2011-12 Archives

Critical Questions Facing Our Nation

Posted by on September 17, 2012 in Discuss-Debate | 2 comments

Critical Questions Facing Our Nation
Join Palomar Performing Arts in our
2012-13 Campus Wide Exploration of 
The Right to Think!? Science Politics and Public Perception


In our current political and economic climate, what are the obstacles and challenges to creating a well-informed citizenry capable of grappling with the difficult choices that face our nation?  Our information comes broadly from three sources.  Here are some specific questions on my mind.  Please add more by replying to this post and attending our Coffee Talks.



  • What is the responsibility of the media to act as honest brokers of factual and truthful information?
  • What is the impact of corporate ownership of media?
  • Can the ‘New Media’ or ‘Citizen’s Media’ on the internet counter-act the bias of  corporate owned media?
  • Has commerical media become the new ‘opiate of the masses?’


  • What are the challenges to our public education system in this time of economic disparity and political division?
  • How do vested interests influence the public perception of teachers and education policy?
  • How do we identify the actual obstacles to student achievement and fashion an education system that addresses those obstacles?
  • Who defines the goals of our education system?  Are we merely preparing students for ‘success’ workplace or are we creating a foundation for life-long engagement with the critical issues of living in this world?


  • Can we trust information from the government?
  • To what extent does the political agenda of an administration influence the reports and policies of governmental agencies?
  • How does the government influence the commercial media?
  • To what extent does privileged access to high government officials taint the flow of news and information from the government to the people?
Help make this truly a campus wide integrative learning project.  Join the Discussion
  • Discuss any related topic in your class and add it to the list of participating classes. Click Here
  • Give extra credit for attending one of our theatre productions and or coffee talks. More Info
  • Offer your expertise to one of our panels or start a panel discussion of your own. Contact Christopher Sinnott or Michael Mufson

Participating Classes 2015-16

Posted by on August 17, 2012 in Participating Classes 2015-16 | 2 comments

Participating Classes 2015-16

Use the comment box below to enter the names of the classes you teach that are participating in this project .  Optionally, you can include the meeting times. Participation is as simple as incorporating discussion of a relevant topic into your classroom.

Click the “Enjoy Participating” tab on our Welcome Page for some specific suggestions of ways to participate.

Look for classes that meet at the same time and consider sharing your insights together.

Critical Thinking Under Attack

Posted by on August 15, 2012 in Discuss-Debate | 3 comments

Critical Thinking Under Attack

Yes, it’s true, the Texas GOP adopted the following statement in it’s 2012 platform:

Knowledge-Based Education – We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.

This provides a perfect example of why it is so so necessary to address the issues raised by this series.   The Texas Republican platform represents a rising tide of forces aligned against the freedom of thought championed by public education. It may seem laughable, but we who care about education and the direction of our nation should take this as a wake-up call.  

Don’t take “The Freedom To Think” for granted.  Join us this year as we engage in open, critical dialogue on these controversial topics that define American values.



Interview with playwright Steven Dietz

Posted by on August 14, 2012 in Discuss-Debate | 540 comments

Interview with playwright Steven Dietz

Paragon Springs 

Interview of Steven Deitz and William Brown

courtesy of www.timelinetheatre.com

TimeLine’s Artistic Director PJ Powers [PP] chatted recently with playwright Steven Dietz [SD] and director William Brown [WB] about TimeLine’s production of PARAGON SPRINGS.


[PP] Steven, what inspired you to do an adaptation of Ibsen’s AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE? 


[SD] I was approached by the Milwaukee Rep. about the adaptation. [Milwaukee Rep Artistic Director] Joe Hanreddy felt it was a timely play and could be given a new, American slant. I agreed and jumped in.


PP] Bill, what first interested you about this play, and why is it a relevant story to be telling now? 


[WB] AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE is about tough moral decisions a community has to make – the way a crowd is influenced, the way democracy is shanghaied, the way the media can manipulate a story for popular reasons, the fact that hard choices that a community has to make necessitates sacrifice and you can’t pretend otherwise…and how comfortable it is to go along…how satisfying that is. These are all issues that have currency today. Steven’s play is rooted in Ibsen’s story and with his style of storytelling, yet this adaptation has a distinct American tone.


[PP] Tell me about the choice of setting the play in the Midwest in the 1920s. 


[SD]It’s just such a rich and vibrant time – in terms of politics, business, music, exploration. A time when the modern America was being born, and thus a time of great and startling conflict. Plus, even though I spent a great deal of my early career in the Midwest, I had not written about that part of the world as much as I’d like. PARAGON SPRINGS was a chance to do that.


[PP] Bill? 


