Tom Minter's Off The Stoop Blog

a playwright's journey, creating, connecting, and conversing.

Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

In The Smoke Of The Sting .. a journey of ‘otherness’ for Pianist & Baritone

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..woke now -to the changes in directions buffeting country and personal journey..

Fully woke. And working.

It is my honor to be in process of collaborating with two esteemed artists -Ms Dana Kristina-Joi Morgan, and Jarrod Lee- in a performance piece I have written for Washington National Opera entitled “In The Smoke Of The Sting”, a music journey which threads the words, determination, and courage of three Champion boxers -Joe Louis, Emile Griffith and Muhammad Ali- through music and poetry, and arias from operas written about these men.
The intimacy of this salon piece invites us all to experience the nature of discrimination that was a daily fight to these men, who endured the truth that being titled ‘Champion’ did little to stop the public’s disquiet at such prominent ‘otherness’.
Current dates/locations of presentation that I will update should there occur any changes:
2/14/2017, 10:30 am, Anacostia Library
2/15/2017, 12:00 pm, National Postal Museum
2/18/2017, 2:00 pm, Takoma Park Library
2/22/2017, 10:30 am, Francis Gregory Library
2/24/2017, 6:00 pm, The Sitar Arts Center
2/26/2017, 3:00 pm, Westminster Presbyterian Church
2/28/2017, 7:00 pm, Shaw Library
3/1/2017, 7:00 pm, Petworth Library
3/2/2017, 2:00 pm, Bellevue Library
3/7/2017, 7:00 pm, Woodridge Library
3/9/2017, 7:00 pm, Mount Pleasant Library
3/14/2017, 7:00 pm, The Hill Center
…the energy and focus of Dana and Jarrod speak to how fierce artists work under & through all conditions – and capture attention, with fierce artistry!

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NPR does a profile of my students in the NPG Portraits Alive! program

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..in this season of unprecedented politics, my students in the National Portrait Gallery’s program Portraits Alive!, bring their concepts of leadership to the fore -and are profiled by NPR..

An incredible group of hard working young minds, making sense for themselves, a way in which the past resonates in the shape of the future..

I am so proud of them!

 

NPR Profile: At The Portrait Gallery, Students Tell The Stories That Pictures Can’t

Youth’s take on leadership

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I am fortunate; it is my third year with the National Portrait Gallery’s program Portraits Alive!

Having the opportunity to participate in the construct of what students will be addressing this year, I sought to find the model by which to investigate their concepts of ‘civic duty and ‘social responsibility’.

Students would choose sitters, whose portraits are part of the NPG collection, who best exemplified such ingredients of character and informed their definition of ‘leadership’.

With these choices made, students were to create 2 to 3 minute monologues of characterization, in the aspect of their sitter, which would then be delivered in front of the corresponding portrait and enacted as part of an open opportunity for the museum’s daily audience.

These presentations are well publicized and have a faithful following –but it is always a delight to find impromptu interest drawing in the many unsuspecting others who have happened into the museum on the day! Whether families, tourists, summer school excursion groups, or local workers seeking a lunch hour refuge –the experience of the Portraits Alive! Student voices tour offers a dimension of exhibition as entertainment, which is very much a part of the NPG’s array of enrichment programs designed to engage a broad breadth of audience who visit the museum with a diversity of interests.

This summer our young presenters weave a tapestry of expression and social consciousness that resonates with the state of America; moving from portraits of Richard Nixon, to Sylvia Rivera, Russell Means and Jane Adams –to name a few- students give expression to different decades of cultural engagement, across passionate personalities, who ultimately wind up articulating the wrestling tensions of scope that continue to seek to twine into our national narrative of political character and democracy.

 

The 2nd session’s presentations will be given in the first week of August, and are open to the public.

 

The initial session’s presentations were given in the 2nd week of July. These are some photos of the journey!

