Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Reduced Shakespeare Does More than Shakespeare

The Reduced Shakespeare Company may have made its name delivering a quick and dirty summary of the bard's greatest works, but these days, the comedic trio is shrinking movies into one-liners, too. Until July 3, the Kennedy Center's smaller and more intimate Terrace Theater plays host to Reduced Shakespeare Company in Completely Hollywood (Abridged).

The show was honestly one of the most hilarious things I have ever seen -- and I am not a big stand-up comedy fan. The lines are mostly scripted of course, but it's also a little bit of improv, a touch of miming, plenty of cross-dressing, some awkward audience participation, a lot of very funny costumes and props, and ongoing hysterical banter among the three sole cast members, Dominic Conti, Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor.

The show is advertised as referencing 187 movies in 100 minutes. So many of the lines, actors' names, scores, theme songs, and even poses and body language were so incredibly well-known, they were quickly recognizable to all. Of course, I didn't catch all the allusions, but that's what makes the show fun for various ages; there was laughter among the older crowd when my brothers and I were sitting there clueless, but when some lines snuck in from Gaga, we had our chance to chuckle knowingly.

As described in the playbill, "WARNING: This show is a high-speed, roller-coaster type condensation of Hollywood (the movies and the mindset) and is not recommended for people with heart ailments, back problems, film degrees, inner ear disorders and/or people inclined to motion sickness. The Reduced Shakespeare Company cannot be held responsible for expectant mothers."

"Completely Hollywood (Abridged)" through July 3 at the Terrace Theater

Monday, June 27, 2011

Washington Post covers Faith Shared in D.C.

Very prominent coverage in today's Washington Post of Faith Shared at the National Cathedral, a joint program planned nationwide by the Interfaith Alliance and Human Rights First to promote interfaith harmony and counter Islamophobia. The story begins above the fold on the front page of Metro, covers almost the entire page as well as continues later in the section.

Full text below, but have to see the story online (or in print!) to check out the beautiful photos of leaders of different faiths leading a service together in the famed National Cathedral.


Interfaith service at Washington National Cathedral promotes religious tolerance

By Isaac Arnsdorf, Published: June 26

As worshipers entered Washington National Cathedral for Sunday morning’s service, some crossed themselves and some took photographs, some wore ties while others wore shorts and a few even wore yarmulkes.

In the center aisle, in place of the baptismal fountain, candle-lit stands bore three books: a Bible, a Torah and a Koran. When a visitor asked a nearby usher what to do, the usher replied: “This is a totally different service than what we usually do. There’s no wrong answer.”

Instead of Communion, the service featured readings from each of the three Abrahamic faiths, part of a project to promote religious tolerance through similar interfaith services at about 70 churches nationwide. The effort aimed to counteract negative stereotypes and hostile rhetoric targeting American Muslims in the past year, notably the controversy about plans for an Islamic center near Ground Zero in New York and the burning of a Koran by the Rev. Terry Jones in March in Florida.

“What we have done together in this great cathedral this morning, along with others in similar services in houses of worship across our nation, can alter the image and substance of our nation, as well as our religion,” said the Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, president of the Interfaith Alliance, one of the organizations that sponsored the project. “Today’s beautifully written liturgy, informed by Islam, Judaism and Christianity, declares unambiguously . . . we are not scripture burners, rather, scripture readers.”

A local rabbi and imam joined Gaddy and the cathedral’s Episcopal clergy on the dais to share their messages of mutual understanding and respect.

“For nearly a decade now, since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, we Americans have known without a doubt that any hope for a peaceful world will require profound engagement among the world’s religions,” cathedral Dean Samuel T. Lloyd III said.

The service began with a traditional call to prayer in the three religions’ terminology — a Hebrew “Bar’chu,” an Arabic “Azan” and a Latin “Spiritus Domini” — all sung in ethereal tones that swirled through the cathedral’s soaring nave.

Then Rabbi Amy M. Schwartzman of Temple Rodef Shalom in Falls Church read a passage from Deuteronomy about showing kindness to strangers. Imam Mohamed Magid, the president of the Islamic Society of North America, chanted a passage from the Koran about the value of diversity.
“God could have made all of us look the same and go to the same temple or same church,” Magid explained. “But God willed that humans are diverse.”

Gaddy said he hoped the readings would underscore the commonalities among the three traditions, especially their shared message of tolerance and compassion.

“No one verse or one passage in any book of scripture should be allowed to hijack or hold hostage the central truth, the overarching as well as pervasive moral mandate, which emerges from the full sweep of truth in those books of scripture,” he said. “Cherry picking isolated texts . . . allows mean-spirited people to turn the scripture of our religions into weapons.”

Almost 1,000 people attended the service, an average turnout for a summer Sunday. Among them were people actively involved in interfaith dialogue groups, as well as those who were surprised to find the Jewish and Muslim elements of the service.

Ken Bagley, who with his family was visiting the District from Connecticut, just happened upon Sunday’s service.

“It was a neat opportunity to hear all three perspectives in one service and to see how alike they are. You too often hear about how different,” Bagley said.

Alex Huddell, a 21-year-old student at American University, said she had never heard the Koran chanted, except “maybe in movies.”

“It was interesting and beautiful to listen, even if you didn’t understand, to the different rhythms and styles,” Huddell said. “I’m Christian, but I feel a lot of embarrassment about the way Christians sometimes marginalize other religions. So it’s nice to hear there are some leaders in the faith community who are trying to promote the same message of acceptance.”

Pete Carlson, a member of the cathedral’s congregation, said he was inspired by the service and hopes to attend more interfaith events.

“It was even more moving than the normal service here on Sunday,” Carlson said. “It felt like we were a part of something much bigger and much older.”

Lloyd, the cathedral’s dean, said a Muslim reading also will be part of the cathedral’s memorial service for the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Pictures from Faith Shared New York

A few photos below of the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine in New York, where Faith Shared New York City was held today:

Children's Sculpture Garden
 The serviced was led by the Rev. John H. Vaughn, Executive Vice President of the Auburn Theological Seminary. He was joined by the Rev. Canon Thomas P. Miller, Canon for Liturgy and the Arts at the Cathedral, and Imam Adamu A.M. Suleimana, originally from Ghana and now a practicing imam in New York and Georgia. All shared thoughts on the importance of interfaith cooperation and harmony. The service also included Jewish, Muslim and Christian readers from Face2Face.
Imam Adamu A.M. Suleimana, left, Rev. John Vaughn, and Rev. Tom Miller (Courtesy David Karp)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

TOMORROW: Faith Shared in NY 3:45 p.m. 6/26/11

To all my New York readers:

I am writing to invite you to a very special event I have been helping out with that will be TOMORROW (Sunday) at 3:45 p.m. at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine at Amsterdam and 112th.

All across the country tomorrow, churches will be bringing together leaders of different religious faiths in one service on one single day in order to celebrate religious harmony and send a message to counter the Islamophobia that has dominated much of the news of the past year.

This is going to be a really nice service and a FANTASTIC excuse to see this beautiful, world known church that is among the five largest in the world.

All the info on the event and the project on a national scale are below (more available at www.faithshared.org).
Hope to see you tomorrow!

Faith Shared – June 26, 2011

The Cathedral joins dozens of churches across the country uniting
to promote mutual understanding and respect among faiths

New York, N.Y.  – This Sunday, June 26, Christian clergy at churches across the country will host readings from the Qur’an and other sacred religious texts as they welcome their Muslim and Jewish colleagues for Faith Shared: Uniting in Prayer and Understanding.  Faith Shared is a project of Interfaith Alliance and Human Rights First, seeking to send a message both here at home and to the Arab and Muslim world about Americans’ respect for all faiths.

The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine in New York City is among dozens of churches and other houses of worship across the country who will be participating in this project this weekend.  A full list of participating houses of worship can be found at faithshared.org.  Below are details on the Cathedral’s event:

            WHAT:            Faith Shared: Uniting in Prayer and Understanding

            WHEN:            3: 45 p.m., Sunday, June 26, 2011

            WHERE:         The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine
            1047 Amsterdam Avenue at 112th Street 

            WHO:              The Reverend Canon Thomas P. Miller, The Cathedral
                                          Church of Saint John the Divine
                                      Mary Burns Hoff, Partnership of Faith in New York City
                                      Muslim and Jewish clergy from NYC

WHY:              To promote mutual understanding and respect among
                                         different faiths

Faith Shared seeks to counter the Anti-Muslim bigotry and negative stereotypes that have erupted throughout the country in the past year and led to misconceptions, distrust and in some cases, violence.  This countrywide, daylong event will engage faith leaders on the national and community levels in a conversation with their houses of worship, highlighting respect among people of different faiths.  This event will help counter the common misperception abroad that most Americans are hostile to Islam.  It will send a message that Americans respect Muslims and Islam, as they respect religious differences and freedom of religion in general.

Faith Shared is designed to reflect the mutual respect shared among so many Muslims, Christians, Jews and other Americans, as they stand together to oppose the negative images that have dominated domestic and international news.

“This has been a year filled with darkness.  Threats to burn the Holy Book of one faith.  Bullying that has caused unbearable pain to many – even death,” said The Very Rev. Dr. James A. Kowalski, Dean of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine.  “In this City, in this country, in a world where we can build things up rather than tear them down, bring people together rather than divide them, and sow seeds of compassion and mutual respect rather than violence and death-dealing hatreds, we must do whatever we can to renew our capacity to respect the dignity of every human being.  May we – through services such as this one - renew our commitment to be stewards of Creation, a gift entrusted to us across generations and across traditions.”

“The anti-Muslim rhetoric that has pervaded our national conversation recently has shocked and saddened me,” said Interfaith Alliance President Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy.  “Appreciation for pluralism and respect for religious freedom and other human rights are at the core of our democracy.  We believe that demonstrating our commitment to those core American values will help counteract the intensified level of negative stereotypes and anti-Muslim bigotry in our recent public discourse.

“With Faith Shared, congregations will send a clear message to the world that Americans respect religious differences and reject bigotry and the demonization of Islam or any other religion,” said Human Rights First’s Tad Stahnke.  “This message about the fundamental importance of religious freedom around the world is especially timely as President Obama prepares to reaffirm the United States’ support for democracy in the Middle East starting with a speech later this week.”

At its core, this project will bring together Christian, Jewish and Muslim clergy to read from and hear from each other’s sacred texts.  In doing so, they will serve as a model for respect and cooperation and create a concrete opportunity to build and strengthen working ties between and among faith communities moving forward.

Interfaith Alliance celebrates religious freedom by championing individual rights, promoting policies that protect both religion and democracy, and uniting diverse voices to challenge extremism. Founded in 1994, Interfaith Alliance has 185,000 members across the country from 75 faith traditions as well as those without a faith tradition. For more information, visit www.interfaithalliance.org.

Human Rights First is a leading human rights advocacy organization based in New York City and Washington, DC.  Since 1978, we have worked in the U.S. and abroad to create a secure and humane world -advancing justice, human dignity, and respect for the rule of law.  All of our activities are supported by private contributions.  We accept no government funds.  Visit our web site: www.humanrightsfirst.org.

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