Friday, February 28, 2003


Two plays end this weekend which are supposed to be fabulous. I'm going to try and see both!

The Caretaker First Stage Providence, St. Paul's Church, Park Place, Pawtucket. 724-8173. Harold Pinter play about a London drifter taken in by a pair of strange brothers. Thu-Sat 8 pm. Closes Sat.
La Bete, University of Rhode Island Theatre, J-Studio, Fine Arts Center, Kingston. 874-5843. Comedy loosely based on the life and works of French playwright Moliere. Thu-Sat 8 pm. $12, students/children/elderly $10. Closes Sat.

And while I'm recommending plays, I can recommend the Perishable Theatre's Long Journey To Whereto. I saw it last week at the press opening. The play, is non-linear and not quite finished (they received a $10,000 grant to continue working on the show for the next few years) So it can be difficult to figure out what's going on. When you visit their website, you can even give them your feedback on how YOU think they should proceed with the show..
The set and lighting is all quite beautiful, and there are several wonderful moments in the show. (the actors are all quite skilled, although not quite used to their full extent yet) My advice (which I gave to the director) is to continue to work on the virtuosity of the actors in their individual pieces in the show, and to find a specific image. They bill it as a theatrical puzzle, but most puzzles have a specific image that they are trying to create. This show doesn't have that image yet-- and when it finally does, I think it will be a real work of art.

Station Fire Web Log

This is probably the best blog about the fire that I've seen. Of course, it's paid for by the newspaper, so it should be.
The biggest news here is that FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, has declined to issue an emergency declaration (which means federal emergency money. On one level I understand this (It's a tragedy, naturally, but is it an emergency? That's a harder call.) On another level-- this doesn't just affect the 200 people who were harmed by the club. We've got a lot of interconnections and tightknit communities and families in Rhode Island-- nearly everyone knows someone who was either at the fire, or someone who knows someone.

See the Providence Journal's Fire WebLog

Thursday, February 27, 2003

A Dark Day in the Neigborhood

I'm sad to report that Fred Rogers is taking off his sweater in the big Neighborhood in the sky. He died of complications resulting from stomach cancer.

Although he was often the butt of jokes, and he was easy to make fun of, Fred Rogers did his job like no one else could. He had an important mission, he did it well, and it turns out that he was a pretty amazing musician. (In a show I did a long time ago, we did a parody of the song "Won't You Be My Neighbor", which turns out is in a difficult key, has weird and bizarre time changes, and the piano player who was trying to vamp it all said "Fred Rogers is a monster jazz player!"

The website for pbskids has some excellent advice on how to tell your kids about Mr. Roger's death.

Read Mr. Roger's obituary (list courtesy of

Fred 'Mister' Rogers dies of cancer at 74 - Hartford Courant - 10 minutes ago
Key Events in the Life of Fred Rogers - Seattle Post Intelligencer
Quotes from Fred Rogers - Minneapolis Star Tribune -

Rhode Island, Rock Climber's Paradise

Although our highest point is only 805 feet above sea level, Rhode Island has a long history of rock climbing, and some interesting places to ascend.

DISCLAIMER: Rock climbing and associated activities are intrinsically dangerous. Participation could lead to injury or even death. Rocks fall, routes change, equipment slips, accidents happen. You should not participate in rock climbing without professional instruction and guidance.

That being said, perhaps the first resource to check out is the Narragansett Chapter of the Appalachian Mountain Club The AMC promotes the protection, enjoyment and wise use of the mountains, rivers, and trails of the Northeast. They offer all sorts of outdoor events (including climbing and bouldering), a message board, a newsletter, and most importantly, a community.

Local climber Brian Phillips has created a labor of love-- a fairly extensive website all about Rhode Island climbing. Visit his website to read a history of Rhode Island climbing (including a 1935 article in Appalachia magazine!), find out about places in Rhode Island to climb, and even see a list of mountain equipment stores. This site is HIGHLY recommended

Another local climber Randy Hill (great name for a climber, yes?) has created a webpage about building an indoor rock wall in your own home. He covers such issues as smoothing the cement, tilting the wall, and even creating hand and footholds. Visit that page here

If building your own wall is too daunting for you, you may want to visit the Rhode Island Rock Gym in Lincoln Rhode Island instead. They bill themselves as New England's premier rock gym, with over 10,000 square feet of climbing area, 30 foot walls, 50+ rope stations, and indoor bouldering. They offer instructional classes, private tutoring, competitive events, and even a lounge where you can sit back in a comfortable chair, drink a fizzy drink, and watch others make the ascent.

