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"Random Jottings" has a particular literary source, but it's been so long that I cannot recall what that source is.

I think I've finally sorted out the cross-posting to LJ, but I guess we'll see. I assume that it will work perfectly now that LJ has finally gone off the rails for good and I should probably consider not posting there any more. I'll do a separate post asking people to tell me if they plan to stay on LJ and post there, because I don't like losing track of people even though I make it easy to lose track of myself.

I've been trying to be more active on DreamWidth/LiveJournal, but what this has resulted in has been my commenting lavishly and then having a very hard time responding to the responses even though I'm delighted to get them. I doubt anybody is feeling neglected or snubbed, but if you are I apologize; and even if you aren't I will try to do better.

The rest of this post is an International Bad Cat Day post involving tulips, followed by a section about the Guthrie Theater's recent production of King Lear.


Last week I got on a bus and took a large thick envelope of receipts and statements and forms to the accountants' office. I'm not sure when we last got the current year's taxes done by April 15, though we have managed to file an extension and get things done by August 15 a time or two in the last never-mind how-many years. I'm suddenly feeling much more chipper; I hadn't realized what a horrible burden having the undone taxes looming over me was, and yet doing them is such a nightmare. Tax law has no understanding at all of how self-employment works, and doesn't care either. Tax law secretly feels that if you get your money in large lumps rather than in increments week by week or month by month, you are somehow duplicitous, lazy, or both; or else just generally trying to get away with something. It hates me and mine and I hate it back passionately.

When I left, Raphael asked if I knew when I'd be home. I had no idea and was a bit short with R because I was about to miss my bus. (I did, in fact, miss it, but the next one was early, and it wasn't very cold out.) I sent a text once I knew when I was likely to be back, wondering a little, since I wasn't making dinner and we didn't have any firm plans for anything. R texted back that zie had gone for a short walk and might or might not beat me home. I got home first. When Raphael got home I eventually wandered through the kitchen to find her putting white and purple tulips in a Portmeirion vase. "It's a Saffron vase," said Raphael, and indeed the image on the vase was of meadow saffron (a kind of autumn crocus). We have the dinner plate but I hadn't realized that there was a vase as well. The vase was an early anniversary present and the tulips were for getting the taxes done. The overflow went into a Portmeirion mug (with sweet peas on the side) with a broken handle, and the vase spent the afternoon in my office on a high bookshelf, faintly scenting the room with tulip.

But at some point Saffron herself evidenced a strong desire to get up on the bookcase with the tulips. You could see her cat-brain doing the math. Can I jump up from this vantage point? No, not enough room to land. What about from the lower bookcase under the air conditioner? No, can't see properly. What about from the top of the air conditioner? That's better but some monkey has put a paper bag up there on my occasional landing spot. Pause. BUT TULIPS! What about this part of the pile of boxes of author copies and very old files apparently put here just for the convenience of cats? No, not actually convenient to cats. Scaling the lower shelves? No, too many useless bits of decoration and books stuck in sideways for lack of room. She had been allowed to sniff and examine the flowers before they were put in the vase, but she still seemed very determined, so I removed the tulips to my bedroom for the moment.

I was reading peacefully in my bedroom much later when she started the same set of calculations in there, ultimately making it through quite a number of random objects without knocking any of them down, until she was a foot or so from the vase. I removed it and put it on the front stairs. This was useful insofar as it's cold on those stairs, which preserved the tulips nicely. I let Saffron sniff them again before I took them away, but whatever she wanted with them, it wasn't that. When I brought the tulips back up at the end of a busy weekend, and on every day that I had them in my office, she did her mathematics at some point, but by then I was persuaded that she probably couldn't actually get up on that bookcase and was too smart to try and fail.

In late March, Eric and I went to see the Guthrie's performance of King Lear. I meant to write it up immediately so that local people would still have a chance to see it. The Guthrie had not done Lear in twenty years. Raphael and I went to that 1996 production, which was excellent; my main memory of it at this remove is Isabel Monk's tremendous, hilarious, moving performance as the Fool. I mentioned it to Raphael when I was talking about the recent production, and Raphael reminded me that Isabel Monk was so much more robust than Lear in that production that it transformed the entire nature of their relationship.

In this production, the Fool was played by Armin Shimerman. I gazed and gazed at that name and at the photo of the actor, which was not familiar. I was only clued in by the conversation of the people next to us. All of you are no doubt jumping up and down to tell me that Mr. Shimerman played Quark on "Deep Space Nine" and later, Principal Schneider on "Buffy." Lear was played by Stephen Yoakum, who long ago was Henry Bolingbroke in Garland Wright's production of the History Plays, which I saw at least four times, most of them on day-tickets. It was in that line that I overheard a bunch of late-adolescent girls fangirling Henry V. Not Kenneth Branagh, whose movie had come out recently; and not the actor who played Henry -- Henry himself. It was awesome, as was that whole run of plays. They did Richard II; a very long and deeply distressing adaptation of both parts of Henry IV; and Henry V.

I didn't recognize Mr. Yoakum, but I recognized his voice at once in the first scene.

It almost always takes a few minutes to settle into Shakespeare's language, and while that was happening I looked over all the characters who were on stage at the beginning and suddenly recalled the scene from the third season of "Slings and Arrows" in which Charles Kingman, meeting the rest of the cast in a production for which he had been invited to play Lear, asks the woman playing Cordelia how much she weighs and reacts very rudely to her answer of 107 pounds. This Lear would not have needed to do that even if he had been twice as rude a person: Yoakum's Lear is physically robust even as his mind breaks and breaks again into smaller bits.

Cordelia and Goneril both also had very robust physical presences. Goneril was tall and Cordelia was just very much present. Regan was more withdrawn and quiet, which made the later scene with Gloucester particularly horrible and creepy. I had forgotten how funny Goneril is; horribly funny, but funny. Another thing that struck me was that, when she has her first tantrum, she behaved and sounded really exactly like Lear just had when he flew into a rage at Cordelia and exiled her.

Edgar's first appearance was made with his hair falling into his eyes and a wineglass in his hand; he was clearly pie-eyed and may not have been completely sober until sometime after his transformation into a Bedlam boy. This made his complete cozening by Edmund more plausible than is sometimes the case. And of course it lighted up what's already present, his gaining clarity while feigning madness. Edmund was very well done; I had remembered that he is funny, but actors vary in how well they manage this, and this one did a very good job.

Armin Schimerman was an excellent Fool, much smaller than Lear but much more mentally present. The production also did something I don't remember seeing before. The Fool simply vanishes from the proceedings during the thunderstorm. At the end of the play Lear says, "And my poor fool is hanged," and there is, or was, much speculation about whether he means the actual Fool or is using a fond term for his daughter Cordelia. The parts were probably doubled originally, which explains the Fool's disappearance so that Cordelia can reappear from her exile, but it's still very weird how the Fool just falls silent. When Isabel Monk played the part, she deliberately withdrew and turned her back on the entire situation, wracked with many feelings. In this production, as Lear's mind breaks down, he stabs and kills the Fool without knowing it, to the horror of Kent and Edgar.

I was sad that they cut so much of Edgar's speech when he's persuading his father that they are standing at the edge of the cliffs of Dover when really he's been leading Gloucester in circles, but the scene was very affecting anyway. And they did leave in the bit during the torture of Gloucester where the one servant objects to what is being done and is killed for his pity. C.S. Lewis has said somewhere that while that is a very small part, it's the part he would want to play in actual life.

Pamela

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