What the Grownups Were Doing

So I’ve been giving you the Camp Gramp updates for the last week or so. Obviously, Adam and I were not with our children. So what were we doing? A quick litany, for my remembrance and your enlightenment.

Wellspring's new Sanctuary
Wellspring’s new Sanctuary

Friday night: Fly in. Very tired. Zzzzzz.

Saturday: Go to Seattle for family picnic and Gilbert and Sullivan’s Iolanthe. The family picnic was lovely. I got to see all my uncles & aunts on that side, if few of my cousins. The playground location meant that that kids had fun too. This was the first time my kids had gone to G&S. They were beautifully behaved, but a not-insignificant reason for that was because they were, well, asleep. Hard to fight the time zones, late hour, exercise and dark theater, I guess!

Sunday: Church (where I got to be the pianist) was followed by a quick lunch. Then Adam and I went up to Paradise on Mt. Rainier. It was snowy and crowded up there, but we had a nice hike. We came down and then went to Wellspring. It is such a glorious place she has built there for weddings. We hiked through her lovely grounds, got massages and sat in the hot tub with the best view ever.

Monday: We drove down to Ashland. We took the direct route instead of the ocean route, which made the 8 hour trip seem short by comparison.

Tuesday: We saw As You Like It. This is one of my favorite comedies, as beautifully executed as only Ashland can do it. (This was the play that initiated my celebrity crush on Ted Deasy back in 1997.)

Wednesday: We skipped our traditional three hour breakfast to go White Water River Rafting on the Upper Klamath. It was AWESOME. We saw tons of ospreys, quite a few bald eagles, and some adorable otters. The whitewater was fantastic. Seriously, those rapids are something else. It was awesome. However, we were TIRED when we got back that night, and we still had a play.

That night we saw Henry V, which I had just seen in London at that Globe theater. These were very different productions. That Henry had been downright funny, playing up the comedic aspects to the hilt. Ashland’s Henry V walked away from the humor and the funny lines, dwelling on the martial themes with absolute seriousness. As usual, I was ready to sign up on the dotted line after the Crispin Crispian days speech.

Thursday: We took our regular 3 hour breakfast. (I’ve been reading through Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga). That night we saw The Merry Wives of Windsor, Iowa, which was a rewritten version of Shakespeare’s. They held on to the blank verse and the plot, but the marriages in question were gay marriages and the jokes very topical. It was VERY FUNNY. (And hey! It had Ted Deasy!)

Friday: Our last day out. Only a two hour breakfast. Before we left, though, one more play. We, through luck and good fortune, were at the world premiere performance of All the Way. The audience was packed with actors and dignitaries – the theater sold out. It was absolutely amazing. Our favorite play last year had been a Ghost Light… this was our favorite play this year. It went through Lyndon B. Johnson’s passing of the Civil Right’s Act and reelection. If that sounds dry, it wasn’t. It was very entertaining, and extremely educational (for those of us who did not live through it). There were big laughs, and times of tears. It was fascinating to hear how the arguments have changed in the last fifty years… and how they have not changed one whit. Some of the same arguments being made around civil rights you can still hear being made today. It was amazing. I highly recommend you go see it.

And now we’re back in Mineral, surrounded by young people who are related to us and getting ready to fly back to Boston tonight.

It was a great week!!!!

A New England maid up to London has strayed

Imagine a scene:

A woman in a London flat. The flat is near the center of the city – between Moorgate and the Barbican. The flat is a nice one – it has a private porch, two bedrooms, a vast number of switches (including some she can’t find), a very large tv with cable and a well-stocked kitchen. She arrived early in the morning. She was met by a colleague who showed her the key attributes of the apartment, took her grocery shopping for perishables, showed her where she should present herself Monday and after assuring himself she was well established – bid her have a great weekend.

Yeah, it seems pretty unreal to me too, but here I am on a very European leather settee watching Germany vs Portugal on the BBC. There are even tea lights people. Tea lights.

The number one reason my husband wishes he were with me
The number one reason my husband wishes he were with me

A few months ago, my vp announced that he wanted to strengthen the ties between the UK office and the Boston office and called for volunteers for an exchange program. I wasted little time putting my name into the ring. Then I blinked, and all of a sudden it was time for me to go. I hastily shoved some clothing into a bag, verified that my passport was up to date, worked a full day Friday and flew out. That seems like a million years ago now, but in truth I haven’t slept since then.

