November Shows: Glengarry Glen Ross and The Crucible

Theatre season in Buffalo has been off to a strong start. During Curtain Up week in September I was able to catch two excellent comedies: the charming adaptation Killer Rack at Alleyway and Noel Coward’s coruscant Design For Living at Irish Classical. Drama, however, is the flavor for November. Theatregoers have two fine choices in Glengarry Glen Ross at Road Less Traveled and The Crucible at Kavinoky.

Glengarry Glen Ross

In the age of Zillow, the basics of the play – an all-male real estate office fixated on index-card leads – seem a little dated. But RLTP has proven that the play is timeless – and ferociously relevant right now.

… Like these salesman we are all poor players, we are all walking shadows, strutting and fretting our hour upon the stage; we are full of sound and fury and we aren’t sure if anyone is listening: if there is someone out there, above us or behind the eyes we meet on the subway, at a Chinese restaurant, in the office, in bed, all we care is that they “sign on the line which is dotted.” All we want is to close; but as Glengarry Glen Ross demonstrates so powerfully, there is no final “closure,” and winning the Cadillac El Dorado “signifies nothing”: There is only the next sucker, the next sale, the next word in a neverending monologue. When Levene gloats to Williamson, “A man’s his job and you’re f*cked at yours,” he could, really, be speaking to any of us.

The Crucible

Proctor is talking about the witch trials. Because Arthur Miller is the author, Proctor is also talking about 1950s American anti-communist hysteria, another “crucible” in our history, which would sweep up and imperil Miller and some of his closest friends around the time of the play’s composition (1953). And because we are the audience and our year is 2017, John Proctor is also talking about the American Kangaroo Court culture and its Tweeter in Chief, where to prosecute is to hold power, to accuse is to claim privilege, and there is only safety in the transference of blame.

… Though occasionally slow and imbalanced overall, at its emotional crescendos (which are not, usually, the play’s loudest parts), masterful performances will carry away all the audience’s doubts, quibbles, and objections about this admirable production.

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New Music Reviews on The Skinny: Kendrick Lamar, BadBadNotGood, Gorillaz, Beach Fossils

I’ve had the chance to review some solid albums recently. All have appeared in The Skinny.

From my review of Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN.:

The themes are familiar from earlier efforts – but this is more obviously an effort, a struggle. Appropriately then, he laconically raps on YAH., ‘I’m a Israelite, don’t call me black no mo’.’ He’s mining a deep vein – many African American artists have appropriated Old Testament narratives to describe their social and political experience. Here, though, Lamar really is Israel: “he who struggles with God.”

From my review of BadBadNotGood’s contribution to the Late Night Tales project:

You may spend a lifetime searching record store new acquisitions bins; once you find voices like these, you don’t let them get too far away. BadBadNotGood have packed more than a dozen little viruses into this disk, and once you hear it, you’ll be spreading the ill, too.

From my review of Gorillaz’ Humanz:

There will be work to do, yes, and failures – but there will also always be another party to plan, and it turns out that’s a more important task than we realised. Humanz, then, is what we need right now: an interruption, a challenge, an unfamiliar encounter, a good party – a message of hope that doesn’t seem naive.

From my review of Beach Fossils’ Somersault:

Many of the songs seem to soar – self-awareness at cruising altitude – but there’s also a groundedness to the album, a sense that at least one member’s classic Adidas are never too far from the Brooklyn pavements – in no small part because of an understated but pervasive politicality. This is the band’s best yet.

 

 

Foundlings Chapbook Contest and Artist Residency at Hotel Henry

English-language poets of all styles have an opportunity to win an artist’s residency at Hotel Henry in Buffalo, N.Y., where they will collaborate with a guest illustrator on a limited release chapbook of their poems, to be published through Foundlings Press, a Buffalo-based literary arts organization, in early 2018.

Foundlings Press welcomes submissions for its first annual chapbook competition. Submissions will close on October 1, and editors will announce the winner at the end of that month. The editorial staff will accept and review poetry of any style and subject matter. Poets must pay a $3 entry fee before submitting work; but all who submit will receive a complimentary digital download of Foundlings Magazine Vol. 3. All proceeds will directly fund the production and promotion of the winning chapbook. Interested parties can find further information on http://www.FoundlingsMagazine.com, or contact the editorial staff directly.

The winning poet will enjoy an artist’s residency at Hotel Henry, the boutique hotel, urban resort, and conference center in the Richardson Olmsted Complex, one of Buffalo’s landmarks and architectural treasures. There, from November 17-19, 2017, the poet will collaborate with guest illustrator and designer Stephen Fitzmaurice on a final manuscript of the chapbook, making full use of the center’s facilities and inspiring grounds. Foundlings Press will publish the chapbook in January 2018, with a launch party and reading back at Hotel Henry.

 

About Stephen Fitzmaurice:

Born in Buffalo and residing in Philadelphia, Stephen Fitzmaurice’s skills include illustration, graphic and industrial design, video and photography, and downhill skateboarding. Fitzmaurice graduated from The University of the Arts and has freelanced for Valkyrie Truck Company, Emgee Events, Community Boards and Bikes, and many other events and manufacturing companies. He now works as a graphic designer for Fuji Bikes.

http://www.sfitzmauricedesign.com/

 

About Hotel Henry:

Hotel Henry Urban Resort Conference Center is an innovative 88 room full-service hotel and conference center with modern purpose, designed to fuse with the architectural legacy of the National Historic Landmark Richardson Olmsted Campus. Throughout the building, Hotel Henry’s uncommon spaces invite guests to explore, gather and tuck away in the unique character of Richardson’s masterpiece. Interior and exterior spaces invite guests to find their own corner and make their own experience. This is the distinct Hotel Henry experience.

