All posts by junesboy

Audition Valor

I love to audition.

That sounds insane but it’s true, and it’s always been true. If it involves speaking and/or singing I’m in heaven. If it involves dancing…well…I might be busy that day.little-night-music-01 My point is; it takes no special bravery, or any bravery at all, for me to show up for an audition. I think it’s a pretty jolly time.

I know this is not true for everyone and I admire those performers who persist in auditioning in the face of dread. That’s bravery. The bravest audition I ever witnessed was one evening in 1987 in the Guignol Theatre at the University of Kentucky.

Eric is a great friend of mine. He is a fine illustrator/water-colorist and a fine actor. He can also carry a tune, but in his mind at the time, as a singer…he was a fine illustrator/water-colorist and a fine actor.

One afternoon we were chatting and I mentioned that I would be auditioning that night for Sondheim’s A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC. I urged him to join me. He dismissed the suggestion summarily; “I’m no singer!” He looked a little pale at the suggestion. Always sympathetic (not), I made a mental note that if I ever had to express utter dread on the stage his reaction to the thought of a singing audition would be a good reference memory (an actor prepares, right?).

That evening, about an hour into the auditions, I was sitting in the last row of the theatre watching the efforts of others. I had already sung and read a few scenes and was foolishly longing to be asked to read another 20-30 scenes – did I mention I love to audition?

BANG!

The door to the theatre flew open and Grimness and Ferocity entered, personified by my friend Eric. He commandeered (commandeered – yes – le mot juste) an audition form from the stage manager, and slouched into a seat as far from humanity as the Guignol allows. All evidence suggested to me that it would be prudent to leave him the hell alone.

He was called upon to read a couple of scenes.

Then he was called upon to sing.

He marched on the stage and waved the provided accompanist away with; “I won’t be needing you.” He then announced; “This is my favorite Christmas Carol.” He proceeded to sing/declaim an acapella rendition of “Good King Wenceslas” that was loud, in tune, and capable of being marched to by any competent armed forces unit.

It was stunning and strange and perfect for Carl-Magnus in the show.

I understood what it had cost him and I was proud to know him…and maybe a little relieved to know he was not a concealed-carry type of guy.

His reward for his valor?

He was cast.

He and I shared a duet in the second act. It was singled out by the reviewer as one of the highlights of that year’s theatre season in Lexington.

My reward for his valor?

I now have a new favorite Christmas carol.

Cue the Fog………Ack!!

If you hang out with theatre people for any length of time (say 15-20 minutes), you will hear many stories and quickly perceive that many of their stories fall into genres. Most theatre folks have tales about;

  • Working with children.
  • Working with animals.
  • Costume or prop malfunctions.
  • Outdoor theatre misadventures (there’s a sub-genre about bugs).
  • And……fog.

Yes, fog.

And yes, I’ve got a few fog tales if you’ve got a minute (or say 15-20 minutes).

My fog adventures, unfortunately, are not John Carpenter’s; pirates emerging to terrorize my home town while Adrienne Barbeau croons seductively on the local radio station from her lighthouse studio.

Sigh.

I attribute that lack to the fact that Lexington is land-locked. Our nearest body of water is the Town Branch of Elkhorn Creek (and we covered that trickle with concrete a long time ago), our closest Pirates are the baseball team in Pittsburgh, and our closest lighthouse might be 400 miles away on Sullivan’s Island in Charleston.

No, my on stage fog experiences are more pedestrian, but here they are anyway.

Fog in the theatre usually comes from machines though there are exceptions.

I was in a production of THE WORLD OF CARL SANDBURG in the spring of 1972. My friend and fellow cast member, Vicki James, gave a rendition of Mr. Sandburg’s poem “Fog” so evocative I remember it vividly 45 years later.

Ten years later, in a more-than-dubious production of DRACULA, my friend and fellow cast member, Paul Thomas, managed to effect a personal fog bank by furiously puffing (heaving!) on his pipe in a sad attempt to obscure his presence in one particular way-more-than-dubious scene. I still harbor hope that I can forgive him for his attempted escape one day.

