Saturday, June 27, 2009

Sunday Concert: Do You Love Me?

As I have written before, one of my favorite experiences on stage was my time as Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof. Today I post my favorite moment from that play. It's a little duet. Very short. Not very demanding vocally or theatrically. But one of the tenderest moments in musical theatre. What a fun scene!

Here is that scene from the movie.
Topol, now 73, is doing a "farewell" tour as Tevye this year -- I'd love to see it. Norma Crane, the wonderful Actor's-Studio trained actress who played Golde died only a couple of years after the film's release, at 44, of cancer.


Friday, June 26, 2009

Encore: Becoming Tevye

First Posted in June of 2007 as a Sunday Concert --


If I Were a Rich Man: Topol


One of my very favorite roles as a musical theater enthusiast came in 2000 when I became for a few weeks Tevye. I had played several other major roles in college and community theater but only one -- Charlie Anderson in Shenandoah -- that required the kind of concentration and dedication and, well, total immersion that this role required. As Charlie I had been cast in October for a play that opened the last week of February. What luxury to have such a long period of time to create a character. For the role of Tevye, in Rome Little Theater's production of Fiddler On the Roof, I had a much shorter prep time, and was now teaching fulltime -- I had been self-employed during my time as Charlie and had a more flexible, if just as stressful, schedule.

All of that to help you understand that I was terribly stressed and uncertain on opening night. Sure enough, my nerves got to me and I had my most miserable moment on stage. I went blank. I commited the unforgivable stage sin of actually repeating a section of dialogue, I was so lost!

I wanted to take a dive into the orchestra pit. It was opening night, there would be another opportunity to bomb the next night and the next. I was miserable.

Then epiphany.

23 hours later, still miserable, I stood center stage in the Desoto Theater, nose to the dark side of the curtain as the overture played, waiting for the curtains to part for my first monologue and the big opening number, "Tradition". And it struck me.

Here I am doing the thing that excites me more than any other. The thing I profess to love. Playing a role I have coveted more than any other save Jean Valjean. How wasteful of a grand moment to be so self centered and timid. This is an opportunity to grab. A moment to treasure. An experience to live. An unrecoverable time to harvest and possess.

As the "fiddler" played on the roof and the curtain opened I resolved to pluck the moment - Carpe Deim! Or as Tevye might shout: L'chai-im.

I would possess that stage. I would live that role. I would have fun. I would laugh and love, grieve and rage. I might fall on my face. I might lose a line. I might royally screw up. But my screw-ups would be as Tevye. They would be grand screw-ups not timid ones. I WAS where I wanted to be. I WOULD be fully there. L'chai-im!

That performance is seared in my memory as the most fun I could ever have on stage. What a joyful, loving, painful, redeeming night!

A lot of folks revere Zero Mostel as the quintessential Tevye, but I love the twinkle in the eye of Topol. To me his Tevye is flesh and blood... and as a father and husband I understand the depth of his love and anger and fear. So, though I like to think I found my own Tevye, there was a little of Topol's in mine.

Here, for your Sunday entertainment, is Topol with his interpretation of "If I Were a Rich Man":

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Tell Me It Is Not Summer

My favorite bush is my snowball hydrangea. And when it blooms, it means summer is here. Too soon. Too soon.

You turn around and 40 years have slipped by. I’m going to attend at least part of the Asbury reunion this weekend. I’m wondering if I’ll have a chance to greet our college president, Dr. Dennis Kinlaw. In 1969 when Terry Shaw and I graduated, proud Knights, Dr. Kinlaw was 46 years old. How is that possible? I discover that I am now 15 years older than Dr. Kinlaw was when we graduated. Wow. We were his first graduating class. Anyway, if I see Dr. Kinlaw, I’ll be able to tell him that I’ve read his latest book, “Let’s Start With Jesus” and that I’ve written a response, copied below.

I want to make it to Rome this summer.

When We Reject The Gods Of Our Childish Imaginations, What Remains?
I wrote here that this weekend is my 40th college reunion at Asbury College. My college president, Dr. Dennis Kinlaw, is now 86 years old and is still writing books. As a 17 year old, when I first met Dr. Kinlaw, I was impressed by the generosity of his spirit, by his demeanor, by his good humor. He is an extraordinary man who has inspired and helped the spiritual growth of many individuals. I love the fact that he is still among the living. I have read his latest book, “Let’s Start With Jesus” with great care, mostly at Lakeside. I wanted to write this article before the reunion, so I’m barely under the wire. What follows is not so much a review, more of a response and reaction.

