Tuesday, December 29, 2009


I thought I had plenty of time to write and rave about the glorious new production of the great musical, RAGTIME, now playing at the Neil Simon Theater:  one of the best scores of the late 20th century, beautifully performed; a superb ensemble, crisply staged and choreographed by Marcia Milgrim Dodge; a simple but handsome and effective visual design that focused on the story versus the trappings.  Timely when it opened in 1998, it is even more timely now in the age of Obama, reality TV, instant celebrity and people behaving badly in the face of financial struggle.  It won mostly excellent reviews in D.C. at the Kennedy Center, and had won similar praise here in New York.   Rumors had swirled that it was having a hard time catching fire at the box office, but those rumors were denied just this weekend in the Times.

My family took me tonight to see it, and while standing ovations are far too gratuitous these days, this was an amazing ovation of love by a deeply moved audience.  (I had seen the original, twice, and admit it is one of my favorites and, I believe, destined to be a classic.  The original ran for 800 performances and won several Tonys including Best Book and Best Score, only being eclipsed for the big prize that year by THE LION KING.)

I came home to read IT'S CLOSING THIS SUNDAY.

So run, don't walk!  Don't miss stunning performances by a strong cast led by Christiane Noll, Robert Petkoff and Quentin Earl Darrington, superb direction, terrific design, and a story that really means something to today's audiences.  Most of all, don't miss this amazing score, which due to this frightfully short run of 57 performances, will be a long time in coming back.  (There had been talk of New York City Opera doing it two seasons ago, but a schedule conflict caused its withdrawal.)  If you've never seen it before, you owe it to yourself.  If you know the show, you won't be disappointed by this lovely and lovingly-appointed productions.

Sigh . . . too many good shows suffering from the economy--and too many theater lovers are missing out.

Saturday, December 26, 2009


Well, the holidays are zipping along and we're almost at the end of a highly-tumultuous 2009. (Tumultuous is a neat-sounding word, ain't it, even if if isn't always a fun way to go!)

Jobs and finances were at their absolute worst for me and most of the folk I know. Very few people had a good financial 2009--maybe Dick Cheney, but then again, he probably had most of his funds stuffed safely away somewhere in Dubai. (That Dick knows a good deal when he sees one.)

And at times, the frustration REEEEALLY wore me down. Not sure what was trickier--being unemployed for months on end, or then working part-time but not having an easy time on the job AND still not making enough $ to pay bills. And little-to-no supplemental work in sight.

BUT . . . life is full of contradictions. I had a very productive year as a playwright (which may mean at least my tin cup will have a neat inscription when I'm out on the corner). Lots of thrilling experiences, the best of which was the Last Frontier Theater Conference in Valdez, Alaska. Terrific people, terrific work, and a great sense of things that are still right with life. And as a result, I'm heading off to Anchorage in a week to see the world premiere of HEART, which was read at LFTC. It's been a long birthing process for HEART, but I'm so pleased that it finally will get to reach an audience in a fully-staged production under the loving care of ACT in Anchorage. (And who knows, maybe there will be a life beyond that, too!)

And I have spent a year where I've felt great love and support from friends new and old. Yes, Facebook can be the bane of one's existence, but it also brought me back in touch with more friends than I ever knew I had and it has led to warm conversations, revived friendships and the development of new, long-term relationships.

Speaking of relationships, I'm now working towards 25 years with my significant other. That I'm still in love after 24 years is wonderful, but that my partner, Barry, still puts up with me after 24 years--that is TRULY miraculous, and I am extremely grateful.

And I'm still grateful for the love of a dog. Above you see Chloe, the Steely's shih tzu who is five and is one of the sweetest, funniest, most complicated little dogs I've ever known. When she plays, she doesn't just play, she plays WITH YOU. And when given a new toy, she not only is the epitome of joy, but she is also visibly and demonstrably grateful--she let's you know just how much she appreciates your getting her something, even as her delight is palpable thanks enough. There is something so magical about letting go of human hubhub and just communing with a dog--pure, direct, and trusting, a lovely thing.

And despite a continually crumbling wreck of a body, I am grateful that time teaches patience and reminds us that everything comes in cycles. For every downturn, eventually an upturn will come. That is a lesson that only comes with time, and I genuinely ache for my teenage students who don't know that riding out the pain will eventually lead somewhere--they just don't know it yet.

Accepting oneself takes a lot of work over a lifetime. I'm closer than I've ever been to accepting this nutcase/fruitcake I am or have grown into, although I know I still have a long, long way to go. I do know that acceptance of ourselves and of others, warts and all, is one of life's great challenges and also the source of its greatest rewards. And for that realization, I am truly blessed and grateful, even as I struggle to make peace with myself and others, as we all do.

So . . . this seems the perfect time to say thanks to family and friends, to wish everyone peace and (hopefully) prosperity in the New Year and a third "P"--patience. Life is not predictable and perhaps that is for the best. But one has to believe that putting one's best into the world will ultimately bring, if not peace, dignity.

Happy 2010.