Sunday, September 18, 2016

Sunday Reading

Sickly Sweet — David Singerman on the shady history of Big Sugar.

On Monday, an article in JAMA Internal Medicine reported that in the 1960s, the sugar industry paid Harvard scientists to publish a study blaming fat and cholesterol for coronary heart disease while largely exculpating sugar. This study, published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine in 1967, helped set the agenda for decades of public health policy designed to steer Americans into low-fat foods, which increased carbohydrate consumption and exacerbated our obesity epidemic.

This revelation rightly reminds us to view industry-funded nutrition science with skepticism and to continue to demand transparency in scientific research. But ending Big Sugar’s hold on the American diet will require a broader understanding of the various ways in which the industry, for 150 years, has shaped government policy in order to fuel our sugar addiction.

Today’s sugar industry is a product of the 19th century, when the key federal sugar policy was not a dietary guideline but a tariff on sugar imports. In the decades after the Civil War, Americans’ per capita consumption of sugar more than doubled, from 32 pounds in 1870 to 80 pounds in 1910. As a result, the government got hooked on sugar, too: By 1880, sugar accounted for a sixth of the federal budget.

To protect domestic refiners, then the largest manufacturing employer in Northern cities, the tariff distinguished between two kinds of sugar: “refined” and “raw.” Refined sugar that was meant for direct consumption paid a much higher rate than did raw sugar crystals intended for further refining and whitening. But by the late 1870s, new industrial sugar factories in the Caribbean began to jeopardize this protectionist structure. Technologically sophisticated, these factories could produce sugar that, while raw by the government’s standard, was consistently much closer to refined sugar than ever before (akin to sweeteners such as Sugar in the Raw today). The American industry now faced potential competition from abroad.

The country’s largest refiners mobilized on several fronts. They lobbied the United States Congress to adopt chemical instruments that could measure the percentage of sucrose in a sugar cargo, and to deem sugar refined when its sucrose content was sufficiently high. Previously, customs officers had judged the purpose of a sugar cargo by its color, smell, taste and texture, as people throughout the sugar trade had done for centuries. Now refiners argued that such sensory methods were ripe for abuse because they depended on a subjective appraisal. They demanded a scientific standard instead — one that would reveal some “raw” sugar to be nearly pure and thus subject to higher tariffs — and they prevailed.

Their plea for scientific objectivity may have sounded sensible, but it masked nefarious aims. Like the tobacco industry in the 1960s, these refiners knew that scientific questions were hard for outsiders to adjudicate, and thus easier to manipulate to an industry’s advantage. If refiners were to bribe a customs chemist to shade his results in their favor — as they were routinely accused of doing for decades, beginning in the 1870s — such corruption would be much harder for the government to detect than it had been when everyone could see and smell the same sugar.

In addition to their lobbying, refiners waged a public campaign to dissuade Americans from eating raw sugar. One of their common advertisements featured a disgusting insect that supposedly inhabited raw sugar and caused an ailment called “grocer’s itch” in those who handled it. Other pamphlets suggested that Cuban factories operated by slaves or Chinese indentured workers would “give the people sugar teeming with animals and Cuban dirt.”

The refiners’ real agenda, of course, was not Americans’ health; it was to maximize their profits from selling sugar. Thanks in part to their influence over both tariff policy and the new methods of customs collection, the big refiners were soon able to form the Sugar Trust, one of the most notorious and successful monopolies of the Gilded Age. By the early 20th century, belief in the health benefits of refined sugar was so widespread that increasing Americans’ consumption of it actually became a goal of federal policy.

Looking back at the industry’s transformation of sugar (an edible substance derived from a plant) into sucrose (a molecule), we also see the roots of “nutritionism” in United States policy. That’s the idea that what matters to human health is not food per se but rather a handful of isolable biochemical factors. As food critics like Michael Pollan and Marion Nestle have argued, nutritionism is better at helping processed-food companies market their products as healthy (“with Omega-3 added!”) than it is at promoting our well-being.

Today, the sugar industry remains politically powerful, with consequences for both public health and the environment. The Miami Herald reported this summer, for example, that the industry contributed $57 million to Florida elections in the last 22 years; meanwhile, state officials have resisted efforts to make sugar companies pay for their damage to the Everglades.

If we want to check the power of Big Sugar, we’d be well served to acknowledge the long record — past as well as present — of the industry’s machinations.

The Astringent Power of Edward Albee — Hilton Als in The New Yorker.

Writing that gets under your skin, in your bones, will play in your head and memory like nothing else. While painting, photography, and movies can come at you with a very particular force—an in-your-face power that, when done correctly, unearths hitherto unexamined or marginalized feelings—dramatic literature lives in your ear, and, when it’s truly great, shapes how you shape words yourself.

As a very young writer or, at any rate, as a young person who longed to write, I was especially taken by Edward Albee’s plays, the astringent power of all those speeches and curt one-liners that disinfected or seemed to scour a stage world lousy with illusions. He was a different kind of realist. As the youngest of the three artists who reshaped the architecture of the postwar American theatre—Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller completed the trinity, and were more than a decade older than their younger colleague—Albee didn’t make work that believed only in the story. That is, the playwright wasn’t entirely convinced that telling a story led to anything as trite as catharsis. While Williams and Miller believed their protagonists—and often identified with them—Albee was just as often skeptical if not down right distrustful of what his characters said, and how they said it.

Despite the violence of their words, Albee’s characters do not speak freely; they are always hedging their bets because life is disappointing, and who wants to have less of what they already have? The best that Albee’s characters manage to do is steel themselves or bulwark themselves against the fake, often within hollow conventions like marriage that his domineering women and seemingly passive men cling to and talk about wryly, and with more longing than their shared bitchiness would ever let on. Like many of us, Albee learned to cope—to build the defenses he felt were necessary to survive—while sitting on his mother’s knee. But he was rarely, if ever, coddled as a child. In an interview with Lillian Ross that appeared in this magazine in 1961, after three of his first short plays were performed in New York and abroad—1959’s “The Zoo Story”; and “The Death of Bessie Smith” and “The American Dream,” both from 1961—Albee told the reporter a bit about his background:

Born in Washington, D.C., on March 12, 1928, and came to New York when I was two weeks old . . . I have no idea who my natural parents were, although I’m sure my father wasn’t a President, or anything like that. I was adopted by my father, Reed A. Albee, who worked for his father, Edward Franklin Albee, who started a chain of theatres with B. F. Keith and then sold out to R.K.O. My father is retired now. My mother is a remarkable woman. An excellent horsewoman and saddle-horse judge. I was riding from the time I was able to walk. My parents had a stable of horses in Larchmont or Scarsdale or Rye, one of those places. I don’t ride anymore. Just sort of lost interest in it. My parents gave me a good home and a good education. . . . I went to Choate. . . . I was very happy there. I went on to Trinity College, in Hartford, for a year and a half. I didn’t have enough interest in it to stick it out for four years. . . . After a year and a half, the college suggested that I not come back, which was fine with me.