It seems strange to believe that occasionally the universe, karma, God, gives us great favors. But I’ve come to believe that such is true. Science keeps discovering how everything is intrinsically intertwined with everything else, and how reality in its essence is astonishingly weird. I like the phrase used by St. Paul, that now we “see through a glass darkly,” and his promise that someday we will know as we are known. It is interesting to suppose that someday humans will come to understand the universe and even understand humans.

I like the image provided by Isaac Newton, that he felt like a child on a seashore, noticing now and then some beautiful pebble of understanding, “whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.”

What is it that we call God? Dennis Kinlaw in his book, “Let’s Start With Jesus,” relates the notion that students who embrace atheism, often do so as an effort to reject gods thoughtful Christians also reject. When we reject all of those gods of our childish imagination, what remains? The rise of religious fundamentalism and fanaticism makes it pretty important that people who value rationality have some thoughts about this overall subject.

For myself, I find it increasingly difficult to believe in a God that is supernatural -- outside of nature. Certainly, when humanity arrives at a more perfect understanding, and sees reality, in Paul’s words, “as face to face,” we will have a very different view of consciousness, personhood, karma, God, and nature itself. I’m inclined to believe that some day, spiritual truths will be understood in scientific terms. There are many more dimensions of understanding than what have been codified and if the human race survives the next 200 years, it is likely that there will be transformative change in our basic understandings of many matters, some of which are now considered spiritual, or religious.

Deepak Chopra’s idea in his recent book,"The Third Jesus," is that the first Jesus is the historical Jesus, the second Jesus is the Son of God, the Jesus of theology, and the third Jesus, is the cosmic Jesus. One reviewer says, "The cosmic Jesus is the spiritual guide whose teaching embraces all humanity, not just the church built in his name. The third Jesus invites us to join him on a higher spiritual plane, invites us to achieve enlightenment."

According to Chopra, the historical Jesus was a gifted teacher, an enlightened being, whose mission was to bring individuals into a realization of their spiritual potential. This view of Chopra’s is not so contradictory of scripture that speaks of being “conformed into the image of Christ.” Paul says we are to “grow to the measure of the full stature of Christ,” and that we should be “transformed by the renewing of our minds,” that "the Mind that was in Christ should also be in you.” Chopra is using different terminology, but he seems to be talking about the same reality as New Testament writers whose thinking and spirit were transformed by the risen Christ. It is this risen Christ who transformed St. Paul's life and thinking. It is this risen Christ Chopra refers to as the "cosmic Christ."

Dr. Kinlaw has written and spoken about this new life in Christ in his sermons and in previous books. In fact, I just googled, "mind of Christ" and according to my search, there are 21,700,000 responses and Dr. Kinlaw's book, "The Mind Of Christ" is number one on the list. But his newest book, “Let’s Start With Jesus” seems centered on Chopra’s second Jesus, the Son of God of theology. In this book, Kinlaw’s writes about the trinity. He speaks of the formation of this concept of God -- one, in three persons -- as a breathtaking intellectual accomplishment, a watershed of thought, that reveals astounding truths about ourselves -- ourselves as persons.

Dr. Kinlaw says that Jesus was the “prototypical” human, that even as Jesus understood himself as part of a fellowship, the trinity, part of a family, so do we understand ourselves in terms of community and connections. Kinlaw says that we should not attempt to understand God simply in juridical terms -- the law, grace, vicarious sacrifice -- but should seek to understand God as revealed in the trinity, in familial and in nuptial terms. The idea is that Christ is wedded to his believers, has union with them. I find this an interesting avenue of thought. Kinlaw explains that our salvation is not simply to escape physical death and God’s certain judgment, but it is to enter into a transforming relationship. The implication is that we are to be God’s sons and God’s daughters.

But Dr. Kinlaw, in this book, it seems to me, spends too much space in rehashing St. Paul’s theology. What is sin, what is salvation, what was the meaning of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection? St. Paul was a towering intellectual of his day, a powerful writer, and he worked out a way of thinking about these questions. I’ m inclined to believe that if, as the book title recommends, we start with Jesus, then we should set much of what Paul wrote aside. Paul emphasized a view of Adam and Eve, that said, as the first humans, their sin and disobedience infected the entire human race, “without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sin,” and, that Jesus was the vicarious sacrifice for us all. Paul outlined interesting theological theories, but what Paul failed to do was to show much curiosity about the historical Jesus. He was a contemporary of Jesus and Jesus' disciples, he had the opportunity to learn everything possible from these first hand witnesses, but, he showed little interest in writing much about the actual life, teaching and ministry of Jesus. Paul seems not so much interested in Jesus, but he was absorbed into the the reality of the risen Christ, the power of his resurrection.