I figured that as long as I had a free room (corporate apartment), and the company was paying for my airfare, it made sense to go a little early and grab a weekend in London. By myself. Doing stuff I want to do. (The hard part being, of course, winnowing it down to the the handful of things I would like to do well instead of the million things I could be doing.) So today I landed in Heathrow at 6:30 am local time… 1:30 in the morning according to my body. I’d grabbed a catnap on the plane, so didn’t feel too awful. However, when I went to get some cash out, I got re-jected!!! So I used my credit card at one of those currency places to get cash instead (it took forever – the guy was a trainee and had his manager standing over his shoulder and talking him through ever button click) and proceeded into Paddington station. Fast forward through a very lost cabbie (I thought they were supposed to take a really hard test? But then again, I suppose London has changed a lot since the Blitz, which is clearly when this guy started driving.) Then there was the aforementioned being-shown-around. I had just said farewell to my guide (who has spent the previous night in our flat) and went to Starbucks to buy some caffeine to keep me going.

“Hmm.” I thought. “Where’s my Visa?” Oh dear. I had left it on the counter at the currency place. Now, I have three credit cards: a Visa I use for everything, my debit card, and an American Express I have mostly for shopping at Costco. Well, my Visa was back in Heathrow and my debit card was being blocked. And you know those adds about, “But they don’t take American Express”? They were talking about London. I got back to the flat and attempted to reach my bank, someone. It took me 20 minutes to figure out why Google talk and Skype weren’t working (see also: hadn’t slept). When I finally could call out, everything was closed. At home it was 6 am on a Saturday. (Because of course my cell phone doesn’t work at all in the UK.) I finally managed to figure out how to call the currency place and verify that they do have my credit card, and they have put it aside for me. But now I have this, uh, creative tension. In some places, I have money. If they take Amex, I’m golden. I have money on my Starbucks card, which works here. And if I actually got in any sort of bind, I could call one of my UK colleagues and they would rescue me. On Monday the bank should unfreeze my account. But for tomorrow, unless its Amex or Starbucks, I have 20 pounds to my name (and a nicely stocked kitchen). Creative tension.

So what did I do with my day in London? Well, to my everlasting delight Shakespeare’s Globe takes American Express (for ticketing only, not for the gift shop). It was 11:30 by the time I was ready to leave the apartment and there was a 2 pm matinee of King Henry V – my favorite of the histories. I walked about a mile and a half across the Millennium bridge to the theater, walked up to the box office and asked if they had any tickets left. Sadly, the only tickets they had were the best in the house! So I ended up getting a front row, top balcony seat. With an hour and a half to to spend until it was time to be seated and the Tate Museum next door, I decided to check it out. My neighbor, a graphic designer, had abjured me in the strongest language to go see it. So I did. I decided to focus on one gallery instead of walking quickly through all of them, and found myself in a surrealist exhibit of dreamscapes. I liked some, didn’t like others, thought some were fascinating and others more about the artist statement than the art. But it was fun. I rarely go to art museums, and I enjoyed the experience.

My illicit picture of a cornettist
My illicit picture of a cornettist

Then – bliss! There was a renaissance wind band playing in prep for the show! Haut instruments! Cornetto and sackbutt, as well as recorders and lute. Huzzah! I got one illicit picture before being notified “no photography”. Then the play. This was the opening performance, I believe. There were a few moments when that became clear – one or two lines less expertly delivered than others. But it was a find production. The limitations of the Elizabethan in daytime are interesting. Many of the tricks of modern theater were unavailable. They did use some of the tricks of ancient theater, with smoke bombs for cannons. The only other note I had was how unbelievably distracting the helicopters that hover over the Thames like locusts are. One nice thing about Ashland is the town quiets down for the theater. The same cannot be asked of London.

I took the long way back, although fatigue was catching up to me after two and a half hours of Shakespeare. (Crispin Crispian day! If only you didn’t fall in the middle of October I would celebrate it as one of my fake holidays!) I walked the Thames down to London Bridge and crossed over there, stopping at the lovely Liverpool Station for Cornish Pasties for dinner.

Snapped on my walk home using my phone, which is currently only a camera and Bejeweled device
Snapped on my walk home using my phone, which is currently only a camera and Bejeweled device

And now, to bring things full circle, I’m watching Portugal vs. Germany and telling you about what I’m doing! I’m pretty sure this would be a better blog post if I had slept more than 3 hours in the last 30 or so, but I figure bad is better than none at all.

