14 August 2014

"The Boxer" at the Athenaeum in Chicago

It is rare to presence a play with such strong quality in every corner (concept, writing, casting, directing, acting, choreography, lighting, music, sound effects) that the only word to use is "perfect." That is how I am compelled to describe The Boxer, playing now through the end of the month (August 2014) at the Athenaeum Theater on North Southport in Chicago.

Set in the late 20s or early 30s, the story line revolves around a 135-lb boxer who is scheduled to fight "The Bavarian Beast" (a large and menacing person with mob backing) and is both frightened and inept. One of a group of down-and-out workers agrees to serve as his trainer. What the boxer doesn't know is that the trainer is a woman disguised as a man in order to get work. A romantic farce ensues.

What makes the play highly original is that it is a live, on-stage, silent movie with a live pianist and a few sound effects. A screen above the stage gives occasional dialogue lines, as in the silent movies. The lighting gives a sepia monochrome effect. There are three video segments in the same sepia tones, also silent, projected on the screen as part of the story. The effect is a multimedia presentation which scrambles our expectations in a hilarious romp suitable for all ages.

The acting is spot-on perfect, expressing without words the full range of emotions the characters are feeling. As is typical in farces, there are numerous running gags through the show, and a couple of surprises which I will not reveal, not wanting to spoil your enjoyment. The pace is just right and the energy is breathtaking.

If you like the theater or silent movies or farces or all three, you must not let the month go by without seeing The Boxer at Chicago's Athenaeum. You may thank me later.

The Boxer
Athenaeum Theater, North Southport St., Chicago
Directed by Kacie Smith
Choreographed by Ahmad Simmons

Please check out my Angela Fournier series of books at www.amazon.com/author/bedforddavid

23 July 2014

The Immigration Crisis

Everyone is aware by now of the thousands of children who have crossed the border, turned themselves in to immigration agents, and are seeking asylum in the US. Most of these children come from Guatemala and Honduras, where their very lives are in danger. It is not surprising that this humanitarian tragedy has become politicized. The government can do nothing to help the poor, the orphans, and the persecuted without coming under blistering attack. The House of Representatives has even refused to vote for the money the President requested to deal with the problem.

This is not the first time the US has harbored immigrant children. The governor of Massachusetts says it clearly:

“We have rescued Irish children from famine, Russian and Ukrainian children from religious persecution, Cambodian children from genocide, Haitian children from earthquakes, Sudanese children from civil war, and New Orleans children from Hurricane Katrina,” governor Devon Patrick said. “Once, in 1939, we turned our backs on Jewish children fleeing the Nazis, and it remains a blight on our national reputation. The point is that this good Nation is great when we open our doors and our hearts to needy children, and diminished when we don’t.”

What we must do is simple: give all the children hearings as to why they are seeking asylum, give them safe and clean housing while their case is being processed, and give them all medical examinations and care as needed. It is only basic human kindness. Doing what I have outlined does not guarantee that they will be allowed to stay in the country. If we give them all due process, we will set an example and gain the good will of the nations.

We must, however, do more than process these children humanely. Why are the countries they come from so dangerous? The US has a long history of relationships or intervention (depending on one's take) in these countries. What have we done there? There was a time when these countries were much more peaceful. These matters bear looking into for anyone concerned about these children, regardless of one's political preferences.

One of the subplots of Angela 3: Silver Path of the Moon (forthcoming) is our immigration policy and how people react to it at the local level. The first two books of the three-book series are already available at www.amazon.com/author/bedforddavid.

21 July 2014

The Beautiful Game: Some Thoughts on the 2014 World Football Cup

Football is supposed to be the beautiful game. We saw snippets of it in the World Cup in Brazil this year, but there is still too much that gets in the way of the game as it is supposed to be.

Having grown up in Argentina, I am immensely proud of this year's national team. It displayed the highest level of persistence, teamwork, and maturity, both as a team and in the players and head coach. The final could just as easily have been won by Argentina as by Germany.

