Sunday, August 19, 2007

On This and That

Fringing in NYC: Farmer Song
For the past 3 years I've been volunteering with the NYC Fringe Festival ( running until August 26 - 190 plays at 19 venues in the Greenwich Village vicinity. The other day I met Joel Perkins, a computer programmer from Iowa who is appearing in "Farmer Song, The Musical." The play is about the farm crisis in the 80's and is written and performed mostly by people who grew up on a farm and in some cases, continue to farm. The rolled into town in a van and a pickup truck and spent the last week soaking up NYC while doing 5 performances. (The last one was yesterday afternoon and they headed back to Iowa with some great stories to tell about their experience.)

We headed over to the New School Theater on Bank St. on the far west side on Friday and enjoyed the show with it's unusual political message. The cast seemed most impressed that our friends from Western Australia had attended, certainly the award for coming the furthest (you can't get any further from NYC than Perth.)

Yesterday, I was asked to come down and film an interview at Fringe Central (Carmine
& Varrick St) and low and behold, it was with the entire cast and crew of "Farmer Song." They were all as delightful off stage. The gang at Fringe are working on a documentary about the festival and the Iowans should be a great feature as they are true Fringers.

Speaking of which, a bunch of us are going to see Staten Island teacher Nanci Richards' "Pedagogy" [Can working for the Department of Education be worth more than just a $10 co-pay?] this Weds. Aug. 22 at 5:30 at the Center for Architecture (536 LaGuardia Place).
"I wanted to do this show because I was sick of the story of the "hero"
teacher. We only seem to hear about teachers when it comes from some myth that Hollywood creates. I wanted to tell a story about a group of people, (teachers ) who we all seem to talk about , but barely seem to know."
All tickets are $15, no reserved seating.
Some of the ICE gang are going out to eat afterwards but I may be on duty taping...

Jaspora... the same venue by Chicago actress of Haitian decent Nancy Moricette's one woma
n show (she bills herself as "An Imitation Haitian") at 7pm. I met Nancy the other day and I hear she is dynamite. Where else can you see back to back performances for $30? Only at the NYC Fringe.

Today we are going to see "Williamsburg, the Musical" which should be fun since I spent 35 years working in what was considered a ghetto but is not the hippest place on earth.

We're going with Dan & Robyn Scherr, our house guests from Fremantle, Australia. Dan grew up in the Williamsburg Houses off Bushwick Ave. and went to JHS 50, which is nea
r the epicenter of the Williamsburg revolution. (Think one day soon the reading scores at some of these schools may rise? Oh yes, if they do it will probably be due to things like paying teachers merit pay or better staff development, according to the pundits at Tweed.)

Dan should be catatonic from culture shock. Last night we got together with our college friends and Dan's co-Williamsburg buddies from JHS, Jeff Gleicher and Ken Shrednick. They were responsible for my ending up teaching in Williamsburg, where they also also taught for a number of years. They grew up in the South 9th Street area, where Jeff's parents owned a cleaning store on the corner of South 9th and Bedford. I once went up to Jeff's apartment in a tenement on South 9th and even coming from east New York, it was somewhat shocking. They both left the Burg for Long Island to raise their kids. Now Jeff just bought a condo on North 8th and Kent St. for, let's say, a few shekels more than the rent at the old South 9th st. tenement.

I've become an ancient Rome nut. Fueled by our recent visit at the end of May, my first trip there. Actually, always I was. As an undergrad history major and with 30 grad credits, I still never took a course on Rome. But I read Robert Graves' "I Claudius" and "Claudius, The God" when I was in high school. (I was looking for the sex scenes.) Imagine my delight at the PBS series "I Claudius" my favorite TV program ever. I even have a complete set of tapes still in shrink wrap that I swore I would watch as a marathon when I retired 5 years ago. Still haven't got to it. That damn union crap keeps getting in the way.

Digression: With Rome on my mind I can't help thinking of how the UFT/Unity Caucus empire will last longer. Augustus/Shanker set it up real good. You could actually get rid of Roman Emperors but Unity is forever with hand-picked successors. By the 22nd century Leo Casey's grandchild will be saying "we just have to wait out this mayor."

Oh, yeah, back to Rome. I don't have HBO but friends have humped the 2-year series "Rome" as an amazing piece of work. So for the past few weeks I have been avidly watching the dvds and they were right. Covering about a 10-15 year slice of Roman history (turn on the little notes you get to explain some of the background) it is a great companion piece to "I Claudius." Why does Octavian/Augustus remind me of some of the Tweed types we see around?
I've also got a few books by Julius Caesar and Livy and even a volume of Gibbon's "The Decline and Fall." That ought to keep me off the streets.

My First Screen Credit

MSG has been showing "The Irish Ropes" - last week after a tape of a recent John Duddy fight. Duddy is an Irish fighter who is undefeated. I'm not a boxing fan but I was recruited by retired NYC teacher and current filmmaker Bob Sarnoff as a cameraman for the film, which is about a boxing club in Rockaway in the Arverne section. We followed the fighters through Golden Gloves matches which took place all over the metro area - from Freeport to the Copacabana to Brownsville. The owner if the Irish Ropes club (it has closed) was Eddie McLoughlin who is Duddy's manager. The film includes a visit to my alma mater Thomas Jefferson by McLoughlin and Duddy where a teacher who is a Golden Gloves fighter invited then to speak to the kids.

This MSG version is shortened from Sarnoff's original film and emphasizes Duddy, whereas the full version deals much more with the amateur fighters, many of whom are from Arverne in Rockaway. The Ropes attracted a group of people of all races and ages and even though I was involved towards the end of the life of the club, it was obvious the potential for filling a gap in an area of Rockaway that could really benefit was lost.

I wrote a column about the sad closing of the Irish Ropes boxing club in Arverne in The Wave in Sept. 2006. Sarnoff's full version of the film is still to be released.

Sarnoff, myself and Mark Rosenhaft, my long-time partner in NorMark Productions (non-profit - meaning we have never made a dime) are currently working on "Dispatch," a Rockaway-based film on a local car service. Cab, anyone?

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