books / literature / readings

My Back Pages: Steve Falcone to Roast Ben Falcone in Absentia

Venues & Businesses
Bookworm
Varsity Center


Who: Steve Falcone
What: Ben Falcone’s Being a Dad is Weird: Lessons in Fatherhood from My Family to Yours (book signing and author roast)
Where:
When: 2017-06-17
Carbondale native Ben Falcone, writer/director of The Boss and Tammy, and husband to superstar comed
Chris Wissmann
Video Comentary

Carbondale native Ben Falcone, writer/director of The Boss and Tammy, and husband to superstar comedy actress and SIU alum Melissa McCarthy, is on a tour to promote his new book, Being a Dad Is Weird: Lessons in Fatherhood from My Family to Yours (Dey Street Books, 240 pages, hardcover, $25.99).

And Ben’s book tour will not take him through his hometown.

Instead, his father, local theater legend Steve Falcone, will fill in Saturday, June 17 at 3:30 p.m. at the Varsity Center.

“He told his side— damn well— in the book,” the Falcone patriarch tells Nightlife, laughing. “The trouble is, it’s all the truth. It’s his mother’s fault— she gave him a terrible streak of truth-telling.”

Now it’s a proud dad’s turn to roast his son in absentia. “Should be a lotta fun,” Steve says.

Steve has stories about how Ben met Melissa while at the Groundlings School for improvisational and sketch comedy, crazy roadtrips he took with Ben and his older son Flynn (himself an actor, screenwriter, author, and director), and the Halloween when a fourteen-year-old Ben went out dressed like Alex P. Keaton— and in case anyone missed the point, Ben wore a sign saying, “I am a Republican asshole.”

“He was so proud of himself, he made a political statement at that age,” Steve says. “He was feeling his oats and getting there.”

Being a Dad Is Weird began, Steve says, as Thirty Things I Learned from My Father— a collection of stories Ben bound up and presented to Steve for Christmas. Then it grew, a publisher became interested, and it turned into a contrast between Steve’s and Ben’s parenting styles. Career choices necessitated those differences— Steve was largely a stay-at-home parent who spent a lot of time with his kids, while Ben’s Hollywood career sometimes forces him away from his own brood.

The whole family— Steve, matriarch Peg, Ben, and Flynn— loved Being a Dad Is Weird so much they came together in a little Los Angeles recording studio to read their parts for the audio book. Steve calls it “a great family fun day.”

The Varsity, Steve says, is a natural place for the signing— Ben and Flynn used to go to the Varsity Grill, which was located on the southeast corner of the present-day Varsity Center, to play pinball.

Admission is free but limited to 150 persons. The Bookworm will sell copies of Being a Dad Is Weird, and Steve, who’s pictured on the book’s cover with a young Ben, will happily sign them.

who: Steve Falcone

what: Ben Falcone’s Being a Dad is Weird: Lessons in Fatherhood from My Family to Yours (book signing and author roast)

where: Varsity Center

 

when: Saturday, June 17 at 3:30 p.m.

Curtain Call: David Rush’s To My Dear Wife: A Benefit for Morris Library

Venues & Businesses
Morris Library


Who: Friends of Morris Library
What: benefit gala featuring David Rush’s To My Dear Wife (live theater)
Where:
When: 2016-10-15 - 2016-10-16
Pictured: David Rush.
Jeff Hale
Video Comentary

The Friends of Morris Library will present their 2016 fundraising gala this Saturday, October 15 and Sunday, October 16. The centerpiece of this year’s event will be a reception followed by the world premiere of To My Dear Wife, the newest play by SIU theater professor emeritus David Rush. The reception begins Saturday at 5:30 p.m., followed by the performance.