Memory has a way of trivializing the truth—and smoothing over the past—in a way that is misleading. Albee’s mother may have been an excellent horsewoman, but her skills did not extend to mothering. She treated her only child as something of an accessory, and lived for herself—for her idea of power. The best and most troublesome of Albee’s female characters are her. After Albee left home, he never saw his father again, and he had no real contact with his mother until seventeen years before her death. By then he had made a different kind of family—with like-minded gay men such as the poets Richard Howard and James Merrill, who had troubled relationships with their mothers, too, men who could go toe to toe with Albee in the Village bars they frequented, places where language was a performance in itself, and cruelty a badge of honor.

One gets the sense that, growing up and beyond, Albee was rather proud of his put-downs; he wanted to hurt the world he could never show had hurt him. For all the tension and confrontation in his plays, there’s a lot of avoidance. Mystery informs his best-known play, the 1962 Pulitzer Prize-winning “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” While Pamela McKinnon’s superlative 2012 production brought out so much in the famous text—including the fact that the warring married couple, George and Martha, were very turned on by one another—it only increased our interest in why, for instance, Martha drank, lied, cheated. Unlike Williams and Miller, Albee did not believe in backstories—that the child was, artistically speaking, father to the man—and when his characters “share,” none of it is cozy. It’s as if, when he left home, Albee wanted to be a different person—a person who would not describe his past as the past was attached to other people.

But, of course, we are always attached to other people: our relationships to them are, to some extent, who we are. Albee learned cruelty at home—one could call his domestic dramas the living room of cruelty—and he wrote most exquisitely about how cruelty can, for some, make a home. As a young artist, he borrowed too heavily from Ionesco—an early and permanent influence, along with Beckett—who thought characters existed for the sole purpose of making theatre. Albee was attracted to that idea, but he was also an American, which meant that storytelling of one sort or another was in his blood. He erred on the side of theatre as theatre when he came out with “Tiny Alice,” in 1964. I am very fond of this piece, which purports to be about the richest woman in the world—the Alice of the title—but what it’s really about is unfathomable. (Sir John Gielgud, who starred in the original production, told Albee that he didn’t know what the play was about. Albee said he didn’t really, either.) To my mind, the play is about meta theater, and role-playing; it borrows quite a bit from Jean Genet’s 1957 masterpiece, “The Balcony,” especially when it zeroes in on organized religion, another form of theatre. Here’s how it opens:

Lawyer: Oomm, yoom, yoom, yoom, Tick-tick-tick-tick-tick. Um? You do-do-do-do-um?. . . .

The Cardinal enters

Cardinal: Saint Francis?
Lawyer: Your eminence!
Cardinal: Our dear Saint Francis, who wandered in the fields and forests, talked to all the . . .
Lawyer: Your eminence, we appreciate your kindness in making the time to see us; we know how heavy a schedule you . . .
Cardinal: We are pleased. . . . We are pleased to be your servant . . . if we can be your servant. We addressed you as Saint Francis . . .
Lawyer: Oh, but surely . . .
Cardinal: . . . as Saint Francis . . . who did talk to the birds so, did he not. And here we find you, who talk not only to the birds but to—you must forgive us—to cardinals we well . . . . To cardinals? As well?
Lawyer: We . . . we understood.
Cardinal: Did we.
Lawyer: We find it droll—if altogether appropriate in this setting—that there should be two cardinals . . . uh, together . . . in conversation, as it were.
Cardinal: Ah, well, they are a comfort to each other . . . companionship. And they have so much to say. They . . . understand each other so much better than they would . . . uh, other birds.

Given Albee’s interest in the stage as an arena for ideas, it seems strange that critics and audiences rejected important works such as “Box” and “Quotations From Mao Tse-Tung.” Those short plays are all about voice—indeed, “Box” is a monologue starring a woman we never see—and also the logical extension of an experimentalist who, throughout his life, worked within fairly conventional structures. Albee continued to work hard even as, inevitably, he began to lose favor with the critics. He knew theatre was as much subject to trends as anything. In his 1962 essay “Some Notes on Nonconformity,” he put out this warning: “One must always mistrust fashion, because it is, as often as not, arbitrary; and the assumption that one can become informed of, and participate in, the intellectual temper of our time through reliance on any breathlessly composed list of fashionable far outs is funny and sad—and, what is much worse, terribly conformist.”

Albee did like plot and ideas, and often in his work the idea was the story. Listen carefully to Agnes at the beginning of “A Delicate Balance,” from 1966. The drama is about her body—and her mind. In no uncertain terms, she lets Tobias, her husband of many years, know how much he disgusted her at one point, but not before she talks about a thought she has had: What would happen if she lost her mind? Agnes is sister to Nancy in Albee’s underrated and fantastic, in all senses of the word, “Seascape” (1975). There Nancy sits on a beach with another husband of many years, and it doesn’t take her long to goad him into talking about a past that he doesn’t want to share while she belittles him for taking more risks—risks she probably would have been averse to when she was younger. What Nancy is really talking about, though, is her life. And the bitterness of compromise that is part of life:

Charlie: Well, we’ve earned a little . . .

Nancy: . . . rest. We’ve earned a little rest. Well, why don’t we act like the old folks, why don’t we sell off, and take one bag apiece and go to California, or in the desert where they have the farms—the retirement farms, the old folks’ cities? Why don’t we settle in to waiting, like . . . like the camels that we saw in Egypt—groan down on all fours, sigh, and eat the grass, or whatever it is. Why don’t we go and wait the judgment with our peers? Take our teeth out, throw away our corset, give to the palsy . . . the purgatory before purgatory.

Life as a way station between the worse and the worst. Marriage and security as a holding pattern between many kinds of deaths. I don’t think Albee ever wrote an “out” gay play, though “The Zoo Story” and his 1966 adaptation of James Purdy’s “Malcolm” contain more than their share of homoerotic feeling. But, for me, the gayness was always there—the high-dudgeon witchery of a very smart queen who “read” the world. (One wonders what Albee made of gay marriage.)

Part of Albee’s genius was figuring out ways to bring his brilliant gay talk to an audience that, at the time, may not have known what informed his ice-cold torrent of words against coupling, against convention. But his gay fans knew what was going on. We unearthed Albee’s aesthetic by putting his words in our queer mouths and laughing. Once, long ago, on a trip to Amsterdam with my closest friend, we read aloud from “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” over and over again. Calling ourselves George and Martha during the readings was, of course, part of the camp. The names didn’t matter. What did was Albee’s revenge against a world that said George and Martha, in all their awfulness and vindictiveness, were normal, while we weren’t.

Thank You — Andy Borowitz

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Calling this “the greatest day of my life,” a visibly moved Barack Obama held a news conference on Friday to thank Donald Trump for granting him U.S. citizenship.

“The issue of whether or not I was a U.S. citizen has been a dark cloud over my existence for as long as I can remember,” a tearful Obama told the press corps. “Only one man had the courage, wisdom, and doggedness to make that cloud go away: Donald J. Trump.”

The President, who had to halt several times during his remarks to compose himself, praised the Republican Presidential nominee for “never giving up” in his quest to prove that Obama was born in the U.S.

“A weaker man would have said, ‘I don’t need this in my life,’ but Donald Trump was always there for me,” the President said. “Over the past five years, barely a day went by when he didn’t call me and say, ‘Barack, I don’t care what a bunch of crackpots say. You were born here, and I’m going to prove it once and for all.’ “

The President said he planned to spend the day celebrating his U.S. citizenship with his family. “It’s great to be an American, at last,” he said.

When asked if he had any message for Trump, the President paused for a moment. “Just this: I love you,” he said, a tear trickling down his cheek.

Doonesbury — Welcome aboard Trump Airlines.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Edward Albee — 1928-2016

Alas, we will be planting yet another tree in the playwright’s garden at the Inge Festival next spring. We have lost a great voice of truth and raw humanity.

Edward Albee, widely considered the foremost American playwright of his generation, whose psychologically astute and piercing dramas explored the contentiousness of intimacy, the gap between self-delusion and truth and the roiling desperation beneath the facade of contemporary life, died Friday at his home in Montauk, N.Y. He was 88.

His personal assistant, Jakob Holder, confirmed the death. Mr. Holder said he had died after a short illness.

Mr. Albee’s career began after the death of Eugene O’Neill and after Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams had produced most of their best-known plays.From them he inherited the torch of American drama, carrying it through the era of Tony Kushner and “Angels in America” and into the 21st century.

He introduced himself suddenly and with a bang, in 1959, when his first produced play, “The Zoo Story,”opened in Berlin on a double bill with Samuel Beckett’s “Krapp’s Last Tape.” A two-handed one-act that unfolds in real time, “The Zoo Story” zeroed in on the existential terror at the heart of Eisenhower-era complacency, presenting the increasingly menacing intrusion of a probing, querying stranger on a man reading on a Central Park bench.

When the play came to the Provincetown Playhouse in Greenwich Village the next year, it helped propel the burgeoning theater movement that became known as Off Broadway.

In 1962, Mr. Albee’s Broadway debut, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”, the famously scabrous portrait of a withered marriage, won a Tony Award for best play, ran for more than a year and half and enthralled and shocked theatergoers with its depiction of stifling academia and of a couple whose relationship has been corroded by dashed hopes, wounding recriminations and drink.

Edward Albee was the honoree at the William Inge Festival in 1991, my first year there.  I was sitting in the lobby of the Apple Tree Inn on the first morning of the festival and in he walked in a sweatsuit; he’d been out for a walk or a jog.  I nervously introduced myself and he smiled and sat down on the couch next to me.  I have no idea what we talked about; I was still in shock that I was sitting in a hotel lobby in the middle of Kansas chatting with one of the most important writers of the 20th century.  We chatted for a few minutes, then he patted me on the thigh and went back to his room.

Just about everyone knows “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” because of the film with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, but the play in its immediacy and brutality works best on the stage when you can’t look away or change the channel.  His other works — “The Zoo Story,” “A Delicate Balance,” “Three Tall Women,” and his short pieces — are just as honest and tightly wound.  Albee never used a paragraph where a word would do, and he used them to define his characters and places with exacting detail.

I know a lot of playwrights of my generation see him as a mentor and an inspiration even if they do not see the world as he did.  I admired him when I was learning about writing plays, and to this day I still read his works with awe.  I followed a different path in my writing, but I think that’s one thing I learned from his works: we are on our own with our own thoughts, and find our own way to share them.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Fifth of July

Fifth of July is not just a date, it’s a play by Lanford Wilson. It opened off-Broadway in 1978, then, after some revision, on Broadway in 1980. It’s also the play that was the starting point of my doctoral studies and the subject of my doctoral thesis in 1988.

In 1985 I directed a production of the play at the Nomad Theatre in Boulder with a great cast.

Fifth of July Nomads March 1985

The cast of Fifth of July at Nomads Theatre, Boulder, Colorado, March 1985

In the course of my studies I became friends with Mr. Wilson, and the director of the productions, Marshall W. Mason. So ever since then, I have marked the 5th of July as a special day for me and my love of theatre.

“Matt didn’t believe in death and I don’t either…. There’s no such thing. It goes on and then it stops. You can’t worry about the stopping, you have to worry about the going on.” – Sally Talley, Fifth of July.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Friday, June 24, 2016

Curtain Comes Down On New Theatre

Yet another vibrant but financially-strapped South Florida theatre goes dark.

New Theatre Logo Crop 06-24-16New Theatre, one of the most high-profile Florida theaters for 30 years and developer of the Pulitzer-winning Anna in the Tropics, is closing, its board of directors announced Thursday.

The cause appears to be economics although the specifics have not been disclosed.

