Friday, May 29, 2009

The power of thoughts

“A man’s life is what his thoughts make of it.”
-- Marcus Aurelius

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Yes we can!

“A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
-- Margaret Mead

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


“I saw an angel in the marble and I carved until I set him free.”
-- Michelangelo

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Fruits of Meditation

Check out this provocative pod cast by Father Laurence Freeman about the "contemplative church."

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The spiritual life

“A surrendering attitude is nonnegotiable for your journeying in the Gospel.”
-- Cynthia Bourgeault

Friday, May 15, 2009

Meditation: The Antidote for Fundamentalism

Meditation is a “way of dealing with the rising problem of fundamentalism,” says Fr. Laurence, calling fundamentalism “a new kind of religion” and a “very dangerous one” that grows out of fear. The solution to fear is love, he says, and meditation is a work of love. Listen to this insightful pod cast of Fr. Laurence’s talk.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Desire Under the Elms

Boy, these folks make the Tyrone family look like the Cleavers. I had forgotten how grim this play is. Eugene O’Neill outdid himself with this one.

Director Robert Falls has shortened the play to 100 minutes and cut 10 characters, but still manages to pack in a lot of misery, which is heightened by Walt Sprangler’s bleak 1850 set. This is not a show for the casual theatergoer, but if this play intrigues you, you will appreciate the quality of this revival, which comes to Broadway following a highly praised run at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre. First performed in 1924, Desire Under the Elms is a story of lust, family betrayal and loathing, and infanticide that has its roots in Greek tragedy.

I was especially impressed with Carla Gugino (in photo), who plays Abbie, the sensual young bride of Ephraim Cabot (Brian Dennehy), a nasty old landowner with three grown sons by two deceased wives. She made Abbie alive with passion. Pablo Schreiber (in photo) as Eben Cabot, Ephraim’s youngest son and the object of her desire, also gave a strong performance . Their scenes together gave the spark the play needs to be bearable. Daniel Stewart Sherman and Boris McGiver are good as Eben’s older brothers.

Richard Woodbury’s original music, which alternates between brooding and country love songs, is effective in enhancing the mood. Ana Kuzmanic’s costumes and Michael Philippi’s lighting also contribute to the despair of the story.

All in all, it’s a well-done production, just not my cup of tea. I would have liked to close the 2008-2009 season on a more upbeat note, but that’s show business. I’ve submitted my Drama Desk ballot and winners will be announced at our awards show Sunday night. After a week’s breather, the 2009-2010 season starts for me with Pure Confidence. Round and round and round in the circle game!

Performances of Desire Under the Elms continue to May 24 -- six weeks earlier than scheduled -- at the St. James Theatre, 246 W. 44th St. For information, call at (212) 239-6200 or (800) 432-7250, or visit

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Chinese Proverb

The person who says something is impossible should not interrupt the person who is doing it.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Growing in God

The longer you meditate, the longer you persevere through the difficulties and the false starts, then the clearer it becomes to you that you have to continue if you are going to lead your life in a meaningful and profound way. You must never forget the way of meditation: to say your mantra from the beginning to the end. This is basic, axiomatic and let nothing dissuade you from the truth of it. . . . . [T]he discipline, the ascesis of meditation places this one demand on us absolutely: . . .: that we must leave self behind so completely, leave our thoughts, analyses and feelings behind so completely, that we can be totally at the disposition of the Other.. . .

What is the difference between reality and unreality? I think one way we can understand it is to see unreality as the product of desire. One thing we learn in meditation is to abandon desire, and we learn it because we know that our invitation is to live wholly in the present moment. Reality demands stillness and silence. And that is the commitment that we make in meditating. As everyone can find from their own experience, we learn in the stillness and silence to accept ourselves as we are. This sound very strange to modern ears, above all to modern Christians who have been brought up to practice so much anxious striving: "Shouldn't I be ambitious? What if I'm a bad person, shouldn't I desire to be better?"

The real tragedy of our time is that we are so filled with desire, for happiness, for success, for wealth, for power, whatever it may be, that we are always imagining ourselves as we might be. So rarely do we come to know ourselves as we are and to accept our present position. But the traditional wisdom tells us: know that you are and that you are as you are. It may well be that we are sinners and if we are, it is important that we should know that we are. But far more important for us is to know from our own experience that God is the ground of our being and that we are rooted and founded in him. . . . This is the stability that we all need, not the striving and movement of desire but the stability and the stillness of spiritual rootedness. Each of us is invited to learn in our meditation, in our stillness in God, that in him we have everything that is necessary. [....]

Meditate for Thirty Minutes.... Remember: Sit down. Sit still and upright. Close your eyes lightly. Sit relaxed but alert. Silently, interiorly, begin to say a single word. We recommend the prayer-phrase "Maranatha." Recite it as four syllables of equal length. Listen to it as you say it, gently, but continuously. Do not think or imagine anything—spiritual or otherwise. Thoughts and images will likely come, but let them pass. Just keep returning your attention—with humility and simplicity—to saying your word in faith, from the beginning to the end of your meditation.
--John Main OSB, THE WAY OF UNKNOWING (New York: Crossroad, 1990), pp. 79-81.

