Tuesday, February 21, 2012

weekend of culture

I did many things this weekend! This is not like me!

Friday night I went to see my friend's production of Measure for Measure (he was the director). It was deliciously funny and the time flew by, though it's a long play. Angelo and Isabella were great, and the comic bits were actually comedic, which in Shakespeare's problem plays / romances is often not the case (I cannot tell you how many otherwise strong productions of the The Tempest I've seen turn into a test of audience stamina when Trinculo and Stephano show up). In Measure for Measure the low comedy is all sex-related, though, and sex jokes hold up pretty well. Possibly the only thing that holds up better is the low comedy in Two Gentlemen of Verona, because a dog on stage is never not funny. The last time I saw Two Gentlemen, Crab was played by an elderly basset hound in a tiny hat, and I would frankly have paid the same amount of money to just look at that on stage for two hours. (There is a picture of said hound, sadly sans hat, at the bottom of this review.)

There were no basset hounds in Friday's show, though they utilized the tiny-hat principle well (tiny hat on a very tall man: never not funny) and added the nice touch of Angelo donning leather pants the second the Duke leaves town. And it didn't hurt that Angelo and Lucio were both easy on the eyes. All in all, good times.  

Unfortunately, I went out with the cast for drinks afterwards, and realized too late that in six years of sobriety I've never actually been to a bar with people only intending to drink; I go to pubs for meals, with people who are having beer or wine with their dinner, all the time, but this was very different. The right thing to do was to get out of there once I realized it was triggering, which is what I did, but I could probably have done it more politely than cutting my friend off in the middle of a sentence with, "I NEED TO GO," grabbing my stuff, and bolting. Very Cinderella of me.

Then Saturday I went to the Peabody Essex museum for the weekend festival celebrating their "Shapeshifting: Transformations in Native American Art" exhibition. The exhibition itself, which I'd already seen, is very hit-or-miss for me, as modern art tends to be. I was mostly there to see the Apache dance troupe, Yellow Bird, and before their performance spent my time in the old / rare book exhibit, where once I have passed they have to wipe my drool from the cases.

Yellow Bird was amazing. They performed about four songs and dances, and prefaced each one with an explanation of the legend or belief to which the song refers. Many of the songs were so powerful and moving that I cried, and looking around, I wasn't the only one. And the hoop dance was just breathtaking. Here's a brief clip of Kevin Duncan performing the beginning of it: there are longer versions linked on that page, but this will give you an idea.

Ken Duncan stated, when talking about the song used to greet the dawn, that if one is awake and facing the east for the sunrise, one feels the heartbeat of all creation. I thought about how, all last week, I never once managed to get up and walk the dogs before work, and how out of step and out of rhythm I felt. White girl appropriation, absolutely, but I know what connections with nature make my life better and more beautiful, and I know that when I am neglecting them I am not as happy. It's never bad to be reminded of that.

Sunday was brunch with my in-laws; yes, I'm still close to them, and hope to remain so.

Monday I went to see "Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance" with Paulina. (What? I didn't specify high culture.) It was profoundly terrible but that is exactly what we expected; we go to see terrible movies frequently and with great delight. In it, Ciarán Hinds (Captain Wentworth, what are you doing in this movie?) humiliates himself more than I would have thought possible, and I say that as someone who watches "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider: Cradle of Something: Yes, They Made a Second One: Perhaps Someone Lost a Bet: Possibly Humanity in General" every time it is on television (it has a lean, pre-"300" Gerard Butler in it; I'm not going to apologize). My theory on Mr. Hinds' performance in "Ghost Rider": either someone just off-screen had his mother at gunpoint, saying, "The scenery dies or she does," or Nicolas Cage's agent was slipping him money to out-crazy Cage. Which cannot be done, but a gallant effort was made. In other words, it was a splendid way to spend an hour and a half.

Also, I read Days of the Dead, by Barbara Hambly. She writes books set in New Orleans in the 1830s and featuring a free man of color, Benjamin January, as a musician / surgeon who solves mysteries. The mysteries are really very minor details of the novels, which are primarily about the social and racial layers of the city during that time and which I find completely engrossing. In this one, Benjamin and his new wife travel to Mexico City to help a friend in danger. I found that the shift in locale made this less absorbing than the previous books; you didn't feel Mexico City the way Hambly makes you feel New Orleans. It was still a fun read, but I look forward to a return to home ground in the next one.

Next up: The Devil Amongst the Lawyers, by Sharyn McCrumb, who writes excellently atmospheric novels about the Appalachians. And I will be reading more Shakespeare. Puttering around the house Sunday, I realized that I know the entire balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet, despite having never played either of those characters (the only production of R&J I was ever in was a sixth-grade one in which I played Lord Capulet and Mercutio, and gave Ciarán Hinds a run for his scenery-gnawing money in my death scene as the latter). The balcony scene is apparently something I just have in my brain, and I love that. One of my goals for 2012 was to memorize more Shakespeare, and I have fallen down on that. Time to pick up the Bevington.

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