September 10, 2019

Bye Bye to The Dresser and The Dressing

Thank you, to the poets who contributed work to the reviews of The Dressing.

Thank you to the readers.

The Dresser's publisher can no longer support the blog technically and so it will be deep-sixed as of October 1, 2019.

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July 12, 2019

Divinely Inspired Band's Visit

How to conduct one's life is what the Dresser walked away with July 11, 2019, after experiencing the exuberant and melancholy The Band's Visit, a no-intermission musical running 1-3/4 hours based on the 2007 Israeli film by the same name.

David Yazbek's music and lyrics had the appreciative audience at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC, in its thrall. No wonder since this musical which opened on Broadway in October 2016 won ten Tonys, including Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical (Itamar Moses), Best Original Score (David Yazbek), and Best Direction of a Musical (David Cromer who is also responsible for this production).

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The story begins in Tel Aviv with a mistake made when the members of the Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra are stood up at a bus station by their host in Israel. The band has traveled from Egypt to perform at an Arabic cultural center in Petah Tikvah. The band's leader Colonel Tewfiq Zakaria (Sasson Gabay, star of the film version of The Band's Visit) tells his talkative underling Haled (Joe Joseph) to purchase tickets, which he does. However, his accented English is misunderstood, and the band arrives in the middle-of-nowhere town of Bet Hatikva. It's a hilarious scene where we meet the café proprietor Dina (Chilina Kennedy) who practically spits trying to explain the difference between the sound ba as in Bet Hatikva versus pa as in Petah Tikvah. One gathers that nothing happens in this town in the first and second songs "Waiting" and "Welcome to Nowhere." Worse, the band cannot catch another bus until the next day and there is no hotel.
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As luck has it, Dina and her mom used to watch Omar Sharif films and listen to Arabic classical music. But before Tewfiq learns about that, Dina has issued notice that she and her friends will put up the band in their homes, something that shocks both the Colonel and Dina's friends. With some coaxing both sides agree in which case, we see more of the town's people and their intimate lives. Dina is all about overcoming her failed marriage and having some fun. During the course of the evening, we meet a family where a new mother is having postpartum depression who says all she ever does is take care of invalids 24/7 (the crying baby, her husband who can't get a job, and her father, who is mourning the death of his wife). We encounter a young man who won't leave the town's only telephone because he expects his sweetheart to call. We also see Dina get into a screaming tiff with a married man with whom she has had an affair.

Sometimes the music is infectious Middle Eastern rhythms and staccato like "The Beat of Your Heart" but there are goose-bump-raising ballads like the telephone guy's (Mike Cefalo) "Answer Me" and the jazz torch songs like "Haled's Song about Love."
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The sets cleverly rotate as people and band members walk around Bet Hatikva. The band members actually play their instruments and can be seen artistically arranged in doorways and on stairs as music emanates or bursts from them and the singers. Surprisingly, things happen in this town, like the blind roller-skating date arranged for the Israeli youth Papi (Adam Gabay, son of Sasson Gabay) in which he confesses in his song "Pappi Hears the Ocean" to Haled that he doesn't know how to behave with women. Haled, on the other hand, uses the pickup line "have you ever heard of Chet Baker" and then Haled starts singing "My Funny Valentine."

Conducting is an important aspect of this story, which focuses on the relationship between the conductor of the Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra and the town's colorful café owner Dina. Also, there is a member of the band who keeps asking the Colonel for an opportunity to conduct the band. Subtler are the moments when Dina raises her arms and seems to conduct the people around her. Her movements might be akin to conducting an orchestra or enticing the men around her, as a belly dancer might, to pay total attention to her.

If, Dear Reader, you need an antidote to the immigration horrors the people of the United States are currently witnessing under its current administration, this musical with outstanding performers is what you should see. Washington, DC, is the first stop through August 4, 2019, on its multi-city North American tour.

In Mary Morris' poem "A Love Supreme," we find the penultimate connection music has to love in the blue throat of joy. Blue as in the blue note that takes the listener by surprise and supplies a minor note where major was expected. Certainly nothing much is expected when an Egyptian band shows up in a boring desert town and creates an oasis of flowering love.


A LOVE SUPREME
&emsp --John Coltrane

No coincidence that in Renaissance paintings
the angels play horns.

They had that right. It's about the resurrection
one comes into after so much suffering--

digging in, spinning a hymn without words,
the evolution of his song--

the Angelus, Acknowledgment (I have
wronged), how love turns itself on

finding Resolution in the greater Master--
the one who saves you (from yourself),

Pursuance of this crepuscular heaven,
passages in Psalms--notes

translated through a horn--
a deep flower, blue throat of joy.

by Mary Morris
from Enter Water, Swimmer

Photo Credits: Matthew Murphy

May 28, 2019

The Cracked Piano--A Study in the Difficulty of Living

As the Dresser entered Margo Taft Stever's Cracked Piano, she became immediately aware in the first poem "Idiot's Guide to Counting" of obstacles to living well. This is the problem of marrying matter and energy, the problem of becoming one with a horse as rider and horse hurtle over fences.

How do you become one
with the horse, riding and becoming
the act of riding,
and the horse becoming the self
and the other at exactly
the same second, counting strides,
counting muscle movement,
counting fences, hurting over
them with the horse, counting
the everything of one?
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However, the poem is much more complicated than finding perfect execution of an equestrian jump. By stanza 2, one moves from the horse to the nightmare of pulled muscles occurring merely by turning over in bed. In the final, third stanza, the poet invokes what's known in the horse world as a flying change, a seamless switching of the lead foot such that the narrator of the poem no longer aims to become one with the horse but "one with/ the branches of a tree, a grandfather/ tree in an apple orchard/ that no longer exists." What has happened is that the poet has moved from the present and from the self to the past and to the ancestry. It's the kind of hocus pocus where the one is both one and many, and what is achieved by the poem stands in sardonic contrast to the title "Idiot's Guide to Counting."

The Dresser will continue a detailed tour through Section One of this beautifully crafted and remarkably disturbing volume of poetry to show how well thought out the arrangement of poems are.

"For Sale," the second poem of the collection, reinforces the importance of the grandfather trees. It's the final organism watching over a family house that is being invaded by wealthy buyers. Before the grandfather trees come into view are the living or moving things as lizards on the basement stairs, worms dappling the pears in the orchard, rabbit hutch doors connected with rusty hinges.

,,,
Death can empty a house of shoes
worn and new, of children

who climbed the grandfather
trees, impressing outlines like fossils
littering the banks of the creek.