Rush is a quiet man who prefers to let the words of his characters do most of his talking. This weekend, his characters’ words will transport audiences to another time, but not another place— back to the Southern Illinois of the bloodiest era in American history, and through the eyes and letters of those who were there. Lovingly crafted by Rush after months of careful research into actual letters held in the Morris Library Special Collections Research Center, the series of monologues in To My Dear Wife will give audiences an authentic feeling of what it was like to live, love, and die in a Southern Illinois of the distant past. It is a labor of love for the lifelong Civil War enthusiast and avid reenactor, and Rush tells Nightlife that this premiere has a very special place in his heart.

“I’m really looking forward to it,” Rush says. “Every year the Friends of Morris Library has a gala where they celebrate their accomplishments and do some fundraising. They usually try to have something one evening that comes from the library’s Special Collections. They have a lot of interesting stuff there— rare books and letters and papers of all sorts. This year they contacted me and asked me if I could write a little play of some sort that came out of the Special Collections. I discovered they have an amazing treasure house of Civil War papers— letters written by soldiers to their wives, diaries, things of that sort. I’ve always been a Civil War buff, and discovering these letters, it seemed an exciting and interesting project to try to create a little play from this collection. I could see an interesting scenario of a soldier writing to his wife and his wife writing back to him. The letters will hopefully tell a story about how the war has changed the husband and how it has changed the wife, and the results of that.”

In a twenty-first century era filled with emails, texts, Snapchats, and Tweets, one might wonder how or why handheld pen-to-paper communications that took weeks or even months for delivery more than a century and a half ago could still hold relevance. Still, Rush feels that letters, particularly wartime letters, continue to be poignant, holding a resonance that reaches off the ink-covered lines across time to touch readers and listeners.

“One of the series of letters that moved me the most as I read it,” Rush recalls, “was interesting to read because the writer’s attitude toward slavery and freeing slaves changed during the course of the war. Early on in the war, he was fighting to protect and save the Union. He wasn’t concerned about blacks and black rights. But as he went through the war and he saw what slavery was really all about, his attitude changed, and toward the end of his letters he began to feel that slavery was wrong and the war was indeed a war of liberation. I find that very moving. I think that type of communication, handwritten communication, is more meaningful because you are attached to the pen. The writing flows from you through the pen to the page. There are more conscious choices made and a more active involvement in the letter. When you type an email your fingers go rapidly over the keys and electronics take control. You’re not as intimately connected to the process. Yes, I think letters were more meaningful.”

Rush says that the writing process was not without its difficulties.

“The interesting thing is that most of the series of letters in these collections are from the husband to the wife, because she was at home keeping them,” Rush says. “Letters from the wife to the husband would reach him wherever he happened to be at the time, on the battlefield, on the march, somewhere moving. Therefore his ability to keep the letters was far less than her ability to save them. The biggest challenge for me with writing this play was to create the wife’s letters to the husband, because I had to base them reacting off things he must have written to her.”

Two local stage favorites, Elyse Pineau and Kevin Purcell, will bring To My Dear Wife to life, providing an emotional look at what it was like to be separated by war and united by love. Local musical favorites Bryan Crow and Mike Shanahan of local Celtic band the Dorians will complete the journey back in time with authentic songs of the Civil War era.

The weekend of Civil War-themed gala fundraising continues Sunday with a brunch at 11 a.m., followed by a short presentation by John A. Logan Museum director Mike Jones. The program will focus on the strategic role Southern Illinois played during this defining era in American history, and will feature artifacts from the period, as well as additional readings from letters and diaries from the time.

Both the Saturday evening performance and the Sunday afternoon presentation will take place in the library’s auditorium and first-floor rotunda.

Tickets are $75 for the gala and $35 for the brunch. Proceeds will benefit the Friends of Morris Library.

