Details to follow...
Details to follow...
Paramount Center Mainstage, Tremont Street, Boston, MA
Writers: Yaël Farber, adapted from “Miss Julie” by August Strindberg
Performing company: Baxter Theatre Centre of South Africa
Presenting organizations: ArtsEmerson Boston, MA
Nov. 30- Dec. 8, 2013
It’s a good thing smoking is not allowed in theaters. With the tiniest of sparks, the Paramount Theater would have gone up in a fireball midway through “Mies Julie” tonight. The heat between Mies Julie (Hilde Cronje) and John (Bongile Mantsai), a laborer on her father’s estate in the rural East Cape region, is incandescent. Mies Julie is acting recklessly while her father is away from the farm. Young, sexually capricious, an entitled Mies Julie exudes a sense of a woman in heat.
PlaywrightYael Farber updated August Strindberg’s “Miss Julie”, first produced in 1888, to take place in her homeland South Africa. To Strindberg’s original themes dwelling on tensions between class and the sexes, add tension between the races and ownership of land in post Apartheid South Africa. Powderkeg.
Julie flirts provocatively with John, her father’s young black servant whom she’s known since they were both children. John, aroused but aware of his social standing, keeps his distance. With Julie’s persistence, you know he will be sorely tested.
A storm is on the way. With heavy atmospherics, thunderous rumbling bass tones so deep that you feel them vibrating through the theater floor, the mist blowing over the set, you know something of awful Shakespearian scale is going to transpire. And the play has hardly begun.
It is impossible to understate Hilde Cronje’s ability to portray Julie’s raw sexual desire and the way she uses her power as a white woman to manipulate John, at one point saying, “Master is away, you eat here,” ordering John to sit at the wood plank kitchen table.
Bare gleaming legs, short skirt, loose red tunic, she glides with the sultry body awareness of a ballerina intent on seduction, not sure how far to take her precocious behavior. “Kiss my foot,” she demands, then pulls her foot away when he kneels before her.
Underneath the sexuality of this volatile relationship is the friction between white landowners and the black population on whom they depend for labor. The play takes place on the eve of the 18th anniversary of Freedom Day, the first in which citizens of all races were allowed to take part in 1994. Soon after, Nelson Mandela was named President. The right to vote and the assumption of political power by Mandela’s African National Congress (ANC) did not immediately address the issue of land ownership. The problem of land ownership plagues South Africa to this day.
Hilda Cronje as Julie and Bongile Mantsai as John in Baxter Theatre Center of South Africa and ArtsEmerson’s production of “Mies Julie.”
The farmhouse kitchen takes up most of the stage. Its rustic worn wood planks, wooden table, chairs, cabinet give Julie, who stalks the stage like a cat, plenty of room to try to work out her demons. Her father is away but his presence is nearly spectral in the form of his black boots that John assiduously buffs while being tested by Julie.
The intermittent presence of John’s mother, who raised Julie after her mother committed suicide, seems to be the only person governing Julie’s behavior. Raised in the old tradition, John's mother knows that much has changed but much remains the same after universal right to vote became the law of the land.
She’s seen enough of her white masters’ behavior to know their faults and cruelty. As a church going servant, she tries to stifle her son’s fierce sense of entitlement to own some of the land on which he toils, land his family owned before their right to own it was abolished in the Bantu Land Act No. 27 of 1913 (described in the theater program). Land restitution was called for in the 1990s but it hasn’t gained much traction. John hasn’t been brave enough to openly defy his master but is becoming more militant in his views.
Sexual politics? Plenty here. Julie’s power as daughter of landowner gives her room to manipulate. The only thing she needs to fear is her own lust. Virile and robust, John knows he has what Julie wants, that it's a source of power for him. Carnal attraction pulls them together. A belief they are each entitled to the farmland pulls them apart. Three generations of Julie’s forebears are buried in the land. John’s relatives are buried under the floor of the kitchen built when the property changed hands.
Clearly, the playwright is a provocateur in her own right. Arguments over who has the right to the land isn’t usually involved in foreplay but here it makes sense. Both John and Julie know that land and who controls it shaped who they are and who they will become.
In a storm of intensity rarely portrayed on stage, John and Julie copulate violently on the kitchen table. John lays claim to Julie and the property she represents. Blood is spilled. Both lives have been destroyed. More bodies will be buried in the land. Who will own it? Farber lets us draw our own conclusions.
Please. Thank you. You’re welcome.
We teach these words to little kids to use at the appropriate times. You remember how you might have been prompted to say, “Please,” after you babbled, “Milk”? Apparently, when you join the ranks of NPR reporters and commentators, “You’re welcome” is expunged from the playbook.
A reporter finishes a short piece on the election, the economy, the World Series, whatever. The host says, “Thank you for speaking with us.” The reporter says, “Thank you.”
What? Did the host do the reporter a favor?
This sounds like one of those old Alphonse and Gaston routines in which both parties outdo each other in politeness. Said reporter did a good job. Said host says “Thank you.” Why the hell can’t the respondent say, “You’re welcome”?
The closest on-air response to a “Thank you” that approaches “You’re welcome” is, “My pleasure.” The respondent may as well say, “This what I’m paid to do, keeps food on the table, glad you liked it, you’re welcome.”
Answering “Thank you” with “Thank you” marginalizes what the reporter has just done - given us a cogent report that sheds light on a newsworthy topic.
I love getting praise or acknowledgment. Someone tells me “Good job” or “Thank you” if I hold open a door, or let someone into a line and I say, “You’re welcome.” It feels like the natural completion of social transaction. For a couple of seconds, I just made the world a better place.
The next time someone says, “Thank you,” what will you say? I want the truth now, so feel free to explain yourself .
Paul A. Tamburello, Jr.'s "Pet Peeve Department"
All Is Lost: A Film
The film is, with the exception of the first minute when the lone sailor reads aloud a note he pens after 8 days of surviving on a life raft, without dialogue. The sound of the ocean, raging, lolling, calm and the wind flapping the sails or enclosure over a tiny life raft are what matters. They are all the mariner hears, all we hear.
I’ve been offshore several times as crew on Trans-Atlantic crossings. After a couple of weeks, the rhythm of sea sets into your bones. Conversations become sparse in the cockpit. Water in motion is the constant soundtrack. You hear it slapping against the hull an inch from your ear when you’re sleeping, swooshing in swells when you’re on watch, even the tiniest of ripples against the topsides in a calm, the sea a perfect mirror so still and flat it looks like you could step off the boat and take a stroll right over it.
Then there’s the sound you never want to hear. Water rushing into the cabin. Which is when “All Is Lost” begins. If water could talk, it might have been reading the sailor the Last Rights.
The mariner doesn’t talk. Slowly, tentatively, as the reality of the shipping container that stove in the starboard waterline of his 39 foot sloops takes shape in his head, which, moments before in a midday nap, was perhaps filled with dreams of the life he left behind, he acts.
Radio communication gone. Most food stores gone. Most of his water gone. The next hundred and six minutes are a man’s bid to survive.
What’s left? Materials he finds to attempt to patch the vessel. A jug of water, a sextant - the gift he never thought he’d need. A previously unopened book titled “Extreme Weather: A Guide and Record Book”. The vast Indian Ocean. And a will to live.
The sailor does what he can. He tries to fix the radio. He tries to patch the hull well enough to withstand herds of cumulonimbus clouds packing mighty storms charging from the horizon. He nearly drowns as he tries to rig a storm jib during a gale. His boat sinks. He’s now alone and afloat on a tiny life raft, it's thin skin the only barrier between him and the deep. The image of his tiny raft, one yellow molecule bobbing in the vast ocean, shrieks “ALONE!”
Focused, nearly stoic, he does one small thing at a time. He learns to use the sextant. He plots a course toward the shipping lanes. He makes a still to produce drops of water. He tries to fish. Sharks appear. Container ships appear and vanish over the horizon.
Close up shots of the 77 year-old sailor’s craggy, salt-crusted face are eloquent speeches about his deteriorating emotional and physical state. One by one, his options are closed down. He is forced to reconcile hope and resignation. When I realize I’d feel manipulated if the cavalry were to charge over the next wave and save him, I realize how this must end.
It is left to us to interpret the note he scrawls. “I think you would all agree that I tried,” he writes, “All is lost.” To whom is it written? Does it matter? Weak, dehydrated, possibly delusional, he tucks the note into a jar, seals the lid, hesitates, then casts it weakly into the ocean.
The film’s ending is enigmatic, ambivalent and satisfying, a Rorschach test of your sensibilities. If you’re a certain age, it puts you smack in the middle of your own vast ocean of coming to terms with death. Will all be lost? Depends on how you navigated…and luck.
A play by Steven Barkhimer
Boston Playwrights’ Theatre
949 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA 02215
Cast: Daniel Berger-Jones (Lester), Nael Nacer (Rocco), Alex Pollock (Kenny), Brandon Whitehead (Vic), and Will Lyman (Al)
Director: Brett Marks
Set, Anthony R. Phelps; Costumes, Rachel Padula Shufelt; Lights and sound, David Wilson.
Running time: two hours ten minutes with one ten minute intermission
November 24, 2013
This play is as much fun and layered complexity as you're going to get in a two-hour theater production. It has everything going for it. The right cast, the right theater, the right set.
A recent college graduate, Kenny (Alex Pollock), is hired as an office assistant at Turner Point Fish in the Fulton Fish Market in roustabout lower Manhattan in the early 1980s, long before it becomes gentrified. With a major in philosophy and a minor in math, he seems to be a weird fit. Vic (Brandon Whitehead), blue-collar and proud of it, is the “Windowman,” who runs the small office. Vic vows to take it easy on him on his first morning of work a little before 4 AM. The previous assistant lasted exactly one day.
Playwright Steven Barkhimer drops two plot bombs in the first minutes of the play. “We were $400 short yesterday. It’s not the first time,” business owner Al tells Vic, who dismisses it as a mistake that will be corrected. A minute later, Al follows with, “I’m getting a computer, that should solve the problem.” It’s hard to get a read on Vic – is he relieved or worried?
After the play’s first frenetic minutes, you sense something is awry. Orders are barked in from a PA system from the warehouse floor. They’re paid for through the noisy sliding metal window, which seems to be a sixth character by the play’s ending. The phone often rings with mysterious gravel-voiced Sal who wants to talk with Al, owner of the business. Kenny screws up some of what Vic calls “the codes”.
The furious pace of ordering, calculating, writing receipts, is tense. Exactly how tempting is the cash coming through that window?
Kenny (Alex Pollock) and Vic (Brandon Whitehead)
“I’ve never seen so much money in my life,” Kenny says surveying the mountain of greenbacks he tallies at the end of his first day. Cash indeed. We begin to wonder about the codes Vic tells Kenny to write on the invoices.
We have ideas how the computer might change business as usual. But what the hell is going on with the money? And why do some of the orders barked from the floor end with “Going south”? Why is Vic so picky about how he wants Kenny to write up the invoices? Rarely does a play establish its footing so quickly and firmly.
The genius of the play is how these questions are answered. Using back-stories and revealing dialogue, Barkhimer paints a picture of Kenny, Vic, and Al undergoing transformations on a scale fitting the problems by which they are bound together. By the end of the play, you really care about what becomes of the three main characters.
Playwright Steven Barkhimer’s ear for the play’s dialogue was honed at the Fulton Fish Market, where he worked after graduating from college in the 1980s. For the next three years, Barkhimer got a degree in the college of hard knocks. If you’re fussy about vulgar language, take a pass on this play.
The set is simple and brilliantly conceived. The messy, cramped office space set in the shoebox-sized Boston Playwright’s Theater with seating at the front of the stage magnifies the immediacy of the intense action going on in the office, the only place we see the action unfolding. The rest is brought to life as characters in the office allude to the action where the fish are sorted and sold on the warehouse floor.
Al comes into the office periodically to check on Kenny. Al inherited the family business. Erudite, inquisitive, and hard driving, if he weren’t running Turner Point Fish, he’d probably be a principal in his own law firm. He’s a hard-ass boss intrigued by this college kid with a knack for numbers, Socrates dialectics and no idea where he wants his life to go. He quickly sizes Kenny up. “The longer you don’t know what you want, the longer you do what someone else wants,” he tells the wishy-washy kid in a paternal but firm way.
