Forget the bad kids' movies now showing — Cat in the Hat and Elf — and take the kids to see something worthwhile: A Christmas Carol at Lord Leebrick. I had two 7-year-old companions with me and they both said, "That was a really good play!"
Douglas Jones' one-hour adaptation of Dickens' classic is just long enough and simply delightful, with wonderful direction by Lynda Czajkowska-Thompson and an innovative set design by Michael Lane. The set is based on illustrations from the original publication of the story. Czajkowska-Thompson does a masterful job of keeping the action flowing, as all of the actors remain onstage throughout the performance and switch characters through simple costume changes.
The pacing is perfect for children; it's slow enough for them to keep up with the story and fast enough for them to remain engaged.
In this version, a young girl, played by Helene Morse (Happy Birthday Wanda June, Annie), reads the story of Scrooge's transformation in her bed at night. The characters come to life and even speak to her directly about how to stage certain scenes.
All of the actors do a great job and include Bill Reid, Susan Mason, Kevin Kelley, Adam Leonard, Tish Maskell and Gavin Cunningham, in addition to Morse.
The show is humorous, touching, scary (the Ghost of Christmas Future in the misty graveyard scene might stick with your kid) and is clear and obvious with its message of hope, redemption and charity.
The only downsides to the production are the 8 pm start time — even though it's only an hour long, that's still too late for some kids — and the ticket price: $12 for adults and $8 for kids seems high. A more reasonable deal is offered: $30 for a group of four.
A Christmas Carol continues Thursdays,
Fridays and Saturdays through Dec. 20 at 8 pm, with one 2 pm Sunday
matinee remaining on Dec. 14.
from New York
Unlike many towns this size, Eugene's dance community receives an astounding variety of dancer/choreographers who visit from larger cities. Even more amazing, a large number of these artists who contribute to this dance potpourri have strong, deep ties to Eugene. All this serves as a reminder that, when we look closely at the dance world, it really is one huge family, connected by thick, intertwining ropes of movement and artistic vision.
A few weeks ago, Salt Lake City-based, former Eugene dance teachers Pamela Geber and Eric Handman jogged our memories when they brought their dance and video creations to the UO. This week, we will have a rare opportunity to witness the work of widely acclaimed New York choreographer Bryan Hayes, when he presents an evening of experimental creations on Sunday. The show will consist of original dance film and live choreography, including a new duet for Hayes and Eugene dancer Pollyanna Lind.
Hayes, born and raised in Eugene, began visualizing dance paired with different kinds of music when he was in high school, inspired by his violinist mother. "I think from the beginning I sort of had a choreographer's mentality," he says.
Soon after, Hayes headed off to New York to immerse himself in movement. Since then, the 56-year-old has built an astounding list of accomplishments, including a faculty position with Merce Cunningham Dance Studio, numerous dances of his own and lofty praise from The New York Times and The Village Voice.
Like Geber and Handman, much of Hayes' recent work deals with elements outside traditional live stage performance, including video, and we will see this reflected in Sunday's show. His three-part dance film series Box has been included in a gallery installation at New York's Art Under Construction, and Hayes will share a section of this, along with the premiere showing of Chamber, a piece created in collaboration with Eugene's Van Ummersen Dance Company. Hayes and the Van Ummersen Company made Chamber last summer, and the entire film is shot from above. "It creates this very strange sense of gravity," Hayes says. "It's kind of a fugue."
While artists everywhere still experiment with avant garde stylings such as this, Hayes says the dance world in general has recently taken steps back from more adventurous choreography, due to economic hardship. "Fewer people are doing it on a small scale," he says. "The art world has gotten sort of increasingly commercial-oriented. A lot of crowd-pleasing special effects and pyrotechnics are going on… It's a problem across the world."
Hayes says the solution lies in both a more enlightened National Endowment for the Arts as well as producers who don't underestimate the intelligence of their audiences. "If we were spending more money on art and less on bombs, that would help," he adds.
