Thursday, October 11, 2018

Small Blessings

Sometime scrolling through a news feed can be frustrating.  Trying to find something interesting to read that doesn’t have me reaching for a second dose of BP meds is difficult enough with idiots and racists running the government, but the sheer stupidity and hypocrisy of a lot of what passes for news as we ramp up to the midterm elections makes it even harder to find something to laugh at, which is why I chose that little piece of Chico and Harpo Marx tickling the ivories for ALNM last night.

This morning it wasn’t a whole lot better: Trump would rather do Nuremberg 2.0 in Pennsylvania than stay in D.C. to monitor hurricane relief, even though we know that’s just for optics because there’s not a lot he could do even if he was competent; that’s what FEMA is for.  Hillary Clinton said it’s time for the Democrats to take the gloves off and the right-wing Orcosphere goes nuts, but that’s their setting anyway anytime she says please pass the butter.  A stringer reporter disappears in Turkey at the hands of the Saudis and suddenly the White House doesn’t even know how to get in touch with the perps.  The Supreme Court is already showing their complete disdain for Native American voters in North Dakota; they can’t be real voters if they don’t have a street address like real Americans do in all the cul-de-sacs in Maryland where teens really know how to par-tay (right, Brett?).

So now what?  The mid-terms are in a few weeks, and so now we have to switch to the cable pundits wondering just how the Democrats will blow their lead just like they did in 2016.  It’s enough to make me turn off the TV and start Googling cheap retirement in the Caribbean.  But you have to balance it out.  There’s good stuff to be had, even if it’s small or seems trivial.  The Miami Metro Rail ran on time yesterday.  (Karma alert: the trains were messed up this morning.) My friends up in the panhandle checked in safe after the hurricane passed.  My friend Christopher got a great write-up in the New York Times about his play opening next month on Broadway.  Someone shot a Youtube of the Miami International Auto Show and included nice things to say about Memory Lane and my car.

So while the news may be depressing, aggravating, annoying, and laugh-so-that-we-may-not-weep, sometimes we just have to remember that there are small blessings, too, and it does put it all in perspective.  For a little while, at least.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Monday, April 30, 2018

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

I’m home again, safe and sound from my week-long journey to and through America’s heartland, and in doing so I utilized all three modes of transport.  I am used to the trials and tribulations of travel nowadays, but I learned a couple of things as well.  For instance, having TSA Pre-Check doesn’t really make a difference in small airports or at the crack of dawn; they shuttle everyone through the same line and you go through the same ritual as everyone else.  Main Cabin Extra on American Airlines doesn’t give you more legroom; all it does is give you a few minutes ahead of everyone else to find that out.  Car rental agents and shuttle drivers are friendly and helpful even late at night (or early in the morning, depending on your point of view), and it seems that no matter where you go in America, there’s always a good local place for a great cup of coffee; check out the Coffee Zone in Columbia, Missouri.

I also learned that it is possible to over-pack and even if you plan very carefully, you come back with an increased volume of clothing than what you had when you left.  I didn’t need seven shirts, four pairs of pants, and my blazer, and even if I had, I could have saved some space for the two books that I picked up at the conference.

I also ran the gamut of emotions reconnecting with old friends and making new ones.  I had dinner with a former camper of mine and his wife.  I first met him when he was twelve, and now he’s hit the mid-century mark and has a great career and family.  He told me that I had been and still was a very important part of his formative years, which is both gratifying to hear and reminds me of the tremendous impact a friendship can have.  (And he is still as buff as he was when we worked out at the CU Rec Center thirty years ago.)  I reconnected with people who were an important part of my theatre scholarship life, including one of the men who was the focus of my doctoral dissertation.  He greeted me with a hug and reaffirmed many of the things I’d learned about theatre in general… and about being a good human being.  I made new friends and felt like I’d known them for years after just sharing lunch, and also discovered that when you think you know everything about something, you’re just beginning to hear the whole story.

I also cherished the time — all too brief — with my parents.

The next-to-last leg of the journey was on Miami MetroRail from the airport to Dadeland South.  That’s the mode of transport I use to commute to work, a ritual I will recommence in a little while.  It was, I suppose, a way to ease my way back into my normal routine, at least for the next ten days until I once again venture out into the heartland to learn more about people, life, theatre, and how to pack a carry-on.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Reunion

I made it to Columbia, Missouri, safe and sound and was greeted by Al, a charming and enthusiastic grad student of theatre, who brought me to the hotel, showed me around campus, took me to a great place for lunch, and generally made me feel very welcome.  I even met his adorable boxer pup Argos.

I was reunited with my dear friend Jackson Bryer, whom I’ve known from the Inge Festival since I started going.  He’s one of those people who you know instantly will be a constant friend, and that’s how he’s been since 1991.  He also does not age.  To quote a line from “Fifth of July” by Lanford Wilson, the man whose life and work we’re honoring this week, “Somewhere there’s a picture of him going to hell.”

The conference starts today with more reunions and a performance tonight of “The Rimers of Eldritch.”  I don’t know how to explain the play, having only read it several times in order to grasp it.  Maybe after tonight I’ll be able to say something about it.

Anyway, here I am.  It was drizzling all day, but the forecast calls for better weather the rest of the week.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Happy Passover

I think it’s a little odd to say “Happy Passover.” I’m not sure that’s what you say when you’re commemorating being thrown out of one country to spend forty years wandering in the desert, but since the Jews who gained their freedom from the Egyptians and got out of bondage didn’t know what lay ahead of them, it is a good enough reason to celebrate.

