Last year I saw John Lithgow perform a one man play ‘Stories by Heart’ at the Mark Taper Forum. The solo performance explored Lithgow’s relationship with his father, an itinerant thespian and theater director, and the stories he read Lithgow and his siblings. It was a tour de force, revealing Lithgow’s emotional range and his considered understanding of his craft. His lithe frame, expressively plastic face and manic energy made his embodiment of different characters appear effortless.
Lithgow’s memoir, “Drama: An Actor’s Education” was released yesterday. His solo show, compiled in the wake of his father’s death, appears to have been preliminary research for this reflection on a career which began long before his fame for “3rd Rock from the Sun” and Dexter. In an interview with Charles McGrath for the NYTimes book review, Lithgow reflected on the psyche of an actor by quoting Hamlet: “ ‘I am myself indifferent honest, but yet I could accuse myself of such things that it were better my mother had not borne me.’ We all have our secrets and we all have our deceptions. Acting at its best is all about deceiving people, and this makes it all the more interesting to us.” With the rise of reality television and sub-par acting, Lithgow stands as a throw back to Broadway stage actors, careful practitioners of this age-old profession.
“Art is perhaps concerned with ordering experience and expressing that order not in general statements but in a most succinct and concrete way that nevertheless [refers] to the many diverse orders of experience that man encounters: the natural, the animal, the social, the physiological; and this may be done representationally, through symbolism, or it may be done abstractly, through the portrayal of order in balanced or rhythmically repeated forms.” Robert Layton
Andrew Moore’s photographs of Detroit reveal an eerie beauty in the abandoned buildings of Detroit. These images, which some have lambasted as ‘ruin porn’, evoke Piranesi’s 18th century paintings of Roman ruins, a popular backdrop used by artists since the Renaissance. Why do these images, which evidence the decline of civilizations and the fragility of life, have a sad beauty? Firstly, Adam Moore has an almost painterly style of capturing these spaces, almost breathing life into the buildings. His skill as a photographer doesn’t however does not explain the inherent beauty of once great structures forgotten by the vagaries of time. Rome, the eternal city, has fueled it’s architectural rebirths over the centuries through a cannibal reuse of ancient abandoned buildings. Or Palermo, once the jewel of the Mediterranean, is like a former beauty queen ravaged by time but alluringly tragic in it’s collapsing state. As one walks the streets of these cities, the history and time is evident in the ruination.
Perhaps I am predisposed to be drawn to architectural deterioration. A childhood visit to Rome sparked a lifelong love affair with ancient civilizations. Texts have never produced the same personal connection I felt in the Forum to the generations of humans who came before me and inhabited this space. The romance of decaying buildings is not limited to grand spaces with important histories, although structures with illustrious pasts have fallen farther and therefore pull more at the heart strings. A street in Turkey evoked the same emotion, the same longing for a past which I new never existed. The crumbling walls and fading paint of these buildings suggest an earlier time, when these structures were newly built.
Things fall apart. Entropy is one of the laws of the universe. Decaying and forgotten buildings remind us of our own mortality, of the men and women who poured their ingenuity into creating these structures. The world is ever-changing around us and it is the stone achievements (stonehenge, the pyramids etc) which outlast us and, though worn by time, affirm our existence.
Arts education has been threatened in recent years by budget cuts and teacher furloughs. Museum education departments are reimagining their roles in public education and are creating new programming to fill the gaps. At the 2011 CAM Conference presenters in Session 3A “Strategies for Collaboration: My Masterpieces and Pasadena Unified School District” shared the challenges and unprecedented successes of the My Masterpieces curriculum. This district-wide arts curriculum is a comprehensive arts program designed to formalize partnerships with local arts organizations.