Dr. Kinlaw in the preface to his book indicates that he believes progress is possible in Christian theology, and that this realization of progress was a breakthrough in his own thinking. I’m thinking that the hope of humanity lies in progressing beyond Paul’s theology into a more direct understanding of Jesus. I like the scripture, “We would see Jesus.” I’m inclined to believe that our theology obstructs our view. When we see Jesus, we may begin to understand how we too may be resurrected to become a new being. I wrote a contemplation, “How Did Einstein Become Einstein?” that reflected on Einstein’s flat out rejection of the notion that humans have free will. I wrote, “Einsteins don’t just pop up. It seems to me that it is likely that Einstein grew into Einstein not through the forces of causality, but, through humility, through deliberate awareness, through a commitment to truth, and, through a conscious willingness to suffer for the sake of truth. And, is that not the path to growth that is available to everyone?”

In my view, Einstein was not inevitable and neither was Jesus. It seems a rare happening that anyone grows into their potential.

A supernatural view of God sees the birth of Jesus as a miraculous event -- God breaking through nature, via a virgin birth, choirs of angels. A supernatural view sees the return of Christ, also, as God breaking though nature in a miraculous event -- the rapture -- Jesus appearing in the sky, believers taken up. A zillion dollars has been made on the Left Behind books that develop this supernatural theme. But it seems to me a dangerous view. It promulgates a belief that however badly humanity screws up -- polluting the earth with hate, injustice, hunger, war, industrial waste -- God, in the end, will perform a supernatural miracle and save true believers. This is an irrational view that thinks it is faith to pray, “Oh God, please don’t make two plus two equal four.” A faith that sees God as breaking through history and through nature to save us from our own man-made disaster, to me, seems an immature faith and, more than that, it is a faith that has a real potential of bringing humanity to disaster.

I am wondering if the hope for humanity lies in spiritual renewal, in spiritual awakening. I am wondering if this is the meaning of the Christian hope that Christ will return. Such an awakening may be humanity’s best and only hope. The hope for such awakening, it seems to me, is found in the title of my college president’s latest book, “Let’s Start With Jesus.”

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Terrell Quiz

How well do you know Terrell? Answer these 20 questions that only my closest associates woukld know. Answers are printed below the baby picture; no peeking!

1) When did I receive my first school paddling?a) First Day of Kindergarten
b) First Day of First Grade
c) First Day at Fourth Ward Elementary
d) First time I wore my Boy Scout Uniform to school.
e) I never received a paddling at school.

2) On what television show did I make my TV singing debut?a) The Arthur Godfrey Show
b) The Popeye Club
c) The Woody Willow Show
d) The Methodist Hour
e) The 4-H Hour

3) Where did I propose to Sheila?a) Cumberland Falls, KY
b) The Pocket, Floyd County, GA
c) Fort Mountain, GA
d) Stone Mountain, GA
e) New River, WV

4) What is my favorite all-time theatre role I've played so far?a) Charlie Anderson in Shenandoah
b) Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof
c) Archibald Craven in The Secret Garden
d) Prof. Marvel/The Wizard, et al in Wizard of Oz
e) Smee in Peter Pan

5) What do i collect?a) Beanie Babies
b) Newbery Award-winning books
c) Auto License Plates
d) Political Items 
e) Church plates

6) What was my lonely ten year boycott?a) Did not own a television. 
b) Did not purchase anything made in China.
c) Did not darken the door of Walmart.
d) Did not drink a carbonated beverage.
e) Avoided Disney parks, movies, etc.

7) What was the cause of multiple trips to the doctor as a toddler?a) Falling out of bed, windows, porches, and trees.
b) Bee and wasp stings.
c) Extreme allergic reactions to poison ivy.
d) Putting assorted items up my nose.
e) Inserting hairpins into electrical outlets.

8) What was the last brand-new car I purchased?a) 1969 Opal Kadette
b) 1973 Chevrolet Blazer
c) 1986 Olds Cutlass
d) 1995 Honda accord
e) 2001 Toyota Rav 4

9) What emergency occurred at my school when I was in First Grade?a) I fell from my classroom window and broke an arm.
b) The janitor was injured in a furnace explosion.
c) A little girl fell in the outdoor toilet.
d) A teacher died of a heart attack at school.
e) The school was evacuated because of a kitchen fire.

