Archive for the ‘Ashland 2008’ Category.

Catching Up

Just to finish up with the Ashland photos (Click any photo to enlarge):

Here’s the cottage we where we stayed. It’s nestled up against Ashland Creek, and set among several art studios.  Gotta nail it down for next year.

Before every evening performance, there is a “Green Show” performance by various artistic groups with a theme loosely related to one of the plays:

We got a bonus performance after this particular show - a woman who had been on a mission to be able to perform topless in the 4th of July parade was taking her case to the streets in rather dramatic fashion.  I love the way everyone is pretending she’s a piece of sculpture or landscaping.  Unseen, perhaps, are multiple sets of spousal knuckles buried in spousal kidneys as incentive.  (FYI, Mrs. Perils encouraged me to take this photo):

After a week of awfully good visibility on our hikes, the smoke from California fires blew into the valley, dimming the sun to about 40 watts:

It’s always a downer to leave, but it’s also always cool to catch an aerial view of the Seattle harbor and skyline:

Thoughts on “The Further Adventures of Hedda Gabler”

Wednesday night(ed: hangover post from our week in Ashland 6/23 - 6/30), we saw a clever play called The Further Adventures of Hedda Gabler, by Jeff Whitty.  The setup is that Ibsen’s heroine awakes after the end of the play (which ends with her shooting herself) to find herself again a resident of the Cul-De-Sac of the Tragic Heroines, to which they apparently decamp between performances of their characters’ plays.  Close neighbor and good buddy Medea bounces in, full of sympathetic banter.  They are soon joined by Mammy (of Gone With The Wind), who doesn’t at first apprehension seem to be a tragic character, but shares a certain disgruntlement with the other two.  She also is Hedda’s servant, a circumstance that has tragic implications.

The disgruntlement these characters share is that they are dissatisfied with their characters, and would kill (themselves or others) to get them re-written.  Medea hates the fear in her kids’ eyes as she tries to be an ordinary mom in the Cul-de-Sac, Hedda would like to be happy for a change and shed her dweeb husband, and Mammy hates being an anachronism, a fact that is limned out when the black female police detective from Law and Order makes an appearance and derides her.

They hear that they might find a remedy if they make a trek to the Fiery Furnace of Creation.  Hedda and Mammy make plans to make the trip; Medea, being older and a little more inured to the cycle, demurs.  One of the funny scenes is when Medea stumbles onto the stage fresh from a performance, soaked in blood, and says, “I did it again.  I feel just awful!”

The play then follows Hedda and Mammy on their trek, and it becomes a hilarious cross between The Wizard of Oz (Dorothy skips by once in the background, ruby slippers aglow) and a Crosby/Hope Road movie.  Along the way, they meet Cassandra (and of course don’t believe a word she says), Tosca drops out of the sky and crashes to the stage two different times and a feathery hulk named Icarus also crashes resoundingly.  They meet two more characters of Mammy’s “anachronism” (as opposed to “tragic”) ilk, gay refugees from something very like Boys in the Band, who are angst-ridden that modern gay men disdain their queenly ways.

Upon reaching the Fiery Furnace, they observe characters spewing forth from its maw that live briefly, then fall dead.  They are informed that such is the fate of the badly-written and/or well-written but unmemorable characters.  Oblivious to the implications this may have to their various quests, they plunge into the Fiery Furnace to mind-wrestle with their authors.

The two Boys exit the Furnace basically unchanged.  Seems they got sidetracked by a happy hour of some sort and forgot to get themselves re-written.  Mammy and Hedda, however, emerge with their wishes granted.  And soon start to feel a little…wan…no, downright sick.

I guess it’s a message on two levels; as individuals,we can become obsessed with perceived flaws both physical and in our personalities.  To the extent that we suppress them and cleave towards “normality”, we become less interesting and imperil our spirits.

On the artistic level, a work of art achieves greatness because it causes us to experience an extended level of humanity, either by happy example or tragic.  To pluck out the components that disturb us in such a work would dilute its effect by obviating that cognitive stretching that great works of art compel us to do, excising what makes it memorable for us.

Ashland Hike Photos

I finally prodded and tweaked our hike photos from our Ashland trip last week and assembled them into photo galleries:

I’ll return to this post and add some editorial comments.  Right now, I’m headed out to kayak a bit and try my Canon A720 and its new waterproof case.

Up For Air

Wow.  We’re down to our last hour in our sweet little abode here in Ashland.  I set the bar pretty high for quantity, if not quality, in the Our Town review, and just couldn’t muster the same level of effort for the other plays.  I had promised my mom I’d post faithfully, and here we are.  Well, the poor woman watched me go through high school, so the incomplete-on-it’s-way-to-an-F shouldn’t be a shock.

