“Telling It Like It Is”: The Alley’s “A Night With Janis Joplin” Rocks the House

“Telling It Like It Is”: The Alley’s “A Night With Janis Joplin” Rocks the House

 

A few years ago I saw “Love, Janis” at The Alley Theatre.  It was one of the best things I had ever seen there, and I didn’t want it to end. The actress channeled Janis Joplin and her songs with aplomb, and it was one of the most successful runs in the history of The Alley.

Now, The Alley offers the stellar “A Night With Janis Joplin,” and although I don’t know how it is possible, it is even better. As in, about six standing ovations before the end of the show better.  From the minute the show opens with a rock band, dancing backup singers, and lighting that makes you feel like you really are at a Janis Joplin concert, the atmosphere is electric, and that excitement level never wanes.  You immediately plunge into Joplin’s deep pool of emotion and creativity, and you begin to understand how she was able to create music that was never imitative and wholly revolutionary, yet still connected to the musical predecessors that she so admired. It is easy to see how, for her, “Music is everything.” Continue reading

H-Town Diary: The Pathways of November

I know it seems like civilization is falling to pieces, and that we cannot agree on anything, and that uncertainty can fill up a little too much real estate in your head.

And that even though Houston seems far away from Paris and Beirut and Tel Aviv, that things are so terrible all over, and that perhaps more turmoil is heading our way.  It seems that chaos and pain are as close as a television, or a radio, because in a way, they are.

But sometimes, you can have an adventure, take a break from the debates in our heads, and allow the people who are doing good take center stage, distract you from the tragic, take your breath away.  Fate can lead you upward—it does not always bring you to your knees.

This is what happened to me, in November, when so much pain was in Paris, Beirut, Tel Aviv, well, all over.

So first of all, the weather sent us a message:  that it can be cloudless and sunny and 65 in November, a reminder that we can’t mess up everything here on earth.  Sometimes, things are gorgeous and fantastic and we haven’t done a thing to deserve it.  But we are grateful for the gift.

So I turned off the talking heads, turned off my radio, accepted an invitation to remember that while terrorists get so much press, there are quiet deeds going on all around us in Houston, Texas, America, and we need to make sure those get enough air time to sustain us, let us breathe. Continue reading

A Million Rose Petals: A D-Day Remembrance

This updated essay will run this weekend in the Gray Matters online section of The Houston Chronicle to commemorate the fallen in remembrance of D-Day.

Reflection and Choice

On 6 June 1944 Americans stormed French beaches in the Battle of Normandy under commander Dwight D. Eisenhower.  It was the turning point for World War II, and was decisive for defeating Nazi Germany under Adolf Hitler.

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Americans wounded after storming Omaha Beach, 6 June 1944

Yet last year, on my neighborhood street, only one flag other than the one on our house flew in memory of these brave Americans, some of whom gave their lives so that Western Europe, and the West in general, could remain free.

Last year, on television, commemorative profiles of the few veterans remaining alive were overwhelmed by the distressing reports that we had just traded five of the most dangerous terrorists in our own war, the war on terror, in exchange for a soldier who might have deserted, might have collaborated with the enemy.  The White House and journalists in general were okay with…

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Downton Abbey Withdrawal: Not. Pretty.

When I first started watching Downton Abbey, it was an escape from all sorts of things: grading papers, organizing closets, reading books that are really hard and force you to google words that you don’t know.

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You know: stuff you have to do.

Well, one of the first things I noticed was the presence of MAGGIE SMITH in her complete perfection, and she had a few ZINGERS, and they were so great, so funny, that you really did not wish her to stop after JUST ONE….(I have the same problem with tortilla chips and those toll house chocolate chip cookies that take only ELEVEN minutes to bake.  I know: a little TOO easy. Very. Dangerous.)

All she had to do was have some lines like this:

Violet: “I’m so looking forward to seeing your mother again. When I’m with her I’m reminded of the virtues of the English.”
Matthew: “Isn’t she American?”
Violet: “Exactly.”

Or this:  “What is a WEEKEND?”  and of course you are laughing, and IT DOES NOT TAKE MUCH TO BE HOOKED.

I kid you not. Continue reading