And at Every Corner Have Them Kiss

Slings and Arrows ficathon fic

by Salieri

for Snowballjane

Prompt: “dangerous stage props or effects”




Why art thou patient, man? Thou shouldst be mad;

And I, to make thee mad, do mock thee thus.

The Third Part of King Henry VI





The coffee shop is attached to the Holiday Inn at the corner of Bloor and St. George. Across the street, the Bata Shoe Museum angles artistically over the sidewalk like half of the building’s foundation has melted or sunk into the concrete before it set. It’s raining, and students in scarves and bulky sweaters are running past, backpacks thumping against their spines as they dash through the intersection and head into the campus. Traffic crawls. The window steams. Mary drums her fingers on The Box and sips her latte. He’s late. Late, that is, by Toronto standards. In Montreal a mere ten minutes wouldn’t even be worth looking up from the Gazette over, but here, the trains run on time–except when they don’t–and even theatre people march to the ratta-tat-tat of the Trawna drum.

She says out loud to the window, “Ernest Hemingway called this city the fistulated asshole of the nation,” and raises her cup in salute. Latte sloshes precariously as she tips her wrist to look at her watch. Twelve minutes.

Sorry.” First a stack of books hits the counter beside her. Then, without much care for the books, Geoffrey Tennant’s soggy coat is draped on top of them. “I’ll make up some believable excuse after I get coffee.” He’s waving at the woman behind the pastry counter and saying “coffee” in as many languages as he can remember–which is quite a few, actually–while she nods and rings it up. He pats his pockets but leaves off abruptly to look piercingly at Mary. “I need to tell Anna to do the press release,” he says as though Mary’s the human equivalent of a post-it note. Then he goes back to patting pockets.

Pastry’s half-price,” the barista says, pointing at the mostly empty trays under the glass.

With a tucked-in chin and a thoughtful finger rubbing his brow, Geoffrey inspects the detritus remaining after the morning rush like he’s a field surgeon doing triage, or a dignitary doing a fly-by over a disaster zone. Finally he says, “Soup?”

The barista shakes her head with a slight curl of the lip, as though he’s just asked her if she would wear snowshoes in May. No soup. This isn’t Europe or something. Soup happens at lunch time. At breakfast there are muffins or scones.

Defeated, he leaves the field and slumps morosely on the stool beside Mary, hunches low with his hands between his thighs and his feet on the rail under the counter. He stares into his coffee. “I really wanted soup.” Like a good, philosophical general, though, he shrugs it off. “Fistulated asshole, you say?”

Hemingway says.”

Well, he’d know,” he responds somewhat cryptically. After a sip of his coffee, he turns and holds out his hand. “How you been, Mary? You look good. How’s Marshall?”

Mary shakes his hand–his fingertips are like ice–and grimaces a little at the mention of her erstwhile supervisor. “Marshall ran off with one of his other grad students and last I heard he was running a SeaDoo rental place on Salt Spring.”

Ah,” Geoffrey says, purses his lips and goes back to hunching and warming his fingers in the crooks of his knees. That’s all he’s got to say for Marshall, which is less than Mary would like to say, and more than Marshall deserves. Her thesis defense has been put back another semester and she’s had to pay fees.

But, his wife was making a bonfire and as she was heaving it into the flames, she noticed your handwriting on this box.” She drums her fingers on The Box. It’s a regular legal file box, duct-taped in the corners where it’s started to tear, presumably after the flooding in the Gradys’ basement where it’s been kept–criminally–since Marshall somehow managed to wheedle it out of Geoffrey’s possession. It sat there in Marshall’s basement for five years. Mary sings a silent verse of “Modern Major General” to purge the appropriate tirade from her head before it can escape. She makes a mental note to call about tai chi classes. “She saved it and passed it along to me.”

On the lid is scrawled in black magic marker:



Geoffrey glances sidelong at the box. At some point, back when Mary was with Jenn and they had grand ambitions to hike in Kluane National Park that summer, they took a course on how to deal with grizzly bears. Ultimately, it got too confusing, trying to learn which bears would eat you if you ran and which would eat you if you didn’t, so they went to West Edmonton Mall instead. Sitting there like he’s trying to decide whether to bolt or to play dead, Geoffrey looks like maybe he took the same course. As one would expect, he goes for playing dead, puts a hand over his eyes and makes a sort of shuddering groaning sound, not quite under his breath. “He would’ve, you know.”

What?”

Been a dick with it.”

Then why did you give it to him?”

He shrugs like a character in a Beckett play, eloquent with the absurdity of it all. “I don’t know.” The hand comes off of his eyes and makes a shoving motion in the direction of The Box. “I suppose I wanted to put the whole thing... away.”

Mary leans forward and whispers vehemently as though she’s divulging the darkest of family secrets. “He left it in his basement.” With one hand she yanks the lid off The Box and points to the papers and ledgers inside. “There was mould.”

