Sunday, October 28, 2018

EC Playhouse: A Musical Romp in Sunny-Sided Theater

This past Friday (8/2009) I had the pleasure of attending Electric City (EC) Playhouse’s musical production of Keep on the Sunny Side. I was so enamored with the story, the songs, and the cast that today I am taking on the role of amateur theater critic. Keep on the Sunny Side is a touching, knee-slapping, benevolent, and delightfully executed biographical musical. The history of The Carter Family is an inspiring tale in its own right, but coupled with timeless folk classics performed by a talented ensemble cast, Sunny Side yields the perfect recipe for an enriching theatrical experience.

The Carter Family began recording music during the late 1920’s, and several Carter family members, including the late June Carter Cash, continued to popularize that distinctive backwoods Virginia sound throughout the 20th century. Many Carter Family songs – such as Wildwood Flower, Can the Circle Be Unbroken, and (of course) Keep on the Sunny Side – are staples of Americana which have been covered and performed countless times across the decades.

One could offer no finer review of Keep on the Sunny Side than did the sold-out house of audience members through their reactions to the show. From the entertaining preshow performance (by Jimmy O Trio and friends) until the closing curtain call, audience members could not refrain from smiling, laughing, clapping, and singing along. Having had very limited exposure to this genre of music, I found myself tempted to leap into dance with each new song.

Some in the audience must have been old enough to recall when these songs were originally recorded, and they evidently felt that the EC Playhouse cast honored The Carter Family through their performance. Of particular note were the reactions of one elderly gentleman in the front row. He was clearly having trouble maintaining his posture, and at a few points during the show he struggled to keep his eyes open. But all the while a reminiscent smile shone through his weathered face, and with one hand rapping rhythmically against his knee, he never missed a beat.

The touching life story and endearingly simple folk songs of The Carter Family were faithfully executed by a strong ensemble cast. Sara Carter (played by Leslie Hardigree), wife of A.P. Carter and one of the original Carter Family members, was to me the central figure in the story. While Mrs. Hardigree performed well with the other actors, her strongest moments were Sara’s soliloquies and solo musical performances. Mrs. Hardigree appeared possessed by Sara Carter’s spirit, especially when emoting her more lamentatious times. Upon seeing the glistening moisture in Sara’s eyes as she struggles with a failing marriage, one cannot help but well with tears of sympathy. Mrs. Hardigree is also blessed with an angel’s voice. Her powerful range and emotive inflections add artistic beauty to the role.

A.P. (played by Keith Parker) and Maybelle Carter (played by Gail Brown) round out the original Carter Family cast. Both possess lovely voices and considerable skill with the guitar, especially Mrs. Brown whose performance belies extensive musical training. A.P. is at his most endearing as he courts young Sara outside her mountain home. Though not a young man himself, Mr. Parker is as believable portraying a youthful gentleman caller as he is portraying a recently departed soul. Aside from strutting her considerable musical aptitude, Mrs. Brown’s most memorable moments come as Maybelle comforts her dear sister Sara with feminine sympathy and sensible advice.

Strong performances in supporting roles add wonderful depth to the play. Wailing away with a high-amplitude and outrageously accented vocal performance, Janette Carter (played by Paula Dolittle) struggles to keep the Carter Family spirit alive. Even small bit parts, such as Timothy Vin’s portrayal of the long-haired, backwoods preacher presiding over A.P.’s funeral, contribute significantly to the show.

Special mention must go to Dr. Brinkley (played by Guy Harvley), his trusty assistant (played by Todd Barnette), and the play’s director Jimmy Burdette for the brilliantly-paced transition from Sara’s tearful marriage farewell to the hilarious antics of XERA Megawatt Radio. After a powerfully emotional set of scenes, the audience hungers for refreshing levity to clear their theatrical palates – and the director kindly delivers. Mr. Harvley displays his vocal versatility by portraying a heavily accented Texas con man imitating various other outrageous characters over the radio waves – while Mr. Barnette plays the semi-straight man, a perfect foil for Dr. Brinkley’s mischievous depravity. Considering the impeccable comic timing between them, one suspects that these two men have worked together before. They elicited hearty waves of laughter from the audience at all the right moments.

