Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Francesca Submitted to New Works Festival

Yesterday was the submission deadline for the 2008 New Works Festival at College of the Canyons.

I submitted Scene 1 from my next verse play, Francesca, plus two other short pieces. Francesca is still very much a work in progress. I've written several scenes, and lots of snippets for the second act, but the first scene is the only one I'm happy with at this point.

I should find out by the end of the year if Francesca makes the cut.

If you're interested in reading Act One, Scene 1, it's posted here: Francesca: a play in verse.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

New Works Festival 2008

Last year Valentino: a play in verse was staged at the College of the Canyons New Works Festival. I plan to submit a different play this year. The deadline is November 26.

Playwrights interested in submitting should check out this website: New Works Festival.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Tartuffe at College of the Canyons

Next month, in addition to writing verse dramas, I will be acting in one. I'm playing the title role in Moliere's Tartuffe. Performances are November 14-18, 2007.

For tickets and additional information, check out Tartuffe at College of the Canyons.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Valentino at Online Booksellers

So my book is finally starting to appear on the websites of online booksellers.

The listings lack cover art and they claim by book is unavailable (though you can purchase Valentino at Lulu.com).

I'll have to contact the sites to upload artwork and correct the listings, but just seeing "Valentino: a play in verse" on Amazon.com is a big step forward.

Valentino at Amazon.com
Valentino at Barnes and Noble

Valentino on Google Book Search

Several months ago I submitted my book to Google Book Search.

This week, googling around for references to "Valentino," I noticed that a preview of Valentino: a play in verse is now available from Google.

Very cool!

Check it out:

Valentino: a play in verse.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Francesca: a play in verse

I'm writing a new verse play based on the tragic love story of Francesca da Rimini and Paolo Malatesta. The story comes from Dante's Inferno. In the nineteenth century, Francesca da Rimini became the subject of several plays, operas, and paintings.

I've posted the first scene on my website: Francesca: a play in verse

Friday, June 15, 2007

Public Reading of Valentino: a play in verse

Saturday, June 23, 1pm

Valencia Library
23743 W. Valencia Blvd.
Santa Clarita, CA 91355
(661) 259-8942

This is a free event.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Valentino Auditions

I'm looking to cast a few more actors for a public reading of Valentino: a play in verse. The event will take place at the Valencia Library multipurpose room on Saturday, June 23.

We will read the complete play. Admission is free. Actors will have books in hand. No memorization necessary, but I will schedule rehearsals for the week prior.

The New Works Festival cast of Valentino is invited to reprise their roles for this event. For those of you who were in the New Works cast, please confirm your interest and availability.

In addition, I will be holding auditions for the following roles:

Niccolo Machiavelli (Male, 32)
Leonardo da Vinci (Male, 50)
Pope Alexander VI (Male, 72)
Ramiro de Lorqua (Male, 50s)
Francesco Orsini (Male, 20s)

If you'd like to familiarize yourself with the verse style of the play, h
ere are four short monologues from Valentino:

My Magnificent Lords, et cetera:
I woke this morning startled by a cry
That echoed through street. Amazed by the
Commotion, I followed. I know not why
Or how, but Ramiro — anathema
Of Italy and scourge of men — is dead.
Two pieces, both his body and his head,
Were displayed with a block and knife. My quill
Cannot do justice. Why decapitate
Him? Why would Valentino want to kill
The man? Except, perhaps, to demonstrate
That men are made, and broken, at his will.
The wheel has turned. We folly at our fate,
Until we fall beneath Fortuna's felly.
Your servant, Niccolò Machiavelli.

A genius knows his mystery demands
A sacrifice, the blistering of hands.
His life is dedicated, disciplined,
To conquer chaos — formlessness to form.
The traits of nature must be tamed and twinned.
Inspiration? A constant, seething swarm.
It’s not the sudden windfall, but the wind —
The whirling, swirling, skirling of the storm.
The genius learns to stand, instead of duck,
To live life under stress, till thunderstruck.
Though pangs of anguish claim him on the cliff,
He does not languish, living out his lot.
While other men are scuttling the skiff,
He crowns the crest, a fearless Argonaut.
All life has genius. Yet you speak as if
I have some gift that others haven’t got.
No. Genius is a quest. It’s not a quirk.
It is a willingness to do the work.

My words can save you from the other side.
I'm standing between you and your Creator.
But if my brother hears that I have died,
He'll stop at nothing, kill you now or later.
You may try hiding, but he'll have your hide.
My brother always knew you were a traitor —
Your colors are more Ghibelline than Guelph.
But if you kill me, then you kill yourself.
He found you out, and he will do you in.
My brother is a beast you'll never tame.
He'll kill you first, and then he'll kill your kin.
He'll put your field and family to flame.
He'll leave them crying, dying in the din.
I swear he'll burn all books that bear your name,
Till all your dreams are buried in the sod.
My brother is the bloody hand of God.

