Thursday, May 6, 2010
At a Taffety Punk Theatre opening night cast party: "Burn Your Bookes"
It turned out to be a naieve question. I asked the actor if she had found the language difficult.
She said, basically, the only difficult language is the language that is not written well; and the language in Richard Byrne's play Burn Your Bookes was written very, very well. It is a pleasure to speak language like that, she said.
She had just spoken a mouthful of that language. This actor, the bright-eyed Kimberly Gilbert, has the last major role to take the stage in the play. Not an hour before we were speaking, the curtain had come down on opening night of Taffety Punk Theatre's premiere production of the play.
Kimberly plays the stepdaughter of a famous alchemist. Yes, at one time, there were famous alchemists. Her character's stepfather was Edward Kelley, who got bottled up in a Bohemian court longer than his English family would have wished. This was during the European Renaissance, when alchemists were sort of weapons of mass destruction, or of potential mass wealth creation, base metals into the ever-elusive gold - secrets of state to be hoarded. Or eliminated.
Kimberly was a bright-eyed actor, with no one waiting for her on opening night. I was a guest of the playwright, the man of the hour, who didn't need me under his heels. I needed her, or someone for the company of the night, and I thought she needed me; but was a fool. She migrated to the cast party, and was a life of that party. And it was a lively party.
It was a pleasure to see Daniel Flint, who had commanded so much of the stage in the lead role of Edward Kelley, returned to himself, a contemporary man, an actor with an attitude and a winning way. He had on a grey porkpie hat, and sideburns had claimed swaths of his craggy face.
His date, his partner, was the woman who had sat beside me during the premiere performance, which I had found riveting. I was swollen with pride for Richard Byrne, the playwright, whom I have known for half my life, almost exactly. If a writer might dream, he might dream of fashioning a play from difficult materials, hocus pocus and wife-swapping from the 16th century alchemists in what is now Prague; and then catalyzing a rowdy crew of creative souls in a magnificent city like Washington, D.C. to manifest this fitful dream on the stage.
I was just as riveted by the neighbor of my neighbor in the audience. With Daniel's lady friend was her friend, Chelsey. Chelsey is tall as God and far more beautiful. We small-talked about Twitter, the only kind of talk that is possible about Twitter. I have since found her there, and now listen to her playlists; good stuff.
But, at the cast party, Chelsey was in the embrace of a tall bloke who had a minor role in the play, a nice man named Eric, who looked like a taller make of the motor force behind the Taffety Punks, Marcus Kyd. Marcus has the easy smile and charisma that even a straight man would have to describe as attractive, as cute. It was not difficult to see how he could get immensely creative people to go along with him in producing difficult plays for no money, for almost no money.
And his company's production of this difficult play was equal in every way to the occasion of the world premiere. The Taffety Punks' roots in the culture of D.C. punk was on display, with punk band posters more or less stapled onto the backs of minor alchemists, and the boots of Renaissance tricksters held fast by duct tape, as if they were frayed guitar cords.
That would be Richard Byrne, playwright; and Daniel Flint, star, at the cast party.