The trip was, in large part, necessitated by the rather disappointing real estate market in the Sylva/Cullowhee area. The house (a rather nice one, in my prejudiced opinion) has been on the market for longer than we had hoped, probably due to the fact that Western is the largest employer in the area and it has been the subject of many of the “cuts” in education brought about by the current state government. You know, the one which would ban Kaitlin Jenner from using a female bathroom, because she was born a male, so it’s entirely reasonable to assume that she would try to rape any girls she encountered in the restroom. In any event, I don’t think that the current political climate in North Carolina has been proven to be supportive of education or business in the Twenty-First Century. It has led to the state acquiring a bit of a reputation as a joke in much of the country and has caused a number of consequences from parts of the business community. That certainly doesn’t contribute to a robust and expanding real estate market, especially in the more rural areas of the state (like Jackson County). But, enough about that.
This was our second chance to see the “Fashionable Romance” costumes which were being displayed within the Biltmore House. The fact that they have recently changed the rules so that it is now permissible to take pictures within the house made this exhibition even more enjoyable, as (even though I’m not a costume designer) I am interested in costuming. The unfortunate thing about this exhibition, however, was that many of the costumes were so poorly lit as to make it virtually impossible to get a good picture, or even to see the costumes very well. Now I AM (have been) a lighting designer and (while I realize that there are many limitations to lighting these costumes given their locations within a facility which should not be damaged by the installation of lighting equipment in the most ideal locations) it struck me very quickly on both trips that some judicious use of different (usually flood in stead of spot) lamps and/or some use of no color “frost” or “silk” gels would have gone a long way to provide more effective light on these costumes without requiring different light fixtures or much expense. I think that some of the fixture placement could have been rethought as well. Since many of the costumes were wedding dresses (hence white, or very light colored) the variation in brightness (often concentrated just below the waist) really didn’t contribute to the effectiveness of the display. I can’t be sure, but I find it hard to believe that I couldn’t have improved the lighting of these costumes at little expense and, probably, not much time.
A most enjoyable part of this trip was a chance to see a performance of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) [Revised]. This was put on under the sponsorship of a new program by WCU’s College of Fine and Performing Arts called “WCU Road Works.” My understanding is that this program is an attempt to bring various sorts of arts programs to the local community at little, or no, cost as a form of outreach. All in all, I think this is a MOST worthwhile endeavor and something which should have been started long ago. The performance we saw was a variation of The Compleat Works of Wllm Shkspr (abridged) by The Reduced Shakespeare Co. (the other RSC). The [Revised] reference was necessitated by the fact that the show was performed by three women, rather than the original company’s three men. This meant that a certain amount of the humor in the original script had to be rewritten for female performers. All things considered, I think the revision was quite successful and the performance was a lot of fun. I confess that my memory of seeing the original cast on tour in Hoey many years ago was even more enjoyable, but that may well be the enhancement of memory. It was a real treat to see a cast of my former students performing this script. I enjoyed the show thoroughly, was quite pleased with the performances, and was happy to see the work of folks I had taught shortly before I retired. I confess a certain amount of sadness that they are among the last of my students who are left at Western. That means that I am about to have little direct connection to the program where I spent over 40 years. Yes, there are a few faculty and staff folks left from my days and MANY memories, but the “on the ground” student connection is fast disappearing. That’s to be expected, but it seems a bit sad at the same time, even if it is the way of the world.
The rest of the trip was an all too brief visit with our daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren in northern Virginia. This was probably something only a grandparent can truly appreciate, so I won’t really try to explain it. I’ll only say that we are both very fond (obviously) of these people, so it’s always such a treat to be able to see them in person. It doesn’t really matter what we do, it’s the being together that’s the important thing. After all, that’s what family is all about.
All things considered, the trip was long enough to enjoy being back “home” in Omaha (it’s still funny to think of Omaha as home), but not really long enough in terms of having the time to do as much as we would like in terms of the people and places to visit. After all, almost half of the time was spent in the car going from place to place. Still, I’m glad we went….
I’ll get back to more usual stuff next time.