Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Wedding & honeymoon

It's been waaay too long since I posted here. I only caught a few shows in July, and reviewed Anne Hathaway in Twelfth Night for Metromix (as well as posting regularly on their blog). But I also got married and honeymooned, & that's what left me no time to sit on the Fifth Wall.

Of course, the wedding was a show in itself. Lady Hotspur & I held it at the Hudson Theatre, an old Broadway house that got renovated in the mid-1990s, along with the rest of Times Square. I satisfied Lady Hotspur's lifelong desire for an outdoor wedding by dressing the stage as a NYC park. We borrowed a forest backdrop from MTC, rented some potted trees, laid down astroturf bought at Home Depot (& returned a day later) and swiped a couple chairs from Bryant Park. My sisters-in-law constructed a elegant, simple chuppah. It's the first set I've designed in a decade, & it looked magical!

I enjoyed the mingling of theater and ritual; for me, it took the edge off the more religious aspects of a Jewish wedding. The rabbi helpfully noted drama's origins as a religious observance in her speech. And my friend Sweet Pea reminded me that I'd once hoped for (demanded?) a future when all houses of worship would be repurposed as venues for art.

Post-wedding, Lady Hotspur and I spent ten days in Turkey. We saw no theater, or even a perf of dervishes (more religion refitted as art: originally the whirling was an ecstatic meditation, but now it's more of a region-specific art form). Instead, we marveled at the mosques and mosaics, ate lots of lamb kebab, and read in the hotel courtyard.

When I travel, I like to read lit & history about my destination. So, instead of 50-100 words on recent shows, here's a few paragraphs on books about Turkey:

A Short History of Byzantium (John Julius Norwich)

Short = 500+ pages, but it's still a highly readable history of a 1200-year empire, if slightly fusty & donnish. The maps, genealogies, & tables of emperors & popes help keep the protagonists straight, but it's easier to just go with the flow of decades and centuries. Norwich approaches history traditionally: it's all political factions, pivotal battles and great men (& women too: Byzantium had several empresses), but it describes economic conflicts & cultural movements too. And he's got an eye for drama: the final chapter, on the Ottoman siege of Constantinople, is riveting and emotional.

Istanbul (Orham Pamuk)

The 2003 memoir of Nobelist Pamuk is a portrait of the artist as a young man: his childhood in a post-Ataturk (ie secular, modern) Turkey with a large family that's slowly falling from the upper class. Pamuk adeptly blurs the distinction betw. himself & his hometown, which he characterizes as deeply melancholy and pathetically picturesque. Though it matches my own vibe of Istanbul, I found its tone a bit adolescent in the way the writer romanticized his depression.

Memed, My Hawk (Yashar Kemal)

Kemal's novel was Turkey's entry in the mid-century explosion of international middlebrow lit. It's thoroughly romantic: a indentured scamp takes to brigandage in the Anatolian hills, and becomes a hero to the downtrodden. There's also a love subplot, natch. The okay style lifts the plot above its pulp-fiction cliches and one-dimensional characters. But if you're looking for a realistic depiction of rural Turkey, you won't find it here.