Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Royal romance in real life and genre fiction. AMERICAN PRINCESS meets ITS HARD OUT THERE FOR A DUKE & THE DUKE'S DAUGHTERS

I am  not exactly a royal watcher, though I grew up with Elizabeth Captive Princess: Two sisters one throne. I was 14 and so was she as the book opened. Ialso had a difficult older sister.  But Elizabeth I's angst wasn't just about wanting freedom. She wanted to stay alive. Her half-sister, Mary Tudor, who had ascended the throne, was jealous. Though Liz's mother was beheaded by Henry VIII, branded a whore and witch, the young princess's beauty and lively personality, meant she was a threat to the ailing "Bloody Mary." Young Liz was shut up in the tower, lost her first boyfriend to the ax, and had to deal with treacherous advisors--far worse than interfering parents.

I remain interested in how being a royal can make your life better or worse. How does a royal have a personal life, when all actions are scrutinized by Buckingham Palace (the firm as Harry calls it) and the media? What happens when one's actions create official mayhem? Is there any slack in a system, where you can't truly quit or be fired, though there is severance.  Edward VIII and Fergie still show up in media and he's long gone.

American Princess: The Love Story of Meghan Markle and Prince Harrry (William Morrow) by Leslie Carroll, author of Royal Romances, is both a wedding prequel and a biography of a royal romance. Because the British monarchy is a family business, the book shows what each partner brings to the table. It's love as a very critical business transaction. It also investigates why this particular marriage is making history. The obvious facts are that Markle's a biracial American divorcee, who's a successful actress. With all that going against tradition, why has she been embraced by the Queen?  Could it be the monarchy has learned from past mistakes?

Harry's father, Prince Charles, was unable to marry his lady love, Camilla Parker Bowles, because she was divorced and not a virgin. But for decades they carried on an officially ignored adultrous affair. Charles' Aunt Margaret was unable to marry her beloved Townsend, a divorced officer who had served the Royal family. His great Uncle Edward had to abdicate the throne to marry Wallis Simpson, an American divorcee. There is also the actress factor. Once considered equivalent to prostitutes and inappropriate for mistresses, let alone a Royal wife, yet one of Harry's forebears had an actress mistress who bore him ten children before she was discarded. Clearly, love outside the royal system has been costly for "the firm," mostly in prestige and credibility as the example of impeccable British character.

Queen Elizabth II, now in her nineties, simply liked Markle when they met and wanted her grandson to be happy, according to Leslie Carroll.  The Queen broke protocul and, though Markle was not yet married, invited her to partake in palace Christmas festivities. Whatever reason for the shift, it's a welcome diversion after the publicly dysfunctional marriage of Diana and Charles, before her tragic death. This past weighed heavily on Diana's sons, who were not allowed to publicly show grief. Harry the youngest, seemed the most affected; barely passing school, carrying on with girls and liquor ( falling down drunk) until he discovered his purpose in the military. He has also found satisfaction in continuing Diana's charities.

The general rule is the more removed a royal is from succession, the more freedom is allowed. With Elizabeth II's succession and children, Princess Margaret was allowed to wed a racy photographer and become a pop culture icon. As the heir, William's life was laid out for him and though, he did marry a commoner, she has provided an heir and been well-liked. Harry can now be the "interesting" royal. Yet it was rare in his circles to find a woman comfortable in the public eye.

Meghan has the poise of a professional actress, better yet, she's giving up acting to dedicate herself to causes they can further together. She brings Hollywood glamor, American pragmatism and 21st century multiculturalism- a perfect royal ambassador. And she wants the platform. An educated self possessed personality, Meghan understands the opportunity and is willing to do the trade-offs. This is  Carroll's bright assessment, along with her praise for Meghan's clothes and details of the racy wedding dress she'll probably select.

The royal event should be fun.  I may watch selectively and hope Harry will stay a "wild card" after his marriage. In American Princess earnestness and idealism is trumpeted in this union. But Harry's  public narrative was one of sin and repentence,before he matured to become a brave soldier set on Afghanistan, curious about people and places. He's said to have Diana's "common touch." He has a special interest in Africa. Apparently he and Meghan courted in a tent in Africa--a chance to get to know each other without other people. Now that is real-life romance.

Romance novels, "bodice-rippers" are a genre I'm ambivalent about. It's kind of soft core porn for women, who are conditioned to well worn narratives of romance. I am a sucker for romance but like it without the formula--great looking heroine and hero, difficulty that keeps them apart. They love thwarted and work mightily to overcome the obstacle and enjoy a well earned erotic fulfillment-- with a lifetime of marital bliss.  Juxtapose thisgeneric female wish fulfillment with that of male porn fantasies and you can understand the cultural disconnect about what's romantic, between men and women.

Then think of Meghan and Harry in that tent, newly acquainted with each other. Meghan was thinking of exit strategies, in case it was awful. Both had  the courage to go to an isolated place and see if they liked each other. Loved that. Real life.

