Monday, July 23, 2012

Libertarians Say The Innocent At Penn State Should Not Be Punished

Dr. Tom Stevens, Chair of the Libertarian Party of Pennsylvania, issued the following statement today on behalf of the party after its Board of Directors voted to take this stand at a meeting held on Saturday, July 21, 2012, in Millheim, Pennsylvania:

"Former Penn State Assistant Football Coach Jerry Sandusky has been convicted and awaits sentencing.  Others who engaged in criminal activity or legal negligence are being investigated and in time will be dealt with in accordance with the law once all the facts become known. However, it is grossly unjust to allow emotional outrage at the presumed actions or inactions of an isolated handful of individuals to result in the punishment of innocent Penn State students and the many businesses that thrive in and around State College due to the success and prestige of Penn State and its academic and athletic programs.

Today’s NCAA penalties against Penn State’s college football program end up creating more victims and punishing the wrong people. Not allowing Penn State to participate in Bowl Games for 4 years harms the careers of current and future players. Cutting back on scholarships Penn State can offer prevents the school from recruiting the best players in the years to come, which hurts the entire football program as well as the reputation of the school. Striking victories from the record books as if they never took place is downright Orwellian and again harms the wrong people.

Some argue that Penn State the institution should be punished for the actions of a few. But an institution cannot be punished; only individuals can be punished.  Any attempt to sanction an institution just punishes the individuals currently affiliated with it and that is unjust. Clearly, present and future Penn State students and, indeed, the Penn State community at large have zero complicity in the Sandusky Scandal. A ham-handed response is not called for. The NCAA actions against Penn State will have a huge negative impact on current and future students and will harm many businesses that support the local economy.

If additional individuals are found to have been guilty of criminal activity, they should be punished accordingly, but no penalty should be enforced that harms even one innocent person."

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Applause! Applause! Review of The Rocky Horror Show at Cultural Arts Playhouse by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens

This review of the musical The Rocky Horror Show performed at the Cultural Arts Playhouse was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 2 (2012) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

The Rocky Horror Show
Cultural Arts Playhouse (625 Old Country Road, Plainview, NY)
Reviewed 7/8/12

The Rocky Horror Show, a long-running horror comedy stage musical, opened in London, England on June 19, 1973. It was written by Richard O'Brien, produced and directed by Jim Sharman. It tells the story of a newly engaged couple, Brad and Janet, who get a flat tire in a storm and visit the home of a transvestite scientist in search of a phone to call for help (This was, of course, in a time before cell phones). That scientist, Dr. Frank-N-Furter, was in the process of unveiling his new creation, Rocky Horror, who he intends to marry (Frank's previous partners were Eddie and originally, Columbia). The musical was adapted into the 1975 film The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which today has a worldwide cult following. The Rocky Horror Show had a revival on Broadway, which did not last long, but a second revival from October 2000 to January 2002 at the Circle in the Square Theatre was nominated for Tony Awards in the  Best Actor, Best Costume Designer, Best Director and Best Musical Revival categories.  
The Rocky Horror Show at Cultural Arts Playhouse, playing Saturdays at midnight through August, provides an enjoyable experience to all who are lucky enough to see it. If you are a "virgin" (someone who has not seen the play before), the audience participation and call backs might irk you but it is all part of the fun. What started as ad lib responses to the script of the play or movie has evolved into more tightly scripted acceptable responses occasionally altered by creative new lines and modern cultural references. A wrong call back might draw a bad reaction but a good one will be applauded. The only problem is that a prejudiced audience member might feel they have permission to express their distaste for something they observe such as Dr. Frank-N-Furter and Rocky going arm in arm to their bridal suite after getting married. Just as audience members continue to call Janet a "slut", others could, in theory, call Brad or Frank a "fag" or say, "why don't you come out of the closet already" not fully understanding the multi-leveled sexual preferences portrayed in the script.                                                                                                                                       