None of this would amount to small change if we didn’t get invested in these three guys. First of all, they look and talk so damn right for their parts and have mannerisms to match them. Vic’s beer gut, disheveled appearance, flannel shirt hanging out, is the voice of the working man (“I was born in Brooklyn, live in Brooklyn, and will die in Brooklyn.”). He takes a liking to Kenny, asks him about his love life (“Are you sending it in every night?” he asks, making a crude gesture) and makes us laugh with his witty, vulgar ripostes to customers at his “window.” Vic confides to Kenny that he has family troubles. His plan to manage them is the fulcrum on which the play turns. How will it involve Kenny?
With his diffident way of answering questions, lack of direction, it’s clear that Kenny is drifting. He has a grasp of business efficiencies and the ability to work under pressure cooker days beginning at 4 AM. Kenny can keep track of Vic’s orders coming and going through the sliding metal window box that Vic uses to rake in cash from customers and send receipts to customers at a frenetic pace. There are orders from the warehouse floor, from the phone, from the window. The crackle of business is intense, with the immediacy of a 911 call we can feel all the way to the back of the small theater.
Will Lyman’s Al is the play’s center of gravity. He commands respect or fear. He can quote Socrates, spot fault lines in the cash business, drives his employees hard when he works with them on the warehouse floor. He can read a man’s character as easily as he can gaff fish with the hook hanging over his shoulder. He’s developed his own moral code, a code that is brilliantly on display in “Windowmen”s final scene.
The play is rounded out with Rocco (Nael Naser), a shady small businessman who connives to get better prices and pay late. The other minor character, in cahoots with Vic, is Lester (Daniel Berger-Jones) who works on the warehouse floor with Al and the rest of the crew.
As the second act gets underway, I realize I’m watching a morality play in which men try to do the right thing, each by their own lights. Honesty becomes a relative commodity, a wandering North Star to Al, Vic and Kenny. They’re good men, decent men, doing the best they can.
Al’s plan to resolve business and personal matters is satisfying and laced with wisdom and unexpected humanity. As the lights dim to dark onstage, we see how their fates have changed for the better. And we cheer.
Photo courtesy Boston Playwrights' Theatre
There are a ton of threads and themes coursing through this play. Several of the cast’s ten members play multiple roles. The play catapults across four decades between 1965-2012 in Bellington, an imaginary small insular town north of Boston. Just as soon as I thought I had a tentative grip on the story, another character would appear, often an older or younger version of one in a previous scene, and Greenidge would parse out more back-story.
The fact that there are several two-page layouts showing a map of Bellington, “The Families of Bellington,” and four pages of Greenidge’s thoughts about “Points of Departure and Inspiration” is way too much to have to digest a few minutes before the house lights dim for the first act. Any play that needs this much explaining is in trouble. Halfway into the first act, I felt like an unwilling contestant in Jeopardy.
The play’s pace was full tilt, characters abruptly entering and exiting the theater-in–the-round set. Sitting in the back row of the relatively small Black Box Theater, I missed dialogue when characters were facing away from me.
I don’t mind that the play jiggled between decades during each of the two acts. I do mind that it feels disjointed. There were chunks of the story that aren’t fully explained and Greenidge asks me to make connections with what feels like two tin cans and a long stretch of copper wire.
Bellington sounds like a beleaguered town, suffering from unemployment, class differences, grief over deaths of young family members and the still stinging results of bygone high school football games. There are high school romances, an interracial marriage, racial tension, small town gossip, infidelities over time, economic and socio-cultural biases. The playwright’s attempt to take it all on feels more like a soap opera than a theater production. And oh, the play begins the day before Thanksgiving 2012, when families converge, old hurts surface and Greenidge takes us back forty years where the struggles begin.
Scattered like stray pieces of rice on the church steps after a wedding recessional, there are bits of solid character acting. I just wish that Greenidge tried to tell us less and show us more.
Photos from play program by Paul A. Tamburello, Jr.
Lyric Stage Company, Boston
Written by Quiara Alegría Hudes
Director Scott Edmiston
Set, Richard Wadsworth Chambers; Costumes, Elisabetta Polito; Lights, Karen Perlow; Sound design/composer, Dewey Dellay; Video, Amelia Gossett.
November 15, 2013
This is not your average theater production. The cast is Hispanic, black, Asian, and white. The setting is split between an online chat room and real-time family drama. Until the second act unfolds it appears to be two plays, interesting but fragmented. Where the heck is playwright Queria Alegria Hudes headed and what’s the point, you wonder.
Like a street performer in Harvard Square, Hudes starts out juggling three balls, then four, then five, then adds a few plates, a bowling pin and a kitchen knife to the mix. Can she pull it off, and will anyone get hurt are the two questions come to mind. After two hours and 15 minutes, you’re ready to dig into your pocket to give her, the cast and production team of “Water by the Spoonful” a tip.
One chunk of the play revolves around two twenty something Hispanic American cousins Elliot Ortiz (Gabriel Roderiguez) and Yazmin Ortiz (Sasha Castroverde). The two cousins mothers are sisters. Sasha’s mother has just died, and their family is already fighting over her furniture. Elliot, a wounded Marine veteran, has a dead end job in a sub shop in Philadelphia and dreams of heading to Los Angeles to become a Latino movie star. The stage bond they forge feels authentic, forged in their own Puerto Rican family’s assimilation into American life.
The other chunk recreates an online chat room dedicated to helping its members steer clear of crack cocaine. These are broken people struggling to get through life a day at a time. Separated geographically and culturally, they are joined at the hip via computer.
The set deserves its own credit. Spare, a few plastic chairs, a plastic table, a desktop computer is all that’s necessary. During the online chats, a spotlight illuminates the participants who talk to each other’s online presence, no pretense of keypads or laptops, just people trying to get past the day without getting fired or high. These characters could not be more different. What they have in common is the will, often tested, to survive.
Theresa Nguyen, Johnny Lee Davenport* in Water by the Spoonful. Photo by Mark S. Howard.
Eight plasma screens hang over the simple set show who’s online or photographs or fuzzy videos representing an aspect of the play. We are so used to looking at IPads, iPhone and laptops that we don’t think twice about glancing at the video screens in our vision of the play. At its best, we can’t distinguish between what’s more powerful, the virtual or the real world, as both worlds tug at the characters.
Fountainhead (Gabriel Kutner) is a businessman whose crack habit cost him a job and perhaps a marriage. Orangutan (Therese Ngyuyen) is a young Japanese American searching for a mother in Japan who gave her away to an orphanage. Chutes&Ladders (Johnny Lee Davenport) is a fiftyish IRS bureaucrat trying to break out of self imposed isolation and guilt at losing his family when he got addicted to crack. You feel them.
They have become friends, virtual friends but with loyalties as thick as any real time friendship. They log on daily, know each other’s back story and aren’t shy about offering advice and tough love. The chat room moderator, Odessa (Mariela Lopez-Ponce), a recovering addict of seven years, keeps the chats civil. Her moniker of HaikuMom, the grounded one, is deserved. She’s the glue that holds it together. She also has the most disturbing secret, a secret that embroils and enables (in the best sense) all of them by the play’s conclusion.
Hudes brilliantly pulls the disparate threads together in Act Two. It’s not pretty but it is rewarding. This story of recovery and redemption couldn’t have been written by a playwright who didn’t love the Philadelpia environment in which Elliot, Yazmin and Odessa grew up and characters like those fragile members of HaikuMom’s chatroom.
By the play’s conclusion, you’re rooting for all of them. They may or may not make it but they’ve taken the first step toward a world where their lives transcend zeroes and ones.
Ok, these guys are more famous and have more dough...and have been at it for decades.
But hey, these three friends have been rolling along for fifty years and counting... from junior high and high school days. They listened to Dylan before anyone else in town and were possibly in the lead for other clandestine cultural activities as well...just sayin'
pt, Jon Ahlen, David Connor in their hometown of Pittsfield, MA
Cutler Majestic Theatre
Director: Luis Bravo
Orchestra director, Victor Lavallén., Costumes, Argemira Affonso., Lights, Luis Bravo., Sound, Rolando Obregón., Choreography, the dancers.
October 29-November 2, 2013
Tango is the brooding crown prince of dance. Any doubts about that would have been erased after watching Louis Bravo’s “Forever Tango” at the Cutler Majestic Theater last week. Dark, sultry, sensual, primal, this dance has an urgency that puts it in its own universe.
The Cutler Majestic Theater, a lovely jewel box of plush ruby red curtains and seats and ornate gold architecture is a perfect fit for Forever Tango. When the house lights darken, the only illumination is spotlights on the dancers and small orchestra on the stage - we are disconnected from our own reality, plunged into another world.
The men are built like stevedores and can glide like sylphs. The women in sequins and dark eye shadow have the body control of ballerinas who’ve been trained in a brothel. The men in black are suave, imperial, coolly detached and controlling…but unwitting puppets to their woman’s finesse and guile. These are dances of fiercely competing emotions, bold resistance, heated attractions, mute dialogues embedded in the Tango, born in the swirling caldron of cultures that bubbled up in the Buenos Aires of the late 1800s.
Each of the dance duets feel like artistic foreplay, each ends with a dramatic moment, a satisfying climax to exquisite storylines we imagine taking place between the dancers, who in the brief courtship may argue, resist, part, then reunite as destiny and their DNA has preordained. This is high drama set to music buried in the cultural stew of Argentina, with strains of music from European emigrées, gypsies, African slaves, and Brazilian country styles in the mix.
Performed in two acts, it is impossible to separate the music and the dancing. Each dance is followed by a musical interlude that all but sets you on the streets of an Argentine city. Mournful, wistful, seductive, it hovers like a drone targeting wherever you’ve buried that part of your dark, tormented, romantic soul. The orchestra, seated on tiers behind the dancers, contains all that is necessary. Cello (composer and creator Louis Bravo), violas, standup bass, piano and three bandoneons, the accordion-like signature instrument of the tango.
Soledad Buss and César Peral in “Forever Tango.”
Louis Bravo has described the tango as “a story you can tell in three minutes.” The brief plot in each routine lasts four or five minutes but are welded permanently into your visual cortex.
The men and women betray no emotion on their faces but communicate primal desire, fierce longing counterpoised with reticence, detachment and expressive body language. Their visages may be poker faces but the eyes are those of harlot or angel, womanizer or soul mate. Part of the draw to watching is that we can add our own story to the steamy ones we are witnessing.
The choreography, created by the dancers, includes complicated footwork, muscular lifts by the men, demanding extensions for the women, and exacting timing accomplished with exquisite athletic skill. Men's hands reach toward a woman's face. What's to come - a slap or a caress? Even more beguiling is a sense that the woman would accept either as long as it ended in a passionate coupling.
Each half of Forever Tango includes a smouldering torch song. The singer, her zoftig body squeezed into her low slung sequined dress, is all black tresses, ruby lips, and white teeth pouring out the power and fragility of romantic love.
Imagine an Argentinian soap opera set to music and sung to the rafters. No translation from Spanish is offered, none is necessary. The diva seeming to make eye contact with you in the orchestra, is singing your song, your history, resonating with every romantic memory you've had since you were a teenager. You are ready to die for love as she finishes, black hair flying, arms outstretched, your heart having burst like a Roman candle illuminating the pain and pleasure of every love you have ever known.
By the final number that, like the very first, involves all twelve dancers, we’ve witnessed an evening of intense emotional tension without a word being said by the main characters. Their gestures have spoken for themselves.
Photo courtesy Forever Tango
Boston Red Sox: World Champions
Given how they pumped up a city shaken by unprecedented terrorist bombings at the Boston Marathon on the first day of the baseball season, they would have been on a pedestal even if they hadn't won the World Series. Now their pedestal might be a hazard to the International Space Station.
April 15, 2013
The Boston Marathon. The first home game of the Red Sox 2013 season. The Boston Marathon Bombing…all on the same day. The city is shaken to its foundation.
