Another Brick in the Wall?

Years ago, I attempted to become a teacher. I thought “How hard could it be?”

It proved to be the most stressful year of my life.

After a year of preparation in the LAUSD teaching internship program, I was hired to teach algebra to students with learning disabilities at a middle school in the San Fernando Valley. One of the Intern Supervisors warned me not to work at this particular school. I needed the job and this was a viable offer. “The principal has a reputation for… Well, you’ll find out,” she said.

Algebra. Learning Disabilities. Middle School. What could go wrong?

The greatest barrier was not the learning disabilities, but the students’ ‘learned helplessness’. They learned from infancy that any effort was rewarded with failure. Mastering a video game might take a few minutes, but learning multiplication tables was impossible. They just would not try. They didn’t need yet another confirmation that they were ‘stupid’. The phrase ‘I can’t’ relieved them from countless disappointments.

Of course, forcing these kids to sit still, to be lectured to on a subject useless to them was a completely wrong-headed approach to teaching. They were bursting with energy, passion and desire. They wanted to move and express themselves. Or watch TV.

The old scenario of putting a hundred chimpanzees into a room with 100 typewriters with the expectation of randomly getting a Hamlet out of them presumes those chimpanzees will sit at those typewriters. But my students were not chimpanzees nor machines. They were feeling people, infinitely more resourceful in devising ways to express their pain and frustration.

The educational system could not serve them but also could not release them. They were squeezed into an ill-fitting box which satisfied the mandates of Washington bureaucrats and local administrators. I was the sole representative of this broken system to whom they had access. Their actions were eloquent.

Some students passively did their time. Many students though, were creative in wasting time and disrupting the class. Their favorite was taking turns filing formal complaints accusing me of striking them. I never laid a hand on any of them but the accusations occurred weekly. Investigations always absolved me of any wrong doing. No one answered the question, “How did they learn to do this?”

One kid bragged that he “made more money” than I did. I believed him. I think he was someone’s drug business apprentice. The incentives of money and peer acceptance far outweighed school for overcoming his learning disability. And he was a natural salesman. I told him I once had his opportunities but didn’t like the retirement plan. His puzzlement at that confirmed he had a lot to learn.

My internship instructors assured me that providing elements of ‘enrichment,’ props, colorful décor, candy rewards and toys for demonstration purposes would provide positive returns far beyond my monetary investment. I learned they were a futile waste of time and money. Items brought to the classroom were inevitably stolen or destroyed to no good purpose. Did I mention the threats? Or breaking up the spitting contest?

Observations of my teaching methods were conducted regularly by administration and internship staff. I received good marks and was applauded for improvement in my educational strategies and student engagement. Though a struggle, I felt I found a calling.

Then I learned the secret behind the principal’s mysterious reputation. Each year, for her own amusement, she would select one new teacher from the staff and systematically ruin their career. It made no sense, but her destructive behavior was confirmed to have gone on for years. She was legendary and untouchable. This is what I was warned about. Why willfully destroy eager young talent?

I then found out I was that year’s recipient of her malignant whimsy. Despite my hard work and the good reports on my progress, she arbitrarily decided that I should not be a teacher at her school nor at any school. By not renewing my contract, my position in the internship program would also be terminated, with no credit accrued. To teach, I’d have to start completely over.

The teacher’s union informed me that even if I won, I would still be out of a job. My teaching career was over. However, I needed to stand against such injustice. I filed a grievance.

The union allowed me to work as a substitute teacher. I could earn a living part time but without benefits or a future.

On assignment, I told another substitute who knew this principal about my experience. A teacher walked by and interjected, “I know who you’re talking about. She ruined my career too!” He had to start from scratch and lost years of his life recouping his investment and career. He named her and described her in terms both vivid and profane.

I left teaching to pursue more lucrative prospects. I received notice from the teacher’s union that the principal settled and accepted early retirement.

