Shaw - Pshaw

    Remember, I'm on a sabbatical. Which is why I'm not writing here. But eventually (stay tuned!) I'll post on Ragdale, where I am, and Howard Van Doren Shaw, in whose bedroom I sleep; and on the great August Wilson play I just saw at the new Goodman Theater, called "Radio Golf"

    - partly about preserving a rundown house they refer to as "Raggedy-ass."

    The paneling downstairs in the sitting room here at Ragdale, looks a lot like

    the paneling in the original Goodman,

    to which my father and mother took me as a child, and in which I learned to love theater. It was designed by the man in whose summer bedroom I sleep, Howard Van Doren Shaw.

    That old Goodman is torn down, (shame on them!) they should have saved it, and I always wonder what happened to that paneling.

    The new Goodman, in a chintzy-looking new building, presents "Radio Golf ." In it, an old house must be saved, for it preserves a lot of memories. "Radio Golf" is for me a primo plea for preservation and why it's important. The play is perhaps the most affecting preservation plea I've ever heard, (from outside of my self. How awful that the room in which my Father wanted me to learn theater has been torn down, no?)

    Really, "Radio Golf" is about being authentic people. But most of us are not. And maybe that's why we not only don't live in authentic buildings, we tear down many that our ancestors have given us.

    What's here and what isn't.

    I interviewed August Wilson more than once. He was prickly, could be racist, provocative or ridiculous ("Black people started carrying guns only after Bernie Goetz opened fire on blacks on the New York City subway," he told me. And he would not back off from this when I pressed him. He seemed to get angry when questioned about his beliefs.)

    Sadly, August Wilson is no longer here, he has come and gone as they say. He died too young in October 2005, before he could finish polishing "Radio Golf," but still able to say he completed his monumental achievement of one play about the African-American experience for each decade of the twentieth century.
    The best interview I ever lost was in 1995. I spent an afternoon with August Wilson, in the old Goodman Theater, as he observed rehearsals of Seven Guitars. He was still re-writing it, as he did 'til the end with his plays. My mini-disc machine failed and the beautiful, stimulating conversation I had with August Wilson was lost forever.

    If you love rich language, meaningful dialogue, viewing prickly issues through many lenses, personal transformations, fine acting, a great set, costumes and lighting; if you're interested in history, or affected by the difficult struggle to preserve it in a nation that prefers not to remember but to focus on the future, then you must see the superlative acheivement of August Wilson. Read up on his ten-play cycle. And don't miss "Radio Golf."

    Because it's here now.

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