Out For Blood

When I walked to Schiller Park on Sunday during one of the dry interludes between the spring rainstorms, work was underway at the amphitheater.  Part of the deck of a pirate ship was being constructed, with the wheel and yardarm yet to be added.  Come Thursday we’ll hear the clash of steel echoing across the parkland as the new season of Actors’ Theatre of Columbus opens with the rollicking pirate swashbuckler Captain Blood.

IMG_5457Actors’ Theatre is one of those institutions that helps to enrich the culture in our fair city.  For decades the group has put on performances of Shakespeare and other plays during the summer at Schiller Park.  The performances are open to all, with a blanket section down front and a lawn chair section behind, and guests are encouraged to pack a picnic dinner and bring the beverage of their choice to enjoy during the shows.  Schiller Park, a great older park with mature trees, is a beautiful setting for outdoor theater on a summer evening.

Amazingly, all of the performances are on a “pay what you will” basis, with audience members putting their contributions into a basket at intermission — although the Actors’ Theatre guys I met on Sunday noted that this year the group will supplement the contributions by offering some reserved chairs and blankets.  The FAQ section of the Actors’ Theatre website notes that each performance costs the group precisely $10.24 per audience member — so everyone should aim to exceed that amount.

This season begins with Captain Blood, running from May 21 through June 21, followed by William Shakespeare’s epic Richard III from June 25 through August 2, then Moliere’s The Miser from August 6 through September 6.  All of those performances run from Thursday through Sunday at 8 p.m.  The season ends with All The Great Books (Abridged), which will be performed at 7 p.m. Thursday through Sunday September 11 through 20 at the Bicentennial Stage at the Columbus Commons.  Kish and I can’t wait.

Avast, Ye Scurvy Dogs!

Today is International Talk Like A Pirate Day.  In fact, today is the 10th anniversary of this crucially important day.

We’ve all got a little bit of inner pirate, don’t we?  We all want to dress in fabulous, riotous clothing, wear matching swords and earrings, have long hair, and scraggly beards, and eyepatches, and talking parrots, and peg legs.  Occasionally we’d like to do a bit of pillaging and looting, and perhaps even fire a pistol into the air.  Pirates were rebels and non-conformists who broke free from convention and lived by their wits on the edge of society, fighting against “the man.” (Of course, we forget that pirates typically were murderous, ill-educated thugs who met grisly ends via beheading, swinging from the yardarm, keelhauling, being boiled or consumed by cannibals, or neck-deep burial in sand and drowning by the incoming tide — but never mind that.)

Still, we all feel those piratical urges, deep down.  We can’t really wear pirate hats or fly the skull and crossbones in our offices, so the only way to express the inner rogue is to talk like a pirate every once in a while.  So, avast there, me hearties!  Today, ye scalawags, ye must let that inner pirate roar!

Attend me, lads!  Happy Talk Like A Pirate Day!  And remember . . . it’s rated Arrrr!

Our Timbers Should Shiver

The Somali pirate drama is one of those small, but potentially telling, incidents that happen from time to time. The pirates attacked a ship flying an American flag and took its captain hostage. Days have now passed, the captain remains a captive, and the pirates continue to thumb their noses at our government.

I am a subscriber to the “broken windows” theory described at some length in The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. That theory posits that people who live in a neighborhood that features little signs of unaddressed lawlessness — like broken windows, graffiti, and other petty crime — can lose hope and conclude that there is no law. Events then can spiral downward and out of control as people perceive that there is no order or authority. I think the same concept applies to international law. An attack by pirates may be a small matter — indeed, the concept of modern-day pirates seems ludicrous — but it is one of those signs of lawlessness that could promote more reckless illegal behavior by other renegade actors on the international stage.

Unfortunately, many civilized governments don’t seem to have the stomach to deal with the Somali pirates. Instead, they seem to hope that the pirates, or the terrorists, will realize that we mean them no harm and just go away. Our country, on the other hand, seems to have the will but is so bound up by concerns about legality and the perceptions of the international community that we shy away from taking unilateral action. In the meantime, outright piracy goes unpunished — and the number of broken windows in the neighborhood grows.

I think it is time for us to realize that our failure to act in these situations is sending a strong, but negative, message. It can only encourage other “bad actors” to commit acts that risk the mere disapproval of the civilized world, but no other consequences. If inaction continues, and piracy, kidnapping, and other guerilla tactics proliferate, the impact on things like international trade, democratic institutions, and global progress will be devastating. What is the point of being an economic and military giant if we cannot crush pirates who flout international law, and thereby send a message that such intolerable lawlessness will be dealt with swiftly, and with finality?