Friday, December 2, 2011

‘The Laramie Project’ could be Anywhere, USA, even Asheville, NC ... playing at BeBe Theatre

Heavy hitting. Timely. Controversial. Necessary. Real life. But certainly not depressing.

That’s the attitude of Different Strokes! Performing Arts Collective Managing Artistic Director Shephanie Hickling Beckman and the actors involved who are committed to staging plays with a message.

“Our mission (is) to present theatre that confronts issues of social diversity as reflected in the world around us: a world that isn’t always pretty or on its best behaviour. We do not choose our plays; the seemingly apparent needs of our community tend to choose the plays we produce,” Beckman points out one Saturday afternoon after rehearsal in the Grove Arcade basement.

Bullying in the schools, in Asheville, and around the country is what prompted Different Strokes! to take on their latest production, ‘The Laramie Project,’ based on a series of interviews with Laramie, Wyoming (population just over 26,000) residents just after the 1998 murder of University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard who was gay, taken out in the country, beaten and tortured by two local young men and tied to a barbed wire fence. He spent 18 hours strapped to that fence until a local cyclist found Shepard unconscious, and at first thought him to be a scarecrow.

Part of the proceeds of this show will benefit Youth OUTright, a local group that supports and empowers gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth to be confident and vital members of the Western North Carolina community, according to Beckman.

“We as a group of artists and people who care about this community, have a responsibility to take on all taboo subjects - lay it all out there on the table, and see how many of the unspoken issues are affecting so many,” says Beckman. It could be Anywhere, USA or it could be Asheville.”

And though The Laramie Project’ has had thousands of performances around the world, Beckman says the show is as relevant today as it was when it premiered in 2000.

“For me this play is no longer about Laramie or a particular victim,” says Beckman “Hate crimes are committed everywhere in every minute of every day. Even here in Asheville, although many times the crimes are described simply as robberies and not told to be the hate crimes that they really are. Until federal hate crime legislation includes sexual orientation as a protected class, this story and those like it cannot be outdated, overstated or overdone.”

But Beckman is not just doing a repeat of what has already been shown. The original script called for 60 characters to be played by 8 actors and in Beckman’s mind seemed like a series of dialogues. Dialogues that didn’t really pull her into the story or make her care very much about the story of Matthew Shepard even though it was an important tale and one she was originally drawn to so she could learn more about Shepard’s plight.

Instead, she decided to turn those dialogues into more of a play, and not just a play about a man who was a victim of gay-bashing. It all turned into something much more passionate. More personal.

“Wake up ya’ll,” Beckman says. “Hate crimes exist not only against Gays, but against Jewish people, Muslims, Blacks, homeless people, women and so many more. It’s about what we as a society allow to happen to people every day. Whether it’s with our fists, or our mouths.”

Her actors too have learned so much more than they realized they would. In having to play different characters, some at odds with themselves and some the total opposite of another character they’re playing, each has had to take hard looks at their own feelings and perhaps judgements they did not realize they were making against other people. Straight men have had to reach down and understand gay men. White men have had to try and understand what it feels to be a Latino. A mother learned to look into the eyes of a “you’re going to hell because you’re gay” preacher and somehow realized she must try and reach that preacher.

In the end, we not only see the slice of the ugliness that happened in Laramie, Wyoming, but we also see the changes human beings goes through once they’ve been so close to the face of the horrific.

As Beckman puts it, “Some of the people in Laramie seem to remain untouched, but others, their lives and attitudes are changed forever. And ultimately, the recognition of all of those attitudes is what we want the audience to see, feel and leave thinking about and perhaps even start their own conversations.”


The cast features Mandy Bean, Scott Bean, Jeremy Carter, Kirstin Daniel, Patrick Hackney, Roberto Hess, Rod Leigh, Peter Millis, Jonathan Milner, Carla Pridgen, Hope Spragg and Jim Slautich. Stephanie Hickling Beckman directs and Catilin Lane serves as stage manager.

The show runs two weekends only: December 1-10, Thursday, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm at the BeBe Theatre in downtown Asheville. Tickets for $15 at the door and $12 in advance. Reservations strongly recommended and may be made online at or by calling (828) 275-2093.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Be careful where you drive during WNC leaf season.

