CONVERSATIONS with Ed Tracy

Inspire. Educate. Entertain.

Conversations featuring authors and influential leaders in the arts, media and business.

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HENRY GODINEZ: INSPIRING STORIES. OPENING DOORS.

When he is not teaching at Northwestern, planning the next major Latino program at Goodman or directing, the multi-talented Henry Godinez, who has been described as a master comedian and storyteller, might be quietly found riding up Sheridan Road on a bike.

These days, you are more likely to find him directing a show in The Station at 100 South Racine Avenue in Chicago, home of the Chicago Children’s Theatre where a new musical, Last Stop On Market Street is enjoying its Chicago premiere. The heartwarming story of a boy and his grandmother’s crosstown journey of discovery was written by Matt de la Pena with illustrations by Christian Robinson. The play was written by Cheryl L. West with music and lyrics by Motown legend Lamont Dozier and his son, Paris Ray Dozier. And the show stars the incomparable E. Faye Butler as Nana and a pair of terrific youngsters – Alejandro Medina and Kei Rawlins – sharing the role of CJ.

Henry Godinez joined the CONVERSATION on May 4th to talk about the development process for the new show, his professional career and talented family, the evolving Latino theater community and what it is about a story that makes it worthy of a stage treatment.

Listen to the CONVERSATIONS PODCAST.

HENRY GODINEZ

Co-commissioned work …
"Cheryl L. West is a hard-hitting, American playwright, one of the great contemporary American playwrights, who wrote important, beefy plays like Pullman Porter Blues that we did at the Goodman … Jar the Floor at Northlight. So, I love that when Jacqui Russell at Chicago Children's Theatre and Peter Brosius, Artistic Director of Minneapolis Children's Theater Company, co-commissioned this piece, they thought to engage a playwright like Cheryl L. West … One of the first things that Jackie knew when she wanted to adapt this story was that E. Faye Butler was Nana, the grandmother. Maybe it's because she is a grandmother now and she has a seven-year old grandson that she said yes.  … the greatest thing about this production is that, at the center of it, you have Ms. E. Faye Butler, a Chicago legend."

  Read our    PicksInSix Review    on the new musical Last Stop on Market Street now playing at    Chicago Children's Theatre   , 100 S. Racine through May 27th TIX: (312)374.8835

Read our PicksInSix Review on the new musical Last Stop on Market Street now playing at Chicago Children's Theatre, 100 S. Racine through May 27th TIX: (312)374.8835

Last Stop on Market Street … "this boy is out of his element … interacting with people that he doesn't ordinarily see and being in a world that is not like his at all. … It's about the preconceptions that we all bring to a situation … how we judge people according to how they look or sound … he thinks this is going to be a rotten four days and little by little, with the help of his Nana - this force of nature, E. Faye Butler, a true Chicago treasure - he realizes that even in the things that we think are scary or dirty or frightening, there is beauty, more than he had ever imagined."

Latino Theater Festival … "the last production in the old Goodman was Zoot Suit that I was fortunate to direct … Goodman had never done a Latino play on the main stage before ... never seen so many Latinos in the audience. … We moved … and then 911 happened. Programming, not just at the Goodman, but I think in a lot of arts institutions, became very safe. I went to Roche Schulfer(Goodman's Executive Director) and said, “Roche, you know, the audience is going to forget where we moved. They're not going to know we moved. They're going to think, ‘Wait a minute! I was just here and it was great and where did they go?’ So, we started the Latino Theater Festival as a way to jump-start our Latino audience programming at the Goodman. Over the years that meant bringing companies in from Spain, Mexico and South America and, eventually, even Cuba, and national Latino theater artists, and local companies. It was always important that we showcased local Latino companies … and we created a regular and devoted Latino audience ... and more importantly, equally important as they are connected, Latino programming was no longer marginalized to a festival, it is actually now an integral part of our season programming, which is an awesome thing."

