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In 1997, when I was in NYC to direct The Wizard of Oz, I attempted to see two musicals – Titanic and Ragtime. Titanic was still in previews and the two attempts to see it were blocked due to the hydraulic system not working – the ship would not sink! I had just as much luck getting in to see Ragtime which was sold out both times.

In 2000, the national tour company of Ragtime came through Dayton. I did not purchase my ticket in advance, planning on buying it at the door as usual. The reviews on the musical’s two week run were outstanding. The last night, I drove downtown Dayton and could not get in to see the show. It was completely sold out!

Finally, last night, I got to see Ragtime, a production at Wright State University. Of course, as we drove in, I realized my wallet was back in my bedroom – we missed the first five minutes. However, I left the production so inspired, so moved that I am seeing it again this weekend with Sheila Magnuson, the mother of my student is starring on Broadway in Sweeney Todd.

The CD of Ragtime is one of my favorites and has generally been on my CD player these past five years while I have worked on my Wright Brothers musical. Wright State – as always – did an outstanding job. It is usually difficult to believe they are merely college students and not professionals in NYC. The music is uplifting. The performances are electrifying. The entire production is breathtaking. But most of all, the show itself has guts.

For over a decade in the 1980’s through the 1990’s American theatre had drowned in revivals and British imports with vapid stories and overblown production values: Cats longing for lost days in the sun? Sexist takes of trains on roller skates? Psychotic madmen in opera houses? Recycled tap dancing spectaculars? And for what?

Finally, someone mounted a musical about America. A musical that posed hard questions about race, intolerances, and democracy. A musical that went to the core of the American question: can we live together? It is a musical that raised it all in one heart pounding epic story.

It is not an easy musical to put on. Its orchestrations are huge. Its dance numbers are mammoth. Its scenes are epic. All woven together with a story that’s as challenging as any drama that’s wrestled with questions of race.

History’s subtle voice is beleaguered by tricks of memory and imagination that urge us toward nostalgia and forgetfulness. Yet its influence stretches ahead of us into the future, awaiting our eventual arrival.

To the casual observer, Ragtime appears to be a nostalgic portrait of life at the turn of the twentieth century. Based on E. L. Doctorow’s distinguished novel, Ragtime weaves together three stories: a wealthy suburban family, a poor immigrant and his motherless daughter, and a black man named Coalhouse Walker. Their stories unfold against the backdrop of America’s dueling identities of wealth and poverty, freedom and prejudice, hope and despair, and love and hate. It looks at idealism alongside the realities and hardships of oppressed people.

In the twenty-first century we are still inclined to ignore the obvious disparities that exist in America. We believe that America is a land of opportunity but does it really offer opportunity freely to all? It appears that we, as a national family, have learned little from our history. Issues of prejudice and discrimination continue to surface, most recently from the roof tops of New Orleans as the poor begged for food, water and shelter. The poignant picture is still one of two Americas.

The greatest worth of our American Dream is not in its depiction of wealth and success, but in its promise of freedom for all Americans. Our future depends on our ability to recognize history’s voice in the everyday events of our lives and not to allow forgetfulness or nostalgia to sway us from our responsibilities as the caretakers of freedom.

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Jeff Foxworthy on Ohio

You may be from Ohio (pronounced “ah-hi-uh”) if:
You think all Pro football teams are supposed to wear orange.

You know all the 4 seasons: winter, still winter, almost winter and construction.

You live less than 30 miles from some college or university.

You know what a “buckeye” really is, and have a recipe for candy ones.

“Toward the lake” means “North” and “toward the river” means “South.”

You know if other Ohioans are from southern or northern Ohio as soon as they open their mouths.

You know how to correctly spell Cincinnati.

“Vacation” means spending a day at Cedar Point in the summer and deer hunting in the fall.

You measure distance in minutes.

Your school classes were canceled because of cold.

Your school classes were canceled because of heat.