But those are exceptions. Most stage fog emanates from machines wittily referred to as “fog machines.”

My first experience with fog machines was in a 1981 production of BRIGADOON. Oddly enough, it also included Paul Thomas. The show was in the Opera House in Lexington. The opening scene featured Paul and I as American hunters in the wilds of Scotland who have lost our way in the fog. We discuss our predicament and spot a village in the distance – all behind a scrim as the orchestra in the pit plays gorgeous Lerner and Loewe music.

The dress rehearsal went fine, but the director wasn’t satisfied with the quality and quantity of the fog in the first scene. It wasn’t convincing as a fog that would baffle vibrant Americans. He ordered a second fog machine for opening night.

On opening night, the music began and the fog machines (plural) began. By the moment our opening lines were required, the fog, restrained by the scrim, had achieved a height of 7.3 feet. Paul and I could not see the audience, and the audience could not see us. When we spoke we waved our guns in the clear air above the fog to let the audience (and each other) know where we were.

Then the scrim arose and a slow tsunami of fog rolled out over the edge of the stage, into the orchestra pit, and into the first few rows of the audience. It was a sight to see the violinists slashing at the fog with their bows. I think they feared pirates were eminent. I think the audience in the front row feared they had been lured into a bizarre Gallagher-esque experience (albeit with prettier music).

We all tend to resist taking steps backwards, especially in the arts, but the second night’s performance of BRIGADOON employed but one fog machine.

In 1989 I was cast in an outdoor production of KING LEAR as Lear’s Fool. I have played a couple of Shakespeare’s fools. I have a wealth of personal, real-life experience to bring to such roles.

Early in the rehearsal process, I made a creative decision that was accepted as valid by the director, Joe Ferrell. I felt the Fool would grovel and slither throughout the story as he insinuated his opinions on Lear’s actions and decisions, never reaching past the height of Lear’s waist. I wore out a set of kneepads during the show’s run.

Mr. Ferrell had also made quite a few creative decisions himself (as directors are wont to do), one of which was to employ fog machines during Lear’s nighttime wanderings through the stormy countryside, bereft of shelter and family, and increasingly bereft of his very senses.

Reasonable enough.

From my Fool-ish point of view however (about three feet high, remember), the fog machine was at eye level and only an arm’s length away. In one long scene, as Lear (my friend and fellow cast member, Fred Foster) raged against his daughters, his fate, and the weather for what seemed like four hours, I crouched in the mouth of the belching fog. My makeup washed off. My costume dripped in streams. I gurgled my lines.

When I came out for my curtain call, I didn’t bow.

Instead I shook myself like a dog to share my wealth of moisture with those nearby.

It’s good to share.

My favorite and grandest stage fog episode was on closing night of a 1992 production of SWEENEY TODD.

The house was sold-out. The cast was in place behind the curtain prepared for their grand reveal. I was storming around backstage, working myself into a damn decent homicidal frenzy.

The fog machines commenced.

However, a sold-out house was not enough for the kind-hearted and slightly greedy director, Dr. James Rodgers. He was scurrying about to find room to seat some last-minute, ticketless arrivals. He had folding chairs located and brought to place one-by-one in the corners of the house.

The fog machines dutifully blew.

A pre-show announcement was deemed necessary.

The fog machines gleefully blew and blew.

The orchestra finally began the overture.

The curtain was raised.

The cast began to “tell the tale of Sweeney Todd.”

I strode to the doors I expected to open and allow me to attempt to scare the bejeezus out 400+ people.

Instead, the fire alarm, triggered by the fog, had summoned first responders.

The fire department arrived with the Lexington and UK police – all with bells and whistles and lights a-blazin’. We were evacuated; the audience to the front lawn of the Fine Arts building and the cast and crew to the street behind the building’s loading dock. Both groups could see other in the emergency-light-decorated twilight of a lovely Kentucky summer evening – a far cry from the dingy, industrial Fleet Street.

