[livejournal.com profile] melted_snowball and I left for NYC on Friday, returning late last night. He was the instigator, saying he really wanted to see Pippin, and after watching the Tony awards video (which you can see on that link right there ^^ ), I had to agree it was worth seeing on Broadway. So, in for a penny in for a pound, we also made plans for Kinky Boots, another Tony winner this year.

We had our next-door teenaged neighbour watch Rover for us, which worked out quite well, compared with boarding for the weekend- R. likes her routines, and our neighbour certainly likes Rover! (And now I notice that Rover has to sniff their door when she comes back from her walks... I think this may have something to do with bacon on the weekend...)

We got to Pearson and discovered our noon-time United flight had been postponed three hours. Well, indefinitely. Well, we might be able to rebook onto the next flight in three hours maybe. Instead of following the gate agent's instructions, I found us another United agent who instead put us and one lucky other guy onto an Air Canada flight at 3pm, and standby for an earlier flight. So the three of us trooped out of the ground-level prop-plane area to our waiting gate, and crossed our fingers, because 3pm was going to make it tight for us to get into the city and to our hotel and to Pippin. dan did his thing and got us from an unlikely standby to a much more likely standby flight- and lo, all three of us got lucky. And found ourselves on the ground at Laguardia just after 2pm. And we made it to our hotel in Hell's Kitchen, Midtown, in fine time.

At the end of this trip, I'm quite appreciative for the chance to run off and do things like this. We both really love Manhattan. We were idly talking about how great it would be to live there; perhaps when we both retire; perhaps for a short period on one of dan's sabbaticals. If this works, it will certainly involve a lot of planning- and being flexible, perhaps more so than with the flight rearrangements...

This was a full, but not overly full, trip.

We stayed in Hells Kitchen, the first time either of us had spent much time on the West Side. It was quite convenient to Broadway, our hotel was comfortable, and there were many good restaurants, including an eponymous Mexican restaurant "Hell's Kitchen" which had amazing fish.

Pippin was eye-poppingly neat. The acrobatics were the most awe-inspiring I've ever seen (see ^^ video). The first act is easily in my short list of favourite first acts of any musical. (Whatever that list is; I haven't given it serious thought except that the first act of "Sunday in the Park with George" is currently at the top. But I digress.) The story feels like it sort of unwinds in the second act. I hadn't seen the show before and wasn't prepared for a bit of storytelling where a certain amount of plot seems to be un-done in order to tell a completely different story in the second act- the story felt stapled together, and the main character AND the main actor started to grate on me a bit. I see from the wikipedia page that it could have been smoother in the second act. But the Leading Player/"Ringleader" character was wonderful throughout, including the very end where she offers Pippin a suitably glorious finale for his life aspirations. All in all, seeing this was my favourite part of the trip.

We had left Saturday mostly unscheduled, with an idea to get half-price tickets for an evening show, and a plan to see my Aunt who lives in Manhattan in the mid-afternoon. d. and I negotiated this one pretty well, also; I was going to see my Aunt while d. went downtown to buy us tickets. She accepted my sending his regrets about not seeing her, even though in advance she had said she would be very offended if he decided not to see her. Anyway, she and I got to visit, she got to show off her local Whole Foods and get me a mid-afternoon snack, and d. got to stay the hell away and do some clothes shopping downtown while ostensibly "on a line" getting us tickets at the TKTS booth.

But I get ahead of myself: In the morning we went to the Guggenheim. The main exhibit was by James Turrell, a Quaker artist and architect who works with light and shadow. In addition to designing a Quaker meeting house in Austin Texas, he's done other arts installations that have felt Quakerly to me, inviting contemplation and inner stillness. His big new work turned the seventy-five foot tall spiral atrium into ... Well, sort of the inside of a mood lamp, with gorgeous curves and subtle slow colour changes. Some 50 people laid back in the atrium looking upward at the colours. It felt meditative to me, even with the occasional conversation nearby. Though: it didn't feel like Quaker Meeting, not by a long shot. But it was at least as meditative as I could hope for in a crowd of New York tourists. I'm not sure what Frank Lloyd Wright would have thought about what they did to his atrium, but I'm grateful for the chance to see the exhibit.

There were also some great abstract art from the Guggenheim's collections, from between World War One and Two- including some great dadaist work, and some great Miró and Klee. These would have been a fine stand-alone reason to visit the museum.

And then we hit the Armory for "WS", a retelling of Snow White by Paul McCarthy. This, like the Turrell, was large-scale, covering the stadium-sized Armory (we once went to an art-sales show there, which took many hours to get through). Unlike the Turrell, it was loud, edgy, and quite profane, and I'm quite surprised they weren't sued by Walt Disney's estate. Every staff person we asked what they thought of it, said they couldn't wait for it to finish- which it was to do the day we saw it. In retrospect, I would have been fine if it had closed just before we were there.

After we met up after my Aunt, d. and I walked down to the High Line, the multi-mile linear park which used to be an elevated train-line. I wanted to like it, as a floating-park-in-midair. But there were too many people, too many rope barriers telling us what was off limits, and too few comfortable benches. All it needed was a roof and it would feel like the train- in the end I think it didn't escape far enough from that which it once was. I hope that it can gradually shift into something more than that, over the decades. Maybe a few exits into adjoining buildings? That would be spiff.