A year later, while enjoying lunch with my wife in a restaurant, a man walked by who looked vaguely familiar. He saw me and stopped. Excusing himself for interrupting, he asked if I was John Adams, the former math intern at ________ school. I cautiously admitted he had identified me correctly. He offered his hand and thanked me profusely for himself and the staff of the school for standing up to that horrible principal.

He said no one would call her out. “She was a petty tyrant, ruining people’s careers for her own amusement because everyone was afraid of her.”

I thanked him and said I had only filed a complaint. I needed to call out her abuse. He insisted my grievance forced her out. Because no one would jeopardize their career, including himself, they effectively supported her heinous behavior for years.

I told him it was nice to be appreciated and was sorry we couldn’t have worked together longer. We shook hands again and he left us to our meal.

Did I learn more from my students than they learned from me?

 

 

How My Dad Solved the Cuban Missile Crisis

My father was a confident man. I never saw him anxious for anything. If he ever was, he kept it to himself. Even in the face of his own impending death, he put his concerns aside to comfort his loved ones, assuring them that all would be well.

He joined the Marines after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941. He fought in the South Pacific until he returned stateside for officer’s training school.

While in the Solomon Islands, he was assigned to the radio corps. Once an island was ‘pacified,’ his job was to lead a squad past any remaining resistance to the highest point on the island and install an antenna with which to establish radio communications to the outside world.

Hauling radio equipment up a mountain can’t be that easy. Doing so while an enemy is shooting at you would be nigh impossible.

I think, after surviving that, everything else was just gravy for him.

At the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, in October of 1962, the threat of nuclear war was a big deal. A few years before, Nikita Khrushchev had declared “We will bury you.” Now they were installing ballistic missiles in Cuba, aimed at us. What next?

Nowadays, nuclear annihilation is just one more item on the menu of devastating threats.  But then the weight of potential nuclear conflict was palpable.

I remember the many air raid drills conducted at my school. The idea that hiding under my desk would protect me in the event of a nuclear attack, seemed fanciful to me even then.

The poster advising citizens “In the event of nuclear attack, tuck your head between your knees and kiss your ass good-bye” had not been published yet. However, it perfectly captured the ironic sense of those drills. Mass incineration might be our collective fates, but at least we would be orderly and quiet.

At that time we lived in Wilmar, a farming town in central Minnesota, about two hours west of Minneapolis, out good old Highway 12.

The news on radio and TV incessantly explored all the ramifications should war break out.  Every night WCCO would broadcast a map of Minnesota. The animated overlay graphically depicted the radius of damage we could expect should an atomic bomb hit Minneapolis. Concentric circles would radiate out to 100 miles in every direction from ground zero. It was terrifying.

Everyone I knew was anxious. We had no context from which to judge these dire threats to everything we had ever known. Those Russians were crazy.

One promising solution was to build a private bomb shelter. The news talked about these and Popular Mechanics magazine published an article describing all the things a shelter should contain. It would be cramped but safe. It was do-able.

Dad had been through the war. I gathered some friends and approached him about the feasibility of building such a shelter.

He said, “You don’t need it.”

“Why not? The maps say the explosion will reach 100 miles and Wilmar is 100 miles from Minneapolis.”

“But we live on the west end of town. The radiation will never reach us.”

His perfectly reasoned argument put our minds at rest. Days later, the crisis was over. The Russians had blinked.

My Dad was so smart.

Pet Orphans of Southern California Grand Reopening in Van Nuys

Animal lovers continue 40+ year commitment to ‘Rescue, Rehabilitate and Re-home’

By John K. Adams

If you have a pet or want a rescue pet, you should know Pet Orphans of Southern California is celebrating the Grand Reopening of their full service, affordable Van Nuys veterinary clinic on Sunday, March 12th, from noon to 4pm.

Come meet Dr. Melissa Roth and the staff and tour the spacious facility. Schedule a future appointment for veterinary care, grooming and a professionally photographed pet portrait. Or plan to fall in love with a special rescue pet in need of a loving, forever home.

