Camelot: I went to see Camelot at the Shakespeare Theatre Company on Friday night. I have a complicated relationship with this show, since we did a production of it when I was in 6th grade. That was largely on the grounds that we were studying the Middle Ages, but it was really because our teacher, Mr. Ryder, was into musicals. And, while we used the songs, we rewrote large portions of the script. Most of the songs were sung by the entire class. As a result, I know the score well, but I had never actually seen the show. (I should also mention that the show got me addicted to Dark Shadows because I made paper mache trees for the set with a couple of other girls, who insisted we had to watch that soap opera while working on them.) I have, however, read The Once and Future King, which is largely the basis for the book.
So how was it? It’s rather a mess, really. For one thing, there is no way to tell how much time passes between events. There must be some time for word to spread to France about the Round Table and for rumors about the relationship between Lancelot and Guenevere to reach Scotland. But there don’t seem to be any knights going on quests, so who knows? Even King Pellinore seems to have given up on the Questing Beast in favor of sleeping on a featherbed with a fluffy pillow. The score has a few notable moments. "If Ever I Would Leave You" is lushly romantic, but it has other songs that are easy to mock. I’m always tempted to change a lyric in "C’est Moi" from "a knight so extraordinaire" to "a knight so full of hot air." And then there are songs like "How to Handle a Woman," "The Lusty Month of May," and, especially, "Fie on Goodness"” which just scream that this is not Lerner and Loewe at their best. (I should note that my biggest objection to the score is that it doesn’t have a consistent tone and has few bits that suggest medieval England.)
I could forgive much of that if the performances were better. But Alexandra Silber was too operatic as Guenevere, without being able to enunciate clearly enough with all the vocal pyrotechnics. Ken Clark was uneven as Arthur, but that is probably as much the fault of the score (and direction) that doesn’t know quite what to do with his disillusionment. The best performance was by Nick Fitzer as Lancelot. Now, there’s a voice that suited the character!
Incidentally, I have whined before about STC’s failure to use local actors and this was another case of it. Also, while I am nitpicking, the set had Lancelot and Guenevere rolling around on a stage full of rose petals at the beginning of Act II. The petals stayed there, which may be practical from the standpoint of set design, but annoyed me, because I was distracted by them being swept around in random patterns by the long dresses and robes worn by many characters.
There is some interesting political relevance to the story, but, overall, the show just didn’t work well for me.
The Indie 500: Saturday was the Indie 500, DC’s local crossword tournament. There were plenty of out-of-town attendees, particularly the Boston crowd. They’d moved locations and there were more people competing this year.
The puzzles were fashion-themed this time, though how much the themes had to do with fashion varied. I will refrain from details to avoid spoilers for the solve-at-home crowd. (I have one spoiler in rot13 in the comments). Things started off well for me, with a decent time (5:24) on Puzzle 1, even though I entirely failed to notice the theme while solving it. The average time was 5:41, by the way.
One of the Indie 500 traditions is pie and the boxes of miniature pies showed up early this time – between puzzles 1 and 2. They were unlabeled. I got something that seemed to be a sort of lemony custard, which was quite tasty.
Puzzle 2 had a cute theme and was reasonably straightforward. I finished in 11:24, which was a little slower than I should have, but there wasn’t any particular thing that slowed me down. (And the average time was 12:57, so it isn’t as if that was a bad time.)
I really enjoyed the theme of Puzzle 3, as well. I got slightly slowed down by one of the theme clues being a Down clue, while the rest were Across clues. And there was one square that required me to go through the alphabet to figure out an answer. Still, I solved it cleanly in 17:08, while the average was 18:27. At the end of three, I was in 75th place out of 164 contestants.
Then it was time for lunch. I ended up at Rice Bar, which is a bibimbap place a couple of blocks away. It was good and filling, though I will probably choose a different sauce than the peanut sauce I got if I go there again.
Puzzle 4 was the hardest of the day and took me 24:43, while the average was 19:26. Part of my slow time was due to my being unsure about the spelling of one person’s name. I had a spelling issue on another name, too, though I figured that out quickly. But I got hung up on the southeast corner, largely due to an initial error on one clue. I did end up solving it cleanly, but I was slow.
Puzzle 5 was straightforward and had a cute theme. I finished it in 11:47, while the average was 12:52. Sounds fine, right? Well, it would have been if I hadn’t had a stupid error. I had attempted to correct an error, but did not manage to actually completely erase the wrong letter. All I can think of is that I used the eraser at the end of my pencil, instead of the click-eraser I had with me. The error cost me a lot of points. And I ended up finishing 100 out of 164. Aaargh.
While the scores were being tabulated for the finals, there was a game that involved finding names hidden in other words. I was pretty good at this, for the most part. One of my teammates was amazed that I knew the word "psaltery" (a sort of medieval stringed instrument). I will confess to actually owning one – and playing it, though not very well.
So here is how I’ve done over the years on the Indie 500:
2018 – 100 / 164 (39th percentile)
2017 – 64 / 128 (50th percentile)
2016 – 60 / 117 (49th percentile)
2015 – 61 / 100 (39th percentile)
Quajado: I got home and made quajado for a potluck on Sunday. For those who are unfamiliar with this dish, it’s a Sephardic egg, cheese, and vegetable dish, sort of like a crustless quiche. I baked it in a 9 inch square pan because that’s what I had, but one could use a round pan, of course. Here’s the recipe I used:
Chop one medium onion. Saute in olive oil until soft, about 10 minutes.
Grate two smallish zucchini.
Thaw one package of frozen chopped spinach. (You could, of course, use fresh spinach, but I had frozen on hand.)
Mix the vegetables together. Add 6 lightly beaten eggs, 1 cup of ricotta cheese, and a ½ cup of grated parmesan cheese. Add a couple of crushed garlic cloves and a teaspoon or so of crushed red pepper.
Pour the mixture into an oiled baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes, until set and slightly browned. Serve warm or at room temperature.
You can use other vegetables and other cheeses, e.g. farmer cheese instead of ricotta, gouda instead of parmesan. And you could throw in additional herbs.
JGSGW Luncheon: That potluck was the annual luncheon for the Jewish Genealogy Society of Greater Washington. The quajado went over well and I didn’t have any leftovers to bring home. I suspect that was, in part, because it was more original than, say, yet another kugel (there were three if I recall correctly). I had some interesting discussions about traveling in Eastern Europe. And I refrained from pointing out that Austria is really Central Europe.
The actual program had to do with things you can find in newspapers and the speaker had some interesting examples, e.g. several items from a small town newspaper that all mentioned the street that members of a prominent family lived on. There was also a lot of information about good sources for newspaper research, starting with the Library of Congress.
Washington Folk Festival: After the luncheon I raced across Maryland in the pouring rain to get to Glen Echo Park for the folk festival. The weather was truly atrocious and River Road was pretty close to living up to its name. Still, I made it there. My set wasn’t until 5 p.m., so I had time to listen to some other people’s stories beforehand. As for my set, I told a brief Herschele Ostropole story, followed by Mendel and the Enchanted Goat, and a Nasruddin story. I could probably have squeezed in one more story, but my watch was fast so I thought I had just one minute instead of about five.
The rain had let up (though not actually stopped) by the time I left. So it wasn’t bad driving home. I had time for grocery shopping and then ate supper before pretty much collapsing.
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