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Sunday, February 7, 2016

ICON City Beat February 2016

City Beat February 2016

This year’s Mummers controversy had to do with the comics’ parody of Caitlyn Jenner and the so-called stereotyping of Mexicans with brown face and dancing tacos. The protests did not come from diehard Mummers fans lining Broad Street but from a few City Hall power brokers, the new mayor, a couple of suits and ties and the Executive Director of LGBT Affairs, Nellie Fitzpatrick. The Sammar Strutters who adopted the Mexican theme with brown face probably assumed they were safe because they weren’t doing black face. And why shouldn’t they have assumed that? Mummers comics have been dressing up as wenches, colonialists, British soldiers, Frenchmen in white powder puff wigs, nuns, Arabs, Turkish sultans, Hawaiian princesses, former presidents, Lithuanian dancers and cops, so why not put on the Mexican?  A street comic’s usual role is to dress up and get noticed, not deliver nuanced comedy. Mummers comics, after all, are really the raw belly laughter of a working class city. Those City Hall Nannies want to sanitize next year’s parade by creating a reform school for the hooligan performers, most of whom are not Union League members or Harvard grads but raw Philly types who guzzle beer and (yes) cuss.  This will ensure a 2017 parade as coma-inducing as the Rose Bowl Parade.   

   Mayor Kenney’s emergence as the #1 Poo Bear pawn for Philly’s Left Wing community has received national attention.  One of the mayor’s first Executive Orders was to reinstate the city’s ‘sanctuary city’ status, which shields illegal immigrants from deportation. It also bars cops and prison officials from ratting to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) about an illegal alien’s release from prison. This news was ecstasy to new City Council member Helen Gym, who raised her fist in a ‘Power to the People’ salute as Kenney signed the Order. Nicole Kligerman of the New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia, said, "We are thrilled…!” Are we really?  Kenney’s Executive Order means that Philadelphia is breaking federal law, as are a number of other scofflaw cities like San Francisco (where a woman was killed by an illegal immigrant deported 5 times), Detroit, Portland, Miami, Baltimore and Seattle. But hey: what about the thrilling, lawless role model the city is offering to its residents? If Philly can ignore federal laws, why should ordinary Philadelphians pay attention to laws against insurance fraud, mail fraud, counterfeiting, child support, arson, embezzlement and motor vehicle crimes? Will Kenney go as far as the Republican governor of Nevada, who approved the issuing of drivers licenses to illegals? How did we forget that immigration laws are there to protect the public safety? Unfortunately, politicians like Mayor Kenney are the reason why a candidate like Trump has a fighting chance to win the White House.   



 Philly’s artistic communities—theater, visual arts, poetry and literature—are separate worlds where the members of each group rarely interact with one another. Actors hang with actors; artists cultivate other artists; poets form their own social circles and journalists hide out at the Pen and Pencil Club. Actors probably have it best because almost everyone loves a good play, but Philly actors rarely show up at poetry readings or author talks, A Pulitzer Prize winning city writer could walk into any actor-filled Wilma theater reception and not be noticed at all. Fish bowls of isolation like this tend to keep Philly in a parochial orbit. What’s to be done? Look to New York, says Philly poet Jim Cory, “Where this kind of thing does not exist.” Cory says that New York artists of all types mingle at parties and other gatherings, so it’s not just painters with painters or actors with actors. Intent on bringing a little New York to Philly, Cory threw a holiday party and invited a wide range of artists: painter Bill Scott, poet Janet Mason, a TV writer, some poets and a playwright. New York, New York had finally come to a cozy apartment on S. 21st Street.

What’s not to admire about playwright Tom Stoppard? The author of Arcadia, Travesties, Jumpers and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead was in town at the Wilma to celebrate the opening of “The Hard Problem,” his latest play of ideas. The play received sketchy reviews in England but at the Wilma Stoppard received a standing ovation. Wilma audiences are generous to a fault, but The Hard Problem was a problematic mishmash of vignettes dealing with questions about consciousness and God. It was almost as Stoppard had written the play stoned and then never got around to serious editing when he “sobered” up. .