From audience left, Maddow times four (two screens, one monitor, one live person). Photo: Martha Wade Steketee.

The Rachel Maddow Show — Live at the 92nd Street Y
Kaufmann Concert Hall, Lexington Avenue at 92nd Street
Tuesday, December 21, at 8:30pm

I start standing in line at about 7pm for the 8:30pm “lock down” for which we have been prepared in advance emails for over a week.  Arrive early, we are told.  No big cases, purses, shopping bags.  It is to be general admission, yet once inside we see that a large portion of the center section of the hall, perhaps the first 20 rows, is reserved with individual names affixed to chairs (donors, Rachel’s parents, people like that we soon realize).  The chatter is comfortable, happy, expectant.  And the show does not disappoint one little bit.

The Executive Director of the Y and a senior executive of MSNBC both welcome the crowd.  They enthuse about this second of three consecutive nights of the live broadcast programming at the Y, and speak of plans to continue this collaboration that has been some months in the making.  We applaud the collaboration while most in the audience don’t know these men. We’re happy to be there and happy to demonstrate to The Rachel Maddow Show and its host  how much we care about her and all she’s doing.

Program Executive Director Bill Wolff gives us the run down (as it also appeared earlier in the day on line) and turns the stage over to Ms. Maddow.

You can watch the show yourself to see how she engages with journalist Andrea Mitchell and Republican political professional Nicole Wallace and liberal activist and filmmaker Michael Moore. What I feel profoundly during this taping and the discussion is deep gratitude for her contributions to civility in civic dialogue. Well, and it goes without saying that I have a deep crush on her intelligence and humor and self-effacing Rachel-ness.

She refers at several times to feeling nervous at the large crowd. We hope we do something to assuage these feelings as the evening proceeds. We are all, to a person, fans. Applauding long and hard at jokes, at references to that day’s Congressional actions related to Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (signed into law this morning 22 December 2010, at long last), and other wins of the Obama Administration. She also voices criticism of hurdles yet to jump and much work yet to accomplish and, yes, failures along the way during the past two years. She does not given anyone a free ride.

I have several moments from the Michael Moore section of the programming to share, only one of which is on air. First, Rachel’s deeply respectful statements at the end of Moore’s discussion of his bailing the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange out of jail in Sweden, separating out the issues of allegations of sexual assault (bailing the man out just allows him to await trial on those charges) from Moore’s belief that America, due to the past decade’s intelligence misdeeds, could err on the side of full disclosure. We need to “turn on the lights” he says, and what WikiLeaks is doing is a good per se. While Maddow respects his perspective, she fully expresses her concerns about the effect of unvetted individual leaked factoids perhaps granted credence they should not be granted — furthering misinformation. Powerful points made clearly, civilly, distinctly.

Michael Moore, Rachel Maddow, unidentified staff person. Photo: Martha Wade Steketee.

And two additional memorable moments off camera, during breaks in the broadcast.  Look at the photo at right — Moore watching Maddow review her text at the desk before returning to the interview chairs. He watches for a while, then speaks, unmic-ed, to the audience — he can project with the best of ’em. He smiles like a kindly relative, deeply respectful, in awe of Maddow’s professionalism and quick mind — and tells us that during the many times he has been on her show he has watched her revise text and stories mid-show. She continues what she’s doing as he delivers these lines, then gives him a “oh, stop it” look and smile before taking her seat at his left to resume the next segment. It’s respect and warmth that permeates the auditorium.

One final off-camera moment not captured by me on my cell phone, and that I hope makes its way to youtube. Michael Moore is taking his leave of the show, the audience, and the auditorium. After he and Maddow embrace and we give them both a hearty round of applause, he turns to admire the beautiful mid-sized auditorium. Wood-paneled, warm, inviting and comfortable for the audience and, it seems, for those on stage. He says something to the effect that “this is just like The Sound of Music” (evoking the Salzburg Music Festival sequence in the 1965 film). He then begins a tuneful version of “Do Re Mi'” from stage right, and we in the audience, almost to a person, join right in with him.  It is a joyous moment. And a joyous night.


© Martha Wade Steketee (December 22, 2010)

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