Blood or ballet? The year is late 227 B.C. on the island of Sicily, where an outpost of Athens has tragically fallen to the Romans. The new guys have arrived to run the huge theater at Taormina. For centuries the Hellenic Arts Management Company ran the shows. The Roman conquerors are cleaning house and installing their own muscular theater management. Everything has to go- ticket collectors, directors; actors are all told to get lost.
The elderly Greek Manager, Mrs. Delphos is in her office chewing pistachio nuts with the new administration. She’s not happy and told her guest so, “We’ve been operating this theater for centuries. Two hundred years of rave reviews and sold out performances. Now you Italians are going to dump our prima donna? Please tell me you will not replace the greatest playwrights the world has ever known and sack our performers, the flower of Mediterranean thespians? You’re going to feature wild beasts eating people, butchers, murders and clowns on this sacred stage?
Where is the art on a stage slathered with blood, body parts and corpses?
“I’m going to puke. What kind of philistine dogs are you? That is what passes for Imperial Roman culture? Where is the art on a stage slathered with blood, body parts and corpses? ”
Emilio, the new director just in from Naples didn’t suffer Greek drama queens easily. He said condescendingly, “Athens is a puny little city state, lady. Rome is the greatest Empire the world has ever seen. We won the war. You lost. Let me make it simple ‘tough shit’. Now take a hike! Yes, you and all your prima donnas.”
Delphos had a long career working with loud mouth actors and snippy prima donnas. Grandiosity and over-sized egos was her daily bread. She persisted: “We built this amphitheater to the glorification of the gods, with the blessing of the Oracle of Delphi and the perpetuation of Hellenism, the only true culture the world has ever known! We wrote philosophy while your ancestors were cave dwelling, descendants of monkey’s swinging in the trees. You savages will not desecrate my temple of culture and art with your gumbo of blood! Get out of here. You have no place on this hallowed ground. Back up in your trees. Who gives you the right to set foot here?”
You’ll love it: Unless of course you’re a Christian.
“Who gives us the right? What are you asking little Lady? Twenty thousand world class Roman legions say we have the right! And don’t worry about our culture. You come to our opening night. We present real time, real life drama, not some phony playwright’s interpretation of dusty old folklore. We will be featuring an unbelievable lion that can hold his own against an entire congregation of screaming Christians. It’ll be the season’s highest rated show. It’s real live drama. You’ll love it: Unless of course you’re a Christian.”
The conflict between upscale literary drama and blood sports continues. On one side we have today, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Lin- Manuel Miranda and ballet. But we also have the WWF and NFL. Judging by the box office crowds we seem to favor Emilio’s muscular approach. But then again, does anyone remember Roman Theater today? Greek playwrights are recognized today and still have some following.
There must be a message here. Perhaps our entertainment preferences are diverse enough to encompass both ballet and blood?
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