Thursday, April 30, 2015

National Museum of Women in the Arts -- Washington, D.C.

Elizabeth Forbes
I was lucky enough to go to Washington, D.C. for a meeting yesterday.  It was a fly in, fly out day.  I knew I would have a short window of about 2 hours to explore the city before my evening flight.  Rebecca recommended the National Museum of Women in the Arts -- the only museum in the world dedicated solely to women artists.  It was great.  And not too, too big, so  perfect way to spend an hour before I caught my flight.  
There was even a piece by a Canadian -- Elizabeth Forbes

Remedios Varos

And I found a new favourite artist – Remedios Varos, a surrealist painter from Spain 

The museum is not one of the free Smithsonian museums, but with a meager $10 entrance fee, it was a steal.  They also give you an envelope of prints from a variety of pieces on display for you to take home as a gift.  How nice is that?  I looked at then all and read the backs but returned them to the front desk on my way out for another viewer to enjoy.  It was a hard things to do, but I am trying to scale back on the amount of "stuff" I have in my home.

Two Top Tips

One Hundred Best Days of My Life - Part II, Day 5

I have been on a long journey with one of my sons -- , well with two of them actually this year, now that I think about it. A space opened up for Richard and me to go walking every morning from 6 am to 7 am. The exercise alone was fantastic. But the chance to talk for an hour as we walked – that opportunity can hardly be measured when any two people get to spend that much time together.

Now just to have that happen with a son is a bonus. But then to go with another son to the Calgary Weight Loss Management Clinic – now that was another opportunity I would not have wanted to lose. It was not just the conversation on the ride to the meetings and back, but I got to sit in the classroom and listen to the lessons – a set of six of them, each two and a half hours long. I would not have wanted to miss that opportunity.

Kelvin and I bumped up the value of the classes by talking about the classes with a self-selected group of other family members on email. If anyone was interested, they could join the group – emails went back and forth about what he and I were learning at the lessons, but as well, about anything anyone wanted to talk about that had to do with the topic of good health…or any other topic, I guess.

Charise Bates has known that we were going to this clinic. She hasn’t been in on the emails. But she told me that she heard an interesting fact about weight management, so here it is, since I have thought of it a number of times.

She heard a health professional say that a study had been on people who had significant weight loss and then kept those pounds off for more than seven years. Here are the two facts Charise learned. This group had two things in common. The first is that they picked up the habit of eating their meals off of a six inch plate, and then continued that habit for seven years. Alright. I raised my eyebrows on that one – not in suspicion but in admiration of a group of people who can do that – get a habit and then continue with the habit for a lifetime.

The second commonality among this study group was this one: whenever they wanted seconds, they gave themselves a twenty minute window from when they had finished their first, to when they went to pick up their second plate of food. Many of them reported that after 20 minutes, they no longer wanted that second plate.

Now one might ask, why this information might stay with me as part of one of my best hundred days. My answer would be, sometimes I pick up a fact that is so amazing to me that I return to think about it over and over. And this is one of them everytime I try to reach for that 6 inch plate.


A Simple Sauce

One Hundred Best Days of My Life - Part II, Day 4

Vietnamese Caramel Chicken
Cooks Illustrated is my favourite magazine – not because I cook anything out of it, but because it can be picked up at any moment, any article read, and then laid down without having to remember which page I was on last. This month there is an article on how to make Vietnamese Caramel Chicken – a long article wherein the author tells how this recipe was developed and then points the reader to a time-sensitive video that show someone making the recipe. I read the article many times and watched the video twice. I bought the chicken thighs and checked out the ingredient so make sure that I had them all.

The trick of the recipe is knowing how to caramelize the sugar, which isn’t a hard task for someone who has made as much fondant as I have. It is the same technique I use when making Olympian Crème fondant: raise the temperature on the sugar until it is the colour of molasses and has begun to smoke. But after the sugar is caramelized, ¼ cup of fish sauce is added, 2 tablespoons of grated ginger and ½ teaspoon of pepper. Then the chicken is simmered in the sauce for 20 minutes, turning once in the middle. As you can see, the hardest part of the recipe is making sure I had the fish sauce and some ginger root at home. The miracle is the simplicity – a sauce with only 4 ingredients, 5 if you count thickening it at the end with some cornstarch.