After Meditation...

“Late have I loved you, O Beauty, so ancient and so new, late have I loved you! And behold, you were within me and I was outside, and there I sought for you, and in my deformity I rushed headlong into the well-formed things that you have made. You were with me, and I was not with you. . . .[But] you called and cried out to me and broke open my deafness; you shone forth upon me and you scattered my blindness; you breathed fragrance and I drew in my breath. . . .”
--St Augustine of Hippo, “The Confessions,” AN ANTHOLOGY OF CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM, ed. Harvey D. Egan (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1996), p. 68.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

9 to 5: The Musical

SO MUCH FUN!!! Every element of this Broadway musical version of the 1980 film “9 to 5” is top notch -- the acting/singing, the choreography, songs, book, sets, costumes, direction. It is a shimmering, glimmering tribute to Broadway at its best.

9 to 5: The Musical, directed by Joe Mantello, received a record 15 Drama Desk nominations, making me wonder if it would live up to all of that expectation. As it turns out, I loved it from start to finish. I want to go back!

Everyone in the cast is fully committed, and all have impeccable timing. Allison Janney, as overworked and underpaid office manager Violet Newstead (the Lily Tomlin movie role), is dynamite, especially in her “One of the Boys” number, when in a sleek white pants suit and backed by a chorus of men in suits, she struts her stuff and makes it clear that she’s ready and able to take over.

Megan Hilty is a riot as Doralee Rhodes (the Dolly Parton role), a self-described “backwoods Barbie,” and Stephanie J. Block is great as the timid, clueless Judy Bernly (Jane Fonda).

Right from the upbeat opening number, “9 to 5,” the show is pulsing with energy and fun. Alarms start going off and a variety of different types of people grudgingly prepare for their workday. “Tumble outta bed / And stumble to the kitchen / Pour myself a cup of ambition,” those familiar words and that jaunty tune from the Grammy Award-winning, Academy Award-nominated and No. 1 Billboard title song from the film set the pace for the joyful theatrical experience about to unfold.

As in the film, Violet, Doralee and Judy are downtrodden secretaries in 1979 -- "just a step on the boss man's ladder" -- who plot their revenge on that ogre, Franklin Hart, Jr., beautifully played by Marc Kudisch (the Dabney Coleman character). Kudisch was born to do musical comedy. It’s a really physical part and he is right-on every time.

Choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler keeps everyone on their marks, whether pumping up the rhythms of the office or staging big splashy dance sequences. He’s great at blending one number seamlessly into the next, such as in the hilarious scene with the three women getting stoned and fantasizing about how they’d love to get the best of Mr. Hart.

The 15 new songs (words and lyrics) by Dolly Parton, making her Broadway song writing debut, are upbeat and often have a nice country twang. They’re also rousing in the way of Legally Blonde’s songs, with the message for the oppressed to stand up and fight -- “Nothing’s going to change if you don’t change it.”

Patricia Resnick, who was responsible for the original story and screenplay, wrote the book, which moves the story along quickly and with much humor.

Supporting all of this bright spirit are the colorful sets by Scott Pask, costumes by William Ivey Long and lighting by Jules Fisher and Kenneth Posner.

The 30-member cast also features Kathy Fitzgerald -- a hoot as Mr. Hart’s devoted executive secretary -- Andy Karl, Ioana Alfonso, Timothy George Anderson, Jennifer Balagna, Justin Bohon, Paul Castree, Daniel Cooney, Jeremy Davis, Gaelen Gilliland, Autumn Guzzardi, Ann Harada, Neil Haskell, Lisa Howard, Van Hughes, Michael X. Martin, Michael Mindlin, Karen Murphy, Mark Myars (dance captain), Justin Patterson, Jessica Lea Patty, Charlie Pollock, Tory Ross, Wayne Schroder, Maia Nkenge Wilson and Brandi Wooten.

I predict a healthy run for 9 to 5, which is at the Marriott Marquis Theatre, 1535 Broadway between 45th and 46th Streets. Tickets are available through (212) 307-4100 or at the box office. For more information visit

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Tai Chi in Carl Schurz Park

Friend Carolyn Hearn sent the following message: Hello to everyone who has come to my free Tai Chi class over the past
five years. I hope you survived the wet, cold winter in good shape and have
been practicing.

I plan to start up again Tuesday, May 14, at 9 a.m. at the usual place, just south of Gracie Mansion, near the East River, and I hope the weather stays dry. As in the past, my plan is to keep the class going until Thanksgiving.

New participants welcome!

For more information, contact

Persistence, up to a point

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then give up. There’s no use being a damn fool about it.”
-- W.C. Fields

Friday, May 8, 2009

Meditation: Freely Received, Freely Given

In this free pod cast, Fr. Laurence Freeman talks about the “pure grace” that is meditation, “the free gift of God to ourselves,” and he explains how meditation is “the spirit of the gospel.” Take a listen.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Waiting for Godot

It’s funny how middle age can make existentialism seem more real. When I first encountered Waiting for Godot in college, I thought it was fascinating in an otherworldly kind of way. I had plenty of the optimism of youth and to me Samuel Beckett’s rather bleak creation reflected the thoughts of a negative writer, interesting only on an intellectual level.

