Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Theatre: Roundup Edition

Shout Sister Shout by Cheryl L. West, Created by Randy Johnson & Cheryl L. West, Directed by Randy Johnson, Seattle Repertory Theatre through December 22nd
Head Over Heels The Musical, Conceived and original book by Jeff Whitty, Adapted by James Magruder, Directed by Matthew Wright. Arts West,  Through December 29th.
The Great Moment by Anna Siegler, Derected by Braden Abraham, Seattle Rep through November 17th (yeah, it's closed)
Sunset Baby by Dominique Morisseau, Dire ted by Valerie Curtis-Newton, Arts West through October 20th (Yeah, I've been pushing thing off that long)

I have been busy, and let even the barest minimum of this blog slip - to wit, the Theatre Reviews.

This is perishable fruit, because who wants to read reviews of shows that have long since slipped the surly bonds of matinee performances and moved on?  Yet I'm going to do a bunch of them, just to keep things up to date. And two of them are still playing, until the end of the month.

Shout Sister Shout is still going on, and well worth attending (There, you can skip the rest of the page if you want). It is a bioplay (a biopic for theatre) of the life of Sister Rosetta Thorpe, the Godmother of Rock 'n Roll. A foundational African-American performer, mostly forgotten today, more popular in Europe than in Jim Crow America. I know, it sounds like the play about Nina Simone last year, but it has a heartbeat and a verve all its own.

The entire play encapsulates the life and times of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, played incredibly well by Carrie Compere, The actress goes from child prodigy to elder stateswoman with all stops in between. A gospel singer by upbringing, she wanted to bring the music of the Lord forward to the masses, at the cost of rejection by her own congregations for hanging with the heathens. The play portrays Tharpe as no saint, acceding when she should have stood up, or taking the money when offered, but in the end creates a well-rounded picture of this pioneer. We name check the other performers of the era, from Cab Calloway at the Cotton Club, Dizzy Gilespie, and Little Richard, as the story barrels forward, including her relationship with Marie Knight.

Compere, as Stone, is pretty much fantastic, with a wonderful voice and a great guitar chops (the Little Richard Strut? She did that first). It's common to see a performance built around one great voice, but Shout Sister Shout gives us two. Carol Dennis, as Stone' mother and the pivotal other figure in the story, matches her note for note and hearstring for heartstring.

Performances are great, stagecraft (a scrim decked with white guitars) is excellent, and the music top-notch. Go see it.

Hear Over Heels is also very good, but in a different weight class. Arts West, in a renovated department store in West Seattle, is a smaller, more intimate venue, both in stage space and audience. I expected smaller plays in this space, but it goes all out, with a cast as large as Shout Sister Shout that packs the stage and avoids collisions.

The play itself is a celebration of the Go-Gos. OK, I have trouble separating the Bangles from the Go-Gos, but they had about four recognizable greatest hits, all which get their time (hint for those confused between the two - the Go-Gos got the beat, the Bangles walked like an Egyptian). They merge the music with the Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia, from the 16th century, which is ... quite frankly much MORE confusing and darker than the pared-down plot presented here.

Here's the simple version: The King gets a dire prediction from the Oracle at Delphi, but conceals it from his Queen and schemes to foil the predictions. The shepherd, who is in love with the royal younger daughter, masquerades as an Amazon warrior to be near her. Both King and Queen fall for the Amazon. Plus the older daughter rejects all suitors, and comes to terms with her own love of her maidservant. Yeah, its a lot about sexuality and gender preference, with a huge heaping of misunderstandings, layered with 80s pop. Whackiness evolves with a 9 principles and huge supporting ensemble. Not nearly as deep as Shout, Sister, Shout, but impressive in what it attains.

And the cast is uniformly strong. No standout voices, (OK, back me against a wall and I'd say Ann Cornelius as Queen Gynecia is really good (No, I am NOT making up these names)). Serious packed with wall-to-wall music, light and bouncy, and a feelgood production. Even if they don't play "Hazy Shade of Winter".