Pet Orphans wants everyone to know their full service veterinary clinic and adoption service will be open to the public on Tuesday, March 21st. Pet Orphans is open seven days, from noon to 4pm Monday-Friday and noon to 5pm Saturday and Sunday.

Clients are encouraged to call for the clinic’s hours to schedule an appointment, as it is not a walk-in service. The clinic is closed on Fridays and Saturdays.

Dr. Roth, new to the organization, describes veterinarians as “Type A people pleasers, helpful in ensuring quality of life for animal family members.” She adds, “Vets are a little like the family doctor of yore – true generalists. While physicians treat humans and generally specialize, veterinarians have to be knowledgeable regarding multiple species including dogs, cats, lizards, farm animals, etc… If the apocalypse comes, grab a vet. They have broad knowledge.”

Director of Operations LaTanya Montgomery coordinates with rescue organizations throughout Southern California. Their primary goal is to “rescue, rehabilitate and re-home” every animal they receive. Trainers are available by referral to assist adopting owners to manage behavioral challenges with their new pets.

Adoption Coordinator Danica Reslock stated that they look at several factors when successfully matching a rescue pet with prospective owners. “It’s all about good fit, behavior, size and activity level,” she said. “When we are busy, we place as many as 10 pets per week.”

You can adopt your rescue dog or cat with a minimum donation that helps to offset the cost of spay/neutering, vaccinations, a microchip and grooming. Every rescue cat or dog is examined for health prior to exposure to the general population.

Groomer Penny Chong stays busy tending her furry clients. Her calm control helps relax the dogs and cats in an unfamiliar environment.

Pet Orphans survives solely on donations and receives no government support.

Appointments are preferred. Walk-ins will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Veterinary services include dental care. Pet health insurance is recommended and can be obtained privately.

Human-only refreshments will be available at the March 12th meet and greet. Please leave your pets at home.

Appointments for services booked on March 12th will be discounted 10 percent. Raffle tickets will be sold and a silent auction is planned.

Since 1973, Pet Orphans of Southern California is located at 7720 Gloria Ave. in Van Nuys. Visit PetOrphans.org or call (818) 901-0190.

Note: This story appeared originally in the Tolucan Times, March 2, 2017.

Love and scar tissue on display in ‘Danny and the Deep Blue Sea’ and ‘Poison’

John Patrick Shanley doesn’t write small talk. His characters fight like cornered animals, every syllable flung like a threat. Even expressions of love are spit through clenched teeth. There is a saying that “hurt people hurt people.” John Patrick Shanley brings that to the stage in living color. Shanley’s plays, Poison and Danny and the Deep Blue Sea, playing at Theatre 68, are vivid examples of this.

In Poison, the one-act directed by Kay Cole, Kelly (Kelsey Flynn) wants Kenny (Nicola Tombacco) back. Kelly asks a gypsy fortune teller (Katie Zeiner) for a potion to get him, no matter the cost.  Zeiner’s performance as the gypsy is worth the price of admission.

Danny and the Deep Blue Sea, directed by Ronnie Marmo, opens with Danny and Roberta (J. Bailey Burcham and Renee Marino) growling at each other over beers in a cheap bar. Is this scenario a mating dance, an attempted murder or a suicide pact? Shanley’s play takes them through seething anger and self-loathing to tenderness as these broken souls grope toward a warm embrace in a cold world.

Words on a page are only that without talented actors bringing those words to life. Marino and Burcham draw us into their character’s intimate, horrible reality and reveal, perhaps also within ourselves, the savage redemption of the irredeemable.

Note: This review originally appeared in the Tolucan Times on March 17, 2017.

The False Karass is Your Friend

Kurt Vonnegut’s concept of the false karass from his masterpiece Cat’s Cradle (1963), has assisted me to understand how things work, and don’t in social events.

