cold november reign

here’s what’s happening in the next month (in general planning order and including the last week of october):

  • 3+ birthday parties: two dinners, one casino night. (ever wonder why the end of october and the beginning of november is so chock full of birthdays? valentine’s day is appx 38 weeks earlier.)
  • make hella baby food: finger foods are where it’s at, so i need to figure out how to turn squash and sweet potatoes and such into bits of cooked food without being mush and without having to steam and cut up stuff every day. i think cutting and roasting in the oven is where it’s at, but i’ve got to figure out how and do it. soon.
  • planning for charlotte’s birthday: aack! clean the house. finally put up her door-curtain. plan a menu. order food. etc etc.
  • picture time: planning and plotting to get the 3 of us to the photographers before the month gets too far under way. kill the 1 year pictures (ready for party handing out) and the christmas card pic in a single shoot…if we can make it
  • planning for NY trip: because planning, shopping, assembling will be quite time consuming. man needs a suit. we both need winter layers. i don’t want to go to NY looking like i stepped off a farm tractor.
  • VOTE! thank goodness that sample ballot arrived the other day so i can finally start investigating some of the local stuff.
  • charlotte’s birthday: gets it’s own item because it also includes planning
  • toddler transitions: figuring out and beginning all those transitions from baby stuff to toddler stuff. no more formula, “grown up” meals, etc etc.
  • charlotte packing: she may not be going to NY, but she’s still going to need some serious packing for her vaca with her great aunt/uncle
  • 5 day trip to NY: for a wedding + mini-vaca (leaving 3 days after charlotte’s birthday)
  • thanksgiving: complete with 3ish day trip to chicago planning is less of a deal, and fortunately, there’s a whole week after the NY trip to recover and regroup.

AND

i’m going to try and write a 50,000 word novel. i’ve succeeded before, but that was 2006, which was a very different (childless, NY-vacationless) year. my plan of attack is to task and calendar the entire month. i know that the “1800 words a day” plan is not going to work since there are too many days where i won’t have time to write more than 10. i’m going to have to double up and block out some serious time.

fortunately, i still have a week to plot the month, plot the novel, and plot the writing chunks. also, i can stay up late on 10/31 and get some done before midnight. and the plane rides and the airports and the car rides and….

man. i’m exhausted just thinking about it. maybe i’ll take a nap instead.

the greatest play you’ll probably never see

is there any sense in reviewing a production that’s weeks away from closing and has been sold out for the entire run? perhaps not. it’s possible that you’ll book tickets to DC in hopes of acquiring one of the handful of standing room only tickets that go on sale an hour before each performance. if you’re a whimsical sort of person, i highly recommend it. if you’re already in the DC area and have no physical limitations that prohibit you from standing for a couple of hours, you need to go see this.

what am i talking about? the folger shakespeare library‘s adaptation of macbeth.

i first heard about this production many months ago. someone sent me (or maybe i just picked it off an RSS feed) a link to teller’s blog posts regarding the production. he promised “macbeth done right,” or in other words, a dark, creepy, bloody horror-fest full of magic and special effects that gives the darkest of shakespeare’s plays the proper treatment it deserves. i immediately sent the link to a friend who is living in DC for the year and said “you have to see this so that i know someone who has.” as luck would have it, we scheduled our trip to DC during the run, and gina managed to pick up the last two tickets seated together for the 5 days we were going to be in town.

i could spend an entire post raving about the theatre space. we had no idea we’d be walking into a 250-seat recreation of an elizabethan playhouse. we squee-ed like the fangirls we were and tried unsuccessfully to look as collected as the rest of the audience. sadly, i left my program in DC so i can’t give any of the designers or actors specific credit. they were all worthy of praise.

without any hyperbole or exaggeration i can safely say that i never need to see macbeth again. i’m not sure any other version could hope to live up to the standard set by this production. i’m also assuming that you know the story of macbeth, dear reader, and not worrying about spoiling key plot elements.

weird sisters aside, the costumes were all natural fabrics. woolen kilts and cable-knit sweaters with combat boots for the men and simple layers of shift dresses for the women gave the production a sense of timelessness, while also highlighting the play’s scottish roots. longer kilts and crisp white shirts served as “dress” uniforms for the more formal events. the families were subtly divided by color schemes, the wealthy from the poor by the quality and cut of the fabric as well as hair style. even the swords they carried seemed designed for each character. the sisters combined all of these elements, and along with stained and blooded wedding-dress tulle and grotesque halloween masks were hands-down the creepiest, weirdest witches i’ve seen. as characters grew weaker or stronger, subtle costume changes match their moods. after the massacre of his wife and children, the amiable macduff uses a red scrap of fabric to tie back his hair and is transformed into another version of himself.

