We continue our study of theatrical forms about our present political culture in the form of a Marvel comic book with nine picture frames.
1) The opening frame contains the signers of the Declaration of Independence and Abraham Lincoln saying: “You can fool…” and Roger Ailes, Newt Gingrich, and a cast of grinning Fox News panelists universally agree: “The hell you can’t. Cut taxes for the rich, take away their healthcare, promise them lost jobs, and give every idiot a gun… Its the new GOP” (Grotesquely Opportunistic Policymakers).
2) Next: There are two little men in loincloths with little hands. In the bubble above the North Korean’s head: “I will launch heat-seeking suppositories is how I will trump you, Trump!” Behind him are millions of people cheering, in unison, in one bubble over their heads, their approval. The bubble above the orange comb-over: “I’m clenched and ready. It will unify my base.“Behind him stand millions of people (no immigrants) each holding millions of guns all aimed at liberals who point at them as they warn: “Fear the suppositories from all sides” and then do nothing which causes the millions holding guns predictably to unify the Comb-over’s base.
3) The next is a tweet which says: “Second amendment – No hunting license required – shoot people for free! “And “First Amendment is about disrespecting soldiers it’s not about Freedom of political speech.”
4) Next the Bolshevik United Republican Party (BURP) screams: “ You are Americans. You have ‘freedom of choice,“ and Lincoln on his knees says: “No, that’s Burger King.”
5) Next the Korean leader leads his millions in a chant: “We win War! We Win War!!”… death to Americans by suppository special sauce on your toasted bum.
6) Next BURP puts up banners which say: “Keep Liberals angry with ‘false news ‘and you stand for ‘freedom of choice!’ We understand for nothing! To gather we fall.” The Liberals continue to be astounded and do nothing.
7) The Fox commentators stand and slap high-fives and misquote Lincoln: ”Divide and conquer the House and Senate!“ The Comb-over tweets: ”Always been colorblind. The flag is not red, white and blue it is white — salute and retweet?
8) Next is of a hurricane building in the shape of a mushroom cloud as the Self-Anointed Televangelists About Nothing (SATAN) and BURP point at it and drop to their knees and confirm: “There you see the Bible told us so: There is no climate change change.”
9) Is blank in case there is an encore.
This is another entry in my series of plot studies. Click here to read the previous one.
In my previous posts, I published Plot Studies #1 as a comedy, and #2 as a musical, both based on our current politics. Is plot study number #3 a tragedy or a puppet show? You decide.
The time and place: Let’s see if our current political environment could be written as a Shakespeare tragedy, say like Julius Caesar (performed somewhere other than in Central Park)? Let’s say that the government of Rome has evolved from a republic to a democracy and on to an oligarchy and that Caesar’s friends and family are running the empire.
The Cast of Characters: A group of historians and law professors and their students and lots of well-meaning myopic liberals who want the republic back (The rule of law) but are too disorganized and apolitical to be effective in advocating for their position. Just for fun let’s call them the Democratic Party.
A Group of all the richest Romans, led by Julius Caesar, who is one of them, but is controlled by this group who want to always increase their power and pay less, or perhaps next to no taxes but receive all the benefits of being Romans (The oligarchy). Just for fun let’s call them Republicans.
And a huge mob, the “peanut crunching crowd,” that thinks with its stomach and votes in the bathroom (The democracy). They are fed by Caesar and his friends a form of pablum which includes facts, false facts, and huge amounts of fantasy, all mixed together and called “news.” They are, of course, constitutionally well armed so that they can kill us and each other. Just for fun let’s call them the advocates and lovers of our present democracy. (Isn’t this great, we start with a cast of millions.)
The plot: As the play starts, Caesar is being investigated by a special prosecutor which he can’t seem to figure out how to get rid of, so Caesar has decided to protect his control by creating constant conflict among the citizens of Rome to avoid unification against him and perhaps total power for him in the future in the event that the special prosecutor recommends his impeachment. (This is exciting – I’m already feeling tragic.)
