Hi! It's R. Eric Thomas. From the internet?
Honestly, I don't know why people aren't out in the streets screaming about how good Patricia Clarkson is in the new season of House of Cards. Every American should be running through their cul-de-sac or cult compound or wherever they live, ringing an old-timey bell and bellowing about her performance. (Don't worry, there aren't any House of Cards spoilers in this letter. I'm not about that life.) What life am I about? That Patricia Clarkson Acting Master Class LYFE.
Somehow I managed to watch the entire new season of the show this week, despite this being one of the busiest week's of my year so far. I had so much writing that I had to finish and so many places to be, it felt like Finals Week in college. Except, unlike in college, I didn't spend most of the time wearing cargo pants and pining over the Winklevoss twins. (Just kidding, I didn't go to college with the Winklevoss twins. However, I did go to school with Julia Stiles and Anna Paquin, who are not twins but they are famous.) I also went to school with Kelly McCreary, who is now on Grey's Anatomy. I had such a crush on Kelly, which was confusing to me back then because I knew I was totes gay but I didn't know that sexual orientation exists on a spectrum and gender was a construct. I guess that's what college is for. Although I didn't learn all that woke gender stuff in college (it was the 90s; we were still working through ebonics and Affirmative Action).
Anyway, I was obsessed with her. So obsessed, in fact, that I auditioned for a musical that she was also auditioning for even though 1) I cannot sing and 2) it was an all-female cast. In retrospect, this is sad. (Put that on my tombstone, please.) It's kind of like the plot of a terrible and problematic teen romcom. But in the moment it made sense to me.
In the moment, a lot of things make sense. College is so funny to me now because I was so bad at being a functional human being and not doing things that were objectively weird. Every time I think about my younger self I turn into a Clint Eastwood GIF, all confused squints and barely contained horror.
But, I guess that's what growing up is for, right? You figure your weirdness out eventually. Or you don't and you just stay weird forever and write a newsletter about the crush you have on television stars. Whatever. I was obsessed with Kelly for the same reason that I'm obsessed with Patricia Clarkson: I'm in awe of their talent. Kelly was, even then, a brilliant performer to watch. I think that's the most magical thing about acting for me--when done right it's hypnotizing, it's magnetic, it's mesmerizing. Patricia Clarkson's performance is so subtle and so sly, which really stands out in a show where almost every other character is huge. She does this thing with her body where she is always projecting deep exhaustion, which has a way of tilting all the power in a scene toward her. It's amazing. I guess it's kind of like that addage about the person who cares the least in a relationship being the one with the most power. Patricia Clarkson is playing a near-narcoleptic Napolean and I'm obsessed.
This week I vacillated wildly between being completing gobsmacked and completely awestruck. We dealt with Covfefe, Whaboom and a backlash against one screening of Wonder Woman. BUT, we also got the awesome sight of Ruth Bader Ginsburg in statement jewelry!
OMG. YAS KWEEN! The notorious RBG is back at it again, slaying all your faves with this stunning statement necklace. This is a piece, honey! And those earrings! I die. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is that aunt who shows up at every holiday jangling with chunky eye-catching jewelry that she "just found in this cute shop in Malawi and had to have." [READ THE FULL COLUMN]
Saints, as you say your prayers tonight, please set aside one for poor, put-upon rube, Sean Billingsworth Spicer, who today had to claim that the President of the United States intentionally tweeted a typo nonsense word and that that nonsense word had a secret meaning. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]
"I just don't know why I can't go to the women-only screening, despite the fact that it's in a different state and I don't want to go and I wouldn't even know about it if they hadn't put the signal up in the sky." [READ THE FULL COLUMN]
Okay, before I even start, let me just say I don’t trust anybody on this show except Copper, Rachel’s dog, who spends a good amount of time in the second episode hobbling around like Tiny Tim. Everyone else is suspect. Most suspect of all: these producers who decided to clown us with a dramatic reveal and then a cliffhanger! There isn’t even a final rose ceremony; just a bunch of drunk dudes in suits wandering around mumbling about Whabooms. This is not what I signed up for. I’m not here for this. I’m here for the right reasons. [READ THE FULL ARTICLE]
On my way to meet him, I pass through that one South Philly block that is always decorated extravagantly for Christmas, past houses bearing signs that read “Hate has no home here” and the Italian restaurant with the singing wait staff. After the play, as we walk and talk, we pass a dog park and a human park and a police station. Having spent 90 minutes in the company of a play that wrestles with gentrification, it’s impossible not to be hyper-aware of our surroundings--how comfortable we feel, how real that comfort feels. Are these neighborhoods authentic or manufactured? Are we supposed to be there? And would we know if we weren’t? [READ THE FULL ARTICLE]
Random thing from the internet...
Earlier today, David and I talking about Morgan University, the HBCU where my mother got her doctorate. He remarked that he didn't know much about the school and I immediately launched into a long, involved story about watching the Morgan State University Choir's 25th anniversary concert on Maryland Public Television in the late 90s. This ensemble is world-class, having performed all around the globe, won three Emmys, and opened the MLK Monument in DC. I never pass up an opportunity to hear them and I miss them a lot now that I live in Philadelphia. Perhaps because I miss them so much, I keep bringing up one particularly indelible performance from their televised special. If you've ever heard me awkwardly shoehorn "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" into a conversation, this is why. In this video, soloist Sherry Hunt spends almost 7 minutes performing nothing short of vocal miracles, backed by the full force of the choir. It's absolutely awe-inspiring. The precision of the performance, the power of these black voices singing one of our nation's freedom songs, the sheer talent of every person on stage. I could watch it over and over again for hours. In fact, I just did. You should, too.
To an awesome week,
In Philly? Want to see an excerpt of my new comedy?! Come to The Foundry Showcase Celebration, which will feature 15 minutes from my play The Folks At Home, as well as work by Ian August, Bill D'Agostino, and Ian Campbell. Register here!