Dan's ticket find for the evening was "Phantom of the Opera", which neither of us had seen, though 20 years ago I listened to the CD quite a lot. Now in its 25th year, it was exactly like the CD, not a note different from what I remembered. And the music, instead of being a fond reminisce, sort of felt late-80s cheezy. Upsides? The costuming was great- particularly, I loved the spectacle of the masquerade ball. I guess it's good to finally see this; just as later this month I'm finally seeing Cats (in Toronto). I hope I like Cats more.

On Sunday, we walked to the Hudson River Park, just a few blocks from the hotel. Now this, this is how to redevelop an urban park. It was less manicured, more varied, and most importantly, not cramped. There was also free kayak instruction and consequently lots of people *in kayaks on the Hudson*. Which felt a bit weird to me, since I always considered the water there to be too dodgy to do anything with. For that matter, the ducks we saw next to the water looked a bit scruffy.

We did quite a lot of walking: after the Hudson park, across midtown to Central Park, lunch near Lincoln Center, and back down Broadway and down to 42nd street to see Kinky Boots. Which was great fun, and deserved their Tony wins. I might buy the album; it felt like a Cindy Lauper CD but in drag. (Which is possibly the same thing).

And then we retrieved our luggage and headed for Newark airport for our evening flight home. And we returned to Rover in our house, which was the best return ever.

Last nigh we saw "Proof" at kwlt - they did a really good job with a difficult play. Local Math fans (or foes) - go! http://www.kwlt.org/Proof.197.0.html

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPhone.

Hey- I've been sitting on some really cool news for the last ten days.

Law firm Kramer Levin has just filed a pair of amicus briefs on behalf of religious organizations.

The US Supreme Court will be hearing challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8 on March 26th (Prop 8) and March 28th (DOMA). The DOMA case being appealed is United States v. Windsor, in which a lesbian couple who married in Toronto, lived in New York (which recognized their marriage), and then had to pay $363,000+ in federal estate taxes when one spouse died in 2009. If they had been a heterosexual couple, they would have paid no estate taxes.

At the gathering of Friends for LGBTQ Concerns this month, in Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business, our group was asked if we might be added as friends of the court. We had received a letter from the law office just weeks earlier. A small group studied the draft filing (so amazingly well-written!) and recommended that we do add our name to the brief. Our Business Meeting then discerned this was part of our witness, and so we sent back our "yes" along with a few minor corrections- and additional URLs. ...And they cited our webpages! Our collection of Marriage Minutes are cited in a Supreme Court filing! The webpages which were put together by [livejournal.com profile] fyddlestyx and myself!
(Though I want to make clear that other Quaker bodies wrote these Minutes on the subject of same-sex marriage. We just collected and shared them.)

BRIEF OF AMICI CURIAE

BISHOPS OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH IN THE STATE OF
CALIFORNIA; MANHATTAN CONFERENCE OF
THE METROPOLITAN NEW YORK SYNOD OF THE
EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH IN AMERICA;
THE RABBINICAL ASSEMBLY; THE
RECONSTRUCTIONIST RABBINICAL
ASSOCIATION; RECONSTRUCTIONIST
RABBINICAL COLLEGE; RABBI AKIVA HERZFELD
OF SHAAREY TPHILOH; THE UNION FOR
REFORM JUDAISM; UNITARIAN UNIVERSALIST
ASSOCIATION; UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST; THE
UNITED SYNAGOGUE OF CONSERVATIVE
JUDAISM; AFFIRMATION; COVENANT NETWORK
OF PRESBYTERIANS; FRIENDS FOR LESBIAN,
GAY, BISEXUAL, TRANSGENDER, AND QUEER
CONCERNS
; METHODIST FEDERATION FOR
SOCIAL ACTION; MORE LIGHT PRESBYTERIANS;
PRESBYTERIAN WELCOME; RECONCILING
MINISTRIES NETWORK; RECONCILINGWORKS:
LUTHERANS FOR FULL PARTICIPATION; AND
RELIGIOUS INSTITUTE, INC. IN SUPPORT OF
AFFIRMANCE IN FAVOR OF RESPONDENTS

Any information about the brief was to remain private until after it was filed; it's been tough to sit on this without telling anyone. The anti-DOMA brief is so very well written! How great is this...

"It appears that what those other amici want is not protection for their own free speech and free exercise rights, but rather immunity from disapproval they may face by those who affirm the rights and relationships of lesbian and gay people."

"[The preceding] belies the claim of certain amici favoring reversal that American religions speak uniformly or overwhelmingly in opposition to marriage equality for same-sex couples. To the contrary, American religious thought and practice embrace a rich diversity. No one view speaks for “religion” – even if, contrary to the Establishment Clause, it were appropriate to give weight to religious views in evaluating and applying the Constitution’s secular promise of equal protection."

