BACKSTAGE...in 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 director. 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 role-playing. 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 computer. 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.