While the weather didn’t exactly cooperate, looking rather wintry with clouds, a cool temperature and plenty of snow-covered ground from the previous weekend’s devastating blizzard, inside the elegant surroundings of the Calgary Golf & Country Club was a different story. Spring was all around us thanks to our programs featuring blue hydrangeas complemented by the beautiful floral centerpieces on each table, also featuring blue hydrangeas arranged to perfection by our President Doloris Duval, and even a sprinkling of gorgeous Spring dresses worn by some of our more intrepid members. Any club that can keep meeting throughout two world wars isn’t going to let the weather get the better of it!
After a delightful lunch of butternut squash soup, Caesar and green salads, assorted sandwiches and a selection of yummy desserts, we all settled down for the main event.
Doloris welcomed everyone including our special guests from the Calgary Public Library, C.E.O. Bill Ptacek, Rosemary Griebel, Donna Bedry and Julia Harrington, as well as our guest speaker Clem Martini. Anita Madill, standing in for Lillian Tickles who is presently indisposed, said Grace before inviting the head tables to lead the way to the buffet.
Vice-President Cecilia Krupa introduced our guest speaker Clem Martini. In addition to being an award-winning playwright, novelist and screenwriter, Professor Martini is the Chair of Drama in the School of Creative and Performing Arts at the University of Calgary. Martini has over thirty plays, and ten books of fiction and nonfiction to his credit, including the Calgary Book Award-winning Bitter Medicine: A Graphic Memoir of Mental Illness and the internationally acclaimed young adult trilogy, The Crow Chronicles. He has served on the boards of numerous writing organizations including the Alberta Playwrights Network (Vice President), the Playwrights Guild of Canada (President), and the Canadian Creative Writers and Writing Programs (founding President).
Professor Martini treated us to readings from and discussion of his latest novel The Comedian, set in and around ancient Rome. It is the story of comedic playwright Titus Maccius Plautus, who, following a series of flops, is anxious to regain his reputation as the leading writer of comedies of the age.
Mr. Martini explained that, in those times, plays were often part of religious ceremonies and usually acted by ensemble casts. However, acting was not considered a desirable or proper career. In fact, working in the theatre might have been regarded as an act of resistance or rebellion. Actors quite often found themselves in the ironic situation of being a former slave acting out a free person who was a former slave.
Writing for the stage could be a hazardous business from both a political and legal perspective, and sometimes a writer’s books were burned. Sadly, punishment and the destruction of works are still found today in certain parts of the world. Mr. Martini called history “the great eraser;” only 20 or so plays by Plautus are left to us today. As a result, much of The Comedian is a work of imagination based on relatively few verifiable facts about Plautus combined with a broader understanding of ancient Rome times thanks to a wealth of information about that society in general.
Following a brief question period, Margaret Sparkes thanked Professor Martini for his fascinating presentation and our honored guests departed. What a delightful and fitting end to a year of exploration into “The Role of Humour, Irony and Satire.”
Submitted by Margaret Sparkes