The way to do this is to pit the well-meaning myopic liberals against the peanut crunching crowd on the issue of race and immigration and to build a wall all around the empire to keep immigrants out to make sure the myopic liberals keep his base polarized and well armed for him. (It’s getting great – it’s all starting to go to hell!) The well intended myopic liberals are so blind and morally correct that they can’t realize that they are playing perfectly into Caesar’s hands. (Yes! Yes! There is a lump in my throat and I’m starting to well up with tears.)
Caesar is building up his army by feeding his followers the pablum as fast as he can so that they will be as angry as possible and loaded down with weapons if the special prosecutor recommends impeachment. (Wow, this is so good! It feels authentic – it’s almost like real life! But how is it going to end? How is it going to end?)
So back to the question: Is this a tragedy or a puppet show? I think that is determined by how it ends. If Caesar prevails with his plans, he can cut Obamacare and reduce taxes because it can be produced with only two characters. Caesar with his right hand on the constitution and his left hand making a single string puppet (which is holding the eye glasses of the liberals as it trails peanut shells) dance! But if we follow the Shakespearean example of Julius Cesar, it is a tragedy of greater proportion because in the second half of the play the Roman empire is divided among the lesser oligarchs. Let’s call it forever polarized by ignorance.
Maybe if Cesar doesn’t divide us and we took action together, all of us, we could write a happier play and call it maybe: “All’s Well that Ends Well.” It’s not too late.
This is another entry in my series of plot studies. Here’s the previous one. And the next.
Let’s see what would happen if “we the people” (the audience), wrote our own musical and cast the playwright & librettist as the Congress and the President, and cast their investors as the titans of Wall Street? (Wow– could this be a “revolutionary” musical?)
The Time & Place: How about our politically gridlocked America? (It is starting to sound like a revolutionary musical!)
The Cast of Characters: Since we are writing it let’s make us, the audience, the heroes, and the playwright, librettist and investors our official villains since they are all dedicated to entertaining the audience by feeding us what they want to hear in order to be able to secure their jobs and protect the wealthy from taxes — employing a smokescreen of misinformation and false news in order to entertain their audience by keeping them angry. (They probably won’t be singing Hamilton hip-hop but let’s see what they come up with “for a song and dance.”)
The Plot: The playwright and librettist entertain us by creating manipulated conflict between the bottom 99% of the audience. The poor versus the poor (which pretends it’s the middle class) so no one will see the puppeteer, the super wealthy? ( I feel a song coming on): Let’s have Wall Street Open the show by singing: “Market Share.” A big bang up number! The first lines could be:
“The bigger the market, the bigger our share /
The more we steal, the less they care! /
Let’s fleece my sister, let’s fleece my brother /
As long as they’re angry at each other. /
Isn’t it sweet, isn’t it funny /
How they love us when we take all their money?”
Hey, it’s “the song and dance”! Let’s call it “The Political shuffle.” (Oh man, the songs are coming fast and furious):
Congress can swing the next song:
“Make Yourself the Perfect Job” (about how gerrymandering can get our elected representatives lifetime employment with the best benefits and retirement their audience can afford, and then the entire audience can rise in opposition and sing:
“The No Wealth No Healthcare Blues” (which can be sung by ZIP Code first by anybody who lives around an emergency room, including patients, doctors, healthcare professionals, and then by everybody in the surrounding ZIP Codes spreading out across the country who is paying (unless you own your own hospital).
Now let’s give the politicians some hand clapping songs:
“I hate ‘tax and spend’ /
Unless I’m where all the taxes end.”
And then a solo for a tone deaf President:
“Free the rich, enslave the poor /
The land of opportunity is no more.”
And then some hand clapping songs for us:
“The false news, no news… /
The Propaganda blues.”
