Over the past week:
- The 80 or so people in the audience today at Epiphany Church were treated to a wonderful solo piano concert by Jocelyn Swigger, currently an associate professor at Gettysburg College. She played 15 Chopin etudes, starting with the later “Nouvelle Etudes” and finishing with the 12 etudes in Opus 25. Not only did she play remarkably well, but before she started Opus 25, she gave a capsule rundown of each of the pieces, explaining why they were named “Aeolian Harp”, “The Bees”, “The Horseman”, etc., and demonstrating the main themes of each. So it was a learning experience as well as a teaching experience, and Swigger (called in her short bio a “musical omnivore” who plays old, new, classical, jazz and rock piano and is now teaching herself the ukulele) excelled at both.
- Sunday night, we went to the final performance of Dan O’Brien’s “The Body of an American” at Theater J. Extraordinary (and very demanding and technically difficult) acting by Eric Hissom and Thomas Keegan. The play won a major award in 2013, but I must say that, although I appreciated the complexity of the dialogue between the two, role-shifting actors, I must admit to not really caring for the play. 100 minutes (10-15 too many?) of very intense interaction between the playwright (one of the actors portrays O’Brien) and war photographer Paul Watson, the story is a true one, based on the actual relationship of the two as O’Brien decided to write a play about Watson. But apparently the only play he could write about him was a play about wanting to write the play. It did leave me unsatisfied.
- Yesterday lunchtime, I was at the Mary Pickford Theater of the Library of Congress to hear a program based on the accomplishments of Jacob Riis, New York based Danish-American journalist and social reformer of the late 19th century. The accomplished presenter was Barbara Yochelson, art historian and author of a recent book on Riis, a coffee table book which looked very enticing. Riis was a journalist, who for years had the night time police beat in New York and got to know impoverished New York as few middle class residents could have. He wanted to tell the story of the immigrants and decided that one way to do this was use photography. He was not a professional photographer – he never worked in a dark room – and he used the photography of others as well as his own, but is considered by some as the pioneer founder of documentary, journalistic photography. After over twenty years as a reporter, he became a popular lecturer, and he had time to write 13 books, a couple of which were best sellers. Half of her lecture was given to Riis himself and half to the process of putting together not only the book but a major exhibit at the LOC through the summer (which I did not have a chance to see, as it is in a different building), which was equally interesting.
- Last Thursday, we saw, in preview, “The Taming of the Shrew” at the Shakespeare Theatre. A entertaining, but somewhat different version, with contemporary music, an all-male cast, and more comedic elements than usual. But Kate herself (himself) was less shrewish than I am used to – this had to be intentional. The play is still being modified before its official opening – it was running over 3 hours. We will see what they finally do with it.