What's Tony Thinking

Welcome Back


Early in the pandemic we supported favorite restaurants by ordering take-out. Now on the other end (we hope it’s the other end!), we are stepping back into cultural venues. Where the opening words are invariably, “Welcome back,” followed by an expression of appreciation to the audience for returning.

The first was a classical guitar concert at a 2/3’s full Meany Hall on the University of Washington campus with artist, Sharon Isbin. I wrote about that under the title “Art In a Time of War”┬ánot long ago.

Next I took our two grandsons to a National Geographic Society Lecture at Benaroya Hall on “The Secrets of the Whales.” Brian Skerry, a prize-winning undersea photographer, had dazzling pictures and stories of Right, Humpback, Sperm, Orca and Beluga whales. “Had he ever been attacked or threatened in all his time under the water with whales?” asked one audience member. “No, never. But you do have to be careful about being too close if they breech.”

Linda took one of our granddaughters to the ballet that same weekend, a presentation of “Beauty and the Beast” by the Pacific Northwest Ballet. Credit where credit is due, Linda has been the instigator for all of our recent back to culture and the arts outings! She’s also a great supporter of “local” businesses wherever we are.

Last week we returned to the Taproot Theater in North Seattle for their revival of “The Spitfire Grill,” which first appeared on Broadway in 2000 and then at Taproot in 2003. Taproot is a small, intimate theater allowing you to sense and share in the joy of live performance with the actors up close and personal.

The production had a special poignancy as it stars Pam Nolte, who with her husband Kent, were the co-founders and artistic directors of Taproot from its beginnings in the 1970’s. They had been in the process of retiring just as the pandemic began. So there was Nolte planning Hannah Ferguson, the crusty, aging owner of the Spitfire Grill, who as the story has it is trying to find someone she trusts to take over the cafe in the hard-luck town of Gilead, Wisconsin.

And today, we journeyed back to a part of town where we lived for 25 years, Columbia City (southeast Seattle), and to the Ark Lodge Theater, to go to the movies. Another post-pandemic first. The film was this year’s “Best Picture” winner, “CODA,” which is just lovely. I was honestly, but pleasantly, surprised that the Ark Lodge Cinema, an independent movie house, had made it through the pandemic. It’s a special place.

While CODA certainly presents and champions the story of the deaf, and of central character who is a “child of deaf adults,” it transcends the usual culture war issues and agendas, which was in itself refreshing.

You don’t realize how that stupid “war” defines the terms of engagement for so much that we see and hear until it’s not there. I’d recommend the film especially to the Democratic Party as it might re-awaken their sympathy for working class people. Also a wonderful family/ coming of age story.

Anyhow, it’s great to be back in these venues and make our own small contribution to the return of arts and culture in our town. These institutions, large and small, are important. The experience they offer is not the same as live-streaming something on your TV or computer. It’s different and in many ways richer.

It’s great to see people who have worked so hard to hone their gifts have a chance to share those gifts and their passion for art and (mostly live) performance.

Welcome back to the arts! We’ve missed you.

p.s. You’ll notice I have avoided “the slap.” But if you’re still interested the best thing I read about it came from retired basketball star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.


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