Bard's Macbeth, A Damn Good Fight
Saturday, June 16, 2012
On Saturday night my wife Rosemary and I attended the opening of Bard on the Beach’s Macbeth
directed by Miles Porter.
Alas I do not have any pictures of anybody in the cast that I could use for an appropriate blog on the performance which was as good as Shakespeare can be when the production is a Bard on the Beach production. I have pictures of Bernard Cuffling, as an angel from the Arts Club’s production of It’s a Wonderful Life
. But Duncan (played most efficiently by Cuffling is not a part I could write about at length. Neither could I write much about Shawn Macdonald (I photographed him some years ago) who plays Menteith. I do not the skill beyond that of a steady blogger to write at length about a nobleman of Scotland.
Now most everybody knows that one of the premier (and living) British actors who has excelled either as an actor or as a director is Kenneth Branagh. He came some years ago to Vancouver to push his long version of his film (he directed it and also played Hamlet) Hamlet.
I remember that I wanted to photograph him as Hamlet holding a dagger. Branagh’s publicist (even then publicists were existence to prevent access to those they represented) prohibited me from bringing a bodkin to use as a prop. “Mr. Branagh is here to promote his film not to pose as your hamlet.” I brought along Bard on the Beach’s Artistic Director Christopher Gaze so that he could meet one of his idols. I had access because I represented the Georgia Straight
. And in those days many directors and principal actors came to Vancouver to promote their films. That situation has changed with the internet and I would go as far as saying that the 21st century is the century where “access is denied”.
The publicist told us that Branagh was a busy man and did not have any spare time to meet anybody. Gaze waited in the wings as I photographed Branagh. I pulled the bodkin from my camera bag and pointed in the direction of the outside room where the publicist and I gesticulated that the man had said no with my thumb down. Branagh smiled. He had caught on. He reached for the bodkin and I got my picture.
So here you have Branagh as Hamlet. Would he make a perfect Macbeth? In a recent interview (May 8) to journalist Sean Gillane:
Branagh may be headed towards more commercially ignited films, but he did admit that he has his eye on another of Shakespeare’s plays. Due to the superstitions connected with uttering “Macbeth” in a theater and the event taking place in the Castro Theater, the director explained the best he could, “I would like to make some more Shakespeare films. The film that I would like to make next has a title that I cannot mention in this building. But it’s a play by Shakespeare about a Scottish king.” Hopefully the director’s caution will pay off.
Another picture is indeed that of a Macbeth but it is an operatic one. American baritone, Greer Grimsley came to Vancouver in 2009 to play Macbeth in Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Macbeth
The third man, at the top, also looking like a perfect Macbeth is not an actor. He is Nicholas Harrison whom I photographed in my living room.
Nicholas Harrison is a popular and most effective Fight Director and is indeed the Fight Director in all of Bard’s plays this year. Besides Macbeth
he is credited for The Taming of the Shrew
, King John
and The Merry Wives of Windsor
You might wonder what Harrison would choreograph (fight directors do just that) in a play like The Taming of the Shrew. In fact there are a lot of fisticuffs, of the domestic kind in that play!
What do these three pictures have in common besides the fact that they all look like Macbeths?
All three are holding weapons from Harrison’s collection. He is a Fight Director but an avid collector of weapons that cut. I would guess (I will have to ask him) if he has spears, bows and arrows, maces, clubs and early flintlocks.
Any who might be reading this might not know that in a theatrical run the director, by contract must be present at the opening of a play. And even curioser is that for safety precautions, all fights must be rehearsed before every performance of the run of the play. This would ensure that Mr. Harrison’s job is not only a good one but a steady one, too!
Una Rosa Y Milton
Friday, June 15, 2012
|Rosa 'L.D. Braithwaite' |
Una Rosa y Milton
Jorge Luís Borges
De las generaciones de las rosas
que en el fondo del tiempo se han perdido
quiero que una se salve del olvido,
una sin marca o signo entre las cosas
que fueron. El destino me depara
este don de nombrar por vez primera
esa flor silenciosa, la postrera
rosa que Milton acercó a su cara,
sin verla. Oh tú bermeja o amarilla
o blanca rosa de un jardín borrado,
deja mágicamente tu pasado
inmemorial y en este verso brilla,
oro, sangre o marfil o tenebrosa
como en sus manos, invisible rosa.
