Weekend Coffee Share

wordswag_15073188796611453091488Weekend Coffee Share is a time for us to take a break out of our lives and enjoy some time catching up with friends (old and new)!

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that the song’s from Guys & Dolls, which I saw yesterday at Northwestern University are playing in my head. “Luck be a Lady” and “A Bushel & a Peck” alternate in my head this morning.

Today was my Great Books Club meeting. We discussed Othello, a play I consider as not one of my favorites by Shakespeare. Yet meeting with a dozen smart folks to talk about Othello made me like the story more.

I did a good amount of editing last week of my own play. I hope to finish another draft by Thursday this week.

I went to the Lyric Opera’s Elektra, but didn’t like it as much as I hoped.

A friend sent me a copy of the anthology which includes a short story he wrote. I get so excited when someone I know accomplishes a literary goal.

I’ve finished two lessons from Hillsdale College’s free online course: Congress: How it Works and Why It Doesn’t.  It’s amazing. The professors are good communicators and researchers. They examine the US Congress as well as the UK Parliament and other legislatures. I’ve learned a lot including how the Parliament building’s structured with both sides facing each other support debate (better*) than all the other legislative buildings which are design more like theaters. Hence we get a lot of grandstanding and playing to the camera. Also, I learned that in the early days, the representatives and senators didn’t have offices. Their desk in their respective chamber was their office, which promoted further deliberation and community amongst peers. If you want to better understand US government, take a look at this free class.

*in my opinion

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Weekend Coffee Share

wordswag_15073188796611453091488Weekend Coffee Share is a time for us to take a break out of our lives and enjoy some time catching up with friends (old and new)!

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that last night I went to my nephew’s Boy Scout Troop’s Spaghetti Dinner. It was a fun event and good to see the boys (and one girl) in uniform serving food and selling raffle tickets it looks like everyone had a good time and the scouts and their parents worked hard for a successful event.

Yesterday, despite some snowfall, the library was super busy and we had lots of time consuming questions and problems to solve. We’re glad to help and the time flew by. It was my first weekend at this branch and though I’m new I was the Librarian-in-Charge. So glad there weren’t any emergencies to handle. As it was, we were surprised that no one working that day knew the alarm code, which is needed at closing. I realized this midday so we did manage to find it.

I loved Northwestern’s production of Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard, which I’d read in school. I’m lucky to live near a university with a strong drama department so I can get inexpensive tickets to see great acting and direction.

I had lunch last Monday with a dear friend Kasia from high school. She introduced me to Polish cuisine. Though she’s half Polish, growing up she didn’t often eat Polish food. Now she and her husband have taken to exploring different cuisines. She thought that Ewa’s Pierogi was better than the place out by her house.

Wednesday my cousin and I had lunch at Venus Szechuen & Mandarin Restaurant in Park Ridge. It’s a Chinese restaurant, which used to be her favorite. I have high standards for Chinese fare and always thought it was average. This was the second time she came and they said their credit card machine wasn’t working. This inconvenienced us and the other customers. Most people expect to easily pay with a card. We’ve decided to take Venus off our list. It was odd that this happened twice.

I’m signed up to start an online course on Managing Information Systems through my community college. I was going to drop it if there was a group project. I’ve worked for years and have done many group projects for grad school so it’s not like I need to learn how to work with people. Gladly, there isn’t one. I’ll go over to campus and flip through the book. The syllabus makes it look like I already know a lot about the topic. If you’re guessing I’m on the fence about staying with this, you’re right.

41YzEFJi9tL._SY291_BO1,204,203,200_QL40_As for books, I’m thoroughly enjoying Arnold Bennett’s The Old Wives’ Tale. It’s a 19th century novel with wit. Bennett looks at the foibles of small town life. I’m also reading Zola’s Money (L’Argent), which I love, but don’t have as much time as I’d like for.

I’ve had a tough time finding or making time to write. I plan to revise Act I of my play this week. So no lunches with friends and no giving other chores precedence.

Jane Eyre

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Hurry! You’ve got one last chance to see Jane Eyre at Northwestern University’s art center this weekend. I went last Saturday and was blown away with this production. Northwestern University is famous for its theater majors including Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Charlton Heston,  David Schwimmer, Shelley Long, and more.  Thus its no surprise that the plays they put on are top notch.

In this story of orphan Jane’s hard life, the Northwestern students’ acting was, as usual, superb. The woman who played Jane was outstanding. Her voice was lovely. I’d list the names but the program didn’t print the names of actors’ ‘with their character’s name. every cast member was spot on.

I read the novel Jane Eyre a long time ago, but remember the general plot. This production used Polly Teal’s adaptation, which is a little confusing because at the start of the play Jane is reading to a woman who appears to be mad. She represents Jane’s wilder side, but then the same woman is Rochester’s mad wife. I think if I hadn’t known anything about the story, I’d have been thrown by that part of the plot.

The simple set design was sparse but set the right tone of 19th century elegance. For the attic where the madwoman was locked up, there was a platform with one lone chair which could be lowered and raised. This was a genius way to show the attic and how the madwoman haunted life in the mansion.

I love how easy and affordable plays at Northwestern are. Parking’s a breeze and it’s close to home. Tickets don’t cost an arm and a leg.

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Photo a Week Challenge: From Below

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Chicago Theater

Since WordPress abruptly stopped their Weekly Photo Challenge I’ve been on the look-out for something new. So I’m giving Nancy Merrill’s challenge, A Photo a Week, a try. I hope other bloggers like the creators of Stenoodie, Spirit in Politics, The Narrow Bamboo Gate or so many more join.

IN A NEW POST CREATED FOR THIS CHALLENGE, SHARE A PHOTO OR TWO SHOT FROM BELOW YOUR SUBJECT.