It came to a head several weeks ago when the board asked Artistic Director Ricky J. Martinez to work this summer without pay.  Martinez resigned May 23, a disclosure delayed until Thursday because Martinez wanted to give the board time to get “the financials in order,” he said in an interview Thursday.

[…]

Thursday’s news hit the theater community hard because so many people had worked at the company.  While numerous companies have opened and even thrived in recent years, the closing is the latest in a series of crippling hits: Florida Stage in Manalapan/West Palm Beach closed in 2011, Promethean Theatre in Davie in 2012, Mosaic Theatre in Plantation 2012 and Women’s Theatre Project in Fort Lauderdale/Boca Raton in 2015.

The theatre has also produced four of my ten-minute plays and had my new full-length in their schedule for the upcoming season.  I’m sorry for the people who have put so much of their time and effort into bringing new and vibrant theatre to Miami.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Short Takes

The death count in Orlando is fifty.  It is the worst mass shooting in American history.

Man arrested with weapons on his way to L.A. pride parade.

Bernie Sanders will meet with Hillary Clinton tomorrow.

English and Russian soccer fans riot in Paris.

Who won a Tony (besides “Hamilton”)?

The Tigers took two of three from the Yankees over the weekend.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Heading Home

We’ve had a good time at the Inge Festival.  I’ve made some new friends, communed with fellow playwrights, shared stories about getting plays read and produced, and found out that I’m not the only one who gets up at 3 a.m. to write blog posts.

This year we had some reminiscences of years past, including the gala dinner at the Independence Country Club, a place I haven’t been to since 2001.  I also had a moment in the library where I saw a book I had read back in grad school about American theatre and the prominence that the theatres were giving to the voices of the then-younger playwrights such as Lanford Wilson and Sam Shepard.  The author seemed to think that they were replacing the great American playwrights such as Eugene O’Neill and Arthur Miller, as if they would supplant them and those of the old guard would no longer be important voices on the stage.

I’m glad to see that hasn’t come to pass.  The writers that followed them will have writers who will follow as well, as they are now, but there will always be room for good writing no matter when it was written, and people will come and see good theatre and listen to exciting and challenging words.

So now I head home with my mission: keep writing.

Books on Sale 04-23-16

Friday, April 22, 2016

A Leap Too Far

Last night we saw a production of William Inge’s “Where’s Daddy?” marking the 50th anniversary of the play and the return to the play by Barbara Dana who was in the original cast on Broadway.  This was a good production — fine acting with Ms. Dana playing Mrs. Bigelow, the mother of the character she played on Broadway, and well-directed by Karen Carpenter — but in the end the play itself is a mess.  Inge was trying to get back into the good graces of the critics who had labeled him as hokey, a playwright whose time had passed, and out of tune with the modern times of the 1960’s.  He tried to write something that spoke to modern problems and even tried to be hip by including a black couple as neighbors and having a character actually say out loud, “Do you think I’m a homosexual?”

There are two stories in “Where’s Daddy?”: the young couple struggling with their marriage and the impending birth of their child, and the young father’s conflicted feelings about his adoptive father figure and his questioning about his own sexuality.  In previous works Inge has been able to meld stories like these together, but in this play it does not work.  Rather than meld, they collide.

“Where’s Daddy?” takes Inge into territories where he has only hinted at before, but rather than the subtlety that we’d seen in previous works, he takes leaps.

It was a leap too far.  The play ran two weeks and he never really tried for Broadway again.  He moved to California to teach playwriting and continued with his life-long battle with depression.  Seven years later he was dead by his own hand.

His suicide was not a direct result of the failure of “Where’s Daddy?”, but it is apparent from the time that he felt he had to please the critics, which is a dangerous and futile goal.  One thing I have always believed as a writer is that you must first write for the characters and yourself.  Nothing else matters because nothing else will be truer.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Nothing To Sneeze At

Here I am, 24 hours before the 35th William Inge Theatre Festival, and my allergies kick in.

Claritin, do your thing.

This is as good a time as any to tell you that from now through Sunday I’ll be in Inge mode: blogging about theatre and related fun but on a really limited basis because I just checked the schedule and I will be really busy.  There’s a New Play Lab where thirty-five short plays will be read and discussed, and I have one being done.  I’m also presenting a paper at the scholars conference, plus serving on a couple of panels.  Joining me for his third trip to Inge is The Old Professor who also is having one of his plays done in the Lab.

There will be the usual tributes and gala dinners and plays, including a production of the rarely-seen Inge play, “Where’s Daddy?” starring Barbara Dana.

According to my count, this is my 25th Inge Festival.  I think I’m getting the hang of it.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Sunday Reading

Who Poisoned Flint? — David A. Graham in The Atlantic reads the e-mails that tell the story.

Why did it take so long for state and federal government to do something about lead in the water in Flint, Michigan? Or, put another way, who is to blame, and who should have fixed it?There’s a telling moment within the 274 pages of emails released by Governor Rick Snyder’s office about Flint. Dennis Muchmore, then chief of staff to the governor, puzzles over who should be on the hook. He gripes about Representative Dan Kildee, and mentions former state Treasurer Andy Dillon.

[…]

Muchmore went on, “The real responsibility resists with the County, city and [Flint’s water authority], but since the issue here is the health of citizens and their children, we’re taking a pro-active approach.”

The question of who really is responsible has become suddenly widespread. On Thursday, news broke that the U.S. House will call Snyder to testify. The EPA official responsible for Michigan also resigned on Thursday. Democratic presidential hopefuls Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have both called for Snyder to resign. The Wall Street Journal points a finger at every level of government. Disentangling the blame proves to be a difficult task.

