Friday, April 27, 2012

The Characters of "Ten Blocks on the Camino Real"
Don Quixote is the title character of a novel written by Miguel de Cervantes. Alonso Quijano is a retired country gentleman of fifty years of age, living in La Mancha, Spain. While mostly a rational man of sound reason, his excessive reading of books of chivalry has had a profound effect on him, leading to the distortion of his perception and the wavering of his mental faculties. In essence, he believes every word of these books of chivalry to be true though their content is clearly fiction. He decides to go out as a knight-errant in search of adventure. He dons an old suit of armour, renames himself "Don Quixote de la Mancha," and names his skinny horse "Rocinante". Don Quixote approaches his neighbor, Sancho Panza, a simple farmer, and asks him to be his squire, promising him governorship of an island. The uneducated Sancho agrees, and the pair sneak off in the early dawn. It is here that their series of famous adventures begin, starting with Don Quixote's attack on windmills that he believes to be ferocious giants.
Esmeralda is a fictional character in Victor Hugo's 1831 novel The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. She is a French Gypsy girl who attracts men with her seductive dances, and is rarely seen without her clever goat. She is around 16 years old. When she spurns the repeated advances of the Archdeacon of Notre Dame he uses her trained goat's apparent ability to count to accuse her of witchcraft. She is jailed and eventually hung as a witch.
Mr. Gutman, The Proprietor of the Sieta Mares Hotel is based on two film characters, both of them played by British character actor Sidney Greenstreet in classic Warner Bros. films of the 1940's. Visually, he closely resembles Signor Ferrari in CASABLANCA, owner of the Blue Parrot cafe, a major underworld figure and Rick's (Humphrey Bogart) friendly business rival, but a fairly minor player in the film's events. Gutman's name and nature are more closely modelled after Kasper Gutman, the major role Greenstreet played to perfection in THE MALTESE FALCON. Gutman will do anything to acquire the titular statue, including selling out his associates.
Adapted from Wikipedia.
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Monday, April 23, 2012

Today we would like to direct your attention to another blog, The Arts Fuse, where director Davis Robinson is interviewed by William Marx.

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Characters in "Ten Blocks on the Camino Real"

Baron de Charlus
, in full Baron Palamède de Charlus, is a fictional character, a licentious gay man, in the seven-volume novel Remembrance of Things Past (also translated as In Search of Lost Time) by Marcel Proust. The baron, the nephew of Mme de Villeparisis and a member of the influential Guermantes family, is first introduced in the second novel, Within a Budding Grove (1919).
The model for the fictional character is the real-life Robert de Montesquiou, who was a scion of the famous French Montesquiou-Fézensac Family. He was a distant nephew of Charles de Batz-Castelmore d'Artagnan, the model for Dumas' Musketeer. His paternal grandfather was an aide-de-camp to Napoleon and grand officer of the Légion d'honneur; his father was a successful stockbroker who left a substantial fortune. Robert's cousin, Élisabeth, comtesse Greffulhe, was one of Proust's models for the duchesse de Guermantes.
He had social relationships and collaborations with many celebrities of the Fin de siècle period, including writers Alphonse Daudet, Edmond de Goncourt, Gabriele d'Annunzio and Jean Cocteau, and actresses Eleonora Duse and Sarah Bernhardt.
A portrait of him titled Arrangement in Black and Gold: Comte Robert de Montesquiou-Fezensac was painted by his close friend, and model for many of his eccentric mannerisms, James Abbott McNeill Whistler.
He wrote the verses found in the optional choral parts of Gabriel Fauré's Pavane.
One author provides the following verbal portrait of de Montesquiou: "Tall, black-haired, rouged, Kaiser-moustached, he cackled and screamed in weird attitudes, giggling in high soprano, hiding his little black teeth behind an exquisitely gloved hand -- the poseur absolute. He was said to have slept with Sarah Bernhardt and vomited for a week afterwards."
Adapted from Wikipedia