Eventually, the authorities were persuaded that conflagration was unlikely. They were thanked for their efforts and invited to stay for the show. They chose to go about their duties instead, which was a good thing as I don’t know where Jim would’ve seated them! The audience, the orchestra, the crew, and the cast reassembled and an evening of theatre juiced by the pre-show capers turned out to be real nice clambake.

The fog machines were so proud.

How Deep Does It Go?

Let’s assume for a moment that Russia at least attempted to determine the result of the US presidential election. Can we all accept that assumption?

If not, would those of you who cannot accept that assumption, simply absent yourselves from this pondering? I’m not looking to change your vote or remove your guns, but frankly, I can’t do business with you anymore.

That was an uncivil request.

I apologize.

But I’m moving on.

Let’s assume for a moment that Russia at least attempted to determine the result of the US presidential election. If so, then other assumptions present themselves as possible;

  1. They tried but had no affect (are we OK with that?), or
  2. They were successful by swaying voters’ opinions (ARE WE OK WITH THAT?), or
  3. They were successful by actually changing votes in our voting mechanism (good grief!).
  4. Assumptions “2” and “3” (…crickets…).

I don’t know which of those assumptions, if any, is true. But I know they are all important and scary. Yet the current occupant of the White House and much of our Congress (bicameral and bipartisan) don’t seem terribly perturbed by these possibilities.

Why is that?

By the way, if you don’t know the terms “bicameral” and “bipartisan”, please look them up. Yes, you are entitled to your informed opinion. Informed…informed…INFORMED……that’s sorta important and useful. It’s a good thing to actually know what you’re talking about. It’s not “fake” or “elite”, it’s useful.

If any of the assumptions above are true, what makes us think this was their first try?

Does it seem logical that their first attempt to affect US elections was the US presidency? Wouldn’t you wanna practice first before you took on the big game? Wouldn’t you wanna see what you could do in say…Wisconsin or…Kentucky…or Utah, before you took a shot at Washington?

Maybe the un-urgency of the response to this cyber-attack has something to do with the culpability of the responders……in various buildings in Washington.

In business, when I was confused or uncertain about the people keeping an eye on business, I changed the eyes.

It usually opened mine.

Jes’ sayin’.

Baseball on Gay Place

A memory of an older Lexington.

Great.

Now I’m gonna want a Dodger Dog all night.

I know I’ve mentioned once or twice…or perhaps a hundred times before how much I love baseball. I come by this infatuation honestly and early.

I grew up in North Lexington, on a street named Gay Place. Go ahead, snicker if you wish, but all it meant to us then was that it made it easy to fill out any forms requiring a home address. I didn’t need to write out street names like “Henry Clay Boulevard” and “Avenue of Champions” until much later in my intellectual development. To be perfectly accurate, the street was South Gay Place and yes, there was and still is a North Gay Place. Today I suppose we would call this configuration a cul-de-sac, but in the late 50’s/early 60’s the only French we knew was French’s Yellow Mustard (See? Completely obsessing on those Dodger Dogs).

On Gay Place, in the summer, we played baseball all the time, everywhere, and with all kinds of equipment.

We mowed the vacant field behind our street and played on the stubble. The field was severely canted on a hill. What did we care? Yes, the run uphill to first base was arduous and rarely successful, but if you made it, you could attain Olympic speed from first to third. Flat is seriously over-rated.

We played intense wiffle ball. We would locate the densest shrub in the neighborhood and put home plate in front of it. That eliminated the need for a catcher. I recall one memorable game when my participation was cut short after I reached into the catcher/bush to retrieve the ball and retrieved a wasp nest instead.

We played in driveways using a fishing cork for the ball and a broomstick for the bat. Our eyes were better then.

My favorite games were played in our backyard. The ground rules were remarkable and vital to know to determine a winning strategy.