"Were the federal government to start recognizing the lawful civil marriages of same-sex couples– as it does interfaith marriages, interracial marriages, and re-marriages after divorce – religions that disapprove of such unions would remain free to define religious marriage however they wish. They could withhold spiritual blessing of such marriages and
indeed bar those entering into them from being congregants at all, just as they are now free to do so on grounds of faith, race, prior marital status, or any other characteristic deemed religiously significant. Amici urging reversal fail to explain how their religious practice would be burdened by the fact that
other people are afforded equal marriage rights by the state. For example, the brief of amici Liberty, Life
and Law Foundation and North Carolina Values Coalition scarcely even touches on the actual legal
consequences of recognizing the marriages of same-sex couples. Instead, it focuses on fears of having to
“endorse or facilitate” marriages of same-sex couples [...]"

And it keeps going.

---

It was a minor miracle of timing that the law office asked us to sign on just a few weeks before our gathering; and the deadline for our decision was three days after the gathering ended. A few weeks in either direction and we would have not been able to sign on as a friend of the court, since our group only meets twice a year.

And a final note: This law firm, Kramer Levin, has been a strong supporter of LGBT rights and cases for almost 20 years. [livejournal.com profile] melted_snowball pointed out to me that one of the three founders, Arthur Kramer, was a character in his brother Larry's autobiographical play, The Normal Heart. The two brothers had an enormous falling out in the mid 80s when Arthur Kramer would not lend his name to Larry's anti-AIDS activist group, Gay Men's Health Crisis, only offering personal support of his gay brother. Larry saw this as a cop-out; in the play, they remain estranged until Larry's death (though it seems that in real life they had some limited rapprochement).

And so this is a small part in a long story. And it keeps going.
Acting Up Stage Toronto had a recent run of "Caroline, or Change," written by Tony Kushner. The Globe and Mail gave it 4 stars and a number of blurbs said it's the best theater of the last year. Last year New York Magazine called it one of the "greatest musicals of all time", the only so chosen of the 21st century to appear on every panelists' short list.

So, hm. I wish I thought it was that good.

The story follows a young boy (modeled on Kushner) who lives in Lousiana in 1963. His Jewish family employs an African-American maid, Caroline. The title refers to all sorts of change: the coins in the boy's pocket (which cause drama as his step-mother decides Caroline should keep them rather than give them back to the boy), the political seismic shifts washing across the United States (including the Southern Freedom marches, the assassination of JFK, and the Vietnam War), the changes in social status of Caroline's high-school friend Rose, and against all of these, how Caroline feels the same as ever.

It is a powerful show; and there are notes of genius- the music is beautiful; the players are spot-on (except for one thing I'll note below); the magic of playing the Washing Machine, Radio, and Dryer as soul-singers is wonderful; and the Moon, played by a woman in a diva-like hat, occasionally gave me shivers.

In the end, the biggest problem I had was that it feels exactly like there's only one three-dimensional character, the boy Noah (who grows up to be the playwright). I think with a bit of tweaking to the book, this could be the amazing show for me that other people seemed to find it.

I think the ONLY fault in the production was sort of funny: a song about the moon talks about how her light shone, and the song rhymes shone with alone; but the Canadian pronunciation of "shone" is the same as the name "Shawn", and sure enough that's how it was sung. Um, yeah.

But anyway, it reminds me how difficult it is to change, especially when not changing has lots of comfortable attractions.
Friday evening, I popped down to Toronto for a cabaret/theatre/concert production of Spin by Evalyn Perry. I wasn't sure what to expect; I knew it involved spoken word, singing, and music played upon a bicycle. I was nudged into going by my friend John, who came all the way from Minneapolis for this show. I know Evalyn from Quaker circles; last summer, she was one of the evening plenary presenters at the 1,000-person FGC Gathering. She does a political/musical show that's bitingly clever and often requires more than one listen to pick up all the threads...

In retrospect, I wish this production was extended for another week, so I could nudged more people into going- this afternoon was the last performance (a matinee added at the last minute because it was selling out).

The themes were, broadly, the story of Annie Londonderry, the first woman to bicycle around the world at the very end of the 19th century; the joined history of bicycling and feminism; Evalyn's personal story of being a cyclist and artist; and notes on the City of Toronto's mixed appreciation for bicycles.

I *had* thought that the music-played-upon-a-physical-bicycle would be less effective than it was. Her co-performer, Brad Hart, used drum sticks, his hands, and parts of the bicycle, which was wired for amplification, and attached to a looping device. I spent maybe 5 minutes distractedly studying how it worked- they even tuned different spokes to different pitches- but then I could just let go and listen to the music he was making with Evalyn (and Anna Friz, who did on-stage mixing and singing).

Evalyn produced a CD of the songs in the concert; this morning I drove to Guelph, and I appreciated the irony of driving while listening to a CD all about bicycling.

The Globe and Mail gave it 3 out of 4 stars. And she has a cover article in the weekly Xtra paper, which is a good recap of the show, actually.

So- Thanks Evalyn! And thanks, John, for nudging me to come!
We heard The Shaw Festival was putting on The Women this year, so we re-rented the film last week. (The George Cukor/Clare Boothe Luce version, not the 2008 mess, of which no more will be said).

