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Saturday, May 31, 2014

My Husband, the Actor


When I married David Vargo last November I knew he was a fine actor and that he’d done much  professional work earlier in life.  But last month all of his things from Florida were finally brought to our home in Ohio and he’s been unpacking them.  As this happened I’ve asked him to particularly share theatrical memorabilia, and what a treasure trove that has produced!  This blog highlights some of his adventures on the stage.

David started early.  Here he is mugging on the stage in Oscar Wilde’s “Birthday of the Infanta” at a Florida Theater Convention in 1964 when he was only six:

[Click To Enlarge]

David starred in plays in both high school and college.  His reviews were terrific.  In 1978, when he was 20, he appeared as one of the leads in Broward Community College’s production of the musical “The Roar of the Greasepaint, the Smell of the Crowd.”  A review in the Hollywood FL Sun-Tattler was headed “David Vargo Gives Stunning Performance,” and in praising the entire show the reviewer had this to say:
           If laurels are, in fact, to be awarded for this show, the biggest wreath must go to David Vargo, who is almost certainly destined for a meteoric rise to the top, if pure talent is any indicator of imminent success.  His characterization of Cocky, the poignant, Chaplinesque anti-hero who always comes out the loser in the game of life, is stunning.  His song that ends the first act, “Who Can I Turn To?”, the anguished cry of a trapped, frustrated human reduced to little more than an animal, is shattering.
The Roar of the Greasepaint, the Smell of the Crowd

In his teens David had studied Shakespeare at the Magdalene College in Oxford, England (where he appeared in both “MacBeth” and “Midsummer Night’s Dream”), and in the early 1980s he went to NYC to enroll in the National Shakespeare Conservatory and concentrate on acting Shakespeare.  Following that he did a good deal of professional and semi-professional work with theater companies in Florida, where he had an Equity card.  He played a number of parts in the state play of Florida, “Cross and Sword,” an outdoor drama written by the famous Paul Green, working his way over a three year period up to the lead role. 

With the same company David did a large number of other shows, including singing the role of the Pirate King in Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Pirates of Penzance.”

Returning to his native city of Fort Lauderdale he participated in a great many productions with the Public Theater, both acting and directing.

As Billis in "South Pacific"

Algernon, left, in "The Importance of Being Earnest"
And now David’s in Ohio and about to play the role of a lifetime: William Shakespeare himself! The production, entitled “Elizabeth Rex,” is opening this coming week, produced by Evolution Theatre Company at the Columbus Performing Arts Center.  Details can be found on ETO’s website at  In the play, William Shakespeare, on his deathbed, remembers a night when Queen Elizabeth commanded his company to perform for her while her lover, Lord Essex, was being executed by her own order.

With Peggy Reasoner and Mark Phillips Schwamberger

I trust the Ohio part of David’s theatrical career will be as rewarding as his past triumphs.  I’m very proud to be married to this amazing man.

Related Posts:
“Falling in Love, Turning 70, and Getting Married,” October 21, 2013
“Douglas and David Get Married,” December 20, 2013
“Some Lottery Winners Score $400 Million”—An April Fool’s Day Joke,” April 11, 2014

Friday, May 16, 2014

Satan in Oklahoma, Prayers in the Supreme Court: All Hell Breaks Loose

Oklahoma Statehouse
Some interesting things are coming together at the same time.  In Oklahoma there’s a push to erect a monument to Satan which would be erected right next to a display of the Ten Commandments on the State Capital grounds.  The latter was placed there in 2012, a donation from one of the legislators, and it immediately birthed a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union demanding it be removed because putting up the Ten Commandments violated the Constitution’s restriction against favoring one religion over another.  Ah, but is Satanism a real religion?  Apparently so, according to Wikipedia, and, indeed, a Satanist already won a Supreme Court case back in 2005 allowing him to practice his religion while in prison. 

If you’re shocked by the idea of a statue to Satan on public property, wait until you see the statue itself.  Here is a photo:

The Satanists are having the statue built in New York and also taking the precaution of making a mold so that it can be easily duplicated in the (likely) event the original is damaged by vandals. 

The Ten Commandments now on the Oklahoma
Statehouse grounds has some spelling issues.

If you’re still shocked, ask yourself if there’s any difference between erecting the Ten Commandments and the statue of Satan.  If your answer is that one is traditional and one not, know that the Constitution has no such escape clause: governments simply can’t favor one religion over another, not even old ones over new ones.  What they can (and should) do is stay out of the religion business entirely.  Take down the Ten Commandments and the Satanists would have to find another venue for their statue (say, for example, the Texas Statehouse lawn, which also has the Ten Commandments on display).

Jonathan Smith has written an amusing account of the whole incident, along with photos; see

Outside the U. S. Supreme Court

But wait, didn’t the United States Supreme Court just allow Christian prayers at the start of town meetings?  Yes, it did (shamefully), in a case called Town of Greece, New York. v. Galloway, handed down a week or so ago.  The Court (five conservatives in favor, four liberals dissenting) held that such prayers are allowed as long as the town is willing to let others lead opening prayers if they wish, including (gasp!) atheists, but noted that the small town involved mostly has only Christians churches in the local community.  The lawsuit was brought by a Jew and an atheist, who objected to being forced into the awkward position of enduring such prayers just as they were appearing before the town council hoping to persuade it to grant some petition or other they were urging.  What should they do during such prayers?  Bow their heads?  Join in?  Stand defiantly with heads erect (and how sympathetic would that make the town council to their subsequent pleas?).  Here is a sample of an actual prayer at a Greece town meeting (taken from the Record of the case):

Lord, God of all creation,.... We acknowledge the saving sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. We draw strength ... from his resurrection at Easter. Jesus Christ, who took away the sins of the world, destroyed our death, through his dying and in his rising, he has restored our life. Blessed are you, who has raised up the Lord Jesus, you who will raise us, in our turn, and put us by His side.... Amen.

How would a Jew feel if forced to stand through such a prayer?  How about an atheist?  When I was heavily involved in gay rights in Columbus, Ohio, thirty years ago we had a Columbus City Council meeting in which the council was going to vote on whether to grant employment protection regardless of sexual orientation.  The issue was very contentious and the council chambers (and the balcony) were packed to the rafters, with about 2/3 of those present being churchgoers trucked in by bus from a small nearby city, and the other 1/3 supporters of the ordinance.  The chaplain began the meeting with a very long prayer that at one point said something like, “Preserve us, Our Lord God, from the godless hoards who would impose their evil ways on the good citizens of Columbus, and pervert our laws with sin.”  When he was done, Craig Covey, the President of Stonewall Columbus muttered to me, “I want to do a rebuttal to the prayer.”  One wonders whether the Supreme Court would have approved that sort of religious message at the start of a meeting addressing a thorny issue like this one.

Will Satanists now be allowed to offer a prayer at public meetings in Greece, New York?  Surely the answer is yes, although that will rankle as many citizens as will the satanic statue going up in Oklahoma.  [I should note that as an atheist I don’t believe in Satan any more than I do God, and would object to either being allowed a place in public deliberations.  My point is that atheists are definitely not Satanists.]

These issues won’t go away and will cause hell to break loose until the Court finally comes to the only sensible conclusion: the First Amendment’s Freedom of Religion means that the government must stay out of picking and choosing which religion to sponsor, and leave that up to the people themselves.
Related Posts:
"The Aging Gay Rights Activist," March 24, 2010
"Atheists, Christmas, and Public Prayers," December 9, 2011