Tuesday, May 27, 2008

“Davey and Goliath”

In Sunday’s “Times,” there was an obituary for Dick Sutcliffe whose idea it was to have Davey and Goliath show Lutheran values on TV on Sunday mornings. “Davey and Goliath” also supplied raw material to the comedy writers on Fox’s “Mad TV” for years.

“Davey and Goliath” wasn’t made by Sutcliffe, but by Art Clokey and Ruth Clokey Goodell, the creators of “Gumby and Pokey.” Sutcliffe wrote the 15 minute episodes about a boy (Davey, based on Sutcliffe’s son), his dog (Goliath) and his relationship to God. The show also featured Davey’s best friend, Jonathan, who was black. Davey was white. See Photofest photo above. The “Times” says this was one of the first interracial friendships depicted on TV.

For more go to: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/25/arts/design/25sutcliffe.html?ref=obituaries

Bullies- It’s not just Me

I’ve not always been fortunate in my day jobs, though I certainly am now. But I can think of at least two jobs- one at a college, and one at a theatre- where I was routinely bullied. The only way I could overcome either of these situations was to leave. In the college setting, a Vice President (my direct supervisor was out that day), shrieking, dragged me by the arm and locked me in an office without food or water until I completed the task she’d given me. It was like something out of a movie- she really did look psychotic, and I didn’t doubt she was capable of physically hurting me. With my one year of law school behind me, I kept telling myself this was false imprisonment, and wouldn’t my torts professor be surprised to see it in the 1990s. In the theatre setting, I had a desk that faced a wall covered with a large bulletin board. Every few days, my boss would throw darts over my head. It took him about a year, but eventually a dart hit my head, drawing blood. He told me it was my fault I was bleeding, because I moved and it threw off his aim.

This is why Tara Parker-Pope’s article in the “Times” a few months ago really spoke to me. One third of the readers who responded to her article had been bullied at work.

Gowanus- Not just Another Neighborhood

There’s an interesting exhibit in the basement at the Brooklyn Historical Society these days: “Gowanus- Transformations: Celebrating 150 Years of Manufacturing”. Sponsored by FROG (Friends and Residents of Greater Gowanus), it’s not all the manufacturing that’s still in the neighborhood, but an interesting cross-section. The curators are Christine Mackellar and Margaret Maugenest, and the photographs of the manufacturers and their wares are by Enid Braun. There are luscious-looking treats from an Indian bakery that supplies many restaurants; the company that does the pyrotechnics for “Late Night with David Letterman”; and the only pasta extrusion die company in the western hemisphere (see photo by Enid Braun). That means the dies that cut the alphabets for alphabet soup are manufactured in Gowanus. Who knew?

The show runs until August 24th. There’s a free, guided walking tour of the manufacturing sites on Sat., June 21, 2-4 PM. It will start at Claireware (pottery maker), on Union Street near the corner of Nevins.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Actors Studio PDW

I am not a member, let alone a lifetime member, of The Actors Studio. I am a member of the Playwright Directors Workshop of The Actors Studio, which just completed its Festival of Readings. Because of my time commitments to my brother and our TV project, I wasn’t able to attend all nine readings, but I did make it to two.

Jeremy Kareken’s “The Sweet, Sweet Motherhood” is about a phenomenon that could happen tomorrow. Originally commissioned by the Playwrights Center and the Guthrie Theatre, it’s about an undergraduate student, Shelley (read by Caroline Cooney) who wants Prof. Stein (the playwright) to be her thesis advisor. Shelley wants to use herself as her thesis: she wants to be inseminated with chimpanzee sperm and report on what happens. Stein tries to talk her out of it, and by the end we’re still not really sure if she did or she didn’t. The play is laceratingly funny and makes you seriously consider the implication of intraspecies breeding and cloning.

Jeremy Wine’s “The Squeezer and the Squeezed” is about a man named Alfred being help against his will in a mental health facility. His doctor, Bob, and his sultry case worker, Ms. Tensenbaum, work their own special kind of therapy on Alfred. The play is biting in its wit about how perhaps a part of all of us wants to be famous for a moment, if even through an act as violent as Alfred’s (he assaulted barrels of ice cream and sorbet with gunfire), and how Alfred comes to terms with the reality that’s he’s not the next American serial killer, he’s a lonely guy in Jersey. It recalls Pinter’s “The Hothouse” in the way it plays with the reality of the patient and how the hospital environment shapes that.