Last September, this team was mired in last place in the American League East, bedeviled by an egomaniacal manager and a few well paid malcontents. They stunk. Boston fans Waited 86 years to win their second World Series in 2004. They can tolerate losing. They cannot tolerate losers and the 2012 team had its share of them. This year, with a new manager and a general manager who traded shrewdly for talent, they were a quixotic bunch, a team of talented Don Quixotes seeking redemption. As of today, they were living in a city that needed a shoulder to lean on.
April 19, 2013
Boston is still raw from the bombings that killed three and wounded 264 at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, less than one mile away from the ball park. The Red Sox, on a road trip after the Opening Day game, return Friday. The city and surrounding towns have been in “lockdown” since Tuesday. Their Friday home opener is canceled. On Friday night, one bomber is killed, another captured.
April 20, 2013
Play ball. A 617 emblem (Boston's area code) hangs in the dugout. The second home game is preceded by an emotional ceremony honoring the killed and injured in the bombing, the police departments, first responders and runners and volunteers who participated in the marathon. David Ortiz, the most beloved man on the team, is asked to speak.
Fenway Park becomes a chapel, Deacon David Ortiz presiding and a national audience listening.
“This jersey that we wear today, it doesn't say Red Sox. It says Boston,” Ortiz says. “We want to thank you, Mayor Menino, Governor Patrick, the whole police department for the great job they did this past week. This is our fucking city. And nobody's gonna dictate our freedom. Stay strong.”
This goes down with “Give me liberty or give me death.” Feisty since a bunch of them dumped tea from a British ship into the harbor, Bostonians don’t usually need reminders to tell them nobody’s gonna dictate their freedom. For this moment, David Ortiz achieved the status of Patrick Henry.
During the next six months, players reached out to families of the killed and wounded. Fans cheered lustily, showering the bunch of beard growing men with unconditional love, gifts and talismans.
These guys were fun to watch, a bunch of talented athletes who kept grinding away. A bunch of players who were just as likely to beat you when they were down to their last out as when they came on strong with RBIs falling like rain. A bunch of guys you can lean on.
October 30, 2013
Boston can get some sleep now. After weeks of way late night and looong
playoff games followed by a historic World Series, we’ve expended enough
adrenalin to launch a rocket ship. You didn’t dare turn off the TV
until the last out was recorded. You gladly gave up thoughts of
productivity. So what if you needed a derrick to help you struggle out
of bed when the alarm rang. The morning paper, every TV station and
sports radio station (and we have lots of them) in town told you you
weren’t dreaming. Your team, the team of bearded men you’d cross the
street to avoid if they were dressed in civilian clothes,has just won
all the marbles.
Highlight reel defensive plays. Heroic home runs. Clutch base hits. Timely pitching. A few managerial bumps along the way to prove John Farrell was indeed human. The fourth and fifth World Series games ending on plays you’d scoff at if they were in a made-for-TV movie. The win of game six last night was DESTINY rolling in like thunder.
A team whose combined batting average in playoffs (with the insane exception of David Ortiz’s .733) was around the weight of a skinny adult male, made a handful of hits when they mattered most. Heroes were born. Sagas with the narrative heft of Beowulf will now be told and retold in kitchens and bars throughout Red Sox Nation for decades to come.
It’s all over now but the shouting.
This Saturday, there will be shouting. Thousands of men, women, and children will line the streets as the team triumphantly boards Boston's signature duckboats and begins its victory tour at the finish line of the Boston Marathon a few hundred yards from the site of the bombings – a journey completed and begun at the same place.
Stay strong. Was there ever any doubt?
A Play by Nina Raine
SpeakEasy Stage Company
Directed by M. Bevin O’Gara; Scenic design by Cristina Todesco; Costume design by Mary Lauve; Lighting design by Annie Wiegand; Sound design by Arshan Gailus; Projection design by Garrett Herzig
Roberts Auditorium at the Stanford Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts, 527 Tremont Street, Boston, MA
October 18, 2013
Growing up in a family of five can be challenging enough. Add a father who has a Mensa chip on his shoulder and a son who is born deaf poses problems this play explores. Communication is as much about what is said (and heard) as how much is not.
The play begins at the family dinner table in a well to do upper middle class home. It’s a lively sarcastically amusing dinner conversation especially if you’re accustomed to four letter epithets being passed around like the broccoli. Although father, wife, son and daughter have equally foul mouths, the other son at the end of the table is not engaged in any of the conversation and left alone as the dishes are cleared away. That would be Billy, a young man we learn has been deaf by birth. Billy (james Caverly, who was born deaf) can read lips and has learned (we’re never clear how) to vocalize. He has not participated in any of the rip-roaring conversation, or even been glanced at by the other shouters. What is his place here, we wonder.
Twenty-something Daniel (Nael Nacer) and his sister Ruth (Kathryn Myles) are living at home. Neither has gained enough air speed to lift off into the world of commerce or relationships – a fact pointed out by their father Christopher (Patrick Shea) with what he considers tough love but we hear as demeaning belittling rants that clip whatever wings his children may be spreading. Christopher’s wife Beth (Adrianne Krstansky) seems immune to his rants, even when insultingly directed at her.
Growing up in this combustible family constellation ruled with gravitational force by the father, Christopher is challenging to say the least. Christopher uses his sharp intellect to throw words around like bricks, denigrating ideas and people with gusto. By the end of Act 1, you suspect his high decibel rants are emanating from a failed academic who has no room for the company of successful wife, children, or anyone else in his galaxy.
Erica Spyres and James (Joey) Caverly in SpeakEasy Stage Company’s “Tribes.” Photo Craig Bailey
Billy’s family has never made an effort to enter his universe. This becomes clear when Billy falls for a young woman he meets at a social gathering of deaf people. Sylvia (Erica Spyres) is slowly going deaf, as has happened to her parents.
Billy brings Sylvia home to the family. Christopher baits Sylvia, takes issue with deaf ‘culture’, defends the choice not to enroll Billy in schools for the deaf (“out of principle, we didn’t want to make you part of a minority world”), maintaining he wanted Billy to feel ‘normal’, and dismisses deaf the deaf community as being inbred and exclusive… a ‘tribe’ he scorns. To him, their signing is a way that separates them rather than connects them to the speaking world.
When Billy learns sign language from Sylvia, worlds collide. Billy’s family stands by in confused silence as Billy and Sylvia “talk” to each other. If you’ve ever been in the company of foreign language speakers, had no idea whether they were discussing the weather or the piece of spinach in your teeth, you get the point. Four digital screens set above the stage translate conversations as Billy and Sylvia ‘talk.’ Sylvia gets Billy a high-powered job as a lip reading expert in court cases.
His success, unexpected, unanticipated, upsets the family dynamic. Billy’s making it. They aren’t. Beth is an aspiring opera singer challenged with pitch problems, Daniel is attempting to write a thesis we suspect will never be completed, mother Ruth is working on a “marriage/detective breakdown novel,” and Christopher, an academic with authorial ambitions. None of them have succeeded yet.
The second act begins with heavy-handed exposition. Billy confronts his father for not allowing him to be in the company of other deaf kids and for dismissing deaf culture. “This is the first time you’ve ever listened to me,” Billy shouts at his father, who belittles sign language. Billy and Sylvia struggle with their differences of being deaf at birth versus becoming deaf as an adult when you know what you’re in the process of losing.
Sylvia, Daniel, and Beth deal with their failures as Billy thrives. Billy is in jeopardy of losing his job as he fabricates parts of testimony he’s lip reading to fit his own circumstances. Sylvia decides to be with hearing people until she becomes completely deaf, even though she despises the tribal hierarchy within deaf culture: the highest level being deaf children born of deaf parents.
The play’s set, a sprawling living room/dining room/ kitchen, is ingeniously designed for theater in the round. The dining room table, living room chairs, at stage level, surrounded by kitchen sink, cabinets, bookshelves, and armoires in a low perimeter that surrounds the stage elicit the feel of well-worn comfort. The music - opera, rock, pop - played before the play begins and during scene changes reminds us of how our ears take in the world around us.
The play’s final scene feels like the only forced moment, although still touching, and seems to find a truce between the tribes of hearing and non-hearing. The ensemble acting is as good as it gets. Add it to the superb sound and set design and you have a rich night at the theater.
Thousands of people flock to Girard Park, an expansive, grassy, island of greenery with rolling hills and abundant flat land smack in the middle of Lafayette. Some come to relax and eat – if the wind is right, the smell of frying food hits your nostrils as you enter the park. A serious concentration of the entire range of Louisiana cooking – shrimp, rice, catfish, crawfish, red beans and rice, jambalaya, gumbo – and sweet stuff like beignets, snowballs, and gateau frit is staked out on one side of the park. On the other is an equally serious concentration of arts and crafts native to Louisiana. Young families mix it all together, bringing their kids to the playground, to picnic on the hillsides, to wander through the arts and crafts vendor tents, and listen to Louisiana music.
Ahhh, music. The Festival Acadiens et Creole dance stages are scattered throughout Girard ParkYou can hear it from one stage or another strategically located in the 33 acre park.
Walter Mouton and The Scott Playboys in the Salle de Danse. Born in 1938, Walter's a legend, played weekends at La Poussiere in Breaux Bridge for over 35 years, began playing when he was 13. These days, he takes it easy, only plays a a few festivals a year - which is one reason the tent is so jammed. The other reason is he's so damn much fun to dance to. Several years ago, Walter said, " I consider myself a dance band as opposed to an authentic Cajun band." C'mon, Walter, singing all those two steps and waltzes in Cajun French, let's compromise - you're an authentic Cajun dance band.
The "Salle de Danse", the only covered dance floor in the festival, is situated in a dell, one of the lowest areas in the park. It rained heavily last night. There is an inch of water the size of a ping pong table on the temporary wooden floor.
Look carefully at the photo above left. See that patch of wood in the lower left corner? That's the dance floor.
The temperature is in the 80s. It's humid. Under the Salle de Danse tent, it feels like we are in a hydroponic garden. How hot is it? When couples from the densely packed floor walk past me as a dance ends, their sweaty bodies give off so much heat it feels like a passing warm front. Men and women towel off after a dance. This is not a genteel environment. We are soaked. Holding a woman close in the sauna that is a SW Louisiana afternoon, slippery skin, garments clinging to flesh, this is my idea of heaven.
Saturday's rain left patches of muddy earth all over the park. Water saturated the lowest area of the park, which, is exactly where the dance stage is located, which explains why there is a slippery puddle covering the makeshift wood flooring. Some happily wade through it, others perform some precise tight maneuvering in order to avoid it.
Ray Abshire is a fourth generation accordion player, his sons on bass and guitar working on generation five. Ray played accordion with the legendary "Balfa Brothers Band" in the 60s and 70s. Dewey Balfa played in the band that introduced America to Cajun music at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1964. Ray has performed at the Kennedy Center in NYC and dance halls over the country. He sings and plays straight ahead Cajun traditional music he learned from masters like the Balfa brothers. No fuss, no frills. Pure Acadiana.
His mentor, fiddle player Dewey Balfa (1927-1992), believed that "a culture is preserved one generation at a time," but he realized it wasn't set in stone. "A culture is like a whole tree. You have to water the roots to keep the tree alive,but at the same time, you can't go cutting off the branches every time it tries to grow."
Dewey would get a kick out of The Babineaux Sisters.They're like a box of cracker jacks with the prize in each handful. I am on my way to another stage when I pass by the Ma Scène Louisiane stage and hear this reggae sounding song with an irresistable beat coming from a Cajun music stage. I stop in my tracks. I grab a woman for a fine and sultry dance and head away again. Whaaat? They're playing a cover of Jimi Hendrix's "The Watchtower" - in French! When's the last time anyone ever heard this at a Cajun festival?
! Iook up at the stage and see these two girls, two teenagers (barely), Gracie Babineaux, 15, on fiddle and Julie Babineaux,13, on rhythm guitar, fronting the band. Next they play a ballad. I missed the title but not the feeling that I need to see them perform again soon, a new band definitely out on their own Cajun limb.
Unpack your camp chair and sit down for a day of Louisiana music. Want to listen to a different band? Drag your chair to one of the other two outdoor stages. Or bring your entire living room to the park!
