Tuesday, November 11, 2014

We Pay a Call at El Alisal!

 A remarkable, flamboyant character was Charles F. Lummis (1859 - 1928).  Harvard dropout and journalist, he  took a well-publicized "tramp" from Ohio to California in 1884 to take up a job on the Los Angeles Times. Adventurer, poet, historian, ethnographer, womanizer, and librarian, he (among other things) fought for Indian rights, edited the early California publication "Land of Sunshine" (later called "Out West"), established the Southwest Museum, and built, mostly with his own hands, the house which my friend Mary Chapman and I visited, El Alisal.

El Elisal

I have a personal family historical connection with Charles Lummis, because he was the early mentor, editor and friend of my great-aunt Edith Eaton, pen name Sui Sin Far, the first Asian American fiction writer (1865 - 1914).  We have several letters between them (the originals are at the Braun Research Library Collection, Autry National Center), and know that Edith was published in "Out West" and also visited at El Alisal.  Lummis called her "the only Chinese American woman who is publishing fiction."

Come into El Alisal!
 
El Alisal is Rustic American Craftsman stone house located at 200 East Avenue 43 in the Arroyo Seco, South Pasadena. Now that is just exactly twenty miles from where I live, in Santa Monica, yet I'm ashamed to say I'd never visited before, though I've long been fascinated with Lummis.  This weekend, however, I had an extra motivation for going. Professor Mary Chapman of the University of British Columbia was coming to town for a conference, and we decided to visit together.  Mary is the discoverer of no fewer than one hundred of Sui Sin Far's stories, published in many magazines around the turn of the last century. (The collection will soon be forthcoming.) We met because of my biography of my grandmother, Edith's sister Onoto Watanna; but although we've corresponded for several years, this was the wonderful occasion of our first meeting in person! 

The beautiful old handcrafted windows frame views of the garden
 
So, arriving at El Alisol, first we meandered through the garden, marveling at the little oasis of peace so near downtown Los Angeles. Even more than that, the garden is like a journey back in time, for many of the trees were planted by Lummis (the house takes its name from its old sycamore grove), and is full of native plants, such as a beautiful bed of rosy red yarrow and other drought-resistant plants. Some were most curious, such as bright hard-shelled fruits that no doubt attracted the many giant Monarch butterflies. The trees gave a cool dappled shade, and the place was altogether idyllic. Then at noon the house opened, and we went in. Here is what we saw.

 A bank of windows contain transparency photographs of Lummis's life and travels. These he made and mounted perfectly to fit in the window spaces. The bottom picture shows a hummingbird sitting on his finger.
 

In the central room are display cases of old photographs of the many famous characters who visited at El Alisal. Lummis kept immense records of his guests and dinner parties, some of which have been compiled in a book on display in the house. In this picture, bottom left is Mary Austin.

Left, Lummis shortly before he died, and two pictures of him in  younger days.


A chair he hand-crafted.  I love it!
 
Bust of Lummis, with a photograph of the sculptor, Julia Bracken Wendt


The bust sits as if Lummis were at  his famous table. Actually, this must be a smaller table than was used at the time, if his large guest lists are anything to go by; but it is a thrill to think my great-aunt Edith sat there once!

His nice homely blue willow-pattern plates.  A favorite of mine, too.

Bas-relief on the fireplace. That's not Samuel Clemens on the mantel, it's Lummis's father!

Odd little man on the loo
 

I'm not quite sure what this means, but Lummis has it over another fireplace...this is the man who used an elaborate code for lovemaking with different women, all referring to "al cielo"

Wonderful old hand crafted wood

The sycamores in the courtyard
 
A lovely water color of the sycamores as they were then (approx. 1915)

Odd little chimney in one of the out buildings (built for his daughter, and servants)
 
Lily pond
 
There are lemons, oranges, kumquats and many other fruit trees in the garden

Me and Mary in the courtyard

A better view of the mural behind us


Plants in the garden

Goodbye to El Alisal, and our lovely, memorable, historical day in the dappled sunshine!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

View from the third row...By C. Allyn Pierson

Karen Doornebos, C. Allyn Pierson, Diana Birchall - three members of the popular "Austen Variations" writing blog
 
A guest blogger!  I have a guest blogger on "Light, Bright, and Sparkling" for the very first time!  As a companion piece to my previous post, "A View from the Stage," C. Allyn Pierson (more familiarly known as Carey), has agreed to tell the story as she saw it from the other side of the footlights.  (Not that there were any actual footlights.)  Carey is a member of Austen Variations, the "Austenesque" writing blog I belong to, and we both write stories there regularly. She's also a physician living in Iowa, with many fascinating interests, which you can read about on http://austenvariations.com/   And now, here's Carey's tale of matters Montreal...
 

