- the (re)making project
Charles L. Mee is a major American writer whose playsѣollages/ montages for the theatrewre widely produced and very influential. This is the first overview of Mee's work, edited and with writings by Erin B. Mee. Included in this section are an analytic introduction, an interview, a manifesto, a chronology, and a play.
Please feel free to take the texts from this website and use them as a resource for your own work: cut them up, rearrange them, rewrite them, throw things out, put things in, do whatever you like with them-and then, please, put your own name to the work that results.
But, if you would like to perform the texts as I have written them, they are protected by copyright in the versions you read here, and you need to clear performance rights with ICM, 40 W. 57th Street, New York, New York, 10019, attention Sam Cohn-or get in touch with Libby Edwards by phone at 212-556-6881, by fax at 212-556-6781, by email at <email@example.com>.
There is no such thing as an original play.
None of the classical Greek plays were original: they were all based on earlier plays or poems or myths. And none of Shakespeare's plays are original: they are all taken from earlier work. As You Like It is taken from a novel by Thomas Lodge1 published just 10 years before Shakespeare put on his play without attribution or acknowledgment. Chunks of Antony and Cleopatra are taken verbatim, and, to be sure, without apology, fr om a contemporary translation of Plutarch's Lives. Brecht's Caucasian Chalk Circle is taken from a play by Klabund,2 on which Brecht served as dramaturg in 1926; and Klabund had taken his play from an early Chinese play.
Sometimes playwrights steal stories and conversations and dreams and intimate revelations from their friends and lovers and call this original.
And sometimes some of us write about our own innermost lives, belie ving that, then, we have written something truly original and unique. But, of course, the culture writes us first, and then we write our stories. When we look at a painting of the virgin and child by Botticelli, we recognize at once that it is a Renaissance painting-that it is a product of its time and place. We may not know or recognize at once that it was painted by Botticelli, but we do see that it is a Renaissance painting. We see that it has been derived from, and authored by, the culture that produced it.
And yet we recognize, too , that this painting of the virgin and child is not identical to one by Raphael or Ghirlandaio or Leonardo. So, clearly, while the culture creates much of Botticelli, it is also true that Botticelli creates the culture-that he took the culture into himself and transformed it in his own unique way.
And so, whether we mean to or not, the work we do is both received and created, both an adaptation and an original, at the same time. We remake things as we go.
The plays on this web site were mostly composed in the way that Max Ernst made his Fatagaga pieces toward the end of World War I: texts have often been taken from, or inspired by, other texts. Among the sources for these pieces are the classical plays of Euripides as well as texts from the contemporary world.
I think of these appropriated texts as historical documents-as evidence of who and how we are and what we do. And I think of the characters who speak these texts as characters like the rest of us: people through whom the culture speaks, often without the speakers knowing it.
And I hope those who read the plays published here will feel free to treat the texts I've made in the same way I've treated the texts of others.
1. Thomas Lodge wrote Rosalynde, printed in 1590, which was Shakespeare's source for As You Like It.
2. Klabund, also known as Alfred Henschke, was a writer and...