Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Whitman in Blue Jeans

Walt Whitman is arguably one of the greatest poets of all time. In my opinion, he is certainly the greatest ever produced by this country. When, as a misfit high schooler, I was first exposed to his works, I quickly identified with this wild-looking and rebellious 'outsider' who shocked 1850's society by daring to write about the celebration of the human body, of sensuality, of the human spirit, and of the very substance that defined the young American nation. In the course of my life, I have often gone back to Whitman's opus, "Leaves of Grass" for inspiration, for solace, for just simply beautiful writing.

And so, the first time I saw the Levi's Jeans commercial using "Pioneers! O Pioneers!", I was more than a bit outraged. How dare they use these classic words to sell blue jeans! How could they commercialize such a great literary work?

However, it did send me back to reread the 'Pioneers! O Pioneers!' excerpt one more time. And this got me to rethink my initial reaction.
Poetry of any kind is a tough sell in the modern world. So maybe the jeans will sell the poetry instead of the other way around. Maybe those beautiful words will inspire a whole bunch of young people to GOOGLE them for the entire poem. And perhaps some of those kids will be inspired to take on the entirety of "Leaves of Grass". And maybe, just maybe, some nerdy, misfit high schooler will even go the extra distance and read "O Pioneers!" by Willa Cather, the truly great American novel inspired by the Whitman poem.



Saturday, October 24, 2009

- Theater Review - The Goat Or Who Is Syvia?

This four character play is the opening selection of the Corn Stock Winter Playhouse 2009-2010 Season. It is directed by Tim Wyman and features Rebecca Frankel Clifton, Tim Drew, Paul Gordon, and Daniel Evan Breese.

OK, this may not be the type of play to which you want to take your conservative Aunt Agnes.  However, If you have an Auntie Mame, she may find it simply delightful.
This Edward Albee work is the tawdry story of a (literally) beastly affair.  In the opening scene we meet Stevie the doting wife of successful architect Martin.  Martin, just turned fifty,  is at the peak of his career, having recently been chosen to design a planned "city of the future".  His marriage to Stevie has produced a son Billy whom we learn is gay.  Martin is preparing to be interviewed by his best friend Ross, a reporter.  During this interview scene we learn that Martin, who has loved and been faithful to his wife for twenty-some years is now having a love affair with Sylvia.  We also soon learn that Sylvia is a goat.  A regular four-legged barnyard critter, and, yes, their affair is sexual.
As the play progresses, we begin to understand that while the premise is indeed based on bestiality, it is, below the surface, about many things.  It is about all levels of so-called "deviant" behavior and about the limits within a society that define what is truly taboo.
Daniel Breese turns in a commendable performance as Billy, the amusingly named gay son.  Paul Gordon was convincing as family friend Ross, and also did a good job in conducting the post-performance discussion.  Tim Drew was exceptional and truly captured the naive, confused persona of Martin, who simply cannot fathom that others do not understand how some things "simply happen" and can be totally unrelated to other realities.  The best performance of the evening, however, was turned in by Rebecca Clifton.  The character Stevie has more than a little in common with another Albee icon, Martha in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolfe".  She evolves from loving devoted wife, to raging wronged woman who turns the stage into a shambles of thrown and broken objects, and ultimately into a crazed she-devil who institutes her own "final solution" in the last scene.  This is the type of meaty role that any actress would love to sink her claws into, and Ms.Clifton does so with a vengeance.
And finally, kudos to Corn Stock for selecting such an edgy play to kick-off their winter season.  While so many other local groups worry too much about what plays in Peoria and thus go increasingly mainstream, this play was a nice respite for those of us who wonder if we can bear to sit through one more performance of "Beauty and The Beast". 
Corn Stock has given us true beauty with a real beast.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

I know... I'll Start A Blog!

Welcome to the premier posting of "A Great Day In Peoria".

Although I have often said that the only spectator sport that interests me is politics, I intend that this blog will be more personal and less political. (Okay, I probably will not be able to help myself.)

In addition to random posts of interest, "A Great Day In Peoria" will include these recurring features:

1. WHAT'S SO GREAT ABOUT PEORIA - We all know what's wrong with Peoria. Just visit most any of the other local blogs to read about the failing school system, botched development, incompetent politicians, high crime, etc. Yet, there are those things in Peoria (and the metro area) that enhance our lives and are factors in our choosing to live here. I intend to highlight and share some of these.

2. HERE'S ANOTHER THING THAT TICKS ME OFF - Of what use is any blog if not for airing one's personal pet peeves, and believe me I have a few.

3. REVIEWS - Standard format reviews, not limited to restaurants, theater, film, music, and art; because, after all, my opinion matters!

I welcome your feedback and input.
It's going to be a great day.