I blame the Freddies

My teenager will be the first to tell you that I think too much about things no one else will challenge.

And I’m about to go on a rant. This rant might make me unpopular in some circles.

And I blame it all on the Freddies.

Now, if you are not from the Lehigh Valley, you probably don’t know what the Freddies are. Basically, a local non-profit theater and the regional television station created a competition for high school musicals. (For more info, visit State Theatre for the Arts.)

In my opinion, this created a “need” for schools to do productions outside their range in order to look good in the local media. Our public schools should not have to prove the value of their arts programs via a popularity contest aired on TV.

Today the teenager and I went to see “Once Upon a Mattress” (the princess and the pea musical) at a fairly small local high school. The first thing that shocked me was paid adult musicians in the pit. It’s a high school play. Why aren’t there high school musicians? Isn’t it cheating to use paid musicians?

The kids did an amazing job, but the show seemed like some of the kids were out of their range or needed another week of rehearsal time. Which, in their defense again, it is very hard to pace a high school show to peak at the right time.

But I can’t find any fault with the performers. They gave their hearts and souls and full effort.

I just wish schools would stop pushing big production musicals if the student body isn’t equipped to do it. And so I blame the Freddies.

Now, for my second rant. This one is attacking the show from a feminist perspective.

The director says in her letter printed in the program that she was excited to do such a classic theatre piece with a strong female lead. She also praises the script for its themes, that people will find acceptance and love despite their quirks.

Poppycock.

This play is based on the premise that a woman has to pass tests and prove herself to be loved and accepted. That even other women will test a woman’s intentions and doubt her worth. Meanwhile, the father (the mute King Sextimus) chases every female character he encounters and the audience laughs.

And the Queen is hardest of all when it comes to accepting a mate for her son. She dreams up the impossible tests and only allows the marriage when she is suddenly struck mute.

She also gives a long monologue about how it’s fine that she be miserable in marriage and that’s her duty as a true princess.

Not to mention, we’re laughing at a play extolling arranged marriage. Now in the end, the castle staff fixes the test so the woman the prince loves will pass. Prince Dauntless then marries for love.

But he doesn’t marry for love.

He marries because she’s a princess. In the end, love didn’t unite them. Her princess status did. Which maybe you can argue because the Queen tries to stop it and Dauntless yells at his mother and insists he’s going to do it anyway. In my view, he waited too long to make that point valid.

Tartuffe at DeSales

Last night, I attended the audio-described performance of Tartuffe at DeSales University last night. The teenager and my blind friend, Nancy, accompanied me.

Act I Productions always does a fantastic job and at this point, I know the staff almost as well as Nancy. (I wrote more about this yesterday, Tartuffe tonight.)

I was technically an English Literature and Language major in college for my first bachelors degree, but probably three-quarters of my degree was actually theatre classes as “Doc” Jack Ramsey was my favorite professor and I was active in the theatre company. I was also technically a French minor, but I was only one class shy of a double major. About a decade after I graduated, I did take an additional French class at my alma mater (Moravian College) and several more at Lafayette College when I earned my second bachelors in International Affairs.

That’s a long-winded way to say I’m a huge nerd who has studied Moliere.

DeSales University has a great theatre department offering majors in various forms of performing arts, so their shows are always top notch.

They offer one performance of every major production as an audio described show for the visually impaired. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, this is a great way to include everyone in theatre.

I also provided my companions with a mini-lesson in farce versus comedy, where farce is quicker paced, has more characters entering and exit, and includes more physical humor than mere comedy.

Additionally we discussed Moliere and 17th Century Drama in general. This particular play is almost 400-years-old. It tackles heavy themes, philosophizing about religion and God (or perhaps religion versus pure spiritual intentions), gullibility, and how to change someone’s mind when they can’t see the truth.

Moliere is only slightly more modern than Shakespeare and, and this is totally my opinion, I find the French drama more accessible, funnier and more sexually-charged than Shakespeare’s canon.

The basic premise, and one that angered the Roman Catholic Church, is that a wealthy man invites a beggar into his home. The beggar, Tartuffe, has demonstrated piety that has impressed the master of the house. Tartuffe then tries to win over the master’s goods and family, and almost succeeds. The family would have been left in ruins, if not for a convenient intervention of the king, which of course, was Moliere’s way of keeping in the good graces of the crown.

The production at DeSales included a brilliant set, the paint hues of the set walls shifted colors based at the lighting. They created the illusion of a huge estate house on a small stage with an amazing display of perspective. They designed a set with six doors, about twelve stairs and three levels in a comparatively small space.

