imc indymedia

Los Angeles Indymedia : Activist News

white themeblack themered themetheme help
About Us Contact Us Calendar Publish RSS
Features
latest news
best of news
syndication
commentary


KILLRADIO

VozMob

ABCF LA

A-Infos Radio

Indymedia On Air

Dope-X-Resistance-LA List

LAAMN List




IMC Network:

Original Cities

www.indymedia.org africa: ambazonia canarias estrecho / madiaq kenya nigeria south africa canada: hamilton london, ontario maritimes montreal ontario ottawa quebec thunder bay vancouver victoria windsor winnipeg east asia: burma jakarta japan korea manila qc europe: abruzzo alacant andorra antwerpen armenia athens austria barcelona belarus belgium belgrade bristol brussels bulgaria calabria croatia cyprus emilia-romagna estrecho / madiaq euskal herria galiza germany grenoble hungary ireland istanbul italy la plana liege liguria lille linksunten lombardia london madrid malta marseille nantes napoli netherlands nice northern england norway oost-vlaanderen paris/Île-de-france patras piemonte poland portugal roma romania russia saint-petersburg scotland sverige switzerland thessaloniki torun toscana toulouse ukraine united kingdom valencia latin america: argentina bolivia chiapas chile chile sur cmi brasil colombia ecuador mexico peru puerto rico qollasuyu rosario santiago tijuana uruguay valparaiso venezuela venezuela oceania: adelaide aotearoa brisbane burma darwin jakarta manila melbourne perth qc sydney south asia: india mumbai united states: arizona arkansas asheville atlanta austin baltimore big muddy binghamton boston buffalo charlottesville chicago cleveland colorado columbus dc hawaii houston hudson mohawk kansas city la madison maine miami michigan milwaukee minneapolis/st. paul new hampshire new jersey new mexico new orleans north carolina north texas nyc oklahoma philadelphia pittsburgh portland richmond rochester rogue valley saint louis san diego san francisco san francisco bay area santa barbara santa cruz, ca sarasota seattle tampa bay tennessee urbana-champaign vermont western mass worcester west asia: armenia beirut israel palestine process: fbi/legal updates mailing lists process & imc docs tech volunteer projects: print radio satellite tv video regions: oceania united states topics: biotech

Surviving Cities

www.indymedia.org africa: canada: quebec east asia: japan europe: athens barcelona belgium bristol brussels cyprus germany grenoble ireland istanbul lille linksunten nantes netherlands norway portugal united kingdom latin america: argentina cmi brasil rosario oceania: aotearoa united states: austin big muddy binghamton boston chicago columbus la michigan nyc portland rochester saint louis san diego san francisco bay area santa cruz, ca tennessee urbana-champaign worcester west asia: palestine process: fbi/legal updates process & imc docs projects: radio satellite tv
printable version - js reader version - view hidden posts - tags and related articles

"Edward II": Diversionary Brings Marlowe's Queer Play to Life

by Mark Gabrish Conlan/Zenger's Newsmagazine Sunday, Sep. 18, 2011 at 4:40 PM
mgconlan@earthlink.net (619) 688-1886 P. O. Box 50134, San Diego, CA 92165

"Edward II"...
200px-edward2a.1.jpg, image/jpeg, 600x915

Edward II: Diversionary Brings Marlowe’s Play to Life

by MARK GABRISH CONLAN

Copyright © 2011 by Mark Gabrish Conlan for Zenger’s Newsmagazine • All rights reserved

It was probably only a matter of time before Diversionary Theatre, San Diego’s quarter-century old company specializing in Queer-themed plays, produced what is possibly the first “Gay play” in the modern sense of the term, Christopher Marlowe’s Edward II. Marlowe, born in Canterbury, England in 1564 — just two months before William Shakespeare’s birth in Stratford-on-Avon — died at age 29 in Deptford, ostensibly in a tavern brawl with four drinking buddies, one of whom was tried and acquitted on the ground of self-defense.

The story was almost certainly a cover-up. At the time of his death Marlowe was under indictment for homosexuality and atheism, both of which were capital crimes in Elizabethan England, and one of his boyfriends was Thomas Walsingham, son of the first cousin of Sir Francis Walsingham, who headed the intelligence service that was essentially Queen Elizabeth’s CIA. Thomas Kyd, a mediocre playwright whose works drew bigger audiences than either Marlowe’s or Shakespeare’s (so what else is new?), had himself been arrested for atheism and, being interrogated under torture, fingered Marlowe. Hugh Ross Williamson, in his 1972 historical novel Kind Kit, suggested that Sir Francis Walsingham had four of his agents kill Marlowe and fake it to look like a brawl in order to keep the case from coming to trial and embarrassing him and his Queen.

