Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A Rich Weekend, Part Two

The Vivienne Files has ten rules for subtracting ten years on her blog, beginning with:

1.  Take an interest in current events, in fashion, yes, but also in art, music, food and decor.  Stay connected!

The annual Chicago Humanities Festival gives me this opportunity in bulk every year, by offering dozens of great talks and performances at cheap as chips prices. This past weekend I went to two.

Why is Moby Dick such an entrancing subject for filmmakers and other visual artists? This was the key idea for a program/performance by Blair Thomas, who was (among other ventures) a founder of the Redmoon Theater and now runs his own puppet theater in Chicago. He has been workshopping sections from the novel for years. He uses shadow puppets, Bunraku, oversize floating artifacts, human actors, and musicians. The performance can be very intimate and very large and physical; furniture and performers on wires and ropes, being flung about the stage. You can see wonderful images at his website,

Mr. Thomas gave a short performance using shadow puppets, of what is a single paragraph in the book, the backstory of one of the sailors on the Pequod. A successful blacksmith loses his happy family, home and occupation to drink. The puppets were freestanding on a table, and a handheld light cast their images against a large crumpled paper scrim. When one of the characters died, Mr. Thomas tipped the puppet forward, and its stand was revealed as a headstone. This single action was quite thrilling. He gave the narration, wearing a long black skirt and a long-sleeved black blouse. Then we watched a short film showing various aspects of the Moby Dick staging, and finally he came back out in more conventional clothes and talked with his interviewer. She was fairly starstruck and obviously a big fan. Overall, it was compelling and I hope will bring many people to see his performances.

The second event was less successful (in my opinion), being a talk on language and imagery of animals in Shakespeare. At least, I thought that was its premise, and the speaker began there, but got off into fairly high-level thinking about language and symbolism and . . . well, she lost me. I did learn that Shakespeare only used the word animal eight times in all of his plays, as at that time it was considered an adjective (like primal or abnormal), and he much more frequently said beast or creature. The flip side of this scarcity of the word animal, was the much more thorough integration of even an urban dweller's life with the animal world in the 1600s: pets, working creatures like horses or cattle, pigeon coops on every roof, sheep grazing in Hyde Park, etc. But this was also long before Darwin or even Linnaeus, and the world of beasts was much more magical and imaginative. Bees were born out of ox carcasses, bearcubs born as lumps and licked into shape by their mothers. 

Some of this I knew (and loved), so I enjoyed her few slides of Medieval bestiaries and tapestries, but her talk left Shakespeare, and I was struggling to hear, and the chairs were hard . . . I left after 40 minutes and took the early train home. I didn't feel I had wasted my time or money though, not for ten bucks and such a lovely day. Her mention of the Aberdeen Bestiary alone was worth the price of admission.

And of course, before I went to the lecture, I went to Water Tower and found this at a very good price:

This bag is also available at QVC  for even less than I paid for it! Not very much less, or I'd be annoyed, but enough to make it worth mentioning, and in more colors too. I'm extremely happy because it meets my requirements very nicely.
  • Red
  • Pebbled leather
  • Single strap
  • The "right" size
  • Minimal hardware
  • Outer pockets

1 comment:

  1. You're so cultured. :)

    I like that you don't suffer through stuff you aren't enjoying, too.

    The purse is great in red. I also like the QVC chocolate brown.