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Monday, February 22, 2010

16 Words for Water - by Billy Marshall Stoneking

Start Time: Friday, 26 March 2010 at 20:00
End Time: Saturday, 10 April 2010 at 23:00
Location: Garrick Theatre
Street: 16 Meadow Street
Town/City: Guildford, Australia

From the playwright's website at

In 1943, the American poet, Ezra Pound, was indicted by the United States government on the charge of treason. It was alleged that Pound, an American citizen, had made anti-American broadcasts over Italian radio during wartime, and that these same broadcasts had given "aid and comfort" to the enemy. By war's end Pound found himself in the custody of U.S. marshals.

Mindful of the political hysteria of the times, and fearing for Pound's life, his wife, friends and colleagues, urged him to enter a plea of insanity as a means of escaping trial and the possibility of a death penalty. This he did, and the court subsequently upheld the plea. However, instead of releasing him into the care of his wife as had been expected, the government chose to confine him at St Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington, D.C., an institution that housed hundreds of the criminally insane. Pound - "one of the great literary figures of our time" - would remain incarcerated at St Elizabeth’s for nearly thirteen years.

Sixteen Words for Water takes up Pound's life in the final days of his "imprisonment", when the balance between life and death had reached its most critical point. The Ezra Pound of the present play must choose between sanity and the possibility of the electric chair, or insanity and the surety of safety at the expense of freedom. In the midst of this, he finds himself invaded by strange thoughts - memories of the ancient Aboriginal myth of the Wandjina... the creative spirits of the Dreamtime who fashioned the world out of words and who, in the act of naming, threatened the world with chaos.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Read more about this play at

and at