Cowan Palace: Uncovering April Fools

Ashley attempts to explore the origin of this hilarious holiday.

April Fools’ Day. It’s become the new holiday I love to hate. The day this gullible blogger falls for one too many grand Internet schemes.

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Even though, aside from Halloween, one could consider it an actor’s holiday. It’s a day centered around a whole lot of lies! And aren’t we supposed to be good at that?

It’s also the perfect time for pranksters to spread rumors about some more well-known celebrities. Which will often reappear on social media outlets after a few months forcing us all to fall for it again (no one should joke about Full House possibly coming back to TV). How did you guys enjoy yesterday’s jokes? Did you fall for Britney Spears being pregnant or Keanu Reeves and his remake of Citizen Kane?

Well, in the midst of all the horsing around (holla, Year of the Horse!), my need to research overwhelmed my Facebook desires (also, I hadn’t watched the highly anticipated series finale of How I Met Your Mother yet and wanted to avoid the spoilers). So I began to explore some of the origins of this sneaky day.

And unfortunately, the Internet wasn’t a huge help. No one seems to agree where or when it began.

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Many believe it’s thanks to France and their attempt to reset the calendar. Back in the 1500s, folks were undecided about when to pop that champagne (it is from France, after all) and make poor decisions at their New Year’s Eve bash. Some wanted it to be marked in January to follow the example of the Roman calendar while others believed the new year should be set by the start of a sunnier season: the spring. But as this decision wasn’t made immediately, it moved slowly through the population. And some people in rural areas continued celebrating in the beginning of April… thus becoming “April Fools” to those who scheduled their party in January.

But that story could easily be an April Fools’ joke of its own. There are other researchers who think the day came from spring festivals where pranking was just a general practice. These guys didn’t have the Internet so they had to entertain themselves in some way, right?! It’s also worth noting that April Fools’ Day falls around the time of other similar holidays, including both the festival of Hilaria and Holi. Most likely related to the words “hilarious” and “hilarity”, Hilaria also goes by the name of “Roman Laughing Day”. (Which, sounds like a BLAST.) Holi is celebrated in India as a way to acknowledge the new season; those taking part will often prank each other in good fun.

In any case, April Fools’ Day is something we continue to recognize. As news travels faster than ever, it’s become easy to prank almost any susceptible soul (so… me). And along with the havoc we Americans do with our fake pregnancy schemes, several European countries continue to celebrate it as well.

After potentially starting the tradition in the first place, those in France who get tricked are called a “Poisson d’Avril”, which if you’ve taken French in high school, you’ll know means “April Fish”. In fact, one common practice is to get a cut out of a fish and hook it to someone. Why a fish you ask? Well, that’s kind of unclear too. Perhaps it relates back to Jesus (because doesn’t it always?) who was often connected to fish or maybe it’s for those astrologers out there who know that fish relate to the zodiac sign, Pisces, which also falls in April.

In the end, whatever you believe about the potential origin of April Fools’ Day is up to you, pal. And how you celebrate it? Well, the jokester’s sky’s the limit! Any worthy pranks to share?

Don’t Miss Orphee Tonight!

In anticipation of ORPHEE tonight at Theater Pub, we are re-running Ashley Cowan’s post from a few weeks back, which like Eurydice, mysteriously vanished from the site. Enjoy!

A Semi-Charmed Kind of Afterlife

It seems like there’s a certain fella who’s become pretty popular around the Bay Area lately; lending well to the Greek Mythology trend that’s invaded the theater scene. Along with the success of Custom Made Theatre Company’s hit: EURYDICE (currently running) and now his own play, Orpheus/Orphee is having a pretty good spring in San Francisco.

And why shouldn’t he? Known as a pretty gifted musician with a talent for words, Orpheus would have probably been voted “Most Charming” all four years of art school. And he’s continued to inspire artists throughout the years; appearing in poems, operas, films, plays, paintings, and countless teenage diaries. Considering he’s known as the only person in history who convinced the underworld to permit his temporary visit to bring back his love, I think he’s earned his fame. And he’s the inspiration for Jean Cocteau’s ORPHEE which just so happens to be Theater Pubs April offering to the gods.

Taking on the divine contribution with a sassy twist is fellow columnist and playwright, Marissa Skudlarek who has translated the play for April 15’s staged reading. And leading its direction is Katja Rivera who has become an Orpheus expert after also directing EURYDICE at Custom Made Theatre Company.

To get you in the spirit of the French (and no, I’m not going to kiss you, you pervs) retelling of the Greek gem, here are just a few things to get trés excited about regarding this production of  ORPHEE (other than because it’s tax day and you need a distraction from the IRS): ORPHEE was written in 1925 and produced a year later. Jean Cocteau was 37 and said that for the first time in his career, after feeling like he was struggling to strike the right artistic balance, Cocteau finally felt like he had found his purpose. That’s a big deal, friends! You should come for that alone!

The play begins with Orphee, Eurydice, a move to the countryside in search of stimulus, and a talking horse. Sadly, no, it’s not Mr. Ed but it’s still quite clever and fun.

Orphee becomes rather consumed with his new horse friendship and Eurydice can’t help but be a little irritated.  And so she smashes windows. Because that’s the obvious thing to do. Which employs a handy repair (spoiler alert: he might be an angel) man to help maintain the house. Before there were angels in the outfield, they were hanging out with Eurydice!

Maybe this doesn’t quite sound like the Greek myth you’re used to. Fair enough, this play came two years after the Surrealist movement interpreted danced its way through France. But don’t worry, Eurydice still dies! And Orphee stills descends into Hades under the condition that he can only bring back his wife if he agrees not to look directly at her. Otherwise, she’s a goner.

Cocteau described the play as “a tragedy in one act and one interval”. The French sure have an interesting way with words! But the piece certainly seems to capture a more complex nature; weaving elements of humor punctuated by surreal situations. You’ll laugh, you’ll emote, you may walk about of Cafe Royale with a French accent.

Oh, and maybe I should also take a moment to mention another update from the traditional story: Death is a beautiful woman in an evening gown who travels through the mirror to spend time in both the living world and the dead.  That is some deep stuff.  It’s a notable narcissistic intent that reflects humanity’s understanding of life and death. We may literally want to discuss it for hours.

April 15 may be Tax Day but the evening is reserved for Theater Pub! The passage to the afterlife starts at 8pm at Café Royale. So grab a bite from Hyde Away Blues BBQ, a cold brew, and come be charmed by ORPHEE. No reservations necessary and we are a free event, but get there early as we tend to fill up quick!