Sunday, January 6, 2008


Wild night this past Friday, as the storm that slammed into North California and Southern Oregon arrived in Portland. What we had up here was nothing like the apocalyptic weather they had down there, and of course in Portlandia you rarely notice the rain anyway. But this was eerie, with winds tearing at your face and shrieking like banshees. I was on my way to an art opening at Studio 2507, and for a large swathe of the city’s southeast quarter, the power was out. My headlights were the only source of illumination, and visibility was low anyway because the rain was racing this way and that, like a colossal, sodden will-o-the-wisp. But I made it to the opening, where Alec Egan presided calmly over the opening of enthused, wall-to-wall art patrons admiring his latest work.

Alec’s famous parents were there, too: Robert Egan, from Los Angeles, who recently had a huge success with The Word Begins, a spoken word piece he developed and directed, and the glamorous Kate Mulgrew, here from New York for the occasion. Bob and I talked about L.A. and what an exciting, infinite, unknowable megalopolis it is. “But you,” Bob said, “get to participate in all this,” and he indicated the Friday night Clinton Street scene going on outside the gallery. I looked outside at the restaurants and the bars and social swim happening in the middle of this riotous rainstorm, and I thought: yeah, he’s right. I do feel fortunate to be here in Portland, where there is street life, where there are public spaces, where people are still curious about other people.

A bit of an epiphany, for me.

Now tonight is the historical Epiphany – the fabled Twelfth Night. The last evening of Christmastide, when traditionally the three wise men are supposed to have arrived in Bethlehem and inaugurated our custom of gift-giving. As a child, the story always puzzled me – what was the Baby Jesus supposed to do with a box full of myrrh? – but it did make a nice story.

At Portland Center Stage, we are about to tech our rep productions of Amy Freed’s The Beard of Avon and the Bard of Avon’s Twelfth Night. Which reminds me that traditionally Twelfth Night was often a wild time – the end of a holiday season that began with the Feast of All Hallows and extended through the Church-sanctioned Epiphany. Notwithstanding the Catholic Church’s efforts to realign the pagan origins of all this was Christian mythology, sometimes the evening was turned into a saturnalia, of sorts. In some communities it merged with the medieval Feast of Fools holiday, where the Lord of Misrule reigned and the normal order of things was topsy-turvy.

You can read about this on the marvelous blog Upstart Dramaturg, where production dramaturg extraordinaire Kim Crow investigates the party-like atmosphere of Shakespeare’s play that his original audiences would have expected from its title alone.

So even though it’s Sunday night and tomorrow morning means the “holiday season” is officially over, light a candle against the retrenchment of normalcy. We still have two more months of dark, dank nights. Make the most.


k. crow said...

Omilord! How am I ever going to live up to this title you bestow upon me?

Thanks for the nod to Upstart Dramaturg. It was a good reminder. In my program bio I have promised to include an answer to the "What the stink is a dramaturg?" question on the site. I may have to use my feminine wiles to charm some good blurbs out of you on the subject. See my eyelashes a bat bat batting?

Mead said...

Happy to help in any way I can. But you know: as often as I'm asked what a dramaturg is/does/eats, I've never come up with a satisfactory, one-size-fits-all response. Often, as I've attempted to answer, I've stuttered, as though telling an untruth. And as you well know, working on Shakespeare is different than working on a brand new Tracy Letts play. What to say, what to say! Perhaps between the two of us we can suss it out.

Steve Patterson said...

Re: Your comment on Portland's streetlife. A couple years ago, my journalist buddy Jack Boulware, who travels all around writing about all sorts of oddball stuff (like sumo wrestling in Eastern Europe), was here in Portland to write about our apparently zealous tribe of truffle hunters. Anyway, we had dinner at Esparza's, bopped around Hawthorne, then went over to Clinton Street for a Hunter S. Thompson memorial, and Jack was This place is cool. This from a guy who lives in San Francisco. So it's sometimes nice to see home through an outsider's eyes.