Destroying The Butterfly

I wrote the following short story during my junior year of high school. It was part of an English class assignment wherein we had to do a “Writing Within” another short story we had read in the class. The short story that I was “writing within” was Louise Erdrich’s “American Horse” (1984).

Destroying The Butterfly

Then the world was silent save the whirring motor of the car. Somewhere during the scream, Harmony had pulled the car onto the shoulder of the road. Now he, Vicki, and Officer Brackett were staring at Buddy, wondering what had caused him to erupt in such an explosive manner. Buddy sat pinned between Vicki and Officer Brackett, with a look on his face as if he had just seen a ghost. Harmony shook his head, and pulled the car back onto the road.

“No more screamin’, Buddy,” Harmony said as he glanced back at the three in his rearview mirror. No reply came from Buddy; he just sat staring out at the dirt road flying by. Harmony’s eye’s were attracted to a movement behind Buddy’s head, and he mentioned it to Officer Brackett.

“It’s nothin’—just a butterfly. Must’ve gotten in when we left Lawrence’s place. We’ll take care of it when we get to the station.”

“No, kill it now. It’s irritating me. I can’t drive with it fluttering around back there.”

“There’s no need to kill the poor thing,” sighed Vicki Koob. “We’ll help it find the window out when we get there.” By this time, Buddy had turned around to look at the butterfly and was staring at it intently with a look of pity on his face.

“I can’t drive with it there! If you want to keep it alive so badly, you drive and I’ll sit next to the kid.” As Harmony pulled the car over to the side of the road, there was a loud clanging sound.

“Aww, shoot. What’d I run over?” Harmony quickly stopped the vehicle, got out, and walked around to the back of the car, as Office Brackett vacated his seat and moved to take over the driver’s seat. “Dang muffler. I wish people would take care of their cars so things like this wouldn’t be sitting around where other people can get hurt on them.” With that said, Harmony sat down in the seat recently occupied by Officer Brackett.

As Harmony put on his seatbelt, Buddy suddenly lunged at him, grasping Harmony’s neck with his childish hands. Harmony pried him off, fleetingly amazed at the strength in Buddy. Vick held Buddy down as Harmony buckled him in again.

“Do that again and we’ll tie you down to the seat.” Harmony was still a little shaken and was not in any mood to be nice to this kid who had just tried to strangle him. With barely a sound, Buddy again threw himself toward Harmony, stretching his arms as far as they would go around the man’s neck. This time, Harmoney shoved Buddy off and held Buddy’s left wrist down as Office Brackett handed him a pair of handcuffs. Harmony snapped one end of the cuffs around Buddy’s left wrist, then attached the other end to the seat belt. he then handed his handcuffs to Vicki to put on Buddy.

“Can’t we just try one pair? I feel bad enough using handcuffs on a child, but two pairs would be carrying it too far. I won’t put them on him.” Having said this, Vicki pass the handcuffs back to Harmony, who then proceeded to put the handcuffs on Buddy, in no way making easy on the boy.

Buddy now sat with his hands secured at his sides, bound by the metal which he had seen earlier that day.  He could feel it all around him as he sat there between Vicki Koob and Harmony. He could sense it in the car surrounding him and in the barbed-wire of the fields going past in the window. Yet there was a little beacon of light, a wet spot in the fire, that was keeping Buddy from becoming insane. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see the little butterfly was still on the back dash, below the window, silently waving its wings, trying to escape from this metallic prison that others called a car. As Buddy turned his head to see the butterfly better, it soundlessly floated into the air and alighted on Harmony’s nose. Harmony reached up, pulled the butterfly off his nose, put it down on the clipboard in his lap, and, with one quick slap of the hand, flattened it.

Buddy stared as tears formed in his eyes. He hated Harmony, hated him more than any thing else in the world. Buddy hated Harmony for hitting his mother, hated him for killing the butterfly. Buddy gazed in silence and mourning at the beautiful wings, now bent and broken, as they gently moved in the breeze created by Harmony’s heavy breathing. Buddy watched as Harmony put his window down, slowly turning the handle in a counterclockwise movement. He watched as Harmony picked up the dead butterfly and dropped it out the window, without even looking at it. Buddy followed the butterfly as it tumbled through the air behind the car until, in a cloud of dust, it was lost to eyesight. In that cloud of dust, in the act of throwing the butterfly out the window like a chewed up apple core, Buddy felt that something had been taken from him. Something important, something that had always been deep inside of his body, resting and never worrying about the outside world. Now, in a matter of seconds, Buddy’s life had lost meaning. He didn’t care where he was going or what was going to happen to him. He thought his mother a lucky woman as the car stopped and he was herded into the station.

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Purple Elephants

During Junior year of high school, Mr. Bassett—my English teacher—used to give us a chance to earn extra credit by submitting our own literary works. As he explained it on the cover sheet for these assignments,

Since the purpose of ‘doing extra credit’ in this class is to help you see connections between texts (literary scholars call this ‘intertextuality’), I would like you to complete this cover sheet and attach it to any work that you submit for ‘extra’ credit. [sic]

Of course, since I liked writing and was never ashamed to earn extra credit, I often submitted extra credit writings in Mr. Bassett’s class. I recently came across one of these submissions, and I still find it amusing, so thought it would be fun to share it with the world.

