An oldie but a goodie, saved from linkrot: Thomas the NJ Transit train.
Steve LaRocque has some generous things to say about our production of Clybourne Park. And the kicker:
A note on the language: polite early on, it gets very rough in the clinches.
Kit Sheffield led a ferns workshop last Sunday (yes, it’s been a busy week). We looked at a lot of ferns, some plants that don’t look like ferns but are, and of course some plants that aren’t ferns. We started at the Visitor Center, followed the river trail as far as Gladys Island and Carper’s Pond, then looped back via the Nature Center.
Some new ferns for me were Lowland Fragile Fern (Cystopteris protrusa) (left) and Broad Beech Fern (Phegopteris hexagonopera) (very handsome).
A few fern ID tips:
- The first thing to look for is growth pattern: does this fern grow in a clump, or singly?
- Look at the bottom pair of leaflets, for instance to distinguish Lady Fern from Hay-scented Fern. This is also useful for applying my “opposite Onoclea” rule.
- Look for hairs in the axils (armpits) of Cinnamon Fern.
Something that didn’t look like a fern for centuries, but is now considered to be one, based on fossil evidence: Scouringrush (Equisetum hyemale). Unfortunately for the quality of the image, the growth tips of this specimen have been deer-browsed.
One more fern, Rock Polypody (Polypodium virginianum). Cute name, cute fern!
And a not-a-fern: Ramps (Allium tricoccum) are in flower.
Posted in In the Field
I wish that I could put it on my upcoming list, but I will just have to enjoy it from afar: The Floating Piers, by Christo, is installed on Italy’s Lake Iseo through 3 July.
Dry tech today, so I was off seeing other shows and catching up on the e-mail pile. Our company publicist circulated a questionnaire that she will use to write a preview piece for one of the local online theater mags. Some of Lennie’s questions and my answers:
1. What drew you to Clybourne Park as a director/actor?
When I first saw this show at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company six years ago, I wrote : ‘Have you ever had this experience? A play finishes its first act, and as the house lights come up for intermission, you think, “that act was so polished and well-constructed that it could stand by itself; I could go home now and be happy.” That’s how we felt at the act break…’ That’s how strong this material is.
3. In his 2011 review of Woolly Mammoth’s second production of Clybourne, Peter Marks of the Washington Post said that “the play rummages, if you will, in the eternally unfinished basement of American race relations. It is a play about people thinking they don’t sound exactly the way they do.” Your thoughts on that? Actors, how does his second sentence apply to your character(s)?
It is ever a challenge (probably greater than the one I describe in my answer to #6 below) to separate what you know, as a person, that your character sounds like from what you know and feel is going on inside that character. It is a tempting trap to put quotation marks around what your character says and does, to telegraph to the audience, “I, the actor, am not this uninformed/foolish/nasty/hateful person that I am playing.” And I think that everyone in our cast has done a good job of stepping around that trap.
4. Another review quote — when Clybourne opened on Broadway in 2012, Ben Brantley of the New York Times said, “This play probably will be topical for many years to come. That’s bad news for America, but good news for theatergoers, as ‘Clybourne Park’ proves itself more vital and relevant than ever on a big Broadway stage.” That was two years after its Off Broadway premiere. Flash forward to now, four years after the Broadway premiere. Is Clybourne again — or still — “more vital and relevant than ever”? Why?
You betcha. One of the smart things that Bruce Norris does, via the echoes down the half century from 1959 to 2009, is to call out our propensity to slap a label on something (or someone) and think that we have understood it. The character Bev, in 1959, refers with some discomfort to a young man in her community; he has what today we would call Down Syndrome, but Bev has only the word “mongoloid.” In the second act, Kathy (played by the same actor), speaks briefly, thoughtfully about a niece with Asperger’s Syndrome. Will not audiences of 2059 hear Kathy’s words and find her just as benighted?
5. What’s the importance of the specific link to A Raisin in the Sun?
Well, perhaps it is a recognition of the potency of Langston Hughes’s poem, “Harlem,” from which the image is drawn: “What happens to a dream deferred?/Does it dry up/like a raisin in the sun?” That such a simple eleven-line poem could spark Lorraine Hansberry’s full-length stage play, a musical adaptation, and now Bruce Norris’s answer play, is astonishing.
6. As an actor or director, what’s been your biggest challenge with this show? Creating two characters? Recreating the house during
intermission? Something else?
Simple mechanics: falling down, safely, in such a way that I can fall down again the next night.
Species preservation and coffee agriculture meet: Ed Yong explains the conservation prospects for the Red Siskin (Spinus cucullata).
Branden Jacobs-Jenkins brings us An Octoroon, his very strong post-modern and post-theatrical adaptation of an 1859 melodrama by Dionysius Boucicault (in turn, a version of a novel by Thomas Maine Reid). It’s genuinely provocative, on several levels, from the visceral (an historical image projected on the stage at a key point hits its mark) to the intellectual to the spectacular; Boucicault was writing and producing in the genre that demanded big theatrical effects, and this production both comments on that genre and makes good on its promise, with a outsized KABOOM!
