Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A Counterpane for Rememberance

There is a beautiful quilt, the work of 60 employees of the Stratford Festival wardrobe department , that hangs in the upper lobby of the Avon Theatre.  I saw it last year and remarked on the workmanship that went into it - not something really surprising given who had created it.  For some reason this year it was partially hidden behind a podium that had served for some presentation earlier in the day.  I am honestly surprised that the house manager would allow this to happen but .....

The quilt was created in memory of Renato La Selva a master tailor who worked at Stratford for many years.  Each year a Gutherie Award, named after the great Irish director, is given to someone in the wardrobe department in memory of their colleague Renato.  The quilt honours both him and the recipients of the award.

The volunteers who created it choose both the Shakespearean subject and the medium that they would use in their panel.  Some choose plays, others logos or simply things that said to them:  this is Stratford.   Some choose embroidery others appliqué, silk screening, leather work or simple quilting techniques.  Six designers closely identified with the Festival - Susan Benson, Debra Hanson, Desmond Heeley, John Pennoyer, Christina Poddubiuk and Ann Curtis -  had costume sketches or block designs incorporated into the quilt.  The four corner blocks represent flowers from the gardens surrounding the Festival Theatre and the border features drifts of swans reflected in the waters of the Avon River.

I was able to get shots of many of the 39 blocks that make up this remarkable tribute to a respected friend and colleague.  Unfortunately others - particularly those higher up on the quilt - were out of proper range for my little camera.  However I've included close-ups of as many as I can.

A left click on any of the hot-spots on the picture will enlarge a goodly number of the blocks, as will a left click on any of the titles shown below the photo.

I haven't been able to find out when the Quilt was made but the small card beside it in the lobby mentions the names of Laurie Krempien-Hall and Joanne Zegers, both long-time artisans in the wardrobe department,  as the two people who led the project. They and all the others involved can be proud of a remarkable piece of work and a loving tribute to a colleague.

September 30 - 1938: The League of Nations unanimously outlaws "intentional bombings of civilian populations".

Monday, September 29, 2014

Lunedi Lunacy

Yesterday, September 28, was the anniversary of the day that Thomas Crapper was baptized in Waterside, Yorkshire in 1836.  Perhaps all the water being poured over him from great heights gave baby Thomas the idea that was to revolutionize the lavatory industry and profoundly affect the lives of so many. 

 Flushed with the importance of that event I thought I'd see what was on YouTube about this plumber of some note and notoriety.  I came across this little piece of typical BBC lunacy and thought I'd let Stephen Fry and the panel on QI (Quite Interesting) clear up a little misconception that has been going the rounds for years.

And for those of you who are of puerile mind here is Mr Crapper's ballcock:

While doing my little research project I was astounded by the number of videos out there devoted to potty training!  I can't honestly recall how my parents managed it other than the embarrassing story my mother told at gatherings about how accomplished I was at two.  Amongst the video I found this little Japanese gem - I could only imagine the outrage if this were ever shown on North American TV.  A word of warning to my more sensitive readers that this would be considered NSFW so you might not want to click on it.

Okay everyone:  LET'S GO FOR IT TOGETHER!

September 29 - 1960: Nikita Khrushchev, leader of Soviet Union, disrupts a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly with a number of angry outbursts.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Exhibition Hopping - Part II

Fabulous Fabergé, Jeweller to the Czars - Musee de Beaux-Arts de Montreal  

As I mentioned in a previous post this exhibition, which ends October 5, is a marvel on several levels.  The objects - most from the Lillian Thomas Pratt Collection in the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts - are remarkable in both imagination, design and workmanship.  And Hubert Le Gall's exhibition design is an ingenuous, imaginative and witty evocation of the bibelots and kickshaw of Imperial Russia that doesn't ignore the darker side of history. 

The first room reflects the strong Orthodox believes of Russia and her Imperial Family.   Traditional Easter eggs are on  display,  But what Easter eggs: suspended or cupped miniatures made from or encrusted with gemstones from the semiprecious to diamonds.  A golden iconostasis-like wall houses icons,  precious
both for their religious significance and the artistry in their creation. 

