Last night we went to the Public Theater to see Voices in Conflict, a play created and performed by the drama class of Wilton High School in Wilton, Connecticut. Voices is a dramatic compilation of the words of American soldiers in Iraq and Iraqi civilians. See earlier post here.
The students’ production was banned from the school by principal Timothy Canty because, presumably, it was biased and controversial. But that was only the beginning of a story that eventually led to a triumphant performance of the play at the Public Theater, the pre-eminent Off Broadway showcase in New York. That triumph is muted, however, by several things. Bonnie Dickinson’s job as the drama teacher at Wilton remains in danger, and–the larger issue–freedom of expression in America’s schools is increasingly under threat.
Voices in Conflict began as a drama class production, but over the months as interest in the press gathered steam, the play evolved into a much more serious and well crafted project. By the time it reached the Public–after several performances in Connecticut and New York– it transcended its high school origins and became a lightening rod for those seeking a dialogue concerning the war. A number of Iraqi veterans were in the audience last night, and participated in the discussion that took place after the play ended. They, at least those present, were supportive of the students’ efforts. Also participating were Chris Durang, the playwright/actor, and Martin Garbus, the prominent First Amendment lawyer.
Unfortunately, the discussion that took place last night in New York has not been allowed to occur in Wilton High. The great dichotomy of the present is that while polls show a clear majority of Americans oppose further involvement in Iraq, those who question the war often find their patriotism impugned. What we saw last night was a demonstration of what patriotism is all about.
Update: Bonnie Dickinson, the drama teacher at Wilton High, has been cleared of all complaint charges. (June 21, 2007)
Since the heat wave of two or three weeks ago, the weather has been mostly beautiful in New York. On one particularly fine day I took a stroll with my family along the Hudson River Park. We walked from City Hall past the WTC site, the newly completed 7 WTC, and the Barclay-Vesey Building on West Street. The latter building is considered the first art deco skyscraper and was designed by Ralph Walker of McKenzie, Voorhees & Gmelin. Completed in 1926, it is a masterpiece of great formal strength, and at the same time, exhibits delicately carved stone work. The vaulted arcades at ground level are, perhaps, what most people know of the building. Despite the immensity of the World Trade Center and Battery Park City complexes nearby, the Barclay-Vesey remained a strong presence on the skyline.
When the WTC towers fell, much damage was done to surrounding buildings including the Barclay-Vesey. It has since been restored to its former glory. Rising next door is the new 7 WTC by David Childs of SOM with its crystalline curtain wall providing an almost transparent glass backdrop to Barclay-Vesey’s brick and stone. I took the picture below with my digital camera just in front of the BPC cinemas where the Goldman Sachs headquarters is under construction. This view will be gone once that skyscraper is completed.
Further up the river in Chelsea I took a few snapshots of the IAC building designed by Frank Gehry. It is—unbelievably, at this late date–Gehry’s first structure in New York, although many more are now in the pipeline. When the first glass panels of the curtain wall went up, opinions on the blogs and bulletin boards were mixed, to say the least. Some suggested that the smokey white glass was better suited to a suburban office park.
I think the skin of this relatively restrained Gehry building is gorgeous against the pleated armature beneath, looking not unlike a majestic tall ship in full sail on the Hudson River. It will be even better once the street level scaffolding is gone and the glass touches the sidewalk.
Hudson River Park is still a work-in-progress, but significant stretches of it are finished. On a mild day like this one thousands of people were walking and bicycling the promenade, or sunbathing on the grass. On our way uptown we stopped to rest, and I took this picture of my son Brendan and my wife Renée.