Sunset Baby was the first play of the season at Arts West, and fits much more within my expectations. It is a simple play with a single set and three actors. Nina (Aishe Keitaa) is the daughter of civil rights warriors and is Bonnie to her boyfriend's Clyde.  Mom's dead after a disastrous decline, Dad has been in jail for years. Dad is out and wants letters that Mom wrote him but never sent. Nina (again, a call-back to Nina Simone) has become hard-shelled and transactional over the years and has the letters. That's pretty much it.

Sunset Baby is an early work by an author who has done things more notable later works (see also: In The Heights). To be frank it shows - the characters are not speaking to each other as much as they are playing to the audience - their dialogue didactic as opposed to engaged. It is noticeable and a warning for my own writing.

The Great Moment is another earlier work, this time from the author of Photograph 51, which I loved to pieces. Again, it shows weakness in the script and promises of better work to come. She keeps the unmoored in time concept, but applies it to a domestic situation and the ruminations on time and mortality. But the author also breaks the fourth wall with an Ellen DeGeneres sort of perkiness, and is an autobiographical character (maybe not one-to-one, but enough to make one uncomfortable). Not a bad production, but still weaker than normal Rep fare.

There - caught up. Now bring on the next batch!

More later,

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

The Political Desk - Results


As the long-time reader of this blog knows, I wait for a while before reporting on the political results. This is because we have mail-in ballots in Washington State, and Election Day is just the day they stop taking them and start counting them. As a result, early results may be incorrect (late voters in this neck of the woods tend to be younger and more liberal – your own local mileage may vary). Anyway, about after a week things have calmed down a bit.

The news that went national was the city council races next door in Seattle proper. Seattle does have a two party system, though both of them are Democrats. One is a pro-business wing, the other a progressive wing. And there is often an overlap. This year the business end threw a TON of money into its preferred candidates. And the Seattle Times on the day after quickly reassured everyone that it was OK that the Chamber of Commerce's moneyed candidates won only 4 out of the 7 seats that were up. Well, after the rest of the votes were counted, just two seats. And those two were already leading before the big infusion of cash.

Not to say that there wasn’t a good stepping back from positive, progressive policies. A couple state-wide initiatives went more conservative, but that was state-wide. So it is good to know that King County doesn’t control the state, but still, some of these results are going to painful.

Let’s take a look at the damages:


State of Washington, Referendum Measure No. 88
I say let's put a little more fairness in state contracting, the opposition says "affirmative action." Like that's a bad thing. Still, it scared enough Washingtonians to REJECT this. OK, will of the people and all that.

State of Washington, Initiative Measure No. 976
This was the Eyeman Magic Pony Initiative that would cut your car tabs by gutting funding for transportation, and it won! Seattle will celebrate by having the world's slowest parade, twice a day, for the rest of your life. Yay! 

OK, King County, the transportation folk, and a lot of other people are launching a lawsuit against this, but I dunno. We did warn everyone about the repercussions, and now we should be prepared to see them repercussed.  And if anyone knows how to build a bullet-proof initiative, it should be a guy who has put so many of them on the ballot (unless it's not about really changing the law, but rather about scamming wealthy conservative donors, but what's the chances of THAT being the case?).

The governor, on the other hand, has laid out a plan already about where the cutbacks would occur. Were it me, I would cut all the transportation projects in counties where the measure passed, and when they come begging for money for destroyed bridges, suggest they hold a bake sale to raise the funds. But that is why I am not a servant of the people, but rather a loud-mouthed blogger.

All the god-forsaken advisory votes. 
Does it matter? Not to me. Maybe it had an effect on the voters in that, confronted with ALL these options, they just gave up on voting. Now, I would be in favor of this type of democracy if they: A) made it binding, b) made it honest in its descriptions, and c) allowed us to vote on every tax break the state provides to corporations. Just throwing that out there.