This miniature Easter egg pendent is only one of a glorious series
in the first room of the exhibition.  It was created in the Fabergé
workrooms around 1900 using enamel with gold accents.

The Iverskaya Mother of God was particularly venerated in Russia and many legends
grew up around the healing powers of the icon.  The Virgin has a scar on her cheek
inflicted by a soldier sent to destroy the original icon.  The Fabergé setting for this copy is
mounted on silver gilt and accented withe silver, garnets, sapphires, topaz, zircon,
diamonds and pearls.

Citrine, gold, silver, enamel and a circle of diamonds create
this extraordinary egg pendant from the Fabergé workshop.

The shadows of the second room evokes the symbols and history of the Romanov dynasty.  The cases hold personal items that were meant for everyday use but still intended to show the wealth and standing of the Imperial court.  Designer Hubert Le Gall's concept captured many of the contrasting aspects of Fabergé's relationship with the Imperial Family and the beau monde of the period.

Today Fabergé is chiefly thought of as the maker of the elaborate Easter Eggs that were presented by the Csar to his wife each Easter from 1885 until 1917.  It was a tradition began by Alexander III who presented Maria Feodorovna with the Imperial Hen Egg in 1885.  After his father's death Nicholas II  continued the custom and every Easter presented one to his wife Alexandra as well as to his mother the Dowager Empress.  Of the fifty-two Imperial Eggs created by the Fabergé workshop five are in the Lillian Thomas Pratt collection.  Each of the exhibition rooms features one of the five; the most elaborate being the Peter the Great that is displayed in the second room.

The Imperial Peter the Great Easter Egg was presented to Empress Alexandra Feodorovna by Czar Nicholas II in 1903.  It was created to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the founding of Saint Petersburg.  Workmaster Mikhail Perkhin used gold, platinum, silver gilt, diamonds, rubies, enamel, watercolour, ivory, rock crystal, gilt bronze and sapphires in its creation.

The Egg features watercolour portraits of Peter the Great and Tzar Nicolas II and of the first wooden structure built in Saint Petersburg and the Hermitage - all surrounded by elaborate (and perhaps subconscious) reminders that the city was built on a swamp.  When opened a miniature of Falconet's The Bronze Horseman raises out of the shell - the Thunder Stone is carved from an unfinished sapphire.

The story of how Lillian Thomas Pratt came to acquire this  treasure has become legend and as with many legends it's a bit difficult to separate the truth from the elaboration.  The story was that she outbid many richer women and then proceeded to pay for it clandestinely out of her household money so her husband wouldn't find out is colourful if apocryphal.  Mrs Pratt's wealth was modest when compared with many of the other collectors but her husband John Lee Pratt  supported her passion for Fabergé and Russian objects.  She did indeed outbid several people for the Egg and paid À la Vieille Russie the $108,534.00 it cost in thirty-three monthly installments.  I'm not sure if - as another version has it - she paid for many of her purchases using her Lord and Taylor's credit card but it is highly possible.

This attractive hare in silver and gold with garnet eyes is a pitcher
created in the Fabergé Moscow workshop sometime before 1899.

These remarkable parasol handles were the work of two of Fabergé's
renowned workmasters: Mikhail Perkhin (left) and Erik Kollin (right).

Many households would display sets of demitasse spoons
bearing the hallmark of Fabergé; this set in silver, silver gilt
and enamel were made between 1908-1917.

I found the silver and gold Kovsh of the Worthy Knights even more remarkable than the Imperial Easter Eggs.  The enormous drinking vessel honoured the bogatyri or mythical medieval warriors who founded the first empire of the Csars.

Though the Imperial Easter Eggs may be the most famous pieces it should not be forgotten that Fabergé created all manner of objects - practical and ornamental.  Many of the pieces that came out of his workshop on Bolshaia Morskaia were available to even people with modest incomes.  And the House was famous for its enamels and silverware as well as its work in precious and semi-precious stones.

