Sunday, January 7, 2018

Polar Opposites:… Portland Story Theater—The Old Church

An Impossible Dream

Polar opposites: Amundsen, Scott and the Race for the Pole, a one-man show with Lawrence Howard, will continue its run at hte Norse house on February 23rd and teh Nordia House on March 24th and in Dallas, OR in April.  They are also doing a Valentine show, "Kiss & Tell, " at the Old Church on February 10th, with their house jazz band, "Tonight's Special."  For further information, go to their site at www.pdxstorytheater.org or call 503-284-2226.

Did you ever have a dream as a child of being a wandering cowboy, a daring astronaut, or a great explorer?  A Norwegian, Roald Amundsen, in the latter part of the 1800’s, did.  It was to stake a claim for his country to be the first man at the South Pole.  He was a disciplined man with a fierce ego, self-directed and a born leader.  He began preparing for his trek to do just that at an early age.
But England also had their eye on this prize, as well, and almost made it with their explorer, Shackleton, who did make it within a hundred miles but was forced to turn back because of illness.  The country’s duty then fell on another choice, Robert Falcon Scott, who was, as mentioned, the polar opposite of Amundsen.  He was reserved, conflicted and prone to make rash decisions but, be that as it may, the race for the Pole was on!

Both groups started out at the same time, Amundsen from the Bay of Whales on the Ross Sea and Scott at Cape Evans, some miles away.  Over the period of 1911-12 they would both be taking parallel routes across the Great Ice Barrier and traversing the 10,000 foot Axelberg mountain range.  But, although facing the same climates and terrain, they each had very different methods of reaching their prize.

Amundsen used the traditional sled dogs but Scott had some motorized vehicles and ponies, both of which proved to be a disaster in the long run.  Amundsen’s race proved to be successful and even somewhat uneventful, as he reached the goal first.  Scott’s party also arrived at the Pole but several days after Amundsen and then, his advance party, including Scott, perished on the trek back.  From what I can glean from the information, it seems like the more experienced group/leader took home the fame.  Dreams are worthwhile, but to achieve them, there is a world of hard work associated with them, too!

Obviously, I’ve only given you a very sketchy outline of two very fascinating individuals and treks, which Howard expounds on in a two-hour plus narrative with only a giant, detailed map as his guide.  The technique of storytelling is unique.  In some ways its forerunner was the passing down of oral histories of certain tribes and clans, usually by the elders of the villages.  It would be rich in history embellished somewhat, perhaps, by the narrator, and always entertaining.  It is unfortunate that our future generations are seceding from this tradition, buried in their electronic devices, so will not be able to appreciate the value of this kind of intimate, human contact!  But, trust me, it is still alive and well in these little pockets or artistry and flesh-and-blood connections.

It is said (and I would agree) that the best, most natural, screen actor was Spencer Tracy.  He had a way of infusing the role into himself and then unveiling it to an audience so that you believed unconditionally the character and his story.  Howard has those same qualities which, I believe, are paramount for a storyteller or monologist.  This listening experience in untrained hands would be about as exciting as a professor reciting dreary dates and facts to you from a written text (and I’m sure we’ve all had those types of teachers in school).  But Howard has a disarming way of taking those realities and weaving them gently into the fabric of our (perhaps, for some, dormant) imaginations.  He has a natural easy flow to his speech patterns, choosing words carefully at times, making sure you are not lulled into a mundane complacency.  He rekindles a fervor for history so that we can better understand ourselves!

Obviously, I recommend this show.  If you do choose to see it, or others of this Ilk by him and his partner, Lynne Duddy, please tell them Dennis sent you.