View from the third row…

By C. Allyn Pierson

 
My miniscule part in “A Dangerous Intimacy” began almost a year ago when I followed Diana’s Facebook posts and blog posts about the 2012 AGM and I discovered that she and Syrie would be writing a new play and presenting it for the 2014 AGM in Montreal. During her comments she lamented that her only Regency gown had been deemed DOA by her friends and that she would need to get a new gown, sighing that she would have to have someone make one, as she does not sew. I volunteered to sew her a new gown…but it took about 2 weeks to convince her that I really meant it! It would be a dangerous thing (not intimate, but clearly dangerous…) to volunteer such a thing if I didn’t mean it!

After some wasting of time, twiddling of thumbs and a couple of months, we finally came down to the cotton thread (sort of like the brass tacks a là sewing…) and I obtained royal blue satin and selected and altered my pattern. I used the wrong side of the satin, as Diana wanted a gown that could be used for daytime as well as for any Regency balls she might come upon, so she did not want it to be too glossy. I chose to make it a drawstring dress so that she could not only adjust it to fit perfectly, but she could actually get in and out of it on her own (those who have been to Jane Austen events have probably dealt with the “OMG! How do I get out of my dress here, alone in my hotel room? Is this included in room service?”).

After the gown was finished and as the AGM approached, I offered her a cap, fichu, etc. and then discovered that she would be costumed in green baize! When I finished laughing, I went on to work on my fleur-de-lis embroidered gown, hoping to finish it before I left for beautiful Montreal (I finally finished it 45 minutes before the Saturday evening banquet...whew!)

Another view of my couture gown from the House of Pierson
 
Carey wears her own elegant gown to work!

On Friday evening, the night of Diana and Syrie’s tour-de-force, I ran into Karen Doornebos, another Austen Variations friend, and found out that she was in the play too, but needed help getting into her gown (see above, paragraph 2…). She gave me the time she would be dressing, and I packed up needles, thread, hair doodads, flowers, hairpins, and jewelry and stepped into the elevator, generating much comment about the red and white striped bandbox I had all my accessories in…there was also considerable disappointment when I admitted that there was no bonnet in the bandbox.

I won’t go into details about the dressing experience…we dressers need to be discrete about our activities…let us just say that it involved one zipper, two safety pins (not Regency approved), bobby pins, a pearl hairclip and a pearl necklace (fake, but hopefully not colored with fish scales). You may imagine the details yourself.

I took my bandbox and retired to the auditorium, ready in case of theatrical emergencies, but everything was prepared so I found a seat on the third row aisle where I could see the entire show without getting a kink in my neck looking up at the stage. I prepared to be entertained.

While awaiting the curtain, I was a little confused by the piano tuner tuning the grand piano in the room…but later realized that it was for a concert later in the evening. The audience straggled in and a glance around just before curtain time revealed that there was standing room only. There was a buzz of conversation and a rustle of programs as spectators speculated about the props that were visible on the stage, and which actors were playing which parts. They did not have long to wait…

Reading Diana’s version of the writing and staging, I am even more impressed that she and Syrie were able to bring together people from three countries and, with two short rehearsals, pull off a comedy that called forth cheers and applause, boos and hisses. There is no question that Mrs. Norris stole the show (as we know she always tries to do) and Diana did an outstanding job being mean, nasty, dismissive, and patronizing. I have never seen an Austen-based entertainment that actually engendered hissing at the villain in the piece!

I have to say that Julia and Maria Bertram did far too good a job at cat fighting…I hope this was just for the stage ladies…ahem. The best part about the vignette was that the actors obviously enjoyed their parts! I do still wonder what Mrs. Norris did with that roll of green baize with which she absconded when Sir Thomas returned from Antigua earlier than expected…

The theater-goers trickled out after the play…far too busy laughing and talking about the play to hurry on to the next entertainment. They were still talking about it the next night at the banquet and ball, and I’m sure will continue to do so until the next AGM.

