My Jubilee

Recently having turned 75, I think that respectable age qualifies for a jubilee celebration. At least I’m jubilant.  To celebrate this auspicious occasion, I had a portrait taken by the talented local photographer Carolyn Wright of the Photography Studio.  For the first time ever, I must say that this picture does me justice, and I’ve already featured it on my homepage.

Richard Balthazar, Writer and Artist

I jubilate in celebration of my many blessings:

First, having grown up, had a family, and gotten old in this country (USA)—where I’ve been ostensibly free, in spite of spending most of my life as an outlaw (gay), and could make a reasonable living doing what I like (arts, education, horticulture…). That covers many bases.

Next, having been in extraordinarily good health all my life. There have been a few medical emergencies and curable conditions, but especially in these later years I seem to have crafted a very healthful diet and regimen of physical activity (gym and dancing).  I try not to be too proud of my deceptively youthful (and handsome) appearance above and am more than happy to tell anyone my anti-aging secret (Kombucha).

Also, having had such exciting experiences, like trips all over around this country and into Canada and Mexico, fascinating festivals (esp. Mardi Gras and lots of Gay Pride celebrations), and wonderful performances by fantastic artists. I’ve lived a culturally rich life style.

On this my jubilee, I also jubilate big time over the exceptional things I’ve accomplished, though they may not have made me rich or famous. My jubilee is the perfect time to toot my own horn—since nobody else is going to.  So here goes:  Toot!

  1. Won an essay contest in high school (1958) and represented Arkansas representative at the First National Youth Conference on the Atom in Atlantic City. I still have my essay on atomic energy, and its blue-ink penmanship still reads intelligently, if archaically.
  2. Sailed gaily through college at Tulane in the early 1960’s with a double major in Russian and French Quarter debauchery and made Phi Beta Kappa.
  3. Wrote a Master’s thesis and a few doctoral dissertations in the later 60’s, contributing exactly nothing to world knowledge, but they got me a job teaching at a university.
  4. Appeared in theatrical productions: ballet (peasant in Coppelia, 1970), play (sailor in The Tempest, 1971), and operas (extra in Prokofiev’s War and Peace at Wolftrap, 1975, and supernumerary cardinal in Lalo’s Le Roi d’Ys, 1980, on Broadway, no less).
  5. Coached the Paul Hill Chorale to sing Kabalevsky’s Requiem in Russian at the Kennedy Center In 1975 and translated for the composer in interviews and social occasions.
  6. Was a stage interpreter with the Bolshoi Opera in Lincoln and Kennedy Centers In 1976 and got to watch their repertoire many times over (from down-stage left).
  7. Translated Tchaikovsky’s opera Maid of Orleans into English for productions by the Canadian Opera Company, 1978, and Detroit Opera Theatre, 1979. This was my first truly artistic achievement, a triumph of rhymed triplets in iambic pentameter. Toot-toot!  I’ve included a poetical excerpt in my Public Library for your enjoyment.
  8. Wrote the play The Special Case, a detective drama drawn from Dostoevsky’s novel Crime and Punishment, which was produced by the Santa Fe Community Theatre in 1990 and ran for two weeks to no reviews. An actor praised it as “a Russian Colombo.” Yes.  It can be read (and is available free for production) in my Public Library.
  9. Discovered the suppressed subject of the Indian Mounds, spent about 15 years researching them, and finally published Remember Native America, a mound travelogue, in 1992. It has since been superseded by much more research and revision of timelines, but all the same, it’s available here for free download.
  10. Discovered the neglected subject of the Aztec calendar, spent some five years drawing, and published Celebrate Native America, a new book of days, in 1993 with my artwork and an abortive attempt to proclaim a Sixth Sun, also available here for free download.
  11. Created a unique and exciting profession in 1997, spending 15 years as the Used Plant Man  (or the Iris Man in summer), a plant recycler at the Farmers Market, maybe not an artistic achievement, but I spread beautiful iris all over town. Good enough.
  12. Built an innovative greenhouse in 2000, a semi-subterranean, ecologically efficient structure for raising cacti, succulents, and ornamentals for market. Again maybe not artistic, but it was definitely an architectural achievement .
  13. Wrote the novella Bat in a Whirlwind (over about 30 years), an autobiographical story of almost coming out in the backwoods, published electronically on this website, 2015. Click here for free download.
  14. Wrote the novel Divine Debauch (over maybe 25 years), fictionalizing my dissolute years in the French Quarter, published by AuthorHouse.com , 2005. It really needs a rewrite, but I haven’t the energy or time. Meanwhile, it’s still a great gay read.
  15. Wrote the handbook Getting Get, a glossary of the English verb, (after 40 years of linguistic research), published by AuthorHouse.com , 2006, but also available electronically for free by clicking here.  Frankly, it’s my work of genius.
  16. Wrote the memoir There Was a Ship covering my time in in Seattle (1965-66), published electronically on this website, 2016. Click here for free download. It’s the story of a gay man going (kicking and screaming) back into the closet.
  17. Wrote the biography Ms. Yvonne, the secret life of my mother, published electronically on this website, 2016. Click here for free download. It was fascinating detective work and much photo restoration to uncover the life of a survivor of Hurricane Katrina.
  18. Wrote the unique reference on the Aztecs, YE GODS! an illustrated encyclopedia of deities, an essay on the surviving Pre-Conquest codices, and a coloring book of thirteen of my icon drawings based on images in the codices, published electronically on this website, 2017. Click here for free download of the separate sections.

