Shakespeare Times Two

Dear Liza,

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Everyone loves Shakespeare!

Saturday afternoon, after shopping and lunch, we headed off to Laurelhurst Park for… A Comedie of Errors! The afternoon was sunny and hot, and since the stage area was in sun, we sat in the sun, hoping the shade would get to us eventually.

This story of two sets of identical twins, mistaken identities, romantic and financial entanglements was very well done, funny, and surprisingly touching. Two women, (Shakespeare wrote them as men but women work very well), identical twins both named Antipholus, are separated during a shipwreck as infants, one with the mother, one with the father. Their boy servants (also identical twins, both named Dromio) are separated with them.

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Antipholus and her Dromio are arrested

The play begins 30 or so years after the shipwreck, with the twins and their servants as adults. I won’t try to explain it all here, but the play is a raucous, well-written romp guaranteed to entertain lowlifes and high brows alike.

The acting was wonderful! Since Original Practice Shakespeare is a repertoire company, we get to see actors play different parts in different plays. It is fun to see a tragic queen become the Prompter, or a person with a small part in a different play take center stage and steal every scene!

It changes your understanding of acting, casting, and life in general….Even if you are really good at what you do, it doesn’t ALWAYS have to be about YOU.

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Brian Saville Allard as a slimy merchant…..

Since this weekend is the Grand Finale Weekend of “Will Fest”, the last weekend of the OPS season, Saturday evening was also Shakespeare in Laurelhurst…Hamlet!

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       And as the evil King Claudius,                           with Jennifer Lanier as Polonius.

Grandpa Nelson hates the play because the main character is so indecisive, so Grandpa stayed home and Auntie Bridgett and I went over. It was also very good.

Hamlet was cast as a young woman, (played by Lauren Saville Allard) which, in my mind, changed what I expected of her. I had always wanted male Hamlet to get it over with and revenge his father, but of female Hamlet, I wanted  more introspection…so I guess I like female Hamlet better!

This year we have gotten to see my favorite actor, Jennifer Lanier, in all the plays. She was Prospero in The Tempest last year, and Polonius in Hamlet, and Sir Toby Belch Twelfth Night. She is delightful.

We have two more plays of this season, if we are Shakespeare strong enough!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Richard III

Dear Liza,

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The Stage is set

After I got back from my bus and train adventure to visit Terry, I rested up a little before we headed off to Laurelhurst Park for another production of Original Practice Shakespeare. This is the troupe of actors that doesn’t do regular rehearsals, and each actor carries a little scroll with their lines on it. They have an on-stage prompter, dressed in a referee uniform, who keeps everything running smoothly and occasionally stops the actions to ask, “So, Richard, how’s it going?”

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The Prompter

They do it this way for two reasons. First, it is how Shakespeare’s plays were performed while Shakespeare was still writing them. Second, it allows a small group of actors to do 6 different plays a week, because no one has to absolutely memorize a whole play…they always have their lines with them.

Because the actors haven’t rehearsed this play as a group, the performances can be uneven. Our last experience with them, A Midsummer Nights Dream at the top of Mt. Tabor, wasn’t fabulous. The staging was confusing, the costumes didn’t make sense, and the actors were not very prepared. So we were skeptical.

Still, free Shakespeare is something to see when you have the chance, so we went. And we were not disappointed.

This production of the historical tragedy of Richard III, was beautiful, emotional, and so well acted that every line of every character made sense. Brian Burger, who played the evil, scheming Richard, used his soliloquies to bring the audience in on his plans, and sort of made us co-conspirators. We knew what terrible things he was going to do, and we enjoyed watching him do them.

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Evil Richard wooes Lady Ann

The costumes were well chosen and helped define the characters. This troupe does a lot of cross casting, with women playing men’s roles, but they did it so well!

One scene was even more poignant with a woman, Ariel Puls, playing Lord Stanley. She wore a costume that was military, but wore her blonde hair in a pony tail and was clearly a woman. When Richard tells her she may go raise more troops, but she must leave her son with him as a hostage against her treason (which she is indeed planning), a mother’s pain is shown with her whole body. Fortunately, Richard is defeated at the Battle of Bosworth Field before he has a chance to kill the boy.

We cheered for the good guys and booed for Richard, some of us yelling advice to the actors when they seemed to need it.

It was a rousing, fun evening, and we walked home happy and exhausted.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Hand Rails for Laurelhurst

Dear Liza,

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First section of rails is in!

As I have told you, Laurelhurst Park is my favorite place in Portland. It is 26 acres of grassy slopes, majestic maple trees, picnic areas, a lake, paths for walking and biking, and even places to hang out with dogs.