The ball on the following night was an excellent example of how difficult it is to put together a multinational production, when the Austen Variations gang tried to get together for a picture…we finally managed to get three of us in one place (unfortunately, we could not find Syrie when we had the inspiration for the photo, but you may look on Diana’s Facebook page and this blog for pictures of the cast)…Diana Birchall in her new royal blue gown and beautiful embroidered shawl, Karen Doornebos in my pearls and pearl hairclip (and her new ball gown), and me in my fleur-de-lis gown. I think we made a respectable showing! Somehow, even though Diana and Karen wore heels and I wore ballet slippers, I managed to tower over their delicate selves…but then being tall was one of the signs of Maria’s and Julia’s superiority…I will say no more than that.

Well, except to look forward to a reprise of Diana's earlier play, "You are Passionate, Jane," with herself and Syrie playing respectively Charlotte Bronte and Jane Austen, which may happen at the 2017 JASNA AGM in Huntington Bedach, California, with a "Jane Austen in Paradise" theme.  Oh, dear, how can I make a Regency gown look more…Brontë?

[From Diana] No worries, Carey, I found a pair of gorgeous blue feathered angel wings at the Salvation Army, which will look sublime with the blue gown!  A snood, and I'm a dead Bronte...

C. Allyn Pierson

Author of Mr. Darcy's Little Sister



Sunday, October 19, 2014

A View from the Stage


The cast of "A Dangerous Intimacy"
Peter Sabor (Mr. Rushworth), Natasha Duquette (maid), Patrick Stokes (Prince Regent), Karen Doornebos (Julia), Frederick Duquette (Tom), Syrie James (Maria), Diana Birchall (Mrs. Norris), Karen Fuller (Fanny), Edward Scheinman (Henry Crawford), Juliet McMaster (Edmund), Miriam Rheingold-Fuller (Mary Crawford), and Kimberly Brangwin (Lady Bertram).  Picture by Erna Arnesen.
 
After the success of our "Austen Assizes" play in Brooklyn (at the 2012 JASNA AGM) to our delight Syrie James and I were commissioned to write a "behind the scenes" play-within-the-play in Mansfield Park for the Montreal AGM. We knew this would be even trickier to bring off, as Mansfield Park is arguably the least comic, and most structurally complex, of Austen's novels. So we decided to begin with a series of brisk sketches, each a dialogue between two characters, and then move into the rehearsal scenes incorporating dialogue straight from Lovers' Vows. That would link  that play to the Mansfield Park "actors," and reveal what, exactly, they would have been rehearsing. We didn't think the interaction between the two had really been shown before, and it would be enlightening, and funny.
 
Fred, Miriam, Syrie, Edward, Peter, in rehearsal
 

Fred, Syrie and Edward, as Tom, Maria and Henry emoting in "Lovers' Vows"

Of course, the actual writing was mostly done in the last six months when time started to press in! ("We'd better get serious.") Our method was basically to take turns, each writing a scene, the other countering with rewriting and then adding new material, back and forth, with several in-person discussion meetings (fortunately we don't live far apart), until we had what looked like an hour-long play. The polishing we did by sitting together and reading the whole play aloud, in several sessions, to meticulously refine the dialogue and make it funnier. By the time it was done, as usual it was hard to remember who had invented what. We do know that Laurel Ann Nattress suggested the green baize and curtain rod a la the Carol Burnett "Went With the Wind" skit, and Syrie actually sewed the contraption!  For every scene that one of us conceived, the other had improvements, changes and inventions, but remarkably, we nearly always saw eye-to-eye, and when one improved something the other had done, reaction was rapturous! It was a true joint effort, done in workmanlike, waste-no-time fashion, an efficiency which never ceases to surprise me, since I never wrote anything in partnership before. The most fun was the reading aloud and making subtle changes; we would alternate speeches, and both Syrie and I "were" Tom, Henry, Mary, Julia, all the characters, at different times. It gave us a facility and intimacy with all the roles, and a good idea of how the speeches should be delivered.
 