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Characters in "Ten Blocks on the Camino Real"
The characters in "Ten Blocks" are nearly all fictional archetypes. Here is one of them: "Kilroy".
"Kilroy was here" is an American popular culture expression, often seen in graffiti. Its origins are debated, but the phrase and the distinctive accompanying doodle—a bald-headed man (possibly with a few hairs) with a prominent nose peeking over a wall with the fingers of each hand clutching the wall—is widely known among U.S. residents who lived during World War II.
Author Charles Panati says that in the US "the mischievous face and the phrase became a national joke... The outrageousness of the graffiti was not so much what it said, but where it turned up." The major Kilroy graffiti fad ended in the 1950s, but today people all over the world still scribble the character and "Kilroy was here" in schools, trains, and other similar public areas.
The phrase may have originated through United States servicemen, who would draw the doodle and the text "Kilroy was here" on the walls and other places they were stationed, encamped, or visited. 
According to one story, it was reported that German intelligence found the phrase on captured American equipment. This began leading Hitler to believe that Kilroy could be the name or codename of a high-level Allied spy. At the time of the Potsdam Conference in 1945, it was rumored that Stalin found "Kilroy was here" written in the VIP's bathroom, prompting him to ask his aides who Kilroy was.
The Oxford English Dictionary says simply that Kilroy was "The name of a mythical person". One theory identifies James J. Kilroy (1902–1962), an American shipyard inspector, as the man behind the signature. The New York Times indicated J.J. Kilroy as the origin in 1946, based on the results of a contest conducted by the Amalgamated Transit Union to establish the origin of the phenomenon. The article noted that Kilroy had marked the ships themselves as they were being built—so, at a later date, the phrase would be found chalked in places that no graffiti-artist could have reached (inside sealed hull spaces, for example), which then fed the mythical significance of the phrase—after all, if Kilroy could leave his mark there, who knew where else he could go? 
During World War II J.J. Kilroy  worked at the Fore River Shipyard in Quincy, Massachusetts, where he claimed to have used the phrase to mark rivets he had checked. The builders, whose rivets Kilroy was counting, were paid depending on the number of rivets they put in. A riveter would make a chalk mark at the end of his or her shift to show where they had left off and the next riveter had started. Unscrupulous riveters discovered that, if they started work before the inspector arrived, they could receive extra pay by erasing the previous worker's chalk mark and chalking a mark farther back on the same seam, giving themselves credit for some of the previous riveter's work. J.J. Kilroy stopped this practice by writing "Kilroy was here" at the site of each chalk mark. At the time, ships were being sent out before they had been painted, so when sealed areas were opened for maintenance, soldiers found an unexplained name scrawled. Thousands of servicemen may have potentially seen his slogan on the outgoing ships and Kilroy's apparent omnipresence and inscrutability sparked a legend. The slogan began to be regarded as proof that a ship had been checked well, and as a kind of protective talisman.  Afterwards, servicemen began placing the slogan on different places and especially in newly captured areas or landings, and the phrase took on connotations of the presence or protection of the US armed forces.
The Lowell Sun reported in November 1945, with the headline "How Kilroy Got There", that a 21-year old soldier from Everett, Sgt. Francis J. Kilroy, Jr., wrote "Kilroy will be here next week" on a barracks bulletin board at a Boca Raton airbase while ill with flu, and the phrase was picked up by other airmen and quickly spread abroad. The Associated Press similarly reported at the same time that according to Sgt. Kilroy, when he was hospitalized early in World War II a friend of his, Sgt. James Maloney, wrote the phrase on a bulletin board. Maloney continued to write the shortened phrase when he was shipped out a month later, and other airmen soon picked up the phrase. Francis Kilroy himself only wrote the phrase a couple of times. 
Adapted from Wikipedia.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Tennessee Williams (1911-1983)

Tennessee Williams was a master playwright of the twentieth century, and his plays A Streetcar Named Desire, The Glass Menagerie and Cat On A Hot Tin Roof are considered among the finest of the American stage. At their best, his twenty-five full-length plays combined lyrical intensity, haunting loneliness, and hypnotic violence. He is widely considered the greatest Southern playwright and one of the greatest playwrights in the history of American drama.

Born Thomas Lanier Williams on March 26, 1911, he suffered through a difficult and troubling childhood. His father was a shoe salesman and an emotionally absent parent. He became increasingly abusive as the Williams children grew older. His mother had lived the adolescence and young womanhood of a spoiled Southern belle. Williams was sickly as a child, and his mother was a loving but smothering woman. In 1918 the family moved from Mississippi to St. Louis, and the change from a small provincial town to a big city was very difficult for Williams' mother. The young Williams was also influenced by his older sister Rose's emotional and mental imbalance during their childhood.

