Friday, September 30, 2011

Play: Julia Caesar

Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare, directed by Amanda Dehnert, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, through November 6.

So, back to the Bard. And that makes it a return to the New Theater at the OSF in Ashland. This time out, the theater has been reconfigured into the truly theater-in-the-round that showed off both venue and the performance better. Adding back one side of audience removed much of the problematic blocking experienced earlier in Ghost Light and replaced it with a bare bones, fully voiced, well acted style.

You know the play, or rather you think you know the play. Caesar applies for the gig of "Emperor" and gets offed after delivering the "et tu, Brute" line, and then the conspirators meet a bad end. But the tragedy of Julius Caesar is really the tragedy of Brutus. Caesar, like Henry IV, does not survive his own play, though this presentation keeps the leader onstage (Caesar appears only as a ghost to Brutus once in the official text) as mob justice is dealt out.

The gimmick that is to be had in this production is that Julius Caesar is a woman. I speak from some authority when I say that changing the gender of a character in the process changes all relationships, even if the lines remain but the same but for a twist of pronoun. An opening sequence in which Caesar talks about the touch of the racers of Lupercalia curing sterility reads as a male Caesar's weakness in the face of Fate in the original, but here has a cougarish twist to it. Later scenes that talk about Caesar's vulnerabilities are for a male Caesar indications of mortality, but for a female Caesar simpler weakness.

Caesar is not the only gender-swapper here. The huge number of players are handled by an entourage, and the players, male and female, move easily between multiple roles, underscoring that in this play of Fortune, they are replaceable parts. So this Caesar's Rome is an equal-opportunity tyranny, with the main supporting roles tacked down for a handful of players. This mutes the effect of a female Caesar, in than we have female senators, soldiers, and citizens as well.

Vilma Silva is wonderful as Julius Caesar, engaged and active when alive and icy as a ghost, but the meatier party is Jonathan Haugen's Brutus. Centuries of equating Brutus with "brute" hides the fact that Brutus is the smartest and most ethical man in Rome. He is the one who the conspirators seek out, for his good name provides them cover for their deed, and even after, he continues to pursue the ideal as opposed to settling for the realpolitik. Gregory Linington essays Cassius with a East Coast wit and acerbity, and Mark Anthony is portrayed by Danforth Comins as a trickster god, and you can see him bobbing weaving as he seeks to turn the assassination back onto the assassins.

And then there is the mob. When coming into the theater, the players are milling with the patrons (I caught this, but the LB did not). Then Silva calls the group to quiet and leads the audience in cheers. In doing casts the audience in the role of the mob, the Roman populace that turns from Pompey to Caesar to Brutus to Anthony. Showing the mob to be fickle and easily moved, this simple conceit makes the audience complicit with the crimes of the play.

It is, all in all, an excellent production, but I will pick at a nit. The play takes place not in Rome, but in a land and era I call "Shakespearea". I have seen Shakespeares set in the 1600s and Shakespeares set in the time period set by the play and modern Shakespeares and 1920s Shakespeares. Productions like this one are set in Shakespearea are a strange melding of eras that produce its own reality. The text may belong to Shakespeare's time, or try to portray the late Roman Republic, but the costuming is quasi-modern with kilts and camouflage and commando pants and black berets. The military uniforms belong to some unspecified army and era that distills down the nature of the military without belonging to any particular force. Caesar's wide-lapeled cloak (used to great effect, literally waving the blood shirt) looks like it had be looted from the wardrobe department of Dr. Who.

But that is a small nit, and one that this production is not singular in committing. It is an excellent production and my second-favorite of the trip (the first being "Pirates"). Well worth seeing.

More later.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

I Haz Cover!

The cover to Scourge, the  Star Wars novel I occasionally talk about in this space, has been unleashed on an unsuspecting world, along with an official ship date of April 24, 2012.

It is a very dynamic pose, and step away from a traditional look. I'm kinda excited about the whole thing.

More later.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Your Strange Art Link of the Day

Busy with other stuff at the moment, so enjoy this picture of William Shatner dressed up as Russian general from 1812.

