This might take a little while

Dan Kois likes to read plays, particularly those by Annie Baker, and especially her stage directions.

This mix of precision and shagginess epitomizes The Flick, in which Baker is always tracking the minute-by-minute emotional evolution of its three screwed-up characters, even while encouraging the happy surprises that make a play something special every night. A good actor or director reading that stage direction will be thrilled at its haziness, thrilled that it gives actors the ability to discover the moment in real time every night. On the page, it feels like an invitation to discover the moment on my own.

ArtsJournal

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Piedmont forests

big honking treeJoe and Stephanie led the class to several sites of Piedmont forests in Montgomery County, including one patch that I had never visited. Along the Seneca Creek Greenway Trail, there’s contact between the sedimentary rocks that filled in the Culpeper Basin and the crystalline rocks of the Marburg Schist. That’s an opportunity for groundwater to collect, and therefore you can find some tree species that like their feet wet in this otherwise upland locale. Best example: this humongous Box Elder (Acer negundo), found along the remnants of a hedgerow.

peelyspreadingDown along the Potomac at Riley’s Lock, where that same Seneca Creek has its mouth, is a handsome row of salmon-skinned River Birch (Betula nigra) (left), as well as single trees of Black Walnut (Juglans nigra) (right), soaring into the sky.

We talked about mnemonics and keys for separating the white oak and red oak groups. The acorns of the reds, somewhat like red wines, are more acidic and require some aging underground before they germinate (or become palatable to squirrels). The bristle tip on the leaf of a red oak is not a separate structure, but rather an extension of the leaf vein. Even a red oak-group Willow Oak (Quercus phellos) shows a small bristle tip. White or red, a dry oak leaf takes a long time to decompose; thus, “an oak forest is a noisy forest.”

Posted in In the Field
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Genre

Emily Nussbaum in a recent issue of The New Yorker:

The Fault in Our Stars has inspired a roiling debate about the popularity of Y.A. fiction, particularly among adult readers…. The messy part about this discussion is, of course, that plenty of the most potent and enduring “literary” works focus on adolescent identity, from Romeo and Juliet to The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter. Often, it’s hard to distinguish the debate about art from the one about marketing, and from the thrumming anxiety about the economic survival of literary fiction—which is, after all, a genre itself. As with crime novels or science fiction, labelling entire genres “popular junk” or “ambitious art” is too simplistic: the teen book you like is Y.A.; the teen book I like “transcends the genre.”

Posted in Words Words Words
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Ellanor C. Lawrence Park project: 3

My third trip to Ellanor C. Lawrence Park, yet earlier in the day this time. It’s quite warm for October, and I heard Common Katydids in the early morning. White-Throated Sparrows are making their presence known. The Japanese Stilt-grass is starting to die back.

almost missed itThe park has provided some unexpected herps. This is the first Rough Green Snake (Opheodrys aestivus) that I’ve ever seen and identified. I nearly stepped on it, as it was lying across the trail and looked like a strappy leaf from a house plant, not like an animal at all. You can’t see the impossibly skinny tail in this image, but trust me, there’s another ten inches of snake out of frame.

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Riverbend Park meadows

new placeMargaret Chatham led a grasses walk through the managed meadow at Riverbend Park on Sunday, a new place for me. This patch of twelve acres is upland, rather than down by the river where we go looking for bluebells, and it’s regularly mowed in strips. Access is from Jeffrey Road and the nature center, rather than the vistor center farther downstream, where the boat rentals happen.

Nimblewill (Muhlenbergia schreberi) was a new grass for me. The culms are a nice ruby red at this time of the year.

whorledWe looked at woody plants and forbs, too. I got a pointer on distinguishing a young catalpa tree from an invasive Paulownia. Look for the whorl of three or more leaves at the stem, as you see in this image. The Asian invader has only a pair of opposite leaves. Similarly, the only two Verbesina wingstems that we see here in the mid-Atlantic can be separated by their branching pattern.

Your botany WOTD is endozoochory, that is, seed dispersal that depends on passing through the gut of animals. Habitat managers found out too late, to their dismay, that Rosa multiflora can be invasive when aided by birds’ digestive tracts.

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Enroute: 9

cow: 2cow: 1Don’t tell me we don’t have a White-tailed Deer problem here in the suburbs. I’m on my walk to work, down by the Ridge Heights meadow and soccer goal, and here’s this doe, bold as brass, munching the turf.

Posted in Local News and Views
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Marie Antoinette

David Adjmi’s Marie Antoinette, a star turn for Woolly company member Kimberly Gilbert, has some affinities with the 2006 film of the same name by Sofia Coppola, but it also recalls Adjmi’s Stunning from 2008: a sheltered, privileged young woman, bratty at times and certainly ill-equipped to deal with the wider world, is hobbled by the man in her life, someone who proves to be weaker than she. Adjmi’s Marie says, “I feel like a game that other people play, but not me.” As her marzipan and fondant world dissolves all around her, this Marie’s journey is to a smaller, quieter place where she acquires some measure of fortitude, even in the hour of her doom.

The theatrical exaggeration and the “snapshots” of the famous lines from history in this script and production remind us that what we think we know about Marie’s story is only framing, not knowledge at all.

As events fall out and the pretty venue of the Petit Trianon disassembles into Marie’s prison, the complex set changes (e.g., rolling up a grass carpet to expose an iron-mesh deck) call for visible crew members to make the shifts—a rare, welcome sight at Woolly. Indeed, is this disassembly or dissembling: how many layers of artifice do the technicians need to peel away?

Sarah Marshall’s work as Sheep is expressive, even though her puppet has no articulation, just a head stuck on a pole. Ominous and playful, sometimes a head cock is all that’s needed.

  • Marie Antoinette, by David Adjmi, directed by Yury Urnov, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, Washington
    Posted in Reviews, Theater
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    Secret fan

    Oh, I think I need to make it out to Los Angeles some time early next year.

    Posted in NOC
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    Stand by

    Iva Withers, Broadway utility infielder who once stepped into a role on seven minutes notice, has passed.

    “Her motto was never to learn just your own lines — learn everybody’s.”

    Posted in In Memoriam, Theater
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    Changes- Changes- Changes: 2

    Sometimes your vote really does count. In the commonwealth-wide elections of 2013, 907 votes decided the attorney general’s race; the gubernatorial election was determined by a slightly wider margin (56 thousand votes out of 2.2 million). The happy result: newly-elected Governor McAuliffe and A-G Mark Herring chose not to defend indefensible law, and today, less than a year later, same-sex marriages are legal in Virginia. This is a change that I knew would happen eventually, but I am almost (pleasantly) shocked at how quickly it has come to pass.

    In the most recent development, gay and lesbian couples are free to adopt in the Commonwealth. Our friends J. and L., who left the area some years ago so that they could start a family, are now welcome. Well, Virginia is for lovers.

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Local News and Views
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    Serialized

    Good advice (i.e., advice I agree with) accompanied by useful local lore and an extra helping of snark: Washington City Paper‘s manual of style and usage.

    NoMa
    M is uppercase, but feel free to grumble about it.

    * * *

    Penn Quarter
    Neighborhood south and west of Chinatown defined better by the overconcentration of José Andrés restaurants than by definitive boundaries.

    * * *

    theater
    Not theatre, except as part of a proper noun. We don’t know how the obsession with French spelling arose, but we’re not playing along. Studio Theatre, you’re doing it wrong. Howard Theatre, WTF? Signature Theatre, just stop. You’re making our spellcheck misfire and our copy editors gnash their already worn-down teeth. Take a hint from our star pupil, Arena Stage’s Mead Center for American Theater, or we may start calling you thee-AT-ruhs.
    Posted in Local News and Views, Words Words Words
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    Ambassador

    A triumph of the quotidian (and here at AHoaA, we are all about the quotidian), perfectly composed, at Shorpy: George’s Arax washes the Nash in Wausau.

    Posted in Photography
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    Ellanor C. Lawrence Park project: 2

    chicken beforechicken afterOne of the learning objectives of this class project is to observe changes in the forest over the course of a season. I stumbled upon an unexpected case of before-and-after with this log, seen in two images. The image at the left was made on 27 September; the one on the right today. The bright yellow, striped fruiting body, just little blobs on the log in September, is the mushroom Laetiporus sulphureus. It’s an edible polypore known by various common names, including Sulphur Shelf and Chicken of the Woods.

    Posted in In the Field
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    Tamed

    Today’s not his birthday, but hats off anyway to Frederick Vernon Coville, commercializer of blueberries.

    Posted in Agriculture, Botany, Happy Birthday
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    Wild! Life!

    Brandon Keim explores vacant lots and bits of waste ground in New York, and likes what he sees (even the non-natives), ruderal plants bursting with life.

    … verdancy is not the result of careful management, but life’s inexorable course, present wherever we don’t suffocate it.

    Posted in Biodiversity and Species Preservation
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