Dip your Toe in the Past

Back in March, researchers at Berkeley National Laboratory were able to play a cylinder originally made for a phonautograph (see drawing). It is a recording made in Paris of a woman singing the first phrase of “Au Clair de la Lune.” The phonautograph’s original purpose was to act like a dictation machine, where after speaking into the machine, a secretary could look at the marks made on the cylinder, and write out the words.

This would not be a terribly impressive achievement, but the recording was made in April 1860. Not only is that 20 years before Edison’s machine, but think what life was like back then. There was still slavery; Lincoln hadn’t been elected yet; the dome of the U.S. Capitol wasn’t finished yet, nor was the Washington Monument; some of my family was still back in Germany, tenant-farming, since less than 20 years before they’d been serfs.

So click on the link below and read the article. Click on first mp3 file you see, and listen to that woman, long dead, sing eight bars of the song. It’s ghostly, and wonderful.


Monday, May 19, 2008


The past two months have been a difficult time for the Dramahound. On Holy Saturday, one of my closest friends died. The friend who saw every reading the whole time I've lived in New York, every showcase, read drafts, read my first leadsheet in her kitchen, the friend I’d always assumed would help me bury my parents, clean out their house, etc. She is gone, 32 years earlier than her own mother died. I miss her every day.

This past week I’ve been working on a TV pilot with my brother Vincent for Romanian television. We worked very hard, the first time we worked together, and we and the producer/director are all exhausted. But we did good, and it’s a mighty fine outline. Of which Dodo, a writer herself, would have been proud.

I'd imagined one's close friends died when you were old; my grandmother in her 80s told me all the time how much she missed her contemporaries. But this is brutal.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Theatre History and Theatres’ History

In the course of writing the organ blog entry, Dr. Stephen Hamilton sent me an url with information about the organs specifications. It’s the New York City chapter of the American Guild of Organists. It is totally addictive. There’s a section of the site about organs, new and old, in New York City. Not only in churches and synagogues, but department stores, hospitals and theatres.

Last Saturday afternoon I spent too much time on the site, playing with places in Manhattan. I started on Brooklyn this morning, could not figure out what the name of the theatre was on 86th Street in Brooklyn where Modell’s is now. In that store, the second floor has remnants of what was the balcony. So with this site, a walk to 86th Street and a chat with an old guy at the bus stop who overheard us talking, two mysteries have been solved. Where the new NY Sports Club in now (86th between 4th and 5th Avenues) was the RKO Shore Road Theatre. Where Modell’s is now was the RKO Dyker Theatre. Years ago, I had to make several business trips to Wichita and spend time in their convention center. The highlight of the convention center is the “Mighty Wurlitzer” from the Paramount Theatre, which was in that building in Times Square that’s shaped like a wedding cake with a glass ball on the top. This photo is of the organ that used to be in the Rainbow Room.

But don’t go to the AGO site unless you’ve got the time:


Drinking in Church for Good

Next Tuesday May 6th from 5:00 to 7:00 PM, there is going to be a cocktail party in the nave of the Church of the Holy Trinity. It is the perfect place to kick off the church’s Rieger Pipe Organ Restoration Project. The organ was installed in 1987, so the computer components don’t function as they should (your computer’s not 20 years old, is it?), and add to that 21 years of the grime of the city, it’s kind of amazing it works at all. That’s a tribute to the organ’s Viennese manufacturer, Rieger-Orgelbau. But the restoration, cleaning and new computer will cost $160,000. Famous organists who've performed on this organ are Anthony Newman, Gerre Hancock and Simon Preston, among others.

The party is free, being hosted by Dr. Stephen Hamilton, Minister of Music, and Betsy Foster, Chair of the Renovation Committee. They would love to see you there. The church is located at 316 East 88th Street, between First and Second Avenues. If you have any questions, contact Dr. Hamilton at 212.289.4100.

The accompanying photo shows the organ in all its glory.