Culture: May 2002 Archives

Mildred Wirt Benson died tuesday at the age of 96. The author of the very first book and 22 others in the earliest series of Nancy Drew novels confided to a NYTimes reporter in 1993 that her esoteric fame could all sometimes add up to being a bit much. "I'm so sick of Nancy Drew I could vomit," she said.

Nancy Drew, seldom just Nancy, inspired readers, many of them envious girls, to scoop up more than 80 million copies of the books in the series. Here was a heroine who could survive being beaten, choked and tossed into car trunks; escape spiders and snakes — and then retire at night in her four-poster bed in a golden bedroom. She dated the athletic Ned and basked in the attentions of her doting, widowed father, the distinguished lawyer Carson Drew. And she had no mother to interfere with her adventures.

I still have my own beautifully-illustrated edition of "The Bungalow Mystery" (1960) and "The Mystery at Lilac Inn" (1961) high on our library shelf.

We saw a wonderful new play, This thing of Darkness, by Craig Lucas and David Schulner, directed by Lucas, at the Atlantic Theatre in Chelsea last night. (We're going back a second time, and I never do that.) Lucas' stageworks include Prelude to a Kiss, Dying Gaul and Blue Window, which just might help prepare you for the evening's conceits. Schulner is just now establishing a reputation as a playwright, and own works will soon be presented at the Globe in San Diego, the Joseph Papp in New York and South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa.

On one level (perhaps on every level) it is the story of friendship, love and family, although nothing that might be familiar to your own friends, lovers or family. Oh, it's also the story of our destruction of the planet. Why can't we just get along? And, yes, do you remember the Bonobos?

It's a very funny, very sad, wonderful, exciting piece of work gifted with an extraordinary cast, and it doesn't even open officially until the end of the month (closing two weeks later). We'd like to bring the world to West 20th Street in the next few weeks, for its own damn good---no, for all of our own damn good!

And draws a big zero. Suddenly, out of nowhere, "they" have decided how the WTC site and its environs will be rebuilt, and they don't really care what you think, above all if you have imagination or a real aesthetic. It will be business as usual, with dull dull dull middlebrow power and bureaucratic consensus dictating the fate of a site whose rebirth has been keenly discussed and anticipated by the entire world. This sad but magnificent opportunity, perhaps the opportunity of the century, has been squandered in back rooms by people you shouldn't trust to build your weekend cottage.

The architecture critic, Herbert Muschamp, who has long campaigned against precisely what is now being presented as a fait accompli, is properly outraged.

The selection of the New York architecture firm Beyer Blinder Belle to design a master plan for ground zero and the financial district confirms once again that architecture will play no more than a marginal role in the redevelopment of Lower Manhattan.
. . .
Mediocrity, the choice of this firm reminds us, is not a default mode. It is a carefully constructed reality, erected at vast public expense. Ignorance is the brick from which this wretched edifice is built. Secrecy is the mortar holding it together.

We wuz robbed!

Stuart Hawkins has a magnificent show mounted in Priska C. Juschka's new space in Williamsburg. We had seen different work of hers, no less extraordinary, at the Scope show in the Gershwin Hotel earlier in the month, but the video and the wall-mounted large-scale c-prints currently on view in the gallery are both more human and less approachable. More human because each image is of a particular dreamer who becomes known to us in a small but very significant way both through his or her own creation and that of Hawkins' art. Less approachable only because it is so difficult to imagine separating individual images from the whole concept, which is breathtaking in its simplicity and its weight.

For her most recent project "Appearing In," her subjects address aspects of pop culture as they are invited to respond to the camera. . . . As her subjects take to the stage they use props, body language, music, and select English words to bring sex appeal and beauty to the image. . . . as these unexpected yet familiar representations are presented to us in a context removed from our own new meaning is rendered not only as it pertains to contemporary Nepal but more importantly as we self-consciously recognize the image or ourselves. [excerpted from notes provided by the gallery]

Yes, a good-sized book would be wonderful, since we cannot surround ourselves with this installation after June 17.

Ok, it's pretty and very important, and maybe a lot of people would love to look at it all day long, but heck, it's a three-dimensional print (seven casts exist, according to the New York Times), so $18.1 million seems a bit steep. reported that dealer Robert Pincus-Witten joked, "It must have been the eyebrows."

Fascinating relics of perhaps the world's first real efforts at photo-journalism showed up in London this week. Up to now I'd only read about the quaint old Parisian custom of picking up paving stones and assembling them in neat piles for the sport of battling the troops of an offending regime. But there they are! And in a newspaper!

Unfortunately we don't seem to be able to emulate Monsieur Thibault his success 154 years later, since both our own regime and that of its colleague-in-arms, Ariel Sharon, are able to keep journalists away from the nasty business of their own troops.

All did not end well in 1848, but liberalism and socialism were not destroyed either.

Revolts in Vienna, Hungary, Prague and Milan were also crushed, but not without forming part of the legend that inspired European socialists for more than a century afterwards.

Vive la Revolution!

Reno, now more than ever.

The NYTimes visits Reno's new show and Anita Gates finds it ". . . consistently, energetically, loudly funny."

Reno sticks to her politics, no matter what the current fashion. At a recent performance her anti-Giuliani comments met with nervous silence, but her anti-Bush remarks were a hit. "Can't we get a smart guy?" she asks at one point, describing the president's unrehearsed public-speaking style as "like a drunk trying to look sober."

[JAW---Actually, the category should read, "General, Culture, Happy, Queer, Politics," but the program won't accept that.]

Reno has been nominated for the Drama Desk Award for "Outstanding Solo Performance!"

We've seen an earlier form of this show and were totally, what, mesmerized, charged, laughed-out and enchanted (strange combination). We don't expect to miss seeing it at least once more at the wonderful new venue, The Zipper Theatre; it's a new performance each night!

This is very freaky, but yesterday morning I was nominated for a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Solo Performance! I always thought that they were just for "real theatre" - literature, Ibsen or Arthur Miller, but I guess they ran out of those. For the proof, go to [JAW---the site doesn't come up right now]

Now, people keep asking me how long this'll be running, and, well, it's running as long as people keep coming to the show. So if you're looking to come see it, now might just be your time - while I'm still nominated and Elaine Stritch hasn't won the award yet.

peace and love, Reno

Performances are Monday, Thursday, and Friday @ 8pm,
Saturday @ 7 and 10pm, and Sunday @ 7pm.

The Zipper Theatre
336 West 37th St. (between 8th and 9th Aves.)
Call 212-563-0480 for information

This page is an archive of entries in the Culture category from May 2002.

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