The 2019 Green Tie Gala: Celebrating the Fine Arts at CHS


The week before Spring Break is usually one of the toughest; at this point in the year, months from the last full-length break, many students are barely clinging on to their academic motivation. Luckily, at Cary High this week still goes out with a bang; enter The Green Tie Gala, a vivacious celebration of all of the fine-arts happenings at Cary. Not only does this occasion bring students together from all over the school, it is also a vibrant beacon of art and culture in the larger community of Cary.

The Gala began in 2007 as a fundraiser for the newly-built 3000 building. Now part of a twelve-year-strong tradition, it is still the chief fundraiser for CHS Performing Arts Booster Club. However, that’s not all it is; the Gala is also a showcase of the immense talent and overwhelming creativity Cary’s students have to offer.

The 2019 Green Tie Gala offered a form of entertainment for everyone. Even before the show, eye-popping pieces of art from the CHS Visual Arts Department were on display, and the Culinary Academy provided delectable appetizers. The show kicked off with a performance from the Concert Chorus, followed by a performance from the Beginning Band. Then, several of Cary High’s smaller, yet just as illustrious, ensembles took the stage, including the CHS Percussion Ensemble, Jazz Band, Green Eggs & Jam, and CHS Improv. The night also featured several selections from the CHS Symphonic Band, as well as a medley of solo performances from Cary High’s astonishing (no bias here) spring musical, Little Women.

However, the most jaw-dropping performance of the night was the show’s finale, in which the Cary High Band, Orchestra, and Chorus shared the stage and performed three masterworks together. This year’s finale included Verdi’s triumphant “Anvil Chorus,” John Williams’ soaring “Hymn to the Fallen” from the film Saving Private Ryan, and the epic-yet-harrowing Duel of the Fates from Star Wars: Episode I—The Phantom Menace. This breathtaking blend of beauty, power, and drama was sure to delight, move, and dazzle every audience member.

The 2019 Green Tie Gala was a huge success, and if you missed out on watching it, make sure to come next year. In the meantime, check out the Cary High Performing Arts page to catch the year’s remaining arts performances and showcases from Cary High’s finest.

Little Women: Bringing an Astonishing Classic to Life on Stage


It’s that time of year again: the CHS Spring Musical is upon us! This year’s production, Little Women, shows on March 7th, 8th, and 9th at 7:00pm, in the CHS Auditorium. For those unfamiliar, Little Women follows the four March sisters — Jo, Meg, Beth, and Amy— as they attempt to find their place in the world, against a backdrop of Civil-War-era Massachusetts. With a dazzling score by Jason Howland, the musical takes a fresh perspective on Louisa May Alcott’s timeless tale. The CHS Drama Department takes this one step further by blending abstract, innovative technical elements with realistic costumes and characterizations to create a unique reimagining of a story that has had its fair share of adaptations and analyses.

One of the ways Little Women tells its story is through set. For Cary High’s production, the set is comprised of the realistic furniture of the March home, as well as several “sides” that are used to delineate the different settings and worlds explored throughout the story. From forming the walls of Aunt March’s intimidating mansion, to marking the columns of Annie Moffat’s ballroom, to creating the hearth of the March home itself, these sides are created with a breathtaking pastel palette (painted by the CHS Art Club) and move and breathe like another character in the show.

The stage is set for another captivating scene in the March house

Another way the novel is brought to life is through the use of projections. Given the episodic, vignette-like nature of both Alcott’s original book and its musical adaptation, projections are used to indicate to the audience when and where the story is jumping. Though not a dominating feature, they aid the audience in fully entering the world of the story.

These tech elements are paired with music that honors the story’s antique charm while providing a contemporary edge. Some of the musical’s songs, like Beth and Mr. Lawrence’s cheerful ditty “Off to Massachusetts,” have a quaint, toe-tapping sound that harken back to the days of old musical theatre. Others, like the Act One finale belted out by Jo entitled “Astonishing,” provide a contemporary musical theatre sound that prevent the show from becoming merely a period piece.

Perhaps this juxtaposition of the old and the new takes after the novel itself. Little Women was first published in 1868, a time when few protagonists were strong females and even fewer of those protagonists were empowering. The character of Jo March is possibly one of the most revolutionary in American Literature, as she is the one to pilot her fate and choose her path in life, instead of a husband or father choosing it for her. At the time, Louisa May Alcott’s deft depiction of such a personality was groundbreaking, and this cutting-edge spirit has not been lost in the musical. Despite the fact that the tale has been around for 150 years, its messages about deep family connections and steering one’s destiny in the face of hurdles and challenges are everlasting, and will continue to inspire and uplift children for generations to come.

Want to see this beautiful story unfold before your eyes? Come see Little Women on March 7th, 8th, and 9th in the CHS Auditorium! Buy tickets at

Until then, check out this beautiful promotional video created by Michael Shorb:


Movie Review: Bohemian Rhapsody


Overall Rating: ★★★☆☆

Warning: Minor spoilers… obviously

Nominated in six categories, including Best Picture, at Sunday’s Academy Awards, Bohemian Rhapsody is a biopic based on the life of Freddie Mercury, the late lead singer of best-selling rock band Queen. The song “Bohemian Rhapsody” received harsh reviews from critics but was adored by fans, and the same can be said for the movie (and consider me a fan).

Nearly everyone can agree on Rami Malek’s fantastic performance as Freddie Mercury, which blended flamboyant moments on stage with heart-rending scenes from Mercury’s personal life. While I wouldn’t necessarily say this movie should win Best Picture, Malek’s rendition of a unique, famously private man is a major contender for Best Actor, and deservedly so. Another positive for the film was its inclusion of Freddie Mercury’s sexuality. The film devoted many scenes to his struggles with coming out and his drug usage, a problem faced by the LGBTQ  community during this period as they struggled with discrimination and abuse. Some critics hold that the film doesn’t cover his sexuality in enough depth, but in the end the film wasn’t intended to focus solely on his sexuality, and it focused on it sufficiently. To be honest, when I saw the trailer, I and many others believed they wouldn’t mention his sexuality at all.

Bohemian Rhapsody has been called the highest grossing LGBTQ film in history, and with that title comes certain responsibilities, which brings me to my major issue with the film: it assumes that Freddie Mercury is gay when he may have been bisexual. He never confirmed his sexuality, but he did maintain long-term relationships with both men and women. This bisexual erasure is very harmful, especially coming from an LGBTQ film, because it perpetuates the stereotype that bisexuals are simply confused and that people can only be either gay or straight. Another issue the film faces is its moments of historical inaccuracy, particularly in the scenes immediately preceding the Live Aid concert. In reality, the band had not broken up at this point, and while Mercury had gone solo, it was not due to animosity within the band (as the movie depicts); in fact, during his solo career Mercury stayed in touch with his bandmates. The film also features Mercury revealing his AIDS diagnosis to his band before the Live Aid concert. This unnecessarily dramatic monologue technically shouldn’t occur until two years after the Live Aid performance. In these two instances, the film decides to discard truth in favor of dramatization, and this dismissal of truth is serious: filmed almost like a documentary, Bohemian Rhapsody would likely deceive the non-Queen-experts among us into believing that the band had a dramatic, acrimonious split that simply did not occur.

Despite its mismanagement of Mercury’s sexuality and its occasional misinterpretations of history, Bohemian Rhapsody was a spectacular film that deserves its nomination for the Best Picture of 2018, though maybe not the award itself.

Your Guide to the 2019 Academy Awards


The 91st Academy Awards will be held February 24th, but for months the star-studded Hollywood event has made headlines with successive controversies. The August announcement of a “Best Popular Film” category sparked outrage and confusion from fans and critics alike before the Academy quickly shelved the idea, and later, comedian Kevin Hart’s slew of non-apologies for his past homophobic comments left the ceremony without a central host. (At the last host-less Oscars, Rob Lowe danced with a bootleg Snow White in perhaps the most bizarre opening in awards show history.) More recently, the Oscars announced that they would relegate four awards—in Cinematography, Film Editing, Live Action Short, and Makeup and Hairstylingto commercial breaks, which was met with indignation from film industry professionals, and once again the Oscars backtracked: these awards will now be aired live. With TV ratings dropping almost every year, the Oscars producers are desperate to increase the three-hour-plus long event’s watchability, but the attempts thus far have been vetoed by the public. It will be interesting to see if this host-less Oscars can, against the odds, reverse this downward trend.

Of course, the Oscars is more than just three hours of entertainment and a week’s worth of celebrity buzz fodder. After all, it’s an awards show for movies! Unlike the Grammys, however, the Oscars tend to showcase titles that are unfamiliar to many audience members. Fortunately, we’re here to highlight some of the major films nominated, so even if you can’t watch them all before next Sunday evening, you’ll at least have some contextand maybe even a film to root for!


The Race for Best Picture

The Oscars are at the end of a long awards season. Usually by this point in the year, there is a relatively clear favorite to win Best Picture, the biggest prize of the night. Last year, The Shape of Water was the consensus favorite and it won, but just two years ago, underdog Moonlight beat out La La Land in a mix-up that will not soon be forgottenSo the award is never predictable. But this year, it’s hard to make a prediction at all. Black Panther, Green Book, and Roma have all picked up big awards so far, while Roma and The Favourite have been nominated in the most Oscar categories. Do any of these titles sound unfamiliar? Here’s an overview of the films nominated for Best Picture:




Widely considered Spike Lee’s best film in years, this true story follows Ron Stallworth, the first African-American officer in the Colorado Spring Police Department, as he teams up with a white colleague to infiltrate and expose the local Klu Klux Klan chapter. Their mission, however, grows into something much larger as they realize what’s at stake. While few consider BlacKkKlansman the best movie of this bunch, it’s almost universally well-liked, and with the Academy’s preferential voting system, it’s a promising dark horse pick.








