Please to enjoy my latest guest appearance on the Deconstruction Workers. Part 2 coming soon! UPDATE: Part 2 is HERE! https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-deconstruction-workers/id1396862014
From: Elementary, the last two episodes ever… /sniff/
Names: Altamont, Sigerson
Reference: In the last two eps of stellar Sherlockian show Elementary, we see and hear about Sherlock using these two names as aliases as he is feigning death. In the original canon, everyone (including faithful Watson) thinks Holmes dead, until he returns in fine form to solve the murder of Ronald Adair (which happens to be another character name from canon that appears again here). Sigerson is one of the canon aliases Holmes tells Watson about upon his return.
In Elementary, Joan Watson is in on the fake death, but has lost track of him, and so in the last ep, Sherlock tells her in a verbatim quote from the original canon story “The Empty House”:
“You may have read of the remarkable explorations of a Norwegian named Sigerson; but I am sure it never occurred to you that you were receiving news of your friend.”
Altamont is a moniker that original canon Holmes uses not in the 3 years during his death, but in a story much more chronologically late than that: “His Last Bow.” In this rare omnisciently narrated short story, Holmes (now in his 60s) foils a German spy, with the help of an elderly, automobile-driving, comfortably-waistcoated Watson. Holmes had masqueraded for two years as an Irish-American tough guy named Altamont, and, after the conclusion of the story, delightfully complains not only about his goatee, but the fact that his language is no doubt forever sullied by his long years of Americanisms.
The last episode of Elementary was called “Their Last Bow,” no doubt in honor of the canon story of almost the same name.
From: Elementary s7ep10
Title / Name: “The Devil’s Foot” / Mortimer Tregennis
Reference: Eponymous canon story tells of Mortimer Tregennis, who threw powdered Devil’s foot root into the fire at a card game his siblings were playing with him, before escaping, hopefully to inherit the family estate.
In the original, Brenda Tregennis’ lover, classic Victorian character Leon Sterndale, African explorer and badass, kills Mortimer vigilante style in revenge, with his own Devil’s foot root. Holmes finds Sterndale’s motives so sympathetic that he lets him go.
In the Elementary episode, “The Latest Model,” this exact story (including the year it happened, 1910), is the subject of a documentary made by a plagiarist of another character’s diligent research work, making the latter potentially homicidal. Sherlock & Joan aren’t investigating the Devil’s foot story, but the dangers of the men who retold it.
So, though the story itself wasn’t updated and enacted in Elementary, instead it was preserved like a period piece or a fossil, in the middle of the contemporary mystery being solved around it.
I forgot to share with you, lovely lurkers: stellar intellectual podcast The Deconstruction Workers had me on to talk about the Problematic Badass Female Tropes the other day. It was a heckuva fun and stimulating conversation, and I am honored to be on their wall of Workers now on their website. Listen above, and tell me what you think (season 3, ep 4).
“I was walking in the night, and I saw nothing scary. / For I have never been afraid of anything. Not very. / Then, I was deep within the woods, when suddenly, I spied them: / I saw a pair of pale green pants, with nobody inside them.”
Thus begins one of Dr. Seuss’ not-so-well-known stories, found within the collection titled: The Sneetches and Other Stories.
You’ll have heard of the eponymous Sneetches: birdlike creatures, some have bellies with stars and others have none upon thars. The Star-Belly Sneetches treat the Plain-Bellies horribly, and we hear they’ve done so for years. In the end (spoiler alert), after being bilked by a ruthless Fix-It-Up-Chappie, the Sneetches learn their lesson, and decide that “no kind of Sneetch is the best on the beaches.”
What Was I Scared Of? has a similar moral: in the end the narrator comes to a worldview-shattering realization that the pale green pants were “just as scared as I,” and declares, “I was just as strange to them / as they were strange to me.”
Learning to not only appreciate those different than us, but coexist with them, seems to be a common Seussian theme, across multiple Seuss stories. More importantly: that the differences we perceive in others, no matter how disturbing they may seem at first, are really, as the narrator of The Sneetches remarks, “…so small, / you might think such a thing wouldn’t matter at all.”
I haven’t performed this story since the reprise, in 2002, of the original production, put up by me and a small number of performers I dubbed Five Funny Faces (after a favorite class-closing game a beloved acting prof used to do with us), in 2000. In 2000, we performed at Nomad Theatre, and in ’02 we were recruited for the Seussentennial celebration, at the Boulder Public Library. This is after the previous school-grant production at the now-defunct Guild Theatre in east Boulder, a couple years before, which in turn came out of my directing project at CU Boulder the year before that: 3 By Seuss.
For all these past theatrical endeavors, I had adapted five Dr. Seuss stories for the stage, and when it became untenable to perform them myself &/or with my own peeps, I began to teach this Seussian production as the final exam for Stage Movement classes. It’s a good lesson in creating elaborate sets (and weird characters) with only physicality. It’s an effective cumulative lesson of all the things the Stage Movement students are supposed to have learned through the semester.
Plus, it’s fun.
And it’s good to remind all these young people about (getting off my lawn, and) Dr. Seuss’ moral lessons, too. Especially nowadays, when it seems power is all in making the other side look bad, or feel bad, or creating an Other Side in the first place, where there really shouldn’t be one. It’s a new type of commerce for the Internet era: the trade in outrage.
I’m dusting off my own Seussian chops to include What Was I Scared Of? as an act for the upcoming Blue Dime Cabaret. I’ve recruited two
young men from my most recent Stage Movement class to perform it with me. I’m including it for a few reasons, the main one of which is that the show’s theme is Back To School / Let’s Get Educated, which means I’m literally bringing a piece of the education I regularly provide, up onto the stage. With some of my actual students to whom I’ve provided same, no less.
