Summer… and I’m trying to read and see some plays.
While on the platform, awaiting my train to New York City, my phone rang. I answered and talked to my father for about 10 minutes. After, I noticed my phone wasn’t even half- charged; I guess I hadn’t plugged it in properly the night before. Knowing I had a full day out and would need the phone later, I succumbed to the fact that I should buy an extra charger. I was meeting my friend Yvonne for lunch and a matinee; then had dinner and theater in the evening with my husband.
Walking to the restaurant, I didn’t see any places to buy a charger. Of course, if I didn’t need one, I would have found plenty of electronic stores. I asked the maitre ‘d at the restaurant if he could charge my phone and he was able to do so. This isn’t an unusual request.
The first play, Octet, by Dave Malloy, takes place in church basement. The entire theater space became that site, complete with free coffee, the daily list of hymns, and other ephemera. Eight chairs were set in the middle of the stage, and the audience watched from three sides. Actors came in slowly, one at a time, taking a seat. The story emulates a recovery step program, and is mostly told through the octet singing a cappella. The participants are trying to overcome addictions to the gamut of social media: excessive phone use, all-night gaming, pornography, chat rooms, debates, dating and more.
The irony that I’d worried about losing power on my phone, and that as soon as the play ended everyone would be turning their phones back on, wasn’t lost on us.
In the evening, we saw Heidi Schreck’s What the Constitution Means to Me. It’s her personal story of how beginning at the age of 15, she won several contests sponsored by the American Legion in her small Washington state hometown, on the subject. The contest money covered her college tuition. She regales the audience with her family history, focusing primarily on the many injustices generations of women endured including domestic violence, rape, lack of health care, and no police protection. She cites passages in the US Constitution describing laws that should have protected her ancestors, her, and others and the gaps that fail to provide legal rights for anyone other than white men.
Sean Strub, the Mayor of Milford, PA where our lake house is, wrote Body Counts: A Memoir of Politics, Sex, Aids, and Survival. An activist and HIV survivor, his story reminds readers of the struggle to bring attention to the AIDS epidemic and the many lives lost to the disease. His own journey is fascinating and Milford, PA is lucky to have him.
I half-listened and half –read Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud & the Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep. For To Kill A Mockingbird /Harper Lee fans, it’s a compelling true story about a murder in Alabama of an African American minister who had murdered five people to collect insurance money. Life in the South in the 1970’s is rendered in detail- social, political and economic. Lee became fascinated with the trial and had started but never finished a book based on it. Intriguing.
I haven’t read all of Joyce Carol Oates’ 70 plus novels but pick one up now and then. Two recent reads brought me right in. I listened to Hazards of Time Travel, a novel that begins in 2039 in a dystopian world where punishment for irregular thoughts could cause one to be sent back in time. Such is the case for 17-year-old Adriane Strohl, who is sent to college in a Wisconsin small town in 1959. She finds life and manners quite backward—manual typewriters, phones in the hallway, girls wearing skirts and hose, and the concept of dating. She misses her family. Will she ever return? The story moves fast; great for car rides.
I read My Life as a Rat. Violet Rue Kerrigan overhears her brothers discuss a crime— the killing of an African American boy- and how they buried the weapon. One of her brothers pushes her down icy stairs, and she tells on them. She’s sent away to live with a distant relative and has no contact with her family. The story then follows her challenges: molestation by a teacher, drugs, nefarious friendships and her ultimate journey to college. The novel brings the dilemma between doing what’s right versus protecting loved ones front and center.
What’s on your summer list? Happy for suggestions!