Saturday, June 16, 2012

Father's Day Weekend Reminisin'

This weekend has been extremely busy, with planet Ben Vereen touching down in San Francisco Tuesday. I was able to get over to see the show Wednesday evening and it was one of the best shows I have ever seen. Vereen's stage presence was magnetic, one felt as if he were speaking directly to you and in many cases he was (smile). I had the best seat I'd ever had before. I'd had a great interview with him which I broadcast earlier that day, so literally Vereen was on my mind. I liked the way he told the story of these musical giants who shaped his career from a young boy in Brooklyn to Manhattan on to San Francisco and Las Vegas. Interspersed with show tunes and lots of laughter, even tears (in the end), it was one of the best evenings of entertainment I have experienced in a long time and from the photo opts afterward in the lobby with guests ranging from what looked like ten years old on up. He'll be at the Rrazz Room at Hotel Nikko in San Francisco through Sunday, Father's Day.

Last night found me at the screening of Robert Townsend's In the Hive. It was the opening film for the San Francisco Black Film Festival. Starring Jonathan McDaniel as Xtra, a young father whose imprisoned father played by Roger Genveur Smith and hooker mother, make life difficult for Xtra who has dropped out of school, yet has an innate brilliance no one recognizes, not even himself.

It is at an alternative school, The Hive, that Xtra learns to read and explore gifts he hadn't known he possessed especially those connected to technology, programming and computers a curriculum focus at this school headed by Mrs. Inez portrayed by Loretta Devine, with strong backup with Mr. Hollis, Michael Clarke Duncan. It is an edgy story which is made all too true by the immediately I felt last night after a trip earlier that morning to San Quentin, where I was able to see the men present Hamlet. In rehearsals since last August, this one performance was I believe their 6-8 in a program hosted by the Marin Shakespeare Company.

Not open to the entire prison population, the performance was filmed so that other inmates will be able to see it on the San Quentin channel and read about it in the prison newspaper. In the Q&A which followed, one man stated that he had dropped out of high school and had never seen a Shakespere performance before.

Afterward one prisoner who is being released in 202o spoke about how he got turned onto reading when he was handed the Frederick Douglass's Slave Narrative. I promised to send him a list of books I'd recommend.

It was the same for Xtra in The Hive when he asked his English teacher, an AmeriCorps volunteer for books he could share with his little brother who was also struggling with his reading at school. She gave him a stack of books from Black Inventors to other books about black life and culture. I thought it was cool that she had the students reading Michael Eric Dyson's Holler if You Hear Me: Searching for Tupac, (b. June 16), a book I use in my college composition classes.

Jonathan was at the screening last night and spoke the director, Robert Townsend, the film and how he prepared for his first feature role. His respect for Townsend reminded me of Townsend's reflection on his mentor and friend, Sidney Poitier just a day earlier at the press conference.

It has been busy. I am on my way to San Francisco now to the Ethnic Dance Festival at YBCA.

More later.


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