The story is of Mary Haines, a New York socialite in the late '30s, confident in her marriage, progressive about women's rights, and it turns out, a pretty awful judge of character. Her friends mostly are conniving busybodies, her husband's been cheating on her for months, and she has nobody to turn to but her mother, who tells her to sweep the affair under the rug. She instead takes her "friends'" advice, confront the Other Woman (played by Joan Crawford) and her husband. She ends up on a train to Reno, the only place to get a 6-week divorce, and are soon followed there by her friends, who have highs and lows of their own. Back in New York, two years later, the plot culminates in a big party with a cut-throat battle royale, and formerly naive Mary comes out wiser, and apparently the only one not spattered with mud.

On the one hand, it's a morality play, asking serious questions about whether women spend all their time cutting each other down, and whether modern society was all that modern after all. On the other hand it's a campy bitch-fest with some of the best one-liners of any film I've seen.

So, yes. Highly recommended. (We are possibly having a re-play party in early October; remind me if you're interested and I haven't mentioned it)...

---

On Sunday, we saw the Shaw Festival version. On the balance, it was well done, but it lacked the chemistry in the (all-star) movie. The sets were amazing (and the stage-pieces swooped around the stage, in and out of the light, in a very satisfying way) but I can conclude that I liked the movie better.

The accents were jarringly off- they occasionally managed "NYC flapper" but often the accents seemed out of place, which was disappointing.

One of the aspects that I thought I didn't like about the film actually turned out to be lacking in the stage-show: Mary's relationship with her pre-teen daughter, who is played in the film as fairly melodramatic or even mawkish. In the stage-show, she stands more on her own, isn't very hammy at all, but also doesn't have the intense connection with her mother that was so striking in the film, especially after Mary goes through with the divorce. Before seeing the stage-show, I would have said she over-played the character; afterward, I think she was an essential partner for the main character.

Both versions do a good job with Mary and her own mother, who is "pleased that she's finally needed again" to help Mary figure out how to cope. There are slight differences in pacing between the two, and the ending of the stage show is ambiguous, but both were fine in those respects.

The stage version was stylish, and the lines still had as much zing, but the actresses didn't have the stage-presence of the movie-stars, sadly enough. So this is one of the rare occasions when I was happier with the film than with the stage-show.

---

[livejournal.com profile] melted_snowball rented a batch of Pre-Hayes Code movies, (specfically: Forbidden Hollywood Volume 2). We watched one of the other Norma Shearer films, "A Free Soul". It had many "WTF?" moments, and it wasn't a "greatest of all time" film by any stretch, but it was fun, and one of the better early talkie movies I've seen. Apparently it was fairly scandalous for its time; showing an unmarried woman spending nights with her lover; part of the loose morals that the Hayes Code successfully censored for the following decades.
Just got in from a production of Arcadia, by Tom Stoppard.

If you're local, a recommendation to go see it tomorrow or Saturday.

To start with the minuses: it felt too long by 20 minutes. It was 3 hours with a 15-minute intermission. The first act dragged, and not from the material- the pacing felt like they were sloooowwwwiiing down. The players, wisely I think, didn't try to put on English accents, but I kept having to remind myself we were in 19th Century (or modern) Derbyshire, England. The closing 20 minutes included a piece of music with a soft-pop singer in it, which totally jarred me out of believing in the time-period.

The pluses: the play itself is really good. The plot is complicated, and quite talky. Broad brush-strokes: it covers entropy, the second law of thermodynamics, fractals, whole piles of classical poetry, free will, determinism, romanticism versus classicism, love, madness...

I'm glad I read the wikipedia page beforehand, because many classical references were well above my head (the name Arcadia, for example; Thomasina the 13-year-old genius understands her Latin; and shares a moment with her tutor that is completely lost by her mother; I think there's a theme of "what exactly is going on with the tutor" that gets a bit more play with more knowledge of the references.) I hope you'll forgive me not explaining the bulk of the plot- the wikipedia page does a good job, at least.

There was a lot of dry humour. The setting is elaborate, set in the country house of a lord (or his descendants). For most of the play, scenes alternate between the 19th and 20th century. It's centered on a huge desk, where peoples' effects stay put as the stage resets flips between "then" and "now". This choice is understated in the first act; and then in the second, it feels intentionally "sloppier": a character leaves his laptop; one person pours a glass of wine in the 19th century and it is drunk by another in the 20th. There is a boy, Gus, who is mute and is played by the same actor (in the same clothes) playing Augustus, the brother of Thomasina.

For the last few scenes action is mixed with both time-periods at the same time. By the second act you get a good feeling for the characters' personalities, and seeing them around the same table, arguing in counterpoint, works well.

The actors are fairly good, for the most part. I was impressed by the woman playing Thomasina. Overall they were fairly good, but not polished- the indignant cuckolded poet and his friend the Captain felt particularly weak to me, which is a shame, because if they had been stronger, their pathos would've played a stronger counterpoint to the dry wit.

It was well-attended, at least; though I think 2/3 of the audience were highschoolers. (I watched a group of six try and decide where to sit; they acted exactly like starlings flocking, circling, settling, then taking off again to another bunch of seats. They did that, like, 4 times.) Also, the girls who were cooing after Gus (during the show! every time he smiled!) were a bit much.

I will need to close here, as it's after midnight. I think some time I would like to see this done professionally. And, possibly to seek out more Tom Stoppard plays; I've only seen "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead". (And I've seen both "Brazil" and "Shakespeare in Love", though neither left me very favourably disposed).

