Monday, June 1, 2015

Private Lives

“Work hard, do the best you can, don’t ever lose faith in yourself and take no notice of what other people say about you,” Noel Coward

The Noel Coward production “Private Lives” at Valpo’s Memorial Opera House was very clever and skillfully rendered.  I had been up late the night before celebrating James graduation from eighth grade.  We dined at Red Robin (several entries, including my French dip and Toni’s fish and chips, included a choice of endless fries or broccoli refills).  Afterwards, Dave and I watched the Blackhawks win their Western Division series against the Ducks. Up early for gaming with Dave and Tom (winning 1 of 4, St. Petersburg), I warned Toni and Cheryl to pinch me if I started snoring, especially after realizing the play wasn’t a musical.  It wasn’t necessary.  Under the direction of our friend Pegg Sangerman the three-act play – about a divorced couple, Amanda and Elyot, who meet up unexpectedly while honeymooning with new spouses - kept my interest throughout. It was ribald, irreverent, and thoroughly entertaining. The phrase “savage shibboleths” uttered by Elyot, summed up Coward’s disdain for the absurd constraints society imposed on individuality.   As  Amanda, played by Deborah M. Haddad, puts it:
  I think very few people are completely normal really, deep down in their private lives. It all depends on a combination of circumstances. If all the various cosmic thingummies fuse at the same moment, and the right spark is struck, there's no knowing what one mightn't do. That was the trouble with Elyot and me, we were like two violent acids bubbling about in a nasty little matrimonial bottle.

Describing her directorial debut in the Playbill, veteran actress Pegg Sangerman wrote:
  Private Lives is essentially about relationships.  Acting is essentially about relationships.  Much to my surprise, directing is also essentially about relationships.  Once outside of my comfort zone and living there for the better part of 3 months required me to establish and foster many different relationships.  My greatest joys and fiercest struggles have been in the forging of those relationships.
 Noel Coward in 1930

Although Noel Coward had been a successful playwright for a decade, the Englishman was just 30 in 1930 when he wrote and then starred in “Private Lives,” along with Gertrude Lawrence, Laurence Olivier, and Adrianne Allen.  A 1931 movie starred Robert Montgomery and Norma Shearer.  A 1983 Broadway revival featured Richard Burton and Liz Taylor as the explosive couple.  Renowned for his wit and versatility, Coward, a closeted homosexual, wrote a poem that includes the observation that only “Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.”  From the 1941 play “Blithe Spirit” comes my favorite Noel Coward quote: “It’s discouraging to think how many people are shocked by honesty and how few by deceit.”
 Alissa, Blandine, and Frederic with Corey Hagelberg art piece in background

At Pesto’s after the play, I ordered spinach pizza and took most of it home.   I mentioned that granddaughters Alissa spent an evening in Paris with French filmmakers Frederic Cousseau and Blandine Huk, which led to a discussion of their documentary “My Name Is Gary.”   While some thought it too negative, it implicitly condemned economic royalists, not their victims, for Gary’s present plight; the strength and resilience of those interviewed impressed me greatly.  What is palpably unconscionable, in my view and the filmmakers’, is the neglect by government at all levels – including Democrats in Washington – of the intolerable number, literally thousands, of abandoned building that are a cancer on otherwise viable neighborhoods.  We rush to aid flood victims in Texas and Oklahoma but ignore ghetto dwellers left behind in the wake of de-industrialization.  Residents should threaten to take matters into their own hands and invite scavengers to tear down such eyesores brick by brick, figuratively and literally, perhaps culminating in a huge bonfire. 

Spike Lee is filming in Chicago’s Bucktown for his film “Chiraq,” a title, a takeoff on Iraq that suggests to some that it will be too negative toward the Windy City.  With double digit shooting commonly taking place each weekend, it’s high time for a spotlight to be shown on neighborhoods that have to deal with violence on a daily basis.  
 ARISE youth committee chair Dionte Glover; photo by Whitney Springfield

A steady flow of Jerry Davich fans stopped by Remarkable Book Shop to purchase “Lost Gary.”  The author inscribed mine, “Get lost (in my book).”  When Jerry remarked that I should have written the book (the publisher asked me but I declined), I offered to do a sequel with him entitled, “Found Gary.”  In the acknowledgements I noticed Samuel A. Love’s name next to Steve McShane’s, Ron Cohen’s, a few others, and mine.  A few months ago, Jerry asked if I’d take him on a tour of Gary; I suggested that Samuel Love would be a better choice, and he took me up on it.  I was pleased to see a section on “The City’s Deepest Resource: Youth” that featured activities of ARISE – an organization close to Love’s heart.  Davich quoted Love’s analysis of how Gary resembled African colonies under British rule.  The mistreatment and demonization of Gary’s first African-American mayor, Richard Gordon Hatcher, by local media outlets throughout his 20 years in office and beyond “fits the colonialist pattern of social control,” Love asserted and added:
  There is U.S. Steel, which treats the city as its dump while most of the mill’s workforce lives beyond the city.  There’s the white regionalists – such as the Regional Development Authority and Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission – who treat Gary’s assets as their own. Yet they don’t hire local workers and continually disrespect Gary’s population by putting the wants of white, non-Gary residents above the needs of our citizens.
  There’s the south county slumlords and other out-of-towners who are sitting on Gary properties, dangerously decrepit houses, empty lots and so on.  There are local rulers who look like the people they rule over, but who do the deeds of people who look more like you and I.  There’s a lot of money to be made exploiting Gary and there are plenty of resources to exploit.
 Samuel A. Love
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction special didn’t disappoint.  Joan Jett led off joined by Dave Grohl, Tommy James (who wrote her hit “Crimson and Clover”) and Miley Cyrus, who then talked about what a pioneer and inspiration she was.  Other highlights included Ringo Star singing with Green Day, Paul McCartney, and Joe Walsh, plus Stevie Wonder and John Legend doing Bill Withers songs. Ringo mentioned that it was appropriate to be inducted in Cleveland because growing up, he listened to re-broadcasts the Alan Freed Show emanating from there and got exposed to Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, and Jerry Lee Lewis (who was in the house sitting near Yoko Ono).
IUN’s Northwest News did a feature on 62 year-old Marla Gee, a summer intern with Indiana’s General Assembly who will start Valpo Law School in the fall.  The Gary Roosevelt grad summarized her 1971 freshman experience in Bloomington: “I failed miserably, but I had a ball.”  She subsequently worked as a secretary, for the post office, and at medical transcription until technology rendered her skills obsolete.  Thanks to an AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) program, she started back to college and excelled, graduating from IUN with distinction.  Marla credits SPEA professor Dan Tsataros with mentoring encouraging her to pursue a career in law.  Of her summer in Indy she recalled not minding being the grandma figure and stated:
  This internship has been crucial in helping me pinpoint the kind of law I want to practice. Had I started law school last August, I would not have been privy to this information. People at the Statehouse have steered me towards areas of law in the political arena:  speechwriting; legal staff at the regional level for elected officials who are based in Washington; working on a national campaign.  I have met people who know how to make this happen for me. It has been an amazing experience.

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