Eureka Day is brilliant!

Lisa Anne Porter, Elizabeth Carter, Rolf Saxon, Teddy Spencer, Charisse Loriaux (photo David Allen)

Jonathan Spector has penned a gem, and we here in the Bay Area are lucky to see its world debut. The first commissioned piece from Aurora’s new Originate+Generate program, this one knocks it out of the park. Josh Costello directs a talented cast who portray the board members at a progressive private elementary school in the Berkeley hills. Having been a teacher at a private progressive school myself, I was curious to see a play about one.

The congenial but not particularly decisive head of school (played delightfully by Rolf Saxon) doesn’t lead so much as facilitate discussion among parents in an attempt to rule by consensus. He reads Rumi at the beginning of every meeting and avoids conflict at all cost. The parents include Eli, the stay-at-home dad (a perfect performance by Teddy Spencer) who hysterically strikes yoga poses throughout the first meeting; Meiko, the hot young single mom on the prowl who presumably shops at Whole Foods and farmers markets (Charisse  Loriaux); the uber-lefty Suzanne (Lisa Anne Porter), who makes cashew lasagna and speaks gently but is quick to remind the other board members that at Eureka Day, gender-neutral pronouns are used for everyone as a matter of course; and new Eureka parent, Carina (played by the versatile Elizabeth Carter), who is certainly the sanest of the bunch.

The good-natured skewering of the stereotypical Berkeleyite as ultra-politically correct was right on target and provided for much of the laughter in the play. And the scene in which a virtual parent meeting is happening on Facebook (pictured above) was one of the most hysterical I’ve had the pleasure to watch.

However, Eureka Day is not just a comic romp. The conflict that divides the school community is the vaccination debate, and some of the characters at first seem to represent simply their point of view. But Eureka Day is neither a propaganda vehicle nor a single-issue play, and the characters reveal more depth in the second act, which takes a serious turn.

At its heart, Spector’s play echoes the deep divide in our country, with red states feeding off Fox “news” and blue states angry at all those people who voted in the Cheetoh-in-Chief. Most would agree that we in Berkeley live in a bubble of like-minded liberals, so our brand of political arguments are less likely to span the full red-to-blue spectrum that exist elsewhere in the country. But the question of vaccination is one that strikes closer to home, since there are liberals on both sides of the issue here in the Bay Area (though I would argue it’s more of an issue in Marin, but I’m sure that’s because I live in Berkeley and don’t want to think that my neighbors could be anti-vaxxers).

Of course anyone who delves into the comments section of Berkeleyside knows that we in Berkeley are no strangers to vitriol, and the Facebook live-streaming session in the play illustrates how easily members of a community can turn on each other.

Given our current polarization as a country, it’s sort of refreshing to watch people argue about something other than politics. But the main reason to buy tickets for Eureka Day is to treat yourself to a stellar performance of a terrific world debut. If you haven’t seen it, there’s still a week left in its run, so get your tickets now!

 

Advertisements

The Best Way Out–

A political dramedy in Seussian verse

Here’s an excerpt from my ten-minute play that depicts the Cheetoh-in-chief’s first day as president.

DONALD TRUMP:
I’m huge with the good people in this great nation. paul-noth-trump-oath-cartoon

You could see them all at my inauguration. 

Millions were there to see me take the oath. 

And I used two Bibles--I needed them both. 

My hands are not tiny like some people say. 

In fact no part of me is, by the way.

If you enjoyed this snippet, here is a link to the whole play: best-way-out

And I couldn’t resist including this Paul Noth cartoon from the New Yorker.

I Would Buy That Book!

 

Parents PressWalking back from my Zumba Gold class–which makes me officially old–I passed a newsstand piled high with that free monthly from years of yore: Parents’ Press. I don’t mean to imply that Parents’ Press is no longer being published; I just don’t read it anymore, so it blends into that invisible backdrop of Things For Other People. In it, inquiring minds can read about the safest playground equipment, the optimal number of guests to invite to a seven-year-old’s birthday party, and how to get your kid to eat broccoli. I’d forgotten that such issues were ever relevant to me.

I’m still a parent. But Parents’ Press doesn’t provide much guidance beyond school-aged kids. There’s the occasional article about college admissions or high school sports, but its primary readership is parents of younger children–that period of parenthood when you have more influence and presumably more control.

When my daughter was a baby, bookstores were teeming with titles promising to help me do everything from writing a birthing plan to getting my child into college. I believe in the power of information, so I bought a book to help me navigate those early desperate, sleep-deprived months: Your One-Year-Old by Dr. Louise Ames Bates. Then, wouldn’t you know it, the same author had written Your Two-Year Old, which I snatched up the following year, eager to mine her knowledge of toddlers. Your Three-Year Old was an automatic purchase, especially because I had erroneously thought that the legend of the “terrible twos” implied that three-year-olds were easy peasy by comparison. Which, in fact, was not the case. I think whoever came up with the concept of the terrible twos just liked the way it sounded. But because I failed to get the memo on the threatening threes, I was blindsided. Your 2-year-old

Anyhoo…the point is that someone had very thoughtfully written user manuals for parents. Just owning such volumes provided a certain amount of security. Only later did I realize their inherent danger: because I’d read an expert on child-rearing, I was deluded into thinking I was in control. (“This has to work because it was in the book!”) Indeed I looked forward to each new year of my daughter’s life so that I could read the next in the series, certain that at one point the book would tell me that I’d arrived at the sweet spot and it was smooth sailing from then on.

