Shakespeare and the Globe-al Affair

All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players. As You Like It, Act II Scene VII.

in two days, on April 15th, it is William Shakespeare’s birthday. So here’s wishing him a happy birthday.

It was a brand new world the Elizabethans were creating. It was only a hundred years or so since Gutenberg gave them the printing press and inexpensive books to read. It was a little less than one hundred years since the Tudor Henry defeated Richard on Bosworth Field and ended the Civil War the English knew as the Wars of the Roses. It was only three quarters of a century or so ago since Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-five Theses on a church door, virtually ending the dominance of Rome over Christianity. It was only in 1588 that England defeated a Spanish Armada and began its rise as an European sea power. And under Good Queen Bess the arts flourished. Especially music, dance, poetry and theater.

Sure there was plague every few years. Sure it was a hierarchical society. Sure there were still fears that the Pope’s agents would assassinate the queen. But there was such optimism in the air that anything was possible for the English. The sixteenth century was a good one for England. By its end, London was the largest city in Europe.

By the time Shakespeare’s first play appeared on stage in 1590, it had been less than a century since Columbus proved that the planet was round. Not flat as everybody believed. That was a big deal. As big as what Wilbur and Orville did at Kitty Hawk. Maybe bigger.

Ships would not fall off the earth when they went far out to sea. There were no sea monsters to gobble up ships and their sailors. First Magellan, then Sir Francis Drake circumnavigated the globe. In 1580, Drake and his Golden Hind returned from his three years at sea with stories and riches. He brought back enough booty that the Queen’s share doubled her annual income for that year. Anything was possible.

The only thing to compare with the attitude of the English was the feeling Americans had after defeating Germany and Japan in 1945. Anything was possible. Even putting a man on the moon.

A reflection of this “anything was possible” attitude was the theater. The first playhouse in England was built in Shoreditch, London by James Burbage in 1576. It had a very original name. It was called The Theater. Until then, plays were performed by wandering troops of actors in guildhalls, in local nobles’ halls, in inns and at festivals and fairs. By the 1590s, there were a number of theaters in London like The Curtain and The Rose. And in 1599 Shakespeare and his fellow players of the Chamberlain’s Men opened The Globe.

There were an amazing group of dramatists to excite London audiences. William Shakespeare, Thomas Kyd, Christopher Marlowe, Ben Jonson, John Fletcher, Francis Beaumont and Thomas Middleton. Of all the rivalries, it was the one between William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe that excited audiences the most. It was like watching Picasso and Braque’s competition with cubism in the early twentieth century. It was like seeing Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams battle it out on Broadway in the late forties and the fifties.

Creativity was in the English air and London was the place to be. Only Marlowe’s premature death caused the Elizabethans to pause, then continue with some of the greatest drama in the history of Western Civilization. And it wasn’t just a drama for the court and the upper classes as it was in Moliere’s France. The theater was for every class in society from the blacksmith and the baker to the Queen of England.

The Globe was appropriately named to give the English a sense of the wide world Drake and others were beginning to reveal. For the price of a ticket, a Londoner could leave the plague, the violence and the crime of London behind and step into a different world. Walking into the large round building that held up to 3000 people for a performance was an adventure. All that was required of the ticket holder was a few hours time and an imagination.

During the performance, the stage had no scenery. It might have a large wooden chair that was a throne. It might have a table and chairs for an inn. It might have a log for a forest. This is why Shakespeare’s plays use dialogue and prologues. To help the audience imagine the scene with prologues such as the opening of “Romeo and Juliet”.

Just listen to the Chorus in the Prologue of “Henry V”.

O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend
The brightest heaven of invention,
A kingdom for a stage, princes to act
And monarchs to behold the swelling scene!

Or we get the weather in “Hamlet” with such dialogue:

Hamlet: The air bites shrewdly; it is very cold.
Horatio: It is a nipping and an eager air.

In “The Tempest”, we get a shipwreck in a storm:

Master: Boatswain!
Boatswain: Here, master: what cheer?
Master: Good, speak to the mariners: fall to’t, yarely, or we run ourselves aground: bestir, bestir.
Exit

Enter Mariners

Boatswain: Heigh, my hearts! cheerly, cheerly, my hearts! yare, yare! Take in the topsail. Tend to the master’s whistle. Blow, till thou burst thy wind, if room enough!

Just from the dialogue we get the sound and fury of the storm these men are dealing with. Then in Act 1, Scene 2, we get further evidence of how bad the storm was:

MIRANDA
If by your art, my dearest father, you have
Put the wild waters in this roar, allay them.
The sky, it seems, would pour down stinking pitch,
But that the sea, mounting to the welkin’s cheek,
Dashes the fire out. O, I have suffered
With those that I saw suffer: a brave vessel,
Who had, no doubt, some noble creature in her,
Dash’d all to pieces. O, the cry did knock
Against my very heart. Poor souls, they perish’d.
Had I been any god of power, I would
Have sunk the sea within the earth or ere
It should the good ship so have swallow’d and
The fraughting souls within her.

