Catching up.

Back from Montreal, two thoughts are chasing around my head: first, Congress is one of the best events for meeting people; second, it’s got nothing on the Chester Cycle.

Attending CSRS was enormously fun, but a bit strange. The early modern community is, well, small — and so going to CSRS is like walking into a family reunion: everyone knows everyone, and there are layers of history between members. It’s also strange to have faces to match up to all the articles I’ve been reading these past few years.

It’s something of a delightful experience to be immersed in early modern talk for several days, and I spent most of my time at CSRS panels (rather than ACCUTE). But I still had time to run into just about everyone I’ve ever met in the last six years, including friends and profs from undergrad, what seems like the entire English department (faculty and students) from Mac, and a man who recognised me from Starbucks in Hamilton (he wasn’t even at Congress and he was at Congress).

And, of course, I met what amounts to a horde of people involved in the Chester Cycle. Which isn’t at all surprising, as I’ve been meeting people all week from Chester — including every train and bus station, or café in Hamilton, Toronto, and Montreal (where muttering the words “Chester Cycle” seems to automatically elicit the response “you were at the Chester Cycle? I was at the Chester Cycle!”). J. and I also met one of the singers from the “Last Judgment” at the opera last week, and discovered that our waiter from the Village this weekend was in Ryerson’s “Abraham and Isaac” pageant. I can only conclude that everyone on the continent was at Chester last weekend. Or that for all its space, there’s really only a few hundred people in Canada (and they’ve been following me around for about a week and a half now).

I’m working on an official-ish review of some of the plays, so won’t pre-empt myself now, but “The Last Judgment” and “Abraham and Isaac” were my favourite pageants (along with the Ascension, which was beautiful). And the harrowing was good, though on a much smaller scale than I anticipated (they were pretty small wagons, really). Also, a lot of fake sheep died on the first day, which is a weird thing see staged.

Speaking of good staging, the opera was, happily, far far better than J. and I expected. We saw Maria Stuarda primarily because 1) J. likes bel canto opera, 2) we heard The Flying Ducthman wasn’t very good, and 3) it was J.’s birthday present to me, and he thought an opera about Elizabeth and Mary Stuart might be the kind of thing I would like (unfortunately I didn’t clue in to the subject matter until about ten minutes before the opera). It was a good choice: bel canto revels in (shows off) voice, and Maria Stuarda is no exception. The COC always puts on beautifully sung productions, with beautiful sets. This production, they also allowed the comedy of the opera to play out on stage, instead of attempting to turn it into high tragedy (Act 2 particularly is all about the two queens swaggering about the stage, brow-beating the other, culminating in Maria’s impetuous denunciation of Elizabeth as bastard).

Also, the box office switched our seats from ring five to orchestra (for non-opera-goers, that’s five floors of difference: we were on the ground floor, in the middle, and could see everything).

Conference papers went well (I think): I had a little less fun delivering my ACCUTE paper (on Jonson’s The Alchemist: it needs much work before it’s a suitable article). And reading my Knight of the Burning Pestle paper pointed out a number of ways to fix up my chapter on that and Eastward Ho! Fairly productive then. And I balanced productivity with some hours of book shopping-eating-walking about Montreal late(ish) at night (we usually had to be at Concordia by 8AM, with a twenty-five minute walk up Rue St. Catherine, everyday, which meant getting up by 6.30, and bed no later than 1ish).

A busy couple of weeks. Fun, but I’m pleased to be home and looking forward to a couple of less-frenetic weeks of writing (I’m also pleased to get to sleep in a non-bunk bed in my non-hotel room shared with three other grad students).

1 June 2010 ~ Hamilton

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