Saturday, March 11, 2017


As a retired person, I'm pursuing all the interests I never had time for when I was younger. One of those interests is Shakespeare and his plays, which turns out to be even more fascinating than I could have guessed. You could spend your entire life studying Shakespeare and still not exhaust all there is to read about him and learn from his plays and their continued enchantment of the public.  
On Netflix, I rented "The Winter's Tale", one of Shakespeare's later plays, which I had never seen. The DVD was a filmed presentation of a stage performance, which is not ideal, because stage productions are meant to be experienced live, whereas a filmed production takes into account the needs of that medium. Nevertheless, it was really quite wonderful and haunting, a very unique and somewhat disturbing play, but ultimately may prove to be one of very favorite of Shakespeare's plays. 
Though I have my quibbles with a couple of the performances and casting choices, sadly, I have no one to quibble with and no other production to compare it to. And this is one of the most deleterious effects of a nation obsessed with politics: culture is pushed out of the marketplace of ideas, until it all but disappears.
What pleasant memories I have of Joe Papp’s productions of Shakespeare in the Park. How incredibly delightful to stroll into Central park, which was quite safe in those days, carrying your picnic basket with wine and other exotic goodies, spread your blanket for a picnic before you lined up for your free seats at the open air Delacorte theater. Tom, as a youngster, had gotten his first taste of theater by climbing up the rocks behind the Delacorte and stealing the prop swords from some production, before being chased away. Joe Papp, a legend in theater, and the man who gave so many great actors their start and gave thousands great, great and very real theater experiences. Where are the Joe Papp’s of today? What we get now is “Hamilton” a play which spouts treacle about skin color, a musical so devoid of actual intellectual and emotional content that it makes “The Lion King” look like “King Lear” by comparison.
And that is exactly my point. Culture is a country thinking about itself, talking about the things that concern it and trying to understand life. When all a nation’s resources are spent on politics, the culture is reduced to harping on skin color or making fun of Mormons. And that is a far, far cry from a Joe Papp, the man who gave the world George C. Scott in Richard III, Coleen Dewhurst as Lady Macbeth, or the musical “Hair”, which later transferred to Broadway, or “for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf” , and “Chorus Line”, a classic musical that was developed in Joe Papp’s theater laboratory.
Politics the bane of man’s existence, the less of it the better. It’s a vampire that sucks the lifeblood of a nation until no one can do anything but shout at each other. I am so ready to have a country that works again, a government of the people, for the people, and by the people.

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