“The Footprints of a Gigantic Hound”

Happy National Poetry Month and National Decorating Month, two of my favorite forms of creativity.

Enough of that for today: It’s April 3, and on April 3 we say, as my dear friend, whom I met 39 years ago today when I saw him play Sherlock Holmes, said on Facebook, Happy Hound Day!

I was already a ma-ajor Sherlock Holmes fan at 14 when I went to this play, adapted and performed by The Rhode Island Shakespeare Theatre in Newport, RI. Because of that night, I was about to become a ma-ajor theater devotee and hard worker in that, and several other, companies. It was the night I met people who are among my oldest and dearest friends and family, and others came soon after in other productions.

So when I say this particular piece of creativity looms large for me, you get it, right? I’m dedicating my future book to TRIST and a big ol’ puppy.

For now, I would like to honor that book and that play on April 3 by listing the acted versions I have seen. It’s not all there are, or why would I go on?

I will list them by who played Holmes, although it’s always the whole team, including the puppy.

Donald Wight (TRIST actor and friend, will always be my favorite. Not a real puppy in that one, but whatever.)

And now, in no particular order:

Basil Rathbone (Mmmmmm….Watson, the needle…)

Peter Cushing (LOVE me a Hammer Film)

Peter Cooke (and Dudley Moore, yes)

Tom Baker (Dr. Who. Really.)

Ian Richardson (Bless him for every role he ever played)

Jeremy Brett (never to be outdone)

Benedict Cumberbatch (Indeed!)

Richard Roxburgh (odd choice, most obvious suggestion that Watson was “kept”, quite worth seeing)

Matt Frewer (In college we loved Max Headroom, and that’s ALL I’m going to say about this. Except maybe, um, Yikes.)

Do YOU have a favorite version, or a favorite actor who played Sherlock Holmes, whether they did Hound or not? PLEASE DO COMMENT.

The illustration, taken from Wikipedia, is by Sidney Paget. I mentioned him last post: placer of the deerstalker on the head of Holmes. See the flow I’ve got going here? Happy Hound Day.

Oh My Days!

King F

Oh, the Creative things I’m going to get to during this weird spring break once I take a nap. And process the global pandemic. And learn that I still exist even without a work schedule in the foreseeable future. And nap. I refuse, however, to time excerpts of things for use in hand washing. The Jeopardy Think Music will do for me.

As things grow stranger and more distressing, I’d like to give the last few days their Creative Context.

Friday the 13th is forever tied to a series of films. I’m not a suspense and gore person, but I appreciate the art of scaring people with things they actually know are aren’t real. Let’s also remember that it’s the hallowed moniker of the monarch of the Neighborhood of Make-Believe, King Friday XIII. The man rules one of the creative capitals of my childhood, a place named, by the hallowed Mr. Rogers, for the imaginative impulse.

Saturday, 3/14, was PI day. Shout out to Archimedes of Syracuse. Wicked awesome thing to figure out, my friend. Math is an elegant creativity with deep tap roots into the universe, although that does not mean I have to enjoy trig. The discovery of mathematical and number-related stuff has inspired some fine plays, including Breaking the Code, Arcadia, and The Women Who Mapped the Stars.

I once asked my friend the Math Professor how his department celebrates. We all have a slice of pie, he told me. Here’s to the dough-crimpers and everyone who makes creative crusts and fascinating fillings. Here’s to our own Omni Parker House Hotel, birthplace of the Boston Cream Pie, which isn’t really a pie, but which is very good. And to all the comedy creatives who knew what else a pie could do, and took one in the face to make us laugh.

Back to plays. Sunday was the Ides of March, about which Shakespeare had some words to say through the mouths of emperors and conspirators. The “line” on social media for 2020 is that if your whole group stabs Julius Caesar together, you’re not social distancing.

If your only experience of this play is reading it in high school and having to “translate” it into “our English”, then I’m just bloody sorry for you. You should see it set in a dystopian shadow-city in mob costumes or something. Speaking of bloody, I worked as crew once on a production of this play that included most of the cast dipping their hands into Caesar’s blood and then dashing about. So here’s the creative secret to removing dried, syrupy fake blood spatter off an entire multi-level stage while setting up for the next act. Puddles. Squeeze some water onto those red puppies and walk away. By the time you get back, they’ll have dissolved, and you can wipe up easily.

Everyone be well. There are lots of creative folks, whether they make stage entrances, make music, or mix your cocktails, who are exiled from their work and incomes right now. Let’s all do our best to care for and support one another.

 

 

Subversive Writing and Rambling

Subversive documents

We historic site colleagues were picking words to describe our presentation styles with the public. We like words: They’re artists and grad students who love communicating about history, and I do, too, and I’m, you know, CPT Me.

