Main Entry: thau·ma·turg
Etymology: French, from New Latin thaumaturgus, from Greek thaumatourgos working miracles, from thaumat-, thauma miracle + ergon work — more at Theater, Work
The official blog of the Dramaturgy Department at Baltimore's CENTERSTAGE. For posts related to our current and upcoming shows, click the links to the right. Alternatively, you could begin at the beginning, and explore our posts in chronological order.
So. We’ve got Cyrano in rehearsals, set to go into previews in the not-too-distant future (think next week, if memory serves). And we’ve got Let There Be Love coming in for first rehearsal next Monday. Exciting times, busy times… But for the moment, we’re actually going to look ahead a bit further still. Because coming up after Let There Be Love, we’ve got Working It Out, a set of three shorter plays connected by the theme of—you guessed it… or I really hope you’ve guessed it—work. The workplace. And just what we do with an outside of our jobs.
For a brief description of each play, check out the CENTERSTAGE website. Little blips, but they’ll give you an idea of the three plays: Lynn Rosen’s Washed Up on the Potomac, Rick Cleveland’s Jerry and Tom, and Aaron Sorkin’s Hidden in this Picture. Expect to see bits and pieces related to any and all of these in the future.
For the moment, we’re going to look at a bit of a Jerry and Tom-related note. For those of you disinclined to click the link above, Jerry and Tom follows the story of two hitmen (what ever could their names be?). Tom and Jerry are regular guys, raising families, trying to bring home a paycheck and cheer their kids on at Little League games and take a relaxing vacation in Florida. So what if their day job happens to involve a little bit, okay, a lot of murder? It’s all in a day’s work, right? The guys start to run into problems when Jerry decides that he wants to add some flair to his methods, that he doesn’t want to play by the rules or code of honor. Jerry starts to get sloppy, the pressure begins to wear away at Tom, and when they can’t shake the pressures of the job, things are bound to end badly.
So much for a glimpse. Now. Tom throws an interesting reference into the mix of the play: when Ronald Reagan comes up in conversation, Tom mentions The Killers. A 1964 film directed by Don Siegel, The Killers holds some basis in a Hemingway story and in an earlier film, but apparently (so sources tell; I’ve not yet seen the movie myself and so must trust to second-hand accounts, alas) is notable for its particular focus: rather than shroud the contract killers in some sort of sneaky mystery, the ‘64 film blows open the secrecy and focuses on the lead killers and their ruthless search for answers, offering a close encounter with hitmen on the job.
The Killers employs many of the elements found also in Jerry and Tom: auto repair shops, a trip to Miami, and an older and more serious killer paired with a younger and somewhat odd (one might say “off”) partner. These connections aren’t particularly unique, perhaps, but they’re interesting to note.
And there’s something else. The movie opens with a contract killing, and much of the film centers around the efforts of two hitmen (one older and more serious, one younger and a bit, ah, off) to determine the story of the man they killed, and to discover why he didn’t flinch from death. Turns out that the victim was once a successful race car driver, a man who had his life firmly in hand but became entangled with a girl and the mob, found himself in over his head, lost control of his career, and became a low-level auto repair instructor who resigned himself to accepting death. Keep that one in mind as you watch the play, or if you have a chance to read it. There might well be more to the reference than a quick glance would suggest.
But that’s often the case, non?
It’s that time again.
Today, we’re going to take a quick glance at Capuchin monks. Very basic information says that the Capuchins are a branch of the Franciscans (followers of the animal-loving Saint Francis of Assisi, who made due with the barest of essentials and elected to live in poverty). The Capuchins broke into their own branch during the early 16th Century, wishing to go back to the same essentials as Saint Francis; apparently, the main branch had become rather too lax for their liking. So they broke off, congregated here and there… And, yes, there was a Capuchin monastary in Paris.
But. But. Today, it seems that Capuchins are most often recognized in connection with their admittedly macabre crypt (and the fact that their name seems to be subjected to that ol’ caffeine-filled drink, the cappuccino). Seriously, take a look… Then try working that image into Cyrano and the monk that sort of wanders in.
Okay, okay, the crypt really isn’t (or isn’t likely to be) relevant to the production. The monk isn’t likely to rush on with a skull in hand, or to be glimpsed at odd moments trucking corpses across the stage. Just an interesting little detail to note by the way.
