Saturday, September 24, 2016

10:04 by Ben Lerner

Donald Judd box sculpture in Marfa, Texas
 It's the calm before the storm of the season in Southwest Florida, and I'm enjoying having time to read rather than run. Ben Lerner's "10:04" has been on my list for some time. Wendi, my cultural guru, and I have talked about "10:04" because of Lerner's inclusion of Marfa, Texas in the story on more than one occasion. An article in NPR said of Marfa, "This tiny town perched on the high plains of the Chihuahua desert is nothing less than an arts world station of the cross, like Art Basel in Miami, or Documenta in Germany."(To read the article, click here. Needless to say, I want to visit.) But while Marfa plays a role in Lerner's "10:04," it is not the focal point of the book as I had expected. Instead, "10:04" is a story of friendship in a book about ideas with a heavy sprinkling of art and literature and popular culture. It's unlike any book I've ever read. I loved it.

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When we first meet our protagonist, he is leaving a celebratory dinner with his agent, who has just secured a book deal for him with a "strong six-figure" advance based on a story that appeared in the New Yorker. (A story Lerner wrote for the New Yorker is later dropped into the book. While "10:04" is fiction, the narrator bears much more than a passing resemblance to Lerner himself.) The question of how the story will be expanded is a thread that weaves throughout the book. But our narrator has other issues on his mind as well. He might have Marfan syndrome, a genetic disease. His best friend Alex wants a sperm donation to get pregnant. And then there are the complications of every day life and relationships.

Lerner's writing had me constantly reaching for my post-it notes.  Sometimes I was taken with the images and feelings his descriptions evoked. In his account of Alex raising the idea of the pregnancy during an outing to the Met, I could visualize the moment while getting a glimpse into the way their relationship worked. "Maybe she broached the subject at the museum and not over coffee or the like because in the galleries as on our walks our gazes are parallel, directed in front of us at canvas and not at each other, a condition of our most intimate exchanges; we would work out our views as we conconstructed the literal view before us...Which meant we'd eat a lunch in silence or idle talk, only for me to learn on the subsequent walk home that her mother had been diagnosed in a late stage.You might have us walking on Atlantic, tears streaming down her face, my arm around her shoulders, but our gazes straight ahead."

Other times our narrator's way of looking at the world made me stop and think. He relays, for instance, comments by a parent about why she is sending to her kids to private school. "A lot of the kids were just out of control....Obviously, it's not the kids' fault. A lot them are coming from homes...well, they're drinking soda and eating junk food all the time. Of course, they can't concentrate...They can't be expected to learn or respect other kids who are trying to learn." The narrator refers to this justification as "a new bio-political vocabulary for expressing racial and class anxiety; instead of claiming brown and black people were biologically inferior, you claimed they were--for reasons you sympathized with, reasons that weren't really their fault--compromised by the food and drink they ingested; all those artificial dyes had darkened them on the inside." Definitely some food for thought.

A photo of Christa McAuliffe from "10:04"
I was intrigued by what I think was the narrator's concept of the simultaneity of the past and the present and the future. His memory of his seven year old self in a classroom being told about the explosion of the Challenger by President Reagan is one example. "...I know it is hard to understand, but sometimes painful things like this happen. It's all part of the process of exploration and discovery...The future doesn't belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave. The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future, and we'll continue to follow them."

The title of the book itself is a play on time. It's a reference to a pivotal moment in "Back to the Future." At 10:04 p.m., Marty McFly (played by the wonderful Michael J. Fox) crashed back to the future from his visit to the 1950s in the time-traveling Deloreon. It's an important idea to the narrator, but I just can't quite figure out why.

I know I haven't done the book justice in this somewhat disjointed description. But my meandering captures the way Lerner's writing made my mind dart off in a dozen different directions. Clearly I need to re-read "10:04" to better understand some of the concepts the narrator raises. It's an assignment I welcome. And I eagerly look forward to reading Lerner's "Leaving the Antioch Station," his earlier work that introduces us to the narrator. But first I'm tackling some of the books recently nominated for this year's National Book Award. So many great books, so little time. 



Saturday, September 17, 2016

Square One Improv Hits the Lab Theatre Stage

I am a fan of long-form improv.  I say this with utmost confidence despite requiring only one hand to count the number of performances I've seen.

