Robert Wuhl Assumes the Position at WaterTower's Out of the Loop Fringe Festival

Categories: Arts, Stage
Wuhl 3.jpg
Robert Wuhl
Robert Wuhl is bringing his solo show Assume the Position to the Out of the Loop Fringe Festival at WaterTower Theatre in Addison next week. The two-week festival opens tomorrow with a lineup of more than 20 different performances of drama, dance, music and comedy. It's an enjoyably freewheeling theater event every March, with shows running three at a time in all the venues at WaterTower.

Wuhl, 59, created and starred in HBO's Arli$$ series, in which he played a sports agent; of course, he also had fast-talking roles in a couple of sports-related movies, Bull Durham (as the chattering dugout coach) and Ty Cobb (as the ball player's biographer). In January, Wuhl debuted on 40 Westwood One radio stations as host of a daily three-hour talk show focused (sometimes) on sports.

Good sport that he is, Wuhl gave us some phone-chat time to talk about Assume the Position, writing jokes for Billy Crystal at the Oscars and how pop culture has screwed up our knowledge of history (which happens to be the the basis of his one-man show).



How do you describe Assume the Position?

It's autobiographical and I've expanded it (from two specials of the same name on HBO). It's about how I became a storyteller and I tell stories along the way. Some will be familiar to people who've seen the HBO material. The second act gets darker. I just had a terrific run with it back east at the Long Wharf Theatre (in New Haven). I was getting standing ovations every night. The show started by going to colleges, where I'd buy students pizzas and then throw out topics to find out who knew what about history. We started with the students at community colleges -- a lot of them are naturalized citizens and they know much more about history. When you get to the top, you go to USC or UCLA, forget that. As I've said before, knowledge of history is in direct disproportion to how expensive the college is.

Are you saying younger generations, even the well-educated, don't know much about history?

What we determine history to be, what is important, is totally generational. When I grew up, Biography was still on (on cable's A&E). I always watched that. They used to have people like Copernicus, Galileo, DaVinci. Now it's Justin Bieber and Ashley Simpson. In fairness, DaVinci was a pop culture figure of his time. You got to keep that in mind. That's the difference in history. Now on Biography, when was the last time they did someone of a historical nature? Reagan? That might be about as far back as they'd go.

Speaking of history, your own is pretty interesting. Tell the people who your college roommate was at University of Houston.

Julian Schnabel. It's a long story. He's the biggest ego on the face of the earth. But he's a great filmmaker. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly [which Schnabel directed] was a fantastic film. He's got a good movie coming out shortly called Miral, about a Palestinian girl in an orphanage. I enjoy his filmmaking better than I do his paintings. We still see each other in New York.

Who's your favorite professional talker?

I only watch Charlie Rose. He's not interrupted by commercials. He has interesting, smart people on. How many smart people are on The Tonight Show anymore?

Are you a news junkie?

I watch more sports, not news. You can't control any of that. I like the old line from [Supreme Court Justice] Earl Warren, when he picked up the newspaper, he said he read the sports page first. ("I always turn to the sports pages first, which records people's accomplishments. The front page has nothing but man's failures.") In sports, somebody won, somebody lost. There's a game. There's a winner and a loser. I like that.

We've just had the Oscars. You won two Emmys for writing material for Billy Crystal when he hosted back in 1990 and 1991. Seems like the audience is ready for him to host it again.

Yes, the host is very important. They set a tone. A good Oscars is where there's excitement, surprises and it's a fun evening. When we did it, people didn't come up with a laundry list of people to thank. It's like going to a convention now. We don't care about your business manager that you're thanking. When I did it with Billy, we were always thinking about something to make a joke about. God bless when it happened. You had lines prepared for coming back to this and that for segues to get back in the mood. After about the first hour, the show's not about you anymore. We just loved that our work was going to be seen. We do so much work that isn't seen.

So now you're doing talk radio, where you're heard but not seen. What do you like about it?

I like talking to people. I've had Billy Crystal on. He was a very good guest. Larry King was a great guest. Hugh Jackman was good. Jeannie Buss [daughter of Lakers owner Jerry Buss]. She came into the studio. That was great face to face.

Radio's great. You don't have to get all dressed up. It's just conversation. I like sports -- most sports. And I like doing research. I like to ask questions that I'm interested in.

Last question: Does it bug you that 30 Rock takes a lot of digs at Arli$$?

Never seen the show. Don't know anything about that.

See Robert Wuhl's Assume the Position at 8 p.m., March 11; 2 & 8 p.m., March 12; and 2 p.m., March 13. WaterTower Theatre's Out of the Loop Fringe Festivals runs March 3-13, 15650 Addison Rd., Addison. Tickets are $10-$20, with a full festival pass for $55. Box office: 972-450-6232.