Everyone is welcome to participate, even if your blog isn’t about photography.

Here’s how it works:

  • Each week, I’ll come up with a theme and post a photo that I think fits. You take photographs based on your interpretation of the theme, and post them on your blog (a new post!) anytime before the following Thursday, when the next photo theme will be announced.
  • To make it easy for others to check out your photos, title your blog post “A Photo a Week Challenge: (theme of the week)” and be sure to use the “postaday″ and “Photo a Week” tags.
  • Come back here and post a link to your image in the comments for this challenge.
    Follow nancy merrill photography so that you don’t miss out on weekly challenge announcements.

Thank you, Nancy!

Fisticuffs?

At the Writers’ Theater Saturday, I was astounded. During the intermission an older couple went out into the lobby. They had put their coats on the empty seats beside them. While they were gone a middle aged couple, who’d seen empty seats besides their friends came, moved the first couple’s seats and made themselves comfortable planning to stay in their new seats.

The old man returns and is furious when he sees the new couple and their coats placed on his chair. He lays into the middle aged man, whose wife starts shouting at him.

“How would you like it if someone threw your coats around?”

Cool it. Your coats’ are fine.

“Are those your seats?”

“No, we were up in the obstructed view area. These seats were empty.”

“You can’t sit there. Those aren’t your seats.”

And on and on. As the argument escalated the middle aged wife got loud and was swearing. The old man swore back and insulted the seat stealing husband saying that he knew who wore the pants in that guy’s family. The husband just turned his head.

Everyone was staring. My friend, who knew the middle aged couple because their kids went to the same high school. The ushers didn’t intervene. They seemed to be afraid of the fighters. While both sides threatened to call in the ushers, neither did. In time the old man’s wife came back, and everyone calmed down.

I was just shocked that neither side would back down or apologize. I can’t get over the insults and swearing in public with strangers. How odd.

 

 

What about Free Speech?

I’ve just returned from China where a colleague in Hefei had his final exam censored. The school contended that the readings on the exam were “too dark” and they objected a reading where a character exclaims “Oh, my God!” since there should be no religion in a class.

Now in the Land of the Free, I’ve read in the Chicago Tribune (link to the article) that several theaters in Chicago have jumped on Steppenwolf Theater’s to stop giving Sun Times critic Hedi Weiss free tickets since they disagree with her review of one of their plays. The play in question, Pass Over, evidently ends with dialog calling policemen murderers. Weiss’ review takes issue with this ideology. You can read her review here. Weiss is a perceptive, rational critic and in no way does the review sound like the work of a “deep-seated bigot.” I’m saddened by how easily some in the theater world here have furthered the name calling and called her racist and sexist.

Should the newspapers hire additional critics from a variety of backgrounds? Sounds like a good idea.

Should public debate descend into vicious name calling? I hope we can agree it shouldn’t.

I applaud The Goodman Theater and The Chicago Reader, who have both stepped up to defend the principle of free speech. It’s sad that theaters, which benefit from our Freedom of Speech condemn a critic who disagrees with a playwright. I plan to write to Steppenwolf about how disappointing their response to a review, which pointed out both the strengths and weaknesses of one of their productions. I can’t see continuing to attend Steppenwolf after the horrid production I fled last summer and now this unfair criticism of a critic.

This response by the theaters reminds me of the college students who whine when they have to read or discuss ideas that they don’t support.

A friend believes we’re facing an American version of the Chinese Cultural Revolution where thoughts were policed. What do you think?

The Flick

I thought I was quite lucky when I managed to get two discount tickets for Steppenwolf Theater’s The Flick, an award winning (so hard to believe)  play by Annie Baker. That feeling lasted 10 minutes when my hope that the play would entertain or enlighten at all was starting to vanish.

The Flick is a long, (3 hours, 10 minutes) dull look at two men who sweep and mop up the theater and the female projectionist, who’s a vapid loudmouth. The advertisement called the show “mesmerising” and I can only imagine that’s an agency’s spin on “sleep inducing.” I came expecting humorous banter about the love of film by some theatre employees with quirks and some sort of meaning or at least novel social observations along the lines of the very quotable Clerks film.

Those hopes were dashed rather early one by prolonged stretches of mopping or sweeping interspersed with dull dialogue about stealing from the till, the projectionist’s personality and sexuality, and movie trivia between the new guy, a nerd with high levels of social anxiety who’s little more than a walking IMDB.com. The nerd does realise he doesn’t have much personality his life is going nowhere but his long winded phone conversation with a therapist just bored me.

The play desperately needs 1) a plot, 2) more characters, 3) cut about 90 minutes out of it, 4) somehow find a theme and 5) take the characters you’re stuck with and give them some personality.

Evidently, the play contains humour, but I only know that because the theatre employees who sat behind me laughed. Any laughter in the theatre came from about 10% of the audience whom my friend and I guess were parents of the actors. During the first half of the play, I looked at my watch three times, not a good sign. I was relieved to get to intermission and delighted when my friend asked, “Would you mind leaving?”

Certainly not! Ninety more minutes would be hell.

As I went to collect my coat, my friend asked an employee what happened in the second half. “It’s pretty much more of the same.” That’s what we guessed. If the playwright had any ability or sense, she’d have put something good into the first half of this long, long opus. We overheard some people trying to decide whether to stay or go. My friend shared the employee’s comment. After exchanging some comments about how dreadful this show was and trying to figure out why a high quality theatre like Steppenwolf would choose to do this and how this Annie Baker managed to not only win a Pulitzer but also a Guggenheim so she’s getting a fortune to continue to write dull plays, we all decided to leave. Life is too short.

We weren’t alone either. I figure my $20 was a gift to the arts. We were so sorry that Domesticated with Tom Allen was sold out.