Thursday, December 27, 2012

Play Day

Mother Catherine wanted a little run-down of the gala performance that closed our academic year here at the Convent, so without any further ado, I present: Play Day!
There were two Plays presented on the Friday the 14th of December, one high-brow and the other decidedly less high-brow. The former was presented by two of the Novices – ‘Excerpts from Shakespeare’s As You Like It’,starring Sisters Louise and Johanna. The other Play was ‘History Highlights from 314-814’, which could well be renamed ‘Postulant Chaos’. I will go into detail about this below. 
The preparations began with writing the scripts (an easy job for the Novices, because good old William S. had done it centuries ago, but harder for the Postulants, who had to compress 5 centuries into an hour and make it somewhat intelligible for their intended audience), and then with making more props than you could shake a stick at. Actually, you’d be hard pressed finding a stick to shake because we probably used them all in making the props. Anyway, this went on for days and one postulant remarked that it seemed that we brought all the rubbish that was out of the house into the house in the form of boats, oars, swords and myriad other items. The Novices were more circumspect (but highly artistic and effective) in their use of materials, and managed to make theirs a whizz-bang multimedia affair, even including a powerpoint presentation to cover their scene changes. I do wish I’d thought of that for ours! Never mind…
These things being done, Friday was upon us and it was, ‘Overture, Curtain, Lights!’ The Novices started us off, and I tell you, you haven’t lived until you’ve seen one Sister play a doe-eyed lovesick young man in a forest, and another play the scornful maiden immune to romantic advances. They were absolutely brilliant, bringing a new interpretation to Shakespeare’s classic with wit, vivacity and a Texan accent to boot! (I personally think that Shakespeare would have meant Rosalind to have a Texan accent if he could have heard the performance we heard J)

Then came the History Play. Over the space of an hour (including a short intermission – we were going to do things properly!) we travelled through the Arian Crisis, the reign of Julian the Apostate, the Donatist and Pelagian and Nestorian heresies, the Monophysite Crisis, the fall of the Roman Empire, Pope St Gregory’s papacy, and the coronation of Charlemagne! With four people and no stage-hand, the scene transitions were rather untidy, but not as untidy as our makeshift dressing-room by the end. It was scattered with sheets (which served as bishop’s robes, missionary habits and togas at various parts of the performance), cardboard mitres, paper helmets, swords, oars, boats, croziers, name-cards, boxes that made the rubble of the Temple of Jerusalem, guns and masks (we needed to impress upon the audience the idea of the ‘Robber Council’), flags, axes, clubs, and I can’t remember what else.

I can’t give you the whole play, because it’s quite long and chaotic, but I’ll give you some choice excerpts. (Hopefully the master illustrator will give you appropriate pictures that speak 1000 words so you get a bit of an idea of what went on visually.) Try and imagine the behind-the-scenes gasps of “Where’s my mitre? Where’s my mitre? I need a sword. Has anyone seen a sword???” It’ll make it more realistic that way.

The Arian Crisis
(to the tune of “I’ll Do Anything” from “Oliver”)

ARIUS: I teach heresy
Do you teach heresy?
Yes, I teach heresy
It’s true

The ladies look at me
A handsome sight to see
(LADIES) We think he’s lovely
(ARIUS) Arius – that’s me!

Julian the Apostate

JULIAN:  I'll rebuild the Temple at Jerusalem!  Once I've done that, there will be no more belief in Christ, because He said that the Temple would never be rebuilt.  Pack your bags, my friends, we are off to Jerusalem.

JULIAN, FRITZ  and MARDONIUS collect cards, swords, and drinking mugs.  Arrive at 'Jerusalem' - a heap of cardboard boxes surmounted by a sign with 'Temple of Jerusalem: danger - unsafe rubble' on it.

JULIAN:  What are we waiting for?  Here are the building blocks all ready for us.  Let's get working, men.  We're going to disprove that prophecy!