Spoiler alert: that moment never came.

I diligently read the whole series, which also covers children who are four, five, six, seven, eight, and nine, but ends with Your Ten-to-Fourteen-Year Old. I can only imagine that by the time Ms. Ames had published her advice for how to deal with tweens, she grew too disinterested to devote a separate volume to each year. And then, afraid to tackle those tricky teen years, she probably mixed herself a martini and left parents to face their destinies alone and without her guidance.

All of this leads me to wonder where the parenting articles and books are for me, the mother of a 22-year-old? Who is writing on important subjects such as which questions are appropriate to ask the young adult in your life? What can I read that will help me offer just the right amount of support that will neither enable her nor cripple her? Where are the instructions that tell me how often I should call? And why hasn’t someone published what should be a must-read for all parents of young adults: Navigating Social Media for Parents of Twenty-Somethings? (Is it OK to accept a friend request from your daughter’s ex-girlfriend whom you’ve never met?) And wouldn’t it be so helpful to have a pocket glossary so you could keep track of words that joined the lexicon long after you graduated from college? (By the way, “non-binary” is no longer just a math term.)

tongues out
In simpler times

Parenting is not for the faint of heart. It is a lifelong endeavor that is constantly assessed for quality control and it must adapt to the ebb and flow of the one being parented. And that’s how it should be. I’m reminded of my favorite title ever of a parenting book: Anthony Wolf’s Get Out of My Life, But First Could You Drive Me and Cheryl to the Mall?  We walk a delicate tightrope in order to provide the right amount of space and support. Parenting looks different at twenty-two than it did during the threatening threes. For one thing, my only child is thousands of miles away. But it’s not only the geographic distance that looms; new ideas and beliefs create their own kind of distance. Which is part of growing up, right?  After all, if we do our job well, then our confident, resourceful children eventually don’t need us. Talk about a disconnect between job performance and job security…

So my challenge is to parents who have already survived those tricky twenties: write a guide book! I’d buy Your Twenty-Two-Year Old in a heartbeat. And I’m telling you, the person who writes Navigating Social Media for Parents of Twenty-Somethings will make a million.

 

 

 

Mortified mines those embarrassing teen years

mortified logo

Mortified founder David Nadelberg had a stroke of genius, and we are the lucky recipients.

Twice now I’ve gone to the New Parish in Oakland to see people get on stage and reveal intimate details of their younger selves. And it is hysterical. It’s called “Mortified,” and you can see it either in San Francisco or Oakland every month. It’s also periodically in Chicago, L.A., and other cities, but we have two opportunities to see it here in the Bay Area.

I first heard an excerpt of the show on “This American Life” some years ago, but I didn’t realize it was something I could see live right in my own backyard. It’s been going for eight years and seems to be picking up steam.

According to the program, “All excerpts shared on stage are 100% real.” However these are not just people reading straight from their high school diaries without any focus or practice. The Mortified crew works with the brave souls ahead of time to mine the best stuff. And they do a good job. Both nights that I saw the show, the readers represented a nice variety of teen angst, from the young boy who had no friends and loved the TV character Mr. Belvedere to the girl who recounted her early sexual experiences.

mortified bookTo add to the hilarity, a clever comedic improv band picks up on the funniest parts and turns them into songs on the spot.

Apparently there is also a book, a documentary, and a podcast, so there are many ways to be Mortified.

I highly recommend this unique form of entertainment. I just wish I’d thought it up.

Ginger’s gift

hammock Dave & Tucker
Dave and Tucker enjoy the hammock.

When Dave’s dad was alive, he had a substantial hammock that was the picture of leisure, situated as it was in a generously portioned and perfectly manicured lawn. Transplanted to our backyard, it kind of dwarfs our little patch of grass, but it’s a wonderful reminder that we live in a climate where we can enjoy our backyard year round.

Because it’s only yards away from the French doors that separate his office from the backyard, Dave has taken advantage of the hammock several times, whether he’s taking a well-deserved break from work or just enjoying the beautiful weather. Our daughter Kylie has read books out there, chatted on the phone, and got in some important cuddling time with our cat before heading back east for school.

But until last weekend, I had yet to experience the hammock. When I realized I had an unscheduled afternoon, I decided to seize the opportunity to test out this recent addition to our backyard. It was sunny but not sticky hot, with the occasional breeze swirling by. It was quieter than it had been in a few days that had been filled with family celebrations. Kylie was back at college, and Ginger had gone home too. (Ginger is Dave’s sister’s dog, who was a guest at our house while her adult companions were in Greece.)

