Review: ‘Long Time Coming: A 1955 Baseball Story’ – Captivating and Heartfelt

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Photo Credit: Courtesy of Common Pictures, Film Poster of Long Time Coming: A 1955 Baseball Story

Documentaries, if the subject matter is compelling enough, are meant to educate, stir up emotions, challenge perceptions, and shed light on topics otherwise nonexistent in mainstream films. Long Time Coming: A 1955 Baseball Story exemplifies all these attributes. Whether you’re a baseball fanatic or not, this documentary is a must-see to learn about the sport’s historical and cultural significance – not just within a sports context, but as it relates to the progression of race relations in America. The film, about the first racially integrated Little League Baseball game played in the South in Orando between the Orlando Kiwanis and the Pensacola Jaycees, by first-time feature documentary filmmaker, Jon Strong, interviews the players from both teams, 60 years after playing in this monumentally historic game, and documenting their unexpected reunion.

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Photo: Courtesy of Common Pictures, Film Still (L to R) of Stewart Hall of the Orlando Kiwanis revisits Florida’s 1955 Little League Tournament with Will Preyer of the Pensacola Jaycees

We first meet, Will Preyer, once team captain of the all-black Pensacola Jaycees, as he describes playing baseball in the South in the mid 1950s during segregation and his experiences as a 12-year-old black youth. Will proceeds to meet up with Stewart Hall, the team captain of the rival team: the all-white Orlando Kiwanis, whom Preyer hadn’t seen since that fateful day in August 1955 as the two teams, one black, one white competed against each other, breaking color barriers and cultural stigmas. Director, Jon Strong, does a fantastic job of juxtaposing these men’s stories with their love of baseball and perspectives on race with candor. The limitations placed on one group based on their skin color versus the other. It’s poignant, revealing of peoples’ past and present prejudices, which the director was unapologetic about depicting. According to Strong, “I wanted to dig into the uncomfortable, real stories that many find difficult to share.” And that he did. He shares sports milestones and also features interviews from prominent figures in Major League Baseball such as Hank Aaron, Cal Ripken Jr. and Davey Johnson and Civil Rights Leader, Andrew Young to give contextual background into pivotal movements in sports and cultural history that changed society – for the better.

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Photo: Courtesy of Common Pictures, The 1955 Pensacola Jaycees All-Stars and the Orlando Kiwanis All-Stars reunite in 2016 during the filming of Long Time Coming

Long Time Coming: A 1955 Baseball Story doesn’t portray victims or villains with heroes and protagonists and subscribe to a tidy, happy resolution. Instead it tells a story of a vehicle, in this case: baseball, as a unifier of people with a shared love for a sport that transcends race and economic status. It presents opposing views and aims to continue the conversation of race relations in present day America. Released nationwide, Long Time Coming: A 1955 Baseball Story can be seen just in time for the World Series. The Hank Aaron Chasing The Dream Foundation, Derek Jeter’s Turn 1 Foundation, and the Global Peace Film Festival have screened the documentary and acknowledge the power of its historical significance to affect change. To learn more about Long Time Coming: A 1955 Baseball Story, click here. 

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Review: ‘Antigone in Ferguson’ Greek Mythology, Modern Times, and Social Justice Parallels

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Photo: Gregg Richards, De-Andrea Blaylock-Johnson (center) and choir members 

With so many transgressions of police brutality plaguing African-American communities in our country, daily – it’s quite easy to slip into a path of desensitization. The Harlem Stage in collaboration with Theater of War Productions, the citizens of St. Louis and Ferguson refuse to let that transpire with the production of Antigone in Ferguson. One-part play with gospel chorus inflections; one-part panel discussion and equal parts entertainment, patrons of this unconventional presentation are in store for an eye opening cultural awakening. With scenes from Sophocles’ ancient Greek play, staged readings performed by leading television, film, theater actors and an unusual – yet extraordinarily talented choir – comprised of law enforcement, activists, educators, and counselors – form this experimental show.

At first, I couldn’t fathom staged readings in lieu of customary scenes with verbal and physical components performed against picturesque backdrops to illustrate the highly popularized Sophocles’ play, Antigone – done in past iterations, similar to the Classical Theatre of Harlem Stage production I covered earlier this the summer. The synopis: Antigone, it’s about a young woman who is adamant about burying her brother, Polyneices, whose slain body lays lifeless in the ancient city of Thebes at the end of the civil war, against the wishes of newly crowned King Creon. The courageous Antigone is ready to risk life and limb to honor her deceased brother and seek a proper burial for him even though he was considered an enemy of the state. The parallels, from this more than 2,500-year-old play, couldn’t be timelier, as this rendition focuses on the aftermath of the death of Michael Brown Jr. in 2014 at the hands of a white police officer in Ferguson, MO. The subsequent African-American deaths by white police officers that followed in our country, the lack of action this administration demonstrates, and the perseverance of movements such as Black Lives Matter to affect change.