10) What cake did Aunt Mary often make for me when I visited?a) Date-nut
b) German Chocolate
c) Fresh Coconut
d) Strawberry
e) Chocolate Pound

11) What is my favorite children's book?a) The Lion's Paw 
b) Bristle Face
c) Charlotte's Web
d) Hatchet
e) Dear Mr. Henshaw

12) Which of these personal heroes have I never shaken hands with?a) Hubert Humphrey
b) Robert F. Kennedy
c) Jimmy Carter
d) Walter Mondale 
e) Barack Obama 

13) Which of these critters have I never photographed near Armuchee School?a) Fox
b) Groundhog
c) Opossum
d) Copperhead
e) Rat Snake

14) What did I name my first new car? (An Opal Kadette)a) Adolph
b) SAM 
c) Sheila
d) Lum
e) O'Pal

15) In which of these Floyd County Schools have I NOT taught?a) Alto Park
b) Cave Spring
c) Glenwood
d) Johnson
e) Krannert

16) Which of these publications did I NOT help edit?a) Out & About Georgia's Rome
b) Broadside
c) The NWGa Genealogical & Historical Quarterly
d) The Wald-Paper
e) The Coosa Valley News

17) Which is NOT part of my storytelling repertoire?a) The Foolish Frog 
b) How the Possum Learned to Play Possum 
c) Matilda Stood on a Grave 
d) The Crack of Dawn
e) Jabberwocky

18) Which book profoundly influenced my life?a) The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm 
b) The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
c) Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
d) Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
e) Bop Fables by Steve Allen 

19) How did I earn my West Rome letter jacket?a) Golf
b) Baseball
c) Band
d) Football
e) Debate

20) Which musical theatre song have I never sung on stage?a) Bring Him Home from Les Miserables 
b) Meditation from Shenandoah 
c) Lily's Eyes from The Secret Garden 
d) Over the Rainbow from Wizard of Oz
e) Do You Love Me from Fiddler on the Roof


ANSWERS:

1) When did I receive my first school paddling?

a) First Day of Kindergarten Nope. If I had attended kindergarten I might have that record as well.

b) First Day of First Grade Yep. I kept pulling the ponytail of my little church friend who sat in front of me. After several warnings Mrs. Overstreet hoisted me with one hand while applying the other to my rear.

c) First Day at Fourth Ward Elementary
d) First time I wore my Boy Scout Uniform to school.
e) I never received a paddling at school (Ha!! I have written about others -- from Mrs. Brown in Fourth Grade and Mrs. Anderson in Fifth. There were others.)

2) On what television show did I make my singing debut?a) The Arthur Godfrey Show
b) The Popeye Club
c) The Woody Willow Show
d) The Methodist Hour
e) The 4-H Hour (I sand "Around the World" as a duet with Charlese Poindexter. I was in 8th Grade)
3) Where did I propose to Sheila?


a) Cumberland Falls, KY
b) The Pocket, Floyd County, GA
c) Fort Mountain, GA (Yep. Near Holly Creek)d) Stone Mountain, GA
e) New River, WV

4) What is my favorite all-time theatre role I've played so far?


a) Charlie Anderson in Shenandoah Yep. These are my favs listed pretty much in order.)
b) Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof
c) Archibald Craven in The Secret Garden
d) Prof. Marvel/The Wizard, et al in Wizard of Oz
e) Smee in Peter Pan

5) What do i collect?


a) Beanie Babies
b) Newbery Award-winning books
c) Auto License Plates
d) Political Items (My oldest is a metal log cabin pin from Wm Henry Harrison. My favs include items from my own work in Bobby Kennedy's campaign and Jimmy Carter's campaign... and a pencil from Eugene Talmadge)
e) Church plates

6) What was my lonely ten year boycott?


a) Did not own a television. (Nope. We obtained our first TV in 1976 after 5 years of marriage. We did not purchase cable until about 1995. Nowadays we're about as addicted as the rest of teh country.)
b) Did not purchase anything made in China. (I vowed after watching that fellow face down the tanks, that if he could do that, I could at least boycott his abusers slave-produced products. I gave up after ten years -- decided perhaps in the long-run creeping capitalism might secure more rights in China than my unsupported boycott. :)
c) Did not darken the door of Walmart. (I stop by a few times a year.)
d) Did not drink a carbonated beverage. (The first thing I give up when trying to lose weight.)
e) Avoided Disney parks, movies, etc. (I love Disney animated movies. Never been to Disney parks though.)

7) What was the cause of multiple trips to the doctor as a toddler?


a) Falling out of bed, windows, porches, and trees. (That was Josh.)
b) Bee and wasp stings. (Only one major event)
c) Extreme allergic reactions to poison ivy. (That was Carol.)
d) Putting assorted items up my nose. (Yep. Gross, huh.)e) Inserting hairpins into electrical outlets.(That was my brother.)

