Friday, August 15, 2014

The Lounge is Back from the Summer

Hey guys and gals! Dr. Fronkensteen here and I just wanted to tell you that I'm back from my summer at Hollins University and ready for another year of theatrical fun on the Lounge. DragynAlly and I had  great summer at Hollins learning lots of great things. Sadly it was our last Summer there (sad!) But now we're both starting our Thesis and moving steadily on to graduation. Here's a peak at a couple other big things coming my way.

Photo by Chad Runyon
Well doesn't he look dapper? (Photo by Chad Runyon)

One I am finally re-embracing theatre for youth! After such a great class this summer taught by the wonderful Nicole Adkins I found I got instantly sucked back into the fun of it all. I'm definitely going to write some more ten minute plays and one-acts for this very fulfilling market.

I'm also looking for job opportunities that allow me to explore theatre production and new works. As I'm going forward into the professional theatre life I want to immerse myself in a theatre lab setting and break into producing. I'd also love to expand my tribe of theatre people that let me I can get my hands dirty with.

But while I strive to move ahead into the professional world I also have to remember my call to bi-vocational ministry. I'm always going to have a passion for the church and the realm of worship arts. And I hope to continue my training in my journey to become a lay minister. I love it because I feel like I'm using my passion in the arts to make a difference.

Photo by Chad Runyon
Well don't we look pretty? (Photo by Chad Runyon)

And lastly I'm moving! Yep you heard me right. It's time that I moved closer to DragynAlly as we get closer to our wedding and move to a place that's more in the center of where great theatre is made. So by the end of this year I will be a Jersey boy surrounded by the arts I love so dear and in the arms of the love of my life.

So this fall is going to be busy and action packed for me but I don't think I would have it any other way. It's certainly a transitional period for me but as always I'm moving up and not out. I'll always be sharing my journey with you guys and I'll never forget the support you've given me the whole way.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Staying Smooth with Van Der Hagen

Disclaimer: I was given a product to review. Any and all opinions are my own. 

Have you ever wanted to just ditch the new fangled razors and shaving cream for the retro days of lather and a straight razor? Well Van Der Hagen is here to the rescue with an old school method to get your beard smooth and stylin'.

The best thing about this luxury shaving set..less mess. When I get my usual shaving cream can out there by the time I get it lathered on my face before I can move on I got a mess all over my hands and sink. You just can't ever get the exact amount of shaving cream on your hands that leaves enough on your face. Well with the badger brush and the apothecary mug those days are over. All you do is run the brush under some water and run it over the soap in the mug and then you're good to go. When you have just enough on your face then you rinse off the brush and your hands are still clean and you hang the brush up on the include stand to let it dry. The lack of clean up makes this thing super worth it!
Retro but Effective

It takes a couple of tries to get the lather just right but after you get it down you notice that the lather from the soap goes on nice and smooth. Since you're only using as much lather as you need with out much excess I wouldn't be surprised if it lasted longer than the usual can of shaving cream. The only thing that failed to perform was my own store bought razor that I found had gone dull. I felt very fresh and ready to start the day.

In conclusion this is a shaving set that has made me really want to go out and get a straight razor for a truly retro smooth shave. I know that I'm an old soul but this set will give any lover of the new fangled razors enough pause to try some old school. Stay smooth everyone!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

What I'm up to now!

So it's been a long and fascinating year so far and the days are ticking ever closer until I hop on the bus to get onto Hollins again. For the third year in a row my play was chosen to be in Lab and every year the Festival line up gets even more interesting. I'm super excited to be with my Theatre family again and continue to do that voodoo that we do so well.

And of course I get to spend six weeks with this girl!
But I have found as I continue my research and tinkering with my keyboard that my style and interests are changing in ways that will make this summer even better! I'm taking a class in Brecht which comes in handy because I've been moving in some very expressionistic directions with my writing. In Theatre for Youth I'll be learning tips on writing children's theater from one of the masters which is great because I've been looking into writing Duets and Forensic monologues for High School groups.

And of Course there is Lab where my play Townies will receive some in depth criticism and critique to help me develop it. This is the third year of lab I've had a play in and with that and No Shame I've learned so much about how I work and think as a Playwright. I believe my plays and process get so much better every year. If Hollins was just wrapped up in Lab and No Shame that would be great but then there is just so much more!!!

I'm always interested in seeing how much my plays and interests have changed over the years and how many of my truest passions are still alive!  I really feel like I have grown every year and by the time I've started thesis I'll be ready to spread my wings and really fly!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Just keep Running the Race

Sometimes in the arts it's easy to think that you're competing with everyone else in your field. And whether or not you feel that way you do have to admit that we are all on our respective journeys. So as long as we are all on that road to success in the theatre here are some tips to make your journey smoother. 

Also the Road to Success is much smoother if you drive.

