Thursday, August 7, 2008

"Wisdom and goodness to the vile seem vile"
- Albany, King Lear

Some shipmates might recall the director/star of The Fall River Little Theatre of Fall River's only ever production of a Shakespeare play, the leaden Hamlet. He stamps his little feet and whips out his quill and goatskin to give My Artless Town of Dartmouth a smack with his baldrick. The Herald News felt it appropriate to share his act of unhingement -- possibly mocking him by not editing it. I reproduce it here sine vicissitudo, although I have truncated a portion of the blahblahblah because "brevity is the soul of wit."
And this letter needs all the soul it can get...

Sometimes power (and the laws that are often used to enforce it) is used for good; too often, it is used for bad; and, unfortunately, sometimes it is used foolishly, and nothing good comes of it. Events unfolded for us in Dartmouth recently that might make one question in which way power was used in this instance.
I run a Shakespeare company in my spare time. It is truly is a labor of love, and not a business venture. I plan the next summer’s season months in advance, and spend my own money and time bringing the show together. The actors that work with me share my love for theater so much that they commute from as far away as Providence, Boston and Worcester, and rehearse three or more days per week, for no compensation. Like most artists, the love of the art drives us, along with the chance to share that art with others.We prefer to perform in outdoor venues, because Shakespeare wrote most of his plays for a venue in which there was an open roof and little scenery. The power of the words carried the performance. We also like the idea of taking theater out of stuffy interiors and into the open air, where families can come, have a picnic and enjoy good family entertainment for a reasonable price.
Last summer, we performed at three local vineyards, including Dartmouth’s Runningbrook Vineyards, for two weekends, and it was a great experience for all. The crowds were small but enthusiastic, and everyone benefitted. This year, we will have performed at two, but not at Runningbrook. This year, everybody lost, due to rules and regulations that, as applied, make no sense and serve no good purpose.
On July 21 (four days before our play was to open), I received a phone call from the manager of the vineyard, telling me that the inspector for the town had arrived, and ordered that no events take place there because of “violations.” This was news to us, as we performed in the same spot last year, without incident. Among these “violations” were:
— No toilet facilities. There is a port-a-john. At other locations this is enough.
— It is not an “accepted use.” That’s a funny term usually applied by a bureaucrat. How many times have “unacceptable” uses been overlooked by Dartmouth? For instance, if you hold a party at your house with a band, and more than, say, 50 people attend, you are violation the zoning laws! The inspector told me that the event could not be held in a “residential area.” For those of you not familiar with Old Fall River Road, it is residential in name only. I have a good throwing arm, and I could not hit a house from Runningbrook Vineyards. We’re not talking about a loud concert here, or thousands of patrons. We are talking SHAKESPEARE.
— Lack of handicap access. A performance in a flat field is not acceptable by whom?
— Parking issues. The stage and parking areas are both more than 50 feet from the road.You can see where I am going with this.

Yes, I do. Indeed.
It goes on, filled with more possibly Herald News errors and other mistakes surely fomented by artist's umbrage, relentlessly blaming some unseemly "politics" or an artless "bureaucrat" or some annoying "law" or something else that needs "scare quotes" or someone or something other than the actual unprepared and self-involved director/manager/star/Prometheus who was moved to such verbosity that even logic seems to cower in fear and not show its calming presence.
Haha! Overwrought prose: Two can play at that game!
And certainly, I can't deny the temptation to type "The lady doth protest too much."
Because maybe the Hamlet reference might help this SHAKESPEAREAN ACTOR/DIRECTOR/PHILANTHROPIST.
I know that it's hard to be an artist in a world that thinks that the talent that it sees on America's Got Talent is actually, er, talent. I know that we all worked really hard learning to emote like an egg in a slowly-warming pan, and that some of us like to learn all the words and recite them out loud to people other than immediate family or medical professionals.
And not just at karaoke.
And I admit -- because I have been one -- some people like to conceive, engineer, and present amateur theatricals in non-traditional spaces. But please:
(1) think about the rest of us people out here who actually bother to look into the community's legal requirements before staging a legitimate production, and then
(2) don't be a spoiled brat who thinks he can act with impunity because he's doing something that he claims will "enrich a few people."

We get enough of that from the current President.

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