Musical Dramas

Cleopatra's Tomb is coming in 2017......

 

Debussy's Daughter

 My recording of Debussy's Clair de Lune from Act 1, Scene 1 of Debussy's Daughter

Preview of Act 1, Scene 1

(Click on Clair de Lune and listen as you read the brief scene below followed by a synopsis of the play.)

 

                                              Act 1, Scene 1: Chouchou’s soliloquy

(It is Paris in the year 1918.  The scene is a 13 year old girl’s bedroom.  The stage is dark except for

moonlight shining in a window at stage left on a toybox located at stage right, and a lamp providing

faint light to the area of the bed at stage left.  Besides the bed, lamp and toy box, the room also

contains a night table, a child’s dresser off to the right side, an upright piano to the left of the bed

with a portrait of Claude Debussy on the wall behind where the player sits, and a round table and

chairs upstage to right of center.  

 

The intermittent sounds of a distant artillery barrage dissolve into Debussy’s Clair de Lune, which

establishes a protective aura.  Chouchou is asleep on the bed as Ondine, a spectral female presence

stands in the shadows nearby watching her sleep.  Disturbed by the dream/presence of Ondine, she

becomes restless.  Ondine senses her awakening and slowly backs away. 

                                

                                       CHOUCHOU (calling out in her sleep)

“No, wait, don’t go!  Who are you?”

 

But Ondine exits as she awakens.  She is listless and forlorn, looks around her room as if

for an answer of some sort, and soon gets out of bed and reaches for a copy of Debussy’s

Children’s Corner Suite on the piano.  She walks over to the toy box, sits down on it,

opens the book and starts to read.)

 

                                                   DEBUSSY'S VOICE

“To my dear little Chouchou with the tender apologies of her father for what is to follow.” 

 

                                                          CHOUCHOU

(Chouchou turning to face the portrait)  And what is to follow Papa?  How many times since your

death I’ve tried to understand the mystery of your apologyWas it something about this music

which displeased you?  Or was it a premonition of your death, or the impending war, or something

I am not even aware of? (sighs, pauses, and stands up, opens the toy box, and looks inside) 

And you my friends, Didi, Andre, and Etienne…. You are in my dream too.  (She reaches in and

takes out three dolls, a girl similar in appearance to herself, a soldier and a polichinelle, and places

them in front of her)  In my dream we are all sitting around a table.  It feels very warm and

peaceful, and then someone is calling my name.  I ask who it is, but no one answers because

the dream always ends there.  Papa once said nothing is impossible for a toy, so one of you must

hold the answer somewhere inside you.  But even if I could bear to take you apart to look for the

answer, it's too hard to face the possibility that your souls are just an illusion.  (She pauses, looks

around the room, picks up Didi, wraps a blanket around herself and goes to the window.)  Dawn

is not for a while yet, and even the moonlight makes me shiver.  (turning to the dolls) But at least

we have each other.  (stretches and yawns) I know you would probably like to stay up and play,

but I think it’s best for us to stay warm and try to sleep.  (She puts the dolls back in the box)  

There you are, safe and warm in my toy box. Good night and and thanks for listening.  I love you,

and I promise that tomorrow will be a fun day for us.  (She closes the lid, and walks over to her bed,

lies down, and falls asleep. There is a noise as the toy box lid rises and falls slightly. 

Chouchou is briefly disturbed by the sound and looks around but finally falls asleep.

 

Background and Synopsis of Debussy’s Daughter

A two act play by Robert Gans

Background

In 1918 the great french composer Claude Debussy died at the age of 58.  A year later his beloved 13 year old daughter Chouchou followed him.  This play is a fictionalized account of Chouchou's life during the year between his death and hers.

Synopsis

Debussy’s Daughter takes place in Chouchou's bedroom in Paris during the closing days of World War I. It is the story of her quest to find peace and overcome the grief she is feeling after the death of her father amid the turmoil of a world war.  Its overarching theme is the ingenuity of her imagination, and strength of her will in finding the way to her spirit’s ultimate triumph over formidable odds. 

Act one focuses on worldly means to achieve this end, and Act two focuses on the transcendent as Chouchou and her three dolls Didi, Andre and Etienne pursue various panaceas involving play, intoxication, travel, adventure, romance, art and the supernatural in their attempts to alleviate her grief.  As children will do, they remake Chouchou’s bedroom into whatever setting is needed for their explorations.  At various points in the play, the primary cast of Chouchou and her three dolls is visited and augmented by the spiritual presence of Ondine, Debussy’s spirit in the guise of Claude Monet, Ondine in the guise of Isadora Duncan, and finally Debussy’s ghost.  Debussy’s music is incidental to the script and rounds off the cast of characters along with the presence of the toy box which is home to the three dolls.

 

Hail Mary  

    

 

Moving On (Again)

 

Synopsis of Hail Mary:  A Musical Romance in two acts

Book, Music and Lyrics by Robert Gans

 

The musical romance Hail Mary deals with a 10 year period in the life of Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots starting in 1558 when she was 16 years old and embarking on her first marriage.  This year is also coincidentally the year of Queen Elizabeth the First’s accession to the throne of England.  The episodes in the play are all derived from historical fact.  Act one covers a period from 1558 to 1564.  Act two covers a period from 1565 to 1568.

ACT ONE presents Mary herself as an individual and portrays her gradual transition from a 16 year old newlywed in the French court to a newly arrived Queen in Scotland with powerful enemies to deal with in the persons of Queen Elizabeth’s minister William Cecil and religious evangelist John Knox.  William Cecil considers Mary a threat to Elizabeth and John Knox, a staunch Protestant reformer considers Mary who is tolerant but was raised Catholic to be a most vile and decadent creature.  To add to the complexity she is also dealing with a very fractious group of Scottish Lords who are mostly concerned with selfish interests and are therefore changing sides incessantly.