  • Stay in your lane: Ask yourself realistically what your skill level is and where you should be in your craft. A lot of the people that you think ahead of you have probably been in the game longer. So of course they should be going farther than you. 
  • Keep Realistic Goals: Yeah of course it would be cool if you could get on Broadway and get published and then earn a million dollars. But I'm sure you have to do a lot of things before you get to that point. Do some research and see what the majority of people are doing in your field. Then determine what your next step is.
  • Keep a reasonable/Sustainable pace: Of course you could be Playwriting God and submit to twenty theater's a day and write eight hours a day but after a while you're sure to get burnt out. Why not try to research one great place a month. Do your research. 
  • Find a mentor/coach: There is something great about having someone to be accountable with about your art. For me my mentor and partner in crime is my fiance. I know when I come to her she will give it to me straight and tell me what needs to be done. 
  • Stop Competing: In the theatre world this isn't a race to see who becomes the next Shakespeare. Maybe it's not even a competition at all but a fun run. You're hopefully doing this because you love it and want to grow in your craft and meet other people that do what you love. 
A very bright man told me that when you measure your success you need to look at where you want to be, your destination, and then look at what you're doing now. If what you're doing now isn't getting you where you want to go then maybe you should start asking yourself "well what needs to change". Keep looking ahead to your horizon and always be asking yourself "what do I need to be doing next?" You'll be surprised after a while how far you get. 

Friday, May 16, 2014

Cell Phones and Play Producing

We live in a world today where people live attached to the hip with their cellphones. And as a producer (or a playwright or director acting as a producer) you need to know how to utilize this tool effectively in your production. Cell phone or brick phone it makes no difference there are some certain things you should just know how to do in today's day and age that are going to help you. So here are the tips...

One of these things is a great toy full of hours of fun. The other is a Color Clix sculpture. 

  • Save your cast and crew as contacts immediately. Double check for accuracy. I once had an actress who was in a reading text me with a scheduling conflict and I didn't know that I typed her number in wrong. After being rude to a what I thought was a wrong number I ended up offending the actress and had a lot of explaining to do. Save yourself the hassle and do it right.
  • Take photos and videos like it's your job: Not only is this best way to communicate with design crew sometimes but someone better be posting stuff to your social media. A good web presence means people know you exist.
  • Make a text list for your cast and crew: It's the best way to keep in contact with them when you want to send mass texts to the whole group. This saves you a lot of time.
  • Update social media regularly: Again Facebook and other social media is like free advertising, The more you keep it in people's minds the more it works.
  • Create a Facebook Group for the cast: Unfortunately the analog call board in the greenroom doesn't always work anymore. Nowadays people will go to their Facebook more often than they go to their email or walk into the greenroom. So if you send the email and then update the Facebook group and also happen to have a printout on the bulletin board... well then they have no excuse to not see it. 
  • Try going multimedia with your feedback: On your usual smartphone not only can you write huge blocks of text you can also add audio, video, and pictures. So why not if you feel like you have to rant about something that's not working why not attach an audio file of that rant to the email. That means that the cast and production crew doesn't have to read large blocks of text that get real monotonous. Because you know they only read the first few paragraphs anyway. 
You have this great piece of modern technology in the palm of your hand. Why not make the best use of it? I bet that your cast will love it!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Tourettes Tuesday: Why I Carry a Cane

I have Tourettes and I carry a cane. I like to tell people that it's not because my legs can't physically work it's just that when my Tourettes is really bad they won't work. Think of it like in congress. I'm trying to move forward and my legs just like to fillibuster and all progress is stopped. And because part of that progress involves me standing upright and not falling over I sometimes need the third leg to keep from letting gravity take it's course.

A lot of it comes from the way that my specific tics affect me. Everyone's tics are like their DNA, there are some common things going on but everyone is different. When my Tourettes gets really bad my legs want to shake rapidly, kick, and twine around each other. All that is perfect when I'm laying down but when I'm up and walking that can spell disaster. And add onto that my abs contracting and relaxing against my will and then the balance goes out the window. After I'd fallen about three or four times I figured it was time to swallow my pride and enlist a little bit of wooden assistance.

My fiance happens to think it makes me look distinguished!

I already had this hand carved cane that I made myself a while before. And after some not so passive encouragement from my girlfriend (she swore to kill me if she saw me walking without it) I just sort of started walking with it everywhere. At first I thought I would get a lot of looks and sneers by people. I'm only 26 and I even thought people would look at my age and think that I was faking. But then I remembered something every person with TS knows: the same protection that the Americans with Disabilities Act gives you so that people can't hassle you because of your tics means that they can't hassle you because you carry a cane.

I've walked into high security buildings and onto busses right past security guards and management and they never said a thing to me because they know they can't. A cane is a medical device in the eyes of the law and that means they can't ask you anything about the nature of your disability or why you carry the cane. And if they take the cane away from you and you fall they know that there could be one heck of a lawsuit. You carry this thing because you need the support because you have a disability. There's no reason why anyone in public should be giving you guff about it.

I've only heard in passing about other people with TS needing to carry canes everyday and only one tale about someone that needed to be in a wheelchair. But alas they are only tales. If there are any people out there that also have to have some kind of cane to support them I'd love to hear your story. Please send me an email!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

6 Mistakes you make as a Beginning Director Prt. 3

#5  Trying to sneak in extra rehearsal

You may think that if your actors just can't seem to hit all of their cues or remember all of their lines then the best fix is to just schedule a surprise rehearsal on Saturday or keep them way after time to run that scene just once more. You may walk around rehearsal and hear people running their lines and you just want to jump in and yell "for the sake of all that's holy project!!!" But you have to remember that your job is to run rehearsal. And outside of all of this rehearsal these people have lives and jobs. Sure you think if your were professional then you could get away with it. But rehearsal means money and salaries so the more you try to shove in the more your start making the theater coffers cry. And if you start to get the reputation of the director that wastes time and money...well this may be your only directing gig.

