Tuesday, March 21, 2006

You've got to wonder sometimes how patterns develop in your life. I seem to have entered my Catholic high school period. First there was the visit/reconcilliation to my old school in New York. Then, a month or so ago, our good friend H--local architect, pillar of the circle of men who gather at Fritz's for gay events, and at whose house Fritz and I met--asked if I'd be interested in acting as theater consultant for a project to convert an old gym-atorium space into a proper performing arts venue at Boston College High. I said quite truthfully that I'd be delighted, realizing immediately that I'd be working in a Jesuit institution.

The first meeting with the space's users, the project manager, the president of the school and one or two other interested parties happened yesterday and went very well. The head of theatrical activities is an old acquaintance who rents props and furniture from my stock at MIT for his productions. So there was some good-natured ribbing that "Adrian's going to get everything HE wants" because he knows the theater consultant. Nobody in the room was a Jesuit, by the way. Things seem to be much as at my high school--lay professionals are in charge and the clergy are part of the mix in terms of religious matters. The president of the school is married to a woman who's an Episcopal cleric at Boston's Emmanuel Church--which just might be interested in engaging us to work on renovating that historic church's interior.

Long home to Emmanuel Music, a famed early music ensemble, and other performing organizations, the church now wants to adapt into an inclusive venue for Jewish services on Friday night, Episcopal services at other times, and to become even more flexible for performances of many kinds. In today's hip, urban and young-professional Back Bay, its congregation is largely gone and survival means diversification. Other Back Bay/South End churches are now converted into condos.

So it was all a very positive experience. H is a pleasure to work with and his company, of which he is principal, is largely if not exclusively gay. His approach to the conversion at BC High is both simple and elegant. We're on the same page about where the money, which is far from unlimited, should go. My job for the next week will be to plot lighting positions, make recommendations for new equipment purchases and report on electrical circuitry that will need to be installed to make decent theatrical lighting possible.

Most of the weekend was spent up at Fritz's. He'd been afraid that sugaring season was over as the last warm spell stopped sap flow in the sugar maples dead in its tracks. But a return to the cycle of cold nights and warm days got it going again, so he's begun a second boiling. His rig is nice and simple. A 55 gallon drum lying on its side and legged had one side sheared off and a frame welded on in which the boiling pan sits. There's a smoke vent and metal chimney out the back, and it can be set up anywhere. With luck he'll wind up with around three gallons of syrup, total. Not a huge amount but better than he'd feared.

M, builder for the new house, came by on Saturday afternoon to walk the proposed site and see if it really is viable for the type of construction I want. He fell totally in love with the terrain. It's the south slope of the highest hill on the property and it drops in a series of undulating rises and hollows down to an old New England farm stone wall. Big boulders dot the hillside like neolithic monuments. Beech, white pine, field pine and ironwoods dot the slope. It's a corner of the property that never had any hiking trails marked or development of any kind; it's absolutely pristine. M and I are both invested in as green a developoment of the site as possible with phone, electric and cable lines buried rather than running through on ugly utility poles.

We sat and talked for about an hour in Fritz's dining area with my latest thoughts laid out on the table. He likes the most recent version especially and we agreed on a slight modification--although the north, west and east sides of the house will be completely earth-sheltered, soil will not cover the roof. Instead we'll have a conventional, albeit super-insulated roof that will work as well for heat retention but shave a significant amount from the construction costs. I'm looking at the kind of shallow, elegant peaked roofs on Frank Lloyd Wright houses. M and I both admire Wright a great deal.

We also talked about my approach to the interior: warm and comfortable north-African (Moroccan/Algerian) in feeling with warm earth tones and open, flexible space for entertaining. When I mentioned that I'd love to include older materials--columns, cornices, door frames, etc. salvaged from antique buildings, he got a sparkle in his eye. I think it's going to be a good collaboration. Fritz and I will be visiting a couple of earth-sheltered homes he's built in the past late next week during MIT's spring break.

So here's a little classical performer eye candy to end the post. Sam Ramey is coming to the end of an extremely distinguished and lengthy career as a leading bass at the world's great opera houses. Like most basses, he's quite tall and is still strikingly handsome now in his 60s. The role here is Attila in Verdi's opera about the Hunnish leader who invaded Europe and was virtually unstoppable during the decline of the Roman Empire.

During his youthful prime, Sam owned the role in New York for a number of years. His voice was huge and beautiful. When he strode on stage early in the first act to claim all of Italy for himself, dressed in virtually nothing but the brief "kilt" and with his torso framed in animal fur that set off his own, he caused a sensation. This photo comes from a site celebrating effective costuming and make-up. But the raw material the designers had to work with is pretty impressive all by itself.

Mike (the guy i've been seeing) went to BC High and is still friends with a large group of gay people he graduated with.

He's still got close ties to that school (he's not Catholic, either).

The school is planning to expand from BC High to also include junior high beginning in 2007.

Go figure.
Sounds like a great project!
How wonderful!

I went to Hollywood High School (in L.A.)....it was way gay, even back in the early '70's!
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