My good friends Greg Greene and Wes Driver of Nashville's Blackbird Theater (you may remember them from the "Theology of Theater" podcast) have a new show opening this weekend. I ran into Greg a few days ago as he was putting up show posters all over town and he let me in on an incredibly generous promotion they're running for the new play. They are giving away 150 tickets for free, the only caveat is that they want them to go to people who haven't seen a local theater production in at least three years. Here's what Greg has to say:
"There's a problem with Nashville's theatre scene, and the whole industry knows it. It's the fact that the majority of Nashvillians aren't aware of how good local theatre has become in the last few years. The theatre community is more energized, it's drawing better talent, and it's producing braver shows than ever before. So Blackbird wants to invite Nashvillians back to the theatre by offering 150 free tickets to our production of Oleanna, by Pulitzer-winning playwright and filmmaker David Mamet. If you haven't seen a locally-produced play in the last 3 years, we have two free tickets for you."That's an amazing deal! So what's Oleanna about? The play is being put on in conjunction with the 2013 Christian Scholars' Conference at Lipscomb University, and the theme of the conference this year is "Crises in Ethics." And that's precisely what Mamet's script is: a crises of ethics. The play (confession: I've only seen the film version starring William H. Macy) is a two-man show (one woman and one man actually) that dives into a deeply unsettling confrontation between a college professor and a female student. It's about political correctness, and sexual harassment, and prejudice, and miscommunication. It's about how we (mis)behave toward and (mis)understand one another. More importantly, to me as a writer, it's about the power of subtext. Mamet's writing is a testament to the incredible and explosive presence of things left unsaid. Watching the story unfold is uncomfortable, and alarming, and I'll even venture to say enraging at times. And rightly so. It's a piece of art that confronts us with a situation we are programmed to feel strongly about, and it makes us look at and grapple with our reactions. It's powerful stuff. Not for the kids. And not for the faint of heart. But I guarantee that you'll leave the theater with a lot on your mind, and that's a good thing. (Note: there's some coarse language, and an act of violence, but it's not wildy crude; its mature nature is in its theme and subtext.) Here's what Greg has to say about the production:
"OLEANNA is short, sinewy, and it's definitely for mature audiences. With Mamet's incendiary script in the hands of David Compton and Jennifer Richmond---two of the region's best actors---we think our new guests will be surprised at how engaging and exhilarating theatre can be. Best of all, it costs nothing---the only risk is that you may want more."and
"One of the most incendiary plays of contemporary theatre, OLEANNA is Mamet’s unflinching exploration of the perils of political correctness as witnessed through the twists and turns of a power struggle between a university professor and his female student."The show opens this Friday and runs through June 15th. Here's how you can claim one of those free tickets. Visit Blackbird Theater's website and select tickets for the performance of your choice, then enter the promotional code "mamet4." That's it. I'll be at the show on June 14th. I hope to see some of you there. Saturday, June 8 − 2:30pm - Lipscomb's Shamblin Theatre Saturday, June 8 − 7:30pm - Lipscomb's Shamblin Theatre Sunday, June 9 − 2:30pm - Lipscomb's Shamblin Theatre (venue change) Thursday, June 13 − 7:30pm - Lipscomb's University Theater Friday, June 14 − 7:30pm - Lipscomb's University Theater Saturday, June 15 − 7:30pm - Lipscomb's University Theater
One of the great injustices a reader can do to the parables of Jesus is not to be offended by them, or not at least think them most peculiar. We know them so well, we have explained and moralized them so often, that in many cases we have lost touch with how peculiar the parables are. My old friend Thomas Purifoy, head of Compass Cinema, is doing his part to bring back the peculiarity, and in some cases the offensiveness, of the parables of Jesus. Modern Parables (Series 1) is six short films, each of which retells a parable of Jesus in a modern setting and in so doing awakens us to realities we may have missed. In Samaritan, an old man who has been robbed and beaten is ignored by a deacon and then by a pastor, and for the same reasons that you or I might look past a grizzled, glassy-eyed old man lying in a pile of trash on a city street. The person who finally comes to the old man's aid is a Middle Eastern taxi driver who reads Arabic-language newspapers and smokes cigarettes. I know the parable well enough to side automatically with the Samaritan and view the scribes and priests as villains to be booed and hissed. The film reminds me that I have more in common with the story's villains than with its hero. Samaritan - Modern Parables from Compass Cinema on Vimeo.