You’ve had to switch from “heat” to “A/C” in the same day.

You end your sentences with an unnecessary preposition. Example: “Where’s my coat at?”

You install security lights on your house and garage and leave both unlocked.

You think of the major four food groups as beef, pork, beer, and Jell-O salad with marshmallows.

You carry jumper cables in your car.

You know what “pop” is.

You design your kid’s Halloween costume to fit over a snowsuit.

Driving is better in the winter because the potholes are filled with snow.

You think sexy lingerie is tube socks and a flannel nightgown.

The local paper covers national and international headlines on one page but requires six pages for sports.

If someone says something you don’t understand or hear, you say “Please?”

You call it Krogers even though it is Kroger.

If you actually understand these (and we know you do!).! .. Pass them on
to your Ohio friends!

“Having sex is like playing bridge. If you don’t have a good partner, you’d better have a good hand.” Woody Allen

“Bisexuality immediately doubles your chances for a date on Saturday night.” Rodney Dangerfield

“There are a number of mechanical devices which increase sexual arousal, particularly in women. Chief among these is the Mercedes-Benz 380SL.” Lynn Lavner

“Sex at age 90 is like trying to shoot pool with a rope.” Camille Paglia

“Sex is one of the nine reasons for incarnation. The other eight are unimportant.” George Burns

“Women might be able to fake orgasms. But men can fake a whole relationship.” Sharon Stone

“Hockey is a sport for white men. Basketball is a sport for black men. Golf is a sport for white men dressed like black pimps.” Tiger Woods

“My mother never saw the irony in calling me a son-of-a-bitch.” Jack Nicholson

“Ah, yes, divorce, from the Latin word meaning to rip out a man’s genitals through his wallet.” Robin Williams

“Women need a reason to have sex. Men just need a place.” Billy Crystal

“According to a new survey, women say they feel more comfortable undressing in front of men than they do undressing in front of other women. They say that women are too judgmental, where, of course, men are just grateful.” Robert De Niro

“There’s a new medical crisis. Doctors are reporting that many men are having allergic reactions to latex condoms. They say they cause severe swelling. So what’s the problem?” Dustin Hoffman

“There’s very little advice in men’s magazines, because men think, ‘I know what I’m doing. Just show me somebody naked’.” Jerry Seinfeld

“See, the problem is that God gives men a brain and a penis, and only enough blood to run one at a time.” Robin Williams

“It’s been so long since I’ve had sex, I’ve forgotten who ties up whom.” Joan Rivers

“Sex is one of the most wholesome, beautiful and natural experiences money can buy.” Steve Martin

“You don’t appreciate a lot of stuff in school until you get older. Little things like being spanked every day by a middle-aged woman. Stuff you pay good money for in later life.” Elmo Phillips

“Bigamy is having one wife too many. Monogamy is the same.” Oscar Wilde

“It isn’t premarital sex if you have no intention of getting married.” George Burns

This afternoon, after Matt left for work, Jose and I went to see an Art/Independent Film at the Neon Movies in downtown Dayton. I think I loved Everything Is Illuminated almost as much as I loved Ladies In Lavender. I don’t think Jose appreciated it as much, but he has at least been exposed to another form of motion pictures. I think he could be won over.

Based on the critically-acclaimed novel by Jonathan Safran Foer, Everything is Illuminated tells the story of a young man’s quest to find the woman who saved his grandfather in a small Ukrainian town that was wiped off the map by the Nazi invasion.What starts out as a journey to piece together one family’s story under the most absurd circumstances turns into a surprisingly meaningful journey with a powerful series of revelations — the importance of remembrance, the perilous nature of secrets, the legacy of the Holocaust, the meaning of friendship and, most importantly, love.

Everything is Illuminated is adapted for the screen and directed by Liev Schreiber and stars Elijah Wood, Eugene Hutz, and Boris Leskin.