Act 1, scene 1 portrays the night of Mary’s wedding to Francis the Dauphin of France.  Mary has been raised in the French court and is happy with life in France and her marriage to Francis.  But two years after the wedding Francis dies from an illness and Mary finds herself facing the necessity of moving to Scotland to pick up the reins where her father was formerly King.   Act 1, scene 2 presents Mary on the cusp of moving to Scotland and torn both by what she is leaving behind and what lies ahead.  Act 1, scene 3 presents Mary’s arch nemesis William Cecil plotting with the Scottish and English ambassadors.  As a relief, Act 1, scene 4 presents the playful side of Mary with her 2 ladies in waiting (the two Maries) and portrays her love of masquerade and social inversion.   Act 1 Scene 5 introduces the character of David Rizzio (who is murdered in Act 2 on orders from Mary’s second husband) and finally Mary’s confrontation with John Knox.  David Rizzio and John Knox serve as obvious foils for each other in this scene.

 

ACT TWO deals with Mary’s complicated romantic entanglements with her next two husbands Henry Lord Darnley and James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell.  Although Darnley is clearly the worse of the two, both of them end up being false to Mary and betraying her for their own self interests.  Act 2, Scenes 1 - 4 deal with the rise and fall of Mary’s relationship with Darnley culminating in his murder and Mary’s growing interest in Bothwell.  Act 2, scene 5 presents Mary’s abduction by Bothwell resulting in her ultimate surrender to him.  Act 2 scene 6 presents the defeat of Mary and Bothwell’s forces at Carberry Hill culminating in their separation due to Bothwell’s flight and Mary being taken into her first period of captivity.  The last scene presents Mary in captivity at first, but finally escaping with the help of a 16 year old boy named Willie Douglas.

Above all Hail Mary is the story of Mary’s heart and spirit.  The trials, tribulations and triumphs of these 10 years caused her to have many beginnings and endings in her life.  Hence her themes of the Phoenix rising from the ashes and “in my end is my beginning.”

 

The Skyladder                                                                                                                                  

                       Is It You

 

Synopsis of The Skyladder: A musical fantasy in two acts

Book, Music and Lyrics by Robert Gans

 

SummaryThe Skyladder is a science fiction-fantasy musical built on archetypal characters and themes.  It is the story of a dark and ancient evil approaching the earth imprisoned in a comet, and the conflict between those who would unleash it, and those who would contain it.  This central conflict alternately serves as the background and foreground for the experiences and relationships of the characters involved.

 

Prologue:  An old Shaman descended from the Mayan race is the guardian of an ancient lens artifact known as the prismir.  In a dark jungle clearing in Central America he gives the prismir to a North American astronomer named Austin Grey. 

 

Act 1:  Austin arrives back home at his observatory, The Skyladder.  He is greeted by his young apprentice Nick and his live in companion Heather.  Nick has been monitoring the comet. 

Nearby we meet the antagonists, an immortal evil duo, Theron and Nedra who live in a cave with a natural pool of water outside inhabited by a prophetic spirit they hold captive.  Nedra has sensed the arrival of the prismir.  They consult the spirit of the pool who informs them of the imminent arrival of a newcomer who has the ability to wield the lens’ power.  Theron and Nedra eavesdrop on a conversation between Austin and Nick.  Austin tells Nick a little of the comet’s history and returns to Skyladder for an interview with Rena, a young female grad student. 

Rena arrives at the observatory when no one is there and has an awkward encounter with Nick’s friend Justin, a poet.  At the interview Rena starts asking questions but things take an unexpected turn when Austin starts questioning her and reveals details he knows of her past.  Austin relates and substantiates that the evil presence imprisoned in the comet was placed there eons ago by beings who traveled here from the solar system of Antares from whom Rena is descended.  At dawn, the comet will line up between the earth and the sun producing a syzygy.  The sun’s rays will project the evil being back to Earth unless the prismir is placed in the Skyladder and used to break up and reflect the dark projection back into the comet for the next 4000 years.  

 

Act 2:  Rena and Justin try to make up from their awkward first encounter.  He is smitten but feels rejected and retreats to sulk by the pool.  Theron casts a disenchantment spell on him which  will cause him to resent Rena’s lack of interest in him and steal the prismir.  Everyone except Justin meets back at the Skyladder and Austin lays out the battle plan.  Afterwards, Nick reveals his feelings for Rena to Austin.  Austin counsels Reflection then exits.  Justin witnesses Nick and Rena come together during the song I Love You Forever.   He and the prismir are discovered missing.  A search is organized.  Heather and Rena find Justin at the cave with the prismir .  Nedra appears and calls Justin into the cave.  He goes in and Heather follows.  Rena tries to follow them but is blocked by Theron.  She battles and defeats him but is left unconscious.  Nedra backs out of the cave to the brink of the pool pursued by Heather.  Justin runs at Nedra to grab the prismir but she falls in.  The spirit drags her and the prismir under.  Rena is revived.  While Heather searches the pool, the spirit, grateful for its freedom, returns the prismir to her.  They rush back to Skyladder.  Time is running out.  The sun is rising but it is getting darker.  The prismir is placed inside Skyladder.  Rena must recite an incantation but falters.  Tension builds along with low rumblings, lightning and howling wind.  Rena tries again, falters again.  Nick comes to her side.  She tries one last time.  Amidst the prevailing chaos the stage suddenly blacks out.  Gradually the noise subsides but the outcome is in doubt.  As the light slowly returns we see everyone is prostrate on the ground.  Gradually they revive and start to hear signs of life.  It becomes apparent they have prevailed which leads to the Finale, Sundance.

 

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