Sunday, January 27, 2019

Sunday Reading

Here Beginneth the Lesson — John Cassidy in The New Yorker on how Trump got schooled.

Perhaps the most disturbing lesson of the stupid and pointless five-week partial government shutdown, which ended on Friday, is that Donald Trump and his cronies—step forward, Wilbur Ross—are just who they appear to be: rich, out-of-touch old white guys who don’t have any conception of what it is like to be a regular government worker living from paycheck to paycheck. The other takeaway, a more encouraging one, is that Trump is also just a regular politician, subject to the normal laws of political gravity.

Speaking in the White House Rose Garden on Friday afternoon, the President said he would sign a temporary spending bill, which will enable shuttered federal agencies to reopen and allow about eight hundred thousand federal employees to start receiving back pay for the wages they have missed out on. He also expressed confidence that Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill would use the three weeks to reach a “fair deal” on additional spending for border security. And he claimed that the Democrats had “finally and fully acknowledged that having a barrier, a fence, a wall, or whatever you call it, will be an important part of the solution.”

The Democrats haven’t acknowledged anything of the sort. Earlier in the week, House Democrats indicated that, if the President agreed to reopen the government, they would support a $5.7-billion spending package—matching Trump’s figure—for over-all border security. They also made clear that this package wouldn’t include any money for a wall. With his poll ratings falling and some key Republican senators threatening to abandon the White House, Trump did what any other President who had dug himself into such a hole would do: he capitulated and tried to put a positive spin on things. But the lengthy, campaign-style speech that he delivered didn’t fool anybody on either side of the political divide. “This is the first time I’ve ever seen a President go to the Rose Garden and take a defeat lap,” the Democratic congressman Dan Kildee, the chief deputy whip, said, on CNN. Jonathan Swan, Axios’s White House correspondent, tweeted, “A former White House official texts me, unsolicited: ‘Trump looks pathetic…he just ceded his presidency to Nancy Pelosi.’”

That was going too far. Trump is still the President, and, at the end of his speech, he repeated his threat to use his Presidential powers to declare a national emergency if he doesn’t get what he wants out of the upcoming negotiations. But, whatever happens next, he’s just learned a pair of harsh lessons: how futile government shutdowns are, and how constricted Presidential power is when the opposition party controls at least one house of Congress. In the modern era, divided government has become the norm in Washington. At some point in their Presidencies, Trump’s four most recent predecessors—George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama—had to learn how to deal with it. Now it is Trump’s turn. In the words of Robert Reich, a former Labor Secretary in the Clinton Administration, “Nancy Pelosi just showed that Congress remains a coequal branch of government, despite Trump’s refusal to accept the limitations of his own power.”

The President can’t say he wasn’t warned about the risks he was taking. Back before Christmas, when he started the shutdown and indicated that he was prepared for it to be an extended one, he was apparently working on the theory that the longer it lasted, the more leverage he would have in his campaign to get the funding for his beloved border wall. Practically everybody else in Washington, including Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, and Paul Ryan, the departing House Speaker, believed the political dynamic would work in the opposite direction—the longer the shutdown went on, the more angry the public would get, and the more pressure there would be for the President and his party to cave. Of course, he could try to blame Democratic obstructionism, but that was always going to be difficult, especially since he had preëmptively seized ownership of the shutdown during an Oval Office meeting with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer.

According to reports, McConnell and Ryan both advised Trump not to take the plunge. He ignored the advice, as he is apt to do. And, of course, the wizened old pols turned out to be right. As a two-week shutdown turned into a three-week shutdown, then a four-week shutdown, then a five-week shutdown, stories emerged of federal employees attending food banks and being unable to afford their chemotherapy sessions. Public opinion turned sharply against the President. By Friday morning, even Christopher Wray, the man Trump appointed to lead the F.B.I. after he fired James Comey, had had enough. “Making some people stay home when they don’t want to, and making others show up without pay, it’s mind-boggling, it’s shortsighted, and it’s unfair,” Wray said, in a video message to the Bureau’s thirty-five thousand employees, many of whom were working without pay. “It takes a lot to get me angry, but I’m about as angry as I’ve been in a long, long time.”