My mom always told me that winning isn't everything. Or maybe it was winners can't be choosers...or losers. Either way, there was something about winning in there that I was supposed to learn. However the one thing I've learned about winning is that it's fun, so to that end we're excited about a new weekly feature that we've creatively named The Rabbit Room Contest. Every Monday, you'll find a brand new contest post detailing the prize(s) available. The goals will change from time to time, but the ultimate goal is to give you that exhilarating feeling of having bested everyone else. Pride. Glory. You know, the fruits of the Spirit. For our first Rabbit Room Contest, it's appropriate to give a nod to the man who provided an inspiration to us all: Clive Staples Lewis. This week's prize will be a brand new set of Lewis's celebrated space trilogy, which includes Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra and That Hideous Strength. So what does it take to win? This week, we're asking you, dear reader, to add a review to the Rabbit Room store. Whether you are purchasing a new product or remembering something you've owned for a long time, we'd love to give other art lovers a better idea of what they might enjoy in the store. Have an opinion on your favorite Andy Gullahorn album? Want to weigh in with your take on a Jonathan Rogers novel? Let us know in the Rabbit Room store (every item in the store has space for user reviews) sometime between today and Thursday evening at 5 p.m. (CT) and you'll be automatically entered to win. Winners will be randomly selected. At random. Winners will be notified personally and we'll announce the winner each Friday morning. Fine print: Original members of the Inklings are not eligible to win. Neither is Pete Peterson.
People often ask how they can best support the Rabbit Room, the work we do, the content we create, and the people involved. The first and best answer is to support the authors and musicians that we feature. By purchasing their work through the Rabbit Room store, you can be sure that the artist is receiving the lion's share of the profit, and the rest goes toward operating expenses of the Rabbit Room itself. Many people, however, have asked how they can contribute in a larger way, and that brings us to Rabbit Room membership. For more information on membership and membership benefits, click here.
This post has been brewing for a good long time. Ten years, as a matter of fact. What follows is something of a personal retrospective, probably not of the least interest to anyone but me. Truthfully, it’s one of the most difficult things I’ve ever written—how to confine an important decade to a few paragraphs?—and more than once I’ve nearly given up the attempt altogether. As it is, I’ve refined it to death, wrestling over that balance between candor and abstraction (and taking myself far too seriously in the process). And for all that, who knows but that in the end I’ve succeeded at nothing more (or less) than an egocentric ramble. That’s not my intention; what I long to do is memorialize what God has done in my life, to mark this passage with an altar of remembrance and observe an epoch with deep attention and gratitude. Love compels me to try, while joy tugs, colt-like, against the reins of my limitations. At any rate, I’ve given it a go. The very fact that I feel obliged to open with such an accounting may serve as warning enough of the wanderings to follow… It was ten years ago this Maytime that God started something in my life from which I’ve never recovered---and never want to. Anniversaries are important to me, and this May I’ve been blessed with ample time to take a long, backward glance. To remember where I’ve come from; to measure my charts and check my course against where I’m going, where I want to go. For three weeks I have lived by the sea---really lived, in the way I first began to dream of a decade ago. I have put countless miles on my trusty Schwinn (Holly Golightly’s the name), traveling daily the same beloved paths, stretching over a gold and green salt marsh or winding beneath moss-hung oaks, each one a familiar friend. Kingfishers have been my comrades, and snowy egrets, and red-winged blackbirds with their liquid music like flutes coming through water. I have worn my hair in a ponytail and the same gorgeously-comfortable, perpetually-sandy, linen cargo pants (except on the days when I’ve donned my favorite, lucky writer’s frock: perfect shade of sailboat blue and works well on a bike) and I’ve pedaled off with a laptop in my backpack and my wicker bicycle basket stuffed with books and blanket, seeking some sunny refuge where I might warm the bones of my soul and weave a few words into the bargain. (I’ve literally followed the sun all over this island and I’m brown as a nut in consequence---all but my face, which I slather daily with SPF 20. Yes, I’ll admit, it looks a bit odd. I’ve also mastered the art of riding a bike with a tall Darjeeling in hand, for what it’s worth. What would we do without our cups of tea?) And at the end of the day, we’ve stretched on the sand, my husband and I, or on a sun-gilt verandah in rocking chairs, sipping cocktails and reading books---or talking of books and the dreams they have kindled. What is it that Thoreau said---“How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book?” I certainly can. I have often thought that God all but placed a book in my hands that He wanted me to read, something that would unravel a bit more of the fabric of unexamined belief about Him and the world and other people---and myself. But ten years ago this May, I know He did. It was as if the Holy Spirit propelled me bodily towards the bookcase and pried open my fingers to receive a volume off the shelf. It was a book that had been sitting there for four years, ever since Philip and I had been married, and it was the story of a great love. But one of the lovers did not survive the book. This much I knew. And I did not want to read it. When God gave it to me, however, I did. (We did, rather, for I firmly believe that this is not a book to be read by one spouse and not the other.) And it completely changed my life.
