Monday, January 31, 2011

Final Report

"Cleveland, Ohio and Cuyahoga County are my home. If events come together that take me and my family to another location, it will be as a result of opportunities presented as a result of what we have learned and gained from our lives here.

"My work has given me a greater appreciation for my hometown, and made me look closer at every person, every building, every public space. Cleveland has suffered greatly through the second half of the 20th Century and I do not have the answers as how to make it a thriving metropolis again. Even during the depths of the Depression, Cleveland was a thriving, throbbing place where things were happening. I can be part of that -- indeed, I have spent all of my creative energies striving to be exactly that. The Community Partnership for Arts and Culture and Cuyahoga Arts and Culture have invested in me as an artist, and I promise to make a strong return on that investment."

Creative Workforce Fellowship Final Report
Filed at 5:59 AM, January 31, 2011

David Hansen from CPAC on Vimeo.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Elvis Presley

Yes, the 50s. In Cleveland. The birthplace of Rock n' Roll, where a riot where no music was played, certainly none anyone could hear, and was broken up during the first song, has been declared the first rock concert. That was in 1952.

None of the characters in These Are The Times would have listened to "rock and roll" during the 1950s, not even the younger ones. That was strictly for teenagers. However, it happened. And there is history.

Elvis Presely was 19 years old in mid-1954 when he recorded That's All Right in Memphis, Tennessee. And that is a dynamite freaking record. At that time they called what he was doing "rockabilly" and one of his nicknames was "The Hillbilly Cat." For the time being, he was strictly a Southern phenomenon ... until October 20, 1955 when he played his first gig above the Mason-Dixon Line.

Brooklyn High School (that's Brooklyn, Ohio) held a rock n' roll concert that night, crafted by DJ Bill Randle, and starring Bill Haley & The Comets, The Four Lads and Pat Boone. Elvis was an unknown addition to the bill.
Randle had been playing their records in Cleveland since January and still thinking he had spotted a winner, he plugged the "sensational young singer" in his Oct. 1, 1955, newspaper column, "Randle on Record," as the singer "whose style is a combination of hillbilly nasalties, rock ’n’ roll, Johnnie Ray and a peculiar sound all his own. The new phenomenon looks like Tony Curtis and drives a pink and black Cadillac. Watch him roar."
Elvis was wearing an orange suit. His set included Mystery Train, That’s All Right, Blue Moon of Kentucky, Good Rockin' Tonight and I Forgot to Remember to Forget.

Autographs for Cleveland girls


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Cleveland Play House 1954-1955 Season

CPH Curtain Pullers Production of "Hamlet"
Cleveland is the best legitimate theatre town west of New York. Last season saw 82 professional and semi-professional productions, 23 of which were musicals ... The Play House had the highest record of productions with 19 shows, the Hanna had 16 touring attractions, Karamu 13 shpws, Chagrin Falls Summer Theatre 12 plays, Musicarnival 9 musicals, Rabbit Run 9 plays, and Cain Park 4 musicals. - Omar Ranney, The Cleveland Press
The Cleveland Play House 1954-1955 Season
Point of No Return (Osborn) The Fourposter (De Hartog) The Crucible (Miller) The Girl on the Via Flamina (Hayes) My Three Angels (Spewack) The Winner (Rice) Material Witness (Kantor) Best Foot Forward (Holm, Martin & Blane) Sabrina Fair (Taylor) The Emperor Jones (O'Neill) Mrs. McThing (Chase) Burning Bright (Steinbeck) Dail M For Murder (Knott) Time Out For Ginger (Alexander) A Bear In The Attic (Kanzell-Riley - World Premiere) Hamlet (Shakespeare) King of Hearts (Kerr-Brooke) Julius Caesar (Shakespeare) The Caine Mutiny Court Martial (Wouk) Night Must Fall (E. Williams)
Source: Leaps of Faith (Oldenberg)

Monday, January 24, 2011

McDermott's end

"He was a pale, round-faced, little man, with a skyscraper forehead, small hands, thin fingers, and an unexercised body, who kept puffing cigars as if he were laying down a barrage. But he had a cherub's bright smile, eyes bright as searchlights, and a giant's courage." - John Mason Brown, New York Evening Post critic
McDermott retired from the Plain Dealer in 1957, as he approached his 67th birthday. He was ill for most of the 1950s, once famously treated to a private performance of Katherine Cornell's production of Captain Carvello in his Bratenahl apartment in 1951 when he was too sickly to make the trip downtown.

William F. McDermott died in 1958.

Leaps of faith (Chloe Warner Oldenberg)
Showtime in Cleveland

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Jazz at Oberlin

"Jazz at Oberlin" was an extremely popular record for Brubeck’s quartet and a smashing success in the Oberlin community. The concert and album presented an audience largely uneducated in jazz with some of the genres finest players, all performing at the top of their game. And while a successful jazz concert at Oberlin these days is a regular occurrence, such was not the case in 1953, when the concert halls at Oberlin were filled with Bach, Beethoven, Brahms — and occasionally Bartök — but not with Basie or Baker.

- Oberlin Online
On March 2, 1953 The Dave Brubeck Quartet played Oberlin. And my father was there. The quartet was Dave (never David) Brubeck on piano, Paul Desmond on alto saxophone, Ron Crotty on the bass and Lloyd Davis on drums.
The concert had all the ingredients of a major disaster. Aside from Oberlin’s indifference toward jazz, Brubeck and his outstanding saxophonist, Paul Desmond, had just had an argument, bass player Ron Crotty had just been given his notice, and drummer Lloyd Davis was ill with the flu and had a 103-degree fever.

- Joe Mosbrook, Jazzed in Cleveland
My father was seventeen, in his senior year at Lakewood High School. The night in question was a Monday night, otherwise he is sure he could have gotten someone to go with him. But as it was a school night he could not, so he drove to the Oberlin Conservatory of Music on his own, and experienced was he still calls “one of the greatest musical experiences I ever had.”

Brubeck also later called that night's gig, "the best thing we’ve ever done."

Tracks included on the original LP include These Foolish Things (Reminds Me Of You), Perdido, Stardust, The Way You Look Tonight and How High The Moon.
Back in 1953 any form of on-location recording was by no means a commonplace event. So much of the technology that is taken for granted today had not even been imagined: to record during ‘live’ performance meant setting up a portable machine for one-track (monaural) taping, using relatively insensitive microphones and no monitoring systems, with little or no physical or acoustic control over the surroundings.

- Orrin Keepnews in the liner notes for a 1986 CD release
My father was turned onto jazz by a guy whose name he cannot remember who worked at Lamp’s Melody Lane on Detroit, just around the corner from his home on Mars. This fellow (in his 20s? 30s? Dad’s not sure) “inculcated” my father with jazz -- and lots of other music, too. In fact, when I was speaking with him about it tonight, he was remembering how the piece he heard the Cleveland Orchestra play this weekend, Bartök’s Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta, was first played for him by this guy at Melody Lane.

When my father went to college he found the opportunity to go with friends to other jazz clubs, though most were pretty strict about not letting people under 21 in. He found most of them to be integrated -- mostly black clientele -- but from his perspective no one really cared.

My senior year in high school I saw Maynard Ferguson at Rocky River High School. Not the same thing.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Lou Groza

Right in the middle of the post-game argument between Frank Kilroy of the Eagles and Lou Groza of the Browns was Russ Gestner, business manager of the Browns. The angry Groza finally was restrained from belting Kilroy. The Toe charged that Kilroy elbowed him in the face.

The Browns beat the Eagles 6-0, improving their record to 6-2 for the 1954 season. (Nov. 22, 1954)

- Cleveland Press photo by Fred Bottomer
Louis Roy "The Toe" Groza (January 25, 1924 - November 29, 2000) played his entire career for the Cleveland Browns. Back in the day, people used to commit to one team. The son of Eastern European immigrants, Groza was the shortest of his three brothers, growing to only 6'3".

While playing for OSU, Groza was drafted and upon discharge began playing for the Browns (1946-1959, brief retirement, 1961-1967.) He was an offensive tackle, but also an astonishing kicker, which is how he got the nickname The Toe, and not for some other reason.
Groza’s signature season came in 1954, when he was named NFL Player of the Year as a powerhouse offensive tackle and steady straight-ahead kicker who converted 16 of 24 field goals and 37 of 38 extra points. The season ended with Groza leading the way for the Cleveland offense in a 56-10 destruction of Detroit in the NFL championship game.

- Cold, Hard Football
In 1954 the Browns went 9-3 for the season. It was the last year the Browns would ever win an NFL championship. Ever.

