No one asks, "Why Shakespeare?" Apparently, that’s obvious. Billy-boy represents greatness, the very best in literature, the type of summit toward which all seriously committed writers – perhaps all artists – try to climb.
No one questions Shakespeare.
But monkeys? That’s another story. You can’t guess the number of times I’ve been asked, “What do monkeys have to do with writing?”
The answer goes back to the first time I heard the theory that given an infinite amount of monkeys, time and typewriters, Shakespeare's works would eventually ensue.
I’ve thought about this for a long time and it seems obviously true: Superb writing will happen if given enough time. One day I looked in the mirror with that thought and I had an epiphany: This is not a theory – we are the monkeys.
It did not take infinite monkeys. It took only a few billion. It did not take infinite time. It took only a few billion years.
Those aquatic apes that descended from trees, swam in the oceans and ate shell fish, stood upright, learned to speak – from them, Shakespeare evolved. Evolution. That is the answer. That is the proof that Shakespearean-quality writing will ensue – the fact that it did.
If some of the greatest works in the English language were born from man, then they are the work of monkeys. If we monkeys can do that, then perhaps there is something even better in us. That is our mission at Shakespeare’s Monkey Revue – our dream – to find that wild thing, that freedom, that raw place within ourselves – the monkeys – that transcends what has been done before, that crashes through this moment to be something even more beautiful, memorable, accessible and classic.
Yes, they are fun, funny, even a bit exotic. And yes, they make me happy. But it is more than that.
At the primal level a monkey is almost the antithesis of the transcendence Socrates raves about. He thought that “to ascend” one must completely abandon all earthly desires and compulsions, remove emotion and become pure thought. For me, the monkey is a symbol of removing thought in favor of the essence of experience.
To be an artist you need to have the ability to “interpret the monkey.” You need to get to the gut of what inspires you. And then you need to figure out how to get the monkey to talk to that glowing intellectual dude beside him, because without him all you've got are a few daubs of crap on a wall.
When civilization does not infringe itself upon him, the monkey is free. He is able to follow his most basic instincts and, in times of plenty, he has plenty of time to play. It’s tough to write well with the world intruding from every angle. We must be uncivilized to write.
In the screeching and the hair, in the dancing and nit-picking, in all of the ways we are apes we hold in each of us that potential to be more and the insane madness to want something passionately. We all come from that; we all rise from that place beyond reason, beyond rhyme, somewhere in the words that define us as unique – as human. So, let us define ourselves here on these pages – first, by what we come from, then by the words that give us shape, form and meaning.
With great pride, I give you Shakespeare's Monkey Revue.