Thursday, March 23, 2017

Destination: Cairo

Changing planes in Frankfurt, Germany where two hours rushing through the beeeg (sic) terminal were almost not enough time to catch our next flight to Cairo (having to go through security again). The experience at Dulles last night was not nearly so bad.  The employees smiled (shock) and were right friendly/photo by Patricia Leslie
Update: Look!  Look! Blurry lights and an impressionist painting taken from the shuttle bus in Cairo on the way to the hotel which has security entrances with dogs and inspections of vehicles under and over, large gates, magnetometers, and x-rays of possessions.  I later learned (and observed) the Egyptian government supplies guards with AK-47s to accompany tourists whenever tourists are out in public.  We always felt safe. Pictures to come!/photo by Patricia Leslie
Look! Look!  Cairo has more traffic than DC, more people, too!  On the way to the hotel on this bus, I fell on top of the tour guide while searching the floor for my IPad when the bus driver had to suddenly lurch to a stop.  (He was very cute.  The tour guide.  I never saw the driver from my perch at the back of the bus.)  This was after the tour guide almost sent out a search party for me at the Cairo airport when I lagged and didn't show up.  Man!  I was at the back of the plane and we know how fast it is getting off when you're in the tail.  Claire says Egypt is a third world country, and I said "no way," laying on these luxurious Egyptian sheets in this palatial hotel, the Fairmont on the banks of the Nile River.  More to come!/photo by Patricia Leslie 

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Reston's 'Rock of Ages' rocks all night

The cast of Rock of Ages by the Reston Community Players/photo by Traci J. Brooks

Run and get tickets to this fantastic show by the Reston Community Players on stage at the Reston Community Center.

It is so much fun, I loved, loved, loved it and would see Rock of Ages again. It's like a great book which you don't want to end. How many plays can you say that about?

From the get-go, Rock leaps from the runway and soars into the night sky. If you like 80s music or even if you don't, or can't remember any (I heard two 70-something gents say they were unfamiliar with the tunes, but they liked what they saw), this is a show you won't forget. (Or doze through.)

Were my dad still around (age 102 this month), he would have wanted to see it every night. (Read on.) Except for children and prudes, it's appropriate for all ages.

Ben Peter is woman killer and rock star Stacee Jaxx in Rock of Ages by the Reston Community Players/photo by Traci J. Brooks

Besides great music by Styx, Journey, Bon Jovi, Pat Benatar, Twisted Sister, Steve Perry, Poison and Europe and others, Rock is loaded with lots of simulated sex, raunchy moves (!), strippers' apparel and adult language.

A quintet of super-talented musicians assembled just for the show by Director Joshua Redford play from center stage throughout the performance, but their presence does not dominate, and their figures blend nicely in the background.

The standout in this band crowd is the electric guitarist, Noah Dail, who reminded me of Slash and was chosen by Mr. Redford on a tip, he told me at the after-party.

Alone, Mr. Dail (age 17) is a show unto himself, but ROA has a plot beyond the presentation of Mr. Dail's fantastic guitar-playing abilities.

It's "glam metal" 80s music set to a romance (natch, says the energetic and persuasive narrator, Brett Harwood as Lonny Barnett) between a gal (Claire O'Brien Jeffrey who is Sherrie) on a journey to acting stardom in Hollywood (ho hum), but a few detours crop up along the way, like a new boyfriend (Russell Silber is Drew Boley), a new "career," and a hot rock star sure to grab (ahem) any gal's attention. (Ben Peter is Stacee Jaxx whose role and performance I absolutely adored.)

The antagonists are Brent Stone and Richard Farella, who play the greedy developer and son, Hertz and Franz, seeking to disrupt real estate and the bar business. Both are realistic, and Franz almost brings down the house when he "changes." ("I'm not gay; I'm just German.")

The best vocalists IMO were Joey Olson who is Dennis Dupree, the angelic owner of the bar, and Bruni Herring, the madam of the house, whose stage name here is Justice. (Right.)

Carole Steele, the costume designer, expertly dresses the performers in 80s garb, and hair and makeup designers, Kat Brais and Molly Hicks Larson, deserve equal praise.

Director Redford's smarts show with his choice of professional pole dancers (Tara Leigh Willis and Erin Reese) whose dancing is hard to escape and sometimes detracts from the script with their twists, turns, and upside-down antics to make it look, oh, so easy. (Sure.)

