Archive for the ‘Van Doren Shaw’ Category

02/10/2007

ShawPshaw

Remember, I’m on a sabbatical. Which is why I’m not writing here. But eventually (stay tuned!) I’ll post on Ragdale, where I am, and Howard Van Doren Shaw, in whose bedroom I sleep; and on the great August Wilson play I just saw at the new Goodman Theater, called “Radio Golf

– partly about preserving a rundown house they refer to as “Raggedy-ass.”

The paneling downstairs in the sitting room here at Ragdale, looks a lot like

the paneling in the original Goodman,

to which my father and mother took me as a child, and in which I learned to love theater. It was designed by the man in whose summer bedroom I sleep, Howard Van Doren Shaw.

That old Goodman is torn down, (shame on them!) they should have saved it, and I always wonder what happened to that paneling.

The new Goodman, in a chintzy-looking new building, presents “Radio Golf .” In it, an old house must be saved, for it preserves a lot of memories. “Radio Golf” is for me a primo plea for preservation and why it’s important. The play is perhaps the most affecting preservation plea I’ve ever heard, (from outside of my self. How awful that the room in which my Father wanted me to learn theater has been torn down, no?)

Really, “Radio Golf” is about being authentic people. But most of us are not. And maybe that’s why we not only don’t live in authentic buildings, we tear down many that our ancestors have given us.

What’s here and what isn’t.

I interviewed August Wilson more than once. He was prickly, could be racist, provocative or ridiculous (“Black people started carrying guns only after Bernie Goetz opened fire on blacks on the New York City subway,” he told me. And he would not back off from this when I pressed him. He seemed to get angry when questioned about his beliefs.)

Sadly, August Wilson is no longer here, he has come and gone as they say. He died too young in October 2005, before he could finish polishing “Radio Golf,” but still able to say he completed his monumental achievement of one play about the African-American experience for each decade of the twentieth century.

The best interview I ever lost was in 1995. I spent an afternoon with August Wilson, in the old Goodman Theater, as he observed rehearsals of Seven Guitars. He was still re-writing it, as he did ’til the end with his plays. My mini-disc machine failed and the beautiful, stimulating conversation I had with August Wilson was lost forever.

If you love rich language, meaningful dialogue, viewing prickly issues through many lenses, personal transformations, fine acting, a great set, costumes and lighting; if you’re interested in history, or affected by the difficult struggle to preserve it in a nation that prefers not to remember but to focus on the future, then you must see the superlative acheivement of August Wilson. Read up on his ten-play cycle. And don’t miss “Radio Golf.”

Because it’s here now.

-Edward

Advertisements

02/10/2007

ShawPshaw

Remember, I’m on a sabbatical. Which is why I’m not writing here. But eventually (stay tuned!) I’ll post on Ragdale, where I am, and Howard Van Doren Shaw, in whose bedroom I sleep; and on the great August Wilson play I just saw at the new Goodman Theater, called “Radio Golf

– partly about preserving a rundown house they refer to as “Raggedy-ass.”

The paneling downstairs in the sitting room here at Ragdale, looks a lot like

the paneling in the original Goodman,

to which my father and mother took me as a child, and in which I learned to love theater. It was designed by the man in whose summer bedroom I sleep, Howard Van Doren Shaw.

That old Goodman is torn down, (shame on them!) they should have saved it, and I always wonder what happened to that paneling.

The new Goodman, in a chintzy-looking new building, presents “Radio Golf .” In it, an old house must be saved, for it preserves a lot of memories. “Radio Golf” is for me a primo plea for preservation and why it’s important. The play is perhaps the most affecting preservation plea I’ve ever heard, (from outside of my self. How awful that the room in which my Father wanted me to learn theater has been torn down, no?)

Really, “Radio Golf” is about being authentic people. But most of us are not. And maybe that’s why we not only don’t live in authentic buildings, we tear down many that our ancestors have given us.

What’s here and what isn’t.

I interviewed August Wilson more than once. He was prickly, could be racist, provocative or ridiculous (“Black people started carrying guns only after Bernie Goetz opened fire on blacks on the New York City subway,” he told me. And he would not back off from this when I pressed him. He seemed to get angry when questioned about his beliefs.)

Sadly, August Wilson is no longer here, he has come and gone as they say. He died too young in October 2005, before he could finish polishing “Radio Golf,” but still able to say he completed his monumental achievement of one play about the African-American experience for each decade of the twentieth century.

The best interview I ever lost was in 1995. I spent an afternoon with August Wilson, in the old Goodman Theater, as he observed rehearsals of Seven Guitars. He was still re-writing it, as he did ’til the end with his plays. My mini-disc machine failed and the beautiful, stimulating conversation I had with August Wilson was lost forever.

If you love rich language, meaningful dialogue, viewing prickly issues through many lenses, personal transformations, fine acting, a great set, costumes and lighting; if you’re interested in history, or affected by the difficult struggle to preserve it in a nation that prefers not to remember but to focus on the future, then you must see the superlative acheivement of August Wilson. Read up on his ten-play cycle. And don’t miss “Radio Golf.”

Because it’s here now.

-Edward

02/08/2006

The Goodman is gone.

Don’t know if you’ve been by the corner of Monroe and Columbus Drive lately.
I hadn’t – until last night on my way to the Art Institute.

Where once stood the stately – very stately – Goodman Theater — is now a large hole in the ground. The Goodman is gone.

Forever. Never again to walk down those stairs and into that very dignified, intimate, column-free, wood-paneled “living room” (it felt like you were in a friend’s living room.)

It was there that I learned about theater as a child. Especially serious theater. The Shubert, and other Loop theaters were for more commercial runs. The Goodman was smart. Now those memories are

blurred.

And aren’t we about to start a Mamet Festival soon? Many have Mamet memories, at the Goodman. Some of my strongest are August Wilson memories.

Who remembers what the quote said engraved over the front door? Something about art being fleeting, or, “Oh enlighten thee all who enter here.” What was it again?

Photo on the left shows the site looking west from Columbus Drive at Monroe. Above this will rise the new Modern Wing, of the Art Institute.

Photo on the right is looking north, at the Sullivan arch from the Stock Exchange, in front of it was a garden and a fountain. The arch is shrouded in black, at the loss of its neighbor, the old Goodman Theater? It too remembers being torn down.

Piano’s glass pavillion for the Modern Wing of the Art Institute should be nice, tho’ the backlash against it in arch. circles has started – “Not risky enough.” “A safe choice.” “Piano has already done too many museum additions in too many cities.” “What about local talent – this is Chicago!”

But I’d like to know why we tore down Howard van Doren Shaw’s Goodman Theater, which would have easy to save since it was mainly underground.

And what’s this I spy?

“Historic preservation is based on the premise that the past, present, and future have a continuity that is essential to the health of our society.”

Oh, that’s from the School of the Art Institute itself. Which offers a Master of Science in Historic Preservation. Couldn’t save the old Goodman.

The new Goodman, stands at 170 North Dearborn Street. (Complete with very tacky “Grand” staircase.) I know, I know, the offices are much better for the staff and the acoustics are better and there’s more flyspace. But I never saw a play at the fine old Goodman and said to myself, “Gosh, I wish they had more flyspace.” It was a classy place to listen to serious writing. Seems there’s no place for that anymore. And I always wondered, because the acoustics were bad, did that make you listen harder, and help you have the deep experiences so many of us had there?
-Edwardo