The next four poems: "Animal Crackers," "The Worst Mother," "Glimpse of an Infant Eating," and "Stepmother" form a set on the topics of eating/food and love/hate. "Animal Crackers" revisits the quest for perfection. The child narrator says the elephants taste the best and admires their elegant shapes--"the curvature of tails,// tusks, ears,/ their lumbering symmetry" but she hides "in the closet where it's dark" because she is overeating.

...
When one more bite

could burst me, I stop.
Once again, I want to be perfect
like the elephant.
I want to be thin.

"The Worst Mother" and "Stepmother" play off each other where the child/children complain that these women are starving them. In "The Worst Mother" and "Glimpse of an Infant Eating," the children are adorable winged creatures, cherubs "gumm[ing]/ the apple/ down/ to the core" and then wanting to eat "the pit,/ the stem,/ the entirety" as if to say the child is a savage.

"Wind Innuendo" and "Foghorn" provide contrast between silence and noise. The former presents a child "So small/ she cannot talk" whereas the latter features a disturbing, old woman who might:

... rise up to yell
for your dead husband or crack

a plate on your grandson's
head. Whether you will wander

the streets in your nightgown
or bang pots in the kitchen.

In the final poem of Section One "My Mother Is Dying," it's hard to tell if the narrator is just grieving or succumbing to chaos. Consider these lines:

... My mother is busy dying;
she no longer knows my name.
This is the wind of Eden,
      the wind of change, the last slave
      of silence, the knave of rain, so quiet
      the roving of each vacant quest. ...

...
      Wandering once again, now I
      return to the center, searching
      the level earth, calling her name
      remembering that I am lost.

...
      ...

Cry because everything goes haywire,
because this is Apollo's siren lyre, the field-worn
answer, the childless response, children waiting
for some god to bring them home.

The narrator, child of the dying woman, notes that her mother no longer knows the narrator's name, but the narrator calls out the mother's name and yet knows that she is lost to her mother or possibly to herself because things are going "haywire." The invocation of Apollo, the most complicated Greek god, speaks to the creative impulse that suggest children, but maybe not because Apollo is a god of contradiction.

Five sections comprise this collection and further explore themes introduced in Section One. Section Two presents the over-the-top story of Stever's great-grandfather Peter R. Taft (his half-brother was William Howard Taft, who became president of the United states in 1909). "The Lunatic Ball," the lyrically adept opening poem of Section Two, introduces Peter who after contracting typhoid and being dosed with a medicine containing mercury is shut away in an insane asylum. It's a place where the wealthy sit behind a glass wall to watch those confined there. Using Peter's well written letters as found poems, Stever makes the case that her great-grandfather was tragically ill-treated. Here was a man, first in his class at Yale, completely isolated from his wife, their young child, and other family members.

Sections Three, Four, and Five explore nightmare scenes of the exterior world with shadows of what has come before. Body parts are scattered through these pages. "Drought" (Section Three) begins as a metapoem talking about writer's block as it begins: "A dry spell/ wavers on the page/ ...Useless articles/ pile up like trash./ I plow them into hills." However words like bones and meadows morph until a woman with infant appears, only to starve in a holocaust event which then appears possibly to be a scene from a book the narrator is reading. Horrifying is "The True Story of Eugene" (Section Four), where two brothers--probably children--embalm a dead black man and set him on display for other children to see. Section Five concludes in "Bottomland," a place where:

...
Even the known becomes unknowable.
Their small eyes look at me like chicks
gathered against rain, staved.

Thin rivulets of fear, running-away-
with-itself fear, fearful fear.

Here is where "a mother can change from angel/ to sour mudqueen of all decay/ by those who feel the sting..." But yet the narrator of this final poem implores:

Don't forget me, don't forget
that hill the horses cantered
you down to the bottomland.

And who is it that wants to be remembered--"your mother,/ a mother who loved her children." Yes, Margo Stever gives us a cracked piano, which has the potential to play "harmonious discords." The question is can we tune in to this frequency and appreciate such rarefied music.
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May 13, 2019

Tosca in the Time of Trump

With great pleasure, the Dresser saw Washington National Opera's production of Giacomo Puccini's Tosca at the Kennedy Center Opera House on May 10, 2019. Entry into this three-act opera is easy because the melodramatic and historically based story is grounded in understandable reality and the music is lyrically accessible. Despite Wagnerian influences of through-composed music and leitmotivs to identify characters, objects, and ideas, the runtime is short at two and three quarters hours, including two 20-minute intermissions. In this time of Trump, this story of a woman defeating an amoral man with encompassing power is relief from tyranny.8. Keri Alkema (Tosca) and Alan Held (Scarpia) in WNO's Tosca.creditScottSuchman.jpg

The libretto, written in Italian by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa, is based on Victorien Sardou's five-act, French language play La Tosca that Sardou wrote for Sarah Bernhardt. After Puccini obtained the rights to turn this wordy, popular play into an opera in 1895, the work took four years to complete. Puccini repeatedly argued with his librettists and publisher over the libretto.

The actual history of Tosca's setting is complicated. In 1798, the French under Napoleon had deposed the Roman Catholic Pope and his government, establishing a new republic ruled by seven consuls. However in September 1799, the French who had been protecting the Roman Republic withdrew and the armies of the Kingdom of Naples moved in. In May 1800, the army of Napoleon returned and routed the Neapolitans.

1. Riccardo Massi as Cavaradossi in WNO's Tosca.creditScottSuchman.jpgIn the opera Tosca, Cesare Angelotti was a former consul of the Roman Republic who became a political prisoner, presumably of the Neapolitans. In the first scene of the opera, he has escaped from prison and is hiding in the church where Mario Cavaradossi, the lover of the opera singer Floria Tosca, is painting a portrait of Mary Magdalene, based on an unknown woman who turns out to be the sister of Angelotti. Cavaradossi, as a sympathizer of Napoleon, helps Angelotti escape just as the Regent of Police, Baron Scarpia, arrives. Scarpia orders Cavaradossi to be tortured and uses Tosca's love of Cavaradossi to discover Angelotti's hiding place.

