Saturday, October 3, 2015

Recent -- and Recommended -- Reads

Anyone who loves to read knows how addictive a good book can be. You find yourself squeezing out 15 minutes here and there to read "just one more chapter." (Really, does that volunteer work have to be done right now?)  Here are some books that have recently stolen my time.

The Hundred Year House by Rebecca Makkai --  Told in reverse order, Makkai takes us through four generations of a family home and its residents (including the artists living on the estate during its tenure as an art colony). It's a ghost story of sorts, with the spirit of the original matriarch of the house lurking in the background to be called up when anything odd occurs. But it's much more a story about the secrets people keep and their consequences. Makkai's writing propels the story, well, backwards with language that had me reaching for my post-it flags. (Take, for instance, when one character breaks into the main house. "Doug's back had been turned on the hallway for a long time, as if he'd never watched a spy movie in his life....Now that he'd become aware...of the fact that he couldn't turn his head like an owl, he was uncomfortable whichever way he faced.")  I loved the discovery of the unexpected stories behind the people and key objects introduced in the earlier portions of the book. (Would that be reverse literary bread crumbs?) "The Hundred Year House" starts off strong and picks up steam from there.  I'm looking forward to reading more by this young author.

Norwegian by Night by Derek B. Miller -- I grew up reading Nancy Drew, and I love a good thriller to this day. But as my horizons expanded to literary fiction, I've found it more difficult to find thrillers that satisfy my quest for good writing and a compelling plot. "Norwegian by Night" hits both marks. (In fact, the NY Times says it has "the brains of a literary novel and the body of a thriller.") The book tells the story of Sheldon Horowitz, a widower who has been transplanted from New York to Oslo to live with his granddaughter Rhea and her husband Lars. It is a tough adjustment for Sheldon, made more so by the fact that Rhea and Lars believe he is suffering from dementia.  And while he does have a few delusions, Sheldon's eccentric behavior is driven more by the fact that he is haunted by the past -- most significantly, his son who died in the Viet Nam War while trying to make his father proud and his own secret past as a Marine sniper in North Korea -- than by dementia. When violence erupts in the family's apartment building, Sheldon almost inadvertently gets involved and becomes the caretaker of a young boy whose mother has just been murdered. The book tells the story of the pair's journey (both physical and emotional) as Sheldon tries to keep the child out of harm's way.  For Mark Twain fans, there are references throughout to "Huckleberry Finn."  In addition, Sheldon's identity as a Jew is an important facet of his personality. While I didn't fully appreciate either of these aspects of the narrative, they add to the depth of the story. "Norwegian by Night" is a great read for fans of the genre.

Euphoria by Lily King.  This book has gotten so much press that I suspect I'm not sharing a literary find. But I'm chiming in nonetheless. "Euphoria" was inspired by the time Margaret Mead, Reo Fortune and Gregory Bateson spent together in 1933 on the Sepik River in New Guinea. Although the events and tribes described are fictional, King has incorporated details from the work that Mead et al did while in the region. (To hear King talk about her inspiration and see some great pictures of Mead and her tribes, click here.) Mead/Nell's research was focused on whether gender differences are innate or cultural, with her research coming down definitively on the side of culture. (Click here to read a bit about Mead's work.)  While it was fascinating to read about the various tribal cultures, the relationships among the anthropologists and their differing approaches to their work interested me even more. The story is told primarily from the perspective of Bankson/Bateson, although it starts with -- and periodically shifts to -- Mead/Nell's view. I found this device a bit confusing, especially at the beginning of the book. Ultimately, though, it added to the narrative. "Euphoria" is a great book for anyone with an interest in human relationships. 

I've said it before and I'll say it again.  So many great books, so little time. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

"Everything I Never Told You" by Celeste Ng and "Us" by David Nicholls

I've been on a reading jag lately and have been digging into some great books.  Admittedly, I set aside the 928 page "City on Fire" from this year's Book Expo nearly 600 pages in.  But in its place I've discovered other wonderful (not to mention more manageable) reads, two of which explore marriages between dissimilar people. 

"Everything I Never Told You" by Celeste Ng is a gem of a debut novel.  The book starts with the ominous words, "Lydia is dead.  But they don't know this yet."  The reader soon learns that Lydia was the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee, an inter-racial couple who married at a time when the laws of many states forbid the union between a white woman and a Chinese man.  But the primary difference between Lydia's parents isn't their race, but their ambitions.  As Ng tells us, "How had it begun?  Like everything: with mothers and fathers. ...  Because more than anything, [Lydia's] mother had wanted to stand out; because more than anything, her father had wanted to blend in.  Because those things had been impossible." 

