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First off.

For all of you who have been following our family adventure, Barbara is doing great. Finished the chemo part of the treatment on Friday. We checked into Sloan Kettering yesterday for three or four weeks of observation waiting for the chemo to do its magic. She’s redecorated her room and it’s now the envy of the floor. Come by and visit! Or give her a call. She’d love to hear from you.

Now on to other things.

As I said in an earlier piece:

“Thinking about taking a slight detour to interject a new project that addresses an even more pressing issue which has raised its ugly head and begs the question: How does art take on a world in which facts have become irrelevant, in which the President of the United States lies with impunity, and in which the plethora of damning information seems to fall on deaf ears to a world that has become numbingly inured to what is taking place.

In 1940 Ed Murrow’s nightly reports from London were instrumental in bringing America out of its isolationism to a place where it was willing and able to join in the fight against fascism. In 1954, Murrow’s report on “See It Now” was instrumental in ending the Red Scare and the home grown tyranny of Joe McCarthy, and in 1968, following an in depth and lengthy visit to Viet Nam, Walter Cronkite delivered a damning commentary to end his nightly broadcast on the CBS Evening News. President Lyndon Johnson, watching live in the White House, reportedly then turned to aides and said, “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America.”

Words mattered then.

Now we’ve set the date for our Rise and Fall of CBS News pop-up show. We rehearse for a week with a single public showing on Friday, December 6. Then we’ll pull it out again from time to time as the piece and your interest in it develops. Not sure what you’ll be seeing in this first go round, but we’ll be drawing upon some of the text from 2011’s Murrow’s Boys, as well as David Halberstam’s The Powers That Be and Peter McCabe’s, Bad News at Black Rock.

I’m very excited to be working on this piece and by all that I don’t know. What I do know is that it has to be much more than Murrow Redux. When I pulled out the text of Murrow’s Boys this summer I was pleasantly surprised by much of the writing, better than I remembered it, but in the end it didn’t work. It couldn’t rise above the dreaded

costumed lecture. History plays are hard (unless you’re Shakespeare). I once asked Michael Frayn, who wrote two excellent ones-Copenhagen and Democracy for advice on the subject. “You have to write about something the audience can’t find in a history book,” he said. Copenhagen is based on an event that occurred in Copenhagen in

1941, a meeting between the physicists Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg The spirits of Werner Heisenberg, Niels Bohr and Bohr’s wife Margrethe, meet after their deaths to attempt to answer the question that Margrethe poses in the first line of the play, “Why did he [Heisenberg] come to Copenhagen?” They spend the remainder of the two-act drama reliving the experience and presenting, debating and rejecting theories that may answer that question.

Heady stuff, huh? So what’s our unknown, and what’s our question? A good answer is what can bring this very important material to life.

To be continued . . . .


Jim Niesen


Author Irondale

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