Maya Rodale's It's Hard Out Here for a Duke is real within the genre. I read her Lady Claire is All That and thought it might be good on PBS' masterpiece, if they would do the steamy parts. These are Regency romances, great costume and dialogue that manages to sound authentic and be humorous for our time. In this series Keeping up with the Cavendishes there are stories about three sisters and a brother who leave America and their horse farm for England, after they suddenly learn their father was a Duke.  James, the brother, is expected to become the new Duke, subject to the rules of the Haute Ton of British society.

In Lady Claire, the focus is on the oldest sister, a gifted mathematician, uninterested in marriage, clothes, and the norms of high society her aunt is pushing. Yet her genius leads her to colleagues, an intellectual world unavailable in America at that time, and naturally a romance not of equals but opposites. It is also  formula but not as predictable in the reversal of beauty and brawn to opposite genders. It is fun as is the prequel It's Hard Out There for a Duke, the story of the brother journeying with his sisters. He finds love incognito and then, ironically, must fight for it with his new title. This book is more predictable in plot, but fun and the steamy parts are engaging.

The Duke's Daughters by Megan Frampton trods much the same territory, the attraction, the slow burn, as it cannot be fulfilled (here because the gorgeous young man is a "bastard"), then the abandonment to love. The erotic nuances are on time and earned, for those who identify with the  well-born young lady with altruism and "heart." I found Olivia not so appealing, because she's a bit like Regency Barbie. The author believes she has advanced beyond the concerns for clothes and dances, that occupy other young women because she realizes there are a world of people who are poor and can use her help. Olivia, who often  assumes her reactions and goals are shared by others, seemed less adorable than self-absorbed (shall we hint at narcissistic?).

The author mocks her gently when others find her tedious or wrong-headed but somehow she's forgiven "for being like her mother" and triumphs because she's passionate, "beautiful and kind."
I finished and got the erotic pay-off but had to ignore the heroine's boring idiocy. The "bastard' was less predictable and seemed emotionally more real. I thought he could have done better.

I recommend American Princess, if you want to know more than the headlines about Meghan and Harry. But there are no juicy reveals, like "The Crown" series. And Maya Rodale's Cavendish series seems fun (I only read two), if you like wit with the romance genre. If you are reading for erotic release, both fictional romances deliver. The real-life one is private, not for public consumption. But there is enough factual information a true royal watcher can imagine.


Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Why did Eagle Scout Charles Whitman become a mass murderer? MASS exposes patriarchy & the hidden codes of violence in America

MASS: A Sniper, a Father, and a Priest by Jo Scott-Coe (April 4, Pelekinesis)

With the disturbing acceleration of mass murder shootings, it's easy to forget the first big one. On August 1, 1966, Charles Whitman, after slaying his wife and mother, climbed the clock tower at UT Austin and shot about 50 people, including the fetus of a pregnant woman. His was the first televised mass shooting and "domestic terror" spectacle in American history.

Twisted, mentally ill, yet, as author Jo Scott-Coe shows in MASS: A Sniper, a Father, and a Priest, mass murderers don't develop in a vacuum. In this deeply researched nonfiction, she traces Whitman's path from his childhood with a violent authoritarian father, brutalized mother, and two younger siblings, also struggling to survive. In this "all American" family the father had a plumbing business, the mother did the accounts and catered to his many edicts, while trying to raise their children to become decent people. As a devout Catholic, that also meant regular attendance at Mass and reverence for those that served God.   

Charlie was expected to adhere to his father's tyrannical (and often arbitrary) rules--or else. Beatings were a common fact of his and his mother's life. At nine, Charlie became an altar boy, a respite from the highly structured and violent household filled with guns. There's even an infamous photo of toddler Charlie at the beach, supported by two guns planted in the sand. High school classmates remembered his frequent welts and bruises. The mother was treated by the family doctor for "abuse related' bruising. Of course neighbors witnessed events--screaming, sons being hurt. Any local priests who counselled the mother would have had no vocabulary of "domestic abuse." And in the social ethic of the 1950s-60s, in Florida,  no one interfered with a father's rights to keep his family on a leash, though many thought it too tight.

There was also the Church culture of the time. Priests were 
assigned to parishes as needed. Anonymous in the confession, they were somewhat interchangeable to their flocks, who did not know the length of assignments. Priests were often careerists with a "calling," wanting to do a good job and rise to a better post. There were also priests, who wanted a refuge. The priesthood offered  a livelihood, an insular but collegial world and, if homosexual, protection from prosecution. A troubled priest, one who posed difficulty for the Church, was easily transferred elsewhere with few notes as to the reason. While Charlie's father had no particular religion, he allowed participation in the Church, the place, where young Charlie Whitman first met a priest named Gilles Leduc.