A Rose and Milton
By Jorge Luis Borges
Translated by A.Z. Foreman
Amid the generations of the rose
That in the deep of ages lie long gone
I want one to be spared oblivion,
Unmarked and undistinguished among those
Bygone. I am bequeathed by destiny
The privilege of bestowing the first name
Upon that silent rose, the last and same
Flower that Milton held and could not see
Before his face. O Rutilant or white
Or yellow rose from gardens long erased,
Your immemorial past, by magic placed
In the one present, is this verse's light:
Gold, ivory, or blood, the shades enclose
You, as his fingers once, invisible rose.
Roofers & Printers Shared A Penchant For Drink
Thursday, June 14, 2012
|Lauren with President's Choice No-Name |
800 ISO colour negative film
Nikon FM-2 35mm F-2 lens
Before of the advent into digital cameras, scanners and other modern techniques for the reproduction of 3D reality onto a photograph or a magazine/newspaper page, photographers with just enough bit of pride used transparency (slide film). This was the case for good magazine (and books, too) that reproduced colour photographs onto their pages.
There was one reason why these good magazines and their then very powerful art directors or design directors (they have lost their power to the now ubiquitous photo editor) demanded that photographers shoot film. The photographer’s slide (with all the inherent problems then of colour casting because of mixed lighting or tonal shifts if the film had been purchased in tropical countries or the film was not professional film and thus film that may have languished on a shelf beyond its shelf life) represented an original. This original, give or take, was the photographer’s vision. This vision had to be translated on to a page by the art director (a benign and or kind art director one did little tweaking or cropping) by the printers. They liked to have the original as a master reference. More often than not the magazine printers would then to botch it, reproducing the picture too light, too dark, out of registration or with off colours. In those days we would often state that roofers and printers shared a penchant for drink.
Now with the digital image of a digital camera we have:
The photographer’s vision on the back of the camera may not coincide with the photographers’ vision on the monitor. Let us say that the photographer somehow matches this to what is thought to be the original of memory. This is sent via email to the art director’s computer. That computer would be calibrated (if at all) to different specifications of colour and brightness, not to mention the more esoteric use of a different colour system (there are many such as Adobe RBG, etc). Once this image is tweaked by the art director (and more tweaking is now available to the art director than ever before) the image is sent to the printer by email. And the whole process begins again. Where is the original?
|Corel's Early Colour Process setting|
A second reason why some of us (I include myself here) used slide film is that this film stock had poor latitude. You had to be accurate with exposure. Some of us (and I include myself here) took pride in taking photographs that were not guessed at by a non-sentient automatic camera. We chose our exposures using a good light and or flash meter.
Once scanners came into use, it was no longer necessary to have an original slide. The art director could retain the sharpness of the photographer’s original without having to resort to the often lack of sharpness of the internegative (a negative that allowed labs to make colour prints from slides). Before scanners and digital files, colour photographs had to be colour separated into a process that involved a physical thing (called colour seps). Now that digital image does not ever have to be seen on anything, except that monitor, and only becomes a “solid” presence if the magazine in question is that of the staples-in-the-middle kind.
I began to waver on my insistence and pride of shooting slide when I noticed that New York City’s MOMA had colour prints on the wall made from colour negatives. I began to waver yet again when I read that photographer of the National Geographic
who went to very difficult areas (the arctic or Mount Everest) knowing they could not return for a re-shoot, used colour negative film.
|Corel's albumen print effect|
And now few of my fellow, but younger, photographers, would understand the difference between negative film and slide film. Few would understand that until the advent of good scanners, photographers who shot b+w film usually printed their negatives or relied on trusted labs to interpret their vision. The scanner did away with that pronto. In fact a good b+w negative when scanned will show better shadow detail on a well printed magazine than that ultimate print done with time and effort by a good printer in a traditional darkroom.
The paradox (and to me a tragedy) is that never have prints from photographs (be they digital of film) ever been as excellent as now and yet so few of those photographs taken, ever see the light of day except on a computer monitor.
Now that I have let my rule of only using colour slide, slide a bit, I can report here that there is something to be said for colour negative film (and particularly in the this age of film-less cameras) and some of its capabilities of which I had not inkling of.
I recently took some pictures using a roll of 1600 ISO Fuji Superia. It is amazing in detail, reduced grain structure and the ability to make my Nikon FM -2 cameras a delight to use in little light. I am hooked.
On the opposite end of the spectrum (absolute lack of quality) is President’s Choice No-Name 800 ISO negative film (formerly manufactured by Fuji). The pictures you see here is from my last roll (none to be found anywhere, alas!) are from that film. It has a colour reproduction that if not carefully monitored (and I am not careful on purpose) by accurate scanning, the colour reproduction resembles badly restored Technicolor. I love it!
Since not all the pictures here are in colour I will explain that I have, of late, been using Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo X2’s Time Machine setting in its Photo Effects. What you see are the sepia albumen print setting and the early colour photo process (an imitation of the Autochrome). I am very happy and I plan to shoot a lot more colour negative film.
|Corel albumen print setting|
|Corel albumen print setting|
|President's Choice No-Name film|
|Corel Paint Shop Pro X2 Early Colour setting|
|Corel Paint Shop Pro X2 albumen print setting|
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
|Lauren Elizabeth Stewart|
straight scanned Fuji Instant print
In years past the process from taking a picture to seeing the results went through lengthy steps. If I shot b+w film I would process the roll, wash it (to make it archival) and then wait for it to dry. Forced drying with a hair dryer, sometimes helped to embed dust into the negative. Patience was best. Then I had to mix chemicals and clean up the darkroom of all dust. I would turn off the lights and the excitement would begin. I would turn on the lights and looking at a wet photograph in my hands was and is still is a thrill.
|Fuji Instant Print converted to Autochrome via Corel Paint Shop Pro X2|
But the digital age has modified my life a tad even though I still shoot film. In the examples you see here it involves one Fuji Instant Colour Film print and its corresponding negative peel. Unlike the real Polaroids (pack film Polaroid film is no longer made) these Fuji peels fade quickly. It is best that I place them on my scanner while they are still sticky wet. The image on the peel can barely be seen but with the wonders of a good scanner and a middle-of-the road approach to the highlight/shadows Photoshop tool the information can be pulled out. What you get is random.
|Fuji Instant Print negative/peel|
In the last few months I have been working with an effect in my Corel Paint Shop Pro X2 called Time Machine. With a bit of control and one click I can convert my pictures into looking like Daguerreotypes. albumen prints, cyanotypes, platinum prints and something quite exciting called Early Colour which converts pictures (they have to be in colour first) into a close facsimile of Lumière autochromes a French process from the turn of the 20th century.
|Fuji Instant Film peel scanned with corrections|
In order to maximize the effect I must manipulate my original scans to fit the constraints of the effects.
These pictures of my 9-year-old granddaughter Lauren were inspired by her dance, Niña Frida, choreographed by her teacher Claudia Segovia at the Arts Umbrella. I used Lauren's dance costume and sat her on the credenza in our dining room. At the end of the session (with one frame left in my camera's Ektachrome) I ran into the kitchen and brought a dry erase marker and fashioned a sort of mustache and joined Lauren's eyebrows!
|The previous scan, cropped and then modified by Corel Paint Shop Pro X2 |
Time Machine on the albumen print setting
|Mamiya RB-67 Pro-SD 140mm lens|
A Solitude of Solitudes
Tuesday, June 12, 2012
|English Rose Rosa 'Abraham Darby' |
As we retreat into the wasteland that is social media I increasingly feel isolated and enajenado
(that fine word in Spanish for alienated). Most of my friends have either died, disappeared, eschewed both the long distance feeling, and the short one, or simply cranked up the drawbridge. This gloomy state of affairs in my life has made me brood over such apparently meaningless things like the difference in flavour between words used in the singular and in the plural.
Having lived within Filipino communities in Argentina, Mexico and Vancouver I know of the problems involved in this singular/plural thing. Filipinos of a certain age, and particularly those of the patrician kind, speak a beautiful archaic Spanish, Tagalog and an English that is on its way to become a language all of its own. Young Filipinos who do not understand Spanish but speak fluent Tagalog or perhaps Visayo and even Pampango, share with the patricians the Filipino penchant for a delightful mangling of the English language. My favourite is, “Alex you have nice furnitures in your house.” Because in Spanish furniture is usually translated into a plural Spanish form, muebles
, these Filipinos back track us with furnitures. It may sound funny to some but is makes sense to me. What makes less sense is that my 14 year-old granddaughter, when aged 4, named one of her stuffed animals Furniture. Obviously the Filipino connection that came to us via my Manila-born mother, Filomena, has dissipated and left no trace.
This brings me to the heart of today’s blog which is the obvious difference (to me at least if I stubbornly stick to my humpties) between solitude and solitudes.
My first awareness of its existence (solitude, that is) came sometime in the middle of a frigid and damp Buenos Aires winter in 1966 when my girlfriend Susana called me to tell me to never see or talk to her again. I fell into a lapse of extreme melancholy which I exacerbated with repeated listening of Miles Davis’s Sketches of Spain
with a persistence insistence in a cut called Solea
. It is only of late that I have noted the only flaw in that perfect recipe for instant melancholy. That is, that solea is missing an accent. The proper Andaluzan word is soleá
which probably (my guess) is a garbling of letters from the beautiful word for solitude in Spanish soledad
My Spanish Wikipedia defines a soleá:
La soleá es una combinación métrica propia de la lírica popular andaluza, compuesta por tres versos de arte menor octosílabos con asonancia en el primer y el tercer verso y sin rima de ninguna especie el segundo (8a, 8-, 8a). Se la conoce también con el nombre de "terceto gallego" o "terceto celta". Entendida como composición poética, suele versar sobre el tema de la soledad y el desengaño.
I will not attempt to translate that but will place here the more compact and efficient definition from my on-line Spanish dictionary the RAE (Real Academia Española) which states that:
4. f. Tonada andaluza de carácter melancólico, en compás de tres por ocho.
Or an Andaluzan tune of melancholic character in a three by eight time signature.
Repeated listening of Miles Davis in Solea (composed and arranged for an orchestra directed by Gil Evens) seemed to make my melancholy dip into a state that only now I can identify and define as an example of solitudes. The exquisite pleasure of something so beautiful, that I could not possibly share with anybody, made that melancholy sweeter in the pain that I felt.
All this came to me today when I cut a very large bloom of the very English Rose Rosa
‘Abraham Darby’. Its scent is a fruity distillation that I cannot describe except that its complexity somehow lingers from year to year in my memory and I am able to anticipate it as I bring the rose to my nose. It was at this point that I was overcome with a terrible sense of being alone because I could not share the moment. My wife rarely reacts to scent and my eldest granddaughter has yet to call me (they will soon be in irreversible decline) to help her prune and fertilize her own roses. It would seem she has lost interest. If the roses do die (and what a tragedy this would be) it might serve as a lesson. Perhaps not.
|Lauren Elizabeth Stewart age 9|
Here is a list (most incomplete) of my solitudes:
1. I am reading Andrea Camilleri’s The Potter’s Field.
2. I just finished Arturo Perez-Reverte’s latest Capitán Alatriste El Puente de los Asesinos
3. I watched Les Girls
4. My hostas have grown many inches per night and are pristine. It was about now that my friend (he passed away a couple of years ago) Donald Hodgson would call and ask, “How are your hostas? Isn’t it incredible how fresh and perfect they look at the end of May and early June? There is no better time in the garden.”
5. The once blooming Gallica Roses are about to bloom. Every day I can spot and almost opening here and there. What is Cardinal Richelieu going to do this year? Will he be as deep purple as last year?
6. Rosemary’s cat, Casi-Casi is impervious to everything. He is our living walking Sphinx. Will anybody listen to me with interest?
7. Plata, my female cat, hops on the tub and demands I cup some water (before I use soap or shampoo) and to put it on the tub’s lip. She drinks this. It keeps her coat smooth with no trace of the kidney problem she must have at her age, 16.
8. I take a photograph; one I think is one of the best I have ever taken (the one here of Lauren), just a few days ago. I know it is good because I have seen enough photographs to ascertain that. And yet I know that if I post it in that social media network someone might click on an “I like”or, if adventurous, that someone might type out “nice pic”.
9. In last Sunday’s NY Times Sunday Review
in Thomas L. Friedman’s column Facebook Meets Brick
To be sure Facebook, Twitter and blogging are truly revolutionary tools of communication and expression that have brought so many new and compelling voices to light. At their best, they’re changing the nature of political communication and news. But, at their worst, they can become addictive substitutes for real action. How often have you heard lately: “Oh, I tweeted about that.” Or, “I posted that on my Facebook page.” Really? In most cases, that is about as impactful as firing a mortar into the Milky Way galaxy. Unless you get out of Facebook into someone’s face, you really have not acted
[Friedman’s italics]. And as Syria’s vicious regime is also reminding us: “bang-bang” beats “tweet-tweet” every day of the week.
Brilliant turns of phrase, lovely scents, wonderful books. They are all solitudes.
Miles Davis's Solea
Havisham - Give Me A Male Corpse
Monday, June 11, 2012
Mean Time (1998)
Carol Ann Duffy
Beloved sweetheart bastard. Not a day since then
I haven’t wished him dead. Prayed for it
so hard I’ve dark green pebbles for eyes,
ropes on the back of my hands I could strangle with.
Spinster. I stink and remember. Whole days
in bed cawing Nooooo at the wall; the dress
yellowing, trembling if I open the wardrobe;
the slewed mirror, full-length, her, myself, who did this
to me? Puce curses that are sounds not words.
Some nights better, the lost body over me,
my fluent tongue in its mouth in its ear
then down till I suddenly bite awake. Love’s
hate behind a white veil; a red balloon bursting
in my face. Bang. I stabbed at a wedding-cake.
Give me a male corpse for a long slow honeymoon.
Don’t think it’s only the heart that b-b-b-breaks.
That Hussy Fair Bianca & Beethoven Condensed
Sunday, June 10, 2012
You lie, in faith; for you are call'd plain Kate,
And bonny Kate and sometimes Kate the curst;
But Kate, the prettiest Kate in Christendom
Kate of Kate Hall, my super-dainty Kate,
For dainties are all Kates, and therefore, Kate,
Take this of me, Kate of my consolation;
Hearing thy mildness praised in every town,
Thy virtues spoke of, and thy beauty sounded,
Yet not so deeply as to thee belongs,
Myself am moved to woo thee for my wife.
What, would you make me mad? Am not I Christopher
Sly, old Sly's son of Burtonheath, by birth a
pedlar, by education a cardmaker, by transmutation a
bear-herd, and now by present profession a tinker?
Ask Marian Hacket, the fat ale-wife of Wincot, if
she know me not: if she say I am not fourteen pence
on the score for sheer ale, score me up for the
lyingest knave in Christendom. What! I am not
|Christopher Gaze - Richard III|
Christopher Sly - The Taming of the Shrew
The Taming of the Shrew
begins with a two-scene "Induction" or introductory segment, which concerns an elaborate practical joke played by a nobleman on a drunken tinker. At the end of the Induction, the various characters settle down to watch a play. In the Bard on the Beach production directed by Meg Roe, she has eliminated this problematic introduction and gone straight to the meat of the play.
My daughter Hilary and I attended last Thursday’s of William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. I took my daughter instead of my wife (a most gracious, well-mannered and giving wife) because Hilary (a most gracious, well-mannered and giving wife and mother) was suffering the ill-effects of handling a budding 14-year-old Katharina Minola-type named Rebecca. My Rosemary had suggested that I take Hilary to cheer her up.
Rosemary’s suggestion paid off. We laughed a lot. This Taming of the Shrew is far better in laughs than any Three Stooges of my memory. But somewhere, by the end, the laughs get serious and both Lois Anderson (Kate) and John Murphy (Petruchio) transform the comedy into a sobering essay on life.
I am a fan of Harold Bloom’s Shakespeare – The Invention of the Human
and there is no Bard on the Beach play that I am not accompanied by this thick tome on Shakespeare. Because of the special circumstances of my former photo-journalistic profession I can reveal here that Bard on the Beach Artistic Director, Christopher Gaze has Bloom’s Invention
on his bedside table.
Of the wonderful speech that Katharina (Lois Anderson) makes at the very end of the play Bloom writes:
Even subtler is Kate’s long and famous speech, her advice to women concerning their behavior toward their husbands, just before the play concludes. Again, one would have to be very literal-minded indeed not to hear the delicious irony that is Kate’s undersong, centered on the great line “I am asham’d that women are so simple.” It requires a very good actress to deliver this set piece properly, and a better director than we tend to have now, if the actress is to be give her full chance, for she is advising women how to rule absolutely, while feigning obedience.
|Meg Roe & Lois Anderson|
It was fun to see Vancouver’s perennial angel, Bernard Cuffling as Kate and her sister Bianca’s (the fair Bianca) father, Baptista Minola. In this play he is less the nasty man who in fact may have made his eldest daughter be as she is with his overtly preference for the younger Bianca. He is more benign. I would not want to see my angel from the Art’s Club’s It’s a Wonderful Life
become a devil in any way!
The Fair Bianca played by Dawn Petten, perhaps ever so shrewdly (!) directed by Meg Roe, is an empty headed hussy who in combination with her father’s doting makes this Katherina/Kate perfectly justifiable in her fiendness. Henceforth I will look at my beautiful white and sweet smelling English Rose, Rosa ‘Fair Bianca’ with a renewed and slightly less romantic respect. But consider that my Fair Bianca sometimes bleeds as in the picture below. This might suggest that Costume Designer Mara Gottler did well to dress her Fair Bianca in red most of the time!
|A 'ghost' awaits his cue from Shakespeare's Theatre|
Illustrated and written by C. Walter Hodges
I liked John Murphy as Petruchio and I do believe that he has made this role entirely his. His sidekick Kayvon Kelly had me in stitches most of the time until he seriously accompanied himself in an Italian ballad. Bard’s actors seem to be multitalented. They dance, they sing and even (Jennifer Lines) play the accordion. And consider that Sound Designer Patrick Fennefather has mastered the difficult task of condensing Beethoven for this Shrew!
|English Rose Rosa 'Fair Bianca'|
I am worried for the coming opening of the Scottish play as the lead role, of Lady Macbeth played by Colleen Wheeler, might have issues. Does she suffer from extreme laryngitis? Wheeler plays Biondella a servant to Baptista in the Taming of the Shrew. During the whole play she never uttered a word and inexplicably kept ringing a little bell. What gives? Perhaps Circe has cast a spell on her.
I must give an explanation here for the picture of Christopher Gaze as Richard III. For me Bard on the Beach in its long occupation of Kate’s Vanier Park is full of ghosts of Shakespeare plays past. I have laughed and cried through the years. Even Hilary who has seen fewer plays said to me when the fit and beautifully suited Gaze gave his short and sweet introductory speech, “Wasn’t he cute when he dressed in drag two years ago in Much Ado About Nothing?” Gaze indeed did play Christopher Sly at least twice in Taming of the Shrews past were the induction was included.
I concur that he indeed was cute and we in Vancouver should be aptly proud of our Bard on the Beach, ghosts included. They should not be swinged.