Vonnegut’s definition of the false karass, (or granfalloon) is a group of people who imagine they have a connection that does not really exist. (A karass is a group of people linked in a cosmically significant manner, even when superficial links are not evident.)

That Vonnegut, however cynically admits to a divine purpose in his book is remarkable in itself.

How this concept has played out in my life may best be illustrated by two small examples.

When visiting friends in Buenos Aires, Argentina an evening ‘out at the clubs’ was planned. My hosts determined that I should borrow some clothes so as not to look “too American” and thus avoid becoming a target of the pickpockets known to frequent train stations and other gathering places.

Suitably disguised (in a shirt and blue jeans), we set off for the evening. While standing on the platform awaiting a train, I assumed what I thought of as an ‘Argentinian stance’ to better blend with the crowd.

Out of nowhere, a ‘man on the street’ news reporter and camera crew approached me and abruptly thrust a microphone in my face. She urgently asked my opinion on who knows what? I was busted. All I could do was stammer that I didn’t speak Spanish in broken Spanish.

Our best efforts ended up signaling every pickpocket within fifty yards that an illiterate foreigner was primed for fleecing. However, we drew so much attention that anyone with malevolent plans steered clear of our party.

//////

Shortly after moving to Los Angeles I was invited to a costume birthday party to be held for the American drummer of what was then a prominent English rock ‘n’ roll group. Jane, my date was high school friends with the drummer’s wife. It sounded like it might be fun. Jane always insisted that one of their hits was about her.

I was told the planned theme of the party was for everyone to dress as the ‘minister of a church’. There didn’t seem to be much to that requirement. Having lived in the South, I thought I could do a funny version of a huckster – Southern preacher/snake oil salesman.  I found a loud, plaid, polyester jacket to go with a straw hat, string tie, spats and some other details.

When we arrived at the party, I was chagrined to see everyone dressed in long black robes as ministers of the Church of England. One was dressed in drag as a nun. The theme was in the vein of what Monty Python might do.  It made perfect sense that an English band would play with that theme. I didn’t get the memo.

Of course, everyone ignored me. They didn’t know me and it was a party for a member of a close knit group. I had no standing. A non-entity, I felt as appropriate as a beach toy at a baptism.

Then came the big surprise. Jane’s ex-husband arrived carrying a cheap prop cross and dressed to look like Jesus Christ.

He didn’t dress according to the rules either, but being long-time friends with the group, he got a pass. It annoyed me since I was technically dressed as a minister – perhaps in the uniform of another team, but hey…

I always maintained a standard that if dressed in costume one should try to be ‘in character’. When the ex and I were introduced I mustered up my best Foghorn Leghorn, southern drawl and delivered a line that bordered on ironic genius.

“Ah’ve heard a lot about you but I don’t believe we’ve met.” If he was in character, his graceless portrayal was too subtle for me. I offered my hand to shake but his cross was apparently too cumbersome for him to reciprocate.

And not one seemed to notice the brilliance of my delivery.

The rest of the party has faded from memory. Like many parties, the most interesting moment is when you realize you have no reason to be there.

////

Nowadays I side-step any false karass that looms on the horizon. I have a strong sense of those with whom I am cosmically linked. The evidence is irrefutable.

Hits and Misses from the Past Year

It has been a very busy January and I have not produced much new writing this month.

However, the last year was an opportunity to write my blog, re-publish some items from my output at the Tolucan Times, and also, in a burst of creativity, to write a series of eight short plays. One of these received “semi-finalist” status in a short play competition.

