Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Jennifer Lee Carrell's "Interred With Their Bones" is a Winner

Having long been a sucker for novels that mine the theatrical vein. Jennifer Lee Carrell's new murder mystery cum adventure story, Interred With Their Bones , is a delightful addition to the world of historical-theatrical fiction. It takes you from the Bard's own times right through five hundred years of the Shakespearean authorship controversy.

The main character is an intrepid Elizabethan scholar, Kate Stanley, who is directing Hamlet at the new Globe Theatre in London. Fire at the Globe is nothing new, but the aftermath of this modern one includes the body of Kate's former teacher, who has been murdered using a method suspiciously similar to the one that killed Hamlet's father. A mysterious broach given to Kate by her mentor provides the main clue to follow and from there on it is a mind-bending globe-hopping journey of murder and manuscripts. As if the intricacies of the debate between the Baconians and the Oxfordians are not enough, Ms. Carrell has added a series of adroitly staged and complicated killings. In each the manner of dispatch is linked to other Shakespeare plays. Multiple suspects glimmer, fade, then glow again as the heroine travels to and through ancient and modern Shakespeare associated venues. Among the British settings are the New Globe, Westminster Abbey, The Holy Trinity Church, and Wilton House. In the United States you negotiate Harvard's Wilder Library, Washington DC's Folger Library, the Utah Shakespeare Festival, Tombstone, AR and even a desert reproduction of the ancient castle of Elsinore. All are described with convincing detail and if you have been to most of them, as I have, the enjoyment is palpable.

Stylistically the novel resides in the domain of The Name of the Rose or The Da Vinci Code and it may come off as emotionally overwrought and too full of strained coincidence for some readers. For instance, the ease with which the main characters can obtain changed identity documents and slip across multiple international borders doesn't seem all that convincing in a post 9/11 era. On the other hand, as the heroine is searching for a Jacobean manuscript thought to be the long lost Cardenio by William Shakespeare, it seems fair that there should be echoes of Jacobean dramaturgy in the plot. And echoes there are! You encounter, multiple violent murders, deceptions piled on deceptions, secret passages, hidden caves, spooky crypts, and hooded assassins breathing heavily around shadowy corners.

One reviewer called the work basic "literary comfort food" because it was tasty and appealing as well as substantially filling. This comment seems to focus on the book's ability to mirror the appeal of Shakespeare's work itself. An average reader can enjoy the terror and excitement of the chase, while people with more literary expertise can press beyond into the academic details, the theatrical settings, and the many references to the Bard's plays. Ms. Carrell holds a PHD in English Literature from Harvard and clearly knows her field and can communicate it with gusto. Put this one on your Christmas list.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Monmouth College Homecoming 2007

There is something about the synergy of a college homecoming, crisp sunny fall weather, and a football win in overtme that just can't be beat.

President Mauri Ditzler got this year's celebration off in a grand style with his first Homecoming Gala at the Huff Center on Friday evening. On Saturday morning the forecast of rain vanished and we were treated to a glorious day for a parade, an author's signing at the library, and a thrilling last second overtime win at the football field. Meanwhile various alumni classes were assembling around the town to enjoy food, wine, and good fellowship with old friends. They may carry a few more pounds and a few more gray hairs, but they don't let that get in the way of a fine time. Go Scots!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Holocaust Survivor Visits OFTA

Almost eighty people crowded into the Buchanan Center for the Arts on Wed. Oct. 17th to hear the story of Aaron Elster, a Holocaust survivor who now lives in the Chicago area. The audience included folks who still remembered WW II and young people who were the same age as Elster was when he experienced the personal horror of losing his parents, his six year old sister, and most of his family to the Nazi campaign to exterminate the Jews of Poland.

Some still say that the Holocaust never happened. All I can say is that no human being would wish to make up the story that Elster tells. His personal testimony and his book, titled I CAN STILL SEE HER HAUNTING EYES are moving and incredibly painful.

Elster is a small, active, good natured guy who is now seventy-six years old. How could this mild mannered fellow have escaped the Gestapo and survived two years alone in a dirt floored attic at the age of eight? And how could he appear to be so normal (with a wife, children, and grandchildren) when his own parents and his six year old sister were murdered? How could any of it have happened? The answer is oh so easily.

Mr. Elster's caution was the same as those given by Ralph Rehbock and Al Goldfarb as they talked to the OFTA audience last year. When good people stand by and do nothing, the unthinkable can turn into the normal as easily as you slide a slipper on your foot. Elster's story and all the stories must be told and told and told again so no generation will ever have to face this kind of horror again.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Yay for Molly Yeh

Marimbist Molly Yeh charmed an Evening OFTA audience of almost forty last night at the Buchanan Center for the Arts. Yeh is one of fifteen percussion students now enrolled at the Julliard School in New York city. She was in our area for a soloist engagement with the Knox-Galesburg symphony and graciously agreed to come to Monmouth for a lecture/performance Friday evening even though she had been appearing all day in Galesburg schools. Yeh gave the audience a full tour of several percussion instruments, talking about their construction, their history, and then demonstrating some basic techniques. She finished by playing a bit of the marimba piece she will be performing with the Symphony on Saturday, October 13th. ccompanying her on the piano was Prof. Bruce Polay of Knox College, the conductor of the Knox-Galesburg symphony.

