For 3 years, it ran in the Greeley Tribune. Since then, it has run in various subsidiaries of the Douglas County News Press. I still have most of my columns in digital format.
For many years, I only gave myself one rule: try to work the word "library" into every piece. My intent was to think in public about just what librarianship means at the end of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st.
There have been many advantages for me. I found that putting library plans out in front of the public, and getting feedback about them, helped me make better decisions. Sometimes, I found that it was very difficult for me to describe those plans or policies -- the kind of thing that makes me realize that they might not be good ideas after all. The weekly discipline of explaining my profession to the public keeps me more mindful, more honest. It also has provided steady visibility for the library and its issues.
May 26, 2004 - Joseph
Kurt Vonnegut, the sly and pungent science fiction writer who gave us "Cat's Cradle," "The Sirens of Titan," and many others, once described something called a "karass." A "karass" is a group of people who keep showing up in your life, whose days are repeatedly entangled with yours to accomplish some purpose.
For the past several months I've been involved with the karass that is the cast and crew of the Castle Rock Players' production of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat." I have a couple of very small roles, and thanks to some sympathetic scheduling by the director (Bryan Bell), I've managed to keep my time commitment down to something merely ridiculous, instead of impossible.
The rest of the karass really has to work. There is a LOT of dancing in the show, lots of belting out songs, and a flurry of costume changes.
Then there's the utterly awe-inspiring set, built by master carpenter Tom Pelo, with the help of a few handpicked assistants.
I keep trying to get after other projects in my life, and keep being pulled back into community theater. Why? I think the main reason is just that it is so life-affirming.
Admit it: in many aspects of your life, there are people who whine and bicker, and destroy by small comments. Well, I suppose you'll find that in theater, too. But you also find something else: really extraordinary talent.
Our Joseph (whose father I play) has a truly sweet voice and a touching stage presence. Our Pharaoh is a show-stopping, gyrating performer who will make you laugh out loud. Our beautiful narrator has a voice colored with subtlety and power.
We have dancers whose all-out enthusiasm is matched only by their quickness and control. The many young children who provide a chorus for the show are charming. The costumes, on loan to us from Arvada, are also impressive.
"Joseph runs at the Douglas County High School on May 28-30, and June 4-6. Call 303-814-7740 for tickets, or visit the website at www.crplayers.org. Act fast! I'm predicting sell-outs.
It happens that I saw "Joseph" not too long ago at the Highlands Ranch High School with Lisle Gates, the justly proud principal of that school.
I wish I could see all the theater in Douglas County -- a surprisingly rich and thriving culture that doesn't get as much notice as it deserves. I also find the differences between high school theater and community theater (such as our Joseph) fascinating.
Something else that deserves notice is the community partnerships that make such productions possible. The Douglas County School District has worked hard this past year to lower the barriers to the use of school facilities by others. And they are not alone in their support of community culture: I've seen some of the same kids in my Joseph karass rehearsing at local churches and town buildings.
The deep message of theater is something that it would do all of us well to remember. Those wonderful moments of laughter, of insight, of awe, are only possible if everybody does his or her part.
You need volunteers, and technical help, and vision, and board members, and Artistic Directors, and experience, and that sheer willingness to step into the light that sometimes requires so much courage, and delivers so much in the way of entertainment.
Like so many things -- running a library, for instance -- collaboration is vital. Or as my character says, "How he loved his coat of many colors."