In closing, I want to express my sincere thanks to the EC Playhouse cast and crew for enriching my soul with a new (to me) classic set of musical masterpieces. I’ve been listening to original Carter Family recordings every day since I saw the play, and have been touched by their sincerity, simplicity, and benevolence. I’ve even begun learning how to play some of the songs on my guitar. Though the older crowd dominated attendance at last Friday’s performance, I have no doubt but that this music will live on forever. We will pass it on to our children, who will pass it on to our grandchildren, and so on, for as long as humanity endures. Beautiful classics like these never die. Now I’ll be doggone if that ain’t a Sunny-Sided sentiment!

--Dan Edge

Saturday, November 15, 2014

[Gay] Marriage Legal in South Carolina

The ban against same-sex marriage in South Carolina has just been overturned by Circuit Courts.  Barring further legal action, Colleen Condon and Nicholas Bleckley will soon be granted a marriage license from SC.

I'm happy to see that most of my fellow South Carolinians have come to their senses.  Homosexuality is a real thing.  There is such a thing as gay people (or bi or whatever).  They're just like that.  So what?

Marriage is a common law contract that helps simplify a complex legal relationship between two people.  Much like an S Corp or LLC, a marriage contract allows citizens to opt into an existing legal construct, encompassing issues like: life insurance, medical insurance, estate division upon death, custody of children, and much much more.  Marriage contracts have a lot of judicial precedent behind them, and this is useful for all citizens.

How could one legally justify denying gays the right to form a marriage contract?  It would be exactly the same to deny them the right to form an S Corp or LLC.  These common law contracts were designed to make it easier for citizens to make legal connections.  Marriage is perhaps the most pervasive and useful contract in Earth's history.  To deny the right to such a contract is a massive penalty.  WHY?

Consider the history of judicial precedent regarding marriage contracts:  Imagine a single case where the judgement would be different if the married parties were the same sex vs. opposite sex.  Take a sec, and really think about this...  The are few such weird cases, and they make no difference.  Marriage law is essentially unaffected by allowing same sex partners,

I see no legal justification from the anti-gay folks, just references to their moral and religious beliefs.  Folks need to mind their own business.  I think it proper that the SC law was struck down on Constitutional grounds.

[I put brackets around "Gay" in the title because I find it ludicrous to talk about Gay Marriage vs Straight Marriage.  Marriage is marriage, as far as the State is concerned.]

Thanks for reading,

--Dan Edge

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Editing Passes for Business/Personal Correspondence

One reader asks:
I am informed that I write long and 'intense' letters. After all, I mean to transfer content to the reader. I am always up for new ways to become succinct without losing the detail, or rather the points intended to be made through detail. I am not completely cognisant of what you mean by Reverse Outline. Do you have anymore articles on how you pick out content over verbosity?


Multiple editing passes are as useful for business and personal corrspondence as they are for technical essays.  Most editing involves removing (or paring down) words, sentences, and often entire paragraphs.  During each pass, one focuses on a different category of verbiage to eliminate or essentialize.  This article will describe recommended editing passes for business and personal writing.  Note that self-editing is most effective when one takes time away from the draft, for reflection.

The Reverse Outline method is a useful tool to go along with every editing pass.

The first editng pass should remove general "fluff," i.e., words that do not add any meaning to the piece.  Fluff can easily double the length of a letter.  Use direct, simple language instead.  For example, which of these sentences seems most effective?
  1. In my view, it is best to utilize a direct and simple communication style whenever possible instead of indulging in rampant verbosiy for the sake of grammatical self-glorification.
  2. It is best to utilize a direct and simple communication style instead of indulging in rampant verbosiy.
  3. Use direct, simple language instead.
This last is often all that is necessary.  As you review your own words, aim for economy of language.

Next, edit out personal thought processes that are not essential to the message.  Off-the-cuff letters tend to include much of the writer's internal dialogue -- thoughts which lead him to his conclusions.  But only the conclusions matter.  Your boss doesn't need to know the details of every thought in your mind, and neither does your girlfriend.  What do you want to communicate?  State your conclusions in as few words as possible.  Simple and Direct.

Edit emotional content.  When communicating about emotions, do so directly.  Inciteful, moralistic language is rarely useful and should be carefuly considred.  If you write angry, sit on it a bit before hitting the Send button.  Come back later and reconsider.  Intensity is good if it is managed.

During each editing pass, look for ways to simplify your message.  It is much easier to screw up a complicated message than a simple one.  Eliminate language that does not contribute to a few central points.

Hope this is helpful.

