Pippin -- 12/09/00

Last Saturday night Nancy and Jennifer and I went to see a production of Pippin at URI (uh, that's the University of Rhode Island for those of you who aren't from this neighborhood)... It was marvelous. Okay, so this is something that happened a week ago but I really wanted to mention it here, partly because I have commented in the past that theatrical productions in this area (i.e., at URI), although they may be quite decent examples of university level productions, are not up to the level of productions done at Binghamton University (where we used to live in upstate New York)... Hey, URI, this was a really good production, first-rate choreography (although not following in Fosse's footsteps *grin*), a solid cast, and some really strong voices in the lead rolls. I had been a bit hesitant about going to see this production... Pippin is one of my favorite plays, I love the score, I love the spectacle, I've seen several different productions... have probably seen Pippin performed more times than any play other than A Christmas Carol (which I have seen the Cider Mill Playhouse perform at least a dozen times)... I've seen Pippin done by Binghamton University and by the Cider Mill Playhouse and by high school performers and by Robert Redford's Sundance Theatre (in an open air setting under the stars in the mountains near Provo, Utah) and... well, you get the idea... I like Pippin... and the advance newspaper reports about this production indicated that the director wanted to "modernize" it... and so I was worried that the play and the music would be butchered in some display of artistic ego... but, much to my delight, the play was not trashed... I don't think the changes helped any, but they didn't really hurt either... Instead of simply a group of players coming out onto the stage to perform, it was set as if we were watching a motion picture version being produced -- thus, for example, the Leading Player was the Director, etc. -- and the only real intrusiveness would be at the start of each new scene when the Director would call for action, a disembodied voice over the PA system would say "Rolling" and a cast member would jump out with one of those clacker-boards (what are they called?) and announce the scene title. These cinematic affectations might not have added much but they didn't seriously detract either. The choreography -- most notably in the battle sequence -- didn't follow Bob Fosse's original Broadway choreography but it was energetic and effective. One of the biggest differences was in the area of costuming. Usually (especially given the vast number of roles played by most of the Players and the requisite fast changes, plus the whole concept of role-playing and theatrical magic) costuming is mostly symbolic (shield and helmut and sword makes you a soldier, etc.) but the military planning session and the battle sequence featured a wild variety of costumes -- the planning session featured Players in military uniforms, business suits and white lab coats; the battle featured Players in a mix of military uniforms from througout history -- and it worked very nicely. Well done, URI. Thanks.

I was feeling a bit off yesterday... actually been feeling a bit beat all week.. and Nancy has come down with a bad cold... this morning I woke up with a sore throat. Yuch! I'm feeling better now -- at least my throat doesn't hurt -- but I definitely feel as if I'm coming down with a cold. **grumble**grumble** Yes, taking lots of vitamin C and zinc, etc. I do want to go to that Christmas party tonight and I have to take off tomorrow on that business trip.

At least I do have my airplane tickets now. Airborne Express delivered them this morning. Usually my trips involve teaching courses someplace -- or taking a course -- or observing an instructor whom I've trained. This time I'll be wearing my course developer hat. These meetings are going to be presentations of some new software that will be part of the WebSphere family of products. My job will be to learn everything I can from these sessions (presented by the people who designed and developed and tested the code) so that I can begin the process of designing and writing a training course for this new product. When I get back from the trip I will have to install the product and test it and play with it and learn about all the different ways it can be used. Then I'll design a possible course -- go through many iterations of review and discussion with various groups -- and eventually write the course. That means developing the graphics to be projected by the instructor, writing the student manual (text to go with the pictures), writing an instructor's manual, developing some hands-on exercises, writing the manual for the exercises, etc.... and then teaching a beta version, getting feedback and making adjustments.... and then (probably) add this course to the list of courses that I teach and also train other instructors in how to use the product and how to teach the course. What makes this especially interesting to me is that I am supposed to do all this keeping in mind the possibility of also developing this material so that it could be easily converted into a distance learning situation -- perhaps as an Internet/intranet course (maybe using Lotus LearningSpace) or perhaps as a CD-based course? Four years ago, when this was a new website, I had an area dedicated to distance learning with lots of links to related sites. Eventually I removed that because lack of time for maintenance lead to many of the URLs being out of date, but my interest in the topic has not gone away.

This weekend's To Do list:

  • decorate Christmas tree (sub-task, find all of the decorations and lights in the basement)
  • put Christmas lights in Jennifer's windows
  • send Christmas cards
  • go to Julie's Christmas party
  • do laundry
  • pack for trip
  • read some of the material I printed relating to next week's meetings
  • read some material relating to java and EJBs, etc.
  • send email to a systems programmer in the UK relating to system configuration for a possible course I might teach there sometime this winter
  • do grocery shopping for the coming week
  • go to the airport and fly to Toronto

Yesterday I scanned in a thirty year old photo -- today I've scanned in one that is twenty years old: Nancy and me on the first Christmas we celebrated in our first house (instead of in a rented apartment).

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