Sunday, May 29, 2011
For our first three years in the new house, we were free of woodchucks (aka groundhogs) raiding our vegetable gardens. There was a very big, fat and hungry one living in a burrow by Fritz's old house downhill of the Center, who would clean out any garden his office manager planted by her wing of the building, and she eventually gave up on most of it.
Monday, May 23, 2011
Fourteen years ago today, Fritz and I met at a friend's house in Cambridge, MA. I was struck by a face of immense kindness, clear French blue eyes, a lively sense of humor, vitality, intelligence -- there was an instant connection. Three days later, each of us contacted the host on how to get in contact with the other, and we were off and running. It has never faltered, but has deepened with the years and weathered some challenges life threw at us along the way.
We're off to Tuscan Kitchen in Salem, NH tonight to celebrate our anniversary (Thanks, Rick of Bandit Talks, for the recommendation!) and begin year 15!
Some people say you know a country is in trouble when it starts allowing people of the same sex who love each other to form a legal union and have the obligations and benefits enjoyed by other couples.
I say a country is in trouble when it's political leaders seek to reduce our already degraded educational system, and throw retired people under the bus proposing to slash the financial support and health protection promised to the very senior citizens who raised and educated them, among other major accomplishments. The following article points out the danger of eliminating arts education in our schools, a seriously misguided goal that will further cheat our children by impoverishing their imaginations, sensitivity and creativity.
But I believe most politicians know that an educated electorate is their biggest enemy.
President of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
Last week, the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities released a study on arts education and the news is bleak. Taking information on a 2008 report from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Los Angeles Times recently reported: "Among children of a college graduate, 27% said they had never taken even one arts class, compared with 12% in 1982. For children of high school graduates, the number who'd never had any arts study rose from 30% nearly 30 years ago to 66% in 2008."
This radical diminution in exposure of children to arts education has dire consequences for our arts ecology as well as our nation as a whole.
Traditionally, young children were exposed to the arts by their families and their schools. I remember playing the triangle in nursery school, singing in music class in grade school and singing in chorus and playing in the orchestra throughout my junior and senior high school days. I was an exception. When most students entered high school, they stopped their arts participation as they focused on dating, college, career and creating a family. Most people ages 18-45 had little discretionary time and money and only returned to the arts when their children were grown and their careers flourished. This influx of middle-aged ticket buyers, subscribers, donors, volunteers and board members was essential for the health and vitality of our arts organizations.
The startling fact revealed in the statistics in this new arts education report is that we cannot expect this trend to continue. Will someone with no arts experiences as a child automatically become a subscriber or donor to the arts when they hit middle age? Will they volunteer at a local dance school? Will they be willing to join the board of a theater company? I doubt it.
If not, where will the earned and unearned income for the arts come from in 20 or 30 years? The arts suffer from inflation more than other industries owing to our difficulty improving productivity. We need to add income more quickly rather than less quickly than other sectors of the economy.
As dire as the consequences may be for our field, they are much more serious for our economy as a whole. The United States no longer depends on manufacturing as the central element of our economy. Less than 20% of our gross domestic product now comes from manufacturing, the lowest level among developed countries.
Our economic future depends on a work force that must be creative problem solvers, those who can invent new products and create new software. This means our educational system must produce creative, problem-solving graduates. Who better to play a role in exercising the creative minds of our children than we in the arts? How are students going to build confidence in their abilities to create if they are not given access to education that goes beyond reading, writing and arithmetic?
Those who argue that investing in arts education is frivolous are simply wrong. We do our children and grandchildren no favor by reducing deficits by cutting educational opportunities. But arts organizations are going to have to do more and better arts education in the coming years; we are going to have to work together to create smarter, stronger more efficient arts programming for children.
The health of our field and of our nation is at stake.
Thursday, May 19, 2011
We're going out to visit later in the summer, combining a visit to them with a little vacation for ourselves, a boat trip through the southern Alaska archipelago, and a visit with some friends in Seattle and Portland. It would be lovely if there weren't a full continent between us but there is and we deal with it as best we can.