Muchmore’s statement may seem a bit callous, but his mention of Dillon is somewhat tangential: After all, Dillon’s role was simply to sign off on the change to taking water from the Flint River, because of the size of the transaction. But Muchmore omitted the reason why Dillon was involved—a fact that also complicates his assignment of blame to the city. The switch to water from the Flint River occurred under the oversight of an emergency manager appointed by Snyder. Under a state law that Snyder signed, the governor can appoint a manager to take over cities in financial emergency.Prior to the switch, Flint had been preparing to move away from water provided by Detroit’s water service and toward a pipeline that would bring water directly from Lake Huron. (The city council did have a chance to weigh in on that change, and supported it 7-1.) But when Flint made the decision, the Detroit Water Services District announced it would terminate service to Flint a year later. That was legal under the contract, but it put Flint in a bad spot, since the new pipeline wasn’t going to be complete in a year. DWSD shrugged, saying Flint should have expected it. That’s how the emergency manager, Darnell Earley, ended up overseeing the switch to water from the Flint River. Flint residents and leaders blame Earley for the decision; Earley insists it was their idea. (Flint reconnected to Detroit water late last year, but there’s lasting damage to the pipes.)In any case, the final authority for the decision rested with Earley, the manager. That makes it jarring to see Muchmore write, in the same email quoted above, that the state departments of Environmental Quality and Community Health complained that the water issue had become “a political football”

[…]

For one thing, it had become clear by the time of writing, in September 2015, that Flint’s water had dangerous levels of lead. The residents weren’t just angry because they saw a partisan gain—they were angry about brown and apparently tainted water coming out of their faucets. Meanwhile, their political representation had been directly curtailed by the appointment of the emergency manager who oversaw the switch. Officials in Lansing withdrew Flint’s power to govern itself, but when Flint begged Lansing for help, it was told that the problem was Flint’s alone.

End It Already — Charlie Pierce is fed up with the kids playing occupiers.

Enough is enough. I mean, really. It’s time for federal law enforcement to, you know, enforce federal law.

On the other end was an FBI negotiator who identified himself to Bundy only as “Chris.” And so opened talks between the leader of the refuge occupation and the federal agency in charge of bringing an end to the armed takeover, now in its third week. For nearly an hour around noontime, the negotiator listened to Bundy’s well-practiced litany of complaints against the federal government while probing for what it would take to end his occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. They ended the call with the promise to talk again Friday.

Isn’t that sweet?

The people of Harney County are fed up. The governor of Oregon is fed up. A group of armed jamokes—some of them with long criminal histories outside of the crimes they are committing at the moment—has seized federal property on federal land and the only people who seem sanguine about the whole business are the federal authorities. The thieves have been allowed to come and go fairly at will. They’ve been allowed to state their case at town meetings. And they’ve been allowed to return to the scene of their current crimes over and over again. Enough. If the FBI is still gun-shy about Ruby Ridge and about Waco, it has had enough chances to arrest these people without storming their winter clown encampment.

In sometimes highly personal remarks, speaker after speaker vented anger—at public officials, at the federal government and at the man in the brown cowboy hat sitting high in the bleachers to take it all in—Ammon Bundy. He and other armed militants on Jan. 2 seized the headquarters compound of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, situated 30 miles southeast of Burns. The refuge is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He sat on the second row from the top as County Judge Steve Grasty, microphone in hand, strode to the foot of that bleacher section.”It is time for you to go home,” Grasty said to Bundy, vowing to meet with Bundy anytime,  anyplace—outside of Harney County. A chant then grew in the gymnasium: “Go, go, go, go, go.” That was a message Bundy heard repeatedly through the evening, one he once vowed to heed. He sat expressionless, making no move to respond or to comment.

Can someone please explain to me why Ammon Bundy wasn’t arrested as he sat in the bleachers? Or on the way to the meeting? Or on the way back to the land he is attempting to steal from the rest of us? If the FBI had been this tender about people’s feelings throughout its history, John Dillinger would have died in his bed at the age of 103 and Fred Hampton might still be alive.

Nothing good can come of waiting these people out anymore. By their lights, they’ve already won, the way Ammon’s deadbeat father, Cliven, won when itinerant gunmen faced down lawful authority, an episode that led directly to the one in Oregon that already has gone on too long. (By the way, the elder Bundy is still a scofflaw who owes you and me $1 million.) And it’s important to remember that they are only the shiny object shock troops of a general conservative movement to destroy what’s left of the commons by taking over the public lands, especially in the West.

Outside of its 180-degree pivot on race, nothing demonstrates how far the Republican Party has strayed from its own history than its abandonment of its legacy as the party of conservation and the environment. The whole idea of preserving public lands for the people of the United States was a Republican idea, root and branch. Abraham Lincoln signed the legislation putting Yosemite under federal protection. The Antiquities Act was signed by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906. For a century, the preservation of the public lands was as close to a bipartisan project as we’ve had. It outlasted McCarthyism and the turmoil of the 1960s and the backlash of the 1970s and even, to an extent, the rise of Ronald Reagan, in which the seeds of the current threat to public lands first were sown.

“Noises Off” Is Still On — Michael Shulman in The New Yorker on the undying appeal of the farce.

Wednesday afternoon; a British country home. The phone rings, and a housekeeper named Mrs. Clackett galumphs in from the servants’ quarters, carrying a plate of sardines. In a weary Cockney accent, she informs the caller that her employer is in Spain. His wife’s in Spain, too. She blanches. “Am I in Spain? No, I’m not in Spain, dear.” She hangs up and begins to leave, as her accent suddenly jumps up several socioeconomic notches and she mumbles to herself, “And I take the sardines. No, I leave the sardines. No, I take the sardines.”

If Mrs. Clackett seems like a stock character in a British comedy—the grouchy, bumbling maid—that’s because she is one. We are watching the dress rehearsal for a play called “Nothing On,” whose doomed tour through English towns like Ashton-under-Lyne and Stockton-on-Tees is the subject of “Noises Off,” Michael Frayn’s ingenious 1982 farce within a farce. A sort of theatrical turducken, the play has a lot to tell us about the comedy of chaos. Paradoxically, it only works when it runs like clockwork: everything has to go right for everything to go so wrong. Fortunately, the Roundabout’s revival, which just opened at the American Airlines Theatre, under the shipshape direction of Jeremy Herrin, nails nearly every slamming door, pants-around-the-ankles pratfall, and flung plate of sardines.

About those sardines: keep your eye on them. And on the telephone. And on the newspaper Mrs. Clackett can’t remember whether to take offstage. By magnifying the minutiae—props, cues, stuck doorknobs—Frayn blows up perhaps the most banal aspect of theatre-making to absurd proportions. Or, as Lloyd (Campbell Scott), the beleaguered director of “Nothing On,” puts it, “That’s what it’s all about. Doors and sardines. Getting on, getting off. Getting the sardines on, getting the sardines off. That’s farce. That’s the theatre. That’s life.” It’s not until we see every exit and entrance go absurdly, madly, hilariously askew that we begin to see his point. Viewed from a certain angle, life is about little things that can slip, crack, and slam in our faces.

