Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Letters in Troubled Times - Part Four: Loss in London

As of late, the news of the new administration has overshadowed the looming threat of Islamic terrorism.  Although Aleppo should shout reason enough for us not to forget that it is alive and well.

Another attack on London last week also brought it to the forefront of our radar. Some seem shaken (relatives of the victims); for others it seems a benign occurrence, like that of petty theft or less.  I,too, feel desensitivity creeping in.

Matt Dunham / AP

I reached back to a letter during WWI to get a perspective on the what it feels like to live with the imminent threat of attack. Back then, though, they seemed to know and recognize their enemy.

This was written from a woman in England to my great grand-aunt, Miriam Sears Crompton in the US. (married to my great-grand Uncle Randolph Crompton).

Feb 27th, 1915

My Dear Mrs Crompton, (Miriam Sears Crompton)

I am so sorry to hear that you have been ill and can most sincerely sympathize, having been ill myself all winter.  What with the war and over our family troubles life is a bit too hard for most of us nowadays.  What one asks oneself Where is God?  Why does a "merciful" Providence allow such things to happen as are happening? 

At present we have not really felt the pinch but it is coming with a vengeance.  One can see that.
I am feeling so terribly alone in the world for I have no relation nearer than a distant cousin, and even my lawyer, whom I always leaned upon for business matters, is more interested in the war than in his clients and one feels absolutely adrift.  When one feels well one can face anything, but when one is sickly, all the time things look very black and dreary.  It has been a most unhealthy winter, and as everyone was overwrought from long anxiety, when flu came it found only too many victims, and we none of us can shake it off.

It cheers one to see our recruits go marching past as they do several times a day, for they look so healthy and so keen.  On the other hand it makes one heart-ache to think how few men return from the front.

How good of you all to work so hard and help the Allies.  There's no end to the help.  One longs to be a millionaire, for every day one has appeals, but with using food rations and a much diminished income it is but little one can do.  We are all getting so tired, and yet one must go on. We are lucky to be far enough away not to fear air raids and such like.  We hope we shall be spared them in Devon, but one never knows.  In fact at the present time one would not be surprised at anything. One really doesn't know what to believe, for all the papers seem to contradict each other, both sides invariably claim the same victory, one day Germany is starving, next day on "The best Authority" she has enough food stuff for a year and so on.  I feel so sorry for all the poor creatures whose relatives are "missing" or "prisoners of war."

 But now there is something cheerful.  Please send my love to the nice Rosamond when you write, and tell her she really must not tumble off her horse again.  I suppose she will be having school before we know where we are.  One envies your so pleasant a companion.  Just now though, all the mothers are alone, as any girl who can nurse is busy, and some are all at the front, and I console myself with that thought that even had I children they wouldn't be with me now.

The modern mother is no longer a person who can look forward to a cozy old age well looked after by her children.  It seems to me parents are rather in the way nowadays as they prevent the modern girl from "living her own life" as she puts it.  I trust dear Rosamond will be nice and old fashioned in that respect and look upon you as a pleasant and delightful duty and that there is no relationship in the world to equal it.

Spot now demands to be taken for a walk and his obedient Missus must go.  Please give my kind regards to Mr Crompton and accept much love from me and all good wishes for better health.

Perhaps some day when the war is over you will all be coming to England and then you must spare a week end for me, at least.

Yours affectionately,
Edith Nesbit 

Vintage photos - Pinterest

I imagine if my great aunt's friend was well she would have contributed to the war effort, as many women did. Here are some who joined the Fire Brigade. 

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And we, like these compassionate and courageous women, four thousand miles away and a century later, must do what we can to give relief to our terror-torn humanity.

The Kind of Drama We All Need More Of

I knew that Palm Beach Dramaworks was no ordinary theatre house as soon as I walked in the door of their iconic building (formerly known as The Cuillo Theater) located at the base of Clematis Street. Geoff cheerfully greeted me from behind the thick box office window, came out, and offered me a Pellegrino. I like this place already, I thought.