And if you like it, go over to here for an entire site of celebrities as Russian Generals. The artist is Steve Payne, based on original artwork from a portraitist named George Dawe, who painted a slew of Russian generals to commemorate Napoleon's invasion.

Hmm.. This would be an interesting author photo.

More later,

Friday, September 23, 2011

Play: All That Hamlet

Ghost Light by Tony Taccone, conceived and developed by Jonathan Moscone and Tony Taccone, Directed by Jonathan Moscone. Oregon Shakespeare Festival through 5 November.

Let me be quite clear: this one landed with on wrong foot with me, and were I the type of theater-goer that would cast away my seat at the intermission in exchange for some serious drinking, I would have done so. And it is fortunate I am not nourishing my nascent alcoholism, for the play redeems itself admirably in its close and forgives all manner of sins in the process.

And yes, I say this knowing this to an autobiographical play, being the story of the son of the assassinated Mayor Moscone, conceived and directed by said son. It takes large brass ones to go up against this, and for that reason I think I will choose to do so from the safety of Seattle as opposed to in the heart of Ashland itself.

But first, let me pull out my longest of daggers for the New Theater for this particular performance. Chill to the point of coldness, the intermission brought many of those with poor circulations to the lobby just to warm up. And let me bash upon the set design: The theatre in the round was closed off on one side for a backdrop, but as a result but as a result any action far in the back of that part of the stage was lost to patrons with blocked line of sight. That means that you can't stage important stuff there, and anything placed there has to be considered optional, even if it helps with the story.

Ah, but the story. Jon Moscone is a director who in the present is still dealing (or not dealing) with the loss of his father. He is directing Hamlet and obsessing over the roll of the Ghost of Hamlet's Father. Yes, it is all quite clear it is all tied up together. And the Shakespearean play works well contrasting with the modern play (as opposed to Richard III mentioned earlier).

Here's your history lesson, which the play assumes you have but, modern memory being what it is, you might not remember you remember. Mayor George Moscone was shot by former Supervisor Dan White in 1978. After shooting Moscone, Dan White then shot Supervisor Harvey Milk. Ah, him you've heard of - he got a movie with Sean Penn. And that's part of the problem, among many, for the younger Moscone.

The play runs scattershot through history, memory, and internal pyschodrama, expecting you to keep up as they go along. Boom you're in the past with the young Moscone in therapy. Boom you're inside Moscone's head as the various drives and ids are all trying to communicate. Boom you're in the modern real world in Jon's apartment. Boom the lights are up and you are part of a theater class working on, yeah, Hamlet.

It bounces about like a pinball, and about the halfway point, I realize where I have seen this before - Roy Schieder in All That Jazz. At intermission I told the Lovely Bride that if someone starts singing "Bye, Bye Love", I was out of here.

And you know what - they DO bring the final catharsis in with a song, and they PULL IT OFF. I'm impressed, because I don't know at what point the pieces finally fit, but I started caring about Jon and his need to come to terms with his father's death.

Christopher Liam Moore plays Jon as flighty, nervous, selfish, and in many points unlikeable, a meltdown waiting to happen. Tyler James Myers as the younger self was more problematic - pokey and hard to modulate in his actions. It could be direction or just the actor (the dangers of young actors), but when he seems more comfortable with the script, the play took that leap forward. Bill Geisslinger as a threatening part of Jon's psyche gets the advantage of being part of a tormented soul, as does Derrick Leed Weeden, who comes off as Carl Sagan with the God's microphone (Am I looking at the ego and the superego here, or are there other facets they are embodying?). Robynn Rodriquez exists in the real world (well, as real as a character in a play gets) as the voice of relative reason trying to get Jon to deal with the whole Hamlet's Ghost thing and getting to the rest of the damned play.

It resolves. It resolves neatly and cleanly and without cheating. The fragments of the psyche take on enough reality by the end of the play that you are really pulling for them, that you want Jon to make his breakthrough not because Jon is a wonderful person (the character isn't), but because all the stuff beneath the surface deserves to succeed. It is an internal intervention, and it works. But yes, color me surprised that it does.