  • A ball hit over the right field fence was a home run UNLESS;
    • It crossed over my dad’s vegetable garden. Then it was a foul ball. If it landed in the garden, it was an out – no, it was the ultimate out. We weren’t allowed to play anymore that day. OR…
    • …if the unsympathetic neighbors (probably hockey fans) who lived in the house over the right field fence were home. Then the ball hit over the right field fence was considered un-retrievable until they left home and the game was over or suspended until such time.
  • A ball hit over the left field fence was considered to be “in the outfield”. It could be caught on the fly for an out or fielded to hold the runner to a single or a double. UNLESS…
  • …it was a ball hit over the left field fence AND traveled beyond the tree in the middle of the neighbor’s back yard. That was considered to be a home run and would invariably initiate an argument over the distance measurement of such vitriol it would dwarf today’s chats between Clinton and Sanders supporters.
  • Games would continue until twilight, at which time we would switch to horseshoes, just to irritate ALL the neighbors.

No matter which incarnation of “baseball” we happened to be playing each day, the score for each game was meticulously kept and just as meticulously forgotten the next day. Players switched teams with complete fluidity. Feelings were hurt…and healed. People were offended…and survived. Heroes were made…and humbled. The sun set…and then rose again. We could spell “Gay Place”, but we couldn’t spell “Republican”, or “Democrat”. We had heard of the Reds and the Yankees, but we had never heard of conservatives or liberals. If, in the middle of the game, we felt the call of nature, we ran home or to a neighbor’s house or behind the catcher/bush and no one checked any birth certificates about it.

We had all the time in the world, but there was no time to waste on foolishness like that. We had a game to play.

Oh yeah, I love baseball. I earned the right to that love. Those wasps…!

The Kindest Critic

If you do theatre, you face critics.

How do you feel about that? How do you feel about how you feel about that?

If you do one play, you soar or you crash. A good review and you are Icarus unbounded – and we know how that turned out. A bad review (or even a lukewarm notice) and you wonder how you’ll ever be able to face any living being on the morrow, you are outraged by the vindictive cruelty of the reviewer (who you probably don’t even know), and you experience a Carl Sandberg-like dialogue with yourself about the desirability and viability of ending it all. With any luck at all, you get up, face all the people in your life that didn’t even know you were in a play or that the paper actually reviewed plays, and reached the same conclusion about suicide that Sandburg did; it’s more trouble than it’s worth.

But if you do a lot of theatre, you have to reach some accommodation between yourself and published criticism. Who can live with roller-coasters of life-and-death repeated after every opening night? Not this cowboy.

I think I was still in my teens when it occurred to me the foolishness of allowing one person’s opinion on one night validate or invalidate 6-10 weeks of my life. Hell, they might have had a tough day or a bad meal…you don’t know. Or, the reviewer might be right. So what? Frankly, after opening night, their correct opinion doesn’t help you much. You and your cast mates are pretty well committed to the path chosen by opening night.

Please don’t misunderstand.

A good review is still a boost and a bad review still stings, but the reviews don’t provide either a raison d’être or a raison not to d’être.

It’s interesting to me that most of the actors I know rarely quote their own reviews. Oh, they remember them…word for word. And if you prompt them, after a few drinks, reviews from 30 years ago may come tumbling out. But that’s a genetic flaw in the species and can surely be forgiven as it harms no one.

Yes, the reviews are remembered, especially the bad ones.

I have been reviewed favorably and unfavorably, cleverly, pointedly, accurately and inaccurately. Stephen Sondheim seems apt to quote at this moment; “I’m still here.”

I think the kindest bad review I ever received was no review at all.

I was playing the key character in a drama. Six weeks of fine, engrossing rehearsal had us poised for a successful opening night, and it was. The review came out and it was enthusiastic about the production.

It didn’t mention that I was in the show at all.

Ouch.

I was bewildered…and then angry…………and then grateful.

Obviously the critic was unimpressed by my performance…no, make that bothered and possibly offended by my performance.

The critic could have put that in writing for the world of local newspaper readers to see.

But the critic didn’t.

The silence hurt.

I disagreed with the negative implication of the silence, but I will always be grateful for it.

Part-Time Jobs?

Caught by surprise last November, I withdrew into stunned silence; afraid and ashamed and angry.