Turning towards her, he rests his elbow on the counter, leans his cheek on his fist and looks narrowly at her. “I take it back. You don’t look good. You’re–” A vague wave in the direction of her face. “–I don’t know, feverish. It’s livre-fever, isn’t it. Historian’s mania.” He uncurls a finger to point at her. “You’ve got to relax.” Then his glance grazes against the box and he winces shut one eye. “Besides,” he says, casually dismissive–this is, by the way, the worst example of his acting skills ever–“this whole thing was a tempest in tea pot.”

Mary goes for stone-faced contradiction. “There was a brawl.”

It was not a brawl.”

It was. It was a brawl.” She starts rummaging through the box.

The theatre sat 100. That’s hardly enough for a brawl.” Caught between opposing impulses, he’s watching her with increasing trepidation, leaning away but craning his neck forward to see into The Box.






A brouhaha, maybe,” Geoffrey concedes. “A dust-up. Certainly nothing worth all the ink.”

Worth a class-action suit.”

The hands go back between his thighs and he’s slouched low enough that he can sip his coffee without picking it up off the counter. “Yes, well, there’s that.” She waits while he breathes the steam. In the soggy November light, she can see that he’s started to go grey. It’s threaded through his curls, mostly at his temples where his hair is more closely cropped. One side has been twisted into a bit of a droopy horn and she resists the urge to reach out and pat it down. Barely. He smiles as though she’s actually tried it. “So, what do you want to do?” Without actually looking at it, he angles his head toward The Box.

Mary puts her hands in the pockets of her sweater to keep from clutching The Box possessively. “I thought I’d see–I thought you might want it back.”

His nose an inch from the edge of his cup, he smiles again. “It’s killing you to say that, isn’t it.”

At that, Mary gives up and throws her arm over The Box. She’s seen pictures of refugees hanging onto their children in a similar posture. “Okay, yes. Look, since that whole thing with Marshall–it’s out, by the way, the chapter he ripped off from me–I’m a chapter behind, and it’ll be months before I get that mess straightened out and I have to get out of grad school, Geoffrey, before I cease to be a human being, and I’ve got an offer from Dalhousie conditional on my defending before July. This box could get my life out of the shitter.” She pauses for breath and slumps a little herself. “Not that I want to influence your decision either way,” she finishes lamely.

No, I can see that. Thank you.” He actually does sip his coffee without picking it up. The slurping sound seems thoughtful. “And what do you want from me, then?”

Mary bounces on her stool and claps her hands together before she can stop herself. Then she starts pulling documents out of the box and piling them in the space between Geoffrey’s books and her latte cup. “You can walk me through it.” When he groans, she adds, sweetly, “In half an hour they’ll serve you soup.”

Sitting up suddenly very straight, Geoffrey accepts his fate like a true antique Roman. “I want noodles.”

Mary casts a beseeching look at the woman behind the counter. “Best noodles in town, right here. Home-made by Inga’s grandmother, right Inga?”

My name’s Tiffany,” the woman says.

I can run down to Than-Vu,” Mary assures Geoffrey, who has gone back to hunching.

Mary shuffles through the stack.

PLANTAGENETS: COMMON MATERIALS


Includes:

  • rehearsal notes (salmon folder)

  • company memos (buff folder)

  • company email correspondence

  • Plantagenets flags and grid (canary folder)

  • Fights (beat-up salmon folder--incl., fittingly, a band-aid)

  • loose memos in plastic binder slips

  • calls list (green folder)

  • Theatre Sainte-Catherine provisional ground plan blue print (very large)

  • cast lists and availability charts

  • scene order

  • schedule

  • Understudies 1st cast list

  • Copy of the script produced after the press performance. 18 April, 2006 [scaled down prompt copy w/ calls only, some cue notation and descr. of action and stage grid

  • The Plantagenets Lighting Cue Photos (tab-and-elastic bound pink book) [this is a veritable treasure trove--a record of the scenes, props, stage effects--yay!]

  • show reports (canary folder)

  • script, clean copy (buff envelope)

  • ASM script (buff folder)

  • Early Rehearsal Blocking notes (buff envelope, no binding)

  • ASM cues: Theatre Sainte-Catherine, April '06

  • Theatre Sainte-Catherine prop settings, lists, dressing room list, cast lists (salmon folder)



Mary pulls open one of the loose binder slips and selects a sheet with a post-it marking the line in question. “Let’s start with this.”



