Going to Canada via the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel. Clear sailing to Canada, bumper-to-bumper to Detroit. The falling dollar is very good for Canadian shoppers.
I have a framed photo on my desk of three people, standing on a corner in Stratford, Ontario — Alan, and a couple who would come to be known far and wide in blogdom as Lance Mannion and the Blonde, although then I knew them by their pre-internet names. It wasn’t our first trip, after which Lance was inspired to make the Blonde a homemade birthday card, but it was a while ago. Lance, the Blonde, Alan and I and sometimes others used to go every year around this time, drawn by the Stratford Festival, one of the best Shakespeare repertory companies in North America. (We women had a secret reason to go — Colm Feore — although “secret” implies we kept it to ourselves, and we jabbered about his strange stage magnetism non-stop.) We’d leave on Friday and come back Sunday, seeing two or three plays in that time, one or two of Will’s and usually another; the bill in most seasons is only about one-third Shakespeare and the rest other classics, including at least one musical.
We were so kulchuhed by the end, we made Lance drive all the way home, seven hours back to Indiana. Not that he ever gave up the wheel willingly.
But those were good times, and I look back on those fall weekends with great fondness, even the one where I got into a fight with Lance’s poet friend Steve, without quite knowing we were fighting until he stomped out of the room. That was the weekend we stayed in a B&B and it was Canadian Thanksgiving, and the owners of the house had their family home for the holiday. The family slept in sleeping bags in the parlor and scowled at us, the Yanks, the usurpers. Scowl at your parents, folks — they’re the ones who chose commerce over family.
Anyway, the bad thing about the trip was the drive, which could never be made less onerous. So when we moved to Detroit, effectively slicing it in half, I thought we’d be at Stratford more often. And then 2005 passed without a visit, and 2006, and I vowed 2007 wouldn’t get away from me, and it nearly did anyway. With the season dwindling, it was time to pull the trigger for at least an overnight stay, with the kid, and so we snatched up the last tickets to “Oklahoma!” and booked a room. It would have been nice to see Brian Bedford in “King Lear,” but even a good-tempered 10-year-old would balk at that one. I considered a Sunday matinee of “To Kill a Mockingbird” to round out the trip, but seeing two classic American stories produced by Canadians seemed a little strange, and besides — sold out.
So it was one night, one play, one theater. This one:
It’s a great stage, a thrust stage, not huge but perfect for Shakespeare, with a balcony and two downstage entrances, a trap door and everything else you need for ghosts and lovers and swordplay. But it’s really amazing what a good director can do with a musical, even a rowdy, dance-y, busy one like “Oklahoma!” In 1996 we saw “The Music Man” there, and it was glorious — if there weren’t 76 trombones onstage, it sure seemed that way.
“Oklahoma!” didn’t disappoint, either. That’s the thing about these old Broadway classics — even if someone’s having a bad night, there’s enough buoyancy in the rest of the production to carry it along. And no one was having a bad night, although Aunt Eller’s understudy was taking her part, and she was not only young enough that she looked like Laurey’s sister, she was pretty hot, too. Dan Chameroy was an excellent Curly, with a nice rich tenor and the requisite curls. (As a former bad girl and pervert, of course I found Jamie McKnight’s Jud Fry much more appealing, but I can understand why a blonde virgin like Laurey wouldn’t want him.) Kate, who had to stay up a whole two hours past her bedtime to see the whole thing, was only politely approving, but I caught her humming the main theme the next day, so I have to assume it was a success.
Of course, travel is very broadening, and always in an unexpected way. Kate spent the weekend being amused that the Cheetos bag from the vending machine described its contents as “soufflés.” Canada is a bilingual country, don’t you know:
And then we were headed home. I remember, back in those pre-9/11 days with Lance and the Blonde, sailing through customs at the border. Ah, no more. It was a 45-minute backup at the Blue Water Bridge, at Sarnia/Port Huron. At least the view is prettier than the tunnel:
It’s good to be home. Bloggage later. Time to go pick up the dog.
UPDATE: Lance reminds me he wrote about our Stratford trips a couple years ago, and remembers an incident I’d pretty much forgotten — the time we ran into Colm Feore on that wide green lawn in the picture above. Bonus: Picture of me c. 1995, wearing some hideous pink thing.