The opera whose libretto we wrote opened last Saturday night. That's the reason I haven't blogged in so long. The technical and dress rehearsal period the week before went very well but was full of long days. We had a super director, a chic and very bright British lady who had directed for the company last January which is when we discovered that we worked together really well, and so it was this time.
The opera was called A Place of Beauty, a title Fritz chose as it was how Isabella Stewart Gardner referred to the Venetian Palazzo-inspired building she built in the Back bay fens area of Boston to house the spectacular collection of paintings, sculpture, drawings, furniture, tapestries, manuscripts, and architectural element, etc. she and he late husband had collected, and in which she lived.
The two performances were preceded by a 40 minute talk we gave along with composer Robert Edward Smith and our aforementioned director, Kirsten Cairns. The opening was officially sold out although some few people who had bought tickets didn't show up. The rehearsals the week before had improved steadily in both ensemble and individual performance. The opening went superbly; the audience was enthusiastic.
For the reception afterward David Feltner, our conductor who was responsible for running it, chose to serve exactly what Isabella had served to her guests the night she opened the palazzo, which she had named Fenway Court -- champagne and doughnuts. Isabella liked doughnuts and thought everybody should, too. Novelist Edith Wharton was NOT amused and there was apparently a delicious little set-to between the two women as Wharton rather ostentatiously stalked out of the place.
We had thought that the cast couldn't get any better but the Sunday matinee was even more emotionally focused and the singers' diction was just one notch clearer and more precise. Again, Barbara Kilduff nailed the long final scene we had constructed for her beginning with her elegy at Jack's death, going through her crisis wondering if she could succeed building the place herself, pulling herself together and taking charge like a Greek Fury to get it exactly right, her reconciling with Boston society in the person of our archetypal character The Boston Matron, and her deciding to remain forever in the building to await the return of the many paintings stolen in the infamous 1990 massive art heist. Again, there was a very demonstrative audience.
When the calls were over and the curtain came down, we grouped for a couple of pictures, did all the standard hugging and wished it wasn't over. Then we took the scenic units apart, packed them up and came home. Tired but very happy, Fritz and I stopped for Chinese in Derry and talked about what an amazing part of our lives it had been for the last thirteen months.
Broadway Legend Arthur Laurents DiesOpenly gay Broadway legend Arthur Laurents has died at the age of 93.
Theater Mania reports:
Laurents was best known for his collaborations with Stephen Sondheim, including writing the books for West Side Story and Gypsy (earning Tony nominations for both), Anyone Can Whistle, and Do I Hear a Waltz. Early in his career, Laurents wrote such plays as Home of the Brave and The Time of the Cuckoo. In later years, he wrote and directed the musicals The Madwoman of Central Park West and Nick & Nora. Laurents directed the 1975, 1989, and 2008 revivals of Gypsy, each of which earned Tony Awards for its respective leading ladies, Angela Lansbury, Tyne Daly, and Patti LuPone. He also directed the 2009 Broadway revival of West Side Story.Laurents was temporarily blacklisted during the McCarthy era after a review of one of his plays was published in the Communist Party USA newspaper.
NOTE: Laurents asked that his obituaries include this line: "He was predeceased by his partner, Tom Hatcher, with whom he had lived in happiness for more than 50 years."
Thursday, May 05, 2011
There are also four actual easels in the design, mounted back to back on two other rolling platforms, each one holding a large painting that will suggest the location for a scene. Three of the four are copies I've painted of work by artists known to Isabella Gardner or part of her inner circle. Two are by John Singer Sargent; this one will play behind a scene in art dealer Bernard Berenson's office.
The set was built using a large amount of the scrap lumber, some left over from construction of the house, some from Fritz's barn, including all the picture frames. I bought some decorative bits at Lowe's and cut them up and the results aren't too far off from what's in actual museums.
It's nine days to opening -- it's an exciting time!