February 22, 2023

Does one wish others a happy Ash Wednesday? The start of Lent should probably not be thought of as an occasion for merriment. The day before however… As I am neither particularly Christian nor residing in New Orleans, the last two days have not been anything outside of the usual work load. I did have yesterday evening off from all rehearsal and other obligations but rather than running naked through the streets, begging for beads, I used it to break the back on sorting my 2022 financial records so my accountant can make some semblance of sense of my 1040 when I take them all in next month. I’ve decided I’m not broke yet and can afford to live another year as long as I continue slaving away for UAB and the VA.

I am participating in Unitarian Universalist social media Lent which involves posting a picture a day through the forty day period exemplifying various positive qualities and emotions. That’s something I can get behind. As far as giving something up, I’ve decided that this year it’s ice cream. I don’t eat a lot of it anyway, not that I don’t like it, I just don’t so it shouldn’t be too hard for me to deny myself of something pleasurable. Other thoughts were women (not at all difficult) and exercise (not the best of ideas) so ice cream it is until mid April. Given that it was 83 degrees this afternoon in Birmingham and feels more like June than February out there, this might be trickier than I first assumed. As we’re in the semitropics and most of the rest of the country is in frigid storm, I’m assuming we’ll have another clash of weather fronts shortly and we’ll all be watching our weather maps around here for tornadoes. They rarely bother us here in the Jones Valley where central Birmingham is located and where I live and work so I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about them. Besides, I live in an eight story concrete fortress of a building that’s not going anywhere. My house call territories are within various tornado belts in the hinterlands but we’re smart enough to cancel or postpone if the weather looks that dubious.

Dearly Departed has one more weekend to run. Tomorrow, Friday, and Saturday evenings at 7:30 and Sunday matinee at 2:30. Those of you locally whom I have supported over the years by attending your shows and financially donating to your companies and productions need to get yourself over to a performance and honor your fellow creators of theater. What will fill its place in my social/artistic calendar? It’s not completely clear yet. I got a message about doing a one off special concert earlier today and I have some other oddball gigs on the books in the spring, but no specific shows are there yet. There was one I kind of hoped to do coming up in May but I took another look at the production schedule and I have conflicts the last weekend of performance so that’s out.

I had two multi hour board meetings this afternoon/evening for two different social service agencies. I currently sit on four boards – two performing arts companies and two social service agencies with programs for seniors. That’s about my limit with my work and other commitments. I can see that part of my life expanding greatly when I retire and having far more than four in my life. I was raised in a culture that believed that professionals such as myself were obligated to give back to their communities in exchange for the relatively high status their qualifications give them and I’ve always sat on boards and taken part in civic affairs in one way or another. One of the destructive things to come out of the last five years or so, as we tear ourselves apart into various armed social camps, is a deterioration of this sort of understanding that society doesn’t function properly if we don’t give back to it each in our own way and learn to cooperate and work together with others who may view things very differently than ourselves. The gut reaction today seems to be if your ideas are different, I’ll just call you names and then go home and post nasty memes about you and people like you to my social media. If we all keep doing that, there’s not going to be a civic organization left that actually functions.

Jason Robert Brown’s musical, Parade, is having a major revival on Broadway. It’s first preview was last night. It’s not an especially well known show outside the theater community despite having won Tony’s for best book and score. It dramatizes the Leo Frank trial and ultimately his lynching outside of Atlanta in the years leading up to World War I. It’s a heavy subject and the incident still casts a pall over Southern Jewish life more than a century later. (If you’re unfamiliar with Leo Frank and his saga, read up on it). Theater goers in New York were met with neo-Nazi protesters in front of the theater last night. I’m not exactly sure what their point was, probably just free publicity, but the fact that something like that even happens in this country today shows just how low public discourse has fallen over the last few years. Between that, book bannings (which haven’t quite reached the stage of book burnings yet – but it will), members of congress advocating the dissolution of the union, politicians meddling with the free expression of ideas in higher education, and various steps being taken to reintroduce the subjugation of women, I sometimes wonder just what historical period I’m living in. At first I assumed it was the 1930s but with various revelations of child labor and an Alaskan politician advocating for the death of abused children as an economic benefit, now I’m thinking the 1830s. We may get back to the 1730s in another six months.

Theater is the mirror of society. Each generation takes the text and mounts it in a new way to reflect the current audience. Parade may be just the show we need to show us who we are.

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