“Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train” Program Article

(From Brooklyn College’s production of Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train. It’s gonna be a great show. Come see it.)

Redemption on the ‘A’ Train

Barry Honold, Dramaturg

 

The idea of prison as a place of reform has been abandoned for the idea of prison as a place of punishment. And the punishment has a decidedly transactional feel: the prisoner is “paying his debt” to society. Whether he is a better person after he gets out is incidental. This “punishment” model is not without some merit. Institutions can govern behavior and mandate punishment, but they are incapable of inducing a change of heart. That sort of transformation can only take place on the personal level. It is the still, small voice telling us we have sinned against our fellow man, and must make amends.

 

Can this still, small voice issue externally, and from the mouth of a demon? That devil is Lucius Jenkins – the serial killer known as “The Black Plague.” More than most crimes, serial homicide baffles and fascinates us. We imbue Dexter and Dr. Lecter with abnormal intelligence and make romantic anti-heroes of them. They punish the bad guys, and being very effective bad guys themselves, make a clean getaway before the police arrive. In Stephen Adly Guirgis’s Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train, there is no such dramatic exeunt. Lucius is no debonair Hannibal Lecter or insider Dexter. As James Alan Fox and Jack Levin point out in “Multiple Homicide: Patterns of Serial and Mass Murder,” even Ted Bundy “is more the exception than the rule….Contrary to popular stereotypes, serial killers tend in many respects to be ‘extraordinarily ordinary.’” The relationship between Lucius and Angel is suspect. Serial killers tend to be sociopaths, and the sociopath cares about no one but himself. Is Lucius’s conversion and evangelical outreach genuine, or is he toying with the system (to avoid extradition) and Angel (out of boredom)?

 

Guirgis places the Christian conception of redemption at the dramatic heart of the play. God forgives, but we still have to do the often arduous legwork of admitting our faults and requesting forgiveness. For all the talk of Divine Grace, it is a very human play. We err. We sin. We, despite what we would like to believe, are not perfectible. We list towards hubris, and ignore our own capacity for wrongdoing. The rejoinders against such human arrogance are noteworthy and ancient:

 

Know thyself.

Pride goeth before a fall.

Remember, thou art mortal.

 

The question arises: do we sell our souls outright, or piece by piece, ceding our moral ground a little at a time until we have no principles to compromise? The characterizations of Mary Jane and Valdez are switched. She is no longer Angel’s savior but a serpent, tempting him with freedom by perjury. The brutal Valdez is prophetic with the assertion that “once we have discarded an irreplaceable item, it is lost forever.”

 

For Angel, in the words of Aeschylus, “[w]isdom comes alone through suffering…grace comes somehow violent.” Angel is offered a choice: perjury or redemption. Sir Thomas More, in A Man for All Seasons, would understand. “What is an oath, then, but words we say to God? When a man takes an oath, he’s holding his own self in his hands, like water. And if he opens his fingers then, he needn’t hope to find himself again.” 

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Order and Disorder in “King Lear”

(Thank you, Dr. Thomson. For me, it’s great that one of my early career plays to dramaturg was King Lear.)

Order & Disorder in King Lear

 

Barry Honold, Dramaturg

 

The prevailing worldview during the Elizabethan era, according to Brooklyn College professor Lynn Thomson, was “The Great Chain of Being.” In it, everything in the universe is ordered into a hierarchy. In this hierarchy, man occupies “top of the middle,” with God occupying at the summit, and angels, animals, minerals, etc. occupying the lower realms. A person is born in a certain caste, fulfilling a certain function, and it is the will of God that they spend their entire life at exactly that station. Depending on their rank and station, how well they perform their function in the microcosm (their duty in this life) can positively or negatively affect events in the macrocosm (the natural world).

 

The phrase “body politic” may serve as a good example of this worldview. The human body works best only when all the parts are fully carrying out their specialized function. When one part of the body is attacked or doesn’t cooperate, the whole body suffers. So, too, does the state function: all persons great and small have their role. Betraying one’s place in the hierarchy of the state leads to all manner of trouble. Violence against royalty, who are given their crowns by divine right, is especially heinous. It is so heinous that it can cause disorder in the form of storms, comets, or other natural disasters, as Shakespeare writes in Julius Caesar, Macbeth, and King Lear. He was writing for a monarchy, and monarchies tend to view regicide (no matter how well-justified), as a major taboo.

 

Neither could a person voluntarily give up their place in The Great Chain; they did not choose that place. The position a person occupies in the hierarchy is more important than that individual person. Lear’s decision to abdicate was not his to make. However, the decision, once made, caused him to fall from his kingly station. The Elizabethan view was that there was no such thing as a “bad king,” but that a person could “do kingship badly.” In the hierarchy Lear the Man had no right to usurp Lear the King, because Lear the King was put on the throne by God, and could only be removed by God. As such, the job of Lear the King is more important than any one man’s opinion, even if that man happens to be Lear the Man. Confusing? Yes. Contradictory? Yes.

 

So, though Lear the King could not – not – be a bad king, Lear the Man could do kingship badly. And Lear the Man does certainly prove capable of behaving like a petulant child. Polish theatre theoretician Jan Kott notes that Lear and Gloucester are both “naïve.” He goes on the write that the “exposition of King Lear shows a world that is to be destroyed,” and that the plays of Brecht, Beckett, and others are rightly called Shakespearian in the sense that they resemble a “medieval morality play.” The morality plays of the Middle Ages took generalized characters and created parables with good or bad endings depending on the characters’ decisions. In King Lear, the decisions by Lear and Gloucester are both bad, the consequences are even worse, and the end is appalling beyond compare.

 

Shakespearean scholarship has examined Lear relentlessly. The playwright’s “intent” has been sought out ceaselessly. One theory says that Lear is a precursor to absurdist drama, showing that life is nothing but suffering, and that this suffering takes place without the self-knowledge and catharsis that we find in Greek tragedy. The first two acts of Lear are almost comic with the obstinate fathers Lear and Gloucester, who desire nothing more than flattery. This theory says that only when Gloucester’s eyes are put out does the serious business begin.

 

Regardless of what the final verdict is (if it is ever reached), what cannot be overlooked is the sheer, seemingly pointlessness of the suffering in Lear. Shakespeare seems intent on setting up audience expectations of some relief, only to dash them each time. The play grows in cruelty and betrayal. The England of Lear is set centuries before the birth of Christianity. It is thoroughly pagan in its sensibilities: the gods are there to make sport of Man, and kill him at their leisure. Man, too, ekes out a Hobbesian existence with but one rule: survival of the fittest. This rule is most eloquently expressed in the bastard son Edgar’s speech that begins with “Nature, thou my goddess be.” Unlike the writings of Aeschylus, any wisdom attained through suffering is far outweighed by the suffering itself.

