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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Scary Monsters, Good Deeds

There is a long-standing tradition of young people using Halloween night to collect donations for the United Nations Children's Fund or UNICEF.
If you have little ones with big hearts, this is a great way to help raise their consciousness. It can be done as an alternative to candy collecting for kids with food allergies or special dietary needs or in conjunction with sweets-gathering for kids who have a true appreciation of the wonder of candy corn.
Not making the trick-or-treat rounds this year? Consider putting out a collection box at your Halloween party.
Everyone keeps talking about how the economy's bad and times are tight. Personally, I think it's an exaggeration for effect. Bad economy makes for good copy, etc. However, even if it's as bad as they would have us believe, we're still in much better shape than lots of other places in the world.
So as we temporarily abandon diets and good eating habits to dip our fingers in the candy bowl during the Eve of All Hallows, let's try to remember that there are children in the world for whom good nutrition isn't even an option on a regular basis. Okay?
Here's a link to the Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF webpage.
My dad used to tell me when I was little that the best way to keep monsters away was to let them see you aren't afraid of them.
Let's show the "bad economy monsters" that we ain't scared by doomsayers and such. We still have plenty to share.

Same Old Song and Yuma X Two

Once again, here I am lamenting the lack of theatre updates here for a while. Again, most of what I write about here in terms of plays will be shows that:
1) I have seen
2) I enjoyed
3) you still have time to see yourself

If any of those three criteria aren't met, I don't feel it's worth writing about. Lately, though, the difficulty has been in meeting the first criteria.
It continues to astound me that, as of today, I have seen 44 plays and/or musicals in 2008, and I still find myself having to say, "Sorry I missed . . ." or "Hey, I really meant to see you in . . ." to most of the theatre folk I encounter on the web or out in the real world.
There's a lot to see here in the Denver-area theatre-wise. There really, really is.
I am still working on some solutions that will result in more frequent postings from the Big Bad Wolf here, and those will be forthcoming.
In the meantime, I'd like to share with you the most recent results of one of my little movie proclivities.
Sometimes I like to try to watch both the original and re-make of a film in the same week (or in the case of Gaslight, the same day.) In order, if possible.
In the case of 3:10 to Yuma, I actually watched the films in reverse order, starting with 2007's "how-is-it-an-English-guy-and-an-Australian-guy-can-play-American-cowboys-better-than-we-can"
oater starring Christian Bale and Russell Crowe.
This newer version is action-packed, with compelling performances from the leads and a particularly notable performance from Ben Foster (an American! Yee-ha!) as the chilling Charlie Prince. This is a Western for people who don't like (or think they don't like) Westerns. Interesting bit of trivia: when the clock strikes three in the film it is exactly ten minutes until we see the arrival of the 3:10 train bound for Yuma. Timing is everything. (RTD? Hello? This is not a science-fiction concept!)
Now the 1957 version is shorter and focuses just a little more on the psychological aspects of the story and less on the blazing pistols, but it is no less fun to watch. I would describe it as "cowboy noir" because so much care is given to lighting, camera angles, and gritty storytelling.
I would be hard-pressed to pick a superior between the two films. Both stand on their own as great Westerns that stand apart from the genre.
Do what I did. See them both. (Though seeing them in the same week may be a bit much for the less movie-nerdy among you.)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

All I Really Need to Know I Learned From Mr. Miyagi

"Walk on road, hm? Walk left side, safe. Walk right side, safe. Walk middle, sooner or later get squish just like grape. Here, karate, same thing. Either you karate do "yes" or karate do "no." You karate do "guess so," just like grape. Understand?"

"No such thing as bad student, only bad teacher."

"In Okinawa, belt mean no need rope to hold up pants."

"First learn stand, then learn fly. Nature rule, Daniel-san, not mine."

"Don't forget to breathe, very important."

"Just remember, license never replace eye, ear, and brain."

"Lesson not just karate only. Lesson for whole life. Whole life have a balance. Everything be better. Understand?"

"For man with no forgiveness in heart, life worse punishment than death."

"Never put passion before principle. Even if win, you lose."

"Aha... here are the Two Rules of Miyagi-Ryu Karate. Rule Number One: 'Karate for defense only.' Rule Number Two: 'First learn Rule Number One.'"

