Tag Archives: Dr. Maya Angelou

Remembering Maya Angelou

One of the best things about my job is that I get to have a different perspective on  shows at historic theatres – literally not figuratively.  Standing backstage I get to see and hear things that the audience misses.  But whether I am in the audience or back stage, historic theatres remain a magical place.

After a dance show, Diavolo – Foreign Bodies, at the Paramount in Austin, I got a few minutes alone with artistic director, Jacques Heim, who asked me if the Paramount audience was always so generous.  “My dancers are feeding off the energy from your audience.  It is like a fantastic feast!”  And he was right.  The dancers were energized by the audience.  It’s not the first time an artist has told me that there is a special connection between the audience and stage at historic theatres.  These places have a special energy even when they are empty… much less with a full audience.

A week later the exact opposite thing happened when Maya Angelou took the stage.   I watched the entire talk from backstage and at the end of the show Dr. Angelou nearly collapsed from exhaustion.  The audience had fed off her energy so completely that she gave herself over totally that night.  When she signaled to the stage crew to allow for an encore her staff was speechless – evidently that is very rare.

As soon as the curtain closed for the final time, she collapsed into a waiting wheel chair.  The energy had been drained from her.  It is a show that still, today, gets comments from audience members who were there.  For some, it was life changing.

Talking to her backstage before she left was a delight and remains one of my favorite memories.  She had a light around her, an energy that was palpable.

I wish her all the best on her journey into the next life…

Advertisements

Give and Take

maya1 diavolo

One of the nice things about my job is that I get to have a different perspective on the shows at the Paramount – literally not figuratively.  Standing backstage I get to see and hear things that the audience misses.  But whether I am in the audience or back stage, the Paramount remains a magical place.

After the dance show, Diavolo – Foreign Bodies, I got a few minutes alone with artistic director, Jacques Heim, who asked me if the Paramount audience was always so generous.  “My dancers are feeding off the energy from your audience.  It is like a fantastic feast!”  And he was right.  The dancers were energized by the audience.  It’s not the first time an artist has told me that there is a special connection between the audience and stage at the Paramount.

A week later the exact opposite thing happened when Maya Angelou took the stage.   I watched the entire talk from backstage and at the end of the show Dr. Angelou nearly collapsed from exhaustion.  The audience had captured her so completely that she gave herself over that night.  When she signalled to allow for an encore her staff was speechless – Evidently that is very rare.  She left the Paramount drained but at the same time enthralled.

Before she left,  Dr. Angelou asked that I share these poems with you:

The Health-Food Diner by Maya Angelou

No sprouted wheat and soya shoots
And Brussels in a cake,
Carrot straw and spinach raw,
(Today, I need a steak).

Not thick brown rice and rice pilaw
Or mushrooms creamed on toast,
Turnips mashed and parsnips hashed,
(I’m dreaming of a roast).

Health-food folks around the world
Are thinned by anxious zeal,
They look for help in seafood kelp
(I count on breaded veal).

No smoking signs, raw mustard greens,
Zucchini by the ton,
Uncooked kale and bodies frail
Are sure to make me run to
Loins of pork and chicken thighs
And standing rib, so prime,
Pork chops brown and fresh ground round
(I crave them all the time).

Irish stews and boiled corned beef
and hot dogs by the scores,
or any place that saves a space
For smoking carnivores.

 

A Brave and Startling Truth by Maya Angelou

 We, this people, on a small and lonely planet
Traveling through casual space
Past aloof stars, across the way of indifferent suns
To a destination where all signs tell us
It is possible and imperative that we learn
A brave and startling truth

And when we come to it
To the day of peacemaking
When we release our fingers
From fists of hostility
And allow the pure air to cool our palms

When we come to it
When the curtain falls on the minstrel show of hate
And faces sooted with scorn are scrubbed clean
When battlefields and coliseum
No longer rake our unique and particular sons and daughters
Up with the bruised and bloody grass
To lie in identical plots in foreign soil

When the rapacious storming of the churches
The screaming racket in the temples have ceased
When the pennants are waving gaily
When the banners of the world tremble
Stoutly in the good, clean breeze

When we come to it
When we let the rifles fall from our shoulders
And children dress their dolls in flags of truce
When land mines of death have been removed
And the aged can walk into evenings of peace
When religious ritual is not perfumed
By the incense of burning flesh
And childhood dreams are not kicked awake
By nightmares of abuse

When we come to it
Then we will confess that not the Pyramids
With their stones set in mysterious perfection
Nor the Gardens of Babylon
Hanging as eternal beauty
In our collective memory
Not the Grand Canyon
Kindled into delicious color
By Western sunsets