Published in: on November 8, 2008 at 11:46 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Amadeus:” Shaffer, Salieri, and the War with God

(Really loved working on this – “Amadeus” is one of my favorite plays.)

In the Vienna of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Antonio Salieri’s day, all servants of Emperor Joseph II had the same status, be they cooks or court composers. To climb the ladder of royal favor often meant doing so at the expense of others. Scandals and backbiting at court have existed as long as royal courts have existed, and Peter Shaffer vividly brings the intrigues to life in Amadeus. Most obvious is his creation of the Venticelli (“Little Winds”) that, like rats, lurk on the fringes of the court, ferrying gossip and whatever intelligence will bring them money and favor. Also of note (and some historical veracity) is the Orsini-Rosenberg faction which lobbies against Mozart’s work.  

 

The historic Court Composer Antonio Salieri was, likely as not, somewhat of a schemer. This was a practical trait that was a virtual necessity for survival in any royal court. In Maligned Master: the Real Story of Antonio Salieri, author Volkmar Braunbehrens writes that Salieri “may have been very much aware of Mozart’s artistic superiority…after Mozart had died, he spoke of him with the greatest respect and admiration.” While they were both alive, Salieri was just as successful as Mozart. Mozart, however, is an unusual case in music history: unlike most other composers, his popularity increased steadily after his death. Shaffer uses this to link Salieri and Mozart in an “ingenious ploy in the chess game of posthumous reputation.” Wherever Mozart’s name is spoken, Salieri’s will be reviled.

 

In “Salieri and the ‘Murder” of Mozart,” Albert Borowitz shows that the two composers were able to maintain an amiable social relationship despite their professional rivalry. Two months before Mozart’s death, he took Salieri to a performance of The Magic Flute and “from the overture to the last chorus there was not a single number that did not call forth from him a [‘Bravo!] or [‘Bello!’].” However, Mozart had no doubts as to Salieri’s home court advantage. He was an established opera composer, and the tutor of Beethoven, Liszt, and Schubert. He was the “court composer, director of the Italian Opera, and court conductor.” Joseph II took his advice seriously over “the availability of theaters and patronage.” The Orsini-Rosenberg faction, with some principal opera singers actively lobbied to have The Marriage of Figaro passed over for an opera by Salieri. They failed, but “caused the emperor to be unfavorably disposed towards The Abduction from the Seraglio.”

 

After Mozart’s death, Salieri was well aware of the suspicions against him. Mozart did believe that he was being poisoned (though he never specified Salieri as the culprit) and said so to his wife Constanze more than once. Another factor that exacerbated his already ill-health was the appearance by night of a tall, spectral figure to commission a requiem mass. This led the already dangerously delusional Mozart to believe that he was being commissioned to write his own requiem mass. In reality, the figure was an emissary of a local nobleman, Count Franz von Walsegg-Stuppach who had recently lost his wife. He fancied himself a composer and wanted to pass the Requiem off as an original composition written in memory of his late spouse.

 

So what actually killed Mozart? We can reconstruct the physical symptoms immediately prior to the time of death and come up with a realistic diagnosis. Paul Davis, in “Mozart’s Illness and Death: The Last Year and the Fatal Illness,” writes that Mozart was already suffering from chronic renal failure, the symptoms of which occasionally can be manifest as delusions, depression, and insanity. Davis goes through all the symptoms experienced by Mozart. He concludes that the final causes of death were “streptococcal infection – Schonlein-Henoch Syndrome [a skin and joint condition that causes easy bruising and joint pain] – renal failure – venesections [“bleedings” for medical purposes] – cerebral haemorrhage – terminal broncho-pneumonia.”

 

However, due to swelling of his limbs and other suspicious symptoms, the court of public opinion ruled that the cause of death was poisoning. Salieri became the number one suspect. Poems depicting him poisoning Mozart were handed out at the premiere of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. One apocryphal story has Rossini and Salieri calling upon Beethoven, only to have him coldly glare into Rossini’s face and inquire why Mozart’s assassin is at his door. This is certainly untrue. Though Beethoven was no doubt aware of the rumors, throughout his life he was proud to be called a pupil of Salieri. Beethoven even dedicated the Violin Sonata, Opus 12 to his mentor. 

 

The first dramatic treatment of the poisoning myth is Alexander Pushkin’s 1830 Mozart and Salieri. This is a very short play, written in blank verse. It depicts the two composers together at a tavern, where Mozart tells Salieri about the visit from the spectral figure. In the end, Salieri pours poison in Mozart’s drink. Shaffer never read the play before writing the first draft of Amadeus. However, Pushkin pioneered many of the themes that Shaffer would later explore. His Salieri, like Shaffer’s, recognizes Mozart’s divine gift and hates him for it. Both depict Salieri as an austere, virtuous man utterly consumed by jealousy at the ease which Mozart creates great music. Both have Salieri waging war against God through His chosen vessel, Amadeus (“beloved of God”).

 

Counting the film, Shaffer wrote six separate drafts of the confrontation between Salieri and Mozart. In each draft, he tried to move Salieri closer to the center of Mozart’s breakdown; each draft made the jealous Salieri guilty of psychologically, if not literally, poisoning God’s prized creation Mozart. 

 

And the betrayal by God (in Salieri’s eyes) and the subsequent war against Him is at the dramatic heart of Amadeus. His very existence crashes when a diminutive, lecherous, potty-mouthed genius arrives in Vienna. Salieri alone hears the voice of God in the music of the infantile “Creature” Mozart. His life of virtue, his hard work, his “dedication” to God – all crushed after seeing Mozart’s original, unedited, perfect first drafts. Salieri responds: “They say God is not mocked. I tell you Man is not mocked….They say the spirit bloweth where it listeth: I tell you no! It must list to virtue or not at all!”

 

Shaffer charts the tragedy of Salieri versus God beyond Mozart’s death. In his old age, the historical Salieri did suffer a mental breakdown, and began accusing himself of murdering Mozart. For Shaffer’s character, in “his disturbed head, Salieri would naturally attribute his defeat to the intervention of God….He would finally launch his crazed counterattack.” He would use the gossiping Venticelli to spread his cries for pardon, thus embracing infamy before committing suicide – an act “which is also foiled, even more humiliatingly, at the very end of it.”

Published in: on November 8, 2008 at 11:43 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Lincoln the Kentuckian

(Another Lincoln piece)

Lincoln the Kentuckian

 

Barry Honold, Dramaturg

 

Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth president of the United States, is the stuff of legend. Biographies of his life and the lives of his associates, family, and the Civil War are legion. He held together a nation and solved the question, once and for all, on whether the Union was dissoluble. He was the first US president to hail from the nascent abolitionist Republican Party, and the first US president to be assassinated. He was a man of humble origins like Andrew Jackson, and his was the story of how the average boy (and girl) could grow up to be president.

