This article from The Cut is first class bonkers, and worth a full read. The picture it paints of battles between factions of the 1% — over the traditions and future of a beloved, private, neighborhood nursery school for the rich and powerful — is unreal. That school is not Gleason Street, but there are resonances here of the power struggles, the privilege, and the dreams parents cultivate for their children.
“Then there was the board. Once [School Director] Morgano realized it was an advisory committee, and therefore not really the boss of her, she displayed significantly less patience with the members, especially Ashley Phyfe, the new board president, a blonde stay-at-home mom who, according to Morgano, thought she knew everything about education because she’d taught public school for five minutes (It was actually seven years.) The board was well-meaning but, Morgano thought, clueless, as evidenced by what happened with the Diversity Committee, which was formed in 2017, after a request from a parent of the only child of color in her class. After the school rejected a motion to give up legacy spots to allow more diverse children into the school, they’d been spinning their wheels and coming up with piecemeal suggestions like busing children to Grace Church from other neighborhoods. ‘That sounds like more of an idea that would benefit your kids,’ Morgano snapped, and the silence afterward was deafening.“
VAL Tin cans: soup cans: you can fit half a chicken in a can. He’d ship those all over the country, all over the world. I come from making things. So I know.
As Val and fellow parents plan Gleason Street’s gala, she uses her family’s industrial background in tin cans as a justification for being “of the people” — people whose value is in making things. And while she rhapsodizes over the fancy china she grew up with, she conveniently leaves out how that family fortune set her up to be able to afford tuition at Gleason for three kids, plus one at Brown.
But the “chicken in can” also appears in a shared strange dreamscape. Like other kinds of nostalgia that are embedded in the play, this surreal ad for Franco American gravy is something that has been hanging around Kirsten’s brain for several decades. Revel now in the weird humming, the perfect manicure, the basting…
Embedded in the DNA of this play is a discussion of how class issues compound other forms of marginalization. The character of Kyle (they/them/theirs pronouns) is Gleason Street School’s only trans faculty member, and also one of the only faculty members who didn’t receive a raise this year. They are pulling extra shifts on their side gigs and still eating saltines, buying dented cans of tuna from the sale bin, and wearing a layers of sweaters until December to save on their heating bill. When Kyle asks Gordon, the Head of School, for a raise, Gordon blames the system and low budgets, but Kyle reminds him that it’s people who make the systems, and people who are responsible for acting as gatekeepers to change.
Earlier this week, Dev Blair (they/them/theirs pronouns) — the actor who plays Kyle — posted a Twitter thread that articulates many of the same issues Kyle faces. Dev and Kyle are not the same person, but Dev’s lived experience of a young queer/trans person of color in the gig economy is an important touchstone for the world of the play. Dev offered to share their twitter thread here as a way to shine more light on the issues embedded in the play.
In GREATER GOOD, both Michael and Christine reference the volcano Vesuvius as an image of young black boys finding and explosively using their authentic voices. But this isn’t the only time the play invokes the power of exuberant sound.
Gordon, as head of Gleason Street School, walks us through the way that children loudly playing music invites expression of self, and that the “racket” of such ebullience is fundamental for the growth of the child. In the scene “The Music Lesson; Yes, Mr. Vermeer,” Gordon’s drumming, and the xylophone music played by the audience, are like another Vesuvius — cacophonous and transformational.
GORDON: My brother’s kid has a drum set. Electronic. You practice. By plugging in a headset. You hardly make a peep. My kit. Was so loud. Growing up, the funeral home next door on Huron. Would pay me fifty cents not to play on days they had a service. Other days it was free-for-all. Other days it was the rest of the neighbors saying “That racket” “What is this, Rush?” “You’re getting the hang, finally”. No one will say any of these things to my brother’s kid. Band of one. Alone in his room. Here we say: This racket is what connects and binds and the free-for-all is good. — “The Music Lesson; Yes, Mr. Vermeer,” GREATER GOOD
🥁 🥁 🥁
RUSH, the iconic prog-rock band (1968-2018) known for epic story songs and concept albums, introduced the world to Neal Peart — a drummer considered by many to be one of the greatest artists and technical masters of the form. He is preternaturally fast and precise. And loud. With RUSH’s heyday pegged from the late 1970s into the early 1990s, they’d be a perfect reference point for the neighbors as they yelled at the adolescent Gordon, practicing his drum licks.
Interesting sidebar: the funeral home on Huron (referenced in the excerpt above) is a real place in Cambridge MA, which was just rehabbed and turned into a luxury townhome and put on the market for $2,875,000 😮. (It’s two doors down from a townie pizza parlor. #gentrification)
Anyway. Check out this killer drum solo from RUSH’s Neil Peart!