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JOHN B. ROBERTS II BOOK INTERVIEW (Pt. 2): INSIDE THE 1984 REELECTION CAMPAIGN’S SECRET OPERATION AGAINST GERALDINE FERRARO ·

DIGGING DEEPER:  JOHN B. ROBERTS II ON THE 1984 REELECTION CAMPAIGN’S SECRET OPERATION AGAINST GERALDINE FERRARO, THINKING OUTSIDE THE BALLOT BOX, AND HIS NEW BOOK  ON MORNING IN AMERICA:  “REAGAN’S COWBOYS”

In the run-up to the 2020 election, Reagan Political Strategist John B. Roberts II looks back at 1984—only  to find a highly controversial president, a terrible economy, and mass protests in the streets.  The parallels go on . . .

Interview with Bob Shuman, Stage Voices

Where were you on New Year’s Eve 1983 and then on New Year’s Eve 1984? In what area of your life had you changed the most?

In 1983 I celebrated New Year’s Eve with my best friend and colleague, Tony Blankley.  He and his wife Lynda were great hosts and, while we looked forward to 1984, there was also a little trepidation about the coming election.  A year later, I was back working at The White House, but my mind was focused on making a change. In the seven weeks between the election and the year’s end, I’d grown determined to curtail my involvement in politics and spend more time writing. It took me ten more years to make that change, but I finally did it.     

 

As a political writer, you have looked at the contributions of first ladies to the country and CIA involvement in the escape of the Dalai Lama from Tibet, among other issues. What do you see as Ronald Reagan’s greatest contribution to the nation and could he have made it without winning in 1984?

It sounds corny, but his greatest achievement was rallying the country’s spirit and unifying it after the bruising decades of the sixties and seventies. Three presidencies in a row had ended in failure before Reagan, with Nixon, Ford, and Carter all serving only one full term in office. When he took his office, political polarization was high, and there were massive protests over his defense build-up and deployment of nuclear weapons in Europe. But his ability to forge broad-based political coalitions with bipartisan support set the stage for his three biggest accomplishments: restoring economic growth, ending runaway inflation and double-digit interest rates, and, through direct negotiations with Gorbachev, setting the stage for the end of the Cold War.  It took two terms for all this to come to fruition.      

 

 The first images or thoughts that come to mind regarding,

Roger Stone:

Sartorial splendor, the shiny veneer covering a hard-core political operative.

Walter Mondale:

Everyone’s prudent uncle.  A fundamentally decent man, who will never be the life of the party or probably ever have a hangover.   

Roy Cohn:

He had piercing blue eyes that looked to me like they concealed a thousand years of experiences.

Normandy, France:

Long rows of crosses decorated with tiny French and American flags.  A stark contrast, in their bone whiteness, to the lush green grass and blue skies of June. 

 

One person from the 1984 campaign who should be working on the Republican campaign today–and why?

Doug Watts.  He was in charge of advertising for the campaign and oversaw what came to be called the “Morning in America” theme, which emphasized the nation’s economic and spiritual recovery, with memorable television ads. Doug Watts not only helped Reagan win a landslide reelection, he set the stage for a period of national unity and bipartisanship that lasted well into the 1990s.

 

1984 is also an important year for dystopian fiction, a genre you have also written in.  How do you reconcile politics and literature?  

Growing up in one of Europe’s last Fascist dictatorships piqued my interest in the dysfunctional detours societies can take. I lived in Franco’s Spain at a time when no political opposition was tolerated:  the media was tightly controlled, and the Guardia Civil (whom the poet Garcia Lorca called “those patent leather men with their patent leather souls”) were virtually omnipotent and widely feared. 

On a vacation in London, during the time, I bought a copy of Mao’s Little Red Book from a Socialist Workers party street vendor.  I had to smuggle it like contraband into Madrid. Weirdly, such controls also created opportunities. Playboy magazine could be purchased, from American military personnel, for a dollar and twenty-five cents, and resold to Spaniards for a thousand pesetas–about a 1,500 percent profit!  Besides augmenting my allowance, differences between free societies and dystopian ones were usually dangerous. My father was in the military and we took a .22 rifle to Spain and registered it.  Every time Franco’s motorcade drove past our apartment to the airport, a Guardia Civil officer, with a machine gun, was stationed on the roof over our balcony. 

