Monday, February 16, 2015

At the Wake of the Earth-Shaker

"You can stop watching me now. I won't perform for you anymore."

 Smile, or Wedpolkm, commonly interpreted as the modernist values protecting humanity from the cold grips of nature, has been murdered. The gods mourn him for no benefit besides one last attempt to keep their spirits up. Lazarus comes to confront Selkie, who had been responsible for his suffering as Dionysus in The Endless Obsession. He doesn't get to. The Birchman is the only god to truly mourn their fallen friend. Hades keeps tradition going the best he can. Selkie comes apart at the seams. And the Cremator, the true defender of sanity, watches with shame as his acquaintances carry on the carnival rather than prepare for the things Smile's death is harbinger to.

Perhaps the best way to sum it up is to simply say that the play ends with an empty set, as the gods flee the pyre thanks to the Night Owl's threat-- not even a vindicated Cremator, last to exit, dares to speak. The old world has gone. All that is left are larks and the ominous owl. Earth is home to the birds at last.

Monday, February 9, 2015

AtWotES: Hades' eulogy

[ HADES approaches the pyre and smiles. ]

Now be easy, Smile. Take your leisure like a god on pension and don't be walking abroad. You'd only lose yourself in the Path of Black Leaves now that the trees wind like Oper, like our kingdom over there. You'd only wet your clawed feet and meet some sick old former entity, the Intrusion or the Algernon with his shoes hanging and his impure unnamed infant in his decrepit shack. 'Twould turn you against life. And the weather's that mean too. To part from this Earth is hard as Quixote knew, to leave the people worse off than their neighbours, but let your ghost have no grievance. You're better off where you are, scorched in the full of your form, remembering the thrill of the hunt better than any of us-- you'll get the whole treasure of the pyre where you are now, drinking blood with Genghis Khan. And we'll be coming here, we sombre players, to rake your gravel and bring you presents-- won't we, thespians? We will remember you through sacrifices, just as you asked. No meager roadkill but offerings of the field. Your fame is spreading like Birchman's; there's whole cultures worldwide calling names after you. The gods here are always talking of you lurking under the sacred Yggdrasil, over the bowls of memory where every hollowed holds a Hallowed. They're always admiring to our canonical law where the scratches on high are the mark of your raked monolith. All the terror anyone's ever felt, you can bet it rained down from that block. If you fall from grace and exit the underworld soiled and defiled it will only be that farmers and rhapsodists may pack up plenty and render you eternal again. "The earth-shaker," they say you are. "The God Steed, he's dead and gone now and we're fallen into rockier territory but peace to his pale limbs with the last league long rest of him while the Eye of Panopticon sweeps the Elysian Fields!" There was never a conquerer in our history, nor in anyone's history, like you, they say. That you could fell the Birchman in combat (that it almost happened long ago) and strike down the fabled Night Owl (if only that would). Who but a Rake the night of our fortunes and the feralman at the funeral to compass our cause? So may the priest of the Invisible Touch and its twelve Moonchildren never come near you as your skin grows blacker inside the fire that's in your future! Eight times we salute you! The whole Homunculi, body and soul included, is where you banished him. Your heart is in the system of the Shewolf and your crested head is in the tropic of Copricapron. Your feet are in the cloister of Virgo. Your olala is in the region of sahuls. And that's ashore as you were born. Drop in your tracks, Fossil! Be not unrested! I know thee, messenger. I know thee, salvation whisperer. For we have performed upon thee, thou abomination of Xanadu, who comest ever without being invoked, whose coming is unknown, all the things which the company of the gods ordered concerning thee in the matter of the work of thy tombing. Hill of the horsemen, sleep well!

[ HADES stands down without applause. BIRCHMAN now approaches the pyre. ]


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Birds in AtWotES

The play to probably contain the most birds would be At the Wake of the Earth-Shaker, the end of the Selkie cycle. That's a notable play for its own reasons.

In those very niche circles where Rutherford's works receive performance, Earth-Shaker is infamous for its reputation as unperformable. The script includes the direction "[ The larks eat the lead actress's innards. At this point, the audience screams and runs out. Ambulances are called. By the time the police arrive, no trace is left of the actress or of the larks. ]" The play has one single setting, and it makes no reference to any meta-play or audience, police, or ambulances elsewhere; this is referring to literal events. And the play goes on after this with no further break from convention! So for obvious reasons performances skip this part.

Rutherford sometimes had a sense of humour. He liked to describe Earth-Shaker simply as "the curse." In interviews he would pretend he wrote no such scene, in fact that he wrote no larks into the play whatsoever.

