Setting the Stage

Entry begun Monday, February 9, 8 am

Back on Saturday, Jack Campbell asked if I would like to see his current idea for the broadside.  Claire had sent the image of a drawing in color for him to place in conversation with the poem “I would not be—a painter.”   In the red crayon style of Watteau and other French draughtsmen two centuries ago, Claire had drawn the human organs and appendages through humans we register and express the art forms rendered in the poem.  John and I were sitting in my living room in Bellevue, and the direct light through the front window on a sunny day lit it up beautifully.

saturday john holding drawing repo

On Tuesday, February 10, Emma Rose and I met as usual from 2 to 3.  We had taken our final edit of the Moby-Dick catalog to CJK on Friday, so for this week we had only Dickinson to deal with.  We had a few catalogs still to inscribe, and we had to come up with a strategy for ordering additional Dickinson catalogs if we sell out on the weekend.  But this meeting was less pressured than some of the others had been, now that we had left the text of the Moby catalog at the printer’s and could no more be looking for errors.  When our meeting was over, I went over Greaves Concert Hall, where I had understood that John Campbell had arranged to bring sample panels of the Dickinson screen he was designing for the concert on Friday night.  Jonathan Eaton, the stage manager, needed to see them so he could decide whether there would be room for the full set of ten panels on stage.  In addition to Kimberly, Ingrid, and the piano, Jonathan needed to have room for the marimba and musicians to be featured in the world premiere of three instrumental settings of Dickinson poems that Kurt Sander was composing especially for this concert.  Kimberly had set the order of the program the week before, and Kurt and I had supplied the program notes.  Kurt’s three instrumental works would be followd by the Copland songs and then the Heggie songs.

A page from the proof of the February 13 Emily Dickinson concert program

A page from the proof of the February 13 Emily Dickinson concert program

When I got to the concert stage in hopes of seeing John, Jonathan, and the sample screens, I found instead a chamber orchestra rehearsing on stage.  Jonathan’s elevated control room is visible from the stage, but it was quite a convoluted process to reach the door to it—by returning to the lobby, finding a long corridor to the left, passing an out-of-order elevator to the second floor, walking through the corridor to the attached building, and walking up the stairs to the second-floor corridor along which Jonathan’s door, next to that of the Music Department office, was open.  He was very interested in the idea of incorporating the screens on stage, and did not seem to mind the complications that might present in an already overloaded week.  After chatting with Jonathan, not yet seeing John, I headed back over the to library to see archivist Lois Hamill about a special little show we were putting together in honor of Claire.  And here, on the plaza between the two buildings, was John, who had just arrived with six of his screen panels.  I had seen digital images of two of them but here they were in person.  They were beautiful in concept and execution, with all sorts of bold and subtle touches related to Dickinson’s life and works (including “Bolts of Melody” on the black-and-white panel)..

john unloading screees 2

We found Jonathan and took the panels inside.  The stage was now empty, and John and Jonathan discussed how they might deploy and support the screens.  Once they determined that we had plenty of room for all ten panels, we moved most of the ones John had brought today into a spacious room backstage, John sliding the other two back into his car for some overnight touch-up work.

fasciscles in car

Making this connection about the screens on stage was very satisfying, and it helped overcome somewhat our concern from the email I had received from Kimberly that morning, indicating that she was not well and might not be able to perform on Friday.  She said she would be going to a doctor who would be giving her steroids or antibiotics, whatever would be needed to make her better, but she had wanted me to know that it was possible that the concert might not take place.  Jonathan Eaton and spoken to her earlier in the day and was still hopeful that she would recover in time, as “she is a real trooper.”  But this development left even less time for her and Ingrid, who had just flown in from Oregon, to rehearse the 12 Copland and 5 Heggie songs.  All we could do was hope that Kimberly would recover enough to sing at her best, and that the program could go on as scheduled.

afternoon stage shot

After all the preparation, all of the moving parts for the Arts Fest were now coming together.  Claire would be flying from San Francisco overnight on Wednesday, arriving here on Thursday morning in time to rest for her joint presentation with Kathleen on Thursday evening.  On Wednesday afternoon I went to the Archive to help with the surprise exhibition Lois and I were planning for Claire.  At 1 pm on Thursday, Emma Rose and I met in the Reading Room with Tracy Insko and his media crew, who brought all of the equipment needed in the Reading Room throughout the weekend.

After setting up the podium, computer, speakers, and a beautiful video monitor for the Thursday night presentations, Tracy showed us where he and his associates could position the monitor for the rest of the weekend so visitors could see a continuous loop of the four student videos that were part of the exhibition.  Matt Ruiz, our trouble-shooter, and Sandi Webster and Michael Providenti from the library staff, attended this orientation session, at the end of which Tracy showed Matt how to run the portable video camera with which he could record the presentations by Kathleen and Claire that evening.  In this, as in the entire run-up to the Fest, Emma Rose and I were blessed with excellent, generous help.  Michael Providenti in the last few days had installed the two student websites and four student videos that would be running on a dedicated computer in the Reading Room until the end of the exhibition in May.

awaiting hte lecture

Awaiting the start of the Thursday evening presentations, hours after Tracy Insko had installed the equipment (Michael with the beard at the left, Matt readying the video recorder in the middle)

John Campbell had met Claire Illouz at the airport at 5 in the morning and had gotten her installed in the studio of an artist friend at the top of a very steep hill in Cincinnati.  He would be bringing her to campus for a “tech check” with the media crew at 5 in the evening.  The surprise exhibition we had mounted in the Archive was called Living Books and Nature: Engravings and Embossings by Claire Illouz.  It featured six prints and one zinc plate from my personal collection.  The one zinc plate is the printing element with which Claire had embossed the whale’s tail on the last page of her Whiteness book, a variant print of which image Lois had just mounted in the Archive, near the zinc plate that had impressed it.

tail and embossing

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