In the end none of this mattered because Scarpia fell in love with the soprano. He wanted to make her his sexual conquest. She strikes a deal with him to give her and her companion a letter of passage to leave the country in return for her sexual favors. He then arranges with his man Spoletto to conduct a fake execution of Cavaradossi to cover up the artist's release. Still, Tosca is outraged for everything that has happened and is about to happen, so she grabs a knife from the dinner table and stabs him until he falls dead, declaring this is her kiss. In the end, Scarpia betrayed her by ordering all along an actual execution of her lover. As Scarpia's men come for her, she jumps from the walls of the Castel Sant'Angelo where she enjoyed a hopeful moment with the imprisoned Cavaradossi for their eminent escape but has just witnessed his death by firing squad.
12. Riccardo Massi and Keri Alkema as Cavaradossi and Tosca in WNO's Tosca.credit ScottSuchman .jpg
The jewel in the crown of this performance, and the production in general, is the casting. Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist alumna soprano Keri Alkema as Floria Tosca demonstrated her mastery in moving from an agitated state as she yelled at Alan Held as the ruthless chief of police Baron Scarpia, who is torturing her lover, to a prayerful woman spent and desperate singing the quiet aria "Vissi d'arte." The lyricism of Italian tenor Richardo Massi as Cavaradossi when he sang such songs as "E lucevan le stelle" ("The stars were shining") was heart swelling and heart breaking. Alan Held as Scarpia who many operagoers will recognize as the baritone who played Wotan in productions of Wagner's Ring Cycle is convincing as he delivers such lines as "Those who live so deeply, suffer deeply." He declares he has no use for the stuff of love, but he is excited by Tosca's fiery temper. Of course it is his attraction to her that allows Tosca to stop him from assaulting her. Boy soprano Holden Browne as the Shepherd Boy who opens the third act took the Dresser's breath away. It was probably a combination of things--his sweet sound married with Puccini's music for this role which sounds like sacred, medieval chant and that lyrical vocal line plays against orchestration that sounds bubbly and hopeful as one would imagine the awakening of spring and new birth. Note that two singers each share the roles of Tosca, Cavaradossi, and the Shepherd Boy.

Conductor Speranza Scappucci adds measured intensity to this story of passion and death. Sets come from the Seattle Opera's production of Tosca and seem modestly handsome, stealing nothing from the light of a stellar cast.

In Lisa Hase-Jackson's poem "Prairie Rumors," a woman is passionately affected by an aurora borealis which puts charged particles into the Earth's atmosphere. She undresses and presses her ear (and her body) to the prairie as if she were listening for "the breath of a sleeping child." At the end of Tosca, Cavaradossi, imprisoned in the Castel Sant'Angelo but out on its parapet under the stars, daydreams about being reunited with Tosca and then unexpectedly she appears, tells him he will be free, that they "Together in exile/ we shall bear our love through the world./Harmonies of colour." In both "Prairie Rumors" and Tosca, fake news abounds. In the poem are rumors of aliens and second-coming. In the opera, Scarpia has lied to Tosca, depriving Cavaradossi of his second-coming and the opportunity for them to unite and have children. For the Dresser living in the time of a presidential despot who disrespects women, Tosca's fatal "kisses" to Scarpia feel justified.

Prairie Rumors


When aurora borealis
crept into the northern plains
of Kansas like a tire-shattering

arctic front, sheriffs
of sparsely populated counties
received reports of fire

and aliens and second-coming
predictions echoed within the walls
of steepled buildings.

The clash of atoms disturbed
a farmer's wife,
who could not find sleep beneath

magnetized particles
so rose from bed
to leave the house where

her children slept. Passing
the chicken coop, the pigsty,
the barn of cattle and hay

she found herself upon the prairie
beneath the pulsing arch of reds and greens
that synchronized her heart's rhythm

and moved her to remove
her clothes, lie against the cold
damp earth
   and press her ear close
against the soil
   and listen as one does
for the breath of a sleeping child.

by Lisa Hase-Jackson
from Flint & Fire

Photo Credits: Scott Suchman

April 27, 2019

Poet Lore at the Cusp of Change

On April 26, 2019, the Dresser was at The Writer's Center of Bethesda, Maryland wearing her hat as poet--Karren Alenier and her hat as poetry publisher--The Word Works to celebrate the changing of the guard at Poet Lore. Poet Lore, founded in 1889, the oldest poetry magazine in the United States. A magazine that published and talked about prominent poets world wide-- Rabindranath Tagore, Rainer Maria Rilke, Stéphane Mallarmé, and Paul Verlaine as well as such contemporary American poets as Mary Oliver, Alice Fulton, John Balaban, and Sharon Olds.

Among the poets reading from the latest edition of Poet Lore were Mary-Sherman Willis, Terence Winch and Linda Pastan. Reading to a large room crowded with poets. Definitely an historic occasion.

So it is that E. Ethelbert Miller and Jody Bolz had a 17-year run at reading, selecting and publishing submissions to Poet Lore. Using the metaphor of baseball as his playing field, Ethelbert gave a moving tribute to what it meant to be editing the grand old Poet Lore in America with the esteemed Jody Bolz. We all need to lean in close and support Poet Lore as it moves away from the loving embrace of these two dedicated editors. Here is what Ethelbert said in its entirety.
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When I started thinking about what I would say this evening, I thought about the "Great Farewell" that took place 80 years ago.

I thought about a man on July 4, 1939 standing in Yankee Stadium, a man who had played in 2, 130 consecutive baseball games, a man who because he got a chance to wear the Yankee Pin-stripes considered himself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.

I think of Lou Gerhrig this evening. I look at everyone gathered here at the Writer's Center and consider myself the luckiest poet on the face of the earth.

I'm lucky because I was part of a great Poet Lore team. I got a chance to edit alongside the Literary Babe Ruth, Jody Bolz. I consider Jody to be one of America's great poetry editors, an editor like my friend Carol Houck Smith, who worked for 60 years at W.W. Norton & Company. Carol edited the work of Stanley Kunitz, Rita Dove, Maxine Kumin and A. Van Jordan.

When Al Lefcowitz, one of the founders of this Center contacted me, inviting me to become an editor of Poet Lore, I was very surprised. I'm certain a literary critic will one day compare it to the Portland Trailblazers decision in 1984, to select Sam Bowie over Michael Jordan in the NBA draft.

I was never a real reader of Poet Lore. Frankly I disliked the covers and look of the publication. When I did pick up a copy I felt like I was Jackie Robinson in the Negro Baseball League. Where were the poets of color in a major poetry magazine?

In 2019 as we celebrate the 100th anniversary of Robinson's birth, we look beyond baseball, we look at our nation, we look at our culture as well as our politics. Poet Lore has always celebrated its link to Walt Whitman. In 2005 on the cover of Fall/Winter issue of Poet Lore you will find the great man embracing two children.

In many ways we are still the children of Whitman, struggling to hold onto our democracy, struggling to see a nation survive another Civil War.

