THE INFORMATION #1091
APRIL 3, 2020
Copyright 2020 FRANCIS DIMENNO
If you don’t know the whole story, shut up and listen.– Brandon Garic Notch
WHEN THIS WORLD CATCHES FIRE
BOOK THREE: SAVAGE NOXTOWN
CHAPTER TWELVE: PART ONE-HUNDRED-AND-EIGHT: THE EASTERN GATE OF PARADISE
“You seem to imply,” said Attorney Creel, “that you fear for your immortal soul. Why is that?”
“The Masons are coming to take it away!” said the small, dark Shadwell Maddox Shass, and he clutched at his neck as though trying to remove a hangman’s rope.
“What makes you think so? What makes you think that the Masons are trying to ruin you?””Don’t imagine for one minute, MISTAH Creel, that as I talk about the nauseating and ruinous effect that Masons have on our country and its polity that I am merely some hidebound and superstitious vagabond, for I’m a likely lad and happen to know what a whole lot of nines are.”
“But the Masons are a strictly charitable organization.”
“That’s what you say, MISTAH Creel. I hear tell of a fur different story. During my extensive travels have seen many a Mason in the Dago countries passing around their devil signs as though they were the most bitter foes, but it was all a great jest and just for fun, for they all were Masons and Masons all love each other, or so they would have us believe. And why is that? Because they are of the devil. I wouldn’t give a popcorn fart for their chances of getting to heaven.”
“What about yourself, Sir? You were speaking, I believe, of your immortal soul.”
“To be sure, MISTAH Creel, I myself am not bound for any celestial reward at the rate I’m going. I behave in a most despicable fashion to all mendicants and beggars. Only the other week a man asked me for a penny to buy him a loaf of bread. “Sorry,” says I, “Not today.” Y’see, I knew that he knew that I knew that he knew that the wretched rascal would only spend it on drink. Another time, I picked a penny up from off’n a cobblestone in Boston-town, and a beggar ups to me and says it’s his’n, and I pocket the coin and I says back to him “Finders Keepers!” Haww…! No, I have no patience for men who are careless with their money. But nor do I have much love for people who are constantly accumulating a hoard and never sharing it out. When I go to a tavern, I always buy a round for the boys, because when I drink, others must drink as well. That’s just the way I am–scourge me for it, but I can be no other.”
“But you were talking of the Freemasons…?”
“I believe, MISTAH Creel, and correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe that Freemasons, have their own little fraternities here and there, and that wouldn’t be such a bad thing, if that’s all there was to it. But I will maintain to my dying breath that Freemasonry is also a kind of religion, and therefore against the true religion, as, if you are a Freemason, that is all the religion you need, or so they are told. But all their loose talk about religious liberty and the separation of church and state and instruction by lay teachers instead of good Bible-fearing men and all their patent nonsense about people having the right to elect their own gummint is all a trash-heap of the veriest of rubbish, and God-loving men should be repulsed by it.”
“If it was as you say, then many people would be repulsed by it. But we see instead that the Masons are a thriving organization. How do you account for that. Forgive me, your Honor,” said Creel, addressing Judge Ross, “But I just want to get to the bottom of this Mason business.”
“No, MISTAH Creel. The Masons has got a lot of influence. So, instead of being repulsed, you see hordes of young people, eager to advance in the ranks of this concourse of rich men, flocking every day to join their serried ranks. Would that they would all and every one of them give each other the yellow fever, that twelve years ago nearly wiped out the proud city of Philadelphia!”
“Yes–I believe I heard tell of a report that you were actually present in Philadelphia for that event.”
“Why yes, yes, I was. I had some business in the Capital. Why, MISTAH Creel, you should of seen them scurry like bugs to evacuate that town! And what did the gummint do? Nothing! Worse, they deserted their posts! Fled for their lives from that pestilential swamp. Why, at the very height of it, casket-makers couldn’t keep up with demand! Haww….!”
“And yet, I hear you made a good deal of business there.”
“Well, MISTAH Creel, in those straightened circumstances, a man with a boatload of horses to sell, good, bad, or indifferent, was in high demand, I can assure you that I made of good business there! Of that you can be sartain! I smeared myself up with bear grease to ward off the fever and was out there on Market Street peddling my wares, and for premium prices, too! Sure, I made a pile of money off’n that disaster. It was my right, and any man who says otherwise is probably a leveler and a no-good Mason. Mine for me, that’s my motto.”
“If this makes me a bad man, MISTAH Creel, then, then, why, then so much the worse for all the impecunious scoundrels who waste their pelf on gew-gaws instead of saving up their dosh against a rainy day. And that’s why I have it in for the Masons. I tell you, when I hear stray talk going about regarding a “brotherhood of man,” that’s when I reach for my shotgun, because there’s always sure to be some sort of leveling business going on. And I won’t stand for it. Do you mean to tell me that I’m on the same plane as a common, drunken, whoremongering Jack Tar with an anchor and a mermaid tattooed on his chest and most likely a ‘T’ branded into his thumb? Not a chance! I’m a respectable, conscientious, tax-paying, law-abiding citizen–but just because I don’t show favor to certain parties, the Masons have been out to get me from the git-go!”
