Medieval Mystery, Folk, and Morality Plays – Introduction to

Not long after drama reappeared in the unlikely home of European churches, the church decided again it didn’t like theater. And so, the budding dramatic scene was kicked out into the harsh elements of the outdoors. So, they started having plays outdoors. Today we’ll learn about mystery plays, cycle plays, pageant wagons, and how medieval European theater moved from being a religious phenomenon to a secular one.

The other important medieval genre is the morality play, which Hildegarde of Bingen started. The most famous morality play is “Everyman,” which is still performed annually and often updated. Morality plays have one simple message: YOU GONNA DIE. So you’d better get your act together, because all that love and wealth and fun aren’t gonna follow you six feet under.

Peterloo

The Peterloo Massacre took place at St Peter’s Field, Manchester, Lancashire, England on Monday 16 August 1819. On this day, cavalry charged into a crowd of around 60,000 people, who had gathered to demand the reform of parliamentary representation.

After the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815 there was an acute economic slump, accompanied by chronic unemployment and harvest failure, and exacerbated by the Corn Laws which kept the price of bread high. At that time only around 11% of adult males had the vote, very few of them in the industrial north which was worst hit, and reformers identified parliamentary reform as the solution. A mass campaign to petition parliament for manhood suffrage gained three-quarters of a million signatures in 1817 but was flatly rejected by the House of Commons. When a second slump occurred in early 1819, radical reformers sought to mobilise huge crowds to force government to back down. The movement was particularly strong in the north-west of England, where the Manchester Patriotic Union organised a mass rally in August 1819 addressed by well-known radical orator Henry Hunt.

Shortly after the meeting began, local magistrates called on the Manchester and Salford Yeomanry to arrest Hunt and several others on the platform with him. The Yeomanry charged into the crowd, knocking down a woman and killing a child, and finally apprehended Hunt. Cheshire Magistrates chairman William Hulton then summoned the 15th Hussars to disperse the crowd. They charged with sabres drawn, and 9-15 people were killed and 400–700 were injured in the ensuing confusion. The event was first labelled the “Peterloo massacre” by the radical Manchester Observer newspaper, in a bitterly ironic reference to the bloody Battle of Waterloo, which had taken place four years earlier.

Wikipedia

Ballad of Tom Hill

For years now, Tom Hill and I have been about as friendly as a doorman and tenant can be. It’s not just that we discuss baseball and politics, or people in the building. When we both have free time we talk about a mutual obsession — Mississip­pi. I spent about a year there as a civil rights worker and a journalist. Tom, who now lives in the Bronx, was raised on a plantation in the Delta, during the last, violent impoverished years of segregation. Emmett Till was one of his best friends. Indeed, he was with Till until about 7 p.m. on the horrible, legendary 1955 night when Till was murdered allegedly for whistling at a white woman.

Tom’s life incorporates the sea changes that have swept through Mississippi and New York over the past 25 years. It is the story of a brave man’s attempt to deal with two dangerous, difficult environ­ments. It’s not just a doorman’s story. It is a capsule version of a crucial segment of American history.

Paul Cowan, October 8, 1980
https://www.villagevoice.com/2020/03/25/the-ballad-of-tom-hill/

My Words Were Taken Out of Context – Falwell Example

I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians…the A.C.L.U., People for the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America, I point the finger in their face and say, “You helped this happen.”
— Jerry Falwell, September 13th, on The 700 Club about last week’s terrorist attacks

I sincerely regret that comments I made…were taken out of their context.
—Jerry Falwell, September 14

Nine Possible Contexts:
1. “…NOT.”

2. “You know, I’m really high right now, so this may not make any sense, but…”

3. “Keeping in mind that today is Opposites Day, I emphasize that…”

4. “My son showed me this cool thing on Alta Vista, where you type something in English and then have the computer translate it into French and then into Spanish and then into German and then back to English—it’s kinda like ‘Telephone,’ you know?—and something that made sense at the beginning will come out sounding like…”

5. “If an infinite number of monkeys typed on an infinite number of typewriters, one of them would write…”

6. “I want to take a break from the grim events of this week, and salute the brave people who’ve spent years making America a better and more tolerant place. Who’s done this, who’s helped this happen? Well, I’ll tell you: …”

