Thursday, December 12, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 12/11/19: Got Moving, *Much Ado About Nothing* Home Festival, Pres Cup Shocker

1. I felt less like an old brown bear today, less like hibernating. This afternoon, the snow and rain stopped and I got dressed (a good start) and took a walk for about twenty-five minutes to nowhere in particular. I just looked back in my blog and see that on November 17, 2018, I wrote about Dr. Cullen, who, in 2014 back in Maryland, advised me to walk twenty minutes a day and that I'd had trouble getting motivated to do this in Kellogg. Some things don't change much. I've been having the same problem a year later, but today I snapped out of my lethargy and walked aimlessly around the neighborhood. It was a short walk and felt great. It might be the start of a turnaround.

2. The other pleasure I haven't experienced for quite a while? Listening to podcasts. This morning, I returned to the Folger Shakespeare Library's podcast, Shakespeare Unlimited and listened to an interview with Kenny Leon. This past summer he directed Much Ado About Nothing for Shakespeare in the Park and this production was been featured recently on PBS's program, Great Performances.

Kenny Leon assembled a cast of black actors and set the play in 2020 in Aragon, Georgia, about an hour from Atlanta. In his production, war has broken out in the USA. Leon discussed how he and his cast created a play not only populated by black actors, but a play that audiences experience as having organically risen out of a black community. The play opens with Beatrice, played by Danielle Brooks, singing Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On?" and, soon, three other women in the play join her and weave "America the Beautiful" into Brooks' performance. It's stunning.

Later tonight I went to the PBS app on my Smarty Pants TV and found that this production is available for me to stream. It was late, so I knew I couldn't watch the entire production tonight, but I watched the first act or so and I loved it. The opening which stunned me in the morning, moved me this evening, seeing it on the television. I love watching performances of Shakespeare that explore (for me) uncharted territory in setting, music, dance, casting, intoning of the poetry, and overall vision. What I saw in the first act did all of this and I was moved by seeing and hearing this play I love, and that I have performed in, presented in such an original fashion, bringing the play alive in fresh and revealing ways.

Before I turned off the television for the night, I went to my Smarty Pants TV's Prime Video app and found the 1993 Kenneth Branagh film version of Much Ado About Nothing, a movie I loved so much when it was released that I went to the movie theater about five times in the first seven days it played in Eugene to watch it again and again. I hadn't watched it for several years. But after watching the first act of Kenny Leon's version, I just wanted to remind myself of Branagh's sunny, joyous, and gorgeous approach to the story. I had a blast and relived that glorious summer of 1993 when this movie occupied my entire being.

I don't compare things often. I can rarely answer the question, no matter what we are talking about, "Which did you like better?".  That held true tonight. I don't see any good reason to compare Kenny Leon's production to Kenneth Branagh's (or, for that matter, to the gorgeous black and white film version of Much Ado About Nothing that Joss Whedon made in 2012). While I am watching each production, it is as if the one I'm watching is the only version of Much Ado About Nothing that has ever been made. I find myself completely absorbed in what is playing out before me, with no thought of which one is better or which one I like more.

I love them all.

3. Before my late evening Much Ado About Nothing mini-festival, I had watched several hours of Golf Channel's coverage of The Presidents Cup live from Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Australia.

The USA side is heavily favored in this competition. Historically, the USA has dominated the Presidents Cup, only losing once, back in 1998. The 2003 Cup ended in a tie.  The competition began in 1994 and features a USA side playing an International side composed of non-European players from outside the USA (the Europeans play the USA in the Ryder Cup).

Today was the underdog's day.

The International side astonished the world of golf by winning four out of the five fourball (better ball) matches played today.

It's hard to pin down why the strongly favored USA side suffered such a lopsided loss.

I thought, from 8,448 miles away in my Vizio room in Kellogg, Idaho, that on this first day of matches the International team knew the Royal Melbourne course better, did a better job of putting themselves in position to make sound shots into the greens, and had a better understanding of where to hit the ball onto Royal Melbourne's slick, sloping putting surfaces. As a result, the International side had a better day putting than the USA.

I will be interested today to see if the USA side manages the course better on Thursday after gaining more experience on it today. The USA will be sending out two players for today's matches who didn't play on Wednesday. I don't know what difference this will make.

Down 4-1, it's mandatory that the USA  plays itself out of this significant deficit in Thursday's matches.  Otherwise, winning the Presidents Cup will be very, very difficult. 

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