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Auntie Bridgett and Willie

 

 

 

In our short year here we have seen old trees fall or lose branches,  and new ones get planted. We have gotten quite attached to some of them. Auntie Bridgett has a favorite, a young fir tree she calls Oliver. She gives him a “high five” whenever we go past. He recently got his lower branches trimmed, so she has to reach higher for the five!

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A High Five for Oliver

There is a new tree, a Dawn Redwood we have named Willie because he has a snake-like wiggle near the top. He is still young and we look forward to watching him grow.

And Laurelhurst Park is now getting even better! The wonderful brick steps that lead from the deepest part of the ravine up to Ankeny Street are getting hand rails.

Last January, when I chatted with a fellow working on the plants near the steps, he mentioned that handrails were in the plans, but that I shouldn’t hold my breath.  Now they are becoming a reality.

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Leveling the new rails

A few weeks ago we noticed holes cut in the edges of the steps. Tuesday, Grandpa Nelson noticed the caution tape as we walked home from the movies. Wednesday, I met some of the men installing the beautiful rails. It is quite a complicated process.

Inside each hole is a steel sleeve, so the rails won’t put stress on the old bricks. Then the rails are set 4 feet into the sleeve with concrete and pea gravel and leveled in all directions. The concrete is smoothed and then painted with sealant so it won’t crack.

When I asked when the rails would be ready to use, the man answered, “Depends how hot it gets. We can’t pour if it’s over 100 degrees.” I will drop by the park later today to see what’s up, so I can show you!

Always looking for more goodness around here…

Love,

Grandma Judy

Downtown with the Cousins

Dear Liza,

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The cupola

It is hot again here in Portland, so I made sure my Monday with Jasper and Kestrel included lots of air conditioning and water.

We took the number 4 bus downtown to the Pioneer Courthouse. This nifty building was built in 1875, and is still being used. It has a wonderfully old elevator that feels like a birdcage, and lovely steps, as well. We enjoyed both as we headed for the main attraction, the cupola!

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Cool old elevator

A cupola is a little tower with windows that sticks out the top of a building. The courthouse cupola was built because this was where customs officers could come and see what ships were in the port of Portland. In those days, this was the tallest building around, so you could see the river from here. Not anymore, I’m afraid.

But we enjoyed the old bubbly glass, the views, and knowing that we were in a special place. Looking down, we saw Pioneer Square, which is called Portland’s Living Room because of all the public events there. Once we climbed down from the cupola, we crossed the street and had snacks there while listening to bluegrass music.

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Pretty carpeted stairs

But it was getting hot. So we headed up to the Oregon Historical Society, which is air conditioned and free, since I am member. Their main exhibit was about Oregon State University (OSU, Go Beavers!) and many of the famous and influential people who graduated from there. There was information about Linus Pauling, The McMenamin brothers, people who invented whale tracking technology, the fellow who invented the computer mouse,  and much more. There was also a soft comfy couch for Grandmas.

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Tracking whales

Having filled our heads with history and science, we walked to Director’s Park, where there is a fountain designed for playing in. The kids got wet, splashed other kids, and generally had a good time. We ate a cobbled together picnic in the shade, played a big game of Connect Four until tempers started to fray,  and then we headed home.

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Kids and water

I had brought storybooks to read, and Kestrel had lots more. Jasper practiced Spanish on his Duolingo program. We made dinner, Auntie Katie came home, and Grandpa Nelson came to fetch me. I was one pooped Grandma Judy!

When it “cooled down” to 88 degrees at 9 o’clock, Auntie Bridgett and I went for a walk. The moon was almost full and the park was beautiful, but it was still too warm to be comfortable. Tomorrow will be a quiet inside day, I think.

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Moonshine

Love,

Grandma Judy

Ever-changing Laurelhurst

Dear Liza,

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Summer campers hunting snails

I have told you about Laurelhurst Park, the lovely old park in our neighborhood. It was created about 113 years ago when the neighborhood was developed from dairy farms and pastures. The park is land that was a gulch, or ravine, and too prone to flooding to build on, so they made it a park. Good call, city planners.

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Helping new grass in the off-leash area

Since there were no trees here when the park was developed, all the trees were planted at the same time, so most of them are the same age: 113 years! These great trees give the park a sense of history and permanence, peace and mystery.

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Fir Lake Reflections

But yesterday we had a strong reminder that even in this permanence, there is change. Auntie Bridgett and I were walking in the park, enjoying the shade, the summer campers, the birdsong, and the happy dog joy that was everywhere. From across a clearing we heard a large CRASH, and within a few minutes, an ever larger CRASH! It was so loud in the peaceful park, we were all stunned. It sounded (and I know this sounds silly) like a giant monster had stumbled into the park and was ripping up trees.

