Monday, March 9, 2009

Notes from the Other Side of the World

My time here in Baguio City is coming to an end. I would have updated more but I had some considerable trouble logging into Blogger.com and at one point found the site translated into various languages including German. We've taken several day trips. The first of which was a week ago. We traveled several hours north along the coastline to the city of Vigan, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site as it maintains one of the only Mestizo cities in the Philippines to evade total devastation from Japanese bombers during the Second World War. As enticing as it sounds, the city is in total disrepair. Most of the buildings that are considered ancient are in great need of repair and maintenance, looking more as if it were recently uncovered than an actual heritage site. In fact, the best looking building in town is the McDonald's which is housed in a converted Spanish style villa.

The next day we stopped up at the beach down the hill, though that was short-lived. However things were much better when we traveled to a water park complete with natural hot springs. I learned soon afterward the joy of country club living as my brother's took me up to the club house to partake in the jacuzzi, steam room, sauna, etc. Whatever it did, I don't think I've ever felt as clean in my entire life.

The piece d'resistance came on Saturday when we went to the Bolotoc mines, just outside of the town. It was about 10 miles, but given the twists and turns of the mountain roads (occasionally lacking asphalt at that), it took us a good half our to get there. It is an active gold and silver mine that employs several hundred Filipinos who live and work on site. Part of the hour long tour included a 400 meter trek inside one of the inactive tunnels. In an attempt to give us the most realistic experience possible, we are forced to wear mining helmets and knee high rubber boots. Quite possible the high point of our excursions this entire trip was the moment they detonated half a stick of dynamite 150 meters away from us while were inside the mine. We sat in a protected alcove called the miner's lunchroom where the miner's take their midday meal in total darkness as they blast. The concussion of the blast is one of those adrenaline inducing experiences that help preserve the memory of the trip. My brothers and I recounted that you could not do anything like that in the US.

As we wrap up here, my brothers and father golf while I get sent bowling with my mother and my sister-in-law's mother and sister. There are none of the mechanics you find in the US. There is one man behind the alley, who sets up the pins after each set and sends the balls back up the lane. There is another man who sits and keeps score. There are no bowling shoes (trust me, something you never want to do in sandals) and you get three tries. Things got off to a great start when Mom-in-law hit the pin-man with the bowling ball on the first time out.

We leave for the area near the airport tomorrow morning. We say goodbye to my nephew and my sister-in-law's gracious and hospitable family. We go around to Subic Bay, where my father was once stationed in the Marines back from '59-61 and then I get to do the reverse of my first trip. Let's hear it for another 15 hours in the Seoul-Incheon airport.

So much has gone on in the theatre world since I have left. We've had openings, deaths, announcements; life goes on, as it always does. Phylicia Rashad will be donning the teal pajamas of Violet Weston in August: Osage County starting on May 26. I am curious as to whether it's going to be colorblind casting or if they will pull a David Merrick/Hello, Dolly! casting coup and recast the entire show with an all-African American cast. It will be interesting to see how it all turns out: either way I think it will be interesting. (Though improbable there is a part of me that just wants to see James Earl Jones deliver Beverly Weston's opening monologue to Kim Guerrero). Speaking of August, I had the privilege to go to the theatre with my good friend Steve on Broadway for the first time prior to leaving and see A:OC for the fifth time. Unexpectedly we found ourselves seeing the understudies for both Violet and Barbara. Susanne Marley was angrily acerbic as the pill-poppin' matron, molded very much in the vitriolic mold of Deanna Dunagan. Dee Pelletier gave a strong performance as Barbara, if less a force of nature than Amy Morton. The real draw to see the show again was the inclusion of that stage legend Elizabeth Ashley stepping into the gaudy (new!) shoes of Mattie Fae. She was everything you would hope she'd be in the part. Though we bloggers have seen the original cast and have our impressions tempered by that unstoppable energy, the play remains a vibrant piece for first-timers who were wholly engrosssed in the experience. (On a side note: as I predicted British legend Margaret Tyzack won the Best Actress Olivier award for her performance in The Chalk Garden, besting Ms. Dunagan).

Horton Foote is nothing short of a national treasure. Though his list of credits goes on and on - I did have the privilege of seeing Mr. Foote at the opening night of Dividing the Estate this past November - for me, his most impressionable work is his Oscar-winning screenplay for the film adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird. His work is paramount to the success of the film, which is one of the most faithful film adaptations I've ever seen of any novel (which is one of my all-time favorite books). My high school drama teacher always made it a point to stop the movie in his English classes after Atticus Finch delivers his courtroom summation and announce to every class "That speech alone is enough to win any actor the Academy award." A testament to Foote's humanity and ingenuity as a writer. One of the most devastating scenes in film history is that moment when a silent yet dignified Finch slowly packs up his briefcase and exits the courtroom as the black community in the balcony rise in tribute. (I get chills just thinking about it). Foote passed away last week at the age of 92, living a full and rich life as America's most prolific writers right up until the very end. We are blessed to have had him around to enrich us with his wisdom and pathos for so many years.

On a final note. My aforementioned pal Steve on Broadway has decided to hang up his blogger's pen and go into semi-retirement. Instead of mourning the loss of his enriching columns, I will celebrate the insight he has given us for three years now. I am glad I am able to consider him a friend and look forward to meeting up with him when he comes to town to share in our usual brunches and theatre-going adventures.

I look forward to getting back to NY and getting back to the theatre. I hope to see you there!

1 comment:

miles said...

AHHH COME BACK KEVIN!!!