More later,

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Between Acts: Cornflower

The Ashland theater has a Green Show in addition to the other main stages. The Green Show is out in the central plaza and is used for street acts, commedia dell'arte, and musicians. In short, it is the warmup crew on early summer evenings, a theatrical amuse-bouche before the main event .

Apparently for the performance before Pirates, the act was supposed to be a hip hop and break dancing team. However, Hurricane Irene intervened, screwing up travel plans, so when we did the will call for our tickets for all these plays, we were told that a beat boxer named Cornflower would be performing instead.

OK. I don't know if I would put beat boxing into a Shakespearean venue, but hey, its cool. For that matter, I don't know if I could define beat boxing before this evening.

What we got was a lanky young man named Cornflower with incredibly long light brown dreads, knotted in a huge bun, with most of them hanging down the back. He was there with his microphone, speakers and what I guess I would call a sampling board, operated by foot pedals. And that's it. The performer (beat boxer?) would lay down a beat with a tonal thumping, record it, let the sampler repeat the base beat and then harmonize with himself, looping new wordless lyrics. Then harmonize again, and again, changing and molding the song as he goes along. An electronic one-man-band.

It sounds odd, but it was amazingly effective. Cornflower transformed the Green Show into a mini arts festival, with people dancing and children running around and people joining in (its not as if you don't know the words). Yes, the LB wanted a CD afterwards, and I think Mr. Cornflower was surprised by the turnout. If you want more, head over to his website, where he has some performance videos and more information.

More later,

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Play: That Falstaff Show

Henry IV, Part Two, by William Shakespeare, Directed by Lisa Peterson.

I have climbed the tower of the cathedral in Cologne. I say that because the reward for having climbed the tower of the cathedral in Cologne is that you never have to climb the tower of the cathedral in Cologne again. If someone says, "Hey, we're in Cologne, let's climb the tower of the cathedral!" You can just say, "I've already climbed the tower of the cathedral in Cologne. It is a wonderful view. Go have fun."

So, then. Henry IV, Part 2.

You'd have a hard time justifying the whole "Shakespeare is the finest writer in the English Language" based on this one. In many ways it feels like the middle book of the trilogy - you've already got the set-up in the first book and the resolution in the third, so the second is the middle child that has to struggle along, and doesn't really get to have any traction. And the Lord of London have pity on you if you missed Part 1.

OK,the Ashland performance does give you a "previously in Henry IV" (the LB's description of it) in dumbshow to help the slackers - Henry IV usurps the crown from Richard II, and carefully manipulates things in order to keep it. Meanwhile, his wastrel eldest son Hal spends a lot of time in cheap dives with his best bud, Sir John Falstaff, a knight of dubious reputation and comic reputation. At the end of Part 1, Young Hal (eventually Henry V), straightens up, flies right, and fights to defend his father's kingdom, killing young Hotspur, and saving the day.

Then we start part 2, and Hal has already backslid into hanging out and getting drunk, though not so much with Falstaff at this point. Henry IV has a new gaggle of aggressive enemy armies, which are thwarted not by Henry, nor by Hal, but by one of Henry's OTHER sons (who doesn't get much credit). In fact there seems to be an insufficient amount of King Henry in this part of King Henry - his gig is to bat away another attempt and then perish twice (once mistakenly, then once again for reals) and hand over the heavy burden of the crown to young Hal.

But even Hal is not the center of this play. The center, at least as far as getting groundlings through the gate, is John Falstaff, who drinks, whores, lies, rhapsodizes about all the above, and runs a recruiting scam in the counties far beyond the court when your more traditional history play would be talking about battles. Falstaff is the Fonzie of these plays - the breakout character that everyone loves, the lovable, larger than life cad. Perfect for a situation comedy. Indeed, Falstaff is so popular a character that he steals the play, and when, the fully-crowned Hal ... sorry, Henry V, decides to become a proper British monarch and banishes his old drinking buddy, you think that the new king is a bit of a rotter for turning on his old bud.