For tickets and more information, contact Toni Vagner at (618) 453-2642  or <mailto:TVagner@siu.edu>.

who: Friends of Morris Library

what: benefit gala featuring David Rush’s To My Dear Wife (live theater)

where: Morris Library

 

when: Saturday, October 15

Paul Loeb: Ordinary People Can Change the World

Venues & Businesses
SIU Student Center
SIU Honors Program


Who: University Honors Program
What: Paul Rogat Loeb’s The Impossible Will Take a Little While: Perseverance and Hope in Troubled Times (Michael and Nancy Glassman lecture)
Where:
When: 2016-09-06
The University Honors Program presents guest lecturer Paul Loeb, author of Soul of a Citizen: Living
Jennifer “Jay” Bull
Video Comentary

The University Honors Program presents guest lecturer Paul Loeb, author of Soul of a Citizen: Living with Conviction in Challenging Times and The Impossible Will Take a Little While: Perseverance and Hope in Troubled Times, Tuesday, September 6 at 7:30 p.m. in the Student Center Ballroom D. The book is this year’s common reader for all incoming Honors freshmen. Loeb’s lecture is free and open to the public.

“What I do in general is talk about how citizens— ordinary people— can act, take a stand, make change,” Loeb told Nightlife. “I talk a lot about how change is a long-term process. I think oftentimes people think, ‘Oh, I did this. It didn’t work. Nothing immediately changed.’ Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t.”

Rosa Parks is the example Loeb uses in his lecture. Popular thought is that Rosa Parks came out of nowhere, sat on the bus, and everything changed, but that ignores the long history behind her and the Civil Rights movement.

“We don’t think about the fact that she’d been working for a dozen years with the NAACP as an activist and that all of that led up to it, and laid the stage, and built the ground,” Loeb said. “We just think about this one stand out of many stands that she took. It’s really different to think of it in terms of long process of change than just, here’s the woman who came out of nowhere. The change is deliberate. Doesn’t mean you know it’s going to happen, but you do something large or small and you hope to have some response and as a result, things happened. Rosa Parks— it wasn’t accidental, she’d been with the NAACP, she had training sessions the summer before her arrest at a labor and civil-rights place called Highlander in Tennessee that’s still going, so she knew what she was doing. She just didn’t know it would light as big a spark as it did or that we’d still be knowing her name sixty years later. That’s a long time.”

Another problem people often have with the long road toward change is wanting everything to be perfect.

“People shouldn’t get wrapped up in perfection, where everything has to be exactly right,” Loeb said. “I’d apply that to the elections, certainly. The attitude of ‘I’m staying home. I don’t like the candidates.’ Well, you know you make a choice, you choose who your values are in accord with, and they may not be perfect, but you still make that choice instead of waiting for the absolutely perfect situation, which is never going to come up.”

Most people do not feel empowered to try to make a difference, but Loeb addresses how even the unlikeliest person can help to create positive changes for the future.

“We often don’t know what we can do,” Loeb said. “For example, there’s a young woman I talk about. She was a freshman at Virginia Tech. It was the first election [when she could vote], she didn’t even vote. Not only didn’t she vote, they kind of played a drinking game where if the state went red, the red team would chug a beer, and if the state went blue, the blue team would chug a beer. I have nothing against chugging beer, you know, but it’s like, vote and then chug beer if you are so inclined. She was completely detached— and then she got interested in climate change because a professor was talking about it.”

This self-described party girl became a successful activist.

“She ended up growing this tiny, four-person environmental group until they had 1,200 people on their email list,” Loeb said. “It was like the biggest student organization on campus. She was this super-gifted organizer. She said, ‘I was a drunken party girl, and now I’m not.’ Then she did this initiative that got the entire campus to look at its environmental sustainability, with the president’s backing, since the group got so big that he started paying attention. She said that she was the least-likely person to be an activist, but now she’s really engaged in it. She had these latent skills and then she really bloomed. To me, I think it really does make a huge difference.”

For more information, visit <http://PaulLoeb.org>. For more about the University Honors Program, log on to <http://www.honors.siu.edu>.

who: University Honors Program

what: Paul Rogat Loeb’s The Impossible Will Take a Little While: Perseverance and Hope in Troubled Times (Michael and Nancy Glassman lecture)

where: Student Center Ballroom D

 

when: Tuesday, September 6 at 7:30 p.m.

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