The 35th Reunion, Part II

October 14th, 2006

I’ve been delinquent in posting the second installment of the reunion story, which took place two weeks ago on September 30. In the photo, you can see me on right, standing next to Jane Petkofsky, Holly Thompson and Bruce Hamilton in the lobby of the Italian American Club outside Kennett Square. I hadn’t seen Jane since 1971, and Holly since the early 70’s. Bruce, Holly and I were part of a youth group sponsored by the local Unitarian Fellowship called “Sine Nomine” (meaning “without a name” – how clever were we?). Jane, Holly and I were all involved in drama at Henderson High – Holly had brought a program from a show called “Shakespeare Without Tears” in which I appeared as Jaques from “As You Like It” AND Prospero from “The Tempest” – excerpts, of course, but talk about precocious! Jane, meanwhile, appeared in an excerpt from “Midsummer” that Holly directed in the school’s courtyard. Jane went on to a career as an attorney in DC but has remained active in theater, performing in many Washington-area shows to considerable acclaim (Google her name if you don’t believe me). Holly is, like me, a college teacher – in her case, teaching Chem at the Univ of Montana in Missoula. (Bruce’s particulars are in my previous blog entry about the reunion.) The photographer was my lovely wife, who captured this moment on the cameraphone. We all enjoyed seeing each other but I can’t say we enjoyed the food too much – for $45 a head, I was hoping for more than ziti and steam-table roast beef au jus. Conversation after dinner was thwarted by the DJ who’d been hired for the event – many of the geezers were up sashaying on the parquet at the It-Am Club, but those of us who wanted to talk had to shout over the ancient rock tunes.

Young string band fans

October 14th, 2006

Music fans and party animals gathered on South 12th Street tonight to celebrate Skippy and Suzanne’s wedding. Of course, they’ve been together for ten years and have two children, so the whole wedding thing is a little strange, I guess, but a great occasion for a party nonetheless. Members of the South Philly String Band strutted down the street, which had been closed off for the party, and presented a medley of Mummers’ favorites (When You’re Smiling, Four Leaf Clover, Oh Dem Golden Slippers and so on). After they finished, the DJ cranked up the sound system and rocked the bricks in our front wall for several hours. Neighbors and well-wishers wandered in and out of each other’s houses, eating and drinking and comparing notes on home improvements. Casual conversation with the neighbors reveals a startling number of musicians (well, drummers too) on the block, including a new neighbor who’s renovating and making room for a home studio. Lucky us, to land on a musical block!

Dylan and Brecht

October 8th, 2006

This morning’s New York Times brings an an article on the influence that the work of Bertolt Brecht had on the young Bob Dylan during his apprentice years in Greenwich Village in the 1960’s. Turns out Dylan’s girlfriend worked backstage on “Brecht on Brecht,” and the experience of seeing Lenya sing “Pirate Jenny” rocked his world.

Sondheim is God

October 3rd, 2006

Sondheim is God

Originally uploaded by Chazzyg.

Enough said!

35 Year Reunion – Part 1

September 30th, 2006

Sprinkled amongst the tipsy college students on the streets of West Chester PA were a number of partiers who could easily have been their parents. The 35-year reunion of the Class of 1971 from Henderson High kicked off last night with a “pub crawl,” and I thought I’d spend an hour or so crawling with my high school pal, Bruce.  Bruce and I were valedictorian and salutatarian, respectively – number one and two in a graduating class that numbered well over 600.  Bruce has lived in the Los Angeles metro area for the past 25 years, and we haven’t seen each other since the 30 Year Reunion, which was our first meeting since high school days.  Bruce gets big props for making the cross-country trek; me, it was only a matter of booking a car from Philly Car Share and making the drive out to Chester County.

I was surprised by the feeling of breathless excitement that came over me as I entered the West Chester city limits. I hadn’t been in town since my mom left her longtime home there and moved to Florida a few years ago. The roads of East Goshen and West Goshen township still look familiar, though development and prosperity have brought some changes. It took several cell phone calls to locate Bruce and accomplish a rendezvous. We met at a restaurant where the dinner service had just ended and the place was gearing up for some live music action. The smokers of West Chester are obviously troubled by none of the pesky legislation that vexes their Philly counterparts; there was plenty of puffing, to both our discomfiture.  After a friendly beer and a bit of a chat, we decided to go in search of other classmates.