By that stage, Trump had already accepted the inevitable and decided to sue for peace. This was all but confirmed on Wednesday, when Pelosi refused to allow the President to deliver this year’s State of the Union address from the House chamber; rather than going into a rage, Trump responded more or less politely. At that point, McConnell, who had remained above the fray for weeks, reëngaged. The same night, Lindsey Graham, a Trump ally, floated the idea of using a temporary spending resolution to reopen the government and allow time for further negotiations on some sort of border-security package, even with no guarantees of any money for the wall.

Even though the President had stated repeatedly that he wouldn’t open the government until he received adequate funding for his wall, this was the deal that he ended up accepting. Once he made the announcement, it didn’t take long for the darts to start flying in from right field, including this one, from the columnist Ann Coulter, who was one of the people who encouraged him to start the shutdown in the first place: “Good news for George Herbert Walker Bush: As of today, he is no longer the biggest wimp ever to serve as President of the United States.”

Get Your Programs — Laura Collins Hughes in The New York Times on what it means to hold a theatre program in your hands.

“Could I get a program, please?”

You can feel the bafflement percolating in the audience when ushers have nothing to give out before a performance in New York. We theatergoers have gotten used to the fact that some shows don’t want us getting our paws on a playbill until afterward — they don’t want us distracted, maybe, or a surprise spoiled — but the new twist is no program at all.

At least not one we can hold in our hands.

Often, they want us to go online to read a digital version — a money-saving move, surely, but one that shortchanges artists and audiences alike.

That lovely Palestinian actor, Khalifa Natour, who starred in “Grey Rock” at La MaMa in early January? I’d have loved to glance down at a piece of paper that evening and find out that he’d been in the movie “The Band’s Visit,” which I adored. But that fact was in the program, and the program was online.

I don’t mean to pick on La MaMa. Going digital has become such a trend Off and Off Off Broadway that I’m no longer surprised to be directed to a theater’s website if I want to know whose work I’m seeing. It’s not just a wrongheaded tack, though. It’s also counterintuitive, because it’s contrary to the spirit of live performance.

Theater is one of our most intimate art forms, one that asks us to step away from the outside world and — this sounds like yoga talk, but it’s valid anyway — be present for a while, our attention on what’s unfolding in the room.

But any information you access on a phone or tablet exists in a space that lets the whole restless world in, coming at you in a calm-shattering barrage of text messages, emails and news alerts. A digital program doesn’t stand a chance of holding someone’s attention against all that. It’s not a great place to send people to think about the art and artists they’ve just seen.

And an e-playbill, unlike a printed one, won’t ease anyone into the experience of seeing a show, acclimating them as surely as an overture would. If that sounds like an exaggeration, think about how focused you feel reading a physical book or newspaper, and how relentlessly interrupted when your eyes are on a digital device.

I don’t say that as a Luddite; I’m writing this on a digital device. It’s not that I’m unconcerned with saving trees, either, or unaware of the punishing economics of nonprofit theater.

But theaters have been alert for a long time to their need to compete for an audience that has a jillion other ways to spend its time. That’s part of the reason they devote such resources to engagement, with all the pre- and post-show programming, and all the fun extras that they put online.

Programs, though, aren’t extras; never mind what the British have decided, with their practice of charging for them. They’re essentials that help spectators navigate the production and process it afterward. (That’s why those one-sheet playbills can be so frustrating, with their frequent lack of bios and other crucial information.)

My youngest brother, who is in his 20s, isn’t a habitual theatergoer, at least not yet. But when he goes with me to a show, he sits down and opens his program right up, reading it to see which actors he knows and what the director might have to say. He peruses the ads for other shows, too, in case any of them appeal.

So it’s not just the oldsters who like a good paper program, though they can be downright poignant in their dismay when they don’t get one. Recently at Classic Stage Company, a good chunk of the row behind me went all aflutter when they thought for a moment that someone sitting nearby had printed out the online program.