Of course, Orwell fought in the Spanish Civil War, and he wrote about it explicitly in Homage to Catalonia. I think that conflict also influenced 1984.  

What is the biggest misconception about the 1984 campaign that’s still with us today?

That the outcome–Reagan’s reelection in a landslide–was inevitable because of the strength of the economic recovery.  The truth is our polling showed that Reagan was vulnerable to a Democratic ticket headed by U.S. Senator and former astronaut John Glenn, and even to a Mondale/Hart ticket.  When Mondale first named Ferraro as his running mate, our polls showed she had the potential to galvanize female voters across the party spectrum and change the outcome of the election.  After Reagan badly flubbed the first presidential debate, the age issue could have derailed his reelection.  In hindsight, the magnitude of Reagan’s victory makes it appear inevitable, but the truth is that it took many components of the campaign, working in synch, to create that landslide. The operation against Ferraro wasn’t the only factor in Reagan’s victory, but it was an important one.On Election Day, Reagan won 58% of the female vote.    

Thank you very much.

Reagan’s Cowboys by John B. Roberts II, available now from McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers 

View on Amazon  

Read Part 1 of this interview

Interview (c) 2020 by John B. Roberts II and Bob Shuman.  All rights reserved.

Map: 270towin.com

 

WHAT MAKES THE SILVER AGE OF RUSSIAN POETRY SO IMPORTANT? ·

(Alexandra Guzeva’s article appeared in Russia Beyond the Headlines, 7/31; Photo: Russia Beyond the Headlines.)

You won’t find another period in Russian literature with such a concentration of talented poets and their brilliant use of the Russian language. Who were these literary geniuses of the early 20th century, and what did they write about?

What is the Silver Age of Russian poetry?

In an attempt to research or at least explain this topic, Russian scholars write heavy tomes and dedicate their whole lives. But we took upon ourselves this brave task in order to give a brief summary to those of you who are interested in Russia. 

The Silver Age of Russian poetry is an artistic period that dates from the very late 19th century and ends in the 1920s. It implies a wide range of poets, genres and literary styles. There is even a broader notion of the Silver Age of Russian culture that includes avant-garde art, theater, cinema, photography and sculpture – which very frequently were created in artistic groups that consisted of people from different spheres. 

The concentration of genius poets found during the Silver Age never existed at any other time in Russian literature.

Was there a Golden Age?

Yes, there was a Golden Age of Russian poetry! And it dates to the first third of the 19th century. In simple terms we call them “poets of the Pushkin era”, because Alexander Pushkin was for sure one of the greatest Russian poets of all time and the most remarkable of that era – and he is still very relevant today. Besides such big names as Pushkin and Mikhail Lermontov, the Golden Age includes Eugene Baratynsky, Peter Vyazemsky, Vasily Zhukovsky and other poets who are less known nowadays. Later, scholars started to classify all the 19th century ‘classic’ prose authors to the Golden Age, including Nikolai Gogol, Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoyesky, Ivan Turgenev, and Nikolai Nekrasov. The 19th century was marked by the development of literary movements: from sentimentalism to romanticism and then to realism and naturalism.

(Read more)

FORGOTTEN PLAYS: NO 10 – ‘MARY ROSE’ (1920) BY JM BARRIE ·

(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 8/2; Photo: Unnerving questions … Leon Quartermaine and Fay Compton in Mary Rose at the Haymarket theatre, 1926. Photograph: Sasha/Getty Images.)

The Peter Pan author caught Hitchcock’s eye with a Hebridean ghost story about the intensity of mother-son relationships

I have neglected Scotland so far in this series, though I was tempted to include one of the great working-class dramas such as Joe Corrie’s In Time O’ Strife (1927) or Ena Lamont Stewart’s Men Should Weep (1947). I have plumped for this strange, sinister ghost story, partly as a reminder that there was more to Barrie than Peter Pan and partly because the play has much to say about the anguish of mother-son relationships and the universal grief for loss.

