Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Theatrical Relief

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Irish director/playwright Paul Walker’s production of Ladies & Gents opened for a March run in New York City, about 29 blocks north of Broadway—in a public restroom. According to an Associated Press report, the entire play takes place in a bathroom in Central Park, portraying “the seedy underside of 1950s Dublin.” The audience of 25 stands beside rows of stalls, near “spiders, foul odors and puddles of questionable origin.”

Walker proudly admits that he wanted to take the audience “out of their comfort zone [to create] a different energy.” Actor John O’Callaghan recalled that rehearsals were especially difficult: “One man actually came in and had a pee right in front of us.”

Cultural Diversity
In October, the government of Singapore, anxious about the city’s declining birth rate, began formal courses to teach students how to flirt. “My teacher said if a guy looks into my eyes for more than five seconds, it could mean that he is attracted to me, and I stand a chance,” said one 18-year-old female student, according to a March Reuters dispatch. The course includes “love song analysis” and how to chat online.

Officials in the Shivpuri district of India’s Madhya Pradesh state, looking to slow the country’s still-booming birth rate, announced in March that men who volunteer for vasectomies would be rewarded with certificates that speed them through the ordinarily slow line to obtain gun permits. The loss of a “perceived notion of manliness” would be offset by “a bigger symbol of manliness,” said an administrator.

Latest Religious Messages
Duquesne University and Boston College recently created professional courses in financial and personnel management for churches, and Villanova University even established a special master’s degree. Of late, U.S. churches have lost tens of millions of dollars to embezzlement and sexual-abuse lawsuits. But, according to an official at Villanova, “If (church officials) were better trained in management, a lot of problems…could have been avoided.”

The Continuing Crisis
In February, registered sex offender Jason Lee, 28, was arrested in Cincinnati and charged with several counts of deception after posting bond for two female strangers who had been arrested. These seemingly benevolent acts didn’t just stem from the goodness of his heart, according to police, who said that Lee demanded sex and drugs from the women in return for his actions. A prosecutor said Lee had trolled for names of arrested women on the Web site of the Clerk of the Court.

Questionable Judgments: (1) Jason Fife was sentenced to probation and community service after harassing his estranged wife’s boyfriend with a special delivery. According to his lawyer, Fife now understands “that in a civilized society, a person cannot send (someone) a severed cow’s head.” (2) In December, Sister Kathy Avery of St. Clare of Montefalco Catholic School in Grosse Pointe Park, Mich., held all fifth- through eighth-graders after class in the school’s chapel so that she could inform them of the new rules against cussing. According to the kids, Avery held nothing back: She recited a list of the actual blush-producing words and phrases that she wanted banned.

Least Competent Criminals
Krystal Evans, 26, and Denise McClure, 24, rifled through packages on a DHL delivery truck in December in Crescent City, Calif., looking for Evans’ urine sample—which was headed for the lab—because she was certain that it would test positive, which would have meant her return to jail. The driver summoned police, and the women were arrested for destroying evidence and violating probation. They were convicted in March and could face up to three years in prison. (Evans’ original sample turned out to be clean. However, during her December arrest, she tested positive for methamphetamine.)

Adventures in Democracy
(1) In January, the parents of Carroll County (Md.) Board of Education candidate Draper Phelps, 28, obtained a protective stay-away order against their son, marking the third consecutive year they felt they needed one. (Phelps lost in the February primary.)

(2) In February, at a polling place in Chicago’s 42nd Ward, a 30-something female election judge was charged with battery for punching a 50-something female election judge in the face, according to a Chicago Tribune report.

(3) In March, Brian Sliter, 42, announced his candidacy for mayor of Wilmer, Texas, even though he was arrested in 2004 for trying to arrange a tryst with an underage girl. (He received probation.)

2008 Chuck Shepherd

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