"Thank God for film archivist Dennis Nyback. If not for his encyclopedic knowledge of rare films and his tenacity for acquiring them, we would never have the privilege to view some astounding works of cinema." Kim Morgan


Dennis Nyback takes his films around the world. Find out how to book a show, what programs are available, how to arrange for custom programming, and just about anything you would like to know about Dennis Nyback.

Back in 2004 I got paid fifty bucks for this piece of writing

Rapt at Unwrapped Bread

Dennis Nyback

 

From The West Side Spirit (New York City) June 10, 2004

While standing in line last week in a grocery store in New York, I
noticed the man in front of me was buying a gallon of water. I asked
him how much it would cost. He said $3.79. I thought to myself,
there’s the signal difference between America and France. In France,
red wine costs less than Coca Cola. In America, gas costs less than
water.

Every year I travel in Europe for a month or so, taking my films on
tour. I don’t stay in hotels; I stay with the people who have booked my
programs. I have been doing this for nine years. When I hear George W.
Bush say we are fighting in Iraq for “our way of life”, I know exactly
what he means. We do live differently than they do.

In Europe escalators work on demand. They do not endlessly run while
no one is using them. They sit idle when not needed and start up when
you approach them. Apartment building stairs are not lit twenty four
hours a day. When you step into a dark stairway you will see a lighted
switch. You turn the switch and the lights go on for as long as it
normally takes to climb the stairs. They then go off, until they are
needed again. European apartment kitchens and bathrooms use small water
heaters that work on demand. In America, big water heaters keep
hundreds of gallons of waters hot and ready twenty four hours a day.
Many European apartments have a clothes washer. I have seen only one
with a clothes dryer.

In America everyone gets a bag with every purchase to be later thrown
away and take up space in a land fill. In Europe people provide their
own cloth bags when shopping at grocery stores. Unwrapped loaves of
bread peep out of cloth bags or are held nakedly in hands. At small
patisseries and frankfurter stands your food is handed you on a small
square of paper. Paris streets have very little trash, but the trash
you do see is from MacDonalds, Burger King, Pizza Hut. It is a
peculiarly American practice to put a hamburger in a Styrofoam
container and place that inside a paper bag.

Gasoline in Europe costs roughly twice as much as it does in America.
In cities people walk or take public transportation. Many smaller
cities in Europe, Munich and Nuremberg for example, have subways.
Trains criss cross the continent. They are comfortable and they run
on time. Danish trains cross bodies of water on specially designed
ferries. Train stations are in the center of the towns and are reached
by public transportation or on foot. On average people are slimmer
than Americans. Could it be walking and not eating fast food has
something to do with it?

I wish more Americans would travel in Europe. I’ll bet that George W.
Bush never went to Europe before he could fly on Air Force One. Maybe
if he had walked through Berlin when he was young, he would have a
deeper understanding of what can happen to a country which prioritizes
putting itself on “war footing”. But Bush is not a curious man.
Overall, Americans are not a curious people.
Only fifteen percent of all Americans have passports. That means only
fifteen percent of us are in a position to judge for ourselves the wide
variety of possible meanings for the phrase “our way of life”. In
France it is affordable wine. In America it is affordable gas. Both
require price supports. Both are national policy. But French soldiers
are not dying to guarantee that a Frenchman can buy a bottle of wine.
In Europe, many small things are done to conserve energy. I’ve seen
how they work. To Europeans, our decision to pursue our abundantly
fossil fueled lifestyle at all cost, without taking these same
conservation measures at home, must seem nothing short of insane.

CAGED IN THE CIRCUS OF CIVILIZATION

“Everyone starts out as an individual and wants to remain one but usually it’s beat out of them by the time they’re thirty”.
                                           George Orwell

“Seattle’s a city where everyone on their twenty-ninth birthday crawls into their coffin and waits”.
                                Karen Bramsen

I don’t expect you to recognize the name of the second quote.  My ex-girlfriend Karen said that in 1995 before she convinced me to get out of Seattle and move to a real city, New York.  How bad is the conformity in Seattle?  A few years ago a man named Stamper became Chief of Police.  On his first night in Seattle he and his wife checked into a downtown hotel in the middle of the night.  As he looked out the window at his new city he called excitedly to his wife “Look at those people standing on the corner”.  What were they doing on that freezing, night without an automobile in sight?  They were waiting for the WALK light to go on before they crossed the street.  Chief Stamper couldn’t believe his eyes.  Welcome to Seattle, city of sheep.  My only hope is that the great city of New York doesn’t follow Seattle’s lead and turn its citizenry into people who think it takes more than looking both ways to safely cross a street.