Ten 18-wheelers just on my little jaunt on Patton Avenue last night because I-240 West was closed. That's just plain stupid. It is SO past time for the I-26 connection to have been built. Asheville has invited the world to our area, but has absolutely no infrastructure. Insane, I say. Insane. Of course by the time city and NC state officials can agree on anything, I'll probably be having to walk to get around anywhere 'cause I'll be too blind to drive. But wait ... we don't have safe sidewalks in most of our neighborhoods either. 

Oh well ... get out there and enjoy the beautiful fall day in WNC folks. If you don't live here or are not yet here, you might want to high tail it on here for the very best color. Winds a blowin'. A good deal of leaves could possibly be settling into the mountain soil as soon as next weekend.

Just be careful wherever you drive.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Zachman, #72 on Asheville High JV Cougar Football made this Texas Momma Proud

     Been absent from the blogger world for a while, but that happens. So a brief catch-up is necessary. In case you're interested.
     I've just had a 2nd corneal transplant and am healing and hopeful this next chance at sight is the blessing I've been waiting for since I was 9-years-old. That's when I got hit with a glow-in-the-dark super ball straight up in my wide open left eye while visiting kin in Texas City, Texas.
     And Zach is now a sophomore at Asheville High and has the whole world opening up for him and the opportunity to reach academic and personal achievements I'm not sure that kid ever believed he'd be able to do. But the academics story is for another time.
     This tale is about a born and bred Texan momma who gets rather peeved at football games when people don't yell enough at the kids, the coaches and anyone else who might get on your nerves. I got to see my 6'1, 210 teenager start at his first home JV football game.
     Zach looked SOOOO awesome on that field last night. He's HUGE!!! He's not a perfect player, but that's what JV is for - get him broken in. Tore my heart apart though when I saw him get upset and fall down on the field, mad at himself and then Coach giving him a going over. I wanted to kick the coach's you know what, but hey, if the man didn't think Zach was worth anything, he wouldn't be giving him a talking to. You're supposed to get on your players. But Coach also told Zach he'd finally got some things right, so he's not on my full kick-ass list just yet. Zach played the entire game on offense except for two plays that he got pulled out of for holding. It happens.
     The best part was at the end of the game when he came running up to us on the field with the biggest grin ever and grabbed us, about knockin' me over. Sweat, OMG. but it was wonderful!!! What an incredible momma moment.
     You probably know football in Texas IS everything. (Forget that Rick Perry dude.) So I started out yelling and screaming, making my eyeball hurt so bad that Alphie had to go beg someone for some extra strength Excedrin for me. And the field lights ... oh man... I had to put my blind girl sunglasses made to fit over my regular glasses back on. I looked like some dumb white ass Stevie Wonder woman wanna be sitting up in those stands with those things on. But I didn't care; there was no way I was leaving that game!!!
     And there was no way I wasn't going to get that slobbery hug.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Mother's Day tale not to be shared on Mother's Day

Ok. I can write this down today. My cherished Mother’s Day card from Zach has fallen on the floor, landing amongst the dust bunnies behind the couch. My morning intake of caffeine is now sipped out of the odd-shaped ceramic coffee mug he lovingly made for me in electives class. And, I absolutely love the chamber pot (odd name I know, but it’s not for bathroom usage) he also created with his two ‘tiny always to Mommie’ hands. My eye drops fit perfectly in there upside down, helping me squeeze every $10 squirt out of there that I can. Those buggers are expensive.

I did not participate in the ever so social online posting of a picture of my mother a week and a half ago. I have two mothers. And neither one were ever much of a mom. One birthed me. The other raised me. Ain’t neither one getting elected for Mom of the Year.

The one who birthed me met me in my early 20s. She’s even seen a picture of my teen, her blood grandson, yet she cares not. She once told me, “How do we know whose baby they put my signature with? You’re dead to me. Leave me alone.”

The one who raised me, the one who I called Mother did love me in her own way. I think. I have a favorite picture of her. And it’s a beautiful one. I've always wished I had a picture of myself like that. I want to post it and maybe I will add it as an update. But, right now my computer has just recovered from a hard drive crash and I can’t yet connect to my scanner. And it was time to write this story. (Yes, an excuse, but the truth … love those kind.)

