Posts Tagged ‘I am from the nineteenth century’

Augusta, Georgia, February 12:

Travelling one state northwards into weather more reminiscent of April than June, we settled in Augusta to give a performance of Taming of the Shrew in a gorgeous theatre that we all agreed we would like to pack into the cargo van and take with us. (Of course, this would require a cargo van with interior capabilities even greater than that of Mr. Weasley’s old Ford Anglia, may it continue to roam the Forbidden Forest in peace.) Fortunately for you, I can dispense with the one thousand, or perhaps one-thousand-five-hundred words (knowing me) of description and provide you with a couple of pictures:

Pictured are an out-of-focus Paul Reisman and Chris Seiler (Digital cameras are fantastic, but at least one in every twenty pictures is out of focus, which never happened with my old manual camera. It shames me a little.)

Pictured, left to right, are Chris Seiler, the now-nameless but kind gentleman who worked at the theatre, Aaron Hochhalter, and Ginna Hoben.

A full stage is hiding behind the curtains and discovery space, but we chose just to use the front thrust, as it is so ideally suited to our thrust-staging ethos. The stage floor that you see there is actual hardwood. How they keep it in such good shape, I have no idea. A season low in tap-dancing musicals would probably be a start.

The show itself was fun and lively, because, as Ginna and I both agreed, it felt ‘good to be back’ after the performances in the noisy high school auditorium and the amphitheatre, in which we all had to project within an inch of our lungs’ lives. It was a lovely audience; Josh’s parents were there to see it again, as I recall they were also there to see it at the Holton Arms Academy.

However, I confess that the most distinctive thing that I recall about the entire show was something that happened backstage. Before we were about to enter for the second time in the Wedding Scene, after Katherine and Petruchio have been married, Ginna was holding the Flounder, as she usually does. A couple of people, most likely Josh and Paul, were taunting her, and she whacked one of them, most likely Paul, with the Flounder. Then she spun around to the semi-circle of people who simply happened to be gathering for the entrance in a way that seemed say, “Who else wants to give it a shot? C’mon! I’ll take you all on!” It was just about the funniest thing I had seen since Dan’s little grin as Launcelot Gobbo in Merchant in New Martinsville, West Virginia, and, naturally, shares with all things I find truly hysterical the key attribute of not being particularly amusing in the re-telling.

Part of the reason I found it so humorous was that her moves reminded me of some kind of combat video game, and led me thus to imagine the character selector, with a little video game Kate posing in her bridal regalia while the player scrolled through the list of possible weapons (bouquet, super-soaker, walker, etc.) before selecting [Flounder]. And no, you do not need to tell me that my brain makes bizarre cognitive leaps. I am sufficiently aware of the oddity, especially since I do not think I have ever actually played any kind of fighting video game. Maybe the Flounder made me think of that Kingdom Hearts video game that my dear friend and roommate Briana used to play.

Suffice it to say, all I really I remember is clinging to a nearby ladder for support as I heaved with silent laugher, whilst Ginna kept pointing her finger at me and saying, “Don’t make me laugh! Don’t!”

After our performance, our lovely hosts took us ‘out’ to dinner at our hotel, which was fantastic. I have three words for you: goat cheese grits. Unless, of course, you hyphenate goat-cheese, in which case I have two words for you. This dinner will also live in my memory as taking place on the evening of the Potomac Primaries (or ‘Crabcake Primaries,’ as Jon Stewart showed a clip of someone saying, thus proving that not only actors have a food fixation), because when I discovered the results I ran into the other room, exclaiming, “Obama swept!” and literally leaping into the air. This is distinctive mostly because Paul said it was the fastest he had ever seen me move.

All of us at dinner at the Partridge Inn. The goat cheese grits have not yet arrived.
Visible, clockwise from the back of Alisa’s beautiful red head: Raffi Barsoumian, Scot Carson, Paul Reisman, Josh Carpenter, Chris Johnston, Dan Kennedy, Chris Seiler.

I wished that we were performing in Augusta for a week, rather than a day, in part because of the beautiful performing space and our kind hosts, but also because the hotel was AMAZING. It is tied in my estimation with the Belmont Inn in Abbeville, SC, and may even exceed my admiration of the Belmont for being larger and fancier, with a better breakfast (three words: regular cheese grits) and workout facilities. Both, however, captured my heart by being not merely old-fashioned, but Genuinely Old Hotels; my nineteenth-century soul was charmed.