For more information about the movie, go to: http://wip.warnerbros.com/everythingisilluminated/

I have been a devoted student of presidential history since I was in first grade. I love reading biographies and all sorts of books on the presidents, their families and the White House. I have always been a particular fan of Presidents Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Richard Nixon and all their wives.

The summer of 2004, following the death of my grandfather, a friend discovered a book in the library, “My Grandfather & Me” written by Clifton Truman Daniels, the eldest of Harry & Bess Truman’s four grandsons. After reading the book, I decided to contact its author and discovered he is with the marketing department at Truman College in Chicago. We struck up a lively correspondence, not really discussing his famous grandfather. This past summer I began reading the murder mysteries penned by Clifton’s mother, Margaret Truman Daniels.

Ms. Truman, 81, is now a widow, and she continues to reside in NYC where she is ready to publish yet another novel! I have read five of her murder mysteries and I must say they are incredible reads! Fast paced, historically accurate and very grabbing. I finished my last one, Murder In the Pentagon, in three days.

Last night a great documentary was on regarding the recipients of the Franklin & Eleanor Roosevelt Awards. Their granddaughter, Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, is one of the chairpersons for this event and she bears a striking resemblance to her famous grandmother. I also discovered that she lives in Chicago and has become good friends with Clifton Truman Daniel.

I am so delighted when presidential offspring continue the legacies of their parents or grandparents. Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, who I got to meet the summer of 1999, shortly after the death of her brother, has done a magnificent job in representing her late father’s Profiles In Courage Awards. The Lyndon Johnson daughters have now assumed the leadership role of their father’s legacy after the incapacitating stroke Lady Bird suffered several years back. The Roosevelts, Trumans, and Nixon children and grandchildren are all providing our generation with so much information and history. They could have easily backed away from the continued limelight – but, instead, they continue to serve their country on behalf of their family.

Other books written by Margaret Truman Daniel:
The First Ladies
White House Families
Murder in the White House
Murder on Capital Hill
Murder in the Supreme Court
Murder in the Smithsonian
Murder on Embassy Row
Murder at the FBI
Murder in Georgetown
Murder in the CIA
Murder at the Kennedy Center
Murder at the National Cathedral
Murder int eh Pentagon
Murder in the National Gallery
Murder at the Watergate
Murder in the Library of Congress
Murder at Ford’s Theatre
Murder at Union Station

What have students learned about music?
These are stories and test questions accumulated by music teachers in the state of Missouri.

MUSIC EDUCATION
Agnus Dei was a woman composer famous for her church music.

Refrain means don’t do it. A refrain in music is the part you better not try to sing.

A virtuoso is a musician with real high morals.

John Sebastian Bach died from 1750 to the present.

Handel was half German, half Italian, and half English. He was rather large.

Beethoven wrote music even though he was deaf. He was so deaf he wrote loud music.

He took long walks in the forest even when everyone was calling him. I guess he could not hear so good. Beethoven expired in 1827 and later died from this.

Henry Purcell is a well known composer few people have ever heard of.

Aaron Copland is one of your most famous contemporary composers. It is unusual to be contemporary. Most composers do not live until they are dead.

An opera is a song of bigly size.

In the last scene of Pagliacci, Canio stabs Nedda who is the one he really loves.

Pretty soon Silvio also gets stabbed, and they all live happily ever after.

When a singer sings, he stirs up the air and makes it hit any passing eardrums. But if he is good, he knows how to keep it from hurting.

Music sung by two people at the same time is called a duel.

I know what a sextet is but I had rather not say.

Caruso was at first an Italian. Then someone heard his voice and said he would go a long way. And so he came to America.

A good orchestra is always ready to play if the conductor steps on the odium.

Morris dancing is a country survival from times when people were happy.

Most authorities agree that music of antiquity was written long ago.

Probably the most marvelous fugue was the one between the Hatfields and McCoys.

My very best liked piece of music is the Bronze Lullaby.

My favorite composer is Opus.

