Wednesday, January 25, 2012

"Time Stands Still' evocative with conflicts of war and love

“Time Stands Still' refers to photographs...mind-etching photographs exhibiting the carnage and degradation of war in a single frame. Admittedly Aisle Say is a 'let's get to the next laugh' musical theatre junkie, but this incisively writing and superbly acted production is one of the most thought provoking experiences in recent memory. Images of war...I sat there thinking about that little naked Vietnamese girl running in terror toward the photographer, the napalm exploding behind her; the Vietman general blowing the prisoner's brains out on the streets of Saigon; Ghaddafi lying bloodied and brutalized in a cold storage freezer. One might infer then, this show is a downer. By no means! Writer David Marguilies has infused and balanced the drama with Mandy, who initially comes across as a ditz, “...the lawyer is doing that pro bono, yunno. That means free!”, but at final curtain we actually see her as as the one cool clear voice of reason. Drama means conflict. There are a few going on. Sarah (Susan McKey) is a war photographer who is rehabbing back in the Brooklyn, having been injured and scarred by a roadside bomb in Iraq. Her live-in for 8 years, Jamie (Kevin Kelly) a free lance writer, was with her in the war zone but returned earlier due to PTSD. Their stateside magazine editor, middle aged and (anchored with love handles) Richard (Bruce Graham) meets them there along with his new and very May-December trophy and soon-to-be wife Mandy (Megan McDermott). Jamie has had enough of the 8 year non-commitment. He wants to be married and perhaps have a child in Brooklyn – NOT in a war zone. But even as he pours her a first drink after their long time apart, Sarah has a telling moment. Her brain freezes for a moment. She blurts out “Where are my cameras!” (Similar to one's own deadly fear when a cellphone is misplaced). Later, we understand those pieces of equipment are her raison d'etre. In his pleas to Sarah not to return, Jamie argues what all those who have considered the egregious, horrible and life altering mistakes of Iraq and Afghanistan.”Do you really honestly feel you are going to change things in that country” he asks, full knowing they will go on with or without her presence. Contemporary references? My mind flashed to the very day we quitted Iraq. A mere six hours later the Shiite President Al Maliki proposed an arrest warrant for his Sunni Vice President. Stay tuned for the sectarian civil war to follow. Heading east, Karzai is laughing at his neutered American handlers, shoving billions down the tribal rabbit holes. Sarah, an award-winning photo-journalist – even suffering from wounds – finally admits she must return. Her life is not fulfilled unless she is in danger and recording it all for humanity. Even the supposedly superficial Mandy confronts her on the issue of involvement. “How can you stand by and do nothing when something horrific is happening? Why can't you just drop your damn camera and go to that person's aid rather than taking a stupid picture and doing nothing?” Sarah replies that her camera and the cameras of others are there to record life, not change it. This is a fascinating interchange. Both actresses are so very naturalistic in their interpretations that we feel in our gut their respective arguments. This production is so well balanced, so well tempered. Part of the brilliance is the surgical employments of laughter to break the tension. Thru February 5 302.494.1100

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

U of D's WVUD now at 6800 watts - a 43 year history

43 years ago the first words heard on U of D campus radio station were, “WHEN is Now....and you ain't heard nothin' yet!” Plagiarizing Al Jolson's famous line from the first 'talkie' in 1927 probably was not the subtlest of gestures that General Manager Greer Firestone on this honor bound campus, but my guest that day - UD President Arthur Trabant - remained cool and composed. Today 's WVUD 91.3 FM is a long way from the carrier current (phone lines) of that maiden year, which 'carried' on into the decade of the '70's .- 6800 watts away! Now with the capital campaign successfully completed, the swath of FM station extends past New Castle County and into the nearby environs of MD and PA. New transmitter, new antenna tower and fibre optics will do that. 1969 - that first year for me and my 'hand-picked' (read: friends from the dorm) staff. It was like one-armed Civil War Major John Wesley Powell strapped into his wooden rowboat navigating the rapids of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. That took place in 1869. (See. You were asking yourself what connection the daring Major Powell had with Aisle Say and the UD radio station? His exploration was exactly 100 years apart and I assure you that our adventures were of similar derring do!) During the first year we had no clue what we were doing; but we had fun doing it. I do recall that we were bequeathed a particularly arrogant advisor, Bob Blake. Blake loved to say he had no enemies. That may have been true, but he was intensely disliked by his friends. While today VUD is a student run organization of approximately 70 volunteers, Steve Kramack, '93, is one of two paid staffers. Kramack attended A.I. Du Pont High School and as a senior, began his career at the station. “I knew what I wanted to do. The undergrads were not too keen about a high school kid hanging around. But, there I was, hanging around!” Four years of sports and morning shows, training and programming director and now the salaried Station Manager is married and with kids. In addition to the HD FM station, VUD has a second station called The Basement, entirely run by students. “A few students do join for they wish to have a career in studio, but far and away they enjoy this extracurricular as a hobby.” Every musical genre is touched in the block format instituted by Kramack. Student announcers follow the sports team. “We can see how popular the sports shows are by the online streaming. Football is off the charts and this year, with our successes, both men's and women's basketball are having a resurgence.” There are some old timers who have had their regular programs for decades. This aspect weaves a wonderful tapestry of tradition and knowledge. George Stewart has been on the air for over 40 years with two shows; SideTwo and Crazy College. Ron Smith recently celebrated the 33 1/3 year (get it?) of his blues program. VUD has been a feeder for regional radio stations, predominantly Delmarva Broadcasting WDEL, WSTW and Graffiti Radio. Company President Pete Booker was a former GM at the U of D. Says Booker, “When I was a student at UD, we had a less structured operation and we got to do pretty much what we wanted, but we tried hard to make it like “real radio”. The experience and the ability work with and eventually lead other dedicated performers gave me a real education in our business at a real young age. I started as a commercial broadcaster at age 17 and haven’t stopped! My UD Radio experience was 4 years of non-stop fun; one of the great times in my life!” Delmarva employs several grads including Robin Bryson, Sean Green, Mike Nigro and Brian Smith, among others. Their annual Radiothon is coming up. Listen online at

