Two subjects have attracted the Critical Eye, this week. Both are important and worthy of your attention.
First, Hospice of Chautauqua County will be sponsoring a fundraiser concert, which will be held in Rosch Recital Hall, on the campus of the State University of New York at Fredonia, on June 7 at 3:30 p.m. Tickets are $15, and can be purchased by phoning 673-3501 or going by computer to www.fredonia.edu/tickets.
Rosch Recital Hall is located inside Mason Hall.
The concert is titled ''The Four Seasons of Our Lives,'' and it has been created by Lawrence Trott, a flutist with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. The program includes music and literature, and celebrates all periods of human life.
We have had a talk with Trott about the performance and why we should all plan to attend, if we possibly can do so.
Second, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Marsha Norman recently held a press conference at Shea's Performing Arts Center. Ms. Norman has had a major role in writing for a number of popular television series, including one of the many versions of ''Law and Order.'' She has also written one of the most moving and thrilling plays of the recent period, the harrowing 'Night Mother,'' in which a young woman calmly announces to her mother that she no longer wants to live and therefore is about to commit suicide, while the desperate mother tries every argument, every trick, everything she can possibly imagine to change the daughter's mind.
Ms. Norman has recently written the script for the Broadway musical ''The Color Purple,'' which will be performed at Shea's June 2-7, by a professional touring company. It was a rare opportunity for you and me to question a Pulitzer-winning mind, and not to be missed.
So, let's look first at the seasons of our lives, and then at the mind of Marsha Norman:
Hospice is an organization which has been created to help people who are terminally ill, as well as to help their families and loved ones.
Some people incorrectly believe that Hospice is intended to help people to end their lives, but rather it is intended to provide trained staff who understand things like pain medication and who realize that a person who is terminally ill has never had this series of experiences before, and isn't aware of what they will need, what the legal and medical professions will be able to offer them, what their options are in getting care, and a whole world of similar issues.
It is designed to help patients to stay in their own homes, as long as possible, if they desire to do so, and to make them aware of what the options are for them in care facilities and where they can turn for financial help, for example.
The Hospice team includes doctors, nurses, home health care workers, social workers, chaplains, bereavement counselors, general volunteers, speech therapists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, to name just a few. They try to provide the patient and his or her family and loved ones with physical, mental, emotional and spiritual comfort, as much as is humanly possible.
If you need the services of Hospice or you know of someone who could benefit from their help, you can go to their web site at www.hospicechautco.org, or phone them at 753 - 5383.
All benefits from ''The Four Seasons of Our Lives'' concert will benefit Hospice of Chautauqua County.
Synergy Performance Ensemble
Performing the concert in Fredonia will be the Synergy Performance Ensemble. They are four string instrument musicians and flutist Lawrence Trott. All are regular members, retirees, or regular substitutes of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra.
Sharing the stage with Trott will be violinists Rebecca Torres and Nadejda Nigrin, violist Leslie Bahler, and cellist David Meyer.
The program will be designed around an intermingling of music and the spoken word. It is divided into four segments. Each segment is introduced by words from William Butler Yeats' ''The Four Stages of Man,'' and each begins with one of Antonio Vivaldi's famed violin concertos, which are collectively known as ''The Four Seasons.''
Literature in the first section includes words by Blake, Nikki Giovanni, Stepanak, Wolcott, Gibbs, Collins, Dr. Seuss, Rita Dove, Lorenzo and Day-Lewis.
Spoken literature by Dorothy Parker, Ogden Nash, Ethan Coen, Gus Kahn, Raymond Egan, Sylvia Plath, Anne Bradstreet, Phillip Booth, John Updike and John F. Kennedy are used to illustrate.
Musical illustrations come from the pens of Debussy, John W. Boone, Sondheim, Schubert, Beethoven, Ives, and Arthur Foote.
The words of these writers are utilized: cummings, Nickel, Joyce, Thomas, Carver, Raab, Wright, Stepanak, Holender, Teasdale, Patchen, Gezar, Tagore, traditional Cherokee literature, Oliver, Upanishad, and Rinehart.
The concert is presented as a memorial to the more than 800 families which have been assisted by Hospice in the past year, as well as for anyone who has experienced the loss of a loved one.
The performance promises to leave a lasting impact on listeners, long after the last note is played and the last poem is read. Names of those who passed away under Hospice care will be scrolled on a screen on the stage, behind the performers.
The afternoon of June 7 sounds like a beautiful and meaningful opportunity to remember family and friends who have died, while giving genuine assistance to an organization who serves hundreds of residents of our own county, at a time of great need.
