The Thaumaturgy Department

(It's dramaturgy, not thaumaturgy.)

Gavin
CENTERSTAGE
Baltimore
Maryland
USA

thaumaturg
Main Entry: thau·ma·turg
Pronunciation: \ˈthȯ-mə-ˌtərj\
Function: noun
Etymology: French, from New Latin thaumaturgus, from Greek thaumatourgos working miracles, from thaumat-, thauma miracle + ergon work — more at Theater, Work

2014-2015 Season:
Amadeus
Next to Normal
It's A Wonderful Life
One Night in Miami
Herzog Rep
After the Revolution
4000 Miles
Marley
Play Labs

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.

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Last year CENTERSTAGE presented the Lookingglass Theatre adaptation of Around the World in 80 Days (Jules Verne). True to Verne’s original, there was no balloon travel, though there was an exquisitely imagined escape-by-elephant. Now, somewhat belatedly, comes this handy advice on how (or maybe how NOT) to mount and ride a mighty pachyderm.



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Richelieu’s rule remains?

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?

-Kristi



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Roxane! [or, if you prefer, Roxanne]

Tango de Roxanne

Inspired by Kristi’s ineffably free-associative set of references and links around Wilde, Verne, Murakami, and more, here is my offering: in honor of the upcoming Cyrano (or rather, more directly, of his eternal beloved, Roxane). However, it’s also taken from Moulin Rouge, which is set in Paris, not only the site of Rostand’s romance but also (despite those dire and dreadful warnings posted elsewhere here on Thaumaturgy) the natural haunts of Monsieur Jules Verne—author of Around the World in 80 Days, currently rehearsing. So there.

Now enjoy, and feel free to dance along. We won’t tell.

-ghw



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Halloween costume suggestions…

A) Oscar Wilde: Okay, so it’s a terribly obvious one, but just THINK of the options. Would you like to don the floppy hat and swish about in a cape? Curl your hair and casually smoke among scandalized ladies? I personally vote for going with the bowl cut, but I suppose that just might not happen…

B) Lady Bracknell, Wagner-style: You know… I’ll leave the details of this one up to you. Suffice to say that it’ll be terrifying. Quite possibly the msot frightening costume possibility on the market.

C) The Marquess of Queensbury: Your main priority is to be a supreme arsehole, and to muck things up for others as best you can. Don’t dress like a slob, but don’t spend too much time lingering over details of clothing; that’s for sondomites like that blasted Wilde. You’re a bully, and you’re proud of it. Bonus points for every libel suit sparked.

D) Lady Dumbleton: Dye your hair quite gold and pass the crumpets: you’re living entirely for pleasure now! For extra kicks, carry around an urn with your husband’s ashes; you may neve have cared much for the git, but it’ll make for an exquisite conversation piece.

E) A Giant Letter: Any letter, any letter of your choice. For even more fun, co-ordinate with friends and spell out any word you like.

F) Detective Fix: Spend the evening seeking one Phileas Fogg, and chasing down any other perfectly innocent-looking person you might see on the street. You don’t need any particular reason; only good old English instinct, what? Do expect to get into a few fistfights, and don’t expect to win… You’re kind of wussy. But that’s okay, because you’ll have that criminal behind bars, yet! You’re sure of it.

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May edit to add more later. For now, hey, that’s a start. Clearly, you’re prepared to take on ANY Halloween event.

-Kristi



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Young people of a certain age might remember the images of Verne and Méliès better in the music video for “Tonight, Tonight” by the Smashing Pumpkins, c. 1997. Heavily influenced, you could say. -DL

Oh, and for those deeply invested, or just curious, you can find an interesting set of observations on the connections and lineage amongst these various strands at this website right here, just by clicking through. Cartoons, animation, art, and more.

-GHW



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Jules Verne may have been one of the first authors to popularize tales of extraordinary travel, but he wasn’t the first to explore the idea. Indeed, it seems likely that so long as humans have been able to dream, they have perused distant horizons and chased wild possibilities. Consider, for instance, The Odyssey, in which the title character gets by with a little help from the gods, with encounters of mythic proportions. For the present, consider a short sampling of other fantastical journeys:

The History of the Societies and Government of the Moon, Cyrano de Bergerac (1657)

Yes, that Cyrano de Bergerac, the Cyrano immortalized in Rostand’s play. The true Cyrano de Bergerac was just as fantastic as his fictional counterpart, proving time and again to be a real-life swashbuckler with a literary flair (among many other literary contributions, Cyrano wrote a sort of companion novel about the sun’s society). In Society and Government of the Moon, Cyrano utilized space travel and an active imagination to present a utopian society informed as much by Cyrano’s own whims as by the time’s philosophy. Consider, for instance, the fact that large noses are lauded in the Utopian moon society: “…we have observed, that a great Nose is the mark of a Witty, Courteous, Affable, Generous and Liberal man.” Anyone sporting an insufficient schnoz would be gelded in order to prevent further such specimens; Cyrano seems to have been a bit wishful, here.

