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2022 August 31

Santa Cruz Shakespeare 2022 season

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I went to all the performances of Santa Cruz Shakespeare this summer and most of their other events also: meet the directors, meet the cast, meet the interns, educational program for Tempest, educational program for Twelfth Night, the announcement of the 2023 season, and both staged readings, but not the memorial for Audrey Stanley.

The staged readings were ok, but nothing special this year.  The two-hander Nasty, Brutish, and Short by Ian McRae was rather predictable and had somewhat clunky dialog.  The motivations for the Black character were unclear—why did he keep letting the white character continue?  The play might be better with some tightening and an additional character (family member for the Black character? breaking the long dialog into separate scenes rather than having it all one long night?).

The 5-woman Simply The Thing She Is by Kate Hawley was a little more polished, but was probably more fun for the actors than for the audience—again, it was very predictable and the jokes fell a bit flat. As works in progress, they were reasonable plays to do staged readings of, but neither is one that I’d want to see the company move into full production (unlike The Formula, which they premiered this year after many people liked the staged reading they did pre-pandemic).

The interns’ play Just Deserts by Carol Lashof (and, yes, the playwright did use that apparent mis-spelling in the title) called for 1 man and 3 women (or non-binary), but there were 4 acting interns: 2 men and 2 women, so one of the men played a female role (somewhat unusual for Santa Cruz Shakespeare, as they do equal-gender casting, but that usually results in women playing roles intended for men, not vice versa). The interns had three weeks less rehearsal time than planned, as the play they started with was not working, and they spent their third week of rehearsal time choosing a new play.  The one they chose is based on Greek literature: in it Orestes is asking permission of the Furies to kill his mother (who killed his father because he had killed Orestes’ sister Iphigenia).  The interns were all good actors, though the lines for Orestes were not great, and the actor was not able to make them very convincing.  The Furies (particularly Tisiphone) had some great lines, though. The first act was great, but the second act lacked the emotional gut punches of the first act—it seemed a bit anticlimactic.  I think the problem here was in the writing, rather than acting or directing.  Overall, I think that this was one of the better intern productions.

The world premiere of The Formula by Kathryn Chetkovich was great, as I expected from having seen the staged reading of it. I actually liked the casting of the staged reading better, but a repertory company has to use the actors it has for the season, and most seemed to have been selected for their roles in other plays. The story is very loosely based on Midsummer Night’s Dream, in that there is love potion that causes people to fall in love with the first person they see, and (of course) the wrong people keep getting seen first. It is almost a door-slamming farce, which made it a little difficult to stage this year, as the minimal set had no doors. I was a little bothered by having all the actors visibly on stage for most of the play—it might have been good to put up some screens at least, so that characters could enter from the wings.

The Twelfth Night production was good—perhaps the best of the season, though not the best Twelfth Night I’ve ever seen (that goes to a Berkeley Rep production over 40 years ago that featured singing by Oak, Ash, and Thorn). Setting the play in the jazz era and using jazz music worked ok, as did having all the nobles be Black actors. Malvolio as a woman worked ok, though I think that the role still works better as a male one. They cut a bit too much (including some of the more famous jokes), but the actors clearly understood the jokes in the script and made them fairly clear to the audience. Both the acting and the directing were good.

The Tempest production was a bit disappointing. I did not have any inherent problem with Prospero being Miranda’s mother, rather than her father, but they mangled a lot of the lines to make them more PC.  I don’t accept Ariel as a student of Prospero—Ariel was clearly an indentured servant. Ariel seems to have been cast for her voice (a reasonable criterion), but her body language was more that of an earth elemental than an air elemental. Casting Caliban with an older actor seemed a bit strange also—Caliban is supposed to be about the same age as Miranda. Removing the masque from The Tempest is probably sensible (few modern audiences would get anything from it, and it is a bit tedious), but replacing it with catering staff delivering Shakespeare’s fortune cookies (inappropriate quotes yanked from other plays) was worse than leaving the masque in. Most of the acting was good, as were the lighting and special effects, but the cutting and rewording of the play marred an otherwise good effort.

Because of difficulty getting stage carpenters at the beginning of the season, the set was really minimal this year, consisting of 4 circular areas (raised 0, 1, 2, and 3 steps). For three of the plays, this minimal set worked well, but The Formula really needed a more conventional set with doors. The relatively new sound system (all actors were miked) worked well—I did not need my hearing aids for any of the shows, but the voices seemed to be associated with the actors, not coming from random other locations.

We saw the 4 plays in four successive nights, walking to the Grove (about 3.7 miles) each evening up the Audrey Stanley Grove Trail and coming home via Uber. We clustered the plays so that our son could make one trip home from his house in Richmond and see them all.

Next year’s season will consist of King Lear, The Taming of the Shrew, and Lauren Gunderson’s The Book of Will. The only Gunderson play I’ve seen (I think) is Silent Sky at the Jewel Theatre—I was not particularly impressed by the writing, which seemed heavy-handed and “sincere” (which is not a compliment). Some of her comedies look promising, but the historical and science dramas all sound overly sincere.  I suspect that next year’s season will not be one of their best, as The Taming of the Shrew is very difficult to perform for a modern audience (the humor is inherently misogynistic), and the Gunderson play looks like it will be more fun for the actors than for the audience (the two leads will be the artistic directors Mike Ryan and Charles Pasternak, both good actors). The Lear should be good, if they play it fairly traditionally.

Secret Walks: West Cliff—River

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On Sunday 2022 August 28, my wife and I  did a combination West Cliff and Riverwalk walk.