The Plantagenets, TSA Ensemble, Theatre Sainte-Catherine, 2006


ART DIRECTOR/GENERAL DIRECTOR: Geoffrey Tennant

ADMINISTRATIVE DIRECTOR: Anna Conroy


DIR: Abigail Montrefeu Darren Nichols GEOFF
ADAPTATION AND EDIT: Geoffrey Tennant, based on “The Wars of the Roses,” by John Barton
PROD. DESIGNER: Ranita Singh

COSTUME: Aubrey Vinzenze
Assis. to DESIGNER: Imogen Pope

MUSIC DIR: Guy Hafftermann

STAGE MANAGER: Maria MacDoyle


Reluctantly, Geoffrey turns his head and looks at the page where she’s got her finger pressing down on Darren Nichols’ name. “Oh,” he says. “That.” With a heavy sigh, he sits back and seems to gird his mental loins. “Okay, I was on location directing The Wars–”


“I saw it. It’s beautiful.”



Geoffrey acknowledges the compliment by crossing his arms and looking a little pained. “God, I hope so. I don’t want to be the one who makes Timothy Findley spin in his grave.” He pulls at his ear and goes on, staring at the rain slithering down the plate glass window. “Last day of shooting I break my ankle.” He makes a shearing motion with the blade of his hand just above the top of his boot. “So I’m laid up in a hospital in Some Quaint Ville de la France.”



Abbey promised me she wouldn’t go into labour until after the run started. She swore on a collected works of Shakespeare that she wasn’t due until June. She’d directed The Wars of the Roses already at McGill, and seriously, there aren’t that many directors around who can just step in and do the histories, especially not the early ones nobody’s heard of.”

A lot of nameless dukes and earls,” Mary offers sympathetically.

“Precisely. Only they do have names and you do have to keep them straight, and make sure the audience keeps them–” He fingers the stack of papers by Mary’s elbow. “They’re good plays. Plays for our time,” he says, his voice just a hair more wistful than grim. “The state pulling itself apart from the inside, while its enemies pull it apart from the outside.” He rubs his thumb across his brow and crosses his arms again. “I couldn’t get back. We needed somebody to step in, and, the festival season was already underway so nobody was available, and for better or, as it turned out of course, for worse, by that time, Darren had ridden the stang out of New Burbage–”


Riding the Stang



Mary’s voice mail, November 14, 2011


Hello, Mary. It’s Darren Nichols. Yes, the Darren Nichols. It has come to my attention that you’ve been talking to Geoffrey Tennant about The Plantagenets and I know I don’t have to remind you not to believe one word he says. That man is clinically insane. There are documents declaring this. I’m sure he’s thrown out that old saw about riding the stang, but I assure you, Mary, New Burbage and I parted on amicable terms–



NICHOLS RIDES THE STANG

New Burbage and Its Artistic Director Part Ways
By Basil Cruikshank


After only two seasons of collaboration, the New Burbage Festival and its wild child Artistic Director, Darren Nichols, have gone their separate ways, but not without much sturm and drang. The Festival’s top dogs seemed a match made in heaven when Nichols took up the reins after the departure of Geoffrey Tennant, but something has gone rotten in Denmark and Nichols has swanned out of the Swan for the last time. Insiders say that Nichols and the Festival’s General Manager, Richard Smith-Jones, had been jousting over the new season’s schedule, but the fatal thrust came when Smith-Jones cut Nichols’ nihilist Oklahoma! from the roster. It is rumored that Nichols, incensed at the decision, barricaded himself in the theatre on Friday. Witnesses claim to have heard him crying out from the flies, “Je ne cesserai pas de rêver!” just as the local constabulary arrived to take him into custody. Constable Martin Du Puis of the O.P.P told reporters that Mr. Nichols was released on bail, and this reporter has learned that it was fronted by none other than Nichols’ long-time nemesis, Geoffrey Tennant, who is on location in France and unavailable for comment. Curiouser and curiouser. Where shall Nichols turn up next?

--NEW BURBAGE




Date: 4 April, 2006
From: “Geoffrey Tennant” <postmodern_not_broken@yahoo.ca>
To:  "Ellen Fanshaw” <ladym@yahoo.ca>
Subject: forgive me, for I am about to sin


Love,


I got the flowers from the company. Very thoughtful. Chrysanthemums. And yes, the ankle hurts like somebody’s shoved six metal pins through my bones. Oh, right. That’s because they did. I’m going to howl until they bring the big pills.


Give my love to that dear, fertile liar, Abbey. Also, I’m sorry for the hell I’m about to visit upon you. I hope you don’t go all Lysistrata on me after this.


Geoff


Date: 5 April, 2006
From:"Anna Conroy" <aconroy@TSA.ca>  
To:"Geoffrey Tennant" <postmodern_not_broken@yahoo.ca>
Subject: Re: Darren




Geoffrey,


Darren said he’d do it.
So that’s good. Right?
Ellen said you got the flowers. I’m sorry. I didn’t realize you were allergic to chrysanthemums. I hope the rash clears up soon.
Love, from all of us,
Anna



“–and I was on drugs. Great big pills the size of Wheatabix wheels. I was–” Geoffrey gropes helplessly for the words, his hands coming up to grasp at the air between him and Mary like the words are floating there like guppies. “–debilitated. Hopped up. I was hopped up and desperate and Darren–” At this he covers his mouth and gazes rather watery-eyed into the near distance and nods slowly like he’s had a revelation. “Well, he’s Satan, isn’t he.”


