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UNDER MILK Wood - Notes from the Director
 
Under Milk Wood cast

“You can hear the dew falling,

and the hushed town breathing.

Only your eyes are unclosed,

to see the black and folded town,

fast, and slow, asleep.”

Life comes full circle, just as Dylan Thomas suggests with his "one Spring day" in the fascinating town of Llareggub, a place which resides by a rolling sea and under milky stars. This assignment returns me (albeit briefly) to this place of my birth, this buena vista, for I've been paddling other bays for a few decades. To come back to port, and assemble a cast and crew of beloved colleagues is a mighty wave to ride; to surf on Thomas' words? - a thrill.

When I was a wee one, my mother Janice Martin would read to me at bedtime, outrageous choices, in fact: Shakespeare, Eliot, Lewis, White and Thomas. I soaked-in the stories, for I loved this shy and fiercely wise woman who's ancestors were English and Irish. She could not then, nor now, do any wrong - though her home is now the Milky Way. (She knit beautifully, and the yarns of her Aran Sweaters were a fascination of patterns. She wears one now, and laps-up on any shore I visit. Three decades have passed with her "at sea"...but I thank the stars for her, as do many of her hundreds of students. What a teacher, indeed. )

And so, this boy's mind was infused with the magic of Robin Goodfellow, Mr. Tumnus, that grand mouse Stuart, and the inhabitants of Llareggub...those were the "yarns" she wanted to weave into my mind. Those pillow-dreaming sessions made me an artist; that was her gift, for she loved theatre. When Bill Ball brought Under Milk Wood to the stage in San Francisco (the very town where we happened to be) the conversation increased, and one of the first plays I was exposed to (at least in this lifetime) was the aural wonder of Under Milk Wood.

Also? I was a teen when I met Molly Noble at A.C.T. and I knew right then: we were both rather "olde" young people who loved theatre. Here it is many decades later, and Molly and I are now young again, combining our artistic forces (her theatre company Porchlight Theatre Company and my theatre company Upon These Boards) to mount a production of this beloved play in Marin...near actual seafaring towns full of actual eccentrics. Our production features a symphony of voices and instruments. And on opening night, as if on cue, birds cawed and swooped and butterflies flitted through the experience, and I was humbly grateful to be a small part of reawakening this play, and helping to make it speak on stage.  ...And so, to the sounds of Organ Morgan's harmonium, and the purr in a pour of milk, or the mystery of the Music of the Spheres....let the story trickle...let the story tickle.....let the story "begin at the beginning".

Coda 2009:

There are moments of epiphany for any artist or audience...attending a favorite happening or special play or opera where one feels changed.  That was true for me with this particular visit under the poetical milk wood.  I watched the audience lean forward in an unexpected way, drinking in the words with their ears and taking-in the actors with their eyes - and then remaining pensive & touched at the end of the play. The highest praise, I have learned, can be when an audience is in fact silent, and when the play leaves a spell, uninterrupted by a forced goodbye. Letting the witnesses take it gently home with them, as 'twere.  Dylan's words do that.

- Randall Stuart