Leduc, like Graham Greene's "whiskey priest," was a strange, deeply flawed man. Small and homely, genial yet apart, Leduc was transferred frequently by his superiors for largely unexplained  reasons. In this book, where clues are like pieces of a jig saw puzzle, Scott-Coe, discovers that Leduc, an inoffensive man who kept to himself, managed to navigate the system and do what he liked. He was a  heavy drinker, who mostly hid its effects, and he liked to make himself popular with his young charges. Charles Whitman, who was his alter boy, was also in the scouting program Leduc helped to lead at the church. At 12, Whitman became the youngest ever to attain the status of Eagle Scout. As an adult, Leduc also went through an adult ceremony for that award.

The time-lines of both men continued to intersect in disturbing ways. Leduc's trajectory goes from parish to parish in various states, after dubious financial transactions, a party house in Texas, a fancy car, drinking frat style parties more akin to playboy than priest. Though Leduc's career was downhill, transferred to posts of always lesser status, reasons are few and he appears in good standing with the church. Some kind of protection must have existed, reasons Scott-Coe, because his outrageous behavior, often hiding  his "calling,"was not openly recorded. Questions abound about the money for his lifestyle and his appeal to younger men, who found him a fun "anything goes" kind of guy..  

Whitman, smart and handsome, was alternately a hardworking and indifferent student. He escapes his father for the marines, where he learns to be a sharpshooter.  But he didn't particularly like the culture and was happy to win a scholarship and become a college boy. Somehow during that time, he resumed his connection with Leduc, meets his future wife (a Non-Catholic) and he loses his scholarship  and returns to the marines. After a court martial and discharge take him back to Texas, an internship post at NASA proves to be fairly close to Leduc's party house and you wonder, since his life begins to unravel, what kind of influence this second "Father" had over Whitman.

There is also the fact that Leduc presided over Whitman's very hasty marriage. Why the haste?  There is a letter to his fiancee, joking that he hopes he's not a homosexual. There's also the fateful connection between Whitman's mass murders, just after Leduc's posting to Alaska.  The FBI interviewed the priest but learned little. There was not much record of a relationship beyond the family parish, church scouting, and the wedding. But when Scott-Coe's facts mount up, the huge puzzle comes into focus and other questions become inevitable.

How was the impressionable young boy, seeking an alternative from his brutal father, influenced by the priest who hid his drinking from his Superiors, until he couldn't--loved to party, drive a fancy car,  and wear unpriestly loud shirts?  This Father knew how to game the system, ignore the rules. What's tantalizing are the implications of the  relationship. Leduc had an arsenal of guns in his party house, yet officially downplayed ownership. Whitman's Catholic faith wavered after he re-established contact with Leduc. He also got into trouble in the Marines for loan sharking, in scams reminiscent of Leduc's own. The two seem bonded by toxic permissiveness.

In MASS,  the most shocking revelation is how Whitman, in his madness perverted "God the Father" so  mass murder was a kind of redemption. In a rambling letter, he talks of murders with a knife of his sacrificial lambs, his mother and wife--each in her own house. (His mother had finally separated from his father.) Whitman had saved both from their "pain." In his mind, the Deity and his own father appeared to have merged. Then, from the Tower, guns were the ritual objects of his horrific "mass" homage to his father, "The Father," Patriarchy,  which had caused such  suffering. Whitman took on this mantle, at once God and the long suffering son in a horrifying ritual. 
 Death was the salvation he offered and desired. 

Most gun debates refer to the mental illness of mass murderers, as though it's isolated in the individuals, instead of a result of the family and society in which they developed. Not since Don DeLillo's Libra has a book looked at assassination with such depth, making profound conjecture from the known facts. In Libra, DeLillo is the poet of factual information with leaps of insight that ring true. Jo Scott-Coe traces  Nemisis--the agent of the inevitable tragedy-- from Leduc to all who contributed to the insanity of an American Mass murderer. 

Then there's the collective culprit, an America that madly still equates ubiquitous guns with white male privilege. It is a fact that the framers of the 2nd Amendment, meant to legitimize weapons for frontiersman fighting the British. Those frontiersmen were in a war for equality with patriarchy's privilege--the Crown. Would they have recognized the rhetoric of the NRA? 

This is a strong and important book. Jo Scot-Coe's MASS shows how Americans, who see mass murder as a phenomenon centered on deranged individuals, ignore the tragedy of  the violence underlying our homes and institutions. Tacitly or not, the right to kill is condoned by that experience. 


Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Regeneration Theatre's AS IS, tranformative love during NYC's AIDS epidemic

William M. Hoffman's 1985 play AS IS, which won a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Play and an Obie for Playwriting, uniquely personalized the AIDS crisis. Regeneration Theatre's revival movingly reminds us how acutely personal "political" can be.

