Browsing Archives for September 2010

On Friday night we drove to Saint Marys, a nearby town to watch ‘Shakespeare Under the Stars’.  I was mistakenly under the impression that a group of community members had produced a version of The Taming of The Shrew as a fundraiser to repair an aging WWII memorial. Excited to participate in a rare bit of culture for these parts, I packed a picnic supper, a few blankets, and shoe-horned my reluctant children into the mini-van.

Pertinent factoids…

Saint Marys is home to a school called Saint Marys Academy which is part of the schismatic Catholic group, Saint Pius X of whom Mel Gibson is their most famous member.

Saint Pius X does not accept the changes made to Catholicism under Vatican 2.  They claim to follow the pope, but at the same time believe that the papacy is currently vacant as the current ‘pope’ does not follow the right rules.

A splinter group that broke off of this splinter group elected their own pope – Pope Michael.

Saint Pius X churches still hold the Latin mass – because everyone knows that this is the language that Jesus spoke.

Members of this sect are easily identifiable in this area for their conservatively dressed women who wear ankle length skirts, loose fitting blouses, have long hair and are hemmed in on all sides by an enormous passel of offspring.

In recent years, the numbers of Saint Pius X members have grown to outnumber the regular townsfolk in Saint Marys.  Not all the Pius X families can afford the private tuition at the Academy, so they homeschool in great numbers and also send their kids to the local public schools.  They have enormous power in town politics and can quickly organize on issues that matter to them and overwhelmingly elect people from their sect to represent them.  They seem to be specialists in circumventing government regulations and among other things are rumored to live in unfinished houses to avoid paying full property taxes.

Some members of the local group were investigated after the Oklahoma City bombing.  There were suspicions that the mysterious third person who was spotted with Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols was associated with the Academy, but no charges were ever brought against anyone in the town.

This from the Topeka Capitol Journal

May 1995: Federal agents questioned three St. Marys residents but found no evidence linking them to the Oklahoma City federal building bombing. The FBI agents were looking for information on John Doe 2, an unidentified man thought to be involved in the bombing on April 19, 1995.

The FBI was looking into activities of homegrown militia groups and reportedly conducted interviews with three staff members at St. Mary’s Academy and College. Local law enforcement said no apparent link was found between the academy and the bombing.

In February of 2008, the Saint Mary’s academy called a halt to a basketball game in their school gym because a female referee showed up to officiate. The game was one of two slated for the private school to play a team that was a member of the Kansas State High-school Activities Association. Most of the Academy’s games are against other private schools who probably defer to their ‘no female referees allowed rule’, but the state association does not schedule it’s referees according to the discriminatory policies of private religious institutions. When the female referee was told by Academy representatives she could not officiate the game, the other KSHSAA referee decided he also would not officiate the game. Eventually a referee was found from a previous game that day and the Academy’s athletic director donned a striped shirt and became the game’s second referee.  Saint Marys Academy issued the following statement a few days later…

[the] formation of adolescent boys is best accomplished by male role models”, and that “teaching our boys to treat ladies with deference, we cannot place them in an aggressive athletic competition where they are forced to play inhibited by their concern about running into a female referee”

This event made national news.  Michelle Campbell, the official who was kicked out of the game was asked to appear on several talk shows including Good Morning America for which she was interviewed by phone.  In an ESPN article Campbell was quoted as saying…

“Everyone is entitled to their own beliefs,” Campbell said. “I guess the rub with me is that it’s not a belief of my own and yet I was subjected to it.”

The unsung hero in this story is the other referee, Darin Putthoff, a Topeka minister who refused to officiate the game after he was told that Campbell would not be allowed to do her job.

In the Topeka Capitol Journal he said the following…

“I was shocked, immediately caught off guard. I said, ‘If Michelle has to leave, I’m leaving with her,’ and we all walked. As far as I’m concerned, I’m never coming back.”

After this story broke, the KSHSAA had to review it’s policies and then decide if they would continue to allow Kansas public schools to play sports against the Academy.  I was unable to find out what they decided.  If you know, please fill me in.

‘Academy people’ are a part of my daily life in the small Kansas town where I live.  I see them all the time – at the grocery store, at work, at the park, so I am kind of used to their particular brand of religious lunacy, but I was under the impression that the Shakespeare event was a ‘townie’ production and had nothing to do with the Academy.  The play was billed as a fundraiser for a war memorial and not for the school and it was taking place on the town’s public golf course and not on the extensive grounds of the private school.  Shortly after we arrived at the show, we discovered that the golf course is directly adjacent to the grounds of the school and that the war memorial was on the grounds of the Academy!

We were duped!