Barrie knows how to make one’s flesh creep. His play starts with a young soldier looking over a shuttered Sussex mansion and forbidden access to an empty room. As he falls asleep by the fire, the past history of the house and its inhabitants comes to life. We see how Mary Rose, daughter of the Morland family, twice disappeared during a visit to a remote Hebridean island: once briefly when she was a girl and then for 25 years when she was a married woman with a young son. Each time, she reappears mysteriously unchanged but, at the play’s climax, she is a ghostly revenant still pining for the son she has lost and searching for her place in the universe.

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THE ‘WILDCAT’ EPISODE, OR, DID BROADWAY LOVE LUCY? ·

(Darin Strauss’s article appeared in The New York Times, 7/31; Photo: The New York Times;  via Pam Green.)

With her sitcom over and marriage finished, Lucille Ball fulfilled an old dream: a stint on Broadway. It did not go well.

Lucille Ball in the Broadway show “Wildcat.”Credit…Everett Collection

This is the story of how the most famous and talented sitcom star of her era — and maybe of all time — failed on Broadway.

The star was Lucille Ball. The year was 1960. And she was in a tough spot — in a “depressed state of mind,” as she later recalled.

“I Love Lucy” had just ended. Her marriage had too. The last kiss with Desi fell on the last moment of their last episode. His face in her hair; her blubbering through tears: “You’re supposed to say ‘Cut.’” The final clinch. The next day she filed for divorce.

When your marriage has been, in a way, America’s marriage, what do you do after the love crash dives? Lucille Ball didn’t know, at first. Biographers say she slept and cried on a friend’s couch. “What I do is so meaningless, so unimportant,” she sighed after slinking out to see a play starring Vivien Leigh. “Look what she can do.”

This envy pushed her off the sofa: a footlights career, as Ball put it in her autobiography, was the “ambition of my life.” This was an ambition Lucille-watchers could track. At 17 she’d left her upstate New York high school for Broadway, only to be told: “You just don’t have it. Why don’t you go home?” Later attempts had failed too; “I never made it,” she told a reporter in 1960, “and I want to prove myself.”

Lucille Ball was not only a superstar by 1960. (One measure of her popularity: The nation’s reservoirs dipped whenever “I Love Lucy” broke for a commercial. A whole country, flushing as one.) She was also a trailblazer, a female mogul. Desilu Productions, the business empire she split with Desi Arnaz, her ex, owned the most TV-studio space and was “the single biggest filler of television time” in the industry, as Life Magazine put it.

Now she just had to find a play to star in.

I LEARNED ABOUT BALL’S largely forgotten theater bid when putting together my book, “The Queen of Tuesday.” It’s a novel-memoir hybrid about Ball — and also about my grandfather, and the thorny romance between them. The affair is all speculation but most of the rest is verifiable. (It was family legend that my grandfather and she met at a kind of doom-swept party at which Donald Trump’s father had celebrities throw bricks at a beautiful Coney Island landmark, which is the book’s opening scene.)

Writing the book led me really to admire this powerful, brilliant woman. But in telling this next bit, even the most besotted Lucyian treads warily.

Ball wanted to shoulder a Broadway musical, starring in nearly every scene, dancing and belting a slew of difficult numbers. There were only two issues with that: she was not a good dancer and she was not a good singer. “Not even in the bathtub,” she recalled in that autobiography, “Love, Lucy.” And yet the show she chose, “Wildcat,” required that she both croon and “just about climb walls.”

Or it would require that. Eventually. A play can suffer all kinds of mutations when the most popular star in America joins (not to say hijacks) the production. The writer of “Wildcat,” N. Richard Nash, had conceived of it as a drama — the story of “a woman in dungarees” who swings into a Southwestern oil town with dreams of striking it rich. Unlike the heroines of other plays Ball had read and rejected, Wildcat “Wildy” Jackson, “the cat with more bounce to the ounce,” as she put it in her autobiography, was the kind of “rough-talking, and unbelievably energetic” character she wanted to play.