However, Hayes says he sees promise in Eugene. "It's the beginnings of an art community that could blossom," he says. "There's a sophisticated audience for a range of things, and there may be a wider angle of things going on here. I think the Northwest is fairly progressive."
But despite all this, the choreographer says he is not out to transform the art world. "I don't have an agenda," he says. "I'm just doing what I do."
And Eugene audiences can see Hayes do what he does at 7 pm Dec. 14 at 55 W. Broadway, in the former Alder Gallery space.
"It's something different," he promises.
Bellies, Happy Hearts
The rain and chill outside felt a world away when I stepped into Moreno's. I have to admit I felt a twinge of relief when I found it still standing: It rises against a background of construction debris that was once AgriPac and will eventually become a Federal courthouse.
That could be good news to Moreno's. It serves only dinner, so customers won't have to deal with construction dust and noises, and the development may even liven up that little corner.
Moreno's cooks in the historic Walton House and has a history of its own as Eugene's first Mexican restaurant (started 'bout 50 years ago). With the trendiness and Americanization of the burrito and taco, I thought it might be nice to catch a glimpse of where it all began for Eugene.
A kind and polite waitress finds me a nice seat by the gas fireplace in the parlor. A few other diners, obviously regulars, chat between tables and smile welcomes at me. I settle happily into the heavy comfortable chair and feel my mind relax into the simple surroundings. The decorations are spare, though the bold wallpaper, antique I'm sure, make up for it. Moreno's style leans toward the dark and traditional, with the occasional garnish of Crocodile Hunter paraphernalia. Someone there must like that show as much as my son does.
The waitress starts me off with a dish of citrus fresh salsa and a plate of crisp, whole corn tortillas. They're make-your-own chips, pleasantly fresh and toasty flavored, without salt.
The menu immediately lets you know you are not in American Mexican territory, listing specialties of the house you wouldn't ever find in any incarnation at Taco Bell. I have yet to see Higados de Pollito anywhere else in Eugene (livers and gizzards with a green chile mole sauce), or Nopalitos (cactus and pork). It's good to remember that Red Agave didn't invent gourmet Mexican food.
An insert in the menu, entitled John's Rude Mexican Food, offers some safe and familiar dishes: nachos, taco salad, chili, burritos and other Americanized favorites. But what's the fun of that? My party ordered from the regular menu, and soon the procession to our table began. Each meal warms up with a little dish of Sopa de Albondigas, a simple beef broth with a meatball. Next comes the salad — fresh and tasty romaine lettuce with a creamy dressing. I order the guacamole appetizer, $6.95, which comes on a lettuce leaf and is a generous mound of pure, creamy, coarsely chopped avocado. It is wonderful on the chips, with a bit of salsa, and would make a nice light meal with a bowl of soup.
I try the Enchiladas de Chile Verde, $11.95, a creamy concoction with plenty of flavor and a tart-sweet flavor from the peppers that has me soaking up every available dab of sauce. I also taste the Gallina en Mole, $14.95, a nice dark mole with barely a hint of bitterness and rich warm spiciness. The dish comes with pasta and a serving of cactus relish that is marvelous. The flavor of the cactus strips is somewhere between bell pepper and asparagus, tender and exotic.
Desserts include the traditional flan, a coconut confection, cakes, and the Chocolate Moreno, $3.95. It's a romantic dessert comprised of two Mexican wedding cookies and a cup of chocolate custard. The custard is served almost frozen, and as it melts in your mouth, the initial chocolate flavors blend and melt into a more subtle almond aroma. The texture is perfect, and a lovely end to the meal.
There's a nice children's menu, and the women's bathroom comes equipped with a changing table, a rocking chair and a stack of kid's books in English and Spanish. It's a welcome touch, and a homey reminder that this building was designed as a home.
Across the bottom of my menu it reads: "Barriga llena corazon contento, A full belly makes a happy heart." On a dark Eugene evening, I couldn't agree more.
Gardeners, more than most people, appreciate a regional literature. While it's true that the best writing in any genre should transcend geography, place and climate do exert an exceptionally powerful influence on gardening. There's something cozy and relaxing about settling down with a book without being obliged to mentally substitute one plant for another, or make allowances for differences in environment.