Some of my blog posts did not get the attention I thought they deserved so to reprise 2016, I offer a collection of links for those of you who might enjoy a play review, a commentary, or a few memories from my past in no particular order:

https://lifestoryography.wordpress.com/2016/12/29/lying-in-wait-for-santa/

https://lifestoryography.wordpress.com/2016/11/29/the2tails-helps-you-celebrate-your-inner-mermaid/

https://lifestoryography.wordpress.com/2016/11/11/an-evening-with-betsy-oconnell-is-an-evening-well-spent/

https://lifestoryography.wordpress.com/2016/10/04/sexist-pet-costumes-or-the-unexamined-life-is-not-worth-leaving/

https://lifestoryography.wordpress.com/2016/09/25/p-l-a-y-noir-one-acts-as-dark-as-it-gets/

https://lifestoryography.wordpress.com/2016/08/19/an-occasional-squall-would-add-to-the-source-and-create-a-rising-crescendo/

https://lifestoryography.wordpress.com/2016/04/05/say-centanni-for-romantic-italian-dining-in-burbank/

https://lifestoryography.wordpress.com/2016/02/29/racing-with-evolution/

https://lifestoryography.wordpress.com/2016/01/27/missed-opportunities/

Enjoy!

 

 

Lying in Wait for Santa

My son Eliot, always had an analytical mind and a grown-up attitude. I would be pushing him in his stroller when he was just a toddler and people would ask me what college he went to. There was a poignant irony to hearing him singing in his little voice along with Sinatra’s “When You’re Young at Heart” while he rode in his car seat.

He was always driven to learn and excel. At four years old he was convinced he needed to know how to read before attending school. He thought that was why I kept him from going. He tried convincing me he knew how to read by pointing to our local pizza parlor as we drove by and saying “Look Dad, I know how to read. That says ‘pizza’!”

His first four or five teachers each tried to convince me to put him on Ritalin, not because he was disruptive, but because he consumed information so voraciously.

He long suspected that Santa Claus was a myth but one Christmas he became determined to prove it. He and his sister were sharing my studio apartment that year. Santa’s coming down a chimney was always a hard sell but we didn’t even have a chimney, so Eliot thought this would be easy.

A simple plan, he was determined to stay up watching until Santa arrived, or didn’t. His sister was always practical and went to sleep right away. I needed to wait for him to fall asleep before I could put presents under the tree.

Pretending to support his endeavor, I ‘bolstered his stamina’ by giving him some milk. He propped himself up with pillows on the top bunk, with a good view of the tree so he wouldn’t miss a thing.

I then feigned sleep and watched through half-closed eyes until Eliot’s attention waned. He drifted off about five minutes to midnight.

My window of opportunity was very narrow as he is a light sleeper. I swiftly stole into the walk-in closet and in a couple of trips had all the wrapped presents under the tree. I just made it back to bed and moderated my breathing in time to hear Eliot exclaim despairingly, “Oh man!”

I pretended to awaken. “What happened?”

“He was here! I fell asleep and he already came!”

“Oh well. That Santa is a sly one. We’ll catch him next year. Merry Christmas!”

And it was a merry Christmas.

Note: This was published in the Tolucan Times on 12/28/16.

The2Tails helps you celebrate your inner mermaid!

Imagine the look of sheer joy and dreams fulfilled on the face of your child when she opens her holiday gift to find a genuine swimmable mermaid tail from The2Tails. How can you miss that?

The2Tails founder, Ely Pouget, describes herself as a person who’s “good at what I’m passionate about and kinda bad at what I’m not. So it’s the passion I have for kids and the art of our tails that’s a big part of what’s made our business a success.”

The2Tails was born after Pouget and her twin daughters combined a pair of sweatpants with a cut-up yoga mat back in 2007.

Nine years later, using only eco-friendly materials, shimmery, resilient fabric and exquisite American craftsmanship, The2Tails offers the best mono-fin on the market—guaranteed. As she says, “If it breaks, we replace it. Period.”

Imagine undulating through the water just like a real mermaid. Mermaids are so cool!

Any swimmer can use these comfortable tails for a truly magical swimming experience. Designed to be neutrally buoyant, they do not sink or drag the swimmer down.