A harp is a nude piano.

A tuba is much larger than its name.

Instruments come in many sizes, shapes and orchestras.

You should always say celli when you mean there are two or more cellos.

Another name for kettle drums is timpani. But I think I will just stick with the first name and learn it good.

A trumpet is an instrument when it is not an elephant sound.

While trombones have tubes, trumpets prefer to wear valves.

The double bass is also called the bass viol, string bass, and bass fiddle. It has so many names because it is so huge.

When electric currents go through them, guitars start making sounds. So would anybody.

Question: What are kettle drums called? Answer: Kettle drums.
Cymbals are round, metal CLANGS!

A bassoon looks like nothing I have ever heard.

Last month I found out how a clarinet works by taking it apart. I both found out and got in trouble.

Question: Is the saxophone a brass or a woodwind instrument? Answer: Yes.

The concertmaster of an orchestra is always the person who sits in the first chair of the first violins. This means that when a person is elected concertmaster, he has to hurry up and learn how to play a violin real good.

For some reason, they always put a treble clef in front of every line of flute music. You just watch.

I can’t reach the brakes on this piano!

The main trouble with a French horn is it’s too tangled up.

Anyone who can read all the instrument notes at the same time gets to be the conductor.

Instrumentalist is a many-purposed word for many player-types.

The flute is a skinny-high shape-sounded instrument.

The most dangerous part about playing cymbals is near the nose.

A contra-bassoon is like a bassoon, only more so.

Tubas are a bit too much.

Music instrument has a plural known as orchestra.

I would like for you to teach me to play the cello. Would tomorrow or Friday be best?

My favorite instrument is the bassoon. It is so hard to play people seldom play it. That is why I like the bassoon best.

It is easy to teach anyone to play the maracas. Just grip the neck and shake him in rhythm.

Just about any animal skin can be stretched over a frame to make a pleasant sound once the animal is removed.

Source: Missouri School Music Newsletter, collected by Harold Dunn.

Since childhood, I have always loved collecting quotes. I decided that I shall keep this particular entry fresh, adding quotes to the top of the list so that readers will not have to wade through tons of already read quotes. If you have quotes you would like to share – please feel free to add them in the Comments Box on the blog, or Email them to me. So, let’s keep the “Writing on the Wall” post fresh with new quotes – inspirational, comical, etc.. Thanks! ~ dljh

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away. ~ Thoreau

The things to do are: the things that need doing, that you see need to be done, and that no one else seems to see need to be done. ~ R. Buckminster Fuller

Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy. ~ Norman Vincent Peale
Change your thoughts and you change your world. ~ Norman Vincent Peale

Do not be awe struck by other people and try to copy them. Nobody can be you as efficiently as you can. ~ Norman Vincent Peale

Formulate and stamp indelibly on your mind a mental picture of yourself as succeeding. Hold this picture tenaciously. Never permit it to fade. Your mind will seek to develop the picture… Do not build up obstacles in your imagination. ~ Norman Vincent Peale

Throw your heart over the fence and the rest will follow. ~ Norman Vincent Peale

I would like to live forever, because we should not live forever, because if we were ever supposed to live forever, then we would live forever, but we cannot live forever, which is why I would not live forever.” ~ Miss Alabama in the 1994 Miss Universe contest

“The way to happiness: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry. Live simply, expect little, give much. Scatter sunshine. Forget self, think of others. Try this for a week and you will be surprised.” ~ Norman Vincent Peale

If I could win a race
Without looking at a face
I would make my own stencils
and people could trace me running.
~ Sophie Lockhart age 7-1/2 (Written by one of my piano students)

“People take different roads seeking fulfillment and happiness. Just because they’re not on your road doesn’t mean they’ve gotten lost.” ~ H. Jackson Brown, Jr.


What an evening!

