The Last Player

 

In the theatre, there is a last player that needs to be cast before the performance becomes a reality; the audience. The actors draw energy from them, their reactions (or lack thereof) can dictate the tenor of the performance and the efficacy of the show in general. 

Consider the goal of theatre. We perform to create a catharsis. To allow someone to express their emotions through the art. The culmination of this is the reactions of the audience. Their catharsis gives the final definition to the show. A professional company delivers the exact same performance at least eight times a week for the length of the run. Each show is a complete and near perfect copy of the last to the outside observer. However, when the last cast member, the final player enters the theatre, the show cannot help but change.

This collective body that is there to observe, feel, share common emotions, and experience humanity live and in three dimensions, will improvise throughout the performance. This improvisational reaction drives the cast members onstage. Laughter, for instance can occur where predicted, and more often than not, completely unexpectedly. This causes pausing and waiting for laughter to begin dying out before continuing. That immediately changes the pacing of the show. A skilled actor will never let on that they waited for the laughter to start arching down, but they will instinctively react to it and stay in character. Likewise, the energy of the audience in general will provide a sustained lift to the actors, and allow for fluidity or suck the momentum from the action if not present. 

I recently attended an immersive performance of King Lear by the Out Loud Theatre Company. In the black box space, seating was limited to 20 audience members. This group of actors delivered a performance that was not only intriguing and alive, but carried with it the ability to enrapture the viewer/participant. Audience members were truly participants, held complicit in the actions on the stage. I felt less a distant observer of the activity onstage, and more of a witness; active and responsible for my reactions. The director, Kira Hawkridge, a woman I had the honor of instructing and directing when she was 13 and again at 18 prior to her launch as a powerhouse of the avant garde in Providence’s theatre community, provided that ability to feel a different catharsis than I have felt since college.

My major at the Massachusetts College of Art (before they added “Design” to the name) was SIM. The Studio for Interrelated Media utilized some of these concepts. We concentrated on how to form art more as an experience that engages senses beyond the visual. Catharsis and the psychology behind it were our stock in trade. My work was primarily monologues, but I also created installation artwork, performance pieces that were more abstract focussing on sound and light, and other works that left audiences with less clarity of thought than when they arrived. My focus was always a cathartic experience for the audience. 

This concept is something I consider whenever directing or designing a theatrical performance. It is about the entire experience for all parties involved. Audiences enter a space and allow their emotions to run amuck  at the control of the actors on the stage. At least, that is the hope of the actors, technicians, and directors. Actors emote and enact making them  responsible for exhibiting and interpreting the author’s thoughts and director’s vision. Free and lifted, the feelings of the participants and viewers begin to meld utilizing the words of the playwright and how they are delivered by the actor(s), the sounds of the composition or sound designer, the aura of the lighting, and the visuals of the setting, and their ability to let go of their own control and submit to the delight of suspending disbeliefs. 

This last cast member, the unpredictable and most exciting player; the audience, is welcomed into any company. We theatre practitioners will follow the chief rule of all improvisation – acceptance. We accept you all into our houses, our homes, our sacred spaces where we impart knowledge, passions, laughter, horror, sorrow and joy. Please accept your roles joining our company and fulfilling the promise of our art. 

Go, experience, enjoy and be a part of the theatre. We need our last players. After all,

                                   “All the world’s a stage,

and all the men and women merely players;”

As You Like It  II.7-  William Shakespeare

Come, join the play.

Wages of War – Chapter 3 Rescuing and Capture

Chapter 3                   Rescuing and Capture

            Cavan and I sat in the small room contemplating our new circumstance. An armed guard almost as big as the two of us combined sat just outside our door charged with keeping us “comfortable.” His presence gave me any feeling but comfort.

            “So, what the hell do you think we should do now?” I started. “I mean, here we are while God knows what Inkaritath and the rest of the Harcos are doing just circling the city up there. They must all be going stir crazy. I feel sort of bad for the crews.”

            “Jules, we’ve got time to figure all of this out. The repairs are supposed to take two weeks. My biggest worry is making sure there’s enough in the ship’s stores for the excess passengers they now carry.” Cavan answered with a look of worry and deep contemplation that I hadn’t seen since before we found his father. I knew he was more worried about Sonia than any of the ten thousand fairies aboard those two floating fortresses. The two of them had not been separated in the last ten months of our time on this wild quest. She gave up everything she knew; family, friends, the pride of being one of only a handful of women who went to college in this age.

            I have never had a love interest. There have always been women I am fascinated by and who are attractive, but I have had little ability to be with the fairer sex. After all, we started this bizarre adventure only weeks into our schooling. This being said, I couldn’t relate to Cavan’s internal stress. I looked at him. Sitting in the window looking up toward the sky with only one thing going through his mind, “Is she okay?”

            We sat in silence staring at each other and taking in the room. Cavan sat on a window seat so perfectly fitted that one would assume it was carved from the wall. The two four post beds sat on angles in the space with the foot of each facing the window itself. At this point I could see the noon sun hitting its peak shining through the panes of clear glass in the center surrounded by stained glass squares on the outer edge.

            The sun gleamed light through the colored glass adding an almost carnival feeling to the room’s bright décor. Hangings of red and orange fabric surrounded the window and seat tied with gold Lemay stays. As the sun passed hour after hour our jailor only contacted us once for a light dinner of bread, cheese and a rice dish tossed with spiced sausage and vegetables. The food matched the room; hot, audacious and full of New Orleans flavor. At least the small feast was accompanied by a good glass of wine.

            After nearly an entire day of nothing but watching Cavan mourn the loss of his dream and the absence of his beloved, the sun began to make its way down over the skyline of the French Quarter. It’s bright tones of red, orange, purple and pink were replaced slowly by the same colors in miniature coming from the lights in the buildings below. I couldn’t stand the silence any longer.

            “Well, at least the room’s not boring.”

            Cavan and I both laughed uncontrollably. It wasn’t even a funny comment; just the absurdity of the situation and our confinement struck us silly. As we finally settled for what was supposed to be a restful night, a small figure crashed into our window. A local fairy sat perched on the sill singing to the wind that blew her body into the panes. She was oddly tiny. Her voice rang out with a troubled tone, like a fledgling bird left too long in the nest alone.

            As her wide eyes gazed through the glass into the room, I was reminded why we did all that we did in Ecuador. It was for the good of these creatures that Dr. Anstruther; Cavan’s father first went into those wilds. His attempt to find the origins of these creatures we take so for granted led to the greatest and most controversial discovery of all time. We became so wrapped up in the quest for Dr. Anstruther, we’d forgotten the real meaning of his work; spread the truth about fairykind. Here I sat watching this innocent creature calling for help pleading with the wind for assistance against itself. It responded by gaining intensity and fervor with every current of air.

            Without warning, the recently adopted night burst apart by searchlights cutting through our window. The winds were not natural, but the propellers of an airship pushing the New Orleans air as it descended to our location. A shadow lowered into the window frame. It was amorphous and vibrating. The form undulated, then suddenly lit in flame oddly outlined by the artificial light coming from the airship.

            With the precision of royal marksmen, spears alight with fire flew through the window setting the drapery aflame. With one precise movement, the bizarre silhouette outside the glass spread in synchronized flight locking the spears into the square frames between the glass. The ropes, which we only noticed at this point, went taught, seizing for a moment and tensing before breaking the remainder of the window out of its casement in the wall.

            As if planned and rehearsed endlessly, a rope ladder dropped just outside of the hole left in the boarding house. By this time several men were outside of our room banging the door as the sound of the old creole woman shrieking, “I will fine de godam key! You brutes gun break down ma door! Den you gun pey fa it! I dun care who ya werk fa!”

            Just as the hinges of the door began to give and the rattle of tumblers clicked in the door, Cavan and I were lifted with our rucksacks into the air and surrounded by armed Towhay. The faces of the men as they looked out of the broken window up at us were filled with fear so paralyzing that their weapons remained drawn but silent.

            Once aboard the dirigible, we charged for the bridge to find what impatient soul had decided waiting for the Empire to sort this out was out of the question. Neither of us was shocked to see Inkaritath standing aside the helmsman. Sonia’s presence did cause us to pause.

            The captain of this vessel had made it very clear at the onset of our journey that he did not prefer women to be aboard his ship. The fact that she stood on the bridge aside the helmsman was out of character for the captain. Thinking of this, I looked around. The captain was conspicuously missing from the bridge. Cavan noticed as well.

            “Where’s Captain Moralez?” he asked.

            “I asked him to leave.” Sonia said matter-of-factly.

            “You did what?” I asked, not believing what I heard.

            “I asked him to leave. He wouldn’t allow me to go and fetch the two of you. His opinion was that ‘such a mission is foolhardy at best’.” She said mockingly with a false Spanish accent, then continued, “So, I asked him to leave. He of course refused. My response was simple; I had the Towhay place him in the brig for gross insubordination. As the highest ranking person on the ship, he must follow my orders.” She finished with certainty.

            “How are you the highest rank on this ship?” I questioned, only to receive what I’m sure was a well-rehearsed response.

            “With the two of you gone, I am the only ambassador to the Harcos. On a diplomatic mission such as this, the ambassador outranks everyone as the official emissary to the nation he/she represents. Besides, the Towhay wanted you back and Inkaritath wouldn’t keep on with the trip without you. Oh, and, we’re running low on supplies so we couldn’t wait the two weeks to get out of here.”

            “Oh. No other reason?” Cavan asked. Without hesitation she replied.

            “Nope.”

            The smile on her face was not easily held back as it grew from cheek to cheek despite the resistance of her facial muscles. Sonia broke out of her stoic false front and with a glee-filled run and landed square into Cavan’s arms. Inkaritath smirked then cleared his throat.

            “Sonia is being facetious, I have thrown the Captain into the brig.” He said matter-of-factly followed with an abrupt change of subject, “My friends, we must now talk of getting to Philadelphia to speak with your King James. I am anxious to seek his counsel.” The giant fairy pronounced. “The next phase of our mission must commence, hopefully with less disruption.” He finished quickly and returned to his station aside the helmsman. I broke in with the question that had been on my mind for some time now.

            “What mission, Inkaritath?”

            He turned and with a stoic look on his face answered bluntly, “To find the other twelve Great Ones. My brethren.”

            “Surely by now they are dead.” Cavan insisted.

            Sonia spoke for Inkaritath.

            “As Inkaritath has explained it to me, the technology that sustained him was not created by the Harcos. There was one nation of the Great Ones, a certain section of fairykind was Inkaritath’s size. That era ended four thousand years ago with a war that all but wiped out his people. Just before this, his people separated into thirteen clans and spread across the planet. The last of each of the original fairies was placed in a deep sleep using machines just like the one in which we discovered Inkaritath.” She finished.

            “So what’s the mission?” I asked, still perplexed by the whole concept. There were too many gaps in the story. I wanted them filled in, but I couldn’t risk this ancient fairy falling out of favor with us. At this point we were at his mercy. He said without turning

            “Jules, you and Cavan need your sleep. Go to your staterooms and I will call us all for a meeting as soon as you have been able to regain some sleep from what I am sure was a very trying day.     

          Cavan and Sonia went starboard and I port. The hall was on the third deck, just under the gasbag. Harcos guarded the doors. Two on each side, weapons in hand, eyes fixed in front of them. I didn’t know whether to feel honored or trapped. I bid my two friends, “goodnight” and sauntered into my room past my guards.

          The questions flew through my head as I lay on my cot looking at the ceiling. I thought of all that I left behind. How I have not even corresponded with my father in over half a year. My education ceased before it began to flower, and for what? To be told by an ancient wrinkled being that shouldn’t even exist in the eyes of the world that we were not done yet. I wasn’t done yet. The whole thing seemed so damn ludicrous!

          Yet there I lay staring at the patterns pressed into the tin, unable to sleep for fear of what the “mission” would entail. How were we to find the rest of these Great Ones? This was all too confusing. I began to fall asleep dosing in between conscious and subconscious thought. The memories of the day flooded back in vivid detail; almost super real, a day-dream of sorts:

          Time was sped up as I watched the hours pass in our room inside the boarding house. The sun swam its slow dance across the room highlighting the colors as it passed. When the sun had reached the left hand corner of the window shining through a red square of stained glass, time stopped around me. Cavan sat, mouth in mid sentence, but I could move and seemed to do so lucidly. The light seemed to pinpoint on the base of a bedpost. I hadn’t noticed the carving before. It was a miniature globe of the earth.

          The beam of light ended in a single point upon the miniature map – England. Time resumed its collision course with our rescue at top speed. The beam disappeared. A thudding in the room became louder and louder the intensity of the sound began to overtake me as I…

          Waking, still clothed, I heard the stateroom door being assaulted by someone’s knuckles. The knock was not panicked, but insistent.

          “I’m coming, already! Hold your britches, would you?” I said smacking my lips and stretching with a yawn as I placed my feet upon the wood floor. There was no light in the room, so I presumed it was before dawn. What the hell was so damn important to wake me at this hour? Furthermore, who would have the audacity to do so? Why had the guards let them? The rapping began again.

          “Alright, alright.” I pronounced exasperated. I reached the door and gently pulled it open. There stood Agent Carlin stood looking stern and stoic as ever.

          “What the hell are you doing aboard this ship?” I asked. He did not respond but began to shake and convulse. Blood trickled from his lips and the four tips of a Towhay weapon emerged from his chest. He lurched forward grasping for me with eyes pleading as his blood gurgled from his now gaping mouth. As his body struck mine

        I sat up straight in bed; cold sweat pouring from my head. I immediately placed my glasses on, wrapping the sides around my ears. I lit the small Tesla battery lamp by my bed and searched my coat pockets for my fountain pen and journal. I had been keeping track of our journey and any strange dreams or visions I have had over the past months. Before I lost the thought, I jotted down every detail. It’s funny how the subconscious works. Upon first scan, the dream and dream within it would seem odd. I was to find out in the morning just how foreboding my dreams were.

Surprises at Every Turn

It seems to me that life is like what happens when a house of horrors meets a joyous, surprise birthday party. I know this sounds odd, but let’s think about this. Every second, around each corner whether it be a day-long, minute-long, decade-long corner, there is a surprise waiting for you. Every moving forward on a meandering path that at times is clear and distinct with joys and brightness then turn a corner and…

JUMP SCARE! BLACKNESS! SCREAMING! 

Until you reach the next corner. 

Morbid, right? No. Reflect on your life. The moments of cataclysmic horror are easily remembered, but they are usually presented in moments or a series of moments. Corners or turns if you will. In between those we have a choice. Let our eyes stay closed and remain in the darkness awaiting the next scare, or open up and take in the view of the party.

That party will go on with or without you. You can live in that moment open eyed and open hearted, or close your eyes and fear the next uncontrollable horror. Sure, staying open makes you susceptible to the darkness and the scary turns life can take, but with your eyes shut, you live blind to everything, good and bad.

So, walk the winding path. Don’t look for dark corners in which to dwell and live out your life. That is the real horror show. The party is only worth it when you are taking an active part in it. Whether it is a slow dancing formal ball, or a raucous night of club music and laughter, let the party carry you through the darkness and allow those times to be bearable. It can’t be all balloons and rainbows, but it can provide light in your heart to allow the ability to round the next corner and take that turn with confidence.

Enjoy your surprises! And just to shake it up a bit, take some unexpected turns. They lead to amazing things and new discoveries. 

Surprise! Open your eyes and take it all in. 

The importance of quick studies

As an artist, doing repetition can be very beneficial. I have been studying subjects over and over for over 20 years and I find that I still need to redo and rehash sketching of these things. 

Here’s a brief group of hand studies done just a couple of days ago. I was sitting sketching a fawn and was really having a hard time with the positioning of the hand and forearm in regard to the foreshortening. So I started to quickly doodle and sketch different versions and visions of the hand. 

How does this help? It is part of my overall philosophy of art making – It’s not so much about being perfect on the first try as it is perfecting the journey to the end product. 


Wages of War – Chapter 2 Fire and Fury

Chapter 2       Fire and Fury

     The reason these pointy helmeted fiends were finding new and interesting ways to extract information from me was due to their complete confusion as to how three college students and what they consider the minions of Satan himself defeated three of the best in the southern sea fleet of the Reich. The Kaiser himself was the man ordering my “treatment”. I felt almost honored to be considered so important. If only the likes of Kurt Vander, a pompous bully from prep school could see me now. I was important enough to be on the Kaiser’s most wanted list and what’s he doing? Probably living it up in Providence at Brown University getting pretty girls convinced that his money and jawline are the keys to their hearts.

