Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist
- “Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
- The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
- I know of no reason
- Why the Gunpowder Treason
- Should ever be forgot.
- Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, t’was his intent
- To blow up the King and Parli’ment.
- Three-score barrels of powder below
- To prove old England’s overthrow;
- By God’s providence he was catch’d
- With a dark lantern and burning match.
- Holloa boys, holloa boys, let the bells ring.
- Holloa boys, holloa boys, God save the King!”
- – Traditional
We keep meeting like this, Guy Fawkes and I.
Now, I have no real love for the historical Guy Fawkes. I’m not even sure what he was trying to accomplish with the Gunpowder Treason, save to cripple the British government. I don’t know what he wanted to rise up in the place of Parliament. I do know that I don’t have much sympathy for somebody who supports their arguments with explosives, even if I might agree with the argument.
I know that the sheer audacity of his action against the Crown was so traumatic to the British populace that even though the plot was a dismal failure it needed to be commemorated with an annual effigy-burning, which is fascinating to me. A holiday. The British people created a holiday to work through their shock and then kept it around for centuries as a reminder of the time somebody nearly decapitated the Empire.
I, being an American, knew none of this history until I discovered it on my own. I first encountered Fawkes as an effigy, of sorts, in the titular character of Alan Moore and David Lloyd’s V for Vendetta, a work that I reread at least once a year, a work that had a profound effect on what I believed could be accomplished not only in comic books but in fiction in general. I have parts of that book memorized down to individual lines of ink.
One of the passages in V for Vendetta, taken from an original song composition in the narrative, reads as follows:
But the backdrops peel
and the sets give way
and the cast gets eaten by the play.
There’s a murderer at the matinee.
There are dead men in the aisles.
And the actors and the patrons too
are uncertain if the show is through
and with sidelong looks await their cue–
but the frozen mask just smiles.
When I began adapting The Man Who Was Thursday, this section kept popping up in my mind. I was intrigued by its evocation of a play in chaos, a play that had been cruelly assaulted to the point that nobody, not the players, not the audience, not even the stage itself, could recognize it. Thursday was a story about disguises and subterfuge, in my estimation, so I decided to see what would happen if I crafted a play along the lines of Moore’s verse, a play that was itself partially in disguise.
Halfway in the middle of the adaptation I realized the strange confluence of events. I was using as a mental keystone a passage of text from a book about a man imitating a British anarchist…in order to write a play about a man imitating a British anarchist.
Today–Thursday, natch–is Guy Fawkes Day. New Leaf’s production of The Man Who Was Thursday is occurring later this evening and is being followed up with a talkback at nearby Rocco’s Pizza. If you’re attending this evening, I’d love to see you at the discussion afterward. If you’ve seen the play before tonight, you should also feel free to stop in. I had an invigorating one-on-one discussion about the play with Greg Allen yesterday that reminded me of the invigorating discussions I’d had with Jessica and Jacob when the production was just learning to stretch its wings, and now I can’t wait to have others.
I haven’t seen the show since opening weekend and am eager to see where the play is now. And I wonder what other milestones of my life future Guy Fawkes Days might bring.
After all, November 5th, 2005, was the night I got engaged.
Remember, remember? Easily.