But anyone, whether they are misplaced from the nineteenth century or not, would be impressed by this suite:

Although they are not pictured, there are TWO walk-in closets in this suite. The discovery of that fact actually began to make me feel moderately guilty, because I happened to have a room to myself whilst we were in Augusta, and this meant that there were only .5 people per walk-in closet. But no more than sixty seconds after I had taken these pictures in exultation, Paul (the housing coordinator) called me up to say that Dan and Scot had accidentally been put into a room with only one bed, and asked if I could switch rooms. Naturally, I did, so this was my room instead:


I actually preferred this room, because it had that ineffable quality which makes me wish that I could simply hole myself up and try to write Great Things. (Picture, if you will, a typewriter on the above desk.) The only other room that has spoken to me in this manner was a room in a B&B in Derry, Northern Ireland; that room had the decided advantage of being in Ireland, this had the advantage of having a veranda:

And because we were in Georgia, it was actually warm enough to sit outside and write. Both days that we were there it was partially overcast, but that kind of thick, protean grey with clouds that hang like ripe fruit and enrich the colour of green on the earth. You can probably tell that I like this kind of weather, and when it is paired with 70-80 degree temperatures, you are absolutely right. It is, as a matter of fact, my favourite kind of weather, simply because it resonates with me on some inexpressible level, in the way that the hotel room made me want to write. It may be that its rarity has something to do with its value in my estimation, since in a place like Boston, you get no more than two to four days like this a year, in late April and early May. But for whatever reason, I’d take the emotion of spring-like clouds that seem almost to give way to warm rain over the placid smile of a cloudless sky any day. If this is anything like Georgia usually is during the winter, I am going to winter in Georgia and not Florida in the unlikely event that I am ever financially comfortable enough to do so.

I love Georgia in the winter


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Buckhannon, West Virginia, January 29: 

Luckily, we had another performance of Merchant of Venice in Buckhannon. The theater was beautiful; it reminded me a little of the theater in which I did Romeo and Juliet in college, only with a larger stage, a smaller house, and more humane acoustics. So the similarities were basically age, and a balcony that curved all the way around the house from one side of the stage to the other, supported by columns that created side galleries below. (For those of you seeking another visual cue, both Paul and Scot employed different film references to say it reminded them of a 1950s courthouse.) Audience members were forbidden from sitting in the balcony because it can no longer support large amounts of weight. Whilst some part of me acknowledges this as a drawback, the other part of me finds it really exciting, though whether from my Romantic / Gothic love of old and crumbling buildings, or some residual spirit of Gladys from Tennessee Williams’ These Are the Stairs You Got to Watch, I am not sure.

The audience was kind and attentive, if not the best of all time, but I confess I didn’t care about audience response nearly as much as having another crack at working on the changes. I knew, even prior to our previous performance of it, that the first show would be the hardest to get through, and that subsequent shows would slowly become easier—precisely because the difficulty stems from an unfamiliarity with certain aspects of a world whose every other feature has a long and often complicated history. I am pleased to say that I think this performance worked; I did an adequate job, and many of my castmates had truly fantastic shows.

As a matter of fact, so many people gave wonderful performances that I am sure I cannot do justice to recording them here. Raffi, as Morocco, had just about his best casket scene of all time, and executed his beat changes so quickly with “Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves/As much as he deserves!/Pause there, Morocco” that, although I escaped actually laughing, I couldn’t help but crack a smile. (Lewis said to me, after seeing the show last October, “You were great, my dear, but the best part of the show was when the Moroccan prince said ‘This casket threatens!’” I have to agree with him.) Paul followed this up with an equally brilliant Arragon, really laying into one of the people on stage with the “barbarous multitudes” and then doing a swift change-up to “Why then, to thee, thou silver TREASURE house,” saying the word ‘treasure’ in a higher pitch. You will just have to trust me that it was honestly one of the funnier things I have ever heard and that I nearly lost it, because prose cannot render it in its full glory.

Paul also reached some new places with Lorenzo, getting visibly frustrated and spontaneously punching the floor at the end of “The man that hath no music in himself” speech. Alisa had an especially good balcony scene, I thought, and Scot made me tear up when he said, “He seeks my life” in the scene with Solanio and the jailer. Josh has been working in some pauses after “Will you stead me? Will you pleasure me?” in the first scene with Shylock, which are really hysterical. Chris, as Shylock, seemed to reason out his argument better than ever in the courtroom scene, and I almost felt at times as if he knew what I was doing, both of which made my job in the scene more difficult in a positive way. When I told him afterwards what an amazing show I thought he had, he said, “Yeah, I saw everyone else trying new things, so I thought I’d do it, too.” And it was so true: everyone, including the people I haven’t mentioned here, gave fresh performances which were full of discovery and life.

Meanwhile, other comparisons with our previous West Virginia stay, Fairmont, run as follows:
Dining Hall: Better in Buckhannon
Gym: Worse in Buckhannon (thus corroborating the supposition made in Fairmont about an inverse relationship between the quality of the dining hall and the quality of the gym, a better gym being required to work off the effects of poor health choices at the dining hall)
Cell Phone Reception: Still roaming, but more likely to cut a call off every twenty minutes than every twenty seconds
Hotel: Decidedly more quaint

 On our day off, Dan, Josh and Scot went skiing and snowboarding. I opted for the group outing to a local mall, it being more suitable to my intense hatred of cold, and that part of my personality which people in the nineteenth century would dub ‘a delicate constitution,’ and which my mom calls me being a ‘weenie.’

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