Henry IV, Part 2 feels like a line extension, an encore for Falstaff (blustered masterfully by Michael Winters). Hal (John Tufts) has to struggle with an inherent dislikability of his character in the play (which is interesting in that Henry V is considered one of England's great kings). And Richard Howard as Henry IV the Ever-Fading does the best with a title role that doesn't leave him much time on the stage. Oh yes, it was rendered well and Shakespearean and professional and all that, and you feel like you've been given your faithful dollop of history, but it really is Falstaff's world - the Kings just keep things tidy for him.

There's another part that's interesting - the play ends with a promise of a sequel - Henry V, featuring the return of even more Falstaff. When Henry V shows up, however, Falstaff does not. He dies offstage and his death is described by his fellow tavern-mates. Kate thinks it is because the role was connected to a particular actor, who was not available. I will go further and posit that the actor connected with Sir John Falstaff died between the plays (we're talking about a London at the time of the plagues, after all). Rather than recast a role that may have specifically been tailored to Jack's large frame, they just wrote him out. Regardless, that is one more component that leave HVP2 as a strange little bit of the cannon.

And how did it leave me? Well, I have climbed the tower of the cathedral in Cologne. And if anyone ever says "Hey, we're in Cologne, let's climb the tower of the cathedral!" I can just say, "No thanks, I've seen Henry V, Part 2."

More later,

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Play: A Glorious Thing

The Pirates of Penzance (or, The Slave of Duty), Music by Arthur Sullivan, Libretto by W,S.Gilbert, directed by Bill Rauch, Music Director Daniel Gary Busby, Choreographer Randy Duncan, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Through October 8.

Of course, by now you know I have a soft spot for the works of Messrs. G and S. Their brand of operetta, a perfect match for the Mother Tongue of England, traps much of what is British in its Victorian amber and preserves it for this day. The bouncy melodies of Sullivan and the twisted logic of Gilbert is a perfect music box of the age.

And twisted the logic is. Frederic, through his nanny's hearing problem, was apprenticed to a pirate as opposed to a pilot, and is on the verge of leaving his apprenticeship, at which point he must hunt down those pirates, because that is the only honorable thing to do. Of course the pirates themselves live by a code that puts them at a bit of disadvantage - they have declared to spare orphans, and have discovered that all of their new captures declare themselve orphans. The newly-freed Frederic meets Mabel, who of all her sisters chooses to help reform him. Mabel and her sisters are the daughters of the noted modern Major General. The pirates attack the gathered family, but the Major General outwits them, the daughters are freed, Mabel and Frederic may marry, and everyone, even the pirates, are happy.

Hang on, that's only the first act. When the second act commences, the Major General is concerned about failing to live up to the expectations of his recently purchased ancestors (they came with the manse) by lying to the pirates. And Frederic is called back into service of the pirates by a calendrical mischance, and so must lead the pirates against the Major General and Mabel. And he does so, because he is a slave to his duty. And all of this is resolved with thinnest gossamer of logic, with further outrageous revelations, because this is a operetta where the destination is not nearly as important as the journey, and indeed the journey is quite nice.

The romantic leads (Eddie Lopez as Frederic, Khori Dastoor as Mabel) have to carry the bulk of the burden of unrational rationality, as Frederic is the slave of duty of the subtitle, and Mabel as loving him for his sense of duty that will force him to fight her ultimately. David Kelly dispatches the Major General with aplomb, including the one Gilbert and Sullivan piece that everyone knows, even if they never saw any Gilbert and Sullivan. Michael Elich has a bit of Johnny Depp to his Pirate King, but also channels the Rat Pack (indeed, the production takes some thematic asides and detours that I find amusing but may trouble purists (to which I say - it is Gilbert and Sullivan)). But it is Robin Goodrin Nordli, as Ruth, the Pirate Nanny, who steals almost all of her scenes and escapes with most of the comedic cutlery in the process.

