Since the daily highs are in the 80s now and the humidity is climbing, it’s best to get some spring cleaning done before it’s too late. Here are a few things to clear out of the Artifice bin.
Mobilians had ample recent chances to reconnect with a forgotten son. Filmmaker Robert Clem’s latest work, “The Two Worlds of William March,” appeared on Alabama Public Television last week, just seven days after it was screened at the Ben May Public Library.
Artifice spoke with Clem in spring 2015 as he was completing the film. His appreciation of the namesake author was foremost.
“His style was modernist, with a fractured point of view,” Clem told Artifice. “Like Hemingway, he was economical with words.”
Cognoscenti shared Clem’s view. Famed journalist Alistair Cooke called March “the most underrated of all contemporary American writers of fiction” and “the unrecognized genius of our time.”
Clem’s film showed March’s matriculation and slow birth from the life of William Campbell, his non nom de plume. The template was author Roy Simmonds’ 1984 book, “The Story of William March.”
Clem does it service. He implemented footage from his previous film on March and though the acting is a tad uneven, it is worth watching. Be on guard for a character from Jim Garrison’s widely cast JFK conspiracy theories.
After a hardscrabble youth in rural towns, March was thrown into World War I’s worst meat grinders. The darkness it stirred forever haunted his psyche, then poured into the pages of “Company K,” considered the equal of “All Quiet on the Western Front.”
His most popular work is unquestionably “The Bad Seed,” about a murderous child. Rumors still permeate Mobile about which local kid was the inspiration.
So why is March overlooked at home? I think the answer easy: his subject matter.
March explored the human psyche’s recesses, dark corners obscuring parts of ourselves and our societies we ignore and deny. He didn’t tell readers what they wanted to hear.
There were no “moonlight and magnolias,” no romantic rhapsodies for Spanish moss, bay breezes and front porches. He didn’t gild street markets in fairy dust or elevate myth to history.
March’s characters were the victims of gossip and driven mad by the cruelties of small-town mores. Their hypocrisies and delusions showed the true complexity of the human animal.
Artifice has fielded inquiries as to the lawsuit filed against Mobile Ballet by a group of its directors. Plaintiffs’ attorney Ray Thompson previously said he hoped to make a court docket by last month.
That’s not been the case. Thompson said while there has been one appearance it was a preliminary hearing called when Judge Jay York initially thought he might have to recuse himself due to a conflict of interest. It has since been settled and discounted.
Thompson had no further insight on future matters.
This issue’s publication date is the seventh anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon explosion and the resulting largest oil spill in U.S. waters. For everyone on the central Gulf Coast, its impact remains fresh.
For Emmy-nominated playwright Leigh Fondakowski it became a revelation. She was initially fascinated by the Gulf Coast’s natural beauty, then by something else.
“I was very struck how industry could become part of a culture of a place, an identity of a place and I knew there was an American story to be told there,” Fondakowski said in an interview.
Her related stageplay, “Spill,” has made the rounds across the nation and recently finished a heralded New York City run. She spent years in research and interviews with the survivors, locals and the families of the 11 workers who died in the accident.
“Spill” boasts a cast of eight in a minimalist presentation. The stage setting has some benches and a blue rectangle on the floor surrounded by platforms. It’s been noted how the actors use extensions cords whipped and scraped across the floor for a remarkable sonic suggestion of lapping waves.
The New York Times review called it “zealously researched and intellectually rangy … This is a play to make you clutch at your program.”
Though it premiered in Baton Rouge in 2014, Artifice found no indication it has been back this way since. This columnist thinks it ripe for regional return and few places could be more appropriate than Mobile, the place that became the hub for the response.
The stark set dressing and lighting would make it easy to stage. We have numerous venues in most any size, from Alabama Contemporary Art Center, to USA’s Laidlaw Performing Arts Center, to the Saenger Theatre. Any of them could handle it.
Now all we need are some motivated locals with the power and purse strings to make it happen. Any takers?
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