Mary’s voicemail, November 14, 2011


Geoffrey’s problem, Mary, is a debilitating lack of vision and a reactionary fetishizing of the text. I have tried to tell him, “Geoffrey,” I say, again and again, “the author. is. dead. The author has been dead for over 400 years, and the author was dead before he even put quill to paper.” But Geoffrey is, I hate to say it, but I will in the spirit of candor, slavish to the Bard. The iambics, the caesurae. “Geoffrey,” I say, “if you must fetishize something, fetishize the discourse, the machinery of the textual artifact.” God! Mary! You’d think the man had never read a word of Foucault. Of course, we all know that he has difficulty letting go of the dead. Oh, I’m sorry, I should not have said that. But I did and I own it. That’s what it’s about, Mary, owning your words. Geoffrey only borrows them. His is a library card intelligence.




TSA MEMO


from
Maria MacDoyle

for Information to
Imogen Pope
Anna Conroy–for Geoffrey Tennant
Aubrey Vinzenze
Darren Nichols

to
Ranita Singh
Jayson Grazia--properties


date: April 9, 2006

Subject
Severed heads

We need do a recasting of the following heads:
Suffolk:(formerly the likeness of Billy MacLellan):freshly cut off.
York:(formerly the likeness of Henry Breedlove): to be set on pole
this goes to Soldier (Andrew McTeague) U/S-- Nice and fresh-it's just been lopped off on stage.

Clerk: (formerly the likeness of Nahum d’Po)
Stafford: (formerly the likeness of Lionel Train)


These will now be replaced with the new design as per director’s sketches (attached)


We will need to construct 13 heads to go on poles resembling these only with larger eyes.


We may also need a second head for Suffolk, this one with prominent teeth.



This is all the information so far.


Maria



Date: 10 April, 2006
From: "Geoffrey Tennant" <postmodern_not_broken@yahoo.ca>
To: "Anna Conroy" <aconroy@TSA.ca>  
Subject: Re: Darren’s heads


Oh God. ANna, these designs. ths heads look like decayed cauli cooly collyflowrs with radishes for eyes. what happned to the heads we spent a lot alot alotalot of money having designed? Henry bitched for three days abt latex rash after the fitting for the mold. now we have rotten veggies in a ziplock? Darren’s head on a plate, with roased potatoes. send it to me, C.O.D. pls.


god whatever they’re giving me for the pain it makes the anger seem so far off.


the rash is almost gone thnx.


G




TSA MEMO

from
Darren Nichols

for Information to
Ranita Singh
Imogen Pope
Anna Conroy–for Geoffrey Tennant

to
Aubrey Vinzenze

date: 10 April, 2006


Subject
Costumes

The costumes are cut. Someone needs to look into getting some fluorescent paint that’s safe for skin.

Mr. Nichols, Director


 

Date: 11 April, 2006
From: “Geoffrey Tennant” <postmodern_not_broken@yahoo.ca>
To:  "Anna Conroy" <aconroy@TSA.ca> 
Subject: head. plate. now.


Anna


Where’s my hed on a plate? Nver mind. I’ll get it myself.


G



Date: 11 April, 2006
From: "Anna Conroy" <aconroy@TSA.ca> 
To:  "Ellen Fanshaw" <ladym@yahoo.ca>
Subject: Geoffrey


Ellen, is Geoffrey okay?


Anna






Date: 11 April, 2006
From: “Ellen Fanshaw" <ladym@yahoo.ca>
To: "Anna Conroy" <aconroy@TSA.ca>  
Subject: Re: Geoffrey


He’s fine. I think. I’m on hold now. I’ll let you know when they find him.


E



Mary’s voicemail, 14 November, 2011


vision, is what I’m talking about. The play is about the decay of the body politic. If we’re talking about the body politic, I told him, we have. to. see. the. bodies. It’s not only logical, it’s inspired. You understand that. I’ve read your work, you know. That piece about the semiology of blood in Titus. There’s the Foucault. There’s the Butlerian abjection. But Geoffrey, he’d have us all dancing around in period underwear, for the deity’s sake, so we can get in touch with our inner Elizabethan. It’s not about touching our inner Elizabethan. It’s about touching ourselves.



REHEARSAL REPORT

from
Maria MacDoyle

for Information to
Anna Conroy–for Geoffrey Tennant

date: April 13, 2006

Ms. Fanshaw was a no-show today for the “Molehill scene.” Since Queen Margaret has most of the lines, Mr. Nichols called the rehearsal and left the theatre. I had to release the cast.

Five days to opening.

Maria



Note on Ellen’s stationary:


Anna,
I will not be standing around in the Theatre of SAINT CATHERINE in my all- together.

Darren is a lunatic.

Has Geoffrey called?

I’m on my cell.