State of Washington, Senate Joint Resolution No. 8200 -
This one got approved. OK, I'm good with that. It is one of those little details that actually makes sense to vote on. It's a good thing.

County Measures
King County
    Proposition No. 1 Medic One – Emergency Medical Services Replacement of Existing Levy
Passed handily. Good job on that.


And on to real people running for things:

King County, Director of Elections
    Julie Wise, who also won handily.

Port of Seattle, Commissioner Position No. 2 nonpartisan office
    Sam Cho 
Port of Seattle, Commissioner Position No. 5 nonpartisan office
    Fred Felleman

City of Kent, Council Position No. 1 short and full term nonpartisan office
    Marli Larimer
City of Kent, Council Position No. 3 nonpartisan office
    Les Thomas
City of Kent, Council Position No. 5 nonpartisan office
    Bill Boyce
City of Kent, Council Position No. 7 short and full term nonpartisan office
    Zandria Michaud
Kent School District No. 415, Director District No. 2 nonpartisan office
    Michele Greenwood Bettinger
Soos Creek Water and Sewer District, Commissioner Position No. 2 nonpartisan office
    Alan Eades
Public Hospital District No. 1, Commissioner District No. 2 unexpired 2-year term nonpartisan office
    Jim Griggs
Public Hospital District No. 1, Commissioner District No. 3 nonpartisan office
    Janet Evans
Public Hospital District No. 1, Commissioner Position No. 5 nonpartisan office
    Carol Barber

OK, some of these folks I recommended. None of them did I not specifically recommend. I think they'll all do a good job, and I am enheartened by the increased commitment. The Political Desk will see you next year.

More later,

Monday, October 21, 2019

My (Updated) Schedule in LUCCA

There have been a couple tweaks, so I am reposting it so people don't have to slog through the local politics section. I'm (still) going to be a guest at the Lucca Comics and Games convention at the end of this month. I'm really looking forward to it. Lucca is a medieval walled city NE of Pisa, and every year they close the city gates to traffic and turn the center of the city into a huge comic book and gaming convention. My presence there has been arranged by the fine folks at Mondiversi, and I will be spending time at the their booth. Also, I have written a new tournament adventure specifically for this event, and will be running it there:

Here's my REVISED current schedule:

Wednesday, 30 October
10:00 - 11:00        Opening breakfast with Level UP! fans
14:00 - 18:00        D&D Tournament opening session [Games Pavilion]
18:15 - 19:00        Meet & Greet at the Mondiversi Booth CAR 129

Thursday, 31 October
10:00 - 13:00        Prototype Review Corner [Educational Pavilion]
14:00 - 14:45        Meet & Great at Mondiversi Booth
15:00 - 18:00        Gaming Session [Games Pavililion]
19:30  - ?              Ceremony Night and Gala Dinner [Giglio Opera House]

Friday, 1 November
10:00 - 11:00        Meet & Greet at the Mondiversi Booth        
11:30 - 13:30        Worldbuilding 101 educational workshop [Educational Pavillion]

Saturday, 2 November
10:00 - 10:45         Panel meeting on the History of TSR [Ingillis Hall]
11:00 - 12:00         Meet & Greet at the Mondiversi Booth

Sunday, 3 November
12:00 - 15:00         Game Session [Games Pavillion]
15:30 - 16:30         Meet & Greet at the Mondiversi Booth
18:30 - 19:00         Award Ceremony [Ingellis Hall]
22:30                     Closing Dinner

If you happen to be at Lucca Comics and Games, or by chance just happen to be in Lucca that week, come by and say hi!

More later,

Sunday, October 20, 2019

The Political Desk - Master Control

The political desk opens early and is a tad more concise this year, since I am crushing on a deadline and going to be otherwise occupied for a while (like, going to LUCCA). . Long-term readers, know the drill by now; Here are the ever-shrinking Seattle Times' endorsements. Here are aging pot-heads over at the Stranger. And here are the ones from the Progressive Voter's Guide. Beyond that, you're on your own.