As editors of Poet Lore for 17 years we listened to America singing, we listened to voices from around our nation and outside our borders. As editors we removed the walls and pages between poets, we edited the journal in such a way that a chorus of voices emerged as if each journal was one consistent narrative.

Poet Lore is not just a journal of poems, it is a journal also of ideas, essays and book reviews. If years from now one wants to know what happened on this earth - the work in this journal will present itself as History's lover. To read Poet Lore is to me intimate with America. It is to love who we are and what we believe in.

On the cover of the 2010 Spring/Summer issue of Poet Lore we placed a 1942 photo of Japanese-Americans being directed to internment camps. Looking back at this issue it's easy to mistake the Spanish of the present for the Japanese of our past.

The 2010 issue of Poet Lore came after we had placed the escape artist Houdini on the Fall / Winter 2006 cover. Houdini is trapped in a box that seems impossible to escape from. The editor's note in this issue was written by Rick Cannon, who at that time was saying farewell to Poet Lore. Rick was our Ringo. The Poet Lore "drummer" we loved; our Cannon.

Let me end my short farewell comments this evening by making reference to what I consider to be the most important issue Poet Lore during my 17 years associated with the publication.

The issue I tip my hat to is the 125th Anniversary of Poet Lore. The Fall/Winter issue
of 2014. It's the issue with Paul Laurence Dunbar on the cover. It's a photo of Dunbar I never saw while attending Paul Laurence Dunbar junior high school 120 in the South Bronx. Here we find Dunbar as being the key representative of modernism the modern man as dapper as anyone welcoming a new century into birth.

I hope the Poet Lore essay, "Who's for the Road?: Poet Lore, Paul Laurence Dunbar and the Open Road of 19th Century American Poetry" by Melissa Girard finds its way into future literary textbooks. This essay helps us to redefine American literature in much the same way the election of women to Congress in our last election is changing how we govern and desire to be governed.

I hope the road ahead isn't a rocky road for Poet Lore. If this Writer's Center truly sees itself as a center then it will shine brightly on this journal. If we can renovate a building, if we can embrace the new, then we must do nothing less, for a magazine.


Too often we play the numbers, we look at budgets, we struggle to do more with less.

But where do poems come from? Out of what unknown do they emerge to exist? To believe in a journal like Poet Lore, is to renew a love for language, to embrace beauty and water it with vision.

When Lou Gerhrig in 1939 said farewell to baseball and the Yankees, it was not the end of a great era but also the beginning of one. To wear a Yankee uniform has always met something not just to Yankee fans but to baseball. The future editors of Poet Lore must uphold tradition. They must continue to edit the way Jody and I did; reading aloud each poem selected. The new editors must keep their ears open....America is still singing.

I tip my hat to Old Walt this evening, on the 200th anniversary of his birth. Hopefully, he is somewhere looking down on us this evening and saying thank you for a job well done.


- E. Ethelbert Miller
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April 22, 2019

The Mykonos Mob: A Murder. A Love Story...

What could be a better formula for success in a mystery novel with a central recurring detective character than a murder and a love story? Add to this a location like a Greek island with cachet--Mykonos, the playground of the rich and the young.

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The Dresser has just read Jeffrey Siger's The Mykonos Mob, the tenth novel in his Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis mystery series. The Dresser enjoyed this novel in much the same way as she enjoyed Siger's previous novels. She loves his characters, the Greek setting, and the inclusion of Greek traditions and culture into the story.

What sings to the Dresser's heart are the two strong women featured in this novel. One is Lila Vardi, the upper-class wife of Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis, and the other is Toni, an American ex-pat who plays piano at a Mykonos bar. (The inside story on Toni's missing last name is that on Mykonos most foreigners are known only by their first names. When questioned about the missing name, the author said he also wanted to keep Toni from being "typecast.") Lila is in an identity crisis after having two children, one five and the other seven-months old. She feels conflicted about just raising children and not making a difference in the outside world.

When we meet Toni, she is throwing rocks to chase away two men who are assaulting a bikini-clad young woman on the beach. Immediately behind Toni comes Yianni Kouros, the sidekick detective of Chief Inspector Kaldis. Toni's rock bombardment sends one man running away and wounds the other in the forehead, making him release his victim and slowing him down so Yianni, despite a brandished switchblade and tussle, can arrest him. Even with handcuffs on, the perp spit disdainfully at Toni, who "stepped forward with her left foot and let loose a World Cup-class kick to the man's balls with her right." Guess you might say, Dear Reader, this rapist won't be getting his rocks off any time soon. The Dresser gives the author credit for glancing off the subject of Olympics (Toni's a World Cup-class kick), the championship games the Greeks invented.

And yes, you are correct if you guessed that Yianni falls in love with Toni. The question throughout the novel is, can Toni put aside her defenses to love him back? The Dresser can see more novels in this series that include Toni and Yianni. One drawback is that the author doesn't write fluid love scenes. Because the Dresser wants Jeffrey Siger to write more novels in this series, she will outrageously suggest that he check out the Book Fox's post "50 Incredibly Written Sex Scenes in Books."

As with any engaging detective novel, more than one story simultaneously threads through the pages. The novel opens with an introduction to the corrupt retired police Colonel who gets murdered outside a suburban Athens restaurants. The owner of the restaurant has just met with the Colonel to ask for his "protection" for a potential club on Mykonos. As this thread develops, we learn that the Colonel shook down all Mykonos businesses, but there were also other operators in the world of crime and its hierarchy on this popular party island.

What Jeffrey Siger is particularly good at is describing the unique places in Greece where we meet his characters. For example, Siger has the Chief and his detective visit the richest, most powerful mobster in Greece who lives in the suburban Athens hills of the affluent Palaio Psychico with its winding one-way streets. We also get the powerful imagery of the Mykonos windmills. Here's a rather cinematic scene near the windmills:

"The parked up by the six windmills, and walked down the ramp leading to the bay at Little Venice. The wind had picked up a bit, so rather than dodging waves along the shoreline walkway, they cut through a restaurant's outdoor seating area, past the island's only Catholic church, and onto the area's main street. Barely two meters wide in places, this street had once brimmed with shops attuned to the tastes and needs of locals and the more practically minded tourists. Today, though, much of it took aim at challenging the high-end glitz along Matogianni Street--Mykonos' Fifth Avenue--with its version of pricey fashion, jewelry, and pretentious clubbing experiences."

