Friday, November 8, 2013

There Is A Happiness That Morning Is by Mickle Maher, Capital Theatre at Hyde Park Theatre, October 24 - November 16, 2013

ALT reviewHappiness That Morning Is Mickle Maher Capital T Austin TX

by Michael Meigs

There is a space that theatre is,

unknown except to the hip and cognoscenti --

where verse and blood, ironic plenty,

dearth, death, desire and wit

conjured forth from air, direct

our eyes to great and lesser things

unseen, unknown, unspoken in our media.

Hyde Park, Cap T, Mick' Maher, Blake,

knife-sharp, wit-full, astounding, take

our souls in dance and squeeze our hearts,

unglaze our eyes. Innocence? Experience?

Groves of academe, Pierian springs, our lives, our parts,

our desperate loves, impending ends and dreams:

theatre, pure, unbounded, sings in Hyde Park's

flickering space as Ellen and Bernard

Resist the rush of time. Deliverance!
Verse, and to a lesser extent poetry, have distinctly faded from our Western culture since the valiant days. Now they're studied mostly by the diminishing number of undergraduate English majors and scribbled mostly by the constant supply of self-absorbed teenagers. This is a long-term cultural fading out, accelerating since the late twentieth century because of technologies, the shortening of attention spans, passivity and the increasing dominance of the visual and the sound bite.

Several decades back in the last century the enthusiastic professor who lectured on Don Quijote to us undergraduates commented that our modern eyes tend to skip past the verse with which that particular epic is so lovingly filled. We've lost the delight -- that lovin' feeling -- for the music of language unadorned with instruments. The modern mind wants prose, wants narrative, wants closure, and is impatient with the lift and rhythm of meter.

Case in point: before beginning to read the narrative, did you listen with your mind's ear to the italicized opening lines above?

There Is A Happiness That Morning Is Mickle Maher Capital T Austin TX
Katherine Catmull (photo: Capital T Theatre)
Katherine Catmull, who plays Prof. Ellen in Maher's tasty script, is a natural here, a snug fit in a character who's so devoted to the verse of William Blake that she has taught in an obscure little college for decades, just to be near her loves: Blake and Bernard, her fellow enthusiast.

As a writer, actor, publicist and Austin personality, Catmull is one essential element of the Hyde Park Theatre, the cramped former post office at 43rd Street and Guadalupe where this magic takes place. In fact, it turns out that Mickle Maher's innovation of returning to dramatic verse may be due at least in part to the HPT. It's said that Maher was in the audience in this same space for an evening of the FronteraFest Short Fringe some years ago, and for one of the evening's five 25-minute performances an Austin group performed its own original piece in rhyming verse.

Chicago-based Maher liked the approach. He wrote There Is A Happiness That Morning Is for his home company, Theatre Oobleck, and they premiered it at the City of Chicago's DCA Theatre space (think of Austin's Dougherty Arts Center, but in the Loop). Catastrophic Theatre in Houston presented it in September of this year. Capital T's artistic director Mark Pickell, who'd already nabbed Maher's Spirits to Enforce in 2011, had also signed up for the Blake play.

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