a spectator world

When my mother died I used my inheritance (about twenty grand) to build 
my long dreamt of recording studio. My partner in this was Henry Jacobs 
whom I had known in Chicago. We issued some rather esoteric records, one 
of which, a reading of Haiku poems by Alan Watts and Henry's Japanese 
wife, Sumire, had some success because of a favorable review in the 
first Sunday New York Times printed after a long strike. We also issued 
some recordings of S. I. Hayakawa reading articles he had written. Our 
main financial success was recording commercials for Japan Airlines. Henry and John Korty got nominated for an Oscar for a satirical documentary designed to combat cigarette smoking called "Breaking the Habit."

Henry knew Gary Goodrow, a member of a new troupe that did 
improvisational theater which we recorded. That's how I met Alan 
Myerson. Alan had started The Committee, a satirical troupe with 
political focus based on similar undertakings in London and Chicago. It 
was like an in person Saturday Night Live. I offered to become Alan's 
apprentice in the theater direction field and before a year was out I 
became the general manager. A few years later I was also the company's 

My interest in theater was sociopolitical rather than show business; a 
main objective was getting our boys back from Vietnam, plus a lot of 
other goals frequently associated with people of the peace and love 
persuasion. We helped sponsor one of the first initiatives to 
decriminalize marijuana and also ran actor John Brent for mayor. If 
Ronald Reagan could be governor of California, surely San Francisco 
could use an acting mayor.

At the height of our commercial success we had two theaters in San 
Francisco, one in Los Angeles and sometimes a road company. We did a TV 
special as well as being guests on several major shows. I dropped out 
after about 7 years. The war had ended and theater per se didn't hold 
much interest. Alan and many of the actors enjoy (at least experience) 
success in the entertainment industry. I went back once more to science, 
this time into the World of Blindness exploitation.

Theater is as heavy as dance or music. While the popular feeling is that 
playacting is an imitation of real living, it is frequently the other 
way around. We act out; we refer to sexual performance; we engage in 

Stories and dramas are structures that we impose on experience. Events 
are not themselves systematically structured with beginnings, middles, 
and ends.

Language, religion, and theater are viruses that infect existence in 
miraculous ways. Actors and other victims of celebrity are revered in 
our culture, but reverence is one of the most insidious forms of 
bigotry. We put our celebrities on pedestals so that we may more easily 
annoy them. The most familiar notables often require bodyguards just to 
finish a meal in public.

There are actors who belong to or vilify other cultures, but they, like 
attorneys, can play the part of the other side. In a sense all our 
public interrelationships hinge on our ability to make believe that 
Spics, Kikes, and Guineas are actually acceptable, even if inside we 
bristle at the notion that they are allowed to possess the same 
artifacts that make us so special.

In a world where busboys (or worse yet, dishwashers) can own cars, it is 
becoming imperative that privilege and exclusivity become separate. That 
busboy may also have a doctorate in philosophy or comparative religion, 
just as that pimple faced kid may be your only hope of learning to use a 

Although the most predacious sharks of the entertainment industry are 
notorious for bad faith and utterly selfish actions, they are still able 
to do business with a wink and a nod - handshakes are left as 
preliminaries to a boxing match. The film is finished before the 
contracts are signed.

The role of the director in a theatrical undertaking is fascinating 
because on the surface it seems to belie the attitude that we are all 
partners in life. The director (coach, chief executive, parent) seems to 
be necessarily above, or at least apart from the others in an ensemble. 
There can only be one captain. The buck stops here. So long as the exit 
remains unlocked during business hours, this isn't "slavery". If the 
goal requires the use of some form of dictatorship it matters little to 
the participants. A director can improve the efficacy of the other 
performers but the troupe still has the ultimate veto power. Even 
prisoners can win concessions from their keepers.

Del Close pointed out that the widely accepted notion that drama emerges 
from conflict overlooks a fundamental verity: conflict is but one form 
of cooperation. The many instances of former rivals recognizing this 
include the aging vets from opposing sides of a war cutting up old 
touches in their dotage and boxers before a fight explaining how they 
will mar each other's features.

Although I believe we're all in this together, putting on shows made us 
use women to play roles in scenes about women and African-Americans to 
play Blacks.

A couple of our pieces illustrate the relevance of this. A white lady 
played by Ruth Silveira is onstage and answers the knock to find a black 
man, Everett Cornell, looking at a piece of paper. He says "I must have 
the wrong place, I was looking for a Mrs. Johnson." She says she's the 
one who called for the repairman. He says something to the effect that 
Johnson is a "black" name.

I am reminded that although some early presidents were slave owners, the 
surnames Washington and Jefferson are quite frequently found with black 
people. Just as it was presumed a decade ago that black people in 
professional football couldn't be quarterbacks or coaches, it is now so 
clear that white people can't be defensive backs that in order for 
Brigham Young University to be competitive in college football, the 
Mormon church had to have a talk with God about their traditional 
allocation of black people to second class status.

Although on occasion Chris Ross, a white actor was very effective in a 
sort of surreal piece whose key line was "We Negroes love our 
watermelon!" at which the white waiter, Roger Bowen behaved as though 
stuck with a knife, most of the time it was probably impossible for the 
audience if, for example, in a scene based on the book "Black Like Me", 
Roger Bowen and Mel Stewart (for a while Kalim al-Rashid) traded 
roles.To experience other cultures you don't really have to be an actor 
pretending to be something you are not. In the instance of groups proud 
of their identity, you will probably be welcome as an observer since 
your willingness to learn has to feature respect. I went in as an 
apprentice in a field of which I was totally ignorant and became 
director of one of the most successful theaters in San Francisco, and 
more importantly I learned a lot about us/them.

Some of this sort of experience can be had by volunteering at a Senior 
Citizens' Center or playing with your grandchildren in their clubhouse - 
if you adopt a good attitude: you are there to learn as you help. Accept 
condescension but don't practice it.