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Lee Strasburg was a compulsive collector of books.

He purchased them both new and used, several at a time and almost every day. His wife Paula lived in fear whenever he ventured within a block of the Strand. It’s fun, and just a bit reassuring when you discover that your own eccentricities align with those of the great.

Barbara tried to imposed a one-in-one-out book rule with me; but, realizing she had lost that particular battle now tries to confine my acquisitions to the Brooklyn apartment and the second floor front room in Pittsburgh. I’m especially fond of remainder tables. I’m not crazy about the one at Barnes and Noble, favoring the treasures of the old Gotham Bookstore on 57th Street and the one located half way back in the recently departed Drama Book Shop (speaking of bookshops, Barbara and I stumbled across a movie with that title the other night, and we both highly recommend it. The Book Shop features Bill Nighy, one of the few actors whose inclusion in a film is enough to make me want to see it, and Emily Mortimer. It’s a beautifully acted and designed film that offers a quiet pleasure at its cinematic accomplishments that turns into a moving satisfaction in the hours after you see it. Patricia Clarkson is the villain and gives one of those performances that leaves you thinking she has to be as vindictive in real life as she is on the screen.)

Back to my story: a number of years ago Barbara and I dropped in at the aforementioned Drama Book Shop up at its 40th St location. Always on the watch for the perfect scene for her students, she bought plays; and I was sifting through the remainders table when a title jumped up at me: The Murrow Boys, Pioneers of Broadcast Journalism. I love the romance of the extended-family- buddy movies, especially the scenes where the hero assembles and trains the team. Think The Magnificent Seven and The Untouchables. I bought the Murrow and took it home adding it to one of my piles of literary clutter. We eventually made an Irondale play out of it that didn’t work for a variety of reasons. I was fascinated by the subject as were Terry and Michael David – but no one else, either on stage or in the audience, were able to make much of a visceral connection to the material.

But now its message of the power of first class reporting and its necessity to the survival of a democratic society seems so much more important than it did in 2011.

This is a quote from a story in yesterday’s New York Times which carried the following story on “news burnout.”

“In this volatile political moment, information, it would seem, has never been more crucial. The country is in the midst of impeachment proceedings against a president for the third time in modern history. A high-stakes election is less than a year away. But just when information is needed most, to many Americans it feels most elusive. The rise of social media; the proliferation of information online, including news designed to deceive; and a flood of partisan news are leading to a general exhaustion with news itself.”

What made the achievements of these young men and one young woman (they were all under 35) so possible in the 1930’s and 40’s and seems so unobtainable today. Like the Yul and Kevin, we’re putting together a team to find out. Steve Cross has returned to the company along with the entire cast of Galileo. Yesterday was the first day of rehearsal. We’ve brought the band together to figure out how the story of Ed Murrow, Bill Shirer and the rest speaks to us – our theatre and our audiences -you and me – today.

This undertaking is the first of Irondale’s new Popup Democracy Projects. We’ll be working together for the next four days. Then we go our separate ways until December 6th when we meet up again for a day of rehearsing/show assembling. And then we show you what we came up with that one night and one night only-or maybe, if we find the connection to the material and the audience we’re looking for, if the stars align and the creek don’t rise-maybe a little bit longer.

This is what is on my very focused mind this morning Tuesday November 19, filling me up with a breakfast of excitement and anticipation rather than a bagel and Greek yoghurt. And now I say to you paraphrasing Mr. Murrow. “Good morning and good luck.”

Jim Niesen


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