The anger faded. It will do no me no good. I will resist every unfair, greedy, and unwise effort I can identify, but I have always done that – it’s a reflexive urge taught to me by my Southern Baptist Sunday School childhood – nothing’s changed as far as that’s concerned.

I was afraid of what the results’ results would be.

I was ashamed of my own surprise and fear of my neighbors’ choice.

Why didn’t I know?

What have I missed?

What should I have done?

I will do better.

I will listen harder.

I will seek a better and more useful understanding.

I will act on what I learn.

I will…because I want to be a good neighbor.

But, (isn’t there always a “but”?) …so must others.

I have no answers, but I have glimmers of a suggestion.

If I have lost connection with my neighbors, so have my political representatives…and how could they have not? They must solicit campaign funds 24/7/365. They must run campaigns to retain their offices for six to twenty-four months (President Trump has already declared his re-election campaign’s beginning for 2020). They serve in legislative sessions for months at a time every year. They have homes in Washington and regular living quarters in Frankfort. They are full-time governors and lawmakers elsewhere, away from me, all while they’re supposed to be representing me and Janie on Providence Road.

That was not what was intended by our founding fathers.

George Washington was president, but he also went home to run his farm. He had to listen to and represent his neighbors. The same was essentially true for all elective officials.

I would suggest considering a move back to those conditions.

Rather than point fingers at how little time the Senate and the House of Representatives spend in session in Washington, perhaps we should reduce the length of campaigns and legislative sessions (and the participants’ pay).

Send them home to local concerns.

Perhaps we should rescind the expansion of the Kentucky legislature from bi-yearly sessions to yearly sessions. Have we really been improved by having the legislature meet every year?

Send them home to local concerns.

Make all of them part-time lawmakers and full-time neighbors.

Just a thought…

High Flyin’

I would have been 13 or 14 years old when one day I heard this funny little song about outhouses on the radio. It was Billy Edd Wheeler’s “Ode to the Little Brown Shack Out Back.” It got a lot of play for a few weeks before local radio returned to its breathless documentation of the British Invasion. Whimsical fantasies about plumbing architecture trends in Appalachia didn’t stand a chance against the Rolling Stones, the Dave Clark 5, and that other group.

But there was wisdom in the whimsy. Mr. Wheeler described the title facility;

 

Now, it was not a castle fair, but I could dream my future there,

And build my castles to the yellowjacket’s drone.

I could orbit ‘round the sun, fight with General Washington,

Or be a king upon a golden throne.

 

Life-changing?

Hardly.

But it stayed with me and suggested something I was just beginning to suspect; my imagination and a quiet place might be a powerful antidote to the random adult violence depicted by Cronkite and Huntley/Brinkley.

The next year I heard the Kingston Trio deliver with typical Kingston Trio gusto the instructions of Billy Edd Wheeler’s “Desert Pete”;

 

You’ve got to prime the pump.

You must have faith and believe.

You’ve got to give of yourself

‘Fore you’re worthy to receive.

 

A simple thought; one I had learned in Sunday school and Cub Scouts, but now had outgrown in my teenage cynicism. I was so much older then…

It wasn’t until I heard Judy Collins on her concert album talk about Wheeler and sing three of his songs that his songs became important to me.

Ms. Collins sang his elegant description of a “Red-Wing Blackbird”;

 

O can you hear that pretty little bird singin’ with all his heart and soul?

He’s got a blood-red spot on his wing, and all of the rest of ‘im’s black as coal.

 

That’s my bird now.

It belongs to me and my part of the country.

I may not be happy about the sombre imagery (“When a man spills blood on the coal…”), but it belongs to my home state.

It’s my bird singin’.

Ms. Collins also sang his amazingly prescient “Coal Tattoo.”

 

Travelin’ down that coal town road; listen to my rubber tires whine.

Goodbye to buckeye and white sycamore. I’m leavin’ you behind.

I got no job and I got no pay – just got a worried soul,

And a blue tattoo on the side of my head left by the #9 coal.

 

This in the mid-60s’ and more true now.