Oh- and I think the way I wound up seeing it was neat; I ran into [livejournal.com profile] thingo, he invited me for tonight's show, I said I'd never heard of it, sounds great, then I discovered it was the night for the monthly Perl Mongers meeting. We were talking about it in IRC, and a small pile of folks said "actually, I'd go see that." So some of us did (and some of us bailed! Slackers! ...kidding). Go, go, coding poets!

Chicago: days 2-5

Wednesday, 9 December 2009 01:16 am
After my first 24 hours in Chicago...

Friday night, we were off to Steppenwolf Theatre to see American Buffalo, by David Mamet. I hadn't known anything about it, other than it being a classic, and it turned out to be a real treat. The seats were excellent (even though they were in the back row; it was a small theatre), and the play itself was disturbing and well done. "Disturbing" because it said much about friendship and "business" (read, shady dealings). The set made me smile- the stage was made to be a junk shop in a basement, with much of a real junk shop's worth of stuff cluttering the stage, with amazing lighting coming from "upstairs" or from florescent bulbs. Very intricate, as also were the story and the dialogue.

Saturday, we went for deep dish pizza at a nearby bar and didn't pay much attention to the (American) football on the tube, except when the guy next to us at the bar made a comment in our direction about a play. I burned my tongue on some marinara sauce.

We walked around Old Town, and we saw A Very Merry Unauthorized Children's Scientology Pageant. It was very merry, indeed. Fairly self-referentially funny (it started with a disclaimer about Scientology and Dianetics being copyright, etc etc.) The players were all kids, the set was very simple, and it was a 60-minute show. We agreed 60 minutes was a good length.

Then, to a Mexican restaurant, where our dinner was overshadowed by the blind-date a table over, where the guy really needed a hearing-aid, because we didn't need to hear him strike out.

Sunday: more touring around, including The Art Institute of Chicago, which has added a large wing since I was last there in 2006. High points for me: a temporary exhibit called "Light Me Black" - the floor was drywall punched with a lot of craters, and some hundred florescent tube lights were suspended in the middle of the room. Entering, we were told, "please watch your step and don't make more holes." It was remarkably stark, and I liked that. There was also a wonderful exhibit on Arts and Crafts in Britain and Chicago; not only Frank Lloyd Wright, but Stickley furniture, Tiffany glass, and photos by Alfred Stieglitz and others. I was amazed by two finds: a self-portrait by Edward Steichen, a bichromate gum photograph which appears as a painting- Steichen manipulated the print with brush-strokes to add both white and black shades. I stood there studying it for quite a while. ...And there was a neat piece by Marion Mahony Griffin, a line drawing of a Frank Lloyd Wright house which used space and light/dark in a stylistically Japanese way. I appreciated how the exhibit called out a number of associations between Arts and Crafts and design elements taken from Japanese forms in the mid-1800s- lots of connections I hadn't known of.

In the evening, we popped off to Alinea for the most decadent dinner I've ever had. Twelve courses )

So that's how I ended my Chicago trip; with a hangover, pulling my bags through a new layer of snow, back through the Red Line, Orange Line L, to Midway (a bit concerned about time; the train was slow; but then my plane was late arriving), back to Toronto Island, back to Royal York Hotel, where I sat and read for an hour because my late plane meant I missed the earlier bus back, then dragged myself up to the Greyhound station to catch the 3pm bus home, which got me in the door at 5:30.

Which, I'll note, was just exactly 24 hours after the caviar, champagne, and quail eggs.

This life, it is a good one.

Oh, finally: I think Porter was a good choice, but not a great choice. I didn't pay more for the plane ticket, the departures lounge in Toronto was wonderful; but on the way back, missing that bus meant I got home two hours after I'd hoped I would, turning a 7-hour travel day into 9-hour travel. *shrug* It was a good experiment, at least.
Precis summary: Go. See. Sunday in the Park with George at the Shaw Festival, playing through November 1.

d. said in his review that if you go on Sunday, it's $40 a ticket. Very worth it and the drive to get there, from here at least. (If you're in Colorado, possibly not...) d's seen it a bunch of times, sometimes well-done, sometimes not so well. But the Shaw did it justice. 

I had never seen this show; I've listened to d. singing from it, and playing the album from it, for as long as we've been together. 

The story is of George Saurat, whose most famous painting is hanging in Chicago's art gallery. I saw it in '06, and ya know what? I liked it.  A good portion of the first act takes place among the 'real people'  who Saurat is painting; and eventually we see them collected as characters within the painting.  The story of Saurat is somewhat fictionalized, as he was fairly unnoticed during his lifetime.  In this story he's got a girlfriend who leaves him for a baker, who comes to America, then in act two, her daughter is the grandmother of an artist working with video and light.

The songs, which I've heard many times over the years, become a lot less disconnected with the show to tie it together.  The pieces at the end of Act One, where things come together- are really worth seeing on stage.

The overall themes that spoke to me: from chaos, order; the march of time; the challenges of being an artist and living with an artist. But mostly: the joy and wonder of creation. 

The production was well done. The costuming was wonderful: mostly the florid 19th century France in act one. 

The set was properly realistic and also "cardboard cutout" where appropriate. (In act one, there were a pair of soldiers; one was an actor, and the other was an identical painted cutout. Which got played for laughs when they went on double-dates). The sound was fine: as d. mentioned, the players were un-miked, which was a joy.

Mostly I want to say, yeah, good show. And have those of you who haven't seen it, to be on the lookout for good productions of it where ever you are!


Toronto: William Finn

Tuesday, 23 June 2009 12:00 am
Just got back from Toronto, seeing Williiam Finn talk about his shows and listen to songs from Falsettos, A New Brain, Elegies: Song Cycle, and 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Makes me glad to be alive, hearing his work. As good show tunes will. ...Not at all fluffy, this show; nearly all the songs were ballads, sad ballads at that. Of the pieces I'd never heard before, I really liked two from Elegies, both which gave me a lump in my throat: "14 Dwight Ave." and "Infinite Joy", both sung by Barbara Barsky, who at the end thanked Mr. Finn for writing excellent songs for middle-aged women.

Thank you, Mr. Finn, for writing excellent songs.

I did say thank you to him, and he gave a very polite "thank you for coming." Just before a kid came up and begged for a photo, which he got.

And now, bed awaits, because tomorrow's a full day too.
We went to Toronto last night to see A New Brain, a musical put on by Acting Up Stage- which closes tonight. (Hey, there are still tickets! Go see it! I'm thinking of a few Toronto friends who would enjoy this- particularly [livejournal.com profile] metalana & [livejournal.com profile] amaryllis...)

Music and lyrics are by William Finn, who also wrote Falsettos and 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. It's mostly autobiographical; he wrote it after he had a brain aneurysm. Gordon Schwinn (not Finn) is a songwriter for a kids' TV show with a tyrannical frog for a boss (Mr. Bungee is the TV personality; he shows up in a number of scenes, via hallucinations and in Gordon's imagination. He's always in a frog suit.)

There are songs about calimari, sailboats, craniotomy, genetics, and horse-racing. There is an unsympathetic doctor who is very excited about his patients' diseases. Roger and his Jewish mother have a messy relationship; Roger and his seemingly upper-crust boyfriend have a complicated relationship that seems a bit sketched-out instead of properly developed.

The songs have made me chuckle ever since dan got the audio recording of the show a few years ago. But seeing them acted was a real treat- there is overall flow to the story when you see the players interact; and they do an excellent job constructing story-scenes from Gordon's memory.

My favourite example, I think, is all the medical professionals put on patient clothes, come out with walkers and saline drip poles, sing the beginning of the song about Roger's father- which segues into a horse-race, where the three walkers turn into the wall of a racetrack and the players are all super-slow-motion bettors at the track waving on the horses, as Roger sings about how his father lost their family fortunes but claimed it was worth it; sometimes joy is expensive. It really worked for me.

There were also great dance numbers on Gordon's Laws of Genetics ("why is the smart son always gay?") and a dream scene when he's convinced he's brain-dead and he'll never get to finish his best songs.

The overall tone is "madcap," which does fit the off-kilter medical emergency side of it. But there are places it doesn't quite flow properly (some parts with the boyfriend seem sketched, and the parts with a homeless woman who never seems to exactly have a place).

I'd give it 3 of 4 stars, where 2 stars is "go if you like musicals." (And I suppose 4 stars is "even go if you don't like musicals...")
Fun time in Toronto last night. And home by pumpkin hour, but just barely.

I think the reason Jerry Springer: The Opera ultimately fails is that the second half (in Hell) isn't so relevant to the world today. He really should have died and discovered nobody can see him except Baby Jane, and he needs to- I dunno, resolve the mess he left behind with the Ku Klux Klan, maybe?

Yeah.

The show was still a lot of fun, with [livejournal.com profile] melted_snowball and [livejournal.com profile] amarylliss, and the fact that we were in the very front row (1) and we know the show had a gunshot (2) was only slightly worrying. We were an arms-length from the "Jerry Audience," which was thankfully non-participatory.

(1) the tickets said row B. They used row A as a buffer-zone (and for floor-mics).

(2) dan's and my very first dinner-and-a-show together was at the tiny Kitchen Theatre. The show was called Hot and Throbbing and it was fairly dreadful. Mostly I remember two actors wrestling over a gun, which they fired, directly at the both of us, from about two paces. Glad we survived that one!...

weekend wrapup

Monday, 27 October 2008 01:55 pm
It was a good weekend.

Not too social, not to solitary.

I did some doing, did some thinking.

