This past weekend, after 21 years of mostly good and wonderful memories, English Alternative Theatre presented its final production of an original script by one of my playwriting students at the University of Kansas. But, thanks to the awful temper tantrums of one of the actors, who had earlier asked me if he could also design the set and the lights for the show, and which I was foolish enough to agree to, I am now going to remember this final show as THE PRODUCTION FROM HELL.
Just as I was thinking this, I picked up the latest issue of Newsweek, and saw that its cover story on a journalist’s captivity in Iran is titled 118 DAYS IN HELL. And then I saw that, not to be outdone, the latest issue of Time shows on its cover a bawling baby bidding bye-bye to THE DECADE FROM HELL So what’s going on? Is this Armageddon?
Just out of curiosity, I did a quick check on Amazon.com, and discovered that the word HELL appears in the titles of 968 movies you can watch…3,452 songs you can listen to…and 474,641 books you can read. Thankfully, Amazon.com also shows that the word HEAVEN appears in the titles of 1,016 movies…5,911 songs…and 523,445 books. Thus, it would appear that God is winning over Satan in the world of popular culture, but not by much. Going Rogue or Going Rouge, take your pick.
In the playwriting classes that I teach, in order to encourage the students to focus on each and every word they’re using, one of the early classroom exercises they have to write is a short monologue which would incorporate two very special words—the first, their favorite word in the English language; and the second, the one word in the lexicon which, if they could, they would banish forever from everyone’s vocabulary. You’d be surprised what words show up on either side of the fence. But, as far as I can remember, in the 21 years I’ve been assigning this exercise, I don’t think HEAVEN or HELL has ever popped up on anyone’s list. And, just as I’m writing this, I remember hearing on MSNBC recently that PRE-DETERMINED seems to be one of Barack Obama’s favorite words. To date, he has used it over 900 times in various speeches and public forums. I wonder now if it’s all pre-determined, whether he knows where we’re going to end up when it’s all over.
Meanwhile, back to THE PRODUCTION FROM HELL. Drop in on me sometime and, if you’ll bring a case of Pete’s Wicked Ale with you, and you’ve got a couple of hours to spare, I’ll tell you all about it.