Review: David Kulcsar’s Sleep, Marilyn and Dream

by Mary Hubert

Sleep Marilyn and DreamThe stark white set was what I noticed immediately upon entering the theater to watch David Kulcsar’s world premiere of Sleep, Marilyn, and Dream. White couch, white walls, white table, white bookshelf. I thought it was an interesting choice, and looked to see who had designed the set. To my surprise, I found that the entire production was directed, written, and designed by David Kulcsar. In addition, he was playing a role in the production.

Ambitious, I thought to myself. I rarely see work where one person holds the reins of every aspect of a production, and I rarely like work of this nature. It was with no small amount of trepidation that I settled in to watch the piece.

In some ways, I was pleasantly surprised. Kulcsar’s piece is set in Heaven and features celebrity characters galore, including Marilyn Monroe, Marlon Brando, and Audrey Hepburn. If nothing else, it offered a nostalgic jaunt down memory lane. The actors did well at each of their character impersonations – Emily Shuel’s Audrey Hepburn was spot on, and Kulcsar himself played a convincing Marlon Brando.  There were so many “A-ha” moments as each dead celebrity strolled onstage that I was almost able to ignore the not-so-entertaining parts… namely, the script.

Here, the problem of being the sole creator of the piece shone through. The script tried too hard to insert drama into a story that really didn’t have that much to offer. Often, moments felt corny rather than poignant, because they weren’t earned with established relationships between characters. In short, I didn’t care about the drama, because I wasn’t made to care about the characters. The dialogue felt contrived around references to the celebrities being impersonated, and the story of Marilyn’s lost children was predictable. The piece was impressive given its sole creation, but the weakness of the writing made me wish for more hands in the pot than just David’s.

Ultimately, Kulcsar’s production was a good first draft of what could potentially become a decent play. His ideas are compelling, and placing celebrities in conversation with each other onstage is always entertaining. The actors, though they focused too heavily on portraying celebrities instead of people, did admirably. The design was lovely. The pieces were all there – they just needed a better backbone to hold them together. In any piece, regardless of how compelling its components are, the story must be the priority. Kulcsar seems to have lost the thread of his amidst the glamour of old Hollywood.

The bottom line: Kulcsar’s project was an ambitious and entertaining stroll into the lives of beloved stars. However, even good impersonators and references galore failed to mask a mediocre plot. The piece has potential – revise the script and have another go!

Mary Hubert is a performing artist, director, and arts administrator in the Seattle area. When not producing strange performance concoctions with her company, the Horse in Motion, she is wild about watching weird theater, whiskey, writing and weightlifting.

Why Washington State’s Tax System Continues to Fail Our Kids

by Marilyn Watkins

failing kids
Credit: Wikiphoto

The kids are back in school – and last week the Washington Supreme Court gave the State Legislature an “F” for failing to adequately fund public schools across the state.

Meanwhile, a new analysis by Standard & Poor’s concludes that growing income inequality is causing sales tax revenues to fall. According to the highly respected global credit rating firm, the share of income for the top 1% doubled in the U.S. between 1980 and 2011, while the rate of revenue growth for the states fell by half.

The link between rising inequality and declining revenue growth was strongest in the states that depend most heavily on sales tax – including Washington, which is second only to Florida in the degree to which we rely on sales tax. States with progressive income taxes, on the other hand, have by and large been able to maintain state revenues and services as the economy has changed, according to S&P.

Standard & Poor’s report comes as no surprise to anyone who’s studied Washington’s tax system. Washington has the most regressive tax system in the country, with low and moderate income residents paying higher shares of state and local taxes while the wealthiest pay far less than in other states. Small businesses also pay higher rates than big businesses – even before all the tax breaks and (perfectly legal) tax dodging from which some corporations benefit.

For decades, Washington state’s economy, population, and total personal income have grown at much faster rates than sales tax revenue, which provides over half of the state general fund. As a result, we’re failing our kids. We haven’t been able to implement improvements in the K-12 system, we can’t provide all kids who need it with high quality early learning, and we’ve jacked up tuition and limited enrollment in higher education – even as more jobs require a college degree.