Meant to reflect the Faberge workrooms the curved tables - modeled on the worktables at  the studio - allowed a closer look at some of the trifles created to amuse and astound the Court and impress visitors.  A few of the items are from other jewellers but reflect the influence of Carl Fabergé's workshop on the art of jewellry making throughout Europe.

What can I say - even if the Romanov's sometimes when over the top with blinge they had good taste in dogs.  Many of the little knickknacks created for them and their family indicate that the dachshund was a favoured family animal.  

This French bell pull was created in the Cartier studios around 1915; 
crafted in silver, gold, silver gilt, ivory, smoky quartz, enamel, rubies,
garnets and pearls it shows the Fabergé influence at work in France.

Made of smokey agate with ruby eyes this little fellow is said to have graced a mantel
in the apartments of the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna in the Antichkov Palace

Nose to the ground, tracking a prey this little dachshund is crafted in agate
again the eyes being inset rubies.  The exact provenance is unknown as the
object is unmarked.  Despite his questionable pedigree he's still a very
attractive little lad.

The fourth room is the darkest on many levels - it is crowded with memories of the Romanov family: framed portraits, the Red Cross Egg and personal items.  And lurking in the background is the unrest, the poverty, the vast inequalities of life in Csarist Russia.

The Imperial Red Cross Easter Egg was given to the Dowager Empress in 1915 in recognition of her work
as president of the Russian Red Cross.  It contained portraits of members of her family who served in the
Red Cross tending the War wounded and dying in the hospital established by the Empress in the Alexander Palace.

Workmaster Mikhail Perkhin's created numerous frames for the Imperial
photographs.  This star frame in gold, silver, enamel and seed pearls holds
a portrait of the second daughter, the Grand Duchess Tatiana.  It was taken
by the Csar and Empress to Yekaterinburg and is the only thing that is known
to have survived the events of 1918.

It has a rather chilling effect after all the light and sparkle of the geegawgery of the previous displays.  However it puts a personal face on the people for who much of these extravagances were created.  It gives the impression of a family that for all their faults and foibles cared for each other.  And it leads to final Fabergé piece in the exhibition: the Star Frame.  This is the only object taken into exile by Nicolas and Alexandra that is known to have survived. 

The room in the basement of the Ipatiev House where the Imperial Family was ruthlessly butchered on July 17, 1918.  It had become a clandestine pilgrimage site so was demolished in 1977.  In July 2003 the Church on the Blood was consecrated on the site. 

As you leave the exhibition there is one final image: the room where the family was assassinated in Yekaterinburg. History records that the jewels hidden in the corsets of the Empress and Grand Duchesses acted as body armour with bullets ricocheting but not penetrating; in the end the death squad used bayonets and gun butts.  It is not known as fact but can be assumed that some of the jewellery that prolonged their death agonies came from the workshops of Carl Fabergé.

Many of the photographs I have used in this post come from the catalogue for Fabulous Fabergé, Jeweller to the Czars published by the MBAM and VMFA and from the MBAM members publications.  I suggest looking at their website for more objects and fascinating information on the exhibition.  I am only sorry I wasn't able to get down for a second look - I know I missed things the first time around.

September 27 - 1777: Lancaster, Pennsylvania is the capital of the United States, for one day.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Comfort Me With Apples

Actually the lovesick bride in Song of Solomon requests that her bridegroom:
Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples; for I am sick of love.
Song of Solomon 2:5
KVJ - 1611
It looks like God's Secretaries weren't quite as temperate as other translators of holy writings.  Several other versions of this passage from Song of Solomon insist that it's raisins or raisin cakes that offer strength.  Myself I rather like the First Cambridge Company of translator's idea that ferments and bottles the grape of the vine rather than just drying it then using it in cookery.  It's more like the Anglican tradition I was brought up in.

