Friday, June 11, 2010

I WONDER at The Broad

The Broad Stage at Santa Monica City College, 1310 11th Street in Santa Monica is a unique and comfortable venue dedicated to the performing arts. In my experience, interviews, even with adept moderators are often a love fest for the interviewee. The beauty of the discussion with Academy Award winner Dustin Hoffman and writer / producer David Milch (NYPD Blue, Deadwood and the new HBO series Luck with Hoffman) on June 5th , which included photographer Herman Leonard, was that these guys are peers. Their mutual respect and the depth of their individual approaches to creativity was, at once, engaging and inspirational.

Topics ranging from belief in God to the tragic Gulf oil spill brought anecdotes from the participants and later brief audience participation.

Anecdotes were pretty much the order of the day. Spinning from Milch’s guaranteed key to inspired writing to Hoffman’s retelling of an Isaac Bashevis Singer story and discussing his experience as an attendant in a mental hospital the scheduled ninety minute program went on for over two hours.

The discussion turned from Hoffman’s telling of a Singer story to Milch vaguely comparing the Holocaust to his dealing with ants in his kitchen. Mention of the Holocaust may sound like a moment for a reverential pause. However, Milch’s logic regarding the vastness of the universe and beyond, without being irreverent, gave food for thought. Milch discussed his notion of how each of us, either as individuals or as groups ranging from sports fans to theatre audiences to national entities become “anthropocentric”

“Wait a minute,” Hoffman interrupted. “What’s anthropocentric??”
“Self involved,” said Milch.
“Why couldn’t you just say ‘self involved?’”
“Because it’s not exactly the same thing.”

At first I thought that Milch had made a reference to his ants: “antropocentric” but, as he made his point, it occurred to me that not unlike ants, we all march to the beat of whatever tribe or herd or colony we may be attached to: wired for survival. Which led to the discussion of how British Petroleum seems to be, as a group, if not as individuals involved in pumping oil, as sociopathic in nature. Wired to do business and make money at any cost.

Herman Leonard’s contribution brought visual art into the picture, literally, with his telling of how as a young man he was apprenticed to the Canadian photographer, Yousef Karsh. Leonard has gone on to photograph luminaries, many in the world of Jazz. Unfortunately, thousands of Leonard’s prints were lost in Hurricane Katrina. Some, which were framed, sustained partial damage from the flood. Mold advanced only part way into the frames, making them “works of Herman” collaborating with Mother Nature, which Mr. Leonard said was fine with him.

The Broad Stage continues with programs of professional theatre and events. Hopefully, producers will invite Mr. Hoffman (a SMCC dropout) to engage other creative colleagues to continue what may become an “I Wonder” series of events in the future.

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