A couple of years later, Wheeler anticipated the coal country environmental anxieties of the 21st century in his “Coming of the Roads”;

 

Look how they’ve cut all to pieces our ancient poplar and oak,

And the hillsides are stained with the greases, and they’ve burned up our heavens with smoke.

 

Is Mr. Wheeler the the Madame Cleo of the Smokies or have we not been paying attention? Perhaps a bit of both.

Grim stuff.

It gets grimmer.

Two of my favorite Wheeler songs speak of the longing to fly…but with a price.

In “High-Flyin’ Bird”;

 

There’s a high-flyin’ bird flying way up in the sky

And I wonder if she looks down on me as she goes on by?

Lord, look at me here. I’m rooted like a tree here.

Got those sit-down, can’t cry

Oh Lord, gonna die blues

 

And the song ends with specificity;

 

And the only way to fly is die.

 

He echoes this thought in “Winter Sky.”

 

Out under the winter sky

Out under the winter sky

Stars come tremblin’ on my eye.

Hand me wings for to fly.

And I feel like somethin’s gonna die.

I feel like somethin’s gonna die,

And me with it.

 

I wonder if once again Mr. Wheeler has accurately predicted, 50 years ago, a mind-set of today. In a geography of few opportunities, no jobs, education possibilities starved of funds, and little hope, how can you fly?

How?

In a geography of dwindling art experiences to spark dreaming of futures and castles and orbiting the sun, how can you even dream of flying?

How?

Well…………of course there are pharmaceuticals.

Tough Time for Heroes

I think my first hero was Mickey Mantle. Then I learned there were problems with alcohol.

Then it was Pete Rose……

Then it was groups; reporters, yippies, writers, comedians, teachers, US bicycle racers, film directors.

It seems the anointing of a hero leads quickly to the toppling of a hero.

Especially now.

Especially this month.

I’m not sure I can live in a world without heroes.

What to do?

Yesterday I attended an event that suggested a couple of places to look for heroes today.

I was flattered to be invited to be in the audience for the Senior Recital of a young singer I met when I did a small role in last year’s University of Kentucky Opera Theatre’s production of RAGTIME. The singer is a fierce, intelligent man of strong opinion and strong voice. I suspect his strong opinions will occasionally get in his way as he journeys through life. I also suspect his intelligence and strong voice will cause people to listen carefully to his strong opinions and we may all made better for it…including him.

That would be OK, wouldn’t it?

He sang a song cycle by a Spanish composer I did not know; Xavier Montsalvatge. The song; “Punto de Habanera” is racy and probably presents a point-of-view that’s far too masculine for this week’s news cycle. “Canción de Cuna Para Dormir a un Negrito” is a beautiful lullaby with the politically-incorrect sentiment; “Close your eyes, frightened little black boy; the white boogey-man is going to come and eat you.” The songs were sung with passion and control…AND passion and a determination to make things better. That might be heroic enough to withstand today’s 24/7/365 media eye.

He also sang of Don Quixote.

It was Ravel’s song cycle; “Don Quichotte à Dulcinée.”

Quixote is a personal hero of mine. He fights dragons that are actually windmills…and loses. He physically defends the honor of maidens that can ill afford physical honor. He sees glory and beauty in the mundane.

Ravel’s Quixote swears to Dulcinea that at her request he will;

  • Stop the Earth from turning.
  • Remove the stars from the sky.
  • Put the stars back in their place.

He will of course fail on all counts……but he will try……for her.

He prays in delight to St. Michael and St. George for assistance in these efforts…for her.

He is, by 2017, a thoroughly vetted hero. I will be very surprised if emails, dossiers, or accusers emerge to shine new, righteous light on his failings. His failings are well-known and they are admired by me.

Whew!

Perhaps this is where we must look for our heroes today;

  • In the past.
  • In the arts.
  • In our fierce youth, beginning their journeys.

I’m OK with that.

Ask Permission

“How can men embrace feminism and still be gentlemen?”

The question was posed by a male Facebook friend just now. I understand the consternation.