BUT NOT FOR ME
SUN RA’S FULL LECTURE AND READING LIST FROM HIS 1971 BERKELEY COURSE
45 places you can download tens of thousands books, plays and other literary texts completely legally for free
Open Library is an open, editable library catalog, building towards a web page for every book ever published.
COMPLETE ARCHIVE OF FOLK MUSIC FOR ALL COUNTRIES
5*AVATAR OF THE ZEITGEIST
White supremacists encouraging their members to spread coronavirus to cops, Jews, FBI says
FAKE NEWS: HOW TO SPOT IT
12 Famous Museums Offer Virtual Tours You Can Take on Your Couch (Video)
450 FREE ONLINE IVY LEAGUE COURSES
CORONAVIRUS: THE HAMMER & THE DANCE
11*DEVIATIONS FROM THE PREPARED TEXT: A REVIEW OF OTHER MEDIA
SPARKS: KIMONO MY HOUSE; DISCUSSION BY MICHAEL CUDAHY
12* CONTROVERSIES IN POPULAR CULTURE
What are some mistakes you’ve noticed that new playwrights make?
BY Alex Johnston
Oh Jesus. Too many to mention.
Just to expand on my credential with this one, for 15 years I was the literary manager of a now-defunct professional theatre company in Ireland. If we got sent an unsolicited script, it was my job to read it and write a report on it for the artistic director and manager, and to write a rejection letter to the playwright.
Because it was always a rejection letter.
In 15 years, I estimate I read between 1200 and 1500 scripts. Of those, three were good enough to be performed. One was ruled out because the writer was in America and the play just wasn’t suitable for us. Another was from a writer whose work we ended up commissioning. And the other was from a writer I’d never heard of but actually commissioned a new play from, but for various reasons we ended up not producing it. Anyway, she’s now an award-winning playwright.
I’m not talking about the flaws or problems you might find in a new writer whose work has actually reached the stage.
I’m talking about the stuff you find in people who are royally screwing up. The ones to whom I wrote rejection letter after rejection letter.
Here is a brief list of typical mistakes that, in my experience, new playwrights habitually make:
Writing a screenplay instead of a play.
This was a very common mistake with young male writers: writing lots of really, really short scenes which end with a character doing nothing on stage for a moment. This was a moment which, in a film, could be covered with a close-up, but on stage it tended to be empty time in which the story ground to a halt.
Thinking that drama has to involve shouting.
Another very common foible of young male playwrights: it ain’t a play unless two or more testosterone-fuelled males spend a lot of time yelling at each other. This tended to be a feature of stories about criminals, which often ended with the criminals dying in a hail of police gunfire.
Thinking that drama has to be very serious.
Many young playwrights think that if the play has a happy ending, then it’s not serious enough. Maybe it’s a quirk of Irish writers, but I never had a glut of plays that were cheerful and light-hearted. No matter how quippy they were to begin with, the mood would inexorably worsen and they too-often involved madness, illness, suicide or death, and the death being the killing-off of the main character so that the play could finally end.
Social activism in play form.
I’m a bleeding-heart lefty, but I like my plays to be coherent works of art, not pamphlets in dialogue form.
I think the thought process for these writers went like this:
I am annoyed/angry/upset about this issue—
There are famous plays that are famous for being about issues—
I will write a play that will bring this issue to the world’s attention, and I will be hailed as a saviour!
These writers tended to be really hard to handle, because their righteous rage stoked their self-belief, and if you dared to point out that the world didn’t really need a play that said that Homeless People Have It Tough or Sex Trafficking Is Bad, because, like, the kind of people who go to the theatre already think that, they turned on you and called you a fascist who was trying to maintain the rotten power structure.
I remember in particular one guy who’d written a play about a homeless hostel, in which one of the hostel staff was a cardboard stereotype of a wealthy middle-class snob, who was always talking about how he liked to go to the theatre to ‘experience beauty’ and how homeless people were scum. When I pointed out to the author that the audience might think they were being got at, he replied ‘No! They will THANK me!’
The weirdest one was the play about a character who loved fire, which was written by someone who herself claimed to love fire, and who thought sprinklers and extinguishers were evil systems of social control.
People bitch about what they perceive as preachiness or ‘SJW content’ in Hollywood movies. They have no idea what they’re talking about, compared to bad plays by self-righteous incompetent playwrights.
Plays about The System that aren’t really about the system.
This is a sub-trope of the above: the writer wants to write a play about the rottenness of an institution, but doesn’t know the institution from within and doesn’t know how the rottenness works or manifests itself, so instead creates a villainous character who is supposed to stand for the badness of the system, and creates a melodrama around that character.
