It's been a week already -- no, a week and TWO DAYS -- since I arrived in the US on Wednesday 1st November, and was whisked away to Groton School, west of Boston, to watch yet another production of HARVEST. I am so pleased and relieved to be able to report that I really enjoyed the show, directed by Susan Clark (or should I say, DR Susan Clark, Director, Campbell Performing Arts Center at the school) and performed by the youngest cast ever to take on the play. I will eventually get a link which will lead to photographs of the production, but for the moment I'd just like to record my appreciation of the entire experience.
I arrived in Groton on Thursday and stayed for two nights as Susan's house-guest, very warmly welcomed to her home by Amy, her partner and Samantha, their extremely charming (and thank goodness, FRIENDLY -- she's a BIG girl!) Old English Sheepdog. We've been in correspondence since early this year so we had agreed that my time in Groton would be spent fruitfully visiting classrooms, aside from watching the play. So I addressed a literature class on the morning of my arrival and later the same day, in the evening, read one of my stories at a post-dinner session. A number of students had been given two stories from the KLEPTOMANIA collection to read and at the morning's class we talked about BEADS; in the evening, I read the second story, SHARING AIR. I generally like talking about my stories because it's something I can do easily (without having to prepare, read up facts or fret about appearing to be brain-dead) and both these occasions were good examples of how pleasant it can be, when the audience is engaged and congenial.
The school was something of a revelation -- idyllic campus and curiously, given that this is the US, very ENGLISH. I had to keep reminding myself that I was across the pond from the Mother Culture -- the study hall with its rows of ink-stained (OLD ink stains!) desks, the wooden tables in the dining hall, the tall ceilings -- was that traces of Hogwarts that I kept seeing around me!? It was President Roosevelt's (FDR, i.e.) alma mater and has a gallery of letters received from every president since the school's inception. The study hall includes, on its walls, wooden panels inscribed with the names of every outgoing student, many of the famous or familiar. Since I spent three years in an Irish-convent boarding school I felt a strong (an unexpected) resonance -- a sense of being in a familiar place -- but a NICE one: this is the kind of school I would have LIKED to have attended.
Anyway. The next morning began early for moi -- I am not famed for early wakefulness! -- obviously the surroundings were a great help, because I was wholly conscious for the three art classes I attended, during which I showed a PowerPoint presentation I had made of my illustrations and prints (alert visitors to this blog will recall that I put together the presentation when I visited Madurai in August this year). Once again, it is so stress-free for me to show my own stuff that it was wholly pleasurable to just click my way through the presentation, talking about some of the hows and whys of the drawings/prints on display. The students were friendly and bright -- and the art rooms were soooooo cool! The two teachers whose classes I was addressing, Beth and Anne were so warmly welcoming it felt good just to be there.
Then in the evening, I attended the opening night of the show, after a sit-down dinner with many of the Trustees of the school. The show was followed by a reception at the Headmaster's house. It seemed to me that everyone was able to relax with and enjoy the play -- given the very weird world that it presents to its audience, with its unlikely story and its bitter-sweet ending ... I think it was a real accomplishment that the young cast pulled it off so well. Josephine Ho was JAYA -- it is such a demanding role, onstage for the entire length of the production -- and she performed with tremendous dignity and poise. Everyone did well -- Hannah Wellman as MA, William Castelli as OM and Alex Klein as JEETU, to mention only the four lead characters -- oh! And Haley Willis as GINNI! -- and if I'm not mentioning the entire cast it's only coz I will eventually post a link to their website where pix and other references will be amply available.
I particularly enjoyed the costumes of the Agents in the final act, designed by Catherine Coursaget -- perhaps the funkiest costumes eveer created for the play, matched only by the Greek production, I'd say! -- and the two major gadgets in the play, the Contact Module and Video Couch were also way up there, topped only by the outstanding Athens production.
Considering this was a HIGH SCHOOL production that's really commendable.
I went back to Arlington (Boston) on Saturday and on Sunday returned with my niece Divya and partner Liam to see the show again, with them. Once more, I think we all enjoyed our time in Groton. Then on Monday, I returned to the school one last time to have a session specifically with the cast, followed by dinner back in Boston with Susan and Catherine.
I could go on and on but at this moment, I am in Sayre with my sister Surya and family -- it's a beautiful Saturday morning, and I can hear that Su is in the final stages of her stupendous Saturday brunch of spicy sausage and Egg Glorium (some people might think of it as an omelette, but those of us who have eaten it know better) so ... I must flee! I've not read through this account, so it is undoubtedly full of proofing errors. Will return and correct at leisure.