Corrections or additions?
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.
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)
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)
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)
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)
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
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
of his death, no man can be sure of his courage." (Jean
destroy the evil nations, but their evil. The sword conquered for
a while, but the spirit conquers forever." (Sholem Asch)
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).
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.
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
volunteer positions for its 23rd season featuring works by Bach,
Ray, Hogan, and Mendelssohn, directed by Frances Fowler Slade. Call
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.
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 www.kelseytheatre.org.
for children beginning in kindergarten through eighth grade. Fees
range from $175 to $450. Advanced classes are audition only. Call
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
Call 973-593-0189, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, or website:
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
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
positions including animal care, water testing, maintenance, and
with visitors. Call 732-899-1659.
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.
to maintain the 24-hour hotline. New classes begin Wednesday, October
3, in Hamilton. Call 609-896-2120.
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