And the tails are safe. They’re as easily doffed as a wet bikini bottom.

Pouget sees mermaid tails as so much more than a novelty pool toy. She says, “When we started, I didn’t know the tails would help transform people’s lives. As my daughters used these tails, I watched them become inspired, resilient, independent and imaginative.  They have become  strong young women and storytellers. These tails are tools for growth.”

Twins Sofia and Natasha Garreton, along with their friend Marlena Lerner, starred in their own YouTube video series and later the award-winning feature film directed by their father, Andres Garreton, trending on Netflix: The3Tails: A Mermaid Adventure.  Today, at just 17 years old, they’ve started Lumahai Swimwear to design their sporty swimwear line

Each exclusive swimmable  mermaid tail is based on the fanciful paintings of Ely’s step-daughter, Catalina Garreton, which are then transferred to a four-way stretch, heavyweight fabric.

In 2014, Pouget received a request for a prosthetic mermaid tail for a 7-year-old amputee who wanted to swim. No one had ever tried to do that. She jumped at the chance.

Pouget founded The Mermaid Foundation with her daughters and husband, Andres Garreton. It is dedicated to providing real, swimmable mermaid tails and accessories for amputees and the differently-abled. Now they too can enjoy the fun, freedom and magic of swimming as mermaids.

One foundation client told Pouget, “If they are going to stare at me when I get into the water, I want them to stare for a reason.”

If you have a mermaid in your life, check out The2Tails mermaid shop in Burbank for all things mermaid. Sizes range from child to adult. Mermen and merboys are welcome too!

Dreams do come true, and this may just be the perfect gift for the holidays!

The2Tails and Lumahai Swimwear store are located at 3410 W. Burbank Blvd., in Burbank.

Mention “The Tolucan Times” to get your mystery gift from The2Tails.

Also visit The2Tails.com or call (323) 84-TAILS/(323) 848-2457.

They will be open Saturdays during the holiday season, so check the website for special hours.

Also visit LumahaiSwimwear.com and Instagram: @lumahaiswimwear.

The Mermaid Foundation can be found at MermaidFoundationInc.org.

Note: this article was published originally in the Tolucan Times on 11/23/2016.

Sexist Pet Costumes? – or The Unexamined Life is not Worth Leaving

While my dog and I discussed how he will dress for Halloween this year (alright, fine, I was doing most of the talking), this article came to my attention: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/business/wp/2016/09/29/is-your-dogs-halloween-costume-sexist/

The article raises the question of pet costumes ‘offensively perpetuating traditional gender roles’. Whose roles would that be? The pets? (It is ironic that transvestites make great sport out of perpetuating these same gender norms. Don’t tell the dogs!)

The problem seems to be superfluous on a number of fronts. I couldn’t get my dog to take notice at all. (His opinion of modern journalism was explicit when getting house-trained.) But mention Pavlov and you will assuredly get a rise from him.

Of course, pets are not known for buying costumes for themselves. The people spending precious time worrying about this stuff fail to notice that the only choice of costumes available is human-style clothing. Bought by those who have too much disposable income. This is obviously more of a specie-ist issue than a sexist one.

A horse is a horse. Of course, of course.

Has anyone run up against the hideous sight of a cat dressing as a dog? Or vice versa? Hardly.

No self-respecting cat would be caught dead wearing anything suggesting a canine aesthetic. She would receive nothing but hisses as she strolled down the cat walk.

The story I’ve been told goes: that long ago, the primordial dog called the primordial cat a ‘pussy’. The cat, taking umbrage, responded with ‘skinny assed bitch’. Obviously, this was more about poor diction than true animosity.  But at this late date, this gross misunderstanding is impossible to resolve amicably.

What’s sauce for the goose…

I have never encountered any animal with a clouded sense of sexual identity. If they had, they kept it well closeted. These ‘evolved’ gender role concepts appear to be unfocused projections from their human owners.