I’m sure that wasn’t the effect Classic Stage intended. But when a theater bypasses paper playbills, it is outsourcing a job to its audience members — saying that if they want to know more, that’s on them. Why do that to people who’ve already proved their curiosity by their presence? If they don’t want to take the thing home, they can always give it back.

I’m not a program hoarder, either, actually; I hang onto all of them for a while, then keep the ones that mean the most to me. I find it comforting — and useful — that Playbill, the company, has an archive of its programs online, and that digitization is preserving other programs from long ago. But that’s for history. In the moment, I want that tangible souvenir.

When I admire something I’ve seen onstage, I often spend my subway ride home scouring the artists’ bios, my paper program in full view of fellow riders — advertising that doubles, sometimes, as a conversation starter. But honestly (and I’m talking here about shows I’m not writing about), if the onus is on me to track that information down, there’s an excellent chance I won’t do it. When I turn on my phone, I’ll probably use it to read the news.

Program-wise it seems lately that many theaters — whether they use e-playbills or not — are moving boldly in a direction to which the audience is meant to adjust. So it was heartening at the Public Theater’s Under the Radar festival to see an about-face midstream.

Early in the run, ushers politely told theatergoers that if they wanted a festival program, they could find one in the first-floor lobby — not the most helpful response if you’re two stories up at the time, and stymieing given the scarcity of booklets down there. (My personal quest to get one took two days.) Later in the festival, though, ushers would hand one right to you. Progress!

Still, after that, I caught myself feeling relieved at the Prototype Festival to be given a program with my ticket. And I was completely charmed by the buoyant young usher at “Colin Quinn: Red State Blue State” who greeted each person with: “Would you like some programs?” Plural.

The most sensible approach I’ve seen recently on the playbill front was at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, where when I arrived for “Lewiston/Clarkston,” the box office offered a choice: Printed program, e-program or both?

I went with printed, of course, and what I got was nothing fancy — just a sheaf of pages stapled together. But, riffling through them, I found everything I needed.

Doonesbury — Vocal disconnect.

Friday, January 18, 2019

First Read-Through

On Tuesday night the cast of ‘Can’t Live Without You’ met for the first time to get to know each other, their characters, and read the script out loud so that the director and I could see how it all comes together.  (Spoiler alert: really well.)  So here we are:

The cast for Can’t Live Without You – A Play by Philip Middleton Williams: left to right, AJ Ruiz, Carla Zackson Heller, some dude, Robert Ayala, Anthony Wolff, and Leslie Zivin Kandel, all under the stellar direction of Jerry Jensen.

I’ve set up a Facebook page — click the link above — and read all about it as we go from page to stage.  You’ll find bios of the cast and other tidbits.  If you want to buy tickets, go here.

And while we’re at it, here’s the poster for the show.

On with the show.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Looking Back/Looking Forward

Time for my annual recap and predictions for this year and next.  Let’s look back at how I did a year ago.

  • There will be indictments at a very high level in the administration as the Mueller investigation rumbles on.  Plea bargains and deals will be made and revelations will come forth, and by summer there will be genuine questions about whether or not the administration will survive.  But there won’t be a move to impeach Trump as long as there are Republican majorities in the Congress, and invoking the 25th Amendment is a non-starter.

I’ll give myself a B on that since it was pretty much that way a year ago and the gears of justice grind slowly but irresistibly.  No high-level members of the administration were indicted, but shame and scandal did bring down an impressive number of folks who had hard passes to the West Wing.

  • The Democrats will make great gains in the mid-term elections in November.  This is a safe bet because the party out of power usually does in the first mid-term of new president.  The Democrats will take back the Senate and narrow the gap in the House to the point that Speaker Paul Ryan with either quit or be so powerless that he’s just hanging around to collect pension points.  (No, he will not lose his re-election bid.)

I’ll go with a C on that since I hit the nail on the head in the first sentence; I should have just left it there.  But no; I had it backwards: the House flipped but the GOP still has the Senate, and who knew that Paul Ryan would decide to quit?