E


Date: 14 April, 2006
From: the_german_terminator@gmail.com.de
To: aconroy@TSA.ca, ladym@yahoo.ca 
Subject: Geoffrey Tennant, alive in Frankfurt


Hello,

It’s me. I’m in Frankfurt. No, I don’t know why. I don’t have my cell and I seem to have misplaced my credit card and the part of my mind that remembers my yahoo password. This nice man who has also been trapped here in Frankfurt for many hours or possibly days has allowed me to use his email address to send you this note to tell you that I am alive and will be back in Montreal as soon as the fog lifts or something. I’m on the next flight, arriving–so they say–at 6 a.m. I miss my very big pills very much. My new friend, Hans, who is alone here, except for me, asks me to tell you to call him “Hans Solo.” He is very funny, Hans is. Big teeth. Capable of carrying me wherever I need to go.

Ellen, my Penelope, I hope you are at your loom weaving yourself something more substantial than body paint to wear on opening night.

Please pass my regards on to Darren. If you could wrap them around a grenade, that would be nice.

Yours truly,
Odysseus


Note on Anna’s notepaper:


Anna


I waited at the airport for two hours.
Geoffrey did not show up.

I am on my cell if you need to send me back.

Traffic was diabolical.


Nahum









TSA MEMO



from
Maria MacDoyle

for Information to
Ranita Singh
Imogen Pope
Anna Conroy—for Geoffrey Tennant

to
Jayson Kanu—properties

date: 15 April, 2006

subject
Severed heads

The director would like the severed heads to be more squishy.

Maria


from
Darren Nichols

for Information to
Maria MacDoyle
Ranita Singh
Imogen Pope
Anna Conroy—for Geoffrey Tennant

to
Jayson Kanu—properties

date: April 16, 2006


Subject
Severed heads

DO YOU CALL THIS SQUISHY?

Mr. Nichols, Director









Note on Anna’s notepaper:


Darren

The meat has arrived.
Are you sure about this? I think there’s health regulations.
I’ll check that.
Anna



TSA MEMO

from
Maria MacDoyle

for Information to
Darren Nichols
Imogen Pope
Anna Conroy—for Geoffrey Tennant
Aubrey Vinzenze

to
Jayson Kanu—properties

date: 17 April, 2006

subject
MEAT WAGON

We are going to need some kind of wagon or hand-cart or wheelbarrow to bring in the meat for the “Molehill” scene.

Plus we’ll need to assign at least two actors to do the hauling. Queen Margaret’s soldiers?

Also, there will need to be something for Mr. Breedlove to stand on, because the meat is slippery. Today he fell off the molehill before Ms. McNab (who was reading Ms. Fanshaw’s lines as she was a no-show) could get the crown on his head. Mr. Breedlove was not injured, but he did need to shower afterward because of the smell.

Maria



Note torn from Anna’s pad of notepaper:


Darren:


I will not, and I mean this with all the vehemence you can imagine, appear on stage wearing nothing but paint. I flatly refuse. I see no point in it. If you persist in this lunacy, you will have to find yourself another York.


Henry Breedlove



Second note torn from Anna’s pad of notepaper:


ANNA


WHERE THE HELL IS GEOFFREY?

Henry Breedlove





TSA MEMO

from
Maria MacDoyle

for Information to
Ranita Singh
Imogen Pope
Anna Conroy—for Geoffrey Tennant
Darren Nichols

to
Aubrey Vinzenze

date: 17 April, 2006

subject
costuming

On the director’s orders, the paint is cut. We will go with the oversized t-shirts. The nametags are hard to see from the back rows, so these will have to be repainted in bigger letters.

We’ll need some kind of smock or sandwich board with a crown painted on it that can be easily changed from one person to another.

Joan of Arc (Ms. McNab) will need a new smock with a fleur-de-lis on it. The one she has been using caught fire from the squibs and has holes in it.

Maria











Date: 17 April, 2006
From: the_german_terminator@gmail.com.de
To: aconroy@TSA.ca, ladym@yahoo.ca 
Subject: Geoffrey Tennant, this side of the pond

Hi,
Just a sec before my flight–pre-boarding is excellent; I’m going to have a fake cast made after I get this one off so I can get bulkhead seats for the rest of my life–I’m in Boston. Will be touching down at 4 p.m.

G



Date: 17 April, 2006
From: the_german_terminator@gmail.com.de
To: aconroy@TSA.ca, ladym@yahoo.ca 
Subject: Geoffrey Tennant, SISYPHUS

No, I won’t. Fog.

Hans says to tell you that it will turn out okay. He’s insane.

G




Date: 17 April, 2006
From: the_german_terminator@gmail.com.de
To: aconroy@TSA.ca, ladym@yahoo.ca 
Subject: Geoffrey Tennant, not in Boston


Fog lifted long enough to let in storm clouds. Flew in a circle, then a wiggle, and am now in Buffalo.