Perhaps that’s why “Noises Off” is such a crowd-pleaser, frequently revived and frequently beloved. Over three acts, we follow the accident-prone actors as their missed cues and accumulating rivalries lead to catastrophe for “Nothing On” but hilarity for “Noises Off.” Sardines fly, cactuses are sat upon. Frayn gives each character just enough distinction to make the tomfoolery comprehensible. Dotty (the wonderful Andrea Martin), who plays the housekeeper, is a slumming grand dame. Brooke (Megan Hilty), who plays a blond bimbo, keeps losing her contact lenses. Selsdon (Daniel Davis) is a drunk. (The rest of the ace ensemble includes Jeremy Shamos, David Furr, and Kate Jennings Grant, as actors, and Tracee Chimo and Rob McClure, as hapless stagehands.) Likewise, the characters they play in “Nothing On” have only one or two quirks apiece. The point isn’t to delve into individual psychology but to marvel at the extremity of gracelessness, choreographed with meticulous grace.

Doonesbury — At a minimum.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Saturday, January 16, 2016

One-Minute Play Festival

Here’s the other thing I’m doing this weekend: the 4th annual South Florida One-Minute Play Festival.  It will be at the Deering Estate at Cutler Saturday and Sunday.

The One-Minute Play Festival (#1MPF), America’s largest and longest running short form theatre company, founded by Producing Artist Director Dominic D’Andrea, features one-minute plays by over 50 established and emerging South Florida playwrights commissioned for this event.

The work attempts to reflect the theatrical landscape of local artistic communities by creating a dialogue between the collective conscious and the individual voice through a performance of many moments and includes responses to local topics such as immigration, government and culture.

Saturday, January 16, 2016
8:00 pm
Cost: $20
Tickets can be purchased online or by calling 305-235-1668 ext. 233.
Please note that the performances contain mature content. Recommended for ages 14 & older.

Sunday, January 17, 2016
3:00 pm – purchase tickets online
7:00 pm – purchase tickets online
Cost: $20
Tickets can be purchased online above or by calling 305-235-1668 ext. 233.
Please note that the performances contain mature content. Recommended for ages 14 & older.

Once I’ve completed my car show duties I’ll be there tonight to see the two piece I have in it.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Brian Bedford — 1935-2016

A great actor has made his exit.  From the Globe and Mail:

Acclaimed British actor Brian Bedford, a Tony Award-winning mainstay of Broadway and Ontario’s Stratford Festival, has died.

The festival in Stratford, Ont., told The Canadian Press that Bedford died on Wednesday in Santa Barbara, Calif., after a 2 1/2-year battle with cancer. He was 80.

“The doctors were just astounded by his will to live,” said Ann Swerdfager, the festival’s publicity director.

Antoni Cimolino, the festival’s artistic director, said in a statement that “Brian Bedford was the prime reason I went into the theatre.”

Bedford had been ailing in recent years.

In early 2014, illness forced him to pull out of his role as the pope in a touring production of the Vatican mystery thriller “The Last Confession” that visited Toronto. It was a part he said he’d been “really looking forward” to, noting John Paul I was “a very, very sweet, modest, lovely person and I haven’t played that kind of part for a long, long time.”

In June 2013, he withdrew from his role as Shylock in “The Merchant of Venice” at the Stratford Festival due to “a medical condition.” He also missed shows during the festival’s 2011 season.

Bedford was a fixture in the southwestern Ontario community of Stratford, where he worked at the festival for 29 seasons, acting and directing.

In 2009, he brought down the house directing and starring (in full drag) as Lady Bracknell in the festival’s production of “The Importance of Being Earnest,” which moved to Broadway and earned him a 2011 Tony Award nomination for best actor. The production itself won a Tony for best costume design and was nominated for another for best revival of a play.

I saw the performance of “Earnest” at Stratford (my notes here) and thought it was one of the best plays I’d seen in all my years there.

He was a great actor, a fine director, and by all accounts, a very nice person.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Looking Back/Looking Forward

It’s time for my annual re-cap and prognostication for the past year and the year coming up.  Let’s see how I did a year ago.

– Now that we have a Republican House and Senate and a president who isn’t running for re-election, get out the popcorn, and I mean the good stuff.  The GOP will try to do everything they can to destroy the legacy of Barack Obama, but they will end up looking even more foolish, petulant, infantile, and borderline nuts than they have for the last two years, and that’s saying something.  Repeals of Obamacare, Dodd-Frank, and recharged attempts to investigate Benghazi!, the IRS, and the VA will be like the three rings of Barnum & Bailey, all of which President Obama will gleefully veto.  As Zandar noted at Balloon Juice, “Over/under on when a Republican declares on FOX that Obama’s veto is  “illegal”, Feb 8.”

They did all that except actually pass the bills for President Obama to veto.  Instead they putsched John Boehner and replaced him with Paul Ryan who will more than likely face the same nutsery in 2016.

– Hillary Clinton will announce that she is running for president by March 2015 at the latest.  Elizabeth Warren will not run, but Bernie Sanders, the Gene McCarthy of this generation, will announce as an independent and become a frequent guest on MSNBC.  Jeb Bush, after “actively exploring” a run in 2016, will announce that he is running and quickly fade to the single digits when the GOP base gets a taste of his views on immigration and Common Core.  He may be popular in Republican polls, but those people don’t vote in primaries.  The frontrunners for the Iowa caucuses a year from now will be Rand Paul and Chris Christie.

Nailed that one except for the last sentence.  But to be fair I don’t think anyone had Donald Trump on their betting sheets a year ago, and if they did, it was more for the entertainment value than serious consideration as a Republican candidate.

– The war in Afghanistan is officially over as of December 2014, but there will be U.S. troops actively engaged in combat in what is left of Syria and Iraq in 2015.

More’s the pity.

– The U.S. economy will continue to improve at a galloping pace.  The Dow will hit 19,000 at some point in 2015 and oil will continue to flood the market, keeping the price below $60 a barrel and gasoline will sell for under $2 a gallon, and finally wages will start to catch up with the improving economy.  I blame Obama.