8) What was the last brand-new car I purchased?


a) 1969 Opal Kadette (My only other new car.)
b) 1973 Chevrolet Blazer (It was a ragtop.)c) 1986 Olds Cutlass (One of many used cars we have purchased.)
d) 1995 Honda accord (One of many used cars we have purchased.)
e) 2001 Toyota Rav 4 (One of many used cars we have purchased.)

9) What emergency occurred at my school when I was in First Grade?


a) I fell from my classroom window and broke an arm.
b) The janitor was injured in a furnace explosion. (This happened during fourth grade.)
c) A little girl fell in the outdoor toilet. (Yep. I wonder whatever happened to that little girl?)d) A teacher died of a heart attack at school.
e) The school was evacuated because of a kitchen fire

10) What cake did Aunt Mary often make for me when I visited?


a) Date-nut (Mama used to make this one for me.)
b) German Chocolate (I DO NOT eat coconut!!!)
c) Fresh Coconut (See b.)
d) Strawberry (Yes!!! I loved that cake and I loved Aunt Mary.)e) Chocolate Pound

11) What is my favorite children's book?


a) The Lion's Paw (Yep. Wonderful Childen's story. The other four are also good kids' books.)b) Bristle Face (A favorite, but not THE favorite.)
c) Charlotte's Web (A favorite, but not THE favorite.)
d) Hatchet (A favorite, but not THE favorite.)
e) Dear Mr. Henshaw (A favorite, but not THE favorite.)

12) Which of these personal heroes have I never shaken hands with?


a) Hubert Humphrey (He talked with me for much longer than he had to. A wonderful man.)
b) Robert F. Kennedy (I was in a welcoming commiteee of youth at the Louisville airport, one month to the day before his assassination.)
c) Jimmy Carter ( I saw him several other times before and after he was President, but shook his hand at his church in Plains only a few years ago.)
d) Walter Mondale (Talked with him about our Methodist preacher daddies at a barbecue in Kennesaw in 1983.)
e) Barack Obama (I hope I get to meet this President one of thse days.)
13) Which of these critters have I never photographed near Armuchee School?


a) Fox (I've seen several, but haven't gotten a pic.)b) Groundhog
c) Opossum
d) Copperhead
e) Rat Snake

14) What did I name my first new car? (An Opal Kadette)


a) Adolph
b) SAM (For my then girlfriend/now wife, Sheila Ann Matthews.)c) Sheila
d) Lum
e) O'Pal

15) In which of these Floyd County Schools have I NOT taught?


a) Alto Park
b) Cave Spring (I've taught at all current elementary schools, except this one... and at two currently defunct schools. In retirement I have finally spent some time in classes at CSES.)c) Glenwood
d) Johnson
e) Krannert

16) Which of these publications did I NOT help edit?


a) Out & About Georgia's Rome (magazine 1988-1995)
b) Broadside  (weekly newspaper 1988-1995)
c) The NWGa Genealogical & Historical Quarterly  (eighties & nineties)
d) The Wald-Paper (MYF Billy Walden sub-district newsletter)
e) The Coosa Valley News (This is the one... not sure this was the name of the one I'm thinking of)
17) Which is NOT part of my storytelling repertoire?


a) The Foolish Frog (One of my old standbys written by Pete Seeger)b) How the Possum Learned to Play Possum (Another mainstay and a variation of a JC Harris story)
c) Matilda Stood on a Grave (One I wrote myself, based on an old folk ghost story.)
d) The Crack of Dawn (A great story by Donald Davis, but I don't tell it.)e) Jabberwocky (The poem by Louis Carroll that I include in many performances.)

18) Which book profoundly influenced my life?


a) The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm (The basic idea that love is a decision was a revelation to me that radically changed my life for the better.)b) The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
c) Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
d) Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
e) Bop Fables by Steve Allen (An influence on my storytelling, but not on my core principles. :))

19) How did I earn my West Rome letter jacket?


a) Golf
b) Baseball (OK, I was statistician. I never could hit or catch or throw, but I love the game. And it got me a letter.)c) Band
d) Football
e) Debate

20) Which musical theatre song have I never sung on stage?


a) Bring Him Home from Les Miserables (I love to sing this song. I have performed it several times.)
b) Meditation from Shenandoah (I had six solos in Shenandoah. This is the one we took to innumerable civic clubs to promote the show.)
c) Lily's Eyes from The Secret Garden (I love this one and am singing the duet with MYSELF in my voice class currently.)
d) Over the Rainbow from Wizard of Oz (Great song. Never sang it on stage.)e) Do You Love Me from Fiddler on the Roof (One of my favorite moments on stage is this poignant little  song.)