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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

                                    ICON City Beat June 2015

 Political correctness stunted honest opinions after PTC’s press opening of Brownsville song (b-side for tray) by Kimber Lee. People were afraid to say they didn’t like this tale of a teenage black boy from the ghetto who works at Starbucks but who is then killed in the streets. The play tries hard to be original but in the end its predictability (The New York Times lamented the play’s “well worn paths”) and erratic timeline juxtapositions made us think of the word juvenile.  More reality TV and Hallmark After School Special than classic theater, we realize that genius theatre companies like PTC must fail from time to time.  

The Historical Society of Pennsylvania’s annual 2015 Founders Award gala at the Union League brought us face to face with art critic Edie Newhall who told us about her ancestor, Charles Godfey Leland, Philly’s own Aleister Crowley who wrote books on witches, wrote for The Evening Bulletin and was a friend of Oscar Wilde’s. Novelist Sue Monk Kidd, author of “The Invention of Wings” (an Oprah Book Club selection) was this year’s award winner, while HSP board member Alice Lea Tasman walked away with the Heritage Award. Gerry Lenfest, fresh from his Attila the Hun Inquirer debacle in which he overturned the newspaper’s endorsement of Jim Kenny for Tony Williams, showed no remorse for his sins when he took to the podium. What’s this world coming to when money outshines integrity?  (Later reports indicated that the Kenny campaign had mispresented what happened at The Inky. It was NOT Gerry Lenfest who strong-armed the Editorial Board.) 

 Fran Lebowitz once said that she never reads the works of 22 year old writers. The idea is to go up the age scale, not down, she says, though she’s mum on the work of young, emerging visual artists. While soaking up art auction items at the recent Center for Emerging Visual Artists (CFEVA) gala, we ran into the Switzerland-born Nadia Kunz, a board member of the Da Vinci Art Alliance Gallery, who showed us her bright as Easter hand made baby clothes. We hate baby clothes on general principal, but the twenty-something couple we caught eyeing Kunz’s cute as pie fabrications seemed to be having second thoughts about a commitment to childlessness. We chatted with Madrid-born artist Maria R. Schneider, and later ran into Deb Miller who spiced up Theater Exile’s superb Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf at Plays and Players when she insisted that her donated wine be served to patrons at the post production reception. While Plays and Players may love their cash cow bar, when wine is donated, the idea is not to pull a Gerry Lenfest.  


     On the scene of the Amtrak tragedy, Mayor Nutter was adamant: The projectiles that hit a number of trains on the same bank of tracks 30 minutes before Train 188’s derailment were inconsequential and irrelevant. As reporters continued to grill him on the subject he softened his tone but it was too late: His Honor’s old arrogance had returned like a boomerang. It’s called speaking before knowing the facts. Projectiles are thrown objects, stones or rocks, and one or more hit a northbound Amtrak Acela train while another smashed through the driver’s window of a Septa R7 Trenton-bound train. The R7 window smattering was so severe passengers had to be transferred to a bus. Acela train passengers recall hearing a huge crash when that train was hit. Septa’s Chestnut Hill Local has a rich projectile history: Two shattered windows a month has been this line’s monthly average for years. For decades the projectile problem has been dismissed as the shenanigans of “rogue kids,” but it’s time to up the ante and increase the penalties for open warfare.    

   At The Print Center’s Book Launch for poets Thomas Devaney and Joanna Fuhrman, we met Philly’s most famous woman poet, Eleanor Wilner and then chatted with poet Jim Cory before catching up with artist Diane Burko. From there it was a short ride to the Chemical Heritage Foundation’s Heritage Day where the flavor was definitely Saudi Arabian, since one of this year’s award winners was “His Excellency” Abdulaziz Al-Zamil, chairman of the Zamil Group Holding Company and a leader in Saudia Arabia’s chemical industry. The exoticism continued when we met a blonde American girl who now lives in Dubai and who said she has plenty of freedom there, including wearing her bikini to the beach. She corrected our misperceptions about the place and told us that Dubai freedoms were just as liberal as they are in New York, except that you can’t have sex on the beach, which also happens to be true in Florida.  Our evening ended at the Nationalities Services Center Global Tastes Award gala at the Reading Terminal, NSC has been helping immigrants and refugees since 1921. This year’s Margaret Harris Award went to Ballard Spahr LLP for their pro bono work in support of NSC.