Plusses and minuses:

+ getting some human-interface issues thought out.
+ following a long chain of "what-if..." to come up with a good idea for an addition to software I use
+ making steps forward on a few non-work projects, with clear(er) next steps.
    -- ignoring one project for months
+ seeing 12 Angry Men with [livejournal.com profile] chezmax & [livejournal.com profile] the_infamous_j
    + great show
+ Art Walk- bought stained glass from [livejournal.com profile] quingawaga for the office
+ [livejournal.com profile] melted_snowball, just 'cause.
+ good Quaker Meeting. I spent some of the Meeting considering whether I'm still led to keep working on a project. The answer's "yes, but..."
- Public Library is closed until 1pm on Sundays. F, WT?
+ dim sum with [livejournal.com profile] bats22, [livejournal.com profile] melted_snowball, [livejournal.com profile] the_infamous_j & [livejournal.com profile] chezmax. 12 dishes was exactly right. (mmmm turnip-cake.)
+ [livejournal.com profile] bats22 as houseguest
+ afternoon watching [livejournal.com profile] melted_snowball & [livejournal.com profile] bats22 in the kitchen
    + apple pie
    + roast veggies and squash soup and excellent company
+ dog walk
    -/+ surprise hail?! Those were big pellets!
- wet hair on cold mornings
- waiting for MEC order to arrive
da: (blue)
Friday night, d. and I headed out to Drayton to see A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.

It was a fun show, and I was impressed at how well it's stood up. It was probably quite scandalous for its initial run in 1962: we've got under-dressed courtesans, a bawdy house, lots of double entendres, a dirty old man, a tender virgin couple, and... well, you get the picture.

The story was simple enough as a carrier for the wonderful physical comedy and musical numbers. The only character who felt any more than two-dimensional to me was Pseudolus the slave, who was also the narrator; he's a scoundrel who drives the plot, but has second thoughts near the end about whether he should stay a slave or go through with trying to become free. The players were fine- particularly the male leads, who all did a fair amount of slapstick. The female leads, perhaps by design, didn't have as much to do in the first half, though the female love interest, Phila, carries off the role of naive well. The second half has an extended scene where everyone is running in some direction, and given the cast of almost 20, it was fairly impressive. The musical numbers had an element of, "oh yeah, that's from this too:" "Comedy Tonight" (which for me is permanently tied to the Muppets), "Pretty Little Picture," "[Isn't She] Lovely", and "Everybody Ought To Have a Maid." (which had a wonderful double encore, adding an additional performer each time).

The set was clever: three fairly ho-hum Roman stucco houses, but for emphasis the columns lit from the inside, sometimes with chaser-lights, sometimes all three houses at once.

My only complaints? The horn-player in the orchestra seemed to distract me more than the horn should've. Maybe it was just too loud. And 20 minutes intermission is too long for a show that starts at 8, especially if they hold a raffle at the end of it. But no matter, it was a fun evening with d. We've seen one other show in Drayton, Man of La Mancha last year, which was also well done. The Drayton run ended yesterday but if you're up for a drive, they're playing at the Huron Country Playhouse through the end of the August.

Wow.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008 03:41 pm
da: (black)
The Pastor Phelps Project: a fundamentalist cabaret, opening in Toronto this Thursday, could not ask for better publicity.

They are being picketed by Westboro Baptist Church on opening night.

Awesome.

The text of their PDF, in case you don't want to hit their server:

Westboro Baptist Church
(WBC Chronicles- Since 1955)
St.Topeka, Kansas 66604 785-273-0325
GodHatesFags.com
Religious Opinion and Bible Commentary on Current Events
Friday, August 1, 2008
NEWS RELEASE

WBC will picket The Pastor Phelps Project
7p.m. to 8p.m. - Thursday, August 7
-at the Cameron House, 408 Queen St. W., Toronto, Canada.

In religious protest and warning: "Be not
deceived; God is not mocked." Gal.6:7.
God Hates Fags! & Fag-Enablers. Ergo,
God hates The Pastor Phelps Project, and
all those having anything to do with it.

The Pastor Phelps Project is a tacky bit of filthy
sodomite propaganda, with no literary merit
and zero redeeming social value, masquerading
as legitimate theater. It is of the fags, by the
fags, and for the fags- designed only to mock
the word of God and the servants of God. "He
that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord
shall have them in derision." Psa.2:4.

God Hates Canada-
Land of the Sodomites.


Um, like, yeah.
We just came back from seeing the musical Children of Eden put on by the Grebel Student Council.

I love the show; it was composed by Stephen Schwartz (who also did Wicked). It's loosely based on Genesis, with nuance and colour added to form a touching story of people disappointing their parents, falling in love with the wrong kind of people, doubting their roles in life, and so on. I think it makes wonderful overlays on top of those dusty allegories from that book.

We saw this when we lived in Boston, in an excellent production at Emerson College. And I've listened to the soundtrack a million times. This production, unfortunately, had a few problems. Biggest was tuning. I'm somewhat pitch-deaf and I was wincing a bit. There were some good moments, and with my mind's ear, I was also listening to the soundtrack version to make the harmonies work better.

I can't decide whether to recommend seeing this production; but if you like these songs, eh, give it a shot (also showing tomorrow and Saturday). :)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6GAJ7Gy8Els - Ain't it Good
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xEgm0pBweVs - Title Song
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gKS_jy5zVV4 - Generations
[livejournal.com profile] melted_snowball and I went to see multimedia theatre with [livejournal.com profile] chezmax & [livejournal.com profile] theinfamousj on Friday. It was simulcast in Peoria IL and Orlando FL, with different actors in each location interacting with each other via large projection screens.

The Globe and Mail reviewed it:

In a theatre in Orlando, Lewis Carroll's Alice steps into the legendary rabbit hole. Moments later, she steps out - in Waterloo, Ont. Minutes later, she somehow emerges again, this time in Peoria, Ill.

