Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Friday, January 16, 2015

Oscar Snub

Some people who know me are surprised to learn that I’m not a huge movie buff.  I did not go see a film being shown in a movie theatre in 2014, and that’s not the first time that’s happened.  Yes, I’m a theatre scholar and yes, I like a number of movies, but when you get right down to it, the only thing movies at the cineplex have in common with going to the theatre is that you have a bunch of people sitting in a darkened room looking in one direction.  Oh, and they sell candy in the lobby.

This year’s selection of nominees for the Oscars points up another reason I’m not a huge movie goer any longer.  There is more variety in casting, directing, and subject matter in the Miami One-Minute Play Festival* than what’s in the Best Picture and Best Actor categories.  It’s as if the producers in the film industry said “Okay, last year we did the equal opportunity bit with 12 Years a Slave; aren’t we special?  So let’s get back to our real job: making movies for horny white straight men between the ages of 18 and 36 who want to see other horny white straight men blow up buildings, fart in church, and get laid.”  Yeah, that’s the ticket; that’s where the money is, and that’s what it’s all about.

*Full disclosure: I have two plays in the Miami 1MPF this weekend.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Well, I’m Back

Break’s over.  I’m back to blogging on the usual schedule.  Please try to contain your exuberance.

The time off gave me time to do things around the house like pressure-clean the patio, do some real housecleaning, get caught up on a lot of reading, and enjoy the holiday celebrations with friends.  I also had a great time at the Miami 1-Acts Festival.  We had a bit of a scare before the second performance of A Life Enriching Community; one of the actors woke up the morning of the show with the flu.  But a couple of calls later and we had a real trouper step up and do her part like she’d been rehearsing it the whole time.  The next theatre adventure is the One-Minute Play Festival coming up January 17th and 18th.

I also got a lot of writing — and re-writing — done on the novels-in-progress, and I am striving to keep true to my prediction that I will finish at least one of them by the end of the year.

But enough about me.  I suppose I could recap all the news I didn’t write about, but you probably know all of it already.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Looking Back/Looking Forward

The tradition continues:  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.

– Despite the terrible roll-out and start-up of Obamacare and the opportunity it handed the Republican campaign strategists, the healthcare law will not be as big an issue in the 2014 mid-terms that all the Villagers say it will be.  By the time the campaign hits the final stretch, the law will be so entrenched that even the people who claim they hate it — even though they support what it does — will have a hard time trying to run candidates who promise to repeal it.  Still, the GOP noise machine and Tea Party hard-core is locked in on re-electing their safe base and the morning after the 2014 mid-terms will show a House still in the hands of the GOP and the Senate closer to 50-50.

I got most of that right: Obamacare was not a campaign issue but I didn’t count on the Democrats running away from it like it was an Ebola-soaked sponge.  The Republicans didn’t win the Senate so much as the Democrats lost it.

– Immigration reform and gun control will go nowhere because it’s the same Congress we had in 2013 and they didn’t do jack-shit.

Too easy, more’s the pity.

– By December 31, 2014 it will be a foregone conclusion that Hillary Clinton will be running for president.  Joe Biden will play coy with the Villagers about running, but in the end he’ll demur to Ms. Clinton.  The Benghazi! non-scandal will be long gone except for the nutsery who still think Barack Obama was born in Kenya.  The GOP will be lining up its merry band that includes Ted Cruz, Chris Christie, Rick Santorum, and just for laughs, Rand Paul and Mike Huckabee.  President Obama’s approval numbers will be back up in the 50% range.

Nailed that one.  Even the GOP House report says Benghazi! is a nothingburger, and President Obama’s approval numbers are going up.

– Florida Gov. Rick Scott will lose his re-election bid to Charlie Crist, the newly minted Democrat, and Marco Rubio’s star will be as faded in GOP national politics as Pauly Shore’s is among Oscar voters.  He’ll pick up a primary challenge from the far right, but he’ll be safe in 2016 because the Democrats have nobody to run against him.

– Governors Scott Walker of Wisconsin, John Kasich of Ohio, Rick Snyder of Michigan, and Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania will all face tough re-election campaigns, but Mr. Kasich and Mr. Snyder will probably squeak by.  Mr. Corbett is out, and just for laughs, the people of Maine will toss their gaffe-prone Tea Party guv Paul LePage.

Still pissed that Florida and Maine re-elected those clowns.

– The national economy will continue to expand and the drive for the living wage movement will take hold.  The unemployment numbers will finally get below 7.0% and stay there.

Yeah, that was an easy call.  The minimum wage is going up all over the country.

– Marriage equality will spread to more states as more cases based on the ruling by the Supreme Court in 2013 are heard.  Indiana will vote on a ban on same-sex marriage in November 2014, and it will lose narrowly. But same-sex won’t be the law of the land yet, and I predict that unless the Supreme Court issues a sweeping ruling, Texas will be the last hold-out.