I like to open doors for women, especially my wife. They don’t need for me to do it. They’re certainly strong enough to open their own doors. In Janie’s case, she’s probably more capable than I am. She’s strong, like bull – a graceful like the dancer she is.

I love to hold Janie’s coat as she slips into it. She doesn’t need for me to do it. She’s far better at dressing herself than I am at dressing myself.

When we’re out, I like to hold her chair as she sits at dinner. She absolutely has no need for me to do so – strong and graceful, remember?

So.

Why do I do it?

For me.

It’s a feeble attempt to atone for rude and stupid moments from the past. It’s an elementary school level reasoning; “if I’m nice to you today, maybe it makes up for one stupid and rude thing I did yesterday.”

Of course it doesn’t, but for a moment, it feels like my world has been made a smidge better and that I was the agent for that improvement. That’s not a bad thing. A selfish thing perhaps, but not a bad thing.

But Janie and the other women in my life don’t need to participate in my atonement. Indeed, they may feel belittled by my “gentlemanly” actions.

So.

I try to ask for permission.

It may be a look. It may be spoken.

If it’s spoken, it’s a request, not an order. It’s “May I?” not “Let me.”

“Let me” implies “You need for me to do this for you.”

“May I” states clearly “I really would like to do this for you and you’d be doing me a personal favor by allowing to do so.”

Would I want to do these courtly deeds for men as well as women? Yes, but permission from men is seldom given and the request, in any form, is most often resented.

Am I over-thinking this?

Probably.

It’s my gift.

I’ll simplify it.

In every happy and life-enhancing and guilt-free experience I’ve had with the opposite sex, permission was asked. Thus, my two-word answer to the question; “How can men embrace feminism and still be gentlemen?” is;

Ask permission.

Lucky Us

It’s a big weekend for my hometown and my beloved University of Kentucky.

  • The football team won and still has a chance to play for something big.
  • Ditto for the basketball teams – male and female.
  • Ditto for two singers from our nationally-ranked opera theatre program.

Please notice especially that last item.

The District Auditions for the Metropolitan Opera were held in Lexington this afternoon in a lovely room; the sanctuary at First Presbyterian Church.

I attended. Let me tell you about my day.

This lovely room is located in downtown Lexington, a few doors down from Henry Clay’s law office, a few blocks away from Mary Todd Lincoln’s home, and about two blocks away from Gratz Park (the heart of old Lexington) and the home of Thomas Hunt Morgan, Nobel Prize-winning brilliant Lexingtonian. The room is wood, and stained glass, and wood, and soaring ceilings, and wood, and memories of the funerals of personally-remembered brilliant Lexingtonians, and wood.

Today, it was all that filled with beautiful young singers singing humanity’s most beautiful songs beautifully all afternoon long…for free.

I watched and heard my friend Cynthia Lawrence, Metropolitan Opera star (I don’t believe anyone has sung with Luciano Pavarotti as often as Ms. Lawrence) lead a large audience in a seismic rendition of the National Anthem. Now we can all say we’ve sung at the Metropolitan Opera Auditions.

I watched and heard Jessica Bayne mesmerize the room with her Bellini number.

I watched and heard Taylor Comstock remind everyone of his recent stratospheric performance in LA TRAVIATA.

I watched and heard my friend Thabang Masango simultaneously charm and inspire the room with his Donizetti.

I watched and heard my friend Zachary Morris stir the room with his “New York Lights” from A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE.

I watched and heard Rebecca Farley force me to resist the urge to warn her of her fate if she believed the blandishments of the Duke in RIGOLETTO.

I watched and heard Mary Catherine Wright break the hearts of the male half of the room with her Handel piece.

Some of these singers were proclaimed “winners” by day’s end and will go on to compete in the Regional Auditions in Chicago in January, but the real winners were those of us in the wooden pews of the lovely room to watch and hear.

The ultimate winner is Lexington which, for a while, gets to be home for these remarkable young people as they mature before leaving to populate the planet with singers.

Lucky us.