Quick Fix: Aim for as many hours of rehearsal as there are pages in the script. That includes your tech and dress rehearsals. Don't waste a second of that time. Come into the rehearsal hall with a list of things you want to get accomplished that day and let people know what they are. You get people feeling like a success if they know they've succeeded or exceeded an expectation. Also plan for at least two "holy crap" extra days in advance and let your cast and crew know that they are only in case rehearsal time is lost due to emergency.(weather or actor illness)

In the south this exceeds emergency and goes straight to Apocalypse!
#6 Not having Faith/Gratitude in your cast and crew

These people are giving up their time and sharing their talent with you. A lot of them are doing this for the first time or are just doing it for fun. If they feel like all you want to talk about is about how much they're not hitting the mark or how you think the show is going to stink then why should they give their all? If the first thing you want to do is pull in some of your acting friends as ringers to fix bad acting should they feel like you even respect their effort? If you never tell them thank you for all their effort to make YOU look good are they going to ever want to act for you again?

Quick Fix: Say thank you as many times as you can. Let your actors act without making them feel like they have you hands on their shoulders. They made the commitment to be there you should make the commitment to make sure they're the best they can be.

The measure of a good the professional and the not so professional not by the number of butts they can get in seats but how many people they can get to answer the phone when they're in need of work. To do that you have to leave people wanting to work with you. So get your stuff together before you walk into the hall and trust your people.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Tourettes Tuesday: Getting Overloaded

Today we're going to talk about Tourettes Overload, a term I created. Have you ever seen a computer malfunction and you see the screen start to get scrambled. or the TV start to get all pixelated? That's what my fiance says that I look like. I had to ask her because I'm usually too bothered with being overloaded to notice.

The phrase I call being "overloaded" is that when you're TS urges or tics overcome your ability to compensate for them and be normal. It usually comes in my life as a day or so where my tics are so strong that I can't suppress them. This can last as much as a night to a couple days. This most likely happens on days when you've been more stressed than usual or you've had days where you're in public or in front of people and you feel that you have to be "on pointe" all the time. That means that you start suppressing all of your tics and trying to be normal to the point that at the end of the day you could be the equivalent of that little old lady holding up the car with superhuman strength so that it doesn't squash a baby. You end up having two options: hope someone moves the baby (the reason you have to suppress your tics) soon, or let the car (your tics) squash you both.

On off days I like to decompress with  music!

So as someone who has gone through all of this before let me offer you some tips. These are what I do on long days.

  • Express don't suppress: Your tics are actually part of your normal. The less you try to suppress them in public the less likely you'll have them popping up later.
  • Take frequent breaks in a stressful day: When you know you're going to have a day when you're going to have to be "on pointe" for long stretches of time try to take frequent breaks. Even taking a lunch by yourself or getting out of the office for five minutes can help.
  • Pamper Yourself: At the end of the day when you can feel an overload coming get your favorite food and slip into your best jammies. Make sure that you give yourself plenty of time to decompress before being around people again.
  • Beware of Tic Rage: As you're using super-human strength to keep that car from squashing the baby you might be shouting and yelling at anyone moving too slow to save the baby. But in the real world no one knows (or cares) what you're struggling with if you don't tell them. So if they don't know you're having a bad day they might thing that your rage is aimed at them. Be sure to try to stay calm and let people know you're struggling. Most of the time they'll understand. 
But above all eventually you have to let the tics happen. Do what you got to do but when you feel overloaded stop and let it pass. You'll feel a whole lot better after getting it all off your chest so-to-speak.

Monday, May 5, 2014

And you Thought the Diddley Bow only Plays Blues

So you think that the one string diddley bow is just for kids learning the guitar or for older guys who want to play the old blues standards? Huh? Well I can't blame you. I just got done making a diddley bow for a friend's son who was very enamored with mine and the kind of music I could get out of it. But what if you're a rocker or prefer something more on the side of thrash or death metal? Well let me introduce you to the Djentstick a one string guitar that can shred with the best of them.

This guy claims that he made all of the audio on this clip with just that diddley bow, an EMG-81 pick up, and a Line 6 Pod XT. While I love the natural sound of the instruments and prefer to have as few effects other than a good distortion in my amp you can't fault this guy's results. One thing you'll notice with electric instruments is that it doesn't matter so much what you play it on but what you play it through.

I love the baritone one string sound. 

From what I can see in my research it's got a very low tuning, kind of in the baritone or bass range. And it gets the name Djent (pronounced gent) from the palm muted style of playing in death metal that it comes from. You could easily make this with a 3 foot piece of spare wood and a low guitar string...even a bass string if that suits you. It doesn't seem like it would take it so much to get it wired up and ready to go. I'd love to see more builds of it online. Other than five or six videos on youtube about it this style doesn't seem to have much of a web presence yet. (so get on it).

So don't think that the diddley bow is just for old blues guys. Whatever style you play you can get out there and make one that can play your music. The idea of having only one string is that it takes less time for you to learn how to play and give you more time making great music. So get out there to your workshops and get playing!