Girard Park, a bucolic, grassy oasis in the middle of Lafayette, a block from the University of Louisiana Lafayette campus. Who cares about music when there's a big muddy puddle where you can try out your new boots.
Food at the vendor tents is a cash business. But - water and soft drinks are mostly donated - tickets to purchase them sold in $5.00 increments. Water or soda- two tickets. That's one way the festival makes some dough. This festival is free, an extraordinary value. The income from the drink concessions is one way the festival is subsidized.
And buy a festival pin for $10.00 to keep this three day Louisiana music extravaganza festival FREE.
Friends from Lafayette dancing on the turf.
pt with Jackie Simien, KBMT Beaumont, TX news anchor, whom he met at the Festival last year. Jackie has written a lovely children's book, Bon Jour, Tee Belle and was here at the La Place des Petites to read and sign copies. Wayne Toups and Zydecajun finishes the weekend of music as dusk and dew descend upon Girard Park.
Festival Acadiens et Creole
Girard Park, Lafayette, Louisiana
Friday October 11, Sunday October 13, 2013
5:15 PM Friday, October 11, 2013 Scène Ma Louisiane
A few women get inspired to line dance while the rest of the crowd is dancing two step or zydeco or some variation of the two while Geno Delafose and His French Rockin' Boogie with special guest Joel Sonnier sing from the stage. I decide to walk through the dancers, which would be impossible by 6:45 when Geno's set ends and this uneven patch of grass turning to mud will be packed solid. The Official Cutting of the Boudin kicked off the 39th annual event at 5:00.
Another band will follow from 7-8:45. Saturday and Sunday music and dancing will roll on from 10:30 AM until 7:15 PM. If the park had stadium lighting, there is no telling when the music and dancing would end.
PS the grey haired gent at the 1:42 mark is a 90 year young fella from Denver, he and his wife have been dancing for 20 years. Now I have another role model.
Sunday, October 13, 2013 12 PM The festival has been open an hour, will continue till 7:15, not very crowded yet.
A walk from the street down toward the Scène Ma Louisiane, the main stage (there are two other stages, one outdoors, Scène Mon Heritage) like this one, another (Salle de Danse) in a tent where the temperature could melt probably melt glass. I pass by one section of food tents, there are fifteen more nearby selling anything fried, baked, boiled or roasted, not to mention a few dedicated to your sweet tooth. Cooking demonstrations go on all day long at the Culture de la Table seen at the 0:38 mark. Three rows of Arts and Crafts vendors are in a neary section of the park.
2013 Festival Acadiens et Creole
Friday night, October 11, 2013
How do you explain an event like Festival Acadiens et Creole? To people who live in and around Lafayette, Louisiana it’s just another chance to listen to music, and, if they feel like it, to dance. Music and dance, oxygen and carbon dioxide, inseparable paired combinations.
What separates Lafayette from other cities is the volume of outdoor music. Let’s see. In Lafayette there are the Bach Lunches at noon on Friday, the four day Festival International de Louisiane in April, and the three day Festival Acadiens et Creole in October. Mardi Gras is celebrated here and in every little town within fifty miles of Lafayette.
There are over 400 (no typo) festivals celebrated a year in Louisiana.These people are imaginative. They find ways to celebrate everything that grows or lives here.
Rice? There’s the International Rice Festival in Crowley. Strawberries? The Strawberry Festival in Ponchatoula. Tomatoes? The Tomato Festival in Chalmette. Catfish? Actually two of them - Franklin Parish Catfish Festival in Winnsboro and the Catfish Festival in Washington, LA. Pride in Cajun heritage? The Giant Omelette Festival in Abbeville. Crawfish? The Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival. You get the idea.
Festival Acadiens et Creole is a genuflection to the two biggest stars in the southwest galaxy of music: Cajun and Creole music.
“This festival is special. It’s one of the most important festivals because it shines a light on our culture. It’s not just Cajun music, it’s Louisiana music,” says Steve Riley, leader of Steve Riley and The Mamou Playboys. His band travels has been traveling the world, spreading the gospel of Louisiana music for 25 years.
There is no other festival on earth that spawns such eclectic, authentic, rootsy, music that honors it's past but is not anchored to it. Just look at the names of the musicians on the program.
“Go to to dance halls and you see 20-year-olds dancing with 70-year-olds,” Riley says. “Look in the crowd, it's happening right here, right now. You can go to the Blue Moon Saloon on a Wednesday night an hear a jam session put on by a bunch of 21-year-old kids just learning how to perform. The music is alive, keeps reinventing itself. We’ve been playing together for 25 years, heck some marriages don't last that long."(probably true of the members of the band on stage, too).
I've lost track of the times I've fallen in love during an especially fine dance. A friend of mine calls them "four minute affairs." Judging by the smiles on the dancer's faces, there are plenty of affairs going on right now.
Dance floor? Heck, no. These people are dancing on what unti this morning was an uneven pach of grass. It's turning a little muddy thanks to last night' s rain. Last year, some dancers wore bandanas over their faces to keep from inhaling dust kicked up by hundreds of pairs of feet. A little mud? No one complains.
Parents, sometimes grandparents, take kids around the dance floor in their arms, on their shoulders, even have kids stand on their shoes and move to the beat with them. Are they enjoying themselves? Check the smile on the little girl. Some day, they'll do the same thing with their own kids. In southwest Louiisiana, dancing is a birthright.
Friday afternoon 5:30 PM there is Geno and His French Rockin' Boogie on the main stage at Girard Park kicking off the 39th year of Festival Acadiens et Creole. The sky is blue, the sun is lazing its way toward the horizon, the temperature is in the low 80s, the humidity is low, and spirits are high.
Right now there a couple hundred people happily shaking their booty on the uneven, clumpy, grass-beaten-down-about-to-be-mud-or-dust surface in front of the stage, with another 300 sprawled about in camp chairs or blankets listening to Geno's popular music. Geno has been playing steadily for the past 19 years. It's no wonder most of them can lip-synch or sing-along with his upbeat two steps or lazy waltzes.
Geno and His French Rockin' Boogie have been a huge draw for any dance since 1994. They play zydeco and a smattering of country/western and bluesy styles. Geno's the kickstarter for this year's festival. An honest to goodness Creole cowboy, when he's not performing he's raising horses on his Double D ranch in Duralde, LA.
Photos © by Paul A. Tamburello, Jr.
902 Johnson Street
October 11, 2013
No doubt about it. These gals rock. Tonight they played some new material, a few covers, and lots of their own catalog. Hard to pin this down. Tonight is high enegry cajun roots rock mixed with some sweet waltzes and sultry ballads. Sweaty dancers love these - a chance to slow down and hold an equally sweaty dancer in your arms.Yes. If you're fussy about your clothing becoming soaked or being in close quarters with a partner who looks like he/she just finished a hundred yard dash in the blazing sun, you probably want to listen to music at home and dance in your kitchen - which actually is fun whether you do it spontaneously while the bacon is frying or with a guest of similar persuasion. But I digress.
Artmosphere hosts some of the best bands in Lafayette. That's saying something because Lafayette has become a petrie dish incubating the next generation of cajun and roots rockers in Louisiana. Like its neighbor The Blue Moon, they give fledgling singer songwriters and bands a chance to reach for the stars - or at least a niche audience.
Bonsoir Catin used to be one of those fledgling bands. No more. They have a huge following, love and respect the traditions from which it springs, and can play the bejesus out of their guitars, fiddles, accordion and drums, which are manned by the one Y chromosome in the band.
Photos by Paul A. Tamburello, Jr.
The Blue Moon Saloon
215 East Convent Street
Lafayette, Louisiana 7050
October 10, 2013
9 PM till ?
The Blue Moon Saloon salutes Louisiana talent across the board. Roots music, Cajun, funk, a little zydeco, rock n roll, Texas two-step, blues – you’ll hear it all here from young up-and-comers and Grammy nominated (and winning) musicians like Steve Riley, Wayne Toups, Cedric Watson and bands like young Feufollet and The Pine Leaf Boys and The Red Stick Ramblers. The place isn’t afraid to book new talent with bands I’ve never heard of – The Drunken Catfish Ramblers, The Iguanas, The Creole String Beans.
And when it’s Mardi Gras or Festival International de Louisiane or Festival Acadiens et Creole, the Blue Moon Saloon is the first stop for dancers who flock to Lafayette like bees to buttercups. I have no idea what the fire code is for this establishment but I would bet a bucket of boudain it stretches the limit. If you are at all claustrophobic, this would be your nightmare.
Imagine the density of a crowd in a subway car at rush hour. Then imagine some really peppy music and everyone decides to dance. That's what happens at the Blue Moon Saloon on a night like this. The only uniformity is that this dancing bunch of sardines moves to the same beat, not necessarily in the same direction at the same time. Soft collisions are frequent, smiles are offered. Sweaty slippery bodies move along in what looks like slow motion mitosis under the microscope you used in high school biology class. The one cool thing about this is that it is a terrific excuse to dance in close embrace with your partner. Slow, steady, and smile.
Waltzes and two step are done with economy of style. Small steps, often keeping time while barely moving. Lots of hip action, like dancing on a manhole cover. Encourages your inner free spirit.
Tonight it’s Ray Abshire accordion, highly-regarded fiddlers Courtney Granger and Kevin Wimmer, Ray’s two sons on guitar and bass and Ray's friend Lisa Cormier keeping time on the drums.
"Ray Abshire's sons are Brent and Travis and their traditional style is due to Abshire's diligent commitment to our root rhythms and syncopation," says music-lover Abigail Ransonet, born and bred in Acadiana, who was one of the sweetest dancers in the crush.
Ray has played with many of the legendary Cajun musicians including
the Balfa Brothers. Today, he's a link to the past, present, and future.
Sharing the vocals with Courtney Granger, these guys are a hell of a
lot of fun to dance to.
Photos by Paul A. Tamburello, Jr.
110 Softball Drive at the Pelican Park Concert Stage behind a huge softball diamond
Carencro, LA ( The Softball Capitol of the World)
October 9, 2013
6:00 - 8:30 PM (non-stop, I might add)
Southwest Louisiana takes two things seriously: music and dancing. Well, there's also food, fishing, friendships, family ties, and farming, but let's stick with the music and dancing, the most inseparable pair of the bunch. They're not particular about where to combine the two. If you've never danced in a parking lot, in a muddy field, in front of a donut shop, at a county fair, in a city park...well, my friend, you've never been to the parishes in the heart of southwest Louisiana.
The "Mercredi" ("Wednesday" en Francais) Show is into its 8th year, with a series in the Spring and the Fall.
MORE DETAILS and a VIDEO when I return home
"We've got a special guest in the audience tonight. There's a fella who came all the way from Boston to dance to Warren Storm and Willie Tee... Paul, where are you?" says the MC. I wave to the crowd. Murray Conque, MC and well-known Cajun comdien, is the cousin of Richard Conques (see below), who told me about the Mercredi Show schedule this year. When i found them on the hillside, they had a camp chair set up for me and introduced me to their friends. That's typical SW Louisiana hospitality.
Richard and Ramona Conques, who I met at the Festival Acadiens et Creole last October; pt and Ramona on the dance floor.
Gotta love this: the beer and soft drink concession is operated by the local funeral home!
Two of the godfathers of Swamp Pop: Warren Storm and Willie Tee
Ramona and Richard Conques with pt; Richard's cousin, Comedian and popular MC Murray Conque, Warren Storm, pt
Owner of KBON FM in Eunice, LA, popular DJ Paul Marx with pt
Lunch at Cuisine de Maman
Vermilionville, a living history museum and folklife park in Lafayette, LA
October 9, 2013
I've been reading about the food served in this cozy simply designed restaurant at Vermilionville for three years and finally slowed down enough to drive over there and sit down.
The setting is rustic: the floors, walls, tables and chairs all glow of honey hued maple and oak in the main dining room and two smaller spaces, probably added on after the main dining room was built. The glass-enclosed rear dining room features an expansive view of the chocolate brown, rich with silt Vermillion River and grassy patches leading to the historic village.
