Tag Archives: Madeleine L’engle

How to Festival

18 Oct

Greetings, friends! I’m afraid you’ve caught me in my semi-annual if-it’s-not-about-OSF-don’t-talk-to-me post.

Obviously, I’ve just returned from my group trip to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland. As you may know by now, I typically take this trip with a gathering of twenty-something high-schoolers, and it was with that group I saw the plays and attended a few activities – but for the most part, my mother and I stuck with our carpool team, my friend Gracie (the Wasp) and her parents.

The Ashland carpool teams in themselves are always an interesting study.

Every year, when our group congregates outside the Angus Bowmer theater, you can always tell which kids took cars together because a highly-caffeinated four-hour drive has a certain affect on people. They walk in sync, they say things in unison, and they basically walk around going

As Gracie was sentenced to sit next to me for the entirety of the trip, the image above is more or less an accurate photograph of us (she’s classic Dipper) ((Plus, she brought a couple of Cabin Pressure episodes to listen to. 10/10 would sit by again)

This year we enjoyed a spectacular trip, and should you consider making an Ashland trip of your own, I dearly hope it is as good as mine. The OSF experience is different for everyone, but there are some constants in the equation. I’ve recorded such constants in the below five steps that my group took and would now highly recommend.

1. See Ashland

Ashland is a gorgeous place. Simple as that. Gracie and I took many walks downtown, exploring stores we’d not seen before and trying out new restaurants, always making sure to drop in what became one of the taglines of our trip, “Oh my gosh I want to sit down so badly.” Of course there were high-energy times of the trip as well, and you could tell when one was going on, because one of us was belting out “SUITS” at two-second intervals and the other was swirling around street lights, crooning “THE WINGMAN I CAN WEAAR.” Nothing Suits Me Like a Suit is the first track on the official soundtrack of this trip.

2. Participate in the activities Ashland offers

Museums, walking tours, the Green show – Ashland won’t let you get bored. The group with which we bought tickets arranged a field trip to “Exploring Design,” a workshop led by Chris Tufts to explain how the costume designers at OSF use symbolism and character studies to decide on the best possible costumes. During the group activity, my team got so into the spirit of things that we very nearly dressed The Tempest‘s Caliban in Steampunk Darth Maul regalia. In any case, I expect a job offer with the festival within the month.

3. Meet the people

When you separate from your group of peers, you are freed up to meet more of the fascinating Ashland locals. Of course everyone has different ways of getting connected. Some people may strike up a conversation with their neighbors in the audience of the plays they see. Others might greet the people enjoying beautiful Lithia Park. My personal strategies included holding eye contact with the SOU students wearing fandom t-shirts and talking loudly to the Wasp about the Festival in the presence of OSF actors who were trying to get errands done in peace. What’s that? Passive socializing is not for you? Then may I recommend seeing Into the Woods and waving so hard at orchestra musicians onstage that you nearly lift off your seat?

(My row and the trumpet section really bonded. We’re going for coffee next week.)

4. Enjoy the plays

Obviously the plays are a must. The people at OSF know what they’re doing, and each play is a masterpiece. This season I saw The Cocoanuts, The Tempest, Into the Woods, and A Wrinkle in Time, though I would have loved to see more. They were all astounding in their own ways, from the ingenuity of the stage design in the Tempest, to the frankly ridiculous amount of fun the cast of the Cocoanuts was obviously having. There are tips to enjoying it as much as possible. Before A Wrinkle in Time, I read a chapter of the original work out loud to my seat buddy, and I finished the Tempest shortly before making the trip. Pre-show preparation can only do so much when the play is actively going on however, so my most certain suggestion is that you sit next to someone you may punch in the arm mercilessly, should the mood take you.

Sorry, Gracie. But I’m pretty sure we were even on that front, right?

5. Be a good audience

I love a lot of things about live theatre, but one of the main things has to be that it’s one of the few story-telling outlets where overt, unbridled enthusiasm is encouraged. Actors don’t want to play in front of a room of people half-asleep. They want to know you’re there. And considering that my one true gift is enthusiastic response, there’s no question as to why OSF is my happy place. Every audience I was a part of was excellent – it’s hard not to be responsive in Ashland. Like I said, they know what they’re doing.

