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This article by Simon Saltzman was prepared for the September 26,

2001 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Playwrights’ Words of Wisdom

There is no explanation for evil," wrote W.


Maugham. "It must be looked upon as a necessary part of the order

of the universe. To expose it is childish, to bewail it


The events and the images, as they unfolded on Tuesday, September

11, are as indelibly etched in my brain as they are incredulously

shifting about in a maze of conflicted emotions and puzzling


challenges. I am surely not equipped to process and comprehend all

the ramifications of the breaking news from the TV, newspapers, the

radio, and the Web. As I am touched, as are many others, by less than

six degrees of separation from the tragedy, I witness the bravery

and the courage of thousands of rescuers. But what can I, a theater

critic, do during this crisis? What should I be doing?

A brochure arrives in the mail. It carries an image of a soldier


a gun. It is announcing the opening of a new show, a musical —

"The Book of Candy" — opening first at Trenton’s Passage

Theater and then at Madison’s Playwrights Theater of New Jersey.


a quote from the play: "Success Talent Money. None of that Means

anything without this — Victory Over Evil. Based on the book of

Esther in the Bible — a woman living comfortably has the courage

to give this up for the greater good of her community."

The theater and its makers have continued to meet the challenge


the ages, giving people hope, joy, insight, information, inspiration,

and diversion. As a community, theater and its makers have always

responded through tragedies, wars, and economic woes. It has always

met the challenge with brave and sustaining words as surely as have

the fighters with their weapons. We continue to look to the old and

the new plays and playwrights for emotional and intellectual support.

Yes, my wife and I get out the large dusty flag that had been stuffed

in a coat closet for years and hang it between the stone pillars of

our front door. But above all we watch silently as the world around

us pitches in with time, contributions, and efforts. I seem only able

to sit at my desk and bang out words, in this case, mostly other


words, at that.

Have I ever tried to understand why so much hate is

directed towards America and Americans? Do I really know what


those terrorists and suicide teams to commit such heinous acts against

humanity? Caught up in the fervor of patriotism, am I sure that


and revenge is the answer? Finally at the end of the longest week

of the year, I go to the theater. There, at a performance of


and Juliet" at McCarter Theater, I suddenly have a clearer vision

of where to seek insight. It would not be from the media, but from

the greatest writers of dramatic literature. "When sorrows come,

they come not as single spies, but in battalions" (William


Allow this theater critic to share what I have gleaned from various

writers, their quotes, and musings. I hope these bits of wit and


make you think independently, even as we may be inspired to act


toward a meaningful and permanent resolve in this critical time. I

am comforted not only by my own strong spiritual convictions and


but by words, excellent words, wonderful words, words that have the

power to change minds and hopefully the world outside. Being somewhat

of a dunce, I am still not sure that I subscribe to all the philosophy

quoted, as I ask myself questions. But I am so grateful to be able

to consider the thoughts and wisdom of others who propel the world

that I know best.

"By whatever means it is accomplished, the prime business

of a play is to arouse the passions of its audience so that by the

route of passion may be opened up new relationships between a man

and men, and between men and Man. Drama is akin to the other


of man in that it ought to help us to know more, and not merely to

spend our feelings." (Arthur Miller)

We are probably all a little frightened about what tomorrow

may bring, but think on this — "In a world we find terrifying,

we ratify that which doesn’t threaten us." (David Mamet)

Our mourning for those who became victims of the "Attack on


is felt around the world. "The tears of the world are a constant

quality. For each one who begins to weep, somewhere else another


The same is true of the laugh." (Samuel Beckett)

Fueled by patriotic zeal, we say yes to war, and we follow the

advice of our leaders, for surely they know what is right. "The

weather is like the government, always in the wrong." (Jerome

K. Jerome ) Are we on the right path? "What do I know of man’s

destiny? I could tell you more about radishes. (Samuel Beckett)

They came to destroy New York, the heart of America. "New

York is the meeting place of the peoples, the only city where you

can hardly find a typical American." (Djuna Barnes) We

will now go and destroy them. "I do not approve the extermination

of the enemy; the policy of exterminating, or as it is barbarously

said, liquidating enemies, is one of the most alarming developments

of modern war and peace from the point of view of those who desire

the survival of culture. One needs the enemy." (T.S. Eliot)

How could the promise of an afterlife and the favors of six

virgins awaiting them on the other side be enough to lure these pilots

into suicide missions? "It doesn’t pay well to fight for what

we believe in." (Lillian Hellman) "Every man thinks

God is on his side. The rich and powerful know he is." (Jean

Anouilh )

I listen to the news and the opinion makers from all over the

world. "How is the world ruled and led to war? Diplomats lie to

journalists and believe these lies when they see them in print."

