Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Gus Visser and his Singing Duck

fig. 1

And little Lilly was oh so silly and shy,
And all the fellows knew, she would not bill and coo.
Every single night some smart fellow would try
To cuddle up to her, but she would cry:

Oh, Ma, he's making eyes at me.
Ma, he's awful nice to me.
Oh, Ma, he's almost breaking my heart.
I am beside him, mercy, let his conscience guide him.
Ma, he wants to marry me, and be my honey bee.
Every minute he gets bolder.
Now he's leaning on my shoulder.
Ma, he's kissing me!

Oh, Ma, he's making eyes at me.
Ma, he's awful nice to me.
Oh, Ma, he's almost breaking my heart.
I am beside him, mercy, let his conscience guide him.
Ma, he wants to marry me, and be my honey bee.
He's [--sh?] like jelly.
Why do you laugh? He shakes his shoulder.
Ma, he's kissing me!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Exorcism of Mme. Brossier

fig. 1
Here is a short film I found while searching the American Memory Library of Congress digital archives. A great resource.

Copyright: American Mutoscope & Biograph Co.; 14Oct1902; H22556.

Original main title lacking.

Performer: Karina.

Duration: 0:23 at 18 fps.

I imagine this as a classic 16th century exorcism. Could this be Marthe Brossier, virginal, mishappen, spiritually, physically perverse. Of all the people who crowded the churches to witness Brossier's exorcisms, how many pay-per-view tickets were sold to men who wanted to see the moon up God's skirt; the devil's puppet, as it were, twisting and punching herself mad, contorting and leaping and wearing no bloomers beneath her sleeping gown.

Could one of her admires, a passive, skinny guy, a pillar in the church community, say, fall in love with the monster of her (or is it the victim M. Brossier he wants to help and nurse from)? Could he take over as manger of her bizarre career? Who is this guy? Or is it another woman? What are the consequences of this love?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

"To Every[one] who Feels [Their] Soul in [Them]"

fig. 1
An anxious, nervous Herman Melville

fig. 2
Evret A. Duyckinck; Melville's friend and editor at the Literary World


Here's a letter excerpted from Meade Minnigerode's "Some Personal Letters of Herman Melville and a bibliography" ((c) 1922, by the Brick and Row Book Shop, Inc.). It is a letter to his good friend and editor of the Literary World, Mr. Duyckinck (a spelling Melville's wife Elizabeth never mastered).


Written from Boston; April 5, 1849 (not yet thirty years old & days before the publication of Mardi, his outlandish, romantic fictitious novel to follow the huge successes of his first two Typee & Omoo, which were largely criticized as well as celebrated for what had to be gross untruths. You'll find the American edition censored and expurgated (compared with the British edition) to clean up Melville's "discredited true story". But Melville swears that his accounts are all true. Ask Toby (Richard Tobias Greene), the subject of the second book (Omoo). He wouldn't lie, would he? There is a letter written by Toby to the editor of The Commercial Advertiser (Buffalo, NY) to corroborate Melville's tale of their escape from the cannibals.
I don't know yet how this excerpt fits into, or will influence the progress of our "Woman Under the Influence" but we are collecting, aren't we? I know that already I have already been moved by the excerpt which follows, it's only a matter of time and diligence before I can figure out just how much it has effected everything from this point on.

THE LETTER: H. Melville to E.A. Duyckinck

"Dear Duyckinck...
"Poor Hoffman [one of the editors at Literary World]...This going mad of a friend or acquaintance comes straight home to every man who feels his soul in him, which but a few men do. For in all of us lodges the same fuel to light the same fire. And he who has never felt, momentarily, what madness is has but a mouthful of brains. What sort of sensation permanent madness is may very well be imagined just as we might imagine how we felt when we were infants, tho' we can not recall it. In both conditions we are irresponsible and riot like gods without fear of fate--It is the climax of a wild night of revelry when the blood has been transmuted to brandy--But if we prate much of this, why we shall be illustrating our own proposition. ...
"Would that a man could do something and then say It is finished--not that one thing only, but all others--that he has reached his uttermost and can never exceed it. But live and push--tho' we put one leg forward ten miles is no reason the other must lag behind--no, that must again distance the other--and so we go till we get cramp and die. ...

H. Melville"

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Narrator & Anne Chevreux and the demoniac Marthe Brossier

The Magician seducing our penitent woman.