I am trying to make a life-style change: less diary (represented by baked goods). So whenever I dream of making a delicious dessert, I bring myself back to a terrible reality. So I want to continue to clog my arteries with the bad fats, or am I willing to give them up in favour of staving off senility. Sometimes it is a hard choice. But in the case of this recipe – its production is almost as much fun as making a pan of brownies. Check the recipe out at COOKS ILLUSTRATED and then click on Watch the Video.


The Hammock

One Hundred Best Days of My Life, Part II - Day3

There’s a hammock in our backyard, a home made hammock. It stretches from the birch tree to the siding of the house. The elements of its construction include hooks, rope, dowling and fabric (50% of the Bargain Centre Price at Fabricland).

Michael and Alice use the inside hammock often. It comes down when they get too rambunctious in it, or when they refuse to come to dinner but swing in the hammock instead. But the rest of the time the hammock is in full use.

When I saw them in it, all I could imagine is the fun a second one would be outside. So when I would sit in the backyard, I would imagine where one could go … and was on my way to Mountain Equipment Coop to get their camping brand of hammock. But Miranda had a second one made before I got my shopping done. I got to see it in action this afternoon.

There seems to be no toy to which some rules do not have to be attached. In this case, it is no longer allowed that two people can be in the hammock at the same times. That is about it for rules. There is a lot of hopping in the hammock, flipping it over, sliding out of it, dropping to the ground and doing a trick which results in having the hammock over head and one’s body on the ground.

Richard pulled out the soap bubbles to keep the second child entertained while the other was in the hammock. He got interested in where the wind was whipping the bubbles, circling them upward and then sometimes taking them over the roof of his house and to the north. “This is why I am having so much trouble controlling my smoker,” he said of the unit that was cooking the chicken for their supper. “I can’t control the heat when the wind sweeps to the north at one minute, and in the next it is blowing to the west.” He had finally pulled the dog fences, circled them around the smoker, and then thrown blankets over the dog fences to keep the wind away from his fire. Ostensibly he has been entertaining Alice and Michael by having them chase the bubbles he has been releasing into the air. But in fact, he has been working on keeping the wind from interfering with the smoke in the slow cooker.

Yes. A lot of fun goes on in my backyard.


Olive Forks

One Hundred Best Days of My Life - Part II, Day 2

One of the troubles of loving a bargain is that I buy items I might not otherwise need. I could see that a low black metal shopping cart on wheels might come in handy, and 70% off seemed like the right price. I bought the cart, put my goods on the cart and wheeled it home from London Drugs, On the way, I discovered that the handle needs an extension so that I can stand up straight when I pull it. I also figured out that I don’t need a small cart, I need a medium one, and perhaps a large buggy, since I am used to buying more, not less.

The snow is gone now and the cart is now in use in a different way. This time it is my toy to use in the backyard when I am playing with the kids. I wanted to introduce it to them during breakfast … which might not have been a good idea. I have a lot of ideas around meal times which are not good ones. For example, I took over an olive tray with 2 tiny olive forks for supper a few nights ago. Michael couldn’t concentrate on the pizza, he was so busy stabbing olives and offering them to others. If he wasn’t doing that he was hooking the new hammock up to the the grocery cart and dragging the hammock behind him. That is just not possible in small house since the bar for the hammock alone makes a wider sweep than there is room for it in the front room.

I will know I have gone too far with my experiments with the children, when I am no longer invited back for breakfast. That will be the day I go over there and the back door is locked.


Sunday, April 26, 2015

Checkerboard Cake - Take 1

Can you imagine how I made this cake?
Answer to Question Above

My mother is part-owner of a cake pan
made for this purpose.
Noella's mother owns the other half of the pan.

Duncan's fencing tournament

 Here is a 'taster' photo.  For more on Duncan and fencing, click on the link!


... new hosta additions to the shade of the east part of Bonnie Wyora's house ...
Grant Vogeli told me that his sabbatical had been the best 100 days of his life. He and his wife travelled a bit, tried to stay fit a bit and paid attention to each other.