With only dialogue, the actions of the actors, the colorful costumes and a few sound effects, the Elizabethans created in their imaginations the courts of kings, the forests of fairies, the streets of ancient Rome and Greece, castaways on an island and the battle scenes of great conflicts.

For Shakespeare’s audience, the Globe was truly a whole new wonderful world. And they loved it.

Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Creator: Joseph Reed Hayes, Playwright

Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie or a creator. This week’s Spotlight Creator is Joseph Reed Hayes, a Central Florida Playwright: 

A clip from Joseph Hayes’ play, Destination Moon. “Two people in two little rooms. A young woman, a bed, an unseen voice, music in the night. “Destination Moon” tells the story of a young woman recovering from a serious illness, attempting to deal with the consequences of actually surviving by forming a relationship with a disembodied voice in the night; a veteran late-night radio personality. Featuring Emilie Scheetz, Chan Sterling, Lauren Carder Fox and a live soundtrack composed and performed by La Lucha pianist John O’Leary. © 2018 Joseph Hayes hayesplays.com”
     A major reason I feature creative artists and their work here is my hope that they will inspire my readers to do their creative work. Joseph Reed Hayes is one of those who inspire me. He has established himself as a playwright and continues doing marvelous work. Thank you, Joseph, for participating in Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight for Creative Artists.
     Here is a short bio, then his answers to five questions concerning his work as a dramatist:
    “I’m a full-time freelance food and travel writer, feature writer, theater and music critic and cultural explorer. My other hat is worn in performance spaces, as an award-winning playwright, jazz event producer and advocate for new, original creative work for in-house and online audiences. http://www.hayesplays.com.”
1.What made you want to become a playwright?
“I don’t think “want” enters into the picture. I was in residence at the Atlantic Center for the Arts, working with writer/artist Douglas Coupland, when he told me to put aside my path of short story mediocrity (the exact words were “Stop writing that shit”) and take up playwrighting. Six months later I had my first play in front of a paying audience.”
2.How many plays have you written and have they all been produced?
“I always do first production of my plays, so I can see how they work in front of people before sending the little darlings out, along with readings and my own performances. So factoring in every public presentation of my work locally and around the world, my play in June of next year will be #40.”
3.What inspires you to start a new play?
“What inspires anyone? An overheard conversation, a strange and unusual fact that sticks into my strange and unusual brain, bits and pieces of my life and family and friends, music … I’ve got no shortage of ideas, there are at least (at least!) six plays waiting in the queue.”
4.What do you enjoy the most as a playwright?
“Everything. Every single thing about the process, from procrastinating about writing it to making the poster (make the poster first) to finding actors and musicians (not always easy) to my favorite thing, the First Read, to rehearsal to when the audience comes in. The only part I dread is the half-hour before curtain, when I lose my mind and am certain everyone will realize I don’t know what I’m doing.”
5.What’s your latest play being performed?
“I just finished a production of A Slow Ride in April. Bēma Productions in Victoria BC will be putting on my play, A Little Crazy, as part of the Victoria Fringe Festival in August. My next local play is In Five at the Timucua white house in June, 2020; I’m sure something else will pop up between now and then.”

Denise

Denise had a cousin who was nothing if not a dreamer. Denise’s cousin died of a broken heart.

Denise decided that was not for her. She had big dreams. But nobody in the family believed her. Not her brother, not her sister. They went their separate ways, found spouses, settled down. Each had a son and a daughter. Her parents liked their children’s spouses. And when they had kids, they made her mom and dad so happy. They now had grand children to spoil.

Denise’s mother kept asking, “When are you going to get a husband and have kids. All those guys you hang out with are gay. They are not husband material. Find a guy. You’ll be a happy Mr. and Mrs.” Her dad said nothing. He wasn’t a talker.

Now Denise liked her sister-in-law well enough. They went shopping and laughed and gossiped the way women do. Her brother-in-law, Marvin, only talked politics. The president this. The president that. And he was loud about it. “Oh, that’s just Marvin,” her sister excused her husband. “He’s got a good heart and he cares about the world.”

Right, Denise thought.

The times she saw her brother and his wife became fewer and fewer. They seemed to drift away from the family. Denise thought it was because of Marvin. He was a hater. Little did she know that her brother’s father-in-law had cancer. Her brother and his wife were helping her mother.

Denise always liked her nieces and her nephews. They seemed like good eggs. Her brother’s daughter especially. She had big dreams like Denise. That was when Denise decided to be a role model and really pursue her dreams. She had talent. She knew she did.

