Play Sonnet 59
If there be nothing new, but that which is
Hath been before, how are our brains beguil’d,
Which labouring for invention bear amiss
The second burthen of a former child.
Oh that record could with a backward look,
Even of five hundred courses of the sun,
Show me your image in some antique book,
Since mind at first in character was done,
That I might see what the old world could say
To this composed wonder of your frame;
Whether we are mended, or where better they,
Or whether revolution be the same.
Oh sure I am the wits of former days,
To subjects worse have given admiring praise.
Sonnet 59 questions if time is cyclical, and if so, is writing about the beloved something that you would find in the annals of history?
Will wonders aloud if there’s nothing new and everything that now exists existed in the past, then we must be fooling ourselves when we struggle to write something new, winding up, after much exhausting, painful labor, with only an imitation of an imitation! If he could look back a few hundred years he would find depiction of the young man written when writing was still being learned, and he would see praise of the youth’s beauty. he could also compare the writings on it to see if we’ve gotten better, worse, or whether things have stayed the same. Surely writers of the past devoted praise and admiration to worse subjects than this youth.
“If there be nothing new” hearkens to biblical Ecclesiastes 1.9: “The thing that hath been is that which shall be; and that which hath been done is that which shall be done; and there is no new thing under the sun.”
“five hundred courses of the sun” is five hundred years.
New York State Pavilion, Queens
No, those aren’t spaceships. They’re the Observation towers in the New York State Pavilion, one of the last vestiges of the 1964 World’s Fair.
“The New York State Pavilion was constructed for the World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. Designed by architect Philip Johnson (born 1906), the “Tent of Tomorrow” measures 350 feet by 250 feet, with sixteen 100-foot columns suspending a 50,000 square-foot roof of multi-colored panels. The popular exhibit for the state of New York also held three towers, measuring 60 feet, 150 feet, and 226 feet. The two shorter towers held cafeterias for the fair, and the tallest tower, as the highest point of the fair, held an observation deck. Fair visitors ascended the towers in the “Sky Streak” capsule elevators.
The pavilion included a display from the New York State Power Authority with a 26-foot scale replica of the St. Lawrence hydroelectric plant. The pavilion’s mezzanine featured art from local museums and information about the state’s industries along a path called “Highways through New York.” The Fine Arts Gallery showed pieces from the Hudson River School and portraits of New York State colonists. Approximately six million people visited the New York State Pavilion.
Perhaps the most spectacular feature of the exhibit was the Texaco Company’s map of New York State. The map was designed with 567 terrazzo mosaic panels, each weighing 400 pounds. Rand McNally & Company assisted in constructing the $1,000,000 map, which featured the 50,000 square miles of New York State in meticulous detail. The cities, towns, highways, roads, and Texaco stations were accurately mapped in the 9,000 square-foot design. After the fair, the space under the tent was used as a roller skating rink and as a performance space by the Council for International Recreation, Culture, and Lifelong Education. By 1976, the roof above the map became unstable and the tent was removed, exposing the map of New York State to the ravages of weather.
The New York State Pavilion also included the adjacent “Theaterama,” which exhibited pop art works by Andy Warhol (1928-1987) and Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997) among others. The “Theaterama” also screened a 360-degree film about the wonders of New York State, from Jones Beach to Niagara Falls. The space was converted to the Queens Playhouse in 1972 with its first production, George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion,” opening in October of the same year. The theater continued to operate until 1985 and was renovated and reopened in 1994. Borough President Claire Shulman, the Department of Cultural Affairs, the City Council, and private donors funded the $4 million renovation.
Other improvements of the fairgrounds include a $24,000 partial reconstruction of the lower tower of the New York State Pavilion funded by Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani in 1998, and a $165,000 lighting installation for the Queens Theatre-In-The-Park funded by Borough President Claire Shulman in 1999. Visible from the Grand Central Parkway, the Van Wyck Expressway, and the Long Island Expressway, and located near the Unisphere and the New York City Building, the New York State Pavilion remains an important, historical landmark of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.” 
ACTOR – Robert Gomes
Robert Gomes has acted on Broadway, Off Broadway, regionally, and in numerous film and television roles. His Shakespeare credits include Iachimo in Cymbeline and Leontes in The Winter’s Tale, both for New Jersey Shakespeare Theatre. He is a playwright, screenwriter, and is the producer of the award-winning short film Deflated. He is honored to be a part of The Sonnet Project.
DIRECTOR – Karla Braithwaite
Karla Braithwaite is a digital filmmaker who specializes in creating virtual realities for her films.
Prologue to Sonnet 59
My father was a professional photographer. He and my mother went to the 1964 World’s Fair in Corona Park, New York. My father walked those sidewalks. He breathed that air. He looked around, saw the buildings, saw the people, saw the life and captured those moments on film. I can no longer see him, or hear his voice, but now 50 years later, I had the opportunity to walk the same path and through my eyes and my craft, breath life back into images from those days of old.
What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.