See #Maleficent! #Giveaway

Who wants to see Maleficent when it comes out the end of this month? Well to celebrate DragynAlly's birthday by giving you a chance win $45 in fandango gift cards so you can see it! We got together with some of our blogging BFFs to make this happen. Thanks to My Pixie Dust DiaryTaking the Florida PlungeMaple Mouse MamaMagical Mouse SchoolhouseMerlot MommyThis Mama's Life and of course The Dragyn's Lair! You can enter below in the rafflecopter. Wish you the best of luck and don't forget to wish DragynAlly a very happy birthday!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, May 1, 2014

6 Mistakes you make as a Beginning Director Prt. 2

Here's part two of my list of common directing mistakes...

#3 Giving Acting Notes that can't be Obeyed

As an actor I can't believe that I was one of the biggest breakers of this rule when I started directing. Maybe you've given an actor a note about something that isn't going right in their performance. The next time you run that scene they mess up again. And then yet a third time. All you know how to do is roll your eyes and ask your assistant director to write the acting note down yet again.

But wait...before you do look at what's going on in the scene and see why the actor might be getting it wrong again and again. Does it have to do with something outside his control (a set piece isn't being set in enough time for him to make his cue on time) or could it be that you are just (gasp) wrong and their choice in acting is valid?

Quick Fix: Make a hard and firm rule. Don't give the exact same note three times. Either give it in another way or schedule a "bits and pieces" session where you work through all the sticking points in a scene so that one actor doesn't feel like they're being called out all the time. In a session like that you'll find that all the squeaky parts of your scene get fixed better because they're "in the moment" and you can start and stop and rework the action on the stage.

The way you're acting is making the walls too white. Can you say the lines more bluish?

#4 Trying to be a Hero

I know that this is your show and you're probably working in a less than professional setting. I know that you want this show to be the best show that showcases all of your talent. So you may be tempted to open your wallet to pay for the best posters out there and donate all of you or your family's time to make sure  that elaborate set gets done. And when one of your actor's get sick then you just know that you can step into the part and do it better than he ever could.

I know a director that I used to work with who did exactly that. She was not only the director and acting coach but she made the poster and designed most of the costumes. And when a certain set piece wasn't taking the kind of shape that she wanted then she stayed up all night and made her own version of it.

But when you play the hero and try to do everyone else's job do you know what you suck at doing? Youre OWN JOB!!! And if you're not at the helm as a director then all the rest of the outfit is like a horseshoe for want of a nail. If you lose the nail the horse suffers.

Quick Fix: Take a step back and breathe. You have a group of people here who are as devoted to getting your show up and running as you. Accept the show as it is and realize that you're not directing Broadway. What happens in the show happens. Don't hamstring your already hard work by trying to add more to it.

Look out next week for part three

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Tips for Student Organizations that want to do Theatre

When I was in college I was heavily involved in two student organizations that did regular theater productions as well as Alpha Psy Omega the theatre honor society. While I never held an executive board position I did direct and act in most of the shows and were friends with all of the leaders. I've seen great things that work and some things that don't. So let me give you a rapid fire session of tips for for those guys that want to branch out and try their own stuff.

I got one of my first great roles from a Student Organization

  • Be general in your mission statement: I was in one organization that did different style productions throughout the year. I also in one organization that did only children's theater. Once all the people in the latter organization that were really gung ho about children's theater graduated were were left with a dedicated core but none of the general assembly were true believers. When people stop showing up to meetings you're dead. 
  • Be reasonable in your expectations: I'm supposing that you started this organization because you wanted to get to do the shows or opportunities that you can't get anywhere else. You're not going to be able to beat your department's mainstage at it's own game. Start out with creating an atmosphere of experimentation (like a lab setting). When we started trying to get bigger sets and bigger production value from our shows we started burning people out...the very same people who were giving their all in mainstage shows. 
  • Be department neutral: The first organization I got in on was very hostile to the department faculty. They had a valid point (there were no opportunities to use the skills they learn in class) But they took the wrong way to go about it. They often tied up theatre classrooms in rehearsals and let their homework slide as they spent countless hours on rehearsal. They even had anti faculty style meetings right next to where the faculty offices were located. What ended up happening was that the faculty ended up resenting the organization and after the graduating class that ran it left they did everything they could to squelch it...even three years later when someone wanted to bring it back up. The next organization that came up started holding meetings and rehearsals in a different building and even had a non-faculty advisor. That makes all of the difference.
  • Embrace the temporary but plan for the future: Other than Alpha Psy none of the organizations that I talk about here are still around at my alma mater. You have to understand that after the cult of personality that surrounds the founders dies off when you leave the interest will dwindle unless you do something to keep people interested. Just remember that you started this to bulk up your resume and portfolio. The theatre department you're in is where you should be really focusing. Have fun but realize the degree and the job reccomendations from faculty are what's going to last in the future. 

Monday, April 28, 2014

Play in the Key of You!

So I've been seeing a lot of what I call "guitar jock" or music machismo out on the internet. What am I talking about? Well if you went into Google right now and went on any guitar forum half of all of the threads will be either "you're not a real guitarist unless you can play with this certain instrument with all of these certain parts." or "what parts/tubes/amps or lessons do I need to play like (insert famous musician here)?" Or go to any video of a guy playing his guitar or of a young girl and her ukulele playing music that they've practiced over and over for days. What you'll see in the comments of each one are these guys and gals that believe that unless you play a certain way, with a certain brand of guitar, then you're just a poser and the equivalent to the cowpies on the musical landscape.