Chicago-based Baby Wants Candy creates musical improv
In case you're not familiar with the genre, long-form improv is essentially a one act play created on the spot around a theme suggested by the audience. At the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Wendi and I have been doubled over with laughter during shows put on by the horribly named Baby Wants Candy.

While the speed with which improv actors come up with funny lines always impresses, Baby Wants Candy kicks it up a notch by creating a musical performance. This year's show brought us right back into the political arena we'd hoped to leave behind when we crossed the pond. The theme -- Donald Trump Goes to Hogwarts.

Being up on cultural references definitely helps your appreciation of improv, and neither Wendi nor I caught all of the Harry Potter cleverness. But I did know enough to understand the apt references to "he who shall not be named."
Fresh off this experience, I was intrigued when I saw an ad for Square One Improv, a group self-proclaimed as "the best musical improv in Southwest Florida." How could I resist?

My friend Gail and I headed down to Fort Myers' Laboratory Theatre to check out their show. The first half was standard improv games familiar from "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" like playing the same scene with different accents or attitudes.

Part of the fun of an improv show is yelling your ideas to the performers. I am generally not quick enough to think of something funny, but I did respond to their request for an embarrassing incident. My mind immediately harkened back to a morning in the late '80s when I decided to walk to work after a bit of a late night. I had gone several blocks before I realized that people were looking at me funny because the back of my skirt was tucked into my pantyhose.  (I know, there are many things wrong with this picture -- and that's without adding the sneakers and inevitable shoulder pads of the era.)  While the guys admittedly couldn't draw on their own experience, they did an admirable job of incorporating this scenario into an Irish drinking song.

Scott Beatty, Dan Klein, Gregory Sofranko and Shaun Johnson
But it was the second half of the show that really had me laughing. During intermission, audience members posted suggestions for the theme of the 30-45 minute play that would be created before our eyes. A recent convert to "The Walking Dead," I thought a zombie apocalypse would be fun. But the audience was more in the mood for a romance -- a la "Fatal Attraction."

The speed with which the guys developed their roles was pretty amazing. The set-up was a businessman (Dan Klein) has to satisfy the desires of a strong woman (Scott Beatty) in order to get his promotion. His naive wife (Gregory Sofranko) just wants a bit more time with him. Shaun Johnson assumed a number of hilarious roles, including a hairdresser, a butler of sorts and the wife's sister.

Again, cultural references played a part in the hilarity. Obviously, if you weren't familiar with "Fatal Attraction," you wouldn't have known where the story was going. My favorite bit was when Shaun, as the sister, said that the Dixie Chick's song "Good-bye Earl" kept going through her head and that maybe they should just kill the husband. All the wife had to do was say "Earl" and the deed would be done. Music not being my forte, it was amazing I knew the Dixie Chicks' song related to two women resolving a domestic abuse situation in their own way. (To see a video of the song with Dennis Franz as Earl and Jane Krakowski as the wife, click here.)

Square One is made up of four guys with day jobs sharing their love of improv with local audiences. And so they are forgiven for not having the slick professionalism of Baby Wants Candy. I was a bit disappointed in the small amount of musical improv given their marketing. (Admittedly, the competition for the "best" musical improv in Southwest Florida is probably not very heated.)  But it was a fun night out, and I would definitely see them again. For upcoming performance schedules (including several at Lab Theatre), click here. Perhaps I'll see you there.  





Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Two Books that Envision the Future

The world has changed so much in my lifetime. I remember getting a computer on my desk when I was a baby lawyer and thinking its primary purpose was to carry on conversations with my friends at the firm. We laughed hysterically at the pioneer lawyer who was "telecommuting" from home. Today, of course, working from home is a given, and we are lost without our smartphones. And let's not forget that self-driving cars seem to be just around the corner.

Louisa Hall has taken our technology-driven world a step further in "Speak." The book begins with a truckload of babybots being driven deep into the desert. The reader soon learns the bots have been banished for being "illegally lifelike." The Turing Test measures the ability of a computer to exhibit intelligent behavior equivalent to that of a human. These bots were functioning at a 90% level.

Hall tells her story through the eyes of several characters living at different points in history (including the near future). We meet a woman obsessed with imbuing computers with memory in hopes of communicating with her family lost in the Holocaust. There's the programmer whose creations have landed him in prison for the Knowing Creation of Mechanical Life and Intent to Endanger the Morals of Children. And, perhaps most striking, there's a teen-ager suffering the effects of having her babybot taken from her.

