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One day when Peter Kleinert was here directing St Joan of the Stockyards for Irondale, I picked him up at the flat we had arranged for him and we went for a walk. If you knew Peter only casually you might not have guessed he is something of an exercise nut, but he is. I have a six hour bicycle ride around Berlin to prove it.

And so we walked, which I could put up with because we also talked German small talk, which I would describe as a light, somewhat ironic banter which masks a more serious underlying contemplation and which could easily go on for hours except for the German resolve to adhere to schedule. Peter was playing with Apple TV when I arrived. I was, and remain, ignorant of the use and workings of this device, but I found Peter quite enthusiastic in his approval of his new toy.

And so we walked… and talked.

“You live in a wonderful country. So much to watch on tv. So much to make plays about. I have been watching different news programs all morning. There is a lot going on here. Germany is so boring we don’t have all these problems. So hard to make theatre. Every story I see here could inspire a great play.”

As I’m writing this I’m listening to NPR. We were in doctors’ appointments all day yesterday. Lot of stuff to remember about the next phase of our medical journey-names of drugs, what they do, what the schedule looks like, when can we go travel again-nothing until next summer and then only first world countries (dang there goes our trips to Mississippi and Kentucky) and as a result I missed everything that took place yesterday and am just catching up in today’s issue of the the failing New York Times – the release of the first two closed House testimonies, the “retirement” of Police Commissioner O’Neill over his firing of officer Pantaleo and O’Neill’s subsequent loss of support from the police union, the EPA weakening rules governing toxic water from coal plants, the California Wildfires. And that was just yesterday! Michael Frayn could write another Copenhagen or Democracy from harvesting the raw material provided by any one of these stories.

And the question we continue to grapple with here at Irondale as we close in on the dates of the first rehearsals of Murrow followed by Setzuan: “How do our approaches to these plays and the performances we create address these concerns and the overwhelming challenges facing us that are so carefully detailed in the news stories of today?”

There is a clue in this week’s episode of On the Media. The segment was entitled “In a Burning California, Decades of Technical Debt Comes Due,”

“A despair that our contemporary politics can in any way deal with the problems this century presents us.”

This is the same despair faced by the world in 1941. In Murrow and Company that despair was acknowledged and overcome. In the Good Person our heroine’s quest is reduced to just one word, a word that must be on many of our lips today – “Help!”

And that’s what’s on my mind today. November 5.


Jim Niesen


Author Irondale

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