Playwright notes: Bill Clinton Hercules
This play accurately recounts President Clinton’s early childhood as gleaned from his autobiography My Life. He really did memorize the I Have A Dream speech, he really did shake JFK’s hand, his first memory really is his mother on the train platform. His daddy died before Bill was born and his mama had a bust of Elvis in the kitchen.
The events during the Presidency and governorship actually happened except there is no evidence that the Chinese navy went to Los Angeles to take out the cast of Friends. There is an eleven-foot statue of him in Kosovo. President Carter did send the Cubans to Arkansas (but a great unsung hero of his administration, Gene Eisenberg, spoke to Clinton). There was a trashed hotel suite in Iowa after President Clinton had a phone call with Senator Kennedy in 2008. There really was a bearded hippy Bill who gave a heartfelt speech. The events of the 1996 shutdown/snowstorm are condensed except it really was one week between President Clinton going Odysseus and the shutdown being over.
He is close with George Bush Sr. He does not to my knowledge have a problem with Leon Panetta and Alan Greenspan. He has never said in public that he would do anything else but support Hillary utterly in her political ambitions. He did say some very encouraging things about Occupy when asked by reporters.
He re-reads Seamus Heaney’s Cure at Troy every year. Why does he read it every year? What does he find there? How does it feed him? I think it is the joyful ending when the world is a better place. The miracle of changing people’s minds.
The dream at the end of the play is mine. I dreamed at the beginning of the Arab Spring, asleep in Washington. I took it to Occupy and my dangerous sign that got me kettled in front of St. Paul’s Cathedral said Justice Is Possible.
I was just picking salad in the garden when the thunder rumbled. Look to the world stage. A storm is coming. Governments collapse (Iraq, Syria). Cities fall into desolation (Detroit, Mosul, Gaza City). Fascism looms in Europe. A Taliban arises in America, armed with corporate religious beliefs out of the reach of the rule of law. A despot dismantles the NHS. Police states replace democracy. Wars rage. No one speaks for peace.
Except Bill Clinton Hercules. This character – this play – is a creation that merges Clinton’s best self with Rachel weeping for her children. He speaks for peace and freedom. His grasping for life can be yours too. The heroism of Hercules is your heroism. You are like Bill Clinton who is like Hercules started: a human with a mother.
I quote Thomas Paine, the man from Lewes who wrote Common Sense. “When my country, into which I had just set my foot, was set on fire about my ears, it was time to stir. It was time for every man to stir.” Now is the time to make real the promises of our democracy.