 

According to noted Lincoln biographer Carl Sandburg, his grandfather (also Abraham Lincoln, and after whom the future president would be named) came to Kentucky because of very favorable reports by his friend Daniel Boone. Boone would regale Lincoln’s grandfather with stories of valleys “rich with black land and blue grass, game and fish, tall timber and clear running waters.” Abraham Lincoln was so enamored with Boone’s description that he moved his family from Virginia to settle on the Green River in Kentucky (which would not become a state until 1792). One day, Abraham Lincoln was shot and killed by an Indian, who was subsequently killed by one of Lincoln’s sons.

 

His youngest son, Thomas Lincoln, soon earned a reputation as a storyteller and a living as a carpenter. He worked in and around Washington, Cumberland, and Hardin counties. He married one Nancy Hanks (whose alleged illegitimacy became a very sore point for Lincoln), and they settled in Elizabethtown.

 

In 1808, the family moved to Nolin Creek, and Nancy Lincoln bore her second child on February 12, 1809. The boy was dubbed “Abraham” after his murdered grandfather. Sandburg relies on the fist-person account of a Lincoln family friend to establish that “the baby was born just about sunup, on Sunday morning.” The Lincoln clan next moved when young Abe was two; they relocated to Knob Creek near the Cumberland Trail. Lincoln’s earliest memories of his Kentucky home, in a “valley surrounded by high hills and deep gorges,” consisted of planting pumpkin seeds with his father: “I dropped the pumpkin seed. I dropped two seeds every other hill and every other row. The next Sunday morning there came a big rain in the hills, it did not rain a drop in the valley but the water coming down the gorges washed ground, corn, pumpkin seeds and all clear off the field.”

 

He also remembered, as a child, that he “used to get irritated when people talked to me in a way I could not understand.” He would stay up, ruminating over what he had heard that was unclear, until he had adequately resolved the issue in his head. “This was a kind of passion with me, and it has stuck by me; for I am never easy now, when I am handling a thought, till I have bounded it north, [south, east, and west].” Young Abe grew up exploring the woods of Kentucky, performing chores for his father, and learning to read. Lincoln’s illiterate father is said to have prized his son’s education so much that he would do a chore himself before interrupting Abe’s studies. Abe attended a “blab school” here, so named because the lessons were repeated aloud in unison until learned by rote. Lincoln almost drowned in a creek here, an obviously terrifying moment burned into his brain. When he was seven, his father moved the family to Indiana.    

 

Lincoln’s native state and its citizens were to play a crucial role in his life and in the Civil War. His wife, Mary Todd, was from a prominent Kentucky family. At first, they refused to give their consent for Lincoln to marry her. Lowell Hayes Harrison, in his book Lincoln of Kentucky, elaborates: “His three law partners were all Kentuckians, and so were the three women with whom he had…romantic attachments….Henry Clay was his political idol [and] George Prentice’s Louisville Journal was one of his favorite newspapers.” The state itself was absolutely vital to the Civil War; there were pro-Union and pro-Confederacy forces here. It could nominally remain “neutral;” it was unacceptable for Kentucky to join the secessionist movement. Harrison writes that a “Kentuckian could be loyal to the Union but bitterly opposed to Lincoln’s policies,” and concludes that Lincoln’s “understanding of Kentucky and Kentuckians…kept the state of his birth in the Union.” The loss of Kentucky to the Confederacy would have been a serious blow to the Union, as well as a significant political blow to Lincoln himself.

Published in: on November 8, 2008 at 11:41 pm  Leave a Comment  

“Abraham Lincoln” Essay

(For KRT – miss ya’ll!!)

John Drinkwater: The Heroic in Lincoln

 

Barry Honold, Dramaturg

 

British playwright John Drinkwater (1882-1937) spent his early adulthood working in an insurance office. In his spare time, he was a devout student of literature who became a published poet with Poems of Men & Hours. In the introduction to Abraham Lincoln (1918), he admitted to compressing and manipulating history to maintain the inherent drama of Lincoln’s life. Composite characters, like Burnett Hook, were made up to embody “certain forces that were antagonistic to the President.” Lacking firsthand experience with American life, he wrote the play without attempting to nail down the various dialects and “local colour;” he feared not doing justice to such a task.

 

In a 1921 essay entitled “The Heroic in Art,” he upbraided the relentless cynicism that he felt pervaded the world of poetry. He lamented that his contemporaries did not “praise great men and their fathers who were before them,” and remarked sarcastically on the sophistication of the post-WWI poets: “They have seen through the heroic, and they are not going to be caught in any ridiculous postures of benediction.” He believed that art should exalt great men and appeal to the better angels of our nature – that cynicism and smugness was the easy way out. And he upheld Lincoln as a great man worthy of such remembrance and praise.

 

Abraham Lincoln was first produced by the Birmingham Repertory Theatre in the London suburb of Hammersmith in 1918. The play was wildly successful. Many London managers smelled money and begged to have the play move to the more fashionable West End – a move reminiscent of going from Off-Off-Broadway to Broadway. The managers in Hammersmith, however, were intent on drawing all of London to them “to see a play without a love-interest or a bedroom scene.” Their gamble worked, and the play ran for 300 nights. In 1919, it was brought to New York to be performed at the Hudson Theatre with Lee Keedick Bureau directing. A New York Times article from that year noted that Drinkwater was on hand to supervise its production. Not only did he come for the American premiere of Abraham Lincoln, he would also be touring the country to “deliver lectures on poetry and the dramatic art, with readings from his own works.”

 

In the spirit of Drinkwater, Kentucky has elected to praise the great man, to honor the rail-splitter who kept a nation together. Kentucky Repertory Theatre is proud to join in the celebration surrounding Abraham Lincoln’s bicentennial. For more information on Abraham Lincoln, the Civil War, and the personalities surrounding the play, visit Kentucky Rep’s website at kentuckyrep.org and our MySpace page.

Published in: on November 8, 2008 at 11:39 pm  Leave a Comment  
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John Drinkwater’s “Abraham Lincoln:” People and Events

(This was a list of mini-bios for the cast of Kentucky Repertory Theater’s “Abraham Lincoln.”)

