It should come as no surprise, being a grad student in a program that focuses on the works of Shakespeare and his contemporaries, that my inspiration for The Ballad of Dido lies in an early modern source. In this case, Christopher Marlowe's Dido, Queen of Carthage, which opens tonight at the American Shakespeare Center's Blackfriars Playhouse. I won't be able to see it because I'll be stage managing a tech rehearsal for The Byron Project, our MFA acting show, but I am excited to.
The truth is that Dido, Queen of Carthage isn't very good, and my excitement at the prospect of directing Marlowe's first play dissipated as I realized that his first play, written while he was a student for a boy's company, was extremely wordy (even for an early modern play), and more resembled Ovid's bawdy rendition of mythology than Vergil's epic. If anyone can make a good performance out of that not-so-good script, the ASC's resident company can, but that wasn't the sort of story I wanted to tell.
And that's where I realized that I did have a story that I wanted to tell, which to the best of my knowledge had not been told: Dido's story from Dido's perspective.
While I am indebted to Vergil for most of my inspiration for this project, I also owe a debt of gratitude to Marlowe for helping me figure out what story I did not want to tell.