Friday, October 12, 2007

OFTA Hears From Potter--Henry Joe

Henry Joe, Knox College Emeritus Professor of Art, spoke about the nature and beauty to be found in salt glazed pottery on Wednesday, Oct. 10th. The OFTA (Old Friends Talk Arts) event drew almost thirty people to the Buchanan Center for the Arts, where the participants were drawn into a real interaction with the pieces under discussion.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007 goes to the Guthrie

One hates to brag too much, but when it's your own son and he turns out "The Best Damn Music Site" in Minneapolis, why not! His website is venturing out occasionally into the coverage of theatre as well as music and his item on Sir Ian McKellen's sold out interview appearance at the Tyrone Guthrie Theatre covers one of those "God I wish I had been there." moments. Paste this into your browser and take a peek.

If you haven't already got your tickets to McKellen's star turns in King Lear and The Seagull, you are out of luck, but you can get a pretty good idea of the man and his career by finding a copy of the Aug. 27, 2007 New Yorker. It has a thorough and throughougly delightful profile of the British actor who has truly inherited the mantle of Olivier and Gielgud. The article is written by the well know critic, John Lahr. Unfortunately, it is not available on line (other than as a short abstract).

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Evening OFTA features Molly Yeh, marimba soloist

Seventeen year old Molly Yeh will be playing the marimba at a special Evening OFTA at 7:00 PM on Friday, October 12th at the Buchanan Center for the Arts on the square in downtown Monmouth. She will be accompanied by Bruce Polay, music director and conductor of the Knox-Galesburg Symphony.

Ms. Yeh will be appearing on Saturday evening as chief soloist for the Knox-Galesburg Symphony Concert in Galesburg, IL. Information on that concert can be had by calling the Orpheum Theatre directly at 342-2299.

Molly Yeh made her Carnegie-Zankel Hall debut in September of 2006, appearing as soloist with host Christopher O’Riley and as a member of the award-winning “Beat 3” percussion trio, for the newly-produced PBS television series “From the Top” For the past 5 years, she has been a member of the Midwest Young Artists Symphony (MYA) and Concert Orchestras. As a member of the MYA Rattan Marimba Trio, Yeh received the 2004 Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition Junior Division Gold Medal.

An honor student at Glenbrook South High School, Molly has been involved in orchestra, marching band, symphonic wind ensemble, math team, student council, and
Orchesis dance team. In her free time, Molly enjoys tap dancing and traveling. In 2004, she was presented with the Spirit Stick Award, the highest honor given at Glenbrook South, for outstanding achievement. She also attended the 2006 Tanglewood Percussion Workshop.

There will be no admission charged for the Monmouth appearance of Molly Yeh, but if you plan to bring a group, please call the Buchanan Center for the Arts at 734-3033 so that sufficient seating can be arranged.

OFTA stands for (Old Friends Talk Arts) and it programs talks and performances in all of the Visual and Performing Arts. It hosts regular gatherings on the 2nd Wednesday of each month and periodic special evening events throughout the year. OFTA is partially supported by the Buchanan Center for the Arts and the Illinois Arts Council—a state agency.

Thursday, October 04, 2007


Early American salt glazed pottery (Monmouth's Western Stoneware is salt glazed pottery) is the most widely collected of all American pottery. Henry Joe, Emeritus Professor of Art from Knox College and himself an accomplished potter, will be speaking on “The Art of Early American Salt Glazed Pottery” on Wednesday, October 10th at the 10:00 AM meeting of OFTA (Old Friends Talk Arts) at the Buchanan Center for the Arts in downtown Monmouth.

Professor Joe feels that the focus of interest in salt glazed work is often on classification, dating, type, and price rather than the artistic quality of the pieces and he will redress some of this imbalance by focusing on the aspects of beauty embodied within this popular type of pottery.

Salt glazed pottery is made by introducing salt fumes during the firing of stone or earthenware. It produces a highly durable and chip resistant product (which may be why it is known as stoneware.). The process was apparently first used in Germany in the 1400’s and was introduced into America by the early 1700’s. Potteries spread westward with the settlers and Monmouth’s own Weir Pottery became Western Stoneware in 1906. By the beginning of the 20th century stoneware was the most dominant houseware used in the USA.

OFTA meets the 2nd Wednesday of each month from 10:00 AM to 11:30 AM and anyone with free mid-morning time is welcome to stop in at the Buchanan Center for the Arts and enjoy a cup of coffee, snacks, and free wheeling talk about the arts. There is no admission charge.