This is a wicked world that we must live in.
Confess your sins and clear your conscience, child.
There are no crimes that cannot be forgiven.
God's grace can save what demons have defiled.
Please, let me help you save your soul. Be shriven.
It's time that you and God were reconciled.
All men are sinners, down deep in their bones.
You will not find me casting any stones.
Impart your cares. Sometimes it helps to talk.
The heart's a reliquary, the abode
And haunt of revenant remorse. We walk
A dark defile, that long, bedeviled road
Between the cradle and the catafalque.
We need not walk alone. Please, share the load.
So much wreckage, where recollection delves.
Guilt is revenge we take upon ourselves.

— from Valentino: a play in verse

© 2007 by David Wisehart

If you are interested in auditioning, please email me at: David_Wisehart@hotmail.com

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Alliance of Los Angeles Playwrights

I am a member of the Alliance of Los Angeles Playwrights.

If you're an L.A.-based playwright, you should definitely consider joining. They have a Reading Festival, a Playwrights Expo, a New Works Lab, and much more.

Among the active members listed on their website is, believe it or not, David Wisehart, author of Valentino: a play in verse.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Radio Interview with David Wisehart about Valentino: a play in verse

(Radio transcript, AM 1220 KHTS, airdate 2/15/07.
You can listen to it here (mp3 file).
My segment starts 40 minutes into the one-hour program.)

Paul Strickland: Well, hello, and welcome back. This is "Thursday Matinee" and I'm Paul Strickland, your host on your hometown station AM 1220 KHTS.

Well my guest today is David Wisehart. Now let me tell you how I met David. You know, we have this wonderful college up here called the College of the Canyons and they have so many programs that they offer. And one of the things they do, they actually allow community involvement in some of their plays, along with the students on campus, and they perform them at the Performing Arts Center and also at the Black Box Theatre, which is really a state-of-the-art black box theatre. If you have never been there, you should really go and see something performed there.

Anyway, I actually was trying out for something over there and I met this man who actually has written, believe it or not — this is just amazing to me — a play in verse. And the play is 82 pages long and it's all in verse, from the period of Italy in 1502. I mean, it's just amazing. And not only is it in verse, but it's also written in the language and the thoughts of its time. It's amazing, David. How could you ever do this?

David Wisehart: Hi, Paul. Thank you.

Well, it took about three years to write. And, you know, I did a lot of research, I had actually recently left a job. I was working in Hollywood, and was working as a Producer in interactive entertainment and videogames, had saved up some money, and I had always wanted to be a writer. And I had always written on the side, but I want to write professionally, I wanted to devote my life to it. That was my passion.

I left the corporate world, left Hollywood, spent basically three years living off my savings, traveled to Italy, read most of Shakespeare, read a lot of Italian stuff, studied Italian, read Machiavelli — this play is based on a story from Machiavelli — and basically, you know, just immersed myself in that world, and came up with a language that I thought would fit the time and the period and the play I wanted to write.

PS: In verse.

DW: In verse, yeah.

Actually, the verse form is ottava rima. It's a verse form that comes out of Renaissance Italy and before that from the troubadour tradition in Provencal France, in the Occitan language. And Giovanni Boccaccio, who was an Italian poet, popularized it in Italy. At the time that I'm writing the play, which is 1502 — that's sort of the height of the Italian Renaissance — it was one of the more popular forms, along with the Petrarchan sonnet.

One of my characters is Lucrezia Borgia. The story is about the Borgia family. Lucrezia, after the events in the play, went on to become a patron of the arts in Ferrara, and one of the people that she patronized was Ludovico Ariosto, who wrote a long epic, Italian epic, in ottava rima, which in part talked about Lucrezia Borgia. But the whole thing was written in this verse form that I was reading at the time, and got really sort of sucked into it, and hooked into it, and I thought, "Wow, this is really great." And it's a way to do a verse play that's not faux Shakespeare, that's not Elizabethan, but has that heightened language, has the feel of the Italian Renaissance.

In verse, I think the form sort of influences, in some ways, the thoughts. I think if you write in Elizabethan you sort of think in that sense. If you write in prose, you think more like a common man. The form sort of dictates, to some extent, or influences, the kinds of things you write about. And this is written in rhyme, its written — in English — the iambic pentameter line.

PS: Now let me ask you this, David. That's really a great explanation, and I want to go back to that, but I want to ask you, now is this the first time this is being performed?

DW: At C.O.C. It is the first time. It'll be performed for the New Works Festival. It will be performed in March. The dates, the general dates, are March 22-25. There will be a number of plays. It's eight plays. This will be one of them. It will not be performed in it's entirety, but several scenes. This is a full-length play. The other plays are short plays. Probably two separate evenings. We're still working out the schedule, but the dates are the 22nd through the 25th in the Black Box Theatre at the C.O.C., which is where we're going to be rehearsing and working on it.