Black Panther


Black Panther was a box office sensation and a landmark moment for black representation in film. Prompting both memes and serious discussion, the film has cemented its place in the cultural canon–chances are you’ve seen or at least heard of this highest-ever-grossing superhero movie. Admittedly, the chances of a Disney-distributed superhero movie winning Best Picture are low, but the Academy is making attempts to diversify and appeal to larger audiences, so this blockbuster just might strike a chord with voters.








Bohemian Rhapsody


Most critics were surprised, even dismayed, to find Bohemian Rhapsody on the list of nominations. This Freddie Mercury biopic has been popular among audiences but has failed to impress reviewers, garnering a 49 out of 100 weighted average on Metacritic (in contrast to its 8.2/10 rating on IMDB). Critics point to awkward pacing, questionable handling of LGBT subplots, and director Bryan Singer’s sexual assault controversy, while fans praise it for Rami Malek’s transformative performance, its grand music sequences, and its triumphant themes.








The Favourite


Director Yorgos Lanthimos has a unique cinematic voice marked by deadpan dark humor, surrealism, and grating orchestral scores (see The Lobster, available on Netflix, for reference). His latest film, The Favourite, is a historical period drama unlike any other. Wacky, sinister, and salacious, it covers the (somewhat) true story of two women competing for the favor of a feeble Queen Anne. It’s not exactly what you think of when you hear “Oscar winner,” but this unconventional female-led film has attracted a lot of awards attention for what seems more like an art-house classic.






Green Book


Set in 1962, Green Book is a feel-good comedy-drama about an unlikely friendship between Dr. Don Shirley, a famous black pianist (Mahershala Ali) and his white driver (Viggo Mortensen), as they travel on a concert tour. It’s received criticism for its historical inaccuracies, including condemnation from Dr. Shirley’s own family, and some say it oversimplifies race relations, perhaps to make it more palatable to white viewers. Nevertheless, Green Book nabbed big awards at both the Golden Globes and the Producers Guild Awards, so it appears the controversy has had little effect on its awards chances.










Roma is both the first foreign film and the first Netflix film to be nominated for Best Picture. Shot entirely in black and white, it covers a period of a few weeks in the life of a light-skinned Mexican family and their indigenous (Native American) live-in housekeeper, through marital troubles, political riots, wildfires, and near-drownings. Netflix’s aggressive advertising has given this slow-paced, meditative film a wide audience, and it’s considered by many a cautious favorite for Best Picture.









A Star is Born


The fourth film of its name and general plot arc, A Star is Born features stars Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper respectively as a struggling artist and a seasoned musician who fall fall in love and battle mental illness. Critics have praised Lady Gaga’s big screen debut, and she’s already acquired a collection of awards for the original song “Shallow,” which also performed well on the pop charts. Originally, A Star is Born was a favorite for Best Picture, but its underwhelming performance in awards shows thus far has lowered expectations.











This biographical comedy-drama follows Dick Cheney on his path to arguably the most powerful Vice Presidency in U.S. history. Its star-studded cast includes Christian Bale (unrecognizable as Dick Cheney), Sam Rockwell, Amy Adams, and Steve Carell. Despite having well-received acting performances, Vice, with a weighted average on Metacritic of 61 out of 100, joins Bohemian Rhapsody as one of the worst-reviewed films to be nominated for Best Picture.










Find the full list of nominations here.

CHS in the Community: The Culinary Conquests of Mr. Ashburn


When one thinks of Cary High teacher Mr. Ashburn and his passions, sociology and societal issues may come to mind. However, he also has a proclivity for cooking! Mr. Ashburn has had a decades-long career in the food industry, from waiting tables in Raleigh to helping start a restaurant in downtown Raleigh, and even cooking at the North Carolina Art Museum for the past ten years! I sat down with him, listening as he chronicled his culinary journey and told of the lessons he’s learned along the way. He even gave his two cents on the best restaurants in the Triangle, which range from fine dining to fast-and-easy quick service food.


Q: From start to finish, recount to me your career in the food industry.