– The Supreme Court will rule 5-4 that Hobby Lobby or any for-profit non-religious corporation does not have the right “to deny its employees the health coverage of contraceptives to which the employees are otherwise entitled by federal law, based on the religious objections of the corporation’s owners.”

Not in my wildest dreams did I imagine that marriage equality would take hold like it did this year.  Thirty-five states now allow same-sex marriage, many based on rulings by courts that hold that banning marriage equality violates the equal protection and due process clauses of the Constitution.  There are several cases that are making their way to the United States Supreme Court.  But the court may have tipped its hand.  In October the Court declined to take action on five cases submitted for hearing during the 2014-2015 session.  This allowed the lower court rulings that struck down the bans in those states to stand.

Feh on the Hobby Lobby ruling.

– This will be a rebuilding year for the Detroit Tigers now that Jim Leyland has retired.  They’ll do respectably well and may even win the division again, but it’s time for a breather.

Yep.

– Fidel Castro will finally hop the twig, and the slow thaw between the U.S. and Cuba will begin as the generation that is as old as Castro continues to fade away.

Fidel is still alive, but Alan Gross is free and diplomatic relations are being restored.  About time, too.

– 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.

Losing Robin Williams and Philip Seymour Hoffman, both by their own hand, made this year especially painful.

– Personally, life will continue at its gentle pace in good health and good spirits.  In September I will turn 62 and begin the first steps towards eventual retirement, but that won’t be for a long time yet.  I’ve already started on my paper for the William Inge Theatre Festival in March, and I continue to write and produce blog posts.  My parents are happily settled into their “life enrichment community,” and I hope to visit them this summer.  I might even get a smartphone this year, but don’t bet on it.

I’m already working on my paper for the William Inge Festival in April, and I had two one-act plays produced, including one entitled A Life Enriching Community, thanks to my visit to my folks in Cincinnati.  No, I don’t have a smartphone.

Now the predictions:

– 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.”

– 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.

– 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.

– 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.

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

– 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 Tigers will win their division again.

– 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 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.

– And of course, the usual prediction: One year from now I’ll write a post just like this one, look back at this one, and think, “Gee, that was dumb.” Or not.

Okay, readers, it’s your turn.  What do you predict will befall us in 2015?

Monday, December 22, 2014

Troupers

The show went on, and it went on very well.

Yesterday morning I got a call from one of the actors in the one-act play.  She had done a great job in Saturday night’s performance, and all we had was one more show Sunday afternoon.  But now she had a fever of 101 and could barely get out of bed.  I made a call to Joel, the other actor in the play, and in five minutes his companion Joanne stepped up.  She read the script off a clipboard that we already used as a prop in her scene, and after a quick walk-through of the blocking, she nailed it.  I don’t think the audience had any idea that she was a substitute.

So thank you, Joanne, Joel, Jerry (our director), and from all of us to you, Francine, get well soon.

A friend was in the audience taking photos — the theatre allowed that — so I should have some pictures later on.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Winding Down

Today is my last day at work before the two-week winter holiday.  Yesterday we had our annual office luncheon and Secret Santa gift exchange (thank you, Carmen!).  I missed that part of it because I was doing our first-ever live webinar in financial training.

This week has already been interesting.  On Monday the transmission in the Mustang basically fell apart, so I’ve been driving the Pontiac all week.  (At least I know its transmission is in good shape.)  I’ve been in rehearsal for a one-act play that I wrote for the New Theatre’s Miami 1-Acts Festival winter season.  Normally the playwright isn’t involved with the play after the first reading or so, but in this case the director couldn’t find an actor to play one of the roles, so for the first time since 1995, I’m performing on stage.  I’ve never acted in a play that I wrote, so this is an interesting learning experience as I occasionally wonder who wrote this shit?

Miami 1-Acts Winter 2014

I’ve also had a play selected for the Miami version of the national One-Minute Play Festival that goes on in January, so I’ll be meeting with the director of my offering for that sometime in the next couple of weeks.

This is my roundabout way of telling you that things are going to get a little quiet after today until New Year’s.  Posting will be light and variable through the break, but I will be here when I’m not doing something else like working on another play still in the works or one of the several other projects, plus a crossword or two.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Live TV

I watched the first hour of Peter Pan Live last night, then switched over to Rachel Maddow where they had a whole different live TV show going on: feeds of demonstrations from Chicago, New York, and other places on behalf of Eric Garner and justice.

