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the idyll ends

Emerging, finally, from the warm cloud of good will, friendship and food preparation that has enveloped me for the past 3 weeks. Lynn and Denis, the last of my visitors, departed yesterday. Only to return 15 minutes later to pick up Lynn’s computer which had been left here. And then they departed again, and I was truly alone. I was truly alone and sixty, sitting in silence with my memories. What a time!

First, I have to thank the weather gods. Last summer in Toronto, non-stop rain and a garbage strike. This summer, mostly mild sunny days, with one big rainstorm and a few hits of mugginess to remind us how big a favour the weather gods were doing us. On Wednesday, I packed a picnic, and Lynn, Denis and I set off for Stratford, where we lunched by the river watching swans and ducks sail past on the sweetest day of all – an impossibly baby blue sky, puffy clouds, willows trailing in the water, the riverbanks dotted with fellow picnickers – and then, on the Festival Stage, a superb piece of theatre. We saw “The Tempest” in a sublime production directed by Des McAnuff, whose “Jersey Boys” Lynn and I had seen the night before. The man is phenomenal; “Jersey Boys” is an exuberant good time, and “The Tempest” is grave, haunting, profound, mystical.
Christopher Plummer as Prospero – well, I do not think I will ever see a better actor in such full control of his craft. There was a moment early on when, alone on stage, he stood still for perhaps ten or twelve seconds, waiting for the audience to settle. And like a restless animal, it did; it was – we were – suddenly absolutely still, listening. And only then did he begin to speak. The production was one of the best I’ve seen for clarity of diction and phrasing, to help us understand a complex, wordy play. (Though still, unfortunately, almost impossible for francophone Denis to understand.) Plummer performs with grace, ease and warmth. The set could disintegrate around him and he would still be 100% in character, completely relaxed, drawing the audience to him, into the play and its words and its world.
But there were many other rewards in the production, especially the Ariel, a tiny, extraordinary performer called Julyana Soelistyo. Almost all the performances were good, and the set and costumes were to the usual Stratford high standards. At the end, I wept with joy. It makes me so glad and proud when the theatre works, like that.
Then we went straight to dinner at old friends’ Lani and Maurice’s house on Shakespeare Street. They had prepared a large ham two different ways, in the slow-cooker and on the barbeque, they had salads and fruit and cheeses and much wine ready and other friends to meet us, and we sat in their garden, petting the dogs, laughing till the tears flowed at them both, the most wonderfully eccentric, unique, interesting couple on the face of the earth. And then we drove home.
“That,” said Lynn, “was a perfect day.” Words every hostess is happy to hear.
Both were crazy about the new Ontario Gallery of Art, where they spent a full afternoon, and Lynn, who’d seen the band the Four Seasons play at Expo 67, had a fantastic time at “Jersey Boys” which tells the story of the band’s rise and fall and rise again (it didn’t hurt that we were in fabulous seats given me as a birthday present by my ex.) Lynn and I shopped at Winner’s, Goodwill and Doubletake, stores she cannot find in France, while Denis rode around town on my bicycle. Each day, we ate well and talked non-stop. Denis fixed all the broken things in the house, which I much appreciated – for example, he is not used to screen doors, because they don’t have any in France, so he walked into mine and pulled the screen from the frame. He rooted around, found the perfect tool and fixed the door; the tool turned out to be the hook used for pulling escargots from their shells. I didn’t even know I had one. How very apt.
They were highly critical of the “Star,” finding its relentless focus on sensationalist material (“Girl pretends to have cancer!” the big story for 3 days) shallow, so I bought the “Globe” regularly for balance. I don’t read the “Star” for hard news, I told them, but for editorials on my side of the political spectrum and for local news. Denis could not bring himself to eat hamburgers the Canadian way; he simply cannot mix hot and cold foods as we do, so he eats his meat patty with a knife and fork, then the lettuce, tomato and onion as a salad. Well – whatever gets you through the night, as they say. But we had great bread from the local markets and from the Epicure on Parliament Street, and great cheese, and I managed to feed the French successfully for a week, no mean feat.
We did not go to the Toronto Islands, which is too bad, and Lynn and I did not get to dance as much as we wanted. Otherwise, we did it all.
And now it’s over. My cupboards are full of dark chocolate and several bottles of fine champagne waiting for the next great event. Life and work resume; a writing student came by yesterday, there are piles of laundry waiting in the basement. I have an apartment to rent out and the writing workshop next Sunday to advertise.
And already, I am thinking about next year, dreaming of spending a week with Lynn and Denis in the south of France. We’ll just keep going back and forth, I sharing their world and they sharing mine. What are old friends for?



2 Responses to “the idyll ends”

  1. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with us. I'm really glad that you enjoyed the production of The Tempest. Even though Denis may not have fully understood the text I hope Denis was able to enjoy the show. It sounds like all three of you had a wonderful time while they were here from France.
    Enjoy the trip next year!
    Aaron Kropf
    Social and Online Media Coordinator
    Stratford Shakespeare Festival

  2. beth says:

    Aaron, how nice to hear from you. I told my visitors all about how the Festival started in a tent – stories of Pierre Burton's wife Janet changing into her opening night ball-gown in the parking lot – and now, there it is, a vast theatre complex to be extremely proud of. I was just sorry we couldn't see other shows, particularly the Tremblay that just opened. I'll be back.

    Congratulations to Des McAnuff, to Plummer and his Ariel, and to Andrew Gillies who's an old friend and colleague, who came on as an understudy that show and was marvellous.

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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Chris Walks
This blog evolves. It once was about travels. Now it’s a reason to be at the keyboard that I value.

Theresa Kishkan
Theresa Kishkan is a writer living on the Sechelt Peninsula on the west coast of Canada.

I walk on. With my feet, and in my mind as well.

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Wherever you’ve come from, wherever you’re going, consider this space a place for reflection and pause.


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