  • There will be a vacancy on the Supreme Court, but it won’t happen until after the mid-terms and Trump’s appointment will flail as the Democrats in the Senate block the confirmation on the grounds that the next president gets to choose the replacement.

I’ll take an A- on that since I got the timing wrong, but I think Brett Kavanaugh did a great job of flailing (“I like beer!”) before the Senate Judiciary Committee.  The predator still got on the court, though, and we all hold RBG in the Light for at least another two years.

  • There will be irrefutable proof that the Russians not only meddled in the 2016 U.S. election, but they’ve had a hand in elections in Europe as well and will be a factor in the U.S. mid-terms.  Vladimir Putin will be re-elected, of course.

A+ Duh.

  • Raul Castro will figure out a way to still run Cuba even if he steps down as president, and there will be no lessening of the authoritarian rule.

Another A+, but what did anyone expect?  Trump’s half-assed attempts to restrain trade with Cuba, along with Marco Rubio doing his yapping perrito act, only make it more ironic when it’s the administration’s policy to cozy up to dictators like Putin and the Saudis.  If Trump owned a hotel in Havana he’d be down there in a second sucking up to the regime with video to prove it.

  • The U.S. economy will continue to grow, but there will be dark clouds on the horizon as the deficit grows thanks to the giveaways in the GOP tax bill.  If the GOP engineers cuts to entitlement programs and the number of uninsured for healthcare increases, the strain on the economy will be too much.

I’ll take a B on this since I didn’t factor in tariffs and the trade war(s) he’s launched that led to wild uncertainty in the markets, not to mention Trump’s bashing of the Fed chair that he appointed and told him to do what he’s doing.

  • This “America First” foreign policy will backfire.  All it does is tell our allies “You’re on your own.”  If we ever need them, they’re more likely to turn their backs on us.

I get an A on this because it has and they are.

  • The white supremacist movement will not abate.  Count on seeing more violence against minorities and more mass shootings.

Sadly, a very predictable A on that.

  • A viable Democratic candidate will emerge as a major contender for the 2020 election, and it will most likely be a woman.  Sen. Elizabeth Warren is considered to be the default, but I wouldn’t rule out Sen. Kamala Harris of California or Sen. Kristen Gillibrand of New York just yet.  (Sen. Gillibrand would drive Trump even further around the bend.  She was appointed to the Senate to fill Hillary Clinton’s seat when she became Secretary of State in 2009.)

I get a B on this because it was rather easy to spot and I’m already getting begging e-mails from Ms. Harris.

  • On a personal level, this will be a busy year for my work in theatre with a full production of “All Together Now” opening in March and several other works out there for consideration.  I will also be entering my last full year of employment in my present job (retirement happens in August 2019) but I’ll keep working.

This was a great year for my playwriting with a lot of new friends and opportunities out there and more to come in 2019 (see below).

  • People and fads we never heard about will have their fifteen minutes.

Yep.  I’ve already blocked them out.

Okay, on to the predictions.

