The San Mateo County Fair is over. The Galleria Stage, as it were, gone dark.
Although it is not represented in monumental book sales, your author enjoyed holding that stage, as a member of Darlene Frank’s playwrights’ hour, in the soft launch of his new book “Hold Fast: Tom Crean with Shackleton’s Endurance,” as host of the Pacifca Poetry Forum, as the prime mover and songster of “David Hirzel and Friends,” as one of twenty-odd authors at the tables on Author Day.
In all, a very rewarding week it was. There was however one small, unexpected reward, that happened in a moment but lingers now seven days after the fact, and I can assure you will linger far longer.
During the “soft launch” of “Hold Fast,” as I was relating the fact of Tom Crean’s having worn his brown scapular every day of his life (this fact having been related to me by how own grandson Gerard O”Brien), I tried (born and raised a Protestant) to explain the appearance, the meaning of that sacramental to my audience. In a few words, a “brown scapular” is a talisman blessed by the priest, two fabric tags joined by tapes or threads, to hang before and aft the neck under the shirt. One of these tags bears the words “Whosoever dies wearing this Scapular shall not suffer eternal fire.”
As I was describing this, a man just walking through the fair, not inclined to stop or listen to me relate Tom Crean’s story, walked up to me (on the stage) and wordlessly handed me this scapular now entwined with the Celtic Cross on my desk. Then he walked away. I was barely able to convey my thanks to him before he departed entirely.
The incident was over in seconds. It will remain with me forever.
The Literary Fine Arts Stage is pretty full this year. We have full days of writers’ workshops yesterday and today, which I regret I will have to miss, but send my fondest wishes that other writers in the Bay Area have taken full advantage of. Yesterday I spent in San Francisco with the Hyde Street Living History Players, so of course being in the year 1901 and not 2013, I had not the easy transport between cities or centuries. Other obligations call today, but you can find me on the Galleria Stage Tuesday 6/11 at 5:00 with Darlene Frank’s “Three Short Plays” discussing my recently produced play “The 200th Day.”
Right after, at 6:00, the soft launch of my new book “Hold Fast: Tom Crean with Shackleton’s Endurance.” The real launch will happen at Florey’s Books in Pacifica in July, date TBD.
I’ll be bringing some original music to the stage on Thursday 6/13 as David Hirzel and Friends at 5:30. Some of these songs date back as far as 1977, most have been buried in memory almost ever since. With this current revival, I’m planning a couple of solo gigs in Pacifica later this summer. Check this site for announcements of venues and dates.
But of course the Galleria Stage and the San Mateo County Fair is about much more than just me. Something for every literary taste, and right outside the gates of Expo Hall the whole fair, with all the rides, food, music, and fun.
Live on the Galleria Stage!! –the “event within the event,” the Galleria Stage is an inner venue of the San Mateo County Fair hosted by the SF/Peninsula Branch of the California Writers’ Club–Opening day Saturday June 8 through Sunday June 15–all events at the Galleria Stage are free with Fair admission.
The opening weekend is conceived as a writers’ conference without the high expense of attending, with workshops on editing, e-books, pitching and query letters, and individual writing evaluation sessions.
Scattered throughout the week you will find other workshops, presentations on poetry and playwriting and podcast creation, book launches, and 25+ authors in person on Author Dayu June 15.
Your own author David Hirzel has been active behind the scenes in the preparation for this week-long event, and will be found in person in the following:
Tuesday June 11:
–5:00 p.m. As one of the playwrights featured in Darlene Frank’s “Three Short Plays,” reading excerpts from the recently produced “The 200th Day.”
–6:00 p.m. Discussing and reading from his recently published book “Hold Fast: Tom Crean with Shackleton’s Endurance.”
–7:00 p.m. As host to Gus Tjgaard’s discussion of his recent book “Windjamming to China.”