I ran towards the sound, wanting to see what it was. A huge tree by the west end of Firwood Lake

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Yes, that’s me beside the fallen limb

had lost one smallish limb, then a giant limb. They had grown too heavy with new growth, and without the slightest provocation of wind or weather, crashed to the ground. It was sad, like seeing a peaceful giant, still in his prime, dead on the ground.

People came from all over the park to see and take pictures. One fellow knew who to call and soon some maintenance guys came on Cushman carts to put up Caution tape, in case more limbs fell.

We stood (at a safe distance, because Auntie Bridgett worries) feeling sad at the death of the beautiful branch, appreciating the life forces at work. Trees are living, changing beings, and to expect them to stand tall all the time is unrealistic. We all lose a limb every now and then. don’t we?  I  keep learning new things.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Sudden Storm

Dear Liza,

On Father’s Day it was hot! Auntie Bridgett and I needed to sell some books back to Powell’s, so we went early and spent the hottest part of the day indoors, reading, practicing French on Duolingo, and researching.

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Grandpa Nelson celebrating Father’s Day

By about six  it felt cool enough to enjoy a walk in Laurelhurst Park, so we all three put on sun hats, and sunglasses, and headed out. There was blinding sunshine in the western sky and ominous dark clouds to the east. We kept an eye on it.

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Ominous Clouds

The park was full of families and dogs, people in hammocks and on blankets, playing frisbee, guitars, even a fellow practicing his accordion by the pond. We sat down to listen and enjoy the sun on the water, when WHOOOSH! a wind came through and blew leaves, seeds, dust and even small branches past us at eye level.

The families packed up, called their dogs, making a small exodus out of the park. I took videos and photos. Grandpa Nelson and Auntie Bridgett just wanted to get home before the rain hit. On the way home, I noticed a big branch that had fallen across the road about a block from us. I went up to see, and met a lady who had come to see, too.

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Unsuspecting Accordion Player

Turns out, the big branch was really several very long branches, and they had fallen across a REACHNOW car, a rental business like ZipCar. The lady, and some other folks who stopped to help and I, managed to lift the branches off and get them out of the road, without doing further damage to the car.IMG_7195.jpg

I got the business information from the sticker on the window and let them know they have a damaged car.

Once we got home, I settled in to watch the storm as it progressed. Listening to the thunder was wonderful! We even got to sit out on the balcony for a while, until the wind shifted and brought the rain straight at us.

By eight o’clock, when we were meeting Auntie Katie for a post-Pride Day Father’s Day drink, the storm had passed and the sunset was pink and lovely.

Things are sure different around here.

Love,

Grandma Judy

 

New House!

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

Even though I am here in Salinas, Grandpa Nelson, Auntie Bridgett and I have just bought a new house in Portland!!

About a month ago, after looking at many houses that were too expensive or in the wrong neighborhood, my two wonderful people found this nice condominium just a few blocks from many of our favorite places. Laurelhurst Park….3 blocks away.  Lone Fir Cemetery, the Belmont Inn, the Nerd Out…all in the neighborhood. The number 15 bus to the Portland Art Museum and the Oregon Historical Society…. two blocks away.

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Lone Fir in fall
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Desserts, Drinks, and Action Figures!

It was within our budget, new enough to not need major repairs, and bright and sunny. It has room for Auntie Bridgett to paint, for me to write, and for Grandpa Nelson to work on his computer. It has a patio where I can grow a rose or two and a balcony for all of Great Grandma Billie’s geraniums.

Auntie Katie’s friend Alyssa Isenstein-Krueger is a Real Estate Agent with Living Room Realty and helped my two people get in to see the place before the first Open House, so they got first dibs. And boy, did they dib!

We made an offer that afternoon. There was a lot of traffic over the internet with signing papers and passing banking information, but the final papers couldn’t be signed over the net…they needed to be signed in person. A notary named Jasmin printed out the papers and we met in the delicatessen department of the Nob Hill on South Main. So I signed the papers for my house in Portland in the grocery store I shopped at here in Salinas. Nob Hill is the bridge, sort of, between my life here and my life there.

I signed the papers on that rainy evening of the Union march at the Board meeting, going directly from signing papers to marching in the rain. What a day that was!!

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The “Three” of us in front of the new house

Tonight, Grandpa Nelson and Auntie Bridgett had a bottle of wine at the new place, sitting on folding chairs, and we had a Facetime visit with all of us having wine here, to toast our new home. My two sillies brought along a large ceramic duck to stand in for ME.

We are all emotionally exhausted and ready to have a new nest to feather and be comfortable in. I get to see the house next week when I go to Portland for Spring vacation, and I am looking forward to deciding where everything will fit.

I can’t wait to start my new life in my new home!

Love,

Grandma Judy