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2 comments
scottindallas
scottindallas

On History and Charile Rose: Rose is so enamored with the trappings of power, of influence he is seldom critical of them and assaults the little guy. Rose is newsspeak, disinformation and a waste of your time. You'd be better served watching Cinemax, at least there the fellatio is hetero, and hot, who wants to see Charlie service Kissinger?

scottindallas
scottindallas

On the subject of a fawning media, I wish you'd had the Chutzpah to publish this letter from a rabbi last Hanukah

‘Light a Candle for Gaza’ –the rabbis’ piece the Washington Post refused to publish without major changes

by Rabbi Brant Rosen and Rabbi Alissa Wise on March 2, 2011 · 47 commentsLike 60 Retweet 7

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A week ago we posted an important story (related by Felice Gelman) about two rabbis whose Op-Ed on Gaza was supposed to go online in an hour's time at a major newspaper last Hanukah when the authors were presented with a lot of Israeli-tilted questions about the piece. And the piece never ran.

Readers, some rabbis are very brave! Rabbi Brant Rosen got in touch with us to say that the piece was his and Alissa Wise's. And Wise agreed that we could use her name, too. Below, Rosen offers the piece, and then the newspaper's edits! Maybe the editor in question will offer his or her story about the censorship next?

Alissa Wise and I were the rabbis in question.

For the record, here’s the article that never saw the light of day. Not seasonally appropriate any more, but hopefully still relevant.

The paper was the Washington Post (the online “On Faith” section). [The edits follow the piece] I rejected these edits and offered links to substantiate my original claims. Things got stalemated, and by this point Hanukah was over, so it never ran in the end.

Light a Candle for Gaza By Rabbi Brant Rosen and Rabbi Alissa Wise

On the morning of December 27, 2008, the sixth day of Hanukkah, Israel initiated a massive military assault against Gaza with “Operation Cast Lead.” The name of the operation was a reference to a popular Hanukkah song written by the venerated Israeli poet Chaim Nachman Bialik: “My teacher gave a dreidel to me/A dreidel of cast lead.”

When Israel’s military actions ended on January 18, some 1,400 Palestinians had been killed. Among the dead were hundreds of unarmed civilians, including over 300 children.

Personal testimonies from the Palestinians who lived through Cast Lead in Gaza indicate the profoundly tragic consequences of Israel’s military assault. Here is one such account – excerpted from Amnesty International’s 2009 Report, “Operation Cast Lead: 22 Days of Death and Destruction”:

After Sabah’s house was shelled I ran over there. She was on fire and was holding her baby girl Shahed, who was completely burned. Her husband and some of the children were dead and others were burning. Ambulances could not come because the area was surrounded by the Israeli army… We drove toward the nearest hospital, Kamal ‘Adwan hospital…On the way to al-‘Atatrah Square we saw Israeli soldiers and stopped, and suddenly, the soldiers shot at us. My son Matar and Muhammad-Hikmat were killed.

This Hanukkah, how will we Jews choose to commemorate a legacy such as this? Many of us will invariably retreat behind a veil of defensiveness, claiming Israel’s action was an appropriate, commensurate response to the threat posed by Hamas. Some of us might be troubled, but choose to look away from the hard and painful reality of this bloodshed. Still others may simply allow Gaza to become subsumed by the sheer volume of world crises that seem to call out for our attention.

This Hanukkah, however, we are asking the Jewish community to light a candle for Gaza.

After all, this is the season in which we rededicate our determination to create light amidst the darkness. And quite frankly, the time is long overdue for the American Jewish community to shine a light on the dark truth of “Operation Cast Lead.”

Indeed, we have been deeply complicit in keeping this truth away from the light of day. Two years later, Israel still refuses to conduct a credible, transparent and independent investigation of its actions in Gaza. The sole attempt at such a proper investigation, the Goldstone Report, was successfully blackballed and eventually quashed under a campaign spearheaded by the Israeli and the US governments – and largely supported by the American Jewish establishment.

This Hanukkah, we would also do well to shine a light on the larger context of the reality in Gaza. We cannot forget that Israel’s military assault occurred in the midst of a crushing blockade that Israel has imposed upon Gaza since January 2006.

As a result of this collective punishment:

- 80% of the Gazan population is dependent on international aid.

- 61% of the population is food insecure.

- The unemployment rate is approximately 39%, one of the highest in the world.

- Power outages usually last 4-6 hours a day and often longer.

- 60% of the population receives running water only once every 4 or 5 days, for 6-8 hours.

- 50 to 80 million liters of untreated or partially treated sewage are released into the sea every day.

- Approximately 90% of water supplied to Gaza residents is not suitable for drinking and is contaminated with salt and nitrates.

