Saturday, September 28, 2013

Denver Center's "Death of a Saleman" ~ A Play for Our Times

My spontaneous bid in the last minutes of a silent auction
landed Terry and me at Death of a Salesman last weekend.

Tickets for a Great Production, 2013

We hopped the light rail 
and headed downtown to the Space Theatre in  
The Denver Center for the Performing Arts.

Light Rail at Nine Mile Station

The "DCPA"  or "Denver Center" is the second largest 
performing art center in the world.
Only New York's Lincoln Center is bigger.

The Soaring Glass Roof
of The Denver Center for the Performing Arts

Denver Center has ten performance spaces
and more than 10,000 seats for theatre,
touring broadway productions, contemporary dance, ballet, 
chorales, opera, and a symphony orchestra.
Source:  Wikipedia

The Space Theatre at The Denver Center for the Performing Arts

I was really excited because there is nothing like live theatre!

Playbill:  The Denver Center for the Performing Arts

I studied this American classic a long time ago
in the fall of my first year at Acadia University,
but I had never seen the play staged.

Over the decades that have raced by, 
I never forgot Arthur Miller's compelling drama
of Willy Loman and his family.

Willy Loman is the protagonist of the play,
a 63-year-old traveling salesman,
who strove for the American Dream
and failed in his attempt.

Lee J. Cobb (Willy ~ seated )
Arthur Kennedy (Biff ~ left)
Cameron Mitchell (Happy ~ right)

Acting in the 1949 Broadway Production of 
Death of a Salesman

Source:  Wikipedia

Death of a Salesman opened at the Morosco Theatre
on Broadway on February 10, 1949.

Throughout its many productions since then, 
on broadway, on television, and in the movies,
the drama has received critical acclaim and many awards,
including the 1949 Pulitzer Prize for Drama,
and an unprecedented four Tonys for
Best Broadway Production.

Original Playbill, Willy Loman, 1949

Source:  Wikipedia

I first studied this play in 1967,
at a time when anything seemed possible.
Yes, there were many difficult and troubling things
happening in the world then,
but we Baby Boomers believed 
that we would change the world for the better.

The play resonated with me then 
because Willy and Linda Loman made me think
of my parents and their struggle 
to provide a good education and a better future 
for my four siblings and myself.

At that time I was bubbling over with optimism 
and a sense of my world opening up and expanding.
I truly did not understand then
what it meant to work long and hard 
and to have unrealized dreams.

In Willy Loman's character, 
I glimpsed my father's darkness
and his lifelong battle to overcome
mental and physical illnesses.

In Linda, Willy's supportive wife,
I sensed my mother's deep love 
for her husband and children
and her determination to hold our family together.

I waited in the theater with such anticipation!
I wanted to see how the play would impact me
more than four decades and a lifetime later.

It seemed to take forever 
for the 450 seats 
in the Space Theatre to fill up ~
but fill up it did.

This cozy theatre-in-the-round 
with its center stage
and simple set 
provides its audience with 
an intimate experience of  
Death of a Salesman.

During the production
it feels like you can reach out
and touch the actors 
as they move about 
the almost bare stage.

The lights go down, 
the spotlight comes up,
and an exhausted Willy 
trudges in with two suitcases.

He is beaten down, and returning from 
a canceled business trip to New England.

For thirty-four years,
Willy has worked as a salesman
for the same company
pursuing the American Dream.

Throughout his long career, 
Willy has relied on
dressing right,
being well-liked,
and working hard 
to be successful.

Willy's career
is on a downhill slide.

He vacillates
recognizing his harsh reality
and hiding from the truth 
in delusions about his success
as a husband, 
a father, 
and a salesman.

Lee J. Cobb as Willy Loman, 1966 TV Movie
Source:  Wikipedia

Neither he nor his sons have succeeded socially or in business.
In fact, Biff steals, and Happy chases chippies.

Linda, wife and mother, loves her family
despite the weaknesses of her husband and sons.
She worries about what will happen to them all.
She worries about Willy committing suicide.

This tragedy of the common man 
builds to a gritty and climatic family argument 
and Willy's suicide in a car accident.

Playwright Arthur Miller

Source:  Wikipedia

Back in the late 1960s,
when anything seemed possible,
I could appreciate Willy's trials on an abstract level.

Certainly my extended generations of family
shared stories of how they had survived the Great Depression.
It's effects lingered in my Great Aunt Nan's 
drying and reusing paper towels
and in the sugar-rationed recipes she still baked with.

Today, five years out from the near collapse
of the financial system and the housing market, 
Death of a Salesman resonates ~
it has a relevance today 
that it didn't have when I first read it.

