Blog Archives

Did you see that moon last night?

Amazing and beautiful. The moon was in perigee and appeared 14 percent larger and 30 percent brighter than normal full moons… the brightest of 2012. It came the closest to the Earth than it has all year.

Fortunately, the sky was clear enough around here to see it.

The Newt in the Moon…

While he makes the budget balanced as President, Newt Gingrich has now promised to put a US base on the moon… by the end of his second term!

The two problems with this are 1.) the cost would blow us even deeper into debt, and 2.) we have to elect Newt for Two Terms!

Now we know he was angling for the NASA vote on the “Space Coast”, but doesn’t Newtie realize that the whole nation is watching (and laughing)?

Just got back from the Identity Crisis fundraiser in Downtown Shepherdstown…

Elly and I were members of the “Paparazi” (about a dozen of us) taking pictures of the party goers (folks in costumes and wigs). We had a fun night. Here are some pictures:

Arrival at Blue Moon


Ready to have a Good Time...


Walk the Red Carpet


Fun continued at the Yellow Brick Bank


Fun at the Bar...


And 150 photos later, I had the best time of all.

CATF’s 21st Season… an Overview

We often think of 21 as the age of adulthood, and this year the Contemporary American Theater Festival has turned 21.  In the years since it was conceived and brought into the world by Ed Herendeen, under the auspices of Shepherd University, the CATF has not only brought new plays, professional actors and visionary directors to Shepherdstown, it has given our small community an international focus in the Theater World.

CATF has brought us world premieres, commissioned works and plays by both the famous and the unknown.  Very few, if any, have ever let us down… and this season is no exception.

This year’s plays include:

Ages of the Moon, by Sam Shepard

The Insurgents, a World Premiere of a Commissioned Play by Lucy Thurber

Race, by David Mamet

We Are Here,  by Tracy Thorne


From Prague, World Premiere by Kyle Bradstreet

There are also extra, mostly free events, lectures and readings scheduled throughout the Festival. Listings are available at the website,

Tickets are available now at the Box Office (warning a number of shows are Sold Out already, so call soon), 304-876-3473 or 800-999-CATF.

Ages of the Moon, by Sam Shepard, Directed by Ed Herendeen

In this long one-act, two men in their 60s, Ames (Anderson Matthews) and Byron (John Ottavino), sit on Ames’ front porch and discuss their 50-year friendship while waiting for a 5:00 AM eclipse of the moon. Yet, as they discuss their lives, we discover two different personalities, one prone to agitation and anger and the other composed and calm.

Both of them are aware that each is older than the last time they were together and both are losing their memories.

Both have lost the women in their lives… in fact they are together because Ames has called Byron for support because his wife has apparently walked off. We find out later that Byron’s wife, Lacey, has died (something he never told Ames about before… which gets the angrier one upset.)

As the eclipse progresses, they go through arguments, some hand to hand wrangling and what appears to be a near heart attack, ending up as two tired friends who realize they are all each other has as they watch the moon disappear in shadow.

And the question you ask, finally, are these two sides of the same person?


The Insurgents, a World Premiere of a Commissioned Play by Lucy Thurber,  Directed by Lear Debessonet

In a small, working class kitchen in western Massachusetts, Sally (Cassie Beck) has returned home from one of her several excursions around the country… something she has been doing for six years. She has been seeking answers to problems that the world seems to have inflicted on her… losing a college scholarship, questioning her identity as daughter to a laid off father and sister to an anti-intellectual brother.

As she questions her life she ponders revolt against society, influenced by the books she immerses herself in about the great insurgents of a previous age (John Brown, Nat Turner and Harriet Tubman)… and one of recent vintage (Timothy McVeigh.). All of them believed in using violence, if necessary. All believed they were called… whether by God or conscience… to carry out their actions.

The question is, now that you have learned how uneven the playing field is, how do you stand up to the things that are tearing you down? How it is not the fault of your lower class family, since you and they were cheated  from birth, that you read the books, on revolution and try to do something about the situation. How do you remain part of your family knowing they will never understand and will be truly alienated?

Be aware, there is a certain amount of audience participation in this work… from the direct discourse at the opening, to the singing, with lyrics supplied in the program, at the end. Don’t worry, you’ll enjoy it.


Race, by David Mamet, Directed by Ed Herendeen

Into a law firm run by an Afro-American partner (Guieseppe Jones) and a white partner (Kurt Zischke), with a young, black legal aide ( Crystal A. Dickinson), comes a wealthy white man (Anderson Matthews) accused of raping a black chambermaid. He seeks representation before going to court, having been turned down by another firm. The  greater part of the play is concerned with whether or not the partners will represent him, and, when there is no longer any choice, how they will structure the case to get him off.

At the same time it explores the power structure of race and how it becomes, as Mamet says, “a play about lies… Race, like sex, is a subject on which it is near impossible to tell the truth.” The tension of racial relations and office politics are combined with the weight of attitude, class and money to make surprise twists and turns for the audience.

If you have seen similar Mamet plays…Oleana comes to mind… then you will recognize an aspect of the author’s style that can only be called audience manipulation. The technique requires powerful character performances, and this cast is spectacular.