Oregon Shakespeare Festival

When I returned to the office after a week’s vacation, in the standard office small talk lots of people asked me where I went. “I went to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon.” For some people I had to explain that the festival is not a weekend-long amateur production. Others needed to be told that Ashland was in the south of the State – near the California border. Still others (in their defense, mostly my non-US colleagues) had to be told where Oregon was. But not a single person had heard of the festival.

This is tragic. The Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) should be internationally known and lauded. As their “About us” states:

Founded in 1935, the Tony Award-winning Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) is among the oldest and largest professional non-profit theatres in the nation. Each year OSF presents an eight-and-a-half-month season of eleven plays in three theatres plus numerous ancillary activities, and undertakes an extensive theatre education program. Operating on a budget exceeding $26 million, OSF presents more than 780 performances annually with attendance of approximately 400,000.

In other words, this is not a rinky-dink theater in the middle of nowhere. This is a theatrical powerhouse nestled between sea and ocean in one of the loveliest small towns I’ve ever seen. In my youth, I went to Ashland most summer’s with my Godfather. I learned an abiding love of Stoppard with Arcadia in 1996. I fell in love with Ted Deasy in “As You Like It” in 1997. I met Bobby McFerrin, barefoot and whistling, on the street the night after watching him rehearse an orchestra at the nearby Britt Festival. I have warm and lovely memories tied up there.

So this summer, when I heard they were doing Gilbert and Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance on the open-air Elizabethan stage, I decided that this is where we were going to spend our summer’s leisure. And it was a very, very good choice!

We had tickets originally for four plays, but “rushed” a matinee play on our middle day. This is an excellent plan, if I may opine. Also, that rush play was the very best of our viewing there, leading me to be relieved and delighted we picked it up!

Tuesday – King Henry IV Part II
This was the last of the Henry’s I had not seen. I’m quite fond of Shakespeare’s histories. I liked Henry IV part I and I loved Henry V, so I was glad to see this bridge play between the boy and the man who stood on that French battlefield. But Henry IV Part II is really Full of Falstaff. It must be a difficult play to stage because, in truth, it is not one of Shakespeare’s best. The two concurrent plots seem very far from each other – suppressing the rebellion and Falstaff’s foolings. It seems as though one or the other could easily be edited out without affecting the counterpart. The production was an excellent one. My favorite interpretation element was having one of the characters deaf/mute, who communicated with Hal through this expressive and easily understood sign language. The flicker of hands and the unexpected element of interpretation was a delight to me. Still, the theater was half full and the play faded fast from memory. If you can see only one play at Ashland… not this one. (Although if you are seeing several, it should be on your list!)

Wednesday afternoon – Ghost Light
This was our accidental play. The promo text did not sound promising. Few experience the death of a parent against the backdrop of history. In Taccone’s evocative new play, Jon is a theatre director haunted for years by the assassination of his father, San Francisco Mayor George Moscone. When asked to stage a production of Hamlet, the ghost of the king stalks the battlement of Jon’s mind and heart, and he is summoned to confront his long buried feelings. Smartly laced with poetry and wit, this world premiere is rooted in a crime that shocked a nation and changed a city—and a young boy—forever.

In fact, it didn’t sound promising at all. But I really really didn’t want to see Measure for Measure and it was half priced so….

People. It was fantastic. The dialogue sparkled. The fourth wall was breached in a most fascinating manner. The boundaries between reality, perception and dream were powerfully crossed and braided. The acting was superb. The characters were people you wanted to know and to sit with. There was one of the best awkward scenes I’ve ever seen acted. (Of course, that it included my long-time heartthrob Ted Deasy was just a bonus.) From first scene to closing, it was superb. I would strongly recommend that should you find yourself passing by Ashland, you stop and see this play.

Wednesday night – Pirates of Penzance
My family has a long, long history with Gilbert and Sullivan, and with Pirates in particular. At about Thane’s age, my brother watched a video version of Pirates (with Kevin Kline, Linda Ronsadt and Angela Lansbury … truly worth seeing some sad night when you need cheering up). But this blessed video was played every single day in my household for over two years. Sometimes twice a day. We can, collectively, sing the whole thing together. I know every line of this operetta.

