Wednesday, December 16, 2015

POC Christmas in Austin

People of Color Christmas: the White Elephant In the Room.

The title alone is amazing.

And it's amazing that this was accomplished through the vision of what I can only imagine is one woman (Christine Hoang) inspired by a lot of other people (of color).

So this Christmas if you're just a little tired of the same old trail of lights, carol singers at the Domain, and Christmas shows performing  on repeat at theatres this time of year... buy a (cheap) ticket to POC Christmas at Ground Floor theatre.

This is local theatre at its purest.

Saturday, December 05, 2015

Parading the Party Line

There's a Parade at Ground Floor Theatre and you need to buy your ticket before it passes you by.

Sarah Danko is a gorgeous actor and paired well with Scott Ferguson who we found annoying as Frank the Jew, creepy as Frank THE JEW (emphasis Mrs. Phagan) and eventually lovable as Frank, Lucille's Jewish husband. Travis Gaudin's voice is like a glass of whiskey you hold in your hand swishing and sniffing over and over. We hung on his every word and saw every scene he sang. Vincent Hooper is an all around dream performer from his mannerisms to his vocal belt on the chain gang. Lovely, dedicated voices rang out from the ensemble - especially Chelsea Manasseri and Kristin Hall's solo performances. Kyle Coughlin was delightful (can one use that word when describing Parade?) to watch as Craig. And who are Matrex Kilgore and Dale Sandish?!... um welcome to Austin and bravo.

When Lisa Schepps wants to make a point. She does it with an exclamation. And  mazel tov to her. She directed a great show despite the apparent challenges with sound in the space. (Why couldn't we hear the voices in this brand new venue?)

Before Lisa's curtain speech, a video from the 100th anniversary of the anti-defamation league was played. It took our collective breath away and was a brilliant way to start the show and remind the audience that it was this real life event that brought the league into existance. 

Because this is important. I want to stand up and scream and say all the bad curse words and pull my hair out and even lay naked in the street for a year (the Jews and maybe a few Christians will get that reference), but my fiancee won't let me. 

If you think we live in a world or a county that isn't racist, sexist, and classist, you're wrong. And Parade is a beautiful, if sad, reminder of that truth. Let me put it in perspecive for you.

Look at the difference in the way this Euro-American (caucasian) mother is treated in the comments versus how the African-American mother is treated. 


And if you're about to throw that "meme's are hard to fact check," crap at me, here's a strain that I personally responded to when a "Facebook Friend" of mine posted "Comply, don't die!" after Michael Brown's death.

Or how about this? 

Here's a gun store that won't allow Muslims to purchase their merchandise. Even though WHITE PEOPLE are the numbers one terrorists against Americans a poll released in June reported.

White, right wing Americans have killed way more people than Muslim radicals here in America since 9/11. But you know, white people have mental health issues and black people are thugs. It's true because our culture tells us its true.

And that's the party line Parade exposes. Vilifying a person because you hate a people group (in Parade it's the Jews) makes you a racist bigot. Not a hero. Not ever a hero. Not for hating a race or people group. 

Or hating women...

Or gay people...

Or anyone who isn't like you. Or who you don't understand.

AMERICA, wake up. The beautiful search for diversity which gave birth to you is dwindling away as we allow the right wing fundamentalists spew their white supremacy and male chauvinism on us. We're drowning in it. America has lost her melting pot and is drowning in witch's brew.

So to organizations like the Anti-Defamation League and Ground Floor, I say thanks. This little white girl says thanks. And hopes more people will go catch the Parade playing two more times on Nov 5 at Ground Floor Theatre in East Austin.   

Saturday, November 21, 2015

My Favorite Line

Laying on a twin mattress covered in black theatre drapes behind the stage left risers after my death, I figured it out.

"What's your favorite line from the play?" my dad had asked me when he was here three weeks prior to see Into the Woods produced cooperatively with the Jewish Repertory Theatre and Trinity Street Players. I didn't have an answer. There's so many good ones:
  • Slotted spoons don't hold much soup.
  • I'll see you soon again, I hope that when I do it won't be on a plate.
  • That's another story, never mind.
  • And whichever you pick, do it quick cause you're starting to stick to the steps of the palace.
  • I was raised to be charming, not sincere.
  • I'm in the wrong story.
  • Princes wait there in the world, it's true. Princes, yes, but wolves and humans too.
  • You can talk to birds?
  • Careful the tale you tell, that is the spell.
  • It was a full day of eating for both.
  • No one cared when there was a dead giant in my back yard!
But none satisfied the question.

Additionally, at a bar one evening after the show, several actors and I were talking about, well, crap actors talk about: favorite musicals, upcoming auditions, the genius of Sondheim, our top fives, etc.

And one colleague made the comment that he isn't a huge fan of Into the Woods. I was aghast, shocked, defensive, and would have fired him on the spot, but we still had a week of performances left. Not to mention that in the wake of our Cinderella losing her voice voice (which gave rise to #Cinderunzel as Rapunzel has taken over singing the Cinderella role as the real Cinderella plays it physicality)... well, in the words of Cinderella, I couldn't fire the actor in my  beer-buzzed state because "I could not bear to lose another."

We bantered half-heartedly: he prefers slapstick and bawdy, and I prefer genius and genuine (my words, not his). But when he asked me why I liked Into the Woods so much... again, I didn't have an answer.

Fast forward to about 9:35pm in the middle of Act Two on Thursday night, and I begin my final ascent up the stairs to the stage left platform to finish The Last Midnight. "All right, mother, when? Lost the beans again! Punish me the way you did then - give me claws and a hunch, just away from this bunch and the gloom and the doom and the boom..." And then I project "Crunch!" as a high G, sustained, until the lights go to blackout and I can jump from the platform onto the mattress offstage and "die."

Photo by Rod Machen
I laid there calming my breathing and listening as the next scene began. I always stay there through the next song, and once the audience has forgotten about me over there, I exit.

That evening had been particularly powerful for me. I'm not sure why. Maybe I was tired from a week of broken computers, ailing actors, funerals, job changes, horrible terrorist attacks, racism cloaked in religion, or the bullshit Republican political agenda... so it felt normal to confess (admonish?) "the world is dark and wild."
But as I lay there, breathing quietly, and listening to the next scene, I heard it.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Our Town Letters

“I never told you about that letter Jane Crofut got from her minister when she was sick. He wrote Jane a letter and on the envelope the address was like this: It said: Jane Crofut; The Crofut Farm; Grover's Corners; Sutton County; New Hampshire; United States of America. Continent of North America; Western Hemisphere; the Earth; the Solar System; the Universe; the Mind of God...that's what it said on the envelope. And the postman brought it just the same.”

Our Town, produced by Trinity Street Players running May 13-24 upstairs in First Austin’s Black Box Theatre is an American classic written by Thornton Wilder. But it’s more than that. 

It’s a story about people in Grover’s Corners. And it’s a story that could easily be about people in Austin, Texas. But it’s more than that too.

Our Town is a a prayer.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Cried the Children of the Night

Now my soul is troubled: "Save me, save me..."
Before the lungs with water fill
The barrel, temple points
Chests heave, breaks squeal
Droughts deaden
And war our neighbor kills

Save me before
The lightning flashes,
The thunder roars,
And a cliche is written for the very worst offenses.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Suggestive, Sassy, and the Silent Observer

First Austin's #JourneyLent
Week One: February 21, 2015

43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, ‘Follow me.’ 44Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.’ 46Nathanael said to him, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ Philip said to him, ‘Come and see.’ 47When Jesus saw Nathanael coming towards him, he said of him, ‘Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!’ 48Nathanael asked him, ‘Where did you come to know me?’ Jesus answered, ‘I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.’ 49Nathanael replied, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!’ 50Jesus answered, ‘Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.’ 51And he said to him, ‘Very truly, I tell you,* you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.’ John 1:43-51

Philip is great. I see some of myself in Philip. From this text we ascertain that he's read his history books and knows his faith story. I like it when people have read their testaments. Both of them. All of them. Not just the parts that suit an obscure political agenda (#homosexualityisonlyin6bibleverses #abortionisn'tinany). Philip's belief in his faith story is so integrated into his personal narrative that when Jesus calls him, not only does Philip follow him, but he recruits his friends. Philip knows a good thing when he sees it, and invites others to check it out. He is the best kind of friend. "I found this great new restaurant on East 7th - you gotta try it." Or, "I found the Messiah we've been waiting for, you have to meet him!"

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Grasshoppers, Gravity, and a Really Great Story

Listen here!

Isaiah 40:21-31 (NRSV)
Mark 1:29-39  (NRSV)

Welcome to the fifth Sunday of Epiphany, the second to last Sunday before Lent. In the tradition of epiphany, we have read yet another story from Mark about the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles.

It’s a whopper of a text. Chock full of demon possession and deadly diseases and even a Christ who goes AWOL. The Old Testament text from Isaiah is a little easier to swallow except that the God who once called us the cream of the crop, humanity: the pinnacle of creation (in Genesis 1) is now reminding us that it is God who takes down the rulers of the earth and we, God’s creation, are like little grasshoppers in comparison. :)

Literature is the best. So many ways of communicating how we feel or how we feel God feels, or whatever.

I wonder if it was this passage from Isaiah that inspired Mary Oliver to pen “The Summer Day.”

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Hard to make much of your life when you’re lying in bed dying from a fever though. This, of course, was the predicament of Simon Peter’s mother-in-law in the Mark passage.

Aside from the dying part, this is a great story. We learn that Simon Peter has a family - he’s one of the few disciples who was married. And he brings his new friends and new messiah to his house, to stay with his family. As such, it is in Simon Peter’s home that Jesus performs his first healing miracle. It’s the second miracle and the first healing the disciples witness after having left everything - jobs, girls, family, their favorite spot to watch the sun set - to follow Jesus on this crazy vagabond adventure.