Monday, November 12, 2018

WILL GEER'S THEATRICUM BOTANICUM

WOODY GUTHRIE

Here's how this week's arts and culture column begins:

You know him as Grandpa Walton. What you may not know is that actor, activist, and gardener Will Geer has a major backstory.

In the midst of a successful New York stage, film, and radio career in the mid-1950s, he was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee and blacklisted.

He moved his wife and family to LA’s Topanga Canyon, began growing flowers, vegetables, and herbs, and founded a community theater known as Theatricum Botanicum (literally, “Garden Theater”), initially for other blacklisted actors, playwrights, and folk singers.

In 1973, Geer began his successful run with the popular TV series “The Waltons.” He and his wife, actor Herta Ware, established a nonprofit, expanded the theater, and became known, among other things, for their staging of Shakespeare plays.

Geer died in 1978, but his family has carried on. Under the artistic direction of his daughter, Ellen Geer, the theater now offers an annual summer season of five repertory plays, as well as year-round classes to actors of all ages. They host live music concerts, nurture fledgling playwrights, and reach out to schools and students across LA County.

And once a year they pay tribute to one of their dearest friends and greatest heroes: folk singer-songwriter Woody Guthrie.



READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.


WILL GEER PRE-GRANDPA WALTON
IN LUST FOR GOLD, 1949

TOPANGA CANYON'S THEATRICUM BOTANICUM

ON RETURNING TO LAX

Untitled, 1972
Included in ARRIVALS AND DEPARTURES:
THE AIRPORT  PICTURES OF GARRY WINOGRAND

"In any case, the 'baggage claim' scene at airports has an eternal value: after the death which to some small extent a flight always represents, everyone comes to pick up what belonged to them in a previous life. It is like the distribution of what each person will have the right to take with him into the hereafter. And by what miracle to you find the same cases, the same bags you had before you left?"

--Jean Baudrillard, Cool Memories

[Quote found in Geoff Dyer's The Street Philosophy of Garry Winogrand]

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

THE BOY IN THE MOON

AUTHOR IAN BROWN AND HIS
SEVERELY DISABLED SON WALKER


Here's a review of one of the best books I've read this year.

Some excerpts:

"It was only later, alone, at night, having battled for hours to get him to sleep, only to find myself sleepless, that I sometimes considered the cost of his life, and the alternatives. had the doctor been asking me if I wanted to let Walker's life end, as nature would have ended it on its own? I sat on the back steps of our little house in the heart of the city at 4 a.m., smoking and thinking the unthinkable. Criminal thoughts, or at least outlandish ones: what if we don't take extraordinary measures? What if he gets sick and we don't work so hard to get him better? Not murder, just nature. But even as I considered these grave plans, I knew I could never enact them. I'm not bragging; my hesitation wasn't ethical or moral. It was more a medieval urge, instinctual and physical; fear of a particular mode of failure, fear of retribution if I ignored the dull call of his flesh and his body and his need. In any event I felt like an ox slipping into its yoke. I could feel the heavy tragic years coming on ahead of me, as certain as bad weather; there were nights when I even welcomed them. At last a fate I didn't have to choose, a destiny I couldn't avoid. There was a tiny prick of light in that thought, the relief of submitting to the unavoidable. Otherwise, they were the worst nights of my life. I can't explain why I wouldn't change them." [pp 26-27].

"So you can perhaps forgive me for thinking, some days, that Walker has a purpose in our evolutionary project, that h is something more than an unsuccessful attempt at mutation and variation. For thinking, probably vainly that if his example is noted and copied and "selected," he might be one (very small) step toward the evolution of a more varied and resilient ethical sense in a few members of the human species. The purpose of intellectually disabled people like Walker might be to free thus from the stark emptiness of the survival of the fittest." [p. 234].

"Every time we meet someone who is severely handicapped, Jean Vanier [founder of L'Arche] believes, they ask two questions: Do you consider me human? Do you love me?...

In Vanier's last and highest stage of consciousness, 'we see the face of God within the disabled. Their presence is a sight of God, who has chosen 'the foolish in order to confound the strong, the proud and the so-called wise of our world'...

I wish I could believe in Vanier's God. But the truth is, I do not see the face of the Almighty in Walker. Instead I see the face of my boy; I see what is human, and lovely and flawed at once. Walker is no saint and neither am I...I have begun simply to love him as he is, because I've discovered I can' because we can be who we are, weary dad and broken boy, without alteration or apology, in the here and now."  [pp. 284-285].

Friday, November 2, 2018

MODEL BUILDER EXTRAORDINAIRE GREG KELLY


GREG KELLY WITH HIS
TITANIC GRAND STAIRCASE
Here's how this week's arts and culture column begins:


From Vikings Stadium to Watts Tower, Greg Kelly is rebuilding bits of history with his hands

For Greg Kelly, 67, model building is a form of meditation.

He was raised in Long Beach, the third in a family of 12. “My dad and older brother would build little balsa wood airplanes, I was probably 3 or 4, and they’d work on it on the kitchen table. I’d just sit and watch, curious. They learned to take it and put in top of the refrigerator to make sure it was away from me.”

As a kid Kelly never built a model. He was always in sports. He had 12 years of Catholic school. “I had some nuns who were saints, some not so much. But I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. It taught me with my projects that they weren’t going to be easy or simple. It was up to me to figure things out.”

He and his classmates were being groomed to be doctors and lawyers.

“When I graduated from high school, I started working in factories and I enjoyed it. I found I personally enjoyed working with my hands!”

The family had moved to Orange County. One day Kelly was walking past a discount chain store called Zodys, and in the window was a visible V-8 engine model. He bought it, ostensibly for his brothers. They weren’t interested. So he built it himself, and was hooked.

READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.