One hundred best days, I thought. Does a person have to have a sabbatical for that? Could I just do it on my own, and think absolutely about the joy of each day wherever I am? I tried the experiment last year -- for 100 days. I had such fun, I am going to try to do it again – starting with April 25th. I marked that day on the calendar I keep in my room – my health calendar. Each day I record my weight, the exercise I have done for the day, and if there is a special moment of happiness, I write that in the small box as well.

Day I

The opera should have been all that a person needs to start another series in the best 100 days of my life. But there was more in the day. One was breakfast at the house next door. The crepes were warm and piled high with toppings. Michael and Alice were in their pyjamas, spreading the butter and icing sugar, then rolling their crepes. Miranda uses her crepe as a vehicle for peanut butter.

And while we ate, Miranda told me stories about the kids: Michael had blurted out the socially incorrect phrase when he at a care centre. He picked up a patch of the fuzzy fur that the play centre has for kids to touch. He remarked, “Someone killed this.” The workers were horrified. They stumble for explanations but in that instant, they had no way around the problem. Yes, it was skin from an animal … who was now dead.

An animal’s skin is nothing new to Michael. In their family it is common knowledge that his dad kills elk so that they can have meat for the winter. The antlers from one of the hunting expeditions sit on the corner of the raised garden bed. Richard has taken his hand at tanning a hide, not a successful experiment, by the way -– but we have all seen the fur taken off and the hide stretched. At the play-care, not everyone lives in a family where the children know that fur comes from an animal that has been killed.

I learned all of this over warm crepes in the morning.

More food arrived from next door in the evening: a bowl of Vietnamese noodles, chicken and vegetables. Having Miranda next door is just like having my own catering service. Or more, like a deli where I can drop in anytime … like the night before. She whips up a whole wheat pizza crust and then adds an extra leaf to their dinning room table so that her folks and Richard’s can gather around, enjoy the kids, and chat over shared food.

“Miranda, this is getting to be a habit. Your family loves a slaw,” I said to her, for a salad was on the table as well as the 3 pizzas: cheese, veggie and salami.

“It is not my family, that loves slaw. Just me. A lemon and oil vinaigrette and I can’t get enough of it.

As she speaks, I think about my own predilection for a pan of warm brownies and take more slaw on my plate, in hopes that I can lower the bar on sweets and raise it on cabbage salad.


Cavalleria Rusticana

Illustration from an early edition of Giovanni Verga's short story
Cavalleria rusticana, on which the opera is based.
It was a quiet ride up to the opera.

A large taxi picked us up.

There was someone in the front seat.

There was someone in a wheel chair in the far back of the van.

We were in the middle seats.

No one would have known the others were there, for there was no conversation on the 7 km ride from our house to the theatre.

But when we were dropped off at the theatre the woman in the back of the vehicle asked if we were going to the movies and then asked what film we were going to see.

"The opera. Two actually.  Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci."

Oh, you should have heard them both.  Only their disability stopped them from hopping out of the car and coming with us.

"Next time," I called back and they nodded.

Inside the theatre there was a coterie of wheel chairs and walkers  The usher was lining them up as though he was the chauffer in a parking lot.  And he was helping the disabled up and down the stairs to their designated seats. Negotiating the stairs in the theatre is hard -- no handrails.  Kelvin's friend, Tom, from the Comprehensive Care Centre (C-3) was at the theatre as was his wife, Pat,  When I looked around at the crowd to get a sense of who we were as a group, ... nobody under 40, let alone teens.  Of course, I was flooded with wonderful memories of when I took my grandchildren.  That day will come again, but Michael is only 3 now -- too young for four hours of opera.  About all he can enjoy is singing a few nursery rhymes at breakfast so far.

I wonder if he would be so compliant if he knew I am warming him up to classical opera with those morning melodies.

Back to the theatre.I had done my homework: read the reviews and looked at the plot synopsis on wikipedia.  And I had watched utube clips from the reviews that had pointed to some links.