  • Barring natural causes or intervention from an outside force, Trump will still be in office on December 31, 2019.  There is no way he will leave voluntarily and even with the House of Representatives in Democratic control and articles of impeachment being drafted they will not get to the Senate floor because the Republicans are either too afraid to rile up the base or they’re too enamored of their own grip on power to care about the government being headed by a poor imitation of a tin-pot banana republic authoritarian douche-canoe.
  • The Mueller Report will be released to Congress and even though it’s supposed to be classified it will be leaked with great fanfare and pundit predictions of the end of the Trump administration with calls for frog-marching him and his minions out of the West Wing.  Despite that, see above.
  • There will be no wall.  There never will be.  Immigration will still be a triggering issue as even more refugees die in U.S. custody.
  • There will be no meaningful changes to gun laws even if the NRA goes broke.  There will be more mass shootings, thoughts and prayers will be offered, and we’ll be told yet again that now is not the time to talk about it.
  • Obamacare will survive its latest challenge because the ruling by the judge in Texas declaring the entire law unconstitutional will be tossed and turned into a case study in law schools everywhere on the topic of exasperatingly stupid reasoning.
  • Roe vs. Wade will still stand.
  • With the Democrats in control of the House, the government will be in permanent gridlock even after they work out some sort of deal to end the current shutdown over the mythological wall.  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will become the Willie Horton for the GOP base and blamed for everything from budget deficits to the toast falling butter-side down.
  • We will have a pretty good idea who the Democratic front-runner will be in 2020.  I think Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s chances are still good (she announced her exploratory committee as I was writing this), as are Sen. Kamala Harris’s, and don’t count out Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, but who knew that Beto O’Rourke, a charismatic loser in the Texas senate race, would raise a lot of hopes?  That said, fifteen years ago when I started this blog, Howard Dean looked like the guy who was going to beat George W. Bush.
  • The economy will continue with its wild gyrations, pretty much following the gyrations of the mood of Trump and his thumb-driven Twitter-fed economic exhortations.  The tax cuts and the tariffs will land on the backs of the people who provide the income to the government and the deficit will soon be out there beyond the Tesla in outer space.  But unlike that Martian-bound convertible, the economy will come crashing back to Earth (probably about the time I retire in August) and Trump will blame everyone else.
  • There will be a natural event that will convince even skeptics that climate change and sea level rise is real and happening.  Unfortunately, nothing will be done about it even if lots of lives are lost because [spoiler alert] nothing ever is done.
  • I’m going out on a limb here with foreign affairs predictions, but I have a feeling that Brexit will end up in the dustbin of history.
  • Personally, this will be a transition year.  My retirement from Miami-Dade County Public Schools occurs officially on August 31, 2019, and I’m already actively looking for something both meaningful and income-producing to do after that.  (E-mail me for a copy of my resume; nothing ventured, nothing sprained.)  My play “Can’t Live Without You” opens at the Willow Theatre in Boca Raton, Florida, for a two-week run on March 30, and I’m planning on returning to the William Inge Theatre Festival for the 28th time, either with a play or most assuredly with a scholarly paper.  I have my bid in for a variety of other theatre events and productions; I think I’m getting the hang of this playwriting thing.
  • I will do this again next year.  I hope.  As Bobby says, “Hope is my greatest weakness.”

Okay, your turn.  Meanwhile, I wish continued good health and a long life to all of you and hope you make it through 2019 none the worse for wear.

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.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Goin’ To Kansas City

As Fats Domino noted last night, I’m going to Kansas City this weekend for the 2nd annual Midwest Dramatists Conference, held in the lovely suburb of Olathe, Kansas.  It will be three days of readings, discussions, and just plain camaraderie that happens when writers get together.  (Oh, yes, there will be plenty of what Harry Truman referred to as “striking a blow for liberty,” but I’ll be by-sitter for that.)

So things are going to be quiet here, at least as far as blogging the news goes.  I’m sure a lot of attention will be paid to the theatre going on in the Senate today, but I prefer the real thing, at least this weekend.

I’ll be back Sunday and pick up after you.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Dramatic News

The Playgroup LLC and the Willow Theatre of Boca Raton present:

Donny Hollenbeck thinks he has created the perfect life for himself. He has a lucrative writing career, a nice girlfriend, and a great-looking home in Florida. But when Bobby Cramer, a character from a novel he abandoned years ago, pays him a visit, he starts to realize the place where his dreams took a wrong turn.

Opening Friday, March 30 through Sunday, April 7, 2019.  Subscription sales start today; individual tickets go on sale on September 1.  For more information, click here.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

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, May 12, 2018

Friday, May 11, 2018

Tribute

Tonight we had a tribute to the works of William Inge with excerpts from three of his plays performed by actors from the University of Tulsa and Independence Community College, hosted by Ralph Voss, the man who literally wrote the book on William Inge.