So she was going to New York and become a Broadway set designer. It had been something she wanted since she could remember. When she was seven or eight, she watched a tv show and she wasn’t at all interested in the actors. She wondered how the sets were made.

Oh, sure she liked boys but they were never as handy dandy with a hammer as she was. She could drive a nail into a board, and she could drive it straight. When she went into high school, she joined the drama club. Her drama teacher was sure she had the goods to be a set designer par excellence.

After high school, she let go of her dream. Her mother convinced her that life was too scary. She had to make a living, everybody told her. So she went off to nursing school and became a nurse. It was the easy way out. Dreams were risky, and they were scary. The closest she came to Broadway was the Community Theater.

Now she was in her early thirties. She finally had her education loans paid off. It had been a hard scrimp. She saved and lived with her parents to do it.

Seeing her niece one day made up Denise’s mind. It was now or never. She decided it was time to grow up and prove she had the goods. Be the woman she was meant to be.

On her last night at home, she and her mother had a fight. The next morning her mother didn’t come down to wish her good luck. But her father gave her a ride. In the car, her handed her $1000. “Just in case,” he said.

She wanted to cry but she didn’t. She pushed back her tears.

“Call me at the office if you need help,” her father said. At one time, he’d had dreams. He had not had the courage to pursue them. So he knew what his daughter was doing and how hard it was. But it was the right thing to do.

They pulled up at the bus station and went inside. Her dad bought the ticket. It was a round trip ticket just in case. Denise refused it. So her dad paid for a one-way ride to the big city. Then they hugged.

He left her sitting on a bench waiting for the bus.

“Man, I can do it,” she told herself, caught the bus and left town. As she rode the bus, she thought about all the stages of her life. That was then. Now she had the future ahead of her. She was thirty-two and just starting. And she realized that it is never too late to pursue her dreams.

haiku for the day: actor

Actors are amazing. The good ones can take you far, far away to another world or to another story just by the words they speak. Imagine the voice of Richard Burton or James Earl Jones. Wouldn’t it be something to have one of those vocal giants narrating your life? “It was an ordinary day, that June 13th, until Candy burst forth from her mother’s womb. Candy refused to move on from pre-school to the first grade because her best friend, Tammy Sue, didn’t make the grade and was held behind. Such a hero, Candy was.” As the Richard Burton/James Earl Jones narration might show. With their narration, there wouldn’t be any humdrum lives. We would all be Superstars. Notice that is Superstar with a capital S.

An actor on stage
a Hamlet or a Macbeth
or even Falstaff

A Rock ‘n’ Roll Monologue 

Wine, women and song; that’s what Frank used to say. And he should’ve known since he used all three. Me, I’m into sex, drugs and rock and roll. Same difference, you might say. Only a little bit rougher. You dig. Like Pete Townshend’s fond of saying, “Won’t get fooled again.”

Well, the times they are a-changing, and that’s my guitar flying through the air. Just to let you know, I never was into Nirvana. Too much bang-your-head-against-the-wall-boys noise. It’s Knopfler and the Straits ‘cause we are the Sultans of Creole, we are the Sultans of Swing. Now, that’s guitar, man. A Stratocaster. I love Eddie Cochran and all those Summertime Blues. But as Pink Floyd used to say, we’re still learning to fly.

Cut my first CD last year. A bit Uriah Heep, Black Sabbath without the Oz. Man, that Lita Ford was bitchin’. She and Joan Jett were out of this world Runaways. Called the CD “Teeth.” Peter Max, the Maxman, offered to do cover art. Maybe a werewolf. But Richard Avedon did it for us, you know. Now he’s on the other side. He died, man. Went to that Photographic Studio in the Sky, man. Groovy.

Hey, Paul is dead. Yeah, and Sergeant Pepper ain’t feeling so good his own sweet self. Richard’s up there with the Ansel. Ansel Adams, don’t you dig? I’m not a frogman, goo goo g’ joob. Hey, the Troggs were super deluxe. Wild Thing. I met that groupie in a bar and went round the world and over the moon. Yeah, and I’m talkin’ Keith too. Knew the Stones. Think she was doing jumping jack flash for Mick and Keith.

Janis sure could blast. Had a great set of pipes. Down at Monterrey. Blew Mama Cass out of her pipes. Well, that’s what’s happening with the Sounds of Silence. Simon and Garfunkel, they broke up. You don’t say. Me and Julio down by the Schoolyard.

Way, man, we done that CD. Sold three million. Got Duran-Duran-ed on MTV. Right up there with the Elvis, man. That’s Elvis Costello, not the King. Graceland, you don’t say. Sun Studio in Memphistown—Elvis and Johnny and Jerry Lee and Carl all putting on their best Johnny B. Goode in his Blue Suedes. Groovy.

Wine, women and song to you too, man. Don’t forget everybody’s trying to be my baby. And I’m outta here. See ya.