What we want, initially, physically, materially is that the play be experiential. We want to invite the audience into/onto the stage. Let's pierce that veil of disbelief and not know the difference together. The narrator is a magician a la George Melies though he is also described as an Alfred Hitchcock of a man: sour, sweet, pathetically charming and modestly powerful. He greets us before a large curtain. Does he tell the story of how he seduced the penitent woman "that made her to become a witch"?


Michaelis, Sebastian, "The Admirable Historie of the Possession & Conversion of a Penitent Woman, Seduced by a Magician that made her to Become a Witch", trans. W.B., London: William Aspley, 1613

I say Yes, he tells this story! (R.'s proposal to present this monologue at the show with Misfits coverband?).

fig. 2
Who I imagine to play the magician/seducer/narrator

His is our preface into the narrator's mad tale. A tale of deceit, a tale of love, a woman possessed by the devil. I've found an article (A Woman Under the Influence: A Case of Alleged Possession in Sixteenth-Century France) in the ninth volume of a twelve volume anthology titled "Witchcraft, Magic and Demonology" (A Garland Series) which will work well to inform the plot, characters and possible structure of our narrative. fig. 3
Who I imagine to play the Anne Chevreau character, the seduced, the woman accused.

fig. 4
Who I imagine to play the Marthe Brossier character, our victim perhaps not of witchcraft but of 16th century conventions against the single woman.

Marthe Brossiers claims to have been demonized by Anne Chevreux, a neighbor. The neighbor is arrested and sent to prison awaiting trial. Fortunately for her, by this point , roughly ninety-seven years after the end of the Medieval Ages, the church and the courts were growing more suspicious to claims of witchcraft (though not too suspicious to follow through with a full investigation) our imprisoned Anne Chevreux (AKA "Witch") is not tortured and made to confess to having f.u.c.k.e.d. the devil on many occasions, &c then set on fire at the center of town. Instead she is let to journal and write a lengthy letter addressed to the Bishop of Paris, where she hypothesizes that Marthe Brossier "began playing the demoniac as a way to recover her honor." Marthe Brossier, the third eldest of five daughter, is a victim, Anne Cherveux defends, of society's (late 16th c.) imprisonment of the unmarried woman. Third in line along the Brossier's shriveled marital umbilicus, Marthe Brossier knows full well she will never lead a "normal" adult life. She has been sentenced to live out the rest of her life with her four unmarried sisters under her father's rule. The same man, Jacque Brossier, who by 1598 was a ruined man financially & socially. Marthe Brossier hadn't too many options. If she couldn't be married to a man then she could seek to become a Bride of Christ. But because of her father's financial difficulty securing the necessary dowry for this marriage as well, he and the Abess of Religions at Glatigy "could not come to an agreement" writes Anne from her prison cell and because of this Marthe became "more depressed than ever".

Late 1597, France:

Marthe Brossier runs away. First she hides in a local (Romarantin) church then is found several days later in a small town 12 miles away. She is wearing men's clothing and has cut ofof all her hair. Cross dressing such as this from female to male was usually (medieval) associated with withcraft, but this was a social crisis for the entire Brossier family.

Marguerite de Navarre's essentials of female honor:
gentleness, patience, chasity

Was Marthe spoiled with all three?

So, claims Anne Chevreau (and I repeat this), Marthe Brossier began to play the demoniac as a way to recover her honor and encouraged by her father for fear of further trouble for the further actions of his wayward daughter. By claiming to be possessed by the devil, by attacking Anne Chevreau in church with the accusation and embarking on a year long career as an "itinerant demoniac", exorcised by the cure' of Romorantin (he introduced her to the "successful possession" story of Nicole d'Orby in 1566, and through this account she learned the names of devils and how to bark) before large crowds of physicians, theologians and perverts. Eventually the public disorder in Paris of her exorcisms led to public intervention by the state.

"Traité des énergumènes et discours sur la possession de Marthe Brossier."

Translated using online translator:
"Treaty of the rowdy characters and speech on the possession of Marthe Brushmaker."

Monday, October 15, 2007

This blog is to be a digital archive of the progress of "Woman Under the Influence", a new play by Rusty S. and myself. We began brainstorming three days ago with plans to participate in next year's 20th Anniversary Rhino Theater Fest which takes place every year here in Chicago and includes some of the most celebrated and emerging writers, performers of this country's fringe.

Here will be notes, research, photos, audio to document our progress of the writing of "Woman Under the Influence", the auditions for said project, the construction of, to the first show (perhaps till the last--why not?).