In 1929, Williams enrolled in the University of Missouri. After two years his father withdrew him for flunking ROTC, and he took a job at his father's shoe company. He despised the job but worked at the warehouse by day and wrote late into the night. The strain was too much, and in 1935 Williams had a nervous breakdown. He recovered at his grandparents' home in Memphis, and during these years he continued to write. Amateur productions of his early plays were produced in Memphis and St. Louis.

Rose's mental health continued to deteriorate as well. During a fight between their parents in 1936, her father made a move towards Rose that he claimed was meant to calm her. Rose thought his overtures were sexual and suffered a terrible breakdown. Her mother had her lobotomized shortly afterward.

Williams went back to school and graduated from the University of Iowa in 1938. He then moved to New Orleans, where he began going by the name Tennessee, a nickname he'd been given in college thanks to his southern drawl. After struggling with his sexuality through his youth, he finally entered a new life as a gay man, with a new name, a new home, and a promising new career.

In the early 40s, Williams moved between several cities for different jobs and playwriting classes, also working at MGM as a scriptwriter. In 1944 came the great turning point in his career: The Glass Menagerie. First produced in Chicago to great success, the play transferred to Broadway in 1945 and won the NY Critics Circle Award.

While success freed Williams financially, it also made it difficult for him to write. He went to Mexico to work on a play originally titled The Poker Night. This play eventually became one of his masterpieces, A Streetcar Named Desire. It won Williams a second NY Critics' Circle Award and a Pulitzer Prize in 1947, enabling him to travel and buy a home in Key West as an escape for both relaxation and writing. The year 1951 brought The Rose Tattoo and Williams' first Tony award, as well as the successful film adaptation of A Streetcar Named Desire, starring Vivian Leigh and Marlon Brando.

Around this time, Williams met Frank Merlo. The two fell in love, and the young man became Williams' romantic partner until Merlo's untimely death in 1961. He was a steadying influence on Williams, who suffered from depression and lived in fear that he, like his sister Rose, would go insane.

The following years were some of Williams' most productive. His plays were a great success in the United States and abroad, and he was able to write works that were well received by critics and popular with audiences, including The Rose Tattoo (1950), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1955), Night of the Iguana (1961), and many others. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof won Williams his second Pulitzer Prize, and was his last truly great artistic and commercial success.

He gave American theatergoers unforgettable characters, an incredible vision of life in the South, and a series of powerful portraits of the human condition. He was deeply interested in something he called "poetic realism," namely the use of everyday objects which, seen repeatedly and in the right contexts, become imbued with symbolic meaning. His plays also seemed preoccupied with the extremes of human brutality and sexual behavior: madness, rape, incest, nymphomania, as well as violent and fantastic deaths. Williams himself often commented on the violence in his own work, which to him seemed part of the human condition; he was conscious, also, of the violence in his plays being expressed in a particularly American setting. As with the work of Edward Albee, critics who attacked the "excesses" of Williams' work often were making thinly veiled attacks on his sexuality. Homosexuality was not discussed openly at that time, but in Williams' plays the themes of desire and isolation reveal, among other things, the influence of having grown up gay in a homophobic world.

The Sixties brought hard times for Tennessee Williams. He had become dependent on drugs, and the problem only grew worse after the death of Frank Merlo in 1961. Merlo's death from lung cancer sent Williams into a deep depression that lasted ten years. Williams was always hugely insecure about his work and the negative critical reception of his later plays was unrelenting and had a deleterious effect on him. Despite health problems and negative critical and audience reception, Williams continued to write every single day of his life.

Overwork and drug use continued to take their toll on him, however, and on February 23, 1983, Williams choked to death on the lid of one of his pill bottles. The later plays, though not considered Williams' best during his lifetime, are now being reconsidered, revived and produced.

He left behind an impressive body of work, including plays that continue to be performed the world over. At his best, Tennessee Williams is a haunting, lyrical, and powerful voice, and is one of the most important forces in twentieth-century American drama.

Adapted from GradeSaver. *Biography of Tennessee Williams | List of Works, Study Guides & Essays*.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

30 Days to TEN BLOCKS

Beau Jest Moving Theatre's production of Tennessee Williams' "Ten Blocks on the Camino Real" will open at Charlestown Working Theater on May 10, thirty days from today. On this page we'll count down the days to the opening by introducing the characters and their fictional or factual origins, Williams' intentions for the play in his own words, hear from the director and designers, and give you background information and notes on this unique, rare piece of Williams' work.
We'll start with Williams' own unpublished introduction to his original version of the play.