[WB] First of all, I had yet to find a truly satisfying adaptation of AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE. It seems to me that one of the things that comes up with Ibsen all the time is that it’s really easy for an audience to sit back and say, “Oh that’s the way things were in the 19th century in Scandinavia. It’s easy to distance yourself and not see yourself in the play. I always think, “What’s the point? That doesn’t really affect us.” This play is a disturbing play and a dangerous  play. It articulates ideas that are messy and not easy to come to terms with. What I love about this version is that the town is very familiar to us. It’s Wisconsin – our own backyard. Instead of it happening in some foreign venue, it’s something we know – our friends and neighbors.

It makes me laugh that I’m doing this right after directing OUR TOWN [at Writers’ Theatre]. It introduces us to some really terrific people, in a really chummy community, but it goes to the underbelly of it. The 1920s were something of a boom time. It’s certainly the beginning of modern America right after WWI. It’s got one foot in OUR TOWN and one foot in a more modern small town. [PP] The play deals with a changing era of media with the invention of radio. How does the power of the media affect the story? 


[SD] There is no longer such a thing as “one man’s voice.” Technology – radio, in this case – enables the voice of one man to resonate and, frankly, impersonate the voices of many. The infamous phrase “The American People” surely comes out of this time most profoundly – because technology suddenly began to give the illusion that one man could reach, and therefore, speak for everyone. [PP] Steven, how did you first meet Bill, and what do you think he can bring to this play? 


[SD] I directed Bill in the premiere of my play LONELY PLANET at Northlight back when we were both young. I’m loathe to say nice things about him in print – but, okay, since you’ve asked: he’s smart, funny, passionate and has, I think, an innate sense that storytelling and performance go hand in hand. That sounds simple, but believe me: It’s rare. I like that about him, even though he’s tall. Just don’t send him a copy of this, okay?


[PP] Bill, in addition to working with Steven on LONELY PLANET, you also directed TimeLine’s HALCYON DAYS. What draws you to his work so much? 


[WB] Well Steven’s got a devilish wit. I guarantee this is the funniest Ibsen anyone’s ever seen. That’s no small thing. And at the same time there’s always a conscience at work. He’s not interested in an amoral universe.


[PP] Steven, you’re one of the most prolific playwrights in America. What influences the work you choose? 


[SD] I just write the play in front of me – whatever that may be. I’ve never been very good at waiting to write my, quote, masterpiece; my, quote, definitive work. I like a lot of stories – and therefore I try to capture as many of them as I can. The chance to write about a lot of corners of the world has broadened my life immeasurably. I’m fortunate that for twenty-plus years I’ve had the chance to do this.


[PP] Bill, let’s talk about the plays you choose. You’ve built a reputation for staging classics, including Shakespeare, Williams, Odets, Wilder and Miller, among others. But, while having an extensive body of work with classics, you are also quite interested in new plays and playwrights. How do you find the balance and what are the factors for selecting pieces to work on? 


[WB] Whether it’s an old play or a new play, if it excites me…if I feel that I have something to say about this piece, that’s the criteria. I think that needs to apply whether it’s Shakespeare or a world premiere. I’m not interested in making a concession to some piece just because it’s a new play. I don’t see the point.


[PP] Many Chicagoans also know you for your work onstage as an actor. How does this work serve you when you’re on the other side of the footlights as a director? 


[WB] I understand what an actor goes through. I never for a minute forget that walking on a stage is one of the scariest things you can do. I’ve learned to not impose my process on someone else but to try to honor what they need to get there.


[PP] Have you encountered any surprises working on PARAGON SPRINGS? 


[WB] When I started working on this, I thought I was doing a Dietz play. Now I realize that I’m working with two playwrights. It’s very much a Dietz play, but it’s also an Ibsen. That’s exciting.



Ruminations on Marriage

Posted by on May 10, 2012 in Discuss-Debate | 731 comments

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Click the arrow above to listen to this powerful  composition by Palomar Music faculty Madelyn Byrne.  The source material for this composition was over 11 hours of recorded audio interviews with Palomar faculty and staffon the subject of marriage.  Madelyn culled the interviews down and added many layers of music and sound  to create this remarkable  7 minute composition.

The composition was presented with live choreography by Molly Faulkner as part of Between The Silence, PerformingHeArts OUT Loud.



Amidst the Complexities, Love Transforms: Notes From Bluefish Cove

Posted by on March 30, 2012 in Discuss-Debate | 18 comments

Amidst the Complexities, Love Transforms: Notes From Bluefish Cove

Last Summer At Bluefish Cove is not only a beautiful and inspirational play about love, loss and liberation, it is significant as the first  major American play to feature lesbian experience in a positive light.  While the situation of the play involves the specific circumstances of lesbian and feminist characters in the late 1970’s, the subject matter leads us to universal truths about the nature of love, relationships, identity, fulfillment, life and death.

The Bluefish Cove of the play is a summer haven for lesbians.  It is the one place where they can shed the mask of conformity to a hetero-normative world and simply be themselves.  The metaphor of the cove suggests a protected shoreline, safe from the rough violence of the open sea; still, the tides come in and go out.  The receding tides carry away the traces of the past while the rising tides bring in the new, the mysterious, the world of possibilities.

