Monday, June 21, 2010

solstice, a theatre memory, and fireflies

It's time for a little mid-summer madness. Huh? you say?
Well, summer solstice arrived (northern hemisphere) at 7:28am.

Which means summer has officially begun. Today is also known as "Mid-Summer's Day".(edit - see comments)
It's a good day and night for rowdy parties, dancing around campfires (go ahead, jump over the fire - you know you want to), collecting St. John's Wort and flowers, and Celebrating Life in general. The veils between worlds are thin just now (i.e. Shakespeare's "Midsummer Night's Dream" ).

Speaking of that play, in 1982 the New York Shakespeare Festival and the Public Theatre presented a wonderful production at the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park, NYC.
The Delacorte is an open air amphitheatre with Turtle Pond and the Belvedere Castle as backdrops. Tickets are free, and the line to get them usually forms around 9am. It is, or should be, part of everyone's New York experiences.

For this production, a "living stage" was created with trees, ferns, flowers & other plant life, varied terrain, a small brook, etc. The effect was magical. It starred Christine Baranski as a most excellent Helena and a very young William Hurt as Oberon. For the entry of the faeries, the costumes were of faerie spirits from around the world. I adored it. James Lapine directed, and it was taped live by Emile Ardolino. Broadcast on the Arts & Entertainment network and possibly PBS, it was released once on VHS and has since vanished. On one of my earliest betamax tapes, I managed to record that scene - and played it many times, for myself and my friends. I've spent hours searching for video or pictures to put here. I found exactly one picture of the set - in Black and white and taken from the highest seats. Maybe I shouldn't find anything better - this way I can keep the nice memories unchallenged and not remember how much I wanted to beat both William Hurt and Marcell Rosenblatt (as Puck) around the head with a heavy pipe.

So, go out into the new summer's day or night, and celebrate.
And with any luck, you might spot a few fireflies. I haven't seen a single one yet this year - which makes me kind of sad. There used to be so many... (The Boston Museum of Science holds yearly firefly watches to document their first sightings and their yearly decline.)

When I was a kid in the 1950's early summer evenings were spent collecting fireflies. Just about every kid did it back then. We'd get a big jar, punch holes in the lid for air, capture as many as we could, and watch them blink and glow all night in our rooms. It was lovely and wonderful. But they usually died by morning. It was an early lesson in appreciating the fleeting nature of beauty.


crashstlmo said...

A minor quibble. Whitsunday was May 23.

sdt said...

Why yes, dear sir, so it 'twas, so it 'twas.
Thank you for the correction, my goodfellow.