What struck me most of the production was the strength of voices and acting off the essemble, top to bottom. I am a fan of our local amateur G&S Society, but I have to admit, I was more than a little blown away by how good everyone was, and how they maintained a level of madcap energy through the entire proceedings. Gilbert and Sullivan has to be taken on head on, with no flinching, (but sly winks are permitted).

Production values were fantastic as well. You saw the picture of the trust stage of the Elizabethan in an earlier entry, so every bit of scenery has to be ported directly on, and quickly. Moving from pirate ship to beach to family crypt with equal ease (seabirds flying in the first act, bats in the second) was an epic job pulled together smoothly and cleanly and effectively as well. The action runs across the entire stage, up the walls, and into the seats themselves, and pulls the audience into this strange fantasy world.

All in all, Pirates was the best of the shows down in Ashland I saw, and worth the trip.

More later,

Monday, September 19, 2011

Play: Richard, Revisited

The African Company Presents Richard III, by Carlyle Brown, Directed by Seret Scott, Oregon Shakespeare Festival through November 5

It is a rare thing for me to be able to watch new production of a modern play. Yes, I have seen a number of Shakespeares and even the odd Moliere multiple times, but very little of the moderns, primarily due to the raw tonnage of works available (Pinter. Pinter is the exception, but despite repeated viewings of Betrayal I'm not a fan). So it is through an odd little looking glass that I can warp back 17 years to 1994 and with it a production of The African Company Presents Richard III at the Milwaukee Rep, and compare it against the current version at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

The play itself goes as follows: in the 1820s in New York City, there was a black theater company presenting Shakespeare, in particular the tragedy of Richard III (pronounced in the play as "King Richard Three"). The local mainstream (read, white) theater finds them a threat and a mockery (The African Company seats its white patrons in the BACK of the theater) and closes them down. So the African Company sets up shop right NEXT to the mainstream (read, white) theater at a local hotel, debuting during the opening night when the white theater is doing its OWN Richard, with a noted British actor, Junius Brutus Booth (yeah, the father of THAT Booth). All of this, by the way, is true.

The play brings together a variety of African-Americans - house servants and runaway slaves and free men, who are all involved with the production of Richard III for various reason. And here's the problem with the play itself - those reasons never come together. Billy Brown oversees the production and has no problem with being provocative. James Hewlett is a nervous actor aware of the roles he plays both on the stage and among the white people. Papa Shakespeare has kept his Caribbean accent and remembers old Africa and the old stories. Sarah is the older wise woman who has learned to sail the racial shoals of the new world. Ann is part of the production because she has a thing for James, and while tempted by Billy's sense of justice, nothing comes of it in the play.

And that's the trouble - they are all well-created characters that never really unite. The use of Richard is historically accurate, but the original has no function within the play beyond a point of conflict between the white and black theater companies, and actorly contention between Ann and James (Ann cannot believe any woman would be wooed by Richard over the corpse of her husband, something of lot of other people had have trouble with over the years). There are good bits of writing throughout, but the final message sort of drops out of the sky like a bust of Louis in a Moliere play (yeah, I've seen that happen) to wrap things up. It frustrated me years ago and frustrates me today.

And there are good bits, as I say. Very good bits. Charles Robinson (yes, he was in Night Court) as Papa Shakespeare captivates with tales of the old world and bit of comedy as a conversational go-between for Ann and James. Peter Macon as Billy Brown is a stormcloud, sure of his moves even as they lead the cast into peril. Kevin Kenerly as James Hewlett deals with a character that is vain, nervous, and clueless, yet delivers one of the most powerful moments of the play, where he talks about trying to do Shakespeare before a white audience that expects a minstrel show. It was uncomfortable when I saw it the first time, and even more so in Kenerly's hands, since he's performing a play about African Americans in front of a predominately white audience.

 But it is a frustrating play, one that seems to lack a center, and that feeling continues from then to now. The current production was better for me, both because of the gifted actors and the fact that I GET the tragedy of the original Richard better now than I did almost two decades ago. It still feels, after all these years, like it needs a center, or even a choice of the available centers, to pull it all together. As it is, the characters remain apart, and though the final lesson bludgeons forward, I don't believe that this group will remain together, or that the lessons learned have a lasting effect.

