The Grapevine: This month’s featured storytellers were Jo Radner from Maine and Regi Carpenter from upstate New York. I’ve heard Jo tell several times before and she had a fun, eclectic set. She started with a riff on Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater’s wife, followed that with a Nepali folktale about a pumpkin who marries a princess, and then told her pie story, which is one I’ve heard before and was happy to hear again. Regi told pieces about her childhood, including one about a favorite teacher, which made me nostalgic for Mrs. Meyers, my elementary school music teacher. All in all, a lovely evening.
Saudi Embassy: Thursday night was an MIT Club of DC event at the Saudi embassy. There was time when I first arrived to check out the public areas of the building, which had walls lined with photos of impressive modern skyscrapers, scale models of significant buildings (presumably mosques and palaces, though they weren’t labeled) and two display cases of traditional clothing. Then we were ushered into the auditorium, where the presentation started with a 20 or so minute film about the history of Saudi Arabia and its more recent attempts at modernizing. Aside from the propaganda that painted things as more modern than we would normally believe, one thing I gathered was that it did not really exist as a country until the 1932. I suppose I should have known that, but I didn’t. Anyway the film was followed by a Q&A with the ambassador. Since he spoke off the record, I won’t comment on specific things he said, but I thought he was long-winded and slightly evasive. Eventually we got to go into dinner, which was good, but not spectacular. (In particular, I thought some of the dishes had excessive sweet spices, e.g. stuff like cinnamon.) At least they had tables and chairs. Too often these events mean balancing a plate and a wine glass while standing. Of course, they didn’t serve alcohol, so there weren’t wine glasses involved, though there were other beverages.
The Flick:This Pulitzer winning play by Annie Baker has to do with three people who work at a movie theatre in Massachusetts in the last days of film (versus digital) projection. Sam and Avery clean the theatre, work the box office, and sell refreshments, while Rose is the projectionist. The point is the relationships between the three, of course, with the setting and background helping with explication. The scenes are divided with movie clips, but you would have to be a real movie geek to recognize more than a few of them, especially since the tiny projection is impossible to see. And the connections of specific movies to the actions of the play were not especially obvious to me. Frankly, I felt that the film clips mostly made this very long play (nearly 3 ½ hours) longer for no really good reason. There were some interesting moments, but I was not surprised that at least a quarter of the audience didn’t return after the intermission (which was two hours in). Since it was Signature, the acting was excellent and I want to particularly commend Thaddeus McCants as Avery. But, overall, the whole thing would have worked better for me if it were half the length.
Story Swap:The Voices in the Glen story swap was Saturday night. There were a lot of listeners, including a few who had never been to a storytelling event before. There was a good mix of stories and everyone seemed to enjoy it. My contribution was my father’s version of the Crossing of the Red Sea, complete with environmental impact statement.
Speaking of Storytelling:Remember the story contest I was shilling just a bit ago? Well, I made the top 10! Anybody in or around DC who wants to come, the final show is Saturday May 28th at 6:30 p.m. at Jammin' Java in Vienna. Of course, I need to come up with a shiny new story for it, but I already have two ideas. (Well, actually, three ideas, no, make that four, but I have narrowed it down to the top two.)