Inspired by Michael Morris’s September 8 column in The Facts, I called the school district office and got on the list to offer public comment at the start of the September board meeting. I am not an open mic kind of person, but Mr. Morris reminded me of the importance, in a democracy, of speaking up when you have a reasonable opinion about how things should go in your community’s life.
As the day approached I thought about the possibility that the Justice for J-6 crowd may well be preparing to flood the board room with bikers recruited from Sturgis, South Dakota to chain whip anyone daring to appear at the meeting masked against “the Chinese virus“. At a minimum I thought I ought to choose my words carefully and write them down to keep myself on script.
So I wrote about two and a half minutes of my thoughts in which I appealed to my status as an elder in the community. Maybe they would’t beat up an old man wearing glasses, leaning on a cane, and talking about the olden days.
Michael Morris of The Facts gave excellent and important advice in his column this morning. I took the challenge and got on the public agenda for the September meeting of my local school board trustees’ meeting. I hope other of his readers will do the same.
As someone who came of age in another century, I can remember when public health was treated as a legitimate and very important medical specialty. Polio, smallpox, chicken pox, measles and many more have been controlled through the advancement of science and medical practice. We learned to trust the advice of the professionals. And maybe even more important, we had teachers in public schools who taught us how to recognize the difference between the advice offered by public health professionals and that of snake oil salesmen.
Just remember that the same people who are telling you that masks and vaccines are the work of the devil are the same ones telling you that ivermectin works and will keep you safe from Covid-19. Not all of the people who listened to them are still with us. May they rest in peace in the arms of their understanding, if not greatly disappointed, God.
Instead, believe the people who went to medical school and completed the really hard science courses and medical practice internships and residencies. They know what they are talking about and they don’t do satanic rituals when you aren’t looking.
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.
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.
Well, maybe that isn’t such a good idea during a pandemic. But it is a lot of fun during healthier years. In fact, it’s more than fun. It touches a whole community so deeply with the beauty of the music, dance, costumes, and Shakespeare performance that it raises us to a new level of that experience we call the Christmas Spirit.
They set a memorable table, too.
Who ever thought that they were designing a super-spreader event when the first EMF was planned in 1988? Public health professionals might have known the term but it wasn’t in our vocabulary in Brazosport, Texas. In 2020. however, we know enough about coronavirus to know that those little devils would love the intimacy, the powerful vocal projections, and the intense rehearsals required to make the experience everything that it is. And food service, too? It couldn’t happen in July, 2020.
November? We await the Executive Committee’s timely decision.
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.
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.
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.
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 as a septuagenarian of taking a role with a large number of lines in 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 was producing 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.
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.