Something to make you laugh..

It’s amazing the good mood a funny little pup can put you in

even when you’ve had a horrible day…


I want a puppy!!

This may be the best thing since the bulldog who couldn’t roll over!!! I want it!


Falling Through The Cracks

Jeffrey Henthorn, a twenty-five year old Army Specialist, devoted father and third generation soldier, was a victim amongst the fifty-nine “non-combat related injuries” which plagued the military between 2003-2005, as documented by Courant investigators in May 2006 in an article entitled “Mentally Unfit, Forced to Fight.”

Henthorn, serving on his second tour of Iraq, had previously threatened suicide twice before, as Army investigations have found, and it was also discovered that his superiors knew that he was mental unstable, yet he was still sent back to the front lines to fight, a fatal decision which undoubtedly led to Henthorn’s untimely death.

Henthorn’s suicide, along with those of his fifty-nine colleagues labeled as “non-combat related injuries,” are not only grouped into an unspecific category, but are not discussed or even recognized individually as suicides by the military. According to Courant investigators Lisa Chedekel and Matthew Kauffman, these suicides are fueled both by the U.S militaries ignorance of the 1997 Congressional Order, which allows soldiers to be accessed by a mental health professional pre-and post deployment, and the continuing practice of sending “troops with serious psychological problems into Iraq and then keeping soldiers in combat even after superiors have been alerted to suicide warnings and other signs of mental illness.”

Colonel Elspeth Ritchie, the top psychiatry expert for the Army’s surgeon general, acknowledged in a story entitled “Mind Games, Part 1: The Things They Carry,” by Raw Story columnist Nancy Goldstein, “that some practices, such as sending service members diagnosed with PTSD back into combat, had been driven in part by troop shortage.”

PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), a condition resulting from exposure to an experience involving direct or indirect threat of serious injury or death, such as in military combat, is directly linked to longer and repeated tours which are a result of recruiting shortfalls and pressures for the military to maintain troop levels.  Documented in a report called “VA’s Mental Health Caseload Surges,” by Associated Press reporter Lolita C. Baker,  PTSD is estimated to effect nearly 64,000 of the 184,000 veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars which have sought healthcare from the VA (Veterans Administration).

PTSD, along with depression and other mental diseases, such as bipolar disorder, which causes a person to experience extreme highs and lows, and schizophrenia, in which a person hallucinates either sounds or events which did not take place, while recognized, are merely subject, in some cases, to prescribed anti-depressants and anti-anxiety pills solicited by military health officials.  Such medicines, called SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), which are antidepressants used to aid in the treatment of depression, anxiety disorders, and personality disorders, are suggested to do more harm than good.

As with most SSRIs, it is made abundantly clear that the patient should be monitored due to the fact that increased risk of suicide is a factor.  A factor that served true in a case of a 26-year old Marine, whom on admitting that he was not sleeping well, was prescribed with a high does of Zoloft and within two months of being on the drug committed suicide, as Chedekel and Kauffman found.  As documented by the investigators, many service members who had been prescribed medicines such as Zoloft, Wellbutrin, Prozac, Ambien, and other antidepressants, have made it clear that they have received “little or no mental health counseling or monitoring.”

Staff Sergeant Chad Golden of the Army adds that while he does not know what they can and can’t prescribe, any medicine that is needed by the military health specialist for the soldiers while he/she is deployed is readily handy and easy accessed.

Vera Sharav, president of the Alliance for Human Research Protection, a patient advocacy group, along with other medical experts and ethicists, comments in Courant’s “Mentally..Fight,” that she “can’t imagine something more irresponsible than putting a soldier suffering from stress on SSRIs, when (it is known that) the drugs can cause people to become suicidal.”

Lisa Chedekel and Matthew Kauffman report that the U.S military is not only  condoning the reckless use of prescription drugs and habitually recycling mentally unstable troops who are indeed “unfit to fight,” but that they are going against the 1997 Congressional order that mandates that a soldier not only be screened face-to-face by a mental health professional before he/she marches valiantly off to War, but that he/she be screened on returning also.  It is under these screenings that soldiers with psychological disorders are not being identified and those that are being identified are being sent off to war anyway; a consequence which may have been a factor in the fifty-nine suicides and which may lead to more in the future.

