Monthly Archives: August 2009

>Aging Downtown Experimentalists Shine Uptown


I came of age in experimental theater. Ellen Stewart the doyen of LaMama dragged me, in 1972 at 21, to see Philip Glass in concert under one of futurist Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic domes, perched on a hillside in Spoleto Italy. Stewart crooned,“ Baby you have to hear this cause Phil is another LaMama baby, just like you.”


After so many decades, there are many ageing experimentalists walking among us, but the cream of the crop have their talents shining in Central Park in a production of Euripides tragedy, The Bacchae. Greek drama is a staple of downtown experimentalism, Andre Serban, Ruth Maleczech, Richard Schechner, Lee Breuer, and Liz Le Compte all gave us multiple versions of Greek myths gone wild, but this summer’s production features many of the artists who dedicated their lives to this ephemeral craft of creating experimental work that would move audiences to visceral joy, terror and amazement.


The likes of Andre De Shields, yes of The Wiz but also countless works downtown were on display as Tieresis auguring in sequins and tearing at our souls. Karen Kandel heads the chorus with such superb marksmanship that the other eleven Bacchanalians follow pitch perfect. Kandel was in an early production of Andre Serban’s Trilogy and is now co-director of downtown’s lauded Mabou Mines. George Bartenieff, one of the founders of the funky, Theater for the New City, think political, shoestring, street theater regaling city streets for decades; he is now explosive as the grandfather of the murdered young king Pentheus.  And as an aside, although not one of the cadre of early experimentalists, Anthony Mackie is a young star as Penteus.


The murderer of Pentheus is none other than the incredible, ever incandescent Joan Macintosh.  I whispered to my daughter 24, before Macintosh took the stage that she was about to see one of the truly great actors of our time. A women, who if she had not been married to experimentalist, founder of the Performance Group Richard Schechner and stared in all his “environmental theater” productions might have been as well known as Meryl Streep. Her performance raging as a woman in ecstasy who unknowingly kills her son, thinking he was a wild beast is transformative on the lip of John Conklin’s  glorious river bound Delacourt stage.


And of course the  Queen and King of this ensemble work are the director Joanne Akalaitis, and composer Philip Glass; both 72. Akalaitis was artistic director of the Public Theater for a scant two years after the death of founder Joseph Papp. Glass and Akalaitis were married back in the day for fifteen years, but have been working together for more than forty years. And kudos to longevity and dedication because they still create theatrical miracles like The Bacchae.

 I know that if I were a more astute student of the genealogy of Downtown Theater, I could pull more strings of connectivity together, but if my own scant personal history yields this much imagine the wealth lying beneath the surface which is brought to light in this revelatory production. And as ever, all for free beneath the stars, wafted by summer breezes and serenaded by crickets. 

>Making a Home Make Money


Making a Home Make Money

By Wickham Boyle 2:06 pm August 10, 2009


I love having a house in the country and a place in the city—so much that I have chosen country abode over health insurance. But even that sacrifice has not saved me enough to be able to hold on to my second home year round.

On the last day of July, I drove to my beloved little house a hundred and twenty miles up river from Manhattan, to make it ready for the August renters. We had rented our home before, but never for what seemed to me to be such a long time: five weeks. When you have a garden to grow and tend to (Read “No New Plants, Period.”), five weeks seems like an eternity. But it is a buyers market so when a good family responded and this is what they desired, I said YES.

I am doing this to make ends meet. It is not a tragedy of any magnitude; it is what my mother used to call, “an upscale problem.” I have two homes and so I have the upscale luxury of making one pay for the other. It doesn’t mean I won’t miss it, or bemoan my inability as an Ivy League educated mom to better provide for my family. It also doesn’t preclude me from experiencing some pangs at handing over my baby to another family.

I was grateful that our little house found renters when many of my neighbors have had their ads unanswered.