IMG_6826.jpg

Inspiring stories. Opening doors. … "if a student sees themselves represented, they are more likely to go there … if they see professors that look like them, if they see that the programming, the plays that are being produced tell their stories, then they are going to feel at home. I knew that recruiting and diversifying Northwestern was going to be harder because it is not a conservatory so students don't audition to get there. You have to be accepted into the university, it's very hard to get in there and it's expensive. So, I knew that the odds were against us. But thanks to the efforts of my colleagues at Northwestern and President Morty Shapiro and his administration who have been incredibly proactive in creating an environment that makes it viable for students."

Amazing Wonder Women … "my wife Nancy (Voigts) is a big musical theater actress. … When the girls were born, my career was getting really crazy, both teaching and directing. By that point, I wasn't pursuing acting anymore, but she, to a great extent, put her career on hold to raise the girls and she's an amazing singer and actress. We met actually doing a series of Kabuki plays here in the 80s and early 90s. … Lucy, our oldest daughter, is now a senior at Northwestern. She's graduating in four weeks and inherited her mom's voice, and then some. She has this crazy, crazy voice and Northwestern has made her a good little actor … she's grown up in this … around amazing performers … Gabby, who is a freshman at Northwestern is a Radio, TV and Film major … Her dream is to write and produce for late night comedy like Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers or Marvel. … she will go with me to see what my wife calls a ‘boy movie” – superhero movies. One of my great joys was to go with her to see Wonder Woman because, finally, she was able to see a movie where a woman was the hero. They are amazing. They are amazing. It is the best thing."

Powerful voices ... "it isn't so much about what to invest in, or to try to figure out what the tone or the flavor is at the moment, but who to invest in … if you identify the gifted people, the rest will follow, especially the young people, young artists … if you sense that someone's voice is vital, a young writer, a young director, a young actor's voice is really powerful and vital, I think that's the thing to invest in."

Edited for length and clarity.

PODCAST
WEBSITE
PICKSINSIX REVIEW

PRODUCTION PHOTOS
CCT|Last Stop on Market Street|Charles Osgood
WRITERS THEATRE|Quixote: On the Conquest of Self|Michael Brosilow
 

CHICAGO CHILDREN'S THEATRE
Presents
A New Musical
LAST STOP ON MARKET STREET

through May 27th
The Station
100 S. Racine Avenue
(312) 374-8835

CONVERSATIONS with Ed Tracy
Season 3|Episode 7 - May 9, 2018
PODCAST available on iTunes, Libsyn and Stitcher
ARCHIVE DE USURIS BLOG EMAIL WEBSITE SUBSCRIBE

DE USURIS - Arnie Bernstein on Fritz Kuhn 80 Years Later

Charlottesville, August 12, 2017. Three deaths. Nineteen other serious injuries reported. Many more if you consider the psychological trauma inflicted on the scores of individuals there that day. Historian Arnie Bernstein sees comparisons and contrasts to another troubling time in our history.

 Historian Arnie Bernstein on Charlottesville and the 1930s German American Bund movement

Historian Arnie Bernstein on Charlottesville and the 1930s German American Bund movement

As we process these events, individual and corporate stands were swift, condemning racism, hate and bigotry, and awakening, even as the story continues to unfold, a new cycle of activist movement against the forces of evil exemplified in the KKK, neo-Nazi and white supremacists. With history as a barometer, words and boycotts are not enough to stem the tide of domestic terrorism in our Nation and around the world.

In the decade leading up to American involvement in World War II, the rise of the German American Bund Movement, a neo-Nazi organization led by Fritz Kuhn, is a harbinger of the kind of polarization we have witnessed that led to violence and death in Charlottesville this weekend.

Arnie Bernstein, author of Swastika Nation: Fritz Kuhn and the German-American Bund, joined me for a program last year during our live series at Skokie Theatre, a conversation about the life and times of a man whose rise and fall in 1930s America provides a glimpse into another troubling period in our nation's history.

This week, we asked Arnie Bernstein to expand on our conversation in the context of the events in Charlottesville.  ET 8/15/2017

ET: Talk about the social climate in the mid-1930s, the political divide that fostered Fritz Kuhn and the German-American Bund movement and how it compares or contrasts to the polarization in our society today?

AB: The German-American Bund movement was largely what the name said: German Americans, mostly naturalized immigrants escaping from the terrible economic conditions of post-WWI Germany.  But post-war America was rough for them, given the anti-German fervor in the United States during the war years and afterwards.  They banded together during the 1920s under various groups, culminating in the founding of the German-American Bund in 1936.  Instead of embracing American ideals, the members of these groups looked to Hitler and the rise of National Socialism back in the Fatherland. But the vast majority of German-Americans (both immigrant and those who had been here for a few generations) had no interest in the Bund and despised what it stood for.  The Bundists were a loud group of maybe 15,000 nationwide.  They never revealed official numbers, and estimates vary depending on what resource you look at, such as the FBI or the American Legion.

ET: The rise of the Bund had immediate detractors. Who were some of the more prominent individuals and organizations involved and how did they express themselves?

The Bund’s opponents were a disparate association of legal authorities like the FBI, elected officials including New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia and his district attorney Thomas Dewey (later governor and presidential candidate), citizen groups and veterans, Jewish organizations, and journalists, most famously Walter Winchell, who delighted in attacking the Bund’s leader Fritz Kuhn.  Others who went after the Bund included major players in the Jewish criminal underworld, like Mayer Lansky, Bugsy Siegel, and Mickey Cohen.  They were approached on the sly by important figures in the Jewish community.  The boys in the mob responded, and refused to take payment for their services.  They busted up Bund meetings and busted up Bundists’ bones in the process.

ET: What impact did they have?

AB: As varied as the groups.  LaGuardia and Dewey were effective taking down the Bund by cutting off the dragon at the head: they found that Fritz Kuhn was embezzling the group’s money and eventually got him sent to prison on those charges, sort of like how Al Capone got tripped up not by his crimes but through tax evasion.  As I said, the mobsters broke up meetings with fists and Winchell attacked them in his column and on his radio show.  The FBI worked their wiles on the Bund, with something like 3,000 pages of files accumulated on their activities.  In one case, the community of Southbury, CT banded together so the Bundists could not open a private retreat on the outskirts of town.  The efforts around the country were considerable on so many fronts.

ET: Compare the rhetoric of the time to what is occurring now.

AB: Similar and different, to be sure.  The fascist Nazi standards of anti-Semitism, racial hatred, anti-Communist (which they associated with Jews and African-Americans), and the “purity” of the Aryan race sound exactly the same.  They are separated by decades but not rhetoric.  On the other hand, the groups today are much more violent in what they say and much more open about it.  You didn’t see Bundists walking around with tattooed swastikas on their arms, marching through streets of towns like Charlottesville wielding semi-automatic weapons.  The Bundists were scary, to be sure, but they pale in comparison to the things we’re seeing today.  Sure, they attacked people, but it was with fists and baseball bats, not wielding menacing heavy-duty firepower and driving cars into groups of protestors.

 More at   DE USURIS - ARNIE BERNSTEIN   or listen to the podcast on   iTunes   Libsyn   or   Stitcher

More at DE USURIS - ARNIE BERNSTEIN or listen to the podcast on iTunes Libsyn or Stitcher

ET: In your book, Swastika Nation, you attribute the collapse of the Bund movement to a series of factors. Talk about these and by example how they may or may not apply to what is happening today.

AB: The factors really are different.  The Bund was an organization with a strict constitution and bylaws that were enforced.  Fritz Kuhn brought them down himself in late 1939 by embezzling the group’s money to fund his romances.  He was a dynamic presence who made the Bund what it was, and when he was gone, they struggled.  With the rise of Nazi Germany in the late 1930s and early 1940s, members jumped ship—it just wasn’t safe to be associated with a pro-Hitler movement in the United States.  Then came Pearl Harbor, America’s entry into WWII, and that was the end of the Bund.

