Sunday, July 31, 2011

White Pines Productions

Here's a link to the web page of White Pines Productions, which sponsors the creative group I've started working with. Check it out and if you're in the Philly area, see if you can't make it to one of their events. (I'll be appearing in "Cromwell and Fox", a staged reading, on Wednesday.)

George Maharis

I don't know why but as I was checking e-mail and finding out who today's Hunk-of-the-Day was (I forget) I suddenly remembered George Maharis who, in the late 60's was on a TV series called "Route 66". I had a crush on him then -- of course I didn't know why at the time -- and with all the very different and divergent ideas people have of what a "hunk" is, I guess I still do, in a way. He was gay (which I didn't know at the time, though apparently all of Hollywood did) and very manly in a kind of "deep", non-threatening way. Not plain by any means, but not exactly the boy next door, either.

I found a tribute of sorts to Maharis at a blog called "gayspecies". It's sort of all over the place and I have only been able to skim the rest of the blog, so if anything there offends, upsets or confuses you, don't blame me. While I don't think Maharis necessarily deserves his own chapter in the Gay History of America -- whatever that would be -- he was a pioneer of sorts when all the other Hollywood "hunks" were "dating" women and almost getting married every other week. I'm sure there's much more on the Net. (A Google search turned up a picture of a tuxedoed Maharis apparently singing with Judy Garland on her TV show. Not surprisingly, I guess, considering that somewhere along the way he released an album called "George Maharis Sings!" Where the hell was I that night?)

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Creative Commons

Elstowe Manor
Talk about being blessed! Last Monday I joined (a few weeks late) an endeavor called Creative Commons, a project of Philadelphia's White Pines Productions and actor/diretor/author Ben Lloyd. There a group of artists of varied disciplines -- chiefly theater, but also writers (moi included) and musicians -- gather to develop, try out and share projects, ideas and dreams. The group has been meeting on Monday nights at the Elkins Estate in Elkins Park, just outside Philadelphia. 

The estate is 42-acres and contains five buildings, the most notable being Elstowe Manor and Chelten House, both Horace Trumbauer designed mansions. Elstowe Manor was the summer home of William L. Elkins, a prominent Philadelphian businessman who was integral in the formation of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company and the establishment of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

I had gone with the beginnings of a play, which I read to the others in attendance and from whom I got some very good, and helpful, feedback. Proof, if any were needed, that even a solitary artist like a writer eventually needs another pair of eyes and/or ears to move forward.

The Gallery at Elstowe (© Nate Klett, Flickr)
But the most wonderful part of the evening for me was when we (there were eight of us all told) moved into what had once been Elkins' art gallery, an enormous -- make that cavernous -- space with paneled, brocaded walls and hand-painted beams twenty feet above. We each took one of the little gold-painted chairs that are used for the weddings that are held in the estate and sat in the gallery as one of the group, a young man who is also an actor, played the violin. A Bach partita. It might have been #3. No matter, when it was over the violinist was drenched in sweat (the air wasn't on in the gallery) and the rest of us were transfixed. To be so close to that music, live, transcendent, flawless... it almost literally gets inside you the way a recording, or even a performance in a concert hall can't. I really was filled with the sense that I was not just fortunate, but blessed to be there to hear it. To be a part of it. And more, to have the life I have, with its ups and downs and uncertainties, and my Head, which continues to do its best to keep me off-balance and anxious. It's difficult to describe, but that feeling has stayed with me, even as life has become a little more stressful (as I knew it would) after a period of relative peace and contentment. But only a little. And I can go back to that room at the Elkins Estate any time, to hear and feel the music and remember that I wasn't just blessed that Monday night. It's all the time.
All the time.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Good (Gay) News and Not-So-Good...

There's a terrific article in the August issue of Men's Journal magazine (which is a terrific magazine overall: I highly recommend a subscription) titled "Pro Sports' New Gay Agenda". While the magazine's content is available online, this particular article isn't, so I thought I'd share portions of it, because it's very encouraging. (To read the whole article, buy the mag. There are also articles about Jeff Bridges, , how the axis of the art world is shifting toward L.A., and 39 ways to eat a tomato.)