Paul Sullivan, Director of Programs at Veterans for America, a humanitarian organization which was founded originally as Vietnam Veterans of America and fights to help veterans receive both the medical and psychological treatment that they have earned, is very familiar with the 1997 Congressional Order.  Both he and his colleague Steve Robinson, being Gulf War veterans, knew from first hand experiences that without a law making it mandatory to access the mental health of troops both before and after deployment, it was nearly impossible to receive healthcare from the Veterans Administration (VA), military health insurance.  Not being able to prove that their injury, whether it mental or physical, was not a pre-existing condition created a major obstacle for veterans.  So, both Sullivan and Robinson fought to prevent troops from “falling through the cracks” and not being identified with psychological problems by convincing Congress to pass a law mandating that troops be screened pre-and post deployment.

But, in reality, according to both Sullivan and the Courant investigators Chedekel and Kauffman, from the more than 1.3 million troops that have been deployed, less than 1 in 300 are receiving both the pre-and post deployment assessments.  Sullivan adds that “..until 2004 virtually no one was screened before they went off to war (and when they he returned).”

His fears were confirmed when Sergeant Brian Williams of the Marines, who will be sent back for his second tour within the next year, was asked if he had ever received the mandatory pre-and post-deployment screening and he simply replied, “No.”  Golden also replied that he had only been subjugated to post-deployment assessment, though it was lead to believe that it wasn’t a face to face screening that he received, but instead an “opportunity” presented by the Army to be able to talk to anyone if they needed it.  Golden also commented that many of these consultations, if given, were not between a patient and a doctor, but instead conducted in a group, in which a doctor talks to several troops at the same time.

According to Sullivan, Henthorn and the fifty-nine could have been saved if the order put in place by Congress was being upheld.  Using Henthorn as an example, it is easy to see how his life may have been spared by simply taking the time and accessing his mental health, a procedure which seems small in regards to a person’s life.

Sullivan states:

“Screen the soldier before they go.  What does that mean?  Say you screen someone before they go and they have a bad back, do you send them?  No, of course not, because, being a Gulf War Vet, I wouldn’t want to fight next to somebody whose has a bad back and couldn’t carry me out of a combat zone if I got wounded.  Would you send somebody to a war zone that was already having serious psychiatric problems?  No.”

Had Henthorn been screened before his second tour, it would have been discovered that he was mentally unfit, a situation which he made clear, before deployment, in November 2004 to his superiors when he slashed his arms in a manner “intentionally, in a horizontal manner,” as reported by Chedekel and Kauffman.

“Keep track of them while they are in war.  While the soldier is in the war, say they are in a road side bomb blast, and maybe they weren’t hurt, but shouldn’t somebody put that in their record so when they’re dizzy two, three months later, [the doctors can say], “Well maybe what we should do is give you a brain scan, because maybe you really did have some minor brain damage from the past.”

Chedekel and Kaufman report that shortly after his deployment in December 2004, Henthorn “took his gun into a latrine in Kuwait, charged it,” and sat for ten minutes.  Fellow troops feared this to be a suicide attempt and even though his gun was taken away from him and he was given a harsh 30-minute talk to by his platoon sergeant, he evidently, on having his gun returned to him in the same day, found a way out of his hell eighteen days later.  Had this situation been documented at all, it would have been evident that the soldier needed to be sent back to the U.S to receive care, a practice which Golden says happens when a soldier “can’t handle it,” and had he survived his deployment, and not been sent home, he, theoretically, should have been able to receive the mental healthcare he needed on returning.

“Then, when the soldiers come back from the war, they should be screened again. There are guys who have gone over to war one time, come back to the states and diagnosed with serious mental problems, but because we were short troops, that soldier was sent back to Iraq for a second tour, given an M16 and within a few hours, blew their brains out.  That was clearly preventable.”

This held true for young Henthorn when on February 8, 2005 at Camp Anaconda in Balad, Iraq, finding no way out, he took his own life by pointing the barrel of his M16 riffle into his mouth and pulling the trigger.  A blast so severe, as an Army report details, that fragments of the soldiers skull pierced the ceiling of the barracks.