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Photo: Gregg Richards, (L to R) Actors Tamara Tunie and Tate Donovan

What’s fascinating about this production is that the mix of stage readings from acclaimed actors Tate Donovan (King Creon) from the Damages and The O.C. series, Tony award-winning actress Tamara Tunie (Antigone), Chris Myers from the She’s Gotta Have It and Netflix’s Sneaky Pete series (as Creon’s son, Haemon, among other roles) and Chinasa Obguagu from the Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit and A Walk Among the Tombstones films (as Ismene, Antigone’s sister, and Eurydice, Creon’s wife) are instrumental in telling the story, yet their performances don’t overshadow the focal point of this production – which is: solutions communities and lawmakers – can and should – come up with to end senseless deaths as a result of police brutality and gun violence across the nation with much needed conversation. Panel discussions with Michael Brown Sr., community members-turned-activists describing first-hand accounts of the night of the Ferguson shooting, members of the Man Up Project, therapists and individuals committed to make an impact and let their voices be heard – moved the audience in the theater that night: including me.

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Photo Credit: Gregg Richards, Panel (L to R): Erica Wright, Lt. Latricia Allen, Michael Brown Sr.

Artistic director and moderator of the Antigone in Ferguson production, Bryan Doerries has presented over 60 performances across all five boroughs. Antigone in Ferguson at Harlem Stage marks a departure from the company’s history of nomadic presentations. Having mounted over 700 events at a range of venues around the world, from Guantanamo Bay to a playground in Brownsville, Brooklyn, this extended run (September 13 – October 13) will be the first time Theater of War Productions will embed itself in one location for an extended period of time. Exclusively supported by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, the 30 free (RSVP required) performances at Harlem Stage will offer expanded opportunities for community participation in this innovative social justice project. Don’t miss upcoming performances by actors: Frankie Faison (Coming to America, The Wire) Chris Noth (Sex and the City franchise, Law & Order), Samira Wiley (Orange Is the New Black), and Kathryn Erbe (Law & Order: Criminal Intent) to name a few. For more information on Antigone in Ferguson and upcoming schedule, click here.

The Rosé Mansion Is Open In NYC: Get Ready For The Rosé Renaissance

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Photo: courtesy of the Rosé Mansion

After visiting the Rosé Mansion popup with friends, I was pleasantly surprised after my encounter with the two-foot story space. It will pique the curiosity of not only passerby tourists, situated in the heavily trafficked midtown – but also attract the attention of cynical and jaded New Yorkers, like myself. With its intoxicatingly pink motif consuming the former Charming Charlie’s fashion and accessories retailer, the Rosé Mansion has more to offer than meets the eye. To kick off National Rosé Day, partners Tyler Balliet and Morgan First, opened a first of its kind, Rosé-themed popup in New York City. Wine enthusiasts Balliet and First have been creating popup wine-tasting events for more than a decade with their company Second Glass, founded in 2008.

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Photo: Tyler Balliet (L) and Morgan First (R), courtesy of Tyler Balliet/Instagram

At first glance, the pink décor engulfs your brain with an assortment of pink hues demanding that you to denounce the color, from your life – for good! Yet, as you glide into the inviting and interactive rooms to partake in selfie-dom with the rest of the crowd, each room has a fascinating historical component to it. Upon receiving a rosé plastic wine glass with stickers illustrating popular rosé wine grapes, you can decorate the wall at your leisure and proceed to the rooms labeled: New York, I Love You – which traces the history of how European wine techniques were implemented into the Finger Lakes region and became a huge source for wine production in the U.S. The enchanting and fun-fact filled Sparkling Wine and When in Rome! rooms describe the history of the 6,000 year-old wine industry, and are complemented by colorful and impressionable design. We chatted with Tyler Balliet on his inspiration for the Rosé Mansion and the process it took to launch.

DSMC: What inspired you and Morgan to create a rosé-themed popup experience?

Tyler Balliet: We spent the last 10 years doing educational wine events and large-scale festivals for 6,000 people. We reached a point where it was fun to do these large events but our customers wanted a more intimate experience. At the same time, we could only do so much education and interaction in this large-scale format. We wanted to take the concept of wine-tasting events and reformat it into a place that was more permanent. We looked at bars, places like Eataly, to replicate and instead of focusing on food, we wanted the emphasis to be on beverage. We didn’t want to take over a restaurant because of the logistical challenges. Building out a restaurant is really expensive. Building out a popup bar is much easier and less expensive. There are no ovens or food code regulations involved.

DSMC: I found the historical aspect of the Rosé Mansion fascinating, as most patrons will. Did you partner up with wine historians on the research?