A phone call from Arnaz — I love this thing! — and, $400,000 later: “It was all packaged and literally taken out of my hands,” Nash told a writer. “The final product had nothing to do with my original intentions.”

In 1960 attendance on Broadway was starting to wobble. And Lucille Ball was the star of all stars. Celestial bodies of such magnitude pull things into their orbit, so why not the theater world? The posters went for the obvious: “Broadway Loves Lucy!” You can hear, even now, the whir of the old calculator, the swish of receipts.

(Read more)

ERNEST HEMINGWAY’S PUBLISHED WORKS LITTERED WITH ERRORS, STUDY CLAIMS ·

(Dalya Alberge’s article appeared in the Guardian, 8/2; Photo:  The Guardian.)

Experts find hundreds of errors in the writer’s works, mostly made by editors and typesetters

Ernest Hemingway’s published writings are riddled with hundreds of errors and little has been done to correct them, according to a forthcoming study of the legendary writer’s texts.

Robert W Trogdon, a leading scholar of 20th-century American literature, told the Guardian that Hemingway’s novels and short stories were crying out for editions that are “as accurate to what he wrote as possible” because the number of mistakes “ranges in the hundreds”. Although many are slight, he said, they were nevertheless mistakes, made primarily by editors and typesetters.

The majority of Hemingway’s manuscripts are held at the John F Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston, where Trogdon has pored over the originals.

He singled out, for example, the 1933 short story A Way You’ll Never Be, which mistakenly features the word “bat” rather than “hat” when the character Nick Adams is explaining catching grasshoppers to the confused Italian soldiers. Hemingway originally wrote: “But I must insist that you will never gather a sufficient supply of these insects for a day’s fishing by pursuing them with your hands or trying to hit them with a hat.”

Misspellings in one edition of The Sun Also Rises, his 1926 novel about disillusioned expatriates in postwar France and Spain, include the bullfighter “Marcial Lalanda” appearing as “Marcial Salanda”, an easy mistake to make because of the similarity of the author’s handwritten “L” and “S”, Trogdon observed. There is also a restaurant called “Ciqoque” when Hemingway meant the real-life Paris eatery Cigogne, again an easy mistake for someone unaccustomed to distinguishing the author’s “q” and “g”.

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THE 40 BEST IRISH FICTIONAL CHARACTERS – IN ORDER ·

(Chosen by Rosita BolandDonald ClarkePeter CrawleyMartin Doyle, and Hilary Fannin for the Irish Times, 8/1; Photo: The Irish Times.)

FROM NIDGE AND CONNELL WALDRON TO GRETTA CONROY, RASHERS TIERNEY AND PEGEEN MIKE, ALL OF THESE PEOPLE EMERGED FROM ACTS OF IMAGINATION – BUT ARE SO DEFTLY CREATED THAT THEY ARE AS REAL TO US AS ANY LIVING PERSON

40. BESSIE BURGESS

From The Plough and the Stars
Play, 1926
It befits an unsentimental classic like The Plough and the Stars that its heart resides in such an unlikely place. Bessie Burgess, the cantankerous, self-demolishing, crowing unionist (“Oh, youse are all rightly shanghaied now!” she spits at her revolutionary neighbours) is ultimately the spine of compassion, quiet heroism and genuine sacrifice amid all the posture and chaos of Seán O’Casey’s street-level view of the 1916 Rising.

39. AISLING

From Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling
Book, 2017
For a modest, sensible twentysomething from Ballygobbard, Aisling has taken Ireland by storm. The first three books featuring her, written by Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen, are the bestselling Irish fiction titles this century. Compared to “an Irish Bridget Jones”, Aisling is as much in the tradition of a Maeve Binchy or Marian Keyes heroine as she is a rival to Helen Fielding’s creation.

38. CONNELL WALDRON

From Normal People
Book, 2018; TV drama, 2020
Despite being a young man both studying literature and writing it, Connell’s trademark characteristic is an inability to be articulate, especially with Marianne, his love. What Sally Rooney’s creation doesn’t, or can’t, say to her during their school and college years together is partly what makes his character so realistic, frustrating and engaging.