The daily special for today read -
Wednesday, October 9
Chicken & Sausage Gumbo or Side Salad with Buttermilk Biscuit
Meatball Stew with White Rice
Bread Pudding or Cheesecake
In my naïve way, I thought it was a choice between the first two then dessert. Nope. The special, at a price of $9.95 was for the works. That is one big bang for your buck.
The gumbo had an authentic enough degree of spiciness to make my nose run. The meatballs with gravy over rice were a bit dry, the texture of the carrots and peas was mushy but still had taste to them. Based on this one experience, I would not consider this a food destination but it certainly is a convenience for the visitors and a cash cow for the village. One exception: the bread pudding was scrumptiously sweet with a crusty baked top.
Also on the menu: shrimp or crawfish served fried or etoufeéd, fried catfish with fries and cole slaw. If i return that's my target, plus another helping of bread pudding, of course.
This is a serious amount of food for $9.95, would fuel a visitor for a few hours of touring the historic village a few paces away.
The bread pudding, moist center, crunchy baked top, was a treat for anyone with a sweet tooth
One Man, Two Guvnors, a play by Richard Bean
Directed by Spiro Veloudos, Music Director Catherine Stornetta
Lyric Stage Company of Boston
140 Clarendon Street
Boston, MA 02116
Matthew Whiton - Scenic Design;Tyler Kinney - Costume Design; Scott Clyve - Lighting Design; Andrew Duncan Will - Sound Design; Nina Zendejas - Dialect Coach
Running time: Approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes with one intermission
Box Office: 617-585-5678 Play runs through October 12, 2013
American writers make screwball comedies, just not as wacky and convoluted as the Brits (whose tastes in comedy you can trace back to Moliere and the Italian commedia dell'arte). This one goes a mile a minute and you need a road map to keep track of the play's route. Neal A, Casey as Francis Henshall, describes himself as "the role model for village idiots everywhere." Francis is the play's pivotal nutcase - by turns hapless and wily, makes the most of his slapstick role and fits right in with the blowhards, braggarts, and buffoons who populate the story.
"One Man, Two Guvnors" might also be titled "One Man, Two Plays". The first act of the 2 ½ hour show is pure British madcap comedy. If you enjoyed the Monty Python or the Fawlty Towers series this would be your cup of tea. Running sight gags, pratfalls, byzantine connections linking characters together, and hilarious one-liners delivered deadpan or with a wink to us in the audience, and nutty songs that add frosting to the zany layer cake of a play. Neal A. Casey as Francis Henshall, the fellow with two guvnors, is the chief reason to order a slice of this comedy. The trouble is the cake, which rose well enough in the first act, falls flat in the second act.
I confess that I couldn’t understand many of the rat-a-tat lines delivered by characters in the first act but I laughed along at the loopy comedy. Let’s see, there is Neal A. Casey as Francis Henshall, Tiffany Chen as Pauline Clench, Larry Coen as Harry Dangle (yes, there are obvious lines thrown about with that name), John Davin as Alfie, McCaela Donovan as Rachel Crabbe, Aimee Doherty as Dolly, Harry McEnerny as Gareth, Davron S. Monroe as Lloyd Boateng, Dale Place as Charlie “The Duck” Clench, Alexandro Simoes as Alan, and Dan Whelton as Stanley Stubbers. Their lives are all connected in some vague way. Each of them has a blast overacting, hyperventilating and playing outlandishly.
Francis, a bit of a flibbertigibbet with an apparent eating disorder, is the man with two bosses. He manages to concoct zany stories to cover up the mistakes that irritate each boss, gets into a love match with one of his bosses secretaries (Aimee Doherty as Dolly steals every small bit she has), cooks up several moments of playful absurdity with members of the audience, and is an endearingly picaresque space shot trying to make a living by using his wits, which are deficient but swallowed by his gullible guvnors.
Neal A. Casey as Francis Henshall and Aimee Doherty as Dolly. Photo Mark S. Howard
Theren are song and dance numbers, sort of Gilbert and Sullivan style, played with a live band in the theater wings, that are meant to underpin parts of the plot, such as it is. The colorful set design is ingeniously devised, swiftly moved about by the actors between scenes, usually accompanied with zippy music.
Oh, and there’s mistaken identity, people who are alive that are supposed to be dead (or was it the other way around). Honestly, at some point it doesn’t make any difference. There’s a familiar ring to the plot. It is based on an 18th century Italian comedy, Carlo Goldoni’s The Servant of Two Masters. It is sort of a Shakespearean Comedy of Errors – multiple plots, mistaken identity, young lovers trying to overcome difficulties, slapstick, tangled sub-plots, and earthy humor.
The second act just doesn’t take off. It almost doesn’t matter. You can see that the coincidences begin to congeal into an absurd but serviceable ending in which everyone is paired up or suitably stationed.
If you like Gilbert and Sullivan with a twist, this might be the tonic for you. If you’d like to see how one man, Neal A. Casey as Francis Henshall, can anchor an air headed (and I say this with love) comedy with a cast of ten characters depending on him to be the sun around which they orbit, this is musical comedy is for you.
Boston has been keyed up for this event for months. Seventy five pianos have been scattered throughout the Greater Boston area, they're waiting for you to tickle them.
What started out as a glitch in 2006 when a family in Sheffield, England had to leave a piano on the sidewalk because it couldn't fit inside their new house has become an international phenomenon.
That's what happens when an artist, Luke Jerram in this case, gets a bee in his bonnet to do some way out of the box thinking. Why not install pianos in public places and invite people to play them. No experience required. It's hard to imagine how many times "Chopsticks" has been banged out on one of the pianos - equally difficult to imagine how many Bach/Brahms/Beethoven/Mozart not to mention Amy Winehouse and The Rolling Stones covers have been pounded out.
This installation has a pedigree and an edge. The "Play Me, I'm Yours" artwork has sparked interest even when sharing the playbill with the glossiest events - including the Pan Am Games, 2010 European Capital of Culture in Pecs, LA Chamber Orchestra, San Jose Biennial, Sydney Festival, City of London Festival, Faculty of Music at University of Cambridge and Barcelona’s Maria Canals International Music Competition. Over five million people have witnessed the installations. This year alone, "Play Me, I'm Yours" has charmed people in Monterey, CA; Munich; Geneva; Paris; Cleveland; Omaha; Boston right now; and Santiago later in October. That's a whole lotta shakin' goin' on.
One of creator Luke Jerram's goals was to get people talking to one another in urban areas, with the piano installations "acting as a catalyst for conversation and changing the dynamics of a space." Log onto the website. There are hundreds of videos and thousands of comments from around the world showing that Luke's getting his wish. Over 700 pianos have been installed in cities across the globe.
"Play Me, I'm Yours" comes to Boston in honor of the Celebrity Series of Boston's 75th anniversary. Dozens of local partner organizations "host" the pianos: the City of Boston, the Rose Kennedy Greenway, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Boston Arts Academy the Office for the Arts at Harvard and the Prudential Center are among the hosts who commision artists to decorate each of the 75 pianos.
A fellow from my adopted home town, Watertown, is the project manager. Michael Wilson supervises the artists who decorate the pianos. You wouldn't expect to see a plain ol' piano on Boston Common, would you? The pianos are souped up with spectacularly bright paint, plaster, and anything else an artist-type can think of.
pt at large visited two sites on Boston Common today. Who was playing the piano just below the Robert Gould Shaw and 54th Massachusetts Regiment Memorial, a stone's throw from the gold domed state capitol building? A homeless man who says his name is Billy. Billy's got a bit of a buzz going on, he's been living on the street for years ("a church here, a doorway there," says his friend, another homeless man) but he's intent on making music. His focus may be fogged by afternoon swigs from the bottle in his pocket but his sense of concentration is profound. He is going to coax music from this piano.
Oddly, it's Billy who connects in real time, announcing, "I want to make people glad!" to anyone within earshot (at the 1:14 mark of the second video below Play Me, I'm Yours2). Luke Jerrod would be pleased with that.
Down the hill, another piano, garishly painted, am image of a painted lady brushed on top, is in the hands of a young woman with a serious calling to play Amy Winehouse covers. She refers to her little red and white notebook for a few seconds then belts out a cover of "Bleeding Out" by Imagine Dragons.The Boston Common Visitor Center is visible on the right side of photo below.
Most passersby hustle past, giving the pianist a passing glance. They are destination-oriented. There's a guy on a soapbox fifty yards away proclaiming the end of the world and the words of Jesus. He's not drawing much of an audience either. Neither he nor the young lady at the keyboard care. They're here because they need to express themselves, take advantage of one of the best public stages in Boston.
None of the performers is in this to get noticed for stardom. No business cards, no hype. Just the urge to say YES to the invitation to sit down and play something. Homeless Billy may never get another chance to play a piano but his long dirt-caked fingers have shared the keyboard with fingers of people to whom he is all but invisible. Today, he was easily the most inspiring player on the Common, his inner little boy Billy wanting to make his music on his piano.
"Play me, I'm yours," the piano whispered to Billy. "I accept," Billy seemed to say. He was last seen, all by himself, trying to find the right chords to make people glad.
"What's your name?" he says as I chat with him. "I'm Billy," he says, extending his big paw. He's playing at one of the two pianos on Boston Common, this one just below the Robert Gould Shaw and 54th Massachusetts Regiment Memorial, a stone's throw from the gold-domed state capitol building on Beacon Street. http://streetpianos.com/boston2013/pianos/boston-common-54th-regiment/
"I want to be better...to make you glad!" Billy says with conviction at the 1:14 mark of the video.
This pianist next to the Boston Common Visitor Center covers Amy Winehouse. "I take requests," she smiles, in a brief ten second lull. She refers to her little red and white notebook for a few seconds then charges into another cover song, totally comfortable in this outdoor setting, a fire engine blaring down Tremont Street one minute and a street evangelist preaching loudly on a soapbox nearby. http://streetpianos.com/boston2013/pianos/boston-common-visitors-center/
"Bleeding Out," a cover from Imagine Dragons.
Some serious classical playing, he sits, plays, gets up, acknowledges applause, takes a bow and hits the road. http://streetpianos.com/boston2013/pianos/boston-common-54th-regiment/
Under the shade of a huge oak tree, the golden dome of the state house three hundred yards behind us, another pianist sits, plays, then wanders off, having added his signature to this piano.http://streetpianos.com/boston2013/pianos/boston-common-54th-regiment/
The homeless woman with the two men is another comrade-in-arms."Billly had a place of his own, but he got lonely there, " she says. "Sometimes he'd invite people to stay, some of the the wrong kind of people, some of the good.When we get places to live, we're scattered from East Boston to Jamaica Plain and Boston, and we don't see each other on the street as much. Maybe that's a good thing," she says.
She has a foam container of take-out food. Relaxing on the bench in the shade of a huge oak tree beside the piano,she shares it as they listen to the random piano players. They might be the most closely knit trio on any bench on Boston Common this afternoon.
(L) A pianist takes over when Billy takes a break; (R) "I've known him since I was kid, we've been on the streets for years, he's like a big brother to me," says his friend.There are a few teeth missing but his smile is genuine. "We live on the street, this church, that doorway, every night," he says.
The smell of liquor
wafts through the air when the gentle breeze blows just right. Billy
hauls out a pint from a deep pocket in his jacket and takes a pull
from time to time. His concentration is fierce, his imagination on fire. Will he remember this tomorrow? It will certainly live in the memories of the scores of people who've passed by, the sight of a homeless man, limbering up his fingers as he concentrates, imagining what the next chord he's about to play will sound like in his own clean, warm, bright concert hall.
The piano Billy was playing on is under the tree just in front of the gold-domed State House in the upper part of the photo. The young lady below is playing in front of the Boston Common Visitor Center to the left of this gorgeous fountain.
"I take requests," she smiles, in a brief ten second lull between songs. She refers to her little red and white notebook for a few seconds then sings another cover song.http://streetpianos.com/boston2013/pianos/boston-common-visitors-center/
The Robert Gould Shaw 54th Massachusetts Regiment Memorial across the street from the state capitol on Beacon Street.
Without fanfare, Billy keeps playing well into the afternoon. The distance between the State House and him and his piano is less than five hundred yards geographically and one light year away in terms of soclal status. Billy is in another world. The piano has whispered, "Play me, Billy, I'm yours." He does. He is.