Except for my overly-optimistic prediction on the Dow, this pretty much came true, even down to the price for gasoline: I paid $1.99 last night in Miami, which is not the lowest-priced city in the country.  President Obama is not getting any credit whatsoever for helping the economy improve, which he should, but then the Republicans never blamed Bush for crashing it in the first place.

– The Supreme Court will rule that bans on same-sex marriage violate the Constitution.  They will also narrowly uphold Obamacare again.

Happy dance, happy dance.

– The embargo against Cuba will end on a narrow vote in the Senate thanks to the overwhelming influence of Republican donors who see 11 million Cubans starving for Dunkin Donuts and car parts and don’t care what a bunch of domino-playing dreamers on Calle Ocho think.

The embargo is still in place as a matter of law, but for all intents and purposes, it is crumbling.  U.S. airlines and cruise ships are setting schedules, direct mail service is resuming, and travel there has become routine.

– The Tigers will win their division again.

Oh, shut up.

– We will lose the requisite number of celebrities and friends as life goes on. As I always say, it’s important to cherish them while they are with us.

I hold them in the Light.

– I technically retired on September 1, 2014, but my last day at work will be August 30, 2019.  (It’s complicated.)  I’m planning a return trip to Stratford this summer — more on that later — and I’ll get more plays produced.  I will finish at least one novel in 2015.

This was a productive year for me on the writing front: several plays of mine were done either in full stage productions or readings, and more are on the way.  No, I did not finish a novel yet.

Now for the predictions for 2016:

  • Hillary Clinton will be the next President of the United States.  I have no idea who she will beat; I don’t think the Republicans know, either, but she will win, and I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that it will be a decisive win.  The GOP will blame everybody else and become even more cranky, self-injuring, and irresponsible.
  • The Democrats down-ticket will do better than expected by taking back the Senate and narrowing their gap in the House.  This will be achieved by the number of voters who will turn out to vote for them in order to hold off the GOP’s attempt to turn the country back over to the control of white Christian males.
  • The economy will continue to improve; maybe this is the year the Dow will hit 19,000.  The limiting factor will be how the rest of the world, mainly China, deals with their economic bubble.  I think a lot of the economic news will be based on the outcome of the U.S. election and the reaction to it.  If by some horrifying chance Donald Trump wins, all bets are off.  Economists and world markets like stability and sanity, and turning the U.S. over to a guy who acts like a used car hustler crossed with a casino pit boss will not instill confidence.
  • ISIS, which barely registered on the radar as an existential threat to the U.S. and the west a year ago, will be contained.  There will not be a large American troop presence in Syria and Iraq thanks in part to the response by the countries that themselves are being invaded by ISIS.  Finally.
  • Refugees will still be pouring out of the Middle East, putting the strain on countries that have taken them in.  It will be a test of both infrastructure and moral obligation, and some, such as Canada, will set the example of how to be humane.
  • Maybe this will be the year that Fidel Castro finally takes a dirt nap.
  • The Supreme Court will narrowly uphold affirmative action but leave room for gutting it later on.  They will also narrowly rule against further restrictions on reproductive rights.  And I am going out on a limb by predicting that President Obama will get to choose at least one more new justice for the Court, an appointment that will languish in the Senate until after the election.
  • Violence against our fellow citizens such as mass shootings will continue.  The difference now is that we have become numb to them and in an election year expecting any meaningful change to the gun laws or the mindset is right up there with flying pigs over downtown Miami.
  • Marriage equality will gain acceptance as it fades from the headlines, but the LGBTQ community’s next front will be anti-discrimination battles for jobs and housing.  It’s not over yet, honey.
  • We’re going to see more wild weather patterns but none of it will convince the hard-core deniers that it’s either really happening or that there’s anything we can do about it.
  • The Tigers will not win the division in 2016.  (Caution: reverse psychology at play.)
  • On a personal level, this could be a break-out year for my writing and play production.  I don’t say that every year.
  • A year from today I will write this same post and review what I got right and what I didn’t.  But stick around and see how I do on a daily basis.

Okay, it’s your turn.  What do you see for 2016?

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Sunday Reading

Miami Subs — Elizabeth Kolbert in The New Yorker on the rising tides on Miami Beach.

The city of Miami Beach floods on such a predictable basis that if, out of curiosity or sheer perversity, a person wants to she can plan a visit to coincide with an inundation. Knowing the tides would be high around the time of the “super blood moon,” in late September, I arranged to meet up with Hal Wanless, the chairman of the University of Miami’s geological-sciences department. Wanless, who is seventy-three, has spent nearly half a century studying how South Florida came into being. From this, he’s concluded that much of the region may have less than half a century more to go.

We had breakfast at a greasy spoon not far from Wanless’s office, then set off across the MacArthur Causeway. (Out-of-towners often assume that Miami Beach is part of Miami, but it’s situated on a separate island, a few miles off the coast.) It was a hot, breathless day, with a brilliant blue sky. Wanless turned onto a side street, and soon we were confronting a pond-sized puddle. Water gushed down the road and into an underground garage. We stopped in front of a four-story apartment building, which was surrounded by a groomed lawn. Water seemed to be bubbling out of the turf. Wanless took off his shoes and socks and pulled on a pair of polypropylene booties. As he stepped out of the car, a woman rushed over. She asked if he worked for the city. He said he did not, an answer that seemed to disappoint but not deter her. She gestured at a palm tree that was sticking out of the drowned grass.

“Look at our yard, at the landscaping,” she said. “That palm tree was super-expensive.” She went on, “It’s crazy—this is saltwater.”

“Welcome to rising sea levels,” Wanless told her.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, sea levels could rise by more than three feet by the end of this century. The United States Army Corps of Engineers projects that they could rise by as much as five feet; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts up to six and a half feet. According to Wanless, all these projections are probably low. In his office, Wanless keeps a jar of meltwater he collected from the Greenland ice sheet. He likes to point out that there is plenty more where that came from.

“Many geologists, we’re looking at the possibility of a ten-to-thirty-foot range by the end of the century,” he told me.

We got back into the car. Driving with one hand, Wanless shot pictures out the window with the other. “Look at that,” he said. “Oh, my gosh!” We’d come to a neighborhood of multimillion-dollar homes where the water was creeping under the security gates and up the driveways. Porsches and Mercedeses sat flooded up to their chassis.

