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.”
“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
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
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:
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.
[Stephen Lamb (no stranger in these parts) recently had an essay featured on the Art House America blog and it's too good not to share. Is it a record review? Yes, sort of, but it's also a lot more. The opening paragraphs are posted below; click over to Art House America and read the entire piece. It's great.]
The day I turned thirty, I met some friends for drinks and celebratory cigars at a smoke shop across the street from one of my favorite restaurants, an Asian bistro where the sushi bar offers a roll that uses raw filet mignon instead of rice to hold everything together. After a couple of beers, and halfway through my cigar, I responded to the question someone had posed, asking what I wanted from the future. For one, I said, I hoped I’d be married before another decade had passed. “I’m not looking for someone to take away my loneliness. I know another person won’t do that. It’s just that sometimes I think I’m ready for a different kind of lonely.”
* * *
I listened to Leonard the Lonely Astronaut seven times in a row the first day I heard it. A concept album from Andrew Osenga, it tells the story of a man named Leonard, set in the year 2365. While in the process of finalizing his divorce, his wife and child are killed in a car accident. Crippled by grief, Leonard decides to volunteer to pilot a transport shuttle to a distant planet. The trip will take a year—six months there, six months back—but due to the laws of relativity and such, everyone he knows will be dead by the time he returns to earth. “I’ll make some new friends / maybe with their grandkids,” Andrew (Leonard) sings, ready for a new start, hopeful things will turn out differently this time.
I loaned Andy my old 60s Rogers drumset for the project and helped him build the spaceship in which to record it (yes, you read that right), so he sent me a copy of the record as soon as he had the final mixes. A couple days after my first listen, still hitting repeat over and over, I read Terry Tempest William’s new book, When Women Were Birds: 54 Variations on Voice, in two sittings. A beautiful book, equal parts reflection on her own relationships and meditations on the ways women find their voice in a world that often says their voice is unimportant, she has this to say about her marriage: “I have never been as lonely as I have been in my marriage. I have also never been more seen or more protected.” That night, I e-mailed the quote to Andy (one of the friends who had been around the table when I’d answered that question), saying I didn’t think I could come up with a better short summary of Leonard, no matter how hard I tried.
[This Good Friday, I commend to you the following excerpt from Chapter 4 of Robert Farrar Capon's most outstanding The Supper of the Lamb.]
In the Law of the Lord,
Leviticus, the eighth chapter, the fourteenth verse: Aaron
and his sons laying hands upon the bullock’s head, blood
poured at the bottom of the altar to make reconciliation;
the caul above the liver, and the two kidneys and their
fat—all burnt by fire for a sweet savor.
wave breast, heave shoulder, rams of consecration, the
pomegranate and the golden bell, sounding upon the
hem of the robe round about; priest and temple, death
and holocaust, always and everywhere.
It is tempting
simply to write it off as barbarism, nonsense, superstition;
to fault it and forget it;
But the fact of blood still stands,
reproving materialist and spiritualist at once; gainsaying
worlds too small and heavens too thin.
This superadded killing,
this sacrifice, these deaths which work no earthly inter-
change, this rich, imprudent waste
The City’s undiminishable size:
Man wills to make of earth,
not one Jerusalem but two; this sacramental blood de-
clares the double mind by which he wills to lift both
lion and lamb beyond the killing to exchanges unaccount-
able and vast.
Man’s priestliness therefore
bespeaks his refusal of despair; proclaims acceptance of
a world which, by its murderous hand, subscribes the
insupportable dilemma of its being—the war of lion and
lamb having no other likely outcome here than two im-
a pride of victors feeding on the slain; but leaving the
lion as he was before, trapped in ancient reciprocities by
which at last all power falls to crows;
And the other,
a hymn to despair no victim will accept; it is not enough,
in this paroxysm of martyrdoms, to stand upon the ship-
wrecks of the slain and praise the weak for weakness; the
lamb’s will, too, was life; he died refusing death.
Not written off, but recognized,
a sign in blood of the vaster end of blood; a redness
turning all things white; an impossibility prefiguring the
last exchange of all.
The old order, of course,
unchanged; the deaths of bulls and goats achieving
nothing; Aaron still ineffectual; creation still bloody;
But haunted now by bells within the veil
where Aaron walks in shadows sprinkling
blood and bids a new Jerusalem descend.
Endless smoke now rising
Lion become priest
And lamb victim
The world awaits
The unimaginable union
By which the Lion lifts Himself Lamb slain
And, Priest and Victim,
We’re both excited and honored to announce that the special guest for Hutchmoot 2013 is author Leif Enger. Over the past decade, Enger’s two novels, Peace Like a River (discussed here in 2007), and So Brave, Young, and Handsome (discussed here in 2008) have found their ways into what many might consider the hallowed halls of American classics. They’re the kind of books whose voices settle in and stay with you like welcome friends inclined to linger. They’re the kind of books that you find yourself still talking about and recommending years after you first met them, the kind of books you pull off the shelf time and again to smell and smile over and reread. Good books, like good folks, are glad company, and we couldn’t be more pleased to have Leif Enger at the Moot this year.
My wife, Jennifer, and I sat down and watched the film Sunday night and I’m really looking forward to hearing your thoughts. I’m going to throw out a few things that jumped out at me and from there the floor will be open. Feel free to jump in and join the conversation. Let’s try to keep the discussion away from technical critique and aimed more toward an examination of story, character, and theme. Here we go . . .
Mark your calendars. Hutchmoot 2013 will convene on October 10-13. That’s a holiday weekend so we’re hopeful that travel plans will be simplified for return trips and everyone will be able to stick around for the closing session this year. The Hutchmoot website has been updated with preliminary schedules, dates, and (final) pricing. Look for registration to begin in early March.
Thanks to Nathan Willis and William Aughtry (makers of the “Rest Easy” video), here’s a couple of short videos from Hutchmoot 2012. I got a little teary-eyed the first time I watched them. Enjoy (and please share them with your friends).
And then there were was “The Epic.”
Tow’ring tall as titans old o’er lesser vessels wrought of clay, shaped by strength of learnéd hand, and long by kiln-fire glazed and made, this massive* stein may well inspire deeds of heroes fell and fair, songs of skald and bard alike, meter bold and rhythm right in e’en the poorest poet’s mind.
The Epic comes in two varieties: Dante (top) and Milton (bottom).
These and 4 other mugs styles are now available in the Rabbit Room store. Supplies are limited. Get them while they last.
One of the projects I was most excited about last year was The Molehill Vol.1. Putting it together was exciting and challenging and, in the end, hugely rewarding. I’m proud of it and I hope readers have enjoyed it.
We’re now beginning the process of putting together The Molehill Vol.2, and I thought it might be fun to collect some feedback that could potentially give us some guidance. So I’m turning to you: the readership. What did you like about Vol.1? What do you want to see more of in Vol.2? What do you want to see less of? If you didn’t buy Vol.1, why not? What would make you interested in Vol.2? Did anyone decipher the elvish and dwarvish quotes? Did anyone wonder where the Governor of Ohio’s leg lived?
The floor is open. Let us know what you think.
I’ve had a long-time fascination with and love for stand-up comedy. It’s every bit as much an artform as songwriting, painting, or swordsmithing. In this short video, Jerry Seinfeld (one of the great ones), pulls the curtain back and shows us a little of how the machine works. (If you enjoy the behind-the-scenes of comedy, you might also enjoy the 2002 documentary Comedian, which follows Jerry on his first stand-up tour after leaving TV.)