Friday, January 6, 2012

Mayor Baker's Five Stages of Grief

Philosophers tell us there are five stages of grief: denial/isolation, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Jim Baker winds down his tenure as the city's first time three term mayor. His legacy may be more about his rage than the Riverfront; antagonistic disparagements rather than the transformation of The Queen; rhetorical convulsions rather than The Plan for Change that resulted in $80 million from collection of delinquent taxes and parking tickets.. . Here is Aisle Say's fictional take on the flood of emotions from a man who has built his legacy on shooting from the mouth and savaging his critics. The majority of the quotes are his and his alone. Others are representative Scene opens and is set in the 9th floor sanctum sanctorum of the City/County Building. Communications Chief John Rago and Chief of Staff Bill Montgomery are in attendance. 1.DENIAL/ISOLATION “There is NO way I am leaving office”, screams the Mayor as he leaps on his desk slamming his feet repeatedly like a petulant child. “I refuse to believe this is over. The citizens will be wandering in the desert without me. Those idiots in City Council will try to marginalize me this final year, like they did to Captain Queeg in The Caine Mutiny. I just want to be alone. I'm not taking calls from anybody, even those Buccini twins. (The rant ceases for a moment. He arches that long left eyebrow). “Hold on a minute! I have it!. I'll stage a coup d'etat, kinda like that guy Putin. Now, there's a leader!” In a somber and tempered voice, Montgomery suggests, “They've never worked in America, Mr. Mayor. It's unconstitutional” 2.ANGER Baker: “I don't care what you say, Montgomery. Stuff it! If I say it's constitutional, it's constitutional. I'll fight the Council tooth and nail if they want. Doesn't matter to me. They want to have a war for the next year and a half? Fine. We will have it. And it will be past those 400 days when I get re-elected by citizen acclamation. I'll finish off all of them then! Anybody who opposes me, I'll simply call a fool. They'll be too intimidated to deny it!” Counseled Rago: “Not everyone you call an idiot is really an idiot, Mr Mayor. Some are my friends.” Baker: (jumping to the floor) “They're idiots if I say they are. They're nattering nabobs of negativism. (ponders). Who said that? Rago: Spiro Agnew, sir. He ended up in jail. Baker: That shouldn't have happened. And by the way, Rago, you're an idiot for saying people I know who are idiots are not idiots...and there's a whole lot of them out there, especially the ones who don't do exactly what I say!” 3.BARGAINING: Montgomery: “Mr. Mayor, assuming you want to stage this coup d'etat, the press has you painted as the Ndamukong Suh of local politics, stomping on anyone who dares a debate with you.” Baker: (pausing). Hmm. Finally a good point from you. (to Rago) Okay, Rago, you're the spinmeister in this administration. Let's start putting out some pictures with me reading to kids. Get me a couple of juvenile delinquents and get them reduced jail time to say I've been mentoring them for years behind the scenes. Get me on the board of Ronald McDonald House. Rago: “Genius, Mr. Mayor. I'll get right on it.” (Immediately gets out his I phone and googles all child-based Wilmington non-profits) 4.DEPRESSION: Baker sits back hard in his chair, wipes a tear from his eye and in a rare moment of introspection says, . “Life is not worth living. My entire self esteem is built around people I can push around, including my staff. If I can't be Mayor anymore, what will become of me? I haven't had a sale of my book in years, which, by the way, is the greatest encyclopedia on black music ever created. What's left for me?” Rago: “Well, perhaps, Mr. Mayor, you could begin teaching Dale Carnegie courses.” Baker: “There you go, being an idiot again. And a damn fool to boot!” 5.ACCEPTANCE: Baker blows in his handkerchief and throws his head back: “So, it's over. Truth is, I'm fine with it. A collective sigh of relief emanates from the lungs of Montgomery and Rago. Baker: “Ha! Had you two fools fooled for a minute. The hell I'm fine with it. Bring on City Council, bring on all those namby pamby reporters looking for a quote! A person that criticizes me is about an useful as a flea on an elephant. This is a Place To Be Somebody and that somebody is me. I'll kick any body's ass that doesn't agree.” Rago: “Yes, sir. Of course, sir”. (seen whispering in Montgomery's ear as the two leave the room. ...”I've always hated that lame slogan”).