Anyway, Marietta, my adopted mom, was gorgeous. She was a ‘40s knock out. Her black and white portrait hints of a dark-haired Lauren Bacall. She was even a Rosie the Riveter, worked at Bell Helicopter in Fort Worth, Texas during World War II. She was one of the few skinny ones who could fit in those small spaces and for that, she got lots of attention. And dates, I’m sure.

She was a true Bohemian of that era. Wish I knew all of her stories, but she wasn’t that kind of mom. We never really talked much.

Instead, she took to the bottle when she should have been putting her natural artistry into the drawings and paintings she could have produced, or playing the piano or organ with the touch of an angel.

She’d met my Dad while he was still in the military. He was a dashing young Navy cook, wild as they came. They fell in lust, married, and were off to California to live a life of drinks, art, music, smoky nightclubs and who know’s what else. But that didn’t happen.

Instead, one day while Daddy was visiting my mom’s Methodist church with her parents, he up and joined and committed that very day to spending the rest of his life speaking from a pulpit and visiting those in need of the kind of Christian minister that was for real He’d been there, done it all and was truly given the Calling. He didn't judge. He talked of Grace.

Nope. Marietta didn’t like that too much. She tried. For a while, she played the organ like the good little preacher’s wife, tried to keep the smile on at all the churchly functions. But it just wasn’t meant for her. She had the style of Jackie Kennedy and the looks of a movie star, but lived in a glass house under the watchful eyes of many a judgemental sinner.

She tried to share some of her creativity with me. I still sometimes redraw a painting of hers that hung in the living room of whatever parsonage we were in at the time. And she did sit me down at the ripe young age of five and go over and over and over ‘Ke Sera Sera’ with me until I finally got it right so I could star in the Weatherford Kindergarten School Musical Finale. I had a voice, she said, but I’d been hanging around my father too much and I was acting tone deaf just because he was.

And there was the key to our very awkward mother/daugther relationship. She was jealous of me. All because I loved my Daddy. Just the way he was.

Thank God for Zach. Through him, with him, I have learned how to be a good Mom. Happy Belated!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Buying that Texas ranch and apartment in New Orleans French Quarters

I really thought my numbers were up this time. I was going to be the single winner of the $750+ million in last Thursday's North Carolina Cash 5 Lotto. Because .... I'd bought 5 tickets from two other set of winners, amounting to a total earnings of $5, in that day's Cash 5 Lotto. Perfect. Five is my one of my numbers and last Wednesday (the day of purchase) was a number five day, according to certain numerology charts. I'm not really sure about all that numerology stuff, but I do live in Asheville and I was here when all the whirly twirly ideas really started taking root all those many years ago. You couldn't turn a corner downtown without someone offering to read your charts for 20-25 bucks. Anyway, the lottery winnings had gotten way up there. It was going to be won by someone that night. Might as well be me. Right?

I hardly ever play the lottery. And I never used to play it except maybe when I was in some other state on vacation and thought 'well ... just maybe.....'

'But it's the economy, stupid.' I don't visit my favorite dancing, drinking or eating spots as much as I'd like any more. In fact, don't get out much at all right now. Do take advantage of a home delivery service that makes and leaves a week's worth of organic meals right at my front door. I'm not a total organic veg head, but the food is good (albeit usually needing a few extra spices), healthy, prepared by someone else and breaks down to about $7-$8 a meal. No cooking necessary. Heat up and chow down healthily. Another great type of business for a place like Asheville.

But back to my #5 day.

I was so danged positive that my numbers were up that I checked them in the early hours of the next morning. I never do that. The quick pick tickets I do sometimes buy are usually stuck for days down in an old, stained coffee cup in my car that is loaded up with other little pieces of papers ... and my driver's license. I even have to remind myself to pull them out and check to see if I maybe won a dollar. But not this time. I just had to look on the Lottery website and get ready to claim my big bucks. I'd soon be waking up the family screaming, "I won. I won. Gonna buy that Texas ranch and New Orleans French Quarter apartment now. Yee-haw!'

Of course, it was not to be. I'd have been better off keeping those numbers stuck down in their protective Styrofoam shield for a few more days. Because then, I would still have been thinking I was at least possibly the newest overnight sensation made rich by the NC Lottery. I'd read headlines waiting for the unknown winner to come forward.