All of which is offered here merely to point out that in writing Edward II — the story of a more or less openly Gay 14th Century King of England who neglected his wife, Isabella (daughter of King Philip IV of France), for his boyfriend Piers Gaveston, then took up with another young man, Hugh Despenser the Younger (called simply “Young Spenser” in the play), antagonizing many of the noblemen as well as the Church and ultimately sparking a brutal civil war, his murder and his son’s accession to the throne — Marlowe was writing what he knew. Reflecting his intellectual training — he was a graduate of Cambridge University — Marlowe’s plays tended to be more social and political lessons rather than character studies, and his writing usually lacked the humanity and depth of Shakespeare’s. Not Edward II, though; in what was either the last or next-to-last (scholars differ) of his seven surviving plays, Marlowe created richly drawn, complex characters in a poetic language whose beauty and scope rivals Shakespeare’s.

Edward II begins in 1307, when the title character becomes king on the death of his father, Edward I, during a war against Scotland. (Edward II took over the war and led the English army to a major defeat at Bannockburn in 1314; the war isn’t depicted in Marlowe’s play but is dramatized from a pro-Scottish point of view in Mel Gibson’s film Braveheart.) He immediately sends for his partner Gaveston, whom Edward I had banished to his native Gascony (a French province the English were essentially renting from them), scandalizing the nobles with their open affair and the wild parties they threw at court.

The play is a rapid-fire series of scenes alternating between Edward and the nobles — particularly Mortimer, their leader (Marlowe wrote two characters named Mortimer, the younger being the older’s nephew, but Diversionary’s director Richard Baird, also credited with adapting the play, fused them into one) — as they get him to exile Gaveston again, Gaveston sneaks away, the nobles catch him and murder him, Edward starts a civil war which he wins and orders all his enemies executed, but Mortimer escapes. Later he and Edward’s rejected Queen Isabella flee to France and raise an army to take over; the plot succeeds, and Edward is forced to abdicate in favor of his son Edward III, a teenager Mortimer and Isabella think they can easily control.

Edward is ultimately murdered — Marlowe’s script doesn’t say exactly how, but Baird’s staging seizes on hints in the script and depicts Edward being killed with a red-hot poker thrust up his anus (a legend that took hold because medieval moralists thought that was a fitting punishment for a Gay king) — but the new king, Edward III, denounces his mother and Mortimer for the murders of his father and his uncle Edmund. Though the script doesn’t specify what happens next, Marlowe’s original audience would have known it: Edward III became one of England’s greatest kings, reigned for 50 years and with his son, Edward the Black Prince, came close to conquering France.

One thing that may surprise modern viewers about Edward II is that it makes clear just how little power medieval monarchs actually had. The day of royals who were absolute dictators — like “Sun King” Louis XIV of France, who proclaimed, “L’etat c’est moi!” (“I am the state!”) — was at least three centuries in the future when Edward reigned. Medieval kings were hamstrung by their dependence on the feudal nobility — whom they relied on for both taxes and military forces — and on the church, which had the power to condemn an entire country as sinners and thereby encourage attacks from outside by telling the attackers they were doing God’s work. The conflicts between king and nobles, and between king and church — “Why must a king be subject to a priest?” Edward rages in one of the most famous lines in the play (and one of striking relevance today!) — are vividly staged in Marlowe’s script, Baird’s adaptation and Diversionary’s production.

Diversionary’s Edward II vividly brings Marlowe’s play to life, and the real heroes are Richard Baird and Ross Hellwig, who stars as the king (and is the only Actors’ Equity member in the cast). Baird’s fast-moving adaptation keeps the story going, pushes the actors to spit the lines out so fast they sound like their normal mode of speech, and sometimes brings on one set of characters while another is still on stage to avoid the pauses between scenes that make many productions of Elizabethan drama dull. Though there are times early on in which Hellwig acts so effeminate you wonder whether he’s playing England’s king or queen, he soon settles into an authoritative reading of the role that makes the character believable and turns the play into a tour de force for him.