That first apple harvest as imagined
by the wonderful Emanuele Luzzati.
 When it comes to those apples it's fascinating how many translations of this verse think of them as being a source of refreshment rather than comfort.  Given that the apple became known as the forbidden fruit from the Garden of Eden it's a wonder that anything so representative of sin was asked for on a wedding night - or not!

The apple - which at one time was the name given to anything that was not a berry - has figured as a symbol in the mythology of most world religions from the Abrahimic to the Norse.  In many of these myths it seems to have been the cause of sin, strife, envy, discord and greed.  However its reputation is saved in both the Song of Solomon and in world culinary traditions where the apple does indeed become a thing of refreshment and comfort.  What could be more of a comfort food than apple pie - well okay apple pie with ice cream - or a baked apple?

So why this ramble about the Malus domestica which is appearing in abundance in the markets these days?  Well exactly that!   At the moment the market stalls have a remarkable variety of apples available and I've been madly searching for ways to include them in the recent spate of cooking I've been doing.  While looking for a recipe I had for slow cooker apple butter I came across an Apple and Almond cake that my friend Ben made for a Rosh Hashanah dinner he attended last year.  The tradition of that holiday is to eat apples dipped in honey to represent a sweet beginning to the New Year.  

The act is accompanied by a prayer:
Blessed are you Lord, our God, Ruler of the world,
Creator of the fruit of the tree.
(Baruch atah Ado-nai, Ehlo-haynu melech Ha-olam,
Borai p'ree ha'aitz.

An apple slice is dipped in the honey and eaten.

 May it be Your will, Adonai, our God and the God of our forefathers,
that You renew for us a good and sweet year.
(Y'hee ratzon mee-l'fanekha, Adonai Elohaynu v'elohey avoteynu sh'tichadeish aleinu shanah tovah um'tuqah.
Though there is no honey in this recipe I can vouch that it has just the right amount of sweetness for the New Year.

Apple and Almond Cake - serves 12

3 apples, peeled, cored and chopped roughly - Braeburns or Granny Smith
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp sugar
8 eggs
1 3/4 cup superfine sugar
3 1/4 cups ground almonds
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 cup flaked almost
1 tsp confectioners' sugar

Put chopped apples, 1 tbsp lemon juice and 2 tsp sugar in a sauce pan and bring to boil over a medium heat.  Cover and cook over low heat for about 10 minutes or until you can mash the apple to a rough puree with a wooden spoon or fork.  Leave to cool.

Preheat oven to 350º F - 175c.  Oil a 10" spring-form pan with almond oil or flavourless vegetable oil and line the bottom with parchment paper.

Put the cooled puree, eggs, ground almonds, sugar and tbsp of lemon juice into a processor and blitz to a puree.

Pour and scrape into the prepared pan, sprinkle the flaked almonds on top and bake for 45 minutes.  Check after 35 minutes as ovens vary and see if a knife comes out clean when inserted.  Adjust timings accordingly.

Put on a wire rack to cool then remove the sides of the pan.  It is best served warm though it's still good cold. (Beyond good - warm or cold Laurent assures me.)
Before bringing it to the table push a tsp of confectioners' sugar through a fine sieve to give it a light dusting.

Many thanks for the recipe Ben - it's a winner.  And L'shanah tovah tikatevu.

September 26 - 1973:  Concorde makes its first non-stop crossing of the Atlantic in record-breaking time.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Tizku Leshanim Rabbot * (Mercoledi Musicale)

From a 13th century Jewish Prayer Book.
*May you merit many years

Though there are many greetings for the New Year as observed by my Jewish friends I have always preferred the Sephardi greeting that is the title of this post.  Perhaps because I think the response is a particularly fitting one:
Ne'imot VeTovot  - pleasant and good ones
I was hard pressed to find any traditional music for Rosh Hasanah as most of what appears on YouTube is a little more oriented to a younger crowd so decided to go with one of the versicles set by Salomone Rossi the Hebrew, the great Jewish composer of the Renaissance.   Surely any psalm as exultant as this is appropriate for the beginning of the year 5775?

