It's obvious, that I, your humble narrator and blogger have been absent for most of the month. But it is with some good reason, as I have been on a journey through the British countryside via Kenneth Grahame's "Wind In The Willows".
I've been directing and rehearsing a stage version of Grahame's tale for the 21st Annual Rose Center Summer Players production here in Morristown, which runs one weekend only for four performances July 27, 28 and 29 at Rose Center. This is the fifth summer in a row I have been fortunate enough to work with the production, which is an arts education program Rose Center runs each year, offering students a chance to learn and explore the theatrical world. And as before, I'm having a blast working with so many talented young actors.
The story - which has been shortened and Disney-fied over the years into "Mr Toad's Wild Ride" - is a fascinating and very funny adventure of some very proper British woodland creatures who go boating and picnicking on the Thames river - Rat, Mole, Badger and yes, Mr Toad, plus many rabbits, squirrels, hedgehogs and some villainous weasels.
The weasels are fierce bullies, who do eventually get what they deserve, and the young actors decided to make them look like greasers from the 1950s, all leather jackets and jeans, and they remind me of the gang of witless thugs led by Eric Von Zipper in all those early 60s beach movies.
In working with Grahame's book, I had to learn just what "bloater paste" is - and it doesn't sound too good. It's a fish paste, usually made from sardines, and in fact, as of 2012, there are no longer any makers of this dubious culinary delight in England. Bloater Paste is fast becoming a lost menu item (probably a good thing).
Punting, of course, is a bona fide British past time, which the young actors today simply giggle about. Punting is just fun to say, after all.
In the course of the story, Mr Toad gets sent to jail for stealing cars and then escapes dressed as the jail's laundress. Yet when he describes his escape to his friends, he claims he transformed into a "glamorous blanchisseuse", and that sent all of us scrambling to figure out how to say and what it was. We learned that many of the world's most famous painters had made the lowly washerwoman, or laundress or blanchisseuse all subjects of paintings, such as Van Gogh and Lautrec. Who knew?