The last temptation is the greatest treason:
To do the right deed for the wrong reason.
The person who wrote those lines was T. S. Eliot, but the words are from one of his plays, not one of his poems. This Friday night, that play, Murder in the Cathedral, gets a theatrical reading at the Wright Opera House. Murder is a “verse drama,” meaning it is written in poetic verse that is intended to be spoken; it’s a dramatic form associated with tragedy. The tragedy in this case is the assassination of Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in 1170. But the real subject of the play is “the struggle to do the right thing, knowing really bad things will happen” as a result of your actions says its director, Jake Abell.
Abell is in Ouray on break from his work at Baylor University, and has gathered some of the county’s most respected thespians for this one-night-only reading to benefit the Ouray County players. Though the play will be read out aloud, there won’t be any props or even a set to speak of, which suits Abell just fine. “The language is almost too intense and dramatic for the stage,” he says. “You really need to pay attention to it.”
Spoken like an Eliot buff, which he is. Abell is a huge fan of Eliot’s verse, and has an “intense” relationship with The Waste Land in particular: “It’s been banging around in my head for years,” he says. He first came across Murder in a Baylor “great texts” class. “There it was, sandwiched between The Leviathan and Dostoyevsky – this amazing little play,” he recalls. “When I read it, wow. Eliot created an accessible drama about some pretty heady philosophical stuff. I thought, I have a destiny to direct this.” Tomorrow he does; those he will lead include Nancy Nixon, his high school theater and speech coach, and Terry Kiser, the Tony-nominated actor who is his mentor. The performance is free, but donations are greatly appreciated.
Also worth noting at the Wright…the Almost Every Wednesday movie series, which has been showcasing quality independent and foreign films since earlier this summer. Ouray resident Pam Ferman, an ex-New Yorker, chooses the films. “I’ve always been a huge movie buff,” she says. “What I missed most from New York was the films. My husband and I would go to Denver several times a year to get our movie fix.” When the Wright’s Board of Directors invited her to start a film series, Ferman was delighted to comply. To date, she has featured, among other films, a double-bill of award-winning children’s movies, Boy, a coming-of-age comedy-drama, and a film by the edgy director Todd Solondz. “We’re pretty new, and I haven’t one hundred percent figured out who the audience is yet,” she says. But that’s part of the fun: she’d hopes to screen The Big Lebowski (“for the men”) and, of course, The Wizard of Oz, for the whole family. “A lot of people haven’t seen these films on a big screen,” she says. “That makes all the difference.” In coming weeks, look for the documentaries Queen of Versailles, about a wealthy Florida couple’s attempt to build the largest house in the world, and The Imposter, the strange-but-true saga about a missing boy and the teen who decides to impersonate him. Ferman’s formula for selection is simple: she picks well-reviewed films to screen that she would like to see. So far, the formula is working perfectly. “Now when I visit a city, I don’t have to scour the listings for movies to go to,” she says. “I have them here.”
Library Programs: Still Loaded
Summer is around for a couple more weeks, and programming at the region’s libraries continues to reflect that fact. The Wilkinson’s popular Jazz on the Terrace event continues this Thursday evening, for example, with the library’s program director Scott Doser (an accomplished percussionist) teaming up with his friend Scott Cossu, the pianist and one of Windham Hill’s original recording artists, for a summer concert. The great Scotts will be joined by Art Patience on harmonica and percussionist Nathan Good. Doser, who worked as a musician before joining the library, clearly has a soft spot in his heart for creative types and their ability to earn a living. Next month, just before the Brews and Blues Festival, the Wilkinson will bring in a third Scott, as in Scott Ibex, who will present “a business program for musicians,” says programming assistant Jan Newell. And on October 16, the Wilkinson will offer Accounting for Artists, a seminar first proposed by playwright-cum-director Sascha Cucciniello, from Telluride Arts. At the Montrose Regional Library, meanwhile, it is the programming itself that will be getting creative. This Thursday night, Aug. 23, the library will screen a presentation from the Montrose League of Women Voters entitled Patriocracy, a timely documentary about dysfunction in Washington, D.C., and how hyper-partisanship is undermining our elected leaders’ ability to tackle problems. The film has won awards in Boulder, Boston, Dallas and Denver. State Representative Don Coram will appear, and State Senator Ellen Roberts will be there via Skype for a discussion.
On Sept. 10, the library will launch a Community Cinema series with Half the Sky, based on the bestselling book by New York Times reporters Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, that relates the stories of inspiring, courageous individuals worldwide who are helping to bring opportunities to women. And then there is creative programming of a more whimsical sort. Claudia Bishop, in charge of kids and teens’ programming, has announced a new collaborative venture: “Pimp the Penguin,” in which local teens will dress up a group of stuffed penguins that the library has collected, and put them on winter display. Also this fall will be an old favorite: Extreme Pumpkin Carving, in which local farmers donate pumpkins, and local teens go to town on them. “The library has two books full of, shall we say, rather interesting ways” to wield a scimitar or other carving knife, Bishop says. The week before Halloween last year, the young artists got so inspired by the books, they were moved to create sinister-looking pumpkins “with babies falling out of their mouths as if they were being eaten, and puking pumpkins,” Bishop says. “They loved it.”
T.S. Eliot, Pimping the Penguin and Hyper-partisanship
The last temptation is the greatest treason: