It was a scattershot sort of week, but it still provided some blog fodder, so here we go…
I only spent two days in the classroom this week. Classes were cancelled on King Day, and because of dubious weather conditions, Mondoville operated on a two-hour delay on Wednesday and Thursday. As all the classes I teach are early in the day, a two-hour delay puts me on the sidelines. On the other hand, this means that I’ll have to tweak the syllabus a bit, compressing some lectures and omitting others altogether. But there’s nothing new in that, so I’ll manage, and I have to admit that I enjoyed a couple of extra days’ sleeping in.
For years, one of the elements of a Mondoville education has involved student attendance at various cultural events — musical performances, readings, lectures, plays — that sort of thing. Students have been required to attend an average of three events for each semester at the college, but their attendance doesn’t have to be that evenly spaced. On more than one occasion, this has resulted in would-be seniors desperately hunting for FAL (Fine Arts and Lectures) events in the final few weeks of a given term.
While the program is being phased out, current students still have to make their numbers, and as a current student, the Spawn is going to events as well — especially the ones that are free for students to attend. Last night presented such an opportunity, as the college’s Theater department produced a version of Cindy Lou Johnson’s Brilliant Traces, a long (80-minute) one-act play written in 1989. The Spawn planned to attend with a sorority sister, but when communications failed, I was pressed into service as chauffeur (the play was at the Newberry Opera House, about 3/4 of a mile from our home) and escort. Naturally, once we got there, the Spawn’s sorority sister was there after all, so I let them sit together while I moved to a more comfortable box seat.
The play is set in a remote Alaskan cabin, the home of Henry Harry, who stays there when he isn’t working on an oil rig. A tragedy has driven him to this near-reclusive lifestyle, but he’s interrupted when Rosannah DeLuce bursts into his cabin while trying to escape from a blizzard. DeLuce has fled her own wedding — in Arizona — and driven north for weeks, in a sort of fugue state. Complications ensue.
The play itself isn’t terrible, balancing its earnestness with moments of absurdity. However, there did seem to be a feeling that the playwright was just trying too hard. The play seems to want to become a rom-com, but Johnson refuses to let that happen, and although I’m not a dramatist, I could see the tool marks as I watched. The play also simply ends, rather than concluding. I’m sure that was supposed to mark it as Serious Drama, but again… trying too hard.
There are only two roles in the play, and some seriously lengthy monologues — I’m sure it’s a challenge for the actors. As it happens, the lead role (if you can have such in a two-person play), Rosannah, was played by my colleague Mandy Butler, who taught the Spawn’s public speaking course a semester or two ago. She’s a fine teacher, but I hadn’t seen her act before. She gave a strong performance in a role that was originally played by Joan Cusack when it was premiered by Circle Rep. She was engaging and off the wall without becoming twee. Harry was played by George Dinsmore, an actor based in Real City. His performance — not quite a “straight man” role, but generally more reactive in nature — allowed Butler to charm the audience. He was sympathetic and a solid lead without ever descending what Robert Redford once described as “You’re mad, and you’re wild, and I love you.” Mondoville students handled the technical duties for the production, which was staged simply and effectively, with some technical direction from another colleague of mine, Matthew Fuller.
After the play, the Spawn and I met up and headed home. We agreed that the performances were better than the material, but that it had been a good evening. My thanks and applause to the cast and crew — nice work.
This afternoon, Mrs. M and I went shopping and to the public library. She drove, as she’s scheduled to return the Canyonero on Monday, and wanted to get a few more miles out of the behemoth. I picked up a new pair of shoes, and checked out a copy of Michael Connelly’s Crime Beat, a collection of his journalistic work that helped inspire his Harry Bosch novels.
While at the library, I noticed that they didn’t have any of my work, even though I live less than a mile away. It keeps me humble, I guess, and I suppose I could always donate a copy of BGW while suggesting that they buy the anthologies I’m in (I only have one copy of each of those, and would have to buy extras just like anyone else), but I’d feel awkward doing something like that on my best days, and those don’t happen on a regular basis anyway. How would I even go about bringing it to their attention? “Um, sorry to intrude, but I’ve lived here for fifteen years, and some folks have noticed the stuff I write, and I was wondering…” I never thought I’d have to consider such issues, but now I do. (As a side note, I saw that they have the New York Times Review of Books in the Periodicals section — but not the issue that has the review of Alive in Shape and Color. Go figure.)
Well, it’s coming up on dinnertime, so I’ll get out of the way. But here’s some music to tide you over. The Woggles were formed in Athens, GA a couple of decades back, but they continue selling their brand of R&B-flavored garage rock today, and if you get a chance to see them live, make a point of it — it’s a treat. This track is from a couple albums ago, and I just love the beginning of the chorus (The part that starts with “Is she real or is she fake”.) This is “What Kind of Girl.”
See you soon!