Imagine what it would be like in our politicized time if members of an "outsider" group were getting sick and dying from an unknown virus?  Even this winter of 2018, no one is talking about the fact people are dying from flus not covered in shots--a strange and scary development. So what was it like in New York, when AIDS began sickening young gay men? Everyone knew or worked with someone. But no one openly talked  about it, until the "Gay Plague" grew to encompass so many people it could not be ignored. Intolerance grew with the public's fears.

Disclosing you had been diagnosed with HIV virus was akin to a leper ringing a bell. People did not literally bolt doors and throw rocks, but the stigma was huge. Sickness meant lost jobs and medical care, housing, and often family. The Calvinist streak in the American character justified discrimination,"Gays are perverts and deserve it." "They brought it on themselves." No one wanted to work or live with  a person with AIDS. Such attitudes were common, even when babies were born with HIV.

AS IS focuses less on the ostracism and political fight for medical treatment than extraordinary love and friendship amid the crisis. The main characters, Rich (Brian Alford) and Saul (Robert Maisonette) are at the end of a long-term relationship when AS IS opens. But when Saul learns Rich has the virus, he asks him to stay. Despite Rich's affair, Saul's committment is intact. Like any good marriage, behind the habit,  is humor, understanding and love. Rich's a charming idiosyncratic writer/poet. Saul, a funny photographer, earthy and direct. They had shared meals and comfortable sex, a Paul Cadmus painting and a circle of friends. Separately, Rich's illness had cost him his job and medical coverage. With savings spent on medical bills and no rent, Saul, the practical mainstay, would make life work. 

Why had they ever separated?   A real strength of Regeneration's production is how it recreates the post Stonewall world of quick pick-ups, ephemeral romance and gritty sex. Adventurous, exploratory, ecstatic, or perverse, AS IS shows how a group that came of age hiding "forbidden" sexual longings, went wild in the open gay bars, clubs, trysting places--where freedom was an aphrodisiac. Pat (Rick Calvo), Barney (Mario Claudio), and Chet (Daniel Colon), in clever staging, make these temptations human and palpable.

For Saul and Rich, this freedom is not regretted but fond memories of youth and erotic discovery mostly over once they found each other. Rich's dalliance and Saul's pain disappear in the daily crisis they manage--sometimes well or not. Saul's emotional strength is heroic, yet as Rich's disease progresses,  he also succumbs to desperation. Then something transformative occurs beyond the "Acceptance phase" mirrored in their support group. There's a kind of grace in these men.

Though the world seemed against AIDS victims, AS IS shows how people helped each other, lovers, friends and complete strangers. There's the AIDS hotline where Pat and Barney, patiently answer frightened callers and talk of changed lives. Volunteers were crucial in the crisis, as they are in AS IS.
The play is framed by a Hospice Worker played by the luminous Jenne Vath, who goes from would-be saint to atheist angry at God. Hers is a fierce and brilliant mercy.

Also notable is Colin Chapin, as a hapless but sincere brother and Aury Krebs' compassionate friend. Sara Minisquero did affecting character work, as a silent business partner in a hard trade bar and a voluble wife infected with AIDS along with her unborn child.

The director of this play, Marcus Gualberto, made this material fresh in a time, where health care, as a human right is questioned, along with compassion for the sick. In AS IS human dignity is a reality worthy of respect.  A triumph of this play is to make the lives well-lived the significant story. Having experienced this time myself, as the friend who served as family, I was greatly moved by the kindness and accuracy of this production.

(Below Brian Alford and Sara Minisquero)B


Friday, February 2, 2018

Imperfect Love, a serious comedy, basis of 1998 film Illuminata, perfect for 2018's sea change of real vs. fake

Imperfect Love by Brandon Cole was the basis of Illuminata, a 1998 film he cowrote with John Turtorro and, in an unusual quirk of fate, the play first made into a film is now at the Connelly Theater in New York (thru February 18th.). I found it unexpectedly timely for 2018, though it first appears a period piece.

We currently ride a wave of social and technological change, where the old verities, values and attitudes have suddenly become suspect, called to question, even irrelevant.  In Imperfect Love, the 19th century verities about love, the roles of men and women, class and status were celebrated in a mythic theater driven by tumultuous passion and poetry. As Imperfect Love begins, the old plays have lost ground to the  new nordic realism of Ibsen and Strindberg. Plays of the mind, psychologically driven, are replacing the "elevated"emotion of the Italians.

This clever play surfs the wave, shifting from mythic reality to our modern psychological age. Imperfect Love opens with the "set" pieces of the era, the prima donna Eleonora Della Rosa, (modelled on Eleanora Duse), her long-term lover, poet/playwright Gabrielle Torrisi (based on D'Annunzio and played by Rodrigo LoPresti)), a commanding leading man and two contrasting clowns--one a provocative firebrand, the other a sensitive devoted to the leading lady. All play against a sumptuously painted mural of a theater in Rome.