Long-time readers also know my biases.. I tend to lean left, pro workers, pro good government. I tend to view with a jaundiced eye pro-business candidates, people endorsed by the Chamber of Commerce, NRA, the former Soviet Union, shadow groups with acronym names and mysterious funders, and other folk that do not seem to have my interests at heart.

As always, I try to comment on races that I actually vote on, and my list comes from VoteWA web site.

State Measures
Whenever someone says that one man cannot effect the world, show them this ballot. One of the initiatives and ALL the advisory votes come from the tireless efforts of initiative maven Tim Eyeman, who has discovered how to monetize the process. This is by coming up with Magic Pony initiatives, in which wealthy backers pitch in money for things which sound good (hey, we're lowering your car tabs!) but are really sucky (Hey, we have no money to repair the roads! Sorry!). None of these initiatives have been fully implemented, being generally unconstitutional, and his one half-victory has been a pain in the butt ever since.

And I may rant further in the middle of this, but let's take a look.

    State of Washington, Referendum Measure No. 88

I want to say that we've come a long way in the cause of equality, and we don't need stuff like affirmative action anymore. Sadly, I am wrong. Measures like REF-88 provide the opportunity for equality in government hiring, but do not deal with other underlying causes. Still, we need to have the opportunities addressed as a first step. Opponents have out yard signs declaring "Equality Under the Law", which in their case means "Nobody but ME gets a break around here." So yeah, APPROVE this sucker.

    State of Washington, Initiative Measure No. 976

This is the Magic Pony I was talking about above. Who couldn't hate lowering your car tabs? Heck, this woulds reduce my personal costs, since they expect Electrics to pay for road repairs that usually come from gas taxes. Of course, this means we throw another roadblock in the way of solving our horrible traffic situation by starving the beast. I have no problem with actually paying for services rendered. Sadly, the best I can do (and you can do) is vote NO on this steaming pile.

      All the god-forsaken advisory votes..

OK, I'm going to get ranty on these..

This is the Eyeman legacy. There was a initiative that the state government would have to get voter approval on every new tax, tax increase, rate change, bake sale, and anything else that could be construed as the government raising money to actually provide services. Part of the initiative was declared unconstitutional, but a fragment remained that results in this legislative crud on the ballot.

At the same time,t these are Advisory Votes - they don't mean squat. There is no imperative behind these to actually overturn the measures they discuss. They are no more than expensive push polls to allow anti-gov types to thump their chests about how their hard-earned dollars are being wasted giving  food and shelter to orphans. 

Here's an example: The text from Advisory Vote No. 20 says:

The legislature imposed, without a vote of the people, an additional wage premium for long-term care services, costing an indeterminate amount in its first ten years, for government spending. 

 Man, look at those scare words. Imposed - they voted on this, which was their job. without a vote of the people, which is ALSO their job. An additional wage premium for long-term care service - which, after a lot of digging, means that they created a trust that employees can pay into to specifically handle long-term care. Costing an indeterminate amount in its first ten years - because they don't know how successful this voluntary program would be. For government spending, as in, spending on this particular matter.

Almost reasonable when you scrape all the crud off.

This type of BS is rife throughout these entire BS advisory. Hey, go look at them yourself, because somewhere in there is a real tax that affects YOU. But I say vote MAINTAINED on all of them. And remember to thank Tim Eyeman for this scary, no-effect push poll in the middle of your ballot. 