Cleveland Press
Cleveland Memory Project

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Ann Kathryn Flagg

Born in Charleston, West Virginia and a graduate of West Virginia State College, Ann Kathryn Flagg (1924-1970) was first a high school teacher before coming to Karamu House in 1952 to be Director of the Children's Theatre. In Cleveland she performed the title roles of Antigone and Lysistrata
Jet Magazine, February 20, 1964
"Great Gettin' Up Mornin" drama by Negro playwright Ann Flagg on Repertoire Workshop (Saturday, February 15 at 2:30 p.m., EST) on CBS-TV
The American Alliance for Theater & Education currently awards the Ann Flagg Multicultural Award to "an individual, organization or company making significant contributions to the field of theatre/drama for youth or arts education dealing with multicultural issues and/or reaching diverse audiences and constituencies."

The West Virginia Encyclopedia
Jet Magazine
American Alliance for Theatre & Education

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Crucible

TRG Reality
As I got into my car to leave, Molly Kazan came out of the house ... It was impossible to keep looking into her distraught eyes.

She pointed out toward the road and told me that I no longer understood the country, that everybody who lived on that road approved of the Committee and what had been done.

After I had said that I ould not agree with their decision, she asked if I was staying at my house, a half hour away, and I said that I was on my way to Salem.

Her eyes widened in sudden apprehension. "You're not going to equate witches with this!"

- Arthur Miller, Timebends
Arthur Miller's play The Crucible debuted at the Martin Beck Theatre in New York City in January, 1953. It was not a roaring success.
"Arthur Miller is a problem playwright in both senses of the word." - Walter Kerr, Herald Tribune

"There is too much excitement and not enough emotion in The Crucible." - The New York Times
The original production was directed by an idiot, Jed Harris, who believed that since this was a period piece the performers should perform "classically" which in his mind meant everyone had to face out at the audience, never looking at each other. If you know anything about the play, or have seen the movie adaptation, you can see how this would not serve the text.
"The Crucible" was an act of desperation. Much of my desperation branched out, I suppose, from a typical Depression-era trauma - the blow struck on the mind by the rise of European Fascism and the brutal anti-Semitism it had brought to power. But by 1950, when I began to think of writing about the hunt for Reds in America, I was motivated in some great part by the paralysis that had set in among many liberals who, despite their discomfort with the inquisitors' violations of civil rights, were fearful, and with good reason, of being identified as covert Communists if they should protest too strongly.

- Arthur Miller, The New Yorker, October 1996
Put simply, Miller wrote this play in response to the House Committee on Un-American Activities ongoing efforts to publicly name and shame present and former members of the Communist Party, or anyone who even had affiliations with the Communist Party.

What I have found most ironic (when Great Lakes Theater Festival produced The Crucible a few years ago, and I played Miller in the original drama Seeing Red) is it was not Miller's own persecution before HUAC that inspired the piece. That came a few years later. And his testimony at that time makes you wonder if he were channeling the spirit of John Proctor, or if Proctor's psyche is so much a product of Miller's own he couldn't help but be surprised and shocked (in the way that Proctor is) that grown men choose or refuse not to respond to reason.
From Seeing Red by Daniel Hahn
adapted from Arthur Miller's Testimony before the House Committee on Un-American Activities
June 14, 1956

Do you know or have you know a person by the name of Arnaud d’Usseau?

I have met him.

Have you been in any Communist Party sessions with Arnaud d’Usseau?

I was present at meetings of Communist Party writers in 1947, about five or six meetings.

Where were those meetings held?

They were held in someone’s apartment. I don’t know whose it was.

Were those meetings closed?

I wouldn’t be able to tell you that.

Was anyone there who, to your knowledge, was not a Communist?

I wouldn’t know that.

Have you ever made application for membership in the Communist Party?

In 1939, I believe it was, or in 1940, I went to attend a Marxist study course in the vacant store open to the street in my neighborhood in Brooklyn. I there signed some form or another.

That was an application for membership in the Communist Party, was it not?

I would not say that. I am here to tell you what I know.

Tell us what you know.

This is now sixteen years ago. That is half a lifetime away. I don’t recall, and I haven’t been able to recall and, if I could, I would tell you the exact nature of that application. I understood then that this was to be, as I have said, a study course. I was there for about three or four times, perhaps. It was of no interest to me and I didn’t return.

Who invited you to attend?

I wouldn’t remember. It was a long time ago.

Tell us, if you please, sir, about these meetings with the Communist Party writers which you said you attended in New York City.

I attended these meetings in order to locate my ideas in relation to Marxism, because I had been assailed for years by all kinds of interpretations of what Communism was, what Marxism was, and I went there to discover where I stood. And I listened and said very little, I think, the four or five times.

What occasioned your presence? Who invited you there?

I couldn’t tell you. I don’t know.

Can you tell us who was there when you walked into the room?

Mr. Chairman, I understand the philosophy behind this question and I want you to understand mine. When I say this, I want you to understand that I am not protecting the Communists or the Communist Party. I am trying to, and I will, protect my sense of myself. I could not use the name of another person and bring trouble on him. I ask you not to ask me that question. I will tell you anything about myself, as I have.

These were Communist Party meetings, were they not?

I will be perfectly frank with you in anything relating to my activities. I take the responsibility for everything I have ever done, but I cannot take responsibility for another human being.

This record shows, does it not, Mr. Miller, that these were Communist Party meetings? Is that correct?

I understood them to be Communist writers who were meeting regularly.

I respectfully suggest that you answer the question as to who it was that you saw at these meetings. May I say that moral scruples, however laudable, do not constitute legal reason for refusing to answer the question. You are directed to answer the question, Mr. Miller.

All I can say, sir, is that my conscience will not permit me to use the name of another person.

Your are directed to answer the question as to whether or not Arnaud d’Usseau was chairman of the meeting of the Communist Party writers in New York City in 1947 at which you were in attendance.

I have given you my answer, sir.

I ask you now, sir, whether or not Sue Warren was in attendance at this meeting of the Communist Party writers held in New York City in 1947?

I have given you my answer.

Do you know Sue Warren? Did you decline to answer the question?

I tell you, sir, that I have given my answer.

I am not satisfied with that. That is entirely too vague. Now what I want is a positive statement as to whether or not you will answer that question.

Sir, I believe I have given you the answer that I must give.

Let us get that straight. As I understand, you decline to answer the question for the reason that you gave when you declined to answer the first question, or at least when you gave an answer that was not deemed acceptable, is that it?

That is correct.

Are you cognizant of the fact that your play The Crucible, with respect to witch hunts in 1692, was the case history of a series of articles in the Communist press drawing parallels to the investigations of Communists and other subversives by Congressional committees?

The comparison is inevitable, sir.
The Crucible received its Cleveland premiere at the Cleveland Play House in 1954. More on that soon.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Wow. Don't know how I missed this.

Source: Special Collections & Archives (SC&A), George Mason University Libraries

Monday, January 17, 2011

Cleveland NAACP

Cleveland NAACP President Dr. James E. Levy
Ohio To Drop Race Labels On School Records
Jet, March 31, 1955

Racial labels on the records of Ohio school children will be discontinued beginning with the 1954-55 school year, it was announced in Cleveland by NAACP President. Dr. James E. Levy. The NAACP had protested school district reports listing children according to race.
In the 1940s and 50s, the Cleveland NAACP spearheaded nation efforts to eliminate discrimination in housing, employment and education, as well as in public places such as amusement parks.

Euclid Beach Park, for example, has a history of aggression against African-Americans. Dating back to the turn of the 20th century the park had a policy of admitting blacks only on certain days, and they employed a private security force to deal with "unwelcome guests."

These policies reached a head in the summer of 1946 when the American Youth for Democracy, the United Negroes and Allied Veterans of America, and the National Negro Congress came together to send small numbers of black and white people together into the park together. Attendants were beaten by policeman, and in one case an officer shot himself in the leg during a scuffle.

Cleveland City Council passed legislation to revoke the license from any park that was found to discriminate. Euclid Beach got around this law by selling the dance pavilion to an independent business entity that could run it as a private club.

Euclid Beach Park is closed for the season.

Cleveland Memory Project
Encyclopedia of Cleveland History
Jet Magazine

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Anthony J. Celebrezze

Anthony Joseph Celebrezze Sr. (September 4, 1910 – October 29, 1998) was the 49th Mayor of Cleveland, elected to office in 1953 and remaining there until 1962. He served an unprecedented five two-year terms (Cleveland mayors have been elected to four-year terms since 1979.)