We headed down the street to a pub where our e-mailed guided suggested that reunioners might be gathered near the second floor pool table. What we found, instead, was a solid mass of college students toting longnecks and shouting at each other over a deafening soundtrack.  Undaunted, Bruce plowed into the throng and I followed, making our way to a staircase in the back which might lead, we hoped, to saner territory.  Upstairs, the scene was equally ear-splitting, but dogged Bruce continued to push through the crowd, seeking some sign of fellow-travelers.  At the second floor bar, we hit pay-dirt: an enclave of twenty or so HHS alumni whose faces were flushed with drink and the exertion of bellowing over the music.

Earlier, I had confided to Bruce that I was feeling anxious about the weekend: I remember so few people from high school, and neither names nor faces seem to have lingered in my head. Would people remember me? Would they be affronted if I didn’t remember them? Now my anxieties would be put to the test. A woman emerged from the crowd calling my name, a look of unfeigned delight on her face, followed in turn by others. Apparently, I still enjoyed enough minor celebrity to be recognizable to some of my classmates, and I tried to charm my way around the fact that the recollections weren’t reciprocal. It didn’t seem to matter, as more and more people re-introduced themselves to me and I to them, all of us laughing at the toll that 35 years can take on one’s memories.

Tonight, the reunion continues under quieter conditions: the Italian-American Club in Kennett Square, where D’Arcy and I have tickets for a dinner and dance. Perhaps (for a little while, at least) it won’t be so noisy, and there’ll be a chance for a little more than shouted bonhomie.

Liz Swados oversees NYU orientation musical

September 11th, 2006

This is an article in the New York Times about how NYU commissioned a student musical to be performed at orientation – one that would deal with the realities of student life at NYU. The amazing bit is that they got Liz Swados, herself a veteran of years of ensemble-created musicals like Runaways, to head up the project. The students and Swados got paid to work on it over the summer. How cool is this?

Carnivale of the Dogs

September 9th, 2006

Carnivale of the Dogs

Boy, do we know how to have fun in Philadelphia! On a sunny Saturday, we grabbed a couple millet muffins and made our way to Rittenhouse Square, where preparations were underway for the Carnivale of the Dogs. The weather was mild, the mood euphoric, the dogs dressed to impress. I had to bust out the new cameraphone and take a few snaps.

Dog in a Dress

This is Sammy, who was on her way to the costume judging at the Carnivale. She looks a little less than thrilled about the prospect.

Dog talent show

Incredible doggie talents were on display, but the crowd was packed in too tight for me to squeeze in with my camera. Here, the contestants are lined up on the red carpet just prior to the final judging (done via audience applause). In the front is Cool Whip, who barked the Eagles’ fight song while her mistress sang it. Then there was Barley the pug, who spent much of his performance spinning in circles. The winner was Emma, who could fetch a kleenex from a box of tissues when his mistress sneezed and daintily carried a Wawa hotdog to his owner without biting into it. D’Arcy thought that was the best trick of all!

Terry Teachout Gets It Right

August 24th, 2006

I’m a big fan of Terry Teachout’s blog, ArtsJournal: About Last Night, and his entry on the occasion of the new NY production of The Fantasticks is a particularly good one. I like the part about the experience of “making music,” and the nostalgic perfume that pervades the whole piece. Check it out, and you may wind up bookmarking his site like I did.

The arts are essential to multidisciplinary research and teaching

August 23rd, 2006

Interesting piece published on the web by Stanford University, outlining the president’s initiative for a richer arts component in their educational mix:

Arts essential to multidisciplinary research, teaching

On that page, there’s a link to a video clip in which the president of Stanford and several faculty members speak.

Tesori on Mother Courage

August 22nd, 2006

Here is a multimedia feature in the current New York Times in which Jeanine Tesori talks about creating the music for the Public Theater’s production of “Mother Courage.”  And this is a link to Ben Brantley’s review.