“At the same time that he lost everything---the very direction of his own steps---he won the thing he’d held so precious he wouldn’t approach it in words.”An ending and a beginning. Welcome to the discussion of the final part of Leif Enger's So Brave, Young, and Handsome---“The Raratogans”. As always, feel free to share any passages that were significant to you, or to pose additional questions. Pop quiz (no cheating and no looking back): List all of the literary references from the book, as well as where they were mentioned. 1) What is the significance of “The Rarotongans” (and why was this chapter named after them)?
“What I’d have given for a dream or vision now, like Glendon had of Blue---in wavering times, a vision’s what you want! Instead I confess to the most unrefined and selfish longings. I wanted to walk with Susannah and be solid and foremost in her eyes. I wanted Redstart to discover from its roots upward this place where I might be of use.”---p.2503) What was the gap between the “dream or vision” that Monte wanted to have and the longings that he actually had?
“If she [Blue] loves me back, it deepens what I owe. There aint no parity in that arrangement. That’s what I did not see coming.” Glendon---p. 2744) What did Glendon mean? Do you agree? 5) What three words would you use to summarize the final picture we have of Siringo? Glendon? Becket? 6) If you were to choose a theme song for So Brave, Young, and Handsome, what song would it be? 7) What questions would you like ask Leif Enger about the book? 8) What are your final thoughts on the ending of the book?
Today is Memorial Day, so it occurs to me that this may be an appropriate memory to haul to the surface. I resubmit it for your perusal. It seems like pirates in are in the news every time I turn around these days. But when this story popped up a while back it really caught my attention: USS Dubuque Seizes Ship Captured by Pirates. You can probably imagine my interest in the report but my association goes deeper than simply being an author who writes about pirates. Almost twenty years ago, you see, I was U.S. Marine Sergeant “Pete” Peterson and I served on the USS Dubuque for a while. Luckily, the time I spent on the De Puke (as we called it) was almost entirely taken up by sleeping, playing Spades, and reading Michael Crichton novels rather than fighting pirates or saving the free world. I remember a tattered copy of Jurassic Park making the rounds from jarhead to jarhead throughout the berthing area and it ignited all sorts of lively debate about how well Steven Spielberg had (or hadn’t) interpreted it. Crichton was considered high literature to us in those days. If I remember correctly, a copy of Congo was being passed along not far behind it.
J.J. Abrams's rebooted Star Trek is back with Into Darkness. Star Trek fanboy Thomas McKenzie assess the Darkness and lets you know if it's worth stepping into.
