“If names are not correct, language will not be in accordance with the truth of things.” —Confucius
In 1920s Charleston, South Carolina,
a scion of its fading aristocracy,
DuBose Heyward, sparks the
Southern Renaissance of novelists,
with the first realistic portrait of
flesh-and-blood Americans of color.
The love’s story’s title is the name
of the principal character, Porgy.
People’s fates are simplified by their names.
Now, a porgy is a common fish in the
warm shallows nibbling the Carolina
coast, a bottom-dweller with a
firm jaw. And the title character
dwells among scions of Sea Islands
slaves, washed up in Charleston’s
Cabbage Row flats: reset and
renamed for Porgy, Catfish Row.
I confused things with their names: that is belief.
Playwright Dorothy Heyward,
DuBose, and director Rouben
Mamoulian make Catfish Row the
stage set for an epic theatrical
portrayal of Porgy.
When George and Ira Gershwin
get into the act, the stage play
segues into, among other names,
The Great American Opera.
A good name is rather to be chosen than riches.
From the pages and on to the stages,
the humbly named Porgy accrues bass-
Soprano Bess, a name for a Virgin
Queen, could be named Aida, or even
Butterfly: Lovers’ names in musical
portraits, this far off Catfish Row,
ain’t necessarily so.
The ideal has many names, and beauty is but one of them.
―Ninon de L’Enclos
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