 

Some costumes

Some costumes

 

Captivated crowd

Captivated crowd

 

Ensemble and audience

Ensemble and audience

 

Written by tomminteroffthestoop

July 22, 2016 at 9:47 AM

Congressional acts of non-violent courage..

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Earlier this week I attended a panel discussion, at the Dirksen Senate Office Building, on New Health and Economic Research on Work and Family Policies in the United States and Canada, hosted by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.
..when entering the chamber.. I realized that I’d been in the building once before -exactly 10 years previous -to attend a hearing on the Voting Rights Act, ahead of the vote for its re-ratification.
..remembering this left me with a strange sensation of having just ‘passed my younger self in the hall’, so to speak.. -but it seems my politics and sense of historic timing remain congruent.. -as, at that very moment of remembering, Congressman John Lewis was, again, offering a civics lesson, and exampling social activism in the cause of making sense of a senseless current political impasse..
I say “again” because that example was what was occurring, in June 2006, when I was first in the Dirksen Senate Office Building – and witness to this Congressman’s reason, leadership, and eloquent social consciousness, trying to face an unconscionable situation, with a rightful sense of Justice.
In our current moment of history, he speaks to gun control; in 2006, he was speaking to equality.
But in every direction of his efforts, Congressman Lewis is always leading a call to shine a light upon the dank currents that surge to sink a rightful debate beneath the rhetoric of a divisive oppression, remnant and resonant of our cultural history..
..charging us to insist on change.. and imbuing a path ahead with a power of process that is informed by a long procession of souls who exampled leadership in defining an invigorating paradigm of non-violent, social activism..
We may wrestle up and down, through ongoing time, and returning issues of inequity ..imbalance, and ignorance.. But it is instructive to remember that change is incremental; that calling out injustice has purpose; and that in the siege of politics, a permanence of our government -it is a constant, non-violent courage that is best heard above the fray..

Embracing my Geek!

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…well, I’m embracing my Geek -as come to find out, I get rather squirrelly when it comes to things opera -but especially when it comes to things touching on Verdi, his contemporaries and associates..
On the bookshelves in the back of my mind, I keep a catalogue of operas that I would love to find recordings of, as they are, invariably, operas no one would ever do live -being too obscure; too costly; too much of a dig into musical depths of history..!
Foremost on my list is an opera that was written by Franco Faccio.
Faccio was a schoolmate of Arrigo Boito; Boito came to be the librettist for Verdi, and created the librettos to two of the maestro’s greatest works: Otello and Falstaff, both after Shakespeare..
-but Faccio; I knew that Boito had written a libretto, based on Hamlet (Amletto) for faccio, who composed an opera from it – charting a course of much tribulation, and no more than two serious productions, which did not come off very well; but Boito, and Verdi as well, had great faith in Faccio (who, incidentally, went on to be an amazing conductor; on the podium at the premieres of Verdi’s operas Aida and Otello).
..-sorry- (squirreling about in the Geek)..
It has been many years that this work has intrigued me, especially for all the godparents at its birth.. But I’d never imagined coming across anything on the opera .. as it’s far too obscure..
So imagine my surprise in receiving a flier from Opera Delaware (-who- honestly- I’d never signed up to received anything from) alerting me to their season this year – which includes a full production of Faccio’s opera AMLETTO!!
..the history alone and convolutions of this work’s inception and initial productions, makes this event of great importance..

And as Washington National Opera mount their Ring cycle, it is also heartening to know that there remain companies who wish to investigate .. adventurous ..if potentially ruinous, journeys which resonate full of the ‘unknown’.. and envelope a willing audience in the rich tapestry of Italian opera history.. Thank you, Opera Delaware!

..moments of Billie

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..so many changes in 2015; too many. Each, significant.

..but all are part of a fabric of affirmation: these lights mattered; these stories continue; the wit and spark and warmth of easing folks forward remains the ripple  they wished for us to ride.. till, thereby, we leave our own.

