My wife has started adjusting to retirement. She said that on her first day off, she would turn off the alarm clock; she did, and I was pleased. And she would do her Wordle earlier in the day, which usually happens.
There’s a bit of an adjustment for both of us, especially in the morning. When she went to work or church, she’d take a shower early, and I would go downstairs to do the attestation of my blood pressure and pulse. But she tends to watch a morning news show, which is contrary to the calm I seek when taking the readings. As a compromise, we’ve recorded programs to watch 15 minutes later, which allows zapping through the commercials.
She has a different process for her day. I like to read my emails, post that day’s blog on Facebook, et al. She likes to do chores early. Left to my own devices, I’d write a blog post, or at least a draft, then have breakfast, exercise, and write some more. Emptying the dishwasher I could do after lunch. So when SHE empties the dishwasher, I feel an imbalance in The Force. This is an example of how we will eventually Figure Stuff Out.
Since our daughter graduated from high school, we’ve been busy. We’ve gone to the theater thrice on successive Wednesdays, and are scheduled for at least twice more this summer.
The first show was A Chorus Line, a show I’ve watched the commercials for since the mid-1970s but haven’t seen since the actual production until now. A great review in Nippertown hits on the expanded physical stage at the Mac-Hadyn Theater in Chatham, NY since we were last there in 2019. The next show was Ain’t Misbehavin’ at the Barrington Stage in Pittsfield, MA. It was reviewed here. Then Urinetown at Mac-Haydn noted here.
My wife and I have attended two family reunions, both sides of her family. Getting our daughter ready for college is important and occasionally tedious. Plus the usual stuff.
I said at the point I retired three years ago, I was too busy to work. My wife seems to figure this out early on in the process. I just hope she doesn’t think she has to complete all of her ever-expanding to Do list by the end of August because it just won’t happen.
My wife and I went to the Theater! recently, signs of normal-ish.
In February, we went to the new Capital Rep Theatre in Albany, just a few blocks from the previous venue. The production was called Fly. It was a story, written by Trey Ellis and Ricardo Khan, about four black men from different backgrounds trying to become Tuskegee Airmen, despite pushback from the system.
The Wikipedia page describes the potential pilots. ” Chet, from Harlem; W.W., from Chicago; Oscar, from Iowa; and J. Allen, originally from the West Indies—who represent the varied backgrounds of the men who went through Tuskegee’s training, not all graduating and not all surviving the war.” Three “other actors portray white men—instructors and pilots—who questioned the idea that black men could fly in America’s military.”
As the Cap Rep description noted, “You will see and hear the men’s inner conflicts and triumphs through ‘Tap Griot’… in a way that cannot be felt through words alone.” This device worked exceptionally well. Wikipedia: “A dancer who uses tap dance steps to set a mood that is ‘part sublimated anger, part empowerment.’ This character appears numerous times throughout the play, ‘commenting choreographically on events and emotions.'” This device worked quite well, and the dancer, Omar Edwards, was exceptional.
I don’t know where or when Fly will be produced again. The Albany run doesn’t even appear on the Wikipedia page.
About three years ago, I bought season tickets for Proctors Theatre in Schenectady for the 2019-2020 season. When the calendar was postponed because of COVID, three of the shows remained. One, Summer, I saw in December. as I noted, the book was weak.
Com From Away, which I was supposed to see in September 2020, came to Schenectady in late January 2021, just as the Omicron variant was surging locally. My wife asked me NOT to go – she didn’t have a ticket – because she feared if I got COVID and gave it to her, she might spread it to her students.
I stayed home, but I’d be lying if I said wasn’t quite disappointed. The story of a Newfoundland town finding a way to take care of people whose planes were grounded after 9/11 was the show I most wanted to see. There is a production of it online on Apple TV, but of course, that’s not the same thing.
My wife and I DID see Dear Evan Hansen in March. I purchased the Broadway cast album a few years ago in anticipation of seeing the musical. And it’s odd that I feel the same about the music and script. Act 1 ends so joyously.
The story is that the title character failed to correct a false impression. He became popular online and in person, makes another family happy, and gets to date his crush. Of course, morally, the story can’t end there, but a very small piece of me wishes it could have. It reminded me a bit of Into The Woods, where the fairytales all end happily ever after. But then the story continues.
I liked the digital motif of the set design. The cast in this show, and also Summer, were excellent, as they almost always are. This show continues to tour into 2023, which you can check out here.
