July 3rd, 2013

Steampunk Picnic: Cogs and Roses 3

June 22nd was the third "Cogs and Roses" picnic at the Mequon residence of Chuck Tritt and Julie Ann Hunter. This year's theme was "The Orient Express," noting the 100th anniversary of that fabled train service. The house was decorated with signage appropriate for a station, and Henry Osier, in agent's garb, was manning a ticket window in one of the outbuildings.

Rainy weather held off and it ended up being a lovely day. There was a large turnout of many imaginatively garbed people that made fascinating watching.

Georgie produced a lovely cake, based on an authentic Orient Express promotional poster design.

Steampunk croquet was again a feature, with a significant twist this year. Instead of the past "steeplechase" or obstacle course pattern winding around the grounds, this year's course was laid out in a flat field, with all the wickets in sight of one another. The trick was in figuring out the order in which to play the wickets. Players were given the following instructions:

"Croquet Adventures III: A Journey Through Techno-History

In this course, each of the eighteen wickets is associated with an individual who has made a significant contribution to the technology or culture of the Victorian Era. The various items placed at these wickets are clues to the identity of those individuals--it is thus incumbent upon the participants to correctly associate these items such that the course may be played in the proper order as indicated on the list below.

"To assist in this identification, the year in which the contribution was made is listed after each name. Should a player require further clues, consultation with others is allowed--or in circumstances of dire puzzlement, contact the course master for the disbursement of helpful hints."

The list:

1 Louis Daguerre 1827
2 Dr. George Gatling 1861
3 Nichola Tesla 1886
4 Alfred Nobel 1867
5 Thomas Crapper 1861
6 Louis Pasteur 1886
7 John Erickson 1862
8 George Henry Corliss 1849
9 Elisha Otis 1853
10 John Ambrose Fleming 1901
11 Thomas Alva Edison 1889
12 Moritz Jacobi 1868
13 Robert Heinrich Koch 1892
14 Samuel Colt 1836
15 Guilemo Narconi
16 Sir Arthur Conan Doyle 1887
17 Dr. Alexander Wood 1853
18 Samuel Morse 1837

The wickets were decorated with (in random order here):

1 high-voltage coil
2 motion picture camera
3 flask labeled in German "bacteria culture in medium"
4 vacuum tube
5 toilet seat
6 hypodermic needle
7 revolving pistol
8 (faux) bundle of dynamite
9 floating naval mine
10 telegraph key
11 spark-gap radio set
12 steam valve and governor
13 (model)Gatling gun
14 model of the USS Monitor
15 magnifying glass and bottle of "7% Solution"
16 lab glassware labeled in French
17 still camera
18 elevator

Can you match them (without recourse to Google)? Some are obvious, but others are quite obscure.

We played croquet, socialized, had cake and sparkling wine, and stayed for a tasty dinner that Chuck and Julie Ann had catered by Scheherazade restaurant, in keeping with the theme.

Everyone seemed to be having a good time--I know we did.

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American Players Theater, "The Two Gentlemen of Verona"

It's rare for us to see a "new" Shakespeare play, so we looked forward to APT's new production of "The Two Gentlemen of Verona" with interest. (APT has done it before, 2002 or thereabouts, but for some reason we didn't get there then--.)

"Two Gentlemen" is one of Shakespeare's earlier comedies, and is performed less often than others. Why, was obvious, since the play is short on plot and action and long on the kind of wordplay that is the young playwright showing how clever he can be. There are large parts for the two clown servants, Speed (Will Mobley) and Launce (Steve Haggard)trying to out-wit one another; plus, the show pretty much requires a live dog, Crab (Tim), which "Shakespeare in Love" notwithstanding, you don't usually see in a Shakespeare play.

The plot deals with the aptly-named Proteus (Marcus Truchinski), one of the "gentlemen", who is sent from home to attend the Duke of Milan (James Pickering), just after declaring undying love for Julia (Susan Shunk). However, immediately upon arriving in Milan, he is smitten with the Duke's daughter, Sylvia (Abbey Seigworth), who is in love with Proteus' friend Valentine (Travis A. Knight). Proteus immediately begins to scheme to replace Valentine in Sylvia's affections, crassly abandoning his pledge to Julia.

How this crossing of lovers works out is the gist of the plot, heavily leavened with the aforementioned clowning, plus an attack by bandits outside Milan which provides an exciting fight scene.

The cast gave an engaged and lively presentation that we enjoyed very much, and made good use of a seemingly awkward set. One flaw was the costuming: I'm not sure if it was the result of an intention to appear "timeless" or just got its wardrobe from whatever would fit and wasn't in use elsewhere, but garments ranging from the 16th to the 19th centuries all appeared, sometimes all at the same time. But this is a quibble for theatrical pedants, like me.

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