“This is today, you know,” Wanless said. “This isn’t with two feet of sea-level rise.” He wanted to get better photos, and pulled over onto another side street. He handed me the camera so that I could take a picture of him standing in the middle of the submerged road. Wanless stretched out his arms, like a magician who’d just conjured a rabbit. Some workmen came bouncing along in the back of a pickup. Every few feet, they stuck a depth gauge into the water. A truck from the Miami Beach Public Works Department pulled up. The driver asked if we had called City Hall. Apparently, one of the residents of the street had mistaken the high tide for a water-main break. As we were chatting with him, an elderly woman leaning on a walker rounded the corner. She looked at the lake the street had become and wailed, “What am I supposed to do?” The men in the pickup truck agreed to take her home. They folded up her walker and hoisted her into the cab.

To cope with its recurrent flooding, Miami Beach has already spent something like a hundred million dollars. It is planning on spending several hundred million more. Such efforts are, in Wanless’s view, so much money down the drain. Sooner or later—and probably sooner—the city will have too much water to deal with. Even before that happens, Wanless believes, insurers will stop selling policies on the luxury condos that line Biscayne Bay. Banks will stop writing mortgages.

“If we don’t plan for this,” he told me, once we were in the car again, driving toward the Fontainebleau hotel, “these are the new Okies.” I tried to imagine Ma and Pa Joad heading north, their golf bags and espresso machine strapped to the Range Rover.

Frontier Gibberish — Charlie Pierce on the poll results of GOP voter sediment sentiment.

To paraphrase The Master, data don’t talk, they swear. And the latest from PPP is cursing up a storm.

OK, I think it’s hilarious, too, that 30 percent of Republican primary voters want to bomb Aladdin’s hometown. More startling to me are the following:

1) That Marco Rubio’s unfavorable numbers are exactly the same (34 percent) as Donald Trump’s. Which makes Rubio seven points more unpopular than Ted Cruz, whom nobody likes except his mother, and she could be jiving, too. And that, in a head-to-head hypothetical, Cruz crushes Rubio, 48 percent to 34. Xenophobes have long memories, Marco.

2) That 80 percent of Republican primary voters favor banning gun sales to people on the no-fly list, not that it will matter.

3) That 46 percent of them want a database kept of all Muslims in America.

4) That just as many of them believe that Muslims danced on rooftops on 9/11 as do not believe that this thing that didn’t happen didn’t happen.

There isn’t much I can say that wasn’t said better by the citizens of Rock Ridge.

Fifty Years of “Fiddler” — Eric Grode of the New York Times gathers recollections of the legendary musical as it is revived yet again on Broadway.

So many Velcro-affixed bottles. So many fake beards (plus a few real ones). And so, so many daughters. As the sun rises Sunday, Dec. 20, on the latest Broadway “Fiddler on the Roof” revival, this one starring Danny Burstein as the beleaguered milkman Tevye, we look back at 51 years in Anatevka. The original leading man (Zero Mostel) and director (Jerome Robbins) were often barely on speaking terms, but that 1964 Harold Prince production went on to a record-setting run. We asked veterans of that “Fiddler” and of the incalculable number of professional, amateur and student productions that followed to recall their experiences. Here are edited excerpts.

Harvey Fierstein

Replacement Tevye in the 2004 Broadway revival

I grew up in New York, and my mom was very culturally minded. Theater tickets were $2 for the balcony in 1964, and my mom would often buy four tickets in the front row of the balcony for her, my father, me and my brother. One day, the curtain went up — and it was a stage full of Jews. My life was never the same after that.

Adrienne Barbeau

Replacement Hodel in the original production

I had sent my photo and résumé to Shirley Rich, who was Hal Prince’s casting director, and I got a call one Friday to come in the following Tuesday for what was an absolutely grueling four-hour audition. I was auditioning against the woman who was understudying the role at the time, but I remember getting this psychic message from my grandmother, who had survived the Armenian genocide, that I would get it. And I got it!

Bette Midler

Replacement Tzeitel in the original production

Maria Karnilova, who played Golde, was the most brilliant actress I have ever seen. I watched her every night in the wings and could never figure out how she did it. But the person who showed me the most kindness was Joanna Merlin, who was the original Tzeitel, who suggested me to replace her when she left. (The second time. It’s a long story!)

It was a perfect storm of talent, and universal themes: the pull of tradition and family, the struggle to retain your human dignity in the face of terrible odds. And of course, everyone knows a Yente, even if they’re not Jewish.

Carolyn Mignini

Replacement Sima in the original production

At the five-minute call, Adrienne Barbeau and Bette Midler and I would meet in the enclosed house onstage and sing ’50s and ’60s songs to warm up.

Josh Groban

Tevye at Los Angeles County High School for the Arts

I was a late bloomer, and I still couldn’t grow a beard, even in 12th grade, so I had to wear the fake beard and glue it onto my face every night. I just had the best time. I’m not a good dancer, so a lot of the moves for Tevye were right in my wheelhouse, just kind of dramatically, sluggishly moving. It’s a wonderful memory, because it was the first time that I really felt I fit in.

Danny Burstein

Tevye in the current revival

In 1986, I believe, I was lucky enough to be in a production with the great Theodore Bikel. I played Mendel, the rabbi’s son. It was especially memorable to me, because it was directed by Sheldon Harnick’s brilliant brother, Jay Harnick. Jay gave me one of the greatest pieces of direction I’ve ever gotten. I was playing Mendel for laughs. He wanted it real. He pulled me aside and said with a warm smile, “Danny, dare to be disliked.” In other words, play the show. Tell the story — and the story isn’t always about you.

Michael Cyril Creighton

Ensemble at St. Anthony’s High School in South Huntington, N.Y.

I went to Catholic high school, so naturally I played a young Jewish boy in the chorus. Admittedly, I was pretty bummed I didn’t get to glue on a beard. They did, however, make up my face for the back of the auditorium: chestnut brown eye shadow with white highlights. I found it difficult to keep my clip on Hasidic curls in place while alternating my arms and legs during “Tradition.” And while quite a few curls ended up on that stage floor during the run, boy, did my eyes pop. In the current production I believe my roles are being played by a small woman.

Doonesbury — Misplaced modifier.