I MISS MUZAK
I was in a restaurant last night eating my solitary meal and realizing how loud and obtrusive the music was. One couldn't call it background music, because it was the type that prohibited conversation (had I a dinner companion) or any sort of contemplative serenity.
And let us not forget the Madison Ave. Factor. Often interpersed between the music...particularly in your local Wal-Mart or grocery store...are cheery-voiced announcers pitching the latest product or sale item at you. I usually just want to run from the place, screaming. At least Muzak didn't have any commercials.
Muzak was mostly inoffensive instrumental versions of standards songs from the Great American Songbook that occasionally made you unconsciously whistle or even hum. Okay, the arrangements were often a bit twee...and their sporadic interpretations of popular rock tunes were about as hip as your parents getting up and embarrassing you by doing the Twist or Mashed Potatoes (realizing, of course, for a sizable percentage of my readership, I represent that same decrepit generation as their parents.).
I suppose it is all a part of our ever-evolving culture where noise pollution has become de rigeur. Seems we can't be disconnected from anything that might distract us and, Heaven forbid, leave us alone with our own thoughts...we've got to have i-pods going, cell phones ringing, blackberries twittering. The loud, surly voices of Fox News or the excessive commentary of some sporting event blaring on the twenty televisions in the bar. We're determined not to miss a damned thing with all our electronic gadgetry; we just keep missing life going on all around us.
AN AGE OF KINGS
I did cheat and take a sneak peek at Paul Daneman's Gloster/Richard III, Gloster's great speech in Henry VI, part III, "Ay, Edward will use women honourably/ Would he were wasted, marrow, bones, and all..." It may be a more defining speech for Richard than his "winter of discontent" soliloquy. I learned an abbreviated version of it off a John Barrymore recording years ago. "Can I do all this and cannot get a crown?/Tut, were it further off, I'lllllllll pluck it down" (That's for Kevin Lane Dearinger...who will get it).
(Paul Daneman as Richard III, Birmingham Rep)
(Barrymore as Richard III)
Daneman does the speech right nicely. Other than his radio performance of Richard, the only other thing I know Daneman from is the movie ZULU as the delirious Sergeant Maxfield in hospital who keeps tormenting the malingering scalawag Hook played by James Booth. Both nice performances in a movie full of nice performances (Michael Caine in his debut, the stalwart Stanley Baker, and the great Nigel Green as colour-sergeant Bourne).
Anyway, this is a bit of trip for me, as I really haven't explored these plays for many years. I'd forgotten what a maudlin, self-pitying windbag Richard II is (although a very poetic one)...no wonder they kill him. I'm particularly looking forward to the Henry VI, part I...as it is the probably the history play I know the least.
ACTORS GUILD OF LEXINGTON
Rick was the right man for the job at this theatre. The Board at the time wisely chose to bring in someone from the outside with a different and necessary perspective. For though the local theatre community boasts many talented folk, most have their roots in community or educational theatre and none were qualified to spearhead the particular mission which became this theatre's mandate. It required someone who had experience, contacts, and an understanding of the professional regional theatre environment to move the theatre toward that dynamic and expand its profile beyond the local scene. Under Rick's leadership, the theatre has been able to begin to forge a strong network with other professional theatres and institutions across the country...and even abroad.
Sure, the theatre still struggles (what professional theatre doesn't?), we have had our share of mis-steps and growing pains and will probably have more. But the professionalism of the work has certainly increased, with quality performances that feature our best local actors sharing the stage with artists of regional and national rep and work that is getting recognized beyond local borders.
Now if we could just find those angels who would drop generous chunks of change on us.
2)Another article about how Christopher Durang and Marsha Norman teach playwriting at Juilliard I found very helpful with my own approach to teaching dramatic writing. I've done a fair amount of short-term instructing and guest-lecturing. But I have always eschewed taking any kind of long-term gig, because I don't really consider myself a teacher nor do I have any sort of proscribed method of teaching or a syllabus or any of those academic underpinings. I sort of teach the same way I learned...via the-seat-of-the-pants school of theatre.
This past week I and several other area playwrights had a meet and greet breakfast with Ralph Sevush, the Guild's Executive Director of Business Affairs, and Tari Stratton, Director of Education & Outreach, who were in Louisville for the Humana Festival. They had rsvps from nine playwrights, expected possibly twelve, and got five. I was the only one from outside Louisville. We five had a nice and informative time with them, but the small turnout nettled me. I don't understand why people don't take advantage of these opportunities...particularly those who always profess to have such a great love or aspiration toward the profession. As my old theatre mentor at UK, Charles Dickens (yes, his real name), used to say: "Ninety percent of talent is knowing what to do with it."
(Below: UK Theatre Professor, Charles Dickens...my mentor, Julieanne's mentor, and a whole lot of other people's mentor...during a notes session of PLAYBOY OF THE WESTERN WORLD).
ONE OF THE THINGS I LIKE ABOUT MY LIFE
Harlan Ellison calls me up this afternoon to read me the opening paragraphs of a new story he's working on. First of all, no writer reads his work with more panache than Ellison does; secondly, I'm one of only four people who's heard it. How did I get so lucky? And the opening is a pip. If the rest of the story is as good (and I have no doubt it will be), it's going to be a doozy!
A POGUE BON MOT
"He that dares not grasp the thorn should never crave the rose."
And how was your week?
(I apologize for the odd spacing of paragraphs in this post. But I've been back a dozen times to correct and edit and save everything. And somehow none of it stays saved. It will take my corrections of typos and the like, but not the spacing. So excuse this Luddite's ignorance about what's going on. If anyone has a clue, please explain it to me. )