Photos and videos by Paul A. Tamburello, Jr.
As advertised... timely content, provocative questions, differing answers, New Orleans still a work iin progress.
Panel: Creating Community for Writers of Color: MelaNated Writers Collective
Moderator: Jarvis Q. DeBerry Pulitzer Prize recipient,editorial writer and columnist, has written for The Times-Picayune since 1997.
Panelists: Jewel Bush, founder of the MelaNated Writers Collective; Thaddeus Baker, a media coordinator and journalist; Kelly Harris, poet and founder of Poems & Pink Ribbons; Gian Smith, writer, actor, and video producer, spoken word poet.
Writers are writers.The color of their skin doesn't preclude having common issues. Is my writing good, does it make sense, do I have the authority to say this, what do I gain or lose by working in solitary vs. in collaboration are questions writers of any color think about and the panel considered. The writers on this panel appear to be in their late twenties, early thirties.
Cross cultural content and context: barriers to an audience
Kelly Harris, one of the young black writers is vexed that white audiences don't make an effort to dig into her work. Once in a college poetry class in Cambridge, MA, Kelly Harris, the only black writer in her class, said that fellow writers didn't know who Mahalia Jackson was, said if they didn't get it, other readers would not either. Their teacher agreed. Kelly, the only black writer in the group says, "Why can't a white audience cross over to a black writer by doing some research, taking time to learn something about our culture? Black authors have always had to cross over to a white audience." Kelly did not remove the reference. "How much do I have to explain," she says.
Harris reads a 1926 essay by Langston Hughes, "The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain." It urges black people to represent themselves and their experiences honestly and without fear, worry less about how white audiences receive it.
"We're underrepresented," Gian Smith says. "One of my favorite movies was 'Love Jones,' a heartfelt, layered depiction of life about the relationship between two young black artists. I haven't seen another movie like this since it was produced in 1997," he says.
Tons of people will take in The Hangover. Is there no audience for a well done film depicting black life, he wonders.
Voice, point of view
Jewel Bush, from Chicago, wondered if she could write authoritatively about New Orleans. Over time, as she became adjusted to New Orleans culture, she writes now with a sense of place.
Kelly says she "still get pissed off with New Orleans and has to call it out."
Advice to non-black writers
Do your research. You may not be a day laborer but you can talk with them, write about them being sure you're writing from your own perspective. And be honest with what you don't' know.
Is not an obligatory subject. Thad Baker has only written twice about it. Jewel Bush has many unpublished poems and a novella. A consensus that Katrina may have given writers the opportunity to tell the world about New Orleans but the storm doesn't have to be a required subject. New Orleans being New Orleans, there are plenty of things to write about besides the storm, shootings, or second line parades.
IMHO Rising Tide conferences in the future would be well served to have one "melanated" panel every year to touch on subjects from a race-based point of view.
Education stil a hot button topic.
Nikki Napolean, parent advocate
Marta Jewson, freelance journalist covering charter schools
Aesha Rasheed, board member of Morris Jeff Community School and founder of New Orleans Parent Organizing Network
Jaimmé Collins, attorney at Adams & Reese, which represents some charter schools
Steve Beatty, editor of The Lens
Urban schools are a mixed bag everywhere and in post Katrina New Orleans the bag is soggy paper one. The panelists, a parent, a journalist, a former reporter now parent advocate, an attorney whose clients are mostly charter schools, and the editor of The Lens, focus most of their attention on accountability, access, and transparency of Charter School boards that have multiplied in NOLA since 2005. Public education in New Orleans presently involves the Recovery School District, the Orleans Parish School Board and five different types of charter schools, says Attorney Jaimme Collins.
In general, panelists say that Charter Schools have improved the education system in NOLA but, as one says, "not better enough" and with no apparent sense of urgency. They also agree the charter schools can do much better. There are more than 40 charter school boards in New Orleans and not much uniformity between them. For example, there is no universal application form to attend a charter school. School board meetings are often a problem. Some boards do not comply with public meeting and public records laws which makes it difficult to get information and assess quality. (Ex cited by Steve Beatty - some agendas say "Old Business," "New Business," "Adjourn" -- there's no indication what will be discussed,)
Community engagement: communication between the school and parents is often sketchy, meeting agendas sent out by email 24 hours in advance, much too short a lead time. Parent attendance is inconsistent. Transportation and sufficient advance notice are cited as two examples.
Charter schools vary in their level of infrastructure and organization, some cannot readily Information regarding past meetings and decisions. Panelists agree that important decisions are made at committee levels and rubber stamped at the board meetings. Parents have virtually no way to know about committee meetings and therefore lack input into school policy at that level.
Some boards seem clueless, meeting in a closed circle, talking to each other, hardly audible to anyone in attendance and defeats a constitutional right to observe an open meeting.
Most panelists agree that when a school is failing, it is a leadership problem.(Personally, I don't think it's that simple. What about whether the school is required to take all applicants, have a lottery system, or can pick the most promising students and refuse students with cognitive disabilities?)
It appears insulting, exclusionary, or inexcusably insensitive that some boards persist in holding meetings in the middle of the day like the Orleans Parish School Board used to do. Parents who work can't attend, nor can parents who live a distance away, don't own cars and have to rely on time-consuming connections via public transportation.
Levers for change: a school gets around $5000 per student, if a parent is not satisfied, move the student to another better performing school.
Closing observation: The Lens and other organizations "are exhausted," says Lens editor Steve Beatty. He suggests creating a Charter School Reporting Corps to cover the meetings of the 40 plus charter school boards.They can't affect change on their own. Right now there isn't sufficient broad-based, public demand that will drive charter schools to become more responsive.
The discussion of education in New Orleans could take days: poverty, crime, class issues affect how a kid learns but data for these conditions are not immediately measurable. Nevertheless, charter schools are a good beginning.
Sidebar: Diane Ravitch, former Assistant Secretary of Education and supporter of Charter Schools, has just published a book rebuking the Charter School movement.
Lt General Russel L. Honoré (Retired)
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/conten is on you ist/article/2005/09/11/AR2005091101484.html
CNN called him "the John Wayne dude". If there is one man who can transform the presently toxic relationship between the oil industry and the state of Louisiana it is Lieut. Gen. Russel L. Honoré. Three minutes after being introduced, the general steps away from the podium, walks a few steps down off the stage. For the next 50 minutes, he stands at floor level, paces back and forth, addressing the audience with a battle plan. At 6'2" with the rugged frame of a man descended from Creole farmers, the man has a commanding presence. He needs no microphone. We read him loud and clear.
Layered between his back story and anecdotes is his message: stand up to big oil, stand up for ourselves as Louisiana citizens and protect our state resources and our health from being damaged further by the oil and gas industry's practices.
An accomplished speaker and motivator, he has his talking points in order and is not afraid to make them to farmers, fishermen,politicians, or voters.
"The challenge is to keep our economy going and make the state a safer place, we can do better."
He talks about three leadership points.
First point, the ability to inspire others to willingly follow you - put the accent on willingly.
"We need to look at environmental justice, and everyone has a stake in it, farmers, duck hunters, oil workers, and chefs. 35% of America's seafood comes from the Gulf of Mexico. When I was flying over the gulf I asked the helicopter pilot what those streams of oil were and the pilot tells me they are orphan wells that have been abandoned, water seeping from them is degrading the aquifer. The farmers in Crowley where they produce the world's best rice in the world need to know that arsenic is leeching into the aquifer and will ruin their crop and their reputation. Same with duck hunters and local chefs. Some day the chefs will be importing shrimp from China if we don't act."
2 Have a cause and a purpose
3 Have leadership
He talks about General George Washington. Where was he when he crossed the Delaware with his decimated army, most of his farmer/soldiers having gone home? In the front of the boat. We didn't have a navy, he says, so where did he get the boats? He uses what we call TOPS in Louisiana , "Take Other People's Stuff" he says, to laughter from the crowd.
"This is about environmental justice, it is a war is a war we can win," he says."It is a war for equity and we are on the right side of what is right."
"The mission is to have safe air and safe water," he shouts, "and our time is now!" The audience cheers.
"What are we up against?" he asks rhetorically. "They give us playgrounds and college buildings but they despoil our environment."
He throws in personal backstory, homespun wisdom: when I was a boy my teacher told me three things. "You're not the sharpest knife in the basket so learn these lessons," she said.
1 Learn to do routine things well...homework, brush your teeth, respect your elders
2 Don't be afraid to take on the impossible.
3 Don’t be afraid to act if you’ll be criticized for doing it.
"Why are we the poorest state in America? Oil is bleeding us."
“We cant mess with oil! ” people say to him when he brings up the subject. (Heck, I
even wondered about that when i talked during lunch with Kellan Lyman of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade.)
"Have standards," he says, "You break it, you fix it. When it comes to oil, we need to call out BP for messing up the Gulf. We need a cultural shift. In a democracy, you can turn a situation around," Honoré says. "Change is going to have to come through the legislature. They won't pass a law requiring companies clean up their mess until the people make it miserable for them. Self-regulation is not an option."
"Eight governors haven’t changed oil policy. Orphan wells, 12,000 of them, are still not properly capped. Abandoned wells, those A frame structures in the water, we let them get away with it . In Plaquemine two men fishing crashed into a partially submerged A frame, one man died."
"People pass by oil buildings on the coast and point to all the new trucks in the lot. Look at the license plates, most are from Texas, Tennessee, Oklahoma, not Louisiana. The crews have one female, one African American male and most are from out of state."
The general is winding up. "You need to tell the legislature to regulate and if they don't, you have to make it miserable for them. This is our time. This is our battle. This is our time!" he exhorts.
"The oil executives created a problem they don't have to live with, they live in Texas. You have to have a voice, you have to live in harmony with the oil industry, they've done it in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia."
General Honoré challenges us.
"You are social media, bring ten people into the mix. This if for the environment and for social justice and for poor people. Be vocal. Tell politicians that if you run for office you cant take money from oil and gas companies, it corrupts. Get media involves, show that democracy cannot be co opted, cant be bought. Tell the rice farmers about the arsenic leeching into aquifer and the consequences, tell the NOLA chefs. I hesitate to use the words but - community organize."
"This is our generation's war. We have to get young people involved the way they were involved protesting the Vietnam War or pushing the right to vote.Civil disobedience is an option if it will cause change."
Earlier in his remarks, Lt. General Russel Honoré said, "Every generation's got something to do that is big, that will change this nation, that will change this world."
New media has work to do.
Beyond Tourism, Beyond Recovery: a divide between the promoters and citizens?
BEYOND TOURISM BEYOND ECONOMY
The last panel on tourism and recovery is starting now. The moderator is Charles Maldonado of The Lens, and the panelists are music educator Brice Miller, professor Kevin Gotham, Meg Lousteau of VCPORA, planner Robin Keegan and NOTMC president Mark Romig.
Tourism and the tourism industry is not going to save New Orleans from underemployment, poverty, educational disparity, and crime. It is estimated that 13 million tourists visit New Orleans annually presently. Bourbon Street, in the midst of the French Quarter, is a destination many tourists extrapolate as being the soul of New Orleans. In recent years it has become a caricature of itself. Meg Lousteau says most tourists having no interest in the culture or architecture surrounding it. The "let the good times roll" lightheartedness of past years often descends into public hurdy-gurdy ugliness, bachelor parties renting floats to carouse through the French Quarter.
The unanswered question is how much is tourism changing or degrading New Orleans unique flavor. Even with an infusion of tourists, there is no trickle-down effect on the fortunes of the musicians, entertainers, hotel workers, cooks service workers on whose back the economy is based. Unemployment among black men in New Orleans in 2011 was 52%.
New Orleans schools will not have prepared them with the education to take advantage of the businesses the New Orleans Business Alliance is attempting to attract. The average salary of someone employed in the service industry is $26,000, barely enough for a single person to survive on let alone someone with a family. Increasing wages, providing a living wage, was struck down by the state legislature. If the city is going to invest in tourism it needs to ensure that the people who work in it can afford to live here.