When we went in to see A Wrinkle in Time, Gracie even started a small-scale round of applause for Calvin’s impressive basketball-twirling, and the actor went on to do that move for far, far longer than he had when I’d seen this play before.

Encouragement! Try it today!

At the Q&A session after the play, the darling who played Mrs. Who bounced in and said that the whole cast had asked her to tell us that we’d been a wonderful audience.

And don’t fret, Gracie and I went ahead and took way more credit than we probably should have.

The morning after I arrived home, I awoke with a cough that announced itself as the incarnation of the last four days having been spent alternately singing at the top of my lungs and scream-shouting “WHY A DUCK,” “YOU’VE GOT DREAMBOAT EYES,” and”AGONYYY” at every shadow of an opportunity.

If anything is a sign that a trip went well, that’s got to be it.

All by following five easy steps!

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Real Life?

19 May

(Click here for this post’s year-old predecessor)

My current moment of celebration has been brought to us by this fact: I graduated high school last Friday night. 

It follows then, that now I’ve been on the receiving end of a surplus of advice and/or inspiring comments. I’ve been told both that my life has finally begun and that nothing really changes after graduation (Don’t be a motivational speaker, friend). Mm, and yes, my college plans have been questioned seventy-nine times in the past three days.

But even that is not enough to bring me down at the moment. I had a blast graduating, I did so with some terribly cool people, and I am super stoked to no longer be asked what school I go to, or what I’m doing after graduation. (the spirit of the second question will still be present often, but I choose to at least appreciate the change of tense)

I am no longer a high schooler. 

This is joyous news.

But I have a mission in today’s post, one that I must not forget – the geek speech. I mentioned this topic last year, when I got super stoked about putting fandom references in my grad speech and wrote a post (linked above) about how I would let you in on it someday.

That day is here. I have linked every otherwise-unidentified reference for explanation purposes.

 _________________________________________________

*pats microphone*

First off, what a turnout!

How wild is this, huh?

All we did was complete twelve years of schooling. And now look at us. Dressed in glorified trash bags. How far we’ve come.

But where to begin on the list of people we couldn’t have done this without?

I do feel like it would be an injustice not to give a shout-out to my school curriculum, so as much as I’d like to ignore Abeka and Saxon, I do have to say thank you to Adventures in Odyssey and Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego for being the thinly-veiled education machines that made up a good chunk of the important things I learned in my school years.

And of course, I have been immeasurably blessed by the people in my life. My friends are the best, most fantastic friends I could ask for, and my family is beyond marvelous. I can not say enough good things about them, and I could not have hoped for anyone better to be raised around. My parents, especially, have been so much better to me than I deserve. I want you all to know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that you are loved. By so many, and so much, and by no one more than me – except maybe One. I thank the Lord for you daily, which leads to the next order of business – thanking the Creator who made every bit of this possible. Thank you for your strength, your wisdom, your unconditional love, and of course, for this moment. For all these bright young men and women who are ready to get down to business to defeat the tons of opposition that we may face.

After all, the protagonist of every story finds herself in a battle at some point.

And we’re all stories in the end. Just make it a good one. Cos it is, you know? It’s the best. Remember, all of our stories have already been written by the best author our universe has ever produced – or, actually, the best author that ever produced our universe. And stories are not meant only to entertain, but to teach. There are lessons in stories. The moral of the Three Bears, for instance, is never break into someone else’s house. The moral of Snow White is never eat apples. The moral of WWI is never assassinate the Archduke Ferdinand. What will our stories tell others? That’s up to us. But we really ought to make it interesting, make it inspiring. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all. And you know God does not create anything that doesn’t make some sort of glorious difference in the world. After all, no artist can resist signing his work.

The world didn’t come with any extra parts, but it didn’t come with any that were interchangeable either.

We all have something that no one else has, and that thing is exactly what the world needs, and the thing we need to give away.