Wednesday, February 26, 2003


August 25, 1948-February 25, 2003

My first Alexander Technique Teacher, Saura Bartner, has succumbed to cancer. She died at home surrounded by her mother, father, brother and children.

For those of you who don't know what the Alexander Technique is, it's a method for understanding how the body functions best. Most people have unconscious ways of using their bodies. More than they realize, they tighten their shoulders, back and neck. These habits of tension can limit their use of the body in strange ways. The Alexander Technique is a method for examining your habitual way of using your body, and to give you a choice on how to use it.

At the Trinity Rep Conservatory, we studied Alexander Technique for two years as part of our basic actor training. The before and after pictures of how I stand at rest are astounding!

Saura was a great teacher and an amazing human being.

One of my favorite memories of Saura is the first day of class. We all sat
in a circle, and she introduced herself a dozen times.

"Hello, My Name is Saura Bartner."
"Hello, My Name is Saura Bartner."
"Hello, My Name is Saura Bartner."
"Hello, My Name is Saura Bartner."

Each time she did a slight ... something... to her head and neck, to change
her attitude, which changed her whole face, which changed her whole body.

At the time I just thought it was a little weird, but over time I've come to
think of it as one of my most valuable lessons:

It is the subtle things that make the most difference.

I'll say that again:

It is the subtle things that make the most difference.

(I know, most of you who know me are saying "What?" or "Well, I think you need to go back to school, cuz subtlety is not your forte" (and neither is spelling it!)

But hear me out-- it is not the big comic gestures that make a clown funny, but the uprised turn of the one eyebrow at the end of it. As another teacher of mine would say (Daniel Stein) about the cartoon Fractured FairyTales: "It's not the book falling that makes it interesting, it's the dust on the book" The little thing that rings true is worth much more than the large gesture that came before it. I have had to learn this several times over the years, and probably still have to continue to remember and learn it. Saura taught it to me first.

We would study the technique in groups of 12 or so, and then once every 2 weeks we would have private sessions with Saura in the morning. I would really treasure those 20 minute private sessions with Saura. I liked the work well enough, and got a lot of valuable information from it, but I always felt like she took extra time and attention with me, and secretly thought I might have been her favorite student. Years later, I spoke to somebody about feeling that way, and she said "I always thought she took extra attention with ME!" And I had a sudden realization that that's how EVERYONE felt-- Saura took extra time and attention with EVERYBODY.

I have been missing her, and will continue to miss her.

More Pictures of Saura (and info about shiva, funeral arrangements, and memorial donations) are available at a website established by her family.

For more about the Alexander Technique,
visit Trinity Rep Conservatory grad Leland Vall's website

There are two teachers of Alexander Technique in the Rhode Island area:
Mara Sokolsky and Carol Gill Malik.

Click on either name to get more information about their classes.

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

An imagined debate between Bush and Saddam

Once I get on a roll, I seem to really roll with it. Tomorrow it will be more Rhode Island news, I promise!

This is from the British paper The Guardian

Tony Blair, moderator: Welcome to the first televised debate between George W Bush and Saddam Hussein, live from United Nations headquarters in New York. We will begin with a brief opening statement from each of you.

Bush: First of all I would just like to welcome my evil friend to the UN, one of the great American institutions for the propulsion of freedom throughout the world.

Saddam: Thank you, Great Satan. I hope that in today's debate we may find some common ground between the Iraqi people's commitment to peace and human progress and America's desire to destroy the Middle East.

Bush: Do I answer that?

Blair: No. The first question is quite simply this: do you have any links with al-Qaida?

Bush: I do not.

Blair: The question is for President Saddam.

Saddam: As I told Mr Tony Benn clearly and simply, if I had links with al-Qaida and I enjoyed those links then I would not be ashamed to tell the world, but since I am ashamed to tell the world of this, it follows that I have no such links.

Bush: Neither do I.



This next part is not about Rhode Island, but what the heck. Even I am allowed my political prejudices...

My Aunt Joan was watching CNN, and she said there was a British commentator who was talking about the fact that Saddam wants to debate Bush.

The commentator said the following: "It would be rather a strange debate. One of them only speaks Arabic, and the other doesn't speak English!"