Rented a car. Hans will drive. He’s always wanted to see Canada.

G



TSA MEMO


from
Maria MacDoyle


for Information to
Darren Nichols
Ranita Singh
Imogen Pope


to
Jayson Kanu--properties


date: 17 April, 2006


subject
Severed Heads


The stand for 13 heads on poles for the Cade rebellion needs to be more firmly braced. The heads will remain on stage for the duration from that point, D/S centre, so the poles will have to be long enough so that the heads don’t block too much of the action.


Maria












“As it turned out,” Geoffrey says, with a brief, breathy laugh and a rueful shake of the head, “Hans didn’t have a valid driver’s license. They must’ve missed it at the rental place because of all the crying.” He fixes Mary with a warning glare that’s spoiled by the crinkles of amusement around his eyes. “And it’s perfectly acceptable for a grown man to cry when he’s been stomping across the known world on a broken ankle, with a crazy German in tow and no big pills at all to take the edge off, while all that he loves in the world is being systematically dismantled by the prince of darkness.”


He looks at his empty soup bowl. Before Mary can even open her mouth, Tiffany jumps off her stool and scurries around the counter to get him some more, then settles down again beside him with her chin resting on her fists. A customer left waiting at the counter heaves a truly Canadian sigh of polite outrage and leaves, not quite stomping.




Note written on Brockville O.P.P. stationery:







TSA REHEARSAL REPORT


TECH-RUN


from
Maria MacDoyle


for Information to
Darren Nichols
Anna Conroy–for Geoffrey Tennant
God, if there is one


date: 18 April, 08:00 a.fucking.m.




I want a raise. I went to frigging grad school, you know.


Maria














PROGRAMME AMENDMENT SLIP


Correction: The Plantagenets is under the direction of Darren Nichols, not Abigail Montefeu as stated in the programme.




As the door hisses shut, Tiffany jumps up and hangs the CLOSED sign in the window. Across the road, the Bata Shoe Museum goes dark except for a light in the gift shop casting shadows of regency pumps onto the sidewalk. Beyond the museum, Robarts Library looms, its tower and upper floors making a giant Canada goose stuffed with words.


“So, the bus is late–of course–” Geoffrey says, opening his palm to the sky where the evil gods are no doubt looking down and smirking. He offers them a thin smile before going on. “There’s no way we can make it to the theatre in time for the first act–assuming that Darren kept the act breaks and didn’t decide to turn the whole thing into a torturous four-and-a-half-hour marathon. There’s not a cab to be had.” Geoffrey stands up in the narrow shop and mimes signalling cab after cab, and watching them swerve around him and his cast. He flips the bird at the imagined tail-lights and lifts his collar. “April, and it’s frigging snowing,” he says, wrapping his arms around himself against the cold. “But Hans is on a mission. He’s got a feverish glow about him, not unlike yours, Mary, when you look into this box, this infernal box. And after twenty fruitless minutes, he lets out the most terrifying battle cry, like something you’d expect Beowulf to howl right before wrenching Grendel’s arm out of its socket, and he heaves me up and throws me over his shoulder and steps into the middle of the road and–I don’t know–uses me and my cast to threaten oncoming traffic. Tiny packets of peanuts and pretzels are scattering on the asphalt and, upside down, under Hans’s tree-trunk arm, I see headlights, growing bigger, bigger.” Geoffrey flings his arms across his face, his eyes screwed shut, fists clenched against his imminent death. And then, slowly he opens one eye, lowers his arms finally and shrugs, his hands slapping against his thighs. “Well, there’s more than one way to hail a cab.”


Someone rattles the door. Tiffany bellows, “WE’RE CLOSED!” and points to the sign.


Geoffrey waits for her to settle in again.


“So we don’t make the first act, and I miss Kate’s Joan of Arc, which is a shame, because I hear she was brilliant, if a little green about the gills, you know, with the morning sickness and all of that, which didn’t help her later on with what went down, poor kid.


“We get there just at the beginning of the Cade rebellion. Brilliant moment in the play, so–” Geoffrey makes that grasping gesture in the air again. “–brutal and stripped bare, down to the bones of power–so I get it, I do, what Darren was trying to do with the nakedness, and frankly, although I hate to admit it, the decision to leave the heads on their pikes in the foreground for the remaining action is inspired.” He aims a finger at Mary and then at Tiffany. “But make no mistake, the man is an evil sprite sent from a spiteful god to plague me until the day I die, which I will do no doubt sweating and raving about Old Nick capering at my bedside. That’ll be him.”


