Individuals that started it all

Please calm down.
There's nothing wrong with a little introspection. And it is a well known fact that we have nothing against self-indulgence, self-centered discourse, as will be witnessed in a one person effort called MEGALOMANIA GRANDIOSE that is our favorite work in progress.

Aim of poetry is to give an instruction in a pleasurable form, as Julius Caesar Scaliger (1484-1558) so wonderfully wrote in either French or Latin, one of those languages that are not in use anymore except for fun or for the sole purpose of annoying their neighbor. But, as Chester, (last name unknown) my dearest friend from Iowa City , explained to me over a couple of pitchers in DEADWOOD , Americans have TV sitcoms to educate them in a (hopefully) pleasurable way. When they go to the theater, they expect something else. Either a large scale musical or a play that has language or situations or characters that can't be presented on TV. TV is where reason and understanding rule. TV has an instructional role. TV tends to teach and please, something Horace and, to some extent Plato suggested. TV gives the Americans moral lessons in a pleasant disguise. TV's trying to teach people not to repeat their mistakes.

It is a miracle that my memory of that whole conversation is not on the hazy side at all. Because I remember myself asking if that means that Lodovico Castelvetro was right when announced that poetry (and Theater) should make people happy and not try to educate them. Chester almost dropped his glass. No, he screamed, the only thing the Old Vic was right about was that murders and unnatural things are more believable if they're only spoken about on stage but not presented. Every good dramatist from Ancient Greeks to this day, Shakespeare included, followed that principle. As I always wanted to be a good dramatist once I grow up, I made a mental note to follow the same principle to the best of my modest and more than limited abilities. I also made a mental note never to sit with my back to the bar again when drinking in DEADWOOD. There was this gorgeous blond waitress and in the course of the long evening I could only catch an occasional glimpse of her, while Chester, that old fox who chose his seat first, had her in full view almost all of the time.

What about conflict, I asked and immediately regretted doing so. Chester waived his hand spilling beer all over some people in the next booth. Love versus honor, he shouted. Passion versus reason, he shouted even louder when people all over DEADWOOD turned towards us. Chester stood up.

"My fellow citizens! Conflict may be fought in the divided heart of a single character, or between two or more persons, or between man and his destiny. The conflict between personalities may be due to a clash of ideas or temperaments, to incompatible codes of behavior or scales of value. But whatever its motive, a quarrel will assume the dignity of drama only if the audience is lead to accept the attitude of both sides as valid, each within its own frame of reference."

"Just look at the conflict between reason and imagination, or instinct as they used to call it... You have neoclassicists who claim that Reason is the basis for Truth, that following the rules produces good results, and that the authority should be in high regard, and rules are necessary to establish control in society and to guide arts... Exceptions are unimportant and human nature is essentially evil and does not change... Nothing much change with the realism: truth for them is what you can observe, there's nothing beyond, forget the higher reality, everything is here and now.... On the other side, ladies and gentlemen, there's them symbolists, where theater exists on the ultimate plane of the pure idea, where the theater should ideally express not acts or events, but states of spiritual being reflecting the magic and mystery of the Universe... In short, there's something beyond this reality that we cannot perceive with our limited senses and our lazy minds.... Or, in a nutshell: truth lurks beyond consciousness.... There's all those quiet moments on the fringe of activity.... Drama for them was a sacred and mysterious rite that through dreams..."

At this point somebody turned on the juke-box. So nobody else but me could hear the last word that Chester uttered on the subject: "if you can figure it out, it's not important anymore!"

The very next day, while trying to figure out whatever happened to my teacher's car, that I was supposed to take care of (somebody later told me it was in front of the library, and it was, but how it got there is one of those mysteries that Chester was talking about the night before) I run into Frank Bartella , an undergraduate student of directing from Dubuque, Iowa. He was coming back from the Theater Department after excusing himself from the Theater History II class to take a walk and nurse a hangover. Before he left the class, however, he had learned that in July of 1898 Vladimir Dantchenko and Constantin Stanislavski met on Moscow for the first time and discussed theater for 15 hours before deciding to start a Theater. Nothing was said if and what has been consumed during that meeting, but both those guys being Russian, there was no doubt in my mind that they couldn't just sit there and discuss Theater without helping themselves to a large quantities of vodka. So Frank and myself decided to go and discuss Theater a little. Two and a half hours later a bottle of Rum that we took to the city park was empty, but Frank and I were full of wonderful ideas.

Before I met Frank I did work with some directors but, mostly, I did the directing and most of everything else myself. I was like those guys around the time of Shakespeare: actor-writer-anger, the first among equals. And the job I did was simple enough: scenery back - actors front. The main characters up stage center, everyone else around them. Lines spoken clear and loud. Actors responsible for their own costumes.

© Yurope, Last modification October 22, 1995.