The journey of Eva, who accidentally happens on Bluefish Cove while retreating from a hollow marriage, echoes the crisis of American Housewives in the mid-twentieth century.  Betty Friedan’s seminal book, The Feminine Mystique, had exposed “The problem that has no name.”  An unspoken emptiness afflicting women in the post-war era who were saturated with the message that their ultimate fulfillment could be achieved by serving their husbands, raising their children, keeping their houses and looking beautiful while sublimating their own ambitions and desires.  For Eva, as the tide of her own experience carries her away from that life, it mysteriously washes her ashore in a protected cove of free souls where she encounters the possibility of realizing her own identity.  Of course, this process is only achieved through risk and sacrifice.

One of the “free” souls she encounters there is Kitty Cochran.  Within the fictional world, Kitty is the equivalent of Betty Friedan, author of the seminal book ‘The Female Sexual Imperative’ and figurehead of the growing feminist movement.  But Kitty’s soul is not nearly as free as one might expect.  As the leading voice of the feminist movement, her credibility would be destroyed if the public found out that she is a lesbian.  Thus, she is the most threatened by the presence at the cove of a straight woman who might reveal her secret to the world.

The complexities and contradictions with in Kitty’s character point to the promise and the problems of the feminist movement at that time.  From our 21stcentury point of view we can also observe that the characters are all white and middle class – a critique often leveled at early feminism.  But within the class and race homogeneity of the characters we find an interesting spectrum of gender dynamics and social roles.  Each couple in the play replicates, in some way, the traditional butch-femme power relationships of bread-winner and house wife, boss and secretary or sugar daddy and kept woman.  Rae, who has been ‘married’ to the renowned artist Annie Joseph for nine years, tells Eva:

“I like to make a home.  I like to shop, cook clean.  When my kids (from her previous marriage) act up or Annie and I have a fight, I like to get down on my knees with a scrub brush and wash that kitchen floor until it squeaks.”

But the difference here is that these roles are chosen and respected without reinforcing the patriarchal system of oppression.

Today we widely acknowledge that gender is not a binary phenomenon but each of us contains a unique balance of testosterone and estrogen and along with it a unique blending of qualities that have traditionally been relegated to male or female behavior.  In the seventies, this concept was just beginning to be examined. One of the remarkable qualities of the women of Bluefish Cove is their ability to live fluidly and confidently in the uncertain gender spectrum.  One example is the most charismatic character, Lil.  She integrates traits traditionally associated with men.  She loves to fish and she is a ‘Casanova’ who shies away from commitment so she can play the field. She is strong willed and can be aggressive. Yet she is also compassionate, wise and tender.

Ultimately, the most transformational power comes with flowing and ebbing tide of love.  Both Eva and Lil are transformed by it.  In the process, Eva receives an education about the dangers of coming out as a lesbian, and Lil realizes the depth of meaning that commitment can bring.  Finally the irresistible tide of circumstance leads Eva to the precipice of true independence.  For her, end of the play is just the beginning of her life’s adventure.

Sample Assignment from Bill Jahnel

Posted by on March 28, 2012 in Connecting Classrooms, Discuss-Debate | 12 comments

Sample Assignment from Bill Jahnel

The PerformingHeARTS project at Palomar College this year is doing a set of events based on Gay and Lesbian issues and history. Last Summer at Bluefish Cove was one of the first major American plays produced about lesbian issues.  This play will be performed during the weeks of April 13-22.  (You can find ticket information at: http://www.palomar.edu/performingarts/index.htm) By attending the play, you may write a 2-3 page summary of your experience discussing how the views of women and lesbianism presented in the play might be historically different or similar to issues today.  This will be worth 1 point towards your final grade.

Now, for ALL the marbles, you may also go to the Performing Hearts blog at http://www2.palomar.edu/performinghearts/ and contribute intelligently and with at least a paragraph or two of reasoned analysis, discussion, or inquiry at least 5 times to the threads, that too may count as a point of extra credit.  (Please see me about receiving credit for this assignment if you decide to post under a pseudonym.)

That’s right: This assignment gives you the possibility to get 2 of your 3 extra credit points!

What does marriage mean to you?

Posted by on March 23, 2012 in Discuss-Debate | 29 comments

What does marriage mean to you?

How do you define marriage? What makes it sacred? If marriage = a loving couple committing to each other for the rest of their lives, who else should be part of the equation? Some people believe a marriage is only valid if done in church by a priest, while others are content to be legally married in a courthouse. Some couples want to have a ceremony to involve all the people they love as witnesses of the solidifying of their union. Some couples already feel committed to their bond but want the law to acknowledge their bond for tax, insurance, and other legal purposes such as having the rights of a family member in emergency matters surrounding their beloveds. What does marriage mean to you, and what could possibly threaten that meaning?