Lydia's parents see the potential in their daughter for their own dreams to take flight.  Marilyn's goal was to become a doctor, and she was on her way when she met James and became pregnant.  (Her mother, a home economics teacher, had been thrilled when she was accepted at Harvard because of the marriage prospects there. James, however, wasn't exactly what she had in mind.)  And so each year at Christmas, Lydia receives books from her mother with titles like "Women Pioneers in Science" and "Basic Physiology."  James, on the other hand, just wants his daughter to be popular.  His gifts are the ever-popular "How to Win Friends and Influence People" or a dress to wear to the prom despite the fact that she doesn't have a date.

Lydia understands her role while feeling overwhelmed by her parents' attention.  Her siblings understand their supporting roles as well, with brother Nath in particular serving as Lydia's confidante.  "All their lives Nath had understood, better than anyone, the lexicon of their family...that a book or a dress meant more than something to read or something to wear; that attention came with expectations that--like snow--drifted and settled and crushed you with their weight." 

Celeste Ng's writing is gorgeous as she seamlessly takes the reader between the past and the present.  "Everything I Never Told You" is a heartbreaking, beautiful look into the dynamics of parents and children trying to balance their individual needs and desires with those of their family.  I am eager to see what Ng brings us next. 

"Us" by David Nicholls is a laugh out loud book about an unlikely marriage between a scientist and an artist.  Like "Everything I Never Told You," the book starts out on a less than happy note (albeit a more mundane one).  Connie is prone to waking Douglas up in the night with fears of burglars.  When she shakes him awake one night he moves on autopilot through the house and returns to bed to assure her that all is safe. "I didn't say anything about burglars," Connie tells him. "I said I think our marriage has run its course.  Douglas, I think I want to leave you."  "Well, at least it's not burglars," he responds.

First, some background on the couple.  Douglas Petersen, our narrator, is a 54 year old biochemist.  Douglas tells us that the "e" in Petersen might lead you to believe that he has Scandinavian heritage.  But this is just a red herring. "Scandinavians are a fair, handsome, hearty and uninhibited people and I am none of those things.  I am English."   Connie, on the other hand, works in a gallery and has never lost her sense of herself as an artist. She is free-spirited and game for anything.  For 25 years, their personalities have balanced each other out in a way that has worked.

Their son Albie--a photographer--is graduating from high school, and Douglas and Connie have planned a Grand Tour of Europe to launch him into adulthood.  At the Louvre in Paris, Douglas feels like the odd man out. "I've always felt a little at a loss with art...In portraiture I look for people that I recognize  -- 'Look, it's Uncle Tony' -- or for the faces of film stars.  The Madame Tussaud's school of art appreciation....In abstract art I look for colour -- 'I love the blue' -- as if the works of Rothko and Mondrian were little more than immense paint charts.....Of course I can see beauty. In my work, I see it all the time: the symmetrical cleavage of a fertilized frog egg, the stained stem cells of a zebrafish embryo...the same pleasing proportion and symmetry in paintings....But in a gallery I always have the feeling that the security guards are waiting to bundle me out the door." 

Douglas turns the trip into a last ditch effort to show his wife they were meant to spend the rest of their lives together.  When things go awry with Albie, Douglas goes to extreme lengths to make it right.  The story is hilarious, but there's an underlying sense of poignancy and desperation as he tries to keep his family together.  "Us" is a thoroughly enjoyable read that will make you laugh and -- quite possibly -- cry.    

Note:  "Us" was long listed for the Man Booker Prize before it was published in 2014.  In addition (although not quite as lofty), the book has been chosen by Elaine Newton to be covered in her wildly popular "Critic's Choice" series at Artis-Naples.  I'm looking forward to hearing what she has to say. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Visiting the Maryland State Fair

After spending many hours in Edinburgh sitting in dark theaters, I was ready to have a more hands-on experience.  The Maryland State Fair seemed like the perfect opportunity. 

