People say there are six major elements needed to transform a play into great theatre: a good plot, strong characters, a constant theme, vivid language, rhythm and spectacle.
This past week, Augusta Commissioner Marion Williams was Shakespeare.
The curtain lifts on Act I and the play opens with a scene just one day before the Augusta Commission’s Tuesday, Aug. 5 meeting.
WJBF Channel 6 Senior Reporter George Eskola stands before Williams with his microphone asking the commissioner about an item he put on the agenda regarding the city’s sponsorship of Augusta’s premiere event to the James Brown movie, Get On Up.
“A lot of commissioners did get tickets and the mayor got tickets,” Williams told Eskola. “I don’t understand how all that happened. I’m one of James Brown’s biggest supporters. I realized there was going to be a crowd, I didn’t want to get involved in that, so I kind of stayed out of it. If you’re going to purchase for one, you need to purchase for everybody.”
At that point, Williams is clearly the play’s villain. Williams wanted tickets to Augusta’s sold-out, red-carpet event featuring Hollywood actors, but he wasn’t willing to cough up the $200 to get them, so he plays it off by saying he didn’t want to get in a “crowd.”
Just like no one really wants to go to the Super Bowl or Mardi Gras because of all those pesky people.
So, all of Augusta is saying, “Here goes crazy ol’ Marion Williams, again.”
Crazy like a fox.
Act II begins with Williams at the commission meeting posing vague questions about the city’s participation in the “Get On Up” premiere.
Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver, clearly the smiling, good-hearted hero in the play, insists the city didn’t make any financial donations.
The beautiful heroine, interim City Administrator Tameka Allen, politely agrees, stating that the city cleaned the area around the event, but gave no financial contribution at all.
The shameless villain, Williams, seems to be losing the battle.
The audience feels both anger and embarrassment for Williams’ actions as the commissioner then appeared to be distancing himself from the entire premiere event.
Almost as if Williams had better things to do that night.
“I was in Carolina at the time,” Williams explained, adding, however, that his colleague, Augusta Commissioner Bill Fennoy, did want to attend. “Mr. Fennoy wanted to go to the event and he wasn’t able to get there. Some people had tickets and entry way to get there and enjoyed it, and I think they should have. But if some of us are going to be compensated or rewarded or encouraged, then everybody needs to be treated the same way.”
The curtain falls and the audience is left thinking how small and petty Williams is for whining about the premiere tickets.
Then, Act III opens with Williams making an odd, out-of-the-blue statement about Fennoy, who appears to be a minor character in the play.
“Mr. Fennoy ain’t saying nothing now, but he was singing and he wasn’t singing James Brown when I talked to him,” Williams said, looking down at Fennoy. “If he wants to comment, it’s his business.”
The audience is then left scratching their heads wondering where this plot is headed.
At which time, the Greek chorus of commissioners, Alvin Mason and Mary Davis, pipe in singing:
“It cost me $200.”
“I got no special treatment.”
“I went through the normal process.”
“I got no favors.”
The tune made Williams look even more foolish.
The jester, Augusta Commissioner Grady Smith, awkwardly runs into the middle of the stage and jokingly shouts out that he had tickets left at the door that were for “Elvis.”
The audience gives a half-hearted chuckle.
Then, our noble hero, the mayor proudly announces that he was a “private sponsor” of the event and gave money from his own pocket to the premiere.
Copenhaver, the golden boy, is shining on the thrown.
But then a very quiet Fennoy finally speaks. And what he says shatters everything that the audience has believed throughout the entire play.
“I think what Commissioner Williams is making reference to is the fact that… I was assured that I would have two tickets to the premiere,” Fennoy said. “And after we had the commission meeting on Wednesday, a called meeting, to vote on the administrator, evidently, someone didn’t get the vote they wanted, so they sent me a text that said that the tickets that had been previously promised to me were going to someone that is interested in Augusta and they apologize for any inconvenience that they may have cause me at that particular time.”
Our beloved hero took back the precious tickets Fennoy was so generously offered because the commissioner dared not support the mayor’s chosen candidate for city administrator?
Our hero tried to defend himself, but Fennoy cut him off by insisting he had proof.
“I have a copy of that text in case someone questions whether it is true or not,” Fennoy said.
Fennoy’s comments hung heavily in the air.
But Copenhaver is so nice. He is so friendly. He is so perfect. Isn’t he?!?!?
Then, the mayor takes center stage.
“Commissioner Fennoy, I will say that I did send that text,” he said, as the audience gasped. “I publicly apologize to you. But those tickets, because I know that you did speak to (the mayor’s assistant) Al (Dallas), those tickets were waiting for you at the theater and, unfortunately, those two tickets went unused. So I apologize publicly.”
The mayor is the dark figure in the room. He is Shakespeare’s Shylock or Don John or Richard III.
The audience sits there in disbelief.
As soon as the mayor is done speaking, Williams slowly rises from his seat.
With a coy smile, Williams jokingly quotes the late, great, Godfather of Soul, proclaiming, “Say it loud.”
Then, the ex-villain, now hero, gracefully exits stage left.
It was the ultimate in Augusta theatre, courtesy of the man who is never without drama.
For those of you who still believe Williams is a fool, watch out. Williams may one day turn the tables and before you know it, the fool is in the mirror.