My name is…

Wolf Trap Opera company offers some guidance to Studio Artist applicants about preparing a one-minute spoken monologue.

… when we briefly remove the vocal [i.e., musical] component, we sometimes have a chance to learn a bit more about the actor in front of us.

One quibble: what’s missing from this list of playwrights?

If you go with a play, you can’t go wrong with the modern master playwrights: Mamet, O’Neill, Labute, Miller, Williams, Shepard, Albee, Wilson, Kushner…

… Wasserstein, Parks, Nottage, Ruhl, Vogel, Hellman, …

Posted in Theater | Comments Off on My name is…

Whataboutery

Clyde Haberman gets relative about baseball.

Oh yeah, what about Maris hitting his 61 in a longer season than Ruth had, and at a time when pitching strength was diluted by major league expansion?

Posted in Baseball | Comments Off on Whataboutery

Turkey Run Ridge

For Labor Day, a 5-mile loop in 3:50 through Prince William Forest Park. More or less tracking the hike in PATC’s Hikes in the Washington Region, Part B. My edition is from 1993, so some crossings have been rerouted since then.

The only butterflies about were some Red-spotted Purples in the parking lot. Big patches of running cedar; the trails still somewhat wet after Saturday’s rains. Definitely folks on the trail, but not what you could call crowded: one large group of hikers, but mostly couple and trios. Lots of (generally leashed, well-behaved) dogs.

The High Meadows Trail (simply trail T-10 in the PATC guide) is a misnomer, as it traverses very beechy-hickory woods. Laurel hells along the South Fork of Quantico Creek. A muggy day, if not that warm: wind in the treetops, but rarely for me.

Many of the streams with heavily scoured banks, evidence of the hard use this land had been put to.

coralSome interesting mushrooms, again many of them popped from recent rains. The best match in my field guide for this is Ramaria aurea.

not yet ripeI stopped for lunch at a small stream crossing. As I munched, I found a single Indian Cucumber Root (Medeola virginiana) in fruit, if not yet ripe. I’d never seen the red creeping into the base of the upper leaves before.

Posted in In the Field | Tagged | Comments Off on Turkey Run Ridge

Unintended consequences

Ed Yong reports on research by Jianqiang Wu of the Chinese Academy of Sciences into one of my favorite creepy plants: dodder (Cuscuta sp.). Wu’s work indicates that distinct plants parasitized by a connecting dodder vine can use it to exchange chemical signals, say, in response to herbivory.

It’s not that dodder has evolved to do this. The parasite is a generalist with unfussy taste in hosts, so it doesn’t really benefit by improving the lives of the plants it attacks. And Wu still suspects that the transmission mechanism does more harm than good, by sapping its hosts of water and nutrients. But it’s perhaps surprising that it does any good at all.

Posted in Botany | Comments Off on Unintended consequences

99

Alex Vadukul visits the 13th Street Repertory Company, an Off Off Broadway venue in Greenwich Village from way back: equal parts Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland in the old barn and You Can’t Take It with You:

… a man who was homeless before Ms. [Edith] O’Hara offered him a crawl space above the lighting booth. That man, Tom Harlan, 60, sat barefoot in the theater’s dimly lit office recently. “She took me in,” he said….

After Mr. Harlan moved in, Ms. O’Hara discovered he was artistically gifted, and she made him her resident costume and set designer.

Posted in Gotham, Theater | Comments Off on 99

Py-we-ack

yes, that's snowA few days ago, I was flipping back through my posts from my California trip in 2011, including notes I made at Tenaya Lake. In today’s paper, Daniel Duane explains how it got that name, and the story isn’t pretty.

… Tenaya Lake — a place so important to me that I want my ashes scattered there — is named not in honor of Tenaya but in joyous celebration of the destruction of his people.

Posted in Golden State, History | Tagged | Comments Off on Py-we-ack

A mystery: 11

In the course of researching the life of Laura Lyon White (Mrs. Lovell White), I came across an interesting turn of events concerning LLW’s estate.

Laura’s husband, Lovell, a banker, died in 1910. Laura died in 1916. Their one surviving son, Ralston, married Ruth Boericke. The terms of Laura’s will specified that, if Ralston and Ruth had no children, a third of the estate was to be held in trust by the Savings Union Bank and Trust Company, later the American Trust Company, to build a monument to Lovell “typical of banking development in the State of California”. This provision seemed reasonable enough in the prosperous years before 1929. However, Ralston and Ruth’s financial circumstances declined during the Great Depression. Thus, when Ralston died in 1943, at his urging, Ruth contested the provision for the memorial.

Ruth lost her case, as far as I can determine, in a appellate court decision handed down in 1945. But if so, American Trust should have erected something. Yet I can find no evidence that a monument was built. I’ve written to a couple of knowledgeable sources, but so far have found no plaques or statues.

Now, in the old California Academy of Sciences, there once was a Lovell White Hall of Man and Nature. It was so designated by 1953, and still went by the name Lovell White Hall in 1986. The original Earthquake Theater was installed there. But Lovell White Hall would have come down in the 2008 rebuild; there is no such place in today’s California Academy of Sciences.

Did LLW’s money go to the CAS? I’m still following some leads.

Posted in Golden State, History | Comments Off on A mystery: 11

Cabinet

Studio 360 listens while soprano Lily Arbisser calls cues for the Met Opera’s titles operator.

Posted in Theater | Comments Off on Cabinet

Rounded corners

curlicuesWhen is a good time to stop for a fire escape? How about now? At left, he St. George, Lexington Avenue at East 78th Street. Forgotten New York thought it was worth a stop, too.

Posted in Gotham | Tagged | Comments Off on Rounded corners

New York Botanical Garden

what's the buzztiny whitesA few snaps from my trip to the New York Botanical Garden on a very warm, generally sunny day. The place is huge! I budgeted a good chunk of time in the Native Plant Garden, site of the memorial to Elizabeth Gertrude Knight Britton. A couple of less common plants in flower were a mountain mint, Pycnathemum curvipes (left) (hmm, USDA PLANTS says that this not native to New York, but only to North Carolina and south) and Flowering Spurge (Euphorbia corollata) (right). Newcomb points out that the delicate white flower parts on the spurge are actually bracts, not petals.

cascadeIn the nearby Rock Garden, this engineered cascade is quite lovely.

citizen scienceIn the less-tended bits of the grounds is the Thain Family Forest. An interpretive sign calls out the importance of citizen science, and just a few steps down the trail is a Picture Post.

cycad selfieAfter lunch break, I spent most of my time in the conservatory. I do love me some cycads.

Posted in Citizen Science, Gotham, In the Field | Tagged | Comments Off on New York Botanical Garden

A mystery: 10

I found some near misses online, but nothing in my unabridgeds to give a clear definition of crongle from this passage:

Hens cluck, croon, and crongle in their enclosure.

—David Mitchell, The Bone Clocks (2014), p. 594



The closest match describes a person with an ample beard sufficient to shelter small animals.

Posted in Words Words Words | Comments Off on A mystery: 10

On the 7 and the 6

From my East Side hotel, I rode the L over to the High Line for a quick stroll.

too muchartificial wetlandI budgeted an hour, and it wasn’t nearly enough. I wasn’t expecting a horticulture field trip. Moving north from 14th Street, I saw an artificial wetland supporting Typha sp. and Lobelia sp. (since everything was cultivated and it’s not my neighborhood, I’m not going to chance an ID to species or cultivar); Rhus sp.; Joe-pye Weed (Eutrochium sp.); Rudbeckia sp.; Asclepias sp.; Vernonia sp.;

sidingdetailDaucus sp.; Ilex sp. in fruit; some sad-looking Juniperus sp.; Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardi); Purpletop (Tridens flavus); as well as a few plants not native to New York state. But nary a Pawlonia tomentosa or Ailanthus altissima to be seen (or smelled)!

STAFFWith the exception of the red-cedar, all the plants were quite lush, thanks to the numerous gardening volunteers at work on a Tuesday morning.

PARKI love being able to get an different vantage point on streetscapes. On direct observation from the west, this PARK=> appears to be directing drivers into the lobby of a building.

work in progressToward the end of my walk, at 30th Street, I encountered a WTF WIP project.

another iconMuch more completed, the iconic Starrett-Lehigh Building, viewed from the north.

yardsThere must be L.I.R.R. trainspotters, but I didn’t notice any at this corner of the yards.

Posted in Gotham | Tagged | Comments Off on On the 7 and the 6

Marvin’s Room

This wistful drama with comedy from 1990 gets its first Broadway run, powered by a name-brand cast. The technical means afforded by the American Airlines Theatre make for smooth scene changes (and there are a lot of them); the revolve makes sense here. The cast is gently amplified. Nevertheless, this is a play that wants to be in a smaller house.

Celia Weston is a good sport in playing Ruth, a character who largely serves to provide comedy in the form of euphemisms for constipation and an improbable remote control device.

It soon becomes clear that the important, interesting story arc is the relationship between Bessie (never flashy, always on task Lili Taylor) and Hank (Jack DiFalco). Their quiet one-on-one scenes, well directed by Anne Kauffman, take the time that they need. (But at times, we wish that Hank’s volume to be pumped up a bit.)

  • Marvin’s Room, by Scott McPherson, directed by Anne Kauffman, produced by Roundabout Theatre Company, American Airlines Theatre, New York
Posted in Reviews, Theater | Comments Off on Marvin’s Room

The Book of Mormon

The Book of Mormon is an entertaining mix of potty-mouthed irreverence (it takes balls to trash a faith shared by fifteen million people) and old-school, conventional stagecraft. Set pieces roll in on wagons; curtains fly and travel in and out; a brief side diversion to Orlando, Florida is accomplished by nothing more than a vividly painted drop. The proscenium frame, suggesting a temple, with its clumsily animated Moroni, is the right mix of splendor and cheese. Musically, there’s nothing challenging here.

Even more subversive is the white boys’ chorus (set against a second ensemble of actors of color and both genders): as young missionaries ready to go out and convert the world, they are squeaky clean, with just a hint of possible man-to-man attraction. That tension is completely blown up by the number “Turn It Off,” led by Elder McKinley (the very able Stephen Ashfield) and sexily choreographed by Casey Nicholaw. A transformation enabled by a reference to The Clapper is too good to spoil (and how did they manage the shoes)? Some of the boys appear in drag in re-enactments of Joseph Smith’s days on the frontier, and the drag works here.

If the running gag with Elder Cunningham’s inability to pronounce Nabulunhgi’s name wears out its welcome immediately, the confrontation between Elder Price (Nic Rouleau gives good teeth) and the General (working that eyepatch is Derrick Williams) that caps “I Believe” is quite tasty.

My takeaway is that, no matter what our belief system, the stories we tell ourselves are “so fucking weird.”

  • The Book of Mormon; book, music, and lyrics by Trey Parker, Robert Lopez, and Matt Stone; directed by Casey Nicholaw and Trey Parker; Eugene O’Neill Theatre; New York
Posted in Reviews, Theater | Comments Off on The Book of Mormon

Long time no see

I visited The Frick Collection for the first time since high school, as far as I can remember. I came for the Vermeers, but my surprise find was the crazy intricate clocks on display, like David Weber’s clock with astronomical dials, and Jean-Baptiste Lepaute’s globe, still in working order.

In the library, of course there are many uniformly bound volumes on art and artists, as well as a set of Thoreau and Emerson. And Outlines of Cosmic Philosophy, by John Fiske. Who he? Late-19th century expositor of Darwin, abolitionist, and (alas) champion of the “Anglo-Saxon race.”

locked outThe grand front lawn, opening on to 5th Avenue, is unfortunately not open to the public. Likewise this nifty garden at the back of the property.

Posted in Gotham | Tagged | Comments Off on Long time no see