The primary cause of the Civil War was whether slavery, once restricted to the South, could be extended into the territories as westward expansion occurred. The Compromise of 1820, the Wilmot Proviso, and the Compromise of 1850 all attempted to settle the issue of the South’s “peculiar institution,” to no effect. Lincoln’s lifelong political opponent, Stephen Douglas, advocated “popular sovereignty” – allowing each state or territory to decide whether it would be free or slave, in an attempt to stave off insurrection and appease the South. Lincoln argued that such was not the case; that the Founding Fathers had deliberately limited slavery to the South to “place it on the road to extinction,” as noted by Lincoln biographer Stephen B. Oates. After the southern states seceded, Lincoln originally hoped to preserve the Union with all institutions intact – including slavery. Though he thought slavery a particular evil, preservation of the Union had to take precedence over everything. What follows is a brief presentation of the characters, events, and historical “compressions” mentioned in Abraham Lincoln. At the end is a bibliography of works consulted in compiling this list. Following that is a summation of the most relevant legislation in the fight against the expansion of slavery.

 

I. People & Events

 

Mary Todd Lincoln (1818-82) – Abraham Lincoln’s wife; she was the daughter of an aristocratic Kentucky family who initially would not consent for her to marry Lincoln. During the Civil War, she had a full, three half, and three brothers-in-law serving in the Confederate Army, which led to whispers in Washington that she was a Confederate sympathizer. She was disliked by William Herndon, Lincoln’s law partner in Illinois, as well as by Lincoln’s personal secretaries, John Nicolay and John Hay. The loss of their son, Willie, and of her husband crushed her. As she was being led away from Lincoln’s body after the assassination, she said “Oh my God, and have I given my husband to die?”

 

John Brown (1800-59) – Northern Abolitionist who armed and supported anti-slavery forces. In Kansas, when the state’s status as a slave or free was under debate, he and his group dragged five pro-slavery men out of their cabins and butchered them. He later led the charge on Harper’s Ferry armory in Virginia, but was captured by troops under the command of Robert E. Lee. He was sentenced to death and hanged. The song “John Brown’s Body Lies A’Mouldering in its Grave,” as well as its counterpart “We’re Gonna Hang Jeff Davis from a Sour Apple Tree” is sung to the tune of “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

 

Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson (1824-63) – Confederate general; headed a detachment of Virginia Military Institute cadets at the hanging of John Brown. His career as a West Point cadet was characterized by a slow start with exponential improvement. He distinguished himself in battle first at Bull Run in 1861 when he helped route Union troops, earning him the nickname “Stonewall.” As the war progressed, he was indispensable to the Confederate Army, earning victories at Shenandoah, Antietam, and Chancellorsville. He was mortally wounded in a friendly fire incident; his loss was so great that General Robert E. Lee remarked “I do not know how to replace him.” Jackson was said to “live by the New Testament and fight by the Old.”

 

Play Quote: “They wanted to make him governor of Oregon…” – The Taylor administration’s political patronage offer to Lincoln; it first wanted to make him secretary to the Oregon Territory, then offered him the governorship of Oregon. Neither Lincoln nor his wife thought it a desirable post.

 

William Henry Seward (1801-72) – Lincoln’s rival for the Republican Party presidential nomination in 1860, and later, his Secretary of State. Seward was a jovial man who was well aware of his domestic and foreign policy expertise; he was fond of throwing dinner parties that had as many as eleven courses. He was attacked by Lewis Paine, an accomplice of John Wilkes Booth, the same evening that Lincoln was assassinated, and survived despite several stab wounds in the face and neck. Seward would also serve Andrew Johnson as Secretary of State, where he purchased Alaska from Russia, a move initially termed “Seward’s folly” and “Johnson’s Polar Bear Garden.” 

 

Pierre Gustave Beauregard (1818-93) – Confederate general who led the siege on Ft. Sumter in South Carolina, one of the major offensive actions that led to the Civil War. He was referred to as “The Little Napoleon.” Upon his arrival in Virginia, he was hailed as a hero. He commanded forces at the first Battle of Bull Run, Shiloh and prevented the Union army from taking Petersburg, VA., which would have exposed the Confederate capitol of Charleston.

 

Historical “compression:” Drinkwater compressed many of the events of Lincoln’s life to maintain dramatic momentum. He mentions doing so in the “Introduction” the play. This is a compilation of speeches that Lincoln made immediately before and after the presidential election in 1860, culminating in his inaugural address, in which he vowed that Ft. Sumter in South Carolina would remain in Union hands.

 

Compression: though Seward was Lincoln’s first choice for the Secretary of State, Seward also had a tendency to underestimate and, at times, undermine Lincoln’s leadership. On one occasion, he had promised the Confederates that Ft. Sumter would be evacuated without trouble. It was not. On another occasion, Seward was upset at the Queen of England’s wording in which she implied that the Confederacy was a legitimate government, and he wrote an angry and belligerent manifesto with a thinly-veiled war threat. Lincoln brought in Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts, an authority on Britain, to help soften the letter’s language. Though Lincoln kept Seward, he did, when necessary, use Sumner as a counterbalance against Seward’s ego getting the best of him. 

 

John Hay (1838-1905) – Personal secretary to Lincoln who followed him from Illinois. Hay, along with Lincoln’s other secretary, John G. Nicolay, would collaborate on an encyclopedic volume of the Lincoln administration entitled Abraham Lincoln: A History.

 

Winfield Scott (1786-1866) – A veteran of the War of 1812 and the Mexican War, as well as the General-in-Chief of the Army after 1841. Initially served as General in Chief of the Army of the Potomac, he was almost seventy-five when the Civil War started. In 1861, he was so worried about the threats on the newly-elected president that he expressed visible relief when Lincoln took the oath of office and said “Thank God, we now have a government.” Despite Lincoln’s promise in his inaugural address that Fort Sumter would remain in Union hands, Scott thought (correctly, it turned out) that there was no way possible for it to be held.

 

Play Quote: “There is a tide in the affairs of men…” – from Julius Caesar; Act IV, Scene 3

 

Montgomery Blair (1813-83) – Lincoln’s Postmaster General and legal counsel to Dred Scott during the Dred Scott v. Sanford case.  

 

Salmon P. Chase (1808-73) – Lincoln’s Treasury Secretary and one of his rivals during the 1860 Republican presidential nomination contest. He was governor of Ohio and a dedicated abolitionist. He later succeeded Roger B. Taney as Chief Justice of the United States.

 

Simon Cameron (1799-1889) – Lincoln’s first Secretary of War, he endorsed Lincoln for president only after he was promised a cabinet position. Once in, he was a source of scandal for the administration. Lincoln, embarrassed by his behavior, made him the ambassador to Russia to get him out of the way, but not before Cameron earned an official congressional censure. His reputation for corruption was such that a congressman, upon learning that Cameron was leaving for Russia, remarked “Send word to the Czar to bring in his things at night.”

