Cosmic Theatrical Foreshadowing
All the World's a Stage?
Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,
Jack Petrash was a conscientious teacher. For instance, because my father was a famous theatre director, having directed over 500 plays in his 71 years, Jack made a point not to show me favoritism when it came to assigning roles. In The Christmas Carol, I got to play Narrator #2. In The Devil and Daniel Webster, I got to play a member of the jury. In that play, I had one line.
My biggest roles were the avaricious doctor in an adaptation of John Steinbeck’s The Pearl, and in the 3rdgrade production of Perseus and The Minotaur, I played Daedalus, the genius architect who appears in one scene: he whispers instructions to the Minoan princess Ariadne on how the Athenian hero Perseus could escape his labyrinth with a ball of yarn.
Now that I think of it, I believe I was the only one of my 30 Washington Waldorf School classmates who appeared in either of those plays who went on to earn a PhD, or teach university classes. Put another way, without the avarice or the genius, I went on to become both the “doctor” and the Daedalus of my class. Prescient typecasting.
I’m writing this newsletter on Jack Petrash’s birthday, one he shared with Abraham Lincoln, a fact that my classmates and I thought to be telling and relevant. Jack was born the same year that Casey Stengel became the manager of the New York Yankees, Jack’s beloved home team. They came from behind that year to overtake the powerful Boston Red Sox, starting a decades-long rivalry. In that year’s World Series, the Yankees defeated the Brooklyn Dodgers in five games. What a great year that was for Jack’s parents!
Clearly I need to drop a note to Jack, one of the kindest men I know, kindness that clearly shaped the curriculum chosen for the students he taught for eight straight years. You see, Steinbeck’s doctor was smart and wealthy, but his greed and prejudice distinguish him from the hero of the The Pearl, Kino, the poor pearl fisherman who just wants the best for his family.
Like Kino, Daedalus famously loses his son (spoiler alert), despite all the advantages of being the smartest man in the Kingdom of Minos. A Christmas Carol is about a crafty and successful businessman who finds his soul only when he finds his compassion. Even Old Scratch (the Devil) outsmarts Daniel Webster in the legal drama The Devil and Daniel Webster until Webster’s rhetoric compels the undead jurors to remember their humanity that binds us all together. Even though Jabez Stone sold his soul to the Devil, we the jury found Jabez not guilty.
Some of us may think of ourselves as rich, smart, accomplished, or tactically sophisticated (I may be zero for four, but that’s another matter), but only when we find ways to explore and share kindheartedness, Jack Petrash and the plays we read seemed to teach us, will we recognize the opportunity to live lives of purpose and fulfillment. On his birthday, I send thanks to Jack for directing us in so many fine productions, rehearsals for many subsequent acts of kindness.
Thanks to everyone who supports the Pub Quiz on Patreon, especially the teams that pledge for the entire team. Special shout-out to Quizimodo, Original Vincibles, and the Outside Agitators. Poetry Night is this Thursday in Davis, and we have some strong writers coming to town.
Here are three questions from last week’s Pub Quiz:
Mottos and Slogans. What company whose name in Latin means “Great Voice” used to use the slogan "Smart, very smart"?
Internet Culture. What event is mentioned in most February Smart TV advertisements?
Newspaper Headlines. Did the United States add closest to 5,000, 50,000, 500,000 or 5 million jobs in January?