Then he opens his arms again, and the aisle between the stools and the pastry case widens, becomes the Théatre Sainte-Catherine, becomes the medieval slums of London, becomes the battlefield where Queen Margaret, her tiger’s heart wrapped in a woman’s hide, humiliates the once-proud Duke of York by crowning him with paper on a molehill. “And you know the fact that she was standing there half-naked in a tee-shirt with ‘MAGGIE’ scrawled on it only made Ellen angrier, and you could see it–you could see it–the way she harnessed it all, all that frustration and exasperation, and pulled it inside–” He mimes this, as though he’s dragging the coils of a serpent into his own body. “–and squeezed it into Margaret’s hatred for York, her ambition, her petty refusal to let him die with any dignity. From the back of the theatre, where I’m wedged in between a man with a mohawk half a story tall and Hans’ rapt mountain of quivering attention, and my pinned ankle is screaming like valkyrie, I could feel it.” He thumps his chest with the side of a loose fist, his gaze on the stage, the spot-lit space, where through the grisly angles of the poles and their severed heads, Ellen mocks and rages and undoes him wholly. “God, I love that woman.” He drops his hands and the theatre disappears for a moment as he smiles. “It was brilliant. Of course, it couldn’t last, could it.”






TSA SHOW REPORT

THE PLANTAGENETS
PRESS NIGHT 18 April, 2006

HOUSE: FULL

CAST: ALL SHOW–Ms Fanshaw five minutes late
DIRECTOR: IN ATTENDANCE

STAGE MANAGER: Maria MacDoyle

TECH:

X23 late cue at sc. 12
04 bulb went mid sc. 23 fixed at interval
banner flew crooked at sc. 30


PROP:

At sc. 38 Mr. Breedlove slipped on the meat pile, knocking the rack of severed heads off of the stage and into the stalls.

Show was called due to riot

RUNNING TIME: 2hrs 12min--incomplete



“You know, Henry Breedlove is an ass, but you can’t fault him on the grounds of professionalism when he’s on stage. His York was as bombastic and cunning and naïve and cruel and haughty and proud as I’d hoped–even standing there in his tee-shirt he had command of that space, a perfect wall of battered stone for Margaret to rail against.” Geoffrey turns to Tiffany, who nods her understanding as he explains. “The molehill scene is tricky, because you need to walk a careful line between feeling sorry for York and feeling like he’s getting what’s come to him. He’s gored the nation, turned its teeth on its own guts. But his humiliation is painful to watch; Margaret smears his face with a napkin stained with his son’s blood and crowns him with paper, and he breaks.” Geoffrey’s hands curl inward toward his chest as he bows under the weight of York’s pain. “He breaks.” Then he straightens and his face takes on an odd in-between expression, like he’s not sure whether to laugh or to cry. “All the way to the ground. Which in this case was made of meat.”


Stepping out into the aisle again, he pinwheels his arms, leaning first left, then right, then forward and back. “The meat–I don’t know, some kind of gesture to the mangled body politic, I guess–is slippery, and as Margaret reaches out to smear his face with Rutland’s blood Henry’s feet go out from under him –” Geoffrey’s foot–no longer in its imaginary cast–swings out in a wild kick that makes Tiffany lean back on her stool. “–but Henry doesn’t go down, oh no, he doesn’t fall on his ass; he tries to recover, and he almost makes it, almost, until, just when we think he’s going to pull it together, his heel comes down on a particularly vile sliver of offal and he goes over backward, down-stage-centre, arms flailing, right into the rack holding the severed heads.”


Mary notices that Geoffrey has drawn a little bit of a crowd on the other side of the glass who can’t possibly hear his words but seem entranced by the mime. Tiffany’s mouth is hanging open, horrified.


“And it’s magical, in its way, with its own peculiar balletic inevitability, each pike with its attendant head, tipping, tipping, one after the other as though timed to a waltz.” His hands go out as if to catch them. “One after the other, in all their dripping, putrescent glory, right into the laps of the first-row patrons. One of them, of course, is the Minister of Culture, who is in my humble theatre instead of at New Burbage because she’s trying to impress her sixteen-year-old niece. Well, down comes the head, its radishy eyes googling and its slack mouth gaping and whatever it was that Jayson used to make them more squishy leaking all over her Vera Wang pantsuit, and as she picks it up with a shriek, the skin breaks and the head–” His hands fling out and up. “–explodes like a pinata at Tarantino’s birthday party. And it’s just too much for her, and as she’s shrieking and the people next to her are shrieking, she draws in a breath and projectile yaks three feet across the aisle onto Henry, who’s on his hands and knees, tangled in the pikes. At that point, poor Kate, who that sadist Darren has doubled as one of the Queen’s henchmen, and who has been standing green with morning sickness practically knee-deep in rotting meat for ten minutes, loses it too, getting Henry as he scuttling away from the Minister. And that was it.” Geoffrey’s sweeping arms indicate the mass exodus. “It’s like the worst chain-reaction you can imagine. A chaos of panic and vomit, and in the middle of it, Ellen standing like a pillar of fire glaring into the wings. I’m trying to get down the aisle, but I’ve got this ridiculous cast on and the traffic is going the other way, and I’m about to get trampled to death–and, you know, I’ve imagined going a lot of ways, but this was not one of them–when this massive arm circles my waist and lifts me out of the crowd and before I know it I’m being carried from the place by a German juggernaut who’s bellowing something unintelligible and terrifying and scattering patrons like matchsticks, and two minutes later we’re out in the street and there’s Darren in his toga and his leather pants, standing on the sidewalk with his hand over his gaping mouth like he’s watching a unicorn split open and barf out a basilisk.