The "girlfriend" android with woman she was modeled after
"Speak" is a fascinating contemplation of the emotional consequences of a world in which bots are displacing humans. Such a world might not be as farfetched as it sounds. In Japan, androids are already being incorporated into daily life. There's a hotel staffed primarily by robots (some of which look like humans, but many of which are intended to create a fun--if a bit creepy--experience, like the dinosaur who handles check-ins). There's an android newscaster and a bot manning the information desk at a department store. There's even an android "girlfriend" (which I don't want to think about). Click here to learn more about these human facsimiles.



Medical advances have also affected our emotional lives. Anti-depressants that boost serotonin levels in our brains have become ubiquitous. Drug regimens that combat bipolar disease and personality disorders are available as well.

"All is Not Forgotten" by Wendy Walker thrusts us into a world in which traumatic memories can be erased. Jenny Kramer is a high school student who has been brutally raped. She is taken to the hospital where her parents are told about a drug that might eliminate her memories of the rape. The sooner it's administered, the more effective the memory repression. They elect to give Jenny "the treatment." Who wouldn't want to spare their child this agony?

While the treatment does prevent Jenny from remembering the details of the rape, it doesn't eliminate her body's knowledge that something bad has happened to it. And while she pretends that all is well, her emotional state is altered as well. Eventually--perhaps inevitably--she cries out for help.

Dylan Baker
The premise provides a unique platform from which Walker explores the emotional lives of Jenny, her parents, and Sean, another recipient of the treatment. And the story takes lots of twists and turns as the police seek to find the rapist.

My reaction to "All is Not Forgotten" was certainly affected--in a positive way--by actor Dylan Baker's narration. (If you've seen Baker on "The Good Wife" or "The Americans," you'll understand what I mean.) My attention never lagged as I wondered how things would turn out for Jenny. And Walker definitely achieved her presumed goal of making the reader consider the ethics and merits of eliminating traumatic memories rather than coming to terms with them.

The audio book included an interesting interview with the author. Among other things, Walker shared that the idea for "All is Not Forgotten" came from a 2010 article about memory science. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine concluded that veterans treated with morphine during resuscitation or trauma care were less likely to develop PTSD than those who weren't.  (To read more about this discovery, click here.)  Research on the topic continues.






 





Friday, September 2, 2016

A Simplistic Look at East Berlin

 Remember the line "Don't know much about history..." from Sam Cooke's "What a Wonderful World"?  Well, that's kind of how I felt being in Berlin. Of course, we all know about World War II and the Holocaust. But the whole Berlin Wall/Cold War thing was a bit sketchy. Read on for a few things I learned while in Berlin.

While the United States/United Kingdom and Russia were uneasy allies against Hitler during WWII, the superpowers didn't waste any time staking out their claims to the hearts and minds of Germans (especially Berliners) after the War.  Pursuant to the 1944 London Protocol, Germany's borders reverted to those in effect before the War. (Austria and the Sudeton region of Czechoslovakia had been annexed by Hitler.) Germany was then divided into three occupation zones. Berlin itself was divided into East Berlin (controlled by Russia) and West Berlin (controlled by the US, UK and France). Whether you were subjected to Soviet rule or ruled in a democratic manner was dictated solely by where you happened to make your home, with families split willy nilly. 

With Wendi and local entrepreneurs at Checkpoint Charlie
By 1949, it had become clear that the Western Allies and Russia had irreconcilable world views. Russia established the German Democratic Republic, with East Berlin as its capital. Checkpoint Charlie and Checkpoint Bravo were established by the Allied Forces to process military units and as places to display a show of military force. (Today enterprising enterpreneurs at the Checkpoint Charlie site offer paid photo opps to jet-lagged tourists.)

Prior to the Berlin Wall being built, more than 3.5 million East Germans escaped to the West. Fed up with losing so many people, the Berlin Wall was constructed in 1961. East Germany officially called it "The Anti-Fascist Protective Wall." (Yes, the Western Allies were characterized as fascists.) The West Berlin government nicknamed it the "Wall of Shame."
The Wall was a lot more than a single barrier.

While I thought of the Wall as just a concrete barrier, there were actually multiple obstacles. The additional hurdles included an anti-vehicle trench, an illuminated control strip, control towers, dog patrols, tank barriers and an electrified signal fence. These additional impediments explain why the Strelzyk and Wetzel families attempted their escape using a hot air balloon, which we saw at the DDR Museum. (The movie "Night Crossing" with John Hurt and Beau Bridges tells their story and is available on Netflix.) 
 
