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CHARLES A HALLETT (1935 - )
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CHaRLeS A. HaLLeTT is emeritus Professor of English at Fordham University and Visiting Scholar at Dartmouth College. He studied Drama under eric Bentley at Columbia University (M.A. 1963) and Playwriting under John Gassner, alois Nagler, and Robert Brustein at Yale Drama School (D.F.A., 1967). He is the author of Middleton's Cynics (a study of the plays of Thomas Middleton) and of essays on Shakespeare, Jonson, Middleton, Wycherley, and and Ibsen in journals such as Shakespeare Quarterly, Shakespeare Bulletin, Studies in Philology, JeGP, Comparative Drama, and Philosophical Quarterly. He has written three books on Renaissance Drama together with his wife eLaINe S. HaLLeTT: the Revenger's Madness: a Study of Revenge Tragedy Motifs (Nebraska, 1981); analyzing Shakespeare's action: Scene Versus Sequence (Cambridge UP, 1991, 2006); the artistic Links between William Shakespeare and Sir Thomas More: Radically Different Richards (Palgrave/Macmillan, 2011, a study of Shakespeare's playwriting techniques in Richard III). While at Yale, Hallett wrote a 3-act play on the life of Aaron Burr, using original documents. the first act was later crafted into a tragedy that climaxes with the famous duel between Burr and Alexander Hamilton. Aaron Burr was produced off-Broadway by the American Theater Company in 1974 and again in 1976. the initial production was also shown at the Jumel Mansion in the Bronx. Hallett has also written a one-act comedy called Outfoxed that transposes the themes of Ben Jonson's Volpone to rural Vermont. He is currently crafting a play called Boris Godunov: a MeLODrama, an adaptation of the Pushkin/Mussorgsky work.
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We first meet Burr at his home in Richmond Hill, New York, where he is sitting for a portrait being painted by his young protege, John Vanderlyn. the portrait is to be a gift from Burr to his daughter theodosia. the two men are awaiting news of the vote of the electoral college in the election of 1800, in which Jefferson is running for president and Burr for vice president. Vanderlyn, aware that the Democrats have taken most states and that Burr will probably be elected vice president, has tried to persuade Burr to let him make the portrait more formal-his argument is that the painting may have to serve as Burr's inaugural portrait. General Wilkinson arrives to announce that instead of the expected victory which would have made Burr vice president, Burr is as much as elected president-a flaw in the voting rules has allowed the vote of the electoral college to accidentally end in a tie for the presidency between Jefferson and Burr, thus leaving it up to the House of Representatives to decide between them. Since the House is controlled by the Federalist party-headed by alexander Hamilton-and Jefferson's belief in "democracy" is violently opposed by the monarchic Federalists, it is obvious that the Federalists must give their votes to Burr. the Federalists prove willing to throw the election to Burr and have sent with Wilkinson a paper containing the terms on which they will do so. Burr can be president if he simply puts his signature on this piece of paper. From a combination of motives, not including the fear of betraying his running mate but only of leaving this piece of evidence that he has done so in existence where it might be uncovered by "History," Burr chooses not to sign-he reasons that it is impossible that the Federalists will ever vote for Jefferson. Confident of victory, Burr orders Vanderlyn to make the portrait more formal. as we watch Burr function in this crisis of government, we become aware of a tragic flaw in his character-he will be unable to put his insights into the nature of "politics" into practice because his self-absorbing desire to leave history no evidence of his conniving renders him powerless to act. Those around him do act: Hamilton reaches a compromise with Jefferson, who wins the election. Burr blames not his own inaction but Hamilton's interference. Ironically, Burr's desire to prevent history from uncovering the least stain on his good name leads him to the very action that results in his being remembered by subsequent generations only as the murderer of alexander Hamilton.
NY Times review by Howard Thompson, 12/4/74: Sharp "BURR," A new Off Off Broadway play by Charles Hallett, A teacher At Fordham University, titled "aaron Burr is splendid theater. With Burr As An independent, uncompromising centerpiece, the playwright has Arranged A series of tight interlocking scenes evoking the political deadlock that brought Jefferson the Presidency And kindled Burr's pride into A murderous rage At Hamilton. As the play fades on raised dueling pistols, Nathaniel Pendleton, A stanch Federalist, speaks the last line: "We'll see that history remembers Burr only As the murderer of Hamilton." This is not A pretty play but it rings true grippingly-and yes historically. Richard Harden has beautifully directed the first-rate cast, including Charles Herrick As Burr, edward Seamon As Hamilton, John Wylie As Jefferson, edwin Byrd As Pendleton, edward W. Powell Jr. As William Van Ness And David Hutchison As John Vanderlyn, the painter. . . . Uptown residents will have A chance to see the play with A matinee scheduled this Saturday inside the beautiful Morris-Jumel Mansion, Manhattan's oldest residence, where Burr was married And lived for six months.
the American Theater Company, 106 East 14 St., New York, NY 10003 and at Jumel Mansion, Bronx, NY 21 Nov 1974
the American Theater Company
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