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Arden Concert Gild schedules a wide range of artists

The Arden Gild Hall is simply one of the coolest venues in the state to see a concert. Driving past the innumerable developments on Grubb or Marsh or Veale Roads into the trio of the Ardens, one experiences a sort of anti-anxiety release or blood pressure reduction. To call the diverse selection of architecture in Arden 'eclectic' is to be kind. Homes that one wonders of their viability in the next hurricane stand next to beautifully appointed marvels of design. The Gild Hall, the center of the community, seats about 300 in a very intimate and funky Bohemian-style atmosphere. This inherent quality makes it equally a hoot for the performers. On Boxing Day (December 26) a celebratory crowd was entertained magnificently by 3 locally bred musicians “The Spring Standards”. They write their own music. It's a rarity that each song of the hour and one half set was joyous and fulfilling. Aisle Say in offering a service to the readership by suggesting you brighten your day by searching them on Face Book and hearing their tunes. Arden concerts was the child of resident tye-dye wearer and caretaker, George Brocklesby. George was following in an ancient tradition at Arden. Leadbelly, Pete Seeger and Burl Ives had trod the boards many decades previous. Brocklesby and Mark Taylor (who has a Roots show on U of D's WVUD) brought in Bela Fleck in 1997. Ron Ozer, a Cornell-trained chemist at the X Station, joined the Gild in 2003 and began a drive to expand the program. Early blue grass concerts evolved into World Music, Americana, the blues, jazz, classical, folk and rock; the programming as miscellaneous as the neighboring habitats. Ozer made two funding connections which aided the cause; DE Division of Arts and The Grand. The Grand shows, normally in the baby grand, have focused on World Music and Jazz. (the former being one of Ozer's predilections). “These shows”, says Ozer, “are generally harder to sell and The Grand offers a wider promotion base.” The Concert Gild is an all volunteer organization. Says Ozer, “ While we love to introduce new bands to our audience, they have an international name performing on Saturday February 18. The legendary David Johansen. Here's a guy who gives new meaning to eclecticism: The New York Dolls, Buster Poindexter, punk and New Age. Joe Trainor, who seems to be everywhere of late, is celebrating the 37th anniversary of Led Zeppelin's double album magnum opus, “Physical Graffiti”. Trainor's tribute band of superior musicians 'In The Light” will perform the album in its entirety. Ozer says the show is selling well so it is best to buy in advance. The date is January 14 and ducats are $15.00. Jimmy Page and Robert Plant state this is the pinnacle of Led Zep. The album was the first ever to go platinum before its release. It is so very impossible to get the “Kashmir” riff out of your head once implanted. Hoots and Hellmouth, who I recall have trod the boards there before, return on March 3. I have no explanation for this synapse, but each time I see their name, my mind reverts back to the late '60's group “Strawberry Alarm Clock” and their one hit wonder, “Incense and Peppermints.” Where in the world do these groups come up with their monikers? What fun! Arden's next collaborative show with the Grand is Bettye Lavette on February 3..  She did an Arden show on Saturday, April 22, 2006. Says Mark Fields, Managing Director of the Grand, “When we at The Grand decided that we needed to forge partnerships in the community to diversify our programming, the Arden Music Gild was the first group that we turned to. We had observed the Gild’s enthusiasm for all kinds of music and the members’ dedication to promoting the work of exciting artists. And, we were especially taken with Ron Ozer’s tireless promotional skills. We have established a number of other effective partnerships, but the collaboration with Arden was the one that got us started and convinced us that partnership was the way to build audiences for everyone.” If after checking out the event schedule you find that a few of the concerts interest you, a Gild membership will give you reduced prices.