For one, not knowing what "slosh" means, I had gone out to see some utube vaudeville explanations, stopping briefly to watch some George Karl utube clips, namely his act with the microphones.  So when Pagliacci came on stage and that microphone chord got caught between his legs, I had been primed by my watching the day before, and I broke out into at first a giggle and then a full belly laugh, and soon it filled the room.  I was the only one in the theatre with that reaction.

I couldn't stop myself from laughing.  I should stay away from doing my pre-opera research, but it makes the opera more fun for me.

The operas were so beautifully crafted. In Cavalleria, Santuzza (Eva-Maria Westbrook) and abandoned heroine was never off the stage.  I could always find her standing, or sitting on a chair, or in the crowd, or in a passionate love duet.  The duet where the two melodies intermingled, hers professing love, and Turrido's expressing distain and rejection of her...well, that is why I love the opera.

The tenor, Marcelo Alvarez, took the part of the villain in both Cavalleria and Pagliacci.  He stopped by Susan Graham, the host, to just say hello and note that he had only 25 minutes for his costume change.  Who doesn't love that back-stage part of the opera?  I know that hundreds of thousands of viewers are viewing along with me, but it feels as though I am alone back there, either watching the performers or watching the set of one opera being taken apart and the set of another being put in place.

The opera, Pagliacci had it all:  Nedda came riding in on a beautiful carnival horse, confetti fell from the sky when the circus came to town, the vaudeville act was present both in the opera and in the play-within-the opera, the costuming of the early '40's in an Italian village was perfect; the vaudeville truck was shown being unloaded for the evening's spectacle.

Horrifying  as it was, the opera mixed the comedy on stage with the tragedy that will take place in the last few minutes of the fiction in the mini-play we watch.  And then that last line ... La commedia è finita! – "The comedy is finished!"

Thank goodness, opera will go on, even if the comedy is finished.

Anyone else see Satuday's opera?


Thursday, April 23, 2015

Writing Music for Film

Sketch by Duncan Carter Johnson

Duncan decided to try to draw anime eyes.  Before he knew it
he had finished an anime drawing.  Is a career as an 
animator is around the corner?
A few days ago Rebecca told me that she was going to spend the weekend at a seminar on writing film for music.

I want to go to every class that piques my interest, but this one being in Victoria, is out of the question.

So I began to watch the subtitles that we run on our TV with new interest, concentrating  on what the subtitle says about the music and ignoring the dialogue.

I have been missing a lot of good plots this way, and preparing myself for a class I can't take.

My goal is to go back to watching TV the regular way soon.


Pagliacci and Cavalleria

From left, Marty Keiser, Joshua Wynter,
Patricia Racette and Andy Sapora in Leoncavallo’s 1892 work

Sara Krulwich/The New York Times
The opera seems like it is always just around the corner, and indeed, it is.  The Pagliacci and Cavalleria performances start earlier -- 10:30 am for us.  The performance is 3 hours and 40 minutes, since we see two operas.

Catch the review by Anthony Tommasini called At Met Opera, ‘Pagliacci’ Goes Vaudeville as ‘Cavalleria' Turns

The New YorK Times Review by Michael Cooper contains this paragraph:
What’s a vaudeville consultant doing in an opera house? It turns out that not just anyone can choreograph a decent slosh routine, a messy staple of slapstick in which whipped cream, custard or shaving cream is wielded as a projectile, hopefully to comic effect.
Now that is a teaser.

Do not click on any link that plays some of the strains of these operas, since if you do, you will change your mind about what you are going to do on Saturday and instead, head off to the opera.


Monday, April 20, 2015

Hebe's Break from Homework - a photo essay

I asked Hebe if I could blog a few of her pictures today.

 She said, "Oh alright". It is raining today so we can't go to the park. We're home doing homework." 

So below?

 A few moments in the life of Hebe!

Join me for some climbing fun.

The bluebells are out in Montreal.
A drink of hot chocolate before we start homework.

The Family that Views Together, Talks Together

When I was in my teens there was a saying that was repeated in all of the religious circles:  the family that prays together, stays together.  I was thinking about that theme ... families doing things together, and I especially wondering if my kids are taking their kids to cultural events.  In the back of my head is always the theme, the family that views together, talks together.  Of course I believe that anything the failmy does together is good.  A public lecture, church, going to a movie, viewing TV together, time at the park or in the swimming pool ... all good.

