NEVER AGAIN. NEVER FORGET by Thomas Putnam
Today, January 27, is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. There was a saying following World War II regarding the extermination of 6 million Jews, 15,000 people who identify as homosexual, and nearly a million people who were formerly known as Gypsies and now more accurately identified as Roma. That saying is/was “NEVER AGAIN.” And yet, the intolerance for those who are different from ourselves seems to be increasing rather than never happening again.
HG has some ties with the Holocaust. The HG Choral Program began as a result of a production of I NEVER SAW ANOTHER BUTTERFLY with lyrics by children of Terezin in what is now the Czech Republic. We produced it, we sang it; we took two busloads of singers and their families to The Czech Republic and visited Terezin. We visited the Holocaust Museum in D.C. shortly after it opened. We produced a play called AND THEN THEY CAME FOR ME about Jews in The Netherlands who are imprisoned during WWII.
When we hear of anti-Semitic attacks recently, the resolute “NEVER AGAIN” doesn't make sense. How can we be going backwards? How can people continue to believe that Jews and Roma and Gays and any who people who are different from ourselves are a threat or inferior or dangerous simply because they are different? Where is the simple exercise of kindness, of welcoming, of acceptance?
In the past year I've seen two theatre productions regarding persecution of people who are Jewish. At Chautauqua I saw Paula Vogel's INDECENT and was simply blown away by the power and beauty of this exploration of antisemitism and homophobia. In NYC I saw the incredible production of Tom Stoppard's LEOPOLDSTADT; three generations of people who are Jewish and the devastatingly tragic effects of antisemitism.
I've quoted playwright Lauren Gunderson a number of times in the last few years. Something like “Theatre's superpower is empathy.” Empathy. Exercising empathy. Oh, what a dream that is where empathy is manifest. Can—should—HG exercise empathy? Is there anything that HG could do to further the resolute hope of “NEVER AGAIN?” Let us remember. NEVER FORGET.
LOOKING BACK at the CHORAL CELEBRATION of the MISSION OF MLK by Barbara Biddison
It certainly was a celebration on January 16 at the Wellsboro HS
Auditorium. Six local choirs/choruses/ensembles, and soloists, as
well as five individuals presenting "The Radical Legacy of MLK" in
spoken word. The auditorium was nearly full. And the audience joined in singing familiar songs from "Lift Every Voice and Sing" to "Blowin' in the Wind." Informative, inspiring, appropriate--all of it.
We do love to sing here in Wellsboro! The youngest HG children looked to be maybe 9 or 10, and I won't guess at ages for the Women's and Men's Choruses but some of them aren't 50 anymore! And we love to
speak too, as evidenced in the spoken word sections. This may be the only time during the year that we get to sing together, on the same stage. So who do we get to thank for all this reminder and celebration and annual attention to Martin Luther King Jr. It all runs so smoothly that we don't even think about "Whose idea was this?
and how did all these singers have something so appropriate to offer?" Well, of course the singing groups rehearse on their own, and that demands a commitment. But it's Thomas Putnam who starts it up, gets the ball
rolling, has new ideas (such as the spoken word component this year) and of course rehearses his own choirs who will sing.. It is a noble reminder that we all appreciate and benefit from each year.
There are many reasons to love living in Wellsboro, This Choral Celebration is one of them. It's way at the top of my list!
[Many thanks to all the directors and accompanists of the choral groups, all the singers and instrumentalists, all the tech folk, all the behind the scenes folk, all the readers, and Ashley Wilson. It takes a village... twp]
WHAT'S IT ALL ABOUT, MARTIN? By Thomas Putnam
Remember the movie and the song from 60's “What's It All About, Alfie?” Dionne Warwick sang the title song; and we heard it over and over on the radio. It became one of those running lines that seemed to work its way into many conversations: What's it all about...?" The song continues: “Is it just for the moment we live? ….are we meant to be kind?...I believe in love Alfie...Without true love we just exist.”
What's it all about, Martin? We are having a recognition of the mission and legacy of Martin Luther King next week and I've found myself asking “What's it all about, Martin?” As coordinator for this annual event, I wonder where we are, now nearly 60 years after MLK was assassinated, and coincidentally the movie/song mentioned above. Is setting aside one evening out of the year to sing a few songs that might have something to do with a black man who worked hard to make sure our country treated all citizens with respect.
Is there more? What else could we possibly do in almost monochromatically white Tioga County? Aren't all the citizens in Tioga County treated with respect? There really aren't any differences in the way people are treated due to their color or economic level or religion or political leaning or place of origin, are there? What's it all about, Martin?
The exploration this coming Monday night will hopefully provide some questions. I've long since realized that questions are a whole lot more meaningful and enriching and challenging and nourishing than answers. Join us on Monday night at 7:00 at Wellsboro High School auditorium and let's ask some questions together.