Most of us know terrific, inspirational teachers and school staff, and Washington’s school kids consistently outperform all American kids in standardized tests. Yet children of color face a big achievement gap, receive harsher discipline, and are more likely to drop out. Washington has the 4th highest number of kids per teacher among all the states. We’re only in the middle in terms of teachers’ salaries – Georgia and Wyoming pay their teachers better.

Two years ago, the state Supreme Court told the legislature it was failing to meet its constitutional obligation to amply fund K-12 education. The legislature adopted great goals to make quality education accessible to all kids, but failed to come up with a plan to fund it. Now the court has found the legislature in contempt.

While Washington ranks 16th among states in total personal income, we’re in 42nd place in our level of investment in K-12 education. All but one of the states ahead of us have an income tax.

Our current tax system worked well enough in the mid-20th century, but it’s insufficient today. As long as we continue to rely on sales tax for half our general fund revenue, we will fall behind and fail our children. The only way to make our system less regressive and require the people with the most money to pay their fair share is to lower the sales tax and adopt a progressive state income tax.

Even facing a contempt ruling from the Supreme Court, the odds of our state legislature reforming the state revenue system in 2015 are close to zero. Most legislators believe with good reason they’ll be booted out of office if they do. But maybe they could take a step in that direction by ending corporate tax breaks and adopting a capital gains tax –  which by excluding retirement savings and providing a modest exemption would fall almost exclusively on the top 5%.

To get the rest of the way to sufficient, stable funding for the long haul, the legislature could dust off and update the findings of the bipartisan Gates commission, which over a decade ago recommended restructuring the state tax system. Then in 2016, they could put some real options to fully fund a comprehensive education system before the voters.

Meanwhile, it’s up to us, the people of Washington state, to force a public conversation on what it’s really going to take to fully fund the public services we need for individual opportunity and shared prosperity. Because we’re the ones who are really failing our kids.

Marilyn Watkins is policy director of the Economic Opportunity Institute, a nonpartisan policy center  focused on building and economy that works for everyone.

Thai Restaurant Nourishes “Community” in West Hill

by Marcus Harrison Green

Lake Thai 3
An entree at Lake Thai Cuisine

Those fortunate enough to have had serendipity guide them to the discovery of the Lakeridge neighborhood’s Lake Thai Cuisine are most often introduced to the feelings shock and awe upon their entry. Though serious candidates for suppliers of these sensations, it is not the restaurant’s wonderful Happy Hour that actually does justice to the phrase after a long day’s labor, nor its authentic Thai entrees that provoke lament at evolution for cursing humans with only one stomach, nor even a menu that was designed to inflate the waistline without bursting the wallet.

No, the amazement that greets patrons when they set foot through the doors of the West Hill area restaurant- located in the minute corridor between Seattle and Renton, the city limits of each being just a few feet away from its premises in opposite directions- is kindle by the sight of people from all walks of life, who have no obvious relation other than the shared experience of an exquisite meal, are utterly engrossed in collective conversation with one another.

This is no small feat in a day and age when people frequent eateries and coffee shops to do nothing more than be alone together, buried in the digital screens of their smartphones that operate as electronic appendages. What makes this achievement even more remarkable is that it is transpiring in the Skyway/ West Hill area; a place whose reputation for chilly interactions between residents makes the Seattle Freeze look like a slightly breezy day.

“Food is of course important, but we wanted a place that regardless of race, creed, or income, really served to foster community right here in this area,” said Peter Stripp, who along with his wife Sirima opened Lake Thai Cuisine a little over 4 months ago.

“As soon as someone walks in here, we want them to feel a sense of warmth and at ease enough so they feel like they can make connections here with their neighbors,” Stripp says in his English accent, which compliments an urbane manner that frequenters of the area’s only Thai restaurant have come to adore.

Judging by a typical evening at the restaurant -which crackles with a festive energy resulting from spontaneous conversations amongst table mates that touch on everything from food, to life, to the surrounding neighborhoods, and often features nightly conversions of long time strangers into new friends- it seems abundantly obvious that its cultivation of the community is thriving.