As for the attempt at theatre on TV on NBC, it was inoffensive.  Allison Williams has a very nice singing voice and she was able to carry off the illusion of being a boy on the verge of puberty, carrying on the tradition of having a woman play the role that goes back to Maude Adams.  She had the tough task of rising to the bar set by Mary Martin, but then the target audience for this performance had no idea who Mary Martin was.  I’m pretty sure even their parents weren’t around when she flew in the window.  From what I saw, Ms. Williams did a good job.

Casting Christopher Walken as Captain Hook was, as they say in the business, a bold move.  It’s harking back to his early days as a hoofer on Broadway (he was in the chorus of the 1964 Noel Coward musical High Spirits), and I’m sure he approached it with his trademark intensity.  But again he had to fill the pumps of the legendary Cyril Ritchard (who also played Mr. Darling in a bit of Freudian double-casting), and while Mr. Walken’s performance in the pirate production number was interesting to say the least, he came across as more menacing than flamboyantly vicious.  Even Dustin Hoffman in Hook had more fun.  Besides, what’s the point of playing Captain Hook if you can’t camp it up?

I guess I’m just a nostalgic curmudgeon, but I liked it better seeing it in grainy black and white on our old Magnavox TV-radio-phono console in the living room when I was eight.  It was more theatrical.  You knew you were watching theatre, and seeing the cables that made the kids fly added to the fun.  Last night it was more a distraction knowing that they were staging it for TV.

Switching over to watch the marches on the streets of America had their own theatrical quality.  This was real street theatre.  There’s something karmic about changing channels from one show about fighting the forces of evil set to music to another show set to chants of “I can’t breathe.”

Saturday, November 15, 2014

A Little Night Music

I had lunch today with fellow playwright Dan Goggin, the creator of Nunsense.  And if you’re just back from the Delta Quadrant and haven’t heard of the show, here’s a little piece of it with Terri White and the immortal Rue McClanahan.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

It’s A Tradition

Fiddler_on_the_roofIf you’re in South Florida and looking for some family entertainment this weekend, check out the Miami Acting Company’s production of Fiddler on the Roof at the Banyan Bowl in Pinecrest Gardens.  This legendary musical that opened fifty years ago once held the record as the longest-running show on Broadway.  This production runs tonight through Sunday, so go already.

I attended the final dress rehearsal last night (which explains the dearth of posts this morning) and it looks good to go with a strong cast, a good-sized orchestra, and a very nice set that was assembled by a dedicated crew of skilled (if uncredited) carpenters last Sunday just out of range of the pouring rain.

This is not my first trip to the shtetl.  In 1972 the University of Miami Ring Theatre did Fiddler on the Roof.  Tevye was played by Ernie Sabella and the cast also included Gail Edwards and yours truly as the Russian priest.  I had one scene behind a scrim.  But to quote the immortal Avery Schreiber, there are no small parts, just short pay.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Stratford Memories

In years past, today would be the day we packed up the car and headed for Stratford, Ontario.  Then we’d have four days of theatre and touring around to see our friends at Jonny’s Antiques, Rundles restaurant, and Callan Books.  But the move to Cincinnati and the inexorable passing of time have made the trip now a wonderful memory.  And while we’re not going this year, we knew that our trip last year was our farewell tour, and we made the most of it.

So I’m not going to get all maudlin about it.  We have over fifty years of memories, stories, and pictures to share, and as long as we have them, we’re there.

14. Festival Theatre

The Festival Theatre.

3 Garden

The Shakespeare Garden in front of the Festival Theatre.

010 Callan Books

Callan Books — now closed — but once the best little bookshop in Canada.

012 Me

Some random theatre goer and erstwhile drama critic having a picnic along the banks of the Avon River.

003

Dad and Mom outside Fanfare Books. Thanks for taking me and forging the love of theatre.

008 The Avon

The Avon River that wends its way through Stratford

It was in Stratford that I truly fell in love with theatre, and from there I took that love and turned it into my life study, if not my profession.

It’s not goodbye; it’s just intermission.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

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.

Speaking of theatre, last night was the opening of the Miami 1-Acts Festival at New Theatre where my play Last Exit was a part of the program.  I was very happy with the performances by Hector Dominik and Gabriel Bonilla and grateful to director Jerry Jensen for his nuanced interpretation of the play.

Hector, Jerry, and Gabriel

Hector, Jerry, and Gabriel

There’s one more performance of the play tomorrow evening.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Holiday Schedule

I’m putting up my traditional 4th of July posts a little later, and that will be it for the day.  Today I am going to a car show to celebrate the day, then tonight is the opening night of the Miami 1-Acts Festival at New Theatre where my play will be done.

miami1acts

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Monday, June 9, 2014

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Short Takes

U.S. P.OW. freed by Taliban in Afghanistan in exchange for five prisoners from Gitmo.

Six hikers missing on Mt. Rainier.

Golfer Phil Mickelson under investigation for insider trading.

Thousands march in Cyprus’s first gay pride parade.