We started out taking King to Miramar, then Rankin and Surfside to Delaware, jogging over half a block to take Bethany Curve out to West Cliff.  We walked along West Cliff to Beach Street, where we had lunch at the Picnic Basket, then took Beach over to the San Lorenzo River, where we hoped to see lots of birds in the lagoon formed by the construction work on the culverts.  We saw the construction site, but there was not much water backed up behind it and very few birds.  We walked along the river levee to Spruce Street, then took a one block detour to walk the length of Sycamore, before heading home along Laurel.

The morning was very cool and foggy, which made for pleasant walking, though it did get sunny for the last part of our walk.  The whole walk was between 5½ and 6 miles.

Parts of West Cliff are eroded back to the sidewalk—I think that the city will need to close one lane of West Cliff to cars in a few years (when we get some big storms).

The tide seemed to be high, with most of the rocks of the coast submerged.

The cormorants and pelicans were sharing this island, but not mixing.

This small natural bridge looks almost as if someone had Photoshopped a gap in the outcropping. The bridge will probably collapse in a few years also.

I think that these concrete objects by Steamer Lane are footings for a staircase that washed away (there is a newer staircase nearby).

The cormorants like to hang out on this very steep rock.

At the river, we saw this bird that we did not recognize. After I got home and could look at the photo and do some searches, I identified it as a female common merganser. There were about seven mergansers (all female), but most of them were sleeping with their beaks tucked under their wings, making them very hard to identify.

Here is the merganser preening.

My wife wanted this plant identified—it seems to be California mugwort (Artemisia douglasiana). I don’t know whether it was planted as part of the river levee rewilding or if it seeded itself there.

We regard a walk along the water as well formed if, and only if, we see an egret. This walk was well formed.

In fact, we saw two snowy egrets fairly close together.

2022 August 30

Secret Walks: Pogonip walks

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On 2022 August 9 and 2022 August 16, I went for walks with a friend in the Pogonip. The first time, we drove to Golf Club Drive and walked up around the old clubhouse up to the spring box (the official name for the little koi pond). The second time, we drove to the end of Spring Street and walked up Spring Trail to Rincon Trail, then came back past the spring box again. Although I’m not fond of riding in cars, my friend is not up for more than a few miles of walking, so driving to the starting point makes the walks more pleasant—and they have an electric car, so the environmental damage is not so big.

My friend is fond of lizards, and so I photographed some that we stopped to look at.

The koi are hard to photograph, unless you want an impressionistic view.

Another lizard.

The view across the meadow as you leave the trees is quite nice.

On the second walk, I only took a few photos of the koi.

The reflections off the pond again make for a rather impressionistic image.

2022 August 7

Secret Walks: Corpse flower

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I did not really do a walk in the “secret walks” series this week, but I did go for a stroll in the UCSC Arboretum on Tuesday 2 August 2022, because UCSC’s corpse flower had bloomed and was on display. I went with a friend, who parked at the Hay Barn and we walked up Ranch View Road, past the faculty housing—a road I’ve never walked before.

I rather like this old gate closing off the fire road.

I could not get very close to the corpse flower, as there were a lot of spectators, but it seemed to be a fine specimen. I was not close enough to smell the flower through my mask, but my friend said it had an unpleasant, but not very strong odor.

They had cut away part of the flower in order to either pollinate or access the pollen (I didn’t hear whether this was a male or female corpse flower).

After viewing the corpse flower, we strolled around the arboretum. Not much is in bloom this time of year, but the red-flowering gum was very attractive to the bees.

My friend was fond of the fan aloes, so I took a picture of them. I understand that they are now classified in a different genus: Kumara plicatilis, rather than Aloe plicatilis.

2022 August 4

Fixing my dishwasher

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I posted in 2016 about installing a Bosch Ascenta 2434 Tall Tub BuiltIn Dishwasher White, model SHE3AR72UC. Earlier this week, the dishwasher failed (with error E25), and the first fix suggested on the Bosch website (checking whether the drain pump cover was loose) did not do anything.  So today I finally got around to the second check—removing the drain pump and checking it.

The drain pump is more or less accessible from the front by removing the kick plate, but I pulled the entire dishwasher out from under the counter so that I could check the drain hose first.  The drain hose proved to be clear, but removing it from the dishwasher to check it left a lot of water on the floor.

I had to watch two videos to figure out how to remove the drain pump, as the clip that holds it in place is well hidden behind the pump, and the first video showed a different model that had a much more visible clip.

Once I removed the drain pump, the problem was obvious—a rubber band had made it past the filters and had wound itself around the impeller shaft.  It took me a few minutes with a pair of needle-nose pliers to get all the rubber band off, but once I did, the impeller turned freely again. I did check the pump with a multimeter before trying to reinstall it—the pump had low impedance between each pair of terminals (there are 3), so the coils were not burned out.

I reinstalled the pump (easier than getting it out) and put the kickplate back on.  I realized as I put the kickplate back on why it had never seemed quite right—it is clearly from a different model of the dishwasher, being about half an inch too wide.  I could only put a screw in on one side (and I had to provide the screw as there were none there).  I don’t know whether the wrong kickplate was a factory error or an error by Best Buy—both seem quite likely.

I checked out drain pump by doing a few minutes of a wash cycle with the dishwasher empty (the drain pump is used near the beginning of the cycle) and cancelling the wash cycle (which sets up a 1-minute drain cycle).  The drain pump seems to work fine now.

The whole fix took me about 40 minutes, and it would have been much faster if I’d known what I was doing (and hadn’t had to look for a second video to find the clip that releases the drain pump).  I’m sure that the local appliance service people would have charged at least $200 for a service call, so I feel pretty good about having fixed it myself.  Maybe I can go another 6.6 years before I have to repair it again.

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