Monday, October 13, 2008

Philly Edition: Gee's Bend

I am back in Denver now, but I spent the weekend in the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and I thought I'd lay out a little theatre blogging specifically for my Philly-area readers. I know there are at least a few of you who have let me know you check out my blog, and there may be even more of you out there, so here goes.
Saturday night I had the distinct pleasure of enjoying a terrific production of Gee's Bend at the Arden Theatre.
Gee's Bend was part of the Denver Center Theatre Company's previous season and regrettably I missed that production. Fortunate then that I should be in Philadelphia not only to see Gee's Bend produced but also to have been at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (yes, the one with the steps that Rocky scaled, Denverites) to see the accompanying exhibit of the quilts that are the basis of the play.
The story covers 61 years in the life of a young African-American woman in Gee's Bend, Alabama who has learned the art of quilting from her mother. We follow her through motherhood, marriage, segregation, the Civil Rights Movement, widowhood, and ultimately the fame received for her quilts.
Having taken a walking tour of historic Philadelphia that morning and seen the places where this nation and its ideals were founded added an interesting context to the production for me.
As a kid who grew up on a reservation in Southwest Colorado, the notions of "freedom" and "equality" presented in our country's founding story have always held a certain irony for me. I suspect that the African-American community and others regard the words with a similar antiphrasis.
On this day that we celebrate the "discovery" of the land we now call America, I think it best that we not forget that, since that discovery, we have loaded our historical closets with an awful lot of skeletons.
I am not suggesting that we revile Columbus, by any means. he was a man of great vision. He took a big chance on sailing where no one of his race had gone before. These are admirable traits. The full ramifications of his voyage were far beyond anything he could have predicted, I'm sure.
Yet before we wear out our voices lauding Columbus, let us take a moment to reflect upon some those of those ramifications: the subjugation of people, the denial of human rights.
As I watched the story of the quilts of Gee's Bend, I became acutely aware of the fact that "liberty" has not existed for the full 232 years for everyone in this country. Some acquired it much later in the story. There are those who might argue that some have yet to acquire it fully.
I remember thinking at that moment of how important it is for theatre and other storytelling media to ensure that these stories continue to be told.
For that reason, I will say that the Arden Theatre Company's Gee's Bend goes beyond merely being entertaining and beyond even thought-provoking directly into the realm of inspiring.
Both of the candidates are now touting their platforms of change, and that is good. Change is good.
However, one lesson that can be learned from Gee's Bend is that change, real change, goes far beyond any ballot box. Real change comes from within each of us.
It was Gandhi who said, "You must be the change you want to see in the world."
If you're in the Philadelphia area before December 1st, get over to the Arden Theatre and get inspired by Gee's Bend.
And for everyone: Yes, vote for change, but more importantly, be change.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A New Voice

I would like to take this opportunity to welcome a new voice to the Denver Theatre Community. Angela Clemmons joins the Denver Post as a new part-time theatre critic with her review of The Denver Civic's Magdalene: Woman of Light.
I am glad to have another set of critical eyes join the dialogue that exists in Denver. I believe that criticism -- good criticism, thoughtful criticism, brave criticism -- is of vital importance to the growth of any theatre community. There are those around who tout themselves as critics but do little more than slobber favourably over every production they see. This may get them "copied and pasted" into lots of MySpace blogs and Community Theatre webpages, but it lacks any critical perspective and, I believe, does more harm than good.
Now, I make my recommendations of shows that I see, but I am not a critic myself. I don't claim to be, either. I think that is best left to John and others more removed from the inner workings of Denver Theatre. In addition to occasionally blogging, I still direct, act, and keep my hands in a few things around town behind the scenes. It feels inappropriate for me to be critical of someone else's work when I am constantly striving to improve upon my own. Though I suppose my criticism does come in some ways through my omission, but, since you all can't know all the shows I have or have not seen, I still have a little "wiggle room."
Besides, compared to me, John Moore and Lisa Bornstein are pussycats. I would be far less forgiving.
Still, the more voices, the more perspectives, the better for us all, so welcome Angela. I look forward to more from you in the near future.
Now this clip has nothing to do with anything above, but I wanted to share another favorite memory of the late Paul Newman. Incidentally, this was scene was shot (mostly) just north of Durango, CO, near where I grew up. (The camera angles make it look higher than it is.)