Saturday, April 29, 2017

"Or," at Round House Theatre in Bethesda, Maryland

"Or," at Round House Theatre is a play with 7 characters about the first female playwright in the modern -- i.e. POST-Medieval world. Aphra Behn, aspiring playwright, retired spy, kept woman and unconventional lover of King Charles II; is delightfully played by Holly Twyford. She is reunited with Gregory Linington from their recent romp as the infamous George and Martha in Edward Albee's "Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf" this past January-February at Ford's Theatre, and I also saw Gregory in "Little Foxes" at Arena Stage in October the past year. Gregory takes on 3 rolls, that of the Jailor of the Tower of London, of William Scott double agent and assumed enemy of the King, and King, Charles II, himself.  At one point, his being shoved into a wardrobe as William only to emerge seconds later from a door as Charles in completely unique attire (and then back again, and back-back again, and so on...) seemed more than improbable, but down right impossible. And no greater expression of this stage "magic" occurred then when the woman who was sitting next to me cried out (as much to her own surprise as that of the rest of the audience) "What the hell is going on down there!!

Erin Weaver, Holly Twyford, and Gregory Linington
While both Holly and Gregory were superb, the show stealer was the third actor, Erin Weaver (whom I saw in "Sense & Sensibility" at the Folger Shakespeare Theatre Library also last October) She takes on three characters with such chameleon like uniqueness as to be three unique persons without question. I overheard patrons discussing their incredulity she were they, that one actor could be all three, as we left the theatre. In the roll of Lady Davenant, she delivered such a long, convoluted, comically pitch perfect soliloquy on the Carolinian English theater, the role of women in society and her place in history that as funny as she was, you feared laughing for wont of missing the next line!  She finished and the audience burst into well-earned spontaneous applause.

The "Tower of London" played before the black curtain

A word to the set's designed by Paige Hathaway; because you already know that I'm a set slut.  The show begins in the Tower of London played with a simple table and stool before a black curtain, and then it moves into Aphra's artist's loft with set pieces sliding forward and props filling in a fully formed and perfectly appointed environment wherein the actors could work their magic.  In the opening monologue, Holly opines on the everything old is new again with a nod to the play's setting: "Is it the 1660's OR the 1960's?"  The set brought that line to life in many ways.  I loved the sets.  
Paige Hathaway's model for the sets.  
Finally, it was bound to happen. This is somewhere in the count of my mid-30's in terms of productions seen since September 1st, and I ran into an old friend and her husband at the show. There is something also magical about numbers in the mid-30's and statistical probabilities for common occurrences. Did you know, for example, that in any random group of 30-40 people, two will share a birthday? So I surprised my friend Shelley and her husband, Stan, by connecting with them in the lobby after the show. They were with another couple, so we didn't linger, but promised a phone call soon.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Tiger Species Survival Plan Research Project

I have completed a graphic to illustrate my Tiger research project. The journey has given me a renewed appreciation of what Zoo's are trying to accomplish to save this majestic animal in three of it's most endangered species: Amur, Malayan and Sumatran. Missing from this are the Indo-Chinese Tigers, and not part of the formal work are the Bengal Tigers, because they are least threatened and part of what appears to be a very successful conservation effort in their native habitats.
I found it very interesting where various species of Tigers are maintained in the accredited and quality zoo's. To that end I have included 3 institutions that are quality facilities, while not formally accredited. The Alaska Zoo, Zoo Montana, (both formerly accredited and have lost this status for reasons having nothing to do with the quality of animal care) and Tiger World Zoo in North Carolina that has a quality program with well maintained animal care and public outreach around conservation. Three other non-accredited zoo's are included (Hattiesburg Zoo and Jackson Zoo--both in Mississippi, and Honolulu Zoo) because that are participating in the AZA Sumatran Species Survival Plan that moves animals from zoo to zoo for purposes of breeding and diversifying the genetic pool.

Beyond the zoos/parks that I explored, it is right to also mention that some studies estimate the raw number of tigers in North American exceed those in zoo's by a factor of 4! Tigers fall under the code of exotic pets and are unregulated to permitted with a license in 31 of the 50 states. It is estimated that there are as many and more private breeders of tigers without discrimination to genetic lineage, purity, and viability in the private sector as there are in these accredited zoos and parks.

Still, if you want to see the real deal. These are the places to go!

