Daily Factoid:408 AD Rome is attacked by the Visigoths who demand as part of their ransom 3000 pounds of black pepper.
Today the Bangkok Post reported that a number of Red Shirt men have been found dead or injured under mysterious circumstances.
Little of note here. Today I am off to Chiang Mai.
Recently I decided to reduce my happy pill dosage from one pill a day to two pills every three days. As a result, last night I could not sleep. I struggled with memories of choices made, paths not taken and failures perceived. I realized that I really always wanted to be a theater director. While in high school and college and for a while thereafter I did a bit of acting (I went to an all boy’s high school and I was not a good enough athlete to attract neighborhood girls but in the schools theater arts program the female roles were performed by girls from a nearby girls school. That appeared to be a better way of meeting them than God forbid actually going up and striking up a conversation ). In fact I received, along with my classmate Jon Voigt, (He was not a complete asshole then, only about 75% of the way.) a scholarship for acting, which I rejected because I thought being a stage actor was too sissy and motion picture performances at that time I thought, as did the studio heads and film directors, performing in films was not really acting. It wasn’t until after I went on to other things that the Actor’s Studio, Brando and the rest brought what then was considered acting to American movies.
Anyway after graduating from law school I was not convinced that I wanted to be a lawyer or that I was any good at it. In fact, law school was the only academic venue in which up until that time I had difficulty (I felt law school was destroying my mind). As long as I avoided subjects that required work, like mathematics (Another subject for which I rejected a scholarship – too much work), my reading habits enabled me to generally do well at exam time even if I failed to attend classes and turn in assignments.
Anyway, following law school I took a three-day aptitude assessment at NYU that indicated what I really wanted to be and what I seemed to have the aptitude for was an orchestra conductor. Since but for a few years studying the accordion I had no musical training, that career choice appeared to be beyond reach for me. The avocation that tested a distant second was for me to become an attorney in a social service agency (or a welfare case worker). In fact the only time I felt comfortable as a practicing attorney was my time spent at legal aid, the NY Mental Health Information Service and California’s Coastal Program. Had I intuited at that time and not last night 50 years later, that being an orchestra conductor and a theater director were in fact the same, my whole life might have been different.
Anyway during my thespian interlude I very much wanted to stage Elizabethan theater productions. Not Shakespeare which everyone was doing at the time but the other dramatists like Kyd, Marlowe, Johnson, Beaumont and Fletcher and so on.
Shakespeare’s stagecraft, at least in his historical dramas, I always thought was pedestrian. For example in Beaumont and Fletcher’s “The Night of the Burning Pestle”, begins as a standard war epic when suddenly from the audience a family of butchers and a few others begin heckling the actors and eventually take over the stage and redo the play as they would like it to be with their son as the hero. We did not do that type of thing in western theater until Pirandello.
Shakespeare’s comedies and so-called minor works were another matter. His inventiveness it them was astounding. I would however had considered producing his comedies and things like Coriolanus, Timeon,Cymbeline and Titus. If you have not seen Titus performed you should (a television movie was made of it a decade or so ago). Titus makes the Texas Chainsaw Massacre appear like a grammar school Christmas pageant.
Until I saw Branagh’s movies I always felt that the production of Shakespeare’s works contained too much movement to carry the impact of the words. Had I directed them at the time, I would have considered having the actors on stage dressed in street clothes standing by lecterns and reciting the lines with minimal movement when necessary for emphasis and plot clarification. They would however be allowed props (daggers, vials of poison and the like).
If anyone is wondering about where I stand on who wrote Shakespeare’s works, I always felt that it was a collaborative effort between Shakespeare and at least two others. The sheer volume of the works and the differences in stagecraft argue to me to be the work of several people.
It was during this time that I tried to write an Elizabethan style play based upon Xenophon and the 10,0000. For those unaware of this story, Alexander the Great got the idea that he could kick the shit out of the Persians from the experiences of Xenophon and his troops a generation earlier. It seems that after getting pasted by the Greeks during the Persian wars in places like Thermopylae, Marathon and the rest, the Persians realized Greek military technology was superior to theirs. The Greek Square formations and Hoplite soldiers armed with spears and short swords could not be penetrated by the Persian cavalry or human wave assaults. So they did what all good empires do, since they could not defeat them, they hired them. That is why Xenophon and his mercenaries marched off to Persia to fight on behalf of their recent enemy.
After some astonishing success the Emperor became frightened that his mercenary troops upon recognizing their true power would do what they often do, turn on him. So after one particularly significant success the Emperor invited the Greek generals over for a celebratory banquet with the intention of course of killing them. Xenophon, who said he had seen this movie before, refused to go but the other generals did and were…well you know. So Xenophon the following morning rallied the troops and spent the next 10 years kicking Persian ass as they struggled to return to their Attica home. They succeeded and Xenophon wrote a best seller that Alexander read and the rest is history as told by the victor as we have grown to know and love it.
Anyway my play was to be about that fateful night of the party. It was written in blank verse. Unfortunately I did not realize at the time that it would have been much better to use someone more modern like Whitman instead of the Elizabethans as my poetic model. It did not matter, because after I had written about half the play I became so ashamed of my amateurish and pedestrian effort that I threw it out as I have felt ashamed and thrown out science projects, novels, poetry, love affairs, friends, careers, wealth and so on throughout my life.
Then I realized I am too old to feel embarrassed any more, and with that I fell asleep.