Reflections on Botticelli

I discovered the fancy Midtown area of Houston this weekend with my dear friend Jina and her hubby. I toted my camera along, because most of Houston is freeways and electric wires, and Midtown promised to be a little different. But this inconspicuous sign in a restaurant window took me back nearly a decade to my college years.

In the last year of our Bachelors, as students of English Literature, we had to either perform, write, or review a play. Melodramatic as we were, my best friend Laccho and I decided to perform a play. Ever heard of a play that has just two female characters? No, neither had we!* I have no recollection how, but I came across an Off Broadway play by Terrence McNally called Botticelli in our library and I showed it to Laccho. She liked it too, and we decided to perform it. The problem was that the play had two male characters… who were soldiers. But what is a play if not suspension of disbelief? Not worrying about how we would look or sound, we got to the task of rehearsing the play, which was a nearly 10 page banter between two soldiers, in Vietnam, crouching in the woods, waiting for a young man to show up because they are to kill him. While they wait, they play a guessing game (like 20 questions, perhaps). Wayne is pretending to be “a dead European male in the arts beginning with P“; Stu is trying to guess who he is. Laccho was Wayne and I was Stu. At one point of time, we debated about who had the more difficult part to play. Laccho argued that she had to remember names like Pushkin, Pasternak, Pinero, Pirandello. While I said, would you rather remember the names, or their descriptions, for ex: “Were you an Italian sculptor working with Giotto on the campanile in Florence?” We decided it was a tie.

Given the material, we weren’t sure whether our audience would enjoy the play. But to our surprise, it was a hit! It may just be that the audience thought it was a hoot that two 20 year old girls were playing male soldiers. Or maybe the constant back-and-forth was just as funny as we thought it was. Stu finally doesn’t win and has to give up. The final few dialogs, as we walked off the stage, are stuck in my head, and to this day make me grin:

STU: Okay, I give up. Who are you?
WAYNE: Pollaiolo
STU: Who?
WAYNE: Pollaiolo. Antonio Pollaiolo […]Italian painter, sculptor and goldsmith. 1432 to 1498.
STU: Well, I never heard of him.
WAYNE: Famous for his landscapes and the movement he put into the human body.
STU: Never heard of him.
WAYNE: He influenced Durer Signorelli and Verrocchio.
[They are offstage. Just voices now.]

STU: Them I’ve heard of.
WAYNE: ‘Portrait of a Man’? ‘The Labors of Hercules’? ‘David’? ‘The Martyrdom of St Sebastian’?
‘Tobias and the Angel’?
STU: Never heard of him.
WAYNE: The tomb of Sixtus IV?
STU: Never heard of him.
WAYNE: Good God, he was a contemporary of Botticelli!
STU: Never heard of him.
WAYNE: You are dumb. JESUS CHRIST!
[…There is a slow fade.]

I have a picture somewhere of Laccho and I dressed as soldiers. If you get me drunk enough, I might just share it with you.

*I later read Marsha Norman’s ‘Night, Mother and thought of us. But it is too long and too intense.
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11 Responses to Reflections on Botticelli

  1. jina says:

    Yo..You didnt tell us this story when we were sitting near d fountain with a fireplace complete with story telling environs….:)

    Aint ‘David’ done by Michaelangelo???

  2. Ash says:

    LOL, I remember you telling me this story back in Atlanta. So did you dress up as male soldiers?

  3. Ahmadreza says:

    HI MY FRIEND … can you tell me more about this story?? ” Botticelli ” by Terrence McNally … or show me some photos of your perform … thank you very much …

  4. Ahmadreza says:

    why??? I just want to see your Scene Design in this theater my friend , because me & my friends want to perform this play in my college ; I mean ” Botticelli ” ….
    Would you please help us ???
    your Experiences in thas perform can help us more Sampada …

    • Sampada says:

      Ahmadreza, I don’t have any pictures of the theater design. It was minimalist. We just sat on a low bench and had a spotlight on us. There was background sound of crickets. You don’t really need any set design, because the play is just two people speaking to each other.

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