Oh well ... like I said, I'm not really sure about all that numerology stuff. But I can say this: I'm even less sure now.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Planning on parking my derrière out by a fire pit in the woods

I've been far too busy lately. Not that busy is bad, particularly since it's been a while that I've been 'far too busy' because of my bad eyeball and all. But it's not been a harmonious sort of busy that my soul needs. A giddy-like happiness of a child without a care in the summertime.

I'm changing that this weekend. Finally getting to enjoy a full weekend off where I don't have to be at work at 7 am Sunday morning, thus cutting my Saturday night lights off at 9:30 pm, in preparation for the early rising.

Hopeful we'll get some sun this weekend, but if we don't, that's okay too. Going to spend much needed time with my family, extended family and aim to find someplace to park my derrière other than on the couch, too exhausted to deal with much else. Preferably out by a fire pit in the woods, nearby a grill and a cold, frosty filled ice chest.

Weather permitting, I plan to plant some roses, some wildflowers, deal with the fact that my spring garden might just have to be a fall garden and get the ground prepped for the sturdy stuff like peppers and tomatoes. Dig in dirt and compost until I feel Mother Earth deep down in my bones.

I'll be busy this weekend ... but it's going to be a very welcomed kind of busy.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Will Mom survive that milestone every teenager waits for - driving the car?

Man, oh man, oh man. I'm having a bit of panic attack. Okay, you can't have just a bit of a panic attack, now can you? It's either an attack, or it's not. But what if it's just ordinary worry that every mother or even father goes through when a child is learning how to drive? So, panic isn't the word. It's me realizing that my son has fully embarked upon his travels to becoming an adult. He has finally reached that milestone that every teenager waits for - driving the car.

Doesn't matter if the car is beat up and old or somewhere inbetween new and old. Of course, it would help if it's a really brand new 'fly' car, whatever teenage boys like these days, but the real issue is being able to finally get behind that wheel.

I don't know why I'm worried. I did fine. My dad wasn't worried about me. He let me loose in a pasture beside a church parking lot and said go. He didn't even get too upset when I freaked out and hit the gas pedal instead of the breaks and had the folks sitting in the baseball bleacher on the other side of the church pasture wondering if the Methodist minister's daughter was just about to wipe out the entire Baptist church's baseball team's parents. Hmm. Wonder if that was my Dad's idea in the first place? Wouldn't completely surprise me. He did love messing with the Baptist preachers in those small Texas towns. But, I digress.

My learning how to drive is what is totally freaking me out. I learned in the flatlands of Texas and where people believed in using their blinkers to let you know where they were actually going to go. Asheville drivers are not so great at using their turn signals. Perhaps that's because the public school's driver's education doesn't require that many hours behind the wheel. By the time Zach is let loose to get his learner's permit, he will only have about 10 hours of actual driving time behind the wheel. I had like two weeks total, and they taught me how to parallel park. Zach is not going to get that lesson from his school. Oh, but he will learn. That, I guarantee.

I also remember flying out to Lake Brownwood, which was at least a 30-mile round trip from my house. I'd hit 90 to 100 easy, particularly when I was given a 1976 baby blue and white Cutlass Supreme to drive. Yeah, that was one sweet drive. So, I guess I shouldn't be so suprised that I'm worried about Zach behind the wheel. I know what stupid stuff I did and that was in the flatlands in a small town with a population of about 20,000. Zach has hills, curves, mountains and 80,000+ drivers (just in the city) to have to figure out. (Although, I first started learning to drive in Ennis, an even smaller town of about 13,000, but only 30 miles south of Dallas, so my dad made me drive in Dallas also. And, if you didn't use your blinkers in the Big D to let other drivers know where you were going, you could just about kiss your ass bye-bye.)

Oh, and did I mention that we have to teach him how to drive stick shift? I love my stick shift. Once I learned how to handle a clutch and manual transmission, there has never been one thought about going back to automatic. I have so much more control over my engine and don't constantly hit my breaks. But ... I also remember learning how to drive that stick shift. On one very odd occassion, for some reason my older brother offered to let me take out his power muscle car ... I believe it was a Pontiac Road Runner. Anyway, he let me go for a spin on my own with maybe one trip around the block for a lesson. But Brownwood is one of those small towns that the saying "miles and miles of Texas" is a fitting description. And the *drag* was miles away from my house. I remember getting stuck at a red light and just could not get that damned cool car to go for nothing. Some guys from the nearby gas station had to come help me push that car to a start. As hip as that car was, I never asked to borrow it again. (I was in my 20's and living in another state before I learned how to finally master a manual transmission.)

