The Kansas City Star from Kansas City, Missouri on February 10, 1974 · 105
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The Kansas City Star from Kansas City, Missouri · 105

Kansas City, Missouri
Issue Date:
Sunday, February 10, 1974
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& Arts Art ' Books Music Stage Movies Entertainment Travel Sunday February 10 1974 THE KANSAS CITY STAR A ijL ington: Grooving on Theater By Giles M Fowler I Drarfla Editor Washington— Wherever the ere dit belongs for making Washington a real bonest-to-Godibeater town you’ll find no argument about one thing: Kennedy Center was the supreme confirmation The city’s arrival in the performing arts was notarized and embodied in $70 million worth of marble concrete elegant decors and creative machinery There it stands by the Potomac a culture fortress too grandiose to miss even in a city that adores the monumental Sneer at the building if you like (some wag described it as the packing box in which the nearby Watergate complex was delivered) But scoff away the viability and influence of the John F Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts?— well just try Washingtonians have been thronging the place since 1971 packing the four auditoriums —for drama operaballet concerts and films— and spilling out into the chandeliered Grand Foyer the mammoth halls the restaurants and bal-conies and public rooms What has drawn them in is no museum collection of art-un-der-glass but the real living stuff Often brand new art generated on the spot as well as familiar works remounted in handsome functional surroundings In fact the center so bedazzles the senses that a writer looking into Washington theater is apt to miss the broad picture in the allure of its most spectacular feature Even before the center was created through private foundation and federal funding the city was by no means without theater some of it very good indeed For Instance it had the Arena Stage one of the first and certainly one of the best re- gional theaters in the land Since 1950 when the Arena got started in a disused movie house the company had expanded into a onetime brewery (redubbed “the Old Vat”) then moved again into an enviably workable permanent showplace on the southwest waterfront Under the guidance of its founder Zelda Fichandler and her husband Tom the Arena had launched new plays of note (“Indians” and “The Great White Hope” to name a couple) sustained a flow of classical and modern drama and opened some famous career s— the actor George Grizzard for one director Alan Schneider for another It had survived economic knocks with continuing help from donors and foundation grants And in 1971 it even got a second adjoining theater the 500-seat Kreeger running concurrently with the 800-seat Arena house Some will tell you 1971 was THE year for Washington theater Besides the birth of Kennedy Center and the Arena’s Kreeger the year brought new vitality to the historic little Ford’s Theater downtown which had been reopened in 1968 as a living memorial to Abraham Lincoln All at once after a 3-year doldrum of unsuccessful productions Ford’s tripled its subscription list with a series of locally booked hits At the same time the world seemed to discover what was happening on stage in the nation’s capital “In 1971 lots of things were bouncing around” recalled Zelda Fichandler the other day “The collision was so obvious that even the journalists caught on Here was the Kennedy Center a known quantity being a great big building It helped to identify by the rule of orbit all the other In rocket's glare Kennedy Center things that had been going on before “In earlier days the critics used to come down and write snooty stories on the Washington hinterlands— excepting the Arena of course we were a sort of subordinate clause Like a water fountain seen by a thirsty man in the middle of Macy’s Then came the Kennedy Center and we got a new frame of reference Now we’re just perceived differently But surely what happened in 1971 had been happening to some extent here for a long time” Long and not so long Mrs Fichandler herself pointed out that in 1950 “this was like a sleeping town with nothing to wake it up” And Richard L Coe the courtly drama critic for the Washington Post remembers that from 1948 to '50 there was virtually no theater in town Once-thriving commercial playhouses were being razed for land redevelopment in the postwar boom Even the old reliable National Theater best known as a pre-Broadway “tryout” house fell dark for a time following a bizarre hassle over racial discrimination: Blacks could appear on stage but not in the audience But these are only rueful footnotes to a much more positive recent history Following the bad years the city by some subtle merger of processes began to define its needs and try to fulfill them The population grew both in size and cosmopolitanism Everyone I’ve met with here agrees that the Washington audience is now one of the best educated most receptive in America There is agreement too on another point: That the efforts of the press— largely Dick Coe’s relentless campaigning for a theater worthy of a world capital-have had a potent impact on cultural developments Most important Washington has become the focal point of a rather belated national phenomenon This is the recognition at last that a flourishing of the arts in America must involve institutional partnerships between all sectors of the economy public and private The various kinds of institutional theater that have sprung up in Washington might well serve as prototypes for an emerging national pattern Any survey of the Washington scene today must extend far beyond the more publicized ventures: The Kennedy Center with its 1100-seat Ei-senhower Theater ( some plays and musicals are also performed in the larger Opera House) the Arena Stage and its adjunct Kreeger playhouse Ford’s Theater with its charming ambiance and its ghosts of old tragedy Another company that has drawn wide recognition is the Washington Theater Club which performs a largely contemporary repertoire in a converted Baptist church The F o 1 g e r Library Theater housed in a Shakespeare library-museum with its own sealed-down version of the Globe playhouse offers about five plays a year with professional actors The Hartke Theater at Catholic University is a spanking new facility for both student and professional work and the Olney Theater in nearby Olney Md is another thriving offshoot of the Catholic University drama department An unusual operation opened in that big year 1971 is Wolf Trap Farm in Vienna Va Federally owned as the first national park for the performing arts Wolf Trap was donated by a wealthy benefactress who built a 5000-seat playhouse where music dance and musical comedies are performed each summer Dick Coe describes it admiringly as “a sort of combination Tangle wood and show-boat” Fittingly in a city of large black population there are now at least three black stage groups of which the best known (because of its founder-director the actor Robert Hooks) is the D C Black Repertory out on Georgia Avenue One day during a taxi ride the black driver handed me a flyer advertising the latest D C Rep production then revealed that he was one of the actors “This town” he said “is really grooving on theater” While nonprofit theater seems to predominate here there is still a commercial stage best represented by the old National downtown located on a site where theaters have stood since 1835 It continues to serve as a kind of micro -Broadway offering road shows bound to and from New York Rather less successful so far is the new American Theater in the L’Enfant Plaza district which produces its own shows commercially with a slant toward intimate musicals Then there are the dinner theaters— God knows how many— which range in quality from good to amateurish ac-See WASHINGTON Page 2E Cose of the Squealing Pigs— 'Serpico Serpko " opening Wednesday at the Ranch Mart Blue Ridge and Empire (Audience fating R) — Drama based on the book "Serpico" by Peter Maaa screenplay by Waldo Salt and Norman Wexter directed by Sidney Lumet produced by Martin Bregman and released by Paramount Pictures with the following principal players: Al Pacino John Randolph Jack Kehoe Biff McGuire Barbara Eda-Young Cornelia Sharpe and Tony Roberts By Dennis Stack A Member of the Staff One of the country’s most versatile hoodlums once remarked that for years he had thought that “the long arm of the law” was a cop reaching for his weekly payoff Police corruption especially in the big cities is like a communicable disease There are periodic outbreaks subsequent cleanups public outrage and solemn assurances that something like this will never happen again All is well until the next scandal — except that now the payoffs are higher The pattern will continue as long as there are laws against things certain people want to do — gambling for example — but many policemen have resisted it The most celebrated foe of corruption in recent years is Frank Serpico a New York police man whose struggles are recounted in a new movie based on the non-fiction best-seller by Peter Maas Serpico started out as a nice boy from one of the old neighborhoods who wanted to be a policeman He attended the New York Police Academy believed everything they told him was graduated and thrust onto the streets Reality appalled him Free lunches fixed parking tickets gambling payoffs and even narcotics payoffs were routine business He screamed but the other cops laughed Serpico decided to fight In outline the generally accepted facts of battle are these: Having observed payoffs being made Serpico went to his superior officers who did nothing He also shared his knowledge with a young detective named David Durk Because Durk had connections in City Hall he and Serpico took their story to an assistant to the mayor and then to the city’s commissioner of investigations Still there was no action Reluctantly Serpico went with Durk to the New York Times David Bumam a Times reporter wrote a series of articles partly based on information from Serpico With the story now in the public prints Mayor John Lindsay came around to appointing the Knapp Commission to investigate police corruption Later while making a drug raid Serpico was shot in the head He survived resigned and now is said to live in Europe These points are in the movie “Serpico” which follows the book fairly faithfully Not everyone— including Serpico by report— is completely satisfied with the movie as journalism Many real-life characters have criticized it for distorting or even inventing facts Such complaints are inevitable with pictures like this Martin Breg- Marceau As 8 ip A self-caricature of Marcel Mar-ceau depicts the French mime in the role of Bip the clown one of hs most popular stage creations Bip is sure to make an appearance Friday night at the Music Hall when the artist performs a special show for Kansas Citians 'The Best of Marceau" Curtain time is 8 pm Screen man the producer has responded by pointing out that “Serpico” is a “dramatization” not a documentary It is however a superreal-istic dramatization In fact it may not be possible to make a film that would be more true to life and not fail as drama It may be that the trend begun years ago by the Italian neo-realists has gone as far as it can Al Facino plays Serpico It’s a colorful role: Serpico as an undercover man often dressed like a hippie a style which satisfied the bohemian streak in his nature Volatile sensitive and obsessed he was anything but a taciturn East-wood type Al Pacino isn’t either and he creates an illusion of a man you’d stake your life is real Waldo Salt and Norman Wexler who adapted the Maas book have retained the gutter language Believe me that’s the way they talk around police stations In New York however it seems that the vocabulary is truly limited because one obscenity is used to do the work of a small dictionary The “Serpico” company darted all over New York omitting only Staten Island of the five boroughs for its 100-plus locations East Harlem West Harlem Upper Broadway Greenwich Village Astoria Manhattan’s West Side waterfront City Hall Knickerbocker Hospital the Police Academy the New York Times building and five different precinct houses were among the locations Guiding the filming was Sidney Lumet a director who probably knows New York better than anyone else in the business New York — plus dramatic realism — is Linnet’s stock-in-trade “Serpico” may