April Seems Only Half As Long As March

Sam Black

For some reason, March always seems to be a very long month. I don’t usually go anywhere, so that would hasten the passing of time. This first extended week of April just disappeared, however. Thursday night brought Georgia poet Coleman Barks to Duluth to share his version of the thirteenth century Persian poet known as Rumi. Friday night I watched Orestes and Elektra argue about life and death at the St. Scholastica Theater. Saturday I witnessed Kari (Mary Fox) and Peter (Zach Stofer) revisit a local park Pavilion after twenty years(at Renegade Theater) and try to understand why the passing of time really does matter. Sunday night I went to Weber Music Hall to listen to Rachel Inselman sing great songs from the middle of the twentieth century, while her mother, Elsie, took charge from the piano. What a cycle this has been!

Since Monday and Tuesday evenings involved dinners surrounding the ancient Pesach/Passover experience, it will soon be Wednesday and I’ll wonder where the week went. Duluth is simply amazing!        

If you actually read the works of Rumi as much as I do, you’ll want to enjoy parts of the efforts of Coleman Barks, if he (or Rumi) has enticed you. Then you’ll want to read the translations by Alan Williams instead. Popularizing Rumi is one thing; translating brilliantly is yet another. The brilliance of Rumi’s thirteenth century embracing of the total life experience is phenomenal. “If you find the mirror of the heart dull, the rust has not been cleared from its face.”

Orestes, Elektra, Kari, and Peter offer intensity without a break

The combination of Helen Edmundson’s play, Orestes: Blood and Light, and Craig Wright’s play, Pavilion, made for an interesting side by side viewing. Up on the St. Scholastica hill, Dawson Ness and Keely Jackson square off, after murdering their mother and her lover. Remember that she - Klytemnestra -  had murdered her husband/their father. For ninety minutes this young pair of siblings wrestle with what they have done and what their fate might be. Ultimately, they murder again, then set the palace on fire as the play comes to a blazing finale. Brother and sister tension has never been so high, as director Shane May chose to push it right to the flaming end. I guess we learn that dysfunctional behavior is not limited to our own generation. Twenty four hundred years ago writers were already trying to define it. Becoming activists for humanity has been elusive for millennia.

Curiously, Kari and Peter, brought together by Wright and director Julie Ahasay, have a pretty intense evening themselves. Even the Pavilion is going to be destroyed, but no one is going to die inside it. Twenty years ago Kari(Mary Fox) and Peter (Zach Stofer) were inseparable. An embarrassing pregnancy/abortion did separate them, however, and we watch them wrestle with the implications. As in the Orestes production, scenery really doesn’t matter much - it’s all about the dialogue. Christa Schulz narrates the evening, and creates several other classmates from twenty years ago. But Stofer and Fox dominate the story. One highlight is a song Peter sings (the other band members not being present). Stofer takes his guitar and sings a ballad about being alone in a ruined world. He and Kari don’t go forward together, but sometimes that’s what life offers.

In a radical change of scene, Rachel Inselman and her mother Elsie took the UMD Weber stage to glorious heights on Sunday evening. Elsie has had a full life of singing and playing, and her daughter is keeping pace, for sure. This Great American Songbook contained familiar songs by Richard Rodgers, Harold Arlen, Kurt Weill, Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, & Jerome Kern. Rachel shared stories about her musical upbringing, and Elsie kept her fingers fully in motion all evening. As an encore, Rachel introduced “I Wonder Why,” a powerful Berlin treat. She sang, then she bumped her Mom off the piano bench and played while Elsie sang, then Mom bumped Rachel out of the way and they finished the song together. It was a beautiful evening, with some fresh rain and a full moon in motion as we headed home. What a great week to live in Duluth!