family, Uncategorized


many happy returns of the day, Z. Star.
It continues to be a pleasure to share the galaxy with you.


Best Witchcraft is Geometry
To the magician’s mind –
His ordinary acts are feats
To thinking of mankind –

Emily Dickinson

family, israel, Judaism

friday: poland

Inspired both by a cousin’s Bat Mitzvah and a friend’s theatrical activities in Poland for the 2009 Grotowski Year, I’ve been finding out more about some of my family’s origins in the small town of Ostrowiec Świętokrzyski, a village that dates back to the 1300s. My father sent me this link to an image of the stones from the Jewish cemetery – Ostrowiec’s population was over 60% Jewish before WWII. The town website puts the death toll at 11,000 Jews. The brothers of the Weinberg family who survived, as far as we know, were Isadore, Murray, and my grandfather David, all of whom came to the US (the Midwest) before things got so bad you couldn’t leave.

The Chicago Weinbergs I’ve met are descended from Isadore and Murray. I’ve just learned that there are more Toronto Weinbergs to whom we might be related somehow, although I’m not sure whose descendants they would be – and that David spent 5 years in Toronto before making his way West.

If I were to go back to Europe I think I would be more prepared to visit some of the Jewish history of the region that I was when I went to Berlin, at 21. I didn’t visit a Holocaust museum, a graveyard, or even a synagogue. It felt like just being there, as a Jewish director working with German actors, was close enough to the past, and if I did more than that, I would implode. The most glaring reminder was traveling through Munich on the anniversary of Kristallnacht and seeing that Dachau was still a stop right in the middle of their subway line.

I was also more concerned, at the time, with the cultural and ethnic turmoil of the present – the relationship between Germans and Turkish immigrants in Berlin, and the ongoing situation in Israel (which was bad in 2001, but not as bad as it is now). It seemed like dwelling on the events of the forties wasn’t going to help anyone more forward on any fronts.

It’s easier to think about these things from the distance of the US, but if I were to go back, I guess I would have to make more of an effort to visit that history in person.


I’ve got your “social network” right here

This nonwithstanding, the only new site I have joined today is – a family tree plotting site. I recently was present at the Bat Mitzvah of a second cousin here in Chicago, and was inspired to plot out the three-tiered Weinberg family tree. There were three brothers, Murray, Isadore (Izzy) and David, who came to the US from Poland before WWII. Two stayed in the Midwest and one, my grandfather, came to California.

Having now returned to the Midwest, I’m meeting, mostly for the first time, the many, many Weinbergs who descend from Izzy and Murray. And for my own edification more than their own, I’ve plotted how we are all related. I spent so much of the Bat Mitzvah going, “Well, there were three brothers…” like a fairy tale or something, to all the people who wanted to know who I was.

has lots of neat widgets, like the ability to sort the entire tree, with a click, by any one person in it – to see all their descendants and ancestors. Very user-friendly.

books, family, science

physics and other diversions

We are on stage early this weekend – the carpenters finished the towering behemoth of a set quickly, and we’re spacing. Tech begins Wednesday.

I’m reading a book by Alan Lightman that a physicist friend recommended, GREAT IDEAS IN PHYSICS. It’s a survey non-majors kind of thing, but not dumbed down. I’m skimming through the conservation laws now. Lightman’s writing is refreshingly clear. I haven’t had physics since 9th grade, so this is all new to me, or seems so.

My father is a social scientist, and my mother is a scientific humanist – a librarian, but with a pragmatic approach to the world of the humanities. They both have feet in both worlds. I think their two children, in response, went to the opposite ends of the spectrum: theater and computers. We find ourselves pretty far apart in terms of our fields of work, but Z and I both take a lot of pleasure in bridging the gap between the two cultures whenever possible.

It feels like when I read science books, I’m doing something in connection to my family, and to our most firmly held belief – which has to do with education, and how you can never have enough of it, and how there is no excuse for not knowing everything there is to know, or trying. I think, although I don’t know for certain, that Z may feel the same way about his explorations of the arts. It’s in honor of our upbringing that we both religiously explore the other fields.

My desire to be well-rounded in this aspect used to be a drawback – I would go to the extent of not taking the classes I most wanted to take, usually in the English department, because “that was what everyone does” and I needed to also know about everything else. This is how I got through school without ever taking a Shakespeare class. I showed up on the first day of several, and decided that this was something I was already familiar with, and it would be “better for me” to suffer through something less exactly what I loved. Big mistake. I both know much less about Shakespeare than I should and also have a lingering resentment of certain other subjects.

I no longer feel that way, having given myself the luxury of specialization, and surfeited on theater to the extent that I sneeze and produce a ground plan. These days, reading physics is pure joy. Taking a break.