The purpose of my visit was to interview Gary Cadwallader. Samantha Mighdoll, the Marketing Manager, introduced me to Gary as we walked to the conference room. I admired the building’s vintage-modern d├ęcor with its trendy playbill posters and glinting grand piano under the stairs—displaying that this place is a purveyor of inspiration.
As Director of Education and Community Engagement, I learned that Gary oversees several stimulating programs that enlighten both youth and adults in the world of drama. From what I can see, he’s perfect for the job.
Gary has been with PBD for about eight months. He was in Orlando for several years and, before that, in Daytona Beach—a total of 20 years in the industry.  PBD is fortunate to have such a wealth of experience in Gary.

One of his favorite programs for adults is called Dramawise.   This day-long activity (including lunch at a downtown restaurant) starts with an in-depth discussion about an upcoming play.  A study guide is provided to help the class delve into the script’s major themes, characters and social implications. The playwright’s perspectives and background are also explored, and attendees get to meet sound, lighting and costume design teams to talk about production details. When participants see the play they previewed in Dramawise, their enjoyment is multiplied exponentially!

Gary was busy last season writing grants for several youth programs.  He won $100,000 for what is called the One Humanity Tour.  The program is PBD’s response to recent conflicts between law enforcement and the community. The One Humanity Tour innovatively presents an age-appropriate play that tackles issues of character, responsibility, and respect with the intent to help middle school students positively deal with adults and peers.
Another award Gary received was for his effective PNC Arts Alive program. This school-based ethics project focuses on the protection of intellectual property, and is designed to build respect for copywrited material. Teachers daily confront classroom plagiarism.  With easy access to internet content, it takes little effort to “borrow” a song or a story without compensating or crediting its originator.

Palm Beach Dramaworks conducted high school field trips in February for their current play, “Collected Stories” (showing Feb 3 through Mar 5th). Ethics expert, Dr. Christopher Rice, led post-production talks on honesty in schoolwork and in everyday life. 

Mr. Cadwallader is an actor and director himself, so he is especially excited about Dramaworkshop—PBD’s talent resource program.  Playwrights are encouraged to submit new plays for critique and development. The organization finds real gems through this process, and the winning script is often included in a subsequent season.

In addition to these wonderful community courses—plus their regular shows—PBD offers Dramalogue, a lecture series hosted by theater professionals that promises lively discussion and interaction.

When asked about the personal benefits of the stage experience, here’s what Gary said:
Since the time of ancient Greece, authors and philosophers have seen drama as a catharsis for “renewal and restoration.” While watching a comedy, laughter and joy are great stress relievers.  A good drama boosts endorphins. When conflict and a happy resolution are experienced (a well-written comedy also includes deep conflict), the viewer receives a sense of relief. Therefore, good theatre is not only good for the mind, but also essential to emotional well-being!
PBD features the best actors in South Florida such as Elisabeth Dimon, Cliff Burgess, Dennis Creaghan, and Margery Lowe in their full season of engaging productions.
Don’t miss Collected Stories currently showing through March 3rd and Arcadia (an intriguing play set in two centuries that searches out the complexities of art, science and our innate need for community) coming March 31- April 30th.

Palm Beach-ers don’t have to hop a plane to NYC to get their thespian fix. They have more than enough great theater right here at Palm Beach Dramaworks--the kind of drama we all need more of!
 For more information about these and other presentations visit  http://www.palmbeachdramaworks.org/.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Drinking In Catherine Drinker Bowen

Photo/Art Credit - Unknown
 This pristine Saturday morning, before breakfast or devotions, I pick out my father's 1950 volume of John Adams by Catherine Drinker Bowen form my "antique books" bookcase.

Seated at the dining room table by the window with a dry 70 degree Florida breeze flowing by, I read her first chapter.

It just may be that David McCullough doesn't own the corner on historical biography.

Bowen made reading century old history as enjoyable as indulging in a plate of chocolate croissants.

I wonder if she's done Alexander Hamilton...

Catherine Drinker Bowen (1897-1973) Photo credit unknown.

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