with tricks of light and sound, a single set stood for interior and exterior shots with only the barest of set pieces. two caged percussionists provided an aural backdrop that was half soundtrack and half special effects. A chair here, a mirror there, the sound of wind through a haunted forest, the beat of a drum as soldiers marched up the hill. those were the clues you received and they were all you needed. there was never any doubt where you were, even as one scene transitioned the next. layered with all of these elements were the special effects. there were swordfights, foggy forests, a cauldron bubbling, disappearing and reappearing witches and ghosts, severed heads in baskets, copious amounts of stage blood, and even a broken arm complete with a sickening crack. while your average “penn & teller” show would use these elements for melodramatic effect, this production was never over the top, even at it’s bloodiest.

and then there were the actors. although the entire cast was top-notch, macbeth, lady macbeth, and one of the men who played multiple roles deserve special mention. of the entire cast, their moments are the ones that are still with me. lady macbeth’s infamous “out damned spot” scene, as the phantom blood slowly becomes real to the audience, gave me chills. the way that macbeth rubbed and plucked at his scalp as he descended into paranoia and madness was seamlessly integrated into his character. the ensemble player was as equally comfortable playing the hilariously drunk porter, fantastical weird “sister”, or the doctor that observes lady macbeth’s madness. his turn as one of the murders, rubbing a sword against the belly of the pregnant lady macduff as he hums a lullaby, was the creepiest moment of the entire show.

before you think i’ve been completely blinded, it was not all perfection. some of the bloodwork, especially the palmed, empty sacks could have been a bit more subtle. they were actors, however, and not professional magicians. some actors chose a subtle scottish accent, but not all, and few of the ones that did were consistent enough for my taste. while i think the use of child actors was effective, especially in the case of macduff’s young son, they were often not up to the caliber of their grown counter parts. some actors played multiple parts, which was distracting, except for the ones who played the weird sisters. speaking of, i would have preferred the sisters in makeup and prosthetics instead of the rubber halloween masks, but i recognize the necessity of the masks for quick costume changes. it just would have been nice to see their faces contort along with their bodies.

my biggest complaint, really, is that it likely won’t be filmed, so that you’ll never get to see it, and i’ll never get to see it again.

DC Trip: random powerful sight

while ryan, charlotte, and i were walking back from the lincoln memorial, we stumbled across a scene that surprisingly moved me to tears. at first, we wondered if it might have been staged, but after considering the likely-hood of the random events (high), and confirming with gina, apparently these sorts of things happen all the time.

it started with a limo, a wheel-chair bound veteran in dress uniform, his family, a couple of handlers, and a 2 person camera crew. I fail at wars and timing and determining people’s ages, but i’d say he were probably from the korean war or WWII. i’m not sure what their purpose was, but if i had to guess, it was some sort of documentary or perhaps anniversary celebration. nobody was making a big deal about it, so he must not have been someone “famous.” the group slowly made their way from the limo to the washington memorial. on the way, they were interrupted by 3 marines who were jogging along the mall. one by one the men stopped, bent over the veteran, shook his hand, and thanked him for his service. as they resumed their jog, one of the handlers stopped them and thanked them, saying how much their gesture touched the vet. the marines were as humble with the handler as they were respectful with the vet.

the cynic in me wondered if it was staged, but the amount of randomly jogging marines and other military personnel makes the random occurrence highly plausible. except for the marines, who logically moved with purpose, everyone else who took part in the scene seemed slightly disoriented by the interruption. i then attempted to make sense of it by convincing myself that the amount of conditioning that comes with belonging to the armed forces was the major reason the marines stopped. there were simply trained to. i couldn’t shake the look on one of the marine’s face or the sound of his voice from my mind however, and i finally gave into the feelings i was trying to avoid. i’m still not sure exactly what they were. i think that patriotism, or just a general feeling of pride in the military specifically, is so alien to me that i really didn’t know how to express them or feel them properly. i experienced something similar to when i see or hear something that is overwhelmingly beautiful. it’s a sort of this primal, almost painful, burst of “something” in my chest/throat that causes me to tear up.

as i suspected, being in DC made me wish i was a better student of american history, civics, and current political issues. there was no moment that i felt that more keenly than watching the marines and the veteran in the shadow of the washington monument.