Kevin Bacon goes for the oreo
Charlie and I arrived in the blazing heat of the late afternoon.  I had forgotten that fairs aren't only about the animals.  We made our way through the tilt-a-wheels and shooting galleries in search of our first stop: Swifty Swine Racing and Swimming Pigs. The "race track" was a traditional oval, with four starting gates for the contenders.  Since pigs aren't known for their speed, I wasn't surprised that the break away side of the track was only the length of the transport carrier.  You might wonder--as I did--how they motivate the pigs to run.  Would there be the equivalent of a rabbit that greyhounds chase?  Nope.  The "prize" for the fastest pig was an oreo cookie on a silver platter.  (Nabisco would be proud.)  It was quite adorable--not to mention hilarious--to see the pigs race around the track, although I think "sauntering" is actually a better descriptor of their speed. 

With Swifty
Then it was time for the main event:  Swiney, the swimming pig. The goal was for Swifty to swim the length of an eight foot trough.  He mounted the platform and immediately relieved himself of his lunch (presumably to enhance his speed).  It's all part of the fun at being up close and personal with farm animals.  Swifty did eventually dive into the pool and swim the distance to cheers from the spectators.  After the event, Swiney's fans had the chance to cuddle him like a baby for a nominal fee.  (For the record, he made some pretty weird noises that sounded nothing like "oink.") 

Milkmaid in action
From there we were off to the Cow Palace.  Cows are incredibly patient creatures.  Not only do they take the time to chew their food twice before digesting it (hence the expression "chewing their cud" -- trust me when I say you don't want to think too much about this), but they happily hang out while their owners shave them in preparation for competitions.  Daybreak, however, went above and beyond as fair visitors tried their hands at milking her.  It was actually pretty easy once I got over a bit of fear at massaging her massive udder. I even managed to get some milk in the pail.  I was interested to learn that when Daybreak is milked by machine, her output ranges from 40-70 gallons in ten minutes. She was clearly going to need a good milking once her shift was over. They sent me off with a coloring book and crayons (hmm, was that a clue that this was supposed to be for kids?) and a cold half pint of milk. 

We also had the chance to see a beautiful two week old calf, with visitors voting on her name.  As a Game of Thrones fan, there was little doubt my vote would go for "Daenerys Cowgarian."  Charlie cast his for "Moolissa." 

Mama Pig and piglets
The most amazing part of the fair was the birthing area where we saw two sows delivering babies. The first mother gave birth to17 piglets over the course of the day.  It was incredible to see the little ones slide out of her, take a few minutes to get their legs under them, and make their way over to mama's teats.  When we arrived, mama pig had already given birth to 13 piglets that were sucking vociferously away.  Suffice it to say that the newest family member had to work pretty hard to get through the crowd. We could literally see the piglets plump up once they got some milk in their bellies.  As corny as it sounds, I felt like I had witnessed a miracle, and we kept returning to the pen to see how the piglets were faring. (My affinity for the pigs did not, however, stop me from having bacon for breakfast the next morning.) 

As we left the fair, the rides and games that were so unappealing on our way had taken on a magical quality when lit up against the night sky. The outing had been a wonderful change of pace from everyday life.  If you have the chance to check out a fair next summer, don't miss it! 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Favorite Shows at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

EdFringe 2015 is now in the books.  Overall, Wendi and I feel we did a good job of choosing the 70 shows we saw. (That's not to say there weren't shows that made me painfully aware how long an hour can be if you aren't willing to walk out of a small performance space.) The question, of course, is how to keep track of our reactions to that many performances.  Luckily, Wendi and I have a sharply honed five star rating system, with five stars given to shows that are well-written, well-acted, creative, and among the best we've ever seen.  No show received the coveted five star rating from either of us this year, but we still saw a lot of great theater.  Here are my top five shows:

Tim Grayburn

Fake It 'Til You Make It by Bryony Kimmings and Tim Grayburn.  This show about clinical depression in men packed an emotion wallop.  Kimmings and Grayburn are a real-life couple who are expecting their first child.  Several years into their relationship, Kimmings discovered that Grayburn was on medication for clinical depression.  Grayburn hadn't shared this crucial fact with her because he feared it would made him seem less of a man.  The couple struggled with the issue, weaning Tim off his medication, living together through a break-down, and coming to terms with what it means to their relationship.  A performance artist, Kimmings' reaction was to make a show about the issue, and she persuaded Grayburn to quit his job as a media exec and go on the road with her.  His conditions:  He wouldn't look "you lot" (meaning the audience) in the eye; he wanted to play the guitar in the show; and he had to look like a real man. Throughout the show, which was alternately poignant and funny, Tim wore hats and miscellany on his head to maintain his emotional distance. When he finally revealed himself fully to the audience, I could feel how much it took for him to do so.  At this point in the show, the couple described the symptoms of depression.  Tim commented that he thought they could just list the symptoms but that Bryony insisted they make it a dance.  (Her look to the audience said "Duh" loud and clear.) The couple's ability to not only cope with Tim's depression but to joke about their different approaches to life left no doubt in my mind about the strength of their partnership.  When they built a house onstage to the tune of The Carpenters' "Close to You," I totally lost it.  The show was brave and personal and creative and touched an emotional chord.  And I loved the fact that the couple stand outside the theater to greet audience members as they are leaving, many of whom share their own stories with the pair.  To watch a clip from the show, click here.  My score:  4.5; Wendi's score: 2.5

