Those of you who have read me regularly know that I’m a huge fan of Rochester’s Geva Theatre Center. To invoke a sports metaphor, it’s the Fenway Park of theaters – intimate and cozy, putting you right on top of the action.
Beth and I regularly attend plays there, and we never cease to be amazed by the On-Broadway quality of the productions. Director Mark Cuddy is consistently brilliant. (The Joe Torre of directors if I must invoke another sports metaphor, which I must.)
Last Saturday, my better half and I attended a remake of August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Fences, and were blown away by the acting, directing and scenery.
The lead, Tony Todd, delivered a powerful performance as Troy Maxson, a former Negro League baseball star who played before Jackie Robinson broke the major league color barrier and feels “fenced-out’’ by society. Todd, who has more than 100 film and television credits on his resume, does a superb job of conveying Maxson’s anger and sadness.
By the time he appeared for his curtain call, Todd was physically and emotionally drained, and so was I. He was that good.
I highly, highly recommend Fences. And I guarantee you that if you’ve never been to GeVa before, you’ll become a regular after this performance.
Although the play is set in Pittsburgh’s Hill District in the late 1950s, I picked up on a Rochester connection.
At one point, a bitter Maxson grabs a bat and starts belittling a former major leaguer named George Selkirk.
Selkirk, a deft, light-on-his-feet outfielder nicknamed “Twinkle Toes,’’ is best known in baseball annals for being the player who replaced the legendary Babe Ruth in right field for the New York Yankees in the late-1930s. He even wore Ruth’s old, No. 3 pinstriped uniform after the Bambino was jettisoned, and that didn’t set well with Yankees fans who booed him incessantly in a show of support for the greatest player of them all.
Selkirk was born in Canada, but grew up in Rochester and graduated from Edison Tech High School. His other claim to fame was his suggestion of putting warning tracks in ballparks, so that outfielders going back on the ball would know when they were getting close to the wall. Today, every professional ballpark has a warning track.
Don’t know if you are like me, but after watching the highlights of The National Spelling Bee I can’t help but feel as if my education was sorely lacking. These kids are truly astounding. They put me to shame, and I’ve spent a lifetime making a living as a writer. I swear I’ve never heard of 80 percent of the words in the finals. Heck, the judges could be making them up for all I know.
Speaking of spelling bees, my wife, Beth, was one of the media celebrity spellers when the play, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, was brought to town by The Rochester Broadway Theater League last year. She was the last person standing, so to speak, among the spellers pulled from the audience.
The judges in the play actually threw up their cards in amazement when Beth correctly spelled a word that was designed to send her back to the audience pronto.
Unfortunately, they came up with a word that a Rhodes Scholar would have struggled with on her next try, and she was escorted back to her seat by several singing and dancing actors. Still, I couldn’t have been more proud if I had spelled the word myself.
(And that is why I often have her copy-read my stuff. Hey, I’m no fool. I know where the brains in this relationship are – above her shoulders.)