A “crime,” as Sullivan says, which could have been prevented if the military ensured that every troop was receiving pre-and post deployment screening.

It is the military’s practices of recycling mentally unstable troops, providing unreliable medicines, and ignoring the 1997 Congressional Order, which protects and prevents our soldiers, who may be mentally and physically handicapped, from slipping through unnoticed, that provided the driving force for the fifty-nine suicides between 2003-2005.  Under these same circumstance, it can be suggested, that if the military does not start providing adequate screenings, then even more soldiers will become statistics. As Paul Sullivan says, “We believe that soldiers are the nation’s most important national defense assets.  Therefore, the greatest emphasis should be placed on making sure that we send the best soldiers into combat, and that means screening; they have earned that right.  To do less is a disservice to those who are protecting our country.”


My night in a ‘Glass House’..

POST ORIGINALLY FEATURED ON BESTOFOFFBROADWAY.COM
Harris Yulin as Mies van der Rohe and Janet Zarish as Edith Farnsworth

What a treat to witness acting at it’s finest in June Finfer’s Glass House with leading lady Janet Zarish(Public Theatre, Primary Stages appearances), who plays the self-sufficient Edith Farnsworth and it’s leading man Harris Yulin, a prominent Broadway actor (Hedda Gabler, Julius Caesar) and film star as Mies van der Rohe, a German architect. Directed masterfully by Evan Bergman and appearing in conjunction with Henrik Ibsen’s The Master Builder, Resonance Ensemble’s, The Glass House, tells the true story of a German architect, Mies van der Rohe(1886-1969), and the opportunity he was given to create a live-able work of art for Chicago Doctor Edith Farnswarth who was in search of a weekend getaway.  Well, true in the fact that it is based on actual people, not neccesarily events.  That is writer June Finfer took Mies and her other characters and created an emotionally driven play chopped full of affairs, betrayals, and passionate 4th wall monologues with Mies talking to the audience about his desire to create this skin and bones glass house not only for Farnsworth, but for his own desire to create something new, something with purpose.  Taking place over a ten year period(1945-1955), we see the developement of not only the house, but of the relationship between Mies and Farnsworth, which comes to a crashing halt in the last 20 minutes of the oddly blocked show.   A play that not only forces you to question what is art and its role in the modern world, but to what extent art can frame the way in which an individual leads his/her own life.

The highlight of the evening, for me, as an actor, was witnessing impecable and flawless acting by Zarish and Yulin.  Yulin’s performance was perfection.  Emotionally she connected bravely with her high strung, indecisive Doctor and had I not known that I was watching a play I would of thought that she was merely a stranger who had wandered off the streets of midtown, found her way on to a stage and begun a conversation with Yulin.  Her naturalistic style is refreshing and inspiring and it never falters at any point in time throughout the play, but instead grows with every scene creating a living, breathing human being that you expect, after the show ends, to go back to her lab or wherever she came from and carry on with her life.  And I’m sure having Yulin as a support would make it even easier for someone who is already as talented as Zarish to be able to create an even more enriched performance.  Yulin, I think, has heard enough praise to know that he is one of immeasurable talent.  I’m sure that many critics have commented on the beauty and simplicity of his acting.  I would, of course, agree with their criticism as it is undeniable that Yulin’s talent exist beyond the capacity of words.  I can merely say that it was a joy to watch him perform and a honor to sit in a theatre with someone of such seasoned skill.  Not to mention that his German accent was dead on and he played perhaps the best grumpy old man I have ever seen.  Not that your old, Yulin.  In regards to both Yulin and Zarish it was if the audience didn’t exist and they were both carrying on with their lives, playing off each other smoothly, creating tension, love, hate, co-existing and growing within the ten years, and portraying how in real life, it all ends.  Quite simply, a magnificent work of Art.

In all my awe and although, in general, I highly enjoyed Glass House there were a couple of things that bothered me.  Number 1, the sets. Now, it didn’t bother me so much that between the succession of each year the lights dimmed, jazz music played, and the set was changed, what bothered me was that the set moves seemed, for lack of a better word, pointless.  With no more than maybe two chairs and a desk on stage, it seemed distracting to me that stage hands, dressed smartly in the decades attire, would come on to move a desk in a different position, change the utensils on a table, or to take away every other scene the same table and chairs.  Had it been done quicker it might not have been much a nuisance, but I found myself concentrating on how long it would take for the sets to be changed rather than what was going to happen next.  With such a strong play that has so much to say about art and life and with such strong point of view, why would you distract by creating unnecessary obstacles such as moving the same desk 10 times?  Less, as Mies would have seen it, would have been more in this instance.

Number 2: The two minor actors.  Gina Nagy Burns(Skylight, The Heiress), who plays Mies’ ex-love Lora Marx, delivers a tolerable performance, but lacks the fire that it acquired of her character.  As Meis’ artist lover, a sculptor, who takes it upon herself in the earlier scenes to break her relationship with Mies due to his drinking and dependency, I find that the character may have required someone with a more powerful presence.  Someone who could stand up to Mies when he forcefully asked her why she was leaving.  Someone that could center herself, stand her ground, and deliver the well thought out text with powerful purpose and zeal.  Here it seems that when Meis and  Marx are conversing, Mies seems to be having one-sided conversations, and at points he leans in hard to distract from the actresses not delivering her lines with intention.  This may be because I am over critical  or it could be because this actress may not have fully understood who her character was and was not given good direction.

The second minor character, Philip Johnson, played by David Bishins(We Declare You a Terrorist, Incident at Vichy), who is Mies’ protege and a curator at the MOMA, actually delivered a commanding performance, but I find, and this may be silly, that the voice he chose to use for his character was distracting.  It is a shame because you can tell, from the audience, that Bishins is actually a very talented actor, but he made a bad choice and that in some parts he falls out because he is thinking more about his smoker voice rather than his beats.  From the minute he opened his mouth at the beginning of the play, I knew that it would be a problem.  While I realize that the span of the plan takes place in the 50’s and 60’s and that the cliché is the raspy, sexy voice of a male cigar smoker, when you begin to lose the actor’s words, therefor the text, therefore the play, it becomes a problem.  And  besides this forced, if I think about it makes my throat hurt, raspy voice, his performance was actually delightful, light, airy, and an almost comic relief from the sometimes heavy tension that lived between the three other characters.  Charming and snub at times, Bishins played a convincing role of student and what it is not only to please your teacher, but to find out that at some point you have to live your own life.  What an interesting lesson for Art to teach.

For more information about June Finfer’s Glass House and performance’s, check at Resonance Ensemble’s site!

Clurman Theatre’s “Master Builder..”

POST ORIGINALLY FEATURED ON BESTOFOFFBROADWAY.COM
Photo features Sarah Stockton as Miss Hilda Wangel and Chris Ceraso as Halvard Solness, The Master Builder

In the mood for a sick and twisted drama?  No reason to pay a visit to your local Blockbuster, just drop by the Clurman Theatre on West 42nd’s Theatre Row and check out Henrik Ibsen’s The Master Builder, starring Chris Ceraso and Sarah Stockton.  As one-half of Resonance Ensemble’s 2010 season entitled “Building Characters,” The Master Builder, directed beautifully by Eric Parness, Artistic Director of Resonance Ensemble, a group whose core mission is producing both classical and modern plays with resonate universal themes, tells the tragic story of an aged architect, Halvard Solness, whose is forced against his will to face not only his past, but his future and his imminent demise.