Goodness! That was almost a whole horn concerto of jubilee toots.

 

I won’t be able toot about anything else for a while. I’ve only just begun a second memoir, this one about gay life in the carefree 1970’s, and there are still 13 more icons to draw for YE GODS!  You’ll be the first to hear about any new achievements.

Free Play – Book for Musical Theater

Thank goodness I’m a somewhat organized person. In the aftermath of finishing my eleventh Aztec icon, Ocelotl, for the coloring book YE GODS!, I switched back to my current writing project, a biography entitled “Ms. Yvonne, The Secret Life of My Mother,” which I then proceeded to bring up to the last chapter.

Planning to finish that in a while for posting on this website, and not yet ready (for technical reasons) to start the twelfth icon, Ometeotl, I dropped back to some other planned work: to revise my play first written some 35 years ago under the title “Octoroon,” a gay-themed historical drama set in Civil-War New Orleans.

Now entitled “Soldier-Boys,” the play was initially designed as the possible book for an operatic libretto, but now I (more realistically and pragmatically?) consider it a possible book for musical theater. It has now been posted for free under Public Library/Plays.  All it needs now is a composer and lyricist to pick it up and run with it.  Hopefully, anyone would work with the two musical numbers I’ve indicated with my supposedly poetic lyrics:  a parade march for the (now-extinct) Krewe of Comus, and a soldier song.  Anybody interested?  Come on, guys—it’s up for un-copyrighted grabs!  Go for it!

For free download of “Soldier-Boys” as a .pdf file, just right click here  and select “Save As.”  To read it online, left click here.

Meanwhile, here’s a fore-taste:

CAST OF CHARACTERS (in order of appearance)

GUY-PHILIPPE GAUTIER: 19, natural son of Charles Thissaud, returning from France

ACHILLES, Marquis de Marigny:  20, French nobleman and Guy’s university friend

AMALIE: slave woman in late 30’s, Phoebe’s personal maid

UNCLUTHA (actually Uncle Luther): aged slave, manservant of Charles Thissaud

CHARLES THISSAUD: early 50’s, Creole gentleman and Colonel of the Confederacy

PHOEBE THISSAUD: 22, Charles’ wife of 3 years, a Protestant from Savannah

JEANNIE: slave girl, daughter of Aunt Millie

AUNT MILLIE: mature slave woman, wet-nurse to Thissaud children

Also: Sailors, slaves (workers & domestics), 2-year old boy, infant, masquers, revellers, ball guests, Confederate soldiers

 And an excerpt, part of the opening scene:

###

(Afternoon on riverfront at Place d’Armes, Cathedral, Cabildo, etc. in background. A ship is at the wharf where a large CROWD mingles and passes.  GUY and ACHILLES walk down the gangplank and await their luggage.)