First, my answers to the questions on the cover sheet:

  1. Q: To what text is this work related?
    A: My own internal text.
  2. Q: Please describe the work that you are submitting:
    A: It’s a poem.
  3. Q: Please explain how this work is connected to the text to which it is related:
    A: It is a type of writing within the text. In my work, I have changed the species of the animals and also changed their color, therefor [sic] making it a different view from the original.
  4. Q: Please explain how ‘producing’ this work has enhanced your reading of the text to which this work is related:
    A: I can understand what the orange monkies [sic] were going through much more clearly now.

Have I piqued your interest yet? If so, here’s what you’ve been waiting for:

Purple Elephants
Purple elephants
Stomping down the rainforest
Sitting on people.
Ouch.
Ouch.

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Sympathetic (or Opportunistic?) Pricing

The post embedded below is fascinating (original link), although the idea that sympathetic pricing is an emerging trend seems somewhat sensationalized given that not-for-profits — especially arts organizations — have been offering discounted and free tickets to many underserved populations to alleviate pain points and help communities support shared values for as long as the nonprofit sector has existed.

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5 Counterintuitive Steps to Becoming A Resilient Organization

Kenneth J. Foster headshot

Kenneth J. Foster

Kenneth J. Foster, current Director of the USC Thornton School of Music Arts Leadership Program, former executive director of the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts for nearly ten years, former Chair of the Board of the Association of Performing Arts Presenters, and all-around arts presenting superstar, led the plenary session at this year’s combined Wisconsin Presenters Network/Minnesota Presenters Network conference in La Crosse, Wisconsin. The topic of the plenary was “Thriving in an Uncertain World: Arts Presenting and the New Realities”—an important topic of discussion given the changing ecology of the arts presenting field—so, having used Ken’s report by the same name as a primary source document in my own research report, I was more than a little excited to hear Ken talk, in person, about this topic.

Of course, there were many golden nuggets of wisdom contained in Ken’s talk, but one topic really stuck out to me, and so I’d like to share it with you here. What you’re about to read was taken directly from Ken’s presentation slides, so all credit goes to him for the ideas and most of the words. I claim no ownership of these ideas.

If you’re as interested in this topic as I am, you can a lot read a lot more about these ideas in Ken’s Thriving In An Uncertain World report.

5 Counterintuitive Steps To Becoming A Resilient Organization

  1. Deconstruct the organizational chart. Minimize infrastructure and stay flexible to stay energized.
  2. Resist the urge to streamline; build strength through diversity, redundancies, and shared responsibility to the vision.
  3. Give up the strategic plan in favor of strategic thinking.
  4. Rather than setting goals, drive to the unrealized vision and let the benchmarks emerge.
  5. Put your evaluative faith in qualitative, not quantitative, assessments.
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Fiddler on the Roof Remixes

In honor of the closing weekend of The Children’s Theater of Madison‘s production of Fiddler on the Roof, let’s devolve back to some *interesting* remixes and covers of Fiddler tunes. To be clear, I’m not saying that I necessarily like any of these: I just think they’re … interesting.

Most of the pit orchestra for The Children's Theater of Madison's production of "Fiddler on the Roof"<br>PHOTO CREDIT: Tom Klingele

Most of the pit orchestra for The Children’s Theater of Madison’s production of “Fiddler on the Roof” (2014)
PHOTO CREDIT: Tom Klingele

You’re still here?

Good!

There’s more :-)

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#MotelMonday (5/5/14)

Austin Pendleton (Motel), Zero Mostel (Tevye), and Joanna Merlin (Tzeitel)<br>Source: http://www.bluegobo.com/production/2880400/photo/181236405

Austin Pendleton, Zero Mostel and Joanna Merlin
Source: http://www.bluegobo.com/production/2880400/photo/181236405

When Fiddler on the Roof opened in Detroit in 1964, the role of Motel Kamzoil, the tailor, was played by Austin Pendleton, who had actually auditioned for the role of Perchik. When director/choreographer Jerome Robbins ended up offering him the role of Motel instead, he apparently told Pendleton that, “Since we cast you, we’re reconceiving the role of Motel. He’s this utter loser, but just absolutely tenacious—it’s you!” (Alisa Solomon, Wonder of Wonders, page 142). Kind words to start their Fiddler relationship, no? But interpersonal issues aren’t what I want to focus on in this post; rather, it’s Motel’s songs that have attracted my attention.