    State of Washington, Advisory Vote No. 20 Second Substitute House Bill 1087
    State of Washington, Advisory Vote No. 21 Engrossed Third Substitute House Bill 1324
    State of Washington, Advisory Vote No. 22 Substitute House Bill 1652
    State of Washington, Advisory Vote No. 23 Engrossed Second Substitute House Bill 1873
    State of Washington, Advisory Vote No. 24 Engrossed Second Substitute House Bill 2158
    State of Washington, Advisory Vote No. 25 Substitute House Bill 2167
    State of Washington, Advisory Vote No. 26 Substitute Senate Bill 5581
    State of Washington, Advisory Vote No. 27 Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 5993
    State of Washington, Advisory Vote No. 28 Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 5997
    State of Washington, Advisory Vote No. 29 Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 5998
    State of Washington, Advisory Vote No. 30 Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 6004
    State of Washington, Advisory Vote No. 31 Engrossed Senate Bill 6016

    State of Washington, Senate Joint Resolution No. 8200 -

This one is weird, because it proposes writing an amendment to the state constitution to add "catastrophic incidents" to the list of situations where the legislature can act decisively when need. OK, it's a proposal to make a proposal. I'd like to know more about the nature of such Catastrophic Incidents that would be covers. Rainier going off? Sure. Tim Eyeman finally passing a clean initiative that stands up in court? OK, we're going with Approved on this.

County Measures
King County
    Proposition No. 1 Medic One – Emergency Medical Services Replacement of Existing Levy

Hey, here's a real tax bill you can really vote on and has some affect on the outside world. This is replacing an existing levy that's being retired.  So, yeah, I'm voting YES on this one.

Actual Candidates

King County, Director of Elections
    Julie Wise - Incumbent, Dem, actually has done a good job.
    Mark Greene - Challenger, Rep, runs for various offices every cycle.

Let's go with Julie Wise.

The judges I'm voting on are running unopposed. OK, then. Moving on..

Port of Seattle
Port of Seattle, Commissioner Position No. 2 nonpartisan office
    Sam Cho
    Grant Degginger
 I supposed Sam Cho in the primary, and have had no reason to change my mind.
Port of Seattle, Commissioner Position No. 5 nonpartisan office
    Fred Felleman
    Garth Jacobson
I supported Fred Felleman in the primary, and haven't seen anything to make me pull that support. 

Now we are down in the weeds. Really local politics. And I will be honest, on brief inspection none of these people raise my hackles or send off warning shots either as to their professionalism, their intentions, or their morality. Good job, Primaries! So I make recommendations confident in the fact that even if the other person wins, we are OK. Here are my calls in boldface, but don't let that stop you from checking out web sites, mailers, and other endorsements. 

City
City of Kent, Council Position No. 1 short and full term nonpartisan office
    Marli Larimer
    Todd Minor
City of Kent, Council Position No. 3 nonpartisan office
    Les Thomas
    Hira Singh Bhullar
City of Kent, Council Position No. 5 nonpartisan office
    Bill Boyce
    Mizan Rahman
City of Kent, Council Position No. 7 short and full term nonpartisan office
    Awale A. Farah
    Zandria Michaud.
School
Kent School District No. 415, Director District No. 2 nonpartisan office
    Michele Greenwood Bettinger
    David Canterbury

So here's a conflict of interest - Michele Greenwood Bettinger is former WotC (Wizards of the Coast), so I have a strong lean in for her. So I will cheerfully admit that she worked for the same company I worked for, long ago and far away, and recommend her in any event. I won't even make a snarky remark about HR (wait, I think I just did).

And finally, we are in the weeds. These are the small positions that people only pay attention at elections and when there is a scandal (in the case of the Hospital District, that would be any day with a "y" in it - it is picking up the slack for the Port of Seattle).

Special Purpose District
Soos Creek Water and Sewer District, Commissioner Position No. 2 nonpartisan office
    Logan K. Wallace
    Alan Eades
Public Hospital District No. 1, Commissioner District No. 2 unexpired 2-year term nonpartisan office
    Jim Griggs
    Anab Abdi
Public Hospital District No. 1, Commissioner District No. 3 nonpartisan office
    Barbara J. Drennen
    Janet Evans
Public Hospital District No. 1, Commissioner Position No. 5 nonpartisan office
    Carol Barber
    Tamara J. Sleeter

That is it for this installment. Sorry not to break it up into bite-sized bits this time out, but, as things happen, I'm going to be busy for a while (did I mention I was going to LUCCA?).

More later,