Thursday June 13
–5:30 p.m. As singer-songwriter with a guitar and a long memory, in “David Hirzel and Friends Original Acoustic Music”
–7:00 p.m. As host to the Pacifica Poetry Forum in a commemoration of poet Rod Clark’s enduring contributions to the art.
–Also on this day, at 4:00 p.m., look for our friend Camincha, the long-time director of the Internationale Writers’ Collective, presenting “Let’s Get U Published”
Saturday June 15:
–2:00 p.m. At the tables meeting the public, and selling autographed copies of his book “Hold Fast: Tom Crean.”
–from a review of James Fenimore Cooper’s “Home as Found” published in 1838–
“….the new America. . .where mediocrity seemed in the ascendant, where manners no longer signified, where wealth more than breeding set the tone, where the very towns and dwellings in that age of rapid growth had become as tawdry as the lives in them were coarse.”
(published in Philip McFarland’s “Sea Dangers” 1985)
The notes I made at intermission refer to the strong performances by all the actors in what amounted to an ensemble piece: each of them came onstage, thoroughly created their characters and laid out their part in the framework for the story. Especially noteworthy during the first two scenes: Laurie Wall’s “Birdie Hubbard” barely controlled her developing mental breakdown, and Bethany Friedel’s expertly nuanced teenaged “Zan Giddens” brought a few laughs from those in the audience who knew adolescents well. Kris Carey’s “Oscar Hubbard” was brimming with the suppressed rage of a dominated younger brother to John Szabo’s cool, macchiavellian “Ben Hubbard” as they negotiated a seamy business deal with John Tranchitell’s “Mr. Marshall.” All this in the first two acts of Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes.
The Director’s Notes comment that Ms. Hellman “had not meant for audiences to think of her characters as villains to whom they had no connection. but to recognize some part of themselves in the money-dominated Hubbards.” In this she was disappointed. In me I suppose. Nothing of me in there. I did however recognize, in Ben, a friend. But I digress. . . .
In the final two acts after intermission, The Little Foxes really, I mean really caught fire. The impressive work of the first half was just setting the stage for some really powerful performances by everyone in the cast remaining onstage. One by one each came to the fore, expressing the passion, the despair and resignation, the resilience developed when greed and lust for money betray ordinary familial affection and self-respect. Collin Wenzel’s Leo finally realizes he’s been “had” by his own father and uncle. Joy Eaton’s “Regina Giddens,” facing the audience, finally reveals the origin of her cold calculating greed. There is tragedy enough for everyone here. Its source is the love of money.
I had a word with director Jim Sousa after the show. He let his actors run with their parts. Wise man. His choice of shades of gray for the set, with bursts of color here and there, served to emphasize the bleakness of the script, and the lives of the characters.
A fine production. I can’t say enough.
Through May 19, 2013
Theatre website: Pacifica Spindrift Players
Box Office: 650-359-8002
“We tell ourselves stories in order to live. . . . We look for the sermon in the suicide, for the social or moral lesson in the murder of five. We interpret what we see, select the most workable of the multiple choices. We live entirely, especially if we are writers, by the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images, by the “ideas” with which we have learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria which is our actual experience.”
—Joan Didion, from The White Album—
This play is fiction, but it speaks the truth of the City of Leningrad in the Soviet Union during the dreadful winter of 1941-2. It is the 200th day of the 872-day siege of that city by Nazi Germany. There are no utilities, there is no water in the pipes. There is no heat.
Seventeen warehouses of food supplies have been bombed and destroyed. The little that remains is distributed by ration card at the pitiful rate of 125 grams a day. The people are starving.
One sound heard throughout the city is the rasp of sled-runners in the snow, as the bodies of the dead, wrapped in sheets, are brought to the cemeteries where they accumulate outside the gates, unburied.
Young Josef is a stand-in for the 2,000 who died in Leningrad on this the 200th day, for the 60,000 who died in February of 1942, for the 641,000 citizens who died during the two-and-one-half-year siege.