A Stage in Life: Yawn

Here’s a photo unearthed by my friend Rick Schilling, who has been going through the Theater and Dance dept. archives at Youngstown and discovered this among the treasures the other day. It’s me as Thomas Mendip in Christopher Fry’s The Lady’s Not for Burning, a comedy set in medieval times, and written in the 1940s in blank verse. I played a soldier so brought down by the horrors of humanity that he wishes to be hanged. It was some of the most polysyllabic dialog I uttered among the 20 or so roles I played during my college years, both at University Theater and the local playhouse. This was one of my favorite roles, though I didn’t really grasp much of it till later, as I looked back on the speeches and dialog, some of which I remember to this day.

Here’s the dialog from this scene (Nicholas was played by Paul Ryan Byrne, Humphrey by Mark Passerrello):

NICHOLAS:
Our Mother isn’t
Pleased.

HUMPHREY:
She has never learnt to yawn,
And so she hasn’t the smallest comprehension
Of those who can.

THOMAS:
Benighted brothers in boredom
Let us unite ourselves in a toast of ennui,
I give you a yawn: to this evening, especially remembering
Mrs. Cartwright. [Yawn] To mortal life, women,
All government, wars, art, science, ambitions
And the entire fallacy of human emotions!

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Fun With Fireworks

My birthday is the Eve of Independence Day, so I share fireworks with the nation. This year, I spent the evening of my birthday in Milwaukee, which has the longest fireworks display in the midwest (clocking in at almost exactly an hour long) and presents them on July 3rd rather than the 4th.

Using some of the creative ideas I gathered from a workshop the previous weekend, I tried to re-envision the fireworks, turning my expensive Canon camera and lenses into a spirograph. I used combinations of long exposure, camera movement and the zoom (along with a heck of a lot of serendipity) to paint abstract images of color and light. Here are a few of the frames.

Being the Leprechaun: A Weekend Photography Workshop with Eddie Soloway

This weekend, I gave myself an early birthday present and attended a workshop led by photographer Eddie Soloway, whose exquisite photo work in nature is spiritual, painterly, impressionistic and deeply moving.

Through a series of exercises, Eddie got us (me and about 17 other photographers) to think more creatively and see things in ways I hadn’t since I was a child — using our eyes and ears (and a little card on a stick, called a shadowcatcher, to capture new umbral views) and crouching down lower and reaching higher for different and surprising angles on otherwise ordinary things. In one of my favorite of Eddie’s frames — a toadstool, isolated in the forest — he said he wanted to view a mushroom not as it would appear in a field guide to fungi, but as it would to a leprechaun stumbling across it in the forest. I learned I can hang with the leprechauns.

For an assignment yesterday, Eddie asked us to focus on Millennium Park — where I’ve been hanging out a lot this summer, attending concerts at the Grant Park Festival in the soaring Frank Gehry-designed Pritzker Pavilion. He asked us to apply the creative ways of thinking we had discussed and learned earlier that day. Here are the six frames I submitted for review in the class this morning (plus the two that are larger in this post – I can’t figure out in WordPress how to get them to not go in the automated slideshow).

I did long exposures on lilies, discovered a reflection of the city in a polished titanium column, and played in the water of the Crown Fountain, a water, light and video projection installation designed by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa.

Today, in the parking lot at the workshop venue, we were given another assignment. I was given a strip of paper with the following phrase: “While running near the water, everything suddenly became a blur.” Luckily, a storm had passed through a half hour before, so there were puddles and reflections in the mid-day sun. I asked my workshop buddy Kevin to leap across one of the puddles while I composed a shot through my eyeglasses.

Eddie gives a great deal of thought to his photos, testing ideas and planning — even for a few minutes — his approach to an image. “Playfulness brings you to an idea,” he said in one of his final sessions today, “thoughtfulness lets you perfect it.”

I feel energized, with lots to think about next time I put lenses (on cameras or in horn-rimmed frames) in front of my eyes.