     My thoughts returned to the bistro. The striking Parisian girl that worked in the bistro had come to clean up my wine from the cobblestone. As much as I wished to say, “thank you,” I knew that my voice would give away what my false moustache and hat are barely concealing. I didn’t wish to go back to that goddamn prison and be questioned by the German thugs again. Besides they never got from me how exactly we defeated the fleet.

     What I wouldn’t tell them was what occurred late on the first night just past the Panama Canal. Cavan and I were awake in our stateroom aboard the Ascienda restlessly attempting to talk about the events of the last two months. We went from calm average college students to being internationally wanted men.

     “What the hell did we do to deserve all of this?” I posed the question.

     “I haven’t the vaguest idea. I thought we were just out for a little cruise.” Cavan said and we both chuckled. He fingered the case containing his father’s journal. The point of it traced the intricate pattern and gear works that locked the journal in place with Cavan holding the only key. I could see the loss on his face now as he thought of his father dying in his arms. His father’s hands reaching up to touch Cavan’s; the same hands that crafted the clockwork box he held. He continued.

     “I thought this was only going to bring us to my father. I never imagined, I’d suddenly be a leader. I don’t know if I’m ready for this, Jules. I’m just an artist, I don’t know how to be a statesman.”

     “Cavan, your creativity is what makes you perfect for this. You don’t think like a statesman, that’s what will make it work. Let’s face it, we’re flying with ten thousand creatures that the world doesn’t know even exist. This is no place for a statesman.” As the last words left my lips, an explosion ripped through the air and the stateroom shifted as if gravity had suddenly decided to play ball with the dirigible. I looked out of the window to see in the inky black of the night sea, flashes coming from the water’s surface followed by the eerie whistle of incoming shells.

     Cavan and I ran up the tilted floors to the hatch. With both of our weights, it began to creak open. Our feet were braced on the doorframes as we struggled for leverage. The oval portal finally gave in to our collective battle and swung so that it collided with the wall on its return flight. The wall was now a peaked ceiling and Cavan and I found ourselves running through the halls as if we were in a carnival ride.

     Madness and chaos filled the halls. Smoke billowed from the starboard engine and fumed in through the halls. By the time we had navigated to the bridge, Towhay warriors were in flight outside of every window, torches alight. I grasped the handle next to the helm and peered out the large bridge window as the helmsman and first mate struggled to right the ship without any propulsion on one side. What I saw was a meandering spiral of fire and speed diving like a cannon shot down a well. The Towhay were in formation speeding toward the blackened target with wings folded allowing for gravity to pull their hurtling bodies directly into the center of combat. With a gasp I could not control I watched as the elegant shape of diving warriors turned into what appeared as a single ball of fire that abruptly changed direction just above the water’s surface.

     The choppy reflection of the fireball trailed it while the ball itself hung just centimeters above the waves. As this embodiment of fairy power reached the ship on a pass, it fractured into hundreds of flame tongues, which I knew were the warriors’ staffs. Then disappeared into the gun turrets and caused silence. The blasting ceased and one by one each set of guns suffered the same fate. The entire operation took less than two minutes. The guns lay silent and what we could now tell was only an armored corvette. We hoped the serious Dreadnoughts were all closer to home waters.

     The corvette began to list. Rocking unsteady in the current with an obvious loss of power. Within seconds the bridge burst into flame and the same hundred tongues of fire leapt from the explosion as if they were shrapnel set ablaze. The small flickers hung in the air before returning to our battered and still lopsided craft.

     I suppose I would have been more scared if I had actually known at the time what happened to the exterior of the ship I was on. We did not suffer a direct hit to the starboard engine, but rather to the armor just above it lining the bottom of the gasbag. It had hit in just the right spot to dislodge a rather large and pointed piece of metal that found its way into the engine housing. The odd tilt of the ship was due to the dislodged piece not the engine.

     The other three dirigibles seemed unharmed but we were forced to turn north and find land. The extent of the repairs could not be made in the air.

     Four more slow hours in the air and we approached the coast of New Orleans. The captain had decided a safer northwest course was in order. Perfectly suited for airship and naval vessels, this hub of the Polk province made for a well-earned respite from the days in the air. The Harcos had distributed themselves between the remaining three airships leaving only humans and Inkaritath aboard the Ascienda. Our companion vessels remained in the air as we pulled gently over the waters of the Gulf of Mexico coasting at a mere ten meters from the surface.

     As we cleared the levy that blocked the waters of the ocean from destroying the city in the distance, we saw the soft glow of lights. It was a welcome sight after so many days in the jungle and flying over open water. Civilization approached us as we flew with cargo that would potentially destroy it. It was confirmed that the airships would all refuel without any ground crews aiding the process. This kept us in the port for longer than expected, but allowed us to hide our living cargo. We did not wish to repeat the incident in Quito.

     The repairs to our ship were extensive. She had suffered little damage to the hull or airbag, but the armor, starboard supports and engine were a complete loss. The German corvette knew precisely where to hit us in order to disable but not destroy. We were to be at port for two weeks to affect repairs. Inkaritath had other ideas.

     In the dim light of dawn, we docked, locking into the side of a large paddock make specifically for airships. It was typical New Orleans, however. A flair of French frippery strewn the tops of the two towers that were joined by ornately carved bridges from which the passengers exited to the docks. The boardwalks leading away from the docks to the city were littered with vendors and shops calling for the attention of new arrivals to the city. The only thing more welcoming than the architecture was the people. Several languages rang through the humid morning air requesting attention from steamship and airship visitors alike as the shops opened their doors.

     All of this went temporarily silent as our ship docked. Damaged and weary, it brought the wars to New Orleans’ shores. Workmen instantaneously started repairs. They flooded the exterior, tools in hand, climbing the ropes, etc. The charred, blackened, side of our ship made the impact to not only the repair workers, but also to the crowds below; of how close to home this war had come. The oddest part of it all in hindsight is how the real war hadn’t even started yet.

     As I exited the dirigible onto the port side paddock bridge, I looked up to see the remainder of our small fleet circling overhead. Something caught my eye. Something was moving on the side of our gasbag. It was inordinately quick, jumping from rope to rope with the agility of a monkey. The glimpses I caught revealed little, as not much of the sun’s morning ascent had reached into the paddock itself.

     On one pass the jumper missed a rope and began to fall. Two meters of wings sprung to life and glided the figure back to the receiving surface of the gasbag. Inkaritath. He was trying to leave the ship without being seen. We did not want to repeat the incident at Quito. I tried not to call attention to him as I watched with tension the crowds of people gathered in the streets and pouring like waves from steamboats, ferries and airships. No one seemed to be looking up. I was relieved until I saw Inkaritath break into the sunlight at the top of the dirigible.

     One of the repair personnel stood in shock as the largest of all fairies alighted to the top of his work. The worker began to lose his foothold on the bag and slipped off. The crowd still went about their business.

     The man, speechless with fear, collapsed over the side of the dirigible falling into the shadow of the paddock. The worker must have realized his plight as the safety cable rigging him to the ship snapped stiff with his weight. He screamed out of sheer panic. Within seconds, Inkaritath had swooped down past the man in a decisive dive that abruptly turned as his wings reached full extension, moving him swiftly upward with enough force to grab the poor soul and return him to the top.

     All of this was in clear view for the masses filling the morning market to see as their eyes trained upward following the sound of the screams. We had not planned this to be the way the Harcos met the world. However, if there was to be some sort of precipitating event – a daring rescue wasn’t half bad for positive publicity. At the time I was just beginning to think of strategy and how we could best pull all of this off.

     No need for us to think of cover for the event at all anyway. Within seconds, Cavan, our crew and myself was surrounded by men in dark suits and hats shooing the onlookers away with lies such as, “Wasn’t that a great trick?” “You’ll have to excuse these foreign circus people, they can never resist a show!” “No more freebies, folks, you’ll have to buy a ticket for the real show.” The suited gentlemen walked us quickly up the planks to the crippled ship.

     The man at my right side, taller by a good twenty centimeters than myself, gripped my right arm with a hand that could well double as a vice. His muscular frame and those of all but one of his companions seemed as if it would burst the seams in their suits should they flex. As if some bizarre form of vaudevillian act, the man leading them was practically a dwarf. His skinny frame and toothpick thin legs kept time quickly as he paced our trip rapidly back to the ship. The valise at his side bulged slightly as it swung to and fro attached precariously to the end of his fragile-looking arm by a wiry set of fingers.

     Once out of the crowd’s earshot he turned on his heel mid-stride and faced us. His expression was an oddly stoic grimace. Framed so absurdly by a wide moustache that it almost sent me into a full out laugh. As I coughed and watched Cavan’s hand travel to his face also trying to appear as if he was clearing his throat, the little man with the valise spoke.

     “I am Lieutenant Carlin of His Majesty’s Special Police. We are here to escort you and your ‘cargo’ to the palace.” He said with the unmistakable haughty twang of a Virginian. He continued, “Our operatives have watched your careless and reckless trip from Quito with trepidation. When you were attacked just off the coast, Prime Minister Wilson ordered us to step in and take over should you land on North American soil.”

     He handed the valise to Cavan.

     “You’ll find all of the necessary paperwork in this case declaring your obligation to the ‘cargo’ null and void, gentlemen. We are commandeering your vessel and all of its contents in the name of the Empire. Prime Minister Wilson sends his warmest regards and sincerest thanks for completing your father’s expedition.” With this, the men holding us let go, following Carlin up the gangplank and into the ship.

     A wave of panic came over me. The journal. Cavan’s father’s journal was in that ship. Everything else was useless tripe compared to that. In the hands of anyone but Cavan, it could be used to destroy the Harcos. All of their anatomy, the research he did that he purposely omitted when he published his initial findings in 1899, its all in there. Cavan and I exchanged a glance knowing that the journal was the only thing that mattered.

     I stopped dead in my tracks and said without thinking, “What the hell do you lot think you’re doing going into that airship?” As the words passed through my lips, I felt almost possessed. “You can’t just waltz into any damn ship you want.”

     I was being attacked by stares from two fronts – Cavan and Carlin. Both men fixed a gaze on me but for very different reasons.

     “Just who are you to be able to question my authority in this matter, boy?” Carlin breathed with utter condescension in his low measured voice.

     “No one except a person that understands by the Empire’s decree of seizure act that Prime Minister Polk put in place in 1847, you have no damn authority on that ship. It states, and I quote, ‘No officer(s) of the Empire be he in any branch of service to the crown of the North American Empire, may enter a foreign vessel should that vessel be incapacitated in any manner until a proper royal master shipbuilder has inspected said vessel to declare it’s ability to occupy a search without impending harm to afore mentioned officer(s).’

     “I believe it continues with an addendum added after the onset of airship technology at the turn of the century, ‘If the vessel be an airborne ship, and her disability force her to a dock within the Empire for safety of her crew and passengers, said vessel will be allowed to make it’s own repairs prior to boarding by officer(s) of the crown.’” I finished with a small amount of wonder at myself.

     Carlin processed this in his abnormally small head. After nearly a minute, he responded, “You are correct, but you did forget one important caveat- ‘all but the crew essential to repairs shall be sequestered under guard in the nearest facility that will accommodate them, until such time as the vessel is again safe.’

     The tension between the two parties of men; Cavan and myself versus Carlin and four armed gorillas in suits, was daunting. Cavan then started to form a thought and pronounce it but was cut off by the first of the brutes to speak.