In his book Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis wrote, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” This place is not our home. But any good houseguest knows that you should leave a place in better condition than when you first arrived in it. It’s no different here – except that you don’t usually find opposition when you try to clean a guesthouse.

The world, however, will do what it does best and tell us to do what everyone else is doing, and to stick to the status quo but the status is not quo. The world is a mess, and we just need to… school it. It is our job to educate the world, to go and make disciples. Be fishermen, be fishers of men. So we’ll beat on, boats against the current. And, I don’t know, fly casual.

Madeleine L’engle once said, fittingly, “When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown up, we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability. To be alive is to be vulnerable.”

This isn’t my favorite truth to accept, but it’s definitely a pre-requisite. I don’t pretend to be grown-up now, but I know I’m on that road. I mean, all children, except one, grow up, but our pace on that journey, the way we deal with the walk, who we become along the way is all on us. And this milestone we call graduation, it means growing up far, far less than it represents it.

Regardless of age, you have always been important, you have always been something. Age just reveals the facts that always were, and experience uncovers the you that always was. Never let people look down on you because you are young. Set an example.

And if you’re ever discouraged, the world gets on your back, and you find yourself beating yourself up and saying that now would be a really good time for you to grow up – don’t ever allow yourself to be downtrodden. Growing up is an adventure, not a destination – and that’s your secret.

You’re always growing up.

Thanks for sticking with me today and for the past years.

Catch… you… later.

_______________________________________________

In closing, I just want to extend the warmest thank you to my excellent friends who used the moment after to yell out,

“No you won’t!”

Dreamboat Eyes

28 Apr

I’ve told you before how much I love A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’engle.

I’ve definitely already discussed my adoration for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

So as I’ve just recently returned from a trip to OSF to see A Wrinkle in Time adapted for the stage, we can safely assume that I have no plans to ever stop talking about the experience ever ever.

That’s what this post is for. You’ve been warned.

This was a Christmas gift from my sister Jennifer, so she was my traveling buddy this time around. Therefore, she was the designated receiver of slaps and elbow nudges.

(When I get excited, I have the unfortunate propensity to physically attack the nearest human being. It’s totally endearing.)

We walked into the Angus Bowmer. Slap. Slap slapslapslap.

Calvin walked on stage. Nudge. nudge nudgenudGENUDGENUDGE ELBOW STAB.

(Jen is has to be a good sport.)

As the actors milled about the stage [see also: taunting us] waiting for the play to begin, Calvin lay down and and began to practice his spin with the basketball in the air. And it hurt me a little. I played basketball until ninth grade, so I have experienced that particular drill too many times to not be nervous watching someone else do it. (Dropping the ball can go so wrong. Eventually, that basketball is either headed for your nose, the sloshiest part of your gut, or, by some ill-intentioned miracle, three hundred feet away. I found that each one happened to me with the same frequency.) So when Calvin actually did drop the ball and had to do the scramble of shame to go grab it, I felt that we connected.

It doesn’t take much. I make a lot of friends with people who are unaware of our friendship.

I make a lot of friends with people who don't know about our friendship.

After all, he was dressed like a Weasley, and they’re a friendly bunch for the most part.

When the lights lowered and the play began in earnest,  the actress playing Charles Wallace opened up a copy of A Wrinkle in Time and read aloud,

“It was a dark and stormy night.”

It felt like reading the book. Every cast member eventually filed out, each one alternately reading a line or two of the introduction and helping Meg (Alejandra Escalante) act it out. We quickly met her mom, saw the rumors about her dad, understood her sibling relationships, and absolutely felt her pain and confusion. The only thing that went through my mind in between the gaps of adoring thoughts for the beloved characters, I had only thoughts of adoration for the actors.