***

D1. I take my seat.  It’s a quaint, darkly lit theatre.  Classical music, bringing you back to a time where a Phantom was considered the pinnacle of modern transportation, plays lightly in the background.  The crinkling of my neighbors Playbill, the chatter of excitement before the lights go up, the buzz of a hopeful night hang in the air.  No curtains block the view of the staged set.  It’s simple.  A few chairs, including a lounge, and two desks.  It tells me already that this play is about the text, about what the author has to say and also that the director, Eric Parness, has honored the late Ibsen by not muddling up the stage with useless props.  The lights dim as the first actors appear on stage.  My favorite part.  Even before the first character, Knut Brovik, an elderly former architect employed by Mr. Solness, who is artfully played by Peter Judd (The Cherry Orchid, T. Schreiber Studio), speaks I tip my imaginary hat to Costume Designer Sidney Shannon as her dressings for Ibsen’s characters are remarkably on point with late 19th Century garb.  All the characters, young and old, are dressed to the nines in costumes that suit their character’s personality and age.  Mrs. Solness, played by the talented Susan Ferrara(Darger, The Cherry Orchard), in her high collared, dark colored, Victorian dress reflects accurately a traditional elder woman in dire straits.  While Miss Hilda Wangel, youth incarnate, played perfectly by Sarah Stockton(Time of Your Life, Caesar and Cleopatra), prances on stage in an alluring below the knee skirt which accurately depicts not only her sense of independence, but a time in which fashion began to change.  And not to make a big deal about the costumes, but I find to be able to properly produce a play, whether classical or modern, it is not just important to have a talented cast, but to have appropriate costumes and sets.  How else would you make a play come full circle?  If Ibsen’s characters were frolicking around in ripped jeans and baby doll shirts, I assure you that the play would not have as great an impact on you.

Now, to speak to the talent, is the easy part.  From the moment the lights dimmed and Peter Judd began, his voice rumbling wearily out into the audience, depicting a sick man, who at the end of his life yearns only for the success of his son, I knew talent would not be in short supply.  Even though Judd and the other actors who appear first on stage do not play huge speaking roles throughout the course of the  play, they make their presence clearly known and their relationships which they have with the main characters play an important part in the fate of Mr. Halvard Solness.  If you think about it, a play also cannot be successful if those who play the minor roles, the parts which create the strong base for the play’s succession, were not invested in even the shortest of dialogue, the shortest of appearance on stage.  Judd, along with Pun Bandhu (Yellow Face, Caesar and Cleopatra), who plays the role of Ragnar Brovik, a draftsman and Judd’s characters son, and Jennifer Gawlik (Ghosts, Toys in the Attic), who is the book-keeper for Solness, Kaia, all convincingly portray their character’s wants and needs and through this effectively bind themselves to Solness.  It is through Ragnar and Kaia, an engaged couple, that we see the bitterness and the true form of the Master Builder, Halvard Soleness.  His cunning trickery witnessed through his inability to let Ragnar led his own life, that is become a full architect, for a desire to keep the boy’s ideas to himself, to oppress the youth that will eventually take his place.  And also, through the demented love scene, that is as much as a love scene can be in the prudish world of the late 1800’s, between him and Kaia.  And though, in retrospect Gawlik played a strong Kaia, willful, somewhat independent, and all of the naive girl, my only critcism came when she and Chris Cesaro(On the Road to Ruin, Ceasar and Cleopatra), Halvard Solness, had this love scene.  It was a bit unconvincing and awkward and I found it to be the only part which fell out  and seemed to rely on memorization rather than skill.

To make amends however, enter the comical Doctor Herdal, played by Brian Coats (Two Gentleman of Verona, Merchant of Venice) and Aline Solness, played by the fore mentioned Susan Ferrara.  These two characters are perhaps my favorite in the entire show.  While the two main characters Halvard Solness and Hilda Wangel are of course the focus of Isben’s Master Builder, Aline Solness, to me, is the heart of the play and the Doctor, a well needed comic relief.  Watching Ferrara play the emotionally drained and depressed Aline Solness was like witnessing what it must have been like to see Kim Stanley in Anton Checkhov’s The Three Sisters or Laurette Taylor in Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie. Ferrara never once drops out of character and delivers a performance which still as I’m writing this is haunting.  Never have I seen such power in one actor, such drive to speak to the true essence of her character.  A woman, binded only by marriage to a man who has betrayed her in every aspect.  The power of Ferrara is undeniable and her depiction of Aline Solness perfection in every aspect.