The setting (by Dan Widerski) is mostly in a bar, and stale beer smells seem to waft through the hall, giving you a taste of how the production encapsulates the audience.  

The scenery can be a little too cluttered with all the actors, musicians, and action, but its transitions to a bathroom (a riotous scene), dock, house of ill repute, and other places smoothly convey.

Rock has something for everyone: music, heteros, homos, an infusion of religion for those in need, and, of course, dancing (by Chris Dore who also acts and with Farella, is the projection designer).

Thank goodness, there were no audience sing-alongs on opening night.

One mistake we made was passing up the lighters the ushers offer before show time. Take them! You'll be glad you did. A nice touch.

But decline the ear plugs which are not needed since the music will not blast you off your Rocker (but the show just might).

No wonder it's tied with Man of La Mancha for being Broadway's 28th longest running show. (Rock played there from 2009 to 2015.)

The book is by Chris D’Arienzo.

Other cast and crew members are Erich DiCenzo, Kristin Renee Reeves, Evie Korovesis, Kendall Mostafavi, and Philip Smith-Cobbs, Jenny Girardi, and Melrose Pyne.

Matt Jeffrey is music director and also plays the keyboard, Jocelyn Steiner, is the producer,

Colleen Stock, stage manager; Sara Birkhead, technical director; Jan Claar, lighting; Seth Sacher, sound; Mary Jo Ford, properties; Jennifer Lambert, set decoration; and Cathy Rieder, set painting.

Other musicians are David Smigielski, guitarist; Christopher Willett, bass; and on drums, Matt Robotham.

Thank you to the Arts Council of Fairfax County for partial funding.


Ages: Not recommended for those under age 15.

Who: Reston Community Players

What: Rock of Ages

When: 2 p.m., March 19 and 26, 2017, and 8 p.m., March 24-25, March 31 and April 1.

Where: Reston Community Center, 2310 Colts Neck Road, Reston, VA 20191

How much: $25, adults; $21, students and seniors

Tickets: Buy online, at the box office, or call 703-476-4500 and press 3 for 24-hour ticket orders.

Language: A few F-bombs and more dirty slang drop every now and then.

Attention: Strobe lights and haze are used.

Duration: A little over two hours with one 20 minute intermission.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Dutch have extended their stay at the National Gallery of Art

Govert Flinck, Dutch (1615 – 1660), The Governors of the Kloveniersdoelen, 1642, oil on canvas
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, loaned from the City of Amsterdam
Bartholomeus van der Helst, Dutch (1613 – 1670), The Governors of the Kloveniersdoelen, 1655
oil on canvas, Amsterdam Museum

Update:  The Dutch will stay through August 31, 2017!  Thank you, Dutch!

Earlier I had written:  It is with great sadness that I report that the handsome men pictured above have left the West Building at the National Gallery of Art where they have been in residence for the last five years.  (Now, you can still see them and swoon!)

As they moved from gallery to gallery, place to place, sometimes on opposite walls, sometimes together during their reign, I followed them, a groupie of 17th century Dutch Golden Age men!

They, like magnets to see their confidence, their bravura, their looks of invitation (the youngers), or, at least, that's the way I liked to interpret their expressions, all the while noting their similarities and differences and finding something new each time I dropped in for a visit.  

They welcomed me!  

They liked me! What fun it all was.  And yet, quoting Chaucer here, all good things must come to an end [of a relationship].

What can I tell you about these beguiling men? 

They were among Amsterdam's elite, all but one of them members at various times of the city council, who were also "governors" of the headquarters of the Kloveniers, one of city's three militia companies. Three were burgomasters (mayors).  Several were related by "strategic marriages."  

In the painting on the bottom is a woman on the right believed to be Geertruyd Nachtglas, who was the administrator of the Kloveniersdoelen, the militia's building, which is the setting for both pieces.  Ms. Nachtglas was appointed to her position after the death of her father (in the first painting, holding the drinking horn) and who, I believe, held the position prior to his daughter.

The works were painted 13 years apart by two classical Dutch artists: Govert Flinck, (1615 – 1660), and Bartholomeus van der Helst, (1613 – 1670). 

Both Flinck and van der Helst were "two of the most renowned portraitists of their time," says the handsome color brochure. Flinck trained under Rembrandt in the early 1630s and like his teacher, "specialized in both history paintings and fashionable portraiture."

To stand and study these works was always of immense pleasure during each visit, and subsequent trips to their residencies always revealed new "finds."

