Monday, September 07, 2009
This is about where I stood when I spoke at the Millennium March.
Stuck at the end of the line, with about a dozen people still on the lawn. Less than 20 minutes left on the program with 12 people still in line behind me, I stuck my fist in the air and said, "I was supposed to die, but I wrote a musical instead!"
I received a slight chuckle and a little applause -- and the people behind me were grateful that I didn't gobble up the time, thus leaving more for them, especially since it was being broadcast by C-Span.
I had actually been invited to perform because PFLAG had brought me out to sing for theit annual convention; Tipper Gore was the featured speaker. However, in the madness of the big march and the crowded grandstand, and celebrities and mucky muck A-list gays, I got shuffled from table to table, and no one there knew I was there to sing.
I had been quietly shunted aside.
I was disappointed, I wasn't offended. I know how these things go. I used to produce big events in Hollywood. The point is to get "faces." Cuz if you don't get famous faces, you don't get Big Press, no matter how important (you feel) your cause is, and the march needed all the Big Press it could get. I knew I wasn't a famous celebrity. But at least someone there couldn't recognized me. :)
Coming back here this time with Jim's show (as, essentially, his assistant) and working with accomplished theatrical minds like Ari Roth and Piper Laurie (who flies in tonight), and with Jim, whose theatrical instincts are second to none, really humbles me. I stand in awe, listening and watching, trying my best to learn from the best.
Ari is impressive on every level. Though his office looks like it was hit by a hurricane, it's amazing how much work he does, whether he's teaching classes, holding seminars, planning town hall meetings, choosing plays, promoting playsl, overseeing workshops and public performances. It very much reminds me of when I was working at NAS.
You can't simply sit and wait for the audience to find you.
The number of town hall meetings and talk-backs is dizzying. But I think it's smart. People want to feel a part of something and what I hadn't realized -- or, rather, what I'm discovering, is that because Theater J is located in the stunningly beautiful DC Jewish Community Center, it has the opportunity/responsibility of engaging the community in a face to face manner.
This can be scary if you're the emcee or guest on the stage. Who knows what they might ask?
Sunday night, I was invited to be just this emcee, as filmmaker Aviva Kempner was to speak to the audience after Jim's show. But the whole staff had its hand's full. They are participating in a theatrical citywide program at the Kennedy Center. There was a reading/rehearsal of the next day's presentation while this day's presentation (both plays) was being presented down at the Center.
We had had lunch with Aviva the day before with several of her friends. It was hilarious and very "down home" deli. We shared our mutual struggle to get press for small independent works. Both "Yoo Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg" and the New York production of "Zero Hour" are independent productions. They must depend on word of mouth and good reviews. Luckily, both audiences and critics love "Goldberg" and "Zero." (Jim played to full houses for both Sunday shows, to enthusiastic standing ovations -- knock on wood.)
I didn't bring the camera because I was on stage and didn't want to look unprofessional.
Aviva spoke, at first, about Philip Loeb, who Jimmy (as Zero) talks about in "Zero Hour." Philip was a beloved actor, who was active in the union (demanding stuff like hot running water and equal access for Black actors).
He was also the beloved radio/tv husband of Molly Goldberg, the subject of "Yoo Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg" -- and he committed suicide after losing his job. He was Zero's dearest friend and Zero never forgave anyone who gave names to HUAC, including his director, Jerry Robbins.
"The point," Aviva said, "is that we can't let these things be forgotten. I showed my movie for a young Chinese woman who said to me, 'I never knew there was censorship in America.'
The blacklist, where the government essentially bans people from working, and puts them into jail for not naming their friends, was an American moment. It did happen in this country, and it was barely 50 years ago. Phil's death anniversary was Sept. 1st.
Ah, but I am wandering. Jim came out onto the stage. They had a great dialogue with the audience, and afterward, everyone was taking flyers for the NY production, promising to call their friends and neighbors.
And then, today, Labor Day, we went down to the Air & Space Museum.
And that about catches you up!
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