Gulliver’s Travels, Jonathan Swift (1726)

The famed account of Lemuel Gulliver is both a biting satire (characteristic of Swift’s work) and a truly fantastic romp. Phileas Fogg may have traveled around the world, but Gulliver managed to visit regions not to be found on any map or even in the minds of man. Gulliver’s voyage takes him from (among other stops) the nation of the famously tiny Lilliputians, to an island suspended in the sky, to a land inhabited by cultivated horses and the crude Yahoos. Each society is strange but also somehow familiar, and by the tale’s end, Gulliver has forsaken the ways of his old life to pattern himself after the intellectual equines.

The Surprising Adventures of Baron Munchausen, Rudolph Erich Raspe (1785)

Much like Phileas Fogg, Raspe’s Munchausen is a world-wide traveler. Yet Munchausen is another of the more fanciful adventurers: while Fogg is bound by practicality (every mode of transportation used in the book was available at the time), Munchausen defies all logic and law by traveling in the most fantastic of manners to America to Turkey to Africa, even to the moon (first by climbing a bean sprout, then via ship lifted through the air). Bidding adieu to logic, Munchausen also travels by fish and eagle, and is propelled out of a cannon. The tale is often known through Terry Gilliam’s successful and highly imaginative 1988 film version.

The Great Balloon Hoax,” Edgar Allan Poe (1844)

On April 13, 1844, an article in the New York Sun announced that the manned airship Victoria had crossed the Atlantic Ocean, a feat up to that point unaccomplished. The article detailed the particulars of the balloon itself and included segments from a journal kept by one of the fliers. Its extraordinary tale reportedly brought crowds clamoring for copies of the paper, and scores of people bought into a tale that was, in fact, a hoax. Edgar Allan Poe had penned and submitted the fake article, a thoroughly-researched working of his singular fancy. The affair was later designated “The Great Balloon Hoax,” and it would not be until 1919 that an airship managed to cross the Atlantic, from Europe to the U.S. (All right, so this one’s a bit of a cheat; it isn’t the most extraordinary of voyages, perhaps, but as it’s Poe’s bicentennial, we can throw him a nod.)

-Kristi



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In which a nonsensical warning is issued.

VOTE ‘NO’ ON PARIS  

Phileas Fogg traveled around the world. Phileas Fogg went to Paris. But no one knows what happened there. It is a great mystery. So great and terrible a mystery, in fact, that scholars who have dared to touch it with a ten-foot spoon has vanished without a trace.  

Don’t go to Paris. 

Don’t ask about Paris. 

When you toddle off to sleep at night, check under the bed to make sure Paris isn’t hiding there. 

We tell you as a warning. other places around the world are lots of fun. Yokohama has clowns. They’re pretty cool. They have noses. Noses are also pretty cool. And India has elephants. Elephants like peanuts, especially if they are salted (it keeps the slugs off). America has charming yokels what shoot at buffalo. That’s fun. So go to Yokohama. Go to India. Go to the United States. 

But don’t go to Paris. 

Skip Paris and go directly to the Suez Canal. 

This is the most invaluable advice you will ever receive.

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This post has been brought to you by a brain absent from logic. Please to be noting that Paris is a FINE place—a magnificent place, if you ask Oscar Wilde (like Jack’s elusive brother, Ernest, Wilde was buried in Paris)—and that we here in dramaturgy do not wish to besmirch the name “Paris.”

However. Do take a look at the works of Jules Verne, including 80 Days. Note the number of times that characters are actually seen in France. His characters travel all over, Verne was a Frenchman, but where is France in his so-extensive writing?

Ask Verne’s publisher (well, okay, he isn’t alive anymore, but you get the idea). Apparently, Hetzel wasn’t so keen on allowing Verne to write scenes set in France. And sure, you could argue that Hetzel was attempting to avoid controversy (believe ye olde William Butcher suggests as much). But that might make too much sense.

Clearly, the reason is because Hetzel was afraid of Paris, thought that it was scary, and was only trying to protect Verne and the reading public. Clearly.

-Kristi



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