ET: Historians often tend to examine social injustice, racism, gender issues and bigotry as having been the product of another time long past. And yet, today, we are grappling with extreme anger, hatred and a new strain of lawlessness fueled in growing numbers by fear, oppression and domestic terrorism.

Learn from the past … or doomed to repeat it?

AB: I think a bit of both.  The Bund was an overt group, while for a long time the people like what we’re seeing in Charlottesville were more underground and outcasts.  During the 1930s social conditions certainly fostered many alienated German immigrants and their sympathizers in the United States.  What they did not have were like-minded individuals in high positions engendering that anger and hatred, such as we’re seeing today.  There’s no question in my mind that what happened in Charlottesville was a culmination of many factors: a right-wing propaganda machine fostering hatred and playing to the lowest common denominator and using well-understood code words and social dog whistles.  “Liberals control the media” sounds just like what the 1930s counterparts said, only it was “Jews control the media.”  

Ultimately, though, there are many more good people in the world than there are of these types.  We’re always going to have to face the reality that they exist and they want to do damage in order to protect a mythical ideal of something that never was. But the world is changing. People who didn’t have a voice before are speaking out and standing up to these groups.  That happened in the 1930s and it’s happening now, as we’ve seen since the deadly events in Charlottesville.  We’re standing up to those who want to pervert American ideals.

ARNIE BERNSTEIN WEBSITE
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STEVE HAMILTON

EXIT STRATEGY - A Nick Mason Novel

Not much shakes Nick Mason, author Steve Hamilton’s new antihero. He is relentless, calculating and for a time, appears to accept his release from the last 20 years of a 25-year federal sentence as an opportunity. In his new world, there is a Chicago town house in toney Lincoln Park, fast cars and a chance to reconnect with his ex-wife, daughter and the pals he protected by taking the rap for a poorly executed heist that landed him in prison. 

He owes this opportunity to one man, Darius Cole, one of the most powerful and ruthless criminal bosses ever, who happens to run his vast empire from the very same prison. Mason’s new job on the outside is to answer his cell phone when it rings and follow orders. As you would expect, while it sounds simple enough, he soon realizes that lives are at stake, and not just the target that has been chosen for him to kill next.

All this and a Chicago skyline formed the backdrop for Hamilton’s first book in the series, 2016’s The Second Life of Nick Mason, a highly-anticipated and critically-acclaimed new work that landed on the Best Book lists for Kirkus and NPR, was Top Thriller for the Library Journal and received stellar reviews from the New York Times, Esquire, The Wall Street Journal and AP to name a few.

Hamilton, in case you didn’t know by now, is the author of ten books in the Alex McKnight series which received an Edgar and a Shamus Award for Best First Novel for A Cold Day in Paradise. A standalone novel, The Lock Artist, was a New York Times Notable Crime Book and won an Alex Award and the Edgar Award for Best Novel.

   EXIT STRATEGY by Steve Hamilton     G.P. Putnam's Sons May 16, 2017 "Nick Mason returns deadlier than ever."

EXIT STRATEGY
by Steve Hamilton

G.P. Putnam's Sons
May 16, 2017
"Nick Mason returns
deadlier than ever."

Now comes Exit Strategy and Nick Mason returns deadlier than ever. We caught up with author Steve Hamilton for a conversation in Chicago on May 15th to talk about the new book, the Lionsgate film project that is underway, and what is it about the turbulent and violent world of Nick Mason that keeps us coming back for more.

On the first book in the series, The Second Life of Nick Mason
“Nick Mason is a career criminal. That is something you understand about him from the first book. There’s no getting around that. You meet him in federal prison. He’s there for a good reason. It is not a case of him being falsely accused, either … He is not a fugitive trying to break out and prove that he is innocent … Throughout his career, he has lived by a code and had very strict rules for himself, to keep himself out of prison and to keep himself alive … it was when he broke those rules, and made a big mistake, that got him in prison in the first place … He is offered this deal that will let him walk out the door, not just walk out, but walk into a whole new life in a town house on the north side of Chicago, a restored Mustang he gets to drive around, a beautiful roommate, $10,000 cash every month, that’s really what the first book in the series is about … how Nick has to take that deal and finding out what the cost of it is.”  

