America v. 1.0 versus America v. 2.1

the ‘not too distant future’?

America 2.1The 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.”

Beauty and the Beast; Sweet Charity

I should note that in Beauty and the Beast, Belle was played by Alexa, my niece – my BIL’s daughter.

Beauty and the BeastMy family saw two high school musicals the last weekend in March, Beauty and the Beast at Catskill HS and Sweet Charity at Albany HS. They both were excellent, so I’ll be rooting for both schools in a competition.

“The School of Performing Arts at Proctors announces the 3rd Annual HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL THEATRE AWARDS for New York’s Capital Region in partnership with The Broadway League. Fashioned after Broadway’s Tony Awards…”

Our family attended the awards event last year. Caitlin Van Loan was nominated as best supporting actress for playing Marion the Librarian’s mom in Catskill’s The Music Man; she was excellent this year as Mrs. Potts.

Annabelle Duffy WON as best actress in AHS’ Hairspray last year, and got to represent “the Capital Region at The National High School Musical Theatre Awards competition in New York City” last June. She played Charity this year. Albany also won three other awards in 2018, including best choreography.

I should note that in Beauty and the Beast, Belle was played by Alexa, my niece – my BIL’s daughter. She’s been in the CHS productions for seven years – and I believe I’ve seen them all – but this is her first lead. My unbiased opinion is that she was very good.

So was the guy playing the Beast, Magnus Bush; Alexa and Magnus are pictured. The performers playing Lumiere, Gaston, Cogsworth, Madame Bouche and many others were also strong. There are far more decent male singers in the CHS productions than there were even three or four years.

While the Albany HS productions have been solid for a while, there has been a real emphasis on its social relevance in recent years. So they’ve taken the historically sexist play, written by Neil Simon, and attempted to give it a feminist spin.

I was unfamiliar with the story of Sweet Charity, though I knew three songs: Big Spender, If My Friends Could See Me Now, and the faux religious The Rhythm of Life.

In any case, we’re making plans to attend the High School Musical Theatre Awards ceremony on May 11 at 7 p.m. at Proctors.

Miss Sill Laney, Us; National Parks, Sam Shepard

The National Parks Service offers a Senior Pass for those who visit national parks, a lifetime card for those 62 and over. I have one, and I assuredly recommend it. But the government is raising the price from $10 to $80 as of August 28, 2017.

The NPS, unsurprisingly, is experiencing a backlog of Senior Pass orders. “If you need your pass in less than three months, consider purchasing your pass at the first site you visit,” which will also avoid the $10 processing fee.
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I know I saw True West, the Sam Shepard play, fairly early after its 1980 debut. I think it was at Union College in Schenectady, but I can’t swear to that.

Shepard, unfortunately, died at the age of 73, a result of complications from ALS. And I got only sadder reading My Buddy by Patti Smith.

Critics for The New York Times on Sam Shepard’s Plays, Books, and Movies.

This quote was attributed to him: “Democracy’s a very fragile thing. You have to take care of democracy. As soon as you stop being responsible to it and allow it to turn into scare tactics, it’s no longer democracy, is it?”
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There was a CBS lawyer drama called Doubt in February of 2017 on CBS. Two episodes aired and it was canceled, actually before I saw it. Now the remaining shows are being burned off over the summer, but only some are being broadcast. So if you happen to have On Demand, the listings will show for July 1, 8A, 8B, 15, 22A, 22B, 29. The B shows never aired, so if you had watched the episodes that were on TV on the 22nd and 29th, you’d see the beginning of the 29th ep, hear “Previously on ‘Doubt,” and wonder, “When did THAT happen?”
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Were You There When They Crucified Our Lord? by Linda Bonney Olin is now live on Amazon in both Kindle and paperback editions, for those of you who don’t think Christianity is that weird. I should note that 1) Linda is the wife of my wife’s cousin Bill, and 2) I was one of the people who proofread the book.
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Ever notice how people put info on social media and you want to know more? “A 3-9 putout” in a baseball game, or “If true, he should resign.” Which game, and how did it happen? If WHAT is true? WHO should resign? OK, I can guess who.

Rabid goats and rabid fans in June

The performances were good, but the storybook is still very thin.

