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Drama Queen is Live

Please visit my new blog, Drama Queen, at ArtsJournal.com. You (hopefully) won’t regret it.

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Deadlines = Dead Air

If you’ve been wondering where I’ve been, I’m deep into a series of features and reviews for the Philadelphia Inquirer, and sadly haven’t had much time for blogging. However, I hope to catch a break tomorrow. In the meantime, read this weekend’s New York Times Magazine article by contributing writer Ann Hulbert about arts education and its relevance–or irrelevance–to the election, and, for that matter, to education. I’ll be discussing it then, while trying not to lose my cool.

Mopping Up

So it’s all over for us. As the eyes of the nation turn west- and south-ward, Philly can ditch the political drama and go back to plain old murder and mayhem, right? Not quite. The Theater Alliance of Greater Philadelphia‘s listserv was burning up in the weeks leading up to the primary, and now, in some sort of exquisite water torture for liberals, the vicious debate will be laid out onstage for all to see Saturday, May 3, 8 p.m. at Second Stage at the Adrienne.

A few things astonished me about this heated back-and-forth.

  • First: there are conservatives among drama professionals, like, real red ones. Though I can’t quite figure out what could possibly be in it for them other than an inherited bias, they are vehement and as convinced of McCain’s relevance to their lives as any hedge fund trader or military engineer. 
  • Second: People actually “went there” on Clinton, making pantsuit jokes and the like. Theater people. And I don’t think these posters were even the gay ones, who could get away with it. 
  • Third: No one really wanted to go there on Obama, which, I guess, is at least one positive sign. Maybe we can credit Rev. Wright for serving as the receptacle for this contest’s racial enmity and diverting it from the candidate himself. This effect even seems to have spilled over into the real world. Remember in New Hampshire when those dudes yelled, “Iron my shirts!” at Hillary? We never saw a corollary pair of douchebags running around in blackface at an Obama rally (I’m sure they were somewhere, of course, just not out in public). So thanks, Rev. Wright, at least for that.
  • Fourth: The listserv’s, er, discussion had remarkably little to do with the candidates’ relationship to the arts, which was, to me, distressing. There was even a brief flare-up about abortion, but nothing, NOTHING about the issue that most directly affects everyone on TAGP’s e-mail list. Business-owning republicans won’t shut up about taxes; shouldn’t arts professionals be slightly concerned about their candidates’ approaches to arts and education? Hello? Anyone?
  • Fifth: Show folk will find an excuse to argue about almost anything. 

I’d love to see the Second Stage event used as a means to discuss the issues surrounding our careers and the candidates’ potential effect on them, or perhaps to galvanize the theater community into advocating that the arts and arts education take, if not center stage, then at least a supporting role during this political season–something I’m hoping every listserv member can agree upon. Though rehashing the old political divides will no doubt provide the same entertainment value once offered by the Romans to their people in the form of bears and slaves, moving forward with a November game plan has far more to do with creating an actual theater alliance.

Gladiator v. tiger

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Alive and on ABC

Gibson/Stephanopoulos

One thing I did not get to discuss on Ellis Henican’s show yesterday was the way Charles Gibson and George Stephanopoulos were Rosencrantz-and-Guildensterned during the Philly debate. Sent on a fool’s errand, they concerned themselves with trivialities and minutiae (lapel pins), inflated with self-importance (regarding time, Gibson announced, “I’ll be lenient, but not permissive”), blind to the fact that they were mere cogs in a political machine. They’ve since been chewed up by that machine and spit back out. Yesterday the AP released a feature on the pair’s misguided role in the debate, as did seemingly every other news outlet. And mirroring the careers of R&G, they’ve gone from minor players in a larger story to the subjects of their own little drama. Congratulations fellas, you’ve been sacrificed for a greater purpose.

 

R&G coverR&G Hamlet

Clinton-Obama Drama

I know I said I wasn’t going to post, but just in case you’re looking for something to do this evening at around 6 p.m., tune into the Talk Radio Network. I’ll be interviewed by Newsday writer and frequent Hannity and Colmes visitor Ellis Henican about the dramatic elements of the Obama-Clinton debate here in Philly.

And for the record, I thought George Stephanopolous and Charlie Gibson made a smashing Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

 

 

The Sadistic Seder

Since I’m gearing up to host a Passover seder for 13 at my house this weekend. (13 Jews at a seder? We know what happened at the last one… Someone better watch their back!) So in the interest of saving my sanity, I will suspend blogging until next week, but in the meantime, here are some suggestions for bringing drama to your seder table:

1: Bust out the  Bag of Plagues This has been a successful part of our seders for several years now, and my favorite element is the “blood” plague. Send one of the kids around to the guest wearing the fanciest outfit and have them squirt “blood” all over their silk dress or tie. It disappears, but they won’t know that! Watch them freak out and then make them feel guilty for not trusting you. 

2: When I was growing up, Maxwell House provided our spiritual guidance every Passover via their free haggadot piled up at the end of the supermarket’s Passover aisle. (The same went for everyone else I knew. Free + Jews = Tradition) But now hagaddot have gotten both more sophisticated and expensive. Want to alienate at least half of your guests? Try the Women’s Hagaddah. Want to alienate the other half? Go for the Men’s. Want to upset everyone? Explore a Messianic hagaddah. Want to start a riot? Use an Orthodox Haggadah written in Hebrew and don’t start reading until 6 p.m.

3: Get all fancy with organic kosher wine, but don’t buy any Manischewitz. I guarantee you someone at the table will be angry–no, ANGRY–about it. 

4: Start an argument about kitniot. Here’s your ammunition: Some Ashkenazi Jews follow the “no kitniot” rule, but none of it is considered chametz. And are you saying Sephardim are less Jewish than you? Do you think you’re a better Jew than me because you eat less during Passover? Once you get going, I’m sure the discussion will take off on its own. After all, you’re in a room full of Jews.

5: Add “and from the tyranny of occupation,” whenever the hagaddah mentions freedom from slavery or bondage.

I know these methods work because at one time or another (mostly during the years between mohawk hair and mom jeans) I’ve tried them all. Have a happy Passover and I hope you find the afikoman! 

Charlton Heston as Moses

Compare and Contrast

Fair or unfair? Yesterday’s review of Delaware Theatre Company’s production of The Piano Lesson took shape as an almost side-by-side comparison with the Arden’s production, which was reviewed by my colleague, Howie Shapiro. Since the shows ran back-to-back, as a journalist, pairing them seemed inevitable. However, I can’t help wondering if readers are more interested in hearing about a specific production or enjoy getting some of the context surrounding it. Feel free to enlighten me.

DTC's Piano Lesson