Now, though, watching the Roundabout Theatre Company's Broadway revival of Godot at Studio 54, I realized Beckett wasn’t just a negative man with a miserable outlook. He had simply lived longer.

This is not to say that I’m wholeheartedly into the “nothing to be done” mode of thinking, but the play makes more sense to me than it did three decades ago. And I can say this even though I had problems with some elements of this production, which is directed by Anthony Page.

Having read Waiting for Godot, which many consider to be the most important play of the 20th century, several times at different stages of my life but never having seen it, I was able to approach it openly, without having another effort in mind for comparison. I couldn’t, though, buy into Nathan Lane (in photo left) as Estragon because in every physical and comic scene the only voice I could hear was that of Max Bialystock, the sleazy character from Mel Brooks’ The Producers, for which Lane won a Tony.

I also was bothered by Santo Loquasto’s set, which resembles a road through the mountains. Beckett’s directions are stark: “A country road. A tree. Evening.” I had always envisioned a barren stage, more of a wasteland. This landscape looks arid, but not particularly dreary. Actually it seemed more of an ascetic spot, a place for meditation and contemplation. Perhaps this is part of why the play seemed more realistic and not just because of my own accumulated experiences of life’s darkness.

Beckett’s absurdist “tragicomedy,” first performed in 1953, is about waiting -- the two main characters, Vladimir (Bill Irwin, in photo right) and Estragon, are tramps waiting for some mysterious man named Godot, in this production pronounced God-oh instead of the Go-doh I have always heard. Godot never comes, although a little boy (Cameron Clifford alternating performances with Matthew Schechter) arrives each evening to tell them that Godot isn’t coming that day but will come tomorrow. This can symbolize either hopelessness or, by the fact that they keep returning to wait, hopefulness. “We have kept our appointment and that’s an end to that,” Vladimir says. “We are not saints, but we have kept our appointment. How many people can boast as much?”

As for the other performers, Irwin, John Goodman as Pozzo and John Glover as Lucky were in keeping with my expectations. (Friend Tony Newfield is understudying Vladimir and Lucky.) The creative team includes Jane Greenwood (costumes), Peter Kaczorowski (lights), Tom Watson (hair and wig design), Thomas Schall (fight director) and Dan Moses Schreier (sound).

Tickets for Waiting for Godot, which has just been extended a week through July 12, are available at, by phone at (212) 719-1300 or at the Studio 54 theatre box office, 254 W. 54th St. For more information visit

Sunday, May 3, 2009

A Prayer for Dreamers and Artists

We pray for the dreamers of this life, O God,
for those persons who imagine new possibilities,
who long for what others cannot perceive,
who spin dreams of wonder and majesty in their minds.
Defend them from ridicule and harsh criticism,
from self-doubt and lack of faith in their dreams,
and from abandonment of this call to make things new.
Grant that from their dreams
may come forth blessings for humankind
to enrich the quality of life
and the wonderment of us all.

- Vienna Cobb Anderson

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Meditation: From Failure to Fruits

In this free pod cast, Fr. Freeman talks about the “burgeoning fruits of consciousness” that result from continued meditation; we become more alive and aware, “bearing fruit continually.” This leads to self-knowledge, he says, and “self-knowledge is a greater gift than the ability to work miracles.” Meditation makes us aware of the divine life growing in us, that we are “being gradually introduced into the life of God . . . the divine seduction. We are seeing God at work . . . seeing the footprints of God in our life.”

Friday, May 1, 2009

Sizzlin' in Hell's Kitchen

Hell’s Kitchen, a restaurant-studded section of Eighth, Ninth and 10th Avenues in Manhattan, is home to all 38 dining establishments featuring 27 different cuisines that make up the grand mosaic of  Carliss Pond’s newly published cookbook, Sizzle in Hell’s Kitchen.
Feasting on a delightful buffet of Puerto Rican specialties, several of which are included in the book, and a little  Sangria, Pond will take the gathering behind the scenes of the restaurants whose recipes appear in the book, including such legendary dining establishments as Barbetta,  Chez Josephine and The Landmark Tavern. Juicy stories abound in the book and Carliss has the knowledge to confirm or deny them. Pond also will discuss the whole process of writing a cookbook AND the agonies of getting it published. 

Copies of the book will be available for sale ($30 cash payment at the event) and will be personally signed by the author.
6 to 8 p.m., May 11
Old San Juan Restaurant
765 Ninth Ave. between 51 - 52nd Streets

$40 members $50 guests
A/C/E 50th Street
RSVP May 5th
Payment by check: RFP-NYC
Mail to RFP-NYC   Suite A2004
370 east 76th Street NY NY 10021-2550
For credit card payment please call 212 452 1866