The View From 32


APRIL 18, 2007   More below: NEWS TALKS  

Our Town, Thornton Wilder

We went to a preview of Our Town at Cleveland Public Theater tonight. I knew nothing about the play but since it was free and included food and drink before the show, how could we go wrong? You can always count on CPT to do something interesting and challenging, but this time I thought they'd blown it. The first two acts were very talky and for a while I found myself nodding off for a few seconds.

The fact that each act was separated by a short intermission made it bearable, but I just couldn't get caught up in the performance. With Act 3, though, everything came together. This act, set in a graveyard (as is the entire play), has the characters talking about what it's like in the afterlife compared to "alive" life. The newest member of the group, a young mother who died in childbirth, wants to return to be with the living. The others try to talk her out of it. Of course she goes back anyway, and finds it too painful to bear. She realizes how in life people don't really see each other, don't appreciate what they have while it's there.

It's the magic of theater, I guess, that somehow the same actors, same set, words by the sAudio newsame author that had bored me earlier began to speak to me in a way that brought tears to my eyes. It was a wonderful reward for being patient and following the story to see where it led. Our Town probably won't end up on my "top 10 plays" list, but I'm very happy to have gone to it. And stayed awake, mostly.

Mission statement

Cleveland PUblic Theater Mission StatementI hate mission statements. They're usually pompous, wordy, and carefully crafted to sound good without really saying anything. Sorry to say I've had a role in writing a couple myself. But I never noticed CPT's (at right) until tonight.

It's not only simple and clear, but talks about raising consciousness, and compassion, two things the world can surely use more of these days.

Tonight's performance of Our Town dealt in consciousness and compassion, for sure.


Listen up!

The Plain Dealer's web edition isn't usually cutting edge when it comes to technology, but today's announcement of audio news and podcasts may mark a change. As the article in the April 18 Business section explains, you can either listen to the stories read to you by a computer-synthesized voice, or download articles as podcasts.

The PD is working with Audio-Newsstand, a North Canton, OH companies whose other customers include The Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal and other national and international publications.

I listened to a couple of stories and found the synthesized voices—randomly selected from a set of male and female versions—to be better than your typical computer voice. You won't mistake them for real people, but their pronunciation and delivery style is close enough that it probably won't make you crazy.

So, is this an earthshaking advance? Hardly. But it's an interesting effort to provide people news in a format they may appreciate. If they don't go and junk them up with advertising (coming soon, of course) I'd say it's a step in the right direction.