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'The Tempest' is a Hit

December 14, 2014

Sofia Jean Gomez as Ariel (Photo by: Shakespeare Theatre Company) Sofia Jean Gomez as Ariel

The Shakespeare Theatre Company (STC) has another hit on its hands. The Tempest, directed superbly by Ethan McSweeny, makes for a great evening in the theater. McSweeny once again shows us how talented he is.

The plot is fairly simple. The magician Prospero, after twelve years of being marooned on a magical island with his daughter Miranda, tells her was once the Duke of Milan. The play revolves around how he gets his revenge against those he says usurped his power.

Aside from the great acting, and there is great acting, what makes this a particularly fun evening in the theatre are the great costumes, scenic and lighting design. Lee Savage, the scenic designer has turned the stage into a big sandbox for the island. The images he uses for the ship tossing in the storm are great. Then there are Jennifer Moeller’s creative costumes and Christopher Akerlind’s lighting which manages to keep the audience enthralled and on the edge of their seats. There are a number of huge puppets in the play and when they make their entrance the audience oohs and aahs appreciatively which is clearly what their designer James Ortiz wanted us to do. They are truly memorable.

Geraint Wyn Davies as Prospero (Photo by: Shakespeare Theatre Company) Geraint Wyn Davies as Prospero

Then there is Ariel played by Sofia Jean Gomez who flies around the stage in a way that can only be reminiscent of Peter Pan. And how she does it, directed by Stu Cox, and her good acting keep the attention on her whenever she is on-stage or should I say flying above the stage.

Geraint Wyn Davies, who has been at the STC before as Don Armando, Richard III and Cyrano, is a great Prospero in this production of the Tempest. He is a commanding presence on the stage. Rachel Mewbron who plays his daughter Miranda also does a good job.

Dave Quay who plays Stephano (Photo by: Shakespeare Theatre Company) Dave Quay who plays Stephano

Then there is Clifton Duncan who makes a good Caliban, easy on the eyes as well, and the scenes he shares with Triculo played to perfection by Liam Craig and Stephano played by the extremely talented Dave Quay are some of the best in the production. D. C. audiences hopefully will get to see Quay again. He hails from Atlanta and I had the good fortune to meet his grandparents after the show. They travel around to watch him perform and his grandmother said to me, “We are so proud of him and enjoy watching him and can’t wait till he is in a play in Paris”.

The rest of the cast is very good and what can you say that hasn’t already been said about the inimitable Ted Van Griethuysen who is great as Gonzalo. If you have never seen the Tempest this is a great introduction to the play and if you have you will find this one of the best productions of it you will have ever seen. It is at the STC Harman Hall until January 11th and tickets could make a great Holiday gift for someone you care about.


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Marion Barry’s Casket at the Wilson Building

December 4, 2014

Christopher Barry,  Mayor Vincent Gray, Cora Barry, Phil Mendelson (Photo by: Courtesy of the Executive Office of the Mayor) Christopher Barry, Mayor Vincent Gray, Cora Barry, Phil Mendelson

On Thursday morning Marion Barry’s casket was brought to the John A. Wilson building to honor his service to the District and allow people to pay their respects to a man who did much for the people here.  I took the opportunity to stop and pay my respects and found it very moving. The city’s former Mayors and the Council were there to honor him.  

The Marion Barry I knew was bigger than life; a civil rights icon and in many ways a great Mayor of the District of Columbia. He supported the LGBT community most of his life until it came to the final vote on marriage-equality when he spoke out in ways both offensive and unfathomable. He shocked a community he once credited with helping him win his first race for Mayor in 1978. Despite that, he will be remembered for his early success in amending the city’s Human Rights Act ensuring there would be no referendum on marriage-equality in the District. His amendment meant that the majority could never vote to curtail the rights of a minority. Glenn Baker who produced a documentary for WETA on DC in the 80s said of Barry "Whites helped elect him; he embraced the gay community and was very wise about developing that constituency. He had gay members on his staff and in the city government, and as a result, D.C. became known as a gay-friendly city, and grew to be one of the most vibrant gay communities in the country."

Bringing the casket up the Wilson Building steps (Photo by: Courtesy of the Executive Office of the Mayor) Bringing the casket up the Wilson Building steps

History will remember Barry for all he did to make life better for so many. Upon learning of his death, President Obama said, "Marion was born a sharecropper's son, came of age during the Civil Rights movement, and became a fixture in D.C. politics for decades. As a leader with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Marion helped advanced the cause of civil rights for all. During his decades in elected office in D.C., he put in place historic programs to lift working people out of poverty, expand opportunity and begin to make real the promise of home rule."

My introduction to Barry came just prior to the 1978 Mayoral election. He asked for my vote but I hadn’t yet switched my registration from New York. Like many who came to work for an administration we thought after a few years we would return home. Thirty-six years later I am proud to say D.C. is my home.

Marion appointed me to the first D.C. Commission on which I proudly served. Marion Barry is given credit for turning the District of Columbia from a small sleepy southern town into a real city. When elected in 1978 the city still had visible and invisible vestiges of the 1968 riots. Barry began building a vibrant downtown and was responsible for the Reeves Center that began the rebirth of the ‘U’ street corridor.

