March 5, 2014 § Leave a comment
February 22, 2014 § Leave a comment
Go to #15 and replace “Carol” with “Christopher.” I’d say replace the age, too, but it’s close enough to being true that arguing the point would sound pathetic.
February 5, 2014 § Leave a comment
Books that changed people’s lives. We’ve all got them. But if you’re going to check this one out, I suggest you go down to Eileen Myles’ list. She’s a great poet and her opinions are worth listening to.
February 4, 2014 § 1 Comment
Friday night, we saw Joshua Bell play Mendelssohn’s concerto in E minor for violin and orchestra, followed by Hindemith’s When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom’d (a setting of selections from Whitman to music).
Naturally, Bell was the real draw. He was very ‘present’ during the first movement, but didn’t always impose himself on the second and third movements. That said. Joshua Bell. Wouldn’t have missed it. And, c’mon. You just can’t go wrong with a Mendelssohn violin concerto. It’s like sex. Great sex is, well, great. Bad sex… is still pretty good. And Bell makes it like sex with a supermodel, so even if the sex is not good, well, there a supermodel.
The Hindemith piece was very moving. There was a huge chorus and two leads, a baritone and a mezzo-soprano, so the tones were pretty deep and necessarily somber. The Whitman selections were about the Civil War and the death of Lincoln, so it was almost an elegy, but a distinctly American elegy. Hindemith may have been a German expatriate, but When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom’d inspired a sort of patriotism in me.
Anyway. You’re not supposed to ever take photographs inside the hall, but I did anyway.
February 3, 2014 § Leave a comment
We saw the second night performance at the Folger Shakespeare Library, a very elaborately (for a small theater like the Folger) staged production, with the stage moved to the center and raised up and the audience on four sides all around (occasionally with actors moving among us). The costumes were gorgeous and little goth. Queen Elizabeth, in particular, wore a blood red, form-fitting dress, leather corset, and a great plunging collar of black and red-black feathers. The widow of Henry VI, Margaret, was dressed like a mad woman from your local Renaissance Faire. The men, Richard excepted, wore items like leather trench coats and velvet jackets – all in black. Richard, though, wore a simple, military looking grey overcoat.
When a character died (was killed, usually by one of Richard’s lackeys), the ‘body’ was taken down, beneath the stage, through a series of trapdoors built into the stage. At the end, the central trap door was made translucent by the light on it and a skeleton was visible: a reference to the relatively recent discovery of the historical Richard’s bones beneath a shopping center parking lot.
Most actors in a production of Richard III are going to seem a little pale in contrast to the oversized presence of Richard himself – exception being Elizabeth. Her height (she was taller than Richard and, indeed, taller than almost everyone else in the play) gave her some physical advantage in matching Richard’s presence. His opening soliloquy breaks the fourth wall (or, in this production’s case, all four fourth walls), something he does several times throughout the first half of the play. The actor played with a strong limp, but was (so my companion assured me) very good looking and radiated an oily, sexual charm. Certainly, one could see Ann falling for him.
Queen Elizabeth did match him well and the greatest sexual tension was not between Richard and Ann nor Richard and Buckingham, but between Richard and Elizabeth. Even when asking for her daughter’s hand in marriage, the real fire was between the two of them. The director even went ahead and made it explicit, with the two of them sharing a brief, but passionate kiss. Had this play been x-rated, you would have expected the two of them to immediately get down to some really dirty hate sex at that point.
Richard did lose me for a bit. Between his initial, risky, but calculated murders and his descent into paranoia, I wasn’t keeping up with where the production was going. But, at some point in the final act, it clicked for me again.
In general, the whole thing was done at a fast pace, well acted, exciting, and innovatively done. And, I finally got to see Richard III performed live!
January 22, 2014 § Leave a comment
January 15, 2014 § Leave a comment
This a great idea. A cafe where you literally pay for time. The coffee is free, but you’re paying for a place to sit, relax, think, and discuss. Presumably, you won’t be getting a fancy coffee there, but mostly just regular and decaf. It reminds me of what a coffeehouse was in the good old days. Being just a shade under forty, the good old days, for me, are roughly the late eighties and early nineties. Coffeehouses multiplied, but they weren’t Starbucks, but independent places that focused on providing a public space, rather than on providing fancy or, in some cases, even good, coffee. You played chess with strangers. You wrote manifestos. Your plotted and planned. It wasn’t a place to quietly bring your laptop and steal wifi (the internet, much less wifi, being not widely available), but something closer to one of the places Samuel Pepys visited for useful gossip and political intelligence. Not very profitable, though, so it wasn’t so hard for Starbucks to kill them off. Hopefully, this model will work. And maybe come across the pond and into my neighborhood.