Additionally, I discovered some zoos that have recently renovated their Tiger habitat to the tune of several millions of dollars a pop! Among them are: The Denver Zoo, the Philadelphia Zoo, The Birmingham Zoo, The Knoxville Zoo, The Woodland Park Zoo (Seattle), The Jacksonville Zoo, and the Phoenix Zoo. Additionally the Greenville Zoo (South Carolina) is in the process of implementing a 15 million dollar up-grade with the hopes of joining the ranks of the AZA's Species Survival Plan institutions.

I know that animals are best lived in the wilds, but the world we have created has made this impossible for many, many species. Rather than thinking of zoos as exotic museums of animals from far away, we need to see them as life-preservers against a rising sea of extinction. It's not about condemning bad zoos, it's about expecting, demanding and funding good zoos.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Italian Vegetable Soup

Stock made by frying 8 oz of chopped pancetta.  Place cooked meat in water with, Knorr Beef stock concentrate, minced Garlic, dried Oregano, Basil, Chives, and Thyme; and fresh Italian Parsley and Rosemary.

Add to this Onion, Button Mushrooms, Carrots and Celery.

Then Broccoli, Chopped Spinach and Canned Diced Tomatoes.

Simmer and further season with Black Pepper and salt to taste.

Served with pan-toasted baguette medallions.

Every good soup needs a bread to sop up the broth with!

"Los Otros" @ Everyman Theatre

My dear friend, Dee, treated me today to my latest Theater outing! We've been sharing them and treating one another now for a couple of years. (It was my pleasure to take him to both productions of "Angels in America" last fall at Round House.) It was also our second trip to Everyman Theatre in Baltimore to see a production.

The show was the musical "Los Otros", and other than the fact that I knew it was a two person show, and that the title translates into "The Others", I had no idea what to expect. Well, that's not completely true, I knew to expect top quality from Everyman Theatre. They are a repertory theatre company, but also open to other actors. The actors who performed "Los Otros" were not of the company.

The story is that of two people, a woman and a man. They trade off through song between each another the story of their lives. It isn't until the final arias that you realize how they are connected.

One is a white woman who marries a man and they have two daughters together. They divorce and she is left to raise them, but he is still there to help her. Her life finds some triumphs and some tough-times...

The other is man born in Mexico. He survives a hurricane as a child and is christened by the blessing of his namesake saint. He travels to the United States with his family to find their future as migrant laborers and discovers he's gay. He survives his childhood to become a successful CPA and takes up with a generous lover...

This man, who is also the ex-husband of the woman, dies in an accident. The event draws the two into a partnership/living arrangement with each other--it's the way the musical ends.

Avant garde in its structure. Simple and elegant in its staging and costumes. Melodic and operatic in its score and music. And utterly compelling in the hands and talents of these two actors--I am only sorry that we saw it on it's next to last performance on its closing day. Because otherwise, I would have told everyone to GO and SEE IT, too.

Philip Hernández as Carlos was innocent, honest, masculine and tender. Judy McLane played Lillian as sincere, vulnerable, sensuous and kind. These were both Broadway worthy performances.


Potato-corn Fritters and Scuppernong Jelly on toasted-baguette!

Potato-Corn Fritters


Whipped potatoes
Sweet corn (yellow and silver queen)
fresh Rosemary leaves (chopped)
Colby-Jack Cheese (shredded)
1 egg
salt and pepper to taste

Combine the ingredients to your liking.  Form moist patties and coat in flour.  Fry in hot oil: Olive, peanut or vegetable--I used olive.  About 2 minutes on each side but watch to keep from burning.

Monday, April 17, 2017

My Garden Zoo: Coyotes, American Black Bear, Polar Bears & Bornean Orangutans

Coyote, Canus latrans
American Black Bear, Ursus americanus
Bornean Orangutan, Pongo pygmaeus

Polar Bear, Ursus maritimus

Tugboat, Norfolk, Virginia Harbor

Romeo on the Look-out!

New Wild Flowers from Sligo Creek Park

Ground Ivy, Glechoma hederedea
Spring Beauty, Claytonia virginica
Henbit, Lamium purpurea
Creeping Buttercup, Ranunculus repens
Eastern Daisy Fleabane, Erigeron annuus

Dogwood in Bloom, Too!

