Blue roses

Michelle and I met early at the theater yesterday to run our scene a few times before class. The Woolly Mammoth classroom was in use, so we camped out in the lobby to work the section of the Gentleman Caller scene where Jim entices Laura to sit on the floor with him. The residue of a (hopefully successful) Halloween party was all over the lobby: DJ equipment, ghostie and ghoulie decorations, even a few crumbs of broken glass. The way the building is set up, the lower lobby is actually out of a lot of the traffic flow to the box office, rehearsal space, and classroom; and there are a few chairs that we could make use of.

I had taken my glasses off, so I can’t be sure, but at one point I believe that Howard Shalwitz walked through and checked out the scene, no doubt assessing the decorations that needed to be struck. But I couldn’t help thinking that what could be going through his mind was, “Why are there two people sitting on my lobby floor making heavy weather of Tennessee Williams?”

Washington Ballet mixed bill

Sona Kharatian shines in the third of the duets in Jerome Robbins’ In the Night, the stormy and dramatic dance of the three. Robbins’ lyrical piece, set on Chopin piano nocturnes, is put together with simple materials, assembled masterfully.

Artistic Director Septime Webre’s new offering, oui/non, is a suite of dances to songs from the Edith Piaf songbook, sung live by Karen Akers. The company’s men meet the partnering challenge laid down by this piece, with nearly every song featuring a set of complicated gymnastic lifts; Erin Mahoney-Du’s partner in “Non, je ne regrette rien,” Luis Torres, seems to have sprouted a third arm in order to keep up. Akers breaks some hearts with some of Jacques Brel’s most piercing material.

The suite is just the right length to set us up for a rousing performance of the massive In the Upper Room, choreographed by Twyla Tharp to a score by Phillip Glass. The piece seems to be spun from nothing more than a backwards jazz run upstage by two dancers, but it flowers into a kaleidoscope of movement for thirteen. Norma Kamali’s costumes juxtapose prison stripes and leotards of a candied orange-raspberry color.

  • Washington Ballet mixed bill, Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater, Washington

What does the O stand for?

Via wood s lot, Todd McEwen deconstructs Cary Grant’s suit in North by Northwest:

This is what’s ingenious about this picture, at least as far as the SUIT goes—Cary’s able to travel all over the country in just this one beautiful suit…. It’s so well cut you can’t tell if he’s even carrying a wallet (turns out he is). Here’s what he’s got in that suit! He goes all the way from New York to Chicago to the face of Mount Rushmore with: a monogrammed book of matches, his wallet and some nickels, a pencil stub, a hanky, a newspaper clipping and his sunglasses—but these are shortly to be demolished when Eva Marie Saint folds him into the upper berth in her compartment. (Really this is a good thing, because Cary Grant in dark glasses looks appallingly GUILTY.)

Return to text

Hey, wow, I was paging through the annual report of my local chapter of Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic, and halfway back, before the thank-you boards for big-bucks contributors and the pictures from the annual fundraiser, I read that I’ve finally made my 1000 hours of service milestone. That puts me on the list of Golden Reels, which is a bit anachronistic since we’ve been all-digital for years now.

The most interesting part of each annual report is the profiles of our borrowers, high school and college students mostly, who need an audio assist with their reading. Dyslexic students predominate (this year a beauty queen and a recent masters degree recipient), along with blind users. But the standout is a now-practicing lawyer who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis while an undergraduate. The MS caused intermittent vision loss in one eye; the loss was unpredictable and untreatable at the time. RFB&D readers got her through Yale Law School. So, a hat tip to my friend from Texas David G. and to all the other volunteers out there crunching through the law texts.

There, but for the grace…

Via Monkey Bites, Gary Anthes reports the results of a Computerworld survey of IT managers at 352 companies. The short answer: COBOL is still with us:

62% of the respondents reported that they actively use Cobol. Of those, three quarters said they use it “a lot” and 58% said they’re using it to develop new applications.

What brought me up short in this story (which seemed to feature a disproportionate number of state agencies) was the finding that the average age of a COBOL programmer is about 50. HR managers are concerned about COBOL new hires: those that have the skills are nearing retirement age. I touched my last COBOL compiler in 1997 and wrote my last app in the language in 1990. Heck, I didn’t realize that Computerworld was still around.

The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui

Catalyst Theater Company brings Bertolt Brecht’s chilling satire of the early career of Adolf Hitler to the friendly confines of the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop. Written in exile from Germany while World War II still burned, Arturo Ui imagines Hitler as a comical gangster who sets out to organize the vegetable-sellers’ rackets in Chicago. With a thick Bronx accent, Arturo Ui and his henchmen are figures of fun out of a bad Jimmy Cagney movie—at least until the death toll begins to mount and Ui invades neighboring Austria (or Cicero, as the play would have it).

Scot McKenzie’s inhabiting of Ui is at its most frightening when he pauses in a climactic monologue and just stares us down. This before launching a stunning Hitlerian tirade that swamps the black box theater and the handful of cast members who provide background applause.

The evenly-matched ensemble cast of eight executes multiple duties, serving as scene shifters, lighting operators, and a three-piece orchestra. Some of the scene shifts take longer than we would like, but most transitions are covered by slide-show projections that establish the connection between events in the play and those in 1930’s Germany. Standouts include Grady Weatherford’s sotted Fish, scapegoated for the play’s Reichstag Fire stand-in; as well as Scott McCormick and his robust baritone, placed in the service of Butcher, Giri, and other roles, and a brisk second-act opening song.

  • The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, by Bertolt Brecht, directed by Christopher Gallu, Catalyst Theater Company, Washington

A leitmotiv

So I’m working my way through Don DeLillo’s Underworld, and the Fred F. French Building keeps making recurring appearances along with the atomic bombs and piles of garbage and various movies and Bobby Thomson’s home run. And I asked, “Who was Fred F. French?” in much the same way that the character Rochelle does. Well, James Morrison answers the question.