Sian Reese-Williams and Abdul Salis from "Lungs"
Lungs by Duncan Macmillan (Paines Plough Theatre).  Last year's Every Brilliant Thing by Duncan Macmillan was one of my EdFringe favorites.  We passed on Lungs, though, because the description didn't appeal to me.  ("In a time of overpopulation, erratic weather and political unrest, what exactly are the right reasons [to have a child].")  I was envisioning a rant about the environment and other socially conscious factors against having a family. The show was back this year after winning lots of awards, so we decided to check it out.  It was fabulous. Macmillan has a remarkable ability to address serious issues with a good amount of humor.  And while the play does touch on the environment, etc., it delves into plenty of relationship issues as well.  When you add two superb actors -- Sian Reese-Williams and Abdul Salis -- the result was a memorable production.  My score:  4.5; Wendi's score:  2.5.

Molly Vevers from "Ross & Rachel"
Ross & Rachel by James Fritz.  Fans of the TV show "Friends" might have wondered what happened to Ross and Rachel once the series ended.  I can say with assurance that this one woman play is not where the writers would have gone with the story line.  While Ross and Rachel have ended up together, it is definitely not happy-ever-after.  Rachel chafes at losing her identity and Ross' characterization of her as belonging to him.  When he develops brain cancer, she's secretly relieved that she will soon have the opportunity to be on her own without the messiness of a divorce.  Then Ross proposes a joint suicide pact.  They'll sit in a tub and cut their wrists and leave the world together.  This show was one hundred percent drama and incredibly intense.  It left me breathless in the way the best theater does.  Actress Molly Vevers deservedly won several awards for her performance.  As a side note, Wendi never watched Friends, so had no idea about the back story!  My score:  4; Wendi's score:  3.5.  

Cast members from "Sunset Five"
Sunset Five by DugOut Theatre.  This devised theater work was one of the most all-around enjoyable of this year's Festival.  (The term "devised" theater refers to a work developed collaboratively, often by the actors.)  When we entered the theater, five actors were sitting behind mikes.  One actor was wearing athletic clothes with shorty shorts and alternately playing the flute and the fiddle; another was dressed in cowboy attire and strumming a guitar. What was going on?  A pub that ran weekly quiz games was about to go under because the owner couldn't pay the mortgage (held by the disreputable owner of the local casino).  The owner and her quiz team banded together--each using his or her special skills--to rob the casino.  (The guy in the athletic clothes was particularly hilarious as he worked to make his abilities to do gymnastics and roll up into a ball relevant to the endeavor.)  If this description sounds silly, it was, but in the best possible way.  We laughed and cheered for the home town team to prevail over corporate greed.   Serious fun.  My score:  4; Wendi's score: 4.

Nicola Daley and Ramesh Meyyappan in "Butterfly"
Butterfly by Ramesh Meyyappan.  This wordless show was one of the most moving of this year's Fringe.  A kite maker becomes involved with a lepidopterist (a scientist who studies butterflies).  Her former beau snaps and rapes her;. she has a child.  (The child is depicted by puppets, which I loved; Wendi found them disturbing.) The show explored feelings of love, loss and hope in a lyrical way, with beautiful accompanying music.  I was fascinated to learn that the playwright--who was also one of the actors--is deaf.  Knowing this made the performers' physical conveyance of their emotions even more impactful.  To watch a clip from this show, click here.  My score: 4; Wendi's score: 2.5.

EdFringe is the theatrical equivalent of a smorgasbord and more than a little addictive. And crazy as it might sound, now that I've caught up on my sleep, I'm thinking about next year...