As a teenager, I also had access to a huge ugly Chevrolet Impala my dad owned. It must have had like 20 different colors of paint on it, all in the shades of blue and grey. It looked like the car Robert Blake drove in the '70s tv series "Baretta." Named it "The Bomb." For that car, I had to carry jumper cables around with me so that when I stopped somewhere, I'd be able to get going again. I always had a gang of my best girl buds along with me; we really didn't care about the jumper cables. We were just happy to have any car and to be able to drive around and around and around, singing all of our favorite songs. We were tasting freedom. Just like any teenage girl from any generation, right?

So, maybe I've written my jitters away. I'll find some of the less traveled roads in the area, and help Zach learn how to drive my stick shift around the back and forth curves, down the slopes, up the hills and he will be fine. But will I? I guess that test comes when I start handing over the keys so the teenager with the learner's permit can continue his journey into manhood - with mom sitting watchfully at his side. While I still can.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Don't you just love having one of those annoying off-kilter days? Not!

I know everyone has had these kind of days, so I'm not even going to ask the question. Just going to share my day that started off-kilter and has continued to stay that way.

Got up later than I wanted. That's not so unusual in itself because I'm a true night owl and don't feel or act right until it's at least mid morning. But I've got to make a change at work to get there on some days by what I consider to be an un-godly hour to be ready to do anything for real - 6 am. That means I've got to get up at 4:30 am and in bed by no later than 10 pm. I'm just not used to that. Normally, by 4:30, I've only been asleep for about 2 hours. So ... obviously I need to get up earlier on my days off and get to bed sooner. I tried, but it just didn't happen. Oh well. not the end of the world if I got up later. It is my day off. I can deal. Will just have to drink some sleepy tea tonight in preparation for tomorrow's early rising and going to work while the moon is still in the dark of the wee am hours and the men folk are still sound asleep.

What I'm not enjoying today is my computer somehow playing pranks on me and jumping all around like it's hopped up on some sort of ADHD medication and skipping from place to place in Word and page to page on the internet. Don't like that at all. I usually read my daily horoscope for fun and then forget it just as soon as it was read, but I am wondering if there's something going on with Mercury being in retrograde and messing with all electronics today. But, again, I can handle my computer going wanky as long as it's not a permanent adjustment and it doesn't appear that is the case.

However, my dryer on/off switch decided to quit working between loads and that has done in my very last nerve. Of course, I just had to wash and dry the bedding first, and then wash my wardrobe I want to wear this next week. The bedding is dry and folded. But no, the dryer switch wouldn't start and my clothes are now sitting wet and crinkled. I tried to make it work with a turning of the pliers, but with my blind eye and lack of patience with the broken switch, I figured I better stop and wait for one of the Hyorth's who have better vision than I to see if they can get it fixed. Or else, I could make it worse and it might require even further attention. I did hang up some of my clothes to air dry, so not all is lost.

And now, I must rapidly bring this to an end, because the electricity is flickering on and off and I will once more be rather peaved about an electrical something gone wrong. Maybe I could go work on setting up a clothes line once again in the back yard; but, alas, it's starting to rain.

Happy Monday!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Wild woman dance workouts good for the soul

Geez whiz. What a gorgeous day it was here in Asheville today. It didn't quite hit 60, but it's supposed to reach that temperature tomorrow. After all the snow and freezing temps we've had lately, it made me downright giddy. I didn't actually get to enjoy it myself, except during my walk from the parking lot to my regularly scheduled weekend duties, otherwise known as work. But just because I didn't get to enjoy the sunshine myself doesn't mean I didn't fit some exercise in today. I like those heart healthy aerobics that also includes a workout for other muscles like abs, or biceps, triceps and even the calves. Sometimes I'll put together my own routine, also known as Tracy's RockAerobics.