Where things get a little strange is when Siger uses American pop culture coming from the mouths of his Greek characters. Take this exchange on the subject of Lila's discontent with her life as she is exploring it with her husband Andreas:

....... "I'm not vain enough to think anything I might do would ever rise to the level of achieving world peace, but I would like to be significant to a broader swath of society than just our family. My fundraising work gave me that sort of satisfaction."
......."...If I'm reading you correctly, you've ruled out any sort of commercial enterprise."
.........."Yes, I must say I'm attracted to eleemosynary causes."
......."Are we having one of those, 'You say potato, I say potahto,' moments, à la Ella Fitzgerald?"
.......Lila offered him a blank stare. Then rolled her eyes. "Okay, I get it. 'You say charity, I say eleemosynary.'"

Pronunciation of potato in Greek doesn't have the issue of British versus American variance in English. The Dresser will dare now to venture into punctuation and say that
"Okay, I get it. 'You say charity, I say eleemosynary.'"
should read:
"Okay, I get it. You say 'charity,' I say 'eleemosynary.'"
or the words charity and eleemosynary should be set in Italics without the use of single quotes in that sentence.

For the Dresser, the use of a multi-syllabic word like eleemosynary in a detective novel, even if it is coming out of the mouth of an upper-class, well-educated woman like Lila, makes the Dresser double down on her criticism. After all, how many readers of mystery novels would know such an overblown word? Maybe Andreas would more appropriately tease his wife about pulling educational rank over a man accustomed to street language?
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However, the most important aspect of a mystery is the surprise of the story, the action, the resolution. Suffice it to say that Toni and Lila team up and get in trouble. Coming to their rescue are two other women who, without guns, take down the enemies. The Dresser looks forward to the next Jeffrey Siger novel in the Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis mystery series.

In Elizabeth Gross' poem "Sometimes this city feels like a real small town" the element of murderous surprise takes over the happy image of an old dress that becomes a joke between a mother and daughter. Is this dress, referred to as the wedding dress, so uncomfortably tight that the narrator daughter cannot get it off, now that she is trying it on or is it a metaphor for the daughter not being able to commit to marriage? This is not even to mention what happened to the unfortunate woman who admired the wedding dress. The poem mirrors the discomfort Toni in The Mykonos Mob feels in her conflict about whether she can commit to the attraction she is experiencing toward the detective Yianni Kouros. Her discomfort is contrasted with the life of her important new friend Lila Vardi, who loves her police officer husband and their young children even as she struggles to regain her independence as a person who can make a difference not only for her family but also for others outside the family.


Sometimes this city feels like a real small town


It was my birthday, and I wore the dress
my mother called the wedding dress, a joke
because I couldn't really pull it off--vintage
drop waist and yellowing lace. But still I whirled
through the café door high on headphone music
and thank goodness some pretty girl smiled
nice dress! from the arm of a scraggly guy.
A few months go by, I see her picture
in the paper looking bright-eyed, headline
reads: found dead. Hacked up, head in a soup pot,
charred, limbs in the oven, the rest scattered
through the over-air-conditioned rooms she
shared with her ex, she'd tried to kick him out--
no go--he stayed there with her body
eleven days, then checked in a high downtown
hotel and jumped the roof. They'd made the news,
a love story, the year before, in chaos--
kept making cocktails through the storm and found
each other--police couldn't get them to leave this town.

by Elizabeth Gross
from this body / that lightning show

February 10, 2019

A First Woman on Stage: Nell Gwynn

Based on seeing the February 7, 2019 performance of Jessica Swale's Restoration comedy Nell Gwynn under the direction of Robert Richmond, who also directed Davenant's Macbeth, the Dresser highly recommends immediate purchase of tickets before they sell out to this exceptionally fine play running until March 10th at Washington, DC's intimate Folger Theatre.

The 37-year-old British playwright Jessica Swale, who showed her chops on her first play Blue Stockings (2013), won for Nell Gwynn the 2016 Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Comedy. Like Blue Stockings, Nell Gwynn (2015) premiered at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre and in 2016 moved to the historic West End Apollo Theatre.

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Nell Gwynn features the story of one of the first women on the English stage. Prior to 1660, only men were allowed to act and women were portrayed by such men as Edward Kynaston, a real-life character in Swale's play. In 1660 when Charles II was restored to the English throne, the king licensed two acting companies and legalized the acting profession for women. Gwynn (1650-1687), a child of an unmarried working-class mom--a madam, was discovered by a prominent Restoration actor named Charles Hart. In the play, Nell becomes his lover but later is pursued by Charles II (1630-1685) who eventually wins her heart and she becomes his mistress who not only bears him two sons but also lives in his palace.

The cast, especially Alison Luff as Nell Gwynn, is exceptional in acting talents. Luff is in the same class of electrifying performance as Julie Andrews who, in 1956, created the onstage musical theater role of Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady. While Nell Gwynn is not a musical, composer Kim Sherman, in the tradition of modern Shakespearean theater, has written pleasing original music matched to the period for this production and the players sing and dance ably to this music. Mariah Anzaldo Hale's costumes are eye-catching in color and design. Tony Cisek's sets and props slide smoothly and often energetically into and out of view.
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What the Dresser was particularly fascinated by was the metaplay that persists throughout this play. Thomas Killigrew (Nigel Gore), the theater manager of the King's Company, the acting company of which he and Hart are members, tries to persuade their house playwright John Dryden (Michael Glenn portrays the famous poet known by modern day students of English literature) that the playwright would benefit with range of character if their company had a real-life woman. The fit-to-be-tied woman-impersonating Edward Kynaston, as portrayed by Christopher Dinolfo, strenuously argues against adding a woman.

KILLIGREW
...she wouldn't just be convincing. She would be real. Dryden, think! You could write any sort of woman you want--not just the passive lover, the fragile beauty. If you're writing for real women, they won't need to be so feminine anymore.

KYNASTON
No, no, no, no, no! You miss the point entirely. Theatre is artifice. It's make believe. Pretend. The blood is not real blood. Othello's not a real Moor. People come to the playhouse to engage with the imaginary. For a short break from their wretched, drivel-filled lives they can escape. Who'd go to the theatre to see real people saying real things about real life? That would be preposterous! We trade in magic. And we are trained to do it. Honed, groomed, athletes of the imagination. And these women-- what training have they had, eh?