PS: Will it be in the evening or in the afternoon?

DW: I believe there will be evening and matinees. It's Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday. I believe the weekends will have matinees as well. The exact schedule is yet to be determined, but those are the days.

PS: Well, I know that the first Thursday in the month, what I call "C.O.C. Day," I have people come over from there and they tell me what's coming up, so they'll tell us, I'm sure, about this. So this is very, very, very interesting. And so you will get to see your own play. It must be a quite a feeling.

DW: It's very exciting. I wrote this very much in a vacuum. You know, had sent it out. When I finished — it took about three years to write, like I said — I sent it out to a number of the major regional theaters around the country, and nobody was interested in reading it. And then I saw a C.O.C. bulletin about how the New Works Festival was for the first time opening itself up to the community, and not just to the college — I was not a C.O.C. student at the time — and I thought, well, this'll be a great chance to hear actors actually perform it, and I submitted it, got it accepted, and I've had a chance now to hear some of the student actors both audition on it, and in the Winter Session actually repeat the lines. I had done some readings for family and friends, and I kind of had it in my head, but to actually hear real actors, trained actors, speak the lines, is just absolutely amazing.

PS: That was my next question. I know it's one thing to write something, and then to actually hear or see it being performed, or both. Just to hear their version, their interpretation, that doesn't always gel with yours, does it?

DW: Well, so far we've done mostly cold readings. They haven't had a chance to really deeply rehearse it. It doesn't exactly match what's in my head, but that's also the nature of theater. It's a collaborative art. The actors bring their own sensibility to it. They bring their own physicality, they bring their own voice, they bring their own conception of what the play is about, and the director obviously has an influence on that as well, in terms of the pace, what to emphasize —

PS: Well, he's the one that actually brings the two together, the director.

DW: Yes, yes.

PS: And I know that must be exciting for you, to be involved in all of that.

DW: It's incredibly exciting. And sort of sitting back and watching that, and stepping away from it and seeing other people take it over. It's actually very thrilling.

PS: We forgot to mention the name of your play. It's Valentino. This is a play in verse. We're talking with David Wisehart. And we're going to hear even more from him. And we'll be right back on your hometown station, AM 1220 KHTS.


PS: Hey, we are right back on "Thursday Matinee," and I'm Paul Strickland, your host, and this is your hometown station AM 1220 KHTS. And we're visiting with David Wisehart, a playwright who has written a play, Valentino: a play in verse.

He was telling us all about that kind of verse, and this is a play that will be performed for the first time at the New Works event over at the College of the Canyons Performing Arts Center. And that's coming up soon.

And Valentino is something that David had written in verse and it takes place in Italy in 1502, and he actually took a verse form that was used around then, is that right?

DW: Yeah, it's the ottava rima verse form. Not that well known —

PS: What exactly is that verse form?

DW: What it is, is an eight-line stanza, iambic pentameter — so, if you're familiar with blank verse in Shakespeare, that's sort of the basics of it. It has an alternating rhyme scheme of a-b-a-b-a-b-c-c. So there's a couplet at the end. And what I do in the play is, you know, there are some monologues, some speeches —

PS: All with one character saying that.

DW: — where you'll have that, but in a lot of it I break it up into dialogue. So when you're listening to it in the theater, you will sort of lose the sense of it being in rhyme and pick up the sense of it being just the characters. And there is always that cadence underneath it, you've got always that iambic pentameter. It's like a heartbeat that runs throughout the entire show and sort of propels everything forward. And you've got the rhymes, and what the rhymes do for you is it builds anticipation and release. So if you're listening for it, you're sort of anticipating what that rhyme might be, but eventually you're going to lose that sense of it and they come as surprises.

PS: Listeners, when you hear this, it's just amazing. This is a man who gave up his job and took three years in writing this play. It's 82 pages. And it's just absolutely a beautiful piece of work here, and now you're going to get a chance to see this, locally, right here in Santa Clarita, for the first time, and for him it's the first time, too.

DW: Yeah, it's great.

PS: It's just amazing. And you know what I was thinking as you were talking, David, it just crossed my mind, that in 1502 there was absolutely zero technology, so all people had was the mind and thought and reading and thinking —

DW: Yeah, it was a very interesting time. The Renaissance was — everything was changing.

PS: Everything was changing at once. And the arts brought them through.

DW: Right. To give you a sense of the time, there are two relatively famous people who are characters in the play. The play is about the Borgia family —

PS: Leonardo —

DW: Leonardo da Vinci is a character. Leonardo had worked at this period designing war machines for Cesare Borgia, who is Duke Valentino. He was known as "Valentino." And he hired Leonardo da Vinci to draw maps, to build fortresses, and to build war machines, most of which probably weren't built, but the designs that we think about — flying machines, and those kind of things — came out of this period, when he was designing war machines. He was not actually painting much. He was doing a lot of anatomical studies because there was warfare. Valentino was, you know, killing a lot of people, so there were corpses laying around. He was, you know, doing dissections. But this was very sort of —

PS: Nothing like that happens today.

DW: No, no, no, no. But it is a very sort of volatile period in the Renaissance, and the Borgia family, they were the rulers of the Church. The interesting thing is, the father was the pope and he had children, and the children were trying to take over — Valentino was trying to take over Italy and carve out a duchy for himself, and he was sacking all these towns.

He is actually — and one of the things that drew me to it — if you're familiar Machiavelli, Machiavellianism, Machiavelli's The Prince, the story comes out of that. Machiavelli was an envoy, a diplomat, for Florence to the court of Valentino, and he greatly admired Valentino. And what we think of as Machiavellianism, this sort of ruthless power politics —

PS: Not really, but it still works today.

DW: — comes not from Machiavelli himself, but the people that he observed and particularly from this character, Valentino. So he was both brilliant and treacherous. He spoke five languages. He wrote poetry. He was a patron of the arts. And he conquered a great deal of Italy, and everybody sort of admired him. He was tall, handsome, all these things. Everybody said, "Wow, this is a great guy." But he was also ruthless in a lot of ways, too. So he was very Machiavellian.

PS: But I think he was very aware of what people thought about him, so he used that.

DW: Oh, yes. That's a big part of it as well.

PS: You know what was so interesting, one of the interesting things with Machiavelli is to "befriend your enemies" so you always keep them at hand.

DW: Keep your enemies close. "Your friends close, and your enemies closer." Yes.

PS: That's something that I've never forgotten. And that still works. Many of the things he wrote about, you can use.

DW: Yeah, it's human nature. It's one version of how to look at human nature.

PS: Early psychology.

DW: Right. One of the things that got me interested in this was the Godfather films. I was at UCLA in film school and had an entire class on the Godfather films, and Francis Coppola stepped in and was talking about the making of the films. He was a guest, and he talked about how Mario Puzo had based the characters of the Corleones on the Borgia family, and I didn't really know who the Borgias were. And so I researched them and found they were sort of the proto-Godfather family. They were sort of a crime family in the Renaissance. So there's a little bit of that kind of family dynamic that you see in a contemporary setting in The Godfather, in a historical setting was these characters as well.

PS: Well that sounds like that sparked you on, right?

DW: That was a big spark. I was a big fan of the Godfather films, and became more and more interested in that period, and —

PS: And you "went to the mattresses!" And you had so much fun. And now we can see this at the C.O.C. Performing Arts Center, right?

DW: Yes, at the New Works Festival in March. We're in rehearsals now. And we're just finishing up with final casting and really looking forward to the whole rehearsal process, and watching all the other plays as well.

PS: Oh, my gosh. Well, that's so exciting. David, you know, I'm so glad you came to visit with us. And I look forward to you coming back when we're very close to the show actually being performed, if you don't mind, then we can really renew people's interest and get more and more and more people over there to see you, David Wisehart. And David, I know that you'll be very successful.

DW: Thank you, Paul.

PS: We hope that this will just lead you to the stars.

DW: The first step, thank you.

PS: The first step. Thank you very much. And this is your hometown station AM 1220 KHTS.

New Verse Drama Blog

This blog is dedicated to my first verse play, Valentino. I'm now writing a second verse drama, and intend to write many more. Rather than expand this blog beyond it's original purview, I've started a new blog to promote verse drama as an art form.

So please check out my new Verse Drama Blog.

Lucrezia Borgia Stage Play

I came across a couple of reviews for a 1997 stage play, Lions and Foxes: The Life of Lucrezia Borgia.

The OOBR (Off-Off-Broadway-Review) says:
As Lucrezia Borgia, Quiche Kemble's performance was something of a tour de force: she was on stage for almost the entire play. As playwright, Ms. Kemble has emphasized how little is really known about Lucrezia. Perhaps she was not the monster most people seem to have believed her to be, perhaps she was. This ambivalence is reflected in the play and to some extent in Ms. Kemble's performance.
And according to CurtainsUp:
The result is a 5-character play focusing on the life of Lucrezia Borgia between 1497, when she was 18 years old, pregnant and about to be married for the third time to her death at age 39 (a not so unusually young age for the period). And guess what? This Lucrezia, while something of a licentious silly goose apparently none the worse for years of incestuous relations with her brother Cesare and her father (Pope Alexander VI), emerges as a gifted and right-minded ruler, and heroic fighter for woman's right to free will. A far cry from Donizetti's opera based on the same character!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Valentino on MySpace

I've created a new profile on MySpace to promote my work.

The current focus is Valentino: a play in verse.

This week I posted a series of short excerpts from the play, including two of Valentino's monologues which were cut from the New Works Festival version.

Check 'em out here.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

My Next Verse Play

Seeing Valentino on stage at the New Works Festival last month convinced me that my verse style can work for an audience. They loved it. I'm eager to try it again, this time with a simpler story and a smaller cast.