And that is a pity, because as I said, the story IS true, and there needs to be that effect.

More later,

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Writers Sans Borders

Photo by Jessers25.
Borders is dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of its liquidation has been signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner.

Old Borders is as dead as a door-nail.

A lot of pixels have been spilled over the demise of Borders (and Waldenbooks, its mall-friendly smaller sibling). Flat statements about how the time of the big box is now gone, and tumbleweeds will now drift through the parking lots of old Borders, Circuit Cities, and similar relics. Pointed irony about how the big boxes crushed the small independents and in turn are being kicked to the curb by the on-line purveyors. Nostalgia about how Borders was a smaller, friendly store before K-Mart bought them. Fist-shaking fury at the fickle market, including those heartless consumers who went to a store to window-shop the book and then order it online. And indignation that this would not have happened if Amazon had to pay sales tax (while ignoring that Amazon also doesn't have to pay for rent, lighting, or dedicated staff in 400 locations) (Oh, and its still a good idea for Amazon to pay sales tax - its not like they can't freaking keep track of where their books are going - they're using computers, after all).  

Hmm. This seems to be wandering a bit, which is not surprising. This is a crowd-sourced coroner's inquest, and everybody seems to be involved.

I seem to be coming to all this from two viewpoints, as a consumer and as a writer. As a consumer, litttle changes. My own habits are those of the independent and used bookstore patron. Bookshopping is a destination for me, as it is for comics and games. I will haunt the halls of the monstrous Half-Prices and the tiny local shops filled with paperback swap romances. I was a fan of Elliot Bay before it moved to a land-with-less-available-parking, and even so I still feel the siren call of its wooden shelves and employee recommendations. I make the trek up to Third Place and once upon a time made the long journey to Powell's in Portland (though my stopping may more be the result of age than anything else). Borders (and B&N, don't think I don't see trying to sneak out of this discussion) were for large holiday purchases and going out for books with nieces and nephews. The online world was more for when the usual suspects were exhausted, or delivery to a third party across the country.

Of course I visited the terminal patient, and found my own easy answers for their demise. Once the popular stuff was picked over, the shelves groaned heavy with left-behind Palin biographies and Beck political screeds. That kind of shows that you were missing your market just a tad, but covering it up in raw volume - there may have been unsold Noam Chomski essays on the shelves of the Borders in Birmingham.  I picked up a few  books that I would probably not pay full price for - books on Salt and Cod and another collection of Anthony Bourdain's essays. And an actual find - a book on the War of 1812 that I had window-shopped on Amazon, but purchased in a physical store.

Long term, it can't be a good thing for authors to ever see a venue shut down, large or small. And the big box of Borders is a major component for the easily-sold genre books that I have made up much of my career. The D&D ghetto (a subunit of the Fantasy ghetto) had a guaranteed shelf space in a store that was looking to fill its shelves with popular consumables. And as I have said before, Border's and its ilk also serviced areas that were not being covered by independents. There was a site set up pointing out where the closest independent bookstore was to a closing Borders. In the case of my local Borders in the South Hills, it was 12 miles to the nearest independent. Or you could go up the road another mile to the Barnes & Nobles. As a writer, I will be seeing more of my work showing up as vaporous threads in the ether, but in the longest of terms, I will still be able to find a twenty year old physical book than a twenty year old file in an a now-abandoned format.

There has been also a lot of moaning about how this is going to be tough for small book dealers. I am unconvinced. One of the big dinosaurs has dropped dead right at their feet, and there will be a bump of books looking for shelf space, publishers looking for accounts, and teenagers looking for placing to read manga. Yes, the power of Amazon still threatens like a asteroid from space, but there is still a strong component of the market that lives and shops in meatspace, so it is an opportunity.

Farewell Borders. You will be missed. Now we move on.