Hotel Henry’s Urban Resort Neighborhood offers a cosmopolitan Buffalo adventure that begins within steps of the hotel grounds. Situated amongst 42 acres within the city of Buffalo’s cultural corridor, the Urban Resort Conference Center is surrounded by parks, lake, museums, and connected to the fun and curious Elmwood Village. The Urban Resort Neighborhood is a borderless destination.

Henry Hobson Richardson, who is one of “The Recognized Trinity of American Architecture,” constructed this Richardson Romanesque-style campus of buildings more than 140 years ago. America’s landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who designed Central Park in New York City, as well as Buffalo’s beautiful park system, designed the grounds and gardens throughout the campus alongside architect and landscape designer Calvert Vaux.

Hotel Henry is the first phase and 1/3 of the redevelopment of the Richardson Olmsted Campus. Alongside and intertwined with the urban resort hotel and conference center will be the Buffalo Architecture Center. Future phases of renovation and landscape improvements are continuing and will be directed by the Hotel Henry’s neighbor, the Richardson Center Corporation.

https://www.hotelhenry.com/

 

About Foundlings Press:

Officially launched in May 2016 with the release of its first semiannual magazine, Foundlings Press has gone on to publish three magazine volumes containing poetry from emerging and established artists, including Don Berger, Jason Irwin, Noah Falck, Justin Karcher, Lytton Smith, George Guida, Gerry LaFemina, and George Wallace. The Press has established a reputation for carefully crafted publications that play with language and imagery, including “found” text and images, provoking their materials into radical dialogues. The Press has welcomed visiting poets to Buffalo, helped to bring Buffalo poets to towns and college campuses throughout Western New York, and orchestrated other events, including 2016’s “Whistle Stop” tour of political poetry, with appearances in Rochester, Fredonia, Syracuse, and Toronto on the nights of the televised American presidential election debates. The inaugural chapbook competition and residency marks Foundlings’ transition from a magazine into a press, scheduled to release several other books in 2018.
http://www.foundlingsmagazine.com/

Foundlings Vol. III Available in Stores and Online

Foundlings Vol. III launched on a bright day June, and poets and readers packed Nietzsche’s, a venerable Allentown bar and music venue for the party. The other editors and I were very happy to host visiting poets George Guida and Gerry LaFemina, who grabbed a righteous lunch with us at Gabriel’s Gate before heading over the party to perform.

Foundlings Vol. III also featured beloved writers from Buffalo and beyond, including Gerry Crinnin, Nathanael Stolte, George Wallace, and Joey Nicoletti. This volume also holds the honor of being poet Lilly Perry’s first ever publication. Pick up a copy and read her powerful poem “What We Make.”

You can buy the book from our Gumroad store or find it in Buffalo’s Talking Leaves or Ro Homeshop.

On Shakespeare’s Bigotry: An Open Letter

On Tuesday, 13 June 2017, I opened up the Buffalo News to find a perplexing letter to the editor. Someone named Gerhard Falk was calling for an end to the “literary correctness” that kept Shakespeare on our bookshelves and in our syllabi. Gerhard Falk wanted us to “ignore Shakespeare.”

This was absurd. You cannot, of course, “ignore” a force and a legacy that has shaped our culture, shaped our language, and shaped our understanding of ourselves. On top of that, Falk’s charge was a silly, tired one, something high school English teachers address as a prelude to a discussion of historical context and the importance of an author’s intentions to the value of a work of literature: namely, that Shakespeare is bigoted, and specifically anti-Semitic.

Gerhard Falk, I discovered, is a long-time Buffalo State sociology professor, and a survivor of the Holocaust.  The full text of his letter is below:

Recently I read “Hitler” by Joachim Fest. Evidently Adolf Hitler considered “The Merchant of Venice” by William Shakespeare his favorite play because it maligns the Jewish people in the most disgusting manner, thereby undoubtedly contributing to the mass murder of the European Jews.

The recent bombings in London and several other such atrocities in England and in the United States demonstrate that there is enough hatred in the world so that we need not teach our children by means of Shakespeare’s bigotry that religious hate is legitimate.

After I read “The Merchant of Venice,” I read all of his plays and discovered that his 16th century works are so remote from present day interests that it is unfortunate that “literary correctness” requires us all to pretend that Shakespeare was anything better than an antiquated bore.

There is some great literature in this world that is far more supportive of our democratic values than Shakespeare’s hate-mongering. Surely our English teachers know that and would do all of us a favor if they had the courage to ignore Shakespeare in favor of all the great American literature that our children evidently never see.

Gerhard understands the power of bigotry in a way that I never will. Still, he was wrong about Shakespeare, and wrong about the value of literature generally. I had to turn this letter to the editor into a conversation. I spent a Sunday afternoon drafting the following in longhand, and posted it to Gerhard’s address.

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