What opens as a comedy from a different time evolves another dimension. The "gods" of this set-up are the offstage producers with the power to open or close the play. The dilemma is the playwright and actress' long term affair and the play he's written for her. The complicated actress played with high tragicomedy by Cristina Spina, is her own mythic creation. Actress, woman, lover, she supposedly seeks a life of emotional/spiritual resonance from art, yet she's also an ambitious careerist. Her drives are the fulcrum of the play.

Yet they are in comic concert with Gabriele Torrisi's tortured playwright, full of position and found wanting by all--personally and professionally. Genius or has-been, faithful lover or betrayer (with no less than the mythic Sara Bernhardt)? Rosetti, Byron might understand the function of his lines, stepping stones for his lady's emotions, as he interprets their divine passion.

Reality and confusion are choreographed by the two clowns. Are these buffoons writing Rosa's lines, filling-in for the playwright, or not? You're never sure. The play is everything and their family, but also their bread and butter, And is Rosa, like any worthwhile muse, actually giving (not just inspiring) her lover the lines? This may be a last stand for the mythic theater of love, but  the buffoons put us in existential Beckett country with their hilarious machinations.

Is the show being cancelled? Have the ciritcs killed it, is the playwright no good, about to run off to Paris? Will Rosa dump all for Ibsen? Do the owners exist? On the cusp of a sea-change, all are revealed as careerists with real ambitions, ruthlessness in a world of Imperfect Love. The clown Marco is played by Ed Malone and Beppo, by David O'Hara. They are incidentals completely pertinent in our world of Fake vs Real News. Smart of Michael Di Jiacomo, director to delineate the boundaries.  My congrats to Brandon Cole for this play making it to the stage at this time.


Monday, January 22, 2018

THE WAPSHOT WHATEVER's Fearless Director Vincent Santvoord and subjects May 1st.

The Wapshot Whatever's Fearless Director Vincent Santvoord and subjects (Chelsea Rodriguez, Lauren Elizabeth, Nate Taylor-Leach and me) @Dixon Place last night. May 1st is creeping up...

Daniel Tay is an earnest funnyman playing Rogue and Security programs in The Wapshot Whatever. While Rogue is outside the "law", Security vehemently upholds rules of his maker--even on time renewals!

Dan's switch is all about timing-- big action and small gestures. Actor and stand-up, he will be performing w/comedian Phil Korz June 5th--at Caroline's on Broadway. He's part of their Breakout Artist Comedy Series.


WAPSHOT Spotlight today on Chelsea Rodriguez!

Chelsea Rodriguez is a transformative performer with uncanny grace. She plays both an earthy data miner and a mystical Repair program enmeshed in digits in THE WAPSHOT WHATEVER.
Modern dancer, choreographer,drag performer, she's performed with Street Cirque’s Boudicca and Newly Human Productions. Ballerina Bizet is her stage name for gender fluid drag.
Here in rehearsal,Chelsea, Lauren, Nate. 

Lauren Elizabeth IS really versatile! Besides her work as an actor, director, performer, she heads her own production company, STREET CIRQUE.. Combining traditional stage and circus, in October the company brings to life the Celtic warrior queen BOUDICCA.
Lauren brings circus to her interpretation of THE WAPSHOT WHATEVER's smiley Appbook program and mystery to the role of a certain Off Shore Server. May 1st Dixon Place

Image may contain: one or more people, people dancing, fire and night

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THE WAPSHOT WHATEVER: The Secret Lives of Computer programs -Extraordinary actor Nathaniel Taylor-Leach!
Nate is actually playing 3 programs - a random dialler worm, a cleaning program and a porn switcher. 
Both both  actor and educator, he's a member of the sketch comedy troupe Dinner For One which appears at the People's Improv Theater. And he teaches acting at  the Neighborhood Playhouse Jr. School. 
Join us, May 1st, 7:30, Dixon Place 
4/9- Rehearsal 
St. Veronica's dance school, site of rehearsal, had ballerinas last night &; has Flamenco. We got their white green room. Script's got intricacies but director teased them out and it was an insighful time. Show's taking shape with sounds and background images, then animation. Costume designer measured for her painterly treatments. See how tonight goes!
Dixon Place Where else to see sentient Programs and a User shadow world? (60 minutes.)

Dixon Place Presents: THE WAPSHOT WHATEVER: The Secret Lives of Computer Programs  
MAY 1, 2018, 7:30PM. Mainstage. BY  Susan I. Weinstein, Directed by: Vincent Santvoord. 

Featuring: Chelsea Rodriguez, Lauren Elizabeth, Danny Tay, Nathaniel Taylor-Leach
Are there sentient beings whose lives play out inside your device? Computer Programs create the twilight feel of internet imaginings amid the electronic landscape. The story begins with a stray Rogue program and an Off-Shore Server originally bundled together, who merge in ways unplanned by their creators. In this lingo play programs bear traces of human origins yet are inhuman. Shadow users outside the box interact, a shock of world within worlds in this dark and funny play.

http://dixonplace.org/performances/the-wapshot-whatever-the-secret-lives-of-computer-programs/ 161 A. Chrystie St, NYC 10002 (Bowery &2nd Ave.) (212)219-0736  $15 in advance, $18 at door,  Stu./Sen./idNYC $12 in advance, $15 at door

Projections! Shadow User World, Programs run amuck!


The Wapshot Whatever: The Secret Lives of Computer Programs creates the twilight look and feel of internet imaginings and the electronic landscape. The story begins with a stray Rogue program and commercial Off Shore server bundled together who merge in ways unplanned by their creators. In this lingo play, programs bear traces of their human origins yet are inhuman. Owners outside their box are shadows that interact, a shock of worlds within worlds in this dark and funny play. Come on May Day, if you're in NYC. It's an early show. 7:30

The Wapshot Whatever: The Secret Lives of Computer Programs creates the twilight look and feel of internet imaginings and the electronic landscape. The story begins with a stray program and commercial server bundled together who merge in ways unplanned by their creators. In this lingo play, programs...



Chelsea Rodriguez, modern dancer & drag performer, has performed at Dixon Place, Brooklyn Arts Exchange, The producers’ Club, Joyce SoHo.

Nathaniel Taylor-Leach, actor and theatre educator, is a member of the sketch comedy troupe, Dinner For One, from May appearing monthly at the People’s Improv Theater.

Lauren Elizabeth, actor, director, performer, heads her own production company, Street Cirque, which combines traditional stage and circus.

(collaborator) Sara Minisquero, actress, director, stage manager performed in Regeneration Theatre’s AS IS in February  and She-Moon at The Muse, Brooklyn.

(Director) Vincent Santvoord is co-founder of the Brooklyn based theater collective, Built for Collapse and Motel Room Studios.

(playwright) Susan I. Weinstein‘s plays have been produced by A.C.T., at The Harold Clurman Theater, read or performed at The Public Theater, Trinity Rep &  Truant Arts. Her adaptation of The Little Mermaid was performed at Toykraft in Williamsberg. She is the author of The Anarchist’s Girlfriend.

THE WAPSHOT WHATEVER:  The Secret Lives of Computer Programs
TUESDAY, MAY 1, 2018 AT 7:30PM
Dixon Place, Mainstage
61 A. Chrystie St, NYC 10002 (Bowery &2nd Ave.) (212)219-0736


Setting:  Stage lit with white light.  A vaguely human appearing form in black coat, covered in computer wires. As it walks and rants, small lights go on amid electronic pops.
Time:  Infinite now

                                                                ROGUE PROGRAM
      The wapshot legend has broken down.  For whatever am I going to the office, barely paid so wolf's at the door blowing me down--chomping mouth says you can't make it. Try as you might little piglet, you're another sausage for the gin mill, the spirit mill.

ROGUE  daintily sits crosses legs, sits on floor.

       We want authenticity in pre-packaged tinsley lives that have no real people in them. We want escape. Celeb glamour, see pretty people have flaws unlike you whose whole life is a flaw. So says….

ROGUE wonders answer to this and stands to ponder.

       Have not, whap nut. Am I a homeless geek, a sexy disadvantaged youth, a sad-eyed girl from the homelands?  I am also no corporate executive or a hybrid working girl, middle-aged muse. Whatever!  Provocateur. Dark panicky incoherence of a rogue program in the universal computer.  A home in every port.  My sweethearts upload me and never know I look into the hearts of their on-line anxieties, searches, and blogs pursuing content. I'm the nebulous nothing of information technology when everything is present.

ROGUE sighs sadly

       I love a little fool server off the Aussie coast. She serves island hoppers, giving weather warnings, hurr and him-a-caines coming to a shore near them. She's a dear one…
Rogue pushes switches on himself. Out comes a  petite server program, wearing a white suit with black blinking wires.  She talks in proud bursts.

                                                                    SERVER PROGRAM

      Aruba, the Canaries, Singapore, Florida Keys, Sardinia, Manhattan Island.  Day or night I'm the bellweather, the urgent voice with updates on Calvin or Marie, Andrew and Elizabeth. I see the Eye approaching, gangway, flee cars, houses. Find cellars!  Shivery, underground they heed me or, or too late clinging to palms, losing grip, are blown out to sea. .

