Oklahoma Shakespearean Festival 2007

While attending to the needs of my parents and the death-details of my brother this week, I did manage to attend two plays for the annual Oklahoma Shakespearean Festival in Durant, Oklahoma. I saw two plays: Smoke on the Mountain and MacBeth. Both plays were directed by Paul B. Crook who teaches theatre at Louisiana Tech at Ruston. I especially enjoyed MacBeth. I loved the language of the director’s notes on this play. Crook said:

“I’ve always been attracted to this play because it is truly a study of the potential for Evil that all of us have. Thankfully the vast majority of us have no trouble resisting those impulses, but it’s fascinating to watch characters who are unable to fight those base and primal urges. MacBeth understands that his Evil actions are perverse, yet he continues . . . demonstrating a supreme moral disorder and disrupting the lives of those around him and, by extension, an entire country. Watching his descent is riveting and terrifying.”

My signing at Roby’s Hallmark and Flowers shop in Durant did well on Saturday, July 7. Riley H. Risso-Coker, the producing director of the festival, now in its 28th year, really promoted the book at the Shakespeare Festival. She wants to go to schools and perform a staged version of my children’s book, Jim Limber Davis: A Black Orphan in the Confederate White House. In case you don’t know Jim Limber’s story yet, here is a condensed version:

Jim Limber Davis was rescued from an abusive guardian by First Lady Varina Davis when he was only five years old. Jefferson and Varina Davis then became his legal guardians and Jim lived with them in the Confederate White House for several years, enjoying life as a member of their family.

When Union soldiers invaded Richmond, Virginia, and captured Jefferson Davis, they also kidnapped Jim Limber. Soon after his capture, cruel rumors spread that Jim was Jefferson Davis’s slave. After the Civil War, Jefferson Davis tried to locate Jim, but he was never found.

This true story shows how Jim Limber was accepted as one of the Davis’s own children and reveals their love for him. Although Jim’s whereabouts after the war still remain a mystery, the story offers an example of compassion during this complex time in our nation’s history.

A Novel about Art and Artists

I’m still in Oklahoma. At the coffee shop again after a day of chores and a visit to a lawyer concerning legal matters concerning my brother.  Death is not an easy thing to deal with.  To relieve some stress, I mowed my parents three acre yard. I’m going to a dinner theatre tonight, a performance of Smoke on the Mountain. Should have a grand time.
Whitney Otto: The Passion Dream Book

I just finished reading Whitney Otto’s The Passion Dream Book. The author also wrote the New York Times best seller, How to Make an American Quilt. Having enjoyed this read, I’ve also added How to Make an American Quilt to my reading list.

The Passion Dream Book is a complex novel, a novel of ideas centered around art, artists, and the relationships of artist to patron and of artist to fellow artist. Rich in allusions and historical details as well as brief snapshot synopses of many artists (painters, writers, dancers, singers), I found this novel a rich and rewarding read.  Personally, it was also a timely read, for it addresses many of the issues I think about and face as I focus on promoting my own art.  Otto speaks of art as ephemeral, smoky, and shape-shifting. I underscored many, many lines in this novel. Here are some quotations I really liked:

About the nature of artists:
Romy (central character) discovers “early on that a crowd of artists are too outside, too removed from the rules of the general public, and too egocentric to care” ( (94-95).

“[H]ome is where your art is” (125).

“That’s the problem of the colony of artists; they are a small group who seldom go outside their tribe. The life of a secret under these circumstances is brief” (181).

“You need to be connected with other people, and these connections often lead to love. In contradiction, you need to be alone. If you are alone, they you are leaving your loved ones alone. If they are alone too much, they might find someone new who won’t leave them alone so much. If you are always alone, what life do you have to put into your work?” (202).

The “work of an artist is emotional work” (267).

About art:
“America’s near refusal to support art and artists at all” (147). [This would be in contrast to ancient Florence and Venice that honored and supported artists generously].

After a brilliant discussion of how rich and powerful patrons of the arts needed artists to insure immortality, Otto says of the artists: “Artists . . . saw the power and money and need of their patrons as a way of doing their work” (2).

I found a great summary of Otto and her work here: http://www.writersontheedge.org/otto.html

My Brother’s Ashes: An Epitaph

Last Saturday, June 30, 2007, my younger brother died. I’m in Oklahoma with my parents this week, trying to be strong, but failing miserably at it. I’m still rather numb and mute from grief, but I thought I’d post this short epitaph.

Jimmy Dale Pittman

(April 21, 1954-June 30, 2007)

The youngest of our family,

Of the four of us,

You should have been the last

To leave this earth

Instead of the first.

You and I had talked of caring

For our parents, for the end of their lives,

Instead, they and I cared for yours.

You were always twice as strong as me,

Twice as tough, twice as wild and reckless,

Twice as devoted to work and family,

I truly thought you indestructible.

Your passing was

So sad, so sudden, so shocking,

The grief is like the ocean’s tide,

Semidurnal, drowning me in emotions at its high,

Ebbing only enough to allow me to catch

My breath and hold on to my sanity.

I didn’t understand the physics of loss.

Your wife will keep your ashes,

Until that day when her own are mingled with yours,

Search the urn and you’ll find

A part of my heart there too,

Mingled with my brother’s ashes.