October 19, 2018

Dateline: New York, New York –

Today was a day of connections, memories and 20,000 steps according to my smartphone pedometer. No wonder my legs hurt. It doesn’t help that I missed my morning Tylenol as I got up and out early.

The first stop was breakfast on the upper west side with Grant A. Anderson and his lovely wife, Ines. They are in town from Arizona for a family wedding and got hold of me and asked if they could catch up. I hadn’t seen Grant for some decades as we went about our separate lives post Stanford but Facebook, in one of it’s good moments, brought us back into touch and we have been following each others adventures over the last few years. It turns out that I am indirectly responsible for his meeting his wife. My going to Stanford led my cousin Jenny to Stanford. Jenny and Grant were friends and after some late night dorm commiseration, she suggested they go to a dorm party and that was where they first met. The smallest incidents can have great repercussions through the years.

After breakfast, I ran into Cris Frisco and joined him on his morning walk commute from his apartment to his studio, He’s busy with vocal coaching and looking forward to coming back to Birmingham to be the maestro for Glory Denied with Opera Birmingham this next January. Then I caught up with Vickie Rozell and we headed off to Queens to the Museum of the Moving Image. They’re having a special exhibition on Jim Henson and we’re both Muppets fans. Quite an interesting exhibit and the permanent collection tracing the history of film from kinescopes through modern CGI is very well done. I especially enjoyed looping my voice for Judy Garland’s in The Wizard of Oz. Birmingham folk, the Henson exhibit is apparently coming to Meridian at some point so you can see it there.

Then, back across the East River for a little Fifth Avenue walking through Rockefeller Center and St. Patrick’s cathedral, ending up at Tiffany’s where I bought my niece her 16th birthday gift. Every girl needs a Tiffany’s box from time to time. It was too late for breakfast, but just about time for dinner so a jaunt over to the west side to a food hall for dinner with Tommy McDowell to talk over both the New York and Birmingham theater scenes.

Tonight’s theater was the new play, The Lifespan of a Fact, which officially opened at Studio 54 last night to very good reviews. We had chosen it before the reviews came out based on the cast. We figured the combination of Daniel Radcliffe, Cherry Jones and Bobby Canavale couldn’t be all bad. We were right, it’s actually very good. The play is a 90 minute one act which takes on the nature of truth in terms of the conflict between an essayist (Canavale) who plays fast and loose with facts in order to get at deeper meanings and truths and the young fact checker (Radcliffe) who believes that truth is only verifiable fact. Caught in the middle is the editor (Jones) of the New York glossy that want’s to print a new essay and is unsure where the line are in terms of truth, art, and journalistic ethics.

Daniel Radcliffe, Cherry Jones and Bobby Canavale in Lifespan of a Fact

The play, which is loosely based on real people and a real conflict, is sound (and likely to be a staple at regional theaters for the next few years with its small cast and unit set). It explores big questions related to the need to tell story and make story meaningful, along with the existential issues on the nature of truth. It’s also a play that resonates with where we are in society with our ‘alternative facts’ and ‘fake news’. Despite the deep questions, which are not fully resolved – the audience is expected to draw their own conclusions, the play has uproariously funny moments and all three actors are well cast and deliver smart and introspective performances. Young Mr. Radcliffe, who has amazing eyes on stage, has definitely left Harry Potter behind (even if he does make an exit into a closet under the stairs) and has a brilliant comic monologue involving a traffic map of Las Vegas (don’t ask). Canavale uses his physicality as well as his wits as the brooding but brilliant writer and Jones, not playing a tragic heroine for once, is the fulcrum on which the plays arguments balance and she achieves that well.

After show drinks with old friends of Vickie’s (more discussion of the state of theater in New York, Canada, London, the SF Bay Area and Birmingham) before heading back to the apartment to unwind (and prepare for another two show day tomorrow…)

Do I have a story for tonight? Not really… Today hasn’t dredged much of anything up. Seeing Daniel Radcliffe on stage did put me in mind of my history with Harry Potter. I discovered the books shortly after the third one came out. Steve was sick at the time and I had had a habit of reading to him for years. It soothed him. Whenever we drove distance, he would do most of the driving and I would read to him. If he didn’t feel like driving, I would drive and he would snuggle down in the passenger seat and fall asleep. I used to term that one of his bassinet rides. When he was sick and his brain wasn’t fully operational because of the hypoxia from his underlying lung problems, I had to pick things that were relatively easy to understand so I had turned to a number of the childrens’ classics. Someone suggested Harry Potter so I picked up the first one at the local bookstore and read it to him. We both enjoyed it so I picked up two and three and read those to him as well. Four came out and was one of the last things I read to him before he died. The other books came out after Tommy and I were together and so did most of the films, so he and I made a big deal of going to those together and the DVDs became staples in the wig shop for company when he was working late. Harry watched over my husbands, and for that I am eternally grateful.

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