One of my former students, Benjamin Magnuson, a graduate of Kettering Fairmont High School and Cincinnati Conservatory of Music & Theatre, made his Broadway debut tonight in Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeny Todd, starring Patti LuPone. Benjamin is not in the chorus, but one of the named leads! His mother, Sheila, a good friend of mine from when I worked at Sinclair Community College, was out there for the opening. Here is her Email the following morning:

Hi Darin! Just got your note as I am waking up from a day of Sweeney – saw an invited last rehearsal yesterday afternoon with the likes of Mandy Pitankin, Audra McDonald, John Lithgow and of course Sondheim the man! Then I returned for the opening performance last night. It was absolutely wonderful! I hope you will get the opportunity to see it sometime. Benjamin is sure holding his own with his huge part. You would never guess that he just turned 23 yesterday. I couldn’t be prouder – and he couldn’t be happier! I will return again Nov. 3 for the official opening by invitation only and party afterwards. Sheila

In 1996, Sheilda came to my office and sat down. I knew Sheila well enough to know this was not an informal conversation. She and her husband, Phil, were traveling to Italy for three weeks and she was having some scheduling concerns with her youngest son, Benjamin. Benjamin was in the musical I was directing, Meet Me In St. Louis, and at age 14, was one of my favorite talents. He had been with me as a voice student for a year, and already his lyric baritone quality was better than most of my high school students. Sheila wanted to know if Benjamin could please stay with me. I was in the process of moving to a new townhouse in Centerville, and I knew I would have to work even harder (while teaching, directing) to get the place in order.

Benjamin arrived before a rehearsal, and already I was excited at the prospect of seeing just what it would be like having a “pretend son.” We finished rehearsal around 10:30pm, and went to Kroger for groceries. I can remember having a blast as we chatted about theatre, the show and pushing the cart through each aisle, grabbing items off the shelf. I was amused at what a teenager ate! Each night, we sat up late in my study, talking musical theatre until the wee hours of the morning. The three works flew by, and I was so sad to see Benjamin leave.

Through the years, I was so thrilled to watch Benjamin grow and at 15, was moving into the professional sector of theatre, while still performing at Fairmont and in the lead roles with the MUSE Machine. Finally, it was time for college auditions and he had his sights set on CCM. Benjamin basically walked right in and took over the department. Thanks to Sheila, I kept informed of all Benjamin’s progress through the four years of college, as well as his showcase last May, presented to producers and directors in New York City. He was invited back for a second audition after his initial audition, and the following morning, he stood before Stephen Sondheim, the composer of Sweeny Todd. Boom! Benjamin was given a lead role immediately.

So, Monday night, with several current students listening in, I made a congratulatory call… and the tears were flowing on both ends. My current students were charged with enthusiasm, and confidence.

So, right now, I have 19 former students performing on Broadway or in National Tours, and I am thrilled that they have all accomplished their dreams!


More info on the production at Playbill.com:
http://www.playbill.com/news/article/95430.html

Another fun, interesting week of being a father. The joy and hilarity never cease in this home.

Matt came in a few weeks ago and asked if he could go to the homecoming dance on October 1. A girl from his science class had asked him. Come to find out, I had his date’s sister in class at Kettering Middle School and she was such a joy! Matt’s only dilemma was that this would be his weekend to have the baby simulator (computerized doll) from his health class. I asked him how he proposed handling it and he asked if he could hire Jose for the evening and I agreed. When Jose returned from shooting basketball, I prepped him and suggested he play a different strategy with Matt’s request. Jose pulled off one of the best acting jobs for a 7th grader, telling his brother that he did not play with dolls and how humiliated he would be to have people see his older brother with a doll. Finally, Matt mentioned he would pay him and Jose pounced on that with a $10 per hour fee! Matt went ashen until I stepped in to tell Jose to fess up.

