Friday, September 23, 2011

Roger Brucker on FLOYD COLLINS

Roger Brucker

On September 17th, author of TRAPPED! The Floyd Collins Story, Roger Brucker took to the American Rep Theater of WNY stage to chat about Floyd Collins, the Great Save Cave and the stories behind this great Americana tale.

Before the performance, Mr Brucker engaged patrons in the history behind Floyd Collins and the characters involved then briefly answered questions. Being elusive in order to not be a spoiler, Mr. Brucker reserved some of his answers until after the Floyd Collins performance.

Roger Brucker's cave history began at an early age when, according to his website "he hid in closets behind hanging clothes so that nobody could find him...and built his own caves out of card tables, chairs and blankets."

Throughout the 50's & 60's, Roger Brucker began to explore the vast connective tunnels of the Crystal Caves located near the famed Kentuckian Mammoth Cave systems. His mission was to find a link to both underground systems. Successful in his attempts, Brucker, with Richard Watson,  authored The Longest Cave in 1976, depicting his efforts in finding connections between the Flint and the Mammoth Cave systems.

Inspired by the caving efforts of regional folk-hero, Floyd Collins, Brucker then set off to explore the Sand Cave system; the same area surrounding the tragic events surrounding Collins. His efforts would be the basis behind the book Trapped! The Story of Floyd Collins.

Upon exploring the unstable conditions of the cave, Brucker recalls in his website biography, "It was one of the most frightening experiences of my life." His efforts in the Sand Cave, including reaching the spot where Floyd Collins became stuck, yielded his and Robert J Murray's accurate depiction of the 1925 events surrounding this Americana story.

So much accuracy, that several years later Adam Guettel and Tina Landau used the book as a "Bible" in obtaining information to write the musical Floyd Collins.

American Repertory Theater of WNY was proud to host Mr. Brucker for the evening and both patrons and cast members found his related and relayed stories of Floyd Collins, the Sand Cave and the many characters surrounding this story to be informative, insightful and entertaining.

"This is as close as I'll come to the real Floyd Collins,"said a patron. "Its like having a living history book to fill in the blanks."

Afterwards, Roger Brucker graciously said that the production by ART of WNY was one of the top-two Floyd Collins productions of the twenty he has seen. "The only performances in the same league as this was the College Conservatory in Cincinnati." He told patrons.

A sprite man in his 80's, Roger Brucker stayed well past the show's end answering questions and sharing his thoughts on the material. At one point, shying away from singing the original Ballad of Floyd Collins instead deferring to the talent on stage for that purpose. "I'm a caver, not a singer." He joked.

American Repertory Theater of WNY was proud to bring in this accomplished author and truly appreciates the once-in-lifetime experience of meeting a "living history book". ART would also like to thank Mr. Brucker's publicist Fred Anderson for making the arrangements and seeing this absolutely entertaining evening through.

This is what collaboration is all about.

Roger Brucker (seated) with cast of ART's FLOYD COLLINS
 Matthew LaChiusa is the Artistic Director of the American Rep Theater of WNY. He is extremely grateful to have the opportunity to meet Mr. Brucker and share in the history of this great Americana Story. Brucker sent an email a day later expressing his thoughts on the production say "Its a sleeper show and those who go will see one of the best performances they will ever encounter...Its a show to thrill the soul."

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Mark Poloncarz: A Sheep in Wolf's Clothing?

Recently, I received a posting from Facebook about an event that sponsors financial support for Erie County Comptroller, Mark Poloncarz, bid for County Executive against, and loathed by Arts Groups, incumbent Chris Collins. 

Entitled Friends of the Arts for Mark Poloncarz Fundraiser, this event is schedule at the Cabaret Restaurant featuring "Food Live Music", a cash bar at a cash bar and, most importantly, "meet the candidate" for $25.

For those in the Arts Community who would like to see a photon torpedo sent into Darth Collins' Death Star backside, the event sounds like a positive step in bringing down the Evil Empire. 

With that said, I am going to sound like a Debbie-Downer, Poloncarz party-farter. 

Who is Mark Poloncarz and what can he do for Western New York's Arts Community?

From his website, County Comptroller Poloncarz has been effective in being a "taxpayer's watchdog" and has "called out wasteful spending and irresponsible actions" in attempts to hold government accountable. Additionally, under his watch Erie County credit rating has "increased 4  the current rating of A2" indicating his background in private-section business has been effective in the overseeing of County budgets. 

As he launches his campaign to oust Collins, Poloncarz paints a lovely picture of imagining a better Erie County in his video ads (as seen above) by electing an County Executive who "actually cares" about the taxpayers and will place the people first by "always remembering who his bosses are." 

I can see why anti-Collins folks are giddy about this candidate. 

His rhetoric is strong as he understands that Libraries and the Arts are important in creating a better community, "The Arts are one of the basic underlying principles of a strong economy", he states in his website section Preserving Our Artistic and Educational Assets.

With the local economic impact of the Arts briefly stated, Poloncarz shifts emphasis on the importance of libraries during "difficult economic times" by informing us that "Libraries improve our quality of life and act as an essential educational resource." He enforces his belief that a reduction in "economic and educational resources" will lead to less access to these "essential services."

"A library acts as a lifeline. When people cannot afford books, CD's and DVD's, they turn to libraries." He concludes. 

Somewhere in Erie County one can hear a hearty cheer from SLAWNY being raised. 

So what about Mark Poloncarz's thoughts on how to better Erie County Arts groups?

We already know about the economic viability of the Arts but he states nothing about HOW he intends to fund (or WHO gets the funding for that matter) the Arts. 

Collins also understands the economic viability of the Arts but choses to fund what he believes to be relevant to the County's economic engine. What is going to separate Poloncarz from Collins' platform? A lesser of two Evils? 

How he plans to fund the Arts is an important response and transcends political affiliations, the mentality of "anyone but Collins" and the desperate belief that rhetoric, and not detailed plans, fix problems.

Recently I sent a list of questions designed to have Poloncarz detail his plans to fund the Arts and keep them viable. Two weeks later and I have not received any answer or indication that these questions reached the candidate. 

If one is feeling lucky, contact Poloncarz through his website by clicking Voice Your Opinion and ask for clarity into how (who and why) he intends to fund Erie County Arts. 

Ultimately, these question should be answered clearly and directly (without donated $25 for an opportunity to "meet" Poloncarz) before the Arts Community throws its powerful endorsement behind him and any other candidate that asks us to "imagine" a better community. 

I am not saying Poloncarz is just another politician with a feel-good message as much as stating, simply,  that public funding is dwindling away and those in Arts Community have a tremendous stake in who creates policy. We cannot afford to throw away our endorsement on a politician who has a positive soundbite designed to electrify a disenfranchised voter block. 

Buyer beware!

Matthew LaChiusa is the Executive/Artistic Director for the American Rep Theater of WNY, Inc and is a huge Ramones fan. He also believes that Mark Poloncarz is more "user friendly" than his opponent and has the potential to be a good County Executive.