Tuesday, May 27, 2014

How Do You Stand On Standing Ovations?

Edward Tudor, the prince, meets Tom Canty, the pauper and street urchin.
On Sunday I went to see our granddaughter in The Prince and The Pauper, a production of the drama class at her high school, where she is in the arts program. She's also a member of the concert band . . . proud Grandma here . . . but that's a topic for a future blog.

The play was wonderful, full of energy. I'd forgotten all but the basic plot of Mark Twain's classic story of switching identities. The dialogue was at times poignant and then, very funny. Both audience and players were obviously enjoying themselves, and the young actors delivered their lines without a hitch. Granddaughter's role was a small one; she is only in her first year of the program, a "minor niner." There'll be bigger roles to come for her.

The set was perfect, and the period costumes were amazing, both street urchins and royal courtiers. In fact, the royal crown and King Henry's jewels looked quite authentic.

All in all, it was a fun production, and the cast got a well-deserved standing ovation after the final curtain. And why not? I don't go along with the theatre purists who insist that standing ovations should be reserved for the likes of the late Pavarotti or the Broadway cast of . . .  (you fill in the blanks here). Do you agree?

Why do we choke up with emotion at delivering a Standing O? I think it's because we feel the love, and that audience at the school, many of whom were parents and grandparents, was bursting with pride and love for those young drama students.

Bravo! I say

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Small World

Three years ago I wrote a biography of Laura Secord. Currently, I am working on Molly Brant's story. Again and again I am struck by the same cast of characters that appear in the lives of both these women.

It shouldn't surprise me, I guess.

Both biographies are about Canadian women whose lifetimes overlapped by twenty-one years.  It's inevitable that the same figures in British, American, and Canadian government would turn up in both. Governor Guy Carleton and John Graves Simcoe, the first lieutenant-governor of the province of Upper Canada, for example.

But there are also a handful of other notables who cross story-lines between Molly Brant and Laura Secord — the Mohawk Chief John Norton, half Cherokee, half Scot; the ill-fated British General John Burgoyne; and William Johnson Kerr, Molly's grandson who fought in the War of 1812, the war in which both Laura and her husband performed acts of courage.

Molly Brant died in 1796, one year after twenty-one-year old Laura Ingersoll and her family arrived in Upper Canada, but Molly's younger brother, Joseph Brant, appears in both biographies. Richard Cartwright was a Loyalist living in Cataraqui as was Molly. Coincidentally, Cartwright married the sister-in-law of Laura Secord. I had discovered him when I wrote Laura's story, and then there he was, a prominent business man in Molly's world.

It's interesting to encounter historical figures who wander in and out of both stories. It's a small world. And in those early days of the province, even smaller.

Till next time.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Triggering Memory

A rushing river, between North Bay and Petawawa.

Watercress and Walking

A freshet runs from the woods and through a culvert under the trail where I walk. Tender young weeds wave in the current on the other side.They trigger a memory. Another walk, this one with my father. We stand looking at a stream that runs under the sidewalk. My father has come here on purpose, to gather watercress for his sandwich.

I hadn't thought of that scene in decades. Or watercress either, for that matter. Funny how that happens, isn't it? When your mind is cleared of all the other dreck, something triggers a memory. A scene, perhaps, for a story. This is one reason why I like to walk.

Around here, spring is the best time for walking on the trail that I prefer. There's a cool breeze off the Bay and the sun is giving off some real warmth. It's been a long, hard winter. Now that the ice and snow have gone, little streams of water are everywhere. The ditches on both sides of the trail are full. Here the bushes are just starting to bud out, and the willows wear greenish-yellow haloes.

 There are sounds all around. A robin rustles through the dry stalks at the edge of forest looking for nesting materials. A killdeer warns of my approach. From the distance comes the sound of a train whistle, the clatter of the crew up on the highway, busy filling potholes. Down at the edge of the water a man is using a power washer on his boat, and someone else revs up a chain saw. Everywhere broken tree limbs tell of the ice storm and high winds.

But the Bay is fairly calm this morning and the swans have returned, puffy white clouds on the blue water, imitating the sky.

The muse returns.

Friday, May 2, 2014

A Reading from Laura Secord, Heroine of the War of 1812.

At the close of a course on DIY Web Design at the Quinte West Library, Peggy provided a reading from her book. This little video was a "made-in-class" effort, put together following the final session of DIY Web Design, conducted by Jacques Surveyer. It's far from perfect, but it was done on the spur of the moment, with no previous preparation. Sure, it would have benefited from something other than overhead florescent lights, maybe a cosier background — a comfy chair next to an end table sporting a vase of flowers, perhaps — rather than a blank wall. But it is an example of what is possible once you master a few techniques in designing a website.