     “Sir, we should let them at least get their things if we’re going to be holding them for that long.” He suggested. Thank the heavens somebody here had some sense. Carlin agreed grudgingly. Cavan and I were allowed to fetch our belongings, including the journal.

     We quickly packed our bags with all of the evidence of our adventure in the jungles of Ecuador; The maps, the Huntington tranquilizer pistols and the coins given to us by the Harcos. Checking the stateroom three times, we finally declared all was out for prying eyes. With that we left the ship for the last time and were taken to a holding facility just north of the French Quarter.

     We were taken a boarding house. The matronly Creole woman who showed us to our room never spoke a word. Her demeanor was elusive and suspicious. It was only Cavan and Myself that were staying here so I didn’t imagine at the time it would be much of an imposition. Little did I know what Inkaritath was planning among his people aboard the two remaining aircraft.

Learning from Students

     For those of you that don’t know, my day job is a blessing. I am a full time theatre educator at an arts charter school in an urban area of Rhode Island. The school is the Beacon Charter High School for the Arts in Woonsocket, RI. For ten years I have taught there through a plethora of different changes of title, duties, and expectations. I have been honored by my colleagues both by awards, but mostly by having the privilege to work along side them. 

     I was hired as the “artist in residence.” My role grew once I earned certification to teach Visual Arts, and again when I earned a second cert in Theatre Arts. I was hired to be the second hand to the Visual and Theatre Arts teachers already on staff. I have been and continue to be blessed to be able to do my art and share my passion with  at least 60 students per year. Each semester, each day, presents different inspiration and challenges. Today was an exceptional day.

     It was “Senior Arts Night.”  The evening where we invite the community to partake in the artistic prowess of our Senior students. The culmination of three and a quarter years of training and pursuit of passion are attempted to be encapsulated into a single night. However, tonight felt different. It felt calm and relaxed. Bizarre coming from me. In actuality, for me it was time to sit back and watch the students do their work independent of the strings controlled by me. This is why I do what I do. The reward for all of the work is watching them create freely without my direction, a night of plays, monologues, and scenes that hey have written or learned (in the case of the Shakespeare pieces). 

     The most remarkable thing is watching them launch past the simplistic ideas and typical to a place of theatrical prowess that focusses on being genuine and spontaneous. But the portion that always gets me is the respect they have for me. I’m the strict, unpredictable, impossible to read, scary bald man at the front of the room. But for the last two years that I have been running the program, my Seniors on Senior Arts Night have written me letters and notes on what is is to be in my classes. I know I must have done something right for a group of teens to take the time to publicly recognize that they have learned and been inspired by something, especially a teacher. It is truly a humbling experience. 

     I sit here reading the notes the students gave me and get a little bit more happy in the choices I have made. I choose to be an educator with passion. I choose to be genuine. I choose to be passionate and not hide it. I choose to learn from my students as they learn through me. They made me inexplicably proud tonight as did there peers from last year (my first year alone in the program). To know that they have earned three very important things and can put them into practice:

Collaboration 

Respect for Art

A work ethic that includes initiative and a willingness to create

     So, to the class of 2018, my sincerest thanks for your teaching and your learning, your kindness and respect, which has always made me feel a part of the class and not an outside force driving and dragging the class forward. May your futures continue to get brighter. My the muses bless you with inspiration as we begin the next chapter – Senior Project!

Wages of War – The Fairy Wars Continue.

I have been holding out on everyone. Perhaps this will get me back on track with writing. It is raw, it’s unedited (mostly, I polished it a bit). 

In 2012, I wrote another 45,000 words (give or take) to the follow up to Broken Silences, Wages of War. It was supposed to be the second in a trilogy called,  The Fairy Wars. I’ve been sitting on it for nearly six years and I think it is time to let it go out into the internet aether. 

So, to all of the dozens of folks who were so kind as to read my first novel, I will release here in chapters the next novel. Enjoy… 

 

Wages of War

copyright 2012 Jason Robert LeClair

 

Chapter 1 –    Blood and Stone

 

     I couldn’t shake the feeling of powerlessness. Sitting looking at the stone floor recalling the worst days of my life as if I were there in some shadow seeing it all silent and unobserved, cold and unfeeling; separate from the world I’m viewing, but my senses have declared my mind a battleground.

     Seconds before I was simply sipping a glass of red wine when a sound startled me and it spilled. Not dramatically with a crash of glass and the like, but a simple tilt too far and liquid met with gravity’s power until it splashed upon the cobblestone underneath my feet. It mesmerized me, preventing any attempt to look away. A wave of emotion met my every thought. Memories are horrible things. I struggled to bring myself into that moment. I was in a bistro on a quiet street in a quaint French village, not in an archaic prison cell.

     The fight for this moment was lost and the past threw it to the ground and took over. Feeling of being an observant shadow staring at myself flooded my entire body. For me, this was familiar, it had been occurring now for months. Images, sounds, smells, tastes and feelings rampaged my being as I slipped, trancelike, backward into my past but as a viewer, not a participant.

     The blood is caked to my hair in matted clumps and from this angle high above the scene, my bruises looked much worse than I imagined. None on my face, never the face, my captors were sure to keep the face clean for photos ensuring the North American Empire that I was well and just being detained. But the blood on the stone floor of my cell was all too real. Just when the last batch dries and no longer has life, I’m taken out for questioning which always results in the floor being refreshed with a new coating of dark red liquid when I’m brought back.

     My recollection of the time is clouded but as I stared at my reflection in the wine on the sidewalk it became clearer.