 

Gideon Welles (1802-78) – Lincoln’s Secretary of the Navy; he was completely loyal to both Lincoln and Johnson. Upon learning that General Meade had lost the chance to pursue and destroy Lee’s army, he once quipped that Meade had dug in and “was watching the enemy as fast as he can.” After Welles reported the surrender of Vicksburg, Lincoln (not known for irrational exuberance) is said to have remarked: “What can we do for the Secretary of the Navy for this glorious intelligence? He is always giving us good news.”

 

Compression: Lincoln was constantly being besieged by congressional Republicans and others to make the South suffer for instigating the war. He once replied that “I shall do nothing in malice. What I deal with is too vast for malicious dealing.”

 

Compression: dramatization of a real meeting between Lincoln and former slave Frederick Douglass. Douglass did want retaliatory execution of Confederate POWs for Confederate executions of African-American Union soldiers. Lincoln’s response was: “How can I kill men in cold blood for what has been done by others?” Douglass later wrote that Lincoln was “the first great man that I talked to in the United States freely who in no single instance reminded me of the difference between himself and myself, of the difference of color.”

 

Edwin M. Stanton (1814-69) – Lincoln’s replacement for Secretary of War after Cameron’s departure. Stanton had been Cameron’s subordinate in the War Department, but was untouched by the scandals that plagued his predecessor. In fact, he proved to be a capable and tireless administrator, working long into the night and holding his department to strict standards of ethics and accountability. After Lincoln was shot in Ford’s Theatre, he was the one who ordered and oversaw the manhunt for Booth. The phrase Stanton allegedly said at Lincoln’s passing, “Now he belongs to the ages,” however, didn’t appear until roughly two decades after Lincoln’s assassination and probably was never actually said.    

 

George Brinton McClellan (1826-85) – General of the Army of the Potomac and later Commander in Chief. McClellan irked Lincoln by constantly digging in his troops’ position and demanding reinforcements, rather than engaging Lee’s forces. The Civil War Dictionary wrote that he was “a brilliant military organizer, administrator, and trainer of men but an officer totally lacking in the essential qualities of successful command of large forces in battle.” McClellan’s eventual successor would be Ulysses S. Grant. Lincoln once became so impatient at McClellan’s lack of action that he stated that if McClellan had no intention of using the Army of the Potomac, he should like to borrow it.

 

Robert Edward Lee (1807-70) – Commander of the Confederate Army; The Civil War Dictionary writes that, as a general, he “earned rank with history’s most distinguished generals. Lee revealed qualities of intellect and character that made him a legend in his own lifetime.” Lee graduated second in his class at West Point, and after serving with distinction during the Mexican War, he was sent to quash John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry. Lee was offered command of the Union army but declined, saying that he could not “raise my hand against my relatives, my children, my home.” He then resigned his commission and went back to Virginia to fight for the Confederacy. His ability to win battles is made all the more impressive by the fact that the South largely fought with fewer men and less resources than the Union army. While surrendering to Grant he did request that his men be allowed to keep their mounts for farming.

 

Artemus Ward (1834-67) – Ward was a nineteenth-century humorist whose real name was Charles Farrar Browne. He employed a satirical style of writing that capitalized on intentionally bad writing, spelling, and grammar. He was much-read and loved by Lincoln.

 

Play Quote: “Grant drinks.” – Decidedly apocryphal story about a group of angry Congressmen. They burst into Lincoln’s office complaining of Grant’s legendary drinking habit. Due to Grant’s successes in the battlefield compared to the track record of the other Union generals, Lincoln reportedly inquired into what brand of whiskey Grant drank. He then stated that he intended to “send every general in the field a barrel of it.” When told of the story, Lincoln laughed and said that he wished that he had said it.

Play Quote: “…Papal Bull against a comet.” – Much older apocryphal story. Allegedly, in 1456 Pope Calixtus III issued a papal bull which forbade the arrival of Halley’s Comet. He thought that it would be seen as a bad omen for Christian troops fighting the Ottoman Turks in present-day Serbia. The story is completely unverifiable.

 

Play Quote/“The Emancipation Proclamation” – When Lee invaded Maryland, Lincoln’s only general to repel the attack was McClellan. However, McClellan was accustomed to fighting in a way that emphasized maneuvering over manpower and that resulted in very little loss of life. Lincoln promised to himself that, should the previously impotent McClellan score a victory against Lee and Jackson, it was “an indication of Divine Will” that Lincoln should press forward with the Emancipation Proclamation. Many of his secretaries questioned this, worried about the border states that wanted to keep the Union together and keep slavery intact. But Lincoln was unmoved.

 

“Our revels now are ended…Is rounded with a sleep:” From William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Act IV, Scene One.

 

Ulysses Simpson Grant (1822-85) – Commander in Chief of the Union armies from March of 1864 until the end of the war; later President of the United States from 1868-76. He first came to Lincoln’s attention when “Unconditional Surrender” Grant took Fort Donelson. Rumors of Grant’s drinking habits led Lincoln to dispatch someone to keep an eye on him. However, the reports wired back to Washington were filled with glowing praise of Grant. He next split off from his supply lines and drove into Mississippi, eventually capturing Jackson and laying siege to Vicksburg. Lincoln loved Grant because he cared nothing for politics, never complained as did McClellan about supplies and reinforcements, and in Lincoln’s own words, “He fights.”

 

George Gordon Meade (1815-72) – Commander of the Army of the Potomac beginning with the Gettysburg campaign. He began by commanding a corps of volunteers at the Second Battle of Bull Run, and later commanded troops at Antietam and Chancellorsville. Meade was subject to fits of a very black temper, and in the unenviable position of making decisions with his superior (in every way) Grant always watching him.

 

Our American Cousin (April 14, 1865) – A play by Tom Taylor; it was running at Ford’s Theatre the night Lincoln was assassinated. According to a New York Times description of the play’s revival at the Lyric Theatre in 1908, Taylor wrote it to satirize the “uncouth American” – genuinely good at heart, genuinely bad at manners and composure in polite society.  

 

John Wilkes Booth (1838-65) – son of the famous actor Junius Brutus Booth and brother to actor Edwin Booth. Booth harbored Southern sympathies, and had actually plotted to kidnap Lincoln. The original plot was that Lincoln, Secretary of State Seward, and Vice President Andrew Johnson were all to be killed at the same time. According to one theory, Seward was to be killed because only the Secretary of State could call a new election. The president pro tempore of the Senate, Lafayette Foster of Connecticut, would become president of a decapitated government. According to this theory, if the South could not have victory, it would have vengeance.

 

“With malice toward none…” – compression; Lincoln actually made this speech during his second inaugural address on March 4, 1865.