The Shire City
We also saw a production online. Actually, 10 Ten-Minute Plays by 10 Playwrights at the Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield, MA, which we ‘attended” for the second year in a row in April. Stealing a Kiss By Laurie Allen – “Two elderly citizens meet at a bus stop where raindrops, turn to rain”…- sweet. Love Me, Love My Work By Glenn Alterman. Misunderstanding about a new play. Honestly By Steven Korbar. A young man and woman end their short romantic relationship and find they can speak to each other with complete honesty for the first time.” Oddly true.
Gown By Robert Weibezahl. A mother and daughter are shopping for the perfect wedding gown. My favorite; very touching. An Awkward Conversation in the Shadow of Mount Moriah By John Bavoso. “Things are a little tense between Abraham and Isaac after the almost-sacrifice.” I found it quite funny. Escape from Faux Pas By Cynthia Faith Arsenault. “Newcomers to a prestigious condo community find themselves in a precarious social situation, having inadvertently opened their neighbor’s Amazon delivery of…” Meh.
Liars Anonymous By Ellen Abrams. “Max and Charlotte clean up after a Liars Anonymous meeting and regale each other with creative renditions of their lives that sound suspiciously familiar.” Too much of a similar schtick. Misfortune By Mark Harvey Levine. “A couple gets some disturbing news from a fortune cookie.” For what was essentially one joke, enjoyable enough.o Climax By Chelsea Marcantel “For Sam and Teddy, the long-awaited kiss proves to be the easy part.” It rang very true. The Voice of the People By Cary Pepper. “Who’ll be HomeHaven’s new mayor — the candidate with impeccable qualifications, or the one with no experience, no platform, and no agenda?” Too many caricatured citizens.
I’ll tell you a little secret. My wife and I were going to go to live theater this month. The Barrington Theatre’s main stage was to host Mark St. Germain’s play Eleanor. It would star Tony award-winning performer Harriet Harris. “The play, directed by Henry Stram, brings to life Eleanor Roosevelt, one of the most influential first ladies in American History. The play has two shows, September 4 and 5.”
We had gone to the Pittsfield, MA venue a few times in the past two years. The theatre would have had limited, socially distanced seating and a cast of one. It seemed that the proper protocols were in place. We bought our tickets. Then the live production of the one-act play was shut down by new decisions from the state of Massachusetts.
My wife got a call perhaps a month ago. Our choices were several. We could get a refund, accept credit for future productions, or donate the value of the tickets. But there was a fourth option. Eleanor would now be streamed for two nights. “The play [was] filmed without an audience… In-person ticket holders will automatically be sent a link to the 7:30 show; others interested in watching the performance can purchase tickets now for $15.”
The play’s the thing
“Eleanor brings to life Eleanor Roosevelt, the most influential First Lady the world has ever seen. From her ‘Ugly Duckling’ upbringing to her unorthodox marriage to Franklin, Eleanor puts her controversial life, loves and passions on the stage.” The play was written by Mark St. Germain, as a developmental piece, i.e., a work in progress.
We know quite a bit about the former First Lady from multiple trips to Hyde Park, going back to our respective childhoods, and our sojourn to her cottage at Val-Kill. She was the first Very Important Person to die in my recollection.
St. Germain captured Eleanor quite well, from the familiar – FDR’s ongoing relationship with Lucy Mercer – to representations of her presumed inner thoughts. It was interesting in that it is “modern-day,” almost certainly in the last four years. Yet she knows she’s been dead since 1962. The play was directed by Henry Stram, though there was very little action.
All the world’s a stage
Most of the action came from the facial expressions and voices of Broadway performer Harriet Harris. She won the 2002 Tony winner as the Best Featured Actress In A Musical, Thoroughly Modern Millie. She is very good in the role of Eleanor.
This was a reading. In the introduction, it was noted how previous workshopping had cut about 40 minutes from the piece. But Harris had learned much of the dialogue. The frequency of her reading suggests that the tweaks were greater in the earlier parts of the play.
The downsides of this production are the obvious ones. You don’t see the performer’s whole body. Did the audience laugh at that line, as we did? And staring at a screen for 95 minutes is just NOT exactly the theater experience we were hoping for. It was nevertheless a nice date night event, even if it was traveling to my wife’s office rather than driving to the Berkshires.
