When I was a lad I read the San Francisco Examiner’s renown columnist Herb Caen, the inventor of Three Dot Journalism; a form this column ofttimes mimics. Caen wrote his column as a series of items separated by ellipses … the word is Greek … like that. In this variation I separate items with three asterisks in the center of the page;
like that. OK, let’s begin.
Professor Lovelace once held up an LA Times Sunday Edition with an article numbering some 20,000 words; that is the equivalent of 20 Funny Papers Again columns. This was when I was on the college newspaper staff where our writings were informative or humorous or entertaining but always concise as there were a gang of us so competition for space was a weekly occurrence.
So, now with 1,000 words a week to work with, I want to use some of them to remind readers that myself and my two contemporaries in Soledad and Gonzales write opinion pieces, not reportorial articles. If in my 1,000 words I use statistics or quotes, there is no governing body to require citing sources, although all opinion columnists are prepared to do so if required; or at least all thinking columnists do to quell any hint of fabrication. We see and hear a lot of fabrication from some journalistic corners with points of view sans factual data, so I see no need for it here.
That said, it is always a boost when reporters and columnists (not to mention editors and publishers) see letters to the editor come into the office. It matters less what position the epistlist espouses and more that they did write thus creating a dialogue wherein readers partake and engage in their own internal or external dialogues. This is one of the prime purposes of newspapers, to create healthy exchanges among communities.
Locally we have over the years seen a lessening of such printed letters, but occasionally we see them; Susan Raycraft and J.J. Burns have both submitted their thoughts many times over the years, and I hope will continue to do so and are joined by any other readers who desire to let their voice be heard; read, whatever, you get my meaning.
“Please don’t shoot my dog” were the words of a young actor by the name of Jackie Cooper, well known to audiences from way back in the silent era through the 1980s. He later used those words as title to his autobiography in a section where he told of how brutal the movie business could be on actors, child actors in particular. In order for the young actor to show emotion and cry real tears, the director of the picture pulled him aside and told him a stage hand was going to shoot his pet dog, and there were sound effects to match the threat.
Of course, young Jackie cried and the director got his shot. The boy uttered the words when after shown that his dog was indeed alive but told there were more crying scenes to come; he came up with the tears on cue for all those scenes. It was a cruel way to bring out an emotion that was not inside the child so, in the eyes of corporate filmdom, the child needed a traumatic experience as quick learning device.
I certainly don’t condone that method, but I will admit that when it comes to acting, no matter the level, emotion is necessary and the personal experiences drawn upon can seem cold-blooded, and may be just that. Let me relate two similar experiences in my life, one past and one recent.
While at university in San Bernardino a couple decades ago, I was part of a search party looking for a 5-year-old girl missing from her Orange County home; Samantha Runnion was found dead in the forest, her abductor sentenced to death. The whole atmosphere at the time was a swirl of activity what with myriad media outlets, search crews issued orange vests and small flags to mark searched areas and both rescue and cadaver dogs.
Recently I have joined, as much as this old frame of mine will allow, in the search efforts for 5-year-old Kyle Doan, who was lost to recent floodwaters. At both of these two searches the parents were present, and that adds a whole new level of emotion. Both experiences are part of me now and, may Dionysus forgive me, if any future role calls for such, I will call upon those emotions to play that role. Jackie Cooper would know what I mean.
On the lighter side of acting, many will be heartened to hear that the venerable Stage Hands acting troupe are on the move again after a long pandemic forced break in productions. Now in their 42nd year, the troupe has elected officers and chosen a play for their next production. “Butterflies are Free” is probably best remembered as a 1971 movie featuring a then very young Goldie Hawn. It is a lighthearted comedy with four roles comprised of two apartment dwellers in their early 20s, male and female, the female’s mother and a male artist, age variable.
Because the Stage Hands lost the use of their long-time home at St. Mark’s Hall, they are without a performance venue at this time, but that is being remedied. In these early stages no performance dates are set nor are any cast or crew positions filled with the exception of the director. That weighty position will be filled by Marina Gerard, who brought the script to the notice of the group.
Beyond the four onstage roles there is still a stage manager, prop manager needed along with set constructors/painters, costume manager and script prompter. It is hoped with this production there would be a mentoring program partnering a youth in each position. Audition dates will be announced soon for all interested.
Take care. Peace.