Let’s agree on one thing: Deaf West’s excellent Broadway revival of “Spring Awakening” is a fine production currently showing at the Brooks Atkinson theatre in a limited run. The sets and lights are magnificent. The staging is right. The actors are completely superb. The effort is noble, but perhaps, imperfect in the execution of its essence, and it is in that vacuum of those slight flaws in amber that this review reflects — to make you think and wonder in preservation and ponder beyond the simple joy of watching a few Deaf actors on a live Broadway stage.

Columbia University in the City of New York was founded in 1754 as King’s College by royal charter of King George II of England. Columbia is the fifth oldest university in America and the oldest living school in the State of New York. As a graduate of Columbia, you never tire of reaching back into history to pull out instances of living and of educational memeing and of the loving of a life that remains to haunt you today — because way back when is always more perceptive and pleasing than the now and again.

I was delightfully fortunate to be able to purchase a large cache of genuine Columbia University photographs. Columbia has a certain reputation in the history of America as being a seat of unrest, and a center of the human protest against the status quo, while also trailblazing educational concepts for teaching and learning.

We begin our photographic tour in 1930 with this caption:

New York — General view of the commencement excercises at Columbia University, showing the great assemblage of students listening to the address of president Nicholas Murray Butler of Columbia.  There were 861 diplomas and 4,895 degrees awarded during the ceremony.  More than 20,000 spectators witnessed the exercise. 6-3-30.

In you look closely, you can see a naked 115th Street from the Columbia green!  There’s no Butler library yet — named for Columbia President Nicholas Murray Butler mentioned in the caption — Butler Library would rise along the North side of 115th Street in 1931 and would be dedicated in 1934.

Brander Matthews was one of the purist theatrical geniuses we’ve had in, and around, the intellectual American Stage.  Brander rightly believed a play only existed in performance and that the performance and the text must be evaluated separately. He was also one of the first professors at an American University — Columbia University in the City of New York starting in 1892 — to promote, and foster, the idea that Dramatic Literature was just as important a field of study as any historic cave wall painting or artistic sculpture or aesthetic structure. He believed in the power of the Playwright to form the world.

There’s an old saying in some theatrical circles that a play does not exist unless and until is has been performed on a live stage in front of an audience.  You can imagine the heartache that creates for the amateur, but vigilant, Playwright who writes page after page only to have the work discounted in the end analysis by some because there is no final proof of production to validate the effort.  Is that a right and fair way to deal with a written Art in Performance?  Does the actor exist without being staged?  Does the director have a role without filling an empty space?

J’attendrai is one of those songs that, when you first hear it, you want to play it on the guitar and sing it in performance.  The melody is perfect.  I have yet to see a performance of the song that didn’t glide with a gracious humanity.

Translated from French as — “I Will Wait” — J’attendrai was first made popular in 1938 by Rina Ketty and was written by Dino Olivier and Nino Rastelli.  J’attendrai is the hallmark song for the start of World War II as people all over the world prepared for an uncertain and dramatic future:

I will wait night and day,
I will wait forever,
For you to come back, I will wait, [I will wait]
For the bird flying away
Comes to seek oblivion in its nest.
Time flies and runs,
Beating sadly in my oh so heavy heart
And yet I will wait for you to come back

The most resonant, historic, performance of J’attendrai belongs to magnificent Jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt and expert violinist Stéphane Grappelli.