That's usually best done when no one else is in the near vicinity. Tracy's RockAerobics is simply a wild woman dance workout to my some of my favorite tunes downloaded on my ipod. Dancing like I used to on those disco floors or those jerky moves I enjoyed during the alternative 80s of Talking Heads and R.E.M. Even Madonna is good when it comes to a dance workout. Whatever. It doesn't really matter. Music turned up as loud as I like and just letting it all go.

Just letting it all go ... something I probably need to do more often. Sooooo good for my soul. And beautiful days that tease of springtime certainly don't hurt either, even if only enjoyed for a brief three-minute walk. Hints of what's to come ... and more wild woman dances. Oh yeah.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

How about some tip jars placed strategically to pay for Asheville's bad infrastructure?

Great. Fodor’s Travel guide just listed Asheville as one of the top 21 places to visit before you die. When you click through, Asheville is the first slide, so they might as well be saying Asheville is the #1 spot. Asheville’s been listed as several top this or that, but in telling the world to come visit, someone also needs to tell the world about some of the problems we middle class locals face when the hordes arrive. In fact, I think we need some tip jars strategically placed somewhere, perhaps at the airport, or the Biltmore Estate, asking for help for our road funds. Or, maybe they can be placed downtown right next to the boxes asking for aide to the many homeless in Asheville who can’t afford to buy a home since Asheville has made so many ‘top of’ lists.

The tip jars would read something like this: "Note to visiting tourist: Welcome to Asheville and we are glad you have come to check out our lovely town; it really is quite unique. We know you will have a grand ole’ time here and we love that you want to spend your hard-earned money in our little city. However, we would prefer that you not drive on our roads. They are in bad shape and we don't have money to fix them. Our City Council has decided we have money to fund private development with taxpayer money, but not enough for our infrastructure. A lot of us moved here before you had ever even heard of Asheville and we are not born millionaires and do not have trust fund accounts that enable us to purchase new tires every time we hit a fresh pothole that hasn’t been/and won’t be fixed perhaps for several months. But since we don’t have the proper amount of public transportation to get you around our lovely area, we know you will most likely use a car to travel to several destinations. So, please consider putting just a wee bit of your vacation fund into this jar so that we may fix our roads so that you’ll want to come back for another visit. If our roads don’t get fixed, we locals cannot guarantee that we will be able to keep our road rage in check. Thank you, and have a nice visit to the Asheville area.”

Thursday, January 13, 2011

'When Jekyll Met Hyde' brings several generations of Asheville's actors together in a wild ride of a show(s)

All of Asheville's theatrical community is finally playing together. And it’s about damn time. Actors who did cutting edge shows in the '80s, to newer players who have happily learned good theatre does happen in this town. There's even one actor who worked with the earlier group, and has kept chugging on along the entire time. When Jekyll Met Hyde, opening Jan. 20th at The Magnetic Field, is where the magic takes place. The show is also a world premiere of a script written 23 year ago by Magnetic Theatre Artistic Director Steven Samuels.
John Crutchfield plays Jeykll/Hyde in the '60s version and
The Rev. Doctor Lanyon in the '50s version of When Jekyll Met Hyde

Asheville has been waiting for like 20 years for its River District to pop wide open. And that's just about to happen. It's already alive with artists with crazier than cool studios, funky cafes, and now a theatre/café/bar, featuring only all original performance pieces. The Magnetic Field, down on Depot St., is creating all sorts of buzz. If you don't know that the nightspot was recently featured in a New York Times travel piece, you have not been reading much media lately. And you're certainly not a local theatre freak. Time for you to change that status.

When Jekyll Met Hyde draws on every written, dramatized, and filmed version of the Robert Louis Stevenson classic imaginable, relevant 19th century literary and philosophical classics and features, and an unusual feminist twist and a surprise ending, Samuels explains before a recent tech rehearsal on location.

Samuels was in the right place at the right time and worked at The Ridiculous Theatrical Company in New York City from the late ‘70s to the early ‘90s. That group, begun in the mid ‘60s, is credited with breaking “the dominant trends in theatre of naturalistic acting and realistic settings. It employed a very broad acting style, often with surrealistic stage settings and props, frequently making a conscious effort at being shocking or disturbing,” according to Wikipedia. (I can’t believe I just quoted Wikipedia, btw, but it has become a part of our sourcing culture. Besides, Samuels would say that description is essentially correct.)