Azalea from my Garden

Easter Dinner

A super salad with asparagus and hard-boiled eggs and French baguette medallions topped with honey mustard, Black Forest Ham, pineapple and a jalape├▒o mango Wisconsin cheddar cheese that melted under the broiler.  A great meal doesn't have to be difficult to make, just needs a little imagination.

"Bloodknot" @ Atlas Perfomance Center by Mosaic Theatre

Went to Mosaic Theatre's production of Athol Fugard's 1961 play "Boodknot" about South Africa under apartheid. I am also pissed at myself for leaving my program and ticket stub at the after show restaurant and I blame my excellent company of friends, Gary and Mitchell, for distracting me with our conversation and fellowship. A worthy reason to lose anything!

The play is an intense drama around the relationship of two brothers with different fathers who've come to live together in a tin shack in a black township near Port Elizabeth. They are quite different in the tone of their skin color, one burnt umber and the other pinkish-tan. One can pass as colored or white and one is destined to be black. The play explores their disparate dreams for their futures, their connection and love of each other, and the dehumanizing life for blacks under Aparthied's rigid racist rules.

The experience was my second at Atlas Performing Arts Center and my first in the main theater venue, which was a revelation unto itself, since I assumed the first production that I attended was in the main theater space, but was not.

The action really centered on the two actors. Nathan Hinton as Zachariah Peterson the darker and less focused on the future brother, and Tom Story as Morris Peterson, the passably white brother. The power of the play's writing came through the actor's performances, and yet I was not completely satisfied with them. For one, having seen Tom Story now in 6 other productions in the past year, all I could see in his portrayal of Morris was Tom Story.

He seems to be everybody's darling in the DC theater community, and he can do many things well. He can memorize complicated lines in a short time. He can recite those lines in a theater setting with clarity and a range of emotional passion. But what he can't seem to do is present a character that doesn't remind one of Tom Story. I know this sounds harsh, and I don't mean for it to be, but I'm the one forking over the cash to see the performance and when it's compitent; I'll say so, and when it's transcendent; I'll gush over it. Tom is a compitent actor.

His counter part in this production, Nathan Hinton, was far more compelling to watch and provided a more empathetic character. For both of the actors, certain aspects of their portrayals fell short. Most noteably their South African accents. It didn't take long for Tom's version to digress into something comically non-standard Elnglish with hints of everything from Kiwi-English to Dutch English, but its inconsistency made it's origins unintelligable, and Nathan moved into that lovely lylting non-descript sub-Saharan central African English. The second act opened with two amazing faux pas's. The word "Zebra" pronounced as "zeebra" and not "zebrah" (short "e" like Debra). This was followed quickly by the the letter of the alphabet "Z" itself pronounced "Zee" and not "Zed". Even after only a month in South Africa over 25 years ago, I could spot these errors in a heartbeat. And the fact that I was so disengaged in the production to do so also speaks to the overall level of failure to achieve true engagement.

When you dare to perform a work of such depth and power, you cannot just accept that you've done it well and think you've done it justice. At the end of the performance, we were introduced to the South African Ambassador and his family who were guests for the production. I do so wanted to ask his opinion of the performance, but no sooner were they applauded, than they were wisked away. Makes one wonder, eh?
Tom Story as Morris Peterson and Nathan Hinton as Zachariah Peterson

Virginia Zoological Park, part 1: Main Entrance

 It was my first visit to this zoo in my quest to visit as many zoos as possible.  For a small zoo, I rate this one very good.  The animals that were on display were wonderful to watch.  The place was clean and well kept.  And the crowds were enthusiastic and well behaved.

Virginia Zoological Park, part 2: Asia - Trail of the Tiger #1

Once inside, I had the pleasant feeling that I was visited a very well kept zoo.  The spacious plaza and well marked wide paths were inviting.  And I used my Maryland Zoo Membership to get in for just $6.48.  A very reasonable price indeed.  So lets begin at the beginning of the Asia - Trail of the Tiger area.

Bornean Orangutan, Pongo pygmaeus
 The area for the Orangutans was large and included a large interior area as well.  For the most part the animals were just waking up and now so active.  Some were still sleeping inside.
 Across from the Orangutans on an island all their own was a family of Siamangs.

Siamang, Symphalangus syndactylus

Malayan Sun Bear, Helarctos malayanus euryspilus

Sarus Crane, Antigone antigone