Dawn Reader

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

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Stratford Sundries, 2017-6

City Hall
Stratford, Ontario
July 31, 2017
1. Last night, we walked down to the Tom Patterson Theatre, which has undergone a minor renovation since we were here last year: It used to be nearly in-the-round (one end had no seating), but now it's completely so. This is an arena-style venue, and, in fact, I think they play hockey games here in the winter. Bleacher seats.

But we've seen some great theater here--including the three parts of Henry VI some years ago (compressed into two shows, not three.)

Sadly, Bakkhai, which we saw last night, was not one of the great shows we've seen at the TP. Based on the play by Euripides, this new version features pounding contemporary music, some fairly explicit grinding and masturbation, and (of course--it's Greek tragedy, after all!) lots of blood and gore and body parts.

The story tells how Dionysus, disrespected and disbelieved by some key people in Thebes, exacts a most sanguinary revenge on a couple of his principals: A mother kills and dismembers her son, believing it's a lion she's killed. Oops. (It's the son's various gory parts we see onstage the last twenty minutes or so.)

I did very much like the young man playing Dionysus (Mac Fyfe): He was agile, leering, androgynous, sexy, vicious.

But I just felt the whole thing was over-produced--as if the director feared the audience wouldn't sit still for a more traditional version. He was wrong.

2. Back to the room to grouse and complain a little and to read a little more Michael Connelly (and just a few pretzels, you know?).

3. This morning, down to Coffee Culture, where I read the NYT online and finished--at last! at last!--
Joyce Carol Oates' recent novel, A Book of American Martyrs (2017), a long (736 BIG pages!) and wrenching novel about the abortion wars. The novel begins with the 1999 murder of a doctor at a women's clinic--and then we see all that ensues--from families on both sides: the murderer's family, the doctor's family. And we follow them for years--through suffering on both sides (the man who shot the doctor and his escort ends up in a life-or-death murder trial--in Ohio, where all this happens in the fictional town of Muskogee Falls).

We tend to focus on two of the most traumatized survivors: a daughter on each side, daughters who meet very near the end of the novel. (I'll say no more about that!)

Oates, by the way, has written about boxing for a long, long time--and she gets to do so again here: One of the daughters becomes a boxer, and we get to read about her training, her brutal fights. Oates writes well and convincingly about the sport she has followed for much of her life.

Oates shifts point-of-view often (and artfully) and also employs a sort of multi-genre approach: We get letters and transcripts and interior monologue and straight narrative and ... well, just about a bit of everything. So agile is Joyce Carol Oates.

I've been reading her since the late 1960s (and, oh, she is prolific! a wonder!), and I am very rarely disappointed. And this, manifestly, is not one of those disappointments.

It's a novel, I think, that will please and annoy people on both sides of the right-to-choose/right-to-life debate, a debate, as we see here, whose words we write not with ink, but blood. (I think I'll blog more about this book later on--lots to tell!)

Martyrdom has consequences that long outlive the life of the martyr ...

4. Stopped at Fanfare Books (one of our favorite shops up here) and bought the script of The Virgin Trial (which we saw the other night). (Wouldn't be a trip up here without shifting some $$ from me to the genial owner of Fanfare!)

5. Soon ... time for lunch. Then we'll head down to the Tom Patterson again for the matinee performance of the Bard's Timon of Athens, one of the first shows I saw my first trip up here in the summer of 2001. Timon is a dark play with enduring relevance. So ... we'll see ...

... Timon was just a great production, with the veteran Joseph Ziegler in the title role and the gifted Ben Carlson as Apemantus, the cynic who reminds me of Jaques in As You Like It.

The director sets this cautionary tale in modern times (lots of cell phones and tablets!), the tale of a wealthy Athenian (Timon) who is surrounded by "friends," all of whom, of course, disappear when he goes broke. He heads to the woods, where he lives as a bitter hermit, railing against humanity over and over and over again.

And then he finds buried treasure.

Now what?

Read/watch video of the play and find out!

6. Afterward, we headed over to the York Street Kitchen, where we had our final supper meal in Stratford--and we got to see that they'd named my nightly sandwich "The DANwich" on their sandwich board. I told them--and I was not really kidding--that this was one of the great honors of my life! (Seated in front of us are our server, Jordan, and the manager, Aaron, both of whom treated us with immense kindness all week.)

7. We're in the room now--but will soon walk down to the Studio Theatre for The Komagata Maru Incident, about which I know ... nothing! So I will fill you in tomorrow.

8. And tomorrow? We have a matinee (The Madwoman of Chaillot)--and then ... the dash for home!

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