Baruch haba b'sheim Adonai

Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the LORD; we bless you out of the house of the Lord.
The LORD is God, and hath given us light; order the festival procession with boughs, even unto the horns of the altar. 
Thou art my God, and I will give thanks unto Thee; Thou art my God, I will exalt Thee.
O give thanks unto the LORD, for He is good; his mercy endureth for ever.
Psalm 118: 26-29
JPS - 1917

And as the first evening prayer of the new year ends I wish all of my friends who are commemorating this feast tonight:  Le'Shanah Tovah Tikoseiv Veseichoseim (Le'Alter LeChaim Tovim U'Leshalom).

September 24 - 1852: The first airship powered by (a steam) engine, created by Henri Giffard, travels 17 miles (27 km) from Paris to Trappes.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Lunedy Lunacy

Last Wednesday I posted a video of the Vesuvius Ensemble and the story of the marriage of the Guarracino.  As I mentioned the first story-song of this not particularly attractive fish dates from the 1700s and was probably intended as a way of teaching the names of the creatures in the waters of Southern Italy.

Here's an inspired piece of lunacy by Michelangelo Fornaro based on the original song.  He mixes live and stop action to tell the tale of little fish with big amourous aspirations and the trouble it causes in the deep.

And, like the narrator, when it's finished I feel out of breath and in need of a drink.

September 22 - 1910: The Duke of York's Picture House opens in Brighton, now the oldest continually operating cinema in Britain.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Mercoledi Musicale

I was introduced to the folk and street music of Napoli by Marco Beasley, Guido Morini and their group Accordone during the 2008 Whitsun Festival in Salzburg.  To my ears it is music that has all the passion and colour of that incredible city.  I was surprised last year when the winter season line-up for the Ottawa Chamber Music Society included a concert with a group called Vesuvius Ensemble based in Toronto (?).  They performed with the renowned Tafelmusik Ensemble* in a program that wedded Neapolitan music of the baroque with music of the streets.  It was a remarkable performance for its fluidity and originality.  Particularly effective was a call-and-response ballad between the two groups - again a wedding of the classical and the popular.

In their new album, to be released shortly, Vesuvius Ensemble celebrate another wedding: that of the Guarracino of Neapolitan nursery rhyme fame.  The Castagnola,  Guarracino in Neapolitan dialect, is a fish and the "hero" of an anonymous song from the 1700s that tells of his love for a sardine who is the ex-sweetheart of a particularly macho tuna.   The courtship leads to a feud which ends up involving all the inhabitants of the sea in the Bay of Napoli.  It ends rather inconclusively with the singer telling us of the thirst that the song has built up and how a few coins to wet his whistle would be appreciated.

A search suggests that O matrimonio do Guarracino is another episode in the song-story of this not particularly well-favoured chordata.

I don't normally advertise on here or shill for anyone however just a word that the first recording by Vesuvius Ensemble is available on iTunes and their new recording will be available shortly.

*This was to be  Jeanne Lamon's last concert after 33 years as leader of the ensemble.

September  17 - 1849: American abolitionist Harriet Tubman escapes from slavery.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Lunedi Lunacy Plus One

Anyone who as worked with me over the year's* has heard this question asked facetiously when they've been, shall we say, excessively "detail oriented".

Thanks to Tiffany for passing this on - and the answer is???????

*UPDATE:  And the winner is MJ - she caught it!  

September 16 - 1959: The first successful photocopier, the Xerox 914, is introduced in a demonstration on live television from New York City.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Lunedi Lunacy

There was a day when television comedy had an innocence about it - no f-bombs, sexual innuendo was subtle and stereotypes were played out for their comedic value. Strange how today it is the stereotypes that are considered verboten and anything else goes.

Here's a truly - in my not so humble opinion - funny routine by one of the greats with another of the greats. 

Mel Blanc was the man who put much of the Looney in Looney Tunes and Jack Benny was the everyone's skinflint uncle burden with the fear of growing old.   He was always 39 years old and a penny saved was a penny in that vault under his house protected by alligators and Ed the Guard who had been on duty since Jack turned 38.