JULIAN, FRITZ, and MARDONIUS begin to pile up the boxes in a more orderly manner.  'Fire-balls' appear (foil paper), and the men fall into the boxes trying to avoid them.  'Earthquakes' also. . . shouts of alarm from men "Look out behind you, Master Julian!"  "Ach, mein foot!"  "Who's been playing with matches? - don't you know that that's a safety hazard on a construction site?"  "I zink I've broken something."  "Someone call the fire brigade!"  "Call 911!" "No, it's 000!"

The Pelagian Heresy
The violent behaviour of the DONATISTS and their revengeful actions on any who repented of the schism and on the missionaries themselves however (DONATISTS attack a Catholic violently using a knife) soon led St Augustine to support stern state action against them.

The Monophysite Crisis
EUTYCHES: Friend, we have to do something. I would like Flavian to pay for excommunicating me. Haha! Pope Leo consented to the council. We will depose Flavian!
DIOSCORUS: Yes. Don’t worry so much about it. Monophysites will dominate in this council.....! Emperor Theodosius says we’ll meet at Ephesus in the Church of St Mary. Are you happy now? (EUTYCHES nods in jovial reply)
DIOSCORUS: So, see you there.
(EUTYCHES & DISOCORUS walk out, NARRATOR walks in stage bearing the sign: “449: The Robber Council” Flavian enters slowly as if praying his breviary, alternately walking and sitting... Next, music – “The Pink Panther” – is played... ROBBERS enter and rob the Bishop (Bishop does a little dance step with the ROBBERS. Finally, ROBBERS tie him to a chair and are about to kill him ...pause)


The Fall of the Roman Empire
I'd like to cross now to Flavius Quintus Romanus, our Europe Correspondent. Over to you, Quintus!
Hello, I'm Flavius Quintus Romanus, Star reporter for the Roman Daily Times. I've covered all the great stories of the later Roman Empire and now I'm going to make a DVD so that I can share them with you. Yes, for the trifling sum of six sesterces you will be able to share these great moments of history as witnessed and recorded by Quintus! Here's a sneak preview:
(QUINTUS walks to side of stage)
QUINTUS: Here is the Roman Empire at her greatest extent.
(ROMAN EMPIRE, 2 people covered by a sheet, enters)
QUINTUS: In 400 AD the Roman Empire split!
(ROMAN EMPIRE separates, holding up 'EAST' and 'WEST' signs when they get to opposite ends of the stage)

Pope St Gregory
NARRATOR: St Gregory the Great came to the Papal throne in 590 A.D. A Benedictine monk, he became Pope unwillingly and only at the demands of his people in an era of great instability and turmoil.
ST GREGORY is pulled around by PEOPLE who acclaim him with shouts of: “Gregory, Pope! Gregory, Pope!”
ST GREGORY (with a serious look of despair):
Sights and sounds of war meet us on every side
The cities are destroyed, the land devastated, the earth depopulated.

In the year 800 Charlemagne was made Holy Roman Emperor and crowned by Pope Leo III in Rome on Christmas Day. (1 person holds '800' placard. POPE LEO III crowns CHARLEMAGNE. "Adeste Fideles" plays in the background.)
And so the Holy Roman Empire in the West was reconstituted under an Emperor (ROMAN EMPIRE returns as one whole being, CHARLEMAGNE's hands stretched out over it) who was a descendant of the very Barbarians who caused its destruction, by the order of the Pope, the successor of the Popes whom the Romans had martyred.
We hope you've enjoyed this little production and for the trifling sum of six sesterces...the trifling sum of six sesterces...the trifling sum of six sesterces...
CHARLEMAGNE points the remote at QUINTUS and turns him off.
CHARLEMAGNE: This new technology is such a trial. I reckon we destroy all knowledge of it and go back to writing on parchment and things. Hopefully it won't resurface for another millenium or so.


No comments: