Monday, August 25, 2008

Expose Yourself To Art

… with apologies to Julie Morrison.

Whenever I hear the term “Expose Yourself To Art,” I think of the above photograph. It was taken in or about the early 1980’s, and at the time I thought it was clever.

I would have likely forgotten the picure, but later I learned that the man in the photo was the mayor of Portland, Oregon, and he was promoting a local arts festival. (I admired his creative imagination. I admired his dedication. At the same time, I wondered if he was re-elected.)

Did the idea work? Ya might say so. 28 years later the poster is still being sold along with other festival promotional pictures.
So ... what does that tell you?

Friday, August 15, 2008

Romeo And Juliet

I found this drawing in the bottom of a drawer the other day. It's the front elevation sketch for a production of "Romeo And Juliet." Out of 36 pages of blueprints and architectural detail notes, this sketch is the only thing that remains.
There was this contest, you see. A theatre was going to produce the play, and ran an open set design competition. First prize was a cash award and, of course, the winning design would become the actual set built for the production.
So ... I entered the contest. And I won. (Seems like a long time ago. Come to think of it, it WAS a long time ago. I think Juliet was still alive at the time.)
Anyway. I'd love to show you some photos of the completed set. Only ... there aren't any. I won the contest but they used another design for the actual set.
Not fair. Just because my set would have been 60 feet wide and 40 feet high, they said it was too large to fit on their stage. I told 'em to get a bigger stage, but - you know how it is - some people just have to be picky ...
On the other hand, I did get the money. There was that.
And ... I decided to share the drawing with you. I'd like somebody to see it, and I can't think of anyone better.

Friday, August 8, 2008

The Day I (Almost) Met Leonard Bernstein

So there we were. The play was Wonderful Town, being performed at the old Festival Music Theatre in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. .

We were in the final week of rehearsal when it was announced that the composer of the musical was expected to show up for one of our performances.

Having someone of interest in our audience was nothing new to us. Since Wonderful Town had closed on Broadway only a few years before, shadowy people had already appeared without fanfare from time to time, would hover quietly for awhile, and then slip back into the darkness.

So this was nothing new to us.

But the composer? Now THAT would be something!

“What? Leonard Bernstein is coming HERE?”

“That’s what I heard.”

“You’re kidding me, right?”

“I’m not.”

The truth – or at least the consensus of the rumors – claimed that Maestro Bernstein would be in Cleveland during our opening weekend. (This was confirmed. He was attending a conference that was widely advertised.)

Rumors further suggested that since we were one of the first productions of his show that would NOT be under his direct supervision, he was curious as to how well we would do. (In looking back 50 years, I wonder at our gullibility in believing that this could even remotely be possible. For reasons I didn’t know at the time, however, this indirectly turned out to be true.)

Thursday night came and went. This was press night. They showed. He didn’t. This was just as well. We didn’t want or need competition.

“Yeah-ta-ta-tah-tah … on Christopher Street.” I’m not at all saying that Wonderful Town wasn’t popular. It was. But it represented a cultural period of innocence in this country that was rapidly fading away. Curiously, if you listen carefully to the rhythms in the music and look at some of the potential subtexts, you will see (in retrospect) that West Side Story was almost inevitable.

Friday was opening night. According to the press, we gave the play “high energy and great vitality.” Several of our performers were singled out for individual praise. The rest of us partied heavily until the wee hours of the morning. And … where was Leonard Bernstein? Nobody had seen him.

On Saturday we (the cast, the orchestra, the crew, the house managers, the ushers and ticket booth people, down to and including the parking lot and rest room attendants) approached the theatre with attitude! (“Well! If HE isn’t gonna come see our show, HE’s gonna wish he had!”) We weren’t there to perform, we were there to lay siege to a play!

And we outdid ourselves.

Moments before the overture began, the director – looking very nervous – came backstage and informed us that, “indeed, a representative from the Bernstein organization was in attendance.”

If our energy level on Friday was considered high, on Saturday it was stratospheric. For a little over two hours nobody involved with the production even stopped to take a breath. The audience – those poor people – never saw the express train that ran over ‘em.

This was our green room as it is today. Picture it as it appeared at the end of the show 50 years ago – the walls gleaming white, and every inch of floor space jammed with well over 150 actors, dancers, singers, musicians, and stage crew. To the left of the pole stood our director, a lanky New Yorker who naturally wore cowboy boots and a Stetson.

Beside him stood a man I had never seen before.

I had arrived too late for introductions. As I inched closer, through the sweating mass of humanity, I could hear the director thank the cast and crew for the performance. Yes, this man was an aide to the great Leonard Bernstein. (Big deal.)

We soon learned that our director had applied for a position with the Bernstein company, and a rep from the company had come to evaluate his ability as a director.

That was it? That was all?

I turned, trying to muscle my way out. There was more being said, but I’d heard enough. I was disappointed, disillusioned. I had expected to see a giant. Instead I saw a man, thin, dark hair, perhaps 25 years old. The only thing even remotely interesting about him was that he looked enough like me to quite literally be taken for my older brother. (And to this day the resemblance is still there.)

As I reached the hallway, I turned for one final look. The crowd had dispersed toward the four exits. Several of our group had gathered around the stranger, asking for his autograph.

“What was your name again,” one of the group asked.

The 25-year-old man who looked like me turned in the direction of the voice and smiled.

“Sondheim,” he replied. “Stephen Sondheim.”

At that point I reached a turn in the hallway, and could feel the refreshing breeze coming in from the stage door. I moved quickly toward it. Behind me I could hear laughter, but I didn’t care.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Should Women Be Ordained Pastors?