Miriam and Peter at rehearsal
 
Syrie and Ellen
 
From early on, casting was always under discussion. Syrie knew from the start that she wanted to be Maria Bertram, and probably wrote the part with herself in mind; I never could see it, and wanted her to play Mary Crawford, for I think of her as having more of Mary's qualities than Maria's. But I would not interfere, trusting she knew best for herself and would bring it off in the end - which she most emphatically did! For myself, I never had an idea of what part I could play, if any. I have virtually no acting experience (though I've always read my stories aloud), and have no clear idea of myself as any kind of "type." As I have trouble projecting (the one thing Syrie keeps on at me about!), I imagined I might make a "creepmouse" Fanny Price. So I was startled when Syrie, Laurel Ann, and even my own son Paul, declared with one voice that I must be Mrs. Norris - and everyone who heard the suggestion said "Oh YES!" Not very flattering, and I couldn't understand it, until I remembered that I do always seem attracted to the nasty caricatures (like Mrs. Elton and Lady Catherine), and that my age suited me to Mrs. Norris far more than to Fanny. To prove everyone wrong, I tried reading Mrs. Norris's part out loud to myself, and what came out was this alarming carping caw that was undeniably - Mrs. Norris! 


 The incredible costume!
 
The inspiration!
 
That settled, we knew that we'd ask Juliet McMaster and Miriam Rheingold-Fuller to play parts, as they'd been in other plays of ours; if Syrie was Maria, Miriam would be Mary. Juliet plays en travestie amusingly, with a specialty in clergymen, so she would be Edmund. The difficulty was finding not only men, but men reasonably young and handsome, with real acting ability, and who would also be in Montreal for the AGM! We needed several of them, Tom, Henry and Mr. Rushworth. Not easy! Laurel Ann suggested the brilliant young scholar and writer Edward Scheinman for one of the parts, Elaine Bander suggested Natasha Duquette's Shakepearean actor husband Fred for another, and my son Paul would do Rushworth. Fred liked the idea of orating as Tom, Edward would be a perfect Henry - but Paul got a new librarian job and couldn't go to Montreal. The almost last-minute replacement was one of our best pieces of casting. I remembered seeing McGill professor Peter Sabor read in a Fanny Burney play once, I knew he was good, and I thought it would be funny having such a brainy man play a complete dolt!
 
Peter Sabor (far right) making "Rushworth-face" in performance!
Picture by Sarah Emsley

Syrie and I had always agreed that her husband Bill would be Sir Thomas (fortunately he agreed too), and we always wanted stylish Kimberly Brangwin of Seattle to be the perfect languid funny Lady Bertram. Pretty Austenesque author Karen Doornebos would be the petulant Julia, in the cat-fight with Syrie, and Miriam volunteered her lovely twenty year old actress daughter Ellen to be Fanny.

Bill's entrance as Sir Thomas Bertram fresh from Antigua

Natasha was to persuade her and Fred's pug dog Esmee to play herself, with Natasha as the maid to mind her. Unfortunately, two days before we were to fly to Montreal (Syrie was already on a cruise up the St. Lawrence) the hotel belatedly decided that poor Esmee must be caged, muzzled, heaven knows what restraints put on the poor little thing. So, scratch Pug (so to speak), and I had to immediately come up with dialogue to explain her absence, since we didn't want any stuffed Pugs! Natasha remained in the play, doing her Maid with a soft Irish accent, and actually "maiding" me in earnest, helping me into my unwieldy costume, which tended to slip down my back.
 
I think Patrick Stokes, as the Prince Regent, was the last written and cast. Having met him in England, I knew he would bring the house down as the prince, but my emails went wrong, and I was sending him ones that began "Say no, if it is to be said," when he replied with bafflement that he didn't know what I was writing about, he had received nothing! When it was all explained, he jumped in with full alacrity and played the part to the hilt. There was the problem of his costume, since his luggage would already be exceeded with the Admiral's uniform he was bringing for his own presentation; but Bill lent a brocade vest, Patrick brought a very effective white wig, and I found a jeweled crown in the Salvation Army! He looked magnificent.
 
Syrie and Patrick in performance as Maria Bertram and the Prince Regent
Picture by Erna Arnesen
 
As with Austen Assizes, we had two hour-long rehearsals, one the day before and the other the day of the performance. Owing to scheduling and commitments, not everybody could get to both, but everybody did get to at least one.  Syrie using her staging knowledge to efficiently wield microphones and effectively direct the troupers, particularly difficult for her as she had the most ghastly cold acquired on the chill Quebec rivers; she had to save her voice for her part, and it was touch and go as to whether she might not succumb to laryngitis. But she didn't, real trouper she. On the day of the play her voice merely had a sultry huskiness that was just right for her part!

I was quite nervous when the actors assembled for the first rehearsal, not sure if the play would work or be as funny as the Assizes; but in the very first minute, when Fred Duquette stood up and delaimed in his resonant booming flexible voice:

"At Mansfield Park, November comes
There's naught to do but twiddle thumbs..."

