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December 17. Christmas Eve is just a week away and New Year’s Eve and the end of the year is two. As I’m sitting here writing this, and taking the temperature of the world around me, My holiday spirit veers from Esther Smith: (“Have yourself a merry little Christmas), to George Bailey: (“Merry Christmas, you wonderful old Building and Loan”) before settling on W.H. Auden:

I sit in one of the dives.
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid.
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade.

Sticking to the world of my favorite 1940’s films, I must confess that everything in my personal life, my day to day existence, right now does indeed adds up to a wonderful one, and I move to the finish line of 2019 with a quiet optimism. Barbara is doing so well and fills me with joy every moment I get to spend with her. We have the wonderful Mac, three loving and understanding even though they must feel abandoned cats, dear best friend Terry who heads up the list of the most supportive of colleagues, comrades and pals that anyone could wish for, and the satisfying, exciting work that gets me out of bed and up and at ’em every day of my life. I am grateful to all of you that make my life possible.

But then I think of the world that confronts us on a daily basis and I am hurled back into Auden land.

Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives.

This Letter From Jim is dated December 17, but I’m writing it on December 13, before Irondale closes down for the holiday break. The Judicial Committee voted this morning to move Mr. Trump’s impeachment forward to the full house. By the time you read this you will know what happened, also, if this week is like so many other recent ones there will be rioting in Africa, strife in Iran. What nature cannot do to us will be done by our fellow.

I said though that I find myself quietly, optimistically moving forward. This is the power of theatre. And every play we work on lifts my spirits or at least makes life more bearable in the bad times. And we are living in bad times. Up is down, black is white true is false, alternative facts time.

It has cheered me so much these past few weeks to be in the company of Ed Murrow, to hear his words and to glimpse how he made it through the much darker days and nights of 1940 London, a time when he broadcast hopeful but truthful words back to the US:

“Tonight, there are a few Christmas parties in London, but there are no fancy paper hats and no firecrackers. In the underground shelters entire families we’re celebrating Christmas Eve. Christmas carols are being sung underground. Christmas presents will be unwrapped down underground before these people see daylight tomorrow.”

I should like to add my own small voice to give my own Christmas greeting to friends and colleagues at home. Merry Christmas is somehow ill-timed and out of place, so I shall just use the current London phrase–so long and good luck.

Until January….


Jim Niesen


Author Irondale

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