The Oaklyn Ritz Theater opened in 1927 which makes it a 90 year old operating theater thanks to the efforts of the man I always think of as Wolfie because he acted in a play I took my daughter to see when she was very little. The Oaklyn Theater Company, under this man's direction, and I wish I could have found his name for you, but I searched briefly and I am out of time now and can only get this blog post done before I leave for the gym, first leased then bought the theater. When you think, as I have, of the many local theaters that have been demolished over the years, the one in Mount Ephraim where my daughter and I saw Little Women the Old King Theater in Gloucester City, the Century Theater on the White Horse Pike, and the theater still standing but I don't know wha it is now, a bank? on Haddon Ave. in Collingwood, it is a miracle that they pulled off saving the Oaklyn Ritz. BRAVO!!
Sorry about the long sentences and the ramble but I am in a hurry. Anyhow I have been going to the Ritz for 30 years. One year when my daughter was about 10, I took 10 of her girlfriends for her birthday when they had a special food bank drive and if you brought a bag of groceries, you got a free ticket!
I have seen more plays and musicals than I could list here but yesterday I saw To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. She died last year in February after publishing her second smash hit book Go Set A Watchman. Her first book, published in 1960, won a Pulitzer and made that other mysterious and difficult leap into the classics canon of American Literature - difficult for women, that is!
The play and the book are as relevant today as they were when she published it. As hate and blaming take over in our country and ignorant vandals take to desecrating cemeteries (in Philadelphia a week ago) and killing people in churches (Dylan Roof killing people at the Charleston AME church) and attacking mosques, it is good to take a look at the old reverberations of that kind of hatred and its most fertile ground - the Southern slavery culture.
People love to blame others for their problems when the more intelligent and successful know that if things aren't working out for you, you should look at yourself, your situation and come up with a better plan - try some research.
I grew up in a brick row home in South Philadelphia, with two loving parents whose childhoods in the depression deprived them of a high school education but they succeeded in life, and I went on to finish high school and get 3 college degrees with honors. It can be done, but not by the easy and lazy way of expecting to follow the past. That's what I loved about J. D. Vance's book Hillbilly Elegy. He deals with that same change of attitude. At present, there is a climate in our country that gives the Bob Ewell's of the country, the ignorant, angry and drunken haters, a pass to spill their angry out onto others by shootings and vandalism.
Seeing To Kill a Mockingbird helps remind us that we have fought this battle before and won and we can do it again. Here are some good quotes from the film
"The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience."
"Real courage i when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what."
"you never really know a person until you consider things from his point of view."
That last one is particularly telling. I thought about that in the portrayal of Bob Ewell as a low class, drunken brute who beat his own daughter and blamed it on an innocent African American passerby. We have to spend more time and money on examining mental illness and addiction and alcoholism in this country. Bob Ewell lives today in Dylan Roof, a boy who was undoubtedly a sociopath and both mentally ill and lethal.
Well, don't let all that spoil your thoughts on attending the play! ha ha. It is well worth it and running for 2 more weeks - very timely, obviously thought provoking, and a celebration of the work and life of one of America's great authors on the anniversary of her death, and the 50 anniversary of her Pulitzer Prize, and the 90th anniversary of a grand old theater that has survived the vicissitudes of time and has been recently renovated!
Happy Trails, happy tales!