Happy Birthday Brazosport Center Stages. We are 75.

Tonight is the 75th annual meeting of the membership of the community theater group now known as Brazosport Center Stages, located in Clute, TX. It began as the Little Theatre in Freeport and moved, along with a sister organization, Brazosport Music Theater, into the new Brazosport Center for the Arts and Sciences facility in 1976. Twenty years later, the two theater groups merged to form Brazosport Center Stages in 1996. 

Interior of the Freeport LNG Theater in the Brazosport Center for the Arts and Sciences

Brazosport Center Stages and I were both born in 1943. We only got to know each other after our family moved to Lake Jackson from Houston in 1982. Gradually over the years we became integral parts of each other’s lives.

I have an album of old proof sheets of film photos going back to the late 1980s when I first asked DeDe Dunn if she would allow me to take some rehearsal shots of “The Nerd.” She opened the door to me and the theater folks have always since welcomed me with my camera and I have been able to store up a lot of memories over the years of our relationship.

I love theater photography. Other people take care of lighting, posing, hair, makeup, costuming, movement and all I have to do is hit the shutter button. And – surprise! – actors almost never mind standing in the light and having their picture taken. After years of having subjects turn their backs to my camera and never apologizing (mostly my children), I now had a source of interesting and enthusiastic subjects. In all the years of photographing actors at BCS I have had exactly one get angry and tell me to get the camera out of her face. She was older then than I am now. She was entitled.

You can spend as much time as you would like viewing some of the later digital files on my Flickr site. There are thousands of theater shots. I am an amateur photographer and I have learned a few things over those years. I have also spent a little on cameras, lenses and software. I hope there is some improvement in the photos as a result of my learning and investment.

But BCS has meant so much more than a place to practice my photography avocation. I have even ventured onto the stage in a few roles over the years.  I had the privilege of presenting the role of FDR, I hope with some dignity, in this Republican bastion in Annie, 2001. Then I was the somewhat shy racist, Karl Lindner, in Raisin in the Sun somewhere in the 2000s. Then I had the experience of taking a role with a large number of lines as a septuagenarian (Camping with Henry and Tom, 2013).  I felt absolute terror at every performance knowing that so many of my friends were watching. I had never even heard of flop sweat before and suddenly I could produce it in buckets. The difficulty of trying to remember and say all of Thomas Edison’s many lines in that play cured me of further attempts at acting. 

Here is Thomas Edison in “Camping with Henry and Tom” trying to rest at a camp site in the woods after Henry Ford wrecked one of his Model Ts on the way to our site. You can’t see it, but my mind is wracked with misery trying to remember the list of hardwoods necessary for a good campfire. Harding and Ford, the dolts, didn’t know much about science and nature. This photo is by Katie LeFave, a real photographer.

Yet, for all the joy I have taken from Brazosport Center Stages, I really value it most for what it contributes to our community. I have watched generations of young people move through their own activities and then out into our nation and the world to apply the things they learned about planning, communication, teamwork and how to respect themselves and others. At an early age, they were able to have friends who were adults and share peer responsibilities with them. I have seen it in my own kids and I have seen what a valuable experience theater was in their lives.

So, happy birthday Brazosport Center Stages and many happy returns. What you add to the education of our young people – and old people for that matter – makes all of us a little more civilized, reasonable and loving. I am looking forward to celebrating with you tonight and some of the friends we have shared over the last 35 years. You are a treasure in all our lives.

Astros 23, Orioles 2. Some Memories of What It’s Like to Be on the Losing End of a Game, a Season.

Hey, Astros fans.

It was 2015 and the Astros were only two seasons past losing 111 games. They were slowly pulling themselves out of the mire and working toward their glorious 2017 season. They managed to win 86 in 2015 and climb to second place in the AL West. I remember using my space on Facebook to implore my great FB following to get behind this team. Like Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree, they still needed us more than we needed them.

One of my pet projects in 2015 was to see if we could, through an act of collective will, get Chris Carter’s batting average to .200 before the season ended. He was such a gentleman on the field. You really wanted him to succeed. So businesslike at the plate. So stoic when he suffered another strikeout. And he suffered a lot of them. But he never threw tantrums, bashed his fist into water coolers, cursed the manager or his teammates – or even the umpire. He was a consummate gentleman. And he finished the year at .199.