Be the King of your own Musical Style
"Well, Dr. Fronkensteen," I hear you saying, "that's just the internet of course everyone is a bit more rude on internet comments." I would love to say that I haven't seen this out in the real world but I'm firmly convince that if you were in a room full of musicians at an open mic for every one guy that you saw that said "great set" you'd get four guys that would say "you played Hendrix on a Squire? What a cheap piece of junk!"

All of this gets me a bit irritated because I know at least in my narrative my Tourettes made it very hard to practice on traditional instruments and get my fingers to cooperate, and my bank account never allowed me to buy anything more than a "student model" guitar. I think that in a lot of people's mind is that if they throw a lot of money into an expensive guitar, like the kind that B. B. King plays, and if you take all of the internet tutorials to learn to play like him then eventually you'll be able to play good just like him. That's great if you're going to do covers of B. B. King songs all of your life. But at what point do you start letting your own artistic expression come out? At one point do you start sounding like you?

Do your own thing.

It's great to start out wanting to play like all of the artists that you respect. But if you go out trying to be the next Hendrix then you gotta get in line behind all of the other Handrix wannabe's out there. Why not be the first person in line to play like you? Try playing the best that you can and play the way you feel best. Play the music that makes you feel great on the inside and don't care about the people who call you a wannabe. Because you'll know that all you wannabe is yourself.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

6 Mistakes you make as a Beginning Director Prt 1

So you're getting your first directing gig. You got your script and you're about to hold auditions. You know that you're ready for this. But first make sure that you're not going to follow into the same kind of holes I fell into my first time...
There's no bridge over these troubled Theatrical Waters

#1 Not keeping your stage manager/design team in the loop

It's so easy as a starting director to think that you are God in this show and start making all kinds of intricate blocking and imagine all of these light cues and music coming at key musical moments. You may think that as the director you have the right to add these things at a moment's notice or look at offending parts of the design and just say "get rid of that".

But remember your Stage Manager has to call the show and your design team reserves the right to make sure their artistic vision is protected. If you aren't talking about these things with your team and coming up with answers together then you take the risk of walking out on a ledge with no one to support you. If your stage manager doesn't know how to call the cue and your lighting designer won't light it you don't get it in your show.

Quick Fix: Encourage your design team to sit in on rehearsals with you as much as they can or have production meetings in the rehearsal/performance space. Sometimes designs are set well before the show starts rehearsals but if you bring in the people to the places where you have these ideas and you can talk about them in terms of the actual space they can get behind you. And spend the first five minutes and the last five minutes of rehearsal with your stage manager.

#2 Giving orders that won't be obeyed (or will only be obeyed grudgingly)

In your first directing gig you probably won't be having a professional setup where all of your actors are paid and you have a bit more leeway to throw your weight around and have people obey your every whim. You'll probably have people who are donating their time for a community theater or church function or they're in some kind of extracurricular school project. It's very tempting to start getting very authoritative and demanding that everyone get warmed up before rehearsal and that actors start cutting their hair or quit bringing in food to the rehearsal hall. They may obey you and it may work for a while but you may be shocked to see that they'll start doing it anyway (or not do it however your case may be). You can just keep shouting orders but after the third time everyone will know not to listen to you.

Quick Fix: Look around and try to find the reason for the disobedience. You may find that the person bringing in food all the time at rehearsal is coming straight from work and this is the only time that they'll be able to eat dinner before they get home at ten in the evening. If they're hungry they're not putting all of their mind into the play. Instead yelling at everyone to be warmed up before rehearsal find a fun warm up that all of you can do together.

Look for part two next week.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Having fun in Rush Hour @ThinkFun

Disclaimer: I was given a free copy in exchange for a review. Think Fun didn't pay me for saying great things about them. All opinions are my own. 

Hey guys it's Dr. Fronkensteen here with another great Think Fun Brain Fitness Game. Have you ever thought that other puzzle games and apps were just a little bit too easy for you? Do you have a kid in the gifted range that is just bored with your ordinary puzzle games. Well here is a game that not only is challenging it's approved by MENSA, an organization for people with genius level IQ's. (You know it's going to be hard then)

Inside this box is the hardest game you've ever seen. 

I only point this out because it seems like this game was invented by evil geniuses. I remember saying in my last review that Chess Solitaire was a breeze and I was on the expert level in a matter of hours. When it comes to Rush Hour, though, I'm still staring at the intermediate levels and smelling the smoke of my brain shifting gears without the clutch. It sounds relatively easy. First they set up one Red Hero Car up in a play parking lot in a straight line to the only way out. And then the evil geniuses at Think Fun devised over 80 ways of putting other cars in the way and leave it up yo you the find the way to move them to get the red car out. It sounds relatively easy but once you get to the intermediate levels what seems like an easy task seems as hard as taking a little ring into the fiery pits of Mordor.

And that's the part that I actually like. The greatest part about this game is that it's insanely hard and that you can feel your brain getting better every time you play. The core motto of the Think Fun Brain Fitness line is to "Cross Train Your Brain" and the fact that the game is insanely hard at the easiest levels even for the most avid puzzle solvers means that no matter what your level your brain is getting a real work out!