Oh, and did I mention that you meet all of these fabulous characters within the first 30 minutes?  And if that isn’t overwhelming enough, if the drama of dying architects, betrayed wives, and love-starved youth haven’t already captivated your imagination, then when you meet Miss Hilda Wangel, played by the uber talented Sarah Stockton, that is exactly what will happen.  It is when this force, this young girl blasts on stage that the play turns upside down and our architect is forced to face his past.  And while Cesaro has been playing a colorful and emotional Solness, true to Isben’s text, it is with the appearance of Stockton that we see his character breath.  Stockton with her first step on stage demands her audiences attention.  Her full of life, independent character radiates through her and for me, as an actor, it is inspiring.   Her spritely spirit, a bit twisted as the audience will come to find out, only makes you want to keep watching and the twisted web which she spins in the two days with Solness makes for an interesting evening.  Cesaro, playing off of Stockton’s flawless acting, portrays a brooding, selfish, and love blinded man who by Hilda is driven to the brink of insanity.  Cesaro speaks forceful and clear in his delivery of text and like Stockton, keeps the audience eating out of his hands.  He makes you forget that Solness is but a character of Ibsen’s imagination and that what you see in front of you is the result of hours of rehearsal.  His performance, along with Stockton and the cast is flawless and as a result, unforgettable.

All in all, this play is a must see.  With its twisted characters and interesting plot points it is amazingly poignant in today’s world. Beautifully directed with heartfelt investment by Eric Parness it begs for attention.  I promise, I am not always one to see classical plays, but for this I make an exception.  I left satisfied, full of reflection, and entertained.  What more could you ask for?  And even better, to follow up to this magnificent play, I have recently seen the second half of the ensemble’s repertory season, Glass House, by June Finfer, directed by Evan Bergman, which is similar in many aspects, honing in on the same ideas, even the same occupations.  I felt as if I have come full circle with seeing both plays and strongly urge theatre goers to not just see Master Builder, but to see the modern play Glass House, as the full ideas of both with undoubtedly and unmistakably be made crystal clear.

Photo features Chris Ceraso as Halvard Solness, The Master Builder and Susan Ferrara as his wife Aline

Show information:

The Master Builder, written by Henrik Ibsen, directed by Eric Parness

Cast:

Pun Bandhu…Ragnar Brovik
Chris Ceraso…Halvard Solness, The Master Builder
Brian D. Coats…Doctor Herdal
Susan Ferrara…Aline Solness
Jennifer Gawlik…Kaia
Peter Judd…Knut Brovik

Sarah Stockton…Miss Hilda Wangel

Crew:

Scenic Design: Jo Winiarski
Costume Design: Sidney Shannon
Lighting Design: Pamela Kupper
Sound Design: Nick Moore
Projection Design: Daniel Heffernan
Props Design: Kristin Costa
Stage Manager: Sean McCain
Production Manager: Joe Doran
Master Electrician: Flora Vassar
Press Relations: Joe Trentacosta

Photos by Jon Kandel

LAST PERFORMANCE JUNE 5TH!! Go to Ticket Central to get your ticket now for $18 or buy at Box Office at Clurman Theatre (410 West 42nd)!

Performance schedule is as follows:

MAY 27TH 8PM
MAY 29TH 8PM
MAY 30TH 2PM
JUNE 2ND 8PM
JUNE 4TH 8PM
JUNE 5TH 2PM

POST ORIGINALLY FEATURED ON BESTOFOFFBROADWAY.COM


A Quarter of a Century….

A quarter of a century…

25 years…

25 years in counting…

Counting the days…Counting the hours….Counting the missed opportunities

Counting yourself out…

Counting yourself old…

Counting that in a century…

You’ll be worth…

Worth the fifty cents you’ve spent..

Spent on striving..

Spent on pushing..

Pushing yourself to the limit…

Pushing your mind to the max…

Pushing your soul to take one more..

One more denial..

One more beat down..let down…

One more stress…

Stress the money…

Stress the job…

Stress the love…

One more day…added on…to your utter frustration..

Your dying drive…

Your faltering talent…

For what?

25 years…

A quarter of a century…

Wasted..

Uneventful…

And passing without remembrance…

Another 25 awaiting..

In the shadows..

Following your every move…

Sensing your every breathe..

Waiting for the clock to tick October 24th..

One more year added…

What will I do to make a difference?

Before…

A Quarter of a Century…

 

-M.P-

 


You’ve been long enough without a cute video…

Not only have I so horribly neglected my cute puppy videos on my blog, but I’m sure that I upset you as a result! 🙂 I actually just thought that this was a really interesting video seeing that people seem to think that rots are mean dogs..


%d bloggers like this: