Remembering Svetlana Smelyanskaya: The Art Of The Puppet Theater

Svetlana Smolenskaya was a noted puppeteer, who came under the influence of Sergei Obraztsov, Russia’s greatest puppet master.  Svetlana worked in the Monterey and San Francisco areas.  About puppeteers, columnist, Elena Bilyak, writes:  “They play with puppets their whole life.  And from their play, the world becomes bright.  They have their own guild and their own traditions, theaters and studios, leading lights and novices.  American puppeteers produce their own festivals.”  Svetlana participated in the famous Monterey Festival.  Who else participated in the festival?  Svetlana states:  “Theater groups and individuals, professionals and amateurs, guests from Canada and Spain.   Theaters representing the most different approaches.  Age was not a factor, so young and old participated…  I liked the native circus puppets from Canada.”  That is not surprising, because Svetlana goes on to say:  “I made my debut in a circus performance.  Yes.  Don’t be surprised!  The Canadians needed a bear trainer, who didn’t speak any English.  That is why they selected me.  We had a wonderful performance.”  Elena asks Svetlana about what she did in Monterey.  “”We spoke about the Russian puppet theater.  It was not an easy task to speak about the history, traditions and perspectives of the Russian puppet theater.  But all the puppets came to our aid.  They spoke about themselves and Petrushka even declared ‘I am Petrushka’ in English.”  Svetlana was helped by her interpreter, Jennifer Kagly, who also performed as a clown.  “Then this sympathetic clown(Jennifer Kagly) was transformed into a charming skomorokh(a kind of jester-minstrel) with a barrel-organ, and we discussed the rise of Russian puppet traditions and the actors that went to fair booths, displaying pictures of the holy family….  We spoke a great deal about the the theater of Sergei Vladimirovich Obraztsov, which was of great interest…  Later the act changed to the opposite side of the stage where there was a stand with puppets from the production,  ‘The Tale of Dr. Korczak’.  Jennifer removed her clown costume and became deadly serious.  Our puppets are not only capable of laughter and amusement, but also sorrow, and even tears.  ‘Look here at the puppet show of the Nativity.  Here are the figures of Christ, Joseph, and Mary.  But sewn to their clothes are yellow stars.  The puppets took the audience to a ghetto in occupied Poland, speaking of the lofty and tragic fate of Janusz Korczak.  And the hall became immersed in the mood.  The remaining silence had more meaning for us than the greatest applause.  At the end, Jennifer put on her clown cap, and I my top hat and we shouted:  “And all the same, fairy tales continue to happen.  Long live miracles!”

“The Waiter Is More Authentic Than The Food”: The Best Of Gloria Russakov, Part 1.

Gloria Russakov was a humorous restaurant critic  for the Portland area and the author of Guide To Eating Out In Portland.  In 1978, Oregon Magazine published Gloria Russakov’s Guide To Oregon Restaurants, a delightfully witty and funny book that I turn to often in times of trouble.  Although, I’ve visited only a few of the restaurants in the book, I find her prose quite entertaining and fun to read.

In her introduction to the guide, she argues that abstinence in reference to delicious food is not the answer.  To prove her point, she states:  “Learning that this planet still houses cultures that figure bride-price by the pound,… and cellulite is merely a contemporary synonym for Rubinesque, I have evolved a food philosophy I can live with.  Deliciously.”  She affirms that great cuisine does reside in the state of Oregon, however, she warns that:  “Standing between you and gastronomic heaven is an almost impassable mountain range of boxed croutons.  Impenetrable rolls reheated in microwave ovens.  Cascades of iced tea made from a mix.  Dense forests of iceberg lettuce with shredded cabbage thorns,…  and the frozen bodies of thousands of chickens from Kiev who all died with their wing tips saluting.”

Gloria’s guide separates restaurants according to regions:  The Coast, Portland Area, Willamette Valley and South and East of the Cascades.  She uses the star system, and only one restaurant, The Pancake House in Portland, receives her perfect rating of four stars.  About Lucas Lodge, no star, in Agness, she has this to say:  “Spring water at the outdoor fountain by the porch is delicious.  One lucky child gets to ring the dinner bell. Water and bell are the highlights.  Especially, if it’s your kid,…”     Her 11/2 * rating of Valley River Inn from the Willamette Valley contains the following lines:  “Service is that delicious mix of professionalism mingled with college-boy innocence…  The waiter is more authentic than the food.”

Lower Takelma Rapid Packs A Wallop For Inner Tubers

Lower Takelma Rapid, just below Takelma Park, packs a real wallop for inner tubers.  The rapid begins with an innocuous rock bar that occurs to the right of an island.  Tubers need to pull to the left as they pass over the bar, because the right current will take them into a tree and an overhanging bush that are close to the right bank.  Nevertheless,  tubers will find themselves on the right.  Now they must pull hard to the left to dodge a waterfall over a ledge on the right, and, in particular, avoid a nasty boulder at the left end of the ledge.  Then they will drop a few feet into some truly large waves.(At high water the waves converge to form a huge hole, which must be dodged to avoid a swim.)  Tubers will need to balance themselves as they climb the steep waves until they encounter calmer water downstream.

The rapid has an interesting history, and the current rapid is a relative newcomer, having been formed by high spring water just a few years before.  As long as I can remember, the river always split into different channels and some of them were so shallow that a child could ford them easily.  As this was one of Dad’s favorite steelhead holes, I often did just that.  An hour to a restless child is a long time and I recall wading the shallow bars around me in search of a shiny jasper or multicolored agate.  Often I was more fortunate than Dad, and the bottom of the raft was littered with shiny minerals.  Over the years the river continued to push the bars down, culminating finally in the threatening Lower Takelma Rapid.  The imprints of children’s feet on the sand bars have become a mere memory.

Multiple Fires Dampen River Spirits In Rogue Valley

Multiple fires that have continued to burn for several days have dampened the river spirits in the Rogue Valley.  A large fire out of Glendale, which has split into different fires has attracted more than 650 firemen and the National Guard.  Air quality has been “hazardous” for several days in Medford.  At one point, the smoke was so thick that you couldn’t see Table Rock from Modoc Road.  Needless to say, river traffic, including floaters and fishermen, has been minimal.  There are signs of clearing, but ash still decorates cars and a smoky smell remains.  I had to cancel a few tubing trips and my eyes are still burning.  The recommendation is not to go outside unless you have to.  Not a healthy sign for a city that relies on tourism for much of its income.  We can only hope that a few cloudy days with local winds will clear up what to many has become an intolerable situation.