BTW, many of the scheduled performances of Race started selling out early. Check with the Box Office to see what’s available.


We Are Here,  by Tracy Thorne , Directed by Lucie Tiberghien

What happens when a child dies ending a family bloodline in tragedy?

In this remarkable play, two generations of upper middle class interracial marriages are on the verge of falling apart over the untimely death of Eli (Barrington Walters, Jr.), the young son of Billie (Crystal A. Dickinson) and Hal (Cary Donaldson). In the midst of their sorrow Billie somehow speaks to and hears Eli as they discuss ordinary things… Is it a dream? A hallucination?

Hal, her parents…Vera (Tamara Tunie) and Everett (Kurt Zischke)… and her sister Shawn (Stacey Sergeant), with whom she has a stormy relationship, all want her to stop talking to the air. Yet it is the thing that is keeping her sane in the face of misery. During the course of the play, Eli becomes visible and speaks with each of the others in the family… each with a different view of who he was and their relationship with him.

One of the most beautiful concepts in We Are Here is how the family communicates by music, carrying out a weekly song night. The songs show who they are in a clear and creative way… I was especially taken with Vera’s intense version of “Fever” which she sings in a vision of putting baby Eli to sleep.

The grief over of the child, the lift of the music and the closeness of a truly functional family is what finally brings them together to deal with the trial of life.


From Prague, World Premiere by Kyle Bradstreet, Directed by Ed Herendeen

For me, this is the best play of the season. Told in alternating monologues as the audience sits in a crumbling church, we learn of the breakup of a family over the sexual transgression of the father, Samuel (John Lescault). After sleeping with one of his students (Julianna Zinkel) and being discovered by his middle son Charles (Andy Bean), he flees to Prague where he apparently has committed suicide leaping off the Charles Bridge at the site of the Great Crucifix.

The interrelationships of the three characters are revealed throughout the monologues as they move from Prague to the funeral of Samuel’s wife, Patricia, back in the States. These are complex interactions which keeps the audience in a framework of investigation as the lives of the three characters go back and forth in time.

Prague is a haunting city made even more so by the wonderful set. Snow is falling as the audience enters and, to some extent, walks through it as they enter. It sets you up for the experience of a family torn apart by lies and self-destruction.

Bill O’Reilly gets back to God and the Tides…

A couple of weeks ago, Mr. O’Reilly in proving the existence of God made the statement that there must be a deity because we don’t know what causes the tides. Many of us jumped in with the scientifically known fact that the gravitational pull of the moon is what causes the tides. Nuff said.

Not enough for Bill, though. Here is his update comment:

HuffPo made a fine rebuttal comment:

In fact, prevailing scientific theory is that the Moon formed as the result of a massive impact with Earth; Mars has two moons; etc, etc. Bad Astronomy has an exceedingly thorough examination of just how wrong O’Reilly is for those interested in the gory details.

Thus the score remains O’Reilly – Zero, Science – Infinity.

This, of course, will not make the followers of O’Rielly come around to scientific truth. If it could, there would be few things that Billo says that would cause folks to follow him… instead they are as uneducated as he is.

What? I’m not a Gemini any more?

Gemini Symbol

Gemini... the Twins

I was born on May 24 and for the entirety of my near 65 years on this Earth I have known that my Zodiacal Sign was Gemini (The Twins.) Now the Minnesota Planetarium Society’s Parke Kunkle claims that, due to a celestial accident in the Zodiac Chart made possible by millenia of small shifts in the planets annual Solar Rotation, the signs we all cast our futures by must be changed.

The new list:

Capricorn: Jan. 20-Feb. 16.
Aquarius: Feb. 16-March 11.
Pisces: March 11-April 18.
Aries: April 18-May 13.
Taurus: May 13-June 21.
Gemini: June 21-July 20.
Cancer: July 20-Aug. 10.
Leo: Aug. 10-Sept. 16.
Virgo: Sept. 16-Oct. 30.
Libra: Oct. 30-Nov. 23.
Scorpio: Nov. 23-29.
Ophiuchus*: Nov. 29-Dec. 17.
Sagittarius: Dec. 17-Jan. 20.

(* Discarded by the Babylonians because they wanted 12 signs per year.)

So I am now a Taurus?


What if I want to remain a Gemini (think of all the symbolic tie clips and cufflinks that need to be changed worldwide… not to mention the framed fabric creation my late Grandmother made that hangs on my wall.) At least my wife gets to remain a Sagittarius (her fabric creation by my Grandmother can survive intact.)

And who the hell is Ophiuchus (the Serpent Bearer)?

It’s the 21st! Good Morning.

It was beautiful…instead of going black the eclipsed moon turned a dark amber red. At 3:00 AM I stood at my window and watched it in all it’s glory, just off Orion’s upper right quadrant. The sky was wonderfully clear and, through my binoculars, I could see the shadowed craters in a dark red-grey surrounded by red highlights.

