Image of the Day : Beauty and the Belly Dance

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This picture combines two things I enjoy, a good Mediterranean restaurant and a great belly dancer! 🙂

Also what is satisfying is how this picture, came out, the lights above her, the darkness around her. The illusion of space and stars and a celestial Madonna dancing in the sky.

Enjoy!

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THEATER REVIEW: CSC’s Movable Shakespeare’s RICHARD III

“No beast so fierce but knows some touch of pity. But I know none, and therefore am no beast.”
― William Shakespeare, Richard III

There is no shortage of villains in the oeuvre of the writer known as William Shakespeare. From the machinations of Hamlet’s Uncle-cum-Father who puts Hamlet ‘too much in the Sun’, to the deviousness of Othello’s ‘trusted’ Iago, to the bloody, eye-plucking Cornwall in King Lear, but none are so ever quotable, and perhaps as eminently watchable as Richard III, who is of such expanse in his villainy that he is the star of his own self-titled play, rather than just a player in another character’s tale.

And this comes to life in florid detail in the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company’s unique production of RICHARD III. Directed by Ian Gallanar, one of the CSC’s founders, RICHARD III is presented in a ‘movable’ style that puts the audience, truly in the heart of the action and makes them mute(and not so mute) chorus to this tale of treachery and tragedy.

Taking place in the ‘haunted’ ruins at the Patapsco Female Institute Historic Park in Ellicott City, Maryland, beneath the stars and the eyes of God, it is truly a presentation to remember. Particularly on a good, clear fall night (which we were blessed to see it on) with the wind picking up just a little, and showering Richard III with leaves, almost on queue, as he woos a man’s widow over his corpse. Ay, it’s a great thing, when the heavens provide your special effects.

And the whole play went thus, as a crowd of over 100, moved from picturesque room or steps or courtyard, moved from scene to scene, and watched actors of talent and temper… a tale unfold.

And before getting into the actors, a bit more on the setting.

Ellicott City is a 30 square mile area, more loose community than incorporated sub-division, that traces its history back to its founding as a Flour Mill back in 1772 by Quaker Brothers named Ellicott. Nestled in the Baltimore-Washington bosom, the area is rumored to, like Rome, be built on seven hills.

So this is no concrete jungle or ‘great white way’ for your theatrical experience, it is a beautiful and languid tree-lined drive, followed by a pretty spooky uphill walk to make the (typically) 8pm showing, that takes place in the Grecian tinged ruins of the Patapsco Female Institute.

So that is the stage, not New York, or Charlotte, or DC or LA, but the woodlands of Ellicott City; and the PFI Historic Park is a stage worth traveling to see.

Now for those who prance upon that stage.

While there are many strengths to an outdoor production, there are also obvious weaknesses. There are minor moments of congestion and confusion inherent in herding a hundred people to and fro, and that very act of going in and out of the ‘reality’ of the play, perhaps can limit how engrossed the viewer can get into the play.

However I think the immediacy of being ‘in’ the play, and viewing that closely the actors and interacting in their space, compensates for any loss of concentrated immersion in the piece.

However one other weakness of an outdoor production, is the sound. Without the acoustics and sound system of a real theater the actors have to project to be heard, particularly should the weather pick up. Some actors were better at doing this than others. Some actors needed to project better. And some actors were stellar.

The word stellar has to be kept close to the name Vince Eisenson who stars as the titular Richard the IIIrd. He has, as expected, to carry much of the play, much of the language, much of the energy. It is a ponderous role to undertake, and Eisenson manages not just to suffer the weight of the role, but to carry it as if he was born to it.

Part of this may have to do with his youth, but more than that Eisenson’s Richard is a far more vibrant and lively Richard, no less tortured than other actors who have portrayed the character, but there is a sophistication there, a deft touch to his portrayal, that eschews mustache twirling, that makes the character’s ability to charm and deceive, more believable here.

Also of note is the performance of Associate Director Scott Allan Small, as he makes the role of Buckingham, that I think can often come off as no more than a yes man, into one of the formidable figures of the play. He particularly just shines in the scene where he mixes with the audience as he ‘attempts’ to get Richard to accept the crown.

Also the scene where Buckingham draws the line at the slaying of children, and demands his due of Richard, I thought was just played beautifully between the two actors of Eisenson and Small. The physicality of how they played that role, with Buckingham played as the brick wall in that scene (like Marvel Comics’ Kingpin transplanted to Shakespeare), against Richard’s flowing water, that seeps into the brick… and breaks it all to pieces.

And the CSC performance is filled with such capable actors, among them Dave Gamble, Greg Burgess, and Jamie Jager in a passionate performance as Richmond. Another highlight scene is with Ron Heneghan delivering a very captivating performance as the imprisoned Clarence; it takes place in a fireplace dominated prison opposite equally entertaining performances by Bart Debicki as Brackenbury (the lieutenant of the tower) and the actors playing his assassins (Rebecca Dreyfuss and Jared Murray).

All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable and recommended production, by a theater company I do not think you would be wrong, in calling world class. And this is typified by the fact that the last few performances of their RICHARD III (ending the weekend of this writing) are all sold out.

