Monologists, Rappers, and Framers

Saturday night I took my daughter to see Ben Franklin Unplugged, Josh Kornbluth’s monologue at the Ellen Bye Studio (in the Armory Building in Portland.)  While Olive was a little lost by all the references to Communism (which had us walking back to the car talking about Marx (no, not one of the Brothers), Mao, Stalin, McCarthy and idealism – good thing we didn’t park right next to the theater), I was left thinking about how Kornbluth’s work connected to mine (a reading which I think Kornbluth would say is the only way we read anything.)  In the piece, Kornbluth ends up spending the night in the Franklin archives at Yale, realizing that historian’s published work can’t substitute for reading the letters.  An inspiring message, I think, speaking to the vitality of engaging people with the source material.  His next step seemed a little broad:  If I understood the piece (and I must admit, when it comes to theater I can be a little daft), he seemed to be saying that anybody who reads those documents will be applying their own lens and will leave with personal interpretations that are equally valid.  While this seems at once both true and a bit of an overreach, the way it spoke to the vitality and creative experience of engaging with primary docs was dead on.  The program is at the end of it’s run:  it closes November 22.  When I went, there were $20 rush tickets available.  More info here.

Another engaging creative work dealing with a “Founding Father” is Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Alexander Hamilton rap.  Delivered at a White House soiree (why don’t I get invited to those?), his is more accessible for sharing with students (short, streamed, and dramatic.)  Link to it here; I found out about it on Larry Cebula’s NW History blog.


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