I have been way too excited for this play from the very beginning. Of course it started when I heard it was going to exist. I mean –

  • Favorite book
  • Favorite festival
  • Favorite medium of entertainment

And then I found out  Joe Wegner was cast – the fantastic actor who, evidently, was born to play Calvin. Then Alejandra Escalante, the talented, perfectly-cast, and adorable Juliet from OSF 2013. Mark Bedard, the amazing man whose voice I’ve had a crush on since She Loves Me 2010, and Dan Donahue, the marvelous actor whom I’ve been missing since Hamlet 2010, and Kate Hurster, the spectacular actress whom I have seen in possibly every single OSF play for the past five years. (no complaints. That lady is Wonder Woman)

 

The dialogue was verbatim from the book.  Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which were represented perfectly and adorably. The affection every character felt for the others was almost tangible. I adored every bit.

But like any spectacle-sporting girl who’s ever enjoyed a romantic comedy, one of my favorite scenes had to be in the twins’ vegetable garden, after Meg’s brief homework session with Calvin.

I mean, come on. Any scene that has the opener,

“Jeepers. Your braces sure shine in this moonlight,”

Is going to be a good one.

I admit to [and embrace] every drop of cliche associated with the following, but seeing as I blushed when I read the scene for the first time, you can imagine how I reacted when Perfect-for-Calvin Joe Wegner clumsily wiped off Meg’s glasses and  announced,

“You know, this is the first time I’ve seen you without your glasses. You’ve got dreamboat eyes.”

I kid you not, the entire audience collapsed into giggles like a classroom of second graders.

Meg’s reaction was just as priceless.

Nothing better.

And this is coming from someone who is fiercely in love the book. A book adaption is almost always a little bit of a disappointment. In fact, I was certain, going in, that they would try to find a way to squirm out of doing Mrs. Whatsit’s transformation. I was preparing myself to mourn its absence, but I didn’t really blame them in advance. Because how could you portray that onstage? That’s ridiculous. They can’t do that.

They did do that.

Perfect.

Short version: I loved this play. The whole audience seemed to. That affection is precisely why it had to be perfect, and also why it was. Wrinkle in Time is a story about love and how it destroys obstacles.

Mrs. Whatsit loved Meg into a solution for her problem. Meg loved Charles Wallace out of his enslavement. Calvin loved Meg out of her loneliness. The whole Murry family is held together by love, and the love needs to be almost corporeal in such a production, for both the original story, and for the audience. It was. I felt like I had received a hug from everyone involved in it.

I’m not even certain how to properly describe it.

You should just go watch it instead.

Seriously though.

Additionally: Because Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

16 Oct

Let me tell you a thing about the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

It’s marvelous. Eleven plays on three theaters for around nine months. The actors are consistently superb, and the the plays never disappoint. I look forward to OSF every year, and try to glean as much advance knowledge about every season as I possibly can.

For example, I found out they were doing My Fair Lady around September of last year, so I have been looking forward to this season for something way too long. I watched the previews, researched the actors, counted down the days, and finally, finally, actually went to OSF and watched the plays.

I went with a group this year, as I have every year since 2010. It started out as a thing my literature group did, but each year, more people come who want to go to OSF with group rate tickets, and this time around we ended up with about fifty people, mainly teens and a few of their parents.

So obviously there was some carpooling involved, and, once again obviously, there was a lot of singing involved in that particular process. The people in my car were really good sports about this (you’re a woman of steel, mom). I shared a ride with my friends the Wasp, the Invisible Woman, the Scarlet Witch, and Mockingbird.

(Those are real people, by the way. Those may not be their real names, but I promise I didn’t just name four of my imaginary friends.)

Heading up the group is a person about whom I have blogged before, so you can feel as though you already know her (we’ll call her Martha Smith). You may remember a few months back when I spent an entire post trying to calm myself down because someone insulted my favorite book?

There she is!

I had thought I’d passed this particular stumbling block of rage in my life; I respect this woman after all, she is very sweet most of the time, and she used to write nice things in the margins of my essays when I was in her class.

The second morning we were in Ashland, Martha Smith called us all together after breakfast to talk about the play we had seen the night before, and the play we were going to see that night (I talk about those plays here). Somehow, it turned into a talk about something else entirely.

“I read a lot of books to find the right ones for our class. One of which was Wrinkle in Time, which was completely irredeemable, no value to be found…. I just wouldn’t waste my time on it.”