I only noticed maybe two line mix-ups. Acting was solid. I’m starting to recognize some of the actors. I think the daughter and the stepmother might have been my favorite.

I thoroughly liked the translation. It maintained much of the original rhyme without sounding forced in English. And some of the word choice was very rich. I very much enjoyed the vocabulary.

The costumes deliberately code the characters. The daughter and her suitor, as young and naive lovers, wear pink and pale blue. The stepmother wears an elaborate gown of pale blue and a light turquoise. The father wears various shades of blue and purple, but the hot-headed son wears vivid orange.

The religious themes, and the theme of being suckered in and acting stupid, still hold true today. I feel like the American political climate also seems like a “Tartuffe” story.

To purchase tickets: DeSales Calendar: Tartuffe. Show runs next weekend as well.

Happy Friday!

I think I might have said two or three hundred times that this week was hard.

But there was some goodness between all the hard.

  • Our CEO got my department a mentor. Someone we all love and trust, though I am the only person in the group who doesn’t have a pre-existing relationship with this man.
  • My coworkers are all so super nice. My former office mate makes the Folgers in the kitchen palatable and I normally hate Folgers. He makes the coffee so strong it tastes like chocolate.
  • My new development partner and I are getting along great and I love her energy.
  • My other colleague invited me out for a drink after work. She was meeting some friends and wanted someone to keep her company so I had a lovely oatmeal stout at Pearly Baker’s.

At home, I watched the episode of Kitchen Nightmares that was filmed in Forks Township, “Bella Luna,” and saw some nice shots of Easton:

And tomorrow our favorite little dog, Sobaka, is coming to visit so for the next week we will have…

  1. One Yorky Maltese
  2. One kitten
  3. One cockatoo
  4. Two nine-year-old cats (with seven legs)
  5. Three parakeets

And for your viewing pleasure, here are Nala and Opie: Nala and Opie check each other out

My last push toward Christmas

Today I made my final attempts to flood my heart with holiday spirit.

My daughter visited my office on my lunch break and played some impromptu carols with my office mate, George, and I really think they should rehearse and take the show on the road, at least to local nursing homes.

Euphonium meets Accordion… Silent Night

Then the teen even had a little accordion lesson thanks to George’s good naturedness.

Accordion lesson

Later we picked up the teen’s boyfriend and went to the Winter Lights Spectacular at Lehigh Valley Zoo. We gambled for candy (and lost).

We played a giant game of chess.

And we exchanged some small presents. (All of which have been eaten.)

Presents under the lights

Then we stopped at Sonic, another source of nostalgia for the teen and came home.

She never was very good at standing still.

Traveling via the Food on my Plate

One of my newspaper bosses, my favorite newsroom personality ever, liked to bet on horses at the racetrack or play some cards in Vegas. He said he gave himself a budget, and since he didn’t smoke or go to the movies or play video games or have an expensive car, that this was his hobby.

I have a similar past-time that overwhelms me with guilt sometimes. I love to go out to eat. It’s my stress relief. I also love to cook, so you think I’d spend more on groceries and less on restaurants.

I’ve tried. I’ve cut the landline, canceled the Internet, lowered the thermostat, only bought meat on clearance and cat food when on sale. I can run a lean household. But I can’t resist the allure of a family meal in a fun restaurant.

Twice this week I was reminded why. A great meal is a lot like a mini-vacation. Without jet lag or clogged ears or piles of dirty laundry or traveler’s diarrhea.

And sometimes, you’re a mile away from home.

Like this penne with vodka sauce:

 

We all have that neighborhood restaurant we’ve been meaning to try. For me, it was George’s Pizzeria. I never really noticed it until my daughter moved from the elementary school to the intermediate school.  We finally checked it out and were impressed by the prices, the quality of the food, and the efficient but understated soft sell of the staff as they met our needs.

Once we left, I couldn’t stop thinking about trying their penne with vodka sauce. So, I returned this week after a long pre-Easter day in retail. 

You notice things the second time to visit a restaurant. I anticipated this and looked forward to discovering some nuances to this small, plain pizzeria. It was unexpectedly busy for the before-dinner hour. My daughter and I ordered drinks. We watched the hustle and bustle and customers came, some stayed and some picked up their food and left.

After a few minutes, a staff member ran to us. “Did anyone take your food order?”

No. He apologized so genuinely and honestly I didn’t mind because the atmosphere was like hanging out in someone’s kitchen. My daughter adores calimari. I ordered her an appetizer. I ordered my pasta, which is a $10 dish, asking if they could add chicken and broccoli.