Samuels points out that he worked with Charles Ludlam in various theatrical ways, both on stage and off. Ludlam was a renowned American actor, director and playwright who either taught or staged productions at New York University, Connecticut College for Women, Yale University, and Carnegie Mellon University. He won fellowships from the Guggenheim, Rockefeller and Ford Foundations and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York State Council on the Arts. He won four Obie Awards, He was also instrumental in making the ‘Ridiculous’ theatrical experience a major influence still seen on American stages today.

Samuels decided to put together When Jekyll Met Hyde in 1988, ten months after Ludlam died, having been diagnosed with AIDS.

“Ludlam was this wonderful cultural recycler. He didn’t believe he had the right to add any new words to the theatrical arena because so much great stuff had already been created. So, he would create these collages of plots … outrageously put together quotes from all these different sources to tell the story of a classic.”

That’s what Samuels did with When Jekyll Met Hyde. For a month, he dived into the original Stevenson classic and learned as much as he could about it. Then he created his own collages from works like Dracula or Frankenstein, to name just a few. But there’s also a lot of Samuels’ own words in this play. He saw that even more as he prepared it for the Magnetic performance:

"There's about as much real Samuels in the dialogue as there is real fruit in Hawaiian Punch: 10%. What I've realized subsequently is that it's probably more like 15%, maybe 20% if you count my translations of Baudelaire as "Samuels.”

And to add just another twist, in homage to Ludlam and the character of the original work, Samuels has written two versions. There’s a ‘50s and a ‘60s version. Both shows have different actors, with the exception of one actor who is in both versions.

Why choose two decades so close together?

“The ‘50s and ‘60s seem and are very close, but they have very distinctive, tremendous extremes,” Samuels said. This difference is reflected through the costumes, music and the actors.

“It’s totally insane,” Samuels said in parting. “Wonderfully. Totally. Insane.”

The Magnetic Field will show both versions simultaneously. Featured in the 1950s version, Mondy Carter, Tracey Johnston-Crum, John Crutchfield, Darren Marshall, and Alphie Hyorth; in the 1960s version, John Crutchfield, Kathryn Temple, Julian Vorus, Steph Anie, and Peter Brezny. For more information,

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Will Asheville's schools' kids all be looking at do-overs because of missed snow days?

This snow has zapped my creative juices. While others are out making snow sculptures that are not your average snowman, or taking beautiful photos to last a lifetime, I'm wishing I could just muster up the energy to mop the kitchen.

I've had my thrills in the snow. Had fun snowball fights, made snow angels with friends and kids, seen ghosts, had mega bake-a-thons that resulted in so much food that some had to be buried out in the snow because there wasn't enough room in the refrigerator. But I have no interest in any of that this storm. So, just what is my problem?

Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that Zach has now been mostly out of school since the middle of December. Last year. Don't get me wrong; I love my boy. But with a broken ankle, he is limited to what he can do in or out of the house. Our routine is already out of whack. Before the Holiday began, we were hit with small amounts of snow that were just enough to cause the decision makers to close the halls of education. (I'm thinking they might be regretting those earlier decisions right about now. Those puny 1-2 inches were nothing.) Then came the Holiday break, now come and gone. The kids were back in school for a few short days and we all returned to our weekly schedules. Or so we thought. But now ... well most of you know the now. A storm that even hit and shut down Atlanta. So, once again school is out. And it's still out. At this rate, I'm wondering if all the kids will be looking at a do-over just because they missed so many school days because of the snow.

Yeah, that's it. My lack of creativity is definitely not my fault. It's those pesky educational bureaucrats who don't want any of our children harmed by some bus that can't make it up a frozen slope. Yep, it's their fault I'm feeling like a sloth. Well, with that out of the way, I'll just slump back into the couch and see what's good to watch on TV. And, I think Zach and I will play Five Card Draw tomorrow. At least he'll be working on some math.

Monday, January 3, 2011

It's never too late for a John Dowd story and sermon ... even if it is about Christmas and moonshiners

Only my father would start a sermon about Christmas with a story about a well known moonshiner from Eastern Tennessee. Is it too late to post? Nah ... never a bad time for a John Dowd story.