For so many the American Dream is slipping away.
And for many more it seems unreachable.

Income inequality in the United States,
which is a measure of the gap,
between the rich and the poor in a society,
has increased greatly in recent decades.
The US is now has the largest income gap
of any developed country, 
especially English-speaking ones.
In fact, the US ranks just below Nigeria,
a country with some of the worst political corruption in the world,
and one which experienced a nationwide strike and protests
over income inequality last year.
Source:  The Washington Post 9/27/2013

An important part of the American Dream
are the beliefs that by working hard
you can climb higher up the economic ladder in your lifetime 
and that your children can achieve a higher standard of living
than you did during their lifetimes.

Upward mobility in the US is changing.
It no longer seems to be the land of opportunity
with exceptional mobility rates that it once was.
It now ranks with Britain in inter-generational mobility
and lags many of the twenty countries in the OECD
(Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development).
Source:  Brookings 9/23/2013

Willy Loman's struggles are the reality 
for too many Americans today.
They reach for the American Dream
but it remains an illusion,
as they contend with unemployment,
stagnated or decreasing wages,
foreclosure, student debt,
and downward mobility.

First Edition Cover

Source:  Wikipedia

My parents sacrificed so much 
to give my three sisters, my brother, and me
an education which propelled each of us to successful careers 
and into stable, loving family relationships.

But we worry that no matter how much
we have loved, supported, and encouraged our next generation,
and no matter how hard these talented young men and women
study, work, and pursue their dreams,
they face much more challenging economic and social times 
than we ever did.

The Denver Theatre Company's production 
of Death of a Salesman is excellent.
The audience that watched this drama with us last Saturday
sat barely breathing through many riveting scenes.

Under Anthony Powell's direction, the talented actors
Mike Hartman (Willy Loman),
Laura Klein (Linda Loman)
John Patrick Hayden (Biff Loman)
and M. Scott McLean (Happy Loman),
brought this Brooklyn family's 
delusions and conflicts vividly alive.
They made it a drama for our time.

Attend this production if you can!
If you can't, consider reading this relevant classic.
It is as much about today 
as it was about the America of over sixty years ago.

For some photos of the 
The Denver Theatre Company's production click here.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

My Crystal Blue Persuasion!

Some days it's hard to ignore the prairie gobblers!

I live in an area of rapid development,
and it hurts to see every new house go up.

Often I keenly feel the NIMBY Blues!

Neighboring Development

Not in My Back Yard!!!!!

But I moved to this area more than seven years ago.
So I'm part of the problem.

Yup!  Things like this can put me in a funk!

So I turn in the opposite direction
and fill my heart with a prairie pocket of high plains.

And I lose myself in the crystal blue sky of Colorado:
Crystal Blue Persuasion!

This is my answer to the NIMBY Blues.

Just a tiny pocket, but it fills my soul!

Seeing wild blue asters brazenly thriving 
in the middle of a gravel road gives me hope.

I can even forgive the common mullein
for moving into the disturbed ground
when it opens its yellow blossoms. 

I'm not the only one who walks this prairie pocket.
I sometimes share this precious place with other nature lovers.

A patch of yellow rubber rabbitbrush
points to the Front Range just visible 
above the high plains horizon!

That gorgeous Colorado blue sky
is my crystal blue persuasion!

I just have to have selective vision,
kind of like the E-P with his selective hearing!
(That's one of my Ever-Patient Terry's survival techniques for living with "The ADHD One!")

With my carefully averted eyes,
I can avoid this view of
the Boulder Flat Irons,
Downtown Denver,
and My Development That Gobbled the Prairie.

Nope ~ Not Gonna See It!
Gonna look at this instead!

I'm gonna look up and then down ~
These prickly pear cacti pop up in the most unexpected places.

And you don't want to step on one ~
It's worse than a dog running into a porcupine!
(Sorry, Sophie Doodle!)

That's my development bordering one side of my prairie pocket.
Somebody said "NIMBY" forcefully 
when HEB showed up, I'm sure!

I love to watch the fair-weather cumulus clouds 
building above the Front Range!

These wildflowers simply won't give up!

Yucca Plant Seed Pods

Hawks Circling in My Crystal Blue Persuasion

I couldn't find this flower in my wildflower guide,
but the pollinators can sure find the real ones.

There used to be herds of pronghorn antelope in this area.
One of the streets just over the horizon is called Antelope Trail.

Technically a pronghorn is not an antelope,
but in North America 
it is known colloquially 
as a pronghorn antelope or an antelope.