I knew everything would be absolutely all right! All the words we had written jumped to vivid new life when spoken by these speakers of talent. Everyone was super good, and when Peter Sabor contorted his face into that of the doltish dunce and spoke in tones that showed complete inside comprehension of Mr. Rushworth, the effect of the whole was fantastic! (A video will eventually be available so everyone can see.)

 

Seen on the screen - Karen, Fred, Syrie as Julia, Tom and Maria
 
Screen set-up. Karen, Syrie, Kimberly

The actors assembled on the stage in the big ballroom at 7:15 for the 8 PM performance, and sat in their row of chairs, all but me, Bill and Patrick, who were going to make "surprise appearances," and mustn't be seen by the audience. We sat in a little tented alcove on the stage, in a litter of crowns, green baize, scripts and curtain rods. As the audience came in, I asked Syrie, who was sitting on the stage (in a "stage whisper" of course), "How's the house?" "Every seat is full," she said with suppressed excitement. Patrick and I amused ourselves counting and lost track at 500.

We began. Elaine gracefully introduced us, Fred as Tom did his Prologue, and people started to laugh as Maria and Julia expressed their booooredom. The laughter didn't stop - everything rolled out with perfect timing. One actor skipped a couple of lines but they were unimportant, and Syrie covered with aplomb. Soon it was time for my entrance, which was anything but an easy one! I had to emerge from the tent, wearing this curtain rod contraption across my shoulders, swathed in green baize, and walked forward slowly to the microphones giving everyone a sight of the costume. Laughter began, and proceeded to build, so I took my time. Then at the microphone I read my lines, remembering to project as young Ellen Fuller had coached me. She must have done it well because I was LOUD, and in Mrs Norris's meanest moments, the audience hissed - a new sensation for me!
 
Syrie was particularly wonderful as a deliciously amoral Maria, and got a lot of laughs, but then, everyone did - each part was played to perfection, with the elan and enthusiasm of people who are having fun, heightened by the audience having fun too! Special bring-the-house down laughter greeted Sir Thomas, straight from Antigua in his Bermuda shorts, talking of Mai Tais; and the Prince Regent, sweeping Maria away to see the Cupids on his ceiling. Lots of applause, call for "Authors!" and then we left the stage for picture-taking, and rapturous happy mutual compliments. Oh, what a night! And for the rest of the conference I had the happiness of being recognized everywhere...as Mrs. Norris!

Now - does anyone have any more pictures of the performance to share with us?  We'd be grateful!
 
Cast photo session
Picture by Erna Arnesen
 
After the play - me, Patrick, Syrie, Bill

"A Dangerous Intimacy" in Montreal


Montreal from my 34th floor window


Wednesday October 8. Coming off a fraught court case (harassment, anxiety, stalker, good lawyer got rid of him/her (a transsexual coffeehouse person. Don't ask). Had to postpone flight a day because of that, and so had no turnaround time to catch my breath before flying to Toronto. Happily was on same flight as Los Angeles friends Carol Medine Moss and Lynda and Ken Hall, and it was great fun catching up with them. We shared a cab to the hotel (Le Centre Montreal Sheraton, where I  had a very comfortable quiet room on a high floor, nice view, super efficient elevators so no tiresome waiting; however hotel food wasn't great and we were at its mercy a little too often). Then we hurried out for dinner, to Reuben's a couple of blocks from the hotel, where we found Nancy Gallagher and other friends. Very good Montreal smoked meat sandwich (tastes like corned beef) on rye with frites and a tangy coleslaw. Shared a really excellent piece of rich chocolate cake. Then to bed though still too flurried and anxious to sleep well.



 
Montreal Bagel #1, at Dunn's

Thursday October 9. Beautiful morning, cool and crisp. Montreal's 58 F highly preferable to L.A.'s 85. Craving Montreal bagel, got directed by the hotel to another nearby deli, Dunn's, for a toasted one with cream cheese, and then set off a-wandering, solo. Headed onward, north and up, past McGill and all the pretty Belle Époque mansions (or whatever they are) into the bosky leafery of Mount Royal. When I was here researching my book, in around 2000, my cousin Elizabeth and I, with Ph.D candidate (now Professor) Jean Lee Cole and her husband, walked up Mount Royal to the cemetery where my great-grandparents Edward and Grace Eaton are buried, along with great-aunt Edith Eaton (Sui Sin Far, 1865-1914), known as the godmother of Asian American fiction. The Chinese community in Montreal erected a monument to her and in Chinese characters it reads "it is right and good we should remember China." It's a wonderful thing to see, but oddly Mount Royal has got steeper in 14 years and I didn't get to the top this time.  I saw a different part of the park instead, and it was lovely - a woodsy autumn walk, the trees turning red and gold.  Never realized the park was designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, who designed Central Park.