     Cold and dank, the memory was as cell-like as the physical location. In what I can only assume was a former monastery, there was little in the space but a ravel of cloth on a makeshift cot. The only source of light came from a slit no bigger than my forearm near the ceiling. Questions went through my mind, parading like a line of grim reapers in fanciful dress each revealing a skulled face beneath the hood, “What is your plan for attack on Berlin?” “When did you last see Cavan Anstruther?” “Where is he now?” “How many of these fairy abominations are there?” “Did you think the godless creatures would save you?”

     I had spent the last two months in that cell avoiding the questions asked about my involvement in the ongoing Fairy Wars as the newspapers called them. Most especially trying not to engage my captors about my best friend, Cavan. He is the first human connection to these winged predecessors of humanity. I can still remember the first encounter we had with them.

     Cavan, his girlfriend Sonia, and I were trapped by a band of cutthroat mercenaries in the jungles of Ecuador. We three were following the trail of Cavan’s father, Doctor Hermius Anstruther (the man that started all of this god forsaken madness in the first place). Wandering for hours in a circle, we thought we’d never find him or the new species of fairy he was after. It was as if all of our fears were realized in one fell swoop. Appearing phantom like, the mercenaries that had kidnapped us, mutinied, and then released us appeared out of the jungle holding us at gunpoint. The leader, a Mr. O’Donnell looking smug and swaggering with swashbuckling prowess declared we were all to die now that we’d led them this far toward the good doctor and his discovery for which, no doubt, they were promised a handsome reward from someone. Just as the last words etched out of his lips his expression fell. I saw something move barely within my periphery. The flutter of wings at the back of Cavan’s head and the feeling of a small breeze on the nape of my own neck petrified me with fear.

     Paralyzed by instinct I watched the largest fairies I’d ever seen cascade in from every side of the jungle and attack our assailants with more speed and accuracy than the best marksmen in His Majesty’s Army. Within seconds, the men were dead and left in bloody heaps only a few meters from our feet. There were no screams, just the sound of wings and metal impacting and lacerating flesh. Guttural burbling came from the crumpled bodies as I tried to assess whether we were next.

     Waking from the memory back to the nightmare, I was in a cell with stones slick and covered in my blood. It mixed with the condensation that fed the mildew lying on the mortar. There would be no more questions that night, of this I was sure. There needed to be time for me to heal enough to walk and speak. Tomorrow I was to be filmed and played as a newsreel for the people of the First Reich. The triumph of capturing such a prize as His Majesty’s Minister of European Strategy Mister Jules Dermsford must be a feather in the Reich’s collective pointy caps. The fact that I’m only some nineteen year old kid with a head for numbers and a connection to what are now know as “Anstruther Fairies” or by my captors, “devils of death”.

     Humans believed we were the only intelligent life on this planet. Fairies were just small human-looking insects that we used for pest control or pets. Most were no bigger than ten centimeters high. People noticed them about as much as you notice a sparrow on a fall day. There, but inconsequential. Only one man ever asked why they look so much like us – Dr. Hermius Anstruther. Once he found the Harcos, a species of fairy hidden for hundreds of years in silence; larger, stronger and more intelligent than any fairy on the planet, and with a full-blown society to boot. These fairy warriors protected the secret of human origin in the rainforests of Ecuador. Once those secrets came to light the world changed forever.

     Just the theory of their potential existence sent all of humanity into a tumultuous war spanning four years. Men died by the tens of thousands every day fighting on the basis that either we were alone as the one true self-aware creation of God, or as science had proven; that there was another race of sentient being sharing the world with us. The theory, so controversial that it sent a world to war with fanatics of religion and science ordering army’s at each other’s throats, was proven with the existence of the Harcos. To make matters worse, another, older and more influential being was revived from 4,000 years of sleep.

     This “Great One”, leader of the Harcos people was something no one, not even Dr. Anstruther, could have guessed existed; a fairy standing a full meter high. His wings span over one and a half meters. Just his existence would have been enough to throw the world into shock. The fact that his kind not only developed before us, but also taught our early human ancestry all it knew of fire, language, architecture, science, and more caused the war to escalate beyond the nightmares of anyone living. Cavan, Sonia and myself marched these creatures into an unsuspecting humanity. The chaos that followed enveloped us.

     This is what my captors wished me to speak of for the months I was held in custody. They wanted to know how we managed to move a force of 10,000 fairy warriors from the jungles of Ecuador to the capitol of the North American Empire in Philadelphia. I told them all I knew which was everything the world knows.

     “We marched out of the jungles to Quito in Ecuador. Riots broke out and the people either ran or went mad from panic. Seeing ten thousand armed giant fairies in formed battalions marching into your city can’t be a welcome sight.” In retrospect, we should have played it a little safer before introducing the Harcos to the world. The introduction should have been done in stages. Time was not on our side for that. The bustling center of market business that was Quito would have to cope with their latest immigrants. A wave of humans poured away from the city center toward the side streets like water rushing down tributaries as the dam overflows the banks of a river. Countless Harcos warriors, called Towhay, flying in filled the gaps.

     The swarm, as it truly was, over took the city in a matter of minutes. The few humans that stood to fight were subdued, but not in typical Towhay fashion. This was a mission of peaceful reintroduction, not a hostile takeover. Humans throwing objects from their homes missed nearly every target as the Towhay took evasive action performing aerial acrobatics the like of which I had never imagined. Those fairies that were taken down by gunshot made no sound save the impact of their bodies when they hit the ground. It was bedlam. An expedited eternity no longer than a quarter hour finished with a hush as the leader of the Harcos Towhay – Inkaritath, the Great One, took position at the top of the fountain in the main square. He alighted on the statue of a cherub standing his full meter high equaling the statue. Slowly, people began to open shutters, just a peek to see what this creature and his kind wanted.