I had owned another farmhouse, one that I lost in a bitter divorce nearly two decades ago, and finding this house and purchasing it with my new husband, the love of my life, was the final stroke in healing my wounded core. This magnanimous man had moved into the loft where I had lived with the wretched ex and never bemoaned his energy lurking in the corners, but there were moments when we both felt it. This house on the slope was ours alone, a little nest and a testament to hard work and commitment.

In tough times we find ourselves either separately or together engaging in creative problem solving. If the taxes are too high on your home or well… second home, then you figure out a way to make it pay for itself. Like my children, my house is mandated to take a summer job. And it has. I am proud of my kids for finding jobs this summer and grateful that our little house found renters when many of my neighbors have had their ads unanswered. Thus, they are looking to second mortgages or home equity loans as bridges to pay taxes or bills.

And then the renters arrived. She is a documentary filmmaker with a cute lighting designer husband and two oh so sweet little boys, 3 and 5. The big boy and I immediately caught a small, bright ribbon snake and it was game on. They walked the property with me and oohed and ahhed at the giant two person swing my husband built, they ogled the ground hog hole dug right under a hammock, hung in a tall cedar. I showed them where the blackberries were staked ready to bloom.

We covered the more mundane issues intending a 200 year old farm house: water pump, creaky floors, strange light switches and the modern wonders of WIFI passwords and Direct TV, when it isn’t raining too hard.

We did a quick download of where the trash goes, where the best ice cream is sold and how to attract birds. And then we left another family waving from our porch.

I was overjoyed that small children were going to enjoy the hills and hammocks and wildlife, and happy that a harried, working mom was going to sip coffee on the porch watching humming birds and jays. I was also content that I had posted an “early bird special” on Craigslist and found good renters when other houses languished.

I felt wise, and a little sad. I know it is only five weeks but still I know I will miss the peaches, corn, lengthening of shadows and the first chill of fall. I received a cute email from the mom extolling the beauty, and comfort of the place along with news of the zoo established on the porch now housing fireflies and frogs. It’s just five weeks, and yes, it’s an “upscale problem.” But when times are tough, those things that bring us fulfillment grow in significance. I’m happy my little retreat is bringing the same to this other new family.


>Machine Mania


I have harped, ranted and griped about this before and will again, but I am overwhelmed by servicing and serving an army of machines.


Yesterday I lost my IPOD Touch, a machine I call SHINY. I never wanted SHINY, sad to say, but my husband, a techno fan, gave her to me as a Christmas gift two years ago. I filled her with pictures and some music and came to value her when I traveled to far off places as she fetches my emails and let’s me see that the world in my corner of the globe still spins without having to suss out an internet café, phone or newspaper.


How did I lose her? I have no idea. I remember taking her slim self out of a zipper pocket in my purse where I also stow my camera on a clip and my phone in a special pocket. I began charging her, which I had not done in ages and it was going to take a while. Of course it takes my computer powered ON to charge the SHINY. And it takes a different charger to boost my camera battery, and a still different cable to power feed the reading device, my Kindle (an anniversary gift from my adoring husband.) It is a regular riot of cables and attachments, which live either on my desk or in my travel bag. And somehow I lost her. Maybe SHINY went back into my purse; she either fell out or was lifted by someone in deep techno need. But she is gone.


Last night as we walked to see the new movie Julie and Julia I ranted as I attempted to keep pace with my long-legged husband, this means I often talk to his back. It may be his strategy because I do complain while walking. I hate walking, but that is another rant or blog or interior monologue. So I am ranting about how much more I loved having just a land line for the phone and letters with crunchy paper and artistic stamps, that I long for a time when I don’t have to be so damn up to date on every silly thing from hair-dos of the rich and famous, to bundled derivatives, bat disease and children’s medication. I went on and on, and I sounded, as I said to him, like a crazy old lady. And perhaps I am becoming one.


My family and I are on hiatus from the country (see a blog or two back) thus we are here downtown to revel in the glories of City weekends. This means I cannot escape to the timelessness of dirt, hills and berries. I am forced to confront the realities of my machine-based life and I am bridling.