Imagine taking your ‘animal companion’ to the vet only to be asked, “And what gender does Fido feel like today?” Take a look, Sherlock.

Is it only in America that feelings trump facts?

Leave it to the conceptually un-evolved (no wonder they are called ‘animals’) to take themselves completely at face value – how concrete!

A Dalmatian with a fire-hat? My God! What are you trying to do to the poor pooch?

Un-enlightened (but cute!) animals are incapable of populating their world with abstractions and projections. They are condemned to living life exactly as they are.  How dreary!

And yet they excel at living in the moment! (My dog is a Zen master!)

Dog biscuit micro-aggression.

Little do our ‘animal companions’ know that ever-meddling humans are bent on rescuing them from their ‘specie-ist’ human overlords. Animal rights activists want us to stop tormenting our furry friends with incessant anthropomorphizing.

But they also want animals to have rights without the attending responsibilities. Try collecting a tax from a tick. Or getting any pet to sign a contract, let alone read it.

One organism – one vote, and all that.

Is that a pendejo or merely a dangling participle?

The real problem appears to be one of language, you know, that pesky window through which we perceive the world.

I may be wrong but the Romance languages appear to have bypassed this confusion. Due to its strong gender distinctions, in Spanish one could have a very seductive conversation speaking only of inanimate objects. “The dish ran away with the spoon” might be provocative in Spanish. Or not.

Or, exposed from birth, to natural dualistic notions, perhaps the Spanish have better things to worry about than imposing an abstract fantasy onto gritty reality.

That English has few such gender distinctions may have led to the reputation that the English are ‘sexless’ and alternately, that Americans (those prurient Pilgrims), are obsessed with sex.

One could certainly conclude that about those busy bodies fretting about the “threat of sexist animal costumes”.

A cigar may be just a cigar.

If you read this far, I’ll save you the trouble of reading the initiating article. The crux is over the ‘female’ costumes costing more than the corresponding ‘male’ costumes.

So men, perceived as being less willing to spend on such frivolities are offered the incentive of a lower price. Thus providing an opportunity to put forth a positive (and cost conscious) masculine image.

(Oh no! Not that!)

And so the (marketing) tail wags the (adorable) dog.

 

Emotionally compelling ‘The Beauty, The Banshee & Me’ at Whitefire Theatre

Review by John K. Adams

Children sometimes feel they were adopted regardless of their personal circumstances. Perhaps it is the beginning of the romantic imagination. Despite an ideal childhood, a child may sense a missed connection lurking in the shadows beyond their safe home.

The autobiographical, one-woman show, The Beauty, The Banshee & Me, written and performed by Cathy Lind Hayes, unflinchingly explores that yearning and her pursuit of the well-guarded truth about her birth parents.

It also exposes the emotional reasons for laws shielding privacy. When everyone seeks reconnection, those laws may seem arbitrary and cruel. But in a culture of convenience, privacy laws protect everyone when the threat of exposed shame might destroy more than any restored connection could heal.

Lind Hayes’ emotional and physical journey, despite legal barriers and warnings from all quarters, makes a compelling and poignant tale. Everyone pays a steep price for her to find this elusive and dubious truth.

Judged purely as performance, this play deserves to be seen. Hayes is a born storyteller and brings her audience to laughter and tears at will as she recounts her decades-long quest for reconnection with lost family.

Her portrayal of all the characters is vivid. She ensures everyone’s motives are understood, even when the resulting actions cause pain or damage relationships.

The Beauty, The Banshee & Me is a cautionary tale that may serve either camp to further their point. And it is also a remarkably well-written drama that deserves to be seen on its own merits.

“The Beauty, The Banshee & Me runs through October 23rd at the Whitefire Theatre located at 13500 Ventura Blvd. in Sherman Oaks. For tickets and information visit Plays411.com/Banshee or call (323) 960-1055.  

Note: This review originally appeared in the Tolucan Times on 9/22/16.

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