Jacobs-Jenkins helps us out by framing his adaptation with direct address by two different versions of the playwright (one played by an African American and one by a European American [James Konicek, with the voice of an angelic bassoon]) in which he explains the creative and production challenges of reconstructing a pre-Civil War potboiler that calls for a cast of 21. In this way, he prepares us for an distanced approach to the material that he has reworked and appropriated for his own means—in a way that his misbegotten Appropriate does not. (Perhaps one’s reactions to that other play depend on whether one takes the title as an adjective or a verb.) Jacobs-Jenkins thus calls to mind another master and occasional mishandler of irony, surfaces, and the reality beneath, Herman Melville.
Suffice it to say that this is a show that benefits from program notes by the dramaturg and two company staffers concerned with things literary.
The script—and this production—attacks the question of appearance vs. reality by employing a black actor in whiteface, a white actor in redface, and another actor in the crudest of minstrelsy’s blackface (and “lawsa-lawsa” dialect). Certain characters act and speak as if they were on a stage in the 1800s, ready for their turn at Ford’s on 10th Street, while others (the entertaining Shannon Dorsey as Minnie) speak in the most contemporary of hip-hop vernacular. Pre-recorded underscoring accompanies expressive live cello work by Katie Chambers. A character eats a real banana, seated on a stage whose floor is covered in bits of cotton… representing, what exactly? A disaster effect is a blatant borrowing of a sight gag perfected by Buster Keaton nearly a century ago.
This is not to take away from the stage chops on display by Jon Hudson Odom in the triple roles of BJJ (one of Jacobs-Jenkins’s standins), George (the hero), and M’Closky (the mustache-twirling villain). The third-act cliffhanger calls for Odom to execute a knife fight with himself: smartly done!
- An Octoroon, by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, directed by Nataki Garrett, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, Washington
At the top of show, BJJ drinks off half of bottle of what looks to be whiskey. Woolly hasn’t seen such an interesting draught since Rob Leo Roy nightly chugged an bottle of Yoo-Hoo in The Food Chain.
My species account/term paper for Amphibians and Reptiles is posted.
TIL an infielder must be positioned in fair territory when the ball is put in play.
Only two—two—cases of guinea worm have been recorded this year. Jason Beaubien has the update, and Robert Siegel checks in with Jimmy Carter re The Carter Center’s efforts to eradicate the disease.
One more report from the nest box monitoring team for the season:
This year is turning out to be quite successful. Two more Wood Duck boxes have hatched out (box #61 at left), bringing the total to 8 successful WODU nests and 3 HOME nests. This is not counting boxes #1 and #3, which may have been predated, even though a second look turned up some egg membranes. We did see 3 young mergansers in the vicinity of these boxes.
We have at least two boxes still incubating (#6 and #77). #6 will be a second clutch for that box. #68, down at the end in the cattails, has 6 eggs, but it is perhaps a drop nest — we have not been checking it regularly.
We’re done with all-hands work days for the season. Kat and Chris, if you could check #6 and #77 in a couple of weeks, that would be good; I will spot-check #68 probably in two weeks on 19 June, or I will check it a week after that.
Paul, was is Wood Duck eggs that you saw in #68?
A Wild Turkey crossed the entrance drive as I arrived this morning. Paul spotted a Red-headed Woodpecker, down along the reach of Barnyard Run that they are partial to. Many tiny toadlets were crossing the trail as we walked out to the wetland.
Thank you all! I will post a wrap-up message, probably some time in July.
Our boxes support life of all kinds. This the the top of box #67, showing examples of three lichen growth forms: crustose (clinging to the substrate), foliose (peeling up like a leaf), and fruticose (bushy, like Reindeer Lichen).
There is a little patch of one of our hawkweeds, Rattlesnake Weed (Hieracium venosum) centered on a tree along the Cedar Trail, right before it divides to make a loop. I’ve keyed this flower out before, but this time around I was able to get some passable images. The purple-veined leaves of the basal rosette are the ID clincher.
Posted in In the Field
Reston Community Players is planning a commemorative booklet of reflections and remembrances to celebrate its 50-year mark. I offered the following story, told by many people since the event. This is my version:
I was a supernumerary in our production of Macbeth in the winter 1993 time slot, directed by Jan Belcher. I filled in the background for the battle scenes; I was a servant opening doors and setting tables; I supported the Bloody Captain during his speech; that sort of thing.
Jan was bluntly opposed to the tradition/superstition that the name of the play not be spoken within the confines of a theater, and she broke the taboo loud and clear on load-in day. Perhaps she was justified: the show went on to weather its share of mishaps and technical delays, but no more than usual.
Except for one night.
The first scene with the witches featured a dead body made of styrofoam, hung as on a gibbet. The three weird sisters (Maggie Geuting among them) did a dance around it, and at the end of scene, performed a wash-up move, cueing the flyman to take the corpse out.
But on this night, the corpse missed its spike and sailed all the way up to the top of the flyspace. We heard a loud bang as it crashed into the grid.
OK, nothing to see here; the play continued.
Lady Macbeth (Penny Cupina) came on for the letter scene. Halfway through the scene, one of the plastic corpse’s legs detached and fell to the deck, with a small crash but no ceremony. The stage manager said, “David, there’s a leg on stage. Can you help us out?” “Uh — sure thing.”
I came on to execute my next assigned gate-attendant maneuver, perhaps a little early. I strode over to the chunk of loose set dressing, scooped it up, and tried my best to hold it upstage of my body.
The gates being opened, Macbeth (Tel Monks) and his entourage entered as I skedaddled off stage and disposed of the artificial limb — to everyone’s relief.