Our schedule here didn’t leave a ton of time for quiet reflection, although less drowsing in the mornings might have yielded some results.  Typical day: roll out of bed at 9:30 or 10, coffee & toast, then off into the woods for the day’s hike.  We’d hike 8-10 miles, plan to be back in town by 5 or 5:30, and ravenous for dinner.  Our play for the day would start at 8:30, and we’d be back in our lodging by 11:30.

The weather was marvelous for both hiking and for watching plays under the stars.  I have a ton of photos, which I’ll process into html-able bites over the next couple of days.

One early casualty of the week was my Canon S3 IS (I had given it an unwarranted promotion to S5 in my post last week ).  I let the batteries get depleted, and on our Tuesday hike the lens would not retract.  When I got back to town and put in fresh batteries, it still wouldn’t retract, giving me a “lens error/restart camera”.  Of course, it wouldn’t let me restart the camera, and the wisdom of the internet suggests that it needs to go to Canon for repair.  It should still be under warranty, but it’s a pain to do the shipping, etc.

Luckily, I had my new A720 along and, althought the zoom and some of the other creature comforts of the S3 are missing, I got a pretty decent set of photos.

Well, it’s checkout time, and we’re packed for a sprint to the Medford airport.  See you on the other side.

Our Town

We saw Our Town by Thornton Wilder last night in the outdoor Elizabethan theater.  I thought I remembered seeing this play sometime when I was in high school, but maybe I only read it.

It’s a 3-act play set in the small New Hampshire town of Grover’s Corners, in the years between 1901 and 1913.  From the start, a couple of oddities strike you.  The set is completely bare.  I read that Wilder specified this because he wanted the personal interaction to dominate the audience’s consciousness.  The other device that jars you is the presence of a meta-character called Stage Manager, who introduces the play, shepherds the plot along and offers other commentary.  It’s as if one of Shakespeare’s Prologues was the nephew of the director, and got a longer part written for him as a result.  The danger of this device is that one might suspect that the Stage Manager is there to rescue what otherwise is weak dramatic material.

I think the intent, however, is to provide an emotional buffer between the audience and the characters, to make the experience of this play more of an academic exercise in anthropology and psychology than an immersion in plot and circumstance.  This is reinforced at some point when the Stage Manager brings forth a professor to elucidate the historical development of the town.  (this hits a comic moment when the professor chooses to start his narrative in the Pleistocene Era).

In snippets I’ve read from Wilder about the play, he’s making a concerted effort to move away from the particular and towards the universal, and these two devices (the bare set, the Stage Manager) seem to be part of that effort.  I have to say that it works very well.  We’re left with the bare facts of how generations accrete: two families raise two children, those children meet, court and marry and eventually everybody dies.  (the last scene is set in the town graveyard.

From my memory of the play, I was expecting something of a Norman Rockwell painting of small town life, and I suspect it may have been staged that way the time I saw it.  If I actually saw it.  And you do get a sense of generational and social connection peculiar to small towns.  But you also see, and the playright intends for you to see, how people’s expectations get cropped in order to fit the mold.  We only see one person who actually moves away, and the “out West” he moves to turns out to be Buffalo.  Another character that doesn’t fit, the church choir director, town drunk who evinces some thwarted artistic airs, commit suicide and is judged to “not be made for small-town life.”

The graveyard setting is the third strange aspect of the play.  It shows that everybody eventually leaves town, one way or the other.  Death doesn’t seem to be a strictly binary experience.  The folks in the graveyard can still observe life in the town.  But their interest in the events of the living seems to fade as their responsibility for influencing events is relieved.  A newly-dead character, not yet inured to this separation, wishes to relive a day of her life.  The more experienced dead advise her against it, but she returns anyway and is taken aback at how absorbed in the quotidian, the everyday, the living are, and returns to her grave unsatisfied.  The lesson we’re to take from this, I guess, is to try to maintain a heightened awareness during our brief days.

Day 1 - Loafing

Not much intellectual challenge to our first (well, truncated) day here in Ashland.  We checked into our digs - a sweet little house nestled up against Ashland Creek, and I immediately felt my mom’s absence, since the three of us have lodged here for the last 3 years or so in Ashland.  So, I called her and checked up on her recovery.  As it happened, she’d played bridge in the morning, and was resting up.

We walked over to the Ashland Co-op and bought groceries.  I perceived that, despite spending over $80 for staples, there was nothing that could remotely be called “dinner” amongst our gleanings, and followed my intuition with inquiries that led to our repast at Standing Stone Brewery, where I dined on a buffalo burger.