 General Admission
$15 in advance
$18 at the door
$12 in advance
$15 at the door

Monday, January 1, 2018

Peter Cherches' STAR COURSE--The growth of celebrity culture in an America eager to see stars in the flesh

"In the century before television brought stars into our living rooms, celebrities crisscrossed the nation, bringing entertainment and perspectives to towns large and small. Peter Cherches, through his careful research and engaging prose, brings the stars and impresarios of the nineteenth-century lecture circuit back from the dead and gives us a front-row seat. This is an important book." - David T.Z. Mindich, author of Just the Facts: How "Objectivity" Came to Define American Journalism and chair of Temple University's journalism department
Peter Cherches, best known for his witty, probing fictions in the  minimalist vein, such as Lift Your Right Arm and Autobiography Without Words, also has a Ph.D. in American Studies. In STAR COURSE, he has written a unique book for anyone interested in the origins of celebrity culture. It begins in a 19th-century America with no TV and radio, let alone Internet. Here are audiences, which  distingush between moral entertainment--uplifting enlightening lectures appropriate for respectable people--and Puritanical ideas of theater as ungodly, lowlife entertainment to excite the senses. The Lyceums, a kind of continuing education, offered useful entertainment, such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, dramatic readings by Charlotte Cushman, though Shakespeare was occasionally snuck in with hypocritical ad copy, as a dissertation on jealousy or revenge.  
The Lyceum Movement, which lasted 15 years, evolved into the "star courses" (star was a theater word), which brought a wider range of people, such as humorists, like Mark Twain, Thomas Nast, cartoonist, Henry Ward Beecher, star cleric, Henry Morton Stanley, African explorer. Popular women lecturer's included Anna Dickinson, impressionist Helen Potter, Brigham Young's 19th wife, among others. Cherches gives an idea of the attractions and performances of these Stars, more often than not solicited and signed by journalist James Redpath, whose successful Lyceum Bureau supplied talent for the Star Courses. He and other bureaus began the use of public relations to promote their tours. 
As Star lecturers criss-crossed the country, people came not surprisingly to see the famous in the flesh, rather than buy the lecture in book or pamphlet form. And, in the case of Thomas Nast, his lecture tour was hugely poplar because of his ability to draw engaging caricatures. Some of these performances prefigure the content of TV and radio, such as the talk show host or news reader, famous for being themselves.
Cherches' history of celebrity culture uniquely looks at human behavior, impresarios, the content of Star performances, the rise of public relations and the enlarged transportation network, to show how the lecture platform worked as a kind of pre-internet mass media. Popular mass entertainment was a fact of life as America entered the 20th century. Cherches, also a performer, accessed archives and newspaper accounts to recreate a little known but pivotal chapter in the story of American popular culture. And, without the index, it's about 100 pages. Star Course is definitely worth the read. Even the index.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Congrats, Micah Harris! 1/20/18 launch of "Only Small Things Are Good," https://www.facebook.com/micahhharris/videos/2043386275905486/

Congrats, Micah Harris!
1/20/18 launch day and Book Party.
If you can't make the party go to www.micahharris.com for more info and videos below.

ALL info about this event, ttps://www.facebook.com/events/200649817153156/  
Join us on Capitol Hill on January 20 for an open house to celebrate the official release of Only Small Things are Good. You’ll have a chance to hear from author Micah Harris, chat with early readers, and pick up your own signed copy. Feel free to invite a friend!
The doors will be open from 4-6 p.m., with a brief author introduction and Q&A beginning at 4:30. Hope to see you there!
If you can’t make it to the launch, visit www.micahharris.com to see what people are saying about the book, watch a brief intro video, and to order your own copy.

A new interview.  http://humanepursuits.com/only-small-things-are-good/

"Every other country is a place, a race, a language
 but America is an idea and if the idea dies we become a collection'
of parts that used to be a whole thing-
like the parts of a car that has
lost its bolts."
--From Only Small Things are Good.

About this book:
Q. It is interesting how the style shifts from a boy in the natural world to a man thinking in memos, bullets, and footnotes. I also like how you intertwined the stories of Joel’s life at the Pentagon and his childhood in rural Texas and how they meet at the end. Was that a plan?
MH. Yes. This is where Plato’s Republic comes in. Its framing question is what does a “just soul” look like? A soul is local and, according to Plato, so small we must model it on a larger scale if we hope to see it well. Plato spends much of the Republic considering the functions of a “just city.” My novel is the reverse. America is too large to see so I’ve modeled it in a person, a family, and a community.

Another excerpt. "The core of power is credibility. The key to credibility is communication, and the first rule of communication is that you listen tremendously to learn who the other person is. The second rule is that you must know who you are. And the third rules comes after the first two: you must tell yourself generously to that person. If that sounds easy, it means you've never tried."