Going into previews and opening night in Detroit, Motel sang two songs in Fiddler: “Now I Have Everything” in the first act and “Dear, Sweet Sewing Machine” in the second act (Alisa Solomon, Wonder of Wonders, page 191). “Dear, Sweet Sewing Machine,” which was sung early in the second act, was “Motel’s paean to his ‘Dear, Sweet Sewing Machine.'” In it, “he promises, as if taking a matrimonial vow, to love and honor it, to keep it clean and oiled if, in turn, the machine will help him make a living, transforming ‘satin and silk’ into ‘butter and milk.'” According to Alisa Solomon, “the song had always been a favorite at backers’ auditions,” but “Pendleton’s singing scraped by [only] on spirit” even if “he was a terrific actor and his weedy voice fit Motel’s nebbishy character.” Further, audience reactions to the song during previews and on opening night were less than desired. During the first preview, the cast’s townspeople waited to “rush on[stage] as directed once the clapping had peaked” after Pendleton finished singing “Dear, Sweet Sewing Machine;” unfortunately, “there was barely any clapping that night. Almost none. Mostly an awkward silence until the Anatevkans realized they should go ahead and make their entrance” (Alisa Solomon, Wonder of Wonders, page 190).

To fix this problem, Robbins, Sheldon Harnick (lyrics), and Jerry Bock (music) told musical director/vocal arranger Milton Greene that the audience wasn’t “getting the lyrics,” so “the orchestra should play slower and more softly.” Even at the slower tempo, though, the audience at the second preview “greeted the song with indifference.” And, again, at the opening night performance, the audience “did not take to ‘Dear, Sweet Sewing Machine,’ despite the orchestra’s now playing new underscoring at the end instead of stopping and leaving a hole that should have been filled with applause.” With the only “easily available” review of the opening night performance coming in less than favorable“Everything is ordinary about Fiddler on the Roof except Zero Mostel” (Tew in Variety, as quoted in Alisa Solomon, Wonder of Wonders, page 191)—Pendleton asked Robbins, in a bar, “‘So, Jerry. What are you going to do?’ … Robbins answered calmly: ‘Ten things a day’ … One of the first was dropping, ‘Dear, Sweet Sewing Machine'” (Alisa Solomon, Wonder of Wonders, pages 191-192).

The review in Variety suggested cutting what it called the “forgettable” song, but Robbins didn’t cut “Dear, Sweet Sewing Machine” because of that; rather, he cut it because “‘The audience doesn’t want to hear it. They want to go on.'” As he explained to Harnick, “Tzeitel and Motel’s romance [had] already been resolved by the time that song” came along, so “the audience [was] interested in what will happen with the other daughters and their suitors. ‘You can keep the first couple alive, but you can’t give them a major number,’ Robbins said.” Pendleton, when informed of the cut, “was relieved: ‘It’s no fun being in a number that doesn’t work.’ And anyway, he still had a song in the first act, ‘Now I Have Everything'” (Alisa Solomon, Wonder of Wonders, page 193).

Austin Pendelton (Motel) and Joanna Merlin (Tzeitel)Source: http://www.bluegobo.com/production/2880400/photo/181236410

Austin Pendelton (Motel) and Joanna Merlin (Tzeitel)
Source: http://www.bluegobo.com/production/2880400/photo/181236410

As originally written, “Now I Have Everything,” which was sung in the first act, was Motel’s “exuberant response to Tevye’s accepting him as Tzeitel’s intended: ‘Did you see what I did / When he laughed in my face? / I stood there and stiffened my spine. / The nerve of a tailor to ask for a queen / Without having goods or a sewing machine. / A nothing turned into a Samson, no less, / And lo and behold! You are mine!'” (Alisa Solomon, Wonder of Wonders, page 193). While still in Detroit, though, Bert Convy, who originated the role of Perchik, “lobbied for ‘Now I Have Everything’ to be taken away from Pendleton and given to him. The song’s sentiment fit Perchik better, he argued, and he didn’t have to point out who was the superior singer” (Alisa Solomon, Wonder of Wonders, page 205).

Convy’s efforts, combined with “two inspirations: a note Robbins gave [Harnick] and Bock in a meeting telling them that in response to winning Tzeitel, Motel needed, musically, an outburst of exuberant happiness, and a line Stein had written for Motel in that moment: ‘It’s a miracle!'” From these inspirations came a song “made to order for Pendleton: the melody and chordal harmonies were simpler than those of ‘Now I Have Everything” and the range was tighter.” Pendleton’s Motel had been given the wonderfully joyous song “Miracle of Miracles.”

Perhaps it’s fitting that Pendleton—whom Robbins once thought “had fallen into a rut as Motel and … was simply not working hard enough,” whom Robbins once told, “‘Last night, during the wedding scene I had to leave the theater … I couldn’t bear the thought of that wonderful young woman being married to you'” (Alisa Solomon, Wonder of Wonders, page 204)—ended up with one of the best songs in Fiddler while Convy, who schemed behind his back to steal his song, ended up with one of the two songs most often cut from productions of Fiddler. It’s a miracle!

Motel (Alex Brick) Shows Off His New Sewing Machine to Tzeitel (Rachel Holmes) and other villagers in the 2014 production of "Fiddler on the Roof" done by Children's Theater of Madison (2014)<br>Photo Credit: Tom Klingele

Motel (Alex Brick) Shows Off His New Sewing Machine to Tzeitel (Rachel Holmes) and other villagers in the 2014 production of “Fiddler on the Roof” done by Children’s Theater of Madison (2014). PHOTO CREDIT: Tom Klingele

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#FiddlerFriday (5/2/14)

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