"History is always happening" at Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site
In 2002, University of Arkansas music professor Kabin Thomas narrated The Sound of Dreams, the award-winning documentary by the UA’s Dale Carpenter, which told the story of several young people and their mentors during two weeks of rehearsals and performances.
In 2006 Thomas, who had declined to travel the tenure path during his time at the UA, was removed for using “foul” language during his lectures.
In the years since, he found several different ways to tell his stories, including a highly-regarded program on Fayetteville’s Community Access Television before moving out west some time ago.
Those who have had the good fortune to meet Thomas, and even sit in on his classes - and not look for things to be offended by - often wrote glowing remarks in his support. Even so, it looked as though Kabin Thomas may just have been another casualty in the war on passion and eloquence, which are almost crimes against nature in some quarters.
But with the debut of the play Beethoven and Misfortune Cookies, written by award-winning playwright Joni Ravenna, Kabin Thomas may have some measure of satisfaction, and those who only knew of his teaching through hastily written newspaper articles found on the Internet might experience something of what his students did.
The two-act play is described as the story of a music teacher who is imbued with elements of Patch Adams, the Robin Williams character from Dead Poet’s Society, Chris Rock and Howard Stern. The results of all of that create not only trouble for the teacher, but effective education for his students.
Kabin Thomas himself is very glad that the play is being performed, as it asks important questions about teacher efficacy, and appropriate teaching, and just who gets to make those decisions. And also, quite honestly, where does the First Amendment end?
He also said this morning, “I must confess to you that, two weeks before opening night, I feel that grotesque, horrible feeling of that firing surrounding me again, like I'm wearing a skin of unworthiness, shame and incompetence. To fall from the Ivory Tower is a long, hard fall and it sucks. I was full of rage and alcohol for about four years afterwards. Now, I feel grateful and much stronger from the experience, because I never would have made it to California had I remained a teacher.
“As for the play, Ernest Harden Jr. is a brilliant actor, who plays me better than I play me! Joni Ravenna, the playwright has done a wonderful job putting our interviews together into this narrative. At the end of the day, the play makes you think about fairness and educational lines in the sand.”
The good news for the University of Arkansas - such as it is - is that the play will be performed in Sherman Oaks, California, but I have high hopes that it will travel.
I want to see this play, damn it!
The soundtrack for today’s blog
Today’s blog was written to the music of Diana Krall’s CD “When I look in Your Eyes.”
Quote of the Day
No one has completed his education who has not learned to live with an insoluble problem. - Edmund J. Kiefer