ELEVATED | 'The Road to Mecca,' to Ridgway, and to 'Metanoia'
by Leslie Vreeland
Jan 09, 2014 | 1369 views | 0 0 comments | 26 26 recommendations | email to a friend | print
SOUTH AFRICAN PLAYWRIGHT ATHOL FUGARD, author of 'The Road to Mecca,' which will be performed by the Magic Circle Players in Montrose. Opening night is Friday, Jan. 10. (Courtesy photo)
SOUTH AFRICAN PLAYWRIGHT ATHOL FUGARD, author of 'The Road to Mecca,' which will be performed by the Magic Circle Players in Montrose. Opening night is Friday, Jan. 10. (Courtesy photo)
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In Montrose: The Road to Mecca

Playwright Athol Fugard’s Tony Award-winning Road to Mecca opens this weekend at Magic Circle Theatre in Montrose. The production is directed by Trish Dickenson, a Circle Players veteran who started at the bottom, “washing toilets and cleaning up” the theater at the beginning of her during tenure at the company 25 years ago and has worked her way up to directing the musicals Oklahoma! and Evita, and Art, the comedy by Yasmina Reza about a piece of artwork that raises big questions about friendship, artistic taste and self-expression. 

The Road to Mecca raises big questions, too. Playwright Athol Fugard is from South Africa, where he also set his play; it takes place in 1974, amid the political landscape of apartheid, and concerns Miss Helen, a reclusive widow who has sculpted a collection of concrete statues, her compassionate friend, a young schoolteacher named Elsa, and a local preacher named Marius Byleveld who wants to move Miss Helen to a retirement home. Mel Gussow called the play “an event of theatrical magnitude” in his review in the New York Times, noting that Road to Mecca “is concerned with a metaphorical kind of apartheid, one that treats creativity and individualism as something eccentric, if not abhorrent. Mr. Fugard’s heroine, a portrait drawn from life, is a woman approaching 70, an outsider in a remote community in the Karoo region of South Africa. At the death of her husband, Miss Helen became a sculptor, creating in her garden an extensive world of totem-like figures, her private Mecca. As an iconoclastic artist, she is a threat to the community’s sense of propriety.” Creativity as well as faith is put to the test in Mr. Fugard’s drama, “which operates on two simultaneous planes: as an immensely personal story of self-willed martyrdom and as a symbolic representation of the scorn with which the world can treat those who are free in spirit.” 

On Tuesday, director Dickenson was choosing Afrikaner music to play in the background during intermission of this two-act play. It’s impossible to think of Mecca and not be reminded of the recent passing of the man who probably did more than anyone to dismantle apartheid, Nelson Mandela. “I’m well-aware of his immense contribution to that vast, beautiful country,” Dickenson said. She has visited that country, and, in fact, known South Africans all her life; a close friend from Cape Town worked with her to help “understand the nuances of the Afrikans” in Fugard’s script. “It’s a very dramatic play,” she said, “and I know people who come to see it will be tremendously moved.” Road to Mecca plays weekends at the Magic Circle Theatre through Jan. 25. Show times are 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday evenings, and 2 p.m. on Sunday. 

Poet Chris Ransick in Ridgway

The popular Open Bard Poetry Series continues tonight with an appearance by Chris Ransick, who will read his poetry on the Sherbino Theater stage beginning at 6:30 p.m. Ransick was named Poet Laureate of Denver in 2006; he’s the author of five books, including the evocatively titled Never Summer (winner of the 2006 Colorado Book Award in 2006); A Return to Emptiness, a Colorado Book Award fiction finalist; and Language for the Living and the Dead, his latest poetry collection. The poet Mary Crow has called Ransick’s poetry “simple but layered so that the perception of reality becomes at times almost super-real, with images that reveal an acute observation of nature.” He has an appreciative eye for neglected or otherwise-misunderstood fauna, such as turkey vultures. He may like certain aspects of them even better than people. In “When the Buzzards Return to Crestone,” he notes that 

 

Nobody ever writes poems for vultures

except to curse them or render them  

 

symbols of wretched death awaiting. 

Winged hyenas, scavengers, call them

any pejorative term but remember

 

they can fly and you cannot, they

clean up the mess your cars leave behind,

they see their mates as lovely in the trees.

 

If one of Ransick’s specialties is gently skewering humans, he doesn’t spare the types he knows the best. Here is his sonnet “How to Feed a Writer.” 

 

Tempt the tongue with husky whispers the ears

barely hear but the belly remembers.

Place marinated steak on the embers.

Disregard his impatience. Ignore tears

Borrowed from the protagonist, page eight.

Serve first for thirst the chilled and peppered booze

And let her stand beneath blue drgaonflies

As soft winds blow lindens and day grows late.

Feed a writer everything delicious,

Nothing bitter as novels to finish,

Ole poems to vanish, memoirs to banish.

What they curse and scribe, be it auspicious

Or doomed or blamed on their big busy heads,

Will be but words when they lie in their beds.

 

Following the visiting poet’s reading, as always, members of the community are invited to read a verse or two of their choosing.  

Update: Jeff Lowe’s Metanoia

A Front Range fundraiser for the popular alpinist Jeff Lowe, founder of the Ouray Ice Festival (which celebrates its 19th year starting tonight), drew a full house recently; Jon Krakauer narrated a slideshow of Lowe’s 1991 solo first ascent of Metanoia on the North Face of the Eiger. The event raised more than $33,000 – monies that will pay for post-production work (including editing, final footage capture, digitizing film and photos, music licensing and animations) on the documentary Jeff Lowe’s Metanoia, a film about the influential climber’s life. 

Now an anonymous donor has stepped in and offered to match any additional contributions dollar-for-dollar up to $25,000. To make a tax deductible contribution towards the completion of Metanoia: the movie, visit jeffloweclimber.com or send a check to the Jeff Lowe Mountain Foundation (P.O. Box 270944, Louisville CO 80027). Sponsorships are available by calling 208/ 630-4477.

Climbing magazine recently announced the winners of its annual Golden Piton Awards. This year there was a new category: the Lifetime Achievement Award. Its first recipient was Lowe. 

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