The New Orleans Business Alliance has issued a five-year plan, "prosperity Nola," to promote business investment and increased tourism economy.
One of its goals is to expand tourist interest in areas outside the French Quarter, to spread the tourist money around. One panelist says that there hasn't been enough connection with the people in those communities to see if they want their neighborhoods to be marketed as tourist attractions. Brice Miller says before Katrina there were 18 clubs in Treme, now there's one. The people frequented the clubs, butnew regulations make it difficult for them to reopen. He suggests the city open an office to engage cultural communities like Treme, the way they open offices for the cultural economy.
People tweeted and blogged continually during the conference.
8:15 PM Jackson Square on this particular Saturday night is an entirely different affair without music breaking out from one side of the plaza in front of St. Louis Cathedral to the other. Without music to anchor the scene, the focus is squarely on the people sitting around, lying around, walking around, or hanging out. Just about the only commercial enterprises going on here at about 8:15 PM are the Tarot card readers and they don't seem to be doing a very powerful business.
There are two general categories of people. There are the people using the promenade to traverse from Saint Peter to Saint Philip Street and beyond. Then there are the people on the benches.
Tonight is a collection of the soft underbelly of the city. Pods of regulars congregating in certain areas, among them some real characters, some voluble, some pensive, some drawing attention by the way they are dressed or slouched. There appear to be several people intoxicated or otherwise spaced out. It's a mixed bag of age and race and indeterminate social class though suffice it to say I don't see many people here from the upscale Garden District.
Jackson Square is not usually a quiet place, at least before 10 or 11 PM, but tonight it seems more like a city park.
"Is this woman bothering you,” jokes a regular walking by a woman who has just been awoken from a stupor by a man nearly as zonked who's come over to slap her on her ass, give her a kiss and lay on top of her. This regular knows them both. Occasional cackling laughter pierces the air but otherwise it is a remarkably halcyon scene.
A few blocks away all hell is breaking loose on Bourbon Street with the usual crowds of tourists, street entertainers, musicians, hustlers, "Big Assed Beer" sign-toting big-bellied men, and shills waving passersby into various establishments, mostly bars, or the occasional strip joint like the Rainbow Room. Depending on your point of view, Bourbon Street is vulgar or entertaining. Just don't get the idea that it represents New Orleans.
Here in Jackson Square there's rolling entertainment - the occasional Vampire Tour or French Quarter Ghost Tour quietly passing through, the voices of the tour guide rising above the otherwise serene setting then disappearing as a group winds its way to its next destination.
Every so often an outburst of colorful profanity pierces the air. The bench sitters fit the stereotype of street people and characters in large urban areas, somewhat tattered, somewhat inked, somewhat under the influence, all who feel supremely at home this balmy Saturday night in New Orleans.
8:45 PM the cathedral bells toll the quarter hour. The unmistakable twang of a banjo pierces the air. I'm not sure whether the magic is just wearing off or is just appearing.
Photo by Paul A. Tamburello, Jr.
Jackson Square, New Orleans
September 13, 2013, 5:45 PM
You never know exactly what kind of music you'll hear in Jackson Square but you're rarely disappointed. Juliette and Jules, half of the band The Firebugs, play gigs at local clubs such as One Eyed Jacks. Both are talented pickers on the guitar. Jullette is into a fine cover of Etta James 1967 hit "I'd Rather Go Blind." A quiet late afternoon, the sound of their picking and Juliette's voice floated over the near empty square like a fog with a good sense of pitch.
I return 45 minutes later, Juliette is just firing up a cover of "Before You Accuse Me (take a look at yourself)" written and recorded by Bo Diddley in 1957.
Jules is from small town in northern California, went to Northeastern in Boston for while. The concrete campus and city life didn’t sit well with him, he left for smaller school. Juliette has lived in Chicago, immersed herself in music scene there, got a blues jones. You can hear a delta blues influence in her style "and a some Mississippi country blues in there somewhere," she says. Both of them are accomplished pickers, nimble and creative fret work that fits music they play
Rising Tide 8 New Media Conference
Saturday, September 14, 2013, 9:30am - 4:00pm
Xavier University, New Orleans, LA
Rising Tide, together with The Lens will present the 8th annual New Media conference centered on the recovery and future of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. Topics will include charter schools, gentrification and the tourism economy.
A LOOK BACK...
Last year’s keynote address: “At War With Ourselves: New Orleans Culture At The crossroads… Again… and Again… and…” by Lolis Eric Elie was a highlight for me.
Who is Lolis Eric Elie?
(2012) Rising Tide is pleased to have New Orleans based writer and filmmaker Lolis Eric Elie as a keyote speaker at Rising Tide 7. Lolis is ubiquitous. Whether you know his work from the HBO series Treme or his thrice weekly column ('95-'09) or in the soon to be thrice-weekly Times-Picayune, if you're from New Orleans you know his work. A recognized expert on New Orleans food and culture his writing has appeared in The Oxford American, Gourmet, The Washington Post, The New York Times, Bon Appetit, Downbeat and The San Francisco Chronicle among other publications. A former commentator for CBS News Sunday Morning, he has also appeared often on National Public Radio programs, also appeared often on National Public Radio programs.
I would've come to the conference just for this cogent, focused, provocative presentation. I've been coming down to New Orleans for a few years now. You know that song “I Don't Know Why I Love You Like I Do ?” It took a while for it to register with me but now I know why I love New Orleans and what places the city in its own orbit. It’s the atmospherics: the food, the music, the entertainment, the quirky weirdness of it all, and mostly the people – friendly, welcoming to a Yankee like me and probably to anybody else who comes here with an open heart and appreciates the unparalleled uniqueness of this city.
But as a newcomer, I don’t see what’s under the surface. Elie pointed out that the city has a political underside that isn’t connected to the black community.
Elie talked about what the city says it values, a pan-ethnic gumbo of culture and history that is a draw for tourists, compared to what it does, which appears to be ignoring those values. Whole neighborhoods of historic shotgun houses belonging to mostly black residents are getting torn down to make room for a new hospital. Recently, Elie wrote a story in The Lens in which a house deeply associated with Louis Armstrong is slated to be razed in an urban renewal development. Louis Armstrong is the most famous internationally known man from New Orleans. Why mess with this house?
Elie noted the city’s recent regulations affecting the time and places street bands, black entertainers, and brass bands can play in the French Quarter. He noted that Mardi Gras regulations affect Mardi Gras Indians (black) more than white Mardi Gras krewes when the really big issues of crime and drugs, issues that were on the mayors campaign platform, don't appear to be addressed. He wasn’t delivering a polemic. He was citing facts, asking questions, and letting us draw our own conclusions. My conclusion is that money is driving much of this in the form of urban renewal. The people getting squeezed are the ones with the least political clout.
Maybe the city has always been like this. Maybe it got that way more so after Katrina when the developers saw dollar signs in huge areas in the lower wards, mostly black (the Lower Ninth, in particular), that had been blighted.
I was stunned when no one stood up to ask a question when Elie finished. A guy behind me yelled, “You said it all, Eric!” Maybe Elie was preaching to the choir but the facts he stated affect what New Orleans is going to become - a more homogeneous tourist friendly money making machine and a city where developers shape its future or the quirky intercultural mix of culture, food, music and people that it’s been for years? Progress in education and policing and health care is important. Don’t mess with the people who make New Orleans the gritty, unabashed, authentic, fun-loving, quirky, imperfect city it is. A video of Elie's provocative talk is here. In his quiet, measured way, Lolis Eric Elie issued the biggest challenge facing New Orleans, a ripple that the Rising Tide community needs to make into a tsunami.
Time will tell. One of this year’s panel discussions is the tourism economy. New Orleans has a well-documented crime problem that visitors are aware of. Most of it is concentrated in poor neighborhoods far from places tourists enjoy. That is where effort is needed to improve education and the prospects of the young who grow up there. If New Orleans’ street musicians, brass bands, colorful story telliers and tarot card readers become regulated or discouraged from making a living in the French Quarter, New Orleans becomes Neutered Orleans, indistinguishable from any other big city in America.
Let’s see what this year's tourism economy panel has to say about this.
This year’s conference promises to raise some dust and the hackles of certain Louisiana politicians and office holders. What else would you expect from a bunch of internet activists who’ve been nipping at the heels of the establishment since the first conference in 2006 when a group of New Orleans-based bloggers decided to make the Katrina recovery effort a more visible and grass roots effort.
Most conferees are residents of the Crescent City. All of them love the city despite the fact it’s in the running to be the most dysfunctional city in the country…dysfunctional with attitude. (Example: cab driver in 2011, “Mr., you’re not in the US of A, you’re not in Louisiana, you’re in New Orleans!”)
The conference goal is to take advantage of new media to launch action that will affect change in policies. Their mission statement: “Our day-long program of speakers and presentations is tailored to inform, entertain, enrage and inspire.” They’re not shy.
Their website declares:
- We seek to protect and preserve the cultural qualities of New Orleans that make our city unique.
- We resolve to root out and expose the corruption and incompetence that harms us all.
- We work to enact a vision of a restored and resilient community that respects traditions and reaches for a sustainable future for all citizens.
Since I’ve been attending in 2010 they’ve taken on the NOLA Police Department (the shooting of unarmed black citizens during Katrina, (among other things), the US Army Corps of Engineers (the failure of the levee system during Katrina), the corporations that operated the Deep Horizon oil rig that exploded, and politicians who seem more connected to their PACS than to the people who elected them.
The conferees talk up the good stuff, too. Panelists in the past have featured local chefs and restaurant owners who illuminate the burgeoning food industry and Deborah Cotton who moderated a panel talking about Brass Bands and Second Line Parades, two defining elements of New Orleans culture. (Deborah Cotton, writer and videographer and champion of the youth who play music in the streets of New Orleans, was shot while filming a Second Line parade on Mother's Day.She is one of New Orleans most unique chroniclers and is recovering slowly.To contribute to defray her sizable medical expenses click here.)
Past featured speakers I’ve heard included David Simon (creator of The Wire and Treme), Richard Campanella (author of Geographies of New Orleans and Bienville's Dilemma), and Mac McClelland (blogger and writer for Mother Jones) who took on the corporations that operated the Deep Horizon oil rig.
The power grid in New Orleans is going to take a hit on Saturday. Right from the jump. participants will be using blogs, Twitter and Facebook to spread the word across the world. The event will be videotaped and streamed online. Let's see if this Rising Tide can indeed lift all boats, even a little, and change the course of New Orleans' history.
SCENES FROM RISING TIDE 7
Photos by Paul A. Tamburello, Jr.
With Roy Carrier (father), Warren Carrier (grandfather), and cousins Bebe and Calvin Carrier in his bloodline, men who are presently considered legends in zydeco history, Chubby Carrier is a supreme showman and musician. Whether he's playing in a parking lot in Opelousas or the stage of the Rock 'n' Bowl in New Orleans, he's gonna make you feel like he's singing for your own personal dancing pleasure.You might hear songs by his father Roy or D. L. Menard or Clifton Chenier but Chubby makes them all his own.
And where else can you hear Louisiana music from a stage with a great dance floor and look across the room and see college kids bowling on twenty state-of-the-art ten pin alleys?
Photos by Paul A.Tamburello, Jr.
The Candlelight Lounge
925 North Robertson in The Treme
New Orleans, LA
Sept 11, 2013
MORE STORIES TO FOLLOW...
According to the WWOZ FM online music calendar, The Tremé Brass Band plays at the Candlelight Lounge at 9 PM. In your dreams. At places like Preservation Hall or Irvin Mayfield's Playhouse things begin right on time. Smaller, off the beaten track places like Candlelight Lounge? The music begins when the number of regulars and freelancers arrive in enough numbers to form a quorum. Tonight set won't begin until 10:15 PM which is a dawdle even for the Candlelight Lounge.
9 PM, I'm greeted by Nicole Grandison, who collects a $5 cover. "Let me get you a good seat, baby, you want something to eat?" says Gladys, the hostess who remembers me from my first visits here in 2010. Before long, I have a cold beer and a plate of rice, beans and sausage in front of me.