37. CATHERINE MCKENNA

From Grace Notes
Book, 1997
In Scotland, Catherine, a composer, is trying to literally compose her life. She is a new mother, but her partner is abusive. She is estranged from her family back in Northern Ireland. Music and her career-changing composing commission both ground her, Bernard MacLaverty’s novel, and then lift her onwards from where she has been in a paralysis.

36. SADIE JACKSON

From The Twelfth Day of July
Book, 1970
Sadie, a Protestant teenager, is sassy and feisty. As we follow her love-across-the-divide relationship with Kevin, a Catholic, over five books, we grow with them. Joan Lingard’s young-adult-fiction series brought the Troubles home to generations of young people elsewhere and brought fiction home to young people in Northern Ireland.

35 CATHLEEN NI HOULIHAN

From Cathleen Ni Houlihan
Play, 1902
“Did that play of mine send out / Certain men the English shot?” WB Yeats wondered about Cathleen Ni Houlihan. If so, they must have been as naive as the question. In 1798, a mysterious old lady disturbs a family dinner to sing of blood sacrifice, tell of her stolen “four beautiful green fields”, and lure a young man to join the Rebellion. Thus appeased, she transforms into a girl with “the walk of a queen” and struts away into several more Irish dramas.

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THE HOMEBOUND PROJECT ANNOUNCES LINEUP FOR FIFTH AND FINAL EDITION AIRING AUGUST 5–9 ·

(Via John Wyszniewski, Everyman Agency.)

Laurie Metcalf, Kelli O’Hara, Brian Cox, Austin Pendleton, Daniel K. Isaac, and More Premiere New Work by Craig Lucas, Lena Dunham, Sylvia Khoury, Stephen Karam, Donnetta Lavinia Grays, Among Others, with Guest Directors Pam MacKinnon and Scott Ellis

Over $100,000 Raised To Date For No Kid Hungry – Can Help Provide Up To 1 Million Meals For Children In Need

Anonymous Donor Matching All Donations for Series 5 Up to $20,000

Following an “ambitious” (New York Times) debut on May 6 with an “extremely impressive roster of leading actors and writers” (Time Out New York), The Homebound Project is pleased to announce the lineup for its fifth and final edition of new online theater benefiting hungry children affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Co-creators Catya McMullen and Jenna Worsham, along with their all-volunteer team, are also pleased to announce that over $100,000 has been raised to date for No Kid Hungry, a national campaign working to end childhood hunger. Through No Kid Hungry, this amount can help connect kids in need across the country with up to 1 million healthy meals. For this fifth and final edition of The Homebound Project, an anonymous donor will be matching all donations, dollar for dollar, up to $20,000.

The playwrights in the fifth edition of The Homebound Project, airing August 5–9, 2020, have been given the prompt of “Homemade.” Participating actors, playwrights, and directors include:

Brian Cox and Nicole Ansari-Cox in a work by Melis Aker, directed by Tatiana Pandiani;

Joslyn DeFreece in a work by Lloyd Suh, directed by Colette Robert;

A work by Lena Dunham, directed by Maggie Burrows, performer TBA;

Ryan J. Haddad in a work by Christopher Oscar Peña, directed by Jaki Bradley;

Daniel K. Isaac in a work by Sylvia Khoury;

Andy Lucien in a work by Donnetta Lavinia Grays;

Laurie Metcalf in work by Stephen Karam;

Kelli O’Hara in a work by Lindsey Ferrentino, directed by Scott Ellis;

Austin Pendleton in a work by Craig Lucas, directed by Pam MacKinnon;

Cesar J. Rosado in a work by Basil Kreimendahl, directed by Samantha Soule;

Amanda Seyfried in a work by Catya McMullen; directed by Jenna Worsham; and

Johnny Sibilly in a work by Korde Arrington Tuttle, directed by Jenna Worsham.

