Richard Monette

A champion and hero of theatre in Canada, Richard Monette has died much too soon.  Rest in peace Richard.  The Globe‘s tribute to Monette is here and Richard Ouzounian’s column at The Star is here.

What laughing chains the water wove and threw!
I learned to catch the trout’s moon whisper; I
Drifted how many hours I never knew,
But, watching, saw that fleet young crescent die,—

And one star, swinging, take its place, alone,
Cupped in the larches of the mountain pass —
Until, immortally, it bled into the dawn.
I left my sleek boat nibbling margin grass. . . 

from “The Dance”, The Bridge, by Hart Crane

Stagecraft & Poetry

From “Bullets and Mud: a stage poem inspired by Wilfred Owen”:

[…]

There’s Death waiting to shave me

                  With his scythe

 

I told my brother

I know I shall be killed

But this is the only place

That I can make my protest from

 

I came to help these boys

By leading them as well

As an officer can

By watching their sufferings

That I may speak as well

As a pleader can

 

After all the shells we’ve been through

And the gas

These bullets are a gentle rain

From heaven

 

Or, they are arrowheads of political error

And insincerity on which young men

Are being sacrificed

 

 

Death’s not my enemy

Though I can’t stand

The green thick odour of his breath

My enemies are those who talk

Of “attrition” and “sustaining damage”

Those whose imaginations have shrunk

To the size of a flag, those who still believe

A corpse missing half a face

Has any use of nationality

 

I have been urged by an earnest viola

To lay my chest to the ground

And submit to the pounding shells

The newest rhythm in the earth

 

 

I was reborn through Keats

And reared again by sweet Sassoon

But why poetry, I could not say

Except that it gives me a strange solitude

When I resort to it and stranger

Friends when I resort to them

And even if I don’t know why poetry

Or what I really want I do know

What I don’t want:

Preserve me from old women

Without wit or wisdom

Preserve me from young women

With gush and no beauty

Preserve me from women

Of beauty and no charm; but take

No measures against women of charm

And no beauty, for they are the sugar

Of the earth

Preserve me from men in waistcoats

Shirt cuffs and braces of a Sunday afternoon

Preserve me from the man who sits

In stocking feet of an evening

And scratches his big toe with his heel

Preserve me from the youth

Who carries a pencil in his right ear;

But preserve the cigarette in the ear of a Tommy

For it is his last

Preserve me from people who eat eggs

When I don’t want any

Preserve me from all ships

In glass bottles, plush chairs

Group photographs, flowers under glass

Shades and shells-pictures-frames

 

And especially preserve me

From armchair generals and politicians

Who prolong suffering for their own ends

 

[…]

 

Read the whole thing here

 

Dulce et Decorum Est by Wilfred Owen, with notes

 

Wilfred Owen, 1893 – 1918

Torture & Democracy

Ariel Dorfman at Three Monkeys, November 2006:

Dorfman humbly confesses that “the truth is that I had expected, after the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, that Death and the Maiden would be staged even more than it has been in the past. It deals, after all, with the central dilemma of our times: how to make sure that, when grievous harm has been done to us, we do not turn into the monster who has given us such pain? How do we separate justice from revenge? How do we ensure that our rage does not make us blind? How to keep the innocent from suffering as we seek to avenge the dead?” Dorfman’s questions are probing and provide food for thought.

“Although it continues to be performed extensively around the world, the play has not had any major revivals, at least in the States and in England, in the last five years. There are signs that this is beginning to change.”

I ask Dorfman whether he would change the end of the play, considering the events that have taken place since its conception. “No,” he assures me, “I think it is more relevant than ever: or can anyone deny that we live in a world where far too many victims are forced to coexist with the men who destroyed their lives and ravaged their bodies?”

Paulina, the play’s main protagonist, represents the courage and the pain of the survivor who attempts to recover normality in her life; she is both physically and mentally bound by her painful memories. Dorfman describes his strong emotional connection with the character: “I love Paulina. She is one of my favourite characters – perhaps the most rebellious of all the upstart women I have notoriously created. But I wouldn’t say she is all courage, bravery and pain. Fortunately, she is all too human, imperfect, difficult, complicated, devious. This, for me, draws her closer to us.”

I cannot help but think that this is in fact how most women are and I generalise when I think of all the times that women are categorised as difficult and imperfect creatures. However, as hard as I try, I cannot imagine another woman with Paulina´s determination and coldness.

Dorfman explains: “I’m sure that many women (and many men, why not?) see her as representative of the suffering women of the world and, more specifically, of Chile. And that is a legitimate way of embracing a character. For me, above all, she is a full human presence, given representation by the depth of her personality, the ferocity of her devotion to rescuing the woman she once was, before the basement, before that doctor.” 

Dirty Politics

Dirty tricks are an entrenched part of politics and have been for a long time, including gender bashing, anti-semitism and scare tactics about candidates’ political affiliations.   One example is the 1950 California senatorial race between Dick Nixon and Helen Gahagan Douglas.  Clinton, Obama and McCain haven’t seen anything yet?

Don’t Blame Me, I Voted for Helen Gahagan Douglas is a comedy/drama by Michelle Willens and Wendy Kout that tells the true story of the infamous 1950 US Senate race in which a young Richard Nixon (this is the campaign in which he earned his Tricky Dick nickname) destroyed the elegant Congresswoman (and wife of Melvyn Douglas).

In 1998, Greg Mitchell covered this story in his book “Tricky Dick and the Pink Lady: Richard Nixon and Helen Gahagan Douglas – Sexual Politics and the Red Scare, 1950”.  Here’s part of a review of his book:

Two weeks before election day in 1950, the Republican Senatorial candidate in California–Richard M. Nixon–accused the Democratic Senatorial candidate in California–Helen Gahagan Douglas–of being the conduit through which the decisions made by Josef Stalin in the Kremlin flowed to the United States Congress:

“This action by Mrs. Douglas,” Nixon explained, “… came just two weeks after [U.S. Communist Party leader] William Z. Foster transmitted his instructions from the Kremlin to the Communist national committee…. [Thus] this [Communist] demand found its way into the Congress” (Mitchell (1998), p. 209).

Later on Nixon campaign manager Murray Chotiner would try to erase–or perhaps forget his role in?–history, claiming that the Nixon campaign of 1950 “had never accused Douglas of ‘sympathizing’ or ‘being in league with’ the Communists.” Nixon himself claimed that he “never questioned her patriotism” and that he had been smeared by her. Nixon biographers like Jonathan Aitken would refer to Nixon’s relatively clean hands in the 1950 Senate campaign.

But the most important thing was that Nixon won the 1950 California Senate race. Because he won the 1950 California Senate race he went on to become Vice President in 1953, and President in 1969. But perhaps more important, the way he won the 1950 Senate race–the fact that his tactics then worked–warped American politics for nearly half a century.

Brad DeLonge  more here