A: I had to take summer school classes at NCSU because I was a double major, so I needed a night job. I got a job waiting tables at O’Charley’s in Raleigh (which is now a Chick-Fil-A). One day, a cook didn’t show up—I was kind of a terrible waiter; I didn’t like it, it was too much for me to handle—and I was put in the kitchen. I learned a trick early on: I’d cook two orders every time I got one, anticipating what I’d have to cook later. I’d have my food ready quickly, and everyone thought I was a really good cook. Since no one was yelling at me in the kitchen, I begged my boss to let me stay there, and he did.

I cooked through college, during summers, and when I graduated, I moved down to Charleston. I got a job at a restaurant called The Mustard Seed, and this great classically-trained chef took me under his wing and trained me. I was teaching middle school then, and he’d let me work at the restaurant during the summer, when it was busiest. O’Charley’s taught me the fast-paced nature of a kitchen, but The Mustard Seed taught me how to cook. He taught me how to make soups, stocks, sauces, and flavors, and how to properly season food. I learned how amazing an extra pinch of salt or an extra pinch of lime can be for a dish. It just really does things. The Mustard Seed taught me the art of cooking.

Anyways, I moved back to Raleigh and worked a few odd jobs, like one at a pizza place. I had stopped teaching and was doing real estate. Then one day, I met a guy who told me he was starting a restaurant in Puerto Rico, and needed one extra person to help. He was a chef (and had been for 30 years). He and his wife sold everything, and the three of us, along with another guy, moved down to Puerto Rico—I actually have our first menu framed on the wall in my classroom. I worked there for a year and a half, and it was really hard. There were ninety-six-hour work weeks; six sixteen-hour workdays in a row. I slept on an air mattress, on a concrete floor, and lived out of a suitcase, yet it was so freeing. It was such a different life. We’d forge for our food, and had fisherman give us some of their catch for the day. We had a printed menu with our basics, and a chalkboard menu with whatever we could find that day.


Our restaurant became pretty popular. Food & Wine Magazine came once, and we started getting a lot of publicity. Yet, I decided that I didn’t want to cook for a living. Unfortunately, it was kinda like a bad relationship that I couldn’t get out of. However, my relationship with food has gotten better, and for the past ten years I’ve been cooking at the North Carolina Museum of Art. I help the chef, with catering and whatnot, and during the summer, I get to cook for the bands performing in the concert series. And that’s pretty cool.

Now, I just appreciate my skill set because I can cook for family and friends, and I can cook for the community and bring people together. I do a lot of cooking events in downtown Raleigh, and it feels like I’m serving my community. One thing I love to do is to get issue-based “social entrepreneurs,” from around Raleigh and cook dinner for them. Then we sit and try to dream up ways we can solve issues around the community. Right now, we’re trying to see what we can do about more affordable housing downtown.


Q: Did you experience any “culture shock” while cooking in Puerto Rico, a place with a distinct culinary identity that isn’t always recognized in the contiguous United States?


A: One of the things I noticed was that the people in Puerto Rico didn’t like spice that much. They always thought that contiguous American cuisine was overspiced and oversalted. But that’s all, food-wise.

Outside of that, one thing I noticed was the extreme loyalty of my colleagues. There was one night where I walked out of the restaurant to hug some friends, and I guess I looked super disheveled, because a tourist thought I was harassing them. He pushed me to the ground, but the dishwasher who worked with us (who possibly had some questionable connections on the island) took him on a walk down the boardwalk, as far as the eye could see. When they came back, the tourist immediately apologized, and told me when his plane was leaving the next day. I thought it was a silly mistake, but the dishwasher thought staying on the island was a threat to my safety.


Q: Are there any elements or lessons from your time in the culinary industry that you’ve applied to teaching?


A: Absolutely! My nature is not to be detail-oriented; but as a cook, you need to have an extremely detailed, logical, and time-efficient plan, and learning how to plan well has really helped me in all aspects of life. I learned to figure out what needs to get done when, and cooking has really helped think about teaching in a strategic way that I never would have otherwise.


Q: Finally, simply share a funny/interesting story from your time in the culinary industry.


A: We’d do a lot of stupid pranks, I remember. One time, [my friends and I] stole a new guy’s knife (he was kind of a punk). We put it in a plastic container, which we filled with water and then stuffed into a large chest freezer. And it froze like Excalibur. We’d also lock people in freezers and put salt in people’s drinks. It was all really childish.


Q: As a connoisseur of all things culinary, are there any restaurants in the Triangle you recommend as must-visits?


A: Oh yeah! A restaurant called J. Betski’s. Even though I’m not a huge fan of German cuisine (it’s actually one of my least favorites), I just love that restaurant. The chef there is a-ma-zing! I’m also a big fan of Bida Manda and Brewery Bhavana which are both Southeast Asian restaurants (which happens to be my favorite cuisine). I think some of the best food I’ve had in Raleigh is from a restaurant called Crawford & Sons. In terms of lower-end food, I love Oakwood Pizza and Taqueria del Toro.