The fifth edition of The Homebound Project will stream online beginning at 7pm EST on Wednesday, August 5 until 7pm EST on Sunday, August 9. View-at-home tickets are currently on sale at homeboundtheater.org and begin at a donation level of $10. Complimentary viewings for first responders and essential workers have been made possible by an anonymous donor. Each collection from this independent theater initiative is available to stream over a strictly limited 4-day period.

Founded by playwright Catya McMullen and director Jenna WorshamThe Homebound Project is an independent online theater initiative created to help feed hungry children affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Each edition features a collection of new theater works written by homebound playwrights and recorded by sheltering actors.

The Homebound Project features costume consultation by Andy Jean, original music and sound design by Fan Zhang, and video editing and design by Jon Burkland/ZANNI Productions

“The child hunger crisis needs our attention at this critical and traumatic national moment,” says co-creator Jenna Worsham. “We are monumentally grateful for the exquisite work of our volunteer artists and generous support from audiences around the world. As The Homebound Project draws to a close for now, our shared mission to help those most vulnerable during this crisis should and will continue.”

“Hungry children in our country are facing one of the worst crises we’ve seen in our lifetime. But thanks to generous partners like The Homebound Project and its donors, they’re not facing it alone,” said Billy Shore, executive chair of Share Our Strength, the nonprofit behind the No Kid Hungry campaign. “We’re truly grateful for this support that will help feed children during this pandemic and the long recovery ahead.”

“1 in 4 children in the U.S. could face hunger this year because of the coronavirus – and that includes many in New York City,” said Rachel Sabella, director of No Kid Hungry in New York. “The Homebound Project is proof that everyone can play a role in helping these kids, whether you’re an actor, producer, writer, director, viewer or otherwise. Kids need whatever strength we’re willing to share in this fight.”

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THE SHOW MUST GO ONLINE: ‘HENRY IV, PART I’ ·

THE SHOW MUST GO ONLINE: HENRY IV PART I

 

PLAYLIST: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list… SUPPORT THE CAST AND CREW: https://patreon.com/theshowmustgoonline HOMEPAGE: https://robmyles.co.uk/theshowmustgoo… Follow: @TSMGOnlineLive on Twitter | @TheShowMustGoOnline on Facebook/Insta TIME IN AWARDS: bit.ly/2UYLQCu ENTER: The Show Must Go Online – Shakespeare for everyone: a global movement creating new productions of the Complete Plays, performed live every Wednesday, free forever CAST: HENRY PERCY “HOTSPUR” – Mark Laverty HENRY “HAL”, PRINCE OF WALES – Seb Yates-Cridland @seb_wyc KING HENRY IV – Andy McLeod @AndyMcleod09 THOMAS PERCY, EARL OF WORCESTER – Gillian Barmes SIR JOHN FALSTAFF – Jack Baldwin @JonJackBaldwin OWEN GLENDOWER – Leo Atkin SIR RICHARD VERNON – Sakuntala Ramanee EDMUND MORTIMER, EARL OF MARCH – Naila Mansour @NailaMansouroff LADY PERCY – Natalie Ann Boyd @natalieannboyd ARCHIBALD, EARL OF DOUGLAS – Julie Martis @juliemartis SIR WALTER BLUNT – Callum Lloyd @CallumLloydT EARL OF WESTMORLAND – Shamiso Mushambi @ShamisoMushambi EDWARD POINS – Duncan Hess @TheRealMrHess HENRY PERCY, EARL OF NORTHUMBERLAND – Simon Balcon RICHARD SCROOP, ARCHBISHOP OF YORK – Henry Jenkinson @henryjenkinson BARDOLPH – Daniel Cordova @dancordova ENSEMBLE – Rhiannon Willans @rnwillans, Jason Blackwater @JasonBlackwater, Philippa Hammond @philippa_uk, Sasha Wilson @_sashawilson SWINGS – Danny Adams @dannyeadams, Phoebe Elliott @phoebeelliott96 GUEST SPEAKER: Eric Rasmussen Eric Rasmussen is Foundation Professor of English at the University of Nevada. He is the co-editor, along with Sir Jonathan Bate, of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Complete Works of Shakespeare. PRODUCTION TEAM: Director: Robert Myles @robmyles Producer: Sarah Peachey @PeacheyLDN Casting Director: Sydney Aldridge @sydneyamee Stage Manager & Master of Props: Emily Ingram @EmilyCIngram Fight Direction/Stunts: Yarit Dor & Enric Ortuno @YaritDor @EnricOrtuno Sound Design: Adam Woodhams @AdamWoodhams1 Guest Speaker Curation: Ben Crystal @bencrystal Associate Producers: Natalie Chan @NatalieNat_Chan Matthew Rhodes @RhodesTheatre Social Media & Patreon Manager: Ruth Page @ruthfpage Infrastructure Support: Dr Ed Guccione, Dr Kay Guccione PR: Kate Morley @KMorleyPR Welsh Translations: Lynwen Haf Roberts