Today is the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, and it’s the last day of Zappadan. Today is the 70th anniversary of Frank’s birth. So here’s some morning music to celebrate – Baby Snakes (recorded live in Munich):

Tonight is a Night of Astronomical Wonder…

Three Hundred and Seventy Two years ago was the last time that the Winter Solstice (which makes tomorrow the shortest day of the year) and a total eclipse of the Moon happened at the same time. I don’t know what you were doing then, but I wasn’t around.

I’m planning on jumping out of bed around 2:30 AM, putting my snuggies on, and going outside to see the major event (and note, there may be some leftovers from the Geminids meteor shower that peaked a couple of days ago, to catch our attention.) What a great sky gazing night!

Here’s what you need to know in order to see everything. From NASA:

The eclipse begins on Tuesday morning, Dec. 21st, at 1:33 am EST (Monday, Dec. 20th, at 10:33 pm PST). At that time, Earth’s shadow will appear as a dark-red bite at the edge of the lunar disk. It takes about an hour for the “bite” to expand and swallow the entire Moon. Totality commences at 02:41 am EST (11:41 pm PST) and lasts for 72 minutes.

If you’re planning to dash out for only one quick look -­ it is December, after all -­ choose this moment: 03:17 am EST (17 minutes past midnight PST). That’s when the Moon will be in deepest shadow, displaying the most fantastic shades of coppery red.

Geoff Chester of the US Naval Observatory inspected a list of eclipses going back 2000 years:

“Since Year 1, I can only find one previous instance of an eclipse matching the same calendar date as the solstice, and that is 1638 DEC 21. Fortunately we won’t have to wait 372 years for the next one…that will be on 2094 DEC 21.”

Here’s the “best view” map from NASA… looks like the USA has got it this time:… Click Here: OH2010-Fig04

According to the Weather Bureau, we should be mostly clear tonite in our area (with temperatures down to 20° –  Brrrr) so we should have a clear view of it.

Starting off the week (and Columbus Day) with a laugh…

I tried to find the Video tht Willie Geist played on Morning Joe this morning, with the Sesame Street Muppet Ernie singing about visiting the moon… and then the moon is hit by a rocket and blows up… but couldn’t find it. I think they pulled it from Letterman’s Friday night show, but I’m not sure.

However, in my search I found a great piece on the same topic from Mr. Show:

Did anyone hear if they found water (which I think was the major goal) on the actual rocket/moo collision? I think that’s what we were spending millions on doing.

40 Years after a truly huge achievement and we are … where?

Tomorrow is the 40th anniversary of the landing on the Moon in 1969. Neil Armstrong (“One small step for a man… one giant leap for mankind”) ad Buzz Aldrin planted the flag and put out a plaque marking the landing which, in under a decade, had been the result of spending $183 Billion Bucks and upping the confrontation with the Russians, who had achieved the original advance in space by putting up Sputnik and sending two different cosmonauts on full orbits around the Earth.

I was a Junior in college and I know I was impressed. Jack Kennedy, who kicked off the program wasn’t alive to see the results he had called for carried out by NASA. Lyndon Johnson, who pushed the budget through, was no longer in office. And Dick Nixon, who was never really a supporter of the space program, but who saw its publicity value, got to congratulate the two moonwalkers by phone as they stood looking at our planet in space.

The reason why the moon oriented space program got the push it did was the Cold War. To let the USSR get ahead of us scientifically, in a way that could have military consequences, was not going to be tolerated.  When the military threat of the USSR was gone… when the USSR itself was gone… there was no reason to put that kind of thrust into our rockets. Reagan wanted to put our military budget relating to space into missiles pointed back at our enemies from satellites. George H.W. Bush was concerned with Saddam Hussein’s actions, but there was no Iraqi space program to compete with. Clinton saw the public relations advantages of doing a minimal amount of activities with a space station and George W. Bush, well, he barely saw that,

Originally, NASA had planned to have us on Mars by 1987. People, that is. In the 21st Century we have managed to get a couple of crawling robot TV cameras on Mars, and a very old space shuttle is still flying on missions that do very little. And we are bored with it all.

That’s right… bored. We rarely know when a shuttle goes up any more (unless it blows up in space… dead people are always news wherever they are) and we don’t really seem to care. It is not as important as unemployment or health care or the recession. They talk about getting folks back on the moon by 2020… but you can bet that such a program, without some kind of real, philosophical need by Americans is unlikely to make the deadline. Or, if the Iranians gave up on nuclear power and focused their attention on a Muslim moon base, perhaps we would have a need to beat the date. That’s how we’re programmed.

The 19th Century and early 20th once had a philosophical and artistic need to get us to the moon. Jules Verne and H.G. Wells created literary works. Filmmakers from the silents to the sci-fi directors of the 1950s got us to the moon frequently (and rarely with rocket ships.) Science Fiction magazines in the 1920s made Hugo Gernsbach a rich publisher and getting us to the moon was an established need. So many youngsters in my generation grew up wanting to be involved that science programs in colleges grew faster than arts programs and that all helped us get to the 1969 landing.

And now here we are, 40 years later, watching a 72-year-old Buzz Aldrin on TV being interviewed about a future that has become the past. We are not pushing for it any more… and that is too bad.