Introduction to Scene
Shakespeare’s play “Troilus and Cressida”, a tragedy that questions the value of war loosely overlaid with a love story, takes place during the Trojan War (13th to 12th century BC.) Scholars now believe this mythological battle fought by the Greeks against the Trojans when Paris stole the beautiful Helen from her Spartan husband, Menelaus, is historic fact. As portrayed in Homer’s epics “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey”, the war ended when Troy opened its gates to let in a giant wooden sculpture – the Trojan Horse – a ruse they believed was a peace trophy from the Greeks. The hollow horse was filled with Greek soldiers who stormed out at night to sack the city.
Throughout history wars and revolutions have been commemorated by major symbols, icons that capture the essence of the conflict, its leaders and ideologies. As regimes change and conquerors attempt to rewrite history with their own propaganda, old memorials take on a different meaning. Images and statues of pharaohs, emperors, kings, queens, Caesars, heroes, tyrants and presidents are dismembered, vandalized and replaced by those in power. After religious conflicts, places of worship, temples, churches and shrines are either demolished or converted to serve the new order. Museums are filled with familiar ancient artifacts - defaced statues of Egyptian gods and pharaohs, Greek and Roman idols. In modern times statues of dictators and colonialists were desecrated or removed in many countries – Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddifi, Mubarak, Assad, Hiltler, Stalin, Lenin, Mussolini, Franco, Cortes, Columbus, etc. Isis recently blew
up giant figures of Buddha in Afghanistan and wrecked world heritage sites in Palmyra, Syria.
It is ironic that during the recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia on August 12, 2017 opposing groups chose to identify with the heritage of the Old South and Nazi Germany by using their mottos. Activists in Charlottesville felt that the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in Emancipation Park was an affirmation of slavery and the Unite the Right militia allied themselves with Aryan racism by carrying Nazi flags. Acknowledging that today’s protestors who posture with historic symbols rather than originating authentic ones are creating a ruse without a power base, it is my belief that when the dust settles it will become clear that the real revolution was marked by a sea of pink pussy cat hats amidst Washington D.C.’s colossal patriarchal monuments worn in the Women’s March on January 21, 2017 demonstrating our right to reclaim the planet earth.
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SHAKESPEARE ON THE ROCKS is a two-character play set in the London flat of aging alcoholic Shakespearian actor, Alex DonBaron. Alex has escaped his West Village brownstone that was flooded by Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and has returned to London looking for his old scrapbook. During the play he reminisces about his personal life, the roles he played in Shakespeare’s plays and flirts with his scotch bottle. He plays with Shakespeare’s dialogue with raunchy interpretations and comments on the plays’ contemporary significance.
ALEX RIFFS ON SHAKESPEARE’S “TROILUS AND CRESSIDA”
(Alex turns to a photo in his scrapbook of him as Hector in “Troilus and Cressida”dressed in Greek warrior costume. )
My first audition at the Old Pric was for Hector, the Trojan Prince in “Troilus and Cressida.” My youth, straight nose and long legs, strong from rock climbing, just made for leather straps made me perfect for the part. When I got the script my wife was in the kitchen and I in the living room yelling at each other.
(He imitates his wife’s voice.)
Wife – I’m going shopping – Anything you need?
Alex – Oh, Here’s the script.
Wife – Yes, I’m seeing the pharmacist.
Alex – “Troilus and Cressida”
Wife – What do we need a toilet seat cover for?
Alex – Me as Hector. They said they loved my calves in leather straps. What a cast.
Wife – The cash is in the kitchen drawer.
Alex – Where else would it be? The Trojans.
Wife – You buy that!
Alex – Ajax.
Wife – Ok, Ajax.
Alex – Panderus.
Wife - Pampers? We have enough.
Alex – Priam.
Wife – What kind of cream?
Alex – Paris.
Wife – Perfume for me?
Alex – Cressida.
Wife – Crest.
“I am your valiant offspring of great Priamus
I have a roasting challenge sent amongst
The dun and factious nobility of the Greeks
I will strike amazement to their drowsy spirits”
(Shakespeare ”Troilus and Cressida” - Hector)
My shield, my leather pleated kilt that jangled in my stride. We got rave reviews.
(He looks at his album, takes out a review,
reads and comments.)
“Troilus and Cressida” – The Crock and Bull of War. Shakespeare nailed it in this pageant about the Trojan War.
“Alex DonBaron in his debut-starring role with the Old Vic as Hector is a young actor with a promising future. He brings a refreshing touch of Method acting from his native New York.
Helen of Troy was the Greek's weapon of mass destruction - their excuse to attack Troy where the alluring Helen had been abducted by her lover Paris from her Greek husband Menelaus. She was the Greek’s justification to get their soldiers to fight. They were really after Troy itself as the wealthiest trading post in the Mediterranean and sought to plunder its wealth. “
As the American's do mid-east oil. It resulted in a ten-year war - the longest before Iraq.
“The Greeks pitched their tents on the beach outside the wall of Troy where their great generals – military men - Ulysses – Agamemnon – pontificate war slogans on the virtues of their cause then resort to trickery. In the play lovers break their vows – opportunism trumps valor – women are used as tools and then called fools - just like today.
The great question Shakespeare raises in the play is “What is the value in war? Is the prize won worth the loss?
When Alex hiccups in Hector’s confounding speech, he punctuates the inverted logic when Hector argues against fighting.”
(He hiccups during this speech.)
“Let Helen go:
Since the first sword was drawn about this question,
Every tithe soul, 'mongst many thousand missed,
Hath been as dear as Helen; I mean, of ours:
If we have lost so many tenths of ours
Brother, she is not worth what she doth cost.”
“But value dwells not in particular will;
It holds his estimate and dignity
As well wherein 'tis precious of itself
As in the prizer: 'tis mad idolatry
To make the service greater than the god
And the will dotes that is attributive
To what infectiously itself affects,
Without some image of the affected merit”
(Shakespeare “Troilus and Cressida” - Hector )
(He reads the review.)
“Achilles, the Greek war hero, is portrayed as a reluctant fighter who only agrees to face his Trojan rival Hector in revenge for his male lover’s death. His men strike Hector like a dog when he is resting sans armor in a trench.”
– just like America’s merciless drones.
“About to kill Hector, Achilles says – “Look Hector how the sun begins to set. How ugly night comes breathing at his heels ever with the vail and dark ring of the sun. To close the day up – Hector’s life is done.
Hector – I am unarmed. Forego this vantage, Greek.
Achilles - Strike fellows, strike. This is the man I seek.”
The stage was mine – Shakespeare was mine – the audience with me like never before.