We’re having a great time. I saw some very creative short plays at the second round of the New Play Lab. Amazing talent and acting.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Family Reunion

I got to Independence this afternoon, settled in (last-minute change put me at the Super 8 instead of the Inge House), and met up with my Inge family, old and new, plus playwright friends from Facebook. Tonight we saw a great reading of Carlyle Brown’s “Are You Now or Have You Ever Been?”, a play about Langston Hughes facing the McCarthy hearings. Then we had an Inge-Fringe party at the museum and had a great time. And in the lobby of the theatre I met up with my own works on sale.

It’s great to be back.

Monday, May 7, 2018

The Week Ahead

This is going to be one of those truncated weeks again for me as I get ready to head off to Independence, Kansas for my 26th trip to the William Inge Festival.  This year I’m standing in for a friend as host of the scholars conference, so I’ll get to see most of the events, including the New Play Lab, without having to prepare much or be nervous about a production of a play of mine.

In all the years I’ve been going, I’ve always found it both calming and enlightening to go to this small town in the prairie (about ten miles north of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “little house on the prairie”).  It reminds me of the place I grew up, and even if we are poles apart politically, the people are friendly and welcoming, and far more willing to welcome the eccentricities of big-city folk than if the tables were turned.  They do more than tolerate the visitors; they’re actually happy to have us, at least for a little while, and even if they may feel that our values don’t match theirs, I’ve never felt as if it was a zero sum game.  There is something to be said for mutual respect.

I know that it’s trendy on TV to pit one group against the other; that sells papers and boosts ratings.  And I know that it’s easy to say “both sides do it” and “don’t bother to argue with them.”  Rather, I’d like to think that the impression I leave on the people I meet there is that while I may be a lily-livered liberal snowflake faerie and they’re right-wing nutsery, we can still occupy the same space at the same time for four days and still come home with the feeling of having learned more than just something about theatre history.

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.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Home Fires

Last night we saw the University of Missouri Theatre Department’s production of Lanford Wilson’s “The Rimers of Eldritch.”  It is an ensemble play that moves from place to place, person to person, while exploring the lives and personalities of people in a small dying town in the Ozarks.

Written in 1965 and first performed at the La MaMa Experimental Theatre in New York’s Greenwich Village in 1966, it has been portrayed as one of Wilson’s most complicated and darkest plays.  The plot revolves around the murder of a local hermit by a woman who thought he was trying to commit a rape when he was trying to stop one.

It is not a linear play, and the actual murder isn’t shown or even alluded to until the very end.  Wilson leads us through the town and shows us the characters in bits and pieces, not unlike his earlier play “Balm in Gilead,” where we meet a collection of street people in an all-night diner and hear their stories and dramas in snatches out of time and place.

The production last night was tight, well-done, and held the audience throughout the entire performance.  I’m pretty sure that the actors felt a bit of pressure knowing that in the the audience were members of the original company that produced the play over fifty years ago along with a collection of Wilson scholars and students, but if they did, they didn’t show it.  It was a fine evening of theatre, and for me, the best production I’ve seen of this play.

*

Today the conference continues with presentations of papers and workshops.  My turn comes tomorrow afternoon.

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.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

On The Road Again

Heading out this evening for a trip to see my folks for a couple of days, then off to the Missouri Self-Taught: Lanford Wilson and the American Drama conference at the University of Missouri.  I’ll present a paper on Mr. Wilson and compare his life and work to that of William Inge.  I’ll be doing it in front of friends and family of Mr. Wilson and the subject of my dissertation, so, no pressure.

Lanford Wilson 1937-2011

Actually it should be fun.  I’ll be reconnecting with friends and getting to look through the Wilson archives and learn more about him and his life and work.

I’m also looking forward to spending time with my mom and dad.

I’ll post about what I learn; maybe even some pictures.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Friday, March 9, 2018

Monday, March 5, 2018

The Difference Between Film And Theatre

This is just an observation without any research behind it, but I think it points up another of the differences between film and theatre when a movie wins Best Picture without winning any acting or writing awards to back it up.

I can’t imagine that happening at the Tonys.  It probably has, but I can’t imagine it nonetheless.

Friday, March 2, 2018