While the play may be a parody of "B" Science Fiction movies, I believe it has drawn its large fan base due to its basic message that it's O.K. to be different. Dr. Frank-N-Furter, played with attitude by Phil Rosenburg, is a self-confident, but vulnerable, transvestite who sexually seduces both Brad and Janet, innocent kids who end up experiencing more than they anticipated before the night is over (and it's not even "half-bad", is it?). Riff Raff, a drug-using hunchbacked handyman, and Magenta, his sister and the maid, are servants who have a problem with Frank's "extreme lifestyle" yet it is implied by their "elbow sex" dance they may actually be sleeping with each other. Finally, all Frank's guests who do the Time Warp are dressed very uniquely sending the message that all are welcome in this menagerie of aliens from Transsexual, Transylvania, and by extension, you are welcome no matter how unconventional and abnormal you may be. This all comes across as encouraging people to be themselves and this message is a universal one with great attraction to young people seeking to develop their own unique style and identity.         
Overall, the cast was very talented. Phil Rosenburg commanded the stage as he needed to in the role of Dr. Frank-N-Furter. William Manton and Samantha Kramer as Brad Majors and Janet Weiss, respectively, were believable as the innocent kids. Danielle Jenkin was impressive as Columbia. Ashley Nicastro and Matthew DeMaria as Magenta and Riff Raff succeeded in making the audience dislike their characters (As an aside, it appeared by his costume that Riff Raff came from the planet Ork instead of the planet Transsexual). There was alternative casting as Maggie Robinson, a woman, played both Eddie and Dr. Scott. Jesse Pimpinella was perfect as Rocky. If you're going to make yourself a man, then Jesse, given his good looks and attractive body, is the man you'd want to make. Mike Visconti as the Narrator really hit some high notes by improvising dialogue and scenes such as when he continued to offer his cell phone to Brad (who was looking for a phone to call for help) and when he continued to "come on" to Rocky once even attempting to kiss him. However, then there were moments that didn't work quite so well such as when he over-reacted to audience call backs or when he placed his hand up between his and Jesse's lips because he didn't tell Jesse or the Director what he planned to do. Zachary Levy did a great job directing this production allowing for improvisation that resulted in Dr. Scott, the rival scientist, getting killed in the end when he didn't move off stage fast enough. Such unexpected plot twists can add a new dimension of enjoyment to watching this musical.                                                                                                                                                                          
All your favorite musical numbers are here including Science Fiction/Double Feature, Time Warp and Sweet Transvestite but if I had to choose the song that best reflects the theme of this musical, I would say it's "Don't Dream It, Be It!"

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Applause! Applause! Review of Hair at Cultural Arts Playhouse by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens

This review of the musical Hair performed at the Cultural Arts Playhouse was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 2 (2012) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

Hair: The American Love-Rock Musical
Cultural Arts Playhouse (625 Old Country Road, Plainview, NY)
Reviewed 7/6/12

Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical is a rock musical with a book and lyrics by James Rado and Gerome Ragni and music by Galt MacDermot. It originally debuted in October, 1967 at Joseph Papp's Public Theater, subsequently had a 45-performance run at The Cheetah, a midtown Manhattan discotheque, and opened at the Biltmore Theater in April, 1968 for a Broadway run of 1,750 performances. There was a Broadway revival of Hair in 1977 that ran for only 43 performances but on March 31, 2009, another Broadway revival won the Tony Award and Drama Desk Award for best revival of a musical.

The story is about Claude, a Polish boy from Flushing, Queens, who speaks with a fake British accent (claiming he is from Manchester, England) and his dilemma in deciding whether to burn his draft card, as his friends have urged him to do, or to report for duty and fight as a soldier in Vietnam. Claude eventually decides to serve his country and, of course, dies. That's basically the story, except that in-between, all the members of his Tribe are hanging out, getting high, sleeping with each other, remaining unemployed, mooching off their parents, making fun of curious but supportive outsiders, demonstrating against the Vietnam War and acting as irresponsible, immature, not-particularly enlightened young people who have absolutely no idea what it took to fight for and defend the freedoms we enjoy in this country today.

If you like Hair and the musical numbers in it, then you will be very pleased with this production. It has an excellent cast with enormous talent. Taneisha Corbin and Kyle Petty were both very impressive in the various roles they played with Taneisha shining through vocally in Aquarius and Kyle Petty hitting a home run singing Colored Spade. Ashley Nicastro was also a stand-out singing Easy To Be Hard. I have never been a fan of most of the songs in this musical and I have no intention of ever owning the soundtrack. Still, there are those few numbers people associate with this musical that are always audience pleasers. Specifically, Aquarius, Hair, Good Morning Starshine, The Flesh Failures (Let The Sun Shine In), Easy To Be Hard and I might add What A Piece Of Work Is Man to the list. The rest of  the numbers do nothing for me and are quite forgettable.

The highly controversial nude scene has been removed from the end of Act 1, Claude and Berger do not kiss in this production and contemporary underwear is sometimes revealed in place of the traditional loincloth. Perhaps the morality of this musical was shocking to audiences who first saw it in the late 1960s as was the novelty of seeing hippies congregating on stage doing all the things they were probably doing on the street and in parks. Perhaps the modern day equivalent would be the Occupy Movement, which has fewer drugs and ill-defined goals.

It is hard to single out individual actors since so many of them have talent but Brooke Grossman, who played Marjorie, is clearly headed for stardom and a long-term career in the arts and Michael Marmann, who was Woof in this production, continues to impress me as a extremely talented actor with great potential.

Hair runs at the Cultural Arts Playhouse through August 5, 2012 (Friday & Saturdays at 8:00 p.m., Sundays at 7:00 p.m.) Tickets cost $20.00 if purchased in advance and $25.00 if bought at the door. For more information, visit