July 27, 2005

Avinadav

Avinadav will cook with us August 29 in Toronto. He has asked us to respond to a menu he created--as Dina says, "He wants to make all of it."--and all of it looks wonderful. I love the goat yogurt variations running all the way through the menu.

Starters מנה ראשונה
סלק בתנור ממולא בטרטר דג על מצע סלט פול עם יוגורט עזים, צנון, שמן זית ולימונים מומלחים
Baked beet stuffed with fish tartar, served on fava salad with goat yogurt, radish, olive oil and salted lemons.

בצל ממולא על ירקות שורש
Stuffed onions served on white roots

ליום חם: מרק גספצו'
For hot day: gazpacho soup
ליום קריר: קפוצ'ינו של קרם פלפלים צלויים (מוגש בכוסות קפה)
For chilly day: Grilled pepper cream cappuccino (served in coffee cups)

Main Courseמנה עיקרית
פילה דג ים צלוי על חציל קטן צלוי עם טחינה ויוגורט
Grilled sea fish fillet served on grilled baby eggplant with tehina and goat yogurt

Dessert קינוח
סורבה יוגורט עזים בשמן זית על מרק תות.
Goat yogurt sorbet with olive oil, served with strawberry soup.

Bread לחם: פוקצ'ה
Home made focaccia

There are also the menus he created--the one we chose from and the one he actually made--from the dinner in May.

Posted by BKG at 07:23 AM | Comments (0)

May 18, 2004

The phone call

A call came in for Mayer yesterday. From the UJA (United Jewish Appeal). I took the message. Then I asked, "May I ask what it is about?" The answer was "He applied for a grant." It took me a second to connect the dots. "Oh," I said, "you might like to talk to me," and I introduced myself. "He was awarded the grant," she said. "The jury considers his project very important," adding, "The proposal was very well written." I smiled but didn't say anything. There will be an award ceremony on June 3 and they will send a filmmaker before then to make a little film about Mayer and his work. I mentioned the toy theatre DVD and she was interested in the possibility of including part of it. I will try to come in for the ceremony, but it will be difficult as we leave for New Zealand on June 6. Very gratifying that Mayer's work is being recognized in this way and in Toronto. The Jewish Culture Grant is really a big honor: "In its first round of awards, the council will award five grants of $5,000 each the largest amount of financial support the council has ever presented to visual artists. Eligible artists must either be Jewish or their art must have a Jewish theme." I was thrilled!

Posted by BKG at 09:59 AM | Comments (0)

Family

The family has been terrific. Everyone has phoned, come by, taken us out in the car, and been so attentive and loving, no matter how busy with school, work, and their own lives. This has made all the difference in the world. It is stimulating for Dora. She loves to be surrounded by family. And, it is fun. We enjoy each other very much. Lisa Lou has called and come by, sat with Dora and engaged her in conversation. Shawna has taken us to her concerts. Marv has brought us vast amounts of club soda, wine for our big dinners, and ensured that something interesting would happen each day. Danny and the boys have come by and shared meals with us, whether at their house or ours. Rosie and Candy have called and come to visit. Max has called every day. Pinki has been fantastic, both in lining up the team in a kind of family relay/triage effort and in keeping things on track in France. All in all, a great team!

Posted by BKG at 09:12 AM | Comments (0)

Breakthroughs

Caring for Dora physically is easy. The challenge is keeping her stimulated, engaged, and occupied, given her limited sight, memory, energy, and mobility. It is too much for one person to sustain. A rich perceptual and sensory environment is so important. She needs companionship, hates to be alone, whether awake or in bed. She can follow a single-stranded conversation, if it is clear and straightforward and of interest to her.
Two breakthroughs. First, she is responsive to Yiddish songs and even got all the jokes on a Menashe Skulnik routine. Reyna checked out the CDs, read the liner notes, and plans on playing the music for Dora to occupy her when Mayer is downstairs painting. I dug around the den looking for CDs and found Mayer's stash of cassette tapes, including Theodor Bikel!

mariam.jpeg And, best of all, one of Mariam Nirenberg singing at a YIVO concert that I organized many years ago to celebrate the release of the record we made of her songs. Here are song samples. Mariam's son Les was there and so was Dora. Mariam, a voice from Dora's childhood in Poland. A voice from the other side. Mariam passed away a few years ago. On this tape, her vibrant voice resonates through the room. And, so does Dora's. There she is on the tape, in her prime, speaking from her intact self. Here she is now, listening to herself then. Many of the songs are about the passage of time, about lost childhood, about growing old, about love.
Second, we succeeded in getting her to go out with Rayna in the wheelchair on their own. They had a heart to heart chat, and Dora gave Rayna good advice about life. She was even affectionate toward Rayna. So, we are making progress.

Posted by BKG at 08:55 AM | Comments (0)

Toronto, Day 9

Mayer and Pinki come home today. Marv will take Dora and me to the airport at 1:30 and hopefully we will overlap so that I get to see them before getting on the plane for New York. It's just after 7:00 am, overcast, trees in the back yard gently swaying, and I'm here with my cup of coffee and the The National Post.

hezbollah.jpeg Just read the article on the Hezbollah ad "The Passion of the Iraquis," which appeared on their satellite station, Al-Manar. It shows the terrifying photograph of the hooded Iraqui prisoner to the music from Mel Gibson's The Passion, with the flashing words "no mercy" and "no compassion." It is of interest to Canadians because the composer, Jack Lenz, is a Canadian and he is appalled not only by the ad, but also by the film--had he to do it over again, he wouldn't. Must send the article to my religion and media colleagues at NYU. I grabbed the image from the BBC site.
Dora is still upstairs, actually awake, but not ready to start the day. Last night Danny and the boys took us to dinner at Mayer's favorite Chinese restaurant--all you can eat for $7.99--in a shopping mall on Shepherd, perfect for the boys, who piled their plates and dipped into the freezer for ice cream. Doron contemplated his stash, noting everything on his plate, in layers, and tucked in. I only regret that I did not take my camera so I could properly blog our festive meal. We talked about Tikkun, as Danny and Tsafi attended a meeting last week. Noam graduates high school and is getting ready for the prom--he would rather invite his best friend, a guy, than a girlfriend. It is an important time for him--end of high school, end of NFTY, and the start of university. Doron is driving! And, next year he will run for regional song leader of NFTY. He has expressed interest in guitar lessons. He has already taught himself a lot and is playing beautifully.

Posted by BKG at 08:00 AM | Comments (0)

May 17, 2004

Toronto, Day 8

Dora got up today at 8:30, but lay down to rest again at around 11:00. Nice sunny day, cool, squirrels scampering along the telephone wires and rooftops, robins, cardinals, crows, and sparrows feeding on the lawn. Reyna is here today.

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Winston arrived a few minutes later with a big cardboard box filled with 100 suman, delicious sticky rice, cooked with coconut milk and brown (or palm) sugar, wrapped in banana or palm leaves (buy frozen, oil the leaves so rice does not stick), and steamed. I am taking 60 home with me to New York. We froze a few dozen and saved the rest to eat today. I will serve them to guests this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Just defrost and steam them and they are as delicious as ever. There are so many ways Filipinos prepare sticky rice.




Posted by BKG at 11:56 AM | Comments (0)

May 16, 2004

Tuning memory

Blogged late into the night. Dora is still in bed. This morning for the first time I've got the radio on. Canada's favorite country music station and a few Yiddish CDs lined up for Dora. She seemed to enjoy the concert last night so I thought I would see if she might like to listen to Adrienne Cooper or Mandy Patinkin. Her all time favorite is Theodor Bikel so I will buy a few of his CDs and try that too.
Today I'm trying another approach. I've got Mandy Patinkin singing Mayn shteytele Belz and Doris is singing along a little bit and seems to be enjoying the music. Now she is singing along with Der Rebe Elimeylekh. And, now Rozhinkes mit mandlen and Papirosn. I think we are on to something.

