Friday, March 20, 2009

I am a camera

Natasha Richardson, rest in peace. Natasha Richardson won a Tony award for her performance as Sally Bowles in the revival of Cabaret on Broadway, a production I later saw in Seattle on tour with Joely Fisher as Sally. Cabaret was based on a play by John Van Druten titled I Am A Camera, which was based on one of Christopher Isherwood's "Berlin Stories."

“I am a camera with its shutter open. Quite passive. Recording, not thinking. Someday all this will have to be developed, carefully printed. Fixed.”
-Christopher Isherwood, Berlin Stories

Christopher Isherwood was born in England, lived in Berlin during the Weimar Republic and emigrated to America in or about 1940. He settled in Santa Monica during the war and worked as a novelist and teacher. Besides his own fiction, he is noteworthy for his circle, which included W.H. Auden (champion of Tolkein), Stephen Spender, and for having met fledgling writer Ray Bradbury in a Santa Monica bookstore, a chance meeting that resulted in a famous positive review of Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles. I met Ray Bradbury in Seattle about 10 years ago at a book signing. He was gracious and spoke to me for some minutes regarding On the Orient North, a short story of his that had been made into a teleplay by Ray Bradbury Theater on Showtime. He didn't care for its execution, but after I sang its praises he promised he would take another look.

Natasha Richardson's aunt, Lynne Redgrave, performed Shakespeare for My Father at the Intiman several years ago, which I saw, and was quite moved by. This was right before the release of Shine. I later saw Ms. Redgrave standing on the corner of Mercer and 1st Avenue N. waiting to cross the street, a dreamy look in her eye. I wish that I hadn't been driving so that I could have told her how moving her memoir was to me, and how much I enjoyed not only her performance, but her writing, which captured a moment from her father's life of such intimacy and grace that it has been indelibly recorded in my memory. Her father, in a completely selfless frame of mind, ravaged by Parkinsons into an egoless state, cries, "I'm so worried about your mother..."

Natasha Richardson's Mother, Vanessa Redgrave, performed in Little Odessa, with Tim Roth, in which her character is dying of cancer. My own mother had passed away just the year before of the same disease, and Redgrave's frank resemblance to my mother was simply overwhelming. To this day I still associate Vanessa Redgrave with my mother because they looked so much alike.

I am a camera.

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