Saturday, April 6, 2013


John Cullum explains that computer games relax him -- especially the card game, "Solitaire." Also, when he's not actively working on a show, John loves to putter -- repairing, taking things apart, making them function, better gives him real pleasure.

The Cullums know all too well, that your work is never done when you're in a show -- it has to be performed again, freshly, tomorrow. That's why a favorite time-wasting activity is working on things that can be accomplished -- actually finished.

Thursday, April 4, 2013


He used to live in the building that is next door to ours.

His limo was often parked directly in front of our building.

Golly, the shows Tommy Tune directed -- this guy could really put a hit together. The list is amazing; the awards he got are amazing; the way he's done what he wanted to do with no clear career pattern tells me that this man hasn't been seeking money, or fame, or notoriety.

That's why I want to write about him. This man takes on a job that interests him, and brings to it all the talents he has -- the visual artist, painter, costume creator, set designer, casting agent, as well as the dancer, choreographer, director. Top billing, I think, goes to the dancer aspects of this guy. He was one, is one, and everything he does right now continues to have what I call the dancer mentality. (Yes, it takes one to know one.)

Tommy sees patterns; he knows physicality, and the joy of expressing himself in movement. He can really move -- bet I could teach him the dance that I do every day -- the steps are simple, but performing them is not simple.

It's revisiting -- ala Stanislavsky, (method acting) -- a room. Seeing it, noting everything -- ceiling, walls, outlets, and cracks on the walls, furniture, floor, marks on the floor -- discovering everything freshly. Mostly, a dancer doesn't discover freshly. The dancer locks in a movement by repeating it, practicing it's like a conditioned reflex. Only a real dancer, though it's locked in as a reflex, creates the movement as he dances -- performs it, as if it has never been done before.

Is Tommy Tune my favorite male dancer? No, but he's my favorite creator in the field of movement for the stage. Oh my -- how young he is, despite the fact that he's in his early seventies now, and 6'6." Surely he has knees, back, hip areas that are worn down, and plenty of aches and pains.

I have to confess, I especially like the fact that he came to my show when crowds were coming (I was temporarily chic when my dance-drama "Zinnia" was being performed on weekends at the Colonnades Theater (across from Joe Papp's huge building). Tune told a lot of people that "Zinnia," my dancing brought tears to his eyes.

My husband, John Cullum co-directed this dance-drama. The music was Mahler's Tenth Symphony. Carole Mayo Jenkins played the speaking character. I was "Zinnia," the child dream aspect of the actressThe truth is, I wear Tommy Tune's praise -- that sentence he said -- like an orchid, pinned to my blouse.

Here's Tommy Tune, talking, singing, dancing around the way he's been doing all of his life, telling his own story.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013


What is the American Dream?

Like a schoolgirl, I can rattle off what I've heard, been taught, and seen.

I envision what the Grant Wood, "American Gothic" painting implied -- having money enough  for a home, food, clothes, toys, private or public schooling, medical emergencies, insurance, cleaning help, and recreations --vacations, including a car.

Is this dream an inheritance from the previous century -- the most important thing in life is having enough money for the good life? Maybe, but that's never been my dream.

When I was writing about a woman who, like me, was dressed in her mother's dreams, I named the book "SOMEBODY--Woman of the Century."

Being somebody -- that was the fire in my life, in the life of lots of people I know.

I read "How to Restore the American Dream," an article by Fareed  Zakaria, an Editor-at-large of Time Magazine. It was packed  with figures -- billions, millions, percentages, median incomes, wages,  profits, losses -- big numbers, big issues that relate to  money-money-money.

And movies, TV, the Internet -- everywhere we look -- store  windows, signs, ads tell us MONEY IS IT.

I think it's a wrong vision, a bound-to-fail dream.

I say YOU GOT TO DO. Dreaming is DOING -- an action. Hey, it's an Aristotelian concept -- teaching, cooking, sewing,  writing, painting, gardening, hunting, cleaning, inventing, engineering  -- add to this anything you like to do. "Action" usually involves  bodily movement. Philosophers argue about this, but in-active doings --  studying, learning, listening, thinking -- are actions.

Let  the wise men discuss and diagnose the world's economic problems and  translate them into solutions. If you fog out and blot out and ignore the  money-money aspects of what's on your mind, you may find, in your thoughts, a dream, a focus that  will inspire you to DO something.

If your dream sounds  or seems ridiculous -- impractical, silly, too big, too  trivial -- just hold on tight -- it'll probably build into something you can maybe,  possibly, sooner or later, try to do.

Just the possibility is beyond money, more than the gleaming house -- it is gold in your mind that you own.

Sunday, March 31, 2013


Em wants people to know what John Cullum reads.

As John mentions the titles of books he's been reading, we learn that he habitually postpones finishing a novel. Instead, as he starts reading a new book, he returns to a favorite book, reacquaints himself with the characters, and then reads the ending.

John Cullum's appetite for the classics, and his pleasure in reading them amazes Em.