Ashland was one of the few places I could count upon to improve, not disappoint. And I was not disappointed! The staging was a delight. There was a live orchestra (of course) and the conductor played a visible role in the play. There were periodic lapses into other musical idioms – all amusing – before snapping back to Sullivan’s original-as-written text. Through it all, the cast moved and flew and lunged and trotted (often with the assistance of tuxedo’d, white gloved assistants) across the Elizabethan. The production was full of fun and energy and enthusiasm – as it should be. There were just enough departures to keep me on my toes, but enough time spent on the original that I didn’t feel cheated. Perfect. I would recommend you see it – but good luck getting tickets!

Thursday afternoon – The African Company presents Richard III
I had originally thought this was actually Richard III. But no, it was about a freed black troupe attempting to put on a production of Richard III at the same time as a white company nearby. There were a few promising moments – a few speeches, a few exchanges, a few plot threads… but on the whole it disappointed. The drama of the black/white conflict was diluted. The love-plot seemed abandoned halfway. Instead of a tight interweaving of multiple plot threads, it seemed just disjointed. This was the first week the play was open, so there’s hope that it will somehow tighten. It was also produced in the temporary tent necessitated by the cracking of a structural beam in the Bowmer, so that couldn’t have helped.

Thursday night – Love’s Labours Lost
We closed our theatrical week with a bit of cotton candy. Love’s Labours Lost is one of Shakespeare’s lighter plays, with a group of boys and a group of girls playing with each other’s expectations, well mixed with a troupe of fools wandering through. This production was fun, light and did an excellent job of making the almost entirely verse play easy to follow for modern audiences. It was lovely to look upon and very funny when the text permitted it. It was a wonderful play to disprove the idea that Shakespeare is boring to a young person. It was a lovely way to end our stay.

There were two plays that, having talked with our fellow theater-goers, I really WISH I had been able to see. I was told by a fellow patron that August: Osage County might well be one of the best plays written in the last 100 years. Even putting aside such hyperbole, it came so highly recommended that I was sad I couldn’t fit it into our schedule. We also really wanted to see The Imaginary Invalid, mostly because Moliere is fun.

It was a superb way to spend a week of vacation.

It’s late and I’m tired

It’s late and I’m tired. So you might think I’d go to bed. Ha! You and your logic! The thing is, I miss you guys. I’ve been super-uper-duper busy, even by my standards. As usual, it’s a mix of work (it’s amazing what happens when you have a job that really needs your brains!), kids, things you have to do as a grownup (like paying the bills and doing the laundry), church, and fun activities that are more important than you are (sorry!).

Things that I have neglected to tell you about include the really amazing experience of participating in an ordination. It was wonderful, profound and meaningful. I’d love to share it with you. Maybe someday, but not tonight. Still, you’re not 100% out of luck since I posted some pictures here. (Note to the unfamiliar: not all ordinations feature cakes with replica chocolate hats as a central feature. Only the really cool ones do that.)

Then there was a week of worky worky worky. Friday after work we drove up to the Middle Of Nowhere Maine, took a left, and went to a little resort for the night and then went whitewater river rafting on the Dead River in the morning. Then we drove back. It was completely awesome and nuts and fun. There was a dinner in which we went from the standard “What’s the most obscure Shakespeare play you’ve ever seen” (Mine is Coreolanus) to “Which Zombie movies are the best and why.” That, my friends, is how you know you’re having a good dinner. Sadly, there is no photographic evidence any of this took place, so I might have had an extensive and enjoyable hallucination.

Now it’s back to worky worky worky again. Or, more appropriately, sleepy sleepy sleepy.

September the 5th

This time of year is making me think of poetry. As I drive into work there’s a tree that is apparently calendar conscious. When we left before Labor Day it was green, and now it is tinged with fiery red around the edges. The change this morning is that a few leaves have fallen from it. There can be no denying that autumn is upon us.

Today’s poem is Shakespeare — but I don’t remember it all.

That time of year thou may’st in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few do hang
Upon those boughs rough-shaken by the cold,
Bare ruined choirs where once the sweet bird sang…

I have done a bad thing this summer. By my standards, I have read almost nothing in several months. And what I have read has been entirely fluff. I think that part of my exhaustion comes from the fact I have not escaped into the fantasy world that is available to me through books. I need that, I think. As much as I need exercise, or good food, or vegetation, I need fantasy.

There are three worlds we humans inhabit: the world of the flesh, the world of the mind, and the world of the soul. I am living far too much in the world of the flesh — the impermanent one where satisfaction is fleeting. The other two worlds are what inform, strengthen and bring meaning to the factual, physical world. And I have neglected them. When I move, perhaps, I can reclaim my citizenship to them — or at very least, pay an extended visit.