UBC Publications

UBC Publications

UBC Publications

Billy the Kid Nov 18, 1987

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 Frederic Wood Theatre
NOV. 14-28
Are you a reader? A bookworm?
A bibliophile? A bibliotaph? Or do you just
like books?
Answer yes to any of these questions and our
sale is for you!
Enjoy our usual unusual selection
of remainders and specially-priced
books, bargain books and discard
records from the UBC Library, sale-
priced textbooks, and 'hurts' from
some of the finest publishers.
Sale runs from November 14 - 28.
Bookstore Hours
Mon . Tues . Thurs . Fri 8 30am -5:00p.m
Wednesday 8:30a m -8:30pm.
Saturday 9 30 am - 5:00 p.m.
6200 University Blvd., Van., B.C. 228-4741
University of British Columbia
Frederic Wood Theatre
The Collected Works Of
Billy The Kid
Michael Ondaatje
Directed By
Arne Zaslove
November 18-28
, ^L
The Frederic Wood Theatre Magazine
A Seasonal Publication of University Productions Inc.
For further information regarding this
and upcoming publications call:
(604) 224-7743 i m iwi mwf
No. 45L
l.'c'JAS'&.l        VoL L
A Biographical Note on
Billy the Kid
Henry McCarty, alias Billy Antrim, William Bonney, Billy the Kid, was
probably born about 1859, the place in dispute. His mother was known as
Catherine McCarty during the time she resided in Indiana, Kansas, and Colorado
before her marriage to William H. Antrim in Santa Fe, New Mexico, March 1,
1873. Her son acted as witness at the marriage ceremony and his name is
recorded as Henry McCarty. It was by that name he was known when the family
moved immediately after the wedding to Silver City. Later he took his
stepfather's name and called himself Billy Antrim. He did not take up the name
William Bonney (perhaps a family name) until he reached the Pecos Valley.
His mother died on September 16, 1874. Less than a year later he fled Silver
City, having been jailed as a lesson by the sheriff for hiding a bundle of washing
stolen from a Chinese laundry by an older man. Making his escape from jail, he
headed west to Graham County, Arizona, in 1875. It was there he received his
nickname Billy the Kid, or merely Kid.
Two years later, in August 1877, the Kid killed his first victim, Frank
Cahill, an army blacksmith.
Indicted for the crime, along with three others who were to become part of
his gang, the Kid fled, leaving a trail of criminal activity wherever he went.
The Kid was captured with two gang members by a posse led by Pat Garrett
on the morning of December 21, 1880, at Stinking Springs, three days after the
same posse had ambushed the gang, killed Tom O'Folliard and almost caught
Billy at Fort Sumner. On December 27, Garrett boarded the train at Las Vegas
for Santa Fe with his prisoners, reaching the capital at 2:00 p.m. The Kid
remained jailed in Santa Fe until March 28, 1881, when he was taken under a
long-standing change of venue (two years) to Mesilla in Dona Ana County to
stand trial.
On being convicted in territorial court, Judge Warren Bristol sentenced the
Kid on April 13 to be hanged at Lincoln on May 13. Robert Ollinger and
Deputy Sheriff Dave Wood of Dona Ana County, with a posse of five men,
escorted Bonney from Las Cruces to Lincoln, the journey lasting from April 16
to 20. The hapless condemned "was handcuffed and shackled and chained to the
back seat of the ambulance" in which he was transported.
Six days after his return to Lincoln, the Kid killed his guards, Ollinger and
J. W. Bell, and made good an escape on April 28. Pat Garrett once again sought
the fugitive, accompanied by two deputies. The Kid was finally located at Fort
Sumner, staying with his friend Pete Maxwell. There, around midnight, July 13,
1881, Pat Garrett felled him with a single shot. He was buried the next day
beside two of his gang, Charlie Bowdre and Tom O'Folliard, in the former
military cemetery at Fort Sumner. I Send You a Picture of Billy
The recent Vancouver International Film Festival included a delightful film
from Japan, directed by Naoto Yamakawa, entitled The New Morning of Billy
the Kid. In it, Billy walks out of a photo-mural of John Ford's Monument
Valley and into a Japanese restaurant, where he is hired as a bodyguard, along
with a classical samurai, a World War II G.I., a waiter called MarxEngels, a
telephone information operator, and an all-girl rock group called Zelda... Even in
Japan, it seems, the legend of Billy the Kid lives on.
