Category Archives: Lexington Theatre

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.

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.

The Dylan Thomas & Groucho Marx Meeting You Never Heard About

The Dylan Thomas and Groucho Marx Meeting You Never Heard About

 

It would have been in the fall of 1968.

It was a big night for little Roger.

I was a senior in high school and I was going to see the college theatre guys at the University of Kentucky do a play.

It was a student production of Dylan Thomas’ sublime UNDER MILKWOOD in the Laboratory Theatre (now the Briggs Theatre). I love Dylan Thomas’ work and I especially love THIS Dylan Thomas piece. It’s told in small town voices that resonate in all the world and in all times. Over the years I have discovered for myself several pieces that do similar services for us; Sherwood Anderson’s WINESBURG, OHIO, Thornton Wilder’s OUR TOWN, and Davis Grubbs’ profound and relevant THE VOICES OF GLORY. People talking about themselves…there’s nothing truer…even when they’re lying.

I’m sitting in the middle of the house. The lights dim. And isn’t that the moment?

Isn’t it??

Anything can happen!

Chances are very good that by the closing curtain, you will not be the same person as you were before the lights dimmed.

You will have been moved.

Perhaps an inch…perhaps a mile…

You will have been changed.

Perhaps into……?

I always hope so.

This particular night, I’m facing a darkened middle stage, framed by two lit podiums. The podiums are inhabited by two young actors who intone the opening narration.

The stage right actor reaches a crucial moment…

Wait!

If we could take a moment for a seemingly extraneous thought…

In his exquisite Carnegie Hall concert, Groucho Marx relates how he first got into show business. Please understand, I’m paraphrasing from memory.

“I needed a job. I read an ad in the paper that offered employment. You had to apply at an address near my home. I ran five blocks to a building and climbed six flights of stairs and knocked on the door. A guy answered wearing lipstick and high heels. I thought; ‘How long has this been going on?’”

…end of the seemingly extraneous thought.

Back to UNDER MILKWOOD…

The stage right actor reaches a crucial moment and says;

“We look in on the sleepy town of Milkwood as the dawn inches up…”

It doesn’t.

The actor hurls some serious “side-eye” to the middle of the stage but stammers on. He rambles through various unconnected bits of Dylan Thomas prose, giving the light crew a chance to awake. Finally ready to try again, he suggests;

“We look in on the sleepy town of Milkwood as the dawn inches up…”

Nope.

No joy.

No light.

Only despair etched in our young thespian’s countenance.

To his credit, he drones on. I catch snatches of Shakespeare, Pinter, Lewis Carroll (“The Walrus and the Carpenter” no less), and maybe a filthy limerick or two. Eventually, he closes his eyes and prays. Then the eyes open wide and he shouts;

“WelookinonthesleepytownofMilkwoodasthedawninchesup…”

BAM!

Lights up full!!!

The young actor staggers back under the luminous assault and in a clear state of relief.

The show goes on.

Man!

How long has this been going on?

“Good Drooler” — Resumé Fodder?

Birthday Party 01

The Birthday Party” (1971)

 

In my second year at the University of Kentucky I was cast in the student production of Harold Pinter’s “The Birthday Party”.

It was a great experience for me. I was working with friends I admired and this was my first and only (so far) exploration of a Pinter script.

There were precious moments in the process.

One actor who was required to play a vital scene while more than a little tipsy, had never to my knowledge drunk alcohol in his life. The director was coming from a philosophical place that required “bridging the gap” between reality and theatre to the point where the “bridge” was no longer required. He aspired to leave storytelling behind in favor of “story-living”.

I find this approach more often to be better therapy than good theatre…but that’s for another time.

It was decided that it would be useful and wise to finish one evening’s rehearsal at the actor-in-question’s apartment, where, as a cast, we would get our actor blotto in a safe environment while the rest of us raided his fridge and rummaged through his LP collection (show music – OLD show music – good grief!). It was a reasonable strategy…except… The character in the show was a quiet, steady, murderous drunk…an ominous cloud on any horizon. Our actor was…not so much. As the cherry vodka took hold, he began to sing…loudly…every Fred Astaire ditty in the entire Fred Astaire ditty-book. Ominous cloud? More like the munchkins in THE WIZARD OF OZ celebrating the demise of the Wicked Witch. The disappointment in the room, both from the failure of the experiment and the dearth of danceable tunes in the records, was palpable. Our cast dissipated into the night when our befuddled cast-mate began wailing Harry Lauder songs in a blurry brogue.

I played the lucky (?) victim of the birthday party in the title of the show. He appears in the third act after having been ravaged overnight in a torture/interrogation session. He’s a wreck…a shell of a living thing. He sits, non-responding, slack-jawed, drooling, throughout the scene. Again, the director begged for realism.

Drooling.

A skill sadly neglected in most acting classes.