What drives Nick Mason …
“He knows what the terms of the deal are, but living through it is another story. Whenever that phone rings, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, he has to answer it and go do whatever he is told, no matter what it is. He realizes that anybody he is close to could be in danger if he does not go along with these orders … That is a real fear he has, being watched all the time … on call all the time. It’s really like he has traded one prison for a new one.”

THE CAST OF CHARACTERS ... 

Darius Cole …

“Darius Cole is the criminal mastermind, the head of an empire who is in prison with Nick Mason. He is a very smart person. He’s eight or nine moves ahead. He actually sees something in Nick that Nick does not even know is there, really … In fact, Nick even asks him, ‘You’ve got killers all around you, this whole cell block. You could take your pick. I’ve never killed anybody in my life and I don’t want to. Why would you pick me?’ That’s one of the mysteries of the first book, Nick finding out, as he goes out there, and as he does these things, he realizes that he does have certain talents that he didn’t know he had.”

Diana Rivelli …
“His roommate Diana is living in the same cage. She had a personal relationship with Darius Cole and was left in his town house to run some of the businesses."

Marcos Quintero …
“He is a former gang member … Darius Cole essentially bought him out of the gang … one more of his soldiers who have a special set of skills … He’s the man who watches over Nick, delivers the threats when they are necessary, gives him his assignments when it is time … He is essentially (Nick’s) handler in the outside world because Cole can not work with him directly.”

Nick Mason’s new adversary, Sean Burke …
“This guy is different. This guy is special. This guy actually had Nick’s job before Nick did. He was the old assassin who used to work for Darius Cole. He walked away from that job, the only guy who ever walked away from Darius Cole. That’s how tough this guy is … born to do this job. Nick Mason certainly was not ... So it is an interesting showdown between the new guy and the old guy who both have had the same job. Sean Burke is not the kind of guy who will sit around and wait, so he breaks out of this unbreakable place and he goes after Nick himself.”

On the new book, Exit Strategy …
“As we go into the second book, Exit Strategy, the missions for Nick Mason are becoming more and more dangerous and more brutal. He is finding it harder to hold on to the one thing, the one code, that he had left, which is that he didn’t want to kill anyone else other than the target. And, he is going to such great lengths in the first scene of Exit Strategy … He is going after his first target and he has to do so many things just to make sure he does not kill anybody else … He feels himself turning into this machine that Darius Cole was trying to create and he is losing himself, his humanity, so he has to get out.”  

On Nick Mason’s new tactical advantages …
“The weapons are more complicated because the missions are more complicated. He is infiltrating a building and not just going to find one person, track them down and kill them. Now, he has to deal with several different people at once … he needs a non-lethal weapon for one purpose. He has a pistol for another purpose.  When he infiltrates this underground bunker … He has this weird feeling. He feels like he is a special ops soldier almost, weighed down by all these grenades and things.”

The choice of Chicago as the backdrop for the series …
“Where you come from is a huge part of who you are. When I wrote about my former character, Alex McKnight, he is a Detroit cop. That’s just where he is from … When I was thinking about Nick Mason, I knew Chicago well enough, I thought, and it just seemed perfect that he would be a South Sider. That’s who Nick Mason is … he comes from a really rough neighborhood, in an amazing city. The other thing about Chicago is that you can come home to Chicago and not be home. He can go to the North Side and it is a different world from where he comes from and that’s the part of it that I wanted as well … of any city in the world that I have ever been to, none of them have quite the same sense of different worlds as Chicago does.”  

A new point of view in Exit Strategy …
“The first book is mostly from Nick’s point of view as he is discovering his way in this whole new life … It just felt like Exit Strategy needed to be a little bigger because there are other players who all have their own agendas.”

