Thursday, November 27, 2008

"MacBird"


Not sure why, but this morning I have been remembering my performance as a college freshman (at Venango Campus of Clarion State College) in MacBird.

Lee Bluestein directed us in the December 1968 performance of Barbara Garson's controversial transmutation of Shakespeare's Macbeth. in which MacBird (aka Lyndon Baines Johnson) plots to kills President Kennedy so he can assume the throne. Its political implications in a small town in Pennsylvania would alone have made it tendentious, but MacBird's boisterous "Fuck 'em" to the press toward the end of the play was even more likely to bring the heat down on the school and the play's director. Bluestein decided to not charge admission, even for non-Venango Campus/Oil City residents, and few complaints were heard.

I played Bobby Ken O'Dunc (Bobby Kennedy), who got to kill his brother's assassin at the play's end (I ran him through with a lance, as I recall), after first explaining my "not born of woman" conception. I can still remember a bit of my speech:

Your charm is cursed.
Prepare to hear the worst.
At each male birth
My father did prepare
His sons for their envisaged greatness.


I uttered these and all my lines with a "Baston" accent that received some commendations.

Little did we know that in June 1968, barely seven months later, the inspiration for my character would himself be dead, assassinated in a Los Angeles Hotel, June 5, 1968. Of course, our director, Lee Bluestein, would likewise be dead, killed that summer when he was hit head on by a semi in that little MG in which he had often driven me home after MacBird practice. Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy, Lee Bluestein . . . A terrible year.

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