Grave of Edith Eaton (Sui Sin Far, 1865 - 1914) in Mount Royal Cemetery
Clockwise from left: Paul, Jean Lee Cole's husband Matt, my cousin Elizabeth, Jean, and me, @2000
 
 
In Mount Royal park
 

Walked back to hotel in time for Juliet McMaster's tea at the Atwater Club. The club was attractive but sadly the event was heavily overcrowded, people standing for ages in long, long lines for the buffet, with disappointing food.  By the time we got our egg sandwiches and half cups of tea we had waited an hour; the event was supposed to be 4 - 6, and we had our rehearsal at 6:30. So Syrie and Bill and I had to leave; she had an elaborate costume to put on plus wanting to be early to set up the rehearsal. There was no possibility of Juliet's talk beginning much less ending on time, so we sadly had to miss it and take a cab back.

Our first rehearsal! Syrie was getting over a bad cold and was in danger of losing her voice, but no fear the trouper wouldn't come through and she directed the proceedings with her usual aplomb. She and Bill, Karen Doornebus, Miriam Rheingold-Fuller and her daughter Ellen Fuller, Edward Scheinman, and Fred and Natasha Duquette were there; absent were Peter Sabor, Juliet McMaster and Patrick Stokes (the latter arrived at the end). Rehearsal went relievedly wonderfully well, and afterwards I had to go to the "Fanny Wars" presentation, as I was asked to introduce Linda Troost and Sayre Greenfield.  It went fine, but when the session was over it was past 10, everyone was exhausted, and we ate indifferent food at the hotel bar.


Linda Troost and Sayre Greenfield

Nora, Steffi and me - having bagels of course
 

Friday October 10. What a day! Too excited to sleep well. Met Nora Nachumi (family friend) and her friend Steffi at 9. Crisp cool but sunny day and we walked briskly to Old Town! The city was really not open yet, but we got to the central square and there was one sort of tourist restaurant with a covered patio and it was perfect for breakfast. We had particularly delicious cappuccinos and Montreal bagels, lox and cream cheese.  And sat and talked a mile a minute, improving friendship with delight, reflecting on life's trajectories, women's choices, and our own vitally interesting life stories. Nora and Steffi are putting together an Austen anthology I'll contribute to, and we talked a lot about that and publishing too. Great time! On the way back we went to the maple shop that was the end of all maple shops and I bought a lot of stuff...maple syrup with Grand Marnier, blocks of hard maple sugar, maple sugar fudge...

Yep, another one...but who's counting

Maple sugar pie
 

Got back at noon just in time for rehearsal, tried on my Carol Burnett curtain rod costume and we assigned microphones and did a run through. A late lunch of bagel and lox and maple sugar pie at the hotel, visiting sequentially with Marcia Folsom McClintock and Mary Margaret Benson; then saw "our" actor Edward Scheinman and his mom, introduced self and made friends with him! After lunch, I went to my first conference session, and what do you know, it was another play, the Mansfield Park characters on a psychiatrists couch, written by Juliet Wells, very smart and amusing, but fortunately  not much like our play, though there was, rather unnervingly, another Mrs. Norris! Then went to next door Italian restaurant with Alice Villesenor, JamesonYu  (who'd been in the play) and Viki Barie, scarfed some cold meats, but was almost late and had to hurry to dress.

Reached the stage at 7:15 and dithered - thought I'd left script in room, ran up, came down and found it under my costume! Put it on with Natasha's help, then sat behind a screen with Bill and Patrick and listened until my turn to appear. Everyone gave it their all, with full weight, skill and accents; pace was great, no problems with microphones or movements. I won't describe the play, as I'll do that (with pictures) in my next post, but it was fantastic!  Afterwards pictures were taken and we had such a good time basking in our success. We repaired to the hotel bar, I had more maple sugar pie, and chatted with Syrie and Patrick and Nora and Sarah Emsley and everyone to heart's content.