Wendi at a GDR ticket machine
Our visit to the DDR Museum provided some other interesting information about life in East Germany. Following the construction of the Wall, U-Bahn and S-Bahn metro stops in East Berlin were closed and became known as "ghost stations."  (The tunnels remained open, so East Germans could hear the trains traveling to locations inaccessible to them.)

Public transportation did continue to exist in East Berlin, though. In 1966 fare collectors were were eliminated from the system. Passengers were required to purchase a ticket before heading onto the bus or train. But the machine was designed in a way that enabled passengers to get a ticket without actually making payment. The theory was that "social control by other passengers would guarantee honesty."  That didn't work so well, though, and "collective fare dodging" became a sport.

To this day, there are no fare collectors in Berlin. Bus drivers barely took a look at Wendi's and my passes (and we could have gotten on through the rear door of the bus in any event). The subway stops are wholly unmonitored.
 

We learned some other interesting tidbits at the DDR Museum as well. In order to train East German children at a young age about social education, they had collective potty breaks using a "potty bench." All the children had to remain seated until everyone had done their business.

East German toys


Children were prepared for battle from a young age. Rather than play toss with a ball, they were given wooden hand grenades. They also counted tanks and soldiers as part of their basic math education.  

And so concludes my series of posts about our visit to Berlin. If you've gotten the sense that I loved this city, you're right. Its history is powerful and made me realize--once again--how lucky I am to have been born in the United States. And the art is amazing. We didn't even have time to explore Museum Island, home to five museums with a focus on antiquities. Nor were many of the contemporary art galleries open when we were there.  A return trip to Berlin is definitely in my future.  

Saturday, August 27, 2016

More from the East Side Gallery

"Tolerance" by Mary Mackey

One of the many cool things about Berlin's East Side Gallery is that artists from 21 countries participated in its creation. Walking the remaining mile of the Berlin Wall is a visual ode to freedom.

I had the chance to talk with Mary Mackey, the only U.S. artist with a work in the East Side Gallery. Mackey was living in London when the Wall came down and visited Berlin to participate in history in the making. She was so energized that she went back to London, sold all of her things, and moved to Berlin. Once there she saw an ad in a Village Voice-like magazine seeking artists to paint murals on what would remain of the Wall. Although more a photographer than a painter at the time, she jumped at the opportunity. Her painting was inspired by the colorful faces of Thierry Noir (another artist who participated in the project and was purportedly Berlin's first street artist).

"Prehistoric Men of the Computer" by Cesar Olhagaray
 Mackey painted her "Tolerance" in the summer of 1990 when the destruction of the Wall was ongoing. (The Wall wasn't actually demolished until unification of East German and West German currencies into the Deutschemakr.) Most artists had completed their works by then, so Mackey also took on the role of official photographer. In 2014, PBS filmed a documentary about the Colorado artist's involvement. I am eagerly awaiting my copy of the DVD.

 Both Mackey and Margaret Hunter (whose work "Joint Venture" was the subject of a prior post) had stories to tell about artist Birgit Kinder. Hunter shared that on her first day at the Wall, Kinder "jauntily drove her little Trabi car up onto the pavement in front of me, asserting that she wanted to make a painting too."  Once permission was granted, Hunter gave Kinder one of her allocated spaces. Kinder quickly sketched out this image of her Trabi bursting
through the Wall. 

"Test the Best" is particularly iconic since Trabis were the car most likely to be owned by an East German -- typically after being on a waiting list for 11 years. Trabis are also famous for having been employed in escape attempts by East Germans, with secret compartments created in the trunk or under the seats.

Mackey's story about Kinder also reveals the day-to-day hardship of life in East Germany. After the two met, Mackey wanted to make plans with Kinder to get together. She asked for her phone number. "We don't have a phone, " Kinder told her.  "But how do you communicate?" Mackey asked, a bit bewildered. "We write letters."


"My God, Help Me to Survive this Deadly Love" (aka "The Kiss") was one of my favorites in the Gallery. In case you're wondering whether Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev and East German President Erich Honecker actually locked lips, the answer is yes. At the time, fraternal kisses among socialist leaders were common. This smack did, however, have a bit more vim than usual. (In case you haven't seen the mural of Trump and Putin kissing -- called "Make Everything Great Again" -- by Lithuanian artist Mindaugas Bonanu or the original photograph of Brezhnev and Honecker, click here.)

