“Fear not your enemies for they can only kill you; fear not your friends for they can only betray you. Fear only the indifferent, who permit the killers and the betrayers to walk safely on the earth.” -- Edward Yashinsky—
Since I moved back to Kentucky and Lexington, in particular, my perceptions have occasionally been altered as to the area’s embrace of the Arts -- theatre especially -- and hopes have at times been hit with a disappointing dose of reality. Naturally, much of this has to do with my own life and life choices, which have fortunately allowed me the opportunity and wherewithal to experience first-class arts and therefore expectations can be demanding.
But one thing I know is that demographically and financially, Central Kentucky has great potential to support first-class arts organizations. The question is: does it want to? As far as theatre goes, its growth is often by stymied by the theatrical community itself over petty resentments and imagined threats by some who perceive others pursuing their own agenda as interlopers poaching on exclusive turf. Complacency and status quo is often fiercely defended against inevitable change.
But then as some wag once said, “The smaller the stakes, the bigger the battles.” And the small-time internecine...and largely insignificant... squabbles between artists cannot diminish the fact that Central Kentucky’s dark and bloody ground is fertile ground for nurturing a thriving Arts garden. It’s one of the reasons I settled here; there is a chance to cultivate something flourishing, fresh, and nourishing.
That’s why I was dismayed to read in this morning’s paper that the Lexington Fayette Urban County Council has recommended LexArts take a 10-percent cut in the government’s contribution to its annual Campaign for the Arts. Below my letter to the editor of the local paper. I print it here in the event it does not make the paper's editorial cut:
I am appalled at the thinking of Lexington’s city leaders wanting to cut LexArts’ budget. Every week the Herald-Leader has some article about Lexington desperately ruminating on how to attract businesses and the fresh blood of young professionals. The answer is simple. People don’t come to a city to work; they come to a city to live! Vibrant professional quality Arts are an essential part of that living.
Having had a successful career in the Arts and being a board member of Actors Guild of Lexington, I can attest to the value of worthwhile patronage. Six years ago, when Rick St. Peter became artistic director of AGL, he had a mountain of debt and mismanagement to climb.
During his valiant stewardship, the theatre has become what Rich Copley has dubbed “the area’s flagship theater”. It provides quality productions featuring the best local talent alongside outside artists of widespread reputation. The theatre also has established a regional and national profile. It has been featured in American Theatre Magazine. It has originated new work that has been produced and praised elsewhere (including a play of my own).
In my long career, I’ve been blessed with many enriching experiences. Few have been more rewarding than sharing the artistic energy and electrifying ideas that crackle in the air of AGL’s ambitions. But that energy, those ideas, those ambitions, and the great artistic leaps that the theatre has achieved would not have been possible without the critical financial generosity of LexArts and Jim Clark’s guidance. In fact, without LexArts, “the area’s flagship theater” would be just another theatre in this country maintaining a precarious existence…if it still existed at all.
And I’m sure we’re not the only organization in the city dependent on LexArts’ support. But more importantly, the entire city’s quality of life is dependent on the quality of its Arts. They are just as important to a city as its industry and its infrastructure, its sewers and its skyscrapers. If you callously deprive the Arts of crucial funding, you cheat the city and you make it smaller and less livable.
Without thriving Arts, Lexington can never become the first-class city it aspires to be.
Charles Edward Pogue
POGUE IS WATCHING:
EDWARD II…a DVD of a 1969 production of Marlowe’s play, starring Ian McKellen. It apparently made ripples in its day…featuring the first kiss between males on British TV. The production is sumptious; stunning costumes and set. And it plays like a house afire. I am amazed at how rapidly the actors can roll out the dialogue with absolute crystal clarity.
PLAYING SHAKESPEARE…or I am about to watch it. The Boxed Set arrived today! This is a series of Shakespeare performance workshops that director John Barton of the Royal Shakespeare Company conducted with my notable actors from that company…among them Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, Michael Pennington, Judi Dench, Jane Lapotaire, Donald Sinden, David Suchet…I’ve been trying to get hold of this since I bought the book several years back and became aware of its existence.
WALLANDER…a Masterpiece Mystery Series on PBS, starring Kenneth Branagh as a Swedish detective, based on a series of novels. Alas, this was the last in the series and I had miseed the earlier ones. Given this one, I’d watch more of ‘em.
POGUE IS LISTENING TO:
HOAGY CARMICHAEL, STARDUST AND MUCH MORE
MY RIFLE, MY PONY, & ME…Songs from western movies and TV shows.
POGUE IS READING:
H. RIDER HAGGARD, A VOICE FROM THE INFINITE…by Peter Berresford Ellis. I picked it up to check some odd fact and ended up reading the whole damned biography. Learned fascinating stuff about the Boer War and WWI.
I feel a strange intimate affinity with this writer, certainly artistically and, in many ways, personally. Part of it has to do with the way man unabashedly would write his unconscious across the page, perhaps…most probably…unknowingly. But he seems to be one of those strange Victorian eccentrics who, while often epitomizing his age, also seems to utterly defy it. In many ways a British Imperialist, yet he had an understanding and sympathy of the native cultures he encountered that was far ahead of his time. Several of his books feature inter-racial romances between European whites and natives. Uusually they end tragically, but even so, in their day they must have been explosive stuff.
It’s one of the reasons KING SOLOMON’S MINES has yet to have had a definitive cinematic version. They always want to graft a romance into the story, so invent a love interest for the protagonist, Henry Curtis. But there is already a poignant and powerful love story between a native girl and one of Curtis’ friends, Good...never in the movies.
It’s the somewhat the same missed focus in any movie adaptation of SHE. Everyone tries to pump up the romantic stakes between the two physically attractive people, She and Leo Vincey. But Leo is a bit of dull, if stalwart, fellow (he comes into his own in the sequel…AYESHA) and the fascinating love story is the intellectual one that takes place between She and old, ugly Horace Holly.
I tried to remedy this in my as-yet-unproduced script of SHE. It is a theme central to much of Haggard’s work…the conflict between physical love and spiritual love (that and the theme of Loss – which my own work has in common with his)…and you really can’t capture the essence of Haggard without addressing and confronting it.