 

II. WORKS CONSULTED:

 

Boatner III, Mark M. The Civil War Dictionary. New York: David McKay, 1966. 

 

Donald, David. Lincoln’s Herndon: A Biography. New York: Alfred P. Knopf, 1948.

 

Drinkwater, John. Abraham Lincoln: A Play. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1919.

 

Hall, Wade. One Man’s Lincoln. Kentucky Historical Society, 1998.

 

McPherson, James M. Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era. New York: Oxford, 1988.

 

Oates, Stephen B. With Malice Toward None: The Life of Abraham Lincoln. New York: Harper & Row, 1977.

 

Sandburg, Carl. Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years and the War Years, vol. I – III. New York: Dell, 1954.

 

III. Relevant Legislation in the Fight against the Expansion of Slavery:

 

Compromise of 1820/Missouri CompromiseThis admitted Missouri as a slave state and Maine as a free simultaneously to preserve the numeric balance between free and slave states. It also prohibited slavery anywhere north of the 36”-30’ latitude. It was repealed by the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854.

(From historicaldocuments.com/MissouriCompromise.htm)

 

Wilmot Proviso – During the height of the Mexican War in 1846, Representative David Wilmot attached an amendment to a rudimentary appropriations bill which forbade slavery in any territory acquired in the war. It was defeated twice in the Senate, but became a model for legislative maneuvers to halt the spread of slavery.

(From u-s-history.com/pages/h342.html)

 

Compromise of 1850 – Introduced during the Taylor administration and signed into law after his death in 1850, when he was succeeded by Millard Fillmore. The compromise admitted California as a free state, allowed the New Mexico and Utah Territories to settle their free/slave status via “popular sovereignty, abolished the slave trade in Washington, D.C., and passed a draconian Fugitive Slave Act. This new act recognized no statute of limitations, compelled cooperation of citizens in capturing fugitive slaves, and forbade a trial by jury to runaways. The Fugitive Slave Act enraged so many in the North that any future compromise on slavery was inconceivable. It did, however, stave off any further regional hostilities until the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854.

(From u-s-history.com/pages/h79.html)

 

The Kansas-Nebraska Act – Lincoln’s opponent, Stephen A. Douglas (chairman of the Committee on Territories) introduced a bill in early 1854, which proposed development of the Nebraska Territory and the Great Plains, a series of unorganized lands west of Missouri and Iowa. This was done partly so that he might personally profit from an expansion of the railroad, and partly because he thought it was the sort of legislation that could help his presidential aspirations. He offered the South two key points: 1.) the Nebraska Territory was to be divided into two units – Kansas and Nebraska; and 2.) the question of slavery, which had seemingly been answered, was to be decided by “popular sovereignty” – allowing the territorial legislatures to decide. This, in effect, repealed the Missouri Compromise, but the Southern legislators still insisted on an amendment spelling out its nullification. In Kansas, hostilities flared almost immediately and violently between abolitionists and slave owners. Passage of the act also finished off the Whig Party, allowed the nascent abolitionist Republican Party to grow, and largely confined the Democratic Party to the South.

(From u-s-history.com/pages/h83.html)

 

 

Published in: on November 8, 2008 at 11:36 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Iphigenia”

Iphigenia in Aulis premiered and won first place at the City Dionysia, Athens’ annual theatre festival, in 406 BC, the same year Euripides died. Two years prior to this date, he had entered voluntary exile in Macedonia. Starting with Medea in 431 BC (the year of the second Peloponnesian War), many of Euripides’ plays are a harsh indictment of Athens and the Manifest Destiny politics behind the Delian League, which ultimately led to Athens’ loss to Sparta. His plays stand as a prophecy of the demise of Athenian power, through pride, corruption, and behavior that was akin to that of the “barbarians” they claimed to despise. Bernard Knox, in his book Euripides: The Poet as Prophet, compares Euripides to the ancient prophetess Cassandra, who had the gift of foresight, but the curse to be met with only disbelief. Euripides was often vilified in his time for his ironic vision, but ultimately he was to become the most often produced Ancient Greek playwright, as his bleaker vision of humanity became accepted by Athenians and others.

 

Accurate biographical information on Euripides is scarce, but the legends are legion. And no doubt some are true. His personal library was large enough to merit mention by his contemporaries. Sophocles once famously said: “[He] depicts men as they are, I as they ought to be.” At the City Dionysia in 405, Sophocles dressed his chorus in black mourning garb in honor of the deceased Euripides. If we were to rely on Aristophanes, the great master of ancient Greek comedy, for an accurate sketch of Euripides, we would come away with a portrait of a crabby misogynist, shunning humanity in his grotto overlooking the Bay of Salamis where he is alleged to have gone to write. He was skeptical of the Athens of his day, skeptical of the gods’ power over man and man’s ability to make the best of human reason.

 

And he was skeptical with good reason. In reality, “the world’s first democracy” only enfranchised Athenian-born adult males. The best most women and slaves could hope for was, as Medea put it, “a light yoke.” The literal translation of the word “woman” in Ancient Greek was “child-bearer.” However, in Euripides’ plays, the words of justice and reason often emanate from the mouths of women and slaves, not gods and heroes. In Iphigenia, it is the Spartan Queen Clytemnestra – educated, proud, and independent – who points out what is really taking place behind the doublespeak. She asks Agamemnon how he can expect the gods to bless him once he has killed his own child in order that Menelaus, his brother, can retrieve Helen, the most hated woman in all of Greece.

 

One of the most notable aspects of Iphigenia in Aulis is how the Greek leaders use lofty rhetoric to justify an act of barbarism, in this case the sacrifice of a young woman so that the Greeks can go to war. Agamemnon and his brother Menelaus, as well as Homeric hero Achilles speak noble words about dangers abroad and the security of Greece that justify the slaughter of innocents and the use of lies to further war. Agamemnon admonishes Iphigenia, as to the necessity of her sacrifice: “It is not Menelaus, but Greece that commands me and demands your life….Greece must be free if you and I can make her so. As Greeks we must not be subject to Barbarians…we must secure our homes from terror and war.” Iphigenia eventually accepts this vision. She forbids Achilles to fight and die for her; she wants to save her father and her family from the warmongering Greeks as much as from the barbarians. She tells her mother that her martyrdom will be her monument “for ages to come,” because “it is right that Greeks rule barbarians, not barbarians Greeks.” And here we have the irony: Achilles will die on the plains of Troy. Clytemnestra will kill Agamemnon, and in retaliation be killed by her son Orestes. By submitting to the knife, Iphigenia is, unwittingly, the catalyst for both of her parents’ deaths. The House of Atreus manages to do to itself exactly what Iphigenia and Agamemnon fear the Greek army will do.   

