Saturday, July 12, 2008

Three beautiful days in Ashland, Oregon; we saw three plays and went river rafting--huge fun! The plays: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner by Luis Alfaro. Magical realism about an overweight woman who becomes morbidly obese during the course of the play, experiences a spiritual sea-change and floats away. I loved the poetry of the physical metaphors and the empathetic approach (the playwright himself is fat) to America's consumption disorder--but I felt like so much more could have been done with those strong themes and the actual plot did not fulfill the promise of its premise.

I loved the language in the play though, and the set was simple yet very inventive, with a huge walk-in refrigerator, which the main character seemed to live in, and a portable police cruiser with flashing lights, and a trap door in the ceiling with wires for flying people in the air. God, I would love to have a play produced in the New Theatre at Ashland!

The next play we saw was The Further Adventures of Hedda Gabler by Jeff Whitty, the young writer whose first show was Avenue Q. This play was brilliant--it dealt with archetypes of the theatre wo can never die. Hedda gabler is condemned to shoot herself endlessly on the cul-de-sac of tragic heroines where her neighbors are Medea and Tosca. Determined to change her fate, she takes off in the company of Mammy from Gone With The Wind. Hedda wants to be happy and Mammy wants to rid herself of her slave mentality and be free. They travel together to The Furnace, which is a fearsome place inside the writer's mind where new creations are smelted down and reformed on a daily basis. Most of them have a short life-span, living only for a season or two; some, like Hedda, endure, whether they want to or not.

It's such a clever idea, and Whitty milks it for everything it's worth, exploring issues of free will, destiny, theatre, stereotype, and audience participation along the way. The metaphor of The Furnace felt particularly apt to me, coming off of the finish of Shame Circus--it did feel burning hot and uncomfortable and frightening and ecstatic to be in the heart of the flame, making that play.

The hot seat, literally. Sometimes I can't concentrate here for more than a few minutes at a time.

We also saw a very good production of Othello, which was enhanced for us by having read the play together beforehand and watched the Kenneth Branagh, Lawrence Fishbourne movie of it. C commented that he enjoyed Shakespeare much more when he knew what was going on, and he wouldn't mind studying another play with me. I want to do either Hamlet or Antony and Cleopatra (my favorite play) although I also wouldn't mind doing one I've never read before, like Coriolanus, or King John. Also, I want to rent that documentary that Al Pacino made called Looking for Richard, where he plays King Richard the evil hunchback, and researches him.

I used to think Othello was about jealousy; now I se it as being about vulnerability. Othello and Desdemona have it all, as long as they have confidence, but confidence, which feels so strong when you are sitting in its embrace, turns out to be flimsy after all; it is just a state of mind. It unravels like all other states of mind, it is composed entirely of thoughts. (I love how Shakespeare is really a Buddhist!) I see othello as a sobering reminder of how vulnerable even the happiest marriage is, how frail even the strngest-seeming man or woman. Perhaps the stronger-seeming people are the most vulnerable.

Thursday we went river rafting which was a new adventure for both of us--this trip took us over rapids which were rated 4+--5+ is the highest they go to. It wasn't really a trip for rank beginners, but we had a fantastic guide, who knew every rock in the river--literally--and skillfully piloted us around all the danger spots. Both of us managed to stay on the raft, by wedging our feet and keeping our butts firmly planted even when the rocking and rolling and splashing began in earnest. The water foamed and boiled like a vat of Coca Cola on the Klamath Falls; we saw a bald eagle, osprey, and herons.

On the way home we talked about other adventures we'd like to take--Outward Bound, Habitat for Humanity. I said I'd like adventure trips that would combine physical challenges with being helpful in some way. if we get good at the tandem, maybe we'll do the AIDS ride. To that end, and because the work on the in-law is still ongoing, C tried to teach me to use more power tools today--the nailer, which I've already had some experience on, and a compound mitre saw. Since I have small hands, achey wrists, no sense of balance and zero talent for geometry I am not a natural for home construction projects. But I was the lead teacher on learning Othello and he's the lead teacher on this. It will come in handy if we do ever do a Habitat project together--I want to be able to at least hold my own.

I do have some aptitude for caulking, which is what I'm going to do as soon as I'm done typing this. Tonight a performance with Wing It! at Interplayce, 2273 Telegraph Ave. 7:30 p.m.: Playing with politics. Don't know what I'll have to say as I have paid no attention to politics for the past three days and the world seems to have gone on turning without me following the news. Driving home we passed the fire areaqs. While we didn't see actual burned areas, we saw and smelled the smoke hanging in the air. I don't know if that's political or not, but it's the public thing I am thinking about; fire, and water, the overabundance of one and shortage of the other. The furnace.

We also came home to find Carla's gig at Anna's Jazz Island was sold out. There was a wonderful piece about her in the paper--I can't do links on this thing, but if you go to and type "Carla Zilbersmith" into the search box it will pop right up.

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