Not much call for drooling in musicals…or comedies…or…life, for that matter.

But if you need a drooler…I’m yer guy.

It was the closest I ever got to being in a reality show.

I didn’t care for it. I’m an actor/storyteller and a civil human being — one is pretend and one is real. I rarely confuse the two and when I do, it’s not good.

Do you suppose there are times and places when reality shows are appropriate and harmless entertainment, and times and places when they’re not?

These days I find myself watching the news and thinking about that far too much.

Vipers vs. Verdi

Vipers vs Verdi

After my weekend immersion in Verdi with LA TRAVIATA, it might be good to “cleanse my palate” with some pure cultural junk.

I’m thinkin’ the 1976 made-for-TV-when-made-for-TV-was-NOT-a-recommendation “piéce de reptilian”; RATTLERS might be just the ticket.

Whatta film!

We’re talkin’ ludicrously poor child acting getting killed by the critics and the chemically-altered snakes in the first scene. This flick’s got nowhere to go but up from here. I can’t wait.

But first, a last few thoughts about LA TRAVIATA…

It was a beautiful production – beautiful to look at and beautiful to hear. It featured evenings of high C’s, crashing curtains (intentional), flying cutlery (intentional), and sexy flamenco dancing (damned intentional).

BUT…

I have a serious quibble with the second scene.

Yer tellin’ me, Mr. Verdi, that Violetta is gonna give up her bucolic “piéd a terrific” with her lover (with servants, no less) and return to the city to be exploited sexually and subsequently die because her lover’s daddy TELLS her to? This old hippie (look it up if you don’t know the term) is thinkin’ “that dog will NEVER hunt.”

Maybe…

…just maybe…

…if there were chemically-altered snakes in the country…

…but even then, I don’t know.

Verdi and an Unexpected Question

Verdi and an Unexpected Question

Sometimes I find myself in the middle of something wonderful and BAM! It suddenly dawns on me I’m in the middle of something wonderful.

This can often happen in a theatre rehearsal, occasionally several times in one evening.

It’s always jarring, sometimes scary, and always to sought again and again.

Today, it happened at lunch

I attended a preview luncheon for UKOT’s production of Verdi’s LA TRAVIATA.

  • Portofino’s served a fine meal – check.
  • I got to chat with one of the best actors in the area; Tom Phillips – check.
  • The room was packed – check.
  • Everett McCorvey gave an update on UKOT’s activities;
    • LA TRAVIATA opening next week.
    • BOUNCE the basketball opera opening with a world premiere in Lexington in November (opera/basketball/Lexington – talk about the “best of all possible worlds”).
    • SHOWBOAT in the spring.
    • The opera outreach program has booked two shows (schoolchildren K-8) in over 50 venues throughout the state.
    • Singers being recruited to Lexington from all over the planet and accomplished singers and citizens being exported all over the planet. We are infesting the planet with remarkable young people.
  • Check, check, check, check, and CHECK!

Then three of those young performers blew the luncheon-ers and the walls of the room away with excerpts from LA TRAVIATA. Thabang Masongo was confident and polished. Jessica Bayne was passionate and vulnerable. Michael Preacely was gigantic and……Michael Preacely!

And the music of Verdi is sublime and emotional and important on a cellular level.

All of these delights and miracles were expected.

What was unexpected was a question from one of my tablemates, a first-time attendee of these luncheons; “Obviously, these singers come to UK with a gift. What does the opera program do to enhance that gift?”

Everett answered with an impressive description of the instruction and coaching that each student receives. Michael spoke of being taught to apply the facts of instruction to the acts of performance. Jessica spoke of the variety of instructors and the nurturing ambiance of the UK opera community.

I thought of two things I have watched Everett instill in students for 26 years.

  • “Participation” means more than signing the guest book. It means coming to class/rehearsal/performance having practiced and being prepared to share that practice/improvement immediately and eagerly.
  • Our students believe they belong in every room and have a contribution to make in every room. The room may or may not be about them, but they are prepared and confident and competent to make any room better.

BAM!

Something wonderful.

And I’m living in the middle of it in my home town.

Audition Valor and Good King Wenceslas

I’d like to revisit a favorite memory if I may…

Audition Valor and Good King Wenceslas

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. 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 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 chatted 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 – I love this!

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.

Damn straight!

I Killed Peter Pan

summertree-11
The resurrected Mr. Pan on the right

I think the statute of limitations has run out. I can confess.

It’s not something I’m proud of and I don’t include it on my resume.

But I did it…or at least I thought so at the time.

For historical context; in 1970 Lexington Children’s Theatre performed their plays on the Guignol Stage at the University of Kentucky. That fall they were staging PETER PAN.

In 1970, I was a sophomore in the Theatre Department. That exalted status required me to take Stagecraft 101, a class that introduced theatre majors to the rigors of technical theatre. Participation in the class led to building flats and platforms, spackling sets, and being on the running crews for Guignol productions.