I've just started writing a new verse play, and last night I finished a rough draft of the first scene. This one is a romantic tragedy in the vein of Romeo and Juliet.

I plan to finish by June 15, which is the deadline for a new verse drama contest sponsored by The Poetry Foundation.

(Sadly, Valentino is ineligible because it's already published.)

It took me three years to write Valentino.

I've got two months to write my new verse play.

Will I finish before the deadline? When will I sleep? Am I insane?

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Emily Charouhas on Opening Night

New Works Festival playwright Emily Charouhas was interviewed again by our local newspaper, this time on opening night:

"It was really a lot of fun," said Emily about the experience, only a few minutes before scenes from her play - about an over-the-top and eccentric theater producer named Mr. Furnettle - were to be performed in the COC Performing Arts Center Black Box Theater.

"For a while it was a little intimidating," said Emily about her college classroom experiences, "but we're all sort of friends now, so that certainly made it a lot easier."

Mr. Furnettle and the Christmas Debacle was directed by David Stears and featured the comic stylings of Andrew Fish Booth, Nick Huff, Sarah Oh, Desiree M. Doyle, and Andrea Plaud.

I attended most of the rehearsals, and it was great fun watching Emily's reaction to seeing her own play come to life.

But perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of her experience came near the middle of the production process - which culminated for Emily when she first witnessed actors performing during rehearsals.

"I guess my favorite part was when we started doing the run-through of all the plays, that was really cool," said Emily with a wide smile. "It was so cool, I couldn't stop smiling. It was just so cool."

The play was truly hilarious.

Great job, Emily!

Read the rest of the article here.

Friday, March 23, 2007

New Format for New Works Festival

Here is the press release for this year's College of the Canyons New Works Festival (Valentino opens Program B):

Original Works, New Format for New Works Festival

The College of the Canyons New Works Festival is an event that invites local playwrights to submit original works and have them performed before live audiences in the College of the Canyons Performing Arts Center. Now in its fifth year, this year's festival will be held from March 22 to 25 in the center's Black Box theater.

More than 18 playwrights submitted works this year and eight have been chosen for presentation. During the college's winter session, the scripts were prepared for presentation and during the spring semester, they are rehearsed and performed.

"This is a unique process," said David Stears, director of the New Works Festival. "With most festivals, the play is submitted and as a playwright, you don't see that work again until the performance. This is an opportunity to work through the entire process, so the playwright can refine the product right up until the end."

Over the years, the festival's format has evolved and this year there are some substantial changes. This year, for the first time, the festival opened the submission process to anyone in the community. "We are a community college," said Stears, "so why not invite everyone from the community to participate?"

Also new this year is a Playwright's Symposium, a panel discussion beginning at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 22, with some of Los Angeles' most exciting playwrights. The discussion will focus on the creation and production of scripts and will be followed by an open question, answer and discussion forum. Panel participants will be:

  • Katherine Griffith, Playwright
  • Randee Trabitz, Director
  • Mickey Birnbaum, Playwright
  • Jennie Webb, Playwright

Admission to the panel discussion is free, and there will be no late seating.

Since more pieces than usual were selected for presentation this year, it became more difficult to present all of the pieces in a single evening. "This challenge became an opportunity to widen the festival," said Stears. "By adding performances and alternating the presentations, we've created more of a festival feel to the event."

Scheduling isn't the only difference in this year's programs. "Two of the selections are what we consider challenging work," said Stears. "So we've included those two pieces together in an evening." Both pieces contain language and subject matter that may not be suitable for all audiences. Performances have been grouped into two distinct programs .

Program A

Challenges Faced -- Six pieces of questions, challenges, and hope.

Suitable for most audiences.

  • Friday at 7 p.m.
  • Saturday at 4 p.m.

Program B

The Machiavelli Way -- Two pieces with a common backdrop: revenge and reconciliation. This program may be considered challenging in language and content. Some material may be considered offensive or inappropriate for all audiences.

  • Saturday at 8 p.m.
  • Sunday at 2 p.m.

The final change to this year's festival format is the addition of a Talk Back session after each performance. This is an opportunity for the audience to give its feedback to playwrights, actors, and directors on the work they've just seen. "It's an opportunity," said Stears, "for audiences to express themselves and let their voices be heard."

Admission is free for all New Works Festival performances. No advance reservations are accepted. Admittance is on a first-come, first-served basis. Doors open 30 minutes prior to curtain. For more information about the performances, contact David Stears at (661) 259-7800, Ext. 26064.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Cesare Borgia, Requiescat In Pace

Today is the 500th anniversary of Cesare Borgia's death.

This is how Raphael Sabatini describes the event in The Life of Cesare Borgia:
Cesare Borgia, landless, without right to any title, he that had held so many, betrayed and abandoned on every side, had now nothing to offer in the world's market but his stout sword and his glad courage. These went to the first bidder for them, who happened to be his brother-in-law King Jean.