The Democratic debates, a provocative new play, and a frustrating high school graduation speech all took place within three days in June. Oh, and I was in the midst of retiring.
Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield, MA has two different theaters, fairly close together. One tends to present cutting edge material. America v. 2.1: The Sad Demise & Eventual Extinction of The American Negro had its world premiere June 14-30 on the St. Germain Stage. It was written by Stacey Rose, and directed by Logan Vaughn
America v. 2.1 “is a day in the life of a troupe of Black actors who are charged with re-enacting the revised history of the once-thriving American Negro. It quickly becomes a day of reckoning. A provocative, funny and dark look at Black Americans in post-apocalyptic America.” Well, “funny” is of course quite subjective.
From a local review: The play within a play shows the “‘demise of the American Negro was brought about by his own hand’ and ‘by his own actions,’ despite the loving care and ‘noble efforts of the American government and American culture.
“Resurrecting the minstrel show style of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the playwright deploys outrageous caricatures ostensibly to demonstrate, using song and dance, how the Founding Fathers saved the African savages…
“The play takes place in the ‘not too distant future,’ in which the actors, who are clearly aware of the untruthfulness of the history they present, are forced by an authoritarian regime to perform this script ten times in twelve hours, six days a week, or suffer unspecified consequences. In chilling voiceover announcements the presumably white audience is warned against documenting what is seen onstage, and, what is worse, advised when to disengage the safety locks on their firearms.”
The review points out the fine actors: Peterson Townsend as Jeffery, Jordan Barrow as Grant, Kalyne Coleman as Leigh, Ansa Akyea as troupe leader Donavan, and Peggy Pharr Wilson as the “officious and frightening Voice.”
The New Play Exchange notes “The troupe finds themselves at odds with the state of their own existences while being painfully oblivious to the parallels and intersections their lives draw to that of the very Negroes whose story they are bound to tell.”
Intentionally, there was no chance to applaud the performance. The talk back session afterwards allowed the primarily white audience to express how the play made them feel angry, outraged, sad, et al. Some considered it a call to work for change.
The next day, we went to a high school graduation about an hour away. It was VERY HOT outdoors at 6 pm. The speaker was a graduate from three decades ago, and has been working in the military industrial complex for a number of years. Along with the usual bromides, such as having a purpose and work hard, was a message that was about 180 degrees from what I saw the day before.
Race, gender, sexual orientation don’t matter. Work hard and you’ll succeed. And don’t let certain forces take away what you’ve worked hard for, as he conflated democratic socialism with the fight against communism during the Cold War.
The talk generated some to give a standing ovation – n.b., not from us – but it was a fascinating bit of propaganda. Most of my family was not impressed, though one noted that he was “a product of his times.”
The Barrington Stage Company was founded in January 1995.
When my wife’s family was staying at a timeshare in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, my wife, my daughter, a brother-in-law, one of his daughters, and I went to see productions at the Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield.
More correctly, we went to the TWO theaters. On the Sunday, we went to the St. Germain to see the world premiere of the play Well Intentioned White People. It was written by Rachel Lynett, who gave an author talk before we’d gotten there.
Someone keyed Cass’ car with a racial epithet. The black professor, looking to make tenure, would just as soon let it go. But thanks to the well-meaning concern of her roommate Viv, it becomes public.
Soon Dean West from her university ends up wanting to make the incident a teachable moment, with Cass and another “minority”, Parker, having to do the heavy lifting to create an “appropriate” event in response.
Many of the characters are quite recognizable, especially the dean, if you’ve ever spent five minutes in the world of academia. You might be surprised to find that the story is often quite funny.
The production continues through September 8. I hope it will be considered for Cap Rep sometime in the future. Incidentally, Andrea Cirie, who plays the dean, has performed in the Albany theater.
The musical we, all but my BIL, saw on the following Wednesday on the Boyd-Quinson Mainstage, a couple blocks away from the St. Germain, was West Side Story.
I know this story extremely well, and it may be my favorite musical. I saw the movie when I was 10 or 11, I’ve seen a ballet, and several stage productions.
The Barrington Stage Company was founded in January 1995. The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee premiered on the St. Germain stage in 2004, ran on Broadway from 2005-2008, and then played on the Mainstage later in 2008.
My wife and I are considering going to Pittsfield to see The Glass Menageie on the Mainstage in October. It’s amazing that with our several trips to the area over the past couple decades, we discovered BSC only this year.