"Timon Of Athens", 01/30/1933, 04/18/1942, 06/25/1950, 07/07/1950, 07/26/1953, 08/06/1945, 08/06/1965, 12/07/1941, Aaron Persky, Athens 407 BCE, B-25-B Bombers, Bare Theatre Productions, Character Creation, Club Athens 1987 CE, Dustin Britt, Isadore's Page aka Brock Page Turner, Jimmy Doolittle, Misogyny, Murder, Painter aka Susan Gregory Dunmire, POWs, Sempronius, Susan Gregory Dunmire, War, William Kenel, William Shakespeare
What happens when Dustin Britt, director and re-shaper of William Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens, gives twelve actors three dozen roles, some of them named while others merely titled? Well, as one of Britt’s twelve acting apostles, the first thing I did was choose the age and sex of my three characters, Painter, Sempronius and Isadore’s Page. Age of characters, gender, sexual orientation and proclivity to party will be at least as important in Bare Theatre’s production of Timon as it was in Athens of 407 BCE because our Timon has been rebooted and scooted to Club Athens in 1987 CE.
War, revolt, betrayal and social-standing notwithstanding, this nearly three-score-year old man decide that Sempronious, a self-centered alpha-male, alpha-dog, social climbing Lord and golf pro, has a date of birth of April 18, 1942, Painter (DOB June 25, 1950) becomes Susan Gregory Dunmire, a southern belle friend from my teens and early twenties who hailed from northern Alabama, and Isadore’s Page is a young man of twenty-one.
I frequently reference the real Susan and our circa 1987 phone conversation that began with my quite quickly spoken query/greeting of, “Hi Susan, this is Keith, is Dan there?”
Susan’s response, and this is an actual quote, of, “Slow down, slow down! You talk faster than I can think!” in her magnolia tree, sweet tea accent shall forever live in my mind.
I gave Isadore’s Page the name Brock (Last name christened but unrevealed) and a DOB of August 6, 1965.
Timon of Athens revolves around war and violence and each of my characters’ birthdays do as well. Sempronius’ birthday coincides with the US bombing of Tokyo in retaliation for Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor on 12/07/1941. Japan’s attack on Hawaii was devastating for the United States while the US Tokyo bombing was largely symbolic. However, the five-man-crews of Jimmy Doolittle’s sixteen B-25-B bombers flew on what was considered a suicide mission, though most survived. My character Sempronius was born the day of the mission and his father was one of the US crew members who was murdered as a POW by the Japanese military.
Following his father’s death Sempronius and his mother went to live with his paternal grandparents. The grandfather, born in 1895, was a harsh, misogynistic man who taught Sempronius through word and action that women were weak and to be used and discarded. Sempronius learned this lesson well.
(BTW- my uncle Bill was a B-25-B mechanic with the Army Air Corps and was taken prisoner by the Japanese after the fall of Manila. He was also murdered by his captors.)
I assigned Painter a DOB of 06/25/1950, the day that the Korean War erupted. The Painter’s father, like my own, joined the US military and fought in the NATO led Korean “police action.” Her father and my father both sustained life threatening wounds while serving and both were left scarred by their experience.
Painter was born the day the Korean War began and her father enlisted in the army on 07/07/1950, leaving his baby daughter and very young bride, DOB 01/30/1933, in north Alabama. As an infantryman, Painter’s father was lucky to survive, and his battlefield experience left him deeply scarred for life. He was wounded on 07/26/1953, the day before the Korean armistice, and returned from the war a broken man. His now twenty-year-old wife had helped provide for herself and her daughter by “entertaining” men both vertically and horizontally, a lesson that Painter learned well.
I cheated with Brock’s DOB of 08/06/1965. I wanted him to be early twenties and to tie his birth with US military involvement in Viet Nam. I hooked the August 1966 Gulf of Tonkin incidents to his bio but couldn’t help but bump his day of birth from August fourth to the sixth as a nod to the Little Boy hydrogen bomb dropped on Hiroshima 08/06/1945, a small sin of conflation.
Brock was a gifted athlete at Stanford University but had to drop out of school following some legal unpleasantness. Fortunately for him his good friend and mentor Aaron Persky was able to find him a position as a page with Representative Isadore. Brock’s future ruined by circumstances beyond his control, he spends much of his time benumbed with alcohol, LSD, Ecstasy and weed. He’s doing the best he can in a world that is so unfair.