On Friday, August 25th, we went to “An Evening of Steampunk” at the Underground Collaborative, put on by A Company of Strangers theatre group. Although “an evening” might have been a generous description for an event lasting an hour and a half, this was a pleasant time. The occasion was to promote the group’s upcoming production of Oscar Wilde’s play, “An Ideal Husband,” which will evidently be done with a Steampunk aesthetic. The group provided free snacks and soft drinks, music, door prizes, a costume contest, and performed excerpts from the play. We met local Steampunk stalwarts Julie Ann Hunter, Charles Tritt, and Mary Prince there, and chatted with a number of other interested people.
“Steampunk Junque”, ArtBar
The following Friday, September 1, we went to an art exhibition at ArtBar, a tavern and exhibition space in Milwaukee’s upper east side neighborhood. Organized by “The Martini Girls,” an artists’ group, the theme was “Steampunk Junque,” and featured paintings, constructions, and mixed media works on a generally Steampunk theme. There was a very interesting selection of works, with some creative approaches to the theme. Level of polish varied, with some very nicely wrapped up, and some, perhaps intentionally, less so. Again we met Mary Prince, Julie Ann Hunter (both of whom had pieces in the exhibit), and Charles Tritt. Patrons at ArtBar, including some of the other artists, were very enthusiastic about our Steampunk outfits, and one artist asked us to pose for a picture with his work.
American Players Theatre, “Cyrano De Bergerac”
On Saturday, September 9th, we drove over to American Players Theater for this season’s production of “Cyrano de Bergerac,” which starred James Ridge as Cyrano, Laura Rook as Roxane, and Danny Martinez as Christian. James De Vita directed the production as a rather spare and fast-paced (although handsomely costumed) performance. Ridge’s Cyrano was very fine, and perhaps the most realistic and believable portrayal I have seen. Perversely, this works partly against the unabashed sentimentality of the play. Cyrano’s final rant is less effective than others I have seen, because Ridge is more like a real man at death’s door, and less like a firework burning out in a blaze of glory. Although not my favorite translation (I think the one I like best is the Anthony Burgess one--), at least it preserved some poetry and rhyme. However, by not making prior reference to Cyrano’s “white plume” (which he didn’t have in this version) or his “panache”, Cyrano’s final words, “My panache,” drew a laugh for the first time I have ever heard. Admittedly, Rostand’s play is considered a comedy, but I don’t think it is supposed to end with a punch line.
Schlitz Audubon Nature Center.
We’d never been up to the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center before, so took advantage of the good day on the 16th to drive up to the northeastern corner of the county to see it. The area is mostly wooded, with oaks, maples and some beeches, and occasional stands of conifers. There is a sizable remnant prairie, some ponds and associated wetlands, and the bluffs and ravines leading down to the Lake Michigan shoreline, thus including most of the main ecologies of southern Wisconsin. The main structures on the plot are the visitor center, which is a large and handsome building containing classrooms and meeting rooms, and a lookout tower. We climbed the tower, which looks out over mostly treetops and the lake to the east; walked down to Lake Michigan, and back up around “Mystery Pond” which was a very nice walk, with the landscape beautiful at the cusp of autumn.
On Sunday, September 17th, we went to see this new animated movie, about a young orphan girl who wants to become a ballet dancer, and her friend who wants to be an inventor. It is set in France, approximately 1887, judging by the state of construction of the Eiffel Tower, where some of the action takes place. (However, time is rather fluid, as we also see the Statue of Liberty under construction, which was dedicated in New York in 1886.)
The film was created by an international consortium, and shares some elements, such as similarities of character design, with other animations handled by the Weinstein Group, such as How To Train Your Dragon. However, a strong French element is present as shown by the loving depictions of Paris, and particularly, the very accurate renderings of the Opera House, where much of the action takes place.
The story does start with a lot of clichés: the girl with native talent and heart but no training; the former dancer, career ended by an injury, who becomes her teacher; the martinet ballet master, but uses them with reasonable freshness. The orphanage masters are harsh, but not heartless. Character animations and voice characterizations are OK, but not really special. (We were, however, astonished to see that the supporting role of Luteau was voiced by Mel Brooks, aged 91!) It was a cute, diverting story with a few surprises, good entertainment for a matinee.
Dining at Screaming Tuna.
I had been having a craving for sushi lately, so we decided to get dinner on Saturday the 16th at Screaming Tuna in the 3rd Ward, which came highly rated. I think the rating largely comes from its extensive and creative menu of maki (rolls), which I don’t really care about. I prefer the classic nigiri sushi, or sashimi. I ordered the Omakase platter, which came with nigiri sushi representing seared salmon, tuna, flounder, lightly seared squid, and shrimp. There was also salmon, albacore, and seared albacore sashimi. The light searing for sushi was new to me. The salmon and albacore could be seen to have a cooked layer about one-eighth-inch deep, which did somewhat change the flavor and texture of the fish. The squid was solid white rather than translucent all the way through, indicating a bit deeper cooking. This I considered an improvement over raw squid. I suppose there really isn’t all that much that can be done with raw fish—that being somewhat the point—but I have had better sushi I liked more. For main dish, Georgie had the salmon salad. The soy-glazed salmon was very nice on a bed of fresh greens.
For appetizers, we had tempura and gyoza. Both of those were good. The vegetables in the tempura included a piece of red bell pepper, which was unusual. For dessert, we had Purple Door Ginger ice cream, which was good, very gingery, and has lots of potential for experimentation. The Tempura Banana with whipped cream and caramel sauce was nicely excessive.
Service was good, and we had a table at the window wall which gave us a good view of the Milwaukee River traffic without having to be outdoors.