Festival post mortem

Saturday at the festival was dominated by plays with a sports metaphor: our own The Gold Lunch, a 60-minute reduction of Richard Dresser’s Rounding Third from Thurmont Thespians, and a very strong production of Never Swim Alone by Daniel MacIvor from Port Tobacco Playhouse Players (thanks, Leta!).

Many of the comments and questions from the adjudicators were spot on, while others (as usual) could only be answered with, “well, yes, but that wouldn’t be the play we brought you,” or even, “well, yes, but that would be wrong.” More than one judge encouraged us to slow down and savor some of the moments, and they’re quite right, my rhythms tended to be lockstep. And another good question that I didn’t have a ready answer for was, “why was it that you and Dana separated?” I don’t know what I think about the note to pump up the just-off-the-playing-field energy. I think it can work for the first paragraph, but I’m not sure how to fit it between the opening moment on the podium and the more analytical section that begins “My ex-wife, Dana, is as formidable an opponent…”

They praised many of the technical elements, some of them lovingly timed out (staring the the anthem mid-verse) and others impromptu (cobalt blue wine glasses from my cabinet). More than one judge appreciated Ron Carlson’s phrase “her twin peninsulas floating before you.”

I am more or less satisfied with my own work. I think I made a good adjustment to the three playing sides. My focus was generally there, but I did jump forward within a line more than once.

Still with us

Deborah Solomon interviews John Ashbery.

…you have never been asked to serve as poet laureate of the U.S. Is that a snub?

I really don’t think I’m poet-laureate material.

It’s not something you would like to do?

I don’t think so. To be poet laureate you have to have a program for spreading the word of poetry. I’m just willing to let it spread by itself.

Theater festival in Frederick

former McCrory's
Saturday I rode up with Ted and his team to tech in our shows at the Cultural Arts Center of Frederick County. (The Maryland one act festival performances will be there this weekend.) The Center is lightly converted from a McCrory’s five and dime store; the building wraps around other buildings on the northwest corner of Patrick and Market Streets. As a performance space, the black box theater is long on character. It seats 110 on three sides of a playing area (no stage) about the size of Silver Spring Stage’s, but with the advantage that I can make myself heard in the Frederick space. On the downside, the space is punctuated by load-bearing columns, and lighting designers have to find ways to throw light around them. (This means that if I’m not paying attention, I’ll be standing in the dark on Saturday.)

dressing room
The dressing area is where the luncheonette used to be, with even less soundproofing between it and the auditorium: nothing but a black curtain. But Cindy, Zeke, and Spence ran a tight ship technically, and we got everything done that we needed to get accomplished in our 80-minute time slot, and then some. We’re bringing The Gold Lunch as a showcase, which means that it is not eligible to advance to the regional competition. But that doesn’t mean that it won’t be adjudicated in open session, five minutes a piece from three judges. Leta and I did the math and figured that they will have to talk longer than I will. They’re theater people: they’ll find a way to fill the time.

street name signs and CD
I had a couple of hours to kill until Leta arrived and it was our turn to tech, so I walked around old town Frederick, Maryland. Frederick is undergoing several sorts of transition. I’ve flickr-tagged these images as suburbanMd, and in many ways the town is now a suburb of D.C.: it has its own branch of the MARC commuter service, for instance. But in many ways it’s still an ordinary American small city, a little grubby behind the ears.

old and new
While the Francis Scott Key Hotel is now an office building (you can just make out an old painted sign for it in this image), Carroll Creek Park consists of new and newish brick and stonework lining the channelized Carroll Creek through downtown, just south of Market Street.

footbridge 1
Just the sort of place for open-air arts and crafts festivals, like the one I visited here a few years ago. Very pleasant, with whimsical footbridges.

the back of things
But many of the shop spaces are still under construction and/or are looking for tenants, and new demolition can reveal the tattier backsides of buildings a block or two outside the gentrification zone.

footbridge 2
After our tech rehearsal, Leta and I got dinner at Griff’s, a local institution, and a pretty good dinner it was. Local merchants were observing a First Saturday late closing, the pavements marked with dubious luminaires, so we played with the wooden toys in the toy store and dropped some cash at the funky clothing store that did a side business in Grateful Dead stickers.

Paging Mr. Bernard Herrmann

Via Arts & Letters Daily, new book by Jack Sullivan catalogs all the music in the films of Alfred Hitchcock.

The 1956 remake of The Man Who Knew Too Much uses Arthur Benjamin’s Storm Clouds cantata, which was commissioned for the 1934 version of the film. In the remake an assassination is to take place at a climactic cymbal crash. The bad guys, here as elsewhere in Hitchcock’s works, are surprisingly musically literate. They play recordings for the assassin.

Security flaw in Adobe plug-in

News of a significant security vulnerability in earlier versions of Adobe Reader and Acrobat has come to light.

The vulnerability exists in nearly any browser with the Acrobat Reader plug-in installed and allows malicious Javascript code to be injected on the client side.

Possible attacks that could be delivered using the flaw include session riding, cross-site scripting attacks and, in the case of Internet Explorer, denial of service attacks.

An upgrade to Reader 8 is recommended.

Sing out, Louise

Andrew Lloyd Webber wrings his hands over an impending auction of wireless spectrum, according to a story reported by Stephen Beard. If a cell phone company were to win the bidding,

… he warns the sound in the seven West End theatres he owns could become inaudible. The wireless mics his productions rely on could get too expensive to run.

I suppose he could do something radical, like write music that doesn’t require mics to sound good. Maybe not.

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge

Fighting off a case of the flu, I took an overnight trip with Leta to Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge on the Eastern Shore of Chesapeake Bay to see the eagles. The weather was fine for our morning field trip. We got a quick look at a group of Delmarva Fox Squirrels (Sciurus niger cinereus) in the tall, sparse pines traversed by the Woods Trail. As for birds, we ticked 20+ species, including three species of raptors, a stock-still Hermit Thrush and, far out on the water, a cluster of about 15 American White Pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos). Alas, we were too late in the season for easy looks at Snow Geese. Since the last time that I visited, the refuge has added a second story to the visitor center, with spotting scopes trained on the eagles’ resting snags. This new space has good interpretative material and some nice mounted specimens of ducks and raptors.