I look over and there's Benny Jones, Sr. waving hello. Benny wrote the names of every band member into my notebook on my first visit. Benny is one of the original founders of the Rebirth Brass Band and now the Tremé Brass Band.
"Come on over to Louis Armstrong Park tomorrow," he says, "there's food and music there every Thursday. I'll be there around six." He fishes through his drum kit bag and produces a card advertising 'People United for Armstrong Park presents Jazz in the Park September 5 to October 31 Thursdays, free.'
"And take one of those "Offbeat Magazine" s from the table, tells you about all the music going on around here."
"I just had a big birthday last month, turned 70 on August 11, was born on August 11, 1943," he says with a smile.
"We're just about the same age, Benny, I was born on August 1," says I and wonder if I look as young as he does. I walk off to buy him a Miller Light and wonder how much longer Benny and his generation will continue to play. They are living links to the city's music heritage and have witnessed so much change since WW II. Music is his life. Music and life seem inseparable in New Orleans.
Benny leads by example. He's always here by 9 PM, brings the big bass drum from a closet in the back of the room and sets up some chairs in the corner. That's all you need in a neighborhood bar, a few chairs, a little elbow room between players, and the music is good to go. In the meantime, Benny talks up the visitors from out of town who have invariably come when the music was supposed to begin, and chats up his friends at the bar.
pt with proprietor Leona Grandison, stories about Leona coming soon...
The inimitable Gladys, hostess and party starter. Gladys shampoos hair at a salon/barbershop near the Saturn Bar on St. Claude, not far from where Leona Grandison lives. "You are quite the party starter," I tell her after she has managed to get tonight's small crowd on its feet and onto the dance floor." Hey, I want to get them all sweaty so they're going to need more to drink, more tips for me," she says with a sly grin.
It could also be that people want to give her a good tip because she makes everyone feel at home and has some great dance moves to boot.
Calvin "Rim Shot" Brown snare drum; Julius "Jap" McKee,tuba; Mike Hughes, bass drum; Benny Jones, Sr., snare drum; John Gilbert, saxophone; Kenny Terry, trumpet.
"I put the funk in the beat," Calvin says, "You got a listen hard but I sneak it in as often as I can."
Gladys gets the crowd on its feet; Kenny serenades.
"Let My Troubles Be Over"
"Sunny Side of the Street"
"Way Down in Indiana"
"My Bucket's Got a Hole In It" Kenny Terry, trumpet in one hand, tip jar on the other, works the crowd, he'll occasionally sit down from table to table, shaking hands, serenading, a showman with a purpose. Most, if not all, the money the band makes is from our tips. Kenny's got a growly New Orleans voice and can Satchmo it up with the best of them.
This band can swing and rock.
Somewhere in the middle is set, Gladys shouts, "Okay, everybody up to dance in the next song!" The band begins to play. "Everybody promised to dance!" she shouts. The next thing I hear is chairs scraping back from tables and there they go, everybody hits the dance floor to do their best rendition of what the music is saying to them.
This couple, from London, and on their honeymoon, visits the Candelight and talks with Juluis McKee,who's played the tuba since he was 14 years old.
"How heavy is that tuba?" the visitor asks. Julius helps the man wriggle it onto his shoulders. "It's heavy!" the man says.
"It weighs about 55 pounds," Julius says, "I've been playing tuba since I was 14 years old. Fat kids are the ones who usually get to play, I was too skinny, but I would follow one of the tuba players home every day and he let me play the tuba, it was easier for him than carrying it, that's how I learned to play. When they graduated high school, I got to play it in the band."
"I have asthma," he says, "Lots of people in New Orleans have asthma," and he names several members of his family who have it. I am amazed that he can play this big breath instrument with such stunning range and feeling. "I manage my asthma by taking meds all the time."
Julius tells us he's played with the band in London and in every continent in the world as far as I can tell except Antarctica and lists Paris, Australia, Denmark, Eastern European countries, even Asia. Benny Jones. Sr. has a world-class band and Julius has been a part of it for a long time.
The mural on the wall outside The Candlelight; pt and Benny Jones, Sr.
Note: A Baton Rouge native has taken me to task for giving the
impression that New Orleanians are an unsophisiticated bunch. I intend
this to be a humorous reflection on the local dialect. Someone from
outside my hometown of Boston could have a field day listing the way we
manage to mangle the King's English and how it's mangled differently in each precinct in town. The passages I quote below were written by a native New Orleanian who is proud of the colorful and creative local lexicon and amused by its eccentricity.I am not poking fun. I love this city.
A Yankee’s Guide to Pronouncing Stuff in New Orleans So You Don’t Sound Like A Hapless Tourist
I learned this the first time I looked for my hotel on Conti Street. Anyone knows it’s pronounced CON-tee Street. It continued when I talked about heading for Burgundy Street (what could be more obvious than how to pronounce a red wine we drink by the gallon) and then other street names around the French Quarter like Iberville, Poydras, Royal, Chartres, and places like Tulane University and Lake Ponchartrain. People politely repeated my questions, rephrasing their answers with the proper New Orleans way of pronouncing these names. It's one thing to dress like a tourist, another order of magnitde to sound like one.
I’m learning how ta tawk like people down here. It’s as close to bi-lingual as you get in the lower 48. I've had bunches of conversaions with locals and understood every third word and sheepishly asked, "What...?" more times than I want to admit. I'm from Boston, known for its thick accents across the city but New Orleans takes the King Cake. The best idea for a beginner. Keep your mouth shut. Go to a local bar and listen like crazy.
I found this guide to be most instructive for an entire lexicon of New Orleans-speak written by a man with a point of view. If you want to become further entertained and educated, read this. I have another post in the works about getting used to being called "Baby"...by men and women all over town. ("You been here before? You're gonna see some good stuff, baby, have a good time!" the shuttle bus driver says as he hands me my suitcase.)
The pronunciation of local place names below is written by a New Orleans native. I copied and pasted it from the website. http://www.gumbopages.com/yatspeak.html
Some tourists come to New Orleans and, thinking that they know some French, will puff out their chests and pronounce local place names in a way that they think will help them fit in and endear themselves to the natives ... only to have the natives look upon them with pity and say, "Where ya from, dawlin'?"
For instance, some people will note with delight that we have streets named after the Nine Muses of classical Greek mythology, but would probably have a seizure if they heard how we pronounced them ("Calliope" still kills me ...). And da French names often ain't what dey seem.
Here's a list of the ways the natives pronounce some of our our unique place names -- streets, cities and local features. Some of you may find them baffling, but don't think to ask why. We probably don't know anyway.
ALGIERS POINT - You're likely to hear this pronounced as <Algiers Pernt>
AUDUBON PARK - Avoid the French pronunciation (which is a good general rule for most New Orleanian place names) of <au-dû-boN> with the nasal "N". The local will pronounce this <AW-d@-b@n PAWK>.
THE BIG EASY - Avoid uttering this phrase at all costs. Under almost no circumstances would a native ever refer to the City in this way. One major (and baffling) exception: the local music and entertainment awards are called The Big Easy Awards.
BURGUNDY STREET - Pronounced <bur-GUN-dee>. Don't pronounce it like the wine.
BURTHE STREET - in Uptown New Orleans. Pronounced <BYOOTH> ... sounds like "youth" with a B in front of it. Why? Beats the hell outta me. I'm told the street is named after a person, but I don't know the details. I'm also told it's a French name, but it surely wouldn't be pronounced like that in proper French (as if any New Orleans street name is). The local postmen know this pronunciation; apparently mail addressed to "Buth" or "Buthe" Street gets delivered just fine.
CADIZ STREET - Pronounced <KAY-diz>. In New Orleans, Spanish place names are butchered even woise den da French ones ...
CALLIOPE STREET - Pronounced, believe it or not, <CAL-lee-ope>, and not <k@-LIE-@-pee>. No doubt this particular Greek Muse is barfing up her lunch over on Olympus ... However, the steam organ on the riverboat Natchez that plays music is, in fact, the <k@-LIE-@-pee>. Go figure.
CANAL - Usage is always "da canal". The Industrial Canal, one of New Orleans' main waterways, along with "da lake" and "da river". I suppose some Metry-ites may use this term to refer to the 17th Street Canal. Also, Canal Street is the main thoroughfare of the Central Business District, and borders the French Quarter on the Uptown side.
CARONDELET STREET - Pronounced <k@-'ron-d@-LET>, not <k@-'ron-d@-LAY>.
CHARTRES STREET - Pronounced <CHAW-t@s> or <CHAW-tuhs>.
CLIO STREET - Pronounced <CLI-oh>. Also sometimes, by some folks in da neighbahood, as "CEE-ELL-TEN" ... I kid you not.
CONTI STREET - Pronounced <CON-tye>.
DA QUARTER - The French Quarter, pronounced <da QUAW-tah>.
DAUPHINE STREET - Pronounced <daw-FEEN>. Oddly enough, it's not unlike the actual French.
DECATUR SCREET - Pronounced <d@-KAY-ter>, not <'deck-@-TURE>. French people have problems with this one.
DERBIGNY STREET - Pronounced <DER-b@-nee> or <DOY-b@-nee< if you're a really hardcore Nint' Wawduh.
EUTERPE STREET - Pronounced <YOU-terp>.
IBERVILLE STREET - Pronounced <IB-ber-'vil>, not <EYE-ber-'vil>.
LOYOLA - The hardcore local pronunciation of this is <lye-OH-l@>.
MARIGNY STREET, FAUBOURG MARIGNY - Pronounced <MA-r@-nee>, with the "a" sounding like the "a" in "hat".
MILAN STREET - Pronounced <MY-lan>
PLAQUEMINES PARISH - Pronounced <PLACK-@-m@ns>.
PONTCHARTRAIN - Pronounced <PONCH-a-train> locally. Or you can just say, "Da Lake".
POYDRAS STREET - Pronounced <PER-dr@s> by truly hardcore locals, <POY-dr@s> by everyone else.
PRYTANIA STREET - Pronounced <pr@-TAN-y@>.
ROYAL STREET - Pronounced <RERL>, to rhyme with "pearl". A strong localese pronunciation.
SOCRATES STREET - In Algiers, across da river. Pronounced <SO crates>, like the word "so" and the word "crates". I kid you not.
TCHOUPITOULAS STREET - Pronounced <'chop-@-TOO-l@s>. It's easier to pronounce than to spell. Spelling "Tchoupitoulas" is the true test of a native; if New Orleans was a country at war, you'd ask a guy to spell this to make sure he was on your side, just like in all the old WWII movies.
TERPSICHORE STREET - Pronounced <TERP-s@-core>.
TOULOUSE STREET - Pronounced <TOO-loose>.
TULANE - Pronounced <TOO-lane>. Never, ever pronounce this <tu-LANE>, or you'll immediately be mistaken for a college student from New Jersey. Also, you're liable to have someone get in your face about it, like my brother-in-law Jeff Willmon does when he hears this ...
"No. If you're gonna come to my city, and go to my school, you're gonna pronounce it my way."
You tell 'em, bra.
VIEUX CARRÉ - Pronounced <VOO ka-RAY>. Literally means "old square", and it means Da French Quarter, the site of Bienville's original New Orleans settlement.
All about New Orleans
NEW ORLEANS - This is a sticky subject.
First off, <new or-LEENS> is generally a no-no. It's like putting a big, red neon sign on your head that says, "I'm not from around here." As also mentioned above, the two main exceptions are when it's pronounced like that in song lyrics (easier to rhyme, but contributes to the confusion of non-natives) and when "Orleans" stands alone without the "New", as in Orleans Parish.
So of course, there are some exceptions to this rule. I have on occasion heard some African-American native New Orleanians use the above pronunciation. I didn't say this was going to be consistent or that it wasn't going to be confusing, did I?
Here are the major standard local pronunciations of the City's name: <new OR-l@ns>, <new AW-l@ns>, <new OR-lee-'@ns> <new AH-lee-@ns>, <nyoo AH-lee-'@ns>. The fabled "N'Awlins", pronounced <NAW-l@ns>, is used by some natives for amusement, and by some non-natives who think they're being hip, but actually I've come across very few locals who actually pronounce the name of the City in this way.
END of quoted passage...
PT note: Don't say I didn't warn you...