Navarre at the time was being snarled and quarrelled over by France and Spain, both menacing its independence, each pretending to claims upon it which do not, in themselves, concern us.

In addition, the country itself was torn by two factions--the Beaumontes and the Agramontes--and it was entrusted to Cesare to restore Navarre to peace and unity at home before proceeding--with the aid upon which he depended from the Emperor Maximilian--to deal with the enemies beyond her frontiers.

The Castle of Viana was being held by Louis de Beaumont--chief of the faction that bore his name--and refused to surrender to the king. To reduce it and compel Beaumont to obedience went Cesare as Captain-General of Navarre, early in February of 1507. He commanded a considerable force, some 10,000 strong, and with this and his cannon he laid siege to the citadel.

The natural strength of the place was such as might have defied any attempt to reduce it by force; but victuals were running low, and there was every likelihood of its being speedily starved into surrender. To frustrate this, Beaumont conceived the daring plan of attempting to send in supplies from Mendavia. The attempt being made secretly, by night and under a strong escort, was entirely successful; but, in retreating, the Beaumontese were surprised in the dawn of that February morning by a troop of reinforcements coming to Cesare's camp. These, at sight of the rebels, immediately gave the alarm.

The most hopeless confusion ensued in the town, where it was at once imagined that a surprise attack was being made upon the Royalists, and that they had to do with the entire rebel army.

Cesare, being aroused by the din and the blare of trumpets calling men to arms, sprang for his weapons, armed himself in haste, flung himself on a horse, and, without pausing so much as to issue a command to his waiting men-at-arms, rode headlong down the street to the Puerta del Sol. Under the archway of the gate his horse stumbled and came down with him. With an oath, Cesare wrenched the animal to its feet again, gave it the spur, and was away at a mad, furious gallop in pursuit of the retreating Beaumont rearguard.

The citizens, crowding to the walls of Viana, watched that last reckless ride of his with amazed, uncomprehending eyes. The peeping sun caught his glittering armour as he sped, so that of a sudden he must have seemed to them a thing of fire--meteoric, as had been his whole life's trajectory which was now swiftly dipping to its nadir.

Whether he was frenzied with the lust of battle, riding in the reckless manner that was his wont, confident that his men followed, yet too self- centred to ascertain, or whether--as seems more likely--it was simply that his horse had bolted with him, will never be known until all things are known.

Suddenly he was upon the rearguard of the fleeing rebels. His sword flashed up and down; again and again they may have caught the gleam of it from Viana's walls, as he smote the foe. Irresistible as a thunderbolt, he clove himself a way through those Beaumontese. He was alone once more, a flying, dazzling figure of light, away beyond that rearguard which he left scathed and disordered by his furious passage. Still his mad career continued, and he bore down upon the main body of the escort.

Beaumont sat his horse to watch, in such amazement as you may conceive, the wild approach of this unknown rider.

Seeing him unsupported, some of the count's men detached themselves to return and meet this single foe and oblige him with the death he so obviously appeared to seek.

They hedged him about--we do not know their number--and, engaging him, they drew him from the road and down into the hollow space of a ravine.

And so, in the thirty-second year of his age, and in all the glory of his matchless strength, his soul possessed of the lust of combat, sword in hand, warding off the attack that rains upon him, and dealing death about him, he meets his end. From the walls of Viana his resplendent armour renders him still discernible, until, like a sun to its setting, he passes below the rim of that ravine, and is lost to the watcher's view.

Death awaited him amid the shadows of that hollow place.

Unhorsed by now, he fought with no concern for the odds against him, and did sore execution upon his assailants, ere a sword could find an opening in his guard to combine with a gap in his armour and so drive home. That blade had found, maybe, his lungs. Still he swung his sword, swaying now upon his loosening knees. His mouth was full of blood. It was growing dark. His hands began to fail him. He reeled like a drunkard, sapped of strength, and then the end came quickly. Blows unwarded showered upon him now.

He crashed down in all the glory of his rich armour, which those brigand- soldiers already coveted. And thus he died--mercifully, maybe happily, for he had no time in which to taste the bitterness of death--that awful
draught which he had forced upon so many.

Within a few moments of his falling, this man who had been a living force, whose word had carried law from the Campagna to the Bolognese, was so much naked, blood-smeared carrion--for those human vultures stripped him to the skin; his very shirt must they have. And there, a stark, livid corpse, of no more account than any dog that died last Saturday, they left Cesare Borgia of France, Duke of Romagna and Valentinois, Prince of Andria, and Lord of a dozen Tyrannies.

The body was found there anon by those who so tardily rode after their leader, and his dismayed troopers bore those poor remains to Viana. The king, arriving there that very day, horror-stricken at the news and sight that awaited him, ordered Cesare a magnificent funeral, and so he was laid to rest before the High Altar of Sainte Marie de Viane.

