REVIEW: Play of the Month – Whatcha Doin? by Jacquelyn Priskorn

Though I hate being on Zoom all day just as much as the next guy, this was a refreshingly creative break from the usual soul-crushing nature of staring at a screen.

Kate Stark plays Marnie, the child actor moved to stay in the entertainment biz through voice acting, and Megan Wesner plays Raven, the interviewer. There was a little bit of a surreal quality to the setup of the play, a pre-written interview between fictional characters delivered through a computer screen to an invisible audience. This feeling of layered disconnection fit well with the subject, though, as Raven interviews a woman miles and years away from her days on set, but whose mentality through adulthood has been shaped by that period. It makes us wonder which parts of our lives can outlast time; how much control we have over such an assignment of importance. Will all our actions made to establish our evolving character be fruitful, or will some long-dead part of ourselves always surpass new identities?

I’m speculating, but it felt like Marnie was inspired by Mara Wilson, the actress who played the title character Matilda in the movie adaptation of Roald Dahl’s novel. Since her childhood acting days, she’s moved on to podcasts and writing, far more removed from the limelight and everything that comes with it. While feelings of burnout and disillusionment are common amongst child actors after they grow up, Wilson is particularly similar to Marnie in how down-to-earth she is in interviews, seemingly well-adjusted with just a slight hint of neurosis. Both explore the idea of what it means to be part of the public domain, particularly at a young age; to be discussed in invasive detail by strangers who cannot see the person behind the character.

Between both the real and fictional ex-child actors, there is an understanding that one’s relationship with the world changes with early fame and adoration and the up-close nature of strangers’ perceptions of oneself. Acting can be a consumer of identity, but it may also create it. It’s a hard business to leave, being so emotionally and literally enveloping, and it can distort one’s relationships, need for approval, maybe even their sense of reality.

The interview with Marnie followed these sentiments, elevating them to extremes, but not to unrealistic heights.

Performance is both a creative expression and a lie; it builds up some character or version of something beyond oneself. Putting on a costume and makeup and a new voice and foreign mannerisms can occur anywhere from a TV set to a board meeting. It’s happening now as I write this, as I impersonate a deep-thinking intellectual with thoughts on The Psyche. Imposterism permeates the mind, and it never really leaves.

And both when the act of performance is recognized as fiction or accepted as a truthful depiction, it can affect one’s presentation of themselves, their understanding of and comfort with other people. Marnie’s discussion works to define a dissociative disorder amplified by the actor’s need to project inhuman versatility, and the creative’s need to continuously create.

PREVIEW: 44th Ann Arbor Folk Fest

The Ark is a staple of our community, Ann Arbor’s #1 source for all things acoustic! But it’s been a hard year for live music, to say the least. This year’s annual Ann Arbor Folk Fest will be held online this year, with ticket and merch sales going towards fundraising to keep this beautiful venue kicking for years to come.

The two-day event begins Friday, January 29th at 6pm and continues through the evening, with a second group of artists performing during the same hours on Saturday. I’ll be going Friday, but both nights will undoubtedly be lots of fun! Sets are around 30 minutes and feature artists of recognition and up-and-coming nature. It’s a great night to experience an at-home concert with your roommates; still a wonderful musical event, with the added benefit of being able to show up in your pajamas.

Get your tickets (with package options that include Ark merch from event t-shirts to mugs) here:

44th Annual Ann Arbor Folk Festival

PREVIEW: Play of the Month – Whatcha Doin? by Jacquelyn Priskorn

Theatre Nova, while no longer putting on plays for an in-person audience, has been giving online access to live performances each month, garnering a great reception from the Ann Arbor thespian scene. The events feature original, 20-40 minute plays from new playwrights.

January’s play of the month is Whatcha Doin? by Jacquelyn Priskorn. It’s about a former child actor reflecting on their childhood career, and how her being typecast as a goofy loser has affected her throughout her life. It speaks to the effects of being an object of others’ consumption–strangers with no recognition of your own identity apart from a character.

This winter brings another season of performances for your viewing pleasure, beginning Wednesday, January 27 at 8pm via Zoom. The season continues through April. The events are performed live, but are taped and available online as well for the next month.

Find tickets to this individual play ($10) or the whole season ($30) here:

REVIEW: Ann Arbor Polish Film Festival, Short Films

Short stories, done through any medium, have always felt the most challenging and striking to me. Reading Neil Gaiman in high school English really sealed that feeling for me, especially the story collection Smoke and Mirrors: Short Fictions and Illusions. There’s a good amount of slack inside a full-length text that simply doesn’t exist for short story tellers, and in losing that there is a whole lot of additional meaning, interpretable and explicit, that invites itself in. Maybe that’s why I think and write and feel only in vignettes.

So let’s not waste any more time: here’s what I thought:

Tumble, style-wise, did not meet my expectations. True, the colors were moody and there was an interesting rabbit motif hanging around (symbolic of timidity, hiding away, uncertainty in oneself, I think), but it was weirdly repetitive even while having a small running time. The lack of explanations for how Adam’s guardian angel becomes visible to others and solves the problems Adam shares with his mother (they fight to the very end, and nothing is resolved) had the potential to be open-ended mysteries for the audience to consider, but they just feel too much like actual plot holes.