“I can’t remember the last political novel I read with any enjoyment. But Harris’s writing is smart and deeply attentive to the importance of language itself in human relations, and his characters all have functioning hearts, even if bruised or buried. I’m pretty sure Joel is more conservative than I am, and I rooted for him, which felt good.”
– Dr. Devon Miller-Duggan, author of Alphabet Year, Professor of Creative Writing, University of Delaware

“Only Small Things Are Good draws you in with its hilarious, too-true notes on the travails of a Washington policy staffer but it keeps you hooked with Joel’s family story and increasingly essential questions about our country and our life together. Anyone who wonders what life is really like for us much-maligned beltway insiders, or misses worthwhile political discussions, should read this book. It left me wanting to urge nearly everyone in my office, ‘read this, and then we’ll really talk.’”
– Jessica Rodgers, Foreign Affairs Officer, U.S. Department of State
“Only Small Things Are Good is the Iliadic tale of a hero who, despite the tidal wave of events put upon him by the gods, remains determined to see his task through to the end. I’ve spent my time down range and I can only say: I wish everyone at the Pentagon had a friend named Sam-Bob. I hope you laugh or groan (or groan/laugh) as much as I did over this book.”
– Matthew Thomas, former Sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps infantry
“Small Things offers a deft rendering of how policy is made in our nation’s national security bureaucracy, and of how a prophetic voice may be betrayed while speaking truth to power. As an academic who has worked in these institutions, I would highly recommend this novel to the seasoned Washington D.C. policy wonk and I would also extend this recommendation to everyone who seeks a better understanding of the civil servants—the mothers, fathers, sons and daughters—who are the backbone of these institutions.”
– Dr. Elizabeth (Libby) Turpen, President and Co-founder of Octant Associates LLC

Another short excerpt from Only Small Things are Good.

The Unwritten Rules

Last year I started work in the office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) and, in that place, I found five facts, lined and balding i n a row, each coming from the one before like a series of Russian dolls, and all of them judging the occupants of my desk.

1. Something is broken about my world.
2. People expect me to fix it.
3. I can't fix it but...
4. I can possibly make it better by trying, and...

5. My job is to try.
Excerpt from Only Small Things are Good

"The Unwritten Rules

A bolt lies loose in the oil under your government, and the reason it broke and fell down there instead of holding things together like it should have done, is because this bolt is a bolt, and bolts are dead. Governments should be run by the living.

My name is Joel Alden. I became what I am in a mechanic's shop where the wrench slips and you skin the knucles of God's hand that He gave you for the purpose of working. You curse not at all and the good people of the earth pay you a hard dollar for the trucks that were set right by your labor. I grew my handshake hard there, and my voice took such a tone that you cannot doubt but I have told you straight all that I have told..."

"...a novel that offers a lively portrait of the realistic and fantasy life of a Pentagon staff officer."--Madelyn R. Creedon, Former Assistant Secretary of Defense.

In Micah Harris’ new novel, Only Small Things Are Good (January 20, Pagescape Press), Joel Alden, a low-level employee at the Pentagon, unexpectedly finds himself at the nexus of power. Raised in a devout, rural Texas family, Joel grew up working on the farm and later as a mechanic in his dad's shop. His people gave him a sense of what is real and true. He was also raised with a mission to protect the weak. That mission and his faith sent him to Africa to alleviate suffering. He returned an agnostic.

In this novel, less about politics than the reality of how government works, Joel’s origin story is interwoven with that of the present day realist, who brings the craftsmanship of a mechanic to his job at the Pentagon. Yet, in the Pentagon, he spends frustrating days writing memos for actions and initiatives that may never happen. Then he reads a memo that grips him, about the repatriation of released detainees and religious “deradicalization” studies, required by their home countries and funded by the U.S.

Joel’s critique and proposal to improve this program, attract the attention of his President. He asks Joel to take some time to describe what makes us American and how we might repair this thing. Joel is overwhelmed. Can one person speak such a truth and set a wrong right?  Does he have anything meaningful to say?

Joel asks for the help of his perceptive ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend “Socrates.” But their abstract philosophical conversation pales against the good sense of Joel’s housemate, who has actually served in the military. Joel also pays a visit to his family and realizes the distance between his life, working in the Pentagon, and the lives of people who work hard in small towns. In the end,  can Joel's truth have meaning for a president isolated by layers of bureaucracy from his people?

A beauty of this novel is Harris' voice. With echos of John Steinbeck and David Foster Wallace, this novel is at once earnest and self-deprecating, sincerely seeking what's true with personal footnotes both funny and explanatory. The novel is a kind of universal wish fulfillment fantasy about having the chance to talk truth to power.  This thoughtful novel unifies divisions in a tale of America as it is and might be. .

About the Author

Micah Harris grew up on a West Texas ranch then moved to Washington, DC. Over the past 12 years he has worked in the Senate, the White House, and the Office of the Secretary of Defense. He holds an MA in Liberal Arts from St. John's College and works as a consultant for the Department of Defense. Only Small things Are Good is his first published novel.

Pagescape Press

Pagescape Press is a publishing cooperative. Originally founded as a virtual publishing house specializing in e-book editions, it now offers paperback versions of selected titles as well. It features works of literary merit, including poetry, fiction, and non-fiction, in the arts, sciences, and humanities. A list of its titles can be found on its website at www.pagescapepress.com.