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Documentary Works at Edinburgh Fringe Festival: Victoria Melody's Hair Peace

Victoria Melody in Hair Peace
Performers of all sorts come to EdFringe to tell their stories. According to her website, Victoria Melody "makes one-woman theatrical shows, performance interventions and films about British pastimes, passions and tribes."  Her latest show is Hair Peace, a surprisingly fascinating look at the multinational business of selling hair. 

The idea for the project came when Melody entered a beauty pageant in hopes of becoming Mrs. U.K. A hairdresser suggested she fluff up her look by wearing hair extensions. "Gross" was more or less Melody's response.  "It's just like wearing someone else's knickers that have been washed," the hairdresser retorted. To Melody, it seemed more like wearing someone else's fingernails, but she had her eye on the prize and did what she needed to do. Melody took the title of Mrs. Brighton, but her dreams of going all the way did not come true.  The results of her experience became the subject of her show Major Tom and then led her to investigate the genesis of the hair in the extensions she wore. 

Having watched CSI, Melody's first stop was a lab to have a DNA analysis of the hair conducted.  The scientist couldn't help her identify the individuals whose hair the extensions contained, but he was able to tell her that some of the hair was Indian and some was Russian.  (This meant that the extension was not "remy" or from only one person.) Armed with this information, Melody headed off to India.

At the Hindu temple of Tirumala Venkatswara, more than 12,000 pilgrims have their hair shaved each day as an offering to the gods.  The practice is representative of shedding your ego. Many pilgrims, most of whom are women, travel for days on foot in order to make this offering.  Melody shared a video in which she talked with a woman who had made the pilgrimage to Tirumala.  She stood in line for three days before being seated in one of the 650 barbers' chairs.  The audience watched a variety of emotions--shock, gratitude, elation--flow over her face as she went from having a full head of beautiful hair to the head of a monk. 

Indian hair is desirable for use in hair extensions because of its width and because it typically has not been processed (hence the reference to "virgin" hair). The temple makes millions of dollars each year from the sale of tonsured hair. For an interesting article about this practice--and what happens to the hair--click here.  

A hair factory in India
While in India, Melody interviewed Benjamin Cherian, a Harvard graduate and President of Raj Hair International. Her interview included a visit to a hair processing factory. The interview left me with no doubt that hair exportation is a big business.  Writer Scott Carney, author of "The Red Market," estimates the global market for human hair at $900 million annually, about 40% of which comes from hair extensions.  (Click here for an NPR interview with Carney, whose book covers the sale of body parts and blood as well as hair.) 

Melody's journey continued on to Russia, referred to as the "Rolls Royce of hair extensions."  (A bit surprisingly, a quick google search yielded no articles on the use of Russian hair in extensions.  I did, however, find lots of websites for ordering wigs and extensions made of Russian hair.  I wasn't tempted.)  Melody showed a video of a woman negotiating the sale of her dead mother's hair, which seemed more than a little bit creepy to me.  The practice is apparently fairly common. 

At the end of the day, Melody was not able to find out whose hair she wore on her head, but she had learned a lot about the hair business.  And so had I.   

Monday, August 24, 2015

Documentary Works at Edinburgh Fringe Festival: Mark Thomas' Trespass

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival offers something for everyone:  theater, comedy, music, circus, cabaret, spoken word and pretty much anything else you can think of. There are established performers and newcomers hoping to make their mark.  Mark Thomas and Victoria Melody are two actors on this spectrum who shared their stories in an engaging way.

Mark Thomas (credit to Idil Sukan)
Mark Thomas is an award-winning stand-up activist (who knew that was a category of performer?) whose 2014 show Cuckooed was both engrossing and entertaining.  And so Thomas' show this year -- Trespass: A Work in Progress -- was one of our "must sees."

The show apparently picks up where Thomas' 100 Acts of Minor Dissent left off.  Over the course of an hour, Thomas regaled us with the ways in which he and his fellow troublemakers engaged in small acts of civil disobedience. Case in point: Thomas marched in front of the Houses of Parliament imagining the end of the British monarchy (which, unbelievably, is a crime punishable by life imprisonment under the Treason Felony Act 1848).

Rendering of new U.S. Embassy
Thomas also organized picketers to protest in front of the new U.S. Embassy being built in London. The new construction includes a moat of sorts that will make doorstep protests impossible, so Thomas staged an anticipatory protest. Participants were invited to create placards they thought would be applicable in the future. "Stop the War!" seemed a natural. I wish I could remember some of the others, which were much more unexpected and clever. 