But lest you think that Lake Thai Cuisine is all talk, Stripp and his wife Sirima- who was born in Thailand and had her lifelong dream of owning a restaurant realized the day the couple purchased the building Lake Thai Cuisine currently occupies after its previous tenant, a jazz lounge, floundered- view the food they serve, which consists of mainly traditional Thai dishes, on equal footing as the atmosphere they strive to provide.

“So often you dine at a restaurant and the food taste different every time you come in. It was paramount that our food be consistent, so that every single time someone ordered something they knew what to expect, and what was great the last time they visited us, wouldn’t be just okay the next time they came in,” says Stripp.

Adds Sirima, who has cooked Thai inspired food virtually her entire life, “For us our formula for success is simple: provide good food and excellent customer service, and people will come to you no matter where you are.”

Her last point alludes to the fact that the area of Skyway/West Hill has received constant criticism for being infertile ground for start ups- especially restaurants with their traditionally low profit margins. Though the many carcasses of one time businesses that are now occupied by church storefronts would seem to attest to this, Stripp believes that Lake Thai Cuisine’s location- with its high visibility along Rainier Avenue- is a boon for the restaurant.

“There is honestly no reason why we can’t be successful here,” say Stripp. “Rainier Avenue South is becoming a heavily trafficked area because people want to avoid the main freeways if they can. We feel that we are in a prime location.”

“In fact,” the Englishman shares, “We continue to attract devoted customers because of where we are at, not in spite of it, as the other day a gentleman came in here and said: Please, please don’t leave us. The people and food here are too good!”

Lake Thai Cuisine is located at 11425 Rainier Avenue South Seattle, WA 98178, and is open Mon-Thurs from 11:30am to 9:oopm, Fri-Sat 11:30am to 10:00pm, and Sunday 4:00pm to 9:00pm.

Department of Transportation to Host Rainier Avenue Traffic Calming Meeting

by Staff Writer

TrafficSparked by a score of recent automobile accidents along Rainier Avenue, including most notably when an SUV crashed completely into the Carol Cobb Salon located on Rainier Avenue South and South Ferdinand Street, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) will be hosting a community meeting to address the traffic concerns of Southeast Seattle residents.

The meeting will take place this Wednesday, September 17th from 6:30 -9:00pm at the Rainier Valley Cultural Center.

Besides discussing “traffic calming” in south end streets, the meeting will also unveil transportation projects that are in the planning stages for Rainier Ave South, and will conclude with a Q & A session between SDOT officials and community members.

Email Jenny Frankl, Jenny.Frankl@seattle.gov, for more information.

Seahawks Game Day Prediction

by Clint Elsemore

GamedayThankfully for all Seahawk fans I was overly scared of the Green Bay offense last week as the LOB once again exceeded my expectations and made the Packers offense look ordinary.  This is no small feat, and coupled with the extra few days off after last week’s Thursday night tilt, the Hawks should be in great shape to travel down to San Diego and face the Chargers in week 2.

The Chargers are not an elite team, but they do have the ability to play up to their competition, beating the Broncos last year and playing well against most of the elite teams they faced.  They played well on the road in Arizona last week, failing to close our  NFC West Brothers,  failing to realize multiple opportunities to seal the road victory.  They are led by their offense under the control of side arm slinger Philip Rivers.  Their weapons are strong with WR’s Allen & Floyd to couple with TE’s Gates & Green, and finally a solid RB tandem in Matthews & Woodhead.  Rivers is a statue with limited mobility, but he generally has good awareness and gets the ball out early.  Playing at home the communication issues he had at the line of scrimmage last week should be nearly eliminated, and I expect the chargers to move the ball fairly well once again focusing on the short passing game and trying to keep balance by running the ball 20-25 times in the game.  I expect them to have sporadic success moving the ball, but to struggle in the red zone as the Hawks D tightens up leading to only 1 TD to go along with multiple field goals.  I see Rivers throwing for 1 score to balance out with 1 int and passing for 250 yards, Matthews to run for 70-80 yards, and for their offense to generally struggle to capitalize on their ability to move the ball through the middle of the field fairly well.

