There are many Jon/John/Jonathan Mack’s in this world. There was a John Mack, M.D., who was a Harvard professor and Pulitzer Prize Winner who gained notoriety when he asserted that he believed his patients, who, under hypnosis, said they’d been abducted by aliens. There’s also an opera singer who’s renowned to have a beautiful tenor voice. Apart from having brought up on sci-fi based on being abucted by aliens and enjoying music, I can’t claim to have any relation to either of those Macks.
For the past fifteen years, I’ve lived in South Newfane, Vermont. I ran the Hooker-Dunham Theater and Gallery in Brattleboro, VT for seven years. My goal was to keep the place alive as a space where people could express their creativity — and to have some fun myself. It worked out amazingly well. I’m very proud of what was accomplished.
We even managed to keep up with some theater work despite the pandemic. Bahman Mahdavi and I collaborated to produce the award-winning SOLOs series for Brattleboro Community Television. Put “SOLOs BCTV” as search criteria in YouTube you’ll find them easily. If you’re curious, you can check out my performance of T.S. Eliot’s Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock in Episode 2 of the eight-part series.
I’ve recently stepped off the managing the space and it’s in Cameron Cobane and Shannon Ward’s competent hands. I still use the theater to practice sax. I put the stage lights on and feel like a star.
A couple new projects are in the works: A Bloomsday (June 16) event for the Brattleboro Public Library and to be aired on local TV. Like Bloomsday celebrations around the world, the event celebrates James Joyce’s Ulysses. And plans are moving forward to produce a play I’ve written recently about the struggle to make sense of this disturbed and disturbing world.
Over the past few years I’ve had a wonderful time acting in the Brattleboro area. I’ve walked a catwalk as “Madame” in Jean Genet’s The Maids, played Scrooge a couple times for the the Vermont Theater Company (too many people told he I was “ideally suited” for the role — not exactly a compliment!), worn a “pregnancy belly” to waddle out as a licentious Alfred Hitchcock in Shoot the Moon’s Cameo, ran a stake through the pretty-maiden-turned-vampire in Dracula, played an even more frightening role as Donald Trump in Trump’s Fifth Avenue, and played sax and flute as “musical accompaniment” to The Glass Menagerie.
I got a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology at NYU in the early 70’s. I was a tenured and now emeritus prof of Clinical and Community Psychology at the State University of New York. My first two years in Vermont, I was Visiting Professor of Education and Psychology at Marlboro College.
In addition to teaching, I made a living doing programming and software architecture in the corporate and banking world, So I know a good deal about both corporate America and the fine art of banging my head against a wall.
When I finally retired from all forms of remunerative work, I served a three-year term as chair of the Newfane Selectboard, right when Tropical Storm Irene hit in 2011. Though there was much frustration, I wouldn’t say the job was thankless. I got tremendous support and appreciation from the people of Newfane.
I was an undergraduate at U.C., Berkeley, at the height of civil rights, anti-war, communal/ hippie era . After I got a doctorate at NYU, I took off to Chile, doing volunteer work in support of the government of Chilean President Salvador Allende, as his coalition of parties of the left tried to transform Chile into a socialist society. I was back in the US, when, on September 11, 1973, Augusto Pinochet brutally crushed those aspirations.
For more than twenty years I was a member of a group in NYC variously called “The Sullivan Institute,” “The Fourth Wall,” or, usually pejoratively, “The Sullivanians.” We performed theatre in the East Village, supported demonstrations with street music and theater, drove around all night monitoring radiation levels near nuclear power plants, made films and lived an unconventional communal life-style. I have close friends from those days and strong feelings about what was right and what was wrong with what went on that I write about in this essay.
I have a lovely wife, three terrific sons, three delightful grandchildren, and a wonderful dog, Mucca.