Cleveland was at that time run by a tightly-organized Democratic party, and the Italian-American Celebrezze was not their candidate. Credit is often given to the endorsement of Louis B. Seltzer, editor of the Cleveland Press, for the victory. However, Seltzer may have simply been aware of the strong popularity Celebreeze had among the citizens of Cleveland and threw his support behind the apparent victor. He was also supported by Ohio Governor (and former Cleveland mayor) Frank Lausche.

During his tenure over $140 million was spent on urban renewal projects, including the construction of the Red Line, connecting the East and West Side. In addition, much attention was paid to construction of the freeway system to bring those who were moving to the suburbs easier transit into the city. However, he was also the champion of Erieview, a plan to revitalize the vanishing downtown population by razing old buildings close to the lake and creating vast high-rises and lots of parking. The razing of old housing stock took place, but the rebuilding never materialized, with the exception of the big, ugly, vacant Erieview Tower.

Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The City

The Cleveland-based comic strip artist Derf announced yesterday that, "Cleveland Scene dumped my strip." This says little about his talent or popularity (which are great) or his penchant for controversy (which are legend.) It does speak volumes about the state of print journalism.

I remember those grand, heady days of the late 1990s, when both the Free Times (assimilated by Scene a few years ago) and Cleveland Scene were as thick as phone books with ads and content. Of course, they were both kicking the crap out of each other, hemorrhaging cash in the battle to dominate the free weekly market. But it was fun for the readers (especially when they chose to dump on each other) and made Cleveland feel like a place where things were actually happening.

If you haven't picked up a Scene in sometime, and of course most people haven't (no swipe at Scene in particular, I mean really, it's made out of paper) you will sigh at how thin it is, and you don't even need to open it to know most of its weight is dedicated to the advertisement of sex work.

Not, as they say, as if there is anything wrong with that.

So cutting the last cartoon from the paper (as Derf reports, there used to be six) should surprise no one.

Except, of course, that we are talking about The City.

"The City" by Derf
I have been reading Derf's work (real name: John Backderf ... if that is his real name) pretty much since the strip began in the pages of the Cleveland Edition back in the year 1990. One of my favorite strips arrived shortly after I moved to Cleveland Heights, and describes the long-nightmare of a West Sider losing his way during a drive to visit someone on the East Side.

The protagonist is horrified by the sight of minorities, confounded by the arcane traffic patterns, and his desiccated corpse is discovered months later, still inside his parked car (which is now festooned with Cleveland Heights parking tickets) with a note reading, "I wish I could have one more slice of Player's pizza."

The original hangs in a frame at Players on Madison.

The City continues to be published in many national magazines, and one of the things I have always enjoyed is the fact that "The City" isn't some generic city, it has always been Cleveland, and he never changed that to accommodate different markets. He would create special, full-page illustrations for the covers of the Edition, Free Times and Scene dealing with local issues, but the familiarity of the strip itself gave me a warm feeling, knowing my town was being shared with the world.

How "my town" will cope when the strip about itself is no longer available on its streets is a question. First, the loss of American Splendor, and now this.

In one of the solo works I will be presenting in April (and any subject is really about me, isn't it?) the character of Pengo is a flailing cartoonist. His professional journey follows its own path, one which is a shadow of mine. Pengo has some success as an underground cartoonist, even becoming art director for the Free Times in the mid-1990s, which features his syndicated strip called Angst.

"Angst" by Cat Kenney

You know what say about imitation. Sucks that they cut you, Derf. But I think I know who will be publishing longer.

UPDATE 8/29/2011: " Attention Clevelandites! My comic strip THE CITY will debut in the Cleveland Plain Dealer on Monday, Sept. 12." - Derf

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Lady

I am a devoted Heights Schools parent. Perhaps I could do more to contribute to the betterment of my children’s education, but I am doing what I can. I attend PTA meetings, volunteer when possible. I cannot describe the joy I felt being able to bring the GLTF School Residency Program, to which I have devoted the past ten years of my life, to a school where my own child could experience it.

My daughter and my taxes go to Noble Elementary School.

Noble Elementary c. 1960

Last year when she was in first grade I heard there was going to be a Black History Month program, featuring a short play. Even then I began trying to come up with an idea for a play I could write which would be suitable, from the point of view of appropriate, and entertaining, and worthwhile content -- as well as something that was practical, that ten year-old could memorize and perform on a minimal (non-existent) budget.