Of course the irony is that the audience in the Folger Theatre, a replica of the Globe Theatre, has come to a play populated by historically real English people who for the most part are speaking the historically accurate story of a woman who was taught to be an actor at a time when that had been forbidden. Kynaston's fan scene is not only instructive about the Restoration language of a woman's fan but comic. What's more, Jessica Swale is showing the contemporary audience the process by which Nell became an "actor-ess," which also adds another layer of interest to her play--Swale is teaching the audience what Nell needed to learn to join the King's Company. And here the Dresser laughs in her sleeve because what Nell learned was how she joined personally in the King's company and became his favored mistress for the rest of his and her lives.
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Lest contemporary audience be confused about when Nell Gwynn was written, Swale throws in some contemporary language like having Nancy (Catherine Flye), Nell's dresser, say "wait for it" when Killigrew arrives to announce that their rival acting company has put a woman on stage. Catherine Flye, who also plays Nell's unrefined mother, is a master at comic timing.

For the Dresser, Robert Richmond's production of Nell Gwynn had not one dull moment in it and that's saying a lot for a two-hour-and-thirty-minute play with one 15-minute intermission.

Given that Swale's Nell Gwynn includes poet playwright John Dryden, the Dresser feels doubly sure that the last words belong to a contemporary poet, such as Susan Lewis. In Lewis' prose poem "Today the leaves," a woman of power--Madame President--presents. Like Nell Gwynn, Madame President is disparaged with such words as "precious, messy, & inconsequent" not to mention her "floozy hope" and "her closest uncloseted kin." In Nell's case, not only does she have her unruly mother but also her sister Rose (Caitlin Cisco) who acts like Nell's conscience.

TODAY THE LEAVES

jostle for the sun's brandished meal. A minor chord
day, compressing the worms in their tight & silent
world. Reluctant seeds gaping to a care-worn
future, scattered cosmos unimpressed. What's
that you say, Madame President? Emoticons
embellishing perception via harbingers of swoon.
Elsewise processing the inputs, despite an
endless weary trap seasoned with too much not
enough. A standard deviation from deviation
thrown at any problem like onions, gold nuggets,
skyscrapers, & severed heads abloom like silken
hares. Who might not be precious, messy, &
inconsequent? Roped by this tinsel glint of agency,
that floozy hope, or her closest uncloseted kin.

by Susan Lewis
from Zoom

Photo Credits: Brittany Diliberto

January 14, 2019

WNO New Operas--Snakes, Dogs, Drugs, Unwanted Babies

Washington National Opera's American Opera Initiative Festival in a three-day program--January 11-13, 2019--presented four short world premieres: the hour-long Taking up Serpents by composer Kamala Sankaram and librettist Jerre Dye and the three twenty-minute operas: 75 Miles by Matt Boehler and Laura Barati, Relapse by Molly Joyce and James Kennedy, and Pepito by Nicholas Lell Benavides and Marella Martin Koch. Partnering with these Washington National Opera commissioned works is the Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program which features exceptional young opera singers who are given the opportunity and challenge to sing often difficult musical scores while also creating the roles of characters in these new operas.

The introduction to the January 12 performance included these tips from 2019 mentor Jake Heggie:

--Don't just set words, write music.
--Allow singers to use their instruments.
--Every note matters in the context of the storytelling.

Generally speaking, the Dresser felt that Heggie's exceptionally good advice was the measure against which these composers were working. Given the most working time, composer Kamala Sankaram in Taking up Serpents was able to create subtly textured orchestral music that included guitar and evoked the mystery of the Pentecostal story whose preachers handle poisonous snakes.

Serpents2.jpgJerre Dye's libretto focuses on the daughter of a man who goes from drunk to Pentecostal preacher. When the opera opens, Kayla stands on New Year's Eve in the parking lot of the Save Mart where she works, waiting to see the holiday fireworks. What the audience doesn't know until later is that her father had his Christian awakening in a parking lot where he and the ten-year-old Kayla were setting off firecrackers. Kayla has fled her father's extremism, but she calls out to God for a sign:




I thought somehow that leavin' home would give me wings,
break the hold you got on me.
I'm so damn tired-a circlin'.
This longin' is undoin' me.

Kayla looks up at the sky.
Give me a sign, Lord.

On cue, Kayla's irritated boss Reba appears:

Reba- Who the hell you talkin' to?
Kayla- (embarrassed) No one.
Reba- Out here like a crazy person talkin' at the air.
Break is over. Trash is full. Kayla? KA-YLA?(Claps her hands to get Kayla's
attention) Trash. (indicating she should take care of it.)

So Kayla gets back to work still longing for more than the life to which she has fled. Reba comes back to her. This time with her portable phone and a surprise call from Kayla's mother Nelda. Nelda tells Kayla that her father "got bit in the neck" by a timber rattler during the "Sunday past service."

Here's where the libretto rips open with emotion as Kayla goes to the hospital to confront her parents. Sankaram gives soprano Alexandria Shiner as Kayla and mezzo-soprano Eliza Boner as Nelda full opportunity to use their vocal instruments in expressing their complete frustration for how their lives have unspooled with Daddy (bass baritone Timothy J. Bruno). By the end of the opera, Kayla has come to terms with herself and her father in front of his church alter while simultaneous Nelda has put Daddy out of their collective misery by smothering him.
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The Dresser thinks that this opera has a well-put-together libretto but there was a disturbing imbalance in being able to follow the details that bear on Daddy's emotional impact to the daughter and mother. At first the Dresser was thinking this opera might be better in a much smaller space than the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater in order to more fully experience the raw emotional load of these characters but only if the volume of sound could be dialed down. Alexandria Shiner, for example, has a powerful voice suited for singing in the Kennedy Center Opera House. The other thought, which might be more suitable, is a different staging which brings Nelda in the hospital smothering Daddy side by side with Kayla taking over the church service to find her own light.

Of the three twenty-minute operas, the Dresser's favorite was the comic opera Pepito about a somewhat mismatched couple who shows up last minute at an animal shelter wanting to adopt a dog, preferably a puppy. The dog Pepito is sung by bass baritone Samuel Weiser who at all times is a man dressed in a dog suit. Weiser makes the part charming (e.g., he tells the interested woman he loves her and soon dips her as if she were a dance partner), and more so because the dog speaks Spanish and everything need translating, especially to the husband. The music, especially the duet about "the right dog" that is between Camila (soprano Alexandra Nowakowski) and Pepito, lingers in memory.

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75 Miles concerns a 16-year-old girl who tells her mom she needs an abortion. They are poor with one car which the father needs to get to his job so the clinic at 75 miles away is too far. The daughter Avery (soprano Alexandra Nowakowski) doesn't want her father to know. She is an only child and the apple of his eye. She tells him as her mother nearly spills the beans that a friend of hers is pregnant and wants an abortion. Earnestly, baritone Joshua Blue as the father suggests keeping the child and then tells her how much her birth meant to them and still does. During the course of the 20 minutes, mezzo-soprano Alexandra Christoforakis as the mother runs the emotional gamut from mad at her daughter, scared of her husband to determined Avery will abort this unwanted child. The libretto is straight forward, and the music has touches of American folk music.