I  do love being able to find my children by cell phone, but I am more than content with my seven year old Sanyo phone that has been cobbled together so often in the Sprint store that my children call it Frankenphone, as it is obvious that the pieces do not match. The man at Sprint has banished me from the store saying there is nothing else he can do, all the pieces are gone and I need to upgrade. I do not want to upgrade and that is my problem.

I want to go back . . .  not downgrade, but simplify.

I know there are others like me, but I am afraid they are Birthers, or revisionist history folks. Where are the intelligent, well informed people who want to read newspapers and books, get a letter with a stamp or slow cook a meal? I do not want to worry about charging an army of machines in the off chance that a phone, music, email, or book will not be immediately and electronically at the ready; or waiting to be lost and replaced to feed our flagging economy. I sound old and grumpy. Well maybe I am. 

>Gardening in a Time of Recession


This is from the wonderful site 
Look for other posts from your truly


No New Plants, Period.
By Wickham Boyle ⋅ 3:03 pm July 27, 2009 ⋅ 

Gardening, after storms and the economic downturn, is akin to living with the dogged devotion of a Mets or Red Sox fan. As I wander through the garden and see the places crushed by the ice storm or rotted by the ceaseless rain I say to myself, “Wait until next year.” I say this too as I leaf through garden catalogs and dog-ear the pages. I know I can’t buy anything because I am on a recession diet: NO NEW PLANTS, PERIOD.

The economic downturn hit our house hard when I lost my part time editing job and our health insurance in March 2008. Then the stock market debacle turned our savings into dust. My response was denial; I just refused to open my account statements. It is possible to practice denial in dealing with retirement or college tuition accounts, but I had to walk out my front door and no amount of denial would allow me to over look the havoc wreaked on my garden.

The first thing I had to do was clean up the disaster. Then, since I am known to be a positive, plucky person, I decided to make gardening in a time of recession into a game, a challenge. How to garden when there is no money for plants or accoutrements? Not a penny. Luckily plants divide, unlike stocks of late, and what the economic community call “the green shoots of growth” seem to abound in the garden. I just had to learn to notice.

How to garden when there is no money for plants? Luckily plants divide, unlike stocks of late.

Every autumn I make a list of new year’s resolutions for my garden. In the fall of 2008 I fantasized a new job and a hedge of hydrangeas. Not just for the alliterative effect—though, I love that—but because they are opulent and romantic. I notated the idea in my garden journal. But when I read it this spring I crossed it out and scribbled: ice storm, rain and recession. I still wanted a project, so I settled on another romantic notion I had been incubating: a white garden.

I felt I could muster a white garden because many wild flowers bloom white, and I could toodle around my land culling these and cultivated white flowers too. So in spring I began marshalling the white plants to a western hillside covered in the leavings of a crushed willow tree downed in December.

I walked my property finding Queen Anne’s lace, phlox, a small white lilac strangled by buckthorn, and yarrow amidst the poison ivy. I waited until the lilies popped their heads up showing their colors and I moved the Casa Blanca and alba. I took wild daisies from the side of the highway and asked neighbors for seedpods or cuttings. Slowly my hillside began to fill in with buds, which are now opening in a mostly white profusion.

I am not a perfectionist, to my detriment, I fear, so when an occasional blue bell appears, I leave it. A few errant Halloween orange daylilies bloomed, now that the willow is gone and sunlight streams in. Maybe next year I will move these colorful interlopers, but for now I am celebrating that things are thriving.

The white garden.

I recently returned to take a peek at my portfolio, which had languished unvisited for nearly a year. And lo and behold, some things are coming back there, too. My portfolio and my white garden are making small strides.

I walk along, bending to weed, or examining new shoots and I think, next year, next year there will be white clematis climbing, and my GM stock will no longer be reborn, and they will issue new stock certificates. I will have blowsy hydrangeas grown from the cuttings my neighbor brought me. Next June, the delicate mock orange bushes, rescued from the highway crew, will bloom in the safety of my hillside. Next year, our teams will win, the market will soar and my white garden will be a glorious reminder of what can be culled, saved and nourished even in a time of deep contraction.