There is a moment in Chapter 4 of The Bark of the Bog Owl that makes me cringe a little bit. Aidan and Dobro have gotten mixed up with a panther, which "bared its fangs and wailed a deep rumbling moan that became a piercing scream." It's not a bad description, but it's not what I wrote. The panther wasn't supposed to wail. Panthers waul. It's the perfect verb for what panthers do. But a well-meaning editor at B&H publishing group changed waul to wail (just as my computer's auto-correct did just now), and I didn't notice until after the book was published. So since 2004 that poor panther has been going against his own nature, wailing instead of wauling for nine years. I have good news for the panther. The rights to the Wilderking Trilogy recently reverted to me after a period in which the books were effectively (though not technically) out of print. The Bark of the Bog Owl, The Secret of the Swamp King, and The Way of the Wilderking are coming back with a new publisher: Rabbit Room Press. And I have been able to fix some of the little things that have been bothering me about the published versions. The new and improved Kindle versions of the three books are already available, in fact. And in the Rabbit Room edition the panther wauls (though--spoiler alert--he still doesn't survive Chapter 4). I am thankful for B&H's support of the Wilderking in years past; I long ago recovered from the shock of having a B&H salesman suggest that I make Dobro Turtlebane a girl (girls read far more than boys, he reasoned, and they needed a character to relate to). Still, bringing Aidan and Dobro and them to the Rabbit Room Press feels like a kind of homecoming. And Pete Peterson has never once suggested that Dobro should be a girl. For an unspecified (but limited) time, the Kindle version of The Bark of the Bog Owl is only 99 cents. If you aren't familiar with the Wilderking Trilogy, this is an easy way to introduce yourself. If you want to pick up The Secret of the Swamp King and The Way of the Wilderking while you're at it, that will be all right too. The plan is to have paperback versions of all three books by the end of the summer; we'll soon be back in touch with ways you can help make that happen. Meanwhile, if you're a Kindle reader, you might check out the e-books. Here are those links again: The Bark of the Bog Owl The Secret of the Swamp King The Way of the Wilderking
[In the summer of 2007, I launched a music site called Stereo Subversion for the sole purpose of helping to promote and explore what I termed "Meaningful Music." The goal was to highlight artists crafting substantive content and/or imaginative concepts. Six years later, the same is true. Here's a recent interview that illustrates just that.] For those who tried to read between the lines on Hem's latest album, Departure and Farewell, you likely hit the nail on the head. Over the last decade-plus, the Brooklyn-based band has released several beautiful folk albums to great acclaim. But everything has a life cycle, and Hem nearly completed their own. Death, it seems, was a necessary consideration to bring new life, and Departure and Farewell is a goodbye in name only. Hem's Gary Maurer and Dan Messe recently sat down with Stereo Subversion to discuss the latest album and how they nearly walked away from it all. SSv: It’s been a long time between records, what has happened in that time? Dan: Well, I think what happened was, we were thinking Hem had run its course after Twelfth Night(2009’s record of instrumental accompaniment to a Shakespearean production) and were just interested in wrapping things up in a big bow. And so we decided to call the recordDeparture and Farewell. Really making something that was a good summation of our career. And in the course of making this “ending,” I actually started using pills, I actually got addicted to them. And the band completely exploded. I basically poisoned the entire well where we couldn’t even finish the final record. We were just going to walk away at one point. That’s true right Gary? Gary: Yes, clearly for several months [the record] was not going to get done. Dan: And it languished like that until I hit bottom and asked for help, then the band started to heal. And all of the sudden there was a rebirth, not just in terms of my own health but also in terms of the love we have for each other and the love we have for the music we make together and how grateful we are. It started out as a swan song and became a rebirth. SSv: Is it strange or painful to make this a part of the new record’s story, or are you comfortable talking about it? Dan: I’m not comfortable talking about it at all, but it’s such a part of the album. We write songs that are not confessional but they are autobiographical. So we tend to write in metaphor about experiences that we go through in our life. We could have taken this part out and just been vague about it: ‘We had troubles and we got over it.’[Laughs] Gary: It would have been easy to make up a whole other story because there actually have been a lot of other changes since (2006’s) Funnel Cloud. We could have just pretended, like Dan said. Dan: I think in the spirit of this second chance, it really is a miracle, and I wanted to honor that. And also, you are able to recover—or find recovery at all—when you are at a point when you’re completely hopeless and lost everything. And you want to share the story so that someone else might hear it and find their own way back. You feel responsible for other people going through it. So we just decided, as a band, it would be ok to talk about. You can read the rest of the interview over at Stereo Subversion.