Posted: May 19, 2013
By: Clay Cerny

[“Sabbath” is this blog’s Sunday feature that looks beyond careers to the broader work of life.]

Music for the Masses

I live in Chicago’s Edgewater neighborhood, a community that values the arts. We have several theater groups, musicians, and artists that hold frequent performances and exhibitions.  Yesterday, I was fortunate to attend “Let’s Do It,” a performance by the Edgewater Singers.  The program ranged from traditional folk songs to modern jazz and pop standards.  I’m not expert on vocal music, but, to my ear, the program was outstanding.  Later today, I’ll attend a concert by the International Chamber Artists (ICA), a local chamber music group.  This program will include works by Dvorák, Plog, Bozza, and Beethoven.

While the music in these programs is very different, they have this in common: no charge.  Both music companies want to offer high quality art to neighbors who can’t afford it.  Many people, including me, happily offer donations to support the programs and artists.  But others can’t.  They are out of work or low paid.  These people could never attend similar concerts held downtown or at suburban venues.  Companies like the Edgewater Singers and ICA do a real service to their community by offering free concerts.

I appreciate the opportunity to enjoy great music in a community setting.  Both groups hold their concerts at local churches.  I am more thankful that hard working people, some of whom are professional musicians and singers, donate their time to entertain and enrich the lives of their neighbors. What they are doing is truly good work.

Posted: April 4, 2013
By: Clay Cerny

I never met Roger Ebert, but he’s always been a part of my life.  From PBS movie reviews in the 1970s to his writing in the Chicago Sun-Times, Ebert talked about movies in language that a normal person could understand.  While he was brilliant, he never talked down to his readers.  Instead, he was one of us, the person sitting next to us, a fan of movies.

Roger Ebert died today after a long bout with cancer.  I’m assuming his death was unexpected because his friend the columnist Neil Steinberg wrote a great piece entitled: “Roger Ebert is not Going Away” in today’s paper.  Ebert announced yesterday that his cancer had returned and that he would be reviewing fewer films.  He described his decision as a “leave of presence.”  Responding to Ebert’s words, “I am not going away,” Steinberg wrote: “This is certainly true.  He couldn’t, even if he never wrote another word.  He is lodged in the culture he swayed, in the minds of readers across the world, and in the hearts of his friends at the Sun-Times.” I’d add the hearts of his viewers and readers of several decades.

A person like Roger Ebert does leave us at death – his presence remains as long as we live.

Posted: February 17, 2013
By: Clay Cerny

[On Sundays, this blog looks beyond work and careers in “Sabbath.”]

Feeling Another Person’s Pain

Today it was my pleasure to attend a performance of Rebecca Gilman’s play Boy Gets Girl at the Raven Theater in Chicago.  Simply put, the play is about a stalker and how he ruins a woman’s life.  However that description is far too simple to describe this fine play.

The main character Theresa Bedell meets Tony for a blind date.  After a second date, she informs Tony that she doesn’t want to see him again.  He sends flowers and calls and calls and calls.  Tony is not on stage for most of the play, but his presence lingers, ever more threatening.

The first half of the play speculates on why the stalking is happening.  Characters debate the meaning of relationships between men and women and how each gender sees the other differently.  The second half is much darker as Tony’s obsessions becomes more violent.  This section of the play is also more human as Theresa’s co-workers come to her support and open their lives to her.  Gilman’s power as a playwright is to make us feel a range of emotions.  For a play about stalking, she delivers many laughs and light moments.

I’ve been to several plays at Raven Theater.  It is a community that deliver outstanding performances and intriguing sets.  These qualities are present in Boy Gets Girl.  While the acting is great, I am especially impressed by the set and how effectively it uses a small space to move Theresa from her office to meetings with a film maker to a hospital room and to a raised section which was her apartment.  While there is no physical violence in the play, what occurs in the apartment brings home what it must be like to live under threat from a stalker.

One local critic suggests that the play makes Tony the “winner” because Theresa has to leave town to escape him.  On a surface level, that might be true.  However, the play also shows how a crime can bring people together and let them share feelings.  Theresa is a stronger character at the end of the play, more human even under threat.  Gilman has created a story and characters far deeper than the Lifetime stalker films she mocks during the play.  She forces the audience to think about relations between men and women.  And she reaffirms that most people are good, even when the end is not happy.  If you live in Chicago, this production runs through March 2.  It will be worth your time.