So I asked Mary how the dialogue went after she took her children to see the NT Live Beyond the Beautiful Forever.

Mary said:
We talked about the final scene – the themes of hope and despair, how he was willing to take the risk of jumping for the possibility of the wealth of garbage, and how at the same time his despair made it possible to jump because he wasn’t afraid to die because he had little to live for. That’s pretty complicated stuff.   
I talked with Naomi about corruption in “the system” and why the girl who had been given an education might not want to participate in a scheme that would actually prevent others from getting an education. Hard stuff. Naomi was pretty creeped out about the woman who burned herself and then died. 
Though I know the stories of the play happen all the time in communities around the world, the fact that the author of the book spent three years in the shanty town and wrote down the actual stories of the people she met using their own words made it so much more raw for me.

Mary also told me that before they got there, Xavier asked if he and Naomi would be the youngest people there again.  And yes indeed, they were.


Sunday, April 19, 2015

Play at Breakfast with Alice and Michael

Miranda has a tiger.
Alice wants an ape.
Arta chooses a moose.
Richard selects a rhino.
Michael picks the giraffe.
Richard knew that he had to take Michael to the dentist -- a hard job for both the parent and the 3 1/2 year old child.

 To get a hook on Michael before the dreaded day of the dentist, Richard bought some toys at the toy store and introduced them to his kids as "daddy's toys".

He would only let them play with one toy at a time. He has been keeping them separate from the other toys.

Richard's trick worked at the dentist.  When Michael couldn't take sitting in that chair one second more, Richard would introduce one of the coveted daddy-toys, and Michael would turn his attention to the toy he hardly gets to touch and would be able to get through another uncomfortable moment in the dentist's chair.

I wanted to know what the toys that performed such a miracle looked like. This morning when I went over there to breakfast.  Richard went out to the car and brought them in, after much begging on my part.  Seven miniature plastic animals for one dollar.

And during this morning's play the rules still applied.  One toy per person, though Alice is quick and can grab a second when no one else is watching.  She had to put the one she snatched, back. Michael and Alice both beg to have two  animals at a time.  Richard won't relax his rules.  Miranda and I are more compliant, taking one when one is all that is allowed.

The animals begin to dialogue at the table.  Miranda's tiger is not the-grandest-tiger-in-the-jungle, I found.   He hasn't had time to get a velvet jacket or a pair of scarlet slippers with crimson linings from some unsuspecting child who has gone out to get butter at the market for his mother.

My moose (also known as twig-eater) was trying to make a deal with giraffe:  you eat the leaves and I will eat the branches.  A win-win for both.

All of that fun?  A steal of a deal for one dollar.


The Hard Problem

The Hard Problem by Tom Stoppard
Rebecca wrote to tell me that four of them went to The Hard Problem on Thursday.

Katie, Duncan and Alex all loved it.

Duncan went on and on afterwards about all the ideas that were in the play ?! :-)

Rebecca says,  "I pulled an ‘Arta’ during the play. I closed my eyes briefly and fell asleep. DRAT. At one moment, the main character was in bed with a former teacher in Venice, and at the next moment, a group of people were having a dinner party on bonfire night. Argh. The rest of them had to fill me in on what I missed. Well THAT (falling asleep during a play) was a first for me. Guess I was a bit tired…."
The brain as an electrical installation.

So, now a word from Arta.

It is time for me to weigh in on this show. I rarely go to an HD-Live performance alone, but this was a night when everyone else had tickets to go somewhere else.

What was amazing?

For one thing, the music.  All of that Bach that was played during the scene changes.  The Bach was familiar.  At first I didn't know if I liked the electrical installation representing the brain and I didn't know if I recognized the Bach -- a bit irritating not to know if it was a fuge or a prelude.

But I began to look forward to the scene changes, to the different shots of the light and to the new Bach -- that composer is so cerebreal.  The perfect choice for this play.