So we traded him off to the Milwaukee Brewers where he feasted on National League pitching, raised his BA to a blistering .222. And led the National League in home runs with 41. And strikeouts with 206. He had perfected the strategy of closing your eyes, swinging hard and never apologizing for striking out. Sometimes you hit the ball and sometimes it went over the fence. It was good enough to earn him a contract with the legendary New York Yankees where he played one more year. Facing AL pitching once again, his BA sank to .201. He spent a year in the minors and then retired at the age of 32.

I know my FB friends were wondering whatever happened to Chris Carter. I wish I could tell you more. I can only hope he is enjoying that New York Yankee money and finding happiness in the insurance business, auto sales, or whatever line of work he took up. I will forever be a Chris Carter fan.

But I write tonight to give you my reaction to this evening’s 23-2 Astros romp over the Baltimore Orioles. The O’s are a proud franchise with some great world championship years and many Hall of Fame players memorialized in their park at Camden Yard. It was difficult to see them embarrassed with the Astros artillery jacking balls out of the park like batting practice. Their most effective pitcher turned out to be the young outfielder-utility player they brought in to pitch the ninth inning. Why waste another arm? As it turned out he fooled a few Astros batters with his 51 mph fast ball. When you face ML pitching all the time, slo-pitch softball just isn’t your game. Well, that worked until the young Yordan Alvarez came to the plate and figured out his rhythm. He added one more home run to his evening’s total of three and took the score to the game final of 23-2.

By the time it was over, most of the fans in Camden Yard were cheering for the Astros to tack on some more runs. It could only make an Orioles comeback in the bottom of the ninth all the more exciting. Of course, that did not happen.

As I watched it, I couldn’t help but remember those sad days when the Astros were losing over a hundred a year. I could feel a lot of sympathy for the Orioles and their fans. It was especially difficult to see them bashed so mercilessly after the president spent the better part of a week of his executive time dumping on the city. If Baltimore is a disgusting, rodent infested mess then it wasn’t at all apparent from inside the park. The team conducted itself with pride, excellent comportment and dignity. Well, except for that time the pitcher came close to taking Correa’s head off with a high heater.

How well we know that three or four years from now, they could mobilize some key draft picks into another Baltimore world championship. And, then, we will be glad that it was the Commander in Chief giving them locker room quotes and not the Astros players.

An Open Letter to My U.S. Senators

Dear Senators Cornyn and Cruz:

I just watched you through a news camera’s lens from a distance as you welcomed the president to El Paso. It was your duty, certainly, as our state’s United States senators. But you have another duty that bears on your relationship with the president and your party. And you should be cognizant of how that relationship looks to the people you represent.

The people bullies need most and respect least are cowards. And you have met the president’s need for cowards time and time again. I think you can be better than that or I would not be writing.

I am a constituent of yours. And while we most often disagree on policy and legislation, I am nevertheless entitled to your most basic services. And perhaps the most crucial one is simply that you show courage in the performance of your duties.

The voters of Texas have entrusted you with the job of discerning what is best for Texas and America. What I am asking you to do is to sit down with members of the Senate, including the minority, your senate leadership and the president to make some meaningful decisions about how we confront domestic terrorism, racism and gun violence in our country. And I expect you to stand up to the president and the majority leader and tell them when they are wrong about the needs of the people you represent.

What happened this weekend in El Paso can’t be blamed on video games, mental health, “fake news” or social media. Gun violence at the level of horror we saw in El Paso begins with the largely unregulated marketing of powerful instruments of war to the mass market. The motive is money, not constitutional rights. Don’t look to your party and the NRA to tell you what to do. Do what is right. Do your job.

The prerequisite for any legislative solution is that you demonstrate moral integrity and enough spine to disagree with the president and the NRA.

Texans have a right to expect this from their United States Senators.

Thank you.

Lake Jackson Citizen

Ugly Doubles Down – How Ugly Will It Get?

I never thought there was much point in attempting to advise my Republican friends on political matters. But now I think they may be in more of a mood to listen than is usually the case.

