Words Move Worlds

Did you ever read something and have the words move you to the point of nostalgic tears?  Did a theater show ever leave you with so much emotion and awe, you can’t get it out of your mind?  You just can’t get the wonder of the words out of your mind.

I’ve had a couple of those experiences in this last week.  The first was in reading the book “Chicago” by the late Brian Doyle.  At the 2015 Wordstock literary festival, held at the Portland Art Museum, in a hall surrounded by traditional art from centuries past, Brian read aloud from this same book.  His audience clustered in a tight mass, standing in the great hall and listening to his voice rise and fall with emotion and tempo.  It was an eloquent passage about being a storycatcher.  thanked him for those words that day.

Having just finished “Chicago”, the words captured me anew.  I can’t quote the whole passage here – it’s long, and Brian tended to write in very long sentences.  Buy your own copy – my favorite paragraph is on page 262.  I am glad I thanked him for those words that day.

You can learn more about Brian and his literary legacy here.

Another experience was the amazing play “Astoria: Part One”.  This adaptation, crafted by Portland Center Stage artistic director Chris Coleman, takes the book by Peter Stark and turns it into – wait for it – a musical!  (Well, there are songs in it.)  Set in the early 1800’s, this real-life portrayal skillfully captures the travails of two teams sent to claim the land at the mouth of the Columbia River for America.  Honestly, I wondered how it could be turned into an engaging play receiving so much critical and popular acclaim.

Stark’s book is deeply researched and well written.  However, it contained no dialogue.  The history can be a little dry to absorb, gathered from the journals and other first-hand accounts of the key participants.  New characters were needed to help carry the plot along.  The overall play length is over 5 hours, ergo, two parts.

Coleman did an amazing job with this work.  You know those moments in a theater when everyone around you is holding their collective breath, just as you are?  We had those.  Ditto on the sharp cries of surprise in high-tension portions.  We already know they succeed, but at what cost?

I couldn’t end this without a word about the actors.  Each has learned 3-4 parts and can play them interchangeably.  That is, 3-4 parts for two different plays, which are running simultaneously.  The execution is stunning by itself!  Imagine learning those lines – and play opposite yourself on opposing nights.  Yikes!  We eagerly anticipate Part Two next week.

You can learn more about “Astoria” and Chris Coleman here.  Denver-area folks, this talented director is moving your way.  Portland’s great loss is your gain.

This whole post is a massive Pay-It-Forward, to Brian, to Chris, and to the show cast.  Bravo to you all!

Have you ever been so moved by the words that you can’t let them go?  Please share below, because the world needs more great experiences for us to enjoy!

2 Comments

  • Lilian Simmonds

    Reply Reply January 27, 2018

    I love you are thee of the most moving wors in any language

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