The Playwright's Introduction to "Ten Blocks on the Camino Real" 
In an unpublished foreword to the one-act version [of "Ten Blocks on the Camino Real"], written at Taos, New Mexico, in May 1946, Tennessee records [his] experience [in Mexico] vividly as follows:

I am traveling alone through Mexico, my only companion being some particularly vicious little microscopic organisms which have set up housekeeping in the slums of my interior. I have dysentery, or what is more gaily known as The Mexican Two-Step. I am running a few degrees [of] temperature so that the dream-like effect of the country through the train windows is more than a little subjective. It is between the capitol of Mexico and Guadalajara that I am traveling, a journey that begins in the early morning  and continues till long after dark, so that if you are ill when you start, there is plenty of time to die before you arrive, but the journey is interesting enough to keep you alive while being strenuous enough to kill you. It is now about dusk and the train is drawing into one of those shy and melancholy little villages of central Mexico that ou find huddled beneath the comforting ranges of blue mountains in a way that suggests a Quattrocento Madonna nursing her child. The blue dusk in the village, all of the pale adobe, is like the essential myth of a poem, and the incidental phenomena are as lines and images chosen with the taste of sweet congruity that belongs to a graceful minor poet. Figures of women, pale and voluminously cloaked, more spectral than human, are rushing lightly as dancers along the open windows of the coaches, crying out in their soft voices such words as pan dulce, pasteles, bonitas, whose commonplace meanings a foreigner can't ignore. Also along the tracks are oil-burning flares which throw shadows of the ghostly hawkers against the dim facades of the street. And not far off, in one of the rose-lit cantinas, a woman is singing with a guitar one of those peculiarly haunting popular songs of Mexico such as Noce de Ronda or Palabras de Mujer.
So far there is nothing anomalous, nothing harsh or shocking, for it is all of one pleasantly an uneventfully harmonious piece, the quality being similar to a painting of Picasso's Blue Period.
The first discrepancy occurs when a woman passenger, obviously an American tourist, alights from one of the coaches further ahead. She starts to move down the coaches in my direction. She has on a summer coat of a white material and her hat is heaped with artificial violets. Now her slightly worn bu classically beautiful face catches the flickering glare of the torches. She has purchased some fruit from one of the vendors along the tracks. A man calls anxiously behind her. He is a distinguished looking gentleman in a white linen suit. He warns her that the fruit is probably unwashed. She laughs and says, "I think it would be wonderful to die of eating a piece of unwashed fruit!" Now the train has started creeping forward again. the man is afraid to leave her. He seizes her arm and half drags her onto the nearest platform of the coaches. She breaks into a laugh that turns into a paroxysm of coughing. -- Yes, now I know who it is -- Marguerite Gautier! La Dame aux Camellias!
A second later a low wall has swung in close to the train and as it slides past I catch a glimpse of a childishly drawn inscription, one that I have seen in a thousand different public places in the States but never before in Mexico. KILROY WAS HERE, it announces. the faint blue harmonies of the Mexican Village had received Camille with surprise but no particular shock. She also belonged to the romantic tradition. But Kilroy is another matter. He comes into the sonata like hot licks on a trumpet, he and the world that he lives in, a world of pawn-shops on Rampart Street, jitney dance-halls, dollar-a-night hotel rooms, bars on Skid Row, all the vivid, one-dimensional clowneries and heroisms of the nickle comic and adventure strips, celebrated in the raw colors of childhood's spectrum. this is Kilroy, the most famous citizen of America, about whom nothing is known except that he goes everywhere that it doesn't cost much to go, the poor man's Don Quixote or Paul Bunyan. Here is the stuff of a Picasso ten or fifteen years after the Blue Period. Here is the new congruity of incongruities which is the root of the power in modern art, the dramatic juxtaposition of the crude and the tender, the poetic and the brutish. Yes, it could be done with paint. But with language? In some of Hart Crane, yes! But how about a play?
Possibly. Yes, possibly. But not a play that is conceived just as spoken drama. It would have to be a play whose values are mainly plastic, a play that is less written than painted.
A play that is painted? Why not?
At least I could try. And here it is.
-- From "Documentary Sources for Camino Real" by Brian Parker, published in The Tennessee Williams Annual Review