During spacing today, one of the actors referred to the “Z axis,” and I had to take way too long to remember what that was – a string of memories that took me back to ninth grade, to graph paper, to math that I enjoyed, math involving things like “line segments.”

I actually had to remember the cover of my old graph-paper pad, a green and burgundy thing, before I could remember the “Z axis.” I miss geometry. (Lightman says geometry was da Vinci’s favorite.) I was never patient enough to be good at it – but I did like it, and I think it more than any other discipline of science or math stayed in my brain.

Geometry was also where I developed the one joke which I actually made up myself – a joke about a protractor which achieved legendary status in that particular math class, in my junior high. (You had to be there.) I have never since been able to create a math joke, or any kind of joke, but geometry seems unmathematically playful, and works with my mind.

That made me think about staging a scene for SIAW a couple years back, when I was still struggling to get out of my tendency to over-block everything. I let the actors do what I considered to be a very free process, with lots of improv, and (for me) relatively little shape-based intervention.

When one of my friends saw the scene, he said, with total honesty, “I never would have thought of staging it that way – with all the triangles.” I guess it wasn’t as free a process as I’d thought.

I do hope that this is all somehow leading back to FLATLAND. I blogged a few months back about the incumbent destruction of Meyer Library, and how I feel like before they destroy it, they should let me and J.W. stage that book in and around its hallowed halls. I’ve done exactly nothing about this, but now I’m mentioning it again, and maybe it’ll happen.

(Created a “science” category with this post.)

family, the chorus

We interrupt the theater for a shout-out

Yesterday was my brother’s birthday, and he sent me, in the mail, a CD he made of a sound recording of CASSANDRA SPEAKS/CLYTEMNESTRA RESPONDS, my wild attempt to create a 9/11 show with choruses. I haven’t had the courage to listen to it yet. That was 2001, and this is 2008, and I’m still working on this stuff. I can’t imagine what I thought I was doing seven years ago. I can barely figure it out now.

But I do want to say that if it weren’t for Zack and Shweta, I would have absolutely no documentation of this ambitious and flawed project. It was a time in my life when I was keeping bad records. They both attended the performance, and Shweta had a script – and Zack a recording.

This is not the first time in my life that Zack has helped me remember something important, something I don’t want to forget. He’s the best brother there ever was (and nothing like Hank Stamper). Happy birthday, ZAW. Wish you many more.

family, Lydia, politics, travel

turn the page

I’m packing – tomorrow I fly to NYC, after the evening’s preview, on a red-eye. I’ve been in Denver since Dec 6th, the longest I’ve been anywhere since Ashland.

Today I met my great-aunt and great-uncle by marriage, Rose and Floyd, who have been in Denver since 1944. We had a really great conversation over dinner at Hotel Teatro Cafe on 14th before they came to LYDIA this evening – we talked about WWII, Japan, Hawaii, the 100th Battalion, the segregated units, the internment camps, the GI Bill, the US, Israel, the concept of apikoros (non-practicing believer), Judaism, Unitarianism, theater, city planning, architecture, and our families. And borders. And the meaning of global citizenship. And my brother Zack, who they haven’t seen since Lew and Susan’s wedding – fifteen years ago? – playing the piano. It was a conversation of memory and history and I’m still spinning around from the ideas in it.

Looking over the past few blog entries I can smell homesickness, longing for LA, even second-guessing my decision to spend this year running around the country like a chicken with its head cut off. But meeting people like this, even if it’s briefly, makes the entire project seem worthwhile. I never would have known them if I hadn’t come to Denver.

I hope they enjoyed the play – well, as I was saying to a departing audience member, enjoyed isn’t the right word – but I hope they were moved by it. I sat four rows from the stage tonight, and it was amazing how O.R. could make her eyes look like a brain-damaged person. Her portrayal is naturalistic in detail but theatrical in scale.

I also had a phone work session with Tony on Oedipus today, and with Amina on Medea yesterday, and the Convergence proceeds inexorably.

It’s a disjointed life I’m leading, but a full one. If there doesn’t seem to be a plot right now, maybe that’s all right. Maybe this part of my existence is more of a montage. Or an overture to an unwritten opera.

a propos of nothing, family, film, Lydia, theater

Mama, don’t let your babies grow up to be…

It’s been a busy week – not only did I see Sweeney Todd again, (just as bloody, just as good), watch an open dress of Theresa Rebeck’s OUR HOUSE (vitriolic sendup of reality TV, pools of blood, writer-strike humor), have teleconferences with almost all the confirmed Convergence participants, and just finish 3 days of LYDIA tech, but I managed to overhear this conversation in the elevator, not five minutes ago:

Woman: My mother always wanted me to marry a cowboy, and I said, hell no.
Man: I’m not a cowboy?
Woman: Well, you do fix the fence sometimes. You’re sort of a cowboy.
Man: I could be a cowboy.
Woman: You do have those outfits. (To her companion) He has some cowboy outfits.