What emerged is my new ten-minute play, The Lady. If the subject is Black History, then I didn’t just want to write about slavery, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass or anything like that. Not that these stories aren’t important, they are. But I was reminded of my daughter’s American Girl dolls - the only African-American doll is Addy Walker, a runaway slave girl from 1864. No South Side Chicago girl doll from 1964, nor the Black daughter of a Republican Representative doll from 1994. Just the former slave girl doll. We have all come so far, and there are so many stories.

When it became evident that Michelle Obama would be our first African-American First Lady, historians went to work and discovered family history she herself was unaware of, stretching back to the pre-Civil War era on her mother’s side. Using the simple framework of an interview for my play, Mrs. Obama sets the scene for three vignettes which reference not only the voyage from slavery, but also the Great Migration and the rise of the Black Middle Class. In seven pages.

I met today with the Young Ladies of Noble, a group of select fifth grade girls, who will be performing this work in late February. They were all very excited. It was delightful to hear them read it out loud. I will be joining them several times in during the next six weeks to direct the piece. I think we are all going to have a lot of fun.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


The Cleveland neighborhood called Tremont sits west of the Cuyahoga and South of Ohio City. It is a stunning, ramshackle, exciting and sometimes dangerous downtown industrial/residential neighborhood, featuring over a dozen attractive churches including Pilgrim Congregational UCC (founded in 1859), St. Michael the Archangel Church (1888), St. Augustine (1893), St. John Cantius (1898), and St. Theodosius Russian Orthodox Cathedral (1912). It is also home to Lemko Hall.

It was the site of the short-lived Cleveland University in the 1850s, a fact which gave name to the still-extant Literary Rd. and Professor and College Avenues. The neighborhood was called Cleveland Heights, then University Heights, and finally Tremont after the Tremont School, founded in 1910.

Homebase to a fastener manufacturer, the neighborhood was home to working-class immigrants following a familiar cycle -- the Irish and Germans in the late 1800s, followed by Poles, then Greeks by the end of the century, and also Syrians and by the 1950s a large population of Ukrainians. By 1954, Puerto Ricans were joining the population, and they play an important part of Tremont's neighborhood today.

Lincoln Park is a center of public activity, bounded by West 14th and West 11th Streets and Kenilworth and Starkweather Streets. A memory of Lincoln Park ...
"Sundays people would gather on the grass and benches to chat with friends or play cards, checkers, dominos and chess on the picnic tables. Some would bring picnic baskets from home while others stopped after church. Children played soccer or played at the pond that was in the center of the park, they also had a carousel and swings, too.

"Water fountains were at the corners of the park off Kenilworth/West 11th and West 14th and Starkweather. There were bushes completely around the whole park and Post Lamps that lit up the park at night. They had toilets, but Mom remembers them being dirty. Mom seemed to think there were no sidewalks on the inside of the park in the early days, but brother Mike says there were always there.

"I remember goldfish in the pond and Mike says they broke ground in 1957 to put the swimming pool in that still stands today. Swimming was free from 7 years old and up, but you had to sign in your name and age before getting in. They would check our toes and make us take a quick outside shower spray before getting through the bar gates. Wednesday was Family night for swimming where parents could come. Teenagers would climb the fence and skinny dip late nights, too."
- Maria Cairns-Yuras
Encyclopedia of Cleveland History
Cleveland Memory Project
Tremont History Project

Further reflection

More on the first reading:

ES: More fun to play with the ironies of what we already know … I was trying to avoid this (see: RED) but I can’t help myself, too much commentary has slipped in. And people enjoy them.

The Torso Murders … I did not ask for clarity on this, but I am afraid I have not been clear. My theory has been replaced by another serial killer. I need to make that crystal.

It takes a long time to “get into” the play because we do not know who we are following. Bernard needs to emerge earlier as a focus.

ML: The first scene has an awful lot of slang, which makes what is already a scene which is challenging to follow almost impossible to follow.

KM: REALLY loves the Valediction. So I got that right. I need to make sure where he is and what is going on is also crystal. Some got the final line - and some totally misunderstood it, and that is my responsibility.