Now to a little of my personal history of Jaywalking in Seattle.  One night in the 1980’s I drove with my girlfriend Elizabeth and a couple of friends to have a meal about eleven o’clock at night.  We parked across the street from a cafe and jaywalked across the street.  Elizabeth was the last across and I waited for her in the empty street.  Just then two cops came out of the cafe and obviously needed to start writing tickets to make up for the ones they missed while lingering over coffee and donuts.  They nabbed us.  Unfortunately Elizabeth had a nasty temper and started to loudly berate them.  She said to one of them “What do you need that gun for?  I’m from England and the policemen there don’t carry guns.  You must need one to compensate for your obvious lack of virility”.  The upshot?  I got thrown in Jail. Elizabeth had her state  issued picture ID, and I only had (I wasn’t driving) my picture-less U of W student ID.  Not being able to prove my existence and stung by her mouth they trundled me off to the Hoosegow.  I was booked, fingerprinted and during the process the guard leered  at me and said in a menacing voice “Know what they got ya in here for?  I said no, imagining an endless list of Kafkaesque charges.  In the same tone of voice he spit out “Jaywalking! , and you know what the bail is?” Again I imagined unbelievably punitive amounts. He cut off my thoughts with a sneeringly triumphant “Thirteen bucks!”  Shortly I was put into a surprisingly comfortable cell with six bunks and three other hardened criminals.  A few hours later my bail of $13.00 was paid by my friends and I was sprung.

Several years later I told this story to my lawyer (Who was later dis-barred and died).  He asked “What did they charge you with, failure to control your broad?”

Not long after that I was walking down the main street in the University District and Jaywalked across to enter the JC Penny store.  Out of nowhere a cop appeared and asked for some ID.  Just as I reached for it a young man burst out of store and started running up the sidewalk.  The cop turned his head and took a step in that direction and I started running as fast as I could in the other direction.  I almost got hit by a car sprinting through a busy intersection, ducked into a store and exited out the back door. Nobody shot me and when I stopped un-apprehended several blocks later  I’d never felt so exhilarated before in my life.  If a cop tries to give you a Jaywalking ticket you should try it, although now they just might shoot you.

Last summer I was visiting Seattle.  Around ten o’clock I was walking up the same University District street reading a book.  As I crossed a street against the light a prowl car stopped and the cop said to me “Why’d you cross against that light?”  I said “I live in New York, I didn’t know it was a problem here”.  Wrong answer.  Both cops recognized me as a dangerous bolshevik and approached me warily with their ticket books in hand.  Not being as young or as fast as I used to be I reached for my wallet.   While one of the cops was in the car checking the computer to see if I was dangerous felon (an obvious assumption considering my apparent lack of respect for authority) the other cop asked me “Just what do you think we’re doing out here?”  I replied “Wasting both of our time”.  He nodded and said “Yeah, you’re probably right.  So you live in New York?  Don’t pay the ticket, we’re not going to come after you”.   The second cop got out of the car and handed me the $47.00 symbol of fascism and I left.  Just for laughs I decided to contest the ticket and see what it would get me.  Within six weeks I had an appointment with a magistrate and told him the whole sordid tale.  All he could say was “You have two choices,  I can’t do anything for you,  you can either pay the ticket or request a court hearing”.  I said “I’m going back to New York next week and can’t wait months for a hearing, but I do have another choice”.  He played straight man and said “What’s that”.  I replied “I could just walk out of here and ignore the whole thing”.  He looked at his computer screen which had my whole history of un-paid parking tickets dating back to 1984 (the city wants more than a thousand dollars from me) and said in a judicially derisive voice “I see you won’t have any problem doing that”.  I gave it one last shot.  “Look, if I walk out of here the city will never get a nickle out of me, but if you’ll reduce the fine to ten bucks I’ll pay that and the city will get something for your time”.  He said “I can’t do that” so I left without paying.  Later I got a letter from a collection agency demanding $113.00 for the ticket which must be growing like Topsy.  It appears Seattle isn’t going to take this lying down.

