Archive for November, 2004

Companion site to PBC Broadway series

Sunday, November 28th, 2004

I highly recommend a visit to Broadway: The American Musical, the companion website for the PBS series that came out on DVD last month.

11/2 Part III: The Sensible Middle

Sunday, November 7th, 2004

The third installment in the chazzyblog mix tape of post-election opinions, David Brooks’ well-reasoned Op-Ed piece in the November 6 New York Times, finds a sensible middle ground. Excerpts below:

The red and blue maps that have been popping up in the papers again this week are certainly striking, but they conceal as much as they reveal. I’ve spent the past four years traveling to 36 states and writing millions of words trying to understand this values divide, and I can tell you there is no one explanation. It’s ridiculous to say, as some liberals have this week, that we are perpetually refighting the Scopes trial, with the metro forces of enlightenment and reason arrayed against the retro forces of dogma and reaction.

In the first place, there is an immense diversity of opinion within regions, towns and families. Second, the values divide is a complex layering of conflicting views about faith, leadership, individualism, American exceptionalism, suburbia, Wal-Mart, decorum, economic opportunity, natural law, manliness, bourgeois virtues and a zillion other issues.

But the same insularity that caused many liberals to lose touch with the rest of the country now causes them to simplify, misunderstand and condescend to the people who voted for Bush. If you want to understand why Democrats keep losing elections, just listen to some coastal and university town liberals talk about how conformist and intolerant people in Red America are. It makes you wonder: why is it that people who are completely closed-minded talk endlessly about how

The Flip Side – another reaction to 11/2

Saturday, November 6th, 2004

This from another colleague’s email, lest you think that forbearance is the only sentiment felt in the great blue state of Pennsylvania. As her note says, “I wish I’d written that.”

It would be difficult to fully communicate my disappointment in a simple email. On the other hand, slipping out into the hall and drowning myself in the mop bucket would mean that someone else would have to feed my dogs.

Kerry has not yet conceded defeat, but I have. �Even if someone finds that crate full of votes for Kerry bobbing down the Cuyahoga River, the American people have spoken, and they have sent the world a message: “We’re barely bright enough to chew our own food.”

Incompetence, incoherence, inarticulateness, pettiness and random savagery apparently do not deter the majority of Americans. �The thing that really, REALLY matters to Americans? �Homosexuals. �And foreigners. Both must be stopped at any cost.

Americans voted overwhelmingly in favor of bigotry, amending state constitutions around the country to prevent same-sex couples from having any rights beyond the right to live on the margins of society. We clearly have far more to fear from The International Homosexual Conspiracy than we do from North Korea and the collapse of the American health care system.

Apparently, we are truly a nation of slackjawed yokels, awed only by grotesque displays of wealth and violence, reverent only of the bossman and beholden not even to our children, since we seem content to mortgage their future in favor of a $300 tax refund that we have traded for decent jobs, healthcare, and a just society.

We make pious noises about worshipping a Just and Merciful God, while doling out destruction and horror upon the innocent, pausing only to pat ourselves on the back for waging a “just” war to rid the world of tyrants that audaciously aspire to exist after they lose their utility to us in endless low-level conflicts to control the world’s oil supply.

We seem to have become cheap, venal, vulgar and petty while we apparently don’t have the ability to reason our way out of the dilemma of taking care of the sick, watching out for the elderly, and teaching our children not to be credulous, callow dupes.

To my friends from the UK, France and anyone to whom they choose to forward this, I feel that I owe you an apology. �It is as if I have brought an orangutan to high tea… �While he flings shit at you and tries to snatch pastries from your plate, I am left wondering how I might make it up to you.

The world’s richest and most powerful nation seems to have lost its moral compass. �We have lost interest in leading by example in favor of taking by force. �I would like to say that I believe that one day in the future America might regain its senses. �Unfortunately, I am not terribly optimistic. The best I can offer you is to remind you that Nixon also won a second term.


Friday, November 5th, 2004

Received this in an email from a friend – one of several attempts to make sense of recent events in our land.

Mis estimados: Do not lose heart. We were made for these times. I have heard from so many recently who are deeply and properly bewildered. They are concerned about the state of affairs in our world right now… Ours is a time of almost daily astonishment and often righteous rage over the latest degradations of what matters most to civilized, visionary people.

You are right in your assessments. The lustre and hubris some have aspired to while endorsing acts so heinous against children, elders, everyday people, the poor, the unguarded, the helpless, is breathtaking. Yet, I urge you, ask you, gentle you, to please not spend your spirit dry by bewailing these difficult times. Especially do not lose hope. Most particularly because, the fact is we were made for these times. Yes. For years, we have been learning, practicing, been in training for and just waiting to meet on this exact plain of engagement…

I grew up on the Great Lakes and recognize a seaworthy vessel when I see one. Regarding awakened souls, there have never been more able crafts in the waters than there are right now across the world. And they are fully provisioned and able to signal one another as never before in the history of humankind… Look out over the prow; there are millions of boats of righteous souls on the waters with you. Even though your veneers may shiver from every wave in this stormy roil, I assure you that the long timbers composing your prow and rudder come from a greater forest. That long-grained lumber is known to withstand storms, to hold together, to hold its own, and to advance, regardless.