As a sidebar we use to kid my father, who made no bones of being in his late 50s, about being a "Jack Benny 39" which led to an unfortunate misunderstanding the night he had his second stroke.  It was 2:30 am when my mother woke me to say my father was ill and she had called the local ambulance.  Though not quite the country we lived far enough away that the fire trucks arrived first.  As they applied oxygen one of the fireman started taking down information.   He asked my mother how old my father was.  Without missing a beat she answered, "Thirty-nine".  He looked at my father and then back at my mother, no doubt thoroughly confused.  "Thirty-nine, ma'm?"  My mother simply nodded numbly.  It wasn't until we got to the hospital that we assured them it was a "Jack Benny 39".

September 15 - 1616: The first non-aristocratic, free public school in Europe is opened in Frascati, Italy.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Moving On But Not Forgetting

Time has passed, many things have moved on but we must never forget what was lost that day 13 years ago.

The Canadian cartoonist Bado (Guy Badeaux) penned this editorial for La Doit on September 11, 2004.  It is still as poignant today as it was 10 years ago.

September 11 - 1897:  After months of pursuit, generals of Menelik II of Ethiopia capture Gaki Sherocho, the last king of Kaffa, bringing an end to that ancient kingdom.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Mercoledi Musicale

Well it's that time of year again - tomatoes are ripe on the vine and plentiful in the market - and there's nothing I love more than a ripe tomato.  I have fond memories of those first beef streaks when I was a child - my father would cut one in two and we'd share the salt-seller - that's all that was needed.   The taste of sunshine, summer and the approaching change of season all rolled into one.

My friend Spo is just as crazy about tomatoes as I am and was bemoaning his inability to grow and, more important, harvest the ripened berry of Solanum lycopersicum in his southern climate.  In response to his request of yesterday here's my all-time favourite performer: the divine Josephine singing a timely warning about the fruit of the vine!

September 10 - 1939: World War II: Canada declares war on Nazi Germany, joining the Allies – France, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Raising the Tent - 1953

When the Stratford Shakespeare Festival was founded in 1953 Tanya Moiseiwitsch’s iconic stage was at the centre of a concrete amphitheatre. However there was neither sufficient monies nor assurance of longevity to do other than enclose the “wooden O*” with canvas. For the first four years of the Festival history the Bard was declaimed in a large tent, often to the sounds of pounding rain, whistles from the nearby train yards and umpires' calls from the local baseball diamond.

Nestled in Queen's Park the original home of the Festival rose 61' above the landscape and was 150' in diameter.  It's original cost was $23,000.

From 1953 to 1956 canvas covered Tanya Moiseiwitsch's thrust stage set in a concrete
amphitheatre. When money became tight that first year local contractor Oliver Gaffney
refused to stop work and completed the theatre in time for opening night.  His daughter
Anita is now the Festival's Executive Director. 

In 1953 Tent Master Roy "Skip" Manly and his crew - many of them local volunteers - raise the tent for
the first time.  It took two whole days to complete the operation.  Two miles of cable and 10 miles of rope kept audience and performers protected and dry - most of the time!  This photo was the inspiration for the sculpture group that now adorns the lawn in front of the theatre.

It's hard to imagine sitting for three hours of Shakespeare in
one of these original seats from the tent days.  And what's with the
single armrest?  I guess there was no fighting to see who got it.

At the end of the 1956 season when Christopher Plummer had sounded his final call to the troops at Agincourt the tent was struck for the last time.  By the opening of the 1957 season Robert Fairchild’s unique round structure resounded to the, by now, familiar sound of Louis Applebaum's trumpet fanfare and the answer to Plummer’s Hamlet was:  it is “to be”.  The building has undergone major changes since I first saw it back in 1958 most involved reconfiguring the stage.  But in 1997 the theatre itself was totally renovated with the addition of public spaces for talks, food and drink, a very pleasant members' lounge, as well as an expanded backstage.  And the Festival has grown to four theatres and a season that stretches from April until October - all of it inside without a train whistle to be heard**!