But don’t mourn too much, if moved by this review to sample the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company in the future and will be visiting the East Coast, 2013 brings new CSC productions of Shakespeare’s classic plays, among them ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA and THE TAMING OF THE SHREW.

And If RICHARD III is a gauge, both shows will be much labored over in their construction, and much loved in their delivery.

Accolades go out to communications Director Sandra Maddox Barton for all her assistance, in making this review possible.

The Faith of Stars


Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration

I had a dream.

Which is odd for me, because I seldom dream.

The dream is a hard one to convey.

It’s a dream before language.

There are symbols and sensations, and a brutal wisdom.

And a bruising hope.

In the dream I’m pantheistic.

Meaning mine is the religion of the wolves and the Wind, and of long dead stars that yet do light our sky,

“Think of it”, the dream says, in a way that is beyond saying “in the night there are stars lighting up the heavens, that no longer are there. That died a million years before the birth of man, and yet we are just now seeing their light reach us. To look up into the night sky, on a brisk, clear night, is to time travel.

No HG Wells story, or abstract idea.

It is time travel, definitive.

Because you are seeing into the past.”

“My God,” The dream, which both is and is not some part of me uncoiled, continues “how any can remain unfaithful, amidst the faith of stars. Even dead and blown to cinders, they continue to shine, for those who have eyes to see.

Time and space and even humanity (and their petty squabbles of oil, or ethnicity, or religion. All pathetically meaningless, and limited and wrong, ants skittering over a dung heap and thinking that be the world) are illusions, and to consider the heavens… is to break an illusion’s heart.

There is so much more, beyond this navel gazing, and wretched cannibalism Humanity commits against itself while still in the womb. Because make no mistake humanity is in the womb of its existence, strapped to a single world yet pontificating on the heavens and god, which are as above our reckoning as stars from silt. And unless we’re careful, we are rabid embryos who will die in this womb, fighting amongst ourselves, and take mother earth with us.”

And with that… here endeth the dream that was filled with signs and portents, and reckonings most dire.

And upon waking I read passages from the Bible and the Koran, Vedas of Hinduism, Translations from the Egyptian Book of the Dead, and even the creation songs of the Aboriginals. I consume all our human knowledge of the dark, until my hands stop shaking, and for a time, I can dispel larger truths that I learned… in the light.

********************************************


Credit:
ESA/Hubble & NASA

“All the counsel you have received has only worn you out! Let your astrologers come forward, those stargazers who make predictions month by month, let them save you from what is coming upon you.” Isaiah 47:13 Bible New International Translation–

I love how with each translation, the Bible gets more dumbed down and simplified, but the risk in simplification is the message is changed sometimes subtly, sometimes drastically. Compare the above, incredibly enjoyable passage (just insanely over the top, I mean I put down Astrologers with the best of them but that quote’s a bit gangsta 🙂 ) with the King James Version which is already a highly altered version:

“Thou art wearied in the multitude of thy counsels. Let now the astrologers, the stargazers, the monthly prognosticators, stand up, and save thee from these things that shall come upon thee.”

Those are two very different passages in terms of tone. Where the heck does the exclamation point come from?! Someone made the decision, “this passage is not hostile enough in our war against terror, let’s toughen it up!” It is just hilarious. I can only guess the original Aramaic version probably said something like, “You have an astrologer? Cool dude! Pass me the pipe!”

I’m being facetious, I know that, but you get my point. We codify these inaccuracies, and say “Well this is the Bible”.

Well actually it isn’t.

The Bible isn’t one book written by one person. It’s a collection of hundreds of disparate writings, by hundreds of people, nearly all of whom are lost to time. And you have the church saying “well this article here will go in the book of Matthew, and this treatise here by that cross-eyed hermit we burned perhaps too hastily, will go in Corinthians”. Etc, etc.

If we define a book as something written by one person at one time, the Bible is not that. The Bible is not a Novel, it is an anthology.

It’s this truth that I think escapes a lot of people. I am not killing for a book, or what resides in a book, especially when 9 out of 10 people really don’t agree on the book or what’s in it. Now being the learning oriented type, I’ll study with you on the bible, I’ll discuss with you on the bible, but I’m not going to kill for you on the bible. Now before we go that route I’m going to have to read the thing for myself in Aramaic, including the books like Enoch, that the church decided to leave out of the bible. See this is what bothers me, you call it the word of God but it’s edited, rearranged, and dumbed down by man.

No, I’m just not going there with you. You want to believe, I don’t have a problem with that, but make it informed belief. Anything else is just… control.


“We gave some of Our Messengers preference over others. To some of them God spoke and He raised the rank of some others. We gave authoritative proofs to Jesus, son of Mary, and supported him by the Holy Spirit. Had God wanted, the generations who lived after those Messengers would not have fought each other after the authority had come to them. But they differed among themselves, some of them believed in the authority and others denied it. They would not have fought each other had God wanted, but God does as He wills. (2:253)”
—The Qur’an translated by Sheikh Muhammad Sarwar

here a cool link, with texts from a variety of faiths