In my lifetime, our politics has never been darker and uglier than it is today. Look no further than the presidency.

To begin to understand the ugliness, we have to appreciate the president’s situation. His once-upon-a-time personal attorney is in a federal prison for tax evasion, financial fraud and campaign finance violations. In his indictment, an “Individual One” was described as participating in and benefitting from those crimes but was not indicted because that individual is the president of the United States and Department of Justice policy does not allow indictment of a serving president. Rather, it directs complaints of high crimes and misdemeanors to Congress and the impeachment process. Continue reading “Ugly Doubles Down – How Ugly Will It Get?”

At Brazosport Center Stages: Shrek, the Musical

If you have dropped in here since last Tuesday (July 9) you have been seeing photos of a Brazosport Center Stages rehearsal of the summer show, Shrek, the Musical in the righthand column. (Note: The photos still appear at this writing but will move on as I post more photos on my Flickr site. To see tham any time, click this link and to go to the album.)

I am am pretty much one of the leaders on the pop culture illiterati so I did not look forward to the show and I had not intended to take archive photos. In fact, I wasn’t even sure I would attend a performance. Cartoon characters put to the stage never appealed to me. All I knew about Shrek was what I learned from doing crossword puzzles. I knew he as an ogre and that is really about all I knew.

Donkey, the Three Blind Mice, Shrek and Princess Fiona (all grown up)

Seeing the show on its opening night this Friday, however, reminded me again how much talent we have in this community and how much is required for a production of this kind. The people on the stage were simply amazing. And there were so many behind the scenes: artists who took care of makeup, props, lighting, sound, choreography, set designers and builders, painters, costumes, stage management (a major challenge with such a large cast in our venue), making music in the pit, and dozens others who did everything from serving coffee at intermission to corralling the many children in the cast and to keep order in the green room. Congratulations to Craig Fritz and Cindy Gernand who team-directed this very big show.

They were rewarded with a full house and an energetic, attentive audience. The attention of kids and families was riveted by the superb performances they were seeing. The theater boiled with excitement the entire evening.

Tickets are disappearing fast. When I checked about an hour ago, there were four scattered seats left for next Sunday’s final performance. There are more for the Thursday, Friday and Saturday performances but very few of them are in the center section. To see what is available and nail down a reservation go to the link provided here.

Lord Farquaaad and the Duloc singers. The prince was not short on vocal talent.

And the last photo shows an incredible dancer, singer and choreographer at work. Lyssa Rumsey is a very special talent. She was everywhere in this show.

Lyssa treads the boards with more than the usual energy. She sings, she dances, she acts, she choreographs. You will keep seeing her among the shows many characters.

And did I mention the sound effects? Well, buy a ticket, go and listen for yourself. Allow your inner teenager to have a laugh or two.

Good show, friends. You make this theater a special place.

What a Day to Be Sending Money to the IRS

El Commandante Naranja is probably in the green room about now touching up his makeup and patting down his cowlick before he takes the stage in front of the Lincoln Memorial tonight. His day was nearly ruined by news that U.S. military tanks would damage the D.C. streets and maybe cause his presidential transportation to be thrown out of alignment.

I am now wishing I had a Twitter account so I could better communicate my day-saving idea to @realDonaldTrump. But here it is: Since he can’t have tanks on Pennsylvania Avenue, maybe he could satisfy his militaristic-authoritarian dream by training some Continue reading “What a Day to Be Sending Money to the IRS”

The Democratic Debates: A Team of Rivals?

Watching both nights of the Democratic presidential debates last week was informative and exhausting. Even more exhausting, although not as informative, were the hours of commentary offered by some of America’s best journalists. I have stolen a few of their thoughts and grafted them into my own commentary. If you are a politics junky of the MS-NBC persuasion, you may spot a few of my borrowings. You have no standing to sue me and I can’t be impeached. So just read on.

In my post last week, I confessed a partiality to Elizabeth Warren, although I made a commitment to watching the debates with an open mind. I am certain that all of my many readers have been waiting anxiously for my conclusions and advice. 