To rest? May the soul of him rest at least, for men--Christian men—have refused to vouchsafe that privilege to his poor ashes.

Nearly two hundred years later--at the close of the seventeenth century, a priest of God and a bishop, one who preached a gospel of love and mercy so infinite that he dared believe by its lights no man to have been damned, came to disturb the dust of Cesare Borgia. This Bishop of Calahorra--lineal descendant in soul of that Pharisee who exalted himself in God's House, thrilled with titillations of delicious horror at the desecrating presence of the base publican--had his pietist's eyes offended by the slab that marked Cesare Borgia's resting-place.(1)

1 It bore the following legend:


which, more or less literally may be Englished as follows: "Here in a little earth, lies one whom all did fear; one whose hands dispensed both peace and war. Oh, you that go in search of things deserving praise, if you would praise the worthiest, then let your journey end here, nor trouble to go farther."
Here is my own verse translation of Cesare Borgia's epitaph:
Buried in this bit of earth
Lies one who held the world in fear,
A man whose hands have given birth
To war and peace. If you're sincere
And hope to find a man of worth,
Then end your troubled journey here.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Viana Forgives Valentino's Sins

Duke Valentino (Cesare Borgia) was killed on March 12, 1507 during the seige of Viana, a town in the Kingdom of Navarre, which is now part of northern Spain.

He was buried in Viana's Santa Maria Church. His remains were later exhumed by a bishop who thought Valentino did not deserve a Christian burial. Valentino's bones were re-interred beneath a city street, only to be dug up again by a roadwork crew in 1945.
His remains were shut away as a debate raged between the city fathers and the Catholic clergy on what to do next: the city fathers wanted Cesare reburied in the church, a move resisted by clergy horrified by his sins. The city fathers have won, and Cesare will again rest in the Santa Maria Church.
Read the full article here.

Valentino on KHTS Radio

A few weeks ago I was a guest on KHTS (AM 1220), talking about my play Valentino with Paul Strickland on his "Thursday Matinee" show.

You can hear the February 15 epsisode of the show here (mp3 file).

My segment starts about 40 minutes into the one-hour program.

Cesare Borgia Reburied after 500 Years

In the 500 years since the death of Cesare Borgia, his bones have not exactly rested in peace:
Like Cesare himself, whose violent life came to a violent end at 32, the tomb was not long for this world. In 1527, a touring bishop of Calahorra. whose family had long been persecuted by Rome's ruthless Borgias, caught sight of it and howled at the outrage of such a sinner as Cesare being buried in church ground. The sarcophagus was demolished forthwith. The remains of Cesare Borgia, illegitimate son of Pope Alexander VI and himself a cardinal at 18, an accomplished murderer at 25, and military conqueror of a good part of Italy at 27, were carried into the street and buried beneath the cobblestones and the dung of passing cattle. For 400 years the villagers of Viana avoided the unmarked grave, particularly on the night of March 11, when Cesare's ghost is said to be abroad and thirsty for vengeance. For generations the city fathers of Viana urged Cesare's reburial inside the church; for generations the priests of Viana resisted them.
Now, at last, his bones have been reburied in consecrated ground.

Read the full article here.

Machiavelli's Hero

The L.A. Times today published a great article by Alexander Stille about the Borgias, which is timed to coincide with tomorrow's 500th Anniversary of Cesare Borgia's death:
THE NAME Borgia is synonymous with Renaissance decadence, treachery and ruthless realpolitik. The tales of the handsome and bloodthirsty condottiere Cesare Borgia; his father, Pope Alexander VI, and his sister, the beautiful Lucrezia, who may (or may not) have also been his lover, have spawned an endless number of tales, poems, novels, operas and movies.
Including, I might add, Valentino: a play in verse.

The article goes on to discuss the historical events upon which my play is based:
When Giovanni was assassinated, his brother took over his position, giving rise to the rumor that young Cesare Borgia had done Giovanni in.

A daring military adventurer, Borgia worked to strengthen the papacy's hold on central and northern Italy and to carve out what he hoped would be a kingdom for himself that might rival Venice and Naples.

Perhaps his most enduring claim on our attention is that his deeds and misdeeds attracted the notice of a young Florentine government servant named Niccolo Machiavelli, who had spent time as an emissary in Borgia's court and wrote back long reports about the young man commonly known as the Duke Valentino, one of many titles he held.

One of the most famous of the surviving reports is known as the "Description of the Methods Adopted by the Duke Valentino when Murdering Vitellozzo Vitelli … " in which Machiavelli, with some admiration, writes of the shrewdness with which Borgia lured his principal rivals to the town of Sinigalia and had them strangled.
Read the full article here.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Meet the Original Cast of Valentino

While the New Works Festival cast of Valentino is busy memorizing their lines for their first performance on Saturday, March 24, 8pm, I thought I'd go ahead and make the introductions:
VALENTINO – Lou Steele
LEONARDO DA VINCI – Andrew Fish Booth
MICHELOTTO – Chriss Nicholas
CARDINAL ORSINI – Paul Strickland
SOLDIERS – Andrea Plaud and Sarah Oh
I'm very excited to have such a talented group of actors speaking my words on stage for the first time.