Not that this is a one-star drama; the program lists 29 characters and they are played by 15 actors, the largest cast Diversionary has ever assembled for anything. The play opens with a vivid entrance by Dangerfield Moore as Gaveston, oozing dangerous sexuality (he’s the only male who’s allowed to show a basket, a neat touch by costume designer Howard Schmitt) and leaving us no doubt why Edward is in such thrall to this man that he’s willing to give up virtually everything for him. The conspirators are led by John Polak as Roger Mortimer, who may or may not have been Queen Isabella’s adulterous lover (in Marlowe’s script, as adapted by Baird, he wants to be but she rejects him), and they include Warwick (Jeff Anthony Miller, who’s also credited with “fight choreography”), Leicester and Pembroke (both played by Reed Willard). Mortimer, as played by Polak, is a properly oily S.O.B. and the others deliver finely honed performances, reflecting the subtle differences between them in terms of how far they’re willing to go against a legitimate king.

Alexandra Grossi as Isabella appears a bit too edgy in her early speeches — methinks her laments at having lost the king’s love to a man (“For now my lord the king regards me not/But dotes upon the love of Gaveston”) should be played more in sorrow than in anger — but perhaps she and Baird chose this way to make it more credible when she re-emerges as a driven revenge figure in the second half. Towards the end, some of the doublings in the cast do start to strain credibility. Jim “Doc” Coates gets to play three older men — the Archbishop of Canterbury, the father of Spenser (Edward’s last male lover) and Lightborn, the hired assassin brought in to kill Edward — and he’s good in all his roles but it’s a little hard to take as this distinctive actor first opposes Edward, then is on his side and finally does him in. And Miller’s doubled role as Matrevis, one of Mortimer’s executioners, seems just a little too much like Boris Karloff’s Mord in Tower of London (Universal’s 1939 film of the Richard III story) for comfort.

Still, Diversionary’s Edward II is for the most part impeccably acted and grippingly staged. The Elizabethan theatre wasn’t big on scenery — Diversionary’s scenic designer, Matt Scott, wisely avoided elaborate sets and staged the action in front of large, dowdy-looking hanging curtains whose period looked more or less right — but its actors wore elaborate costumes and there were surprisingly convincing special effects. Baird and “fight choreographer” Miller don’t go as far as they would have in Marlowe’s time, in which the actors frequently wore bladders filled with pig’s blood so they would bleed on cue when stabbed, but the murders are not only utterly credible but also surprisingly gory for live theatre.

Howard Schmitt’s costume designs create a quite convincing picture of the Middle Ages, and — praise be — the costumes themselves look worn enough to be believable as real clothing worn by people in everyday life. (One slip-up is Edward’s crown, a plastic souvenir-shop knickknack that’s totally illusion-shattering.) As prop designer, David Medina mainly seemed to have to come up with credible weapons — the swords are metal and make a satisfying clank when the actors fence with each other — and the wash basin in which Edward and Gaveston dunk the head of one of those unwelcome priests also looks right. Kevin Anthenill provided original music as well as doing the sound design, and for once it was nice to hear an Elizabethan drama scored with instruments other than trumpets and drums.

It’s nice to see Diversionary Theatre celebrating its 25th anniversary with a pioneering work of Queer theatre like Edward II. Their production is certainly superior to Derek Jarman’s self-indulgent film from 1991 — of which Diversionary is doing a special screening Tuesday, September 20, 7:30 p.m. — done largely in modern dress, which inexplicably turned Edward II into a Queer Nation activist leading a ragtag flock against a line of riot police. (imdb.com lists two other films of Edward II, both made for TV, and the 1970 BBC version — with a young Ian McKellen as Edward — would probably be worth seeing.) For Richard Baird’s direction, vivid and well-acted performances in the leads, and an overall approach that takes Marlowe’s drama out of the academy and turns it into visceral, exciting entertainment, Diversionary’s Edward II is not to be missed.