(We could even have the Supreme Court do hip-hop, but they would have to have a rhyme scheme of ABBA because they are too polarized to agree to rhyme together) but maybe they harmonize with the song “Ventriloquism”:
“Yo- Citizens United, long may it last! /
‘Free-speech’ is that what you call it? /
You vote now with what’s inside your wallet /
And we speaketh from where once we passed gas?”
(But wait – just occurred to me – how can we pay for this?) Well if we are the audience, we already have!
So what should we call our new musical?
“Just Keep Us Fighting Among Ourselves?” – No.
“You Think We Are Too Stupid for Democracy?” – No.
“What Happened to My Country? – No.
How about, “Let’s NOT Follow the Money”? – No.
We could close with a kick line and just drop the curtain or …Maybe we could all stand up and remember that we are all Americans who can sing together?
This is another entry in my series of plot studies. Here’s the previous one. And the next.
For Artistic Directors and Producers ,we held an invitation only reading of “Onaje,” produced by Blue Panther Productions directed by Eric Reid of San Francisco.Full house .The actors were fabulous and the response and the request for scrips exceeded all of our expectations. For more information please email Laura Lundy.
Sunday July 30 2017 at 3 P.M.
At DeSotelle Studio
300 W43rd St,
New York. NY.
Reno, 1980. A black hitchhiker is hit by a white cowboy and waitress speeding down the freeway on a get-away. The collision becomes much more dangerous when the unlikely trio realizes that two of them are inextricably linked together through the long-buried secrets of their past. In a shocking conclusion, they are forced to return to everything they escaped and stand up against their deepest fears in a vicious stand-off. “Onaje” is set in two worlds, Maryland 1980, and the civil rights riots in the Eastern shore in 1967.
I write plays but I can’t act. My acting career ended shortly after an all-boys fourth grade Christmas pageant. I was a shepherd. I had one line that I had to speak to introduce Mary onto the stage. The music teacher had placed a wig on the class bully and handed him a plastic Jesus in swaddling clothes. In real life, the class bully had biceps in fourth grade and Elvis hair. I misspoke my one line. I said, “Come mither hairy!” I returned from recess bloody and a playwright.
Last weekend at an invitation-only reading for artistic directors and producers, my play “Onaje” was read at 300 West 43rd street in New York City. It was read by actors who make a living being actors. I was stunned by the uniqueness of their genius.
I am a recovering lawyer. While I practiced law, I had nine plays produced in little theaters in Baltimore. Although I was proud of them, I made no effort to have them performed professionally. When my play was given a staged reading in New York for the first time I worked with professional actors and was blown away.
The performance was scheduled for Sunday at 3 o’clock in a 30-seat performance space. The actors were sent the script about a week before the Saturday morning rehearsal in an apartment in New York. The rehearsal was, in essence, a read-through where Eric Reid, an accomplished actor and director from San Francisco, gave directorial instructions and the actors discussed their characters. The actors were all obviously capable but I was not ready for what I would see the following day.
There was another read-through which was to a large extent the blocking of the reading. All the actors sat in chairs in the black box theater against the wall until they were on stage, which meant they stood and went to the music stands in front of them and delivered their lines. There was a one hour break between that rehearsal and the performance. At the blocking rehearsal, the actors were still playing with their characters well I had a terrible thought that they had not had time to become fully familiar with the script and their characters.
I went off to a late lunch with Eric and returned to see the actors in their own village doing breathing exercises, sitting quietly or doing yoga. I had no understanding of how good they would be on stage.
The small theater filled the actors took their places and the reading began. I saw a transformation that changed my understanding of the art of theater. Somehow, they knew the people they will play in an intimate and unique way. Somehow, they knew each other and the interaction created a greater whole. The play was very well received and the script has been requested after I have had a chance to do some work on the text.
Afterward, the lights went on and the actors were people again and they merged with the audience. I stood in the back of the theater immersed in surprised by the evolution of the process and the sheer genius of those actors. Actors are unique beasts.
A central aspect of my play concerns the capacity of people to empathize with strangers. I realized as I stood there I had witnessed it by the transformation of actors so easily turning the written word into human beings.