Jesus Christ Superstar tour abruptly cancelled.

The Tigers lost to the Mariners 3-2.

You-know-what season starts today and runs through November 30.

Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Happy Birthday, William Shakespeare

250px-ShakespeareToday, according to the best information we have, is the 450th anniversary of the birth of William Shakespeare.

I’m quick to admit that as a theatre scholar, I’m not as steeped in his works as many of my colleagues.  As an actor, I’ve been in exactly one production of his play Othello, and that was forty years ago.  (I had a small part whose name began with “The.”)  Later on, I worked on several productions of his plays backstage (A Midsummer Night’s Dream seems to follow me wherever I go) and I was an assistant director on two productions at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival: The Merchant of Venice in 1987 and Hamlet, which starred Val Kilmer (and he was very good), in 1988.  And of course you know of my annual pilgrimages to Stratford, Ontario, to the Shakespeare festival there.  Those began in 1970, and while I missed a couple of years in the 70’s and 80’s, I went almost every year since.

So even if I can no longer recite whole soliloquies from memory* and wouldn’t dare direct a production, and even though my field of study of theatre is largely based on works and writers who lived 400 years after him, there is no doubt that the works and the characters in his plays represent the standard by which most plays are judged, and his words are among the most discussed, debated, and lauded in the English language.  They infiltrate our language to the point that we quote him without knowing it: phrases such as “vanished into thin air” and “foregone conclusion” came from his pen.  His works have been turned into operas, ballets, films, and canvas, and characters from his plays have shown up in new garb with new names.  In short (probably a Shakespeare-ism), his work is everywhere.

There have been debates over the centuries as to whether or not Shakespeare actually wrote all of the plays credited to him; whether or not he was just a front for someone else who was out of favor with the Court; whether or not he was gay or other such idle speculation.  Scholars far more prominent than me have spent their careers on such subjects and who am I to deride them?  But in the end it really doesn’t matter.  We have the works, we have the characters, and we have the insight to the humanity that speaks to us from those days to now.

*

*When I was in college, I was tapped into the honorary society Alpha Psi Omega.  In order to be accepted, I had to recite a speech from Shakespeare, and the one given to me was from Act V, Scene 1 of The Comedy of Errors.  It remains the only long speech of his that I learned and retained for any length of time.

It’s a good rant by Antipholus of Ephesus, and in order to really make it work, you have to recite it all practically in one breath.

My liege, I am advised what I say,
Neither disturbed with the effect of wine,
Nor heady-rash, provoked with raging ire,
Albeit my wrongs might make one wiser mad.
This woman lock’d me out this day from dinner:
That goldsmith there, were he not pack’d with her,
Could witness it, for he was with me then;
Who parted with me to go fetch a chain,
Promising to bring it to the Porpentine,
Where Balthazar and I did dine together.
Our dinner done, and he not coming thither,
I went to seek him: in the street I met him
And in his company that gentleman.
There did this perjured goldsmith swear me down
That I this day of him received the chain,
Which, God he knows, I saw not: for the which
He did arrest me with an officer.
I did obey, and sent my peasant home
For certain ducats: he with none return’d
Then fairly I bespoke the officer
To go in person with me to my house.
By the way we met
My wife, her sister, and a rabble more
Of vile confederates. Along with them
They brought one Pinch, a hungry lean-faced villain,
A mere anatomy, a mountebank,
A threadbare juggler and a fortune-teller,
A needy, hollow-eyed, sharp-looking wretch,
A dead-looking man: this pernicious slave,
Forsooth, took on him as a conjurer,
And, gazing in mine eyes, feeling my pulse,
And with no face, as ’twere, outfacing me,
Cries out, I was possess’d. Then all together
They fell upon me, bound me, bore me thence
And in a dark and dankish vault at home
There left me and my man, both bound together;
Till, gnawing with my teeth my bonds in sunder,
I gain’d my freedom, and immediately
Ran hither to your grace; whom I beseech
To give me ample satisfaction
For these deep shames and great indignities.

Whew.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

A Long Day’s Journey…

This will be a very long day.  I’m leaving Independence at 3:00 a.m. local time to catch a 6:55 a.m. flight out of Tulsa in order to get back to Miami, where I will arrive around 1:00 p.m. EDT.  From there I go home, drop my bags and computer, then head out to Miami Beach for the reading of Can’t Live Without You at SoBe Arts, which is located at 2100 Washington Avenue.

The reading is free and open to the public.  Curtain time is at 7:00 p.m.  It will be directed by William Roudebush and feature Terri Garber in the ensemble cast.

So this will probably be it for posting today.  I don’t know what time I’ll get back from the reading, and after traveling halfway across the country and then going to the reading, I’ll probably be a little tired.  I also have to go back to work first thing in the morning.

Spring break is over.