Everything Under the Sun 1: Historical Figures

Everything Under the Sun is a short series of posts we'll be doing here at the Aviary, motivated by a potential collaboration on a project that might end up being sort-of/kind-of personal. I have what amount to assignments of exploration of my own interests in particular areas, so I thought I'd put them out there to provoke any responses that you may find irresistible.

Historical Figures of Interest
I'm a littleashamed to admit that I am more influenced by fictional characters -or even character archetypes - than I am by real human beings. That'snot too surprising when you consider that I generally prefer DCComics to Marvel. I like icons better than actual people.

Rainer Maria Rilke
Discovered Edward Snow's translationsof his poetry while in high-teenage mode, full of romance and angst myself.(Snow I found first, and all other translations since seem to me tobe lacking something. Hate when they slavishly follow the rhymescheme.) It was like discovering poetry for the first time. Mygirlfriend of the time (my first real one; first love, truly) was asort of inadvertent historian about a few people she was enthusiasticabout (Artaud, Nin) and inspired me to poke around and learn moreabout the man behind the poetry. I learned about his connections toLou-Andreas Salome and, by extension, Nietzsche, which seemed just amarvelous excuse to continue exploring angsty and existential teenagewonderings. Also learned of his connection to Rodin, which in thatteenage way seemed fated, as my next true love introduced me to artmuseums and The Burgers of Calais facsimilein the sculpture garden in D.C.

Rainerhad something of a confusing and tormented childhood, particularlywith regards to his sexual identity, and he turned out to besomething of a dick husband/father. I was surprised to see howsimilar our facial features were. I continue to think of him as anexample of a great artist who sacrificed all moral considerations forartistic aspirations, which troubles me. I adore his art, and despisehis personal life. Maybe I envy it, too, for its potential sense offreedom. Ironically, I wasn't aware of his Letters to aYoung Poet – one of the moreapt treatises for young, aspiring anythings – until long afterdiscovering his poetry.

Anton Chekhov
Aplaywright I acted for on a couple of shows was fond of how similarhe and I appear when I have my hair short and a goatee (no longer afavorite look of mine). I found this somewhat ironic, as I have neverloved his work. At least at the time, I found TheSeagullenjoyable, and that was about it. Not too long after I was introducedto his one-act plays by one of my mentors, and found them to beblissfully funny. This, plus the aspect of “required reading,”makes me question my initial reaction to his playwriting, but todate I haven't been able to bring myself to really sit down andtackle CherryOrchardor Three Sistersagain.

Buster Keaton
I'll never feel like I deserve Buster. My commedia dell'arte troupedecided a year in advance that our next show would tackle the themeof silent comedies, and we began research. This would become one ofour (if not the) defining creative experiences, and the entireprocess had a profound impact on me as an individual artist. However,when the idea was hatched the creative forces that were guidingthings - for whatever reason – attributed me to Chaplin, and theother male actor to Keaton. So for over half a year I didcomprehensive research on Chaplin. It turned out that one of ourfellow actors ended up directing the show, and her opinion was that Ishould be working on portraying Keaton, and the other fellow, Chaplin.So, after we had both done extensive research and developed prettyprofound appreciations for one auteur, we switched. The effect ofthis was compounded for me by how much I respected/envied(loved?)this other actor – switching off at that point seemed...somehowterrible.

Itwas the right call. He was much better suited to understandingChaplin's amazing pathos, that stays just the right side of maudlin,to absolutely devastatingcathartic effect. Asfor me, I have a face that lends itself to a certain stoicism but,more importantly, I've spent some time studying acrobatics and am anaspiring thinker who appreciates the mechanics of things. Still andall, I feel blessed to have been “given” Keaton. He was anunequivocal genius, hysterical and inspired (and tormented, in atriumphantly private way) who continues to pretty much hold deitystatus in my heart.

Because: Come on. How about that sentence structure?

Edgar Allean Poe
Some of the first legitimate literature I was exposed to, and he wasGOTH as FROCK. Don't forget he write some of the seminal detectivefiction.

Nikola Tesla
Freaking lunatic. Also an impressive intellect. I love that we keepwondering if he was right about some of his more, shall we say,eccentric notions.

Leonardo DaVinci
Similar to Tesla, just an irresponsibly multi-talented genius. I loveguys who have the heart of a poet and the intellectual curiosity andcapacity of an engineer. So, for that matter, see Buster Keaton too.

I'm sort of ashamed there's no American history figures here. I likeBen Franklin's renaissance spirit and flamboyant sense of humor. TossSam Clemens on there, too. Jefferson could write, and was anarchitectural mechanic, and Adams was an admirablystubborn-yet-romantic S.O.B.

But now we're just getting into commonUnited States idols here. Let's wrap it up!
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