Peter Pan had to fly. That was my job.

It’s called a Foy System. It involves two ropes and pulleys attached to Peter onstage and an operator offstage. One rope moves Peter from stage right to stage left and the other moves him from downstage to upstage. Pulling the ropes lift Peter higher. Relaxing the ropes lowers him. Simple, n’est-ce pas?

Well, maybe for competent, coordinated people but we’re talkin’ ‘bout a long-haired hippie actor whose mindset and physical skills only coincided when flinging Frisbees (and then only occasionally).

The part of Peter Pan was being played by Geoff Moosnick; a sweet kid. Geoff’s mom, Marilyn, was a god to me. Marilyn was a Guignol veteran from the 50’s. She raised money and served on arts boards her whole adult life. She raised beautiful, bright children and mentored young artists throughout Kentucky. AND she told great stories…AND she made you feel that everything you said or did was an amazing and delightful discovery for her that day. These are the people we cherish.

It was final dress. I don’t remember what the distraction was. It might have been something as inconsequential as an invective haiku from Barry Baughman (UK’s Technical Director at the time) or something life-redirecting as contemplating my next meal (21-shrimp platter for $1.49 at the Kampus Korner or a grease-swimming double order of hash browns from Tolly-Ho). Whatever, the die was cast;

  • Peter spun and leapt for the hearth.
  • I pushed with my left when I should have pulled with my right.
  • I sailed Peter smoothly and head-first, straight into the corner of the hearth at an unsafe rate of speed.
  • Crunch.
  • Peter…Geoff…oldest son of one of my most-admired friends…hung in the air…head down…motionless, except for a slow, slow spin……clockwise I suppose since we are north of the equator………dead.

My first thought was; “You can clap your hands all you want but that sucker ain’t comin’ back to life.”

My second thought was; “Marilyn’s gonna be pissed.”

I lowered him to the floor. He lay there.

And finally groaned.

He breathed and then I breathed.

We lived on to do two shows together (SUMMERTREE, Guignol, 1971, and THE NIGHT THOREAU SPENT IN JAIL, 1972).

Moral of the incident?

Two things you should never do;

  • Travel with Tom Hanks, and
  • Have Roger do anything backstage.

I Invented Love…revisited

A year ago, I was having a real good time. May I share it with you again?

 

“I thought I knew what love was, but…these lovers play new music; haunting me and somehow taunting me. My love was never half as true.” – RAGTIME.

 

I invented love.

That probably comes as a surprise to you, but it’s true.

It happened sometime in the early 1970s – I don’t remember the precise moment – odd considering the importance of the event. Oh yes, I am fully aware that love has been written of by poets for hundreds of years before that. I myself have performed and recited and sung words of love written by Shakespeare, Cole Porter, and Harry Lauder that were written long before I was born. All I can say is there are far more prophets in the world than talk radio would lead us to believe.

I invented love.

I invented it a few years before I invented sex.

Didn’t we all?

I could make a big deal out of it. In a Trumpian mood I could say it was “huge”. Channeling my inner Al Gore I could aver that the movie “Love Story” was written about me. But why? I don’t need it. The glory, the satisfaction, the thrill of knowing that no one else had truly known love before I invented it is enough.

Oops.

How does Bob Dylan say it? “I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.”

I have a tiny role in a production of RAGTIME. That requires me to immerse myself every evening in a room full of 40 to 50 impossibly young dancers and singers who insist upon calling me “Mister” and “Sir”.

I hate them.

I love them.

Utterly.

I could not be more pleased with my companions.

There are moments in RAGTIME precisely……painfully about just that moment of knowing that you are old and successful and still able to grow and experience new things if only you will allow yourself to do so.

At the age of 21 I knew the full glory of what love could be. How could I not? I invented love.

At the age of 65, I’m just beginning to get a glimpse of what the full glory of love can be. That doesn’t denigrate or belittle the loves and passions of the past. It reveals and exalts the fact that we can grow at any age if we allow ourselves to do so. It validates the idea that we can move toward something better and that something better may not be that far away. It may be as near as lyricist Billy Rose says; “back in your own backyard”.

In RAGTIME (America of 1906) characters are confronted with the disturbing possibility that (as the Firesign Theater puts it) everything they know is wrong – or at least could be better and bigger. How do these RAGTIME characters react? It’s the whole story.

On CNN/Fox/MNBC (America of 2016) we are confronted with the disturbing possibility that everything we know is wrong. Can we be better and bigger? How do we react? It’s the whole story.

How did the writers of RAGTIME know that we would need their guidance at this time?

There are far more prophets in the world than talk radio would lead us to believe.

Maybe we can invent a love twice as true as we believed possible. To do so we would have to first accept the tantalizing promise of “new music”.

I’m good with that.