Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Writers Guild Office Boy 1970 (vi)

Besides starting to write a political analysis of Newsreel, by December 1970 I had also written some new folk songs and an historical play, “The Assassination of Governor Bent.” This play dramatized the 1846 or 1847 revolt in New Mexico, near Taos, by an alliance of Pueblo indigenous people and Mexican people. My historical drama represented an attempt to again use the Broadway theatre as a tool for encouraging Revolution in the United States, by showing on the stage main characters in the process of fighting a righteous, although unsuccessful, battle against the U.S. imperialist troops that had just taken their land from them.

After finishing “The Assassination of Governor Bent”, I sent a copy of the play’s manuscript to Columbia Professor of English Stade (a former professor of mine), after he replied to a letter I had written to him asking for some criticism from him of my new play. But given how threatening the play’s politics were to Professor Stade, he predictably critically trashed the play-- in the same way he had critically trashed the papers and essays I had written for him that threatened him politically when I was a freshman in his English Composition course.

In Professor Stade’s view, the play was worthless, from a literary perspective, because he felt the Governor Bent character and the other characters who repressed the 1846 or 1847 revolt in New Mexico were portrayed as “cartoon caricatures" by me; while the anti-imperialist Pueblos and Mexicans who revolted then were portrayed as “too heroic” and seemed to be more like SDS members of the 1960s than people who lived in the 1840s in New Mexico. In Professor Stade’s view, the only thing that seemed real about “The Assassination of Governor Bent” play was the “rage” against the system that the drama seemed to express.

I disagreed completely with Professor Stade’s evaluation of “The Assassination of Governor Bent.” But I realized that if a then left-liberal anti-communist, but also anti-racist and anti-militarist, intellectual academic like Professor Stade didn’t like my “The Assassination of Governor Bent” play, there was no way that any Broadway producer or Off-Broadway producer or Big Media theatrical critic would ever like this socially-oriented, historical drama with a revolutionary message.

So after receiving Professor Stade’s negative evaluation, I shoved the manuscript of “The Assassination of Governor Bent” into one of my drawers and gave up playwriting again, in order to focus more on writing more folk songs in the evening and on weekends in my Bronx slum apartment during the last month of 1970 and the first 7 months of 1971.