Nor the Danube, flowing its blue soul into Europe
Not the sacred peak of Mount Fuji
Stretching to the Rising Sun
Neither Father Amazon nor Mother Mississippi who, without favor,
Nurture all creatures in the depths and on the shores
These are not the only wonders of the world

When we come to it
We, this people, on this minuscule and kithless globe
Who reach daily for the bomb, the blade and the dagger
Yet who petition in the dark for tokens of peace
We, this people on this mote of matter
In whose mouths abide cankerous words
Which challenge our very existence
Yet out of those same mouths
Come songs of such exquisite sweetness
That the heart falters in its labor
And the body is quieted into awe

We, this people, on this small and drifting planet
Whose hands can strike with such abandon
That in a twinkling, life is sapped from the living
Yet those same hands can touch with such healing, irresistible tenderness
That the haughty neck is happy to bow
And the proud back is glad to bend
Out of such chaos, of such contradiction
We learn that we are neither devils nor divines

When we come to it
We, this people, on this wayward, floating body
Created on this earth, of this earth
Have the power to fashion for this earth
A climate where every man and every woman
Can live freely without sanctimonious piety
Without crippling fear

When we come to it
We must confess that we are the possible
We are the miraculous, the true wonder of this world
That is when, and only when
We come to it.

This poem was written and delivered in honor of the 50th anniversary of the United Nations.

Unfinished Business

Tonight I met Dr. Maya Angelou.  I felt like I was in the presence of royalty… and in a way, I was.  She is extraordinary.

During her presentation at the Paramount she said, “I wrote a song for Roberta Flack and I want Mr. Stein to post it to the theatre’s website.”  So I did…  not after the show, but immediately after she said that.  When Maya Angelou asks you to do something, you don’t hesitate. I got up from my seat, walked to the box office, sat at a computer and posted lyrics to the song here on my blog which links to the theatre’s website and my Facebook page.  Then I went back to my seat. 

After the show, I discovered that while I was gone, she had asked me to post two additional poems.   Were you at the show?  If so, can you tell me which poems she asked me to post?  I don’t want to dissappoint her…

Willie

Maya Angelou asked me if I would post this on the theatre’s website.   It is a song she wrote for Roberta Flack called “Willie”.  When Maya Angelou asks you to do something, you do it… happily.

Willie
by Maya Angelou

Willie was a man without fame,
Hardly anybody knew his name.
Crippled and limping, always walking lame,
He said, “I keep on movin’
Movin’ just the same.”

Solitude was the climate in his head,
Emptiness was the partner in his bed,
Pain echoed in the steeps of his tread,
He said, “I keep on followin’
Where the leaders led.

“I may cry and I will die,
But my spirit is the soul of every spring,
Watch for me and you will see
That I’m present in the songs that children sing.”

People called him “Uncle,” “boy” and “Hey,”
Said, “You can’t live through this another day.”
The, they waited to hear what he would say.
He said, “I’m living
In the games that children play.

“You may enter my sleep, people my dreams,
Threaten my early morning’s ease,
But I keep comin’ followin’ laughin’ cryin’,
Sure as a summer breeze.

“Wait for me, watch for me.
My spirit is the surge of open seas.
Look for me, ask for me,
I’m the rustle in the autumn leaves.

“When the sun rises
I am the time.
When the children sing
I am the Rhyme.”

Polar Opposites

lisa-lampanelli1 maya1 

Lisa Lampanelli wasn’t in rare form Friday night at the Paramount… she was in regular form: rude, crude and fabulously hilarious.  With both the early and late show filled with hysterical fans, Lisa seemed to be enjoying her Austin tour stop.

I have always celebrated the Paramount’s eclectic and diverse offerings.  We bring in a little bit of this and a little bit of that and eventually everyone finds something they like.  But what is about to happen in the next 24 hours is taking that concept to the extreme… and maybe not in a good way.

Lisa will leave the stage around midnight.   Approximately 18 hours later, Dr. Maya Angelou will take the stage. In what parallel universe did we come up with that programming schedule?

I love kd lang more than Cher…

kd-lang-show

For those of you who know me, loving something more than Cher is a huge step for me.  Huge.  But tonight I fell hook, line and sinker for k.d. lang.  Easily the most beautiful and pure voice ever to play the Paramount stage.  Wow.  Wow.  Wow.  I sat in the theatre and cried like a big baby when she sang Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah.

Earlier that day, I knew something great was about to happen when I listened in on her sound check.   I don’t know if she just took the extra time to get the audio equipment down perfect or if she has a voice so perfect that she can overcome any audio equipment…  I just know that if was perfect and I am a fan for life.

After sound check she gave a quick interview to the afterellen.com blog.

The house was sold-out – every seat filled with subscribers.  Only a few single tickets actually went on sale to the general public due to subscriber demand for our Leading Ladies Series featuring kd lang, Lily Tomlin and Dr. Maya Angelou.