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Photo: courtesy of the Rosé Mansion

Tyler Balliet: I’m a wine expert that’s spent 10 years in this business. We’ve received a number of awards, Inc. Magazine’s 30 Under 30 Award and Wine Enthusiast Magazine’s 40 under 40 Award. I love history and for the last 10 years I’ve had the opportunity to fly all over the world. Meet with winemakers and producers in Europe, South America and throughout California. We didn’t come up with this idea in a few weeks – it’s been a career’s worth of education to put together this experience in a unique way. I made sure to consult with winemakers with 15-20 years of experience – learn the process, the logistics.

DSMC: There are 14 rooms throughout the Rosé Mansion. What inspired the décor when you conceptualized the design for each room?

Tyler Balliet: Morgan, my partner, was in charge of the décor. She’s really good at styling and branding. We wanted to make use of what was already in the space. As soon you walk in, we want you to be transported into another place – somewhere you wouldn’t find in midtown. Morgan worked really hard on the look and feel of each room. She was inspired by her travels over the years and the current design trends she reads about and discovers. I stepped in with the education aspect and together we built the Rosé Mansion.

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Photo: courtesy of the Rosé Mansion

DSMC: The Rosé Mansion will be operational through October 7th, any plans for other popups throughout the U.S.? Will you go on tour?

Tyler Balliet: We love the concept. We love the idea of taking the education and fun of wine to other places. When we built the first one it was like version 1, to be honest, we didn’t know what the reaction would be. You hope after you build it, people will like it. We’re trying to learn what people respond to, what they want to see in the future. I can tell you this: This won’t be last of the Rosé Mansion popups.

DSMC: Since the launch, have most of the visitors to the popup been women, men?

Tyler Balliet: The overwhelming majority of patrons have been women. From the feedback we’ve gotten, both men and women enjoy it. We market it and put it out there and have gotten a large female response. It’s been tough – it’s been really difficult to explain what the Rosé Mansion is to hundreds of people. But once people see it. They’re like: Oh, I get it. It’s one of the problems we had initially before it was built, before we had photos. The longer we’re open, the more people will document what it is, tell their friends about it, and enjoy the Rosé Mansion experience.

DSMC: Rosé has been associated with luxury. Eataly, The Veuve Clicquot Polo Classics, to name a few. Do you have plans on partnering with influencers to expand the Rosé Mansion brand or do you believe the product speaks for itself?

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Photo: courtesy of the Rosé Mansion

Tyler Balliet: We’ve been working with a lot of different organizations and groups. I’ve been in the business a long time. We’ve had a lot of people with a large Instagram following that have come through. I find that a lot of people think wine is complicated. It’s not. If you don’t spend years learning about it you can’t appreciate it– I don’t believe that to be true. I’m pretty good with color. My mom is an interior designer and when I was growing up, I’d say: Oh, that color’s blue and my mom would say: no, it’s not blue, there’s a special name for it, it’s this kind of blue. I didn’t understand what the word was for that, but I could appreciate it. As much as anyone else that did know the word for the color. And, that’s what wine is. Wine is in this place right now where people think it’s difficult to understand, but it isn’t, it’s really simple. If you taste wine and you want to drink more of it, it’s good, if you taste it and don’t want more of it, it’s not good and it’s your opinion. Nobody could tell you you’re wrong. We’ve had a lot of success over the years working with lifestyle publications, influencers, bloggers, You-Tubers. These people fall more into fashion and lifestyle because that’s what wine is: it’s a luxury product at the end of the day.

DSMC: Would you agree that one of the selling points of rosé is its affordability?

Tyler Balliet: The coolest thing about rosé is that it’s not very expensive. You can go to a retail store and buy really good hand-made rosé bottles – that comes from family-owned wineries for between $12 – $15. That’s pretty amazing. It’s one of the successes of rosé. It’s not just a trend. It’s becoming an entirely new product category for a whole new generation of wine consumers. It’s really high quality. Another great benefit: it doesn’t cost a lot to make rosé. Red wine, it takes 3 – 5 years to make a bottle, whereas rosé can be turned around in 6 months. It’s meant to be more of an everyday, easy-to-drink thing. Americans aren’t used to thinking about wine in this way. They think of it as this high-end, sophisticated beverage. And, all throughout Europe, it’s normal, it’s just something you drink daily. Rosé is the first real movement in the United States to get rid of that snootiness. It’s wine. Just drink it. Have fun, but make sure it’s high quality and it comes from a good place.

I love a good rosé and at the Rosé Mansion popup you’ll have the opportunity to taste rosés from around the globe that will satiate your palate. There’s never a wrong time to have rosé. And, it’s here to stay. Enjoy it with your friends, family or alone with your burger or hummus. The Rosé Mansion will be open through October 12, 2018. To learn more about the Rosé Mansion and get tickets, click here.