Friday, May 11, 2007

Recycling Center: Fist City Edition

In case you missed it, here's the essay I read on Fist City last night. Of course, the best option is still to subscribe to the podcast, and listen to my mellifluous voice as I read it to you--because, really, who has the time in this busy modern world to read something for yourself? I come in at about the 45 minute mark of the show (actually the 1:45 mark on the podcast, since Fist City shares its 2-hour slot with The Rev Clempson Show). Not that you shouldn't listen to the rest of the show, as it contains much Elliott Kalan and Brock Mahan hilarity, with a guest appearance by Eric "War of the Worlds" Zuckerman.

But for those of you who read blogs, yet fear podcasts (a small minority, to be sure), here's what I read:


Thanks, Brock and Elliott—I’m here to discuss what is probably the most significant literary find of the last two hundred years, and, since you’ve assured me that this radio show is broadcast directly into the homes of all the Nobel Prize committee members, at least insomuch as they all probably have Internet connections, I’ve decided to unveil it here.

I have discovered a lost folio of Shakespeare, what I like to call the Director’s Cut With Alternate Endings Folio, or the “Caesar Stabbed First” Folio. It contains several surprising variations on his well-known plays, apparently the result of extensive focus testing with Globe Theatre audiences; budgetary constraints; and the ever-present danger of execution at the hand of Lord Wessex, as played by Colin Firth.

Many of the alternate versions are quite shocking. For instance, in this version of Hamlet, after everyone has apparently died, it is revealed that all the events of the play had merely been a charade set up by Hamlet’s uncle Claudius, in an attempt to cheer him up and get him to act less, quote, “Danish.” Then Rosencrantz comes in and gives Hamlet a shirt, which reads, “I wast drugged and left for dead in Elsinore, and all I received in return wast this inferior tunic,” with a logo on the back, reading “The Goodnight Sweet Prince Tour, 1502.” Similar tunics were available from Globe Theatre hot dog vendors, who, incidentally, sold real canines cooked over a spit. Apparently, this ending was insisted on by Shakespeare’s producer who, after seeing the lousy receipts for Titus Andronicus, decided that family audiences wouldn’t pay to see bloodbaths.

Or consider the original ending to The Tempest, in which the title character (The Tempest) returns to seek revenge against Ariel by throwing a series of CGI cows at her (CGI meaning, of course, Cow Gaffer Invented -- the chief carpenter apparently rigged up some pretty convincing paper mache cows). Or an early King Lear, all about a dirty old man who spends the play leering at his three daughters, a concept that was only abandoned when Christopher Marlowe told Shakespeare that he found it, “a little thin.”

Additionally, the folio contains some revealing commentary, apparently from a scholar contemporary to Shakespeare. For instance, one tidbit about “the problem plays” – so named because they have the problem of not being as good as the rest of his plays – it turns out that they’re a little uneven because they were originally just one big play, composed over a poppy-fueled long weekend, the original title being, Measure Measures All That Troilus Well for Cressida before Winter’s End, and the Tale of the Well Merchant, Timon of Athens, of Venice. It was an 18-hour mess.

And that’s not even getting into the lost plays that I found in this folio. Like Love’s Labor Won – that’s basically just wall-to-wall hardcore sex. 13th Night, where Malvolio returns wearing a rugby mask to slaughter the other characters while they’re vacationing at Camp Loch Ness, and the sequel to As You Like It, called Whatever You Want which was the first choose your own adventure play.

Oddly, I found this folio while cleaning out my garage, in a box labeled “Stuff That Didn’t Come from England,” and the paper it’s printed on has a watermark reading “Ben Franklin Bond” which would seem to date it post-Shakespeare’s lifetime by a significant margin, but I’m certain this find is genuine—so certain that I’m willing to split half of my aforementioned Nobel Prize monies with any expert that agrees with me… wink wink Harold Bloom. Anyway, the folio’s for sale, so if you’re interested, call up the studio. I’d prefer to sell to a museum, of course, but I’ll listen to anyone with cash money. Oh, yeah, no fatties.

Brock? Elliot?

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