Catch 22 :: Theater Schemeater

I started reading Catch-22, but only made it about half-way through the book. I just couldn’t finish. So when the play came along I was excited to approach the quasi-classic work in a different medium.

I wouldn’t describe this show as enjoyable. Not that there aren’t things to like it, or that it was directly enjoyable, but it certainly didn’t make “enjoyable”. The experience is worthwhile from a more intellectual approach. The story reminds me of one of those puzzles where triangles are nested in triangles and they ask: how many triangles are in this picture? The plot is full of allusions and interconnections, I’m sure much more than even those I did catch.

Catch 22 doesn’t have any directly traditional plot progression, but is more like a series of observations, presented for exploration. Catch 22 presents many of the absurdities of life. It’s almost a study in contradiction.

Set at a WWII airbase, Yossarian doesn’t want fly any more bombing missions, because he’s afraid he might be killed. He tries to get the doctor to send him home on a rule which says that crazy people must be sent home.
However, by recognizing his inherent danger and wanting to go be sent home, he proves his sanity and must stay. This is a catch-22, and the play is full of them.

As far as Theater Schemeter was involved, they did a great job. I love their theater–it’s a small, intimate space, with seating around the edge of the room level with the actors. Everyone has first or second row seats. The actors did subtle a number of times on lines which required fast delivery for effect, lessening the impact. At times in the play I felt lost, like we had lost too much in the editing from book to script and were missing something. They used the space well, and the actors did an excellent job of switching between their often multiple roles.

Walden :: Henry David Thoreau

I don’t think I’ve ever read a book where some parts were so good and the rest was so bad. I had read excerpts of Walden as part of an English class in school, but must have read with a school-assignment mentality, as nothing really stuck with me. A couple years later I came across a quote from the book, which quote I absolutely adore(d). This single paragraph inspired me to pick up the book and read the entire thing. I have included this section, as well as a few other highlights, below.

Sure enough, parts of the book, where Thoreau waxes philosophical (or extensional), are absolutely amazing. The rest of the book… it’s pretty boring. True to subtitle, Walden is an account of Thoreau’s two years living in the woods by Walden pond. He takes an encyclopedic approach to journaling his experiences. The chapter titles often describe exactly the topic he is relating at the moment: “Visitors,” “The Bean-Fields,” “The Pond in Winter.” He spends pages and pages describing in excruciating detail the travelers who stopped to visit him, accounting for every half-penny he spent in cultivating his crops, and the nature of the bubbles in the ice covering the pond.

I recommend only a few chapters from Walden, “Economy,” “Where I Lived, and What I Lived For,” “Higher Laws,” and the “Conclusion.” The rest of the chapters are nearly identical in their mundaneness.

At the beginning of the book I made some assumptions about how the story ended, witch thankfully turned out to be wrong. By no means was Thoreau’s return to civilization related to, or indication of, any sort of failure in his experiment. In keeping with his goals, he writes “I left the woods for as good a reason as I went there. Perhaps it seemed to me that I had several more lives to live, and could not spare any more time for that one.”

Included in my copy of Walden was Thoreau’s essay “Civil Disobedience.” Thoreau is thrown in jail for tax evasion, and writes about his experiences. This is an excellent piece, challenging all traditional points of view. It opens the mind to new ways of thinking and an entirely new worldview.

The millions are awake enough for physical labor; but only one in a million is awake enough for effective intellectual exertion, only one in a hundred millions to a poetic or divine life. To be awake is to be alive. I have never yet met a man who was quite awake. How could I have looked him in the face?

We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn, which does not forsake us in our soundest sleep. I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavor. It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look, which morally we can do. To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts. Every man is tasked to make his life, even in its details, worthy of the contemplation of his most elevated and critical hour. If we refused, or rather used up, such paltry information as we get, the oracles would distinctly inform us how this might be done.

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.

If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.

However mean your life is, meet it and live it; do not shun it and call it hard names. It is not so bad as you are. It looks poorest when you are richest. The fault-finder will find faults even in paradise. Love your life, poor as it is. You may perhaps have some pleasant, thrilling, glorious hours, even in a poorhouse. The setting sun is reflected from the windows of the almshouse as brightly as from the rich man’s abode; the snow melts before its door as early in the spring.

(Thoreau, Henry David. Walden.)

Valentine :: Pacific Northwest Ballet

I was a little apprehensive going to this show; after all it is ballet. Over the years I was at BYU the ballet numbers at world of Dance did grow on me, but not tons. I didn’t know how well I would do with a full length production. The program description I saw on the Seattle Center website sounded interesting, however; suspended areal dancers and electric violins didn’t sound like your typical Swan Lake. And I wasn’t disappointed. This was a repertory piece, rather than a full-length, which means the show is comprised of a number of shorter performances, rather than the entire evening showcasing one piece. I was surprised to read in the program notes:

“These four exciting works make up what is known as a mixed repertory program. A ballet such as The Sleeping Beauty is known as a full-length. Full-length productions make money at the box office and mixed repertory programs do not. Why? Name recognition: Swan Lake, Cinderella, Coppelia, Nutcracker. Compare those names with the names of the four works you are seeing in this program. Swan Lake versus “Four Ballets You’ve Never Herd Of.” (Peter Boal, Artistic Director)

I’m just the opposite. I prefer a variety of shorter pieces over just one long one. You get to see and experience more. Huh.

All four pieces performed were contemporary, as opposed to classical, which I think helped me relate. They all showed influences of modern and other styles of dance.

Ancient Airs and Dances was the work closest to traditional ballet; it was fun noticing the contemporary influences and seeing how they blended.

Sure enough, Kiss was performed by two dancers suspended by 45 foot ropes. They could touch the ground, but the harnesses allowed a different type of movement than can normally be experienced. It sounds like a cool idea, and it is. I can just imagine how fun it would be experimenting with the concept during the original choreographic process, and accolades to all who try new things. Interestingly enough, the setup also limits what a dancer can do.

Red Angels was a nice combination of modern and ballet. It’s fun seeing what ballet training can do.

Nine Sinatra Songs showcased seven couples dancing to different Frank Sinatra songs. Each accentuated a different attitude and emotion, from classy to comic. It was neat experiencing the contrasting, accentuated, personalities of the dancers and the songs.

For those who doesn’t know, all PNB shows are preceded by a lecture which introduces and gives some background for the evenings performance, and followed by a question and answer session with the director and some of the dancers. Both are free with your ticket, and give additional substance and meaning to the evening. I recommend them both.

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