Oh, and have I passed along the jumping contest story? No? Then shame, shame, shame on my head. Legend* has it that one day, Antoine de Guiche was sort of strolling around when he happened upon Richelieu, who seemed to be engaged in jumping, of all things. Richelieu was quite proud of his jumping prowess, and somehow or other, he and de Guiche ended up having a little jumping competition. The savvy de Guiche was careful NOT to win this particular contest, and in return for allowing Richelieu to show off his mad skills, de Guiche was made a Marshal of France.
Hey, I never said it was a true story. Just goes to show you, perils of the internet, and all….
*Where “legend” is equal to “some story I heard on the internet somewhere.” Look, I’m not claiming any accuracy, here. This is for amusement purposes. I’m not sure that there’s much can beat the image of a jumping Richelieu.
Tidbit for you (that has existed in a “pending-posting” state for, oh, a while).
In Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac, Roxane’s duenna indicates that Roxane will be able to meet Cyrano after attending church at Saint-Roch. In Roets’ adapatation, Duenna suggests that Roxane will be attending mass at Saint-Germain.
Turns out that Saint-Roch didn’t so much exist in 1640, the year of the first four acts of Cyrano (and, you know, Cyrano de Bergerac). Construction didn’t begin until 1653, and wasn’t finished until the 1700s. Saint-Germain, on the other hand…. There are actually a couple of churches in Paris holding the name: Saint-Germain l’Auxerrois and Saint-Germain de Pres. Saint-Germain l’Auxerrois seems our likely candidate, and was well-established by the time 1640 rolled around. In fact, Saint-Germaine l’Auxerrois was fairly favored by the royals.
What’s more, it’s located near the supposed location of Ragueneau’s pastry shop, allowing a logical path for Roxane to take in stopping off to meet Cyrano and discuss her recent crush.
The church in Cyrano did exist. The church in Cyrano de Bergerac…. We-ell, not so much in reality, but we’re dealing with a work of fiction, here, and Rostand had a bit of a field day embellishing on reality. It’s all in the imaginative spirit, gives us more freedom in considering the world of the play (one the rules start to bend and shift, lud knows where one might go), and a reference to, say, a church that didn’t yet exist, isn’t likely to destroy the experience of a production.
Still. Fun to stumble over these things.
Reading along, working at pinning down this Arras business, when I happened upon the following:
"Richelieu was disgraced in 1643, and he had to yield place as chief minister to Cardinal Mazarin…"
Yeah, all right. If by ‘was disgraced,’ you mean ‘was dead.’
Yes, Mazarin was up after Richelieu. Yes, Richelieu had his times of disgrace. Louis XIII wasn’t exactly thrilled to take him on in the first place (or so seems to be the case), and Richelieu had been out of favor during Louis’ early years.
Right, okay, mistakes happen. Lord knows I’m aware of the fact (And, hey-o, a sad offender). This begs a few questions, though… Was Richelieu so damned set on keeping control of France that he simply couldn’t let go? Was there some sort of ‘even DEATH shall not part us’ drama between Richelieu and France? Did Richelieu become a zombie or otherwise undead being, manipulating France behind the scenes, even as his flesh rotted (leaving some sort of, I don’t know, talking-Richelieu-skeleton)?
And, perhaps most disturbing of all: Does undead!Richelieu rule France to this very day?
Hey, maybe THAT’S why Fogg doesn’t go to Paris… I guess Verne knew what was up. He was uncommonly savvy all around, wasn’t he?
Since Drew has taken us down the proverbial Rabbit Hole of Méliès films, that provides an interesting intersection for another set of crossover associations with Cyrano de Bergerac: the fabulous, fabular, fabulating Baron Munchausen (or Munchhausen). Both of them longtime favorites of mine, and I’ve always thought the two had much in common as quasi-mythic literary inspirations from real-life originals who were in some respects even more incredible than their fictional manifestations. Both share qualities as tellers of tall-tales, mad monarchs of mendacity, believers in the fantastic, proponents of panache, and (if traditional illustrations like these are to be credited), proud possessors of profile-enhancing probosci. Not to mention both being, at least in imagination, lunar travelers.
Like Don Quixote and others of a small fraternity, they both challenge the omnipotent imperium of Fact, and prod the world of Empiricism that’s been working on purifying itself for centuries. They also challenge our imagination in wildly and eminently theatrical ways, so it’s no surprise that they have lent themselves to adaptation on stage and on screen.
The earliest [Baron Munchausen film] that is still viewed today [is] Georges Méliès’ Baron Munchausen’s Dream [made in 1911]. In fact the film is a titular adaptation only, narratively owing far more to Edwin S. Porter’s The Dream of a Rarebit Fiend (1906), which in turn is adapted from Winsor McCay’s turn-of-the-century comic strip, Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend. This palimpsest of cultural detritus with a topping, or titling, of Munchausen is typical of a number of the adaptations. Indeed, this is one reason why it is beneficial to view the films chronologically; as much as the Munchausen films are bound to their time and place of origin they are also self-propagating and reflexive to earlier versions.
Méliès’ Baron Munchausen’s Dream
This quoted excerpt comes from the admirably comprehensive, and fairly concise, overview provide at: http://www.horschamp.qc.ca/new_offscreen/munchausen.html. Well worth a click-through.
For the original Raspe text, accompanied by some fantastic illustrations, you can go here to read it online: http://bulfinch.englishatheist.org/baron/Baron.html.
As a part of this researching-for-Cyrano business, I’ve been pulling together the beginning traces of a glossary. Or something like that. What this means, then, is a lot of basic background, information of the foundation sort, and then the chasing of references major and minute, as picked out of the text. Some of the research-chasing is book-based (books treating the history of France abound, just now), some of it’s web-based, checking one sources against five or ten or fifteen others. All of it can lead down overgrown sidetrails and rabbit-holes and, hey, that’s half the fun of it; never know where the search is going to lead.
Alas and alas, all of this information doesn’t make the final cut of the glossary, or of… Well, of anything seen outside of this so-foggy land known as Dramaturgy. Random facts are shuffled aside, more extensive explanations are trimmed… And all of this is useful, perhaps necessary, because glossaries do seem to be a bit more effective in user-friendly form. Which tends to mean, ah, no fifty-page glossaries (in most cases, thank you).
What of that other information? We-ell, we have it, or someone around here has it, so there’s some personal amusement and enjoyment to be had. Since this thing called tumblr exists, however, figure we could stand to share some of the bits and pieces that come up in the fast-paced thrill of the glossary hunt. This may also give some sense of the veritable web of information (network of groundhog tunnels of information?) that grows out of a single play, the myriad ways in which a play connects to other works and information.
Hence, glossary adventures. Random information (that may or may not make the final cut) whilst searching. And for the first edition of glossary adventures, got just a few for you…
-According to available account, Cyrano de Bergerac actually did take on a hundred men, killing several and driving away the rest. And in general, he seems to’ve been no stranger to daring deeds. Whether this was heroism, the mark of an hot-blooded and intemperate nature, or compensation for his nose (or whatever cause you might consider) is up for debate.
-Mt. Everest is known as Sagarmatha in Nepali and Chomolungma in Tibetan. The mountain wasn’t called “Everest” until 1865, when it was named after Sir George Everest, a Brit and India’s Surveyor general (prior to that, the English designation had been Peak 15).
-Louis XIV came into the monarchy at the age of four. Oh, and this would’ve been the time of absolutism in France… More on that to come, perhaps, but for the moment just gvie a big “hello!” to Richelieu and friends.
-Homing pigeons have long been used to transport messages, prove their use to this day, and were used by the military as recently as the Vietnam War (I’ve restrained myself from looking further than that for the moment, but feel free to have a go, yourself; the internet is populated with heaps upon heaps of pigeons sites).
-Cyrano references and makes use of the 1640 Siege of Arras. The factual Cyrano de Bergerac did indeed fight at Arras, and was wounded as a result.
That’ll do for now, any rate. Presumably, these’ll eventually range from the very basic to the “ohhhh-kay” obscure, but I suppose we’ll see about that. Expect further such adventures… Whenever I feel like tossing something on here, really.
Edit to note… In the original post, I’d typed “Whether this was heroism, the amrk of an hot-blooded and intemperate nature, or compensation for his nose (or whatever cause you might consider) is up for debate.” Okay, well, “amrk” has been changed to “mark.”
This may not stop me from use “amrk” as a word from this point onward. Just for the record. Some typos are meant to be. (And, really, don’t ask me what that means. Just don’t. Mostly because I don’t bloody know.)