It was the best meal I’ve had in a long time. The broccoli was fresh, not frozen. The chicken was real, not processed. (And they put so much in there I kept joking that I couldn’t find the noodles.) The sauce was smooth and no one ingredient overpowered. The texture was creamy but amazingly light.

My daughter devoured the calimari, despite the fact that it was the “hoops” kind and not the baby squid shape that she prefers. I enjoy calimari, but I still can’t bring myself to eat anything breaded in its original full-size form and shape.

My husband joined us late, so my daughter and I had dessert. I asked for coffee and they brought it in a New Orleans mug from the French coffee market. The Francophile in me was tickled.

 

When I went to pay the bill, they asked if I wanted more coffee. I declined as I do need to sleep eventually. They offered to prepare some “to go” since they had brewed me a fresh pot!

We were there two hours. I chatted with my family and enjoyed three courses. It was the most at ease I’d felt in a long time. It was the same feeling I get when my traveling companion and I find a special restaurant overseas. Like vacation.

I had a similar experience today. I finally visited Full of Crêpe in South Bethlehem. I had some delightful concoction of Brie, ham, and raspberry jam. Soooo good. 

 

It was like being in Paris. Except the staff was helpful. And crêpe was served in a restaurant not on the street. We shared a dessert crêpe.

 

The crêpes came in a fancy cardboard sleeve with perforations so you could eat in without having it flop all over. Each time you ate more, you tore down the sleeve. I couldn’t get the hang of it. I took the sleeve off and ate out of the tissue paper. Like Paris. Except I didn’t drip cheese all over myself. 

Daily: Ashley Development pulls from projects (2007)

I have special stories attached to all of my articles, but I think this one makes me proud because it could be considered a “scoop.” If I remember correctly, I heard something at a West Easton council meeting referencing a bigger project in the county seat, Easton. The news for West Easton was that this developer, Ashley Development, a known name in the Lehigh Valley, would not be moving forward as scheduled with a West Easton project because of the economy.

For some reason, perhaps because of my charm and politeness, but more likely it was because of the news entity I represented, the head of Ashley Development (Lou Pektor) returned my phone call. I confirmed information about the West Easton project but I also got information about the project in Easton and another big redevelopment, “the Dixie cup,” in Wilson borough.

Ashley Development

Ashley Development

This article is also available online via the Morning Call: http://articles.mcall.com/2007-09-29/news/3780119_1_project-majestic-tax-revenue.

Editorial: Bad Behavior of Bethlehem School Board (2007)

When we launched the Lehigh Valley News Group, the Lehigh Valley branch of Berks-Mont newspapers (a Journal Register entity), I served as managing editor for the five new newspapers and the one previous-existing, The Saucon News. In addition to managing editor duties, I served as editor of the largest of the new papers, The Bethlehem News. We headed into a territory that had been abandoned by my previous employer (Chronicle Newspapers, a division of The Morning Call, a Tribune Company newspaper). In addition to those Chronicle weeklies that had just closed, most of our proposed territories were also served by The Press weeklies, an entity that still continues today.

I attended the school board meetings of the Bethlehem Area School District. After more than five years of covering the Phillipsburg School District, the differences between the two boards fascinated me. Bethlehem was a larger school district, had more schools and more students. But let’s just say the people who sat on the two boards were also different. I’m sure everyone had their good intentions, but the interactions on the Bethlehem board were often tense.

I wrote this editorial after one board meeting where the disagreements between board members, and their unwillingness to move forward after a vote, scared not only me but also drained the color from the superintendent.

BASD board behavior

BASD board behavior

Links

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Professional samples available on the web

(In progress. I will add to this post until complete)

My LinkedIn Profile:

http://www.linkedin.com/pub/angel-ackerman/20/3a5/b14

NEWSPAPERS- DAILY

Article from The Morning Call, archived through the Library of Congress and visible on the Open World Leadership Center web site (2003)

Visiting Russians Learn about American Libraries

http://www.openworld.gov/article/print.php?id=27&lang=1

More about libraries:
Meuser Library in Wilson sets out to prove it’s friendly (2007)
http://articles.mcall.com/2007-12-28/news/3941239_1_family-place-library-library-director-small-community-library

Phillipsburg to get first look at library addition this month (2003)

http://articles.mcall.com/2003-03-13/news/3450303_1_county-library-entire-library-80th-anniversary

Morning Call sports feature:

Slate Belt basking in glory of two football teams (2001)

http://articles.mcall.com/2001-11-30/news/3380106_1_championship-football-games-class-2a-game-two-teams