Robert Fairchild's innovative re-imagining of the original tent was expanded in 1997 and turned into an event centre that would have brought joy to the hearts  of Sir Tyrone, Tom Patterson, Miss Moiseiwitsch, "Skip" Manley, Oliver Gaffney and the incredible people who had a vision back in 1953. 
To celebrate the next stage in the Theatre's life and the first raising of the tent a sculpture grouping was created by a talented group of artisans working at the Festival.  As well as honouring the people who made the renewal in 1997 possible designer Douglas Paraschuk paid tribute to the remarkable "Skip" and stage carpenter Al Jones, who's handiwork included that first thrust platform.

This sculpture group on the lawn in front of the Festival Theatre celebrates the many people who's contributions made the renovation of the theatre possible.  But it also commemorates that first exciting day when "Skip" Manly and his crew - many of them local volunteers - raised the canvas on one of the four Queen poles. 

Design Coordinator Douglas Paraschuk's concept was realized in the Festival Workshops by property maker Ruth Abernathy with the assistance of Frank Holte and Brian Mcleod.  Another example of the exceptional creative work that comes out of the Festival shops.

Tent Master extraordinaire Roy "Skip" Manly (right) was known throughout the circus world as one of the greats - and as the years passed Festival veteran Al Jones (left) became as much a legend for his wizardry as a stage carpenter.
The one thing I find a bit puzzling is the little girl and her dog sitting in the bleachers watching - for some reason it strikes me as more Dorothy pointing the way to Oz than anything.  I don't really see where it was needed - those two figures straining at the ropes are enough, in my mind,  to convey the dream and the hard work that established the Festival.   I'm also not fond of the ostentatious statue of the Bard that stands nearby either.  However I do find the lovely rose garden with it's simple plaque remembering Ann Casson (Campbell) a touching tribute to a much respected member of the  company.

The gardens around the Festival Theatre are quite lush - almost too much so - however this simple rose garden serves as a memorial to Ann Casson.  The daughter of Dame Sybil Thorndyke and Sir Lewis Casson she came to Canada with her husband Douglas Campbell.  He was a member of the original company and she was to appear in subsequent seasons.

Though the Festival has grown well beyond the hopes of any of those original (in so many senses of the word) dreamers who watched as that first tent was unfurled in Queen's Park there remians a slightly homespun atmosphere to it all.   We are still in small town Ontario, there is still a nearby baseball diamond and there is still a wonder that this is all here.

*Well okay the concrete O in this case but let's be literary rather than literal!

**Stratford was once a railway hub with as many as 30 passenger trains going through a day - now there are only four though an old chap at the station was optimistic that there would be an increase in service in the future. 

September 9 - 1839: John Herschel takes the first glass plate photograph.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Lunedi Lunacy

Thanks to my FB friend Richard I came across this bit of unintentional bit of lunatic camp from The Search for Beauty from 1934.  It may just be me but this little paean to health and fitness bears a striking resemblance to later propaganda films used in Europe and Russia to promote a fit and healthy youth.

After winning the Olympic gold  in swimming in 1932 Buster Crabbe launched a career in movies as Tarzan, Flash Gordon and as the hero of this Pre-code comedy-drama with Ida Lupino.  Amongst other things it includes a plot about attempts to turn a health and fitness magazine into a porno rag and some very revealing men's locker room scenes.

And include in the cast as Ida Lupino's sister was the curvacious and decidedly bodacious Miss Toby Wing.  I've always wanted to include a picture of Miss Wing on the blog so here's my chance.  Toby was one of the original Goldwyn Girls and went on to appear mostly in B movies until 1938.  Never a big star she made most of her fortune in endorsements than retired to a not uneventful life.

By the end of 1934 movies had become moral: evil was punished, wrongs were righted and women knew their place in the world.   And Miss Wing was to lead us from the paths of righteousness no more. Lunacy indeed!

September 8 - 1888: In London, the body of Jack the Ripper's second murder victim, Annie Chapman, is found.