--Dan Edge

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Reverse-Outline

The Reverse-Outline is a method of reading analysis and editing, especially useful in self-editing, in which one thoroughly studies a draft and formulates a summary outline.  Pre-draft outlines are critical in professional writing, but even after they are used, the draft result can contain errors in order and focus.  The Reverse-Outline is a powerful tool for identifying and correcting these errors.

< I learned this method at the OAC, but have seen it taught elsewhere, so I'm assuming there's no copyright issue.>

A note on application: I've found that the Reverse-Outline is most useful for short, one-page documents with limited focus: op-eds, cover letters, internal business emails, public business memos, marketing scripts, stock letters...and more.  A Reverse Outline for such short drafts can often be written in the mind, without having to commit the summary to paper.  This makes it extremely efficient for effective editing on-the-fly.

The method:  Study a short, approx. one-page draft, and write/think an outline of its essential points.  These points should be formulated into clear, grammatically correct sentences which accurately summarize the material.  Points can cover one or more paragraphs, depending on the flow and focus of ideas.  A one-page document will typically contain 3-5 main points.  If you find more than 7, then either you're not thoroughly essentializing the material, or the draft itself is overly complex.

For example, following is a Reverse Outline for the current top story on, Deported bin Ladin Widows, Daughters Leaving for Saudi Arabia.  It's about a 2/3 page document, so I anticipate 2-4 points.  Writing Reverse Outlines of news articles is good practice because news stories are (usually) already essentialized, making the main points easier to tease out:

  • After the end of their detention in Pakistan last week, members of Osama bin Laden's family are now being deported to the country of their choice: Saudi Arabia.
  • One of the widows provided details about how their family moved into and around Pakistan with the help of friendly Pakistanis.

I have been using the Reverse Outline method throughout the writing of this article.  After I finish a new section, I look back over the previous sections, form a Reverse Outline in my mind, and confirm that the ideas flow in some kind of logical order.  The method isn't full-proof, but it did allow me to complete this one-page article to my satisfaction.  Try it out.

--Dan Edge

Tuesday, February 5, 2008


According to Wikipedia, Meta-communication is "communicating about communication."  Meta-communication is an indispensable tool for developing one's interpersonal relationships. It is important because people communicate on different levels, and one may not be aware of all the messages he is sending. The actual content of what one says is the obvious form of communication, but there are others: the context in which one says something, the tone and volume of his voice, the look in his eyes, physical posture and position, etc.  Meta-communication can help one ensure that his messages are consistent. It can also help him better understand the messages sent by others.

To illustrate the idea of multiples levels of communication: imagine that, in response to a proposed resolution to a problem, one's lover says, "that's fine." If one considers this response based solely on content, then he will think that his lover his happy with the proposed resolution. But what if the words are said at three times normal speaking volume, interrupting what one is saying, and delivered with a dirty look and a grimace? The message is clearly different. This sort of thing happens all the time.

In the above example, the lover is probably intentionally sending the message that "things are not fine." This is not always the case. One may be intending to send the message that "things are fine," but is unintentionally sending contradictory messages. For instance, using the same example, assume that one's lover is truly amenable to resolving the conflict. She says things are OK, and means it, but the words are still delivered with laser eyes and in a sharp tone. Though she does not intend it, she is communicating that things are both "fine" and "not-fine" at the same time.

When this sort of miscommunication occurs, people often respond to the message opposite of the one intended. If someone is communicating that things are both "OK" and "not-OK", then the net message is that a problem still exists. Couples can continue fighting, forever, without ever identifying the source of the miscommunication. That's where meta-communication comes in.

If one is confused about contradictory messages sent by another, the proper response is not to acknowledge one of those messages and ignore the other. One can simply ask, "What are you trying to say?" (This question is so obvious and so helpful, I have no idea why people fail to use it regularly!) If she responds by identifying her intended message, then one has achieved two victories: 1) he understands what she was actually trying to communicate, and 2) he has identified a possible source of miscommunication, which he can then discuss with her. One can say something like, "when you communicate with me in this way, this is the message I get from you." In this way, two people can hammer out their immediate differences, and also learn to improve the way they communicate with each other in the future.

Meta-communication across the life of a relationship is an inductive process. Individuals must consistently maintain an awareness of how they send messages to one another, always looking out for ways to improve.  There are many optional value judgments regarding the way two people communicate with each other. A distinctive form of bilateral communication is the hallmark of close interpersonal relationships. But this only happens if one puts effort into communicating about communication.

--Dan Edge