Posted by BKG at 11:20 AM | Comments (0)

Memory erased

Last night as I put Dora to bed--she kept saying "I'm so tired. I'm so tired"--she used a Polish proverb: "Old age is no picnic," adding, of course, that it is better than the alternative. Two days ago when we were talking Yiddish and I tried telling stories, I told her about the stories she used to tell me, the parables her mother told her and the proverbs. Did she remember them? I prompted her. She remembered the odd proverb. And, with help, the one about the man who lived with his wife in a little room with their ten children. His wife complained about the crowding so the man went to the rebe for advice. "Bring in the chickens," the rebe advised. Baffled, the man followed his advice. Returning the next day, he complained that the chickens made things worse. "Bring in the goats," the rebe instructed. The man went home and did as he was told. This continued until the cows, ducks, geese, and every other animal was in the house. Exasperated, the man returned to the rebe, who now told him to take all the animals out. The man did as he was told. He and his wife sighed a sigh of relief. How spacious their home now seemed!
But, the most poignant moment, the moment that made me deeply sad, that conveyed the depth of what Dora's memory loss means--at the very least to me--is that she did not remember the parable about the man who did not wash his hands before eating. I explained to her that this was the story I wrote about that got me my first tenure-track job in 1970. I presented "A Parable in Context" at the American Folklore Society Meetings and was literally offered the position at the University of Texas on the spot. I later published the article and it has become a classic in the field. I tried to explain to her how much her stories and proverbs meant to me and how much I knew they had meant to her.
She did not remember the story. She did not remember the context in which she had told it. I was crushed. Like a tape that has been erased. Blank. The archive empty. Where once there were resonant memories of her mother, her wisdom, her parables, a white slate, clear water, pure light....

A man went to rabbi to ask forgiveness for not washing his hands.
"Why," the rabbi asked, "did you not wash your hands?"
"Because I did not say the blessing on the food," the man replied.
The rabbi asked, "And why did you not say the blessing?"
The man responded, "Because I was not eating kosher food."
"Why were you not eating kosher food?", the rabbi queried.
"Because it was Yom Kippur and no Jewish restaurants were open," the man explained.

It is up to us to remember.

Posted by BKG at 11:19 AM | Comments (0)

Toronto, Day 7

Blogged late into the night. Dora is still in bed. This morning for the first time I've got the radio on. Canada's favorite country music station and a few Yiddish CDs lined up for Dora. She seemed to enjoy the concert last night so I thought I would see if she might like to listen to Adrienne Cooper or Mandy Patinkin. Her all time favorite is Theodor Bikel so I will buy a few of his CDs and try that too.

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Another chilly spring morning, watery yellow light, but clear. No plans for today. Lisa Lou called. She is truly a sweetie and will come by for a visit. She is busy with school and now with moving into her new house. Perfect cacoon. It has "family" written all over it. A place to be happy together. Lisa Lou will come by for a visit. Max called.

This afternoon Shawna picked us up and drove us to her concert, this time with an orchestra. Sweet Pea on the drums!!!! The concert was nice, with a terrific violinst playing a Mendelssohn symphony and a Tchaikovsky symphony during the second half, with, as Hal says, an obligatory Canadian composition. Doris enjoyed the concert, but got tired and impatient during the second half.

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Meanwhile, Shawna ran into a tree when rushing from the car to the building and wounded herself, which we have immortalized here. All the way there and back we sang Yiddish songs--Hal was with us on the way back and he knows the words!--and Doris sang along.

We came home and the family joined us for an early dinner. Doron and Noam were in Ohio at a NFTY gathering, were up all night, and arrived back exhausted, emotionally drained, and enriched. We were nine at the big table, with Marv, Lisa, and Shawna, Danny, Doron and Noam, Hal, Doris and me. I made a calculation: we cooked enough for Friday night's dinner for ten that night, nine tonight, three last night, and three for lunch yesterday--and I still have lots left over. So that's 25 and we are still counting.
Doris had difficulty following the conversation, with everyone talking at once. After everyone left, Lisa stayed behind to visit. Tired and frustrated, Doris lay down on the couch in the den and Lisa and I sat hear her and chatted about children, raising them Jewish, marriage, life. About a half hour into the conversation, Doris pipes up, "I've been listening to the whole thing." So, we solicited her advice about marriage, raising children, and her own experience. To our astonishment, she was like her old self--lucid, coherent, memory more or less in tact, wise, irreverent. When she is bored or tired, she gets frustrated and anxious. After a sleep or a nap and engaged, she is at her sharpest.

Posted by BKG at 10:21 AM | Comments (0)

Tympani

DSCN5569-small.jpg Day 6 was a big day. After visiting with Danny and talking with Mayer and Pinki by web cam, going to see Lisa and Corey's new house and Shawna's new loft, we came home to rest and have a light supper before going to Shawna's Spring Concert. She plays percussion with the Northdale Concert Band, which was formed in 1967 by students at Willowdale Junior High School in two high school who went on to Northview Height, my highschool, and other students. They rehearse and generally perform at St. Jude's Anglican Church.

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I was impressed with the program and with the quality of the performance, as well as with the conductor and his comments on the pieces they played. Bruch's Kol Nidre, Aaron Copland, Wagner, Baring-Gould, Shostakovtch, Bach, Sousa, Fiddler on the Roof, Superman, original compositions, and more. It was lovely to hear the range of music that is composed for a brass and wind ensemble, the spectrum of sound and timbre, and to think about not only adapations of works for such bands, but also about the history of such bands and music created specially for them--the military, parades, ceremonial occasions, pooular music, as well as bona fide classical music. Shawna, as usual, was her petite self beating a mighty sound from enormous tympani.

Posted by BKG at 04:38 AM | Comments (0)

Shawna's loft

DSCN5565-small.jpg Shawna's loft has been under construction for about a year and is now ready for her to move in. I saw it in its raw state, a beautiful open space on four levels, in a church that has been converted into thirty-two living units, each one unique. She has a very clear idea about what she wants, first and foremost, minimalist, clean, open, simple, and functional. She has made perfect choices, right down to the sleek faucets, Viking professional restaurant range, energy efficient refrigerator, hardwood floors, and tiled bathroom.

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There is beautiful light, dramatic spaces, and intimate ones too. A deck and a front garden, with a brilliant red maple. Entertaining is on the horizon, with the kitchen the hub. She is located in the Greek and Chinese/Vietnamese neighborhoods, with excellent shopping within walking distance, and movies, theaters, and a few small galleries nearby.

Posted by BKG at 04:13 AM | Comments (0)

Lisa and Corey's house

DSCN5534-small.jpgAfter the web cam conversation, we headed down to Avenue Road the see the house that Lisa and Corey just bought. Corey's mother, Joyce, was there and delighted with the house. Perfect for them. Ideal location, close to the schools where they teach. The house was built in the thirties and the street is lined with grand old trees and lovely gardens. The house reminds me of the very first house Mayer and Dora owned on Harrison Street, which is the house where I spent my first five years. It is in mint condition, with beautiful hardwood floors and wood trim, a window seat in the front room, deck in the back, and lots of closets. I am very happy for them.

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Posted by BKG at 04:07 AM | Comments (0)

Web Cam Conversation

DSCN5523-small.jpgJacques Silly arranged for Elaine and Mayer to talk with us by web cam at 11:00 am Saturday. Shawna, Dora, and I headed over to Danny, as he has a high speed connection and Doron has the camera and microphone. We crowded around Doron's computer and sure enough, Mayer and Pinki appeared on the screen and so did we. The Belgian relatives made it to the performance, which went very well. Two more to go and then a day in Paris, with a visit to the Picasso Museum.


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We brought bagels, lox, and cream cheese, as well as leftovers from our Philippine banquet the night before. Danny set a beautiful table with cheese, fresh vegetables, juice, and coffee. Our cream cheese and lox came from a box that the boys were selling to raise money and Danny, who helped them, got a t-shirt. Knowing my passion for all things bagel, he literally gave me the shirt off his back.

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Posted by BKG at 04:00 AM | Comments (0)

May 15, 2004

Hairdresser

Dora gets her hair done every Friday morning. Lydia has been doing her hair for decades. Indeed, Lydia has customers going back to the day she started in 1961 and many of her customers have been with her as long as thirty years. The salon is a loving place. Lots of old ladies, very very old ladies, many with their personal care assistants, getting their hair done. Lots of curls, teasing to make thin hair fuller, and the most loving attention.

DSCN5455-small.jpg I got Dora up this morning, bathed and dressed her, and served her cornflakes and milk. Getting a taxi to take us to the salon was difficult. They would not come at a specified time. I had to call again 5-10 minutes before I wanted to leave, which I did. We waited outside for them, but after 20 minutes, with no taxi in sight I called on the cellphone to discover they had been calling the house to say they had no cars! I had to start all over again with another company. I called Lydia to say we would be 45 minutes late. "No problem," she said. "I will fit Dora in." Reyna and her fianc� met us at the hairdresser to take us shopping for Friday night's dinner.

Posted by BKG at 09:50 AM | Comments (0)

Toronto, Day 5

A quiet Saturday morning, just the hum of the refrigerator. The weather has suddenly turned cool. The morning light is silver. A crisp breeze comes in through the kitchen window. Dora is still sleeping. I will get her up in a few minutes, bathe her, get her dressed, and serve her cornflakes and milk for breakfast.
Today will be a full day. I'll take her in the wheelchair to Danny's for the webcast of Mayer's performance, then we'll go see Lisa's new house, back here for the afternoon, and Shawna's concert this evening.
My breakfast this morning was last night's dinner--the oxtail, oyster mushrooms and ridged gourd, the leftover egg and potato fritatta from a few lunches ago, and rice, heated up in the microwave, and the green mango. Delicious!

Posted by BKG at 09:39 AM | Comments (0)

News from France

Elaine and Mayer called from France and then again in the evening with Elaine's inimitably detailed blow-by-blow account of their adventures. I am thrilled that she has become part of the theatre ensemble. She is doing the sound, helping with the stage mechanics, chauffeuring the group, ordering pizza for Isaac, a thirteen-year-old, and watching over Mayer like a hawk--and speaking French! She says the production is outstanding and that everyone is very taken with Mayer and his work. He has had two media interviews and their Friday opening night performance--a world premier of a work created especially for this festival--was well-received. As Pinki says, the audience laughed at the right places. She says Jennie is amazing, so creative, working day and night, and very resourceful, adapting to the circumstances, cueing Mayer, so he can face the audience (otherwise he would turn to the stage to take his cue from the images). Today Mark and Guy, the Belgian relatives, arrive, so that will be very nice.
This morning, Saturday, we'll all go over to Danny's and instant message with Pinki in order to see a webcast via a webcam, which I do not understand, but will figure out when are there. We are eager to see the performance!

Posted by BKG at 09:28 AM | Comments (0)

May 14, 2004

Talking Yiddish

Dora is 89, with limited sight and mobility and failing memory. She is alert enough to be bored, but cannot entertain herself, as she cannot read, no longer enjoys television, which is hard for her to understand, and finds it difficult to follow quick conversations. This makes her totally dependent on others for stimulation. Above all, she is preoccupied with Mayer not being here and repeats the same questions: Where is he? When is he coming back? What is he doing? It is difficult for her to generate conversation unless we can strike the right topic and she is in a good frame of mind and even then it is hard to sustain. She is somewhat responsive to hearing someone read.
The great discovery today was her reaction to a conversation in Yiddish. In an effort to find a way to pass the time together--her days are very long and when she is bored her solution is to sleep--I cast about for topics of conversation, without success. Then, I thought, here is a chance to speak Yiddish, something I would relish. To my delight, she did not resist, not in the least. So, we watched the evening news on t.v. and I explained in Yiddish what was happening in Iraq. There is no Yiddish dictionary in the house so I asked her for the words that I could not remember or did not know--words for torture, prisoners, beheading. Sure enough she either came up with the word right off the bat or scoured her memory for it. I had not seen her so intellectually engaged in a very long time. I know that anything emotionally compelling has a better chance of capturing her interest and holding her attention, so the news, however disturbing, had the advantage of a strong, clear, vivid story. From here on in, it's Yiddish!
We went tonight to the Buddhist vegetarian restaurant with Marv, Shawna, Joe and Anne Jacob. I think Dora enjoyed the outing and so did I.

Posted by BKG at 12:03 AM | Comments (0)

May 13, 2004

News of The White Pajamas

The festival website is up and running so we just got to see a nice little clip of part of Mayer's show, which is billed as the world premier!

Reyna has arrived and gotten Dora ready for the day. Dora is sitting on the front porch and Reyna is reading her the news. It is too hot to walk just now, midday, but there is a lovely cool breeze in the shade. We'll take a walk later on as I need to print out and mail Mayer's submission to the Worship exhibition.