But back to what’s really important, which is the Sweeney Todd movie – I went to see it again on Tuesday despite the impending tech and my unfinished rewrite. I had Phil’s observation in mind that it was too clean of a London for him, and it certainly is a very clean propscape. Every object that’s introduced is used. Every reference is followed up on. It’s a spare staging.

It’s like a play in that way, and I think it’s Burton’s homage both to the material’s theatrical origins and to the single-minded focus of Sweeney’s mind. There may be other things in his world, but he doesn’t see them. And Sondheim approves – ArtsJournal led me to a piece in the Lebrecht Weekly where the composer said “This (ST) is the first musical that has ever transferred successfully to the screen.”

In conclusion, January 12 is my mother’s birthday. Happy birthday, Mom.

family, running


In Seattle with the Miners, preparing for a family party this evening, to celebrate Nelle’s birthday (belatedly). Her birthday was August 28, the day before my parents’ wedding anniversary on August 29. Mia and I just made carrot cake and the Miners’ family recipe for blueberry cake.

Seattle is lovely. Blue and the light feels like it’s going to be cold, even when it’s warm. John and I walked to the overlook over the water last night.

I also managed to run this morning, the same path, about two and a half miles. I’m trying to train for the Rock n’ Roll 1/2 Marathon on Oct. 14 in San Jose. I’m starting at a place of being completely out of training, but the memory of running in New Orleans gives a small psychological boost to what otherwise would seem impossible.

family, moving, OSF, theater

My Suitcase Weighs Me Down With Memories

Zack and Pam are gone. It was so much fun having them here. I’m letting the sun go down on me as I pack and playing songs that make me sad. Like”When The Night Comes” by Joe Cocker. I remember lying under a blanket senior year and floating away into a sea of self-pity on this music.

To think that he was taken for
A wise man in the Civil War,
A stalwart servant of the King –
Does that all count for anything
Now his brain has all gone poof –
It’s just Tartuffe, Tartuffe, Tartuffe.

My OSF housing is done with Tartuffe being open, but I have two more weeks here before I make my way to SF, and then north. Boy, it’d be cool if I could come back and see how Tony, etc. have grown into it later on in the run… Seattle, help me out here.

family, tartuffe, theater

You’re going to be Tartuffified

Our last rehearsal was short and sweet – about half an hour of notes and a couple quick fixes in the ever-rehearsed Dorine-Orgon-Mariane scene.

Director: Just hold for the laugh, darling.

Actor: When I run out of lines, I’m just going to stop talking.
Actor: That’s what we all try to do here.

I saw AS YOU afterwards and really enjoyed it. It’s such a beautiful play. And I have to say that I thought the setting in the American Depression and the vague shadow of twenties-era mobs was lovely. Charles the Wrestler was so slimy.

If anything, I think the forest of Arden should have perhaps had some kind of public works project going on in it – or more of an equal air of dirt and dust and industry and inter-war. That damn forest kills me every time, just like in Kirsten’s production at Noise Within – it’s so hard to stage. Larissa’s set designer had an interesting take, I remember. My favorite “forest drop” of the year is definitely Rachel Hauck’s in the closed Cherry Orchard.

Then Tartuffe opened last night. I had Jeremy (R&J SM) and his wife Kay, who sings in R&J, sitting to my left, and Zack and Pam to my right. Mallory (director of marketing) and her family were in front of me. I could see Bill and Peter if I peered up and to the right. The Bowmer is such a schmooze-house – you can look up in the mirrors and glance all around the angled seats and see everybody.

A successful opening, though not as ebullient as the second preview – that audience had helium tubes in their armrests or something. Richard Howard had some fantastic new takes out front that I’d never seen before – he was cracking me, Jeremy, and Kay up.

Afterwards, we had a champagne toast backstage, with Libby passing the baton, and then all went to Martino’s. Zack, as usual, put his finger right on the problem with the script – why does Orgon take Tartuffe in so easily and so completely?

Drinks with Peter, Frank, Tony and his wife Robin, Zack and Pam. Frank and Zack got into a discussion about cities and Borges and labyrinths. It was really cool, if by “cool” you mean “deeply surreal.” My brother is talking to Frank Galati about architecture and the human heart and Murakami. My two worlds are one.

Spent today packing and sleeping off a hangover.