We have been in training for a dark time such as this, since the day we assented to come to Earth. For many decades, worldwide, souls just like us have been felled and left for dead in so many ways over and over brought down by naivete, by lack of love, by being ambushed and assaulted by various cultural and personal shocks in the extreme. We have a history of being gutted, and yet remember this especially – we have also, of necessity, perfected the knack of resurrection. Over and over again we have been the living proof that that which has been exiled, lost, or foundered can be restored to life again.

In any dark time, there is a tendency to veer toward fainting over how much is wrong or unmended in the world. Do not focus on that. There is a tendency too to fall into being weakened by perseverating on what is outside your reach, by what cannot yet be. Do not focus there. That is spending the wind without raising the sails. We are needed, that is all we can know. And though we meet resistance, we more so will meet great souls who will hail us, love us and guide us, and we will know them when they appear. Didn’t you say you were a believer? Didn’t you say you pledged to listen to a voice greater? Didn’t you ask for grace? Don’t you remember that to be in grace means to submit to the voice greater?…

Understand the paradox: If you study the physics of a waterspout, you will see that the outer vortex whirls far more quickly than the inner one. To calm the storm means to quiet the outer layer, to cause it to swirl much less, to more evenly match the velocity of the inner core – ’til whatever has been lifted into such a vicious funnel falls back to Earth, lays down, is peaceable again. One of the most important steps you can take to help calm the storm is to not allow yourself to be taken in a flurry of overwrought emotion or desperation thereby accidentally contributing to the swale and the swirl.

Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good. What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take “everyone on Earth” to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale.

One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these – to be fierce and to show mercy toward others, both, are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity.

Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do.

There will always be times when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it; I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate. The reason is this: In my uttermost bones I know something, as do you. It is that there can be no despair when you remember why you came to Earth, who you serve, and who sent you here. The good words we say and the good deeds we do are not ours: They are the words and deeds of the One who brought us here. In that spirit, I hope you will write this on your wall: When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But that is not what great ships are built for.

This comes with much love and prayer that you remember who you came from, and why you came to this beautiful, needful Earth.

Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D

Gemini the Musical in Variety

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2004

Toby Zinman’s review of Gemini The Musical appears in a recent issue of Variety. Since the online edition requires a subscription, I’ve reprinted the text below.

Charm intact after nearly three decades, long-running Broadway hit “Gemini” reappears as a nostalgia musical, a feel-good family comedy defanged by time. No longer is the gay son’s coming-out shocking, no longer is the foul-mouthed neighbor scandalous, but Albert Innaurato’s book is still entertaining if not actually moving. Charles Gilbert’s score is sometimes tuneful, often thin, paying homage to the ’70s; the cast delivers although nobody has the big voice the show needs.

For Philadelphians, South Philly holds pride of place: narrow streets, row houses heavily ornamented with wrought iron and plastic flowers, sensational restaurants, Mummers, cheesesteaks, and the all-purpose, highly enriched “Yo!” (meaning “hello” or “whaddya mean?” or “wait a minute” or “don’t park there”). “Gemini: The Musical” evokes all that without falling totally into sitcomsitcom cliche, and Tobin Ost’s set suggests the entire Italian neighborhood.

Judith and her brother Randy –“white people” (local parlance for WASP) — literally jump into the Geminiani life over the backyard fence. Thin, rich and blond, they are Francis’ friends from Harvard, surprising him for his 21 birthday. Pudgy, poor and dark, Francis is appalled as he watches his worlds collide; his mortification is complicated by his having had an affair with Judith during spring semester but then discovering that it’s her brother he is really attracted to. Jeremiah Downes conveys good-natured astonishment throughout as Randy and Jillian Louis’ puzzled disappointment works for Judith.

Barry James only superficially conveys the central character’s complexity –a serious composer, an opera devote, a quirky, easily embarrassed still-adolescent. His father, Fran, (Robert Picardo, who played the son in the original production) is best revealed in the song “Concrete” which begins as comic and slides into heartbreak.

The neighbors really carry the show. The slattern next door, Bunny (too attractive, despite hair “the color of hepatitis”) is played by Linda Hart, repeating the role from the 1998 revival of “Gemini.” Her son, Herschel (Todd Buonopane) is an extreme version of Francis: a maladjusted asthmatic genius whose passion is public transportation (his “Trolley” song is the show’s best, a beautifully sung ballad). As Fran’s girlfriend, Anne DeSalvo won an Obie for her Lucille in the original, pre-Broadway production and is funny again.

The one addition to the original cast is the ghost of Maria Callas (Anne DeSalvo in a different wig), whose songs all sound like “Phantom of the Opera” in what seems a witty touch if it’s intentional.

Choreography, Nancy Berman Kantra. Sets, Tobin Ost; lighting, Troy A.Martin-O’Shia; costumes, Andre D. Harrington; sound, Nick Kourtides; casting, Janet Foster; orchestrator, Lars Halle; production stage manager, Scott McNulty. Opened, reviewed Oct. 16, 2004. Running time: 2 HOURS, 25 MIN.