This is wrong because it creates stereotypical characters. I’m thinking in particular of a play that was supposed to be about the Irish healthcare system, but the particular evils of the system (lack of funding, etc.) were embodied in a ludicrous stereotype of a hospital administrator who spoke in a ridiculous would-be parody of politically correct jargon, and blatantly favouritised unpleasant characters, simply because they happened to be ethnic minorities, over the salt-of-the-earth working-class protagonists who weren’t. I could go on for a while about why some writers do this, but I won’t. But it is a partial explanation for why there are so few right-wing playwrights. Feel free to ask me in the comments to expand on this.
(This is something we see in mainstream films, too. James Cameron’s story for Kathryn Bigelow’s Strange Days gets much of its juice from the idea that the LA police are systematically racist, but actually it’s just two psycho cops: when it comes to the crunch, lovely old Josef Sommer can call off the near-fatal beating Angela Bassett’s getting from the massed police with just a few well-chosen words. It’s fairytale stuff.)
Pushing At An Open Door.
I lost count of the number of plays we got about sexual abuse, of which the point was ‘Sexual Abuse: Mean!’ Generally, the abuser was portrayed as a sort of Ramsay Bolton character: a selfish, greedy villain who did it out of love of power, whereas in real life, most abusers have themselves been abused and are not like that at all.
Straight people trying to write coming-out stories and being unable to imagine a happy ending for them.
There were a lot of plays about young men gradually realising that they’re gay, and then going on to be unable to live with this knowledge and throwing themselves into the canal. Cue best friend monologue in final scene:
I’m sorry, Joe…I didn’t listen. I shoulda listened. I shoulda been there for you more. I’ll miss you, man. I wish I’d responded better when you tried to kiss me, cause…you know what, Joe…I think I might be kinda gay myself. Funny how things work out.
This is only a slight exaggeration. Let me add here, as someone who came out later as bi, that I’m all in favour of coming-out stories, but not ones where the writer feels that it’s not dramatic enough unless it ends in suicide. I understood that the writers were trying to write sympathetically about gay characters, but 99% of the time they weren’t themselves gay, and so were not in a position to write from first-hand knowledge of what it’s like. Even when I was firmly in denial, I was sick to death of plays by straight writers which used LGBTQ characters only in order to pity them.
Setting up conventions and then breaking them because ‘I kinda like it’.
It’s difficult to suspend disbelief in the theatre. In order to do it, you have to establish a frame around the action so that the audience knows what they’re looking at.
In a conventional realistic play like Terence Rattigan’s The Winslow Boy or Martin McDonagh’s The Beauty Queen of Leenane, this is done by portraying the action as though it’s really happening and the audience is invisibly witnessing it through the so-called ‘fourth wall’.
In a play like Terrence McNally’s Love! Valour! Compassion!, the characters are acting out an action in the past and occasionally breaking away from the realistic space of the action and talking about what they did after the action of the play ended. At the end of the play, all the characters describe how they eventually died, which in performance is very moving.
Constance Congdon’s Tales of the Lost Formicans uses a dizzying but strictly controlled combination of narration by supposed aliens visiting Earth, and scenes that go back and forth in time, to dramatise the inner and outer world of a man who is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
In Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, Kushner uses a combination of realistic action, surreal elements, and breaking the fourth wall and addressing the audience, which is most conspicuously done by the character of Prior Walter, the main protagonist. If I remember rightly, only by the end of the play does anyone else get to talk directly to the audience.
Conor McPherson’s This Lime Tree Bower has three characters onstage at all times, who take turns to tell the audience the story. They only interact with each other once in the whole play, when one of them tells a particularly outrageous story and another one goes ‘I never heard that.’ The first one replies ‘I’ve been saving it.’
These work in performance because the writer establishes a set of rules about who the audience is, and then sticks to them. Prior in Angels can talk to the audience because Kushner establishes that the audience’s role is to bear witness to his ordeal; in Congdon’s play, the audience are the aliens to whom the narrator-aliens are reporting their findings.
A common mistake among more ambitious young playwrights is to forget about who the audience is supposed to be, and to mix up every kind of convention they know of because they think they can pull it off. I remember watching a reading of a play by a young writer in which he sometimes had the two characters talk to each other like in real life, sometimes had them monologue their inner thoughts in a quasi-poetic manner like a Steven Berkoff character would, and sometimes had them narrate events like a Conor McPherson character would. Every time the play shifted from one mode to another, which it did a lot, it was jarring, because you had to figure out who the character was talking to now, and it brought you out of the action. Afterwards, because I was the dramaturg, I said ‘I see what you did there, with all the different styles, mixing it all up…I’m not totally sure about that,’ which was dramaturg-speak for Fix that or we will never do this play.
‘I kinda like that about it!’ he said enthusiastically.
We didn’t do the play.
I think that’s more than enough to be going on with.