Friday, March 25, 2011

Remembering Lanford Wilson

Watch the full episode. See more PBS NewsHour.

I got to know Lanford Wilson, who died yesterday at 73, in the late 1980s when we both were taking the waters at the Lion's Head. He was bright, witty in a down-home way (hear him discuss his Ozark roots in the PBS news clip above), and kind. Through him I met Tanya Berezin, artistic director of Circle Repertory Company, which occupied a playhouse across Sheridan Square from the Head. Through my introduction to Tanya I got involved with Circle Rep, serving on the board of their fund-raising group. I also got to meet some other playwrights, including Craig Lucas, Athol Fugard, A.R. "Pete" Gurney, and Terence McNally, and to see their plays. I saw Lanford's Burn This and Craig's Prelude to a Kiss on Broadway, Lanford's Redwood Curtain in a special performance while it was still in development, and a dramatic reading of his earlier play The Hot L Baltimore. I'll always be grateful to Lanford for this introduction to the world of theater.

Lanford had an amazing ability to enter the heads of different sorts of people and to write convincing dialogue for them. Seeing his plays made me empathize with characters I couldn't have imagined liking. His vision was unsparing, but ultimately forgiving, if not optimistic.

So the litany of old Lion's Head regulars departed continues. This past year we have lost David Markson, Paul Schiffman, and Vic Ziegel. Going back a few more years we have Liam Clancy, Dennis Duggan, Frank McCourt, Cicely Nichols, and Kurt Vonnegut Jr.. A hazard of getting older is having to say goodbye too many times.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Elizabeth Taylor, 1932-2011

The video above consists of scenes from the screen adaptation of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew (1967), starring Ms. Taylor and her twice husband Richard Burton. Thanks to Valley TaylorBurton for the clip.

About the time she was going through her third or fourth divorce, Billy Graham was preaching to a stadium crowd and said he didn't think people should condemn her, but instead should pray for her. A man's voice came from somewhere in the upper deck: "I've been praying for her for years, and I haven't gotten her yet!"

Update: Some great photos on Slate.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Castillo goes to Phils.

Luis Castillo, released by the Mets, has been picked up by the Phillies. Will he go from catcalls at Citi Field to cheers at Citizens Bank Park? This certainly provides another chance to test the "curse of the ex-Met" theory.

Update: The other shoe drops, as Oliver Perez gets his walking papers, this after walking too many batters and tossing too many gopher balls (two in his last outing with the Mets on Sunday). This means that the cash-strapped Mets have eaten $18 million ($6 million to Castillo and $12 million to Perez) in contractual obligations so far this season.

Is there really such a thing as the curse of the ex-Met? I dunno. I think I heard someone use that phrase years ago at the Lion's Head, and it's stuck with me. I certainly don't have any statistical evidence to back it up. Still, somewhere in the back alleys of my brain, probably in the vicinity of the amygdala, resides the notion that, whenever a Mets player is traded, released, or lost to free agency, his performance, especially against his old team, improves dramatically (and conversely, whenever a veteran player is acquired by the Mets, his stats go south). These are falsifiable propositions, and I'm sure there is someone out there who can produce counterexamples. Of course, I will then argue that you've found an exception that proves the rule.