Friday afternoon, my friend, Steve (a United Brethren minister) and I went to lunch at First Watch and walked through Lincoln Park. We arrived home in time to see Matt with my new weekend granddaughter. She came with several changes of clothing, as well as a fully equipped diaper bag. At one point my stomach sank as I saw Matthew holding the baby… there was a flash of the inevitable. The Salchak family and Sue Branson joined us for a taco feast after all their lessons, Matt remained an attentive father, and Jose went to spend the night with Patrick, our neighbor boy – and Jose’s first over nighter with friends.

Last night, my darling rubber granddaughter woke me up six or seven times through the night – she has a healthy set of lungs and must know how to raise her uvula correctly to project just a piercing, yet throaty wail. I had taken my DVDs (Harry Truman, Eleanor Roosevelt, Eva Peron) into the living room so I could watch them in between cat naps. Of course, baby was a great alarm – waking me up to finish watching my documentaries.

Today was peculiar – Jose was with Patrick’s family until 3:00pm, and Matt was busy prepping for his first date and playing daddy. Matt has been away more with his new job and the dynamics in the home have drastically changed – Jose is lonely, and there is something missing. I think I may be feeling a twinge of the empty nest that is sure to come. I have been searching for one or two more sons, and I think I will need them. Jose has expressed several times that he does not like Matt having a job as he misses him.

I have been on two power walks today and feel refreshed. Matt has taken Jose through a comical crash course on baby. I sat here in my study laughing so hard at Jose’s comments – as only Jose could express them! While Matt was in the shower, Jose had his first taste of parenting his rubber niece. He talks to it just like it is a real baby – and of course, it has me in stitches. Just as I was stepping into the shower, I heard Matt say to Jose, “I don’t see how single parents do it!”

My mother was a single mother for years, as was my sister who has pretty much raised two sons on her own. I never gave life as a single parent a second thought. People often marvel at how I handle it, but it is really easy. Of course, having two great sons makes it so much easier, but at the same time, parenting is nothing more than attitude, organization and a heavy dose of creativity.

Well… it is now time to dress, and get ready for the festivities to begin. My friend Steve is bringing over his digital camera to take photos of Matthew. We will take Matt to his date’s house where they will enjoy a spaghetti dinner with her older sister (my former student) and her date. Steve, Jose and I are going to dinner and then to play putt-putt golf (with baby).

Steve arrived at 7:30pm after setting up risers at his church for their big pumpkin sale. We got ready to leave and Jose had this startled, “deer in the headlights” look — “I have to take the baby with us to dinner?” So, Steve and I went to China Cottage, ending the dinner conversation with a lengthy, informative and terribly interesting discussion on angels, and the Brethren’s interpretation of various items of doctrine. We returned back to the Haasienda and Jose was watching television and holding his rubber niece. He indicated that she had cried most of the time. We walked over to the high school to peek in on the dance – hoping to catch a glimpse of Matt on his first date. There were so many students that it was impossible to see anything. After running into some parents and students we took off for a strole in Lincoln Park where we held a lengthy discussion on Lincoln’s relgious training and his presidency.

We arrived home at 11:30pm and Jose was so proud of himself. He realized that if he set the baby on the sofa and propped pillows around her it sensed being held and stopped crying. At 11:45pm I was at my desk and he came in to say “good night.” Staying up until 3:00am at Patrick’s, packing in a full day of play and then babysitting had taken its toll on his physical endurance and even a little on his sunny disposition – which seldom abandons him. As he laid his head on my shoulder, his loud rubber niece began sqwalling. With a sigh, he walked in to the living room, grabbed a pillow and propped a bottle in her mouth! Matt walked in and saw the baby propped up and nearly died laughing.

Matt’s date went well. He had a great time at dinner with her family and then at the dance. He indicated that freshmen girls prefer to spend more time with their friends, leaving the dates to talk to one another. However, he had a great time.

Both boys, in their merry mood, forgot to say goodnight and give me my goodnight hug. I almost went upstairs to retrieve them, but decided to let it go… it won’t be long until my evenings will be what they once were before I became a father.

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