Edward II is playing through Sunday, October 2 at Diversionary Theatre, 4545 Park Boulevard in University Heights. Performances are 7:30 Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays. For tickets and other information, call (619) 220-0097 or visit www.diversionary.org

Report this post as:

Local News

Change Links 2018 July posted J09 1:27PM

More Pix: "Families Belong Together," Pasadena J02 12:16PM

"Families Belong Together" March, Pasadena J02 12:08PM

Short Report on the Families Belong Together Protest in Los Angeles J30 4:26PM

Summer 2018 National Immigrant Solidarity Network News Alert! J10 11:58PM

Watch the Debate: Excluded Candidates for Governor of California M30 10:20PM

Change Links June 2018 posted M28 12:41AM

The Montrose Peace Vigil at 12 Years M22 1:01PM

Unity Archive Project M21 2:42AM

Dianne Feinstein's Promotion of War, Secret Animal Abuse, Military Profiteering, Censorshi M17 3:22PM

CA Senate Bill 1303 would require an independent coroner rather than being part of police M10 2:08PM

Three years after OC snitch scandal, no charges filed against sheriffs deputies M10 1:57PM

California police agencies violate Brown Act (open meetings) M02 1:31PM

Insane Company Wants To Send Nuke Plant Waste To New Mexico A29 4:47PM

Change Links May 2018 A27 1:40AM

Worker-Owned Car Wash on Vermont Closed A26 10:37PM

GUIDE TO REBEL CITY LOS ANGELES AVAILABLE A12 5:39PM

lausd whistle blower A10 11:58PM

Website Upgrade A10 3:02AM

Help KCET and UCLA identify 60s-70s Chicano images A04 1:02PM

UCLA Luskin: Casting Youth Justice in a Different Light A02 11:58AM

Change Links April 2018 A01 11:27AM

Nuclear Shutdown News March 2018 M31 6:57PM

Join The Protest Rally in Glendale on April 10, 2018! M29 7:00PM

Spring 2018 National Immigrant Solidarity Network News Alert! M19 2:02PM

Anti-Eviction Mapping Project Shows Shocking Eviction Trends in L.A. M16 5:40PM

Steve Mnuchin video at UCLA released M15 12:34AM

Actress and Philanthropist Tanna Frederick Hosts Project Save Our Surf Beach Clean Ups M06 12:10PM

More Local News...

Other/Breaking News

14 Disturbing Facts About Scott Gottlieb, Trump's FDA Head J20 10:47PM

Behind the scenes at fbi National Academy J20 2:47PM

Treasury Takes Aim at Shell Companies J20 11:18AM

Paraphysique de l'intelligence J20 9:08AM

Oklahoma GOP Senator Jim Inhofe's Bloody Record J20 4:01AM

Globalization: hope on the horizon despite Fake Liberals. J20 3:41AM

Sorry President Trump,Ted Cruz Texas Judicial System,is Worse Than Many Shithole Countries J19 4:49PM

The Shortwave Report 07/20/18 Listen Globally! J19 4:33PM

The System Question as a Survival Question J18 8:54PM

Nation's Largest Voting Machine Co., ESS, Admits Lying Re Having Installed Remote Control J18 11:55AM

Du pain et des jeux J18 9:53AM

Paraphysique de martyrologie J17 8:00AM

Children Incorporated Earns 4-Star Rating on Charity Navigator J16 11:24AM

Democratic Socialists of America J14 4:57PM

Leonard Peltier Non Violent Native American Political Prisoner since 1970's J14 4:18PM

Paraphysique miscellanées de l'aggiornamento J14 12:54AM

FBI Investigated LA County Sheriff Baca,Why Not Hank Skinner's Persecution? J13 3:52PM

Updated Partial List Of Famous Vegetarians, Vegans, & Fruitarians J13 2:59PM

The Shortwave Report 07136/18 Listen Globally! J12 4:36PM

Social Policy as Social Infrastructure J12 3:38AM

Vol I: 84 Varieties Of GOP Election Fraud J12 1:50AM

Texas Can Call it An Execution,But It is A State Sponsored Murder of Hank Skinner.. J11 6:48PM

June 2018 Honduras coup update J11 3:35PM

Maria Estrada doubles down on racist support J11 1:40PM

New York Women in Film & Television Announces 2018 NYWIFT Ha Phuong Scholarship Recipients J11 10:14AM

Trapps de la domination, trapps de l'aliénation J11 1:31AM

Please Work For The Defeat Of Brett Kavanaugh And Why J09 8:54PM

Transinhumanisme ( transe inhumanisme ) J09 12:44PM

More Breaking News...
© 2000-2018 Los Angeles Independent Media Center. Unless otherwise stated by the author, all content is free for non-commercial reuse, reprint, and rebroadcast, on the net and elsewhere. Opinions are those of the contributors and are not necessarily endorsed by the Los Angeles Independent Media Center. Running sf-active v0.9.4 Disclaimer | Privacy