Jun 3, 2009

From Broadway Back to the Hill

Like Garrett and just about anyone without an axe to grind, I was charmed by last week's presidential night at the theater, not least because Joe Turner's Come and Gone is among the best things on Broadway in many a moon, and also because it nicely picks up a thread from Obama's public career in Chicago (namely, occasional theatergoing, particularly to plays with African-American themes). So I was mildly disappointed that the estimable right-of-center critic Terry Teachout chose to carp, albeit somewhat gently, about the Obamas' Broadway visit; even if it was partly a brief for Teachout's perennial hobbyhorse, the underrecognized value of regional theaters (which the Obamas apparently recognized while they lived in Chicago), it also had the faint but unmistakeable whiff of conservative talking points.

I was not, however, as riled up over this tiny wrist-slap as were David Cote and Leonard Jacobs, who used the occasion as a pretext to level some wildly presumptive ad hominem attacks at Teachout and his putative politics. I think I can associate myself most closely with Isaac's ambivalence, and in particular with his slight frustration that Teachout doesn't show his political hand more overtly (though really, how much more overt can you get than this?).

I'll be out of town for a few weeks and unlikely to be blogging much if at all, so I leave you with a few images of August Wilson's Pittsburgh, which I happened to visit a few weeks back.

Here's his birthplace at 1727 Bedford St.

The photo doesn't quite convey the sad state it's in, or the group of young men sitting on the stoop across the street, who may have sprung from a latter-day Wilson play. I also wanted to check out the state of Aunt Ester's house, listed in Gem of the Ocean and in King Hedley II as 1839 Wylie; in these plays, Ester embodies a mythical repository of 300 years of African-American folk wisdom (though Wilson once gave me a perfectly reasonable explanation for Ester's superhuman age). I found this on the legendary site:

And moved closer...

Though this site, too, looked shuttered and disused, I vaguely thought (hoped?) that the name Ozanam might have an African origin. Apparently not. In fact, the cultural center's address is actually 1833, and is the former site of St. Brigid's, a Catholic church and school that was razed in 1961. I guess this is called poetic license.

Happily, Pittsburgh will get a proper Wilson center in September. Perhaps a presidential ribbon cutting is in order?

P.S.: Obviously I'm not the first to make the Bedford/Wylie pilgrimage.

P.P.S.: While I'm linking to Rashads, my final article for TDF is up.

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