I also thought this was a pretty good comparison, courtesy of weblog "The Aardvark Speaks"




Has weapons of mass destruction



Has used weapons of mass destruction



Has potential to lead war on a global scale



Has potential to completely destroy the world



Is preparing to attack a foreign country



Is preparing to invade a foreign country



Is asking/threatening other countries to help invade a
foreign country



Is trying to circumvent UN resolutions



Is exerting pressure on UN to vote in its favour



President elected in questionable circumstances, or not
by majority of citizens



President is ruthless dictator



President directly or indirectly responsible for the
killing of a substantial number of his citizens



Art You Can Live With

Two exhibits currently showing at the RISD Museum concentrate on 20nth century art designed for the home..

The first, Zig-Zag Chairs and Wobbly Mirrors, celebrates the enormous variety and vitality of 20th-century furniture making, bringing into focus the contrasts and congruencies of factory-produced furniture and work made in the individual furniture artist’s studio. Production furniture is represented through pieces designed by Alvar Aalto, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Charles and Ray Eames and Verner Panton. Studio furniture by Wharton Esherick and Tage Frid (who established RISD’s Furniture Department), is also on view, as well as objects by subsequent generations of studio artists, including Jere Osgood, John Dunnigan [RISD MFA ’80, Industrial Design], Thomas Loeser, Judy Kensley McKie [RISD ’66, Painting] and Lee Schuette [RISD MFA ’80, Industrial Design].

The second exhibit features artists trained in the fine arts that have created wall coverings and consider this endeavor to be just as significant as their work in other media. Called On the Wall , the exhibit spans the period from 1966 to the present and includes Andy Warhol’s now-classic Cow pattern and gallery installations designed specifically for the Museum by Virgil Marti and Francesco Simeti. Among those represented in the diverse group of 23 artists are Ann Agee, John Baldessari, Adam Cvijanovic, Do-Ho Suh [RISD ’94, Painting], General Idea, Robert Gober, Renée Green, Jenny Holzer [MFA RISD ’77, Painting] and Jorge Pardo.

On the Wall is accompanied by a companion exhibition of historic wallpapers from RISD’s renowned collection. Historic Wallpapers 1750-1949 traces the history of wallpaper from its 18th-century origins to its adoption by 20th-century modernists. This historical exhibit puts the On The Wall exhibit into historical context.

"On the Wall: Wallpaper by Contemporary Artists" runs through April 20 and "Zig-Zag Chairs and Wobbly Mirrors" through April 27 at the RISD Museum, 224 Benefit St., Providence. Hours: Tues.-Sun. 10-5. For more information, call 401-454-6500. Or visit the website

Monday, February 24, 2003


This is the worst fire in Rhode Island's history. The death toll ON THE SCENE has risen to 97, and there are plenty of people in area hospitals in critical condition that might sadly add to the death toll.

Nearly half of the dead have been identified so far, and here in Rhode Island, I'd say that people are dreading looking at the list. By now, if your loved ones were victims you probably already know about it-- but the fallout is still to come from people you don't hang out with on an everyday basis-- the guy who delivered the CocaCola, someone you went to high school with. People you didn't necessarily talk to, but you know, and remember, and suddenly you think, "Wow! Maybe she was there?" I've called a bunch of old acquaintances on this.

The Providence Journal probably has the best and most complete coverage of the fire right now. Their front page today includes profiles of victims, hotlines, a notice of the Memorial Service (which is today at 6 pm at the West Warwick Civic Center)

"He Said- He Said"

The band's attorney has stated unequivocally that the management of the club knew about the pyrotechnics, that there was a conversation several days before, and that co-owner Jeff Derderian was present when the pyro was set up. Jeff Derderian has stated unequivocally that he knew NOTHING about the pyrotechnics. You can read his statement to the press at

Channel 10 also has a lot of good coverage about the fire, including a story that the club was in the process of being sold.

View a news clip with video You've probably seen a bit of the video already, but it's just astounding to see it happen before your very eyes. This is a 2 minute news clip using Real Player to view.

Friday, February 21, 2003


Tragedy struck last night at The Station, a popular Rhode Island nightclub in West Warwick. A fire broke out at approximately 11 pm last night. At least 39 are dead today , and that number is quickly rising, as firefighters continue to sift through the rubble of the burnt out shell of the club. [NOTE: by 9:23 am, the latest death toll is 54. SECOND NOTE: The Death Toll is now up to 95] (7:23 pm)

Apparently the band Great White used pyrotechnics in their act, but those pyrotechnics were not approved or licensed by the local fire department or the state. The band's leader is claiming that the club management said that the pyro was cleared. A substance in the ceiling seemed to have ignited rapidly, and the club was engulfed in flames within 3 minutes. Over 160 people were sent to the hospital, and several people are still missing, including the bands guitarist and a WHJY Disc Jockey. The true death toll will not be known until quite some time.

Read the AP article

See ABC 6's coverage of the fire

See the Providence Journal's coverage of the fire

See The CNN Photo Gallery

Phone Numbers

Victim Information Hotline462-7111
Nightclub Fire Hotline 823-4726
Red Cross Info. Line 828-3326
Kent County Hospital 737-7000 ext. 1395
RI Hospital 444-4005

Thursday, February 20, 2003

Bread and Puppet Theater: How to Turn Distress into Success

HOW TO TURN DISTRESS INTO SUCCESS, A Parable of War and It's Making.
With the help of the National More-More-More Society.

"The Student of Success" is taught a lesson: how the transformation of distress into success transforms success. The "Population" is a child in the arms of "Truth". But "Truth" gets employed by the "Executive" to ready the "Population" for war. War is learned in a butcher's shop. The dance of the Collateral Damage Dancers concludes the lesson.
The puppets are from cardboard; the music is live and includes an ancient Georgian chant. Six puppeteers perform.
The INSURRECTION MASS WITH FUNERAL MARCH FOR A ROTTEN IDEA is a nonreligious service in the presence of several paper mache gods. The rotten idea which gets explained and buried is usually derived from some recent political-economical event or idea which deserves burial. The MASS comes complete with secular scripture readings, a fiddle sermon and hymns in which the public is invited to participate.

See it at
115 Empire Street 831-9327
All events at AS220 are All Ages
Friday, February 21 and Saturday February 22 from 8-10pm $6

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

10th Annual RI Spring Flower & Garden Show

Feb 20-23, 2003 --- Rhode Island Convention Center

It may have been the 9th largest storm in RI history, but that hasn't stopped Spring from it's early arrival at the RI Convention Center!

Governor Carcieri of Rhode Island has declared that Feb. 16-23 is Rhode Island Flower & Garden Week!

30 Gardens, 40 Speakers, and a host of vendors will make this one of the largest RI Spring Flower Shows ever!

Highlights of the 2003 RI Spring Flower & Garden Show include:

* A 15 foot model of the historic aircraft carrier U.S.S. Saratoga

* Nationally acclaimed gardening broadcaster Paul Parent will broadcast The Paul Parent Garden Club LIVE! from the RI Spring Flower & Garden Show floor and answer questions as well!

* Former U.S. Representative from Rhode Island Claudine Schneider will speak on conservation and gardening.

* A new entrance design highlighting the 10th Anniversary of the Rhode Island Spring Flower & Garden Show.

* The RI Federation of Garden Clubs will present a Standard Flower Show titled "Celebrations" reflecting various holidays and occasions we celebrate throughout the year.

* Speakers will include such internationally known horticulturists as Robin Parer and Pierre Beanerup.

* An Educational CafŽ sponsored by Borders Bookstore will be on the fifth level of the convention center.

* Children's performers, including singer/songwriter Lindsay Adler and storyteller Cindy Killavey.

Ticket Prices are as follows: (and available at the door)

Adults: $14.00 - Weekdays $15.00 - Weekends
Children (ages 6-12) $7.00 (Children under 6 are free.)
Seniors/Students $13.00 - Weekdays

For more info, Visit their website or call 401-421-7811 .

Monday, February 17, 2003


This was one of the worst storms to hit Rhode Island in some time. 18 inches expected to hit by the end of it all. I stayed in for most of the day and drank hot cocoa and worked on a script.

Read theProvidence Journal's Snow BLOG

Friday, February 14, 2003

Harold Pinter's The Caretaker

Directed by Bill Cain.With Richard Donelly, Nigel Gore, and Mark Peckham.

Bill Cain was one of the earliest actors at Trinity, and Richard, Nigel, and Mark are all three some of the finest local off-Trinity talent on the block. The show is produced by First Stage Providence, run by Cait Calvo, one of the surest hands in the local theatre scene. Basically, this production has a pretty great pedigree.