Look at their grandeur!  The majesty.  I tell you clothes make the man.  I still prefer a dressed-up man (tie) to the casual appearances most sport nowadays like he is on a perpetual trip to a soccer match.

But where was I?  

In the first, the painting on top, Flinck captures the more serious tones, expressions, and clothing of his gentlemen, including ghostly complexions of the dead. Blood flows more rapidly in the youngers below, illustrated by their ruddy flesh tones.

In the top, the men looking at the viewer seem sad, wistful, expressions absent from the second.  They seem distracted and weary.  Life is a long journey!  They exude the baggage they carry in their stern faces.  "Now, it's your turn."

The younger men seem to be having a better time, and look!  On the right are women. Clothing styles have changed.

Note the importance of the hands in both works, and how the artists emphasized them with light. See their gestures and the central figures in each, how each turns around to address the viewer, the man in the second who seems to say: "What are you doing here?  You want to join us?  You have news?" 

What does the pointing to the viewer's right mean?

These are but two of 135 known Dutch militia portraits created by artists in the Netherlands' Golden Age during the 16th and 17th centuries. The National Gallery's Henrietta de Bruyn Kops, who wrote the brochure, said at the exhibition's opening, that the men were "movers and shakers" of the Dutch Republic, "really big men."

Her Excellency Renee Jones-Bos, then the ambassador of the Netherlands to the U.S., who also spoke at the opening, called the "friendship between the two countries, enormous," which, no doubt, helped bring about their loan to the U.S.  (Dear Netherlands, we are exceedingly grateful!)

Which leads me to wonder that, with warmer relations between the leaders of Russia and the U.S., perhaps we can pursue loans from the Hermitage and vice-versa.  Maybe? 

What does this all mean?  Whatever you want it to mean, including the words of English poet Robert Herrick (1591-1674) writing in 1648 about the same time as the paintings "To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time"  which has its basis in Ausonius or Virgil, and Horace (my high school English teacher would be so proud):
Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today
To-morrow will be dying.

The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,
The higher he's a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
And nearer he's to setting.

That age is best which is the first,
When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
Times still succeed the former.

Then be not coy, but use your time,
And, while ye may, go marry:
For having lost but once your prime,
You may forever tarry.
You see what art can do!

Gather Ye rosebuds While Ye May, by John William Waterhouse, (1909)/Wikipedia.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Cartoon idea: Temper Tantrum Trump and Twittybird in the sandbox

Mar-A-Lago, South Elevation showing owner's suite and Baby House, 1100 S. Ocean Blvd., Palm Beach, FL, April, 1967/Photo from Library of Congress, Jack E. Boucher

Now, picture this:

He's in the throes of the Terrible Twos (or is it the Terrible First 100 Days, or, the Terrible First 100 Dazed?)

Whatever it is, he wears only a diaper and sits in his little sandbox, screaming and yelling, his hair flying, his arms flailing, while he tosses overboard many of his new toys (a plastic "Barbie" (aka Kellyanne Conway, in a very short (above knees) white dress while crouched on a sofa), Sean Spicer, Reince, Sessions).

Big tears splash from his eyes and roll down his cheeks, and spoiled Trump screams: "My way!  My way! I want my Twittybird!!" Waa-waa-waa

Secret Service agents in hip sunglasses, suits, crew cuts, all looking alike and holding AK47 rifles, stand nearby and eye Melania lustily.  She is seated under an umbrella in big sunglasses and provocative clothing.

Pecking away at a computer and wearing a hidden earpiece and no shirt, who but Putin, with a sly smile, in a beach chair, on a horse, or under the umbrella with grinning Melania.

The sandbox sits on the shores of Mar-A-Lago, yonder with palm trees standing erect, leaves blowing.

Off the coast a Russian ship (with flag) runs up and down the waters while Russian aircraft hover in the sky.

Standing at the sandbox watching the temper tantrum escalate are Bad Bannon (Grim Reaper per SNL) and Ivanka (in dress suit in heels in the sand) holding the Big Baby's favorite toy, Twittybird.

Says Bannon to the spoiled child: 

"You can have Twittybird back if you promise to behave and not click the Twitty too much! You've already broken your finger, and run down Twitty's battery and since you've thrown away all the environmental rules, we have no batteryless powered Twittys to give you!" 

Ivanka nods in agreement.

(Better punch lines, please write here.)