Officially, football is a non-contact sport. According to the rulebook, no player may touch another under any circumstances except shoulder-to-shoulder, arms against one's side, when both players are vying for the ball. This means that if a player merely rests a hand on another, a free kick is supposed to be awarded. Any deliberate grabbing of a jersey, pushing another player, sliding at the ball with cleats pointing outward calls for a yellow card. A repeat offense calls for expulsion.

In the rare games in which the referee calls the game according to the rules, football indeed is the beautiful game. The play moves constantly and winning depends on the skill, speed, and intelligence of the players.

During this World Cup, the refereeing has been awful in every game. The reason is very simple: the referees tolerate a great deal of fouling without stopping play and calling free kicks when they are supposed to be showing a yellow card. This practice goes back many decades to England, the country which invented the game but also introduced "war football." The practice was to mark other players by fouling them so they could not move and then do a lightning counterattack. This is boring football and not beautiful at all. It also violates the rules.

Argentina in the late 60's witnessed the coach of Estudiantes de La Plata introduce this kind play and no amount of protesting to the referees had any effect. All over the world since then, football has declined into a game of fouling the opponents to the full extent the referees allow, thus keeping the other team from putting any sort of plays together. This year we saw a Brazilian player get a vertebra cracked in a vicious foul that was not even awarded a free kick, but ignored by the referee. In the final, there was a clear foul in the penalty box that would have meant a penalty kick for Argentina and likely a different outcome in the game, but the referee ignored it.

The time has come for all fans, players, coaches, and above all the FIFA, to demand better training for referees and to insist that the game be played according to the rules. Doing so will protect players and increase the joy of watching the game, a real win for everyone.

A quick word on football as a term. Among several other sports, the United Kingdom gave the world football and rugby. The players of the latter game are called ruggers, while players of the former are called soccers (from "Association  Football"). The game is called football because it is played with the feet, no hands allowed. American "football" is derived from rugby, not football, modified to allow for the forward pass. Given these facts, we would ask for indulgence in using the word "football" to mean the beautiful game.

I would invite all lovers of good fiction to read the first two of my Angela novels (I am writing the third as we speak). You can look them up, as well as my short stories in Spanish, at www.amazon.com/author/bedforddavid . Thank you.

30 May 2014

Unethical campaigning

This blog is not political and never will be. That is, I will not advocate or suggest in favor of either party over the other nor of any candidate over any other. Notwithstanding, something so despicable has happened in the Texas gubernatorial race that I must call it out.

One of the candidates printed up posters of the other with the latter's face on top of a Barbie doll body carrying a visible fetus in her uterus. Printed across the top are the words "Abortion Barbie." The posters were put up in prominent public places all around Houston. There are so many aspects of this action that are so wrong that it is difficult to know where to start.

If this were not a political campaign, those responsible for the posters would be subject to prosecution for libel. Are we to accept libelous actions as legitimate campaign procedures when we are in such desperate need of debating urgent public matters in an objective, helpful, and healing manner? The perpetrators are ripping apart the fabric of our democracy.

The makers of the posters are using a registered trademark and a patented figure (Barbie) for their own gain. If such action is not illegal, it should be. They are also purposely insulting the majority of women, who consider Barbie a negative self-image builder for girls and young women. It was calculated to offend and is overt in its callous disregard for women.

This procedure must stem from desperation. I must say, though, that we are all complicit. Political advertising has descended from the insulting to the unethical because we let it influence how we vote. We can change all this if we want to. Here's how:

1. Pledge to turn off the TV for the duration of all political ads.
2. Refuse to vote for anyone who allows the campaign or the PACs that support him or her to engage in attack ads againts the opponent.
3. Resolve to vote only for candidates who will discuss issues: what they will advocate for once in office, what they will oppose, and why.

To vote on any other basis is to be manipulated. Marshall McLuhan said, in The Mechanical Bride, that all advertising is both destructive of all traditional cultures and totalitarian in nature. I am advocating against unethical treatment of political opponents and in favor of a civilized discussion of the candidates' respective position on issues.

My character Angela Fournier typifies the longing of many young adults for responsible citizenship and ethical behavior. www.amazon.com/author/bedforddavid to see my Angela series.