7. “An insane man off camera is pointing a gun at my head and forcing me to read this statement. Quote,…”

8. “Please join me in praying that, in the wake of this horrific tragedy, Christ’s message of peace will prevail, our entire country can unite in compassion, not aggression, and that no misguided person will state…”

9. “I truly believe that if Osama bin Laden had been born in America, right now he’d be saying…”

What Falwell Really Meant
Michael Gerber And Jonathan Schwarz
SEPTEMBER 18, 2001
Village Voice

Parker House Hotel, Boston – Locus of Revolution

“Actor John Wilkes Booth stayed at the hotel April 5–6, 1865, eight days before assassinating Abraham Lincoln. He was apparently in Boston to see his brother, actor Edwin Booth, who was performing there. While in Boston, Booth was seen practicing at a firing range near the Parker House.”

Famous workers:
“Ho Chi Minh claimed to have worked as a baker at the hotel from 1912 to 1913.
Malcolm X, then going by the name Malcolm Little, worked as a busboy at the hotel in the 1940s.
Long before he was a culinary superstar, Emeril Lagasse served as Sous Chef in the Parker kitchens from 1979 to 1981.”
Wikipedia 

If you want to book a room – OMNI PARKER HOUSE

Bowie at Concert for Berlin

A decade later, when, in 1987, Bowie returned for the Concert for Berlin, a three-day open-air show in front of the Reichstag, he chose “Heroes” for his performance. By then the city’s Soviet-dominated East had become safer, but it had not become more free. Rock music was treated as a destabilizing threat.

But the wall couldn’t keep out radio waves; the West German–operated, US-run radio station Radio in the American Sector was popular in the East, and had secured rare permission from the performing acts to broadcast the show in its entirety. (Record labels typically opposed this in the 1980s, knowing listeners would record the broadcasts, undercutting album sales.) The concert was held near enough to the border that many East Berliners crowded along the wall to listen to the forbidden American and British music wafting across the city, allowing these two halves of the city to hear the same show, divided but together.

When Bowie performed on the second night, he began by telling the crowd, in German, “We send our wishes to all our friends who are on the other side of the wall.” He sang “Heroes,” the song he’d recorded in Berlin a decade earlier amid the city’s Cold War fear and violence.

Max Fisher, https://www.vox.com/2016/1/11/10749546/david-bowie-berlin-wall-heroes

Levellers and Diggers

The Levellers were a political movement during the English Civil War (1642–51) committed to popular sovereignty, extended suffrage, equality before the law and religious tolerance. The hallmark of Leveller thought was its populism, as shown by its emphasis on equal natural rights, and their practice of reaching the public through pamphlets, petitions and vocal appeals to the crowd.

The Levellers came to prominence at the end of the First English Civil War (1642–46) and were most influential before the start of the Second Civil War (1648–49). Leveller views and support were found in the populace of the City of London and in some regiments in the New Model Army. Their ideas were presented in their manifesto “Agreement of the People”. In contrast to the Diggers, the Levellers opposed common ownership, except in cases of mutual agreement of the property owners.

The Levellers were not a political party in the modern sense of the term. They were organised at the national level, with offices in a number of London inns and taverns such as The Rosemary Branch in Islington, which got its name from the sprigs of rosemary that Levellers wore in their hats as a sign of identification.

From July 1648 to September 1649, they published a newspaper, The Moderate, and were pioneers in the use of petitions and pamphleteering to political ends. They identified themselves by sea-green ribbons worn on their clothing.

Levellers, Wikipedia

The Diggers were a group of Protestant radicals in England, sometimes seen as forerunners of modern anarchism,and also associated with agrarian socialism and Georgism. Gerrard Winstanley’s followers were known as True Levellers in 1649 and later became known as Diggers, because of their attempts to farm on common land.

Their original name came from their belief in economic equality based upon a specific passage in the Acts of the Apostles. The Diggers tried (by “levelling” land) to reform the existing social order with an agrarian lifestyle based on their ideas for the creation of small, egalitarian rural communities. They were one of a number of nonconformist dissenting groups that emerged around this time.

Diggers, Wikipedia

Welcome to Vietnam

That night we had an alert. I found out later it was just a probe on the perimeter, but I didn’t know this while it was going on and neither did anyone else. The airfield had already been hit by sappers. People had been killed, several planes and helicopters blown up. It could happen again. You know that an attack is “just a probe” only after it’s over. I stood outside with other fresh arrivals and watched bellowing, half-dressed men run by in different directions. Trucks raced past, some with spinning lights like police cruisers. Between the high, excited bursts of M-16 fire I could hear heavy machine guns pounding away, deep and methodical. Flares popped overhead. They covered everything in a cold, quivering light.

No one came to tell us what was going on. We hadn’t received our issue of combat gear, so we had no weapons or ammunition, no flak jackets, not even a steel helmet. We were helpless. And nobody knew or cared. They had forgotten about us—more to the point, forgotten about me. In this whole place not one person was thinking of me, thinking, Christ, I better take a run over there and see how Lieutenant Wolff is doing! No. I wasn’t on anybody’s mind. And I understood that this was true not only here but in every square inch of this country. Not one person out there cared whether I lived or died. Maybe some tender hearts cared in the abstract, but it was my fate to be a particular person, and about me as a particular person there was an undeniable, comprehensive lack of concern.

Wolff, Tobias. In Pharaoh’s Army

The Warren Commission Report as The Great American Novel

Some years ago, during a telephone interview, I finally succeeded in badgering Jim Garrison into naming the Name. For years Garrison had been telling people he had the whole case cold: he knew who gave the orders, who fired the shots and from where. Still, though he had talked a lot about the Big Guys behind the plot— intelligence agencies, the military-industrial complex and the like—he had never publicly named the name of the man he believed fired the fatal head shot from the grassy knoll.

I won’t tell you that name, because Garrison didn’t give me any evidence for singling out this person for historic infamy. On another day, I felt, he might have picked another name out of the hat Still, for one guilty moment I had the land of thrill that assassination buffs live for. I had the Name everyone else was looking for and no one else had. Of course, it wasn’t an entirely unknown name. Garrison told me the person had been questioned extensively by Warren Commission investigators, and when I looked him up in the Warren Commission testimony, I found he plays a kind of Rosencrantz-and-Guildenstern-level role in the Warren Report, that of a peripheral figure in a key place: he was a live-in manager and janitor at Jack Ruby’s sleazy strip joint, the Carousel Club. There’s no doubt that the commission investigators were interested in his story—the transcript of his testimony runs more than 200 pages—but mostly because he was a source who might shed some light on the peculiarities of Jack

Ruby’s character (investigators repeatedly pressed the Name on whether Ruby had any sexual interest in his beloved dog Sheba). Though reading the testimony didn’t give me much intimation of an assassination revelation, it was a revelation of another kind. In telling his life story, of how he wound up in the Carousel Club in 1963, the Name was telling a story of an American life—of an America—far different from the one I’d known in my suburban hometown. It was a story of guy who made his living in the carnival world; he worked as a barker with small-time freak-show acts like “the two-headed baby” and “the snake girl,” he told the Warren Commission. He bummed around looking for roustabout jobs, met his first wife at a Salvation Army mission. When she left him in the summer of 1963, he hitchhiked all the way from the West Coast to Dallas looking for her. Picked up some work at the Texas state fair in a carny sideshow called “How Hollywood Makes Movies,” which featured some of Jack Ruby’s strippers.

Made some connections and soon found himself living in the back room of the Carousel Club in the midst of Ruby’s strange ménage, which included strippers, burlesque comics, stage hypnotists and, of course, the dog Sheba. I remember reading this testimony, mesmerized by my sudden immersion in a carnival-sideshow underbelly of American life. (The 26 volumes of Warren Commission testimony are like a vast, inchoate Great American Novel in that respect.) I didn’t feel I was any closer to solving the Kennedy assassination, but I did feel I had learned more about the America that produced both Kennedy and his assassin than was conveyed by the bland, complacent sitcom image of the nation and its institutions that prevailed in November 1963.

TAKING A DARKER VIEW
The conspiracy theories reflected in JFK may not be persuasive, but they churn up a murky underside of America, Ron Rosenbaum

Stone, Oliver. JFK (Applause Books) . Applause Theatre & Cinema Books. Kindle Edition.