Exactly As We Like It
Saturday, June 11, 2011
Today Rosemary and I went to the opening Bard on the Beach production of As You Like It
. It all happened in the brand new 742-seat Mainstage Theatre tent. The production directed by David Mackay featured a stellar cast and lots of swagger and swag. It seems that it was Shakespeare who first used swagger (to strut) in Midsummer’s Night Dream
around 1590. If anything I can see why swag (lots of free stuff) could be related to swagger. Bard on the Beach was boasting (and they have plenty of reason to do so) of a success that has taken years of effort and is now paying off.
We received a little package of Daniel Le Chocolat Belge, a bottle of Whistler Water, Kernels Popcorn, and a nice red blanket (to keep us warm in the evening’s brisk air) courtesy of Bard on the Beach. And if that was not enough there was a scrumptious catering by Emelle’s Catering and Whistler Brewing Company contributed with a potent apple cider.
Knowing that one of my favourite actresses (also a director) was Lois Anderson who played Rosalind, I knew I was going to enjoy the play. As You Like It
features one of the three best (the other two Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing
and Cleopatra from Antony and Cleopatra
) female parts in Shakespeare.
George Bernard Shaw (who was not exactly a Shakespeare fan) wrote:
The popularity of Rosalind is due to three main causes. First, she only speaks blank verse for a few minutes. Second she only wears a skirt for a few minutes (and the dismal effect of the change at the end to the wedding dress ought to convert the stupidest champion of petticoats to rational dress). Third, she makes love to the man instead of waiting for the man to make love to her – a piece of natural history which has kept Shakespeare’s heroines alive, whilst generations of properly governessed young ladies, taught to say “ No” three times at least, have miserably perished
Lois Anderson’s Rosalind did not disappoint and neither did Ryan Beil as Touchstone the clown. But for me the revelation was the deft comic touch of Lindsey Angell who plays Phoebe the shepherdess who falls for Lois Anderson’s mustachioed Ganymede. I thought Angell was terrific and I would like to see her soon as Kate in The Taming of the Shrew
(last seen at Bard in 2007). In fact I would like to see more of Angell whose comic delivery was only matched by Beil’s.
But there is another reason to enjoy Bard on the Beach. In some of these Shakespeare plays, because of their complexity, I often read what Harold Bloom might opine and explain in his Shakespeare – The Invention of the Human
before I go to the performance. In this case, with As You Like It
I read all about it, after the fact. I let the play unfold not knowing exactly what was going to happen and perhaps missing some of the meanings of what was said but depending on the acting to get the drift. I found this fun.
Like any good opera, Verdi’s Il Trovatore
, for example, where one waits for that high note in the tenor’s interpretation of Di quella pira (will iit be smooth?) in Shakespeare’s plays one waits for the famous lines. When Jaques (the melancholy traveler played by John Murphy, another Bard veteran with a comic touch) gave his own dramatic version of the Seven Ages of Man: All the world’s a stage,…
|Malcolm Parry & David Mackay|
I was again not disappointed. Nor was I disappointed to hear (is it a tradition?) that errant De Havilland Beaver flying overhead. The view of the water and the mountains behind the mainstage and that Beaver are what make our very own Bard on the Beach so special.
William B. Schieffer, A Nash Metropolitan & The Dave Brubeck Quartet
Friday, June 10, 2011
As a boarding student at St. Ed’s we tended to ignore the day rats as they had two definitive advantages. One was that they got to see women every day. The only woman on campus besides Mrs. Kinane (we avoided seeing her as that meant that we were in her office on our way to get some sermon from our principal Brother Peter Celestine) was a largish black cook who served us parboiled (and then lightly fried) steaks once a week or spooned gooey scrambled eggs made from Korean-vintage army surplus powdered eggs.
The other advantage is that they could own a car or be able to drive their family car.
There was one day student, William B. Schieffer who was difficult to ignore. For one thing he was not only in my class year but he also sat close to me in the reed section of the school band. I played the alto sax and he played the B flat clarinet. To make it worse he was a lot better than I was.
Schieffer was shy and quiet and didn’t seem to need to study to get somewhat decent grades. He drove a car.
The car he drove, I first noticed him driving it in 1959, was a two-toned tourquoise and white Nash Metropolitan. We did not know then that he may have been simply ahead of his time to drive what we considered to be the ugliest car in all creation. It looked like an overturned bathtub. I thought why would anyone would want to drive such a small car which was finless. My idea of a beautiful car was the gull-winged 1959 Chevrolet.
I was much too stupid to keep my thoughts of Schieffer’s car to myself. I asked him why he drove such a laughably ugly car. He looked at me seriously, wrestled me to the ground and told me, with his fist very close to my face, something like, “If you ever say anything bad about my Nash I will punch your face!”
From that point on I treated Schieffer with respect. But I did talk to him about my love for jazz. I told him I really liked Harry James and Herbie Mann. I remember that he smiled at me and advised me, “If I were you I would go to a concert this weekend at the University of Texas that features the best pianist in jazz today. His name is Dave Brubeck.”
I took his advice and found my life changed by the experience. Schieffer then suggested I buy the Dave Brubeck Quartet’s latest Time Out.
I did and I never looked back. I immediately bought Jazz Impressions of Eurasia
, Jazz Red Hot and Cool
(the one with the snazzy Richard Avedon cover) and Gone With the Wind
. To this day these are some of my most favourite. The records are almost unplayable so I have more modern CD recordings of them.
For years I have felt a deep appreciation for William Schieffer’s advice and direction. I have often tried to find him but the man seemed to have left no trace.
Most of my Texan classmates at Austin stayed in Texas. Few left so I kept searching for Schieffer in the the free white pages on line. A couple of years ago I found a Willam B. Schieffer living in San Marcos, Texas. But the number had been disconnected. I searched the San Marcos newspapers and found that a Schieffer family had been inside a house that had burned to the ground. A William B. Schieffer had survived. And after that nothing.
In this year’s all classes reunion at St. Ed’s (a couple of weeks ago) I was chatting with day student (class of 1962, one year behind me) called Bill Kunz. I asked him, “Do you remember a William B. Schieffer, the one who drove a Nash Metropolitan?” His answer, “He’s my cousin,” floored me.
Kunz explained that Schieffer had always been odd and that he had indeed been involved in a house fire. But Kunz did not give me any further details except to tell me that his cousin was in a nursing home.
Kunz gave me the address and I will write and thank Schieffer for all he did for me. I might be lucky to receive and answer. But that is not important.
On Wednesday afternoon I happened to turn on my TV to the Turner Classics Channel and saw (odd as I didn’t know that TCM ever showed documentaries) that was all about Dave Brubeck with a luxury of detail and archival stuff that was stupendous, including some great piano playing by one of Brubeck’s idols, Duke Ellington. The documentary was produced and directed by Clint Eastwood. I watched and felt a satisfaction of remembering where my love for jazz, Dave Brubeck, and Paul Desmond had come from. It began with that funny man who drove the ugliest car in the world, a Nash Metropolitan.
Sometime around 1971 I was teaching in an American high school in Mexico City. I had a kid who never stopped rapping his fingers on his desk. One day, when I could not take it any longer I said, “You can rap on the desk as long as you do it in 5/4’s time.” The kid answered, “There’s not such thing.” I replied, “listen to the Dave Brubeck Quartet play Take Five
.” A couple of days later the triumphant kid was rapping in 5/4. I told him, “Now try 11/8.” I do believe that the kid ended appreciating the Dave Brubeck Quartet as much as I did.
Mom's The Word: Remixed
Thursday, June 09, 2011
Back in April my wife Rosemary and I attended a Tarragon Theatre production at the Revue Stage (Arts Club Theatre on Granville Island) of Another Home Invasion
. The play was brutally realistic and it was very close to what may be in store for my Rosemary and I in the next few years as we both push 70. At one point my wife whispered in my ear, "Do we need this right now in our life?”
It seems that the folks of the Arts Club Theatre want to lure us into comfortable seats and then lambast us with stuff that makes us unsettled. I am not complaining as theatre and most art should challenge.
You might have thought that a semi musical, Mom's the Word: Remixed
featuring 5 women who play mothers and wives and is supposed to be funny (and it is) would be a comfortable play to experience. It wasn’t!
This time around Rosemary and I suffered being reminded what it was to have children and raise them. And the reminder hit home as our daughter Hilary is coping with a 9 year-old daughter who is stubborn and with a 13 year-old going on 16 who is ample proof that history’s dark ages are manifested in small ways by teenagers at the brick wall that age 13 seems to be.
But all in all the play moved right along. The play included a figurative childbirth virtuoso performance by Jill Daum. We laughed lots with five very good actresses (Jill Daum, one of five would correct me and tell me, “We are actors.”). The other “actors” are Beverley Elliot, Alison Kelly, Barbara Pollard and Deborah Williams who scared the hell out of me as she reminded me of my boot camp corporal in the Argentine Navy.
As I consider if I should buy a couple of tickets and send our daughter and our older granddaughter I also think about the fact that I met Jill Daum sometime in 1978 and that she has come a long way since she posed for me on her red sofa. I have no idea what she did with her life after but I do know that since Mom’s the Word 2: Unhinged
premiered in 2005, Jill Daum has cooked 4,380 meals, washed 2,920 loads of laundry, spent 832 hours in the car going to and from soccer, forked out $8,000 on math tutors, walked 2,170 kilometers exercising the dog, picked up 1,664 dog poohs, screwed up 15 times really badly, and is grateful for all 1,460 days.
Mom's the Word: Remixed
, written by The Mom's the Word Collective, features original direction by Wayne Harrison and runs at the Revue Stage on Granville Island until July 23.
Warning! Nudity and foul language (really!).
Then Mashes It To Death
Wednesday, June 08, 2011
She sights a Bird – she chuckles –
She flattens – then she crawls –
She runs without the look of feet –
Her eyes increase to Balls –
Her Jaws stir – twitching – hungry –
Her Teeth can hardly stand –
She leaps, but Robin leaped the first –
Ah, Pussy, of the Sand,
The Hopes so juicy ripening –
You almost bathed your Tongue –
When Bliss disclosed a hundred Toes –
And fled with every one –
The Whole of it came not at once -
'Twas Murder by degrees -
A Thrust—and then for Life a chance -
The Bliss to cauterize –
The Cat reprieves the Mouse
She eases from her teeth
Just long enough for Hope to tease –
Then mashes it to death -
'Tis Life's award - to die -
Contenteder if once -
Than dying half - then rallying
For consciouser Eclipse -
There's A Certain Slant Of Light
Tuesday, June 07, 2011
There’s a certain Slant of light,
Winter Afternoons –
That oppresses, like the Heft
Of Cathedral Tunes –
Heavenly Hurt, it gives us –
We can find no scar,
But internal difference –
Where Meanings, are –
None may teach it – Any –
‘Tis the Seal Despair –
An Imperial affliction
Sent us of the Air –
When it comes, the Landscape listens –
Shadows – hold their breath –
When it goes, ‘tis like the Distance
On the look of Death -
A Charm Invests Her Face
And Zero At The Bone
Tell The Truth But Tell It Slant
Monday, June 06, 2011
Tell the truth but tell it slant –
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth’s superb surprise
As Lightning to our Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind –
A Charm Invests Her Face
A Garden & A Human Lifespan
Sunday, June 05, 2011
|Rhodendron 'Unique' |
Our 25 year-old garden has been a source of longstanding pleasure. They say that students learn in spite of their teachers. I would add that gardens survive in spite of gardeners.
After 25 years young trees planted in what seems only yesterday are large and some of them cast too much shade or grow close to other trees in competition.
After 25 years of collecting hostas and other plants I no longer get upset when some leave me without saying goodbye. It would seem that age not only affects people but plants, too and some have shorter life spans or simply are not good garden plants.
Some of my hostas have been done in by some plants that we have introduced to our garden as ground covers. It has taken some years not to get rid of Lamium which is invasive. Now we have discovered that Oxalis (which includes shamrocks and clovers) is a beautiful ground cover thug that encircles my hostas and strangles them until they begin to revert to their juvenile stages. If I do not remove the oxalis the hostas will get smaller and smaller and then disappear.
But I don’t get upset and I am no longer obsessed with knowing the name of every plant. The metal plant labels rust or disappear when we clean up the beds or rake them. Our garden (as it is Rosemary’s too) has ceased to be a botanical museum and it has become our life’s work for better or for worse.
It was only a couple of days ago that I spied Rosemary sitting on one of our garden benches sipping coffee with her big cat Casi-Casi by her side. This was an amazing sight as it marked one of the few times that I have noticed that Rosemary is relaxed in the garden and not worrying about how bad this bed looks or if that tree is going to die of disease.
The garden is now part of ourselves and as we get our aches and pains and find ourselves taking more pills from our breakfast tray we understand that the garden in its own way has matured and is showing its age. We are more understanding of it in the same way we compensate when we walk up the stairs or find ourselves turning off the light some evenings at 10.
A garden, like a lifespan, is not something you look back on and dwell on the mistakes and the would-have-beens. We accept what we did with or lives and we accept that the garden is what we have made it to be.
It is much too late to plant a young tree or to rip out the mature hybrid rhododendrons that came with the garden. I am jealous of our friend Pamela Frost who in the early 70s grew rhodos from seed that are now mature. Her mature rhodos are species rhododendrons that feature beautiful leaves and fragrant flowers. We have to tolerate and accept the lurid red and pink rhodos with flowers that have no scent that were in the garden that we adopted in 1986. It is much too late now but that does not mean that we cannot love the garden as it is. We have no regrets and I can still assert that Rhododendron ‘Unique’ seen here is just fine even if the scent is not there.