About the Lionsgate film …
"The first book was optioned by Lionsgate and that is very much in the works … They will come to Chicago and actually film it here, which will be just fantastic."

On the next five books in the Nick Mason series …
“I am working on the next one now … I’m right in the middle of it. I really have seven of them already in my mind which is a whole different approach for me. … With Nick Mason I really want to know the bigger story, each book feels like it is just part of that bigger story. There are a lot of surprises at the end of Exit Strategy and it does open up into a different world.”

Nick Mason’s favorite beer?
“Goose Island.”

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BUILDING CHICAGO - LIVE AT THE CHICAGO HISTORY MUSEUM


Expert Panel Discusses John Zukowsky's Book at the
Chicago History Museum

A new and extraordinary addition to the great body of work about architectural history in Chicago is now available and should have a prominent place in every public and private collection. At just over 300 pages, John Zukowsky’s Building Chicago: The Architectural Masterworks, published by Rizzoli, covers the sweeping history of Chicago with fresh scholarly commentary and hundreds of images – many from the Chicago History Museum’s vast collection.
 
John Zukowsky, Lee Bey and Rolf Achilles joined the conversation on Thursday, October 20th, 2016 at the national launch of Building Chicago to discuss the evolving landscape of Chicago architecture in the 20th century. 

Rolf Achilles on what has influenced Chicago architecture …
“… Chicago was this amazing vacuum that just sucked everything up … It was also the fastest growing city in 1833. There were 350 people here and by 1900 it was 1.5 million. Well, that 1.5 million needed stuff that the 350 did not. So you have 70 mad years, and that’s what you can see … how architecture affects culture but culture affects architecture too.”
 
Lee Bey on his favorite architect …
“I like modernism … I like the work of Mies van der Rohe … obviously Crown Hall. I like late Mies … Hotel Langham now, the former IBM building … but I like the clarity … how rational the design is.”

John Zukowsky on Chicago and American Modernism …
“What’s interesting to me about Chicago modernism, and it’s true with American modernism … you always think of modernism as being just one solution … in reality it’s about 20 to 30 individual solutions. Every modern building has a different feel and a different look to it … and that’s the same when you look at buildings in Chicago … what I like about that is not just the discipline and rationalism but the variety of expressions that everybody else had around the country.”
 
Bey on growing the city …
“There are two Chicagos. There’s a central area … Cermak to North Avenue, the lake to Halsted and outside that there’s another Chicago where population loss is happening that we need to fix. We have to grow the city …. the central area is going to be taken care of … but we have to figure out the south and west sides of the city … how to get people there, how to grow the population…  put houses, buildings, factories, office buildings, the whole mix in this area.”

Achilles on why other cities have surpassed Chicago …
 “They are all using the Chicago tradition to get in to the future, and we’re not in the same way … it’s not the architecture that’s the problem. It’s the socio-economic state. It’s the politicians … those with a semblance of authority that can make the rules, and they’re not making very interesting rules … It’s like in the 1910’s and 1920’s, Chicago imposed a height limit on its buildings because they were scared you couldn’t get out of a building in a fire. Well, New York wasn’t afraid of that and surpassed Chicago. New York becomes ‘skyscraperville’ and Chicago is this ‘little stubby town in the prairies.’”
 
Zukowsky on who we will be talking about in 100 years …
“I’d include the classics [Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright] … I’d put in pioneers of the 70’s and 80’s Bruce Gray … Stanley Tigerman … Richard Nickel … Harry Weese … Jeanne Gang … I think you’ll also be talking about other architects who built here …  We tend to forget about that especially in the 90's. Foreign architects and New York architects were building here … We’ll be talking about Norman Foster [and] the Apple store ... I think he’s a great architect … so it’s great to have something of his work here, no doubt about it.”


Our thanks to the generous sponsors Bulley & Andrews, Eli's Cheesecake, Rizzoli and the Chicago History Museum.

Listen to Entire Podcast HERE
Purchase Building Chicago HERE

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