There’s only three of us, but we calendar a LOT these days so that we don’t inadvertently book a couple items on the same day. These all happened in June.

ITEM: The Wife and I saw, at the local Steamer Number 10 theater, Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead, an “unauthorized parody” written by Bert V. Royal. The “play imagines characters from the popular comic strip Peanuts as degenerate teenagers.”

It starts when “CB and CB’s sister have a funeral for their dog, who recently contracted rabies and was put down after killing ‘a little yellow bird’.” This is NOT children’s fare.

It was very good, but obviously very dark. I would like to believe that the homophobia displayed by Matt, a manifestation of Pig Pen, would not be as virulent in 2017 as it was when the play was first performed in 2004, but maybe it is.

Here’s the script.

ITEM: Friends of ours gave us tickets to the Albany Symphony Orchestra, which is a very fine symphony indeed. This program was held at the EMPAC, a fascinatingly cool structure.

The logistical issue was the birthday party to which the Daughter was invited late in the afternoon, but that ended up working out well. She stayed at the party long enough that she was home alone only about an hour. In large part, that was aided by the ASO decided NOT to perform the first piece on the program because ot wasn’t ready, the first time that’s happened when we’ve attended. But the other four pieces were quite enough.

ITEM: The three of us saw the last performance of Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the Mac-Hadyn Theater. All I know of this musical is the LP I owned, barely 30 minutes. This is expanded by at least three songs. The performances were good, but the storybook is still very thin.

ITEM: Another trip to Mac-Hadyn a couple weeks later to see Anything Goes. The first time I had seen it was a couple years ago at Catskill High School. I continue to marvel how well the choreographer coordinate people coming off and on this tiny stage.

ITEM: I’ve mentioned our church’s relationship with Giffen Elementary School, with with the Book and Author event the past five years, and tutoring for even longer. We went to the grand opening of Wizard’s Wardrobe, “a non-profit organization providing a free, after school tutoring program for elementary school students in the South End of Albany.”

So it was distressing I read that rabid goats had to be euthanized at Albany’s Radix Center. Three second-grade classes at Giffen Memorial Elementary School took field trips to the Radix Center during this time period. Yuck.

May rambling #3: A Steampunk Opera

“Nearly 400,000 views later, reflections on a viral post”

2011: the Daughter, niece Alex, niece Rebecca

Antarctica’s ice sheet may be approaching an unstoppable collapse

John Oliver Goes For Blood To Rip Dialysis Companies

An Open Letter to Rev. Franklin Graham from a “Small Church” Pastor

On Memorial Day we ought to remember the dead, not celebrate the Empire

New Orleans Mayor Landrieu’s address on Confederate monuments

The complicated origin of the Seth Rich conspiracy theory

Did the Turkish President’s Security Detail Attack Protesters in Washington? What the Video Shows

Frank Deford, who wrote about sports with panache and insight, dies at 78

The Most Important Scientist You’ve Never Heard Of

AMONGST THE STARS by Kelly Sedinger is now available for purchase

Mamet Threatens Fines Over Post-Show Discussion of His Play

Why I Stopped Going to Movie Theatres: The Death of Etiquette

Jaquandor: The Force will be with you always

Uncle Sam’s gonna want my apples

I divorced my husband but forged a lasting bond with his ex-wife

The Sad History of Hydrox Cookies

Elaborate senior photos allow students to live out their fantasies in yearbook

Now I Know: The Kitchen Utensil that Woofed and The Mexican Art Tax and Room for Two

From Dan – Hebdomadal: “Spell checker likes it. Means something that happens once a week every seven days, used especially for organizations. It’s not considered archaic, although usage was more common in the 1800s. Saw it in a (paper) book first published in 1986 that I am currently reading, used without a trace of irony.” Wouldn’t “weekly” do?

Everyone Gets a ‘Trophe

Nobody Did It Better: Thank You, Sir Roger Moore, and from Maverick: Season 4

Rowan Atkinson interviews Elton John

Weird Minor-League Strikeout by the Binghamton Rumble Ponies pitcher

Arthur’s household hints Continue reading “May rambling #3: A Steampunk Opera”