A timely look at a young woman who nearly dies of a drug overdose, Relapse deals with those who enable and the doctor who can only do so much to help. It's a big subject for just 20 minutes. However, the music has interesting texture, such as touches of bowed vibraphone and piano strings played by mallets.

The Dresser doesn't see any of the these three 20-minute works being more fully developed but applauds Washington National Opera for allowing these newcomers to work with seasoned artists and to practice the discipline. Taking up Serpents could be further developed or stand as a chamber work.

Photo Credit: Scott Suchman

September 16, 2018

Restoration Macbeth and the Clanking Cell Doors

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In our political climate, productions of Shakespeare's Macbeth can take on new currency. Macbeth is a story about distorted information, unbridled ambition, and what happens to a leader who gained his office illegally.

MACBETH IN BEDLAM

The Dresser has seen unusual interpretations of Macbeth--500 Clown Macbeth (2008), Synetic Theater's wordless Macbeth (2011) and the music theater/opera The Mortal Thoughts of Lady Macbeth (20050. However, no other production until the 2018 Davenant's restoration of Macbeth as the product of current day work by Shakespeare scholars and performing artists and as re-imagined by stage director Robert Richmond and the Folger Consort music director Robert Eisenstein can match the impact of what has been achieved. Richmond re-conceived the setting of Macbeth as a play within a play such that inmates of the British insane asylum Bedlam, in 1666 (two weeks after the Great Fire of London), have been put on stage outside their locked cells to perform Macbeth as a fundraiser for the damaged hospital.

If Crazytown (as described in Bob Woodward's new book Fear: Trump in the White House) has a model--the Folger Theatre at the Folger Shakespeare Library, which has been involved in years of research with international funding (a $250,000 grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council in the United Kingdom and Queen's University Belfast), is unknowingly providing it in the Restoration-era adaptation of Macbeth.

On September 14, 2018, the Dresser partook of Macbeth and sat on the edge of her seat for the entire performance, which runs just under three hours including one 15-minute intermission. There was no slack moment. The actions of the Bedlam warden who pounds his staff on the floor and opens creaky cell doors and then slams them shut as he pulls out the next inmate who has lines to deliver, penetrate deeply into viewer consciousness. Also, some of the soundscape produced by the Folger Consort--dissonant noise--adds to the scariness of these strange actors. Louis Butelli effectively plays the warden and Duncan, the king Macbeth murders.

SIDE-BY-SIDE SCRIPTS

Most handily, the Folger Library website, which sponsors both the Folger Theatre and the Folger Consort, provides side-by-side scripts of the familiar Macbeth play and its restoration offshoot. Without seeing the scripts, anyone familiar with Shakespeare's Macbeth will notice that the roles for the three witches has been expanded and some of it set to wonderful baroque music. Those more intimately familiar with the original script will notice extra scenes for Macduff and his wife and for Macbeth and his wife as well as some omissions and jarring changes in the text.

Take a look at the Restoration text versus the original text.

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Restoration text:

To Morrow, and to Morrow, and to Morrow,
Creeps in a stealing pace from Day to Day,
To the last Minute of Recorded Time;
And all our Yesterdays have lighted Fools
To their Eternal [night]. Out, out, [short] Candle!
Life's but a Walking Shaddow, a poor Player,
That Struts and Frets his Hour upon the Stage,
And then is Heard no more. It is a Tale
Told by an Ideot, full of Sound and Fury,
Signifying Nothing.

Original text:

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

Shakespeare's original text is the more poetic work but this production as it is framed by the Bedlam inmates seems to allow for choppier and less poetic language.

MAKING MACBETH A FAMILY AFFAIR

Both Ian Merrill Peakes as Macbeth and Kate Eastwood Norris as Lady Macbeth are convincing in their crazy scenes. One delicious aside is Ian Merrill Peakes is joined in this production by his wife Karen Peakes as Lady Macduff and his ten-year-old son Owen Peakes as Fleance (son of Banquo). Owen is memorable in his scene with the witches as a large-winged bird.

MUSICAL MACBETH

Since there was no complete musical score for the Restoration Macbeth, Eisenstein used music from a variety of composers. Music from John Eccles, who had provided music for later Restoration productions of Macbeth, is used for the witches. Other music comes from Matthew Locke and Henry Purcell as well as from 17th century English and Scottish country dances, some of which includes the bagpipe. The music worked organically with the flow of the play.

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The witches, known as the Weird Sister, are played by Emily Noël, Rachael Montgomery, and Ethan Watermeier. Watermeier looks like a man in drag and adds to the trio being called the Weird Sisters. Making one of the Weird sister a man was also a good musical decision and gives their musical performances more depth. Noël has an engaging solo singing number, which she delivers with feeling and acumen (after all she is also one of the crazy Bedlamites only play acting the part of a witch).

The Folger Shakespeare Library's theater is a replica of an Elizabethan theater--it is small and intimate. Folger Theatre (company) always does interesting stage sets. For the Restoration Macbeth, the six musicians of the musical ensemble sat on the balcony above the stage. Scene changes were aided by the players pulling an opaque scrim across the stage. For variety, Richmond used quite a lot of shadow puppetry, especially for violent scenes.Banquo-Murder.jpg
















This production of Macbeth is a timely work come to stage in Crazytown, USA.

Photo Credit: Brittany Diliberto

August 19, 2018

On the Road of Greek Theater

The Dresser tried to talk her sister Lisa into going to Greece. Come on, Sistah, this is going to be a family affair, but Lisa said she didn't have a passport and the trip would cost too much. When the Dresser returned from Greece at the end of July, she couldn't stop reading about things Greek and one of her San Francisco friends, knowing her taste in literature, sent her The Road to Epidauros by Jeanne Fuchs. And there she was--Jeanne Fuchs, her sister in travel.

The-Road-to-Epidauros.jpgThe Road to Epidauros is first a travel diary that chronicles July 10 to 31, 1990, as an exceptional three-week trip to Greece. The Greek director Andreas Voutsinas invited Jeanne Fuchs to witness the lead up and premiere of his production of Medea which would culminate in Epidauros where the best-preserved theater of the ancient world still operates.

The work is also observations of an astute veteran of theater and the artistic world, a how-to navigate Greek life, an exuberant Greek culinary tour, and various psychological profiles.