So I headed out the back door, ready for my virgin voyage. As soon as I’d swung my legs up, I detected a foul stench. I peeked over the edge and saw the flattened brown remains just below. My gaze crossed to my sandals (still on my feet),  which were now smearing brown on the forest green fabric of the hammock.

“Shit!” was the only appropriate response. Apparently Ginger had left a little souvenir.

I disembarked, hosed off the bottom of my sandals, and scrubbed the offensive smell off the otherwise pristine hammock. Then I inspected my sandals more carefully and realized I needed some sort of tool to dig out the grooves on the soles. Luckily, I have an old toothbrush for just such emergencies, and I put it to work.

But I still smelled dog poop. Was it just stuck in my nose—an olfactory hallucination sparked by that image etched on my memory?

No. It was my foot. Somehow I’d missed the spot where the sandal had rubbed against my skin. Although I know it was just a tiny patch that was easily wiped, I felt thoroughly dirty.

Refreshed and ready to try again after my shower, I carefully stepped to the side of the now-flat brown spot under the hammock and reclined into optimum relaxing position. We live in a pretty quiet neighborhood, but that afternoon, three pre-teen girls were enjoying the warm weather by taking a series of selfies on the deck of the house behind ours.

“Okay, now let’s take one with our elbows like this!”

I tried to be all zen about it. After all, it’s not like it was in the middle of the night and they were doing something awful. But their squeals of laughter were not conducive to the idyllic afternoon I had imagined. Maybe if I turned and faced the other direction, I’d hear them a tiny bit less, I thought, as I pivoted around to place my head where my feet had been. But the pivoting was not successful. I found myself toppling headfirst to the grass below. Fortunately, I didn’t hit the metal rod that gives the hammock its structural integrity.

Unfortunately, I had not cleaned up the dog poop from before.

After emerging from my second shower of the day, I decided to abandon the hammock dream. At least for now…

Isn’t soap supposed to have at least a pretense of cleanliness?

greenWe have two sets of bathrooms on the floor of my office building that both have liquid soap containers. The bathrooms on the east side have soap that most people would consider pretty ordinary, but the bathrooms on the west side dispense a vile yellowish-green substance that looks like the stuff that comes out of your nose when you’ve got a major sinus infection.* As far as I can tell, both soaps do the job that they were created to do. But the soap in the west end makes me feel slightly ill when I start rubbing it between my hands.

I know, I know—why don’t I just use the bathroom in the east end? I usually do. But I know that there’s actually no substantive difference between the two, so I tell myself that the green stuff won’t hurt me and try not to let it bother me. And then just to prove that no mere soap dispenser will get the better of me, I use the bathroom in the west end. But it still grosses me out a little.

And it makes me wonder. Given the miraculous technology at our fingertips, why would any company create a product that is supposed to be the epitome of clean and make it visually interchangeable with unhealthy snot?

And my second question: why do bathrooms on the same floor have different colored liquid soap anyway? You’d think the whole building would use the same liquid soap, yet on the second floor there appears to be a schism in the world of restroom supplies.

I know now my mission next week: I will sample the soap dispensers on every floor and get to the bottom of this. I wonder if there’s a variety of paper towels as well…

Note: I searched images and considered many possibilities. (You’d never guess how many images Google matches to “green snot.”) In the end I decided that subtlety fit the bill.

* from the Home Remedies Directory: Green mucus color means that you have been contaminated and is generally seen in cases of pneumonia and inner micro-bleedings. The phlegm is green due to a chemical known as myeloperoxidases (MPO), that is green in coloring. It is present in bright program tissue and bacteria appeals to more bright tissue than infections. For more on the color of your mucus: http://www.homeremediesdirectory.com/mucus-color-meaning-2445.html

A clerihew is fun to do

edmund-clerihew-bentley-jpgYesterday when I was writing about what I learn from public radio, I mentioned Edmund Clerihew Bentley, the chap who wrote two books of clever little biographical poems that came to be called clerihews.

Which of course made me want to write one.

According to Wikipedia, a clerihew has the following properties:

  • It is biographical and usually whimsical, showing the subject from an unusual point of view; it pokes fun at mostly famous people
  • It has four lines of irregular length and meter (for comic effect)
  • The rhyme structure is AABB; the subject matter and wording are often humorously contrived in order to achieve a rhyme, including the use of phrases in Latin, French and other non-English languages
  • The first line contains, and may consist solely of, the subject’s name.

So here goes…

Bentley, Edward Clerihew

Found a most wonderful thing to do

He wrote couplets with a goal—

Gently mock a famous person and be droll

I have to say that purposely going against the meter in the last line was quite difficult for me personally.

 

Well, that’s it for today’s clerihew.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll write one anew.

Until then I’ll do my best to abstain

from writing in short, poetic refrain.