On October 29, 2012 Hurricane Sandy hit Manhattan and surged the Hudson River to flood the streets of the West Village. The basement of my
building, Westbeth, which flanks the river was inundated with 8 feet of water turning washing machines into floating debris and destroying artists’ work that had been stored
in studios. We were without electricity and running water for over a week.
In my play SHAKESPEARE ON THE ROCKS my character, aging Shakespearian actor Alex DonBaron, escapes his flooded Washington Street brownstone by
going to his London flat where he searches for his lost scrapbook. From the photos and reviews in his album he reminisces about his life and career using original and raunchy
interpretations of Shakespeare’s dialogue. Although he has been sober for 5 years and hopes to resurrect his career on stage, he flirts with the bottle of Teachers scotch he
brought with him.
ALEX RIFFS ON THE TEMPEST
“The Tempest” – my favorite Shakespeare play. Prospero says of Caliban that he was a savage and deformed slave –
orphaned son of a bitch witch – the sole inhabitant of a deserted isle that Prospero lands on with his daughter after being set adrift in savage seas by his cruel brother who
stole his seat as Duke of Milan.
“This misshapen knave
His mother was a witch
And one so strong
That could control the moon
Make flows and ebbs
And deal in her command”
(Shakespeare “The Tempest” – Prospero)
When it came to the far past Temp - pissed, they offered me Prospero, but I chose Taliban – I mean Caliban – and gave the director
temper tantrums when I played him effeminate – like a straight backed Tutsi warrior tranny ho. I swung my pink patent leather pocketbook filled with drift wood and clinked my
orange stiletto heels on the stage rocks proudly lisping when I first gave Prospero a tour of the isle.
“I’ll show thee every fertile inch o’th’island
And I will kiss thy foot. I prithee be my god.”
(Shakespeare “The Tempest” – Caliban)
After Caliban tried to seduce Prospero’s sweet daughter
Miranda, he says of me –
“I lodged you in my cell
Till thou didst seek to violate
The honour of my child.”
I cursed him
“As wicked dew as a’er my mother brash’d
With raven feather from unwholesome fen
Drop on you both
A south-west blow on yer
And blister you all o’er.”
(Shakespeare “The Tempest” - Caliban)
My performance brought down the house– sold out every night – after that directors gave me an edge on my interpretations, but I
went too far.
I just loved playing the outlandish self-parody of a type of hissy trashy hussy drag queen cruising the West Village in leather short shorts in
the 70s. They serviced their johns in vans parked by the river and dueled each other with block long steel sleeper beams fallen on the street from the abandoned overheard rail
tacks – now the Highline - and stashed their pimp dealers goodies in plastic bags they hung from trees so they could run stash free when they fled the cops. Every morning
after their midnight quickies, I’d have to clean my spooly basement stoops of all kinds of lewd garbage before my tenants left in the morning.
By this time I owned my brownstone on Washington Street. When prospective tenants came by I would say …
“I’ll show thee every fertile inch of my brownstone and will kiss thy root, I prithee, be my tenant
Be not afraid, the apartments are full of noises
Sounds and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not
Sometimes a thousand sirens wailing
Will hum about thine ears, and sometimes loud drunken voices
On iphones that if you woke after a long sleep,
You’ll never sleep again.”
They were always charmed.