Read those last two sentences again, replacing “Wrinkle in Time” with the name of your best friend, and you’ll have a ballpark idea of how I felt. And I was in the front row, man. There were people around me. So, instead of growling like a feral dog, like I did with the whole email fiasco, I turned to the Invisible Woman and mouthed “Get me out of here.” She’s a good soul, and gave me her hand to squeeze until the subject changed.

But it came back.

Days later, but the subject did come back.

We had a couple more days full of unbridled awesome, brought to life by unhealthy amounts of references to fictional universes, quoting British dramas, singing show tunes, and using My Fair Lady-inspired pick-up lines (Hey girl. I’ve grown accustomed to your face).

Thursday was our last full day, and its most anticipated-events  were showers at a swimming pool (Up until now, it had been forty-something teenagers with no showers for three days. Not ideal.) and an interview with an Ashland actor.

Our group has been doing this since 2011; we kidnap an actor as he tries to leave the theater and lead him blind-folded into our midst. We then pelt him with weird questions until he weeps. (at least, that’s what it feels like)

It’s good fun!

This year, we interviewed Joe Wegner, who played Lysander in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

One of the questions was about whether Wegner knew the actor who played the easy-on-the-eyes Robin Hood (John Tufts), whom our group had seen in Heart of Robin Hood the night before.

When Wegner answered positively, and mentioned that Tufts had recently had a baby with his wife, the girl in front of me headdesked.

Just let her head fall down on the table in defeat.

It was tragic.

I widened my eyes, distanced myself from her, and hoped that I wasn’t quite as painfully obvious when I fangirled.

And then I went home and blogged to strangers about my fangirlisms.

Hm.

Moving on?

Halfway into the interview, in between references to Game of Thrones, Zoolander, and Bruce Almighty, Wegner began to address a question regarding the actor casting process.

“Actually,”

he concluded,

“I’ve been cast for this one play, you guys might have read it; it’s actually a world premiere, Wrinkle in Time?”

Evidently, I forgot that real people were sitting around me, because I gasped like a drowning woman and adopted a facial expression not unlike the one I had on while Robin Hood was gallivanting around the stage with a certain ring.

So, you know.

He continued,

“I play Calvin.”

I got to talk to this actor afterward, shake his hand (Didn’t want to creep him out by tackling him and telling him what a perfect Calvin he would make), and ask him about who was playing Meg.

She’s perfect, by the way.

Everything is perfect.

Wrinkle in Time and Ashland and Calvin and Meg and sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows

What?

Sorry. I’m fine. Let’s get back on track here.

It’s worth mentioning that at the end of the trip, my friend Lestrade (once again: real person, fake name) talked to Martha Smith and confronted her with the beauty that is Wrinkle in Time and why it had a profound effect on her.

Martha even sort of apologized to the Madeleine L’engle fans the next morning.

Good on you, mate.

This was a fantastic trip, as it has been every time I attend. Oregon Shakespeare Festival is up there with Christmas on my list of favorite annual events. And while this trip certainly set the bar high…

I’m very excited for 2014.

Maybe I should read Wrinkle in Time again to prepare.

How I Almost Went to the Dark Side

12 Jul

Opinions are important.

If you take the time and initiative to form one, it shows that you are thinking, and that is the sign of a healthy mind, and one that is not content to be passive in every issue. I respect that.

By the way: today’s message comes to you from the girl who shouted angry verbal abuse at her email inbox for an inordinate amount of time after receiving a correspondence from someone with a different point of view from hers.

Wait though, before you start judging me, know that she insulted my favorite book.

So, see? It’s hardly an overreaction that I’ve worked up enough hostility to expect Emperor Palpatine to walk through the door any second and invite me to join the Dark Side.

If you’re a book lover, chances are you’ve felt my pain. In fact, if you’ve ever passionately enjoyed any medium of entertainment, you’ve probably felt it.

You’re having a conversation with someone, and everything is going just fine until the topic of literature, music, or television comes up. You ask the person how they feel about a certain novel or band or show, or whatever it is – you make sure to leave out the bit about how much irrational love you have for it. You are testing the waters to see if they share your clearly impeccable taste.

And then they say it. They have an opinion. And heaven forbid – it is not yours.

There are nice ones, who present their bad experience in a less-than-overly-critical way.

And then there are the ones like I read in an email a couple days ago. The ones that are meant to pick apart the subject matter, but instead are received like personal attacks. I read the message and, although the offending individual was only insulting A Wrinkle in Time, I felt as though she were calling my newborn daughter[nonexistent] an ugly, disgusting piece of trash.

In a case like mine, one is left with only three options:

  • Respond with an all-caps email that informs the person that they have a horrific lack of taste and that you hope they “STEP ON A LEGO EVERY DAY FOR AN ENTIRE WEEK”
  • Respond with a kind email that points out the parts of the book that had a profound effect on you and ask whether the person would consider going over them again
  • Stew angrily and not reply at all; avoid eye contact in future run-ins; never mention subject matter again

Guess which one I chose.

No, not the first one, who do you think I am? Wow, guys.

I’m very possessive of the things I love, and in a lot of cases, that’s perfectly fine, even beneficial. But when it comes to something like this, I need to let it go.

Chances are, in my line of interests, this is going to happen to me again, and it will likely happen to you as well. The Sith Lord of fandom-fury will reach out to us again.

“The hate is swelling in you now… Give in to your anger. With each passing moment you make yourself more my servant.”

When this happens, we need to step back, raise our  light sabers, and say, “No.” No, we will control our anger, not be controlled by it. We will love what we love but not hate others for it not loving it. And, actually, while we’re at it, we should probably invest in light sabers.

Thus ends today’s rant. Let me know if something like this has happened to you before, and whether you dealt with it better than I did.

If you need me, I’ll be re-reading A Wrinkle in Time so I can console her and remind her how beautiful she is.

Control

10 Jun

I’ve read (and seen, regrettably) enough Green Lantern to be fairly certain that the force of will power is strong. However, when facing down a tray of cupcakes after you’ve already had three, will power seems like the most foreign concept since first learning that vampire/human romance is a thing.

Will power and self-control get no attention. The motto of the 21st century as I’ve seen it is “Do what feels good (See also: YOLO),” and while following that advice will lead to good feelings for a period of time, chances are that in the not-so-distant future, you will feel significantly less good about consuming that fourth cupcake.

{I know this.}

For example, I’m trying to learn French right now, but unfortunately, this process requires a little bit more than just the mental capacity to remember that certain words are meant to be feminine and others masculine (Come on, France. They’re just words; there’s no need to assign them genders.). It takes me making the conscious decision to spend a few minutes on French instead of doing any number of the things that I’d rather be doing.

Which is far harder for me than it should be.

So, to be honest? This post is for me, because I need some help with this: not just with French, but with everything else that requires commitment. You can come along too, if you like.

Dear Emory,

Self-control is a God-given fruit of the spirit. that should be good enough for you. Everyone knows that a virtue doesn’t get to that status unless it’s pretty darn wonderful. When you see someone exhibiting self-control, you admire them. They do great things.

Without self-control, self-discipline, and the green force of will power, Madeleine L’engle may have given up after twenty-six publishing attempts, and I would have never read Wrinkle in Time. Walt Disney would not have created his iconic characters, stories, and movies, nor set the stage for the happiest place on earth. The Doctor would not have gone back for Wilfred. Jimmy Coates would be an eleven-year-old murderer. Jason Bourne would be the government’s puppet. Also dead. Phineas and Ferb would spend all day sitting under a tree, Tiana would never have gotten her restaurant, and Darth Vader would still be serving the Chancellor.

“Yeah, um, only two of those people are real.”

Shut up, Brain. What I’m getting at is that the virtues are real.

Self-control: n. The act of denying yourself, controlling your impulses.

No matter how much society tells you to do “what feels good,” you have to remember that your feelings do not make good decisions. If you don’t have self-control, then what are you letting control you?

Since my customary farewell would appear oddly self-serving, I shall simply say,

Good luck,

Emory