Friday, June 19, 2009

OSF Day 1: Equivocation and Much Ado

Last Christmas, Will gave me a card that said, "Merry Christmas!  Let's go to Oregon!"  I was excited, but it seemed so far in the future.  Six months passed quickly, and now in June 2009, we sit here in our adorable Blue Moon Bed and Breakfast with our hospitable innkeeper, his dog Ty, and the new friends that we met over breakfast.

Yesterday we drove up from California to Oregon.  We woke early in the morning to have some quiet time before the long drive. Will sat at the meditation center across the street, and I went for a quiet morning run.  Then we stopped for breakfast at our favorite bagel shop -- cheese and eggs and sausage/ham on our bagels -- and got on the road.

Here is a picture of the two of us starting out.  Thank you to Will for using his car and for driving.  Note Will's extra cool sunglasses:

We drove up 101 to 80, then went to the East Bay, crossed the Bay Bridge, and came up to I-5.  On the 250 mile drive on I-5 we spent the time listening to the light, delightful character sketches by Spider Robinson.  I was dubious because it was another one of Will's sci-fi books, but like most of the sci-fi stuff he has shared with me, this one was actually quite good.  We passed by the beautiful Mount Shasta as we headed further and further north:


Finally we arrived in Ashland.  Southern Oregon is temperate and beautiful this time of year, sunny but still cool.  The trees are so thick and lush here that it makes me think of the East Coast -- covering the hills in green and growing above and between houses.  The town of Ashland is pretty and full of Shakespeare references, like "Puck's Donut Shop" or "All's Well," where you can pick up herbs or vitamins.

We reached the theater parking lot a mere half an hour before the show started, so Will and I switched into tag-team mode to get everything done before our first matinée.  Will went to pick up the tickets while I headed for Allison's Gourmet Wine and Deli shop to pick up a sandwich for the starving Will.  Luckily for Will, the box office went quickly, but I got stuck in the pre-performance crowd of stressed-out theatergoers who were hassling the bewildered blonde sandwich boy, trying to make him get their lunches faster.  With ten minutes to go before the start of the play, we opted for a potato soup and a red pepper soup instead of sandwiches, and desperately spent two minutes sipping it standing outside of the theater before regretfully putting the caps back on and going in to sit down.  The play started right on time.

The first matinée we saw was Equivocation by Bill Cain.   The play mainly explored two plot lines: 1. whether Shakespeare, the main character of the play, should buckle to the government and write propaganda, or uphold his responsibility to tell the truth; and 2. whether Shakespeare would reconcile with his daughter Judith, who was the twin sister of the son Hamnet that he lost when the boy was 11 (often this child is thought to be the emotional basis for the play Hamlet).



The more prominent theme of the play was how to tell the truth in a time of great danger, and ultimately Cain's answer to that question is through equivocation -- by careful wordsmithing and through storytelling, which can tell the heart of the truth but can change the specifics of the facts.  All in all it was a fairly dark play, with a terrifying 1984-esque government under King James and his head crone, the bad guy Robert Cavell (?) that would periodically torture people (of course, not calling it torture) in fairly graphic scenes.

Will, Ed, and I had a great time debriefing the play.  Will thought that the allusions to the modern era were heavy-handed; I thought it was fun (and in comparison to the Amy Freedman political plays that Ed did with Stanford, not as obvious).  We talked about the widespread use of Shakspearean allusions as creating an in-group and out-group (e.g., it is exclusive), but if that sort of thing will fly anywhere, here is the place.  In general we thought a lot about how artifice in plays (allusions and "witty" writing) can either add or detract from the experience of the story.  All in all, a great and fun play with an ending scene that lets the viewer down.

Then off to Ed's place for dinner, a spicy chicken sausage and red pepper dish that was amazing.  We caught up on Ed's time in Indonesia.

The evening show was Much Ado About Nothing, with fantastic seats in the Shakespearean Globe theater.  Will got spectacular seats, and we cuddled together beneath the starry night that we could see over the stage rooftops of the theater.



It was fun, as always, but I have to say that each time I see the play, I have less and less patience for the characters' constant and central debate over Hero's virginity.  This play sparked a discussion of what ages well and does not age well in Shakespeare.  My conclusion after our discussion is that the tragedies tend to age better (in fact, I connected better with Much Ado when it dipped into tragedy mode), and the humor is just so hard to play right.  It was a very beautiful, professional production, but I did not fall in love with the characters.  Luckily I was sitting in a very romantic theater under the stars with a very romantic play, and of course the very romantic Will Robinson.