Well, I can’t help you that much. I concluded, like most folks,  that Bernie and Joe came across as a little tired. Though they be a little worn out, I still hoist my Bernie mug and my Obama mug (Was there ever a Biden mug?) with pride any time I sip a cup of tea. Although I think a lot of both gentlemen, I confess to a little ageism that I am permitted only because I know exactly what it feels like to wake up and face every morning with 75 years of history pulling you down and informed by the knowledge that gravity never loses. So, let’s take a look at some of the other candidates.

Elizabeth Warren proved once again that she is a fighter for social justice and building an economy and government that serve the people, not just those wonderful corporate entities the Supreme Court has lately endowed with rights we once thought applied only to individual citizens and residents. She demonstrated well thought out policy proposals, passion and a willingness to go forth and fight. She has never been one to give up when confronting a bully. 

These debates ought not be evaluated as performances, yet it is an unavoidable standard when the survivor is likely be forced to go up against an incumbent for whom this whole enterprise is nothing more than poorly produced television for tired old white men. Warren meets the standard of political performance art and even makes it appealing to the larger demographic that would include women, minorities, LGBTQ voters, the poor and thinking people of all identities. EW is solid gold. Go Cougars!

But then there was Kamala Harris. What she did to that nice man who used to work for President Obama was almost frightening. I would hate to have to face her as a defendant in a courtroom. And if you agree with me that what Donald J. Trump needs more than anything is to face off with a good prosecuting attorney, then I will suggest to you that Kamala Harris would be the one to do the job. She is fearless, brutally logical, and and quick to the attack, all the while respectful and able to use her expansive vocabulary with withering effectiveness. Better be ready to duck, Donald. She won’t be upstaged.

Julian Castro presents himself as a serious candidate, well rooted in national politics and very capable of taking on a more challenging leadership role. And there was Eric Swalwell, young but well schooled with his serious participation on House Intelligence and judiciary committees. And there is Mayor Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, And Beto O’Rourke. And so many more. 

As I watched them through the two nights of debate, I recalled the premise of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s analysis of the Abraham Lincoln’s genius use of his political rivals after the election of 1860. In Team of Rivals (Simon and Schuster, 2005), Goodwin tells how Lincoln pulled talented opponents into his circle of advisers when it was time to take charge of the government. William H. Seward, Edward Bates and Salmon P. Chase were Lincoln’s opponents in the contest for the Republican nomination. Yet he didn’t ignore them and treat them as “losers”. He asked them to join forces with him to do the nation’s work during its time of greatest strife.

Seward became his secretary of state, Chase, his secretary of treasury and Bates, his attorney general. 

He also brought some former Democrats into cabinet positions, including Edwin M. Stanton as secretary of war. As Goodwin points out in her introduction (p. xvi), most of these men had credentials and achievements that far exceeded those of the country lawyer from Illinois who had pulled off the upset victory for the nomination and election. 

Lincoln’s great self-confidence and dedication to the task of preserving the Union allowed him to marshal the country’s best talent in service of that goal.

Could 21st Century Democrats do the same following success in the 2020 election? They would be well positioned with the fine set of competitors I saw among the twenty who presented on Tuesday and Wednesday night last week. One commentator (I do not remember who) suggested that one of the least known of the candidates, Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, would make an excellent Secretary of Defense. She served as an army officer in Iraq and, in the House of Representatives, on the Armed Services, Foreign Affairs, and Financial Services Committees. I don’t believe she is at all intimidated by the Trump Gang. And she would certainly be a better Secretary of Defense than the one DJT has currently serving in that office.

Oh, I forgot. It’s one of several vacancies he is carrying while he, Ivanka, and Jared do it all.

There was plenty of talent on the stage both nights of the debate. I think the party will be primed to install a competent government once again when they take the presidency in 2020. President Obama was wise to appoint HRC as his Secretary of State after defeating her for the presidential nomination in 2008. It was a script he borrowed from our favorite Republican, Abe Lincoln. This time we have a whole cabinet full of good talent.

That is the main thing I took away from the debates last week. 

That and the fact that any one of them will take more ability and honor to the office than the current incumbent. Yes, Maryanne Williamson, if you secure the nomination you have my vote and total support.