This is taking historicism to a whole new level. I’ve been to several theaters that attempt to recreate the Elizabethan/Globe theatrical experience (namely the Folger in Washington, DC and the Blackfriar in Staunton, VA), but to actually use candles and flame-based lighting! That is awesome!
January 13, 2014 § Leave a comment
Last Saturday was a pretty spectacular day. We meandered over to Jimmy T’s, Capitol Hill’s finest greasy spoon breakfast diner for omelettes and fried, jalapeno cheddar grits. Then we began our walk over to the National Gallery of Art’s West Building (whose collection is, basically, art before WWII).
Our path took us by the Folger Shakespeare Library, which is, of course, one of my favorite underappreciated DC destinations. A poster was up on their administrative offices for their upcoming production of Richard III.
As a teenager, I had a minor obsession with this play. I memorized the opening soliloquy (you know: ‘Now is the winter of our discontent…) and stayed up until 3:30 in the morning to watch our local PBS station’s 1:00 am broadcast of the movie version starring Laurence Olivier as the titular hunchback (in Tampa Bay, if you enjoy good live theater, well your main option is go somewhere else; probably to another state).
But, you know, I’ve never seen it performed live.
So, we went into the theater and, after wrangling over our respective schedules, purchased two tickets for the second night of the play.
She noticed that there was a sign in front of the theater doors that said the theater was in use, but a fellow sitting in the lobby said that we could go upstairs onto the balcony if we wanted to watch the rehearsal.
The actors and director were still blocking scenes and we walked in on the one where Richard is standing over the body of Warwick and plotting to marry Anne. The fellow who told us we could watch came in and revealed himself to almost certainly be one of the actors (though I didn’t get see what his role is).
I could have stayed there all day, but she had never seen nor read the play nor was her knowledge of Western history and culture deep enough to know the story of an admittedly minor player in English history (though a looming figure in English cultural consciousness) and did not want to ruin the surprise of not knowing how things would end when we saw the full play.
So. Great freaking day, right?
December 19, 2013 § Leave a comment
December 2, 2013 § Leave a comment
Finally hit number forty. I don’t see myself making it all the way to number fifty-two, though. Nope. Don’t see it. Which is more than a little disappointing. Certainly, there’s no one to blame but myself. I can make some excuses about work and stress, but, really, it just illustrates the point of how we have let ourselves get away from the critical business of expanding our mind and world and improving ourselves and making a better place by reading.
Puhak won the Anthony Hecht Award, which was judged this year by my beloved Charles Simic. Both poets read at the Folger earlier this month and it was very good. Simic is always great and I very much liked Guinevere in Baltimore – though I liked it better in print than I did in her readings from it. Her readings sounded more repetitive than they come across on the page; this is a book that is meant to be read, rather than listened to.
The conceit is re-imagining the story of Lancelot’s affair with Guinevere, queen of the Britons and wife of his best friend, King Arthur, as something modern, with Arthur as a bumbling CEO, Lancelot as an aging playboy, and Guinevere as a woman of forty – old enough to be very conscious of age and loss and the terrible, silly sadness of her love affair.
As the title suggests, this is Guinevere’s story, with Lancelot a close second and Arthur barely appearing, at least as a speaker.
I’m writing this without the book by my side, so I can’t properly do any excerpts for you, but I do want to credit Puhak for her amazing use of enjambment.
The whole mixing the mythic and mundane is pretty, well, mundane these days. It’s been done. Been there, done that. So making it new (tip of the hat to Pound) isn’t easy, but is critical.
She does a great job of creating these mid sentence enjambments, where the line above resonates with the old mythology and language of myth and ancient times, but then when it continues in the next line, after the enjambment, the sentence suddenly becomes something quite contemporary and sadly sordid. You’ll have to trust me. It’s really good.