 

At the heart of the play and Athenian ritual was the sacrifice. Sacrifice is universal across cultures, and archaeological evidence suggests that it may have been one of our earliest rituals. Homo sapiens is also Homo necans – “man who sacrifices.” By Euripides’ time, actual human sacrifice was rare, save for some accounts of scapegoats who were pushed over cliffs or into a river to win the favor of a god before battle. Sacrifice was essential to any civic or domestic event: it solidified the community and one’s place in it. When erecting buildings, the Greeks made sacrifices that involved an animal’s ritual slaughter. After this its carcass was thrown into a pit upon which the cornerstone of the building was laid. In Iphigenia at Aulis Euripides suggests that the glory of Athens is built upon a mass grave. Many animals kill, but Man is the only animal conscious of what that act actually means. We can reflect on it, regret it, and tremble at its consequences. Euripides demonstrates in his play that blood will beget blood.  

Published in: on November 8, 2008 at 11:29 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Ivory-Billed Woodpecker

(My class was assigned to interview an HSU alum, and do an article about their field. Dr. Mia revels was working on reports about a “Lazarus species” – thought extinct until found alive. The italics are from the bird’s POV.)

Lazarus, Come Forth: Campephilus principalis

 

Barry Honold

Magazine & Feature Writing

Henderson State University “Forge” Magazine

(Scheduled for publication-Summer 2006)

 

It swoops in low over the Arkansas wetlands, searching for prey, shelter, and mates. It occupies a realm shared by few others:

 

Bigfoot.

 

The Loch Ness Monster.

 

The difference? The Ivory-billed Woodpecker is real.

 

There are some biologists and paleontologists who maintain that among its ancestors were the sleek and ruthlessly efficient Utahraptor ostrommaysorum, spreading terror to the Lower Cretaceous period. One can still see hints of the same coldness, the same callous methodology to hunting in its eyes. But it does not care. Unlike the current ruling class, Homo sapiens, it feels no need to quantify and classify. Natural selection, and nothing else, impels it.

 

It takes flight, as it once took flight from us, disappearing from our radar screens over sixty years ago. When it left, we were still using propellers in flight. By the time it returned, we had sent probes to Mars. Like itself, other “extinct” species (Latimeria chalumnae, Okapi johnstoni) had been re-discovered. In the scientific community, it has a distinctive designation. There is a term for its ilk, for animals once thought to be extinct- a Lazarus Species. Resurrected. And it has happened here in Arkansas.

 

***

The year is 1987. Mia Revels, a Henderson graduate with a B.S.E and an M.S.E in biology, both attained in a scant six years, is enthralled with ornithology. She took Dr. Peggy Rae Dorris’ namesake course:

 

“Her class really got me involved in the field study of birds. Birds are amazing, beautiful creatures. I sometimes wonder why everyone doesn’t want to study them….Not only are they beautiful to look at and listen to, but they are fascinating objects of scientific study….What a feat of construction for a creature who must build with their beak!”

 

Her memories of her alma mater:  

 

“…[h]anging out in the old science building. I was a real science geek. Of course, I did other things as well. I was a member of Alpha Sigma Alpha, Student Government, the Honors Program, the Biology Club….”

 

Her favorite part of being in the field:

 

“Everything! I love being outside in the field all spring and summer. I love getting to study something that I am fascinated with for a job….I am particularly well-suited to working in bottomland hardwood habitat because I am not affected by mosquitoes, chiggers, or poison ivy. Nor am I afraid of cottonmouths…or donating a little blood to greenbriar.”

 

What the future Dr. Revels is unaware of is that the Holy Grail of ornithology is within driving distance of her. For sixty-odd years it has been crossed off the list of extant species. Its call is answered less and less these days, its existence a stale meal of food and flight. It encounters fewer of its kind as it flies; the unrelenting advance of Man, with his construction equipment, breaks down the barriers that define its territories.

 

Subsequently, the bird takes flight. Again. Though it does not migrate in any traditional sense, it does fly long distances for food. It shall return. Soon. But for now, it is hungry; the sky is white and its hollow bones register a tingling cold.   

 

The two ships passed in the night, and would not meet again for nigh on two decades.

 

***

The year is 2004. At Northeastern State University in Talequah, Oklahoma, Dr. Mia Revels is a professor, teaching Ornithology, Zoology (and an accompanying lab), two courses on evolution, serves on an advisory committee, and helps undergraduate students in their research. She is intensely knowledgeable and intensely passionate about her work.  

 

“ My students sometimes tease me-‘this isn’t ornithology class, Dr. Revels!’ when I give an impromptu bird lecture in the middle of something else.” She has had previous success in finding rare birds. She discovered the first “…Swainson’s Warbler nest in Oklahoma since 1917.” She has been published in The Wilson Bulletin, the Oklahoma Ornithological Society, and “…several species accounts in the Oklahoma Breeding Bird Atlas. [Her articles primarily centered around] Swainson’s Warbler biology and Protocalliphora blowflies, which are parasitic on nestling birds.”

 

It is spring. The bird senses that its territories have diminished, that its hunting will likely prove quite difficult this year.  After landing on a tree, a noise startles the bird. It takes off, in a desperate search for safety.

 

It does not understand what is about to happen. It is about to become legend. A brief sighting is all that it takes for Cornell University to get involved. The bird levels out and lands on another tree. The man sees it.

 

History comes roaring back.

 

Gene Sparling, from Hot Springs was kayaking the Cache River Wildlife Refuge in February.  According to the Cornell University’s web site, which recounts the story, he “saw an unusually large, red-crested woodpecker fly toward him and land on a nearby tree. He noticed several field marks suggesting the bird was an Ivory-billed Woodpecker.”  This led to two researchers from Cornell University coming down to interview Sparling. This time out, all three saw the bird. The two from Cornell did field sketches. 

 

But, the key evidence is yet to come. Three more teams were dispatched. There were brief sightings, but no photographs. No video footage. No hard evidence.  David Luneau, associate professor at the University of Arkansas, will be the first in two generations to capture footage of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker.  Four seconds of video, to be precise.

 

The Cornell website expounds. “During 1.2 seconds of flight, the video shows 11 wing beats showing extensive white on the trailing edges of the wings and white on the back. Both of these features distinguish the Ivory-billed Woodpecker from the superficially similar, and much more common, pileated woodpecker.”

 

Dr. Revels reaction upon hearing that the Ivory-bill may still be alive:

 

“Stunned silence. Then, I thought that someone might be playing a horrible joke on me. Finally, amazement. My eyes filled with tears of joy and hope….I was able to attend the American Ornithologists Union [meeting] last August in Santa Barbara. At that meeting, John Fitzpatrick, the director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, gave a two-hour plenary address outlining in detail all of the evidence that they had accumulated regarding the rediscovery of the Ivory-bill. It was very convincing.”