The event started off very nicely.  We parked in a large lot on the school grounds and then rode in the back of a pick-up truck with a group of young people (the girls all in skirts) to the golf course.  It was a crisp early fall night, perfect for an outdoor event.  There were an array of booths set up as we walked to find a seat.  Hamburgers were grilling.  Popcorn was popping.  The Academy folks are sort of a non-stop parade of ‘society for creative anachronism’, the only difference being, that they never take their costumes off nor fall out of character, so they probably did not have to dig very deeply in their closets to find the material for the old timey black smith exhibition we walked past.  Lots of the women in the audience were dressed up in Shakespearean garb too… or maybe that was their regular clothes?  In Saint Marys, you never really know.  Overall, it was a pleasant, subdued carnival like atmosphere except for the few sideways glances I got for wearing blue jeans, heels and a silky blouse that showed an obscene amount of my bare arms.  We spread our blankets out on the grassy hillside, sliced up some cheese and salami, passed around some grapes and settled in to watch the show.

The first act of the play was wonderful.  Once the actors got over an initial set of the jitters, they had a lot of energy on stage, especially the young man who played Petruchio.  He stole the show with his husky blond good looks, deep voice and energetic wrestling matches with the actress who played Katherina, the shrew he was trying to tame.  I was not familiar with this particular Shakespeare play, but at the intermission I did not have any misgivings about the content of the show. We were watching two very strong characters at war with each other – Petruchio and Katherina, but they seemed evenly matched.  I was sure that good old Shakespeare would resolve this story in a humorous way where both characters got their just deserts.

Was I ever wrong…

In the second act Petruchio ‘tames’ his new wife by refusing to feed her, taunting her with beautiful gifts and then taking them away and finally forcing her to accept his ludicrous statements when they are obviously untrue – such as the sun is the moon or an old man is a young woman.  He then threatens to keep her from her sister’s wedding if she fails to accept his every statement (no matter how absurd) as undeniable truth.  Every scene in the second act with Petruchio and Katherina is cruel and humiliating for his new bride.  We watch Petruchio break Katherine’s will.  She transforms from a pugnacious spit-fire with a general hatred for all humanity to a hungry, haggard woman who crumbles under the cult like programming to which her husband subjects her.  She becomes his zombie puppet – agreeing to everything he commands.  She ends the show by giving a tender, heartfelt speech of love and devotion to her ‘lord’ her ‘king’ her ‘master’ Petruchio, while the other men in the show congratulate him for taming such a wretched, surly shrew.

The end.

And what a dismal end it was.  To watch this show take place in it’s traditional form in any venue today would be off-putting, but to watch it unfold in Saint Marys, Kansas – right next to the grounds of Saint Marys Academy, where female referees are asked to leave high-school basketball games, the female students aren’t allowed to play sports and all the women are wearing ankle length skirts was especially disturbing.

I watched a few scenes from a variety of different ‘Shrew’ productions online to see if a different director would put a different spin on some of the more disturbing scenes in the show.  I though that maybe it could be played with more irony or sarcasm depicting a Katherina that manages to seem to obey her husband while simultaneously ridiculing him.

In the BBC version, John Cleese plays overbearing Petruchio while Sarah Badel submits without a trace of irony.

Elizabeth Taylor’s shrew also lovingly, humbly and with enough eyeshadow to choke an elephant surrenders her entire being to her overlord Richard Burton’s Petruchio.



In a modern re-telling of this story, starring the juicy morsel that is Rufus Sewell as Petruchio and the whirling dervish that is Shirley Henderson as Katherina, the two characters find a much more interesting balance in the end.  She continues to be a power driven career woman heartily shaking her fist at everything in site, but refuses to sign a pre-nup as a symbol of her devotion while Petruchio stays at home to raise their resulting triplets!  Here at last is a version of Shakespeare’s Shrew that I can live with!

It is easy to see why the ‘Academy folks’ would choose this particular Shakespeare play.  It fits perfectly with their world view in many ways.  I do wonder if they decide to make this an annual fund-raising event if any other Shakespeare plays will meet the standards of their unfortunate philosophy or if they will be forced to perform The Taming of the Shrew year after year after freaking year.

Hey Saint Marys Academy Folks! How about doing this version of ‘Shrew’ next year? I think it would be a Big Hit!

Could you get Rufus Sewell to play the lead?


