Monday, April 22, 2013

Goodbye, Tongue & Groove

Last night at approximately 8:15 p.m. I ended my almost seven year affiliation with Tongue & Groove, Philadelphia’s Spontaneous Theater troupe of actors/improvisers/all-around good people. Our work was not improv in the usual sense: fast, funny, wacky. Every scene was grounded in reality, whether funny or serious or sad, “better” as one of our reviews said, “than the best scripted plays.” We did four shows over the weekend at the Kimmel Center’s Innovation Studio, to what appeared to me to be packed houses. We were damn good, too, eliciting laughs and tears and myriad emotions in between from our audiences and even, I think it’s safe to say, from ourselves.

We collaborated with RealLivePeople(in)Motion, an improvisational dance troupe that worked with us seamlessly to add a new dimension of movement to our mostly verbal scenes. We also all made new friends of the dancers who were generous and talented and funny and real. By the last show it felt as though we’d been working with them for a whole year, not the weeks they actually spent with us practicing, working out the kinks.

It was a little emotional and I’m sure the reality of it will sink in slowly over time. I’ll now have my Thursdays free, rather than attending practice with the group. I won’t have the opportunity to do an emotional “check-in” with everyone, letting them know how I’m feeling, what’s going on and how it’s all affecting me. We got to know each other and became more than friends: supportive and caring and loving – when things were bad or we were down or feeling angry, “What can I do for you?” was not a rhetorical question. And of course we also shared the joys, the good times, the happiness… I’ll miss the hugs.

The group changed in the years I was with them: members dropped out and moved on (in one case getting a contract with the Food Network for his own show), new people joined and became as integral to our success as those who left. But they were all talented and brought their unique vision and perspective and energy to the group. We were never stagnant, never still, or so it seemed.

I’m a little misty as I write this. And I know I’ll see the Tongue & Groovers from time to time. We’ll be in touch. It’s not as if I’m moving halfway around the world or something. It’s just that Tongue & Groove really defined a very specific and special time in my life, an era, if you will, that’s coming to an end. I tend to hold to that saying about a door closing and a window opening. But what’s behind that door will always be special to me. I’m different – better? – for having been connected with you all. Blessed. Plus, I had a hell of a good time.

Thank you, T&G.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Nightmare in Boston

As the reports continue to come out of Boston about the aftermath of yesterday's horrific events, and the number of terrible injuries seems to climb by the hour, it's easy to want to tune out -- especially since virtually all the news is concerned with the bombings.And of course there's always the nagging worry that something comparable could happen anywhere else -- Philadelphia, for example, as I head to the train at the end of the day. And regardless who's responsible our hearts go out to the families of those who died and those who were so brutally injured.

Columnist, commentator and media critic Michael Medved put it about as well as anyone, I imagine, and I quote his comments in their entirety from his website.

“As I write these words, it’s still too early to know who perpetrated the bloody attacks on the Boston Marathon, or even to guess at the motivations. Nevertheless, the two explosions undeniably represent a premeditated act that deserves classification as unspeakably evil. No ‘higher cause’ can conceivably justify the shattered lives and severed limbs. The Boston Bombings remind us that brutality remains a constant presence in our world, and that cruelty should discredit relativists who blur distinctions between good and evil, civilization and barbarity.

“We must also recall that those who defend us against random violence – soldiers, police officers, first responders, doctors and nurses – toil on the side of decency, regardless of politics. We must recognize their efforts and respond decisively against the warped mentality of terrorists who make pain and destruction their primary focus.”

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Roger Ebert: Wisdom

Film critic Roger Ebert died last week at the age of 70, having succumbed to cancers of the thyroid and salivary glands. He was best known for his "thumbs up/thumbs down" reviews with partner Gene Siskel on Public Television. He wrote a number of books, including one on director Martin Scorcese, another titled "The Great Movies" and more than one on movies he disliked, including the title "I Hated, Hated, Hated This Movie". He won the Pulitzer Prize and had a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He was a recovering alcoholic with 30 years of sobriety. (Read about his journey here - It's worth reading his obituary in the Chicago Sun Times to learn more about this remarkable man. (He had had his salivary glands and thyroid removed due to cancer, altering his appearance rather shockingly and rendering him unable to eat or speak. Nevertheless, with the help of his wife, he kept on writing, thinking, producing and loving.) Which leads me to the following which is taken from his autobiography, "Life Itself". I think it's something we could all take to heart.

“Kindness covers all of my political beliefs,” he wrote, at the end of his memoir, “Life Itself.” “No need to spell them out. I believe that if, at the end, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn’t always know this and am happy I lived long enough to find it out.”