Dawn Reader

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

Monday, August 7, 2017

Stratford Sundries, 2017-7

City Hall
Stratford, Ont.
July 31, 2017
1. Last night [i.e., Saturday] we saw, down at the Studio Theatre (the most experimental venue of the four), a production of a play--The Komagata Maru Incident (by Canadian playwright Sharon Pollock)--about an incident in 1914 when Canadian authorities turned away a shipload of immigrants from India at the port in Vancouver (the name of the ship is in the play's title). Much suffering. Some dying. Some egregious failures of humanity that echo down through the decades, where, in our own time, they howl with continuing relevance.

Upstage, the prow of the ship pointed toward the audience, and up on that prow was an Indian woman, singing to her child (not visible)--a song that continued continually throughout the show that ran about an hour and forty minutes (no interval).

Below, on the stage, were a Canadian official, the madam of the bordello where he lived, a visiting German man (on the eve of WW I, remember), another prostitute, and a character who appeared throughout--a woman portraying various voices and images of the "official" government position--and the desire to keep the immigrants out--even though some of them were family members of Canadian citizens; some had even served in the British army.

It was an odd and powerful production, and we see hope transform to anger, then desperation and despair.

And the script deals very directly with the desire of people to keep things as they are. Change can be so unsettling--especially when it comes in the form of human beings who do not look or act or believe like us.

2. After this show, back to the room at Mercer Hall for our final night in Stratford--hard to believe. We rose fairly early, packed, then drove over to nearby St. Mary's (the first time we've used the car since we drove up here last Monday), where we headed for a favorite coffee shop. It sits on a lovely corner in this lovely town. The Stone Town Coffee Co.

We sat and read and talked until about 11, then back to Stratford, where I parked the car at the Tom Patterson Theatre (venue for our final show), then walked up to another coffee place to have a light lunch with Joyce and read some more.

3. Then we walked down to the Patterson, where we saw a fantastic production of The Madwoman of Chaillot, the play by Jean Giraudoux from the early 1940s. It's a brisk and biting allegory about the domination of the rich, the resistance of the working classes in Paris. (Some contemporary relevancies are obvious!) Two of the lead performers, Stratford veterans Seanna McKenna (the madwoman--see program cover) and Scott Wentworth were simply outstanding--but so was everyone else, come to think of it. Ben Carlson was really strong as one of the greedy and inhuman "presidents" of commerce. (Some years ago we saw him play Hamlet, and while he was delivering "To be or not to be"--all the way downstage, audience members only a foot or so away, a cell phone went off. He stopped. Lowered his head. Waited for silence. When it came, he continued.)

Several times (that's right ... several) I wept during the show, and Joyce and I, who zoomed out afterward (about 5) to head for home, talked about it for, oh, about a hundred miles or more!

4. The trip home was something of an adventure. As we crossed the Ambassador Bridge (from Windsor, Ont.) to Detroit, we learned at the last second that the ramp to I-75 South (our road!) was closed, and we ended up driving through southern Detroit in pursuit of an active ramp (we found one--miles later). Our GPS woman grew very impatient with us and several times told us to U-turn. We didn't. We followed the detour signs. (I'm surprised she didn't just sign off and tell us to go ... you know .... go ....)

5. And so we didn't get home until about midnight (an hour longer than usual), and we stumbled into the house, stumbled through some of the necessary chores we needed to do upon return, stumbled into bed, and plunged into sleep.

6. A final, what-did-it-all-mean? post tomorrow ...

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