     “People of the city of Quito, I am Inkaritath, leader of the Harcos Towhay. We are the people of the forest, guardians of your Inca heritage. No doubt there are elders among you who have carried the stories of our peoples’ lives together as one. I have come not as a conqueror like Pizarro, but as mentor and friend in the way we did countless generations ago to your ancestors, the Inca people. Let us now join with you again to face this world of war and strife as one force to bring peace.” He sounded as an elder statesman who had rehearsed the speech for months even though he had only awoken from 4,000 years of sleep mere days ago. By the time Inkaritath concluded, the waves of people had begun to return and the peepers in the shutters now stood dumbfounded. Perhaps it was the shock of seeing a fairy the size of a Great One or the fact that he spoke with such power, conviction and prowess.

     None of this was new to my captors, it was public knowledge. What they really wanted to learn was what happened in the meetings that followed between the heads of state in Ecuador, Cavan, and Inkaritath. I was not a part of any of that. It was my duty to maintain the Towhay troops in supply and rations. I am no statesman, but numbers and strategy those are my fields. I leave the fine-tuning of diplomacy to my betters and men of great passion, like Cavan. Sonia helped on the human end with creating a better understanding between the Harcos and the people of Quito. She was much happier now than she had been since the day we left Providence port for Ecuador. Cavan needed her and she felt the strength of her character coming back. We all did.

     The next two weeks were spent making all of the arrangements to meet with King James and Prime Minister Wilson in the capitol, Philadelphia. Appropriate that this meeting should take place in “the city of brotherly love.” Airships arrived to carry us across the ocean to North York Province. Giant armored airborne freighters made for cargo transport over unwelcome waters (as most waters were these days). Once all of the Harcos Towhay, Cavan, Sonia and myself along with Inkaritath, boarded the last of the dirigibles, we began our journey.

     This is what the world knew and all I told my German captors. What followed is what I never told them, no matter how they tortured me. As I remember staring at my reflection in my own blood upon a mildewed stone floor I called out in my thoughts, “I hope to all that is pure, this is worth it.”

 

 

Musings on teaching theatre

For the last 18 years, my profession has been teaching theatre in high schools. I started at an all girls Catholic School (1999 – 2007) then moved to an urban public charter school for the arts (2007 – present). This is more than a resume blog, however. For the first 16 or so years, give or take, I spent most of my time being resistant to the idea of having teaching be my profession. I was good at it, some said wonderful, but I always fought with the idea of it.

Why?

I had this idea stuck in my head that I was an artist and teaching was not me living up to my potential as an artist. I felt as the years passed that I was getting too old to become that artist, a sense of hopelessness and a time of artistic crisis pervaded my days. After the release of Broken Silences and the many small successes as a writer and illustrator, I began to hit a stagnation as work on theatre piled up. I was building and designing sets at high school after high school, making art in my spare time. Then I had a revelation.

Teaching is my art.

I know it seems like a cop out but in actuality, I had received more from the art of teaching than any art I had produced to date. The success was not in the praise and the publication, it was in the impact of the art. It is always in the impact of the art. “How does the artist’s work influence the next portion of time?” is a question I ask my Art Theory students. Well, I had my profession staring me in the face as just what I described, “Art is an influence on the future that should be considered as an integral portion of it’s own era influenced by the artist’s area (location of origin or production).”

What I considered success I finally realized was the surface of what I always wanted my art to do – influence others for the better. No fear, I am still going to create works of visual art, when time allows, but over the last three years I have sunk myself eyebrow deep into the art of teaching theatre. 

The impact theatre educators can make in the long term is intense. I have seen students from years ago coming back to let me know a single unit of curriculum or a phrase I said in a class inspired them in some way. I have received letters and emails from students I taught recently and long past, thanking me for a life lesson or two that was shared through the art of theatre. This is not an uncommon thing. My colleagues in the theatre teaching world have the same experiences, indeed any teacher who is worth their mettle has like stories.

The long and short of this is simple. Life has brought me to this point. A point where I was searching for a crossroads to take me down another path. As I peered on the tangential highways and byways of my life longing for those paths, I neglected to see the entrances to paths that I had cut for my students and allowed them to find new ways of thinking. It did not occur to me to look ahead and realize I was on a great road to another type of success, one whose chief benefactor is the future.

 

Back to the Blog

I’m back. After a hiatus, I have decided to get back to the blog. I am thinking that perhaps a daily or weekly sketch is in order, but I don’t want to be a slave to a schedule. So, I’m going to try this:

As I come up with material, either in sketch form, set plans, final products, etc. I will make sure to cross publish them here on the site. 

With that, I may also muse from time to time about art, theatre, etc. This is one of those times.

     My art is long overdue for a ramp up. I have been contemplating the fine line between commercial and fine art lately. My last post (two years ago) has me making fine art. But what is that anyway? Does a person have to define it in this day and age? Look at the work of Murakami and Koons who are considered contemporary fine artists. et, their art is produced in a factory setting and incorporates commercial portions. Is it a matter of the old term “selling out?” If so, I want to know how a person is to survive without selling her/his art? Do we not always have to play to an audience, a viewer, a patron. It has always been this way. If not a client, a patron, if not a patron, an institution, if not that, then a gallery. There is always someone at the other end of the art, even religious art has a clientele. 

So here is the first edition. I have been working for some time on drawing on my iPad, this is a sketch I completed playing with some painting techniques in Adobe Sketch. 

      

Explorations in fine art painting

I have been working on portfolio pieces in the last several weeks upping my ante when it comes to fine art painting. Studies are fantastic to keep up one’s skills, but I find that I want to do more and more. Not a bad thing, and I like the derivation from my normal fare.

Greek Diner Study Iris Study Holly