Saturday, September 17, 2011


So, the vacation.

It has been more than three years since I've had a real vacation. I've traveled, mind you, but it has been either for work or family-related. There has not been a hull-down, recharge the batteries, going-on-vacation vacation for some time now.

So that resulted in Ashland, Oregon, home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Ashland is located on the FAR side of Oregon, about ten miles from the California border. Originally it was a railway town, and was the location of one (of many, apparently) "golden spikes" that bound together America. It being America, they pushed through another line elsewhere and sidelined Ashland.

The town reinvented itself. Home to Chautauquas, they transformed over time into the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Now it is a cultural destination - this is the place the English teachers go on vacation.

I've lived for many years in a vacation town (Lake Geneva), so I am aware of three populations of the town. The tourist crowd in Ashland tends to be older and wealthier. The support staff (waitstaff, retail) is much, much younger, and the gap is underlines as there is also a large component of young people using Ashland as a stopover between San Francisco and Portland. The final component are the majority - the natives who live here and are not directly incorporated into the tourist industry. They have a small town life and (using my own time in Lake Geneva as an example) avoid the downtown unless they have to.

It even has a picture in Wikipedia.
The festival is presented at three main stages, built up the hill from the city proper. The Elizabethan Stage (also called the Allen Pavilion) is the oldest, though remodeled over the years. An open-air amphitheater with a thrust stage and a period Tudor backdrop, it has a flavor of the globe with more room (and replacing the groundlings with stadium seats). The Angus Bowmer is also a thrust stage (sticks out into the audience), but is inside with a steeper pitch to the seating. And the New Theatre (naming rights apparently still available) is created as a theatre in the round.

The trip down was relatively long but uneventful. Lunch at Meriwethers, a pricy but sumptuous meal in Portland (great crab risotto), and a visit to the Japanese Garden high on the western hill overlooking the city. We arrived after dark, but the Blue Moon B&B left a light on for us.

The Blue Moon, by the way, is a fantastic little bed & breakfast - close to the theaters, away from the downtown, neat, comfortable, and homey. Its proprietor, Dean, is a wonderful cook, both providing the excellent breakfast part of the "bed and breakfast" but also taking into account the Lovely Bride's egg allergy, which makes such things problematic sometimes. It is with regrets that we just an email that he's selling the place, but were glad to have him as our host. It was a great place to recharge the internal batteries.

Oh, yeah, there were also plays involved. More on those later.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

What I've Been Up To

A new draft of the novel, the day job, conventions, a bit of exhaustion, and, finally, a vacation. So yeah, I've been busy.

Here are some of the details:

I did a interview about Scourge, the new Star Wars novel, with Skuldren at Roqoo Depot. I talk a bit about where I am coming from and my previous history with the Force. Yes, it is the first time I've talked about the book. (Oh, and Random House has a blurb up about the book - didn't know that was coming).

I have a much (much) longer discussion in a podcast on Guild Wars Informer. Seven and spent an evening in the lobby of the local Westin talking about my background, history of game products, and a lot about Guild Wars 2.

And speaking of Guild Wars 2, we had a humungous panel at PAX, "We" being me, Eric, Colin, Kristen, and Jon Peters. Now, WE were not humungous, but we were in a room talking to about a thousand people. That's pretty darn big. Here's a Nerd Trek page containing the entire panel, and here is the first part of that discussion (the first three minutes or so are technical problems as we try to queue up the latest trailer, but is fun because you get to watch David Campbell buck and weave as we try to get things fixed). And here it is under one file:

Plus, we have just launched Asura week, where we are talking about the diminutive geniuses of GW2. As part of that, I put forward one of our original "Concept Stories" describing a particular asura and sylvari team-up, as well as a short advise column for those who seek the wisdom of the asura. And a few more questions are answered here.

So yeah, after all this, I needed a vacation. More about that later.

[Update]: Oh, and I also appeared in a short video for Ed Healy of Gamerati promoting Fantasium, which used to be SPY Comics and is still my local comic book shop. This was the first stop of the Gamerati tour!