Forgive me if I now offer some personal thoughts on the dangers and benefits of Jaywalking.  Seattle, with its draconian enforcement measures and sheep-like citizens has a serious problem with pedestrians being hit in cross walks.  Recently they enacted a new ordinance to prevent this.  Simply put it said that a car had to stop whenever a pedestrian entered a cross walk and  not just when they would be walking in front of you.  The ordinance said that if the pedestrian enters on the left and you’re on the right you have to stop even if you would miss them my twenty feet.  Also if they enter on the right and you’re on the right you have to remain stopped until they reach the left-hand sidewalk.  Motorists howled and the ordinance is now largely ignored after an initial flurry of citations.  What do I think is the real reason pedestrians in cross-walks are in such danger in Seattle?  It’s because they have surrendered the roads to motorists.  In New York drivers are used to people crossing the road everywhere and are not surprised when it happens.  Drivers in Seattle take it as an affront to their manifest destiny to proceed when someone crosses a street.  Whether in a crosswalk or not they seem to take gleeful joy in buzzing them as closely as possible.  In New York pedestrians approaching a blinking don’t walk light blithely ignore it even when they know they can’t reach the opposite side before the autos have a green.  They continue ambling across like it was the most natural thing in the world.  I am continually amazed by this and marvel at how brazen they are and how patiently the lead motorist at a green light waits until the last straggler is past.  In Seattle when the light turns green the motorists are off to the races and the odd-ball laggard would usually be nailed unless he leaps out of the way.  After all, the car owns the road. There is one more reason why so many pedestrians get hit by cars in a tightly controlled city.  Too many times the pedestrian is busy looking out for the cops when he jaywalks and is distracted from the serious business of looking out for cars.

Music Man review 7/11/2014

Five years ago I was reviewing plays for the  online  Portland Stage Reviews.  I’ll post them all eventually, unedited of what I sent to the page.  Here’s one

Meredith Willson was born in Mason City, Iowa in 1902. George M. Cohan had made his Broadway debut with his play The Governor’s Son a year earlier. Meredith Willson’s play The Music Man is set in 1912. By that time George M. Cohan had written, produced and starred in over 13 Broadway musicals; including in 1910 the aptly named The Man Who Owned Broadway . Meredith Willson’s The Music Man was produced in 1957 and is set in the fictional town of River City, Iowa. More correctly it is set in the era of George M. Cohan and the idyllic Iowan childhood of Meredith Willson.

Meredith Willson was 55 years old when The Music Man opened. He had witnessed tremendous changes: the First World War, the Great Depression, the Second World War, the Cold War. He also witnessed the birth of Jazz and also the birth of Rock and Roll. The Music Man is set in a time when automobiles were still something of a novelty, recorded music had not yet produced a million seller, radio was not yet used for entertainment, television was years and years away, and the bands of Giuseppe Creatore and John Phillip Sousa were famous in the land. It was also a time when a small town in the middle of Iowa could exist in its own little bubble of timelessness in way very difficult for us to comprehend. It was a time and place Meredith Willson knew well. That makes us fortunate. It is a lovely place to visit. Thanks to The Music Man we can.

Although there is a lot more going on this is very much the story of Professor Harold Hill and the Librarian Marion Paroo. Here they are capably essayed by Joe Theissen and Chrissy Kelly-Pettit. Mr. Theissen is very good and appropriately insouciant in the showy part of the con man Harold. He moves well on the stage and his voice is fine for the part. Ms. Kelly-Pettit is very good as the late to awakening in love Marion. She has a nice voice with a warm quality that is well up to the challenges in the score.

The Music Man uses songs to move along the plot as well as any musical ever written. After “Rock Island.” introduces us to the life of Victorian era traveling salesmen we have Harold exhibiting his salesmanship with the songs “Ya Got Trouble” and “76 Trombones.” Marion’s songs “Goodnight My Someone” and “My White Knight” help us to understand her character. The songs “Pick-a-Little, Talk-a-Little,” “Shipoopi,” and “The Wells Fargo Wagon” concisely introduce themes of life in a small town.