“Then the police came.” Gingerly, like he’s protecting his injured foot, Geoffrey lowers himself down onto a stool. “So, Hans sets me down on the curb, next to the Minister’s niece who is writhing around incoherent with hilarity, and then he turns around and BAM!” Geoffrey slams his fist into his palm. “He knocks. Darren. Cold.” His grin is wistful with remembered joy. “And that’s how they met.”


Geoffrey tugs at his ear and folds his arms again. “I hear their techno-industrial Oklahoma! de Sade is killing in Berlin.”

Peeling her hands from over her mouth, Tiffany says, a little breathlessly, “So, your show was a bomb?”

“NO! No! That’s just it.” Geoffrey leaps up and shakes his fists at The Box. “It was a hit. A smash, raving hit! Tickets were scalping for two hundred bucks a pop. Packed houses the entire run. People wanted their money back if nobody vomited.” He clutches at his hair and paces in a circle, winding up at the pastry case where he puts his head down in his arms on the glass and stares in at the petrified bran muffins. “It was like Titus Andronicus in ’55, with ambulances standing by and runners in the house to drag the faintees out of the stalls.” His long, slow string of curses is muffled by the arms of his sweater, but the refrain of “Darren fucking Nichols,” is plain enough. Finally, he turns around and leans back on the case with his ankles crossed and his hands in his pockets. “We took it on tour–with significant revisions. All the way to London and back.”







With a sigh, he angles his head toward The Box again, this time looking at it straight on. “You promise you won’t be a dick with it?”

Mary nods earnestly, but can’t stop herself from hooking an arm around The Box in case he tries to lunge for it. “I don’t have a dick, and Marshall took his when he fled west with Taffy.”

“Taffy?”

She bobs her head, conceding. “Monica, actually. She’s a semiologist. I don’t know what the hell she sees in him.”

Geoffrey laughs and orders a coffee to go.



Mary’s voicemail, 14 November, 2011


was Matthew Arnold who said that there are epochs of expansion and of contraction. We are in an epoch of contraction, which is why my genius goes unrecognized in all but the most rarified of circles. The world has not. caught. up. No one has recognized the paradigm shift. This is why geniuses are never acclaimed in their time. But we persevere because we have a calling. It’s an epic Nietzschean struggle, Mary, between the containment of the Apollonian and the fervour of the Dionysian. I am the Dionysian, the dervish dancing in a cage. Geoffrey, for all his antic disposition, is Apollonian, the prick against which I must kick in order to set the world alight. It’s the perverse logic of the universe, Mary, that we are doomed to need each other–






–the end–






Mary’s voicemail, 25 November, 2011


–What the hell does he mean I’m“Apollonian?”–








Author’s Notes:
Although it is hyperbolized, the story of the ill-fated performance of The Plantagenets is based on any number of similar events gleaned from the show reports of past productions of the plays. Because of my research in the archives of the Royal Shakespeare Company and elsewhere, I’ve come to realize that severed heads are unruly things which–like arrows, cutlery, and the occasional actor– seem to find their way into the audience fairly regularly. Geoffrey’s reference to the ’55 Titus Andronicus is factual–they really did have ambulances standing by and runners in the house to help fainting patrons overcome by the “gore.” I’ve always wondered about the stories behind the matter-of-fact tone of company memos and show reports; Snowballjane’s prompt gave me just the opportunity I needed to finally put this research to use, and this grotesque little romp is the result.


The completion of this project depended on a joint effort by a number of people. The costume drawings are by J S Cavalcante, who was a wonderful minion and didn’t even mind being referred to as such. The technical work involved in getting this whole shebang properly formatted and up on the web was handily done by my dream of a web queen, Barkley. The graphics for the poster for The Wars, for Darren’s union invitation, and for the cover of the programme are mine. The rest are snagged with thanks from the magic box o’stuff that is the internet. My thanks for beta and encouragement to Jenlev, BrynnMcK and J S Cavalcante. Any errors remaining are my own. Special thanks to Loneraven for running the Slings and Arrows ficathon, and to Snowballjane for the intriguing prompt.

If you would like to see J S Cavalcante's costume drawings in their original size, please follow the links below.

http://pics.livejournal.com/j_s_cavalcante/pic/0004z4zx/

http://pics.livejournal.com/j_s_cavalcante/pic/00050zg2/

http://pics.livejournal.com/j_s_cavalcante/pic/00051as8/


Feedback welcomed at troyswann@yahoo.ca.

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