Christopher Barry, Cora Barry (Photo by: Courtesy of the Executive Office of the Mayor) Christopher Barry, Cora Barry

Barry was reelected in 1982 and 1986 without much competition. Unfortunately his third term brought on talk of corruption, womanizing, drinking and drug use. The U.S. Attorney tried every way to connect Barry to corruption but couldn’t. Then in what many believed to be an outrageous perversion of power set up the sting where Barry was caught smoking crack cocaine. After all that Barry was convicted of only a misdemeanor charge but received a six month a jail term.

After getting out of jail Marion ran for and won the Ward 8 council seat. Then to the surprise of many he won his fourth term as Mayor in 1994 with nearly 56% of the vote. Barry was magnanimous to those like me who didn’t support him in that race and willingly worked with us during that last term.

Honor guard (Photo by: Courtesy of the Executive Office of the Mayor) Honor guard

While the city’s financial picture continued to disintegrate and Congress installed a Financial Control Board Barry worked with Abe Pollin to build the Verizon Center. Together with the Shakespeare Theatre and its Artistic Director Michael Kahn who led the way by moving to the Lansburgh Theatre in 1992, these two projects are responsible for the rebirth of the 7th street corridor and a vibrant downtown entertainment district.

Barry ended his fourth term as Mayor at noon on January 1st 1999. After a few years of staying out of politics in 2004 he ran again and took back the Ward 8 council seat. It was a seat he held until his death. Marion Barry and the District of Columbia will forever be linked in history. 

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Hillary Clinton’s Vision for America a Sharp Contrast to Tea Party Congress

November 9, 2014

As recriminations continue over whose fault it is that Democrats lost the Senate one potential positive is Hillary Rodham Clinton will be able to run full-out against the ultra-conservative Congress.

When as many believe she will announce her candidacy for President in the beginning of 2015 she will be helped by the likes of senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), the current incarnation of the late Senator Joseph McCarthy (D-WI),  who was quoted in the Washington Post saying “The first order of business should be a series of hearings on President Obama, looking at the abuse of power, the executive abuse, the regulatory abuse, the lawlessness that sadly has pervaded this administration.”  The Post went on to write “When Cruz was asked if he would back Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky for Republican leader, Cruz would not pledge his support — an indication that there are limits to how much of a partner he’s willing to be.”

When Hillary Clinton lays out her vision for America it will be in sharp contrast to what Republican members of Congress believe. Her vision will include full and equal participation by women in every part of American society; and an immigration policy that lays out a path for citizenship for those already here and allows their children to be educated. Her vision will include rebuilding America’s infrastructure and providing decent high paying jobs for all Americans. It will include ensuring a strong and robust foreign policy that uses all the tools available to a President, from diplomacy and economic sanctions to understanding that having the best military in the world is a deterrent but that a President must be willing to use it as a last resort if all else fails. Her vision will include ensuring that every child has the chance to grow up and reach their full potential and her vision for America includes ensuring that everyone including women, minorities and LGBT Americans have their full civil and human rights.

That vision will be in sharp contrast to Republicans of all stripes in both houses of Congress who will be offering hearings and recriminations instead of the action voters want. They will be offering ‘personhood’ amendments and trying to take away healthcare from millions of Americans who now have it through the Affordable Care Act. Americans will hear Hillary’s vision and then see that their representatives in Washington aren’t able to work together and are failing to solve issues such as immigration, raising the minimum wage, ensuring affordable healthcare for all Americans, and guaranteeing that our veterans, the brave men and women who fought for our nation, are taken care of. Voters will see a Congress continuing to try to give tax breaks to the rich instead of working to ensure that Medicare and Social Security are viable far into the future for them and their children. They will contrast Hillary’s vision for the nation with what Congress is doing, or not doing, and come to the conclusion that the new Republican majority isn’t focused on the things that will make their lives better and the bloom will be off the rose very quickly.

Many are confident that rational people understand while there was a Republican wave there still aren’t enough Tea Party votes to override a Presidential veto and no ultra-conservative legislation will become law. Republicans will end up getting the blame for continuing the stalemate in Washington and 2016 when Republicans will have to defend 24 seats in the Senate and Democrats only 10 will have a different outcome.

So ready-or-not the 2016 Presidential campaign officially began on November 5, 2014. In less than three months the year-long speculation about whether or not Hillary will run will come to an end.

If Hillary announces she begins with an advantage far surpassing anything people thought she had in 2008 when she first ran. Today there is no other candidate like Barack Obama waiting in the wings. Those trying to turn Elizabeth Warren into that candidate are stymied because she is a very smart woman and realizes she isn’t ready and can’t win. She has an important message which we must heed and is a good Senator with the potential to become a great one.

The Ready for HillaryPAC which is continuing to raise moneyto expand the package they will turn over to Hillary’s campaign provides the kind of head start that no candidate has ever had. They have nearly 3 million current email addresses of supporters across the nation, thousands in every state, and a list of 100,000 active donors, with new donors and emails being added daily. There has never been anything like it in the history of politics and Hillary can thank Adam Parkhomenko and Allida Black who founded the organization for the incredible advantage she will have when she jumps into the race.

There are millions of people Ready for Hillary who believe she will shortly say she is ready to answer their call and begin the journey that will result in her being inaugurated the nation’s 45th and first woman President of the United States on January 20, 2017.

This column was first published in the Huffington Post.

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