Much of the East Side Gallery is now behind a chained link fence. Its intention to keep people from the Wall is not without its irony. But it does seem necessary to enable viewers to enjoy the murals without permanent visitor commentary. (Mackey recalls actually seeing people pour from a tour bus onto the street with black markers in hand when the paintings were barely dry.)

Due to graffitization, the East Side Gallery has been renovated twice since its completion in 1990.  In the first renovation, a group of artists employed by the city of Berlin cleaned up the paintings. In 2009, the original surviving artists were invited back to recreate their murals.  They even received payment for their work. More importantly, though, it was an opportunity for this unique community of artists to appreciate what they had created.

"The Wall Jumper" by Gabriel Heimler
"The Wall Jumper" was New Zealand artist Gabriel Heimler's contribution to the Gallery. In an email exchange, Heimler told me the image reflected his own life as he had lived on both sides of the Wall.  His intention was to highlight human potential. He shared the difficult logistics of the project in a time of chaos. The artists had to provide their own materials for their paintings. Because he didn't own a car, Heimler transported all of his gear (including a ladder) by bike. (Since then, the character has made his way to New Zealand. Click here to see "The Mover.")

For more images, go to the East Side Gallery's official website by clicking here. Or better yet, make a trip to Berlin and see the Gallery for yourself.
 



Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Back to Berlin: Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe


"It happened, therefore it can happen again: this is the core of what we have to say."  -- Auschwitz survivor Primo Levi

This quote greeted us as we entered the Information Center at Berlin's Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. But before we got there, we spent time walking through the Memorial itself, also known as the Field of Headstones. The Memorial consists of 2,711 concrete headstones that vary in height. While in rows, they aren't entirely uniform. The land beneath them is slightly sloped, leaving you feeling a bit off-kilter.

A friend from Punta Gorda shared his experience of the Memorial with me, saying he found the way people walking through the Memorial suddenly disappear from view unsettling.

For me, its impact was different. First, it reminded me of Richard Serra's art installations that I had recently seen--and fallen in love with--in New York. It turns out this resemblance wasn't coincidental -- architect Peter Eisenman collaborated with Serra when developing his design. (Serra's involvement is not as well-known as it might be as he exited the project after Eisenman agreed to certain design modifications requested by then-chancellor Helmut Kohl.)

More importantly, I was confused about the dichotomy between what the Memorial represents and the way people were interacting with it.  Children ran through the stones playing hide and seek. Friends chatted about where to go for lunch. People climbed up on the concrete blocks to enjoy the view (before being reprimanded by the guards). And then there were visitors like Wendi and me who quietly took it in.

Upon reflection, perhaps this disconnect was part of Eisenman's intention. Ordinary people like these were, after all, the victims of the Holocaust. Children, lovers, friends, families.  People going about their lives until the world changed forever.

Once inside the Information Center, the tone was uniformly somber.  One of the heinous things I learned about was gas vans, mobile killing chambers which the Nazis employed before implementing larger gas chambers.


According to Wikipedia, Russia's experience taught Himmler the psychological effectiveness of killing women and children. But shooting them was really stressful for the troops. Arthur Nebe developed the idea of hermetically sealed cargo vans into which carbon monoxide would be pumped. Passengers would die from a combination of carbon monoxide poisoning and suffocation. This solution wasn't ideal, though, as it took nearly 20 minutes for death to occur and the drivers were bothered by the screams.  

The Center also included an exhibit with photos and stories about Holocaust victims. Some survived the camps; others perished.  Either way, their stories were heartbreaking.

 I was overwhelmed by a map that showed sites of "persecution and extermination" in Europe and North Africa. (These sites included camps, ghettos, sites of mass killings and starting points of deportations.) The density of dots on the map was hard to take in. In fact, it only identified 500 of thousands of such sites.  

Needless to say, my visit to the Memorial made an impact. I'm embarrassed that I've never been to a Holocaust museum before, despite the fact there are two located right in Southwest Florida. It's not that I'm not interested. But it's all too easy to persuade myself to do something fun instead of delving into this horrific slice of history. I plan to correct this with a visit to the Florida Holocaust Museum in St. Pete in the upcoming months.  Let me know if you want to join me.

Postscript: After writing several books revolving around the Holocaust, Primo Levi killed himself in 1987.  Fellow author and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel said, "Primo Levi died at Auschwitz 40 years later."