Billy the Kid is indeed the material that legends are made from: the legend,
for example, that he lived for 21 years and killed 21 men. History may retort that
he (W.H. Bonney, or William Antrim, or Henry McCarty, or whatever his "real"
name was) more likely lived about 22 and killed about 7. But legend is always
stronger than history (as another Canadian poet, bpNichol, has noted in rather
more colourful language) and it is the legend, not the history, that Michael
Ondaatje works with. Even before the book begins, or the curtain goes up, his
Billy is out of history, shaking the facts like trail-dust from his shoulders.
That there is nothing of depth, of significant accuracy,
of wealth in the image, I know. It is therefor a beginning.
The Collected Works of Billy the Kid: the title places him already within an
imagined literary context, outlaw as artist, author of "collected works," the
assumed narrator of everything we are about to read or see. An early page of the
book gives a kind of Table of Contents, which appears in the prologue to the
play as a kind of Dramatis Personae, under the heading "These are the killed":
(By me) -
Morion, Baker, early friends of mine...
A blacksmith when I was twelve, with a knife.
5 Indians in self defence (behind a very safe rock)...
Deputy Jim Carlyle, Deputy Sheriff J. W. Bell.
And Bob Ollinger...
The collected works of the outlaw, then, not just in the literary sense but also as
lethal actions: this is the artist as gunman, laying them dead in the aisles.
Ondaatje's list of Billy's victims hovers on the edge of the legendary world; it
contains 20 names, so one is missing — Billy's own? Or Pat Garrett's? But then
the list continues: The Collected Works, Volume Two:
These are the killed.
(By them) —
Charlie, Tom O'Folliard
Angela D's split arm,
and Pat Garrett
sliced off my head.
Blood a necklace on me all my life
As a list of Dramatis Personae, this tells us that all the characters we are about
to see are already dead, including Billy himself, the narrator. This is a tale told
by a dead man, the outlaw as artist, who must perceive, imagine, narrate, and
live the deaths of his friends, his own death, converting them into the "works" of
his imagination, and crowning them with an image of beauty and violence
intertwined and looped around his neck, like a noose.
If Billy is the author of his own life, and of the spectacle we are about to
witness, then we are its readers, perusing these Collected Works. And as readers,
to a great extent, we already know the story. This is legend: Pat Garrett and Billy
the Kid, the classic confrontation of lawman and outlaw, "ideal assassin" and
romantic victim, the one-time friends who betray, hunt, and kill each other. We
know what the story should be, so Ondaatje can select events from it: can, for
instance, omit most of Billy's killings and concentrate upon Pat's, so that Billy
becomes the victim of a manhunt rather than the hired gun of the Lincoln
County War. We know how the story will end, so Ondaatje is under no pressure
to tell a consecutive, linear story, he can move around freely within the
framework of events, juxtaposing incidents and images, playing Billy and Pat
against each other like the deconstructed ends of an outmoded binary opposition.
There is Garrett with his absolute control, who learns a language and then
never speaks it, who teaches himself to drink without throwing up; and there is
Billy, who always seems on the nervous edge of hysteria, who sees "wounds
appearing in the sky, in the air," who smells the small deaths of flowers as they
become "sane." Yet the word "sane," attached to Garrett in the repeated phrase
"sane assassin," becomes "insane": it is Garrett who, in the words of the poem
which opens the Second Act, is "the one altered move" that turns everything
maniac, that unleashes the balanced energy of the great stars going nova.