be his best film since “The Pawnbroker or “Bye Bye Braverman” m m imm mm&y rs ' " ss i'y: wifi i j m ' vr - -'v ’ r '£ The many faces of Officer Frank Serpico portrayed by Al Pacino Our City: One That Causes an Uncommon Affection American cities I’m afraid as a rule aren’t inclined to sit quietly for their portraits They wriggle They squirm They make faces And— do what you like— in the end there usually turns out to be “something wrong with the mouth” - Not only does each of us tend eventually to develop a personal image ot the community m which we live Today perhaps more than ever before in our history the city itselt seems constantly to be changing Older areas may grow virtually unrecognizable in the space ot a decade or two while around their periphery unfamiliar-residential and industrial districts continue to spring up almost overnight Small wonder we’re confused Under these circumstances the Handsomely Illustrated volume on Kansas City recently published by Hallmark strikes me as a major Achievement of its kind No doubt many Kansas Gtlans wifi have their individual reservations an omission here an emphasis there Yet at least from my point of view the result has been to create a remarkably vivid impression of what the book’s subtitle aptly calls this “Surprising City of the Missouri” Outsiders who have never seen the place (Dot know all about it from hearsay) may be due for a welcome surprise Few other metro- - -polHan centers can have inspired more purely factual misconceptions— or watched them clung to with more tenacity Thus the long-prevalent idea that Kansas City is located on a parched treeless prairie still doesn’t appear to have been wholly dispelled Nor I gather are we yet generally credited (especially on the East Coast) with possessing anything like our normal quota of amenities If my experience is typical moreover the book also includes material calculated to startle even some of us who assumed we knew our home town fairly well Picturesque bits ot local history we’d either never encountered or had forgotten Commonplace scenes that acquire a fresh significance when recorded through the selective lease of a camera Reminders of how attractive are certain of our surroundings we so often simply take for granted Here they are all conveniently at hand Come to think of it a resource like this could conceivably perform a further service The sociologists tell us that about one out ot every five Americans now transfers his or her place of residence each year An increasing number of our countrymen already have become in etfect corporate nomads who appear destined to be perpetually on the move Should these temporary nextrdoor neighbors have the slightest curiosity they might appreciate such an mtroduc- Scanning the Arts N — r tion as a quick means of orienting themselves In any event they’ll know what to Iook tor and where Harald Peter who originally suggested trie project to his associates at Hallmark nas said: “When I first arrived in Kansas City twelve years ago it was not love at iirst sight That of course isn’t always true love and Kansas City certainly is not a city giving itself readily to a flirtation You don’t visit here in a day’s time get on a bus tour see the sights and then ‘On to Venice’ This city is not just a shell of past greatness but a culture in motion a place to live Cities are many things to many people and Kansas City can be all those things with one essential quality assured— the quality of life To really know Kansas City one must be part of it ” Over the years our community has accumulated a substantial stock of compliments from distinguished visitors the most quoted of which may be the late Andre Maurois’s verdict that we have probably “one of the loveliest cities on earth” Mr Peter himself a Bavarian by birth speaks of a Parisian acquaintance who is homesick for Kansas City and a London artist he knows who “had no idea a city could be so beautiful” My own favorite tribute incidentally came from a Viennese author Stefan Zweig who on the basis of a brief visit some years back declared that nowhere else in America had ne found so much Gemuetlichkeit— such a sense of warmth and hospitality But Mr Peter unquestionably is right For more than a superficial understanding of what Kansas City has to otter it’s necessary to stay a while And become “part of it” Despite the agreeable picture drawn in this new Hallmark publication of course our way of life can’t reasonably be expected to satisfy everyone If for example you demand instant access to oceans mountains or deserts living here will scarcely meet your particular requirements It wouldn’t be hard to cite other deficiencies And we’re clearly afflicted m varying degrees with most of the ills that beset a contemporary urban society Nevertheless I can think of more than one friend who after expatiating at length on what’s wrong with Kansas City will then almost casually admit that by choice ne or she wouldn’t live anywhere else For ours is one of those fortunate communities which seem to have a capacity to generate more than the customary amount of affection A dedicated San Franciscan long ago exclaimed “I’dsrather be a busted lamp-post on Battery street than the Waldorf-Astoria!” That may sound a trifle extravagant to be sure But how about our own fellowtownsman who was wont to boast : “I never come back to Kansas City that I don’t find the sun shining as it never shines in the places where I’ve been”? Unhappily the same sun doesn’t yet shine with equal intensity on all of us It would be quite possible as a matter of fact to paint a radically different and less flattering portrait of a community that still tolerates substandard housing and similar deprivations within its power to correct The paradox winch we share with every large American city today is that both pictures remain valid and can be persuasively documented The challenge— here as elsewhere across the country— is to seek progressively to narrow the gap between them until at last we no longer need to feel ashamed of the contrast We indeed have a beautiful city If we wish we can have a great city in human terms as well But this obviously will take more doing Henry C Haskell

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