 

Dr. Revels spent two weeks in early December searching for the Ivory-bill. A typical day consisted of paddling out to observation blinds before sun-up, staying focused on seeing the bird or hearing its call for ten hours straight, and then paddling back after dark. Once, the team spent an extra hour and a half breaking ice with canoe paddles for passage both ways. Dr. Revels’ reaction? “I just kept reminding myself-‘The bird is out here, don’t miss it’….They were long days, but I would do it again.”

 

The Grand Prairie Irrigation Project currently threatens the Ivory-bill’s home. Unregulated logging is what drove the bird to the brink of extinction the first time. An injunction has been sought to halt any action that could be destructive to the Ivory-bill.

 

Even across a medium as impersonal as e-mail, Dr. Revels’ passion for the bird’s future is apparent. She said that “[w]e don’t know for sure how many individuals there are, but if ever a species were endangered, this is it….My opinion is that we should make every effort to get it right this time. It is not often that we get a second chance.”

 

Its eyes scope the surrounding forest, alert for any sign of food. Thousands of electronic eyes, recent additions to the local flora, likewise scan for any sign of the bird. Expectation for man & bird hangs heavy in the air.

It takes off…

 

Published in: on November 8, 2008 at 11:22 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Dance Dramaturgy – “Divine Intervention”

(From a dance piece I did with Eva Tessler and the HSU Dance Department)

Apologia:

 

Since the dawn of time, our species has sought to find something that was simultaneously outside and inside ourselves; we need something that can sympathize with our plight, something to aid us and give us comfort.

 

Over 1000 years before the birth of Christ, Jewish Talmudic scholars pondered on the nature of Yahweh and studied the Torah of Moses. In the West, the collapse of the Roman Empire forced the Catholic Church to step in and fill the temporal and spiritual void. In the Middle East, a minor merchant rose to the rank of God’s Prophet. The Far East saw the nascent philosophical theology of Confucius and Buddha.

 

What the Middle Ages lacked in artistic or cultural achievement was more than compensated for by the advancements in thought. Between the fifth and fifteenth centuries AD, using Plato and Aristotle as their cornerstone, scholars such as St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, Ibn Rushd, and Ibn Sina applied their considerable intellects toward a better understanding of the nature of God.

 

The Henderson State University Theatre and Dance Departments have come together, under the direction of Eva Tessler of the Latina Dance Project, to explore the nature of spirituality. You will find a wide range of interpretations here, utilizing texts contributed by the students, as well as dance. The text is spoken in a call-and-response format reminiscent of the chants popularized under Pope Gregory I (590-604). Dance is particularly appropriate in this context: it is an art form that both dates back before written human history and is found in one form or another in all religions, continuing down to the present day. We sincerely hope that you enjoy the piece.   

 

                                                                                                Barry Honold

                                                                                                  Dramaturg

Published in: on November 8, 2008 at 11:16 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“How-To reward Yourself for Being Smart”

(An idea that I never got around to pitching to “Maxim.”)

“You’re Smart-Reward Yourself”

 

Scenario 1: The Classroom Bookie

 

You’re in a new class (best size: 6-10 other students. Small classes tend to be more competitive.). You need some dough. Let’s wax these suckers.

 

After the first two-three class meetings (in which you have been dutifully acting as the social butterfly, smiling and nodding at everybody’s comments) you propose a bet:

 

Class has four tests? First test-$5 entry fee. Highest grade walks with the money. Ties are split down the middle.

 

Lose the first bet. Don’t make over an 80%. Come in at least third place.

 

“Wow. Ya’ll are really smart. I thought I was gonna do better. Wanna go up to $7 for the next test?”

 

Next test: barely win. By now, you should know enough about your competitors to know who can do some serious damage (If their grade keeps getting better and better, the house may have to close early. Cut your losses and up the stakes on your other classes.)

 

“Boy, I sure got lucky that time. Let’s up it to $10.” By now, some people will have dropped out. Those remaining will be so angry for coming so close, they’ll usually go along. When the trash-talking starts, usually from the person who thinks your win an accident, make it more interesting for them: double or nothing. Challenge in front of everyone.

 

Wipe the floor with everyone. Collect. Enjoy. If there’s anyone left wanting to play, go up to $20 for the last test.

 

An intellectual fool and his money are parted over the course of a semester.

 

Scenario #2: Tutoring That Pays

 

Up front: you are not writing papers for other students. That would be intellectual dishonesty. You are either: a.) letting them look over an old paper you had stored on a zip drive (the location of which only you know), or b.) writing a “consulting” paper for them to use as…research on their paper, to be properly attributed. Heavens knows, you would be shocked…shocked to discover that they had turned this paper in to their professor.

 

You would, furthermore, be ethically required to turn them in, explain their malfeasance, and otherwise ensure that when the ax drops-you’re not under it.

Establish your reputation as a scholar quietly. It usually starts when a friend in need asks for your help on a paper.

 

“Hey! You know, I think I have something on this subject on my zip drive. It’s a seven-page paper. Coincidentally, that’s the length you need. I’ll let you borrow a copy for $70. The paper’s due in two weeks? Coincidentally, that’s how long it takes me to find said zip drive. Come see me then. Even though it’s the night before the paper is due, I’m sure you’ll have enough research done so that I’m just filling in the holes. Until then!”

 

In the meantime, you research their topic and magically locate the zip drive. You write furiously.

 

Soon, other people start meeting you in isolated parts of campus alone. You must make sure this first round knows the original person very well. If they don’t know him or you, you don’t do business. Ever.

 

The first, disarming question: “So, what do you do here at _______U?” Nine times out of ten, if they work there, habit will have ingrained in them to spout their job title. Make polite chatter. When they ask for help, politely decline and graciously explain that you are not in the habit of writing papers, and that you are deeply ashamed that a person on the payroll of our fine school would so brazenly ask you to abet in defrauding their poor teacher. Walk off saying tsk,tsk.

 

Stay out of business for a month or two. Lay low. When an appropriate time has passed, start again. Gradually up your price. Tell your clientele that a mob tax has been levied against you. Or that your grades are slipping and you’re weeding out unnecessary activities. Your original three to seven people stay at the old price. Everybody else is booted up to fifteen dollars a page. Under no circumstances do you hold an audience if there are over three people in the room. And the third had damn well better be so tight with you they’re future best man and willing to lie at the drop of a hat.

      

Published in: on November 8, 2008 at 11:12 pm  Leave a Comment  
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