NO HOLDS BARD … The troupe’s tagline is “Theater That Moves.” And it’s true. Their production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Wrights Opera House in Ouray last month was moving and amazing! … I attend Ashland’s Shakespeare productions every year now in Oregon. I’m addicted. They are quite professional, and usually very impressive. Especially for the Bard’s serious dramas … But when it comes to the comedies, give me UpstART anytime. They’re brash, irreverent, saucy and as fast-paced as they are improvisational. It’s been years since I remember laughing so much or so hard at a staged show. And that with no props. Sometimes with minimal or even no costumes … How does director John Kissingford maintain the conceit of Elizabethan performances for his audiences? By giving his amateur players license to ham it up, seize the moment with ready improv and have an obviously great time performing. This is Shakespeare as broad farce, not canonical theater. It’s comedy for the groundlings. Even if the Bard’s poetry is sometimes odd to our ears and hard to grok, the wild action carries it … Plus, Kissingford takes us back to the original performance tricks of Shakespeare’s day. Actors would get their roles sometimes the night before the play. In fact the word “role” comes from the stick and paper rolls the actors carried in the play, which had their cues and lines (reproducing the whole script was far too costly in the days before machines) … As it was, the only prop for this show was Kate Kissingford’s table, working as she was as her own comedic character – the visible prompter at the back of the stage, imperiously feeding lines to actors if they forgot or missed them. Instead of paralyzing the action with obvious unintentional missteps, the actors absorbed the prompts and sailed on, or made us all laugh with asides at their forgettings. Mistakes called no untoward attention to themselves – they became part of the hilarity … I could go on and on about UpstART, name all the wonderful actors, praise them up and down. But the sad news is you missed it. They only did one weekend of shows, and it’s over … So, next year, when you learn about UpstART and Wrights Opera doing Shakespeare, grab your tickets right away. This was the second Shakespeare production I’ve seen as interpreted by the Kissingfords and both have been equally amazing. I can’t wait for the next one.
TELLURIDE MUSHROOM FESTIVAL … The monsoons have started a week or two earlier this year, which is a great sign. For the last ten years we’ve moved the festival earlier a week in the summer to avoid conflicts with earlybird Burners (those attending Burning Man). And the monsoons and the mushrooms (the two go hand in hand) seem to be creeping up in time with the changing climate … Reports of choice edibles in Colorado started coming in in the middle of last month … But, I get it. You have no idea how to identify such changeable critters in the field. My advice? It’s all free: drive up from the south stopping to pick mushrooms in the forests on your way to Telluride Saturday the morning of Aug. 17th. Arrive in Telluride just after noon or so. Park at Carhenge for the day. Take the shuttle up to Elks Park on Main Street. Bring your field collection (but not in suffocating plastic bags) and get our festival Identification experts to tell you what you’ve found (some of which may be edible) … And then, if you have the time, and you brought the kids (or not), you can hang around in Elks Park for free sign-making and costume-assembling workshops in time for our 4 p.m. Mushroom Parade from Elks Park to Town Park and back, followed by a djembe jam and dance on the grass … Check on-line to learn about speakers, workshops, forays, etc. It’s our 39th year (I did miss one of them in 1983, but I’ve been there every year for 38 of the 39 years). That’s more consecutive attendance than anything else I’ve ever done in my life … We Love Mushrooms!
GRAND VALLEY LIT FEST … Hoping to get Denver Poet Laureate Emeritus Chris Ransick to join us from Oregon to receive the Karen Chamberlain award for long service to the poetry world of Colorado and for works of craft and wisdom. Aug. 8-9-10. Crested Butte one day, Gunnison the next. First year event. Logistics shaping up.
THE KEEPERS … If you haven’t seen the Netflix series about one story of child abuse, a nun’s murder and the conspiracy on the part of the Catholic hierarchy in the Diocese of Baltimore, Maryland, to intentionally hide the facts (in at least one alleged instance involving the outright lying by sitting Bishop Malooly of Wilmington, Delaware, when he was a monsignor under Cardinal Keeler). The film exposes what it is hard not to believe was an intentional cover-up perpetuated by local law enforcement, government officials and the Roman Catholic Church. As a former RC seminarian, I am ashamed and horrified by these kinds of terrible injustices perpetrated by the very clergy I believed at one time to all be holy men of God … And this is just one case. In Pennsylvania alone the abuse of over 1000 children by some 300 priests over the course of 70 years was uncovered by a grand jury last year and reported in the New York Times … Especially if you’re a Catholic, you need to watch this series.
ANCIENT CANNABIS … The first physical evidence of Cannabis use has turned up high in the mountains of Western China, according to recent news reports. Chemical analysis of wooden incense burners from a 2,500-yearold tomb in the Pamir Mountains – adjacent the Himalayas and known in Victorian times as the “Roof of the World” – turned up residues of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Study co-author Dr. Yimin Yang of the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, suggests the burners were used in mortuary rituals in which participants would place heated stones in the wooden braziers and cover them with Cannabis leaves. The resultant smoke, he says, was likely used “to communicate with nature or spirits or deceased people, accompanied by music” … The residue tested for high levels of THC, suggesting the plants may have been cultivated, since wild strains tend to have lower levels.
Art Goodtimes writes from San Miguel County, Colo.