Following dinner, we stopped into the liquor store (hey, we had to go back to the house to put the half of Mrs. Perils’ steak sandwich that we boxed in the fridge, and the liquor store was on the way).  It’s a treat to buy our favorite vodka, Crater Lake Vodka, here in Oregon - it’s cheaper than in Washington, plus there’s no sales tax here in Oregon.  However, tonight I discovered a companion product that just might have to become the official beverage of Perils of Caffeine in the Evening (as always, click any photo to enlarge):

(j/k.  I don’t think I could actually put something like this in my mouth)

Our lodging is set amongst a collection of little art galleries, and as we headed out for a post-prandial hike up the Ashland Creek watershed, this whacked-out Honda Civic parked in front of our complex:

It had what appeared to be a 9-hole golf course on its roof, but the golfers were not your standard country-club fare:

And the back end…with a sufficient slug of weed, you could stare at all the bric-a-brac in rapt fascination until you starved to death. Or until the owner moved the car (assuming that you noticed that the owner moved the car).

As we emerged from the creek and headed back to the house, the setting sun emblazoned the west-facing hills above the town. The bump on the upper right is Grizzly Peak, and we’ll be hiking there sometime in the next few days:


We’re (finally) sitting in the Alaska Airlines BoardRoom, awaiting our flight to Medford.  We don’t have a play tonight, so we’ll just relax around town, maybe hike up Ashland Creek and cool down.  Weather looks to be sunny and mid-80s all week.  I was having brainlock trying to remember how to pack for warm weather, non-business travel.  Shorts and t-shirts were finally revealed at the back of the closet and hiding underneath fleece and wool in my dresser drawers.  I kid myself that they’ll fit when the time comes.

Our son and his girlfriend arrived at the house last night after 3+ months on the road, looking ripped after rock climbing their way through Joshua Tree, Zion, Yosemite and points in between.  Coincidentally, they spent last week in Ashland with some of our son’s old high school classmates, and gave us some info on the plays they saw.  Hated to miss them there, but I’m sure it’s more fun with one’s peers.

OK, we’re off to board.  More from the sunny south later.

Headin’ South

Lots of water under the bridge since my last post.

Next week, for the 15th year, we’re headed to Ashland, Oregon for a week of vacation. As before, the week will include attending plays at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, hiking in the Siskiyou Mountains on and around the Pacific Crest Trail and general R&R.

For the last 3 years, my mom has been accompanying us, and that was the plan this year as well. However, last week she came down with some form of pneumonia and ended up in a hospital over the weekend. She’d been feeling a little punk earlier in the week, but she says she was trying to nurse herself along and be well enough to make her flight to Seattle, which would have left today (Wednesday).

She was playing bridge on Thursday morning and getting worse, though, and her friends finally ended the game and insisted on taking her to a doctor. She said, “It must have been because they were concerned about me - my cards were really crummy all morning.” Tests came back Friday, and the doc urged her to go to the emergency room.

Meanwhile, my brother, who calls her just about every day, hadn’t been able to reach her on Friday, and on Saturday called me to see if I’d spoken to her.  She hadn’t returned my call from Thursday, so we stewed a bit about what to do.  We couldn’t reach either of her neighbors.  Finally, my brother called the police to go and look.  A neighbor who had a key happened to meet them there, and they looked through the house with my brother on the phone just sure they were on a body hunt.  Later, when we found out the details, my mom was mortified that the police were in the house “when it was such a mess, with dirty dishes in the sink and everything.”

I spoke with her several times while she was in the joint, and she was getting progressively perturbed at the confinement and not being able to sleep well. By Monday, she’d had it and insisted on being released. A friend picked her up, and she’s glad to be home and feeling better, despite some discomfort working her way through a couple of drug series. I called her this afternoon, and she said, “Why aren’t you picking me up at the airport right now?”

I waited until yesterday to cancel her plane reservations, thinking that if she got stronger in a hurry, I didn’t want to foreclose the opportunity. I’ll miss her enthusiasm - she’s always thrilled at the performances and the atmosphere of the theaters and the town.

So, we now have a capacious house for the week, and we’ll need to sell or exchange her play tickets. Shouldn’t be too hard - I bought our tickets last November in the member’s presale, and they just rock, they’re all in the first 3 rows.

Here are the plays we’ll see:

  • Our Town (Thornton Wilder) - will be the first 20th-century play they’ve stage in the outdoor Elizabethan theater.
  • The Further Adventures of Hedda Gabler (Jeff Whitty) - begins where Ibsen’s play ends, resurrecting Hedda so she can see about getting a re-write.
  • Othello
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream - “What happens in the forest stays in the forest”
  • Fences (August Wilson) - They’ve been doing Wilson plays from the Pittsburgh Cycle for the last 3 - 4 years, although not chronologically.
  • Coriolanus
  • The Clay Cart - a 2,000-year-old (east) Indian play.

We’ll fly into Medford Monday and return the 30th.

Right now, I’m hurtling through the work week trying to ensure that nothing seeps over into next week, so I can relax and use my laptop for repairing this dysfunctional project.

Update: - check out the blog threads from our previous trips in the sidebar.