Marcel was no doubt my favorite; I will always, always be a sucker for a soft and quiet romance. The frank tone of the film’s setup reminded me of my favorite movie, Amelie. The idea of a stark change like that happening (going from virtual invisibility to becoming a member of society) as a result of a chance event has so much magic in it. I was also a fan of the division of warm and cool colors/lighting throughout the movie; the glow of little changes. The ending was a point of disagreement between my friend and I, though–for whatever reason I assumed the last line implied she had jumped from the balcony while he slept, but my friend argued that Marcel was only expressing his happiness that the two were together in the same apartment. The ability to have two wildly different interpretations like that makes the movie all the more powerful. 

View to the Wall had a physical pull to it, like I was being closed into a clearly-defined, small space, drawn into Larysa and Borys’ new home.

While I describe that like affection, I was cold throughout. Being artists, the characters were appropriately expressive, the actors who played them able to communicate minute, complicated emotional shifts very well. So much of the hopefulness of starting a family and starting anew as immigrants felt quite tragically earnest. Making a life for yourself is such a fragile thing.

Ricochets was more austere than I thought it would be, or maybe had hoped. The relationship between the brothers was not as thoughtful as it could have been, made a little too dichotomous. Still, it spoke quite clearly to how easily the state of the world can dissolve closeness.

While these movies are no longer available to stream on the Michigan Theater site, be sure to check back periodically for more–the Michigan and State Theaters have been hard at work providing opportunities to see movies while their capacity for in-person viewing remains altered. Keep up to date at

PREVIEW: Ann Arbor Polish Film Festival, Short Films

Movie Night Clipart

This weekend is Ann Arbor’s 27th annual Polish Film Festival! If you’re anything like me, you’re constantly searching for ways to put off doing actual assignments or anything remotely productive. Lucky for you, here’s another opportunity to do just that!

I’m a big fan of foreign film; it seems that many countries are far more in tune with the creativity is takes to make a truly weird, mind-bending movie (I have a lot of French and Thai favorites in that category). It’s interesting to note the differences in styles of acting and plot progression as well.

There are a few different sections of the film festival, so if you have the time, I’d encourage you to check out all of them. But I’ll just be watching the short films section; I have a whole list of other things I’m using to avoid work this weekend. On the menu are four 2019 movies, all dramas with some interesting spice, from political tension to a supernatural entity.

The short films are free to stream Friday, November 6 at 7pm through Saturday at 7pm, via



I knew this movie was going to be sort of bad before I watched it; Netflix doesn’t put brand-new horror movies on their site unless they’re fairly sub-par. However, for whatever reason, I’m a bad movie junkie: I love anything campy or a little trite and easy to consume. Movies that make you analyze them have a definite place and value, but I’m doing enough schoolwork already.

So objectively, this is not a good movie. The acting was flat, the main character was cast way outside the actress’s age, the fairytale structure that A.M.I. followed to tell Cassie to kill everyone was completely out of place. It’s a step above a soap opera only in that the background music and sound quality are all right. Overall, the thing would have fit better on the Lifetime channel, where it belongs.

But the concept is still interesting; that’s why it caught my eye in the first place. Besides all of the actual cinematic qualities of this movie, the reality that technology is filling every inch of space in our lives is a startling truth, and it’s happening so fast we don’t have the time to reckon with it. Classes on Zoom, delivery of anything via an app, conveniently equipment-free workouts on YouTube, and virtual meetings have made leaving the house a necessity of the distant past. I feel like my body can’t handle sitting in temperatures below 72 anymore; I venture into the outdoors like a Floridian explorer going out into the Antarctic wilderness. I might snag a lungful of fresh air when I go for a jog long after the sun has gone down, but I come crawling back to the comfort of my computer in no time at all. Of course, all of this is amplified by the virus, but it is just a tilt upwards in a long trend with no endpoint. 

For a moment, I’d like you to imagine this movie was done by the producers of Black Mirror, and casted with actors like Daniel Kaluuya and Bryce Dallas Howard instead of a side character from iZombie. All technology-based horror has the potential of becoming gimmicky, and definitely dating itself in a few short years (the first movie in the Unfriended series, which came out in 2014, now looks like a relic of yesteryear with its old Skype interface). Simplicity is everything. It allows imagination to fill in the rest, just hinting at the depth of something gone wrong. If under different direction, and with a different cast, this movie could have made Cassie slower to blindly accept that her dead mother’s personality was captured in a cell phone she found. Her friends could have been a little less one-dimensional; I would have liked less overt direction in whom I should root for. Adding in some good nature or innocence to her victims would make their murders more chilling. Cassie could have periods of lost consciousness, showing us only hazily the work of her disintegrating mind. The audience should be just as bewildered by the events as she is, confusing justice and tragedy. I wanted flashes of the murders, just the creeping edges and muffled violence. Instead I got one or two camera angles of uninspired stabbing. 

I’m sure there will be many more movies like this one in the coming years. Maybe they won’t try to go beyond what they need to in terms of overtness, and will start straying farther from tired story structures. Here’s to hoping.