Basically, the article discusses how professional sports are increasingly aware of, and involved in, taking a stand against gay bashing and bullying. "In the past few months" writes Kevin Gray, "a small but steady stream of  straight athletes -- including the New York Rangers' Sean Avery and the Phoenix Suns' Grant Hill and Jared Dudley -- have (promoted) gay rights or tolerance at the prompting of activist groups. "We've known for a long time that if you're going to reach 13- to 16-year-old boys on this issue, our next generation, you need athletes," says Eliza Byard, executive director of Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education network (GLSEN) which is behind the Think B4 You Speak campaign to battle antigay language among teens. that doesn't mean she and other activists are always successful in enlisting players. "Some turn us down because it's not their issue...they don't want to make this their battle."

Ben Cohen!
"British rugby star Ben Cohen learned about the plight of gay youths in a very vivid way. Two years ago, his manager told him that a gay fan, taken by his skills as well as his rugged good looks, set up a Facebook fan page for Cohen that attracted thousands of followers -- many of them gay. 'It was flattering,' Cohen says. But it wasn't until these fans started using the page to share stories about being beaten up in school and mocked on the rugby field and in the locker room that Cohen felt a painful stab of recognition -- he hadn't always been politically correct in his own dealings -- and the realization that he needed to do something. 'A lot of people were telling me about the pain and anger they've felt for years,' he says. 'They feel isolated and alone. I felt I had a responsibility.

"Today he runs the Ben Cohen Stand Up Foundation, an antibullying group. He spent two weeks this spring touring U.S. high schools talking to kids about how to identify gay-targeted bullying and stop it... Some of his proceeds go toward helping GLSEN with its education efforts." (I don't know about you, but personally I don't mind having Ben Cohen on my side. Or anywhere else, for that matter.)

In other news, further evidence of the intolerance of tolerant people and the harm they can inadvertently cause. According to columnist Kevin McCullough, "Activists, and to some degree their mouthpieces in the media, have conducted witch-hunts designed to hurt not just the ones who have different ideological viewpoints, but ... disrupt the charity that people who disagree with them advocate for... It is...hurtful to the innocent people in need of help, and it is an attack on free speech, association and the practice of religious freedoms.

"In Los Angeles, California the founder of TOMS shoes was so harassed by ... activists, they all but forced Blake Mycoskie, TOMS founder, into a near apology for appearing at an event in which Focus On The Family recorded an interview with the shoemaker. The purpose of which was to inspire listeners to help put needed shoes on the feet of African AIDS orphans. Secondarily, Focus hoped it might also inspire listeners to begin their own companies ordered around the economy of compassion, and budgeting for those in need. 

"Activists launched online petitions to attempt to pressure customers from shopping with TOMS shoes because of some imagined "alignment" with a supposed "hate group." Though the only institution to ever classify Focus On The Family as a hate group is a group that could easily qualify for the designation themselves - The Southern Poverty Law Center - at least by the standards they use to define "hate."

"The irony of the matter is that Jim Daly, Focus On The Family's president, has purposefully chosen to engage those who disagree with some of Focus' positions on public policy, and has even attempted to find common ground on things like reducing abortions, increasing adoption, and in the event of the TOMS shoe event -- give foot coverings to African AIDS orphans who might otherwise step on something that would cut their feet, develop infection, and damage their health, if not take their (lives)."

Make of it what you will. But, shoes for AIDS orphans... I'm just sayin'...

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Who Else Auditioned for "Mary Poppins"?

Sorry I've been so incommunicado... the last couple of weeks slipped (or schlepped) by and I hardly noticed. Summer doldrums? Can't say, but I apologize...

Hopefully THIS will make it up: the voices are, for the most part, spot on and absolutely hilarious! (Hopefully you're old enough to recognize some of these stars... There are more from these guys - Punchy Players - so stay tuned... or check them out on YouTube.