Wanda's Picks Radio Show August 31, 2012
The plan was to get on the road for Oregon Shakespeare Festival an hour later, so we could make the 1:30 PM show to see Robert Schenkkan's All the Way, which looks at the "accidental presidency" of Lyndon Baines Johnson, actor, Jack Willis. Johnson calls his presidency accidental, because JFK had to die for this opportunity to present itself.
We pulled into the city limits with an hour to spare. I'd last been up this way for the solar eclipse. The day was clear and the air warm as we waited in line for our tickets. This play is part of the American Revolutions: United States History Cycle, commission OSF Artistic Director, Bill Rauch.
The set was a courtroom with certain characters silent until their turn came to speak. Some like Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer (actress Gina Daniels) had to wait quite a while and then she didn't get to say much. A hero of mine, I didn't have the back story on the Freedom Democratic Movement and Johnson's move to silence her, Hubert Humphey's conflicting alliances, sometimes at odds, and the internal conflict between the older SCLC members and SNCC members like Stokely Carmichael (actor Wayne T. Carr), Rev. Ralph Abernathy, SCLC co-founder (Tyrone Butler), Roy Wilkins, NAACP Executive Director (Derrick Lee Weeden) and how Dr. Martin King (actor Kenajuan Bentley) mediated between the two camps.
There were times, like at the funeral of one of the three killed civil rights workers, James Chaney; he was killed in Meridian, Mississippi, June 21, 1964, by the KKK along with Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, when Bentley looked just like Dr. King.
Richard Elmore’s portrayal of J. Edgar Hoover as a sleazy man, more possessed with spying on black leaders to the exclusion of true national security is well done. This is another place where President Johnson demonstrates his persuasive skills. In this case he gets Hoover to protect civil rights workers after the three young men’s bodies are found.
Senator Humphrey, D.-Minn., as portrayed by actor, Peter Frechette, seems to truly be for civil rights and other social programs and appears truly shocked when two-timed by President Johnson who sweet talks often him into uncomfortable positions. Ironically, Frechette also portrays Sen. Strom Thurmond, D.-S.C.
Seeing these figures alive on stage as younger politicians through the eyes of Johnson is amusing and insightful. Johnson plays to their weaknesses and strengths. He knows how apply pressure and let up; always thinking on his feet as he mitigates conflict and opposition by being one or two steps ahead of the game at all times. He reminds himself constantly that the people of the United States did not elect him president, they were stuck with him. The true choice would be if he could beat Gov. Wallace and win the presidency on the 1964 Democratic ticket.
He cheats on his wife and knew that J.Edgar Hoover (FBI director, actor Richard Elmore ) was a snake and gay (smile). All the Way is quite the drama—presidential drama like the best soap. It also shows how after so many years, not much has changed on the White House stage. I don’t know how President Obama works the cast he inherited and that which he chose, so well.
The play is up through November 3; it almost overlaps our current presidential election by a day (smile).
More later on Ashland visit (smile).
Universe's The Party
With Mt. Shasta as a backdrop, conifers covering the ring of mountains surrounding Ashland, this past three days has been really marvelous. Today, I finally got to see The Party. So much of what the old guard is saying to the youth is, pick up the baton, yet, just as the youth in Question Bridge, ask where is the Blueprint, so do the two youth whose voices frame the story of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense and The Young Lords.
There is going to be an art exhibit, oral histories and memorabilia at the Panther Reunion. The two young men, can't imagine the depth of the pain and suffering this and other revolutionary movements have caused. Just under an two and a half hours, the work The Party was started in 2009 and over the next three years the creative team researched and wrote a work--six hours long, then three and now the current two and 20 minutes.
I got lost a few times, not like other times, just in trying to follow the fast moving or shifting terrain. There were places where I wanted to linger a minute . . . like the scene where someone was called out as an informant and tortured. I hadn't known BBP members tortured each other. In this case boiling water was poured on the accused.
At the party, the woman who boiled the water was there, as was the one who poured it on the accused. More than a reunion, the gathering was an opportunity to heal the riffs and tears--trauma many still bore scars from. The Party also illustrated how trauma was not limited to one generation.
There is so much to talk about--the multimedia set, real time filming and capture, the word: REVOLUTION in neon flashing above a tier where actors performed.
The section on COINTELPRO made me think about All the Way and J. Edgar Hoover. It was quite a riveting performance by all. The theatre also hosted conversation with Black Panther Party Alumni like Ericka Huggins and Emory Douglass and others. This is the kind of work that warrants a community conversation afterward. One should not have to unpack this alone later on (smile).
I ran into Berkeley Rep director, Tony Taccone at the matinee I attended. He said he was looking to bring the work to his theatre. This will not be a first for Berkeley Rep. Remember Daughters of the Revolution. . . ?
Certainly a Black Panther Party story, needs a Bay Area premiere. Stay tuned: berkeleyrep.org