Since the Dresser spent time visiting ancient classical theaters at the Acropolis and Delphi, her curiosity was piqued about Epidauros. Epidauros is less than 40 minutes from Athens. During the summer months from June 1 through August 18, an annual arts program called the Athens & Epidaurus Festival runs. Epidaurus, featuring its exemplary acoustics, is where the classicist Sophocles premiered.

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On the one hand, Fuchs offers her up-close and personal stories of famous people like Jane Fonda and Melina Mercouri. Fonda, who was being coached by Voutsinas, appeared in a mink coat in her apartment house where people including Fuchs were waiting to go to Fonda's audition to become a member of Actors Studio. Her scene was from Butterfield 8 where Gloria (the character made famous by Elizabeth Taylor) wore only a slip and a mink coat. Fonda and Fuchs shared a moment where they giggled over the approving reactions of the male elevator operator and the doorman--the men thought she should always dress like this--and then Fonda hits up Fuchs for a loan of $10 so she can pay for cab fare to the Studio. Fuchs reports that Mercouri, who once played Medea at Epidauros, made her way to the dressing room of the young woman named Lydia who Voutsinas selected to be his Medea. (Fuchs doesn't always provide last names, which probably means she couldn't get permission to do so.) Mercouri hugs and kisses Lydia saying she was the best Medea she had ever seen. Here Fuchs says that from a distance, "[Mercouri] looks as I remembered her from the movies: flawless bone structure and flashing eyes" but "up close, Mercouri looks old and gaunt. She has big teeth that dominate her face and her skin seemed sallow."

On the other hand, Fuchs is a master of the everyday details that has the reader climbing into bed with her as she reads Lawrence Durrell. Fuchs is funny, saying she went to bed with Durrell. (Meanwhile, the Dresser was going to bed with Lawrence's brother Gerald, reading his laugh-outloud memoire My Family and Other Animals.) Fuchs had already explained how she and Voutsinas, a bisexual, were never lovers and she also detailed how she fended off various Greek men during this trip. The world of love and attraction is more varied in Greece. As Fuchs noted about a young woman who gives Fuchs her address. Fuchs wondered if the woman was a lesbian and comments, "...but maybe everyone is. It's Greece." On the 2018 night of the total eclipse of the Blood Moon when the moon turned red, could be seen by even the Dresser's weak naked eye in contrast to Mars--the red planet, she was standing in the road near the port of Amorgos when a woman came at her on a scooter. She was clearly flirting. "Oh," the Dresser said a little worried the woman would run over her, "I'm waiting for my friends." She was but only to send them off to a concert up in the hills. Was the flirting just a bit of natural "lunacy" or just an everyday scanning of new possibilities? As Fuchs wrote, It's Greece. No need to overthink this kind of interaction.

What the Dresser particularly appreciated is how Fuchs dropped in details about Greek life that were mysteries to a first-time visitor to Greece. For example, every night she seemed to eat dinner at an extremely late hour. This happens because everyone disappears in the afternoon for a long nap during the searing heat of the day, not to mention theater people always eat late because who can eat before performing? Because the Dresser was traveling with her friend Catherine, a Greek-American whose family members in Greece asked her to bring a huge quantity of the antacid Tums, Fuchs' aside: "It'll be a minor miracle if I don't die of indigestion before I leave" was all the more sadly comic. The Dresser had one of those moments at a church panegyri in the hills of Amorgos where everyone was served a late-night bowl of stew made with goat and potatoes. For this meal that should only be eaten on the coldest day of winter, the Dresser had to order up what she calls a drink of Drano--a can of Coca Cola.

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Before Voutsinas' Medea is mounted on the stage of Epidauros, the company worked on the production in the northern city of Thessaloniki. Early in Fuchs' diary, she described this after-rehearsal, midnight dinner: "squash pancakes with skordalia (a garlic and potato spread), lamb kebabs, keftedes (Greek meatballs--maybe made with mint or ouzo, recipes vary), Greek salad (usually tomato, cucumber, purple onion, feta, olives), and white wine. Fuchs is into reporting what she put into her mouth, including how on the Lufthansa plane she was served a bottle of Rosebacher, "Urqelle Stilles Mineralwasser." The Dresser, 28 years later, was also given Rosebacher and documented that by taking a photo of it. The Dresser thought It's unusual because it contains a significant amount of calcium.

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Euripides play Medea is a painful play about family relations. Medea's husband Jason tells her he is leaving the marriage for another woman. So, Medea murders Jason's new wife and worse she kills the children she had with Jason. One of the quiet dramas in The Road to Epidauros is Andreas Voutsinas' inability to love and appreciate his son Marios because Voutsinas had such disdain for his former wife, Marios' mother. However, Fuchs' multidimensional story has an August 2010 Postscript in which some of the people who had been involved in the Medea production get together to spread Voutsinas' remains in the theater, this action being the last wish of his. Voutsinas' son Marios, who now looks very much like his father--gray beard too, attends and tells Fuchs that before his father's death, they had reconciled. It's a moving end note to the slights the father had exacted on the son.marios-voutsinas.jpg

Alexandra Kostoulas' poem "Home. Not Home" puts a concise cap on The Road to Epidauros by Jeanne Fuchs. The home, made by the mythologists (mirologoi) in our time (as noted by mention of the iPad), is complete with a special Greek desert wine (mavrodaphne) and chocolates while the living honor the dead and speak of their lives to come. Life is always about family rooted in the ancestral village, now abandoned by the poet who lives in America. As the Dresser told her sister Lisa, the trip would be about family, the Greek families that took her into their hearts as she did the same. Night one in 2018, the Dresser met nine family members of Catherine's for a large seafood feast at Port Rafina. Four nights later, the Dresser saw the shocking images of fire and destruction on TV. She worried about these family members since some of them lived in the community struck by the huge fire that killed 74 people. The gods were with these family members and all of them were fine. The Dresser could continue in this vein with more blessed encounters of these loving Greeks who made her holiday a homecoming, but she will let the curtain fall and invite you, Dear Reader, to read between the lines. With gratitude to my friend Donnali Fifield for sending the Dresser The Road to Epidauros and to Jeanne Fuchs for writing it.

HOME. NOT HOME

I cried as the red moon rose.
We listened to mirologoi that
randomly came on my iPad.
We drank mavrodaphne and ate chocolate.
We spoke of the dead
and of our regrets and our hopes.
In my dad's village--
where I belong
and where I don't.

by Alexandra Kostoulas

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