At any rate, I have fond memories of participating in many a Seder back in my college days. Passover didn’t always fall during Spring Break so I was alone during Holy Week, and I was counted on by my friend Rich’s mom to come spend the evening with them. I learned the songs, the Four Questions, and even won a round or two of Hide the Matzo. (Maybe they said to themselves, “Oy; let the Quaker win for once.”)

Although I belong to a faith that doesn’t celebrate holidays — for Quakers, every day is a holiday — I enjoyed being part of the the family, learning the traditions and especially discovering the food. One of my Jewish friends who got this close to becoming a rabbi has a saying about being Jewish and having a big meal; it’s part of their heritage and their constant struggle against their enemies: “They tried to kill us. We won. Let’s eat.”

Save me a helping of haroset, please.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

A Little Night Music

I met Jonathan Mitzenmacher when he played Frederick in the Miami Acting Company’s 2015 production of “The Pirates of Penzance.”  It also happened that at the time New Theatre was casting roles for the first reading of “All Together Now,” and he created the role of Fox.  He lived up to way beyond our expectations, and when we did it for the South Florida Theatre League’s Summer Theatre Fest two weeks ago, he did the role again.  Next week he heads off to his freshman year at the University of Florida in Gainesville, where he’s planning to major in mechanical engineering.

This summer he participated in the Songbook Academy program in Carmel, Indiana, where this was recorded.  See for yourself what his friends and admirers already know: the kid has talent.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Thursday, October 20, 2016

…Down to the River

It’s been a long time since I made an addition to the blogroll, but I’m all too happy to share this new one: …Down to the River.

It is written by a friend I’ve known for over thirty years through my work at camp in Colorado and a shared love of teaching, good blues, and baseball.  I hope you’ll get acquainted with his world, enjoy it, and share it.

Monday, September 12, 2016

September 1971

PMW IDForty-five years ago this week, this long-haired skinny kid from Perrysburg, Ohio, landed at the University of Miami and walked into the Ring Theatre determined to become an Actor. He was sure he would be the next star of stage and screen and people would be lining up around the block to watch him perform everything from Shakespeare to Neil Simon. So he signed up for acting classes with the legendary Buckets Lowery, took dramatic lit from Dr. Delmar Solem and Dr. Charles Philhour, directing from Dr. Hank Diers, costuming from Dr. Roberta Baker, and learned all about scenery design, stagecraft, and history from the original Great One — and the last man standing — the Old Professor. He met his fellow classmates who were also setting out on this great adventure who became more than just classmates; they became lifelong friends. For three incredible years he was in shows (usually small parts whose first name was “The”) or back stage running the shows, or building sets, and afterwards hanging out for many a night in student housing as a charter member of the MNT Society.

No, he didn’t become a great actor because when he wasn’t on stage or in class or building scenery (and becoming a skilled carpenter), he was writing plays or stories … and it didn’t help that he had a face for radio. But if it wasn’t for the foundation of his friends, mentors, teachers, and partners that he built at the Ring, he wouldn’t have had the skills or courage to go on for a masters and doctorate in playwriting, which he’s still to this day trying to master.

So today, this not-so-long-haired, not-so-skinny guy who started classes at the Ring on his 19th birthday looks back from the verge of his 64th and says a humble and grateful thank you for these forty-five years of friendship. I couldn’t have done it without you. And maybe I’ll put you in one of my plays. Maybe you already are.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Hello, His Name Is Edmund

I met Edmund Lupinski in September 1971 when we were both cast in the University of Miami Ring Theatre’s production of George Farquahar’s The Beaux’ Stratagem, directed by the Old Professor.  (He had a lead as one of the beaux, I did two character parts.)  We did a number of shows together, everything from musicals such as Guys and Dolls to the 18th century comedy The School for Scandal, and I’ve always considered him to be a good friend.  He’s also a terrific actor, as you’ll see in this demo reel that he’s put together, including his most recent role on screen in Hello, My Name is Doris with Sally Field.  I thought I’d share this quick look at some of his work.  Enjoy.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Oldest Friend

I’m taking off today to spend it with my oldest friend.  We met in June 1957.  My family had just moved into our new home in Perrysburg and he and his sister knocked on our front door and asked if there were any kids his age the he could play with.

We grew up together, going to school together, going through good times and tragedies, and nine years later, after he had moved to Florida, I was invited to come down to visit over spring break.  It was my first time in Florida, and as his mom said, once you get sand in your shoes, you have to come back.

How right she was.  In 1971 I moved to Miami to go to college.  But my friend had gone off to join the Navy, and we lost touch.  It would be another fifteen years or so before we met up again, and then only briefly.  It would be 2003 before we connected and arranged to meet as I changed planes in Chicago on my way to Toledo.

As it always is with old friends, it was like no time had passed at all as we shared a sandwich in the food court at Midway.  When I left, we promised to keep in touch, and we have, thanks to social media and the bond that was formed more than fifty years ago.

We got together two years ago (see below) at his place up the coast and we’ll do it again tomorrow down here.  And I hope when he knocks on the door in the morning, he’ll ask if there are any kids his age to play with.

photo 4

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Monday, February 1, 2016

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Monday, July 20, 2015