Morning Call municipal news articles about Phillipsburg, N.J.:

Phillipsburg group fails to get answers about reassessment (2003)

http://articles.mcall.com/2003-02-12/news/3455078_1_property-reassessment-town-council-assessor

In Phillipsburg, a neighborhood awaits tax ruling (2003)

http://articles.mcall.com/2003-03-05/news/3451707_1_reassessment-property-tax-tax-increase

Phillipsburg PAL serves up invitation to fundraiser (2003)

http://articles.mcall.com/2003-03-23/news/3448553_1_pal-president-green-acres-dinner

Some Morning Call municipal news articles about West Easton, Pa.:

$40,000 fine considered for missed trash pick-up (2002)

http://articles.mcall.com/2002-08-14/news/3420311_1_waste-management-trash-collection-local-hauler

West Easton, trash hauler argue over fine (2002)

http://articles.mcall.com/2002-10-08/news/3444187_1_waste-management-trash-hauler-fine

West Easton to pay trash hauler again (2003)

http://articles.mcall.com/2003-02-04/news/3456379_1_waste-management-payment-fine

West Easton delays choice on $52 tax (2007)

http://articles.mcall.com/2007-08-20/news/3757592_1_emergency-services-municipal-tax-flood-damage-year-s-tax-returns

West Easton, housing developer try to settle dispute (2007)

http://articles.mcall.com/2003-03-09/news/3450944_1_valley-housing-special-meeting-storm-water

Ashley pulls back from two projects (2007)

http://articles.mcall.com/2007-09-29/news/3780119_1_project-majestic-tax-revenue

Some Morning Call municipal news articles about Glendon, Pa.:

Glendon neighborhood sings the stray cat blues, The Morning Call (2007)

http://articles.mcall.com/2007-11-21/news/3808775_1_feral-cat-colony-neuter-and-return-cat-problem

Glendon residents worry about possible work-release program (2007)

http://articles.mcall.com/2007-10-04/news/3782619_1_work-release-counseling-program-residents

Williams eyes taking over nearly a mile of road in Glendon, The Morning Call (2008)

http://articles.mcall.com/2008-02-08/news/3983055_1_road-repairs-road-issues-mile-road

NEWSPAPERS- WEEKLY

Business article from The Bethlehem News

Crystal Signatures shares the art of glass and pride in Bethlehem (2006)

http://www.crystalsignatures.com/csi/crystal.nsf/news/Crystal-Signatures-shares-the-art-of-glass-and-pride-in-Bethlehem

BOOK REVIEWS

Hippocampus magazine:

My Battle of Algiers: A memoir by Ted Morgan (2012)

http://www.hippocampusmagazine.com/2012/04/review-my-battle-of-algiers-a-memoir-by-ted-morgan/

Becoming Jimi Hendrix by Steven Roby and Brad Schrieber (2012)

http://www.hippocampusmagazine.com/2012/07/review-becoming-jimi-hendrix-by-steven-roby-and-brad-schrieber/

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson (2012)

http://www.hippocampusmagazine.com/2012/06/review-steve-jobs-by-walter-issacson/

House of Stone by Anthony Shadid (2013)

http://www.hippocampusmagazine.com/2013/02/review-house-of-stone-by-anthony-shadid/

PUBLIC RELATIONS PLACEMENTS

“YWCA seeks volunteers to help” in the daily newspaper, the Express-Times, contributed photo by me (2008)

http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/bethlehem/index.ssf/2008/09/ywca_seeks_volunteers_to_help.html

“Sciota shopkeeper honors those who serve,” front page of the daily newspaper, the Pocono Record (2013)

http://www.poconorecord.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20130614/NEWS/306140346

PHOTOGRAPHY

Some snapshots I took during my time at The Lehigh Valley News Group:

Bethlehem Area School District teachers head down the River (2006)

http://lehighvalleynewsgroup.mycapture.com/mycapture/folder.asp?event=163911&CategoryID=16062&ListSubAlbums=0

Freemansburg 150th/Carnival (2006)

http://lehighvalleynewsgroup.mycapture.com/mycapture/folder.asp?event=161595&CategoryID=16062&ListSubAlbums=0

Blueberry Festival at Burnside Plantation (2006)

http://lehighvalleynewsgroup.mycapture.com/mycapture/folder.asp?event=153308&CategoryID=16062&ListSubAlbums=0

Durkee employee reunion (2006)

http://lehighvalleynewsgroup.mycapture.com/mycapture/folder.asp?event=179836&CategoryID=16062&ListSubAlbums=0