If you don't know the play , you are in for a long tense treat of classic Pinter, astonishing terror, turnabouts, and amazingly concise language. This play is well worth seeing.

Feb 14-16 at the Carriage House, 7 Duncan Ave., Providence,

Feb. 20-Mar. 1 at St. Paul's Church, 50 Park Pl., Pawtucket, .
Shows are on Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m. and on Sun. at 2 p.m. (Feb. 23 only at 5 p.m.).
Tickets are $15 ($12 seniors and students). Call 724-8173 for more information.

Read the Review in the Providence Phoenix

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

New Providence Police Chief Dean Esserman

I heard Colonel Dean Esserman, the new Providence Police chief, speak yesterday at the annual meeting of the Jewelry District Association. I have to say that he's a very compelling speaker.
He told the story of the problems that he faces in re-building the Providence Police. Up until this point, the Providence Police Department has been answerable really to no one-- that those who rose in ranks had to pay for their promotions, and then they really had no power. How there was no in-service training for cops throughout Rhode Island (once you graduate the academy, that's it. If you become a sergeant, you don't get some additional training, just a new badge. He spoke about how the Providence Police Department had bad communication principles, and up until his tenure, no Providence Police Chief had ever gone to the Statewide Police Chiefs meeting. He spoke about how the brand new Public Safety Building has disfunctional systems, and was designed without any input from the Police or Fire Departments

Mostly he spoke about his plans for shaking up the Department-- returning to Neighborhood Policing (which means permanently assigned cops in each individual neighborhood, thus effectively decentralizing the police force.; permanently assigning cops to schools, and actively getting the cops who are doing the work to have input and pride in creating solutions to problems. He spoke about how he expects results and only results-- but he also expects mistakes to be made. He spoke about some of the remarkable individuals who after 20 years in a police force with a bad culture, still manage to yearn to do good work and to set themselves free.

Most importantly he issued a challenge-- He said that if we didn't feel that real and substantial change had been made within a year-- that if we didn't feel better about our police department, and satisfied with the results, that we should ask him to step down.

While those are pretty bold words, he sounded pretty sincere. Let's see how the next 12 months for the Providence Police take shape!


Tuesday, February 11, 2003

The Long Journey To Whereto

(l to r) front - Baha Sadr, Margaret MelozziÊ
back - Barb McElroy, Daniel ColbertÊ

Perishable Theatre is presenting what's known in the industry as a "Built piece" -- they have assembled a fine group of people including designers Jeremy Woodward, Che Le Momo, and Courtney LeClaire-Conway, actors (including Barb McElroy, Bob Jaffe, and Margaret Melozzi) a playwright Oana Maria Cajal, and with these elements and his imagination, Mark Lerman, artistic director of Perishable, will coax a play out of their rehearsal process.

Just like giving birth, there are some harrowing moments in the process, but just like giving birth, at the end of the process you end up with a unique and individual production which will be sure to be loved by somebody. I can almost guarantee that there will be stunning theatrical moments in it (although I haven't seen it yet) The trick in a process like this is to build a strong enough story to contain the stunning visual images that you've been working on. Mark Lerman is just the guy to shepherd the project, and I'm really looking forward to seeing what they've come up with! SEE THEIR WEBSITE

Thurs Fri Sat Sun

2/15 7pm

2/16 7pm












Monday, February 10, 2003


I'm just back from Canada, and have read some shocking news-- The Rhode Island Historical Society has decided to withdraw from the Heritage Harbor Museum.

For those of you who don't know, the Museum was made up of approximately 20 historical organizations and museums, and the Heritage Harbor Museum was going to be a consortium of them all, that would draw people in one gulp to the museum, so that in one place you could check out the amazing rich diversity of Rhode Island.

The biggest organization of them all was the RI Historical Society. Their former director was the president of Heritage Harbor and the guy most responsible for getting the grants and the donations that allowed Heritage Harbor to move beyond a fantasy.

It's a bit of a shock, because the RI Historical Society probably has the most clout out of all of the consortium organizations. Not to belittle any other organization, but without the library and the holdings of the Historical Society, the HHM loses a significant cache. Hopefully, this hasn't been the death blow for Heritage Harbor, as they have raised 43 of the estimated 59 million they need. The last 16 may prove harder than they expected.