One part of life in 1912 that is still celebrated is Barbershop Quartette singing. A high point of the Music Man is the Quartette singing “Lida Rose” with Marion responding with the counter melody “Will I Ever Tell You.” This song is still being performed by barbershop quartettes around the world. It is very well performed in this production. “Till There Was You” is a wonderful song; as good as any love song written for the Broadway stage. It was also a hit in Great Britain.

Among the supporting roles Norman Wilson as Marcellus Washburn is excellent. Brandon B. Weaver as Charlie Crowell is also very good.

The weakest part of the production is the dancing. That said, the partner dancing in “Marion the Librarian” was good. All of the other dance numbers were fun. All of the large ensemble pieces are choreographed well.

A star of the production is the Deb Fennell Auditorium at Tigard High School. It was built in 1953. Back then they still built High School Auditoriums with large proscenium stages and fly systems. The Deb Fennell also has a working waterfall curtain. This production starts with the raising of the curtain to reveal a huge train locomotive moving head on toward the audience. The locomotive than splits in half to create a chair car of that train. The chair car is filled with traveling salesmen and the play takes off to a rollicking start.

Thanks to the fly system there are 9 different sets in this production and 12 major scene changes. The changes included various back drops flying up and down and various houses and buildings rolling on and off. All changes were performed seamlessly. The Deb Fennell also has an orchestra pit. This production makes full use of an excellent twelve piece orchestra under the direction of Alan D. Lytel.

The production has a cast of 37. All of the costumes were attractive and period correct. Most of the men were in shades of brown with the boys wearing knickers. The women and girls were in appropriate period pretty dresses in various muted pastel colors Marion is costumed in blacks and whites. Costumes and Scenery were credited to FCLO Music Theatre.

Meredith Willson wrote the story, book, music and lyrics for The Music Man. That was in the tradition of George M. Cohan and not many others. George M. Cohan had a hit in 1906 with his play 45 Minutes from Broadway. It was set in New Rochelle, New York. That is much closer to Broadway than we are out here. Luckily we have the Broadway Rose Production Company. They are dedicated to shortening the gap. Their mission statement: “To create unparalleled musical theater experiences that invigorate audiences and enrich our communities.” In fulfilling that mandate since 1992 they have tackled a great number of Broadway Musicals: From A Day in Hollywood a Night in the Ukraine to The Whole Wide World; from Oklahoma to Les Miserables. We should be thankful they are now doing The Music Man.

Cast

Joe Theissen Harold Hill

Chrissy Kelly-Pettit Marion Paroo

Norman Wilson Marcellus Washburn

Rachelle Reihl Eulalie M. Shinn

Annie Kaiser Mr. Paroo

Brandon B. Weaver Charlie Crowell

Martin Tebo Tommy Djilas

Haley Van Nortwick Zaneeta Shinn

Josiah Bartell Winthrop

Sherrie Van Hine Mrs. Squires

Claire Craig Sheets Ethel Toffelmeir

Shannon Jones Maud Dunlop

Margo Schembre Alma Hix

Makenna Markman Amaryllis

Joey Cote Ewart Dunlop

Thomas Slater Jascey Squires

Mont Chris Hubbard Oliver Hix

Bobby Jackson Olin Britt

Raeanne Romito Gracie Shinn

Dan Bahr Ensemble

Chris Bartell Ensemble

Collin Carver Ensemble

Matthew Faranda Ensemble

Karen Kumley Ensemble

Greg Prosser Ensemble

Jennie Spada Ensemble

Wendy Steele Ensemble

Orchestra

Alan D. Lytle Conductor

Marc Grafe Reeds

Alicia Charlton Reeds

Jennifer Woodall Reeds

Sean Kelleher Reeds

Levis Dragulin Trumpet

Giancarlo Viviano Trumpet

Eric Beam Trumpet

Bryabnt Byers Trombone

Gary Irvine Percussion

Jeffrey Childs Piano, Celeste

Marya Kazmierski Violin

Dan Schulte Bass

Production Credits

Meredith Willson Story, Book, Music, Lyrics

Flanklin Lacey Story

Peggy Taphorn Direction and Choreography

Alan D. Lytle Music Direction

FCLO Music Theatre Scenery and Costumes

Grace O’malley Costume Supervisor

Gene Dent Lighting

Tim Richey Sound

Jessica Carr Wigs

Audra Petrie Properties

Jessica Downs Stage Manager

Phil McBeth Technical Director