Arrived in Ashland in the OSF Member Lounge

Arrived in Ashland in the OSF Member Lounge

Happy Friday! I’m very pleased to announce that the Teresa/Tracy Grant Google+ group is starting up again, thanks to the wonderful Betty Strohecker. If you’re a member, be sure to check it out. If you aren’t a member, do consider joining. There’s a icon to join on this site. i’ll be popping in myself, though it’s primarily a group for readers.

At Crater Lake

At Crater Lake

8.31.jpgTracyMellunch

Lunch at the Crater Lake lodge

Earlier this month Mélanie and I had wonderful trip to Ashland, Oregon. We saw friends, ate some great meals, went shopping, took a great day trip to Crater Lake (Mélanie was fascinated by the model showing how it was formed by a volcano), and my friends and I saw some amazing theatre at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. As always those performances were a wonderful source of creative inspiration for my writing. Among the highlights was Sweat, the world premiere of a play by the wonderful Lynn Nottage. Set between 2000 and 2008 in Reading, Pennsylvania, a manufacturing town in which the factories are closing down, the play manages to at once offering a broad social commentary and create vivid, heartrending portraits of specific characters so real you feel you could step on the stage and into their world. A great example of examining complex ideas by showing not telling. It opens in 2008 and with two characters being released from prison and then moves back in a time to the events that got them there. This creates wonderful dramatic tension. I love playing with narrative and timelines and how it can affect how a story unfolds.

Shopping!

Shopping!

Après theatre in Ashland

Après theatre in Ashland

Another highlight was a brilliant Antony & Cleopatra directed by OSF artistic director Bill Rauch. The tension between personal relationships and the political stage could not be resonate for me with my own writing. Suzanne and Malcolm are minor characters in world events compared to Anthony and Cleopatra, but the tension between personal loyalties and desires and political loyalties (and sometimes sheer political expedience) is one they and many other characters in the series know well. Miriam Laube and Derrick Lee Weeden brought Cleopatra and Anthony to life in fabulous performances that made the two characters at once larger than life and very, very human. In the “One more gaudy night” scene, Anthony, who has just talked boldly about charging back to battle, has a moment the reveals his own qualms about success. A few moments later, Cleopatra’s concern for him flashes across her eyes when he isn’t looking. Anthony and Cleopatra are flawed characters who make flawed choices at times. They aren’t always loyal to each other. But in the end their love for each other survives the political maneuvering, even if they do not.

Dinner at Alchemy, one of our favorite restaurants

Dinner at Alchemy, one of our favorite restaurants

Après theatre

Après theatre

Family portrait

Family portrait

At intermission, a friend and I were discussing how wonderfully clear and exciting all the political intrigue felt. John Tufts as another stand out as Octavius. Cold, scheming, but not entirely without empathy. All in all a brilliant night of theatre on a trip filled with wonderful theatrical moments and wonderful writing inspiration.

Drinks on our terrace

Drinks on our terrace

Dinner at Amuse, another favorite

Dinner at Amuse, another favorite

In closing, a question inspired by blog discussions the past couple of weeks that perhaps is not unrelated to the love and politics themes of Anthony and Cleopatra. At the end of The Mayfair Affair Raoul tells Laura “I have no right to ask you to feel any sort of obligation. But I feel one.” When the novella opens six weeks later, Laura has been muling what this means. What do you think it means? What if Raoul offering/committing to?

Visiting our friends at Weisinger Winery

Visiting our friends at Weisinger Winery

Brunch at Brother's, a favorite haunt

Brunch at Brother’s, a favorite haunt

Advertisements
Arrived in Ashland, tickets collected, a stop at the Member Lounge

Arrived in Ashland, tickets collected, a stop at the Member Lounge

Mélanie and I spent last week in Ashland, Oregon, visiting friends, eating some great meals, and (for Mummy) seeing some great theatre at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival while Mel played with some wonderful babysitters. The theatre highlight of the trip was Great Society by Robert Schenkkan, a sequel to All the Way, the play about Lyndon Johnson’s first year as president and the passing of the Civil Rights Act which OSF commissioned and premiered two years ago and which recently took Broadway by storm and won the Tony for best new play. Great Society picks up the story after LBJ’s re-election and chronicles his nights to pass Medicare and other social program legislation, the increasing quagmire of the Vietnam War, and his ultimate decision not to run for a second term. Like All the Way, it is written in the style of a Shakespeare history play, with the protagonist addressing the audience at times, a large cast of characters (including Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy, and J. Edgar Hoover) from different groups, large scale scenes set on the public stage contrasting with domestic moments of key characters with their families. As an historical novelist, I’m in awe of the way these two plays bring history to life.

8.25.14TracyMel

A visit to our friends’ house on the Applegate River – a glorious day with lunch outside and time for Mel to chase butterflies and pick a peach

 

It was a brilliant production and particularly exciting to follow it up with an also brilliant Richard III.  Schenkkan’s LBJ is far more sympathetic than Shakespeare’s Richard III, a flawed ambitious man who is also trying to do genuine good, but there are some wonderful parallel moments in the two plays – LBJ and Richard’s opening monologues to the audience, scenes in which both of them try tactics that have worked in the past to manipulate, respectively, Robert Kennedy and Elizabeth Woodville, this time unsuccessfully, and closing speeches by the “new king” – Richard Nixon and Henry VII. Both casts were fabulous with amazing performances by Jack Willis as LBJ and Dan Donohue as Richard III. In the curtain call, both looked like completely different men, a sign of how much they had transformed themselves in the performance.

Dinner outdoors at Peerless before Richard III

Dinner outdoors at Peerless before Richard III

Another standout of the trip was a magical production of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Into the Woods which did full justice to the complex music while also bringing out the dramatic nuances of the story. A mix of fairytales (among them Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk and Rapunzel) at it’s heart it’s a story about parents and children poignant, starkly sad at times, ultimately hopeful. I cried through the last fifteen minutes.

Sharing time at the hotel with our cats, all excellent travelers

Sharing time at the hotel with our cats, all excellent travelers

All the plays were wonderfully inspiring for me as a writer. Political intrigue and family drama go to the heart of what my books are about. I came home excited to get back to writing. I can’t wait until Mélanie is old enough to take to some of the plays. Meanwhile, it’s fun telling her about the plays. And on the drive home, we listened to the CD of Into the Woods, to which she announced “I like the music.”

Savoring time on the deck at the Member Lounge before we headed home

Savoring time on the deck at the Member Lounge before we headed home