When I got the first hint that one of the important experiments had 88 subject, paired down from the original 96 -- I was laughing so hard -- one of those times when a person laughs outloud in the theatre, can't help themselves, and doesn't care.  That problem was so beautifully set up.
"Does she know she is adopted?"
"I think so.  His wife is Asian."

Knowing that some of my grandchildren were watching this, I was wondering, is the pace of the play too slow? is there too little action? what will they be thinking about these ideas? will the costuming and the change of hair styles let them know that time is passing?

But there wasn't much time to think about that, since the play pretty well demanded total concentration on my part.

Would love to go back to an encore and catch the lines that I missed the first time around.


Ivan the Terrible

Mikhail Lobukhin as Ivan IV
Ivan the Terrible was the last of the presentations of the Bolshoi Ballet for this season.

I couldn't make mself commit to going since everything else in my life seemed so pressing.

But at the last moment I was persuaded to pack all of that in and head off to the ballet.

How many chances does a person get to spend the afternoon watching a Russian ballet?  That is the best reasoning I could find to pack up my bags:  a bottle of water, a warm sweater, my purse.

The ticket taker asked me to open my bag (afteral, I am dragging an airplane carry-on behind me).  Then he looked at the large popcorn in my hand and decided the bag could hardly be full of treats since I could hardly manage what was in my hands and he waved me on.

I am not crazy about theatre popcorn.  But it has a function.  Pop a handful of that in my mouth and I don't go to sleep.
... stunning colour, movement and blocking ...

I am the least knowledge about ballet of any of the art forms. That might put me off a bit.

But Katya Novikova does a lovely pre-ballet introduction.

As well, she did an interview at the intermission.  I noticed that some people who had headed out to the lobby hung out at the back of the theatre until she was finished.  They, as well as I, were hungry for any description of what was going on or what we should watch for.

Instead she filled us in on the history of this ballet.  Hard to believe we get the ballet and all of that information as well.
Anna Nikulina as Anastasia

A list of the 2015-2016 Season is out already.

Be prepared to watch for the following: Giselle, Jewels, The Lady of the Camellias, The Nutcraacker, The Taming of the Shrew, Spartacus, and Don Quixote.

I hope I never tire of seeing the Bolshoi at the Cinema.


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Spring Showers in Victoria

We had our first spring hail storm the other day.  This was the sky out the front door about 15 minutes before the hail started.  Katie O'Donnell, who lives with us now, took this photo on her cell phone as she was heading off to take Duncan to tutoring.  Awesome, eh?  The photo is totally untouched.

I should add, hail here in Victoria is a pale pale shadow of its Alberta cousin!  :-)

Monday, April 13, 2015

Larch Kitchens

The Wood Family have fabulous recipes going up on the Larch Kitchens blog.

My guess is that Moiya is doing the technical work, but I see recipes from so many of the Wood Families.  It feels like a wonderful visit with them -- one where I am sitting in the kitchen and watching someone else cook.


Karate with Kari Ralph

Photo Credit: Andrea Blair at Paer Horse Photography
Here is David Camps-Johnson doing Phakeso Ahnero (inside to outside kick) during Karate testing on April 12th, 2015. His mother is holding the target for him to kick over. They are both deep in concentration.

David's test results will be sent off to the Tang Soo Do head office and the results will be sent to his Instructor Kari Ralph with  Northern Spirit Marshall Arts.

He can't wait for the results ... but must. His instructor Kari says that is part of the test - learning to be patient.


Friday, April 10, 2015

The Hard Problem

The Hard Problem

Having just barely recovered from the hard work of seeing Shakespeare's King John, I am doing my homework for the next NT Live performance.

What will be broadcast is Tom Stoppard's play, The Hard Problem.

Below are some reviews for the curious:
Intelligent design: Olivia Vinall as Hilary in ‘The Hard Problem’

Michael Billington's Review in the Guardian.

Susannah Clapp's Review in the the Guardian.

I like Camilla Turner's interview with Tom Stoppard, published in The Telegraph.  A tidge insulting that jokes have to be dumbed down for me ... but why not dumb them down and let me get them.  I like that part.

The Lloyd Evan's review is my absolute favourite in The Spectator.


