Thursday, August 3, 2017

SAM HE WAS

Happy August everybody! The great Alice Cooper adorns the cover of...



...the August edition of Phoenix Magazine, on the stands now, but can he truly be the star of the issue when it also features my "Four Corners" column on Mediterranean restaurants around the Valley? It's also the 2017 "Best of the Valley" issue, and a bunch of these opinionated picks were penned by Your Humble Narrator as well (as in previous years, no prizes for guessing which).

A couple of RIPs: To voice acting giant June Foray, passed on two months shy of her hundredth birthday. She was the voice of Rocky the Flying Squirrel and Natasha, Granny and Witch Hazel and Cindy Lou Who, among countless others. Any one of these would gain her admittance to the pantheon.

RIP also to Sam Shepard, passed on too young at 73. I saw his play The Unseen Hand performed outside in Ohio in 1984; one of my great theatrical experiences as an audience member. His work was so charged with beautiful language and hard but not ungenerous truths about America that it didn't matter when it was uneven or jaggedly constructed. He was a wonderful movie actor, too; I love him as Chuck Yeager in The Right Stuff,  and he didn't get enough credit for his commanding turn as the Ghost in Michael Almereyda' modern-dress Hamlet (2000).

In Shepard's honor...

Monster-of-the-Week:  ...this week let's acknowledge the Bog Beast from his play Back Bog Beast Bait, first staged at the American Place Theatre in 1971. Here's the Beast, as depicted in a poster for a later regional production...


...but perhaps we'd do better to let Shepard's stage directions paint his picture: "He is just as Maria described him. Two heads like a pig, he snorts and spits, lights come from his eyes. His skin is covered with slimy green moss." Alas, he's as hapless as any Shepard character: when the other characters prove "oblivious of the beast's presence" he "...crosses downstage center and faces the audience. The action happens around him. Somehow the beast seems helpless and alone in the situation. He exits."

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