Jack Vacuums

September 23rd, 2010


Whenever I assign the boys chores to do around the house, I always give Jack the easiest job. While his brothers clean bathrooms and wash windows, Jack only has to pick up a few toys or take a few items all the way up the stairs!  It’s because he is still so tiny.  He can hardly lift a cup of water by himself not to mention wipe off a table top!  But the other day it just seemed ridiculous that Jack wouldn’t be able to handle something a bit harder than putting his shoes away, so I shakily suggested that he could vacuum.  I was fully prepared for both of us to fall apart, but it didn’t happen.  He just ran off and found his dad’s radio head set and then he started to  vacuum!  It wasn’t even hard!  Neither one of us died or anything!  My baby can do real chores!  Next thing I know he’ll be doing his own laundry!







A mother can dream can’t she!

I read Tim Gunn’s new book, Gunn’s Golden Rules, Life’s Little Lessons For Making It Work over the weekend. It’s a spirited account of Tim’s slow rise to success and what he learned along the way plus there is enough celebrity misbehavior stories in this book to keep the attention of even the most inane pop culture junkies.  At the same time, Gunn manages to authentically eyeball his own life, his own failings, and how he has managed to climb on top of many of them and attempt to control the rest.  It is a very enjoyable book.  PLUS!  Jay Edgar Hoover CROSS DRESSING to look like Vivian Vance!  How can you not want to hear that story!




Jay Edgar Hoover…

Vivian Vance…

Tim is especially incensed in this book about the level of rudeness in society today.  He talks about rude behavior on the subways, rude behavior of children, of parents, of movie stars, of the general public.  I have to say that I had trouble relating to his tales of rude behavior.  I live in Kansas.  We don’t do rude.  We might be insanely religious, rigorously right wing, fail to believe in global warming, think that evolution is a fairy tale and regularly consume enough calories for three humans in one day, but we are not rude.  We are unfailingly polite.  All. The. Time.  Rudeness is the exception around these parts, not the rule. So if Tim is willing to give up ethnic cuisine, neighborhood grocery stores, good public transportation and diverse cultural experiences – he could certainly gain the heartland’s penchant for politeness!  I wonder if he would be interested in the exchange?

Tim also talks a lot about his family of origin in this book. He clearly is devoted to his niece, loves his sister, has a committed but strained relationship with his mother and manages to salvage a few worthwhile tidbits from what seemed to be a cold and remote relationship with his father.

His ruminations about his family life made me think about Ayelet Waldman’s book Bad Mother which I finished a few weeks ago.  Waldman’s book is an extremely candid look at motherhood and what it costs women.  She unflinchingly examines the harshest realities of being a mom, decides that she loves her spouse more than her kids, has an abortion because the four month old fetus she is carrying has a genetic defect, fights depression and is one of the bravest writers I have ever read.   Her book was hard and it sent me into a spiral of negative emotion over several things I have been dealing with for a long time.  One of the biggest themes of her book is how much we expect from our mothers.  Ayelet tells the story of her husband standing in line at a coffee shop with their baby strapped to his chest in a front pack.  A perfect stranger comes up to him and compliments him for being a wonderful father, yet ALL HE WAS DOING WAS STANDING IN LINE HOLDING THE BABY!  He wasn’t even using his ARMS for chrissake!  The front pack was doing all the work!  Think about it.  What does a woman have to do for a perfect stranger to call her a wonderful mother?  She would have to be making a homemade triceratops Halloween costume from an old quilt and found sheet metal, while baking bread over an open fire, while helping a child with trigonometry homework, while volunteering as a playground attendant for the kindergarten classroom while scrubbing the wood floors in the living room with a toothbrush ALL AT THE SAME TIME!  And EVEN THAT MIGHT NOT BE ENOUGH!  We are so much harder on moms than we are on dads!

So when Tim Gunn nitpicked his mom throughout the book and gave his dad lot more leeway even though his mom was there for him EVERY DAY OF HIS LIFE and his dad was NOT, I found myself getting just a teensy bit enraged.  We are far too accustomed to giving our mothers the blame for screwing up our lives and totally letting our dads off the hook.  MAYBE MOM SCREWED UP MORE BECAUSE SHE WAS AROUND MORE!!!!

Moms are only human Tim!



But other than that very aggravating detail – Tim’s book is great and a lot of fun to read while Ayelet’s book is painful and heart wrenching to read – but also good – just in a very different way.  Maybe read both books at the same time so when you start to fall apart from Waldman’s Bad Mother, you can cheer yourself back up with Gunn’s Golden Rules.

I found a few videos that show a designer from season two of Project Runway (Santino) imitating Tim Gunn.  I wasn’t watching the show back then, but if you are familiar with Tim Gunn at all – these clips are freakin’ hilarious!   Project Runway finds the most creative people.  As I watched these clips, I kept thinking back to the idea of the androgynous mind being the most brilliant mind.  In the case of Project Runway, it certainly seems to be true.