Sunday, 5 August 2012

17 Days until A Word or Two

What I've learned about Mr P on a personal level? He was (is?) shy, yet over confident. Loved his drink. Seems to always have held the Stratford Festival in highest regard, even if he was blacklisted for 3 seasons from it. He doesn't think velvet (or the over-use of velvet) should be used as costumes or for large hats. And, dressing rooms should always be above water level.

He had a respect for early tv; relatively none for it now. Listen to this:

        pp 121 Those were the early warning signs that this explosive new invention was about to get out of hand and go too far, that one day soon it would tell us how to eat [I have to say it - formula and other junk food], how to dress, how to live. Drunk with power it could dictate policy, bring down corporations, swings elections, toppel governments. Newscasters were turned into opinionated superstars. Nothing would be sacred anymore, neither the dignityof high office nore the sanctity of the ruling classes. All would become an open book - what was caviar to the general was not popcorn for the masses. Today we have become quite accustomed to being fed intravenously with thirdrate dogma; like some insidious germ warfare it all seems painstakingly planned, carefully calculated. Oh, sometiems something fine comes along to momentarily redeem it, but not enough.
                     In the early fifties, however, television promised everything. There was nowhere it couldn├Ęt go; its horizons were limitless. It was also wonderfully brave, young, fresh, even innocent.

Profound.  Mr. P is a seer! Or at his age, 20/20 vision is in perfect focus.

Reading this book for the 3rd time, it astounds me what I missed my first rounds. First - the word "lugubrious" is a delicious-sounding word.

Christopher Plummer writes in the Queen's English. Yes, the "u's" make a difference!

There doesn't seem to be many Old Hollywood types with whom he did not act. The names are familiar to me because my dad would tell me about them, too. He'd tell me about the movies he would see when he was young. Seeing as my dad is only 3 weeks younger than Mr. P, it only makes sense. Perhaps that is why I find some refuge reading this book? If you're a new reader, you should also know that my dad is also French Canadian, but raised in a French neighbourhood, outside of Windsor, Ontario. He had school and church in French. I miss hearing him speak the language to his sisters. I miss him trying to help me read it. I was always a good French student because I wanted to make my dad proud. I sorely regret not keeping it. I can read it ok - which is helpful in this book because I can understand the bits of French Mr. P sneaks in.

Some of, well actually, a lot of Mr. P's break out came from him acting for a year down in Bermuda. He met people who would change his life: Edward Everett Horton and Ruth Chatterton. Mr. Horton gave him a job touring after Bermuda finished, and Ms. Chatterton connected him with the who's who in New York and, most importantly, Jane Broder - his first agent.

Mr. Broder bailed him out of trouble more times than I think even he admits in this book. He not only found him jobs. She paid debts, found him a place to stay - was a Mother Hen to him. It didn't seem she ever made a bad choice for him. My favourite quote of her by him is, "If Jane had ever looked Sin straight in the eye, Sin would have just wilted away, riddled with remorse."  The times I have read this book, I always cry when she passes away. His writing makes us love her, too.

He meets lifelong friend, Roddy McDowall, who Mr. P grew up admiring as a child. At the inaugural season of the American Shakespeare Festival with Jerry Stiller, Jack Palance, and Raymond Massey. Jerry Stiller doing Shakespeare. With my generation growing up with him on Seinfeld, who woulda thunk it?

Pages 161 - 169 is the beginning of our mecca of Canadian Theatre - the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. The town truly rallied behind the dream of Tom Patterson's, "The little maker of miracles."  We are also introduced to Tanya Moiseiwitsch, who left a mark on Stratford (set and costume design). Her stage was set under a circus tent (yes, even built by Skip Manley from Barnum and Bailey Circus) who even kept working to finish the tent when they ran out of money, as did other construction crew members. The Chicago Tribune said, "The Stratford Festival of Canada has been born with a silver spoon in its mouth. The New York Times said, "This is the sort of stage that lovers of Shakespeare have often dreamed about and seldom seen." Not bad for a first season!

For me, Mr. Patterson' vision is what brought me hear, on a magic carpet. If my mom hadn't seen Mr. P in Romeo & Juliet at Stratford while she was in high school, would I be searching out literature for my heart now? Would I be introducing my little ones (8-17) to Shakespeare? Kids4Bard is a success so far. Why? Because most of my children can explain A Midsummer Night's Dream in just a few minutes, longer if you let them use their paper dolls. They can explain Athenian clothes, why Lysander has brighter clothes than Demetrius, why Puck is a silly goofball, and steals the show. Not too bad. Thank you to Lisa and Christi at Stratford for forwarding our questions to Stratford cast members who do Q&A's on facebook. They are helping us immensely!

I decided after we 'finish' a Shakespeare play, we will pull out a book from A Word or Two to read, starting with Steven Leacock. My kids, especially the older ones, will love that!





The question is, I guess, how will this section get me ready for A Word or Two? It is the first time that I heard of Ibsen, Medea. He mentions authors I know (qu'elle suprise - TS Eliot, Tennessee Williams) and many I don't (list too long lol). It goes to prove my original thought for using this book as a text for books to read. My mom filled my heads with Brontes, Montgomery, a respect of Shakespeare  of course, but never read it to/with me.

School gave me Shakespeare, Richler, Rostand, and Atwood. But never an Ibsen, nor the many playwrites still to be named. I feel so out of place, like my life is on another place where, though my imagination is good, my love of language was blocked. Can you love language if you only read Rostand or Shakespeare? Yes, but it's also like loving chocolate after only eating an Aero Bar - when there's double chocolate cheesecake to savour. Mr. Plummer is giving me, and my kids - some other plane of thoughts. I'm so excited for us!


Thanks, Mr. P!