After not seeing a pronghorn for a couple of years,
I stumbled onto this one by a stock pond in my prairie pocket
in the spring of 2012.

I don't know which of us was more shocked!
I called it The Last Antelope.

Then a couple of months ago,
I spotted an actual herd!
Talk about my soaring spirit!

So I'm spending lots of time scanning the hills
trying to spot antelope.
And one of these days I'm going to catch them close up!

Colorado's Awesome Blue Sky!

This is the original Crystal Blue Persuasion
by Tommy James and the Shondells.

From the moment I first heard it 
in the summer of 1969
on a crystal blue sky day in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia,
it has never failed to make my spirits
soar like a hawk.

It gives me hope for a better future.

Source:  You Tube:  jmms429

Sunday, September 22, 2013

All Things Newfoundland and Labrador: Tuckamore

If you like to take a walk on the wild side,
there is no better place to do so 
than in the remote and beautiful 
Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Canada with Newfoundland and Labrador in Red

This unique place 
is not for everyone.

It is a raw land,
scraped bare 
by glaciers
and scultped 
by wind and water.

Source:  Wikimedia

This remarkable land holds a special place in my heart.
I was privileged to live and to work there in my past.

This province is so different, so other;
and, nothing more so than its language.
Your ear needs time to adjust 
to this province's grammar, syntax, lexicon, and cadence.

When I first arrived in Westport on White Bay in 1971,
I couldn't grasp what Westporters were saying
as words came at me rapid fire.

Westport on White Bay, Newfoundland, 2011

Garbage Bin Showing the Location
of Westport on White Bay, Newfoundland, 2011 

If I was lucky, 
I could piece together the gist of the conversation,
but often I was flat out flummoxed!

A Westporter would think of our conversation:
I'm not talkin too fast.
You're listenin too slow.
(Source:  phrase attributed to singer John White)

My sister Bertie (coral) and I (turquoise)
with Our Long Time Family Friend Dulcie
on a Recent Trip to Westport 

Slowly but surely my ears listened faster,
and I began to comprehend their spoken words.
I fell in love with this rich and original language 
with its lexicon of rare and unusual words.

For me one word typifies the essence of the province:  

Tuckamore, Broom Point, Newfoundland, 2011

If you walk almost anywhere 
along the exposed coasts of the province,
especially those of the Great Northern Peninsula 
and the Strait of Belle Isle,
you will find tuckamore.

Tuckamore Behind the Signs, 
Blanc Sablon, Quebec, 2011
Left to Quebec ~ Right to Labrador
Exiting the St. Barbe ~ Blanc Sablon Ferry

Tuckamore is the province's ubiquitous coastal forest 
of hardy dwarf white spruce and balsam fir.

   Terry, the Ever-Patient, with Tuckamore
Lobster Cove Head, Newfoundland, 2011

Stunted, contorted, intertwined and dense, 
tuckamore is shaped by the harsh wind, 
the salt spray, and the acid soil
of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Tuckamore, Broom Point, Newfoundland, 2011

The origin of tuckamore is in a combination of two words:
tucking ~ tugging or pulling (as in tucking a net), and
more ~ an archaic word for root.
(Burzynski, Michael, Gros Morne National Park, Breakwater Books Ltd., St. John's, NF, p. 85)

Tuckamore is almost impenetrable.
Any exposed part of the forest dries up, dies, and breaks off
forming a tangle of vegetation 
that shreds and rips and scratches.
Surprisingly people have been known to rest 
on the surface of tuckamore.

 The E-P Considers a Nap at Cape Ray, Newfoundland, 2011

Michael Burzynski in his book Gros Morne National Park 
wrote my favorite description of tuckamore:

"...the wind sculpts growing coastal trees 
into a stooped and streamlined forest 
that flows and swells inland like a brushy green wave."
(Burzynski, Michael, Gros Morne National Park, Breakwater Books Ltd., St. John's, NF, p. 85)

 Tuckamore Rising Up Tracey Hill
in Red Bay, Labrador, 2011

To me, tuckamore also typifies the hardy people of this province.
Centuries ago they rooted along its wild and lonely coasts,
and they have persisted,
shaped by its winds, its waters, and its soils.

If you are lucky enough to travel in this special place,
you will find no finer people,
warm, generous, practical, and tough.

Chance Encounter and Impromptu Picnic
Bonavista Bay, Newfoundland, 2011

I will return, 
and may you be so lucky 
as to experience all kinds of tuckamore
in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

This morning the sunrise was spectacular!

One of the things I love most about my husband 
is that he'll pull me out on the deck 
to look at a gorgeous sunrise.

A full circle in the ephemeral light takes my breath away!