I came across a site (led by a woman) that implied that women should not hold positions of church leadership; specifically, that a woman pastor, by simply holding that position, is in sin.

The large majority of comments that followed this post agreed with the woman’s train of thought, stating that (1) it was a shame women were entering ministry, (2) that they were “sneaking” in where they don’t belong, and (3) God is strongly opposed to women as Church leaders. Two commentators went so far as to admit that “yes, one or two women may be inspired and preach the word of God, but they are by far in the minority.”

In jest I quoted Shakespeare at them – “I am ashamed that women are so simple … when they are bound to love, serve, and obey.”

Not only did they miss my jab, they agreed with Shakespeare, and suggested that the Bible offers “proof” to back-up Shakespeare’s statements. (No humor at all in this bunch.)

I couldn’t believe what I was reading.. I hate it when the Bible is quoted out of context. I answered by saying that any man would be an idiot if he ignores sound Biblical doctrine simply because it comes from a woman. And finally, I asked for their Bible verses that would support these statements.

Since the majority of people who go there are already biased in a specific direction, descent is a waste of time – certainly not encouraged. I received no Bible verses. Too bad. We have no basis for discussion. Instead, I was banned from making any more comments on this site. (In the context above, I used the word “idiot.” Apparently in the context above, I must have used the word better than I thought.)

Good-bye, LuLu. I will miss you. Julie, you were right.

The question remains – should women become ordained as Ministers and Pastors? I admit that I have an opinion here – a strong one.

On the other hand, I’m sincere in wanting to know how others feel about this, and why. What does the Bible tell you on this subject?



Sunday, August 3, 2008


When he was 15 years old, Jack Bunny had his first professional theatre experience at a large outdoor summer stock theatre in Indiana. And for the next three summers he sang, danced, acted, and had the best time in his life at that theatre.

Then he moved away.

50 years later he was passing by that area, and decided to visit the place where his life had taken direction. To his absolute amazement, he discovered that the theatre was still there.

Many - MANY - happy hours had been spent on this stage.

Maybe you can go home again.

Friday, August 1, 2008


Of course you remember the old adage, “tiptoe quietly past an irate bunny.” Or perhaps you are more familiar with this one – “A rabid rabbit is rarely really rational.” (Repeating this one while holding your tongue with three fingers is often used as a sobriety test in parts of eastern Canada.)

And of course, everyone knows the one that goes, ”Toads give warts, bunnies give hickeys.” But this one is beside the point here. I don’t know why you’d ever want to bring it up.

In other words, didja notice I got my computer back? Didja notice? I’ve been without it for a week! For a week I’ve been staring at the clean spot on my coffee table. Twice I’ve gone to the library to slip out a meager message to you on computer #16, only to end up fascinated by watching the grubby child sitting beside me, as he systematically destroyed the world on computer #17. (I think his mother must be Adolf Hitler. Her mustache looks far too familiar.)

And then – yesterday – Thoracic Thursday, the skies parted, and the laptop guy descended, handing me my IBM ThinkPad with the blessing that all 704 demons had been driven out of it.

Can you see it? I’m free – free! My world is no longer limited to my wife and the neighbor’s dog. With trembling fingers I unwrapped my prized laptop, noting that even the peanut butter smudge between the “V” and “B” keys was now missing. Can you even begin to appreciate the thrill I felt as I gently but eagerly caressed the button that would send me magically into the internet?

Can you sense the gall, the indignation, the despair of unjustice I felt when the screen flashed back at me - “not connected to the internet.”

Unbelievable. No fate could be that jaded, that cruel. Again I punched that button, and yet again. I had the feeling that the computer was playing with my trust and innocence. A sly smile was forming around its disc port.

And thus it was that this morning, like some great hoary hairy avenging angel, I descended into the lair of the lying laptop letch, my words sounding almighty in my own ears.

“This doesn’t work!”

Unruffled, this wizard of widgets took my precious word messenger and descended into the depths where only such creatures were wont to go. For twenty minutes I paced the front of the store, alone, my only companion being a surly German shepherd who largely ignored me while he played a game of French poodle apartheid on a computer designed for his paws.

I barely noticed the return of the man, so representative he was of the race he, uh, represented. In one hand he held my laptop, in the other he held a white cord, and in the other he held coded instructions for the dog to attack Australia next.

“There’s nothing wrong with your computer,” he mumbled in a most gleefully self conscious way.

“What,” I replied. I was incredulous.

He handed me the white cord. “This is the problem.”

I took the cord. “This is the cord that connects my computed to the phone.”

“Yup,” the man replied. “That’s bad. Needs to be replaced.” With one foot, he appeared to be studying some mathematical equation woven into the pattern of the rug.

“Do you mean,” I was searching for both clarity and sanity, “do you mean I just spent $175.00 to have this thing repaired when I could have done the same thing by replacing a $2.15 cord?!” My voice ended with a decidedly upward inflection.

I received a sad and knowing look. “Yup,” the man replied. “That’s about th’ size of it.”

I don’t honestly remember my response. I don’t even remember how I found my way home. I have no words to express my feelings. My words are inadequate. Only in the writings of the Princess Samantha can I find what even approaches my depth of expression.

“AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAaaargh!!!!!!!!!!!! OOOOOOOOOOOOO eeeeeeeeeeeeee (snarfle snarfle) Uuuuuuuuuuuurrrrrrrrggggggggggghhhhhhhhh! (Cough hiccup).AAAAaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!”

And that about says it all, doesn't it? Whew. I feel better now. Thanks for hangin’ with me.