Monday, January 10, 2011

First Reading

Shared the first draft of Centennial with the Playwrights' Unit this evening. This is a play which, after conducting non-stop research for four weeks, both here and in New York, I did not know how to begin. And there it is. Yay oh me.

I was delighted to share all of my really young GLTF actor-teacher friends with the Unit, as they read all the parts. In my wildest fantasies, it really is playable with eight actors. We will see about that. I commend Debbie, Bobby and Kristy for jumping in with no rehearsal what so ever -- can I send a special shout-out to Debbie for delightfully playing the eterenally upbeat Voice of the Living Newspaper! Also on hand were (in alphabetical order) Annie, Brian, Carrie, Nathan, Steven and Tim. Especially Annie, who was given the responsibility to sing a capella before the play had even really started.

So, where am I? In a good, good place. Really good. Is there work to be done, to be sure. But I didn’t even know where the hell I was, and that has changed. I know where I am, and hopefully where I am going.

DM made a very simply, and helpful point. The first third is a "valentine" to Cleveland, the second third dense with politics (which left her a bit sleepy) and the final third all about Bernard. This is good to know. TKT does not agree, exactly, but that does not mean it is not a helpful observation.

There were difficulties in following certain physical gags, especially anything involving the appearance of both Sam and Bernard in the same scene. I got that, I can clear that up.

TKT also pointed up how the relationship between Bernard and Johnny is implied submerged, glancing. Where the emotional weight of this relationship, what is at stake? That can be improved by a re-written opening scene. I am planning on trashing most of what is said there for something stronger.

In what way, stronger? Well, as EC pointed up, the journey of Eliot Ness, from young hotshot to troubled husband and cop is very clear, whereas Bernard’s journey from schlep to player is not. That needs to be obvious in that first scene.

There is a great deal of cutting necessary in the verbatim text, especially the political rhetoric. I have already cut a great deal there. And I can cut so much more. And I am looking forward to it.

The history, especailly the theater history went over big. I have played with the historical record a little to tell a good story, and I need to do this more.

Certain turns of phrase made me happy. LK loved the line, “You can’t eat gold medals” (Jesse Owens actually said that.) AH was made aware of Cleveland as a former major player, and she said it made her feel proud. KM said it told a great story about what it means to be an American. BM said it shows not much in America has changed since then.

There is so much more I could share, and I will. DM promised me a list of places where people explain too much. I am looking forward to that. It is all part of an extremely helpful process. I love not being alone.

2010 Creative Workforce Fellow

David Hansen from CPAC on Vimeo.

Sunday, January 9, 2011


There was a fad sweeping the post-War American - the tent theater! I had no idea. In Warrensville Heights that meant the establishment of the venerable MUSICARNIVAL in 1954.

The mast-and-cable tent structure remained year-round (next to Thistledown racetrack) but only in the temperature months would the tent go up, providing cover for musical acts and originally produced productions for a potential 1,500 patrons (when it originally opened - this number would grow to 2,500 in later years) seated in the round.

The first production, Oklahoma! opened on June 25, 1954.

Sunday afternoon jazz concerts were very popular.

Encyclopedia of Cleveland History
Doing Hard Time in Shaker Heights
The Music Went 'Round and Around (John Vacha)

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Literary Cafe Talk Show

The Literary Cafe in Tremont used to host a talk show, and I was a guest in January 2000 to promote Bad Epitaph Theater Company and our upcoming production of Lysistrata. These programs would be recorded in the backroom during normal evening business hours - a small room with a live band crammed into it. In this episode I got to speak to the lovely Lara about Guerrilla Theater Company and how Aristophanes was like the "Capitol Steps."

On Feller: The Finale

1954 Topps card

In 1954, at the age of 35, Bob Feller was still playing for the Indians - the only professional team he would ever play for, children. He missed four seasons in the early 40s when he registered for the military the day after Pearl Harbor, the first Major League Player to do so (though hardly the only one.) Think about that, children.

When Jackie Robsinson was tapped to be the first African-American ball player in the Major Leagues, Feller infamously said, "If he were a white man, I doubt if they would even consider him big-league material."
In 1954, Hall of Famer-to-be Feller was the No. 5 starter for a Cleveland Indians team that won 111 games in a 154-game season. All he could do—at age 35—was throw nine complete games in 19 starts and compile a 13-3 record with a 3.09 earned run average.
- The Hardball Times
Regarding "The Catch":
Bob Feller: A lot of center fielders could have caught the ball Mays caught. He put on the act pretty good; he always did. He let his hat fly off, then threw the ball back to the infield. The ball was hit into a small wind. The ball came down like a popup. He was playing shallow, but Vic Wertz was the hitter, so he should not have been playing shallow.