Many stories to share will come in reflection of time spent in her company, but, for the moment ..a few moments of Billie Allen-Henderson, theatre godmother, mentor, comrade, insouciant bon vivant, sassy witness, and edifying headlight..

 

Billie! at Cakewalk premiere, Philly 2006

Billie! at CAKEWALK premiere, Philly 2006

 

Billie on Billie – reminiscing..

Tom & Billie Allen-Henderson/BLUES premiere, at the Duke Ellington School, DC, 2014

Billie Allen-Henderson (and me)/BLUES premiere, at the Duke Ellington School, DC, 2014

 

Billie speaks of Marian Anderson.. 

Written by tomminteroffthestoop

January 4, 2016 at 9:24 AM

Creating Unique Programming

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Creating. Unique. Programming.

…set against one another each of those words can wreck havoc in that they speak to something without precedent; something out of the ordinary; something, yet to be in an index table for “standard”.

One of the perks for being my age is that creating unique programming falls well into my paradigm of permissions I’ve embraced as ..well, as being my age.

It also comes while walking a fine line between ‘hubris’, ‘experience’ and ‘facilitation’.

That’s the other thing at my age: I’ve come to embrace all the gray in the dynamic needed to successfully engage the imagination of others, and move an idea across a threshold that often is sighted as cause for trepidation and anxiety – that “step” off the footpath, onto untrammeled concepts and terrain.. where “successful” comes proportionate to ones availability to being ‘unsure’, if not down right vulnerable.

If I am strong enough to appear foolish, I can encourage others to be less afraid of moments of awkwardness and ‘different’. At least, that’s the condition I use when shaping the grid to lead an expedition into something unique ..because going to such a place requires trust, beyond courage and bravery and an open mind; trust – that, sometimes, being willing to appear foolish is the right way to be strong.. and as dividend: learn something new; or at the least, glean what there is to be discovered along the way there..

I know this might thread as a rambling metaphorical falneur ..or ‘high falootin’ intellectual babbly-gook’ – but it is in the process of being able to find ways to articulate the, as yet, ‘unexpressed’, that discoveries are identified, and given concept; and given speech; and shaped, through words, to be offered as the solid steps into an unknown.

______________

Concepts need words of great sensitivity, and should be robust in their expressiveness, as each word, one against another, etches the ‘new found’, and goes a long way to desensitizing, delineating, defining the breadth of a unique thing..

But this process –this contextualization is not about purging “unique” of its qualities, to make that word an easy one.

It is about articulating the dimensions; it is about – exploring.

Explorers are intrepid; they are willing to dare; this does not mean they do so without fear.

Fear when stepping into the unknown is a healthy caution; it is a form of respect – and in this is a glimmer of the ‘multifacetness’ of language, as the very word “fear” usually halts any step – as it is a word that usually resonates with “fight or flight”..

But an intrepid explorer knows that fear informs fortitude – this leaves them on their toes; it courses energy into every fiber of their awareness to press them to gently search, or touch the boundaries of where they stand, discerning what is ahead, what is solid, what is unique, what is new, and what needs other articulation for mapping.

Once back in lands where a population awaits news of adventure, explorers are deemed “brave”, having survived their discoveries.

..but for the explorer.. when alone, in that place of discovery, trying to inch a foot, one step ahead of another.. – is “brave” the word they use in speaking to themselves, standing on the uncertain ground of “new”..?

I imagine them all tensile energy ..teasing out their awareness’s ahead of their body ..using their eyes ..their ears ..their previous experiences, their full senses to ‘echo image’ the defining contours of the ‘new’ that is before them.. – and relishing the fear which guides them forward to establish new as worthy.

__________________

Creating

Unique

Programming

is a platform for exploration that perhaps begins at a ‘given’, or at something ‘known’, but leads, ultimately, each of us, to somewhere new.

The next year is shaping up full of expeditions, and foolish, I search along to lead.

 

 

 

Written by tomminteroffthestoop

August 10, 2015 at 6:57 AM