I don't know where he got all of his information for his many stories that accompanied his sermons on Sundays. He wrote them long before the internet came into his life. He was a voracious reader. Even when computers and wireless communication did come along, all he ever did was use it to play Solitaire. And so, here goes ... I have no idea what year he wrote this sermon, but he retired from the pulpit in the early 1990's.

'He came to us. Luke 1:26-38.'

"In the the late 1800s in the eastern part of Tennessee, there was a famous moonshiner known as Big Haley. The woman's real name was Mahala Mullins, but since she weighed somewhere around 500 pounds, 'Big Haley' was not an inappropriate name.

"Big Haley and her sons ran a reliable operation. They were renowned for the quality of their product. They didn't dilute their moonshine and were known to deal honestly. That fact, coupled with the problems of arresting a mountain clan, caused local government officials pretty much to leave them alone. However, a newly-elected sheriff did once attempt to arrest Mahala and make a name for himself. The judge who signed the arrest warrant just smiled and told the sheriff to be sure to bring her in.

"The sheriff and his deputies had no trouble finding Mahala's cabin. He knocked on the cabin door, entered, and informed Mahala she was under arrest. What he discovered, though, was Mahala was bigger than the cabin's doorway. After some futile effort, he decided not to arrest her after all. When the judge later asked the sheriff about Mahala, the officer complained that, 'She's catchable, but not fetchable.'

"There are some things in life that are like that. They may be catchable but in the vernacular of the mountains, they are not fetchable. Suppose you and I had never heard about Jesus Christ, but we wanted to know about God? How would we do it? It's a problem. We could look at nature to draw our conclusions, but nature presents a mixed bag. Certainly there is the abundance of soil, the faithfulness of the seasons, not to mention the breath-taking beauty and amazing complexity of all that lives and moves and has its being. But there is also cruelty in nature and destruction and terror. Is that what God is like? I hope not.

"We could turn to sacred literature. All the world's great religions seek to describe God in high, exalted writings, but they were written by human beings - people like you and me. They may have been religious geniuses, but how can we know that their testimony is true? The little girl sits in the corner drawing a picture of God. 'But no one knows how God looks,' someone says to her. 'They will when I've finished,' she proclaims. Who's to say she is wrong? Her guess is as good as anyone else's, if all we have to go on is human intuition.

"Truly God is neither catchable nor fetchable. Can clay describe its potter? Can fish do justice to the one who changes the water in their aquarium? How can tiny human brains that cannot understand electricity or produce a cure for the common cold ever hope to comprehend the wonder of the eternal Creator God? We cannot. Fortunately, we do not have to. Why? Because He has come to us. As folks in business would say, that is the bottom line when it comes to Christmas. God has come to us!!!

HE CAME TO A HUMBLE MAIDEN IN AN OBSCURE VILLAGE NAMED NAZARETH. Not to the philosophers or the Caesars or to the mighty warlords, but to a humble maiden. How extraordinary. No wonder the cynical people of this world reject such talk as nonsense. The way God came to us tells us the nature of God......"

My father was saying we can find God everywhere ... even in an 'unfetchable but catchable' moonshiner.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

2010: Hope the door kicked you in the ass on your way out

Resolutions. Resolutions. Resolutions. That’s all I’ve heard for the last week. Are you going to go on a diet? Are you going to exercise more? Are you going to somehow make life less stressful? Are you going to be more patient with your spouse, children, or some other often bothersome relative, neighbor or friend? And on, and on, and on … ad nauseum.

No. Absolutely not. No resolutions for me. Just the word makes me feel like I’m being set up for some kind of failure. Like I need more of that in my life for  2011. 2010 was difficult enough for me. Eyeball issues dominated my life, and not with the most wonderful expected outcomes.

But, it’s 2011 and things are looking better and brighter (pun intended). For 2011, I’m going to wake up each morning, thank the good Lord for the roof over my family’s head, the food in our bellies, the health problems we do not have and the money we do have that keeps us safe, warm and fed. For each other. And for my friends and their uniqueness.

And then? I’ll go to bed with the same thankfulness and realize that each day I made a step forward. Tiny steps, perhaps, on some days. Larger ones at other times and everything in between. But all creative steps. Leading to opportunities I’ve been chasing for years.

So, I end with this note to 2010: Hope the door kicked you in the ass on your way out, because you certainly kicked mine. But, hey I’m still here. And you’re what? Outta here.