Also, who didn’t read Dr. Seuss as a kid in school? We all did. At least, I should hope we did. So it fits.
It should be a huge amount of fun, and I’ve placed us last, so that the audience will leave with that warm fuzzy feeling you get at the end of the story, when the narrator meets the pants quite often in his regular world, smiling and saying “hi” instead of freaking out. It’s a lovely ending.
Hopefully after enjoying the show, the audience will “forg[e]t about stars, / and whether they have one, or not, upon thars.”
From: Elementary ep. 7.8
Character Names / Title: Three Garridebs
Reference: the eponymous short canon story is about a crafty American who targets a man named Garrideb, getting him to leave his house to look for the third Garrideb, so the false Garrideb can fetch a valuable criminal tool hidden in the real Garrideb’s basement.
In this episode of Elementary, the Three Garridebs is what gamers call a Side Quest, but it does sound like the mystery Joan and Sherlock solve during the episode’s commercial breaks is pretty similar, at the very least.
Fun fact: the Three Garridebs also show up in BBC series Sherlock but the less said about the rococo and ridiculous fourth season of that show, the better. Ahem.
I had a good friend in the dregs and just out of my college days, name of Christina. She was six foot one in bare feet, ectomorphic & slender, with a glorious shoulder length of densely curly, dark orange ginger hair. She had alabaster skin and a loudly raucous laugh. She never hesitated to ask questions or to demand you clarify if she didn’t understand something—an unabashedly curious woman, always. A few of my friends (including my then-fiancé and an old eccentric I knew from high school) were all roommates with her, all of us bunked in a lovely suburban bungalow with a finished garage which is where she lived. One of our several roommates, a fellow aerial dancer in the same company as me, had a pet python (or was it a boa constrictor?)—a big yards-long female serpent named Lucy (short for Lucifer). Christina would quite often, post-shower, in tank top and pj bottoms, pace the sidewalk just outside our house, chatting on the phone, Lucy draped over her shoulders and entwined in her arms, while her bright red hair dried. I’m convinced our neighbors must’ve thought she was Eve incarnate, or some kind of goddess. They weren’t completely wrong.
It was Christina and I, in our several jaunts to the Trident coffeeshop & bookstore, who coined the phrase “literati” to denote a social date that was focused on study (and intellectual and cultural criticism in conversation). Famously, it was us whose conclusion to Kant’s manifesto was, “shut up and paint” (she was an art history major, a couple years my junior, and so was concluding her studies even as I graduated, sword-fighted, trapezed, and wrote and read still). She was my co-producer for the wee theatre company I named Five Funny Faces after a beloved theatre prof’s regular class closing game, the first time we did the Dr. Seuss show, and it was she who taught me how to eat sushi as we counted the house takings post-show each night.
What’s my point in describing the amazing Christina, when the title of this post is a particular, not obviously related, vocabulary word? Well, this imposing, snake wrangling, ginger goddess, one who worked theatrical rigging as her job when I knew her, and who went on to be a rigger for Cirque du Soleil after she graduated, had one potent aversion; a distaste strong as her. A phobia, if you will.
She hates cherubs.
Now recall: she has an art history degree. So she knows her shit around sculpture and painting of all kinds that depict the many angelic denizens of the heavenly (Christian mostly) realm. She has no beef with angels, or warriorlike cherubim with their flaming swords…all that is fine. It’s the “fat winged babies” as she puts it, that she cannot stand.
It was such a stigma (not stigmata) to her that we would give her birthday cards with cute fat baby cherubs in them just to watch her squirm and retch. Good times.
I know that’s not what this vocab word actually means, but that’s what it made me think of, and though the real meaning of the word is a deep part of my regular life, I choose instead to celebrate the beautiful and extraordinary Christina, who has a major cherub phobia.
CODA: she is now married to a Canadian whom she met during her Cirque adventures, and lives in Canada with him on a houseboat.
I need to email her.
From: Elementary ep. 7.5&6
Name: Odin Reichenbach
Reference: Of course, as anyone who’s read more than two original Sherlock Holmes stories knows, it’s at the Reichenbach Falls where the brilliant detective meets his demise. Or, at least, he did, until Arthur Conan Doyle was pressured enough to bring his creation back to life a decade later. Spoilers…
Naming an antagonist Reichenbach, especially when we know that Season 7 is Elementary’s last, is troubling to say the least. Will Reichenbach cause Sherlock’s fall at the end of the season, with or without a brief glimpse for the audience a la the end of BBC Sherlock season 2, or Batman: Dark Knight Rises? Or will the showrunners do this to us at the season’s halfway mark, and then give us an Empty House and maybe a Last Bow before the end of the end? We can only wait and see. I like to think it’ll be the latter–after all, typical seasons of Elementary are around 22 eps long, and we’re only on #6, with Odin Reichenbach having just been established as one of the most powerful villains this series has yet seen. So we’ll see.
(And why his first name is Odin–the All-Father, king of Norse mythology, one can only speculate. Me, I think it’s because god Odin sends his two ravens, Hugin and Muninn, out into the world to collect information, recounting it all back to him every evening when they return. Odin Reichenbach is the head of an all-pervasive social media platform, and is gathering information about the world all the time, just like his godlike namesake. I would be chuffed if he ended up losing an eye or hanging himself for more god-Odin parallels, but again one must wait and see.)