Marsha Norman was in Buffalo to deliver a graduation address, and to offer her unique point of view to both student writers and student actors. She is an attractive woman, looking considerably younger than her years.
She was born in Kentucky, in 1947. She has written successfully for theater, for musical theater, and for television, and is currently on the play writing faculty of the Juilliard School in New York City's Lincoln Center, as she is vice-chairman of the Dramatists Guild.
She began her career as a journalist for the Louisville Times and as a writer for Kentucky Educational Television.
Her plays include ''Getting Out,'' and '' 'Night, Mother,'' for which she won a great many awards, including the Tony and the Pulitzer Prize. She wrote the scripts for the musicals ''The Red Shoes,'' and ''The Secret Garden,'' as well as ''The Color Purple,'' which she was supporting with her press conference. The latter show won 11 Tony nominations.
She was the head writer for the HBO television series ''In Treatment,'' and served on the writing staffs of a number of network and cable television shows.
The Color Purple
The plot of the Broadway show ''The Color Purple'' is based on the award-winning novel by the same name. It was written by Alice Walker.
The plot concerns Celie, a young African American woman who is beaten and abused, first by her father and then by the man he forces her to marry. When her sister disappears from her life and when she is forced to work like a beast of the field, she finds the strength to endure her life. Eventually she learns to both seek the help of other women in her life and to offer her help in return, and she is able to create a life of meaning and dignity for herself.
Because of the plot's racism and violence and because of the often non-traditional ways in which Celie must deal with her difficult life, the original novel, the 1985 film by Stephen Spielberg, and the current Broadway show have often been challenged by organizations seeking to have it banned, censored, and removed from bookstores and libraries.
The Spielberg film was nominated for 11 academy awards, including one for Whoopi Goldberg for Outstanding Actress, and a second for Oprah Winfrey, for Outstanding Supporting Actress. Most people had never heard of either woman before the film was released.
Ms. Winfrey has played an active role in getting the show adapted for the Broadway stage and performed there and around the country by touring companies. The official touring company will perform the show June 2-7 at Shea's Performing Arts Center, in Buffalo.
In the Writer's Words
Considering the millions of dollars which must be invested in a show to get it produced on Broadway, Ms. Norman was asked what kinds of pressures she faced to cut back on controversial material when she began adapting the show for the stage.
She replied that there was very little pressure to make the show more bland. ''The biggest pressure came from the fact that millions of people love the novel and millions more love the Spielberg film. People are determined that there be no changes of anything they loved about the book and/or the film,'' she said.
''In fact, in several ways, the film covered up parts of the story which might be considered controversial. My belief was that the things which happen to Celie in the novel are real things which actually happen to people. We can't study them and seek to root them out if we don't say their names or consider that they might have happened.''
The writer laughed that it is curious how our country claims it believes so strongly that young people should learn how to solve problems and make their own futures, yet we bend over backwards to keep them from learning that certain problems exist or that negative circumstances might need to be dealt with.
She said that at the end of the Walker novel, Celie's husband, whom she calls nothing but 'Mr.,' learns the degree of his cruelty to Celie, and he begs another chance with her, while that element of the plot was blunted in the film. ''We've done everything we could to return the important elements of the novel,'' she said.
Obviously it isn't possible to put everything from a book onto the stage. It would require dozens of hours of performing. How did she change the novel when she created the script for the stage show?
''I teach my students at Juilliard that a play is about a single person, who is looking for a single thing. Alice Walker's novel has a great many interesting people who wander into and out of the main events of the story. If you ask most people what they remember about the film, it is often characters other than Celie, such as Oprah Winfrey's powerful portrayal of Sofia, the wife of Celie's son, Harpo. What I had to do was to cut back those other roles and keep the focus on Celie and the things she does and the things which happen to her.,'' the writer said.
Since she is neither African American nor an expert on the 19th century, how did Marsha Norman come to be chosen to write the book?
She replied that she came to know Alice Walker when the two of them won Pulitzer Prizes at the same ceremony in 1983. She added that she was contacted by Spielberg when he was putting together the film, but she flew out to California and met with him and he felt she wasn't who he needed.
''I'll never forget, I was young and lonely, and I had just lost a job I wanted very much,'' she told the assembled reporters. ''Quincy Jones was doing the music for the film, and he felt sorry for me. He took me out to lunch and spent three hours telling me how writers get chosen in Hollywood and giving me some names of people I could trust to help me.