On Defense the Chargers are stronger than the Packers front they faced last week, but only marginally better.  I expect the Hawks offense line to struggle with the road environment coupled with strong line play from DT Liuget and DE Freeney.  San Diego will focus on trying to stop the run early, then bring pressure on 3rd down to get to Russell, and I expect this strategy to work for the most part in the first half.  After early struggles I expect Russell to make some big plays with his legs and buy time to find open receivers over the top as well.  Wilson will finish with 250 – 275 yards passing to go along with 50 on the ground and 2 touchdowns.  Lynch will punch in another score, but will be held to less than 100 yards rushing in the game.  I foresee Doug Baldwin having a strong game after being quiet last week bagging a score and near 100 yards receiving.

The offense will struggle more than last week, especially in the first half only mustering 10-13 points and once again facing a close game at the break.   In the second half Russell asserts himself and the offense will go on a role.  The defense continues its strong play and closes out the game with 3-4 sacks to go along with two turnovers.

Final game prediction: Seahawks 27 Chargers 16

South Seattle High School’s Highlight Football Classic

by Staff Writer

HS FootballEvoking recollections of the days when fervor for high school football in south and central Seattle was higher than the average city dweller’s morning caffeine levels, the First Annual Memorial Football Classic takes place today at Memorial Stadium with both Cleveland and Franklin High Schools participating.

The Classic is the brainchild of South Seattle native and former National Football League player Joey Thomas.

“Having grown up in and around the south end, I have an appreciation for the storied rivalries that once existed between the schools in the area and how that really brought out pride and friendly competition within the community. I thought that the event would provide a wonderful opportunity to rekindle that.” Said Thomas, who is currently the head football coach at Ballard High School.

The Classic gets underway today at 12:00pm with Cleveland facing off against Bainbridge, followed by Franklin taking on Garfield at 6:00pm. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students.

Mayor Annouces Funding for South Seattle Crime Prevention Groups in Budget Proposal

by Staff Writer

Murray and Safety
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray unveils his budget as SPD Chief Kathleen O’Toole looks on.

Seattle – This Afternoon Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announced that his 2015-16 budget to be formally proposed on Sept. 22 will make new investments in public safety and the safety net, including funding to South Seattle area violence prevention groups.

The budget, as currently constituted, seeks to allocate $100,000 for the Breakfast Group Mentoring Program, a program designed to provide young men of color in Seattle Public Schools with wrap-around services, individualized instruction plans and mentoring to complete their secondary education and improve employment opportunities for them.

The mayor’s budget also designates $75,000 for the Rainier Valley Corp, located in Hillman City, to recruit emerging leaders from diverse immigrant communities and provide training, support and mentorship. South Seattle currently has the highest concentration of immigrants and first generation Americans of anywhere else in the city.

“Public safety is our number one priority, and my budget for the police department reflects these basic budgeting principles by investing in best management practices and more effective use of resources to get better outcomes.” Said Murray.

In regard to direct investment in public safety, Murray’s 2015-16 budget for the Seattle Police Department will propose funding more civilian expertise, including a civilian Chief Operating Officer and a civilian Chief Information Officer for improved operations and systems management and innovation. The COO has been hired, and has already implemented CompStat, the crime and disorder data tracking and analysis method made famous by Commissioner William Bratton in New York City in the 1990s, where it was credited with reducing crime by 60 percent.

“CompStat will take the police department to the next level in observing, mapping and tracking patterns of crime and disorder, and in mobilizing, analyzing and evaluating officer response,” said Murray. “It is a major reform that I believe is the key to our future success in crime prevention, in efficient and effective deployment of SPD resources, and in police accountability.”

CompStat will be used in conjunction with the “micro-policing plans” that Chief Kathy O’Toole will deliver and make publicly available by the end of 2014, Murray said. The plans will reflect the specific needs and circumstances of each of the unique neighborhoods of the city, and are intended to reconnect officers with the communities they serve. CompStat will provide timely and accurate data to inform an ever-evolving patrol strategy, focusing resources on areas of concern and ensuring that police are present and visible where needed most.

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