(Karl Kraus) Where can I go to get the truth? "We allow

an ignorance to prevail upon us and make us think we can survive


alone in patches, alone in groups, alone in races, even alone in


(Maya Angelou)

I pray for the firemen and their families. "Until the day

of his death, no man can be sure of his courage." (Jean

Anouilh )

Is God listening to us or to them? "God does not seek to

destroy the evil nations, but their evil. The sword conquered for

a while, but the spirit conquers forever." (Sholem Asch)

What and where is the answer? "Instead of killing and dying

in order to produce the being that we are not, we have to live and

let live in order to create what we are." (Albert Camus)

Yet, as I repeat "God Bless America," and wonder about


"Where does one go from a world of insanity? Somewhere on the

other side of despair." (T.S. Eliot) I remain saddened,

but heartened, with the help of a communication sent by contemporary

playwright Karen Sunde, in which she says she is rising out of the

debilitating grief by singing to herself, from "Mother


— "Let all of you who still survive, Get out of bed and look

alive." (Bertolt Brecht).

Sunde’s note included the following: Amid a World War II budget

crisis, one of Churchill’s advisers urged him to shut down all the

theaters, concert halls, and art galleries in London in the interest

of the war effort. "Good God, man," the English prime minister

is said to have replied. "What the hell are we fighting for?"

Sunde concludes: "I encourage everyone to continue in their


As always, I am guided and supported by the words of dramatists.

Top Of Page

Connections Dance Theater is looking for male and female

dancers with background in modern, jazz dance, and/or Latin American

dance. The three year-old professional troupe that successfully


"Feeling Tango," "Memories of an Immigrant," and most

recently, "Let’s Dance our Story." Competitive salaries for

dancers. For auditions, contact us at 609-895-2981; e-mail;


Princeton Pro Musica has chorus auditions for paid and

volunteer positions for its 23rd season featuring works by Bach,


Ray, Hogan, and Mendelssohn, directed by Frances Fowler Slade. Call


Westminster Conservatory has auditions for its


Choral Ensembles and for the Westminster Community Orchestra. Choral

ensembles include the Community Chorus and Chamber Choir for adults;

the Conservatory Youth Chorale, a high school honors chorale; and

children’s choirs for grades 2 to 8. Call 609-921-7104.

Top Of Page
Art Classes

Kelsey Theater offers Playshops for children from


to fifth grade beginning Saturday, September 29. The program is


with Youth Stages under the supervision of founder Jean Prall


Saturday morning classes will be offered in three, eight-week sessions

beginning September 29, January 26, and April 13. Call 609-586-4800,

ext. 3566 or

McCarter Youth Conservatory offers theater training


for children beginning in kindergarten through eighth grade. Fees

range from $175 to $450. Advanced classes are audition only. Call


Shoestring Players offers "Lights, Action,


acting class for students ages 8 to 12, on Saturdays, beginning


6. Classes are 9:30 to 11 a.m. on the Douglass Campus of Rutgers


New Brunswick. $100 per child. Register by Friday, September 28. Call


Top Of Page
Participate Please

New Jersey Theatre Alliance offers discount theater


Call 973-593-0189, e-mail:, or website:

Top Of Page
Volunteer Call

Share Our Strength’s Taste of the Nation, presented by

American Express, is seeking committee members for its Spring 2002

Princeton event. Now in its 11th year, this gourmet food and wine

tasting with Central New Jersey’s top restaurants raises funds for

hunger relief organizations, mostly right in Mercer County. Attendance

has been approximately 700. The group seeks corporate sponsorship,

volunteer coordination, and printing/ mailing/program coordination.

Call Diane Efthimides at 609-924-3663. For more information visit

CAPPS , the newly formed Community Arts Partnership at

Peddie School, seeks volunteers to serve on committees the include:

Outreach; artistic advisory; marketing and public relations; event

management; and development and fundraising. Call 609-490-7550 or


Jenkinson’s Aquarium in Point Pleasant Beach, has


positions including animal care, water testing, maintenance, and


with visitors. Call 732-899-1659.

Trenton Artfest planned for Saturday, October 13, seeks

volunteers to chair committees in marketing and public relations,

entertainment, artists, children’s area, concessions, treasury,


volunteer staffing, security, arts organization liaison, and special

projects. Also needed are volunteers to serve on committee and arts

organization that would like to be part of the arts team. Contact

director Deborah Ford, 609-695-8155.

CONTACT of Mercer County seeks crisis phone volunteers

to maintain the 24-hour hotline. New classes begin Wednesday, October

3, in Hamilton. Call 609-896-2120.

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