unawares of the consequences and 10 is a a taste of the fruit of the tree of life, the Fruit and Spice Park 35 miles south of Downtown Miami, ranks a solid 8. This park is a beautiful 39-acre park full of more than 500 varieties of exotic fruits, nuts, herbs, and spices. This park was established in 1944 and is essentially an oasis from the crazy city life of Florida.

Entrance to this park is $8 for adults and $2 for children age 6-11 (free under 6). For this reasonable price, you are able to try out any of the fruit in the park and attend the tour on a tram pulled by a tractor for free. Tours run at 11:00am, 1:30pm, and 3:00pm and I would highly recommend going on one!!

We arrived plenty early before our planned tour time, so we ate at the Mango Cafe outside the park and we got to wander around the beginning sections. The Mango Cafe was a cute homestead restaurant with one room for dining and plenty of options of sandwiches, wraps, and other great deli items for lunch. The prices were reasonable and I would recommend this if you stop by and are famished. 

As we wandered around the park before the tour, we came across fruits we've never seen before like the jackfruit shown above. Bananas were also in season and bunches were set up on some stands ready for us to try. These tiny bananas were jam packed with flavor that our typical grocery store definitely lack. 

Eventually the tour started. We learned about a variety of fruits as we drove by and we got to taste the fruits which were in season. There were a few notable fruits. I cannot post this blog without mentioning these. The first is called Miracle Fruit. This is a tiny fruit with a large seed. After you peel back the skin, you let the fruit slide around on your tongue until you coat the entire thing. At this point, our guide gave us a lemon to try and after the coating of Miracle Fruit, the lemon tasted like a delicious sweet candy. Miracle Fruit makes everything taste more sweet and so it can be used in several important ways in medicine. For instance, when undergoing chemotherapy, the tongue tends to take on a metallic taste which makes everything taste awful. This can make many people unable to eat. By coating the tongue in Miracle Fruit, other foods begin to taste much more palatable. Additionally, people with diabetes who aren't supposed to be eating sugar can coat their tongue with miracle fruit to help other foods take on the sweet qualities they may crave immensely. 

Another amazing plant we learned about is the leaf of the Moringa plant. According to Pure Healing Foods online, "Moringa leaf is best known as an excellent source of nutrition and natural energy booster. This energy boost is not based on sugar, and so it is sustained. Moringa is also soothing. It helps lower blood pressure and is a sleep aid. Its detoxifying effect may come from Moringa's ability to purify water. Moringa acts as a coagulant attaching itself to harmful material and bacteria. It is believed that this process is taking place in the body as well." It is a highly recommended healthy food, so that is why you would have caught us all chewing on leaves that tour day!

Finally, I couldn't miss out on mentioning how many mangoes this park has! It has rows with possibly hundreds of types of mangoes. We were told that when it is mango season, there is a festival where people can taste all the different species to determine their own favorites.

This park was beautiful and, for a biologist like me, it was a magical land full of beautiful new treasures of knowledge. Upon returning back to New Mexico, I visited a few international food stores and was thrilled to see some of these fruits which I learned about at this park including Dragon Fruit and Jack Fruit. This park has picturesque areas with lilies and fountains. It also is a park which you can return to month after month to try out the different fruits currently in season. You can easily spend hours wandering and trying out the various fruits. I highly recommend this beautiful park!