And in between Pat and Billy, that other pair of characters: Sallie Chisum
"like a ghost across the room moving in white dresses, her hair knotted as
always at the neck and continuing down until it splayed and withered like eternal
smoke half way between the shoulder blades and the base of cobble spine..." -
and then "Miss Angela Dickinson of Tucson / tall legs like a dancer": Angie
Dickinson out of a 60's movie (Point Blank most likely, directed by John
Boorman, starring Lee Marvin), but also Angela D., the angel of death, staring The Collected Works Of
Billy The Kid
By Michael Ondaatje
Directed By Arne Zaslove
Set Design By
Robert Gardiner
Costume Design By
Mara Gottler
Lighting Design By
Don Griffiths
William Bonney Neil Gallagher
Pat Garrett John Murphy
Charlie Bowdre/Toro Timothy Hyland
Tom O'Folliard/Comic Guard Thomas Conlin Jones
Dave Rudabaugh/Comic Guard James Binkley
Wilson/Maxwell Roland Brand
Sallie Chisum Laura DiCicco
John Chisum Dennis James Kuss
Angela Dickinson Janine Payne
Deputy Bell/Comic Guard Jason Smith
Deputy Ollinger/Photographer Michael Cavers
Deputy Wild/Musician Bryson Young
Deputy/Musician Peter Shaver
Deputy/Barman Neil Ingram
Interviewer/Narrator/Musician Lawrence Kagan
Musician Spencer Hutchins
Manuela/Princess Laura K. Burke
Saloon Girl/Celsa Allison Sanders
Music Composed by John Engerman
Musical Director Adam Con
There will be one intermission of twenty minutes
WARNING: There are loud gunshots during the performance.
Technical Director Ian Pratt
Properties Sherry Milne
Costume Supervisor Chelsea Moore
Cutters Jean Driscoll-Bell, Leslie White
Set Construction .. John Henrickson, Robert Moser, Buck Walker
Stage Manager Cynthia Burtinshaw
Assistant Stage Managers Mary Anne Brady, Cathy Golf
Properties Assistants Jill Buckham, Bill Rasmussen
Costume Assistants Blanka Jurenka, Heather Kent
Scene Design Assistant Cricket Jane Price
Lighting Design Assistant/Operator Alan Brodie
Sound Design/Operator Darryll Patterson
Follow Spot Operator Risha Walden
Head Scenic Painter Elana Honcharuk
Scenic Painters Kaiirin Bright, Catherine King, Gary Muir
Make-Up Cynthia Johnston
Make-Up Assistant Nick Davis
Assistant to the Director Steve Hunt
Armourer John Henrickson
House Manager Randall Plitt
Box Office Carol Fisher, Timothy Hyland, Linda Humphries
Business Manager Marjorie Fordham
Production Norman Young
Triple J Leather Products: Roy Jeffery
Nick Davis
Bathhouse Theatre
Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company
UBC Gates Hair Fashion
Las Margaritas Restaurant
Lens and Shutter Costume Design
by Mara Gottler Ondaatje's Book as Theatre
Michael Ondaatje's award-winning book The Collected Works of Billy the
Kid (1970) poses as autobiography-the autobiography of one William Bonney
(1859-81), otherwise known as the notorious Billy the Kid. The story proper,
like Ondaatje's play adaptation, which we are about to see, opens with Billy's
voice announcing: "These are the killed." From this abrupt and matter-of-fact
beginning, Billy continues, in an extended monologue of violently shifting
tones and styles, to tell us his life.
That this telling is frequently interrupted by the voices of others-well-
wishers like Sallie Chisum, friends like Paulita Maxwell, his murderer, the
"sane assassin" Pat Garrett, and more-only alerts us to the simplest complexity
of Billy's life: whether in legend, history, memoir, comic book or contemporary
newspaper report, there are as many "Billys" as there are story-tellers and
listeners. The complexity and challenge of Ondaatje's Billy extends, however,
well beyond the multiple sources (fact and fiction) for the story.
In a recent interview, Ondaatje remarked that:
The concept of the book was very open for me; I saw the possibility of
white spaces and silence, interviews or fake interviews, photographs or fictional
photographs, all of which were incorporated into the book. It became a concept
of the book as theatre, as a place where anything could happen.
