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Amtrak in the Digital Age

Tonight I will re-board Amtrak’s Capitol Limited train for the first time since 2012. My previous trip on that route, which was coming to Michigan rather than from it, also marked my last post in a previous blog. And so I thought I’d re-post that entry here. I will be turning off my smartphone tonight.

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 29, 2012
Return to Amtrak in the Digital Age

I did not realize how much of a distraction this iPhone would become tonight. Something about having it along is making me see tonight as just another digital night. EXCEPT that the 3G signal disappeared around Harpers Ferry, and seems unlikely to return until Pittsburgh at the earliest. I now see how Internet dependent the phone is, as if I did not know that already. Unfortunately, the same situation is running rampant like a virus across the train – I see at least half of the passengers tangled up in their digital devices . People are still taking in the scenery, but now it is dark and some have already fallen asleep.

While the aforementioned digital issue has given this trip a different feel, it has certainly still been memorable. My second ever visit to Washington DC allowed more flexibility than the first, which was coincidentally the last time I did this train itinerary. The US Capitol building was within reach, though securely guarded, and I took it all in with some surprise at the scope of The District. Perhaps my close knit (native New Englander) geographic orientation also extends to my perception of the capital city. I am sure that is the case, where it is a similar scenario when 2 inches on a Massachusetts map does NOT equal 2 inches on a … New Mexico map. The physical sensation of seeing more of DC was grandiose, and more about the WOW feeling than a question of melodrama.

Now the focus turns to the great state of Michigan, site of intense political scrutiny today and at least SOME fallout or backlash tomorrow. I have greatly enjoyed my previous stays in the state, especially this past August going from the distant lands of the UP all the way down to the Ohio border. This time the focus will return to the city of Ann Arbor and its immediate vicinity, and I am sure that being there with the University in full swing will be just as memorable with a Leap Day fresh spin.

Theatrical Throwback: the enchantment of Cinnabar and the charms of modern technology

In the fall of 2010 I had one of my most spontaneous theatre experiences ever. This memorable evening took place in the bucolic setting of the Cinnabar Theater in Petaluma, CA.

Cinnabar is just like that warm and cozy family member’s house that you wish you could stay longer at. Set high on a hill, with a very narrow driveway and sweeping views down to the Petaluma and greater Sonoma countryside, it invites guests to enjoy a wide array of theatre, opera, musical, dance, and other types of performances.

On this particular evening, the theatre offered a double – bill of one act performances. The first production, “We *Heart* U, Nosferatu!”, stood out more for me in the audience. The elaborate stage set – a husky interior with a random large screen for the benefit of the audience – felt like stepping in to someone’s home.

The uniqueness of the staging, where the primary actor (Keith Baker) was the only one seen onstage, while Allison Baker and Mary Gannon Graham appeared via an offstage and live Skype feed, certainly contributed to the memorable experience. As a backstage theatre person, I was excited by the risk taking and unknown of the production – what would they do if the feed failed? were the two actresses going to appear in the flesh? how did they manage to connect all of that technology?

The show was revived the following year at Main Stage West, using the same cast. I would have liked to have seen that production and am sure it maintained the same commitment to comedy on an even more intimate scale.