Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Petrie Museum

The oddest museum I have ever visited is The Petrie Museum, a London museum that houses one of the world’s largest and most important collections of Egyptian antiquities.

The Petrie Museum is property of University College, London, and is housed on the second floor of a university library.

The museum is not easy to access. One must first locate the library, and then the library entrance, and then the narrow stairwell within the library that leads upstairs to the museum. The entire process of accessing the museum is Dickensian.

The museum occupies three rooms, all crammed with display cases separated by the narrowest of passageways.

If more than fifteen persons were to visit the museum at one time, the effect would be akin to rush hour at Grand Central Station. (I question whether there is enough oxygen in The Petrie Museum to sustain fifteen living persons.) When we, a party of five, visited The Petrie Museum on September 11, 2007, there were three other visitors in the museum—and all eight of us kept stumbling into each other for the duration of our visit.

Only a small portion of the collection—over 80,000 Egyptian artifacts—is on display at a given time. The artifacts are identified with aged typewritten note cards that look as if they, too, had been created in Ancient Egypt. Since the display cases do not feature lighting, visitors must pick up flashlights mounted on a wall between rooms one and two if visitors are to be able to peer into the various cabinets, drawers and display cases and actually VIEW the artifacts.

For years, The Petrie Museum has planned a move into its own purpose-built building. When we visited the museum in 2007, that year was supposed to be the final year in which the museum was to occupy its ancient, musty space. The new building was expected to be ready for occupancy in 2008. (However, when Andrew and Alex visited The Petrie Museum in 2004, THAT year was supposed to be the final year in which the museum was to occupy its ancient, musty space.)

As of today, February 28, 2012, The Petrie Museum continues to occupy its ancient—and totally uninhabitable—premises.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Savoy Chapel

The Savoy Chapel (The Queen’s Chapel Of The Savoy) in central London.

We visited The Savoy Chapel on September 13, 2007.

The Savoy Chapel is property of The Crown and operates as a Royal Peculiar.

In Evelyn Waugh’s novel, “Brideshead Revisited”, the characters Julia and Rex are forced to convene their nuptials in The Savoy Chapel once the Marchmain family learns, to its horror, that Rex has been married and divorced—with the result that Julia must be deprived of a society wedding, and the ceremony held in a modest Church Of England venue rather than a suitably-grand Roman Catholic edifice such as The Brompton Oratory.

The single entrance to The Savoy Chapel is exceedingly nondescript. Even The Sovereign must use what looks like a tradesmen’s entrance to gain access to The Savoy Chapel.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Crossing The Rhine

November 1918: German troops returning from the Western Front cross the Rhine at Cologne.

The men returned to a country already in revolution.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Old Ostrich House At The Berlin Zoo

The pseudo-Egyptian Ostrich House at the Berlin Zoo in a pre-war photograph.

The Ostrich House at the Berlin Zoo on the morning of November 23, 1943. The Berlin Zoo had been heavily bombed the previous night.


Andrew and I have not attended any theater performances since December, when we caught The Guthrie’s unsuccessful “Charley’s Aunt” on the afternoon of New Year’s Eve.

Minneapolis is a theater Mecca. On a per capita basis, Minneapolis boasts more professional theater companies, more professional theater productions, and a larger number of theater seats than any city in the English-speaking world. Given that Minneapolis, unlike London or New York, is not a tourist destination, the theater figures here are remarkable.

January is a big month for theater in the Twin Cities—the weather encourages indoor activities—but Andrew and I skipped everything. We had a new house to settle into, and other things on our plate. Moreover, the January theater offerings by and large did not appeal to us.

By intention, we skipped Theater In The Round’s presentation of Lee Blessing’s “Independence”, a play that sounded like a rewrite of “August: Osage County” (except that “Independence” preceded “August: Osage County”).

Once the reviews for The Guthrie’s “Cat On A Hot Tin Roof” were published, we crossed “Cat” off our list. The reviews were mixed—and, in the Twin Cities, mixed reviews generally signify a production that safely may be missed. That we had attended two other productions of “Cat” in recent years made our decision an easy one.

Bad word-of-mouth scared us off The Acting Company’s “Julius Caesar” at The Guthrie.

The musical, “Ragtime”, recently mounted at Park Square Theater, mildly intrigued us—but we have decided to give the production a pass. No one in the family has seen a staging of “Ragtime”, and Park Square Theater is said to have done the show justice: $300,000 was budgeted, making “Ragtime” the costliest show ever for Park Square Theater, and a cast of 35 actors was assembled after more than a year of auditions, unprecedented in the Twin Cities. Nonetheless, there is something about “Ragtime” that rubs us the wrong way—it may be the “American Pageant” quality to the show that is off-putting—and we have decided not to bother to make a trek to Saint Paul.

We had tickets for Torch Theater’s production of Christopher Hampton’s “Dangerous Liaisons” for Friday night, but we turned in our tickets after Andrew’s aunt passed. We did not feel like attending “Dangerous Liaisons” two days after a funeral—and the production closed after last night’s performance.

There were other theater productions in the Twin Cities during the month of January, but none of the other productions held any interest for us (the same may be said of the touring Broadway shows that regularly play the large theaters downtown; we invariably ignore the touring shows, most of which are musicals).

Next weekend, however, there are two plays we intend to catch: “Dial M For Murder” at Jungle Theater; and a play about Judy Garland at The Guthrie.

When The Guthrie season was announced, we had rolled our eyes at the notion of a play about Judy Garland. However, the production recently opened—and received rave notices. The production is supposed to be stupendous, mostly because the actress playing Judy Garland gives a once-in-a-lifetime performance.

The Judy Garland play at The Guthrie is a London import—the director, the designers, the lead actress all recreate the London production—and the production will move directly to Broadway as soon as The Guthrie run ends.

Consequently, a play that at first blush had seemed ridiculous to us now has us eager to see what all the excitement is about. According to those who have already seen the production, the Judy Garland play is the highlight of The Guthrie season (I am not sure what that says about The Guthrie).

Other than “Dial M For Murder” and the Judy Garland play, I doubt whether we attend any other plays this month—although, if the notices are good, we may consider “The Lark” at Theater In The Round, a production due to open in another week or so.

There are, however, other items on our schedule for the rest of the month of February.

We intend to hear two Minnesota Orchestra programs before the month is out, and two Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra programs. We have tickets for a recital by violinist Julia Fischer.

This afternoon, we went to Saint Paul to hear Minnesota Opera’s presentation of Massenet’s “Werther”.

“Werther” is an exceedingly beautiful opera.

It was an afternoon well-spent.