I suggested I’m “Intellectual but Funny.” They nodded agreeably, and one said, “The word we chose for you was Subversive.” Really??? Explanation: Because I had dismantled and rearranged our Revolutionary Personages talk to add in colonial poet Sarah Wentworth Morton, and to connect the subjects of the talk in my own chain of meaning.

My colleagues are young and in Master’s programs, blissfully unaware that in the Academia where I used to dwell, that’s not Subversive. That’s Required. That is called “intervening in the conversation,” and You’d Better have a new twist on things if you want to live in EnglishPhDland. Theoryguay. LitReviewistan. Jonestown.

OK, OK, a little dark humor isn’t going to leave a stain. I am proud of some of my work, deeply impressed by some scholars I know and read, and full of stuff to say about the 18th century. But I gloriously failed to be an academic many times while acting like I was trying to become one. That’s OK, though. Let’s all live our best lives.

Of course, there’s plenty of evidence that Scholarly and Creative can harmonize. But often they don’t, and I still don’t quite get it. For example, the author of an important book in my field said to me over cocktails that, although nearing retirement, she was discovering a whole new way to approach theater history. She was now attending actual rehearsals at her university for the first time in her career. Yeah. From her tone, she felt subversive. I felt a little sick. I can laugh about it now.

My Revolutionary talk at work is a good, coherent little talk, a star shape nicely squeezed out of the Play Doh Fun Factory of my Intellect. But it was prompted by real, personal interest and Creative Sisterhood with Mrs. Sarah, and those things aren’t too academic. Do I get to call the talk Creativity? I don’t know, yet oddly, I care. I hope someday to have more Intellectual/Creative harmony.

Am I subversive? I don’t write in a bare garret, rejecting everything but Art; I have an AC. I read mysteries and watch Antiques Roadshow. I like vanilla ice cream a great deal.

The writer and queer/feminist activist Michelle Tea described “Sister Spit, the all-girl performance tour that tore up the United States at the end of the last century” as, among other things, “the my-poetry-can-beat-up-your-theory menace.” I like that. That’s funny. I value poetry a lot more than academic writing. I’ve been dealing with some things and been pretty sub-versive lately (get it?), but I still see a poet in the mirror. And will even if I do finish that book about 18th-century theater history.

I don’t know if I can reach Tea’s subversive heights, but I was busy writing this today instead of writing for money. Taking an actual day off work to prioritize whatever creativity showed up. Not wearing pants. Reading literature in the current administration. You do what you can.  I could murder some ice cream right now. Chocolate? I like eating it with a fork.

 

The portrait of John Adams by J.S. Copley belongs to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. I quoted from Michelle Tea’s piece “Sister Spit Feminism,” in her new book Against Memoir, published by Feminist Press. I highly recommend it. My talk and other good ones are available at King’s Chapel on the Freedom Trail, Boston.

First Love

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I clearly remember my First Time, and it was with someone very special. I always have and always will love him. It was a stormy summer night, outdoors in a park, and we got rained out halfway through.

I’m talking about Theater, Darlings. My first real Major Playwright relationship was with Edward Albee, and we’ve been at it since 1982. And when I say “at it,” I mean he was writing, being a Towering Pillar, winning Tony and Pulitzer awards. And I was adoring him, reading him, watching him, among others, working backstage (creatively) part time, and coming to love his and all related art forms.

The thing I can tell you that all the recent articles and obituaries could not is how lucky I am to have someone like this writer come early into my creative (part-time) life. That play in the rainy park, and I did get to see it whole and dry on another night, was my first experience with live, non-musical American Drama. It was The Ballad of the Sad Café, based on the short story by Carson McCullers. I was fifteen, a novice without context and with a blown mind. I learned from him that the Uncanny is where Humanity is, not just with Victorian people on darkened moors. He taught me the huge, truthful power of the utter Absurdity of Us, and the possibilities of a wide-open imagination. He still reminds me that language is a precision tool, an echo chamber, and an animal howl, All at the same time. I met Beckett, Brecht, Sartre, Marina Carr, August Wilson, and probably even Salvador Dali, holding his hand. He touches my shoulder with a finger when I write, gently directing me away from what I think other people will understand and accept easily. His first lesson, that writing for the theater is writing for the THEATER, not WRITING for the theater…well, I seem to have annoyed a lot of people in academia with that one, but I hold up my little banner and always will.

Rest in peace, Edward, and thank you.  I’m glad you’re the one I met at the door because it made me want to stay, and it’s a fabulous party.

(BTW, my First Love that I actually knew personally is in the picture. Theater’s so great.)