Welcome to one of the most ambitious, experimental theatre projects ever conceived - Alice (Experiments in Wonderland) - a multipoint telematic performance for children and adults.


The idea, updating Alice in Wonderland to the 21st century, was clever: there are three Alices, they use the Buddy System rather than jumping down a rabbit hole all alone; the Caterpillar (in two locations) is trying to quit smoking; Alice has Technowizard guides who give her cheat-codes to the story; and the Book of the story itself is a character, trying to stay relevant in a TV/computer world.

At times it felt like they added unnecessarily to the story: why did we have to see a triumphant final fight with the Jabberwock? It felt overblown and too heavy on flashing lights and dry ice (I've never started coughing from dry ice before; this could've been a hint to the writers/producers that they over did it!)

The Walrus and Carpenter (as a rap) was cute, or annoying, I couldn't decide. The acting felt slightly out of sync, due to the technical issues involved. I spent a bit of time thinking about whether I thought the simulcast aspect worked; I think if they could've eliminated the lag and occasional echoes, it would be a success; as it was, it felt semi-successful.

The costumes were great. (According to the Globe and Mail article, costume design was by Heather Henson, daughter of Jim Henson.) The Caterpillar was amazing- it looked big and menacing with just a bit of yellow circles of tubing and green tufts of fur.

England day two

Thursday, 27 December 2007 11:34 pm
I seem to have misplaced my last entry. Here are a few Boxing Day photos. (there are seven that were at the "crop and post" level, though I like a few of the photos I took quite a bit, I'll probably do more with them later). 

Yesterday's high points:

We saw Cabaret, which I think was more affecting live than film. I certainly came out depressed. It was a good show. 3.5/4 stars, we agreed. 

The National Gallery is wonderful.  Van Gogh's 'Sunflowers', a few Caravaggios, Reuben's 'Massacre of the Innocents' and a few other 'wow they have that too' moments. 

In the morning we went to the Tate, which was neat, but we only spent an hour and a bit. We left without seeing the featured exhibit, a retrospective on Turner Prize winners, which looked good but cost 11 pounds.  As d. put it, we have a lot of London to see that costs less than 11 quid. :)  Of things I saw, I was taken by  Shedboatshead which was a large shed, turned into a boat and filled with the rest of the shed, sailed down the Rhine a few miles, and rebuilt into a shed.  In the gift shop, I found a book by Banksy that I like quite a lot. He has a few things to say about surveillance.

And now we're off for the morning!

The Weekend

Tuesday, 9 October 2007 10:17 am
Working backwards through the weekend:

Yesterday was our Thanksgiving holiday dinner, and lo, it was good. This is the third year [livejournal.com profile] melted_snowball has hosted Thanksgiving at our house- it feels like a good tradition, y'know? And after six years living in Canada: putting a harvest festival at the end of the harvest feels more sensable than giving thanks at the end of November!

d. made two ducks, cornbread stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and kale.

[livejournal.com profile] chezmax and [livejournal.com profile] the_infamous_j brought j's sweet potatoes and an apple pie.

[livejournal.com profile] persephoneplace and [livejournal.com profile] bodhranman brought [livejournal.com profile] browntobydog, a side of turkey, and a nice bottle of wine.

I made a pumpkin cheesecake tart.

Among other conversation:

I'm happy to report that definitive answer has been given to the question, "What should I say when a telemarketer asks for the lady/missus of the house?" (In the past I've sometimes said, "I'm she," or "He's busy.") But [livejournal.com profile] the_infamous_j came up with, "She's busy humping my boyfriend's leg." Win!




Sunday: a low-key Quaker Meeting, then errands and lunch at City Cafe. I did some housework, what seems now like a huge amount of dishes, and made the tart. I also mucked around with an email database problem whose proper solution finally came to me this morning.




Saturday:

[livejournal.com profile] melted_snowball, [livejournal.com profile] the_infamous_j, and [livejournal.com profile] chezmax and I saw Man of La Mancha in Drayton. It was wonderful. I didn't know what to expect- I wasn't familiar with the musical. And all I knew about Drayton's stage was that it's a popular theatre in the middle of nowhere. There were many places for this train to fall off the tracks. And lo it turned out the train wasn't even slightly wobbly.

The theatre had a bit of small-town unfortunateness (raffle-tickets stapled into the program, not terribly well-informed ushers who were well less than half my age...) but the players put on a fine show. I suppose if I were more a musical snob I could find more fault, but really, I'm quite happy to be happy with it. I'm particularly pleased with how they balanced the mad world of Don Quixote with "reality" (the play-within-the-play) and abruptly cut back to the prison.

Our seats, I'd like to note, were in the third (or fourth) row, centre. And lots of the guys on stage were attractive. :)

And that's the weekend, more or less. The weather monkeyed with some of our plans, and it felt odd to have the A/C running- but when the air's this humid, and it's this close to 30c, there wasn't really a debate between [livejournal.com profile] melted_snowball and me about it. Hopefully, today it'll actually drop to normal temperatures as they've been predicting.

As [livejournal.com profile] melted_snowball is fond of saying, it's a good life.

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