For those not in the know, POMPEY is the story of Shakespeare's MEASURE FOR MEASURE told from the perspective of the pimp Pompey. And yes, at the time, I was just that arrogant to merge my work with Shakespeare's. And here's why:
My last acting performance at UM-F was as Pompey in M4M. It was honestly the only part I wanted. Years later I saw the BBC version and came to realize that my performance was way off from how people much older and far more English than myself saw him. They viewed him as the typical Shakespearian clown, a doddering old sod with flashes of philosophy here and there. I did not interpret this character in that way. I played him as a fully aware, decadently sexual provider of goods. Needless to say, I was trashed by the ACTF adjudicator, whom, I found out had played Pompey himself.
But that's neither here nor there. I found my character and went for it, my director, Carolyn Gillespie, encouraging me in that direction. In a Blackie Lawless wig, huge hoop earrings, near-to-drip mascara, a rainbow overcoat, a cane, and leather pants that tented so much that someone's mother actually asked if it were live or Memorex, I created a character that I became insanely proud of, and sad that I had not one line in the climactic scene.
If you're not familiar with the climatic scene, let me just say, all due respect to Shakespeare... it's really long. I was part of it, though I didn't speak. I hung around the edge of the stage and provided facial commentary for the most part. But me being only involved in such a way gave me time to think. And what I thought was... this is not a good ending. It's a play about justice, and I didn't feel any justice at all. The argument being that it's a play about God's justice, which means that God and his helpers go free, but the blasphemers receive punishment. The thing is, when you're a character in the play, not beholden to the grand metaphor, beholden to the reality before you, all you can and should say is... wtf?
Hell, that's why it's called a "problem play," isn't it?
About two weeks into rehearsal, I wanted to go to Carolyn and ask her if I could assassinate the Duke. I desperately wanted human justice to come into contact with God's justice, I wanted the powers-that-be to not be so absolved. I never did. I wish I had, but never did. But since I didn't ask her, the feeling stayed with me, and caused me to want to rewrite the whole thing.
I think I started writing POMPEY in 2001, months before moving to NYC. Then I put it away because it seemed a daunting task. Then I started it up again a few years later when Bush was in full swing in the White House. I finished it, sent it to Carolyn, and she asked if I wanted to see it done at UM-F.
I saw it done there and participated in some discussions regarding it. A few years later, there was a reading of it in New Jersey, a Q&A session following as well. It was well-received and I thought I was on to something.
And then, like most things, the sparkle faded and I went back to writing other things, not knowing what else I should do with it. Essentially letting it pass into the back of my mind. I went to grad school, graduated, and then found myself back in that place of not knowing. Not knowing where I was going, where I could go, always hoping but not pushing as much as perhaps I should.
And, for me, that's the perfect time to go back and learn about what came before. After all, I just finished a comic zombie novel, thinking perhaps I had cracked the code of what it was people wanted to read. That experiment is still undetermined, but it gives me the chance to reflect. And so, with all this information still my head about POMPEY, how it was received, how it caused debates that I did not anticipate, I am in the mood to give it a good going over. What I think I know now versus what I thought I knew then.
Who knows what happens next? That's hardly the point. Whether or not it goes anywhere, I have no way of knowing. But I do love the chore of it. Like the man SB says, "Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."