Dennis Manoloff: So you're not impressed by the catch.

Bob Feller: Not at all. Not at all.

- The Plain Dealer, April 2010
The Plain Dealer
The Hardball Times

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Compass

David Shepherd came from east Coast money, and frustrated with his bourgeois upbringing moved to Chicago where he yearned to break the shackles of "European-dominated" theater. Teaming up with Paul Sills, they formed a cabaret revue in the back room of a bar near the University of Chicago. Sills, mentoring under his mother Viola Spolin (one of the few notable mother-son working relationships in the history of, well, history) developed a series of improvised theater games, which became the cornerstone of the production.

Shepherd wanted to present a modern version of The Living Newspaper, creating scenarios about every life from the paper and fleshing them out on stage utilizing improv techniques. In order to pad the show, however, the young performers of what became know as The Compass (1955-1958) began taking audience suggestions and winging it, creating wildly inventive scenes using the same techniques.

Original memebers included Elaine May, Mike Nichols, Severn Darden, Shelly Berman and Barbara Harris, among others. More on this soon.

Source: Wikipedia

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

1954 World Series

"Mays spears it, spins, and fires it back to the infield.
A spectator slaps himself in the head."

- Mark Winegardner, Crooked River Burning

After a six year absence, the Cleveland Indians returned to the World Series, this time against the New York Giants. During Game 1 which Willie Mays made "The Catch." Cleveland sports are always about "what if" and if Mays hadn't made "The Catch" (or if the wall at the Polo Grounds had been just a bit closer) then the river would never have caught fire, the Hough riots would never have happened, the city would never have gone into Default, LeBron would never have left, and so on.

But we're talking about Willie Mays. Show the man some respect.

In any event, Cleveland has never made a World Series appearance since.

There are those who speculate that Cleveland's major league woes are due to some "curse." Boston had a curse, right? Why not us. Must be a curse. The name "Rocky Colavito" is tossed around, but really, who the hell is that? I know who Babe Ruth is, Rocky Colavito is some made-up name. Classic Cleveland "me-too" action.

In 1946, two years prior to the last World Series victory Cleveland will ever have, the team adopted a charming new logo:

By 1954 they were using this logo, which is either more or less offensive, as if you could measure such things:

You want a curse? There's your curse.

And so in 1954, the New York Giants swept the Indians in the World Series.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Sam Sheppard

Let's dig right in, shall we?

Dr. Samuel Holmes Sheppard (December 29, 1923 – April 6, 1970) was an osteopath who lived in Bay Village, Ohio, my hometown.

The end, moving on.

*Big sigh.*

Okay, let's try again.

Dr. Samuel Holmes Sheppard (December 29, 1923 – April 6, 1970) was an osteopath, living in Bay Village, Ohio. He was married to Marilyn Reese Sheppard, mother to their son, Sam, whom they called Chip.

In the early morning on July 4, 1954 Marilyn was brutally murdered in their lakefront home. Sheppard gave conflicting reports about the events in question, claiming he had seen a "bushy-haired intruder" assaulting her, with whom he got into a fight and was knocked out. Pursuing the assailant to the beach, he was struck unconscious again.

The trail of Sam Sheppard for the murder of his wife ... Jesus, I can't even write this, everybody knows this story. The Fugutive, The Cleveland Press, Louis Seltzer, F. Lee Bailey, it makes my head hurt.

How's this ... the made-for-TV movie Guilty or Innocent: The Sam Sheppard Murder Case was released on November 17, 1975 starring George Peppard as Dr. Sam. Someone in my family watched it. It couldn't have been my father - he had absolutely no interest in this case, the man was guilty, full stop. It was probably Denny, who was in eighth grade. In any event, I took in this horrid story, told in the form of a horrid TV movie, at the tender age of seven. My daughter is seven.

So, since the second grade I have been aware of this gruesome tale, of what the word "bludgeon" means, to know that justice does not exist, that truth can be unknown, what the 46 year-old George Peppard looked like without a shirt ... a child does not need to know these things.

And to think that it happened in my home town.