Break a leg, everyone!

New Works Festival Schedule

The schedule for the 2007 College of the Canyons New Works Festival has been announced:
Thursday, March 22, 7pm – Playwrights Symposium

Friday, March 23, 7pm – Program 1:
Mr. Furnettle and the Christmas Debacle by Emily Charouhas
Potluck by Jennifer Swann
GR8GUY4U by Elizabeth Chislett
Alarms by Mary Margaret Sunker
Counting Cards by Colleen Niemi
Prom Dress by Karen Gorback

Saturday, March 24, 4pm – Program 1 (see above)

Saturday, March 24, 8pm – Program 2:
Valentino: A Play in Verse by David Wisehart
Construction/Deconstruction by Joe Camhi

Sunday, March 25, 2pm - Program 2 (see above)
All performances take place in the Black Box Theater at the College of the Canyons. Admission is free, but there is very limited seating. Show up early.

My play, Valentino, will be an excerpt from the full-length play. The actors will perform Act One, Scenes 2 and 3. The New Works staging will run about 45 minutes, and represents about one third of the entire work.

This is a minimal production, with no period costumes and only limited blocking. However, the actors will be "off-book" (lines memorized), and there will be a sword fight!

For more information, go to the New Works Festival website.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

New Works Festival Playwright Joe Camhi

One of my fellow playwrights in the College of the Canyons New Works Festival is Joe Camhi, who is also an accomplished poet and short story writer.

You can find samples of his published work online.

Check it out.

A Comic Tragedy
The Ballad of Joe Bell
And Anyone Can Play

Short story:
Busting Holes

Friday, January 12, 2007

Congratulations, Emily Charouhas!

One of my fellow students in the College of the Canyons New Works Festival class is 12-year-old Emily Charouhas. Her stage play, Mr. Furnettle and the Christmas Debacle, will be staged in March along with the other plays written by adults.

The submission process was blind, so Emily was accepted because of her talent and not her age. We're all very proud of her, and excited to share the class with such a gifted prodigy.

Emily is also an accomplished actress, with several television credits. I was not surprised to learn that Emily had a background in acting. Many of our greatest playwrights were also actors.

William Shakespeare, for example.

Now Emily's story has appeared in our local newspaper, The Signal:

"While most junior high school students probably prefer to spend their free time listening to music, watching their favorite movies and TV shows, and hanging out with friends, Emily Charouhas likes to sing, act and write award-winning plays - a passion that has landed the 12-year-old student at College of the Canyons for the winter session."

You can read the article here.

Congratulations, Emily!

Monday, January 1, 2007

Valentino Now Available at Lulu.com

My book is available for purchase here.

The price is $14.95.

You can read an online preview, but for some reason the typeface is difficult to read in the preview file. The font is Garamond, and I can assure you it looks gorgeous in the book.

For a more readable sample, check out Act One, Scene 1 on my website.

Google Book Search

I've approve my book, Valentino, for Google Book Search.

Here's what Lulu.com has to say about the service:

"Google Book Search is a free marketing tool that displays your book's content in Google search results. Lulu allows only 20% of your book to be viewed. You will retain all of your content rights if you choose to participate in Google Book Search."

After approving this, I received the following message from Lulu.com:

"Thank you for choosing Google Book Search distribution. A copy of your book will be sent to Google for indexing and will be available at books.google.com in about 8 weeks."

When I see it online, I'll let you know.

Book Approved

Today I approved my book, Valentino: a play in verse, for publication and distribution by Lulu.com.

After reviewing the proof copy of the book, and double-checking the online information, I hit the "approve" button and received the following message:

"You have approved your book 'Valentino: a play in verse' for distribution, and it is being entered into the database of the largest US book wholesaler. Your book will be available to order from leading online and retail book outlets within the next six weeks."


The entire process has been very easy, and I've been extremely happy with both the quality of the printed book and the ease of publication. I'll have more to say about the print-on-demand process in a future post, but for now I'll just say I've been very satisfied.

Of course, the big unknown is whether anyone will buy the book, outside of my circle of friends and family. Valentino is a verse drama, and therefore not a book that would appeal to a traditional publisher unless the play had already received the Pulitzer Prize or been staged on Broadway.

My primary goal in publishing it, aside from pure ego gratification, is to expose the work to a wider theater audience in the hopes of seeing it staged.

The play has already been selected for the College of the Canyons New Works Festival, and that's a great start, but I'm hoping to see a full mainstage production in the near future.

In any case, I am now a published playwright.

I'm looking forward to whatever the new year brings.