On a first reading, The Collected Works of Billy the Kid does seem like a
book in which anything could happen. To turn the page is to confront a wildly
shifting text, now poetry, now prose, now photograph, followed by italicized
reminiscence which gives way to a blank page, a return to poetry, or a prose
story within Billy's own prose. Like the spectator of the swiftly changing
tableaux on stage, the reader of Ondaatje's book is trapped in the theatre of
Billy's imagination, caught up in the self-dramatizing voice, and he or she must
either participate in the telling or else become lost in the maze of voices, images
and words. Moreover, Billy's voice and imagination are not tidy, sequentially
ordered, or always rational; his telling does not make the story easy. His voice
is, by turns, mesmerizing and terrifying, gentle and brutal, violent and calm, an
intensely private scream and a coolly public narration. Indeed, Ondaatje's finest
achievement here is this creation of voice because it is through this medium,
with its range of shifting tones, that his supremely fictive Billy comes to life for
The "true story" that Billy tells us is not so much a report of facts about the
American West in the middle of the last century, or the background politics of
the Lincoln County cattle war, or even the "real" motivation and purpose
(assuming he had one) for his own life-style. Instead, he shows us this world
through his own eyes. It is a world where friends betray, where for selfish
reasons Garrett hunts him down like an animal, and where the heat of the desert
sun violates his body and soul, driving him mad. It is a world of death so
nauseating, violent and senseless that Billy staggers under its blows, but it is
also a world of friendship, love, laughter and song, of cool, shadowed rooms and
rest. The bare bones of a story are there alright-the early friendship with Garrett,
the warning to leave the territory, the killings of Charlie Bowdre and Tom
O'Folliard, the eventual arrest, escape and final ambush on the night of July 14,
1881. But what matters most in Ondaatje's rendering is Billy's/e// response to
the world around him, that and his voice. Listen, he cries, this is the true story
of Billy the Kid.
Michael Ondaatje's art has been variously labelled surrealistic, cinematic,
avant-garde, extremist and post-modern. Perhaps it is all these things, and more.
Certainly, Billy the Kid is both a parody of historical documentary in its use
(and ironic mis-use) of sources and a rollicking "spaghetti western" that rivals
Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West (a favorite Ondaatje film and
film-maker). For me, Billy the Kid also dramatizes the role of the autobiographer
in the act of creating his own life from the inside out. Ondaatje's Billy is an
autobiographical artist (or an artist as autobiographer), as well as the lead actor
in and the director of his own story.
To enter the theatre of his "collected works" is to enter the darkest realm of
the artistic imagination. Luckily, for us, the nightmare will end less violently
than it does for Billy: in the book we turn the last page to see a small boy in a
cowboy outfit smiling at us from the page and recognize, with a start, the young
Michael Ondaatje: in the theatre the lights come up and the figures in Billy's
story take their safe, conventional bows. But before that reassuring end, we must
enter the imagined life; we must begin to listen to the voice...
Not a story about me through their eyes. Find the beginning, the slight
silver key to unlock it, to dig it out. Here then is a maze to begin, be in.
(And as the lights go out, remember-you left your gun at the door!)
Sherrill Grace
Sherrill Grace is Professor of English at The University of British Columbia.
She specializes in modern Canadian literature and is the author of books on
Margaret Atwood and Malcolm Lowry. Halleluyah:
Billy's in Heaven
Last night I sat a-dreamin
Near th' fire, in my chair,
Thinkin' still of Billy,
Wishin' he wuz dere.
Soon my head wuz noddin',
An' first thing I know,
De gates of Heaven opened,
All wid gold aglow!
An' den I see de angels
Come down de golden stair,
An' I know dat Billy's
Somewhere 'round up dere.
An' my heart is thankful,
For he's loved, I know,
An' maybe cuttin' up,
Just like here below.
Oh, we will be joyful,
When we climb dat stair,
For our Billy's waitin',
Somewhere, 'round up dere.
Text of an anonymous song,
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Adult Acting Classes
263-1838 263-8823


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