The things I'll do for a post! I've dragged myself through hellish evening heat (summer's up and running in DC) to the Scena Theatre at the Arts Club of Washington to attend a Bloomsday event: a dramatic reading of selections from James Joyce's works.
The Arts Club is a block from my office at George Washington University, but until now I didn't know it existed. It's in a townhouse I've walked by a hundred times on my way to Primi Piatti, a popular upscale New York-style restaurant that has everything but good food.
The little theater isn't ready for us yet, so we've all been sent upstairs to drift among lugubrious rooms with dingy carpets and random portraits. No central air up here, so each room's fitted with a noisy portable. Cobwebs hang from pleated lampshades. UD feels an urge to glide about reciting that Amy Lowell poem...
I walk down the garden paths,
And all the daffodils
Are blowing, and the bright blue squills.
I walk down the patterned garden-paths
In my stiff, brocaded gown....
Oh, okay. First floor has real air conditioning. Goody. And now we've been ushered into the theater, where we sit on cute, uncomfortable wooden chairs. ... Do I know anyone here? Does anyone know me? We're all hardcore Joyceans...
Greetings from Irish and Swiss embassy representatives... Irish music's being piped in... Actors in black - one done up as a priest - wander in and take their own little white seats on stage.
The effect of these various actors with their various accents reciting a pretty random mix of letters, poems, and prose is chaotic, even for me, and I can identify pretty much every excerpt. One guy does a good job with the hellfire sermon priest in Portrait, although the shrieking and then muttering madman he makes him isn't really what's described in the text... As he evokes the fires of hell it seems to me he's describing late June weather in Washington... The woman who does the inevitable last paragraph of Molly Bloom's soliloquy makes her final YES a full-throated orgasm...
The Irish embassy has set out a beautiful buffet for afterwards (DC, land of embassies holding catered receptions, can feed you for free for most of your life if you're presentable and know where to go), but UD's not a very sociable sort, and she leaves at the end of the performance, astounded again, as she is year after year after year, that the temperature doesn't really drop in these parts even after ten pm.
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