A Visit to Grandma

Will I ever learn?  Willa arrived on the ferry after her week’s work in New York.  What she wanted, she said was to restore herself – a little swimming, reading, just hanging out – maybe a movie.     The choice: a serious, demanding drama or a thriller that had drawn good reviews – The Conjuring.

Over pizza we discussed our shared past with movies.  So horrified was I about the first movie I took her to that we had to look its opening date up on the internet to establish that yes, she really was just nine when Jurassic Park hit the theaters.  Midway in the extraction-from-amber process, when the newly created creatures began to roar, Willa said she had to go to the bathroom.  When she hadn’t come back after a few minutes, I went to find her and there huddled in fear in the corner of the Ladies Room was my nine year old little girl.  What was I thinking?  Continue reading


It’s important, please go.

12 Years a Slave

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis

Watching 12 Years a Slave is an ordeal. It can also become, if we allow it, a major contribution to a collective understanding of our past. In the hands of director Steve McQueen, writer Ridley Scott, and a fine cast, the movie is undeniably excellent. What lifts it to the level of importance is that is based on the memoir written by Solomon Northrup about the long nightmare he endured beginning in 1841. The power of the film is its truth. Continue reading

A Letter to the Times

My letter was published in the New York Times on Monday November 18,2013.  I am deeply angry that so few people understand that we can no longer solve global problems with war when technology has brought us to the edge of possible catastrophe with avoidance depending solely on the wisdom of the politicians.  Anyone willing to bet on that?  And is anyone out there able to give me one good reason for the wars in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq?    Please reply.

To the Editor:

Time and changing attitudes will always alter perceptions of our presidents, but the most important legacy of the Kennedy administration will never change: the Cuban missile crisis did not escalate into nuclear war.

John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy rejected the war hawks, who advised using American power to crush the threat. The United States and the Soviet Union holstered their power and avoided disaster. Will we ever learn that war is not a solution?

As history illuminates the role of the hawks in pushing unnecessary and tragic wars in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq, we should be deeply grateful that President Kennedy’s restraint prevented the conflagration that for several days seemed imminent. He bargained for time, and time, as it usually does, defused the threat. Let’s remember that.

Atlantic Highlands, N.J., Nov. 11, 2013

The Tricky Part

4 November 13

This week The Two River Theater brought Martin Moran to its stage with the most powerful piece of theater I have seen in a very long time.  It would be far too simplistic to say that The Tricky Part is about an occurrence of sexual abuse by an adult camp counselor at his Catholic camp when he was 12.  It’s closer to say it’s about the resonance of that incident throughout his life.  As Moran moves through his various memories, we begin to realize he is handing us the keys to his own nature.  It is an invitation to understand him.  And when we do, we are deeply moved by a man whose humanity seeps slowly into the bones of the audience.

This extraordinary actor was moved, he told us in a post play question period, by a question once asked from the audience:   “Where is your anger?”  Intrigued, he of course wrote a second play, “All the Rage.”  And so we learn of his experiences with injustice and unfairness throughout his life; and when he is finished with us, we know that this is a gentle person quite incapable of striking out in any way.  Compassion and forgiveness are his tools and helping a given victim of injustice is his way.

I can tell you that Martin Moran has won an Obie for his first play off Broadway and I can use adjectives to describe the emotional wallop of both the first and second plays.  What’s harder to convey is the change I feel within myself for having seen it.

Losing Everything


“I finally understood what life is about; it is about losing everything.  Losing the baby who becomes a child, the child who becomes an adult, like the trees lose their leaves.   So every morning we must celebrate what we have”….Isabel Allende, 1995

Tragic loss is different, more profound than what Isabel Allende describes, but she gives us permission to talk about loss that is natural, though often painful.  We are all very quiet about this kind of loss precisely because it isn’t tragic.  We feel guilty at feeling it because so many others know real pain.  Continue reading