Sweet Peas

Here is the rule of thumb for planting sweet peas.  In Calgary they can be put in the ground April 1st.  They are hardy and will survive the couple of snow falls that we will have between now and the 24th of May.

I wanted to go to Sunnyside and get some new varieties, but when I passed by a display in Coop I changed my mind and picked the packages from there.  Nothing else in my garden has been weeded, but I do have that long line of sweet pea seeds in the ground now and today the temperature will be 17 Celsius so they will begin to warm up.

I am not expecting to have any other flowers.  It is the job of the children next door to nip the stems of the tuplips long before they bloom.  The only mystery is whether they will give the buds to their mother or to me.


Thursday, April 9, 2015

King John - An Afterward

Graham Abbey as Phillip the Bastard
Rebecca chatted with me this afternoon, saying she spent some time last night studying the Coles Notes of King John, and then she sketched out for me, who the characters were and how they were related to one another.  This is a play where a person needs to arrive at the theatre with a geneaology chart in hand.

I would have been lost without all of the work she had done.

What kept my interest is that the King John of this play is the King John of the Magna Cartra and the King John of Robin Hood fame, even if he appears in the wrong century in that folk tale.

She helped me out by reminding me that at the time of this play, England owned some or France.  And further, the fact that the Pope and King John were fighting and that the rights of the church had been withdrawn for all of the English parrisonners had become a political problem.

What is a tragedy without a poisoning, a good sword fight, some evil intrigue and family life gone wrong.  This play had it all.

An obscure play?


But a good way to celebrate the 800th Anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta.

For the sake of Duncan and Alex who were on tap to see the play tonight, I will try to do some of my top picks of the evening.

1. I thought the delivery of the lines was beautiful.  So clear and articulate.
2. The pitch, pace and pause of the body language -- letting the audience really get the jokes.
3. Audience interaction? Phillip the Bastard having an audience member hold the decapitated head of someone who had been killed off stage.  I would not have wanted to be assigned that seat for the play.  And those bleacher seats at Stratford didn't look as comfortable as the uphostered seats in our theatre.
4. How did you like the lines,  "Thou weare a Lyons hide, doff it for shame / And hang a calves skin on those recreant limbs"?
5. The drumming seemed so Shakespearian, as did the singing.  And what a high tenor voice on one of the men!  That was a surprise lyric.


King John - HD Live

Shakespeare's King John is being shown tonight on HD Live at some theatres. The title of the review in the Globe and Mail Reveiw says  of King John: "Cheeky lead performance enlivens Shakespeare’s justly obscure play".

If that isn't enough, you can read what the Toronto Star has to say.

Here is a plot synopsis from the promotional material:
War is the inevitable result when the King of France demands that John relinquish his crown in favour of his nephew, the young Prince Arthur. Excommunication, attempted atrocity, rebellion and assassination all contribute to a political and personal turmoil that finds devastating expression in an anguished mother’s grief for her son.

Enjoy the show.  I am sure I will.


Friday, April 3, 2015

Breakfast at the Bjorgan's

"That's your bee that was buzzing around the flower
and landed on it. Eat it, Bonnie!"
I woke to laughter as Noella burst into the Bjorgan guest room.

"Time to get up, Bonnie. It's breakfast time! Bees and butterflies are trying to eat our breakfast!"

I stumbled out of bed and followed Noella as she bounded up the stairs.

She explained that we were eating a flower for breakfast, and she had added some insects.

"Don't worry Bonnie. They are just pretend."

At the landing, we ran into a bear and a cat dressed in pink for a spring day.
"I love that pink hat on the cat" I said admiringly.
"That's a sock, Bonnie" replied it's true owner.

We rounded the corner, sped past her parents preparing lunches, and headed to the table.

"Come on, Bonnie. I want to share my breakfast with you."

She popped a gummy bear in her mouth. She handed me the other one.

"Bonnie, try the stem!"

As we each crunched away on a mouthful of celery and peanut butter, she handed me a strawberry.

Sugar snap peas and a side of lime greek yogurt were next in line for the tasting.

Breakfast at the Bjorgan's. Pretty great.