Monday, August 22, 2016

True Stories from EdFringe

EdFringe offers every possible type of theater you can imagine (and some types you can't). This year Wendi and I were struck by the number of reality-inspired shows we saw. They ran the gamut in terms of style. But most hit their mark, both entertaining and educating the audience.  Read on for three of my favorites.

Margaret Lovatt with Peter
"Tank" by UK theater company Breach told the story of work done in the 1960s to teach dolphins how to speak English. The research was funded in part by NASA. (NASA's goal was to teach a non-human to speak English as practice for communication with the aliens we would bring home from space. The agency wanted to make sure the United States was ahead of Russia in this endeavor.) 

The show was incredibly well-done and incorporated tapes from the actual study. Not surprisingly, there was lots of humor and some fine dolphin imitations. And the portrayal of Margaret Lovatt as the sex object of Peter the dolphin--after she moved in with him--was handled tastefully. (I am not kidding. This aspect of the project hit all the news media, with "Hustler" writing a story titled "Interspecies Sex: Humans and Dolphins." Some stories report this as the most significant finding of the study.)

To read more about this crazy experiment, click here.  And to hear Margaret talk about her experiences in a BBC interview, click here.

Gayle Newland
"Scorch" by Belfast's Prime Cut Production revolved around an issue much in the news today -- gender dysphoria. "Kes" is a teenage girl who identifies as a boy. Searching for forums where he can be his true self, Kes enters the world of online dating. He meets Jules, and they begin an online relationship that ventures into the real world. Kes dresses carefully for these meetings, wearing loose clothing, a baseball cap and a binder to strap down his breasts (which, he says, burst forth one day like the creatures in "Alien"). Over time, their relationship becomes sexual (with the logistics of this left to the audience's imagination).

While Kes is sure that Jules knows he is biologically a female, they never talk about it. They're kids, after all, and how could Jules not know?

The truth eventually comes out, and Jules and her family seek prosecution against Kes for rape by deception/gender fraud. Kes ends up going to prison, confused about what he's done wrong and devastated that he's harmed the love of his life.

I was shocked to learn that there have been five cases in the UK in which a transgender person has been convicted of gender fraud in similar situations. In one case, Gayle Newland, a woman who identifies as a man, was sentenced to eight years in prison for rape by deception after posing as a woman's boyfriend for two years. Click here to read more about this and similar cases.

Actor Cal MacAninch in "My Eyes Went Dark"
"My Eyes Went Dark" at the Traverse Theatre featured Cal MacAninch who Wendi had recently seen on Broadway in "The Judas Kiss." But she hadn't been this up close and personal with the actor, who literally lay on the floor at our feet during a portion of the show. This immediacy lent even greater intensity to a tragic story. 

"My Eyes Went Dark" found its inspiration in the aftermath of a 2002 mid-air plane collision over Uberlingen,Germany that killed 71 people, 45 of whom were Russian schoolchildren. Three of those killed were the wife, 10 year old son and four year old daughter of Russian architect Vitali Kaloyev.

In the ensuing investigation, it was determined that--contrary to official policy but with management's knowledge--a single air traffic controller worked two stations on an overnight shift while a second controller rested in another room. His management of multiple flight patterns was a major factor in the crash, along with ongoing maintenance unknown to him that affected the radar management processing system.

Eight managers of SkyGuide, the air traffic control company, were tried in criminal court in connection with the collision.  Four were found guilty, three of whom were given a suspended sentence and one of whom paid a fine. Four others were found not guilty. It is unclear whether Peter Nielsen, the air traffic controller on duty, was a defendant in the case; if he was, he was found not guilty.

Wracked with grief and unsatisfied by the outcome of the trial, Kaloyev decided to take matters into his own hands. He tracked Nielson down at his home near Zurich and stabbed him to death. Kaloyev went to jail for his crime but received a hero's welcome at home upon his release.  Click here to read more about this case.

Cal MacAninch (who played Kaloyev) and Thusitha Jayasundera (who played numerous roles, including Kaloyev's wife, therapist and niece) truly inhabited their personas. You could have heard a pin drop in the theater as the audience watched the story unfold.

It's productions like these that made our EdFringe experience so memorable.  If you're a theater lover, you owe it to yourself to experience the Festival first-hand. Next year is the Festival's 70th year and promises to be crazier than ever. What are you waiting for???