Another thing that I love about this product is that even though it's hard it's so fun to play that you don't get the "rage quit" that I've found on other games. Rage quitting is where a game is so hard that you give up at a certain point before finishing it and throw it away. Even when I'm completely exasperated at the game and even tempted to cheat by looking at the answers in the back I'm not picking up the game and throwing it at the wall. And I even find myself looking at the box and wishing I had more time to play. So kudos to Think Fun for creating a game that I just have to play.

So do you really think it's time to take your brain to the gym and make it a fine toned thinking machine? Then pick up this great game and see if you can get farther than me!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Three Great Toys from @HogWildToysLLC

Disclaimer: I was given stuff by Hog Wild Toys LLC to review. All opinions are my own.

Dr. Fronkensteen here, channeling my inner child. Hog Wild Toys sent a huge box on my doorstep. Inside of it were three of the coolest new toys. So awesome that I couldn't split them up into three separate posts. They're their own little cornucopia of kid fun! So here we go!

Zip Stix

Test your aim with these Babies!
Do you remember the slap bracelets we used to have when we were kids? Well what if instead of a fashion statement you could get a launcher and shoot those things at small cones or take to the air with cool ramps? Awesome right? Well wait no more because Hog Wild Toys brings you Zip Stix. These rigid little stix come with their own launcher. You just press a little bit and off they go with some wicked speed.

I love them because even though they can do some great tricks and get some real speed going you can shoot them anywhere and they're totally safe. You can give these to your kids and drop them off at your mother's china shop and still be assured that they won't break everything.


Take me to your leader. And Pop my eyes out!
Have you ever wanted to let your younger kids play with a toy dart gun but feel that's it's not the best for their age group? Have you ever wanted to give them a toy that can shoot things across the room that won't hurt the cat? Welcome to poppers! No only are they cute little collectible toys but when you squeeze their tummies that ball shoots right out their mouth and clear across the room. And the coolest thing about them is that they're totally safe.

I work at a nursery with little kids all the time so I know how to test toys the way that kids will play with them. And let me tell you these Poppers will take a beating. You can squeeze them as hard as you want and they're still ready the next day.

The Flash Stache

These whiskers get extra sparkly!
Have you ever seen a toy that you know will be popular but you just don't know why? Welcome to the Flash Stache. It's just like your regular fake mustaches except that when you press a button on the back it lights up! I think it would be a cool thing for kids who like to do activities in the dark or have glow in the dark parties. (Flashlight Tag anyone?)

I would show you a picture but with my real mustache already getting long enough the fake one kind of disappears. But for those kids that love creative dress up or cool flashing lights this is definitely a must have!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Think Fun Chess Solitaire @thinkfun

Disclaimer: I was given something for free in exchange for a review. Think Fun didn't pay me to say nice things about them. All my opinions are my own. 

Did you ever look at the peg solitaire game at Cracker Barrel and wish that it was just a little more exciting? Do you or your children love chess but never have anyone to play with or need to hone up on their skills? Or do you just want to have your child learn some extra problem problem solving skills? Then Think Fun has the perfect game just for you! Meet Chess Solitaire the deceptively fun and addicting game that will ensure hours of fun and a more efficient brain at the end of it.

What you get is a little section of the chess board and 80 challenges at different levels. You set up your pieces on the board and make it your mention to capture every piece until only one piece is left standing. Sounds easy right? Well you would think so. But as you get out of the relatively easy beginner challenges and move into the harder levels you start to stare at the board and look to the heavens and yell "why me"! No worries though, whenever you get stuck Think Fun has provided answers to all the puzzles in the back of the book. If you can actually go through the whole game without looking at the answers you are a certified genius! But the epic thing about it? Once you start it you can't put it down!

When you open this box don't plan anything to do for the next few hours.

I think that this game is one of the most addicting games I've ever played. DragynAlly can tell you that when I first got it that I was thoroughly engrossed. I started playing at the beginner level and when I looked up it was three hours later and I was staring at the advanced pages. I think it's a great game for your kids that are often bored with easier games or excel in the critical thinking and problem solving arena. The motto of the Think Fun Brain Fitness Line is "cross train" your brain. And it is a workout. After you get done with playing this a while you can start feeling like your brain has been lifting weights.

I liked how this game can not only teach you how to solve problems quicker but can also help improve your chess game. The only criticism that I have is that after I solve all of the puzzles I'm gonna be left feeling like I need an expansion pack or something with new challenges or even a bigger board. This is a game that I really got hooked on. But as someone with TS who's not a linear thinker I know that other children with disinhibition disorders will be able to use this tool to help them think even more creatively.

So do you think you can prove that you aren't an ignoramoose? Why don't you grab your own copy of the game and give it a try?

Monday, March 31, 2014

Win the Ultimate Easter Basket of Awesomeness! #Giveaway

Hi all! When DragynAlly heads to events like Toy Fair always comes home with so much stuff! Case and point the picture above. It's insane how much there is. And here's the kicker, that's just the stuff she saved for you guys. Yes one of you will win this entire Ultimate Easter Basket of Awesomeness! It is filled to the brim with fun toys and other things to make your Easter (or just spring) super special.

A few rules: The winner must take the basket in it's entirety. No substitutions no exchanges. You won't know what's in the basket but I promise it will be awesome!

