Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Stratford Sundries, 2016-8

City Hall
Stratford, Ontario
August 1, 2016
 1. One last thought about the production of As You Like It--the one that we didn't care for. That play has always had a special resonance for me--ever since childhood. One of my first "Shakespeare memories" comes from the early 1950s. We were living at 1706 E. Elm Ave. in Enid, Oklahoma, and my dad (who was teaching at Phillips University, RIP, at the time) played Charles the Wrestler in a local production of As You Like It. I was only, oh, nine or ten at the time (interested only in baseball, bikes, and--very secretly--girls), so my parents (probably wisely) did not take me to see it, a decision I regret to this day--and more with every passing day.

I remember my dad, leaving the house in costume--red tights (crafted by my mom from a pair of full-length "long" underwear, dyed red with Rit), posing in a muscle-man stance at the front door, flexing his considerable biceps, the picture of health and vitality and ... well, there was no way he would lose a wrestling match to wussy Orlando, though Shakespeare insisted that he must.

So now ... when I see the play ... see the scenes with Charles ... how can I not think of my dad that Oklahoma day so long, long ago?

Actually, the wrestling scene was one of the best in the Stratford production--though not, of course, as good as that definitive one in 1950s Enid, Oklahoma.

2. On "getaway day" (Sunday) at Stratford, we saw our final production (number 11 this summer!), Ibsen's late play (1896) John Gabriel Borkman, the story of a corrupt banker, out of jail, at home, where neighbors shun him and his wife refuses to speak with him--or even look at him. (The show makes a good pairing, by the way, with All My Sons, which we'd seen just the day before.) The banker's son has come of age and wants to live his own life, not restore the family name (as his mother insists he do). Great performances by everyone, especially by veteran Joseph Ziegler, who played the one former friend who does regularly visit Borkman, who is convinced, by the way, even 8 years after his release, that the bank is going to need him and will one day appear at his door to beg his return. Such is madness and delusion.

Ibsen, in the second half of the script, I think, could have employed some white-out, some scissors, an eraser, or (if he'd lived now) the delete key. Some repetition and what appeared to our modern ears a bit of bombast and excess in the final scenes. No need to state the obvious, Mr. Ibsen. (Isn't it fun to criticize one of the greats?!!?)

3. The play ended about 4:25, and we were in the car and on the road by 4:25:01. Seven hours stretching before us. The ride, though, as always, was terrific fun--talking with Joyce about all we'd seen and experienced. We had a bit of a hang-up at the US border: The authorities gave a thorough search to a van about three vehicles ahead of us ... and there we sat ... watching minutes drip away, extending our ETA by about a half-hour. (BTW: The van ended up being waved through.)

4. 11:30 p.m. We were home. And grateful for another year--our fifteenth in a row--when we could go up there and experience, again, the wonders of that place, the grace and truth on those stages. I'm 71 now, dealing with cancer issues. Physical fragility has become more and more of an issue. Joyce and I have talked--more than once--about our worry that we might not be able to go again. How foolish to plan, said Edna St. Vincent Millay--yet we do it. Confident (?) that what lies ahead will somehow--certainly!--resemble what lies behind. How could it not?

"Hope is the thing with feathers," Miss Emily said. But for me? Hope is making a room reservation in Stratford a year in advance. Which is exactly what I did. The first day we were there.

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