"No loitering" signs on a public sidewalk outside of a gated community also sparked his ire.  Thomas' response was quite obvious:  to host weekly tea parties for passersby, complete with homemade cake.  While some of the residents weren't so keen on this, local walkers, joggers and cyclists enjoyed the gatherings quite a bit.  A peek at Thomas' website revealed that his "no loitering" gatherings are still going in full force.   

I will admit that during the course of the show, I found myself thinking what a nuisance Thomas is.  A funny nuisance, but a troublemaker nonetheless.  Sadly, I don't seem to have the soul of a social activist. But the more I consider Trespass' message, the more I appreciate it. And Thomas himself is both clever and a consummate performer, and I'd make a beeline to his next show.

To read a description by Thomas about some of his prior protests, click here.

Next up:  Victoria Melody's Hair Peace.  

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Getting Physical at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

I am in withdrawal.  It's been five days since I've seen a theater performance. While that might not sound like a lot, when you've gotten accustomed to taking in six performances a day, it feels like I've gone cold turkey.  Over the 11 days Wendi and I were at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, we went to 70 performances. The amazing thing is that we barely scratched the surface of the more than 3,000 shows at this year's Festival.

Scene from BLAM!
 In thinking back over the shows we saw, one of the many things I'm struck by is the breadth of movement-focused performances. After traveling overnight and checking into our hotel, Wendi and I headed straight out to catch a performance of BLAM!  Described as "Die Hard" meets "The Office," this show sounded like something that would keep our sleep-deprived attention. It did. The show featured four office workers who brought to mind the phrase "boys and their toys."  In this case, though, the toys were cleverly made from easily available office supplies.  Who would have thought a coat rack could double as a machine gun?  Or that the quintessential office water cooler and some parts from a desk lamp could be turned into a puppet of sorts?  BLAM! was high energy and incredibly creative and a great way to kick start our Festival experience. Click here to watch a trailer of the show (which doesn't do it justice). 

4x4: Ephemeral Architectures

While EdFringe has always included circus-style shows, this is its first year with a dedicated Circus Hub venue. Although only one ring, the location offers a more traditional space for gymnasts and other acts to show off their skills. The circus-style show I enjoyed most was performed on a proscenium stage, though, rather than at the Circus Hub: the beautiful 4x4: Ephemeral Architectures by Gandini Juggling. The production showcased four jugglers and four ballet dancers who cleverly wove together a performance unlike anything I'd ever seen.  I loved everything about it: the juggling, the dancing (particularly the strength of the male dancers) and the music. Click here to see a video with highlights from the show (which makes me wish I could see the show again!)  As a bit of a bonus, I learned after the show that Wendi knows how to juggle, a talent she displayed in our hotel room using a hairbrush, an apple and a bottle of shampoo. The things you find out about people when you travel together!

Then there was Nautilus, a show by Gaulier-trained clown/mime Trygve Wakenshaw. For those of you who hear the word "mime" and think of a creepy guy in white-face trying to get himself out of an imaginary box, rest assured that Wakenshaw's shows are a distant relative to this type of work.  Nautilus was performed in one of the larger spaces at the Fringe--a real theater seating perhaps 300 people--and I ended up in the very back row. Despite the distance to the stage, I had no difficulty appreciating Wakenshaw's expressiveness and humor as he acted out scenes as simple as the chicken crossing the road to the more complicated story of Rapunzel (which doesn't end well -- just think about what happened when the prince yanked repeatedly on her tresses). Wakenshaw had the audience in the palm of his hand for the entire 90 minutes of the show, and I would go back and see him in a heart beat. In fact, this was the second time I've seen him -- his Kraken last year was an unexpected pleasure (and not only because I got a kiss out of the performance!)

Enjoying performances like these kept Wendi and me going throughout EdFringe. Despite the number of shows we saw, I never lost that feeling of hope and anticipation when the lights went down.  And as to my withdrawal, I'll be taking the edge off tomorrow when I head to Sarasota to see Urbanite Theatre's production of Isaac's Eye by Lucas Hnath. Having seen Hnath's The Christians at EdFringe, I am particularly looking forward to it. The Christians was well-written and received great reviews, but was not one of my favorites.  I'm curious about my reaction when Hnath takes on a different topic.  

Next up:  Documentary-style work at EdFringe.