We lucky gardeners in the Pacific Northwest have an extensive home-grown reading list, thanks in large part to a Seattle-based publisher, Sasquatch Books. Founded in 1986 to put out Northwest Best Places, Sasquatch has grown to publish a wealth of children's books, travel guides to the West, and volumes on food, wine, nature, regional history and gardening.
The gardening list got off to a strong start with Ann Lovejoy's The Year in Bloom, followed by more from Lovejoy and two classics on growing vegetables. Sasquatch has gone on to produce a full range of gardening books, in paperback volumes that have gained steadily in polish and sophistication. In the last two years alone, Sasqatch has published titles that span the field from design to nuts-and-bolts. Here are three that demonstrate that range. Production values are good for all of them: sound construction, plentiful pictures, imaginative layout and well-spaced, readable print.
Plant life: Growing a Garden in the Pacific Northwest by Valerie Easton (2002) $19.95. These essays are based on columns that appeared in the Seattle Times. Easton is the traditional kind of garden columnist who writes almost exclusively about her own garden, and the fine photos by Richard Hartlage were all taken there, so this is a highly personal volume.
Easton's writing is graceful and unaffected, and her opinions are liberating. Having grown up in a garden too huge to be fussy or manicured, she has adopted a relaxed gardening style that many readers will relate to. "I don't care which bug is notched in the leaves of the rhododendron," she says, "and don't care to know how to kill it. I am interested in which rose is most fragrant and in all the shades of delphinium blue."
I have long believed that gardeners ready to move beyond the basics learn more from reading good essays rooted in real-life experience than from any more conventional "how-to" book. Real, opinionated prose is entertaining, vivid and, therefore, memorable.
Big Ideas for Northwest Small Gardens by Marty Wingate (2003) $21.95. This little volume is packed with good ideas for gardeners whose enthusiasm exceeds their space. I particularly like the chapter titled "Can I Do That?" which raises questions such as "Can I have a wildlife garden/chickens/water feature?" and "Is there room for a greenhouse?" (and, of course, answers yes to all of them). The photographs are excellent and well captioned, providing a mine of information in themselves. The gardens pictured are unpretentious, genuinely small and vary widely in style, affirming that the space-challenged gardener has no shortage of options.
Sections on front gardens, side gardens and screening strategies (especially hedges) are imaginative. The treatment of path and surfacing choices is appropriately thorough, considering that both assume a larger role in a small yard. Vines and arbors, shade, pruning, roof gardens, balconies, even disputes between neighbors are dealt with thoughtfully.
The book isn't perfect. The plant lists at the back seem (with the exception of one on ornamental grasses) too short to be worth including, and I don't always agree with the Wingate's advice (outlining a small lawn with rocks or edging strips seems to me not only unnecessary but actually counter-productive). But these are minor quibbles. To find this much sound, detailed advice in such a compact and inexpensive form is remarkable. And it's all Northwest-appropriate.
Gardening with Ed Hume: Northwest Gardening Made Easy (2003) $24.95. Radio and TV shows have made Ed Hume a household name for many. A comprehensive guide to general gardening in our region is long overdue, and Hume's straightforward, homey style combines with helpful paragraph headings, sidebars and many lists to make this one both useful and thoroughly readable. It's too bad the only illustrations are photographs of rather uneven quality that seem to serve little purpose beyond adding color to the pages. In some instances, drawings would have been more helpful.
Pics aside, this makes a perfectly sound manual for beginners interested in all aspects of gardening, with just one reservation: The author does not stress organic methods as much as I would like. The good news is that Sasquatch Books will, this very month, release the one we've all been waiting for. The title is Ann Lovejoy's Handbook of Northwest Gardening: Natural, Sustainable and Organic. I'm looking forward to 425 more pages of wisdom from this terrific writer.
Rachel Foster can be reached by e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org). Sasquatch books accepts individual orders through their website,