Brazosport Center Stages: “An Iliad” opens March 19 in The Glen at Brazosport College

Monday night I watched the invited dress rehearsal of An Iliad, a solo play about war and the toxin of rage which lives so near the surface in humanity. If you are like me, your exposure to the classics of Greek literature is very limited. This is a re-telling of Homer’s great epic poem about the Trojan War. The play’s authors, Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare, have done a nice job of putting the action into modern language and making it relevant to the warring world we have lived in, yes, ever since the Trojan War.

As a solo performer script, it requires an outstanding actor. Monday night I was able to see Wes Copeland in the role of The Poet. Brazosport Center Stages presents the play with three such outstanding actors taking turns in the role of The Poet. (When you go to buy your tickets, you can choose your own Poet, either Wes Copeland, Bobby Britton, Jr. or Jeremy Todd. I have seen all of them perform in BCS productions and they are all excellent.

Here are a couple of shots I took at the dress rehearsal of Mr. Copeland performing.

Wes Copeland rehearsing a dramatic re-telling of The Iliad. He performs the role opening night, Friday, March 19.

This is no dry recitation of the epic poem you tried to dodge reading in college. The driving theme here is that humankind never learns the great cost and sorrow of war. At one point in this telling, The Poet runs through a list of all the wars since the Trojan War, all with the same burden of tragedy and and senseless loss. In the script, the list runs four full pages. A friend said, “I kept thinking he would get to the wars of our time. But he just kept citing more wars.” That in itself gives the audience a staggering moment of realization of the persistence of rage and violence in the human heart.

These three fine actors, Copeland, Britton and Todd, learned 56 pages of difficult and emotional script including a few lines in Greek as The Poet goes back to his roots. That in itself is quite a challenge, but what they do with it is one of those little miracles that happens in live theater – you learn a little more about who you are, what humanity is, and how we manage to live together – or not.

The actors are accompanied on stage by a muse, a solo guitarist, who has no lines but who does share a haunting accompaniment with the audience and a drink with The Poet. I would give you the Muse’s name if I knew it. Maybe I will learn it and update this piece when I get my own copy of the program on opening night. (His name is Jonathan Peachey. See Connie’s comment below.)

Get your tickets now. Six performances, weather permitting, outdoors in The Glen at Brazosport College. Masks, social distancing, and outdoor venue make theater possible in the Age of Pandemic. Please come prepared to comply with the simple rules meant to get us to The Other Side.

Say Their Names: Solemn Reminders of the Cost of Systemic Racism

The MLK Celebration Committee of Southern Brazoria County and the Brazosport Center for the Arts and Sciences have teamed to present the Say Their Names Memorial in celebration of Black History Month.

The communicative power of simplicity, silence and visual presence has been matched, at least in my experience, only by the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C. The first thing that struck me was the number of memorial pillars arranged in The Center’s outdoor viewing area.

Then you see that there are photographs memorializing other victims on each of the four sides of the pillars. Fifty pillars, 200 victims. And, of course, they could not include, or even know, the thousands of victims of lynchings and other fatal injustices Black Americans have suffered in this country.

The presentation touches one deeply as you see the beautiful faces of Americans, young and old, who had no place to look for justice when confronted with the reality of America’s deep and persisting racism.

Please go, see and feel the presence of these Americans. Their years were stolen but their memories live as an ever-present reminder of the miles we have to travel before we become the nation we must become. The memorial is at the Brazosport Center for the Arts and Sciences at 400 College Drive in Clute. It will remain there through March 13, 2021.

There is a New Superstar at Brazosport Center Stages

Brazosport Center Stages held its annual business meeting and appreciation night on August 8. Missing only the food and drink, BCS members gathered online via streaming technology. I can’t tell you how they did it. I was barely able to tune it in on my computer.

Except for the unusually boring presentation of the financial report, the meeting was excellently produced by Mr. Dennis Ulrich. (Disclosure: The person serving as treasurer at the time of the meeting occasionally writes for SOTLJ.)

The centerpiece of every appreciation night is the presentation the Superstar Award. The suspense actually centers around whether or not there will be an award since it is given from time to time to people who have made extraordinary lifetime contributions to BCS in acting, directing, theater technical areas, and governance. The minimum standards for the award are high and have eliminated some significant talent whose primary contribution has been in acting, say, or design. The award is decided by the theater board of directors and it is not unusual for several years to pass without a new Supertar.

But we have a new Superstar in 2020. It is Susan Moss who has acted (in many roles), directed, served as president of the board, and worked in a variety of tech positions to see that Brazosport Center Stages never misses curtain as advertised.

Brazosport Center Stages 2020 Superstar Susan Moss.

One of my favorite of Susan’s many performances on our stage was in the role of Violet Weston in August: Osage County in 2016.

You can see photos of Susan on stage at my Flickr site. I have selected a few an placed them in a Susan Moss Superstar album. See them here.

Remembering the Days of Our Innocence: Eating from the Party Table

Hover over the table with your friends. Everyone is commenting about how pretty the layout is. Stab an olive with a twice-used toothpick. It’s about saving the forests after all. Or glance furtively around the table. No one is looking. Grab one between thumb and index finger. Double dip the cheese melt with a cold green bean. No one noticed that first bite. Dip the other end. Hands are clean and dry. Now reach across the table and shake hands with a friend you haven’t seen in at least a week or two. On the return from that greeting, swoop down and land a chunk of sweet pineapple.

Moving on to the new year.

The crowd is still forming. Scotch eggs, maple-iced doughnuts, French roast coffee, artichoke dip, veggies, nuts, wassail. Before the morning passes, sixty or so friends will crowd in around the table, serve a plate, exchange greetings, and tell tales of the year gone by, hopes for the year ahead and mostly true stories from all the walks of community life.

Our love is manifest in food and words.

How will we greet 2021? There is virtually no safe and healthy way to do it the way we have been doing it. But January is so far in the future. We can hope.

Things We Took for Granted: Big Summer Musicals

The Music Man cast raises The Center roof during a performance in July, 2018.

How spoiled we are in the Brazosport area to have Brazosport Center Stages performing in the Center for the Arts and Sciences. The summer musicals are a tradition our community looks forward to each year. Families make their plans around them. In fact, sometimes entire families are involved in shows, on stage and backstage. Each show involves large numbers of volunteers, cast members of all ages, and an adoring community filling the house for most performances.

The Music Man, Shrek, Mary Poppins, Fiddler on the Roof, Bye Bye Birdie, Les Mis─Śrables, Annie, 1776, Oliver and many more have been staged and many memories given to the community and the cast. If you have seen one of those shows, you have seen young people who went on to careers in performing arts.

Sadly, there will be no summer musical in 2020. Evidence is accumulating that there is nothing quite like a group of energetic singers in a closed space to spread coronavirus. Center Stages generates a large portion of its income budget from the summer musical each year. And they, in turn, pass on a sizeable share to support Center operation and maintenance.

Peter Pan was the show planned for 2020. Maybe it will happen some other time but not this year. Another lesson in the things we take for granted.