- 78% of homes with major damages from Operation Cast Lead have not been rebuilt.

(Source: Amnesty International USA Web Log, 11/29/10) link to blog.amnestyusa.org

Despite Israel’s claims to the contrary, its blockade remains very much in force. According to highly detailed research conducted by the Israeli NGO Gisha, Israel consistently lets through less than half of the required truckloads of essential goods mandated by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Just weeks ago, European Union foreign policy chief Lady Catherine Ashton, speaking on behalf of all EU foreign ministers commented, “At the present time, we think that what’s happened with Gaza is unsatisfactory, the volume of goods is not increasing as significantly as it needs to.”

The most tangible way we can light a candle for Gaza is to support those who refuse to allow this crisis to remain the darkness. The most courageous example: the movement of civilian flotillas that seek to break the blockade with symbolic humanitarian cargo. The most recent flotilla tragically gained international attention last May when the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara was seized by Israeli commandos in a raid that left eight unarmed Turkish citizens and one Turkish-American citizen dead. (A recent report on the assault by a UN fact-finding mission said Israeli soldiers used “lethal force” in a “widespread and arbitrary manner, which caused an unnecessarily large number of persons to be killed or seriously injured,” and “carried out extralegal, arbitrary and summary executions prohibited by international human rights law.”)

Despite this tragedy (or perhaps because of it), the flotilla movement is growing steadily. Here in the US, a group of peace activists is seeking to add the first American boat, “The Audacity of Hope,” which they intend to launch next spring as part of an international flotilla from over a dozen European, Asian and North American countries.

The US Boat to Gaza organizing statement asserts:

“The Audacity of Hope” will be a passenger ship with approximately 40-60 Americans on board including a 4-5 member crew and a small number of press and media professionals. We will not carry more than symbolic cargo: just as the students who sat in at Woolworth counters in the 1960s were not doing so because they wanted lunch, our voyage will be an act of civil disobedience and non-violent challenge to an illegal blockade rather than a mission to import humanitarian cargo. By the same token, one of our objectives will be to transport two Gazan graduate students who have been invited to visit and speak at a US university, but who have been prevented from leaving Gaza by the Israeli and Egyptian governments. Additionally, we plan to bring out Gazan products, which “Stand for Justice” is purchasing from a Gazan company.

For those who seek justice in Gaza, the courageous activists who are willing to put their own bodies on the line are immensely deserving of our support.

On Hanukkah, the festival that enshrines the ongoing human struggle for freedom, the season that seeks to shed light on the dark places of our world, it is time for us to stand in solidarity with all who are oppressed.

It is time for us to light a candle for Gaza.

Now here are the edits that Rabbi Rosen says he was asked for:

On the morning of December 27, 2008, the sixth day of Hanukkah, Israel initiated responded to Hamas rocket fire and military weapon stockpiling with a massive military assault against in Gaza with named "Operation Cast Lead." The name of the operation was a reference to a popular Hanukkah song written by the venerated Israeli poet Chaim Nachman Bialik: "My teacher gave a dreidel to me/A dreidel of cast lead." When Israel's military actions ended on January 18, some 1,400 Palestinians had been killed, according to some estimates. Among the dead were hundreds of more than 700 Hamas fighters, but also hundreds of unarmed civilians, including over more than 300 children. Personal testimonies testimonials from the Palestinians who lived through Cast Lead in Gaza indicate the profoundly tragic consequences of Israel's military assault. Here is one such account - excerpted from Amnesty International's 2009 Report, "Operation Cast Lead: 22 Days of Death and Destruction": After Sabah's house was shelled I ran over there. She was on fire and was holding her baby girl Shahed, who was completely burned. Her husband and some of the children were dead and others were burning. Ambulances could not come because the area was surrounded by the Israeli army... We drove toward the nearest hospital, Kamal 'Adwan hospital...On the way to al-'Atatrah Square we saw Israeli soldiers and stopped, and suddenly, the soldiers shot at us. My son Matar and Muhammad-Hikmat were killed. This Hanukkah, how will we Jews choose to commemorate a legacy such as this? Many of us will invariably retreat behind a veil of defensiveness, claiming Israel's action was an appropriate, commensurate response to the threat posed by Hamas and that the high number of deaths were a consequence of Hamas using human shields. Some of us might be troubled, but choose to look away from the hard and painful reality of this bloodshed. Still others may simply allow Gaza to become subsumed by the sheer volume of world crises that seem to call out for our attention. This Hanukkah, however, we are asking the Jewish community to light a candle for Gaza. After all, this is the season in which we rededicate our determination to create light amidst the darkness. And quite frankly, the time is long overdue for the American Jewish community to shine a light on the dark truth of "Operation Cast Lead." Indeed, we have been deeply complicit in keeping this truth away from the light of day

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