FORGOTTEN PLAYS: NO 9 – ‘THE WORDS UPON THE WINDOW-PANE’ AND ‘PURGATORY’ BY WB YEATS ·

(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian,  7/27; Above, Yeats’s masterpiece … Peter Cormican as the Old Man in a 2009 production of Purgatory at the Irish Repertory Theatre, New York. Photograph: Hiroyuki Ito/Getty Images)

A drama in which the spirit of Jonathan Swift haunts a seance and an astonishingly brief update of the Oresteia confirm the poet’s remarkable skills as a playwright

Few plays are more forgotten than those of WB Yeats. Revered as a poet, he’s ignored as a dramatist yet he deserves to be remembered for a number of reasons. He cofounded the Abbey theatre in 1904, he put Irish legend and history on stage, and he sought to create a drama “close to pure music”. His output was huge – his Collected Plays runs to more than 700 pages – and I’ve plucked out two of his works that, while vastly different in style, show his fixation with death, expiation and eternal recurrence.

The Words Upon the Window-Pane (1930) is in many ways exceptional: it is Yeats’s only play with a realistic modern setting. Its subject is a seance held by the Dublin Spiritualist Association in rooms once occupied by Jonathan Swift’s Stella. Yeats has much fun at the expense of the visitors – one of whom wants advice about setting up a teashop in Folkestone – but the main concern is to expel an evil spirit who has been haunting past sessions. It turns out to be that of Swift whom we hear – through the medium, Mrs Henderson – bitterly rejecting offers of love from the two women who most adored him.

What is astonishing is the way Yeats pulls off a double trick. Far from being an attack on Swift, the play is a defence of his refusal to beget children because of his dread of the future. But, rather like David Mamet’s The Shawl about a phoney clairvoyant with psychic gifts, the play suggests that the money-grubbing Mrs Henderson may actually have conjured up the crabbed spirit of Dublin’s celibate dean.

(Read more)

BOOK: JOHN B. ROBERTS II INTERVIEW (Pt. 1): INSIDE THE 1984 REELECTION CAMPAIGN’S SECRET OPERATION AGAINST GERALDINE FERRARO ·

MOB RULE:  JOHN B. ROBERTS II ON THE 1984 REELECTION CAMPAIGN’S SECRET OPERATION AGAINST GERALDINE FERRARO, THINKING OUTSIDE THE BALLOT BOX, AND HIS NEW BOOK  ON MORNING IN AMERICA:  “REAGAN’S COWBOYS”

In the run-up to the 2020 election, Reagan Political Strategist John B. Roberts II looks back at 1984—only  to find a highly controversial president, a terrible economy, and mass protests in the streets.  The parallels go on . . .

Interview with Bob Shuman, Stage Voices

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is an issue from the 1984 Reagan campaign that is also important to a millennial–and why?

The economy. Until 1983, America had a terrible economy for a decade. It began with an oil embargo and gas shortages. We waited in long lines to try to fill our cars, at prices that spiked more than 150 percent.  I was a college graduate in 1973.  Jobs were impossible to find, and when you did find them, wages couldn’t keep up with double-digit inflation.  I vividly remember how hard it was to land a job and how it seemed impossible to ever buy a home.  It was really dismal, a lot like it has been for millennials.

