Could August Be August Time?

Fans of the plays of August Wilson rejoice! Playbill announced recently that on April 22 production began on the long-awaited film version of Wilson’s 1987 Pulitzer Prize winning play Fences. Fueled by the recent Oscar controversy over diversity in nominations, and armed with his own A-list celebrity status, actor Denzel Washington was able to get the project green lit by Hollywood after languishing for decades. Denzel is slated to both act in and direct the film, drawing upon the success of his 2010 Broadway revival in which he starred as the play’s central male figure, Troy Maxson, a frustrated husband and father, and former baseball player in the Negro leagues.

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The show poster from the 2010 Broadway Revival

Fences, set mostly in Pittsburgh of 1957, tells the story of the Maxson family: husband Troy, wife Rose, their athletically promising son Cory, Troy’s mentally impaired brother Gabriel, and their extended family. Its major themes of bitterness over lost opportunities and how, who, and where we choose to invest our love are timeless. Of all the ten plays in Wilson’s Pittsburgh or Century Cycle, Fences is perhaps the most universally relatable and deserves to be produced first. And therein lays the big question.

In 2015, HBO announced that they had cut a deal with August Wilson’s widow (he died in 2005) to produce all ten plays in the cycle, a deal that Denzel Washington was also implicated in. However, this production of Fences seems to be outside the boundaries of that contract, being produced through other sources with no connection to HBO. Could it be that this Fences, which is attempting to be released in 2016, could be the first of two versions of Fences to be released over the next several years? Time will only tell. One thing’s for sure with Wilson’s work: one version is never enough to mine the richness of his lyrical writing.

In part, the decades long delay in bringing August Wilson’s work to the screen (with the sole exception of a gorgeous adaptation of The Piano Lesson, directed by Lloyd Richards for The Hallmark Channel back in 1995) was of his own making. Wilson refused to have any of his work brought to the screen unless it was helmed by an African-American director, and Hollywood in the 1990s and 2000s – with the sole exception of director Spike Lee – had no faith in African-American directors’ abilities to open a film successfully and across racial lines. Wilson wasn’t interested in having Lee direct, so every attempt languished…until now.

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August Wilson

Whatever your feelings on Hollywood’s or Wilson’s stances, that bridge has now been crossed, and this independent Fences is shaping up to be the first in a line of highly anticipated screen adaptations  – both big and small – that may finally bring this genius playwright’s work to a broader audience. I, myself, have been a fan of his work since the early 1990s, and my wife and I have traveled far and wide to catch the right play with the right cast and the right director on more than one occasion. We were proudly there on Opening Night on Broadway of Radio Golf (the 1990s play in the cycle), and we were there for the final preview of Denzel’s Broadway production of Fences, and I have no doubt that when this film debuts in the fall we will be amongst the first in line to see it. His plays and his legacy are just that good.

Won’t you join us?

Namaste,

Jason

The Playbill article upon which this blog post is based can be viewed here:

http://www.playbill.com/article/denzel-washington-39-s-fences-film-begins-shooting-today-com-382902

 

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See: A Viking Funeral???

fluttering
on the strand of web
a white moth wing

                                     – Soji (aka Gary B.)

A few weeks ago we buried a good man. Well, not so much buried as burned. Well, not so much burned as burned again. Gary was a member of the Unitarian Universalist church where both my wife and I work. He was kind, and fun, and beloved by his spiritual community. When he died it was his desire to have the closest thing to a Viking funeral: to be put in a ship on the water and set ablaze. His wife, and his UU community would have nothing less for him.

On Sunday evening, April 10, the day after a memorial service for Gary that included multiple moving eulogies, a tribute video presentation complete with nose-flute duet, and the singing of Gary’s favorite songs, “Blue Boat Home” and “Don’t Worry Be Happy,” many of his friends and family gathered again at the Little River boat ramp to watch Gary sail across the Rainbow Bridge into Valhalla. To the thunder of numerous percussion instruments (and guitars) Gary’s ashes – loaded into a beautiful scale model of a Viking ship – were guided via kayak out to a preselected spot on the water and set ablaze. At the moment of the ship’s final descent the instrumentalists organically fell silent, paying their final silent respects to their fallen friend. It was beautiful, unusual, sublime; and I’m glad my son was there to see it.

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The miniature Viking ship  ablaze (photo credit:Nancy Krause)

After the sinking we casually walked back to the parking lot where wishing lanterns – tissue paper balloons that one sets a fire under – were being lighted. Nancy, John Adams, and I each lit one and watched it carry its light across the evening dusk as a final silently ascendant prayer to our friend.

moonviewing —
from across the sea,
neighbor’s voices

                                    – Soji (aka Gary B.)

I write this now, not just in memory of Gary, but also as an invitation to new people to get to know the man’s work of passion. For Gary was a haiku poet of significant talent. Writing under the name Soji, Gary’s website, Haiku Poet’s Hut, http://www.haikupoetshut.com/ is a treasure trove of his poetic legacy. I strongly encourage those of you who are interested in haiku (and I know many of you are) to check out the beauty, simplicity, and elegance that Gary has left behind for us.

Namaste, Gary. May we all live a better life through your example.

Jason

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Gary aka Soji (photo credit: Nancy Krause)

What Means This 45?

On Monday, I celebrated my 45th birthday. Many wonderful people via Facebook, texts, phone, and in person honored me with messages of love, well wishing, memes, little videos, and the like. It was all quite wonderful, and I was and am filled with gratitude that so many people chose to remember my special day and milestone. Most of the day was spent taking care of my son, John Adams: he played at the YMCA while I worked out, we went swimming, we went on the slides and, later that night with Nancy, we all went for seafood and had a cake that Nancy and the little guy made just for me. It was a lovely, if exhausting day, taking care of a 2-year old, and held little time for reflection.

Now a few days later, as I’m settling in to my new age, I’m wondering what it all means. I feel different. I feel restless. I feel, frankly, cantankerous. My life has been in many ways in a holding pattern since John Adams’s birth and my graduation from VCU in May 2014. I’m ready for new challenges, new accomplishments, new journeys. I’m ready for a bigger house. I’m ready for an expanded family…that includes a dog. I want to walk the Appalachian Trail and the Camino de Santiago. I want to see the Great Pyramid and Machu Picchu with my own eyes. I want to wash in the Ganges, filthy or not. I want to float down the Colorado surrounded by the Grand Canyon. I want lots of things.

Turning 45 has stirred something in me. I’m restless and less afraid, and ready for “the road not taken”. But two days later, that said, I have no idea what turning 45 really means. I guess I’ll find out soon enough. And I’ll let you know.

Namaste,

Jason

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Steal my birthday corn, will you?!