GUY (gesturing expansively):  Well, here it is, Achilles, mon ami!  My New Orlins!  Not much compared to Paree, mais we do have our own Champs Elysée!

ACHILLES: At last I discover Amérique-a!  C’est magnifique!

(In the CROWD, a group of costumed REVELERS passes by.)

GUY: Well, look at that, cher—our fine ship done got here for Mardi Gras!

ACHILLES: Alors, mon âme, we must drink for your return to the homeland.

GUY: Yes, indeed!  Somethin’ to fortify myself for the comin’ ordeal.

ACHILLES: Cher Guy-Philippe, do not fear.  Your homecoming is to be happy!

GUY: But it’s so bitter comin’ home to this war!

ACHILLES: The Yankee is the barbarian of the north!  The war is our chance à gloire!

GUY: I s’pose so.  But Achilles, I dread so meetin’ this Savannah lady my Papá done married.

ACHILLES: Ah!  Mais les femmes…  Pas de problème pour toi, ma fleur noire!

GUY (throwing his arm round ACHILLES’ shoulder):  You an’ me, cher—les deux soldats!  Now let’s go find us a big bottle o’ wine.

###

 

 

Free Stage Play

Once again I’ve been lax in posting, being busy with other things, namely writing on the memoir, still some drawing, and moving big rocks around behind my apartment building, where I’m making a terrace and a French drain.  For fun, like a bus driver’s holiday, it’s a landscaper’s retirement.  Meanwhile I note that nobody seems to have been particularly bothered by last week’s digital silence.

My apologies for doing this blog without a schedule, but it is what it is.  I do have a vague list in mind of subjects to bloviate (blogiate?) about, though without clear priorities.  There is a foggy plan to keep on posting drawings for my coloring book YE GODS! and to start serializing my novella BAT IN A WHIRLWIND, which will happen as/if I manage.

Since I’m feeling the need to think about something besides the Aztec god Huehuecoyotl (Old Coyote), my youthful tribulations of fifty years ago, and earthworking, I’m going to write this time about more of the free stuff I’m pushing on this website.  Today I’ll tell you about the only play that Fyodor Dostoevsky almost wrote, and posthumously at that.

Let’s kindly say that I extracted or distilled my one-act play THE SPECIAL CASE from Dostoevsky’s classic novel CRIME AND PUNISHMENT.  In three scenes, the young murderer Raskolnikov hides his guilt in a treacherous mind-game with the Police Inspector Porfiry Petrovich.  The play was produced in 1992 at the Santa Fe Community Theatre (later the Playhouse).  Now it’s free for anybody to read or produce.  Just right click here and select “Save Target (or Link) As.” (P. S. I’d love an invite to any production and will try to make it.)

Being a dramaturge impressed me mostly with the transitory nature of theatrical art.  All that’s left of that dramatic triumph now is this text, a rather good videotape, and a horrific memory of the elderly Porfiry character freezing in mid-sentence for several interminable moments.  Wrong, I’ve also still got a little Victorian mirror that hung over Porfiry’s desk and a continuing acquaintance with the fellow named John who played the student friend Razumikhin.

More or less dizzy with that two minutes of local fame, I went on to “extract” a one-act play from a short story by another favorite Russian writer, Maxim Gorky, who also wrote magnificent plays you may have heard of, like THE LOWER DEPTHS.  Some might call it adapting but whatever.  The story is titled for its main character, CHELKASH, but I call my play more thematically SPOILS.  Admittedly, it won’t be easy to stage as it mostly happens in a small boat being rowed on a dark sea.  My thought is that it would work much better as a screenplay for an intimate video incorporating the nocturnal atmosphere and dark ships looming in the harbor.

SPOILS and my other theatrical pieces are also available for free download, reading, or production.  Check them out too.  There’s some unusual, if not downright odd, historical and experimental stuff.