Birds in And For Pleasure

Birds didn't show up in Rutherford's poetry quite as much as they did in his plays. They were often ever-present, written as elements of the background, sometimes sentinels and sometimes silent judges. They're usually interpreted as symbols of nature as constant: While the characters do terrible things and great things and while empires fall and people betray one another and have to face their deepest fears, nature is always there, surprisingly unaffected.

In one of his later plays, And For Pleasure, Striga while content with the state of her life has this odd conversation with Ozzy. It's one of my favourite moments from his plays though no critic has ever commented on it. But Striga's comments on birds were one of the reasons I decided to make this blog, so I'll excerpt:

People don't respect me. They don't care about me. I'd be surprised if they remember my birthday tomorrow. But it's just a birthday. They remember my death-day, they all do; it's when all the bluejays flock to my bedroom window. May 4th. I don't yet know the year. But that's the day I'll die. I can tell from the way they look in through the glazing, their eyes knowing and their beaks opening for calls but no sound coming out. My death will be no secret.

"In my hands pale ribbons I squeeze" (1943)

In my hands
 Pale ribbons I squeeze
  As junkers shout "Opera!"
    No trumpets such as these
                       Staffless songs
                        For rubber bands
                      A house, short and stout
             A man's image in a Staunton mirror
                   Chain-smoking from his chimney
                          (Osteoporosis of the pillar)
                            Junkers shout "Ivory!"
                               That house has crumpled.
                              With Hadfield I too shall retreat
                                             To the home of the birds
                                                               Greet us kindly

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Again and Again

This is Selkie, Mistress of Oper. Rutherford uses her primarily as a personification of the forces of control and power. Selkie appears as a character in multiple plays, but while she's only the protagonist in one of them Rutherford collectively titled these productions as The Selkie Cycle, or Again and Again.

Going over them, they are:

  1. The Endless Obsession: A minimalist plot-driven exploration of the simple politics of the gods. Selkie enlists a mortal to settle a conflict, only to let the pressures of power reset it all. In the end, all that has changed is more of Selkie's enemies have died.
  2. Matches in Monochrome: A shadow-play showing magnificent battles between grotesque monsters. Selkie throws Hades into the "Pit of the Lotus Eater." He must fight his way out of a realm of his own subconscious.
  3. Blood: A play of mortals with conventional drama. Selkie is used only as a symbol, not a character.
  4. Finally, I Regret: A short one-scene play. Selkie, as protagonist, gazes out her window at the streets of Oper below. No dialogue.
  5. At the Wake of the Earth-Shaker: Rutherford's final play. A god has died, and the rest hold a wake. At this wake, Selkie's past actions catch up with her.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

(1929 - 2014)

Henry Rutherford died this year. His poetry is already "classic" status, studied on numerous curricula across the nation, and his plays are only now entering the public consciousness. You, reader, no doubt recognize such poems as "Hell's Yard," "In the Garden of Desolation," or "The Last Sunset." He wrote really bleak stuff. As for his plays, I'd be surprised if many even know about The Endless Obsession, which was performed somewhat recently by a free-form theater troupe. That's the only one available on the internet, so far as I can find, though it's on such shady websites that I won't link to it here.

I will use this blog to discuss his works in greater detail. I'll probably also slip in whatever cool stuff I can find out about my college's upcoming production.

A bit of a warning in advance, though: His plays have a lot of birds in them.

AtWotES: "Infinite regress"

[ As the festivities continue, CREMATOR and LAZARUS retreat away from the group. Larks watch. ]

These characters dress up. Think he would smile at our thoughts. He was murdered. He would not smile. A wake. Wedpolkm wasn't even aware of death; what sense does it make to hold a thing like this? Maybe if we spent less time recycling stories by the pyre and more time doing what it built us for-- rotting away in a pillar of calamity...

[ CREMATOR grunts. ]

You are biased.

Alright, big guy.

[ CREMATOR walks to the cliff edge and looks below. ]

It built us for remembering.

[ LAZARUS scoffs. ]

World was long in sleep, troubled to wake. Brain shrinks with age, every night steals another memory. We are sentinels. We are memories. Fossils of another age. We came to this wake for an absent friend. Seems appropriate to me.

There's only so much time we can spend dwelling on the past. Today we'll remember Wedpolkm, tomorrow we'll remember someone else. That show never ends.

May be so.

[ Silence. LAZARUS approaches CREMATOR at cliff edge. ]

When I came back, I was furious. At her. I still can't forgive her for what she did.

You are not one to.

Yeah. She's never going to care that she killed me. It's in the past to her. But it ate me up inside, it split me into many minds. Every day became an infinite regress just trying to figure out which voice to listen to, and I'd repeat it over and over.. until I realized the solution: To forget and not forgive.

[ CREMATOR looks at LAZARUS. ]

Would you take this memory from me?