Rules in the rafflecopter. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, March 28, 2014

Honest Characters Trump All


So I've heard enough arguments in my life as a playwright over who can write what race or gender of characters. Can a white man be allowed to write black people. Can a man write women well or can a woman even be allowed to write a man? It goes on and on with any number of permutations. And after a while I've gotten tired of it. So here's my two cents to add to the argument and we can move on with our lives...

To solve the problem of what race to write your characters try this first. First try to write honest characters and the rest will be easy. That's it. No one has ever gotten mad because someone wrote a complex, gripping character. If when you start out to write your play you're starting with a story that hurts you to the bone and spend the time to write characters that are so real they could be sitting right next to you then no one is going to care at all.

Now you can achieve this honesty in a few ways. First write what you know. A musician that only plays strings doesn't try to compose a tune for a bassoon. Think of Stephen Adly Guirgis' work. His plays have people of all colors and all walks of life. He is white but no one has called his characters into question because these are the people that he knew living in Hells Kitchen New York. The second way to approach this play is to do your research. To follow my music analogy the person doing strings can write a song for bassoon if he reads up on what the instrument can do and how it sounds. Whenever you're trying to write about a culture that you don't know do your research. And always have a reason why you're writing this play. What is so special about this story that you just have to write it?

And lastly please don't go about trying to write a "black" play or a "white" play or etc. Just worry about writing a good and gripping play first and the rest will follow. I think sometimes the theatre has gotten too compartmentalized recently and while a balance is great good stories are kicked to the curb because they don't fit a certain mold. Find a good story and share it with your audience. If you truly engage them they'll follow you everywhere.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Rethink Bullying #TFNY #TF14

Hey Guys and Dolls it's DragynAlly again. This is my last Toy Fair post in the Lounge. I know. You'll miss me. But you can always visit me in the Lair!

Today I want to talk about something kind of serious. Bullying. I was bullied as a child and some of that still affects me today. Even though I am stronger now I wish my childhood self could've avoided some of the pain.

What if I told you there is an app that not only helps kids talk about being bullied but also help kids realize that their behavior could be hurting others? Alicia Keys and Bento Box developed an app called The Journals of Mama Mae and LeeLee Mookey. It talks about how it isn't right to mistreat others just because they are different.

It is a fabulous app and at only $1.99 in the app store it is a great resource at a great price. What I love most about it is that it is colorful and well animated. I also love the in app games and other features. But most of all I love that it helps kids (and adults) talk about bullying in a new way. It isn't about blame or punishment. It is about understanding yourself no matter what side of bullying you are on.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Spring Edition Skylanders #TFNY #TF14

Hello Guys and Dolls! It DragynAlly here with more Toy Fair goodness. How many of you have started thinking about what to put in your Easter baskets? Or how about a fun a cool gift for springtime? Well Skylanders has you covered! They are coming out with 3 spring figures that work with your Skylanders game. My favorite is Trigger Happy who's pictured at the bottom. When he enters the Skylanders game he is the same springtime (Easter) pattern you see on the figure. Bonus he used the egg shaped missile as a weapon. He is bright colorful and full of springtime destruction. So what do you think? Are you going to get one (or all 3)? Which is your favorite?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Dino Egg for Easter #tfny #tf14 #giveway

This is the time of year when we're focusing on new life. New flowers are in bloom and the ice from winter is starting to melt. Soon we'll be hiding eggs and eating chocolate bunnies. So what better way to celebrate than with a Safari Ltd. T-Rex hatchling. Have you always loved dinosaurs? The giant monsters that are forever buried in our prehistory? Well with the mastery of Safari Ltd's scale replica models our ancient prehistory has been brought to life.

If you saw my last review of Safari Ltd's dinosaurs you already know that I think that they're the most anatomically correct scale models you're going to find on the market. And who doesn't love attention to detail. Each of these models are extensively researched and hand painted. I agree with their statement that it's like a 3D textbook in your hand. And did I tell you that these things are super durable? I work in a nursery so I know the kind of punishment these toys can take. But you can throw a Safari Ltd Dino up against the wall and they'll still be ready to play the next day. I love the toys that can take the licking and keep on ticking.

I like how this little guy is so cute and yet looks so real. I don't know if this is what they were driving for but the T-Rex Hatchling is just cute enough to be a cute kids toy but realistic enough to be a model you would see in a museum collection or in a science teacher's bookshelf.

I didn't like so much the texture of the egg. I some parts it's the same hard plastic of the dino but in the back it's soft and pliable like a bouncy ball. For someone who is very tactile like me it's a little jarring. But with everything that's so awesome about this guy I think I can live with it to have a great addition to my Safari Ltd. Dino family.

In conclusion this little guy is gonna be a welcome addition to your kid's toy box or your model collection. And now you can win a T-Rex Hatchling of your very own. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Color Clix Review

Disclaimer: I was given Color Clix to review. All opinions are my own. 

So if you're like me you played with Legos or building blocks of some kind. You know the drill...they're all rectangular and they all connect to each other someway. But what if I told you that there was a new kid in town that was thinking way out of the box? How much so? There ain't a rectangle in the place. 

Great Things Lie Inside
Colorclix by Aliquantum International is a building system that emphasizes volumetric structures. Using connecters with Isosceles, Equilateral, Rhombus, and Rectangular connectors ColorClix can get you building the same kind of structures that form the building blocks of the world. DNA molecules, Atoms, and Crystals all have the same connecting angles so while you're building you're learning.

These shapes come to you almost imme
I was given the 200 piece intermediate pack. I like that they're simple enough that you can start building with them right away but unlike square building blocks they're just challenging enough to make it challenging. You actually have to experiment and work with these toys as you go. You can start working right away at it and you keep going the lightbulbs start going off in your head and you begin to make more and more complex structures. I actually started to feel my spacial reasoning skills getting better as I did this. 

Getting a little Tubular
I also love that even with 200 pieces you can start making big models. And they go a long way. Some building sets you get enough just to get a taste but you feel like you wouldn't be able to build anything recognizable until you buy four more expansion packs. I will warn you. After you start building you'll immediately want to buy more. I was starting a set of boxes when I ran out of pieces, the first thing I though was, "Aww I need more!". I can see you easily getting addicted to these things. 

You can even make practical Things like this Iphone Stand
The best thing I see is that if you have a kid like me who has Tourettes or some other kind of dis-inhibition these are very tactile and seem tailor-made for those kids who think in 3D or need help with their kinesthetic skills. These blocks really force you to think outside of the box but when you finish a model you find it's very rewarding. 

They probably never thought of wall art when they made these things but I think it's a great way to store them. 
 In conclusion these are great building blocks that are only limited by your imagination. I'm waiting for the day when I can buy a huge tub and start building some epic models! You should definitely try them out! Just ask DragynAlly.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Even Dollies Need to Relax #TFNY #TF14 @beanbagchairs

Hello Guys and Dolls! It's still your friendly neighborhood DragynAlly here in the Lounge. We are still talking toys and Toy Fair.

Today it's Ahh! Products Bean Bag chairs. "Hey you can't trick us! Bean Bags aren't toys." Wanna bet? The makers of Ahh! Bean Bags realized something. When you are chilling out and watching TV on a big comfy bean bag maybe your dolls and stuffies want to join in on the fun. Don't they deserve a great bean bag all their own? Of course they do!

Meet the Lil Me Bean bags! They are perfect for your 18 inch dolls and stuffies. Bonus: Ahh! Products can match your dolls bean bag to almost any of their human sized bean bags. Yes you and your dolls can match and your bean bags can match your decor.

What's that parents? Worried you kids will spill bean bag filling everywhere? Don't sweat! Ahh! has equipped each bean bag with a child resistant zipper that can lock. So that way you don't have to worry about the mess or your kids getting into danger.

I love that Ahh! Bean Bags come in fun and bright colors. They are perfect for kids(and kid-like adults) to hang out on. Now with the addition of Lil Me bags you can have a place for your dolls that isn't as bulky or cumbersome as regular doll furniture and still fully functional. What do you think? How would your dolls look hanging out in bean bag chairs?

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Retro TMNT Review!

Disclaimer: I was given retro TMNT toys to review. All of the opinions are my own.
I didn't know my inner child could be mailed to me.
When I opened the box I couldn't help but scream "my childhood"! I'm not joking when I tell you that I played with some of these toys when I was younger. When I was a child I had the first run of these toys. Well I really only had just the four Turtles. I begged my mom and dad to get me their van and more figures as a kid I guess it took a couple decades for Santa to send them my way. And Nickelodeon was very generous.

I love that Nickelodeon and Playmates are giving 90's kids their toys and memories back but I also love that they're giving them something that they can share with their kids. These are real toys folks and they can be thrown up on the wall while still in the blister packs or you can open them up and start some Turtle-ific fun with your kids. TMNT has officially spanned two generations so it's great that while your kids get their toys you can have yours too.

The Retro Collection figures and The Party Wagon make a complete set for lots of fun. I love that the turtles have multiple weapons. Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello and Michaelangelo can team up with Splinter to battle the evil Shredder and they can do it in style with their cool ride. I like that each of the turtles and Splinter can fit in the Party Wagon and that you can get them in and out easily and you don't end up shaking it upside down to get everyone out. And I love that this thing is made of sturdy plastic. All the figures will take a beating and live to fight another day.

I begged my parents for this when I was little!
The only negative that started to come back to me came as I was playing with them. The Retro figures don't stand up so well. You have to get the legs splayed just right to get them balanced. That's probably one feature that I would have loved for them to fix in the new batch.

In conclusion I think that these toys are great collectors' items or great toys for your kids. They really do bring you back. I'm holding memories in my hands and I love Nick for helping to make it happen!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

How to Train Your Dragon 2 Toys #TFNY #TF14

DragynAlly here again... Actually I'll be here for the rest of the month. :) We are still talking Toys and will be for the rest of the month... You're welcome! Today we are talking about our friends at Spin Master. Now Spin Master makes a lot fabulous toys. I'm a big fan. However as many of you know I am a dragon fan and Spin Master is making How to Train Your Dragon 2 toys! It's like they know me.

There are How to Train Your Dragon action figures, plushies and Ionix bricks. So there are many ways to play with Dragons. There is even one HUGE Mega Toothless (The black dragon in the pics) collectable figure that frankly needs to be on my shelf... Like now. A Toothless plushie even made his way home with me in my swag bag.

My words really don't do Spin Master's How to Train Your Dragon collection justice so check out the pics and let me know what you think. Between you and me I even saw some movie spoilers that I can't share but OMG is this movie going to be fun! As for Spin Master's other toys I will save them for another blog post. Stay tuned!