Posted by BKG at 01:04 PM | Comments (0)

Worship

Today I submit Mayer's materials to the Ontario Society of Artists 130th Annual Open Juried Exhibition at the John B. Aird Gallery. The theme is Worship, which "can be approached from a variety of different perspectives....Worship refers to the act of concerning oneself with ultimate things, or it can point to the object or content of that concern. For instance, the focus of our worship may have religious dimensions, or it may be decidedly non-religious: embracing environmental or rational or cultural concerns, even lusts and fetishes. The focus of our worship can be concrete and specific or it can be intangible and ethereal. Furthermore, worship can suggest inequality between human beings, power-over and distorted relationships as well as expressing incomparable joy, centeredness and harmony between people. Worship can portray peace and bondage, ecstasy and abuse."

I don't know about the lusts, festishes, bondage, and abuse, but Mayer definitely has some paintings that would fit the theme of worship and we will give it a shot.

Posted by BKG at 12:53 PM | Comments (0)

Toronto Day 4

A lovely morning, cool breeze coming from the kitchen window, birds chirping in the green yard. They are not the only ones. The security alarm for the house is chirping too as I do not know how to operate it. Marv will be here later and show me. Dora is sleeping and I started the day with The National Post, a cup of coffee (Folgers, classic roast, ground, from a five pound can), and email, via telnet.

Mayer said all his old buddies in the steam room at the Y read the news online in the morning, including the Israeli newspapers, and quite liked the idea of doing the same, so Danny gave Mayer a computer and set him up. But to no avail. Mayer has his hands full caring for Dora and painting, so it was just too much to deal with the computer too, so he cancelled the DSL because he wasn't using it. This means that I when I am on the computer, the line is tied up. Marv was smart enough to set me up with Mayer's cell phone so I can receive calls while online and sure enough Pinki and Mayer called from France this morning! They gave us a quick report. Dora asks about Mayer all the time and all of us are eager to get news. Everything is going well there in Mourmelon, where they are performing in the Rencontre Internationale de Thtres de Papier, 14-16 May. Local residents are hosting the artists. We're hoping the organizers will be posting video clips online today as we are very eager to see what they are doing.

Tonight we go to the Buddhist vegetarian restaurant with Ann Jacobs and her husband, Marv, and maybe Shawna, if she gets back from Rochester in time. That will be a nice change for Dora, a little outing.

Posted by BKG at 09:01 AM | Comments (0)

May 12, 2004

Cooking with Reyna

Reynalyn, who came to Toronto from the Philippines a few years ago when she was seventeen, is helping me care for Dora. She is from Ilocos Norte, where the local language is Ilokano, and is a fine cook. Needless to say yesterday, the first day she was with me, we talked food all day. I typed up all the recipes she could remember for what will be her own personal cookbook, a nice wedding gift for her friends and relatives, and we started planning what to cook. This Friday night we'll make a Philippine meal for about ten people. We'll try out a few dishes all week long and choose the best ones and, most important, those that can be prepared for vegetarians for Friday.

We are without a car as I let my license expire in 1974 when we sold our car. No need for a car in New York. So, Reyna and I put Dora in the wheelchair and walked to the plaza to pick up a prescription, came home, and while Reyna prepared lunch for Dora, I went to the Dominian supermarket at the other plaza to shop for fresh vegetables. There are two small Philippine groceries nearby but Reyna prefers a large Vietnamese supermarket at Finch and Bathurst, which is too far to walk, so we will wait until the evening when someone can drive us.

There are a lot of Philippine recipes online.

Posted by BKG at 10:50 AM | Comments (0)

Toronto diary

Day 3 in Toronto and my first chance to blog. A grand collaboration between Shawna, Doron, and Danny got the internet working for me and I am now fully connected. Mayer and Pinki left for France Monday night and I am here caring for Dora. They will be in a town near Troyes to perform Mayer�s papierth��tre, The White Pajamas, at the invitation of Alain Lecucq. Mayer collaborated with the inimitable Jennifer Romaine of Great Small Works fame. On Sunday, Mother's Day, we went to Jennie's studio in Dumbo to see the toy theatre before she packed everything up to take to France.

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Mayer was totally psyched and Elaine fully equipped with Shawna�s digital camera and Jennie�s video camera, so we should have a full record and hopefully even a live webcast for a special showing for the French minister of culture. The performance is based on Mayer�s painting and story.

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He made an earlier toy theater on this subject, but we were never able to perform it. This time Jennie has transformed Mayer's paintings into a totally magical theatrical experience.

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Pictures from France to come shortly.

Posted by BKG at 10:21 AM | Comments (1)