Reagan was a highly controversial president, it should be recalled.  There were mass protests in the streets, a difficult economy, Russian interference in elections; the parallels go and on.  For those who do not remember that time, this look backward may reveal that no matter how bad things seem, they can turn around for the better.

Why hasn’t the story of the 1984 reelection campaign’s secret operation against Geraldine Ferraro been told before–and do you think reasons had to do with protecting participants?

By design, only a handful of us knew the full extent of the operation, even when it was happening.  We had lots of people working on the investigations, but they didn’t know everyone who was involved or what people outside of their cluster were doing.  It was a compartmented operation and only I, my colleague Art Teele, and the Reagans’ closest advisor, Stu Spencer, knew the complete story.  In late 1984, an editor at Knopf told me he was interested in publishing a book about the press coverage of the campaigns, which would have included the Ferraro operation.  Stu Spencer asked me not to write it because he thought it might embarrass the Reagans, especially Nancy. So we kept silent for decades.

 

Besides yourself, name the first Reagan Cowboy to come to mind–and who was he or she?

Mac Baldrige.  He was Reagan’s Commerce Secretary and although he was an Ivy Leaguer and successful businessman, he grew up on a ranch and had been a professional roper, a real rodeo cowboy.  In 1988 he was inducted into the Cowboy Hall of Fame.  He and Reagan shared a love of horses and often went riding together.  Baldrige died from injuries in a freak riding accident.  Of course, the second name that comes to mind is Colonel Oliver North, who was a principal in the Iran-Contra affair. He was one of Reagan’s cowboys, whether they went horseback riding or not.   

 

Why was it worth staying with the campaign as you found yourself involved with organized crime?

That’s a really good question.  My mortgage was definitely a factor. But the main thing that kept me on the job was that Reagan declared war on organized crime in 1983.  Attorney General William French Smith ordered U.S. attorneys and the FBI to make the Mafia and other crime groups a top priority.  At the same time Reagan created a high-profile presidential commission to publicly spotlight the dangers.  One question Art Teele and I could never answer was this: was it just a coincidence that a relatively unknown politician with extensive connections to organized crime was picked to run for vice president? Or was the Mafia trying to put someone they could coerce into doing their bidding into the White House?  Because we couldn’t discount that possibility, we stuck with our investigations until the Mondale-Ferraro ticket was defeated.      

 

What do you see as major differences in opposition research then and now?

The dossier of derogatory information British former spy Christopher Steele developed on Trump in 2016 embodies the differences.  Even though the FBI and CIA could not verify the chief allegations in Steele’s dossier, it was used to justify secret surveillance.  The report became part of a counter-intelligence investigation of the Trump campaign and was shared with the press, senior officials in the intelligence community, and in the Justice Department. Each and every one of those actions would never have happened in 1984, at least not on my watch or on Art Teele’s watch.  They violate every important principle of a democratic election, from abuse of executive authority to potentially introducing Russian propaganda into a presidential campaign.    

We verified the information we uncovered about Geraldine Ferraro before we disclosed it to anyone.  We then required the main news organizations we worked with to independently verify our leads, as a condition of our sharing the information.  We refused to involve Executive Branch agencies in our investigative work, and the one time we found out someone, on our side, had tried to do so, we shut him down.  Without subpoena powers, without court warrants, without FISA court approved eavesdropping, we nonetheless uncovered politically damaging information.  Some of that information led to a congressional investigation, unanimously approved by every Republican and Democrat on the House Ethics Committee, into Geraldine Ferraro’s compliance with the law.  Unlike in recent years, where the Steele dossier’s allegations remain unproven and investigations into Russian collusion have come up empty-handed, the 1984 investigation into Ferraro found numerous violations of the Ethics in Government Act of 1978

The second part of the Stage Voices interview with John B. Roberts II will appear next Tuesday.

Reagan’s Cowboys by John B. Roberts II, available now from McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers 

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Photos: North, Guardian; Steele, Business Insider

Interview (c) 2020 by John B. Roberts II and Bob Shuman.  All rights reserved.