At the banquet with "our actresses," Miriam Rheingold-Fuller and Karen Doornebos
 
Bill and Syrie at the banquet
 
Me, Syrie and Juliet at the ball

 
Saturday October 11

Too excited to sleep well and I was to meet Natasha and Fred at 8:30 to go hunt for Montreal bagels. But they were anxious and had to do more work on their presentation (as one does) so we had a lovely breakfast at the hotel - Montreal bagels anyway! Then I went back to SLEEP. Divine.   Got up for Natasha's session, another dramatic one (Mansfield Park seems to inspire drama!), she and Fred did a dialogue, "Fanny Price among the Philosophers," Fred doing all the philosophers, and being especially good as Johnson. Then I went to Jocelyn Harris's talk. I was curious about her, not having heard a talk of hers before. Many people say she's wonderful but I've heard the opposite view too, so I thought I'd see. Well, she's obviously a great researcher or has a great staff, her head is stuffed full of Austen family minutiae, almost on a Deirdre LeFaye level; but she delivered it all so fast that I, who after all am tolerably familiar with the details of Austen's life and history, was totally lost among the welter of Cooks and Cassandras. I would very much like to have heard properly about the research connecting the Austen family to Fanny Burney via the Cooks, but it was absolutely impossible to follow it enough to even take notes. My head was spinning; and then the speaker started delivering fanciful spurious theories and talking as if they were fact, which Deirdre does NOT do. I could see why Arnie is a fan, since fanciful theories do stimulate him, but me - no, no, no! If you once state as fact that Fanny Burney's lowly captivity at Court is what inspired Jane Austen to create the lowly Fanny Price, well then, that is enough to raise distrust.
 

Patrick Stokes and Gail at the ball
 
Gail, the most charming girl at the ball
 
After these sessions I was to meet Stephanie Barron the mystery novelist; she had actually flatteringly asked to see me, she reads my blog and therefore knows my cats and me (oh! The goodness of having a blog!). But we had the most confusing kerfuffle, I sat in lobby but she didn't see me, and I left message that I was going to this French place for lunch, but when I got there it was CLOSED though concierge had said it would be open so I went to Dunn's next door and had chopped liver on a Montreal bagel, but Stephanie didn't come; she had lunch in the hotel and didn't think to look for me at Dunn's.
 
Chopped liver on Montreal bagel...yum

Emailed her and said let's meet AT the concierge and she would then come with me to buy Montreal bagels. Took cabs both ways and she paid as I had no more Canadian money; the cab waited and I went to get bagels but it was CASH ONLY so she scuttled round corner to get cash and then I saw they did take American dollars! Well! Back at hotel we went to the bar and she had a drink (surely much needed after an encounter with me!) and I cappuccino; then I got some Canadian dosh in the cash machine, and we agreed to share cab to airport at noon Sunday. We talked and talked and made friends despite the mishaps. :-). My usual theme, Choices in Life, and tried to cheer her as she was away from her kids and hadn't had an exciting Play to thrill her. We talked about publishing and so on and had a jolly time.


Me and Patrick Stokes
 
My gown, made by C. Allyn (Carey) Pierson
 
Me with Mary Guyatt, new Curator of Chawton House

 Arnie Perlstein, Ellen Moody and me
 

Then it was time to dress for the ball. Another kerfuffle was with Carey Bligard who'd offered to help me dress for the play or ball but I didn't get her messages and was never there. Very confusing to find anyone in a 700-person conference! Carey had made my gown, the most gorgeous Royal blue satin, and it did look nicer than I ever thought I could look in a Regenncy gown. So I dressed, and did find Carey, and we promenaded together. At the ball I didn't dance but talked to her and Ellen Moody and Freydis Welland and Sarah Emsley) and more, also watched a little of Kim Wilson's and Victoria Hinshaw' presentation, but was so tired I hobbled in my fancy heels, along to bed.


The dancing

Gail and Karen
 
 
Karen Doornebos, C. Allyn (Carey) Bligard, and me,
three members of the "Austen Variations" writers' blog
 
 



Sunday October 12. Got some sleep, checked out, stashed luggage downstairs, went to brunch banquet, sat with Kerri Spinnachia and Karen Doornebos, and listened to Patrick Stokes's superb lecture. He wore the same uniform of Admiral of the Red as his ancestor Charles Austen, and was extremely informative yet lively about the Navy in Austen's day, with some very funny jokes. Then I had to leave and joined Stephanie, and we shared the cab to the airport, happily chatting.  I was bound for Toronto!