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and glorious City of Albany, New York, USA. Articles written and
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Where’s My Dung Beetle?
An ancient production teaches us what we
need to know today
Last July 10 The Wife and I made our third annual
visit to Sandgate,
Vermont, a place which I can say without exaggeration
is one of the most beautiful spots on this planet. This gorgeous
location hides in the hills somewhere between Bennington and Manchester,
about an hour and forty minutes drive this year.
The reason for our yearly excursion is to catch the Mettawee
River Theatre Company’s summertime production, outdoors on the
lawn of the Sandgate United Methodist Church. The company has been
together for 31 years, and I can’t tell you how many years
they’ve been performing annually outside the Church in Sandgate,
but it’s been a long time. I do know that the players look
forward to the Sandgate performance as much as the audience does.
Performance About To Begin,
1877 Methodist Church At Right
The audience has to bring its own chairs and blankets,
not to mention picnic baskets and bottles of fine wine. This is
classy, we’re talking rural splendor here. About seventy
five to a hundred people get to see the performance. We arrived
about a half hour early and set up nice and close to the action,
but people were still arriving after the play started at 7 PM.
This year the play was an obscure classic from the year 421 BC,
by Aristophanes. Here’s how the Metawee Company describes
PEACE was written by Aristophanes to celebrate a brief respite
from the war that plagued Greece throughout his lifetime, in the
4th century BC. It is about a feisty man who flies to Mount Olympus
to complain to the gods about the situation on earth. Unfortunately
the only way to get to Mount Olympus is to venture a precarious
trip on the back of a monstrous dung beetle. When he arrives, he
learns from Hermes that the gods have fled, leaving War and Greed
in charge and Peace buried under a trash heap. With much hullabaloo
and the help of a chorus of farmers, Peace is rescued and an extended
That’s what you call a comedy. As you can see, those old
Greek guys not only had a sense of humor, they could roll around
in the gutter with the best of them.
The relevance of this play to today’s insanity is pretty obvious, demonstrating that “civilization” does not learn from its worst mistakes. The Greece of Aristophanes’ day was addicted to the supposed economic benefits of continuous warfare, a state of affairs that eventually led to exhaustion and the conquest of Greece by a succession of foreign powers. Indeed, the ecology of Greece has never recovered from this period, a drying up of the Eastern Mediterranean made much worse by relentless war profiteering.
Trygaeus, Left, Explains How He Is Going To End All War
Aristophanes’ Peace is a protest against the societal nicotine
addiction to war for the sake of war. The Mettawee production took
liberties with the text, throwing in a lot of modern references.
But the plot was left intact, dung beetle and all. There was not
much of the original that had to be changed to make this a current
message for us modern fools.
As the play continued, night slowly fell. The effect of nature
on the progress of the play is beyond description, you have to
experience it yourself. As The Wife put it, “You couldn‘t
pay somebody to make a backdrop as pretty as that.”
As dusk deepened and night fell, my trusty little camera was less
able to record clear and focused photos, but I tried. I present
here the most presentable pictures, they give a sense of how lovely
is the entire event.
Mettawee’s masks and puppets are always fabulous. I loved
the jowls on the main actor. And the dung beetle was quite a fine
bit of basket weaving.
The Hero Astride His Dung Beetle
This guy is War. The Gods left him in charge.
And here is War’s mother, Greed. Get the point?
Behind Greed To Her Right Is The Garbage Heap
Well, the gods may have abandoned Olympus to War and Greed, but
there is one force greater than all the gods, which when united
can never be defeated.
The Plain Folks Conspiring To Raise Peace
The performers recruited some of the children in
the audience to help pull Peace out of the garbage heap where she
had been relegated by War and Greed. As soon as Peace was raised,
War and Greed simply vanished and we didn’t see them again.
The Best Photo I Could Get Of Peace Being Raised High
And then appeared Plenty, the daughter of Peace.
Plenty, Daughter Of Peace (Center)
The company returned to the now peaceful Earth along with Plenty.
They immediately set to making a sacrifice to give thanks to Peace.
But a sinister character appeared, looking to wheedle a portion
of the sacrifice.
|The Priest: Another Blurry Photo
This was a priest, obviously of the pagan variety. Since I don’t
want to get into any trouble, I will declare that this pagan priest
has absolutely nothing in common with modern day priests, ministers,
preachers, TV evangelists, rabbis, imams or gurus. I couldn’t
get a good picture, but hopefully this will give a good idea of
This priest was horrified that the hero was sacrificing to Peace,
he’s been living well off the many sacrifices to War and
Greed. Eventually the priest was chased off with a boot to the
butt, with much merriment. Again, no comment.
And finally, the company decided to decline to make a blood sacrifice
to Peace. And all were happy forever more. The end.
It was dark and time to go home, but first it was time to pass
the hat. The Wife always snarls at me, “Give them more than
that. Think of what a movie costs.” I pointed out that walking
to the Spectrum leaves a smaller carbon footprint than driving
to Vermont, but I ponied up anyway.
Passing The Hat
It’s too late to see them in Sandgate this year, but the
Mettawee Company will
perform a few more shows throughout the region,
finishing with an extended run at Bishop’s Green at St. John
The Divine in New York City in September. I highly recommend that
you catch them if you can.
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