Ok, so lately I’ve been a really lame blogger. Well, I was
somewhere where computers are banned! Really. Ok, so maybe not, but the town
where I’ve been is so cute in a Pacific-Northwest-with-a-touch-of-Europe way
that you would think the hippies who live there would have banned any
technology created after 1910. Ashland, Oregon. Each year I take my students up to Ashland’s
Shakespeare festival and we see five plays in three days. Theater Boot Camp. This
festival, in my opinion, is the best in the United States; just the right blend
of classics and new plays. And the productions are always amazing. Even when
they are bad, the company, tech and directors make such bold choices that are
wonderful to watch. You should go. Yes, you. I know you don’t like theater- but
this place could very well change your mind.
Anyway, here is the run down of my weekend (and please note that if it ever seems like I’m being over critical of a play- that’s like, my job.)
The drive is 8 hours from the Bay Area to Ashland-and there isn’t really anything between these two areas (though there is a town called Weed- and some kid inevitably thinks they are being clever and subtle when they ask if we can stop there). So when we stop for lunch we usually end up in some rural place that is tasteful enough to hang these on their restrooms- to tell you which door to go in:
Need I say more? Yet as you wind up into the mountains by Shasta, the ride becomes beautiful- both ways there was snow! We got there and checked into the Columbia Hotel. It’s like a European bed and breakfast without the breakfast. Bathrooms are down the hall- except in the chaperone’s rooms. Our schools (we go with the other school in the district) take over the whole hotel. This is probably a good thing because my students basically take over where ever they are anyway.
Friday Night: A Winter’s Tale by William Shakespeare
This was our least favorite play of the batch. Maybe it was because we were all tired from the bus ride, or maybe it was because the lead actor did an awful job. The trick of this play comes when the king, Leontes, descends into a jealous rage. It has to be believable; Leontes has to connect with the audience and the jealousy we have all felt. Actor William Langan did not connect with us. He started out fine, but then the suspected cheaters, his wife Hermione and the King of Bohemia went off stage and Leontes collapsed on the floor and started yelling at the top of his lungs. The audience was not ready for it. I fell asleep in the second act. Libby Appel directed this performance which befuddled me because last year she directed a Richard III which was one of the best plays I’ve ever seen.
Saturday Morning: ABC: Ashland Bakery Café
I love this restaurant. It’s so Ashland. Allen (my friend from college and co-chaperone) and I both had oatmeal. Allen, who just graduated from Yale’s MFA program in acting, was a great cohort to take on the trip. We had way too much fun. And the oatmeal was good too.
Saturday Afternoon: The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
This was a very successful production. Wilde would have been proud of the excessive set dressing and flamboyant costumes. One of the most beautiful productions I’ve ever seen. I was especially found of Miss Prism- she put on a stutter- I don’t know if I agreed with this but she totally took a risk. Also, the trick with this play is that the characters have very high stakes about very trivial matters. Yet these matters (muffins, tea, diaries, dinner parties, etc.) must be life and death for these characters or the humor is trite instead of clever. Miss Prism executed this brilliantly- I thought Jack and Algernon hammed it up a bit too much at times. But the play was still delightful and I had a lot of fun. My students loved it.
Saturday Evening: Dinner at the Brewpub
All of the
chaperones got together for dinner at the brew pub. The food was fine- but the
conversation was worth noting. We got on the subject of American Idol. “Who do
you want to win?” My counterpart at the other school chimed in:
“Mandisa!” (that’s my vote too, I love her- and just saw her get voted off!! Shoot.)
Then our very wise older proper English teacher said:
“Yeah, wouldn’t you like that butt full of nickels!”
It took me a second to figure out that it meant – Mandisa’s
butt is so big, that if you had the size of her butt in nickels, you would be a
rich man. Anyway that phrase “butt full of nickels” became frequently used on
Saturday Night: The Diary of Anne Frank adapted by Wendy Kesselman
Our group had incredibly differing opinions on this production. I thought the first act was incredibly annoying- but that was simply because the character of Anne Frank is incredibly annoying. Girls of thirteen going through puberty are bound to irritate. The second act really pulled me in and I thought some very interesting and powerful directing choices were made. The chemistry between Peter and Anne was cute and the story touching- many of my students were crying at the end. If you don’t know how Anne Frank ends- I won’t give it away (but you should probably brush up on your history)
Sunday Afternoon: Up by Bridget Carpenter
This is the play I enjoyed the most-mostly because there was a great Southern character in it that made the whole trip worth it. The characters, the dialogue, the premise were all wonderful to watch. There was only one problem: the main character. He was infuriating. The actor did a great job, but his text just made him the biggest tool on the planet. But I loved the rest of the play.
Sunday Evening: Dinner at Amuse
Two of my students- Portia:
And I out to dinner at this place called Amuse. It was a lovely little white table cloth cal-french bistro. I had a green salad with blue cheese toasts:
The salad was refreshing after eating too much crap on the trip and the pickled beets in the salad were wonderful. Next I had a halibut over fava beans and leeks:
I’m a little bit of a leek nut- so I loved it. I think leeks and white fish may be as good a combination as peanut butter and jelly. The fish was not overdone and the mayo based sauce on top was perfect.
Sunday Night: Bus Stop by William Inge
Ok, so as
the lights were going down and the message about cell phones was coming on I
turned to Allen and said:
“I feel really sick, I think I’m going to throw up.”
“You need to go. Now.”
“I’ll have to walk across all those people and part of the
“Maybe I’ll be fine…”
“Kristen. go. now.”
So I did. And this was like 5 lines into the play. So I
listened to the entire first act while puking in the bathroom. The cause is
still a little unexplained- but I think it was that I had been drinking coffee
all weekend to make sure I didn’t fall asleep in the plays. Well, all that
coffee finally caught up to me and decided to do a number on my stomach. Yum.
But Act II was great. The characters were natural and pursued their motivations relentlessly. It was a huge winner.
I know that some people have their family reunions up in Ashland every year- and then see a few plays. Or some people take a road trip with their kids to Ashland- and see a few plays. So, no matter how you get there- go. You won't regret it.
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