Teaser 255: Proposing a Greek Festival Performance

“I had a thought last night, a dream you might think, though I almost never have dreams any more, about what I'd like to do as a show with all of you, and I do mean all of you. There was a time right in this little corner of the world, a very short time from years ago, an idea was proposed about art and theater and music, especially as it was conceived and performed thousands of years ago, as the Greeks performed it. It was given a textual basis by Nietzsche and it was attempted as a performance by Wagner, though it was executed poorly due to Wagner's irrepressible narcissism, its interminable length and his courting of kings. This type of performance was given a duality of representation which were called Appollonian, for the god, Apollo, and Dionysian, for the god, Dionysus. Apollo represented the lyrical, rational, logical, knowledge-seeking side of humanity, while Dionysus represented the surrender of individuality, mania, and the union of all under the umbrella of tragedy. Nietzsche composed it through The Birth of Tragedy.”

Greta interrupted. “Many of us are familiar with it, Al-Barrak. I've read it, I know Conrad and Bruno have read it. I've studied Nietzsche.”

Anna burst in. “I've read it, too, many of Nietzsche's compositions.”

“Now my curiosity is really piqued, Al-Barrak,” Bruno said, smiling but shaking his head. “It's hard for me to think of you other than Gregory, and now you're talking about Nietzsche! What have you got in mind, old man? May I call you 'old man'?”

I smiled. “I would prefer 'Al-Barrak,' young man, but I'll let it slide due to your youthful exuberance.”

“Al-Barrak, then!” Bruno surrendered.

“This is what I have in mind. One of us will play the part of Apollo, considered the lyricist. Between the two of us, Bruno, that should be me. You, then, will play the part of Dionysus, the one of barely-controlled mania, of tragedy, the one who brings with music a union of all, including the audience, the spectators as it were. Together, we rock the entire theater and without pause for we will perform it like theater, with costumes, drama, a screen above or behind us with visualizations, occasionally of any of us on stage, and occasionally of dramatic visualizations, and those on stage with us will also occasionally perform drama, tragedy, theater, on stage, with a large chorus. With a backdrop of visual images with performers, it should all be recorded. You, then, Conrad, will be a part of it but you'll also have help, professional help, since I'm confident I can persuade Jeremy, who recorded all my performances in America, to be part of this, too.” Now I smiled widely because I was only getting started.

“All right, let me lay out what we look like on stage. We start the show in total darkness until a single spotlight focuses on me and only me at the microphone. I will have my guitar strapped and ready as I explain that Duck and Cover couldn't make it but I brought some friends to dance in their stead. 'I AM APOLLO! And I have commanded Dionysus to appear with me. He has brought his woodland elves and he always travels with the Maenads. I only ask you to join us in an evening of revelry and mania.' That's when we start the first song as the lights on stage go up and this is what the audience sees. All the band mates wear togas. The Maenads, who are both chorus and actors are also on stage wearing deer skins, fawn skin is deer skin, and there will be other men in the chorus, also wearing togas, and that's what the audience sees when the very first notes begin. The backdrop of images begins and never stops throughout the entire performance. The entire stage is theater, at times, the Maenads dancing all over, acting in scenes of drama corresponding to each song, the male part of the chorus doing so, too. We should also have an entire woodwind/brass ensemble, saxophone, trumpet, trombone, whatever else we can get, to make a spectacle of sight, sound, feeling, which hasn't been done, not like this, in thousands of years, perhaps never. It's not opera, or theater, or drama, or music, or tragedy, it's all of them combined, on one stage, a literal orgy of sensory explosion.”

There were doubters, detractors, and questions, questions from all, it seemed. I glanced to Lena and her smile was enthusiastic. I focused first on Greta, who had asked about the Maenads. “I recall many things about you, Greta, but the only surprise you could offer me was if you were embarrassed by any of it. True, my child?” Greta smiled widely as she knew exactly to what I referred. “I had heard both you and Lorna sing and hum, before we did either of our shows, and I had always wondered how we could get you on the stage as backups, but we all had our hands full dealing with the songs as they were, right mates?” All the band mates affirmed and I glanced to Ernst wearing his huge grin. I knew he was liking the idea. “I want you up on stage, representing the Maenads, dressed in deer skin, dancing and acting and singing, all as an integral part of the performance. I want all of you up there, Lorna, Dora, Kosima, Lena, Anna, all of you as our Maenads, an essential part of our whole performance. The band will perform the songs, so, yes, everyone follows the band, but our sound becomes both the focus and the background. The Maenads and the male chorus are the theater, the drama, the tragedy. The band mates, all of us, we also perform theater, theatrics, drama, tragedy, at times any one of us is the center of attention. The most important aspect is we never stop until the last song, the last musical beat concludes. The lights go down to total darkness, since we will finish in a frenzy, and the show's over. I don't know, yet, whether I or anyone else will say something, or even if we show something visually with audio as some sort of anti-climax. I haven't considered it, but what I want is your commitment, all of you. I'll secure the theater. We'll need to rehearse, we'll need costumes created, but I need your commitment. For the ladies, your beauty on the stage as the uninhibited dancing maidens will set the tone for the entire production. Without you I won't even consider it.”

Some women expressed their reservations and there was a considerable amount of talk since most were simply lost in how we could possibly have anything as huge in scope like this ready in mere weeks. When it finally died down some, I addressed the women. “Ladies, have I not always treated you with the utmost respect?” All, except Kosima, nodded in their acknowledgment. “I ask all of you to do one thing for me now, and that is to come before me, stand before me so I may address all of you together, Anna, Lena, and Kosima, too, please, because I won't do this without you.” With some reluctance all came to stand before me, some teasing, some questioning, some kidding. “I want you to look at yourselves first, look at each one of you, and think, as women tend to do, that while each one of you certainly considers your individual selves beautiful, women always manage to see the part of another woman more beautiful, that you concentrate on what you lack versus what the other woman seems to possess. I have heard it expressed in some manner like this from all of you except Kosima and Anna, but being women, Kosima, Anna, you've thought it, too, perhaps are even thinking it now as you look around at your female counterparts beside you...You are all beautiful, every one of you, and what I'm asking you to consider is not perfection. You are going to make mistakes. It's okay! What I want you to think about is what your combined appearance is going to project. Each of you will be wearing a dress of deer skin, your legs and arms and feet will be bare, your beauty on stage will be inescapable, and your combined appearance will provide a shared confidence from each of you, so any self-doubts any of you have will be more than overcome by your shared appearance. All of you will support each of the individuals. I know that you, Anna, and you, Lena, will overcome your reluctance when I appeal to the confidence in your beauty as its impact, but you, Kosima, are the one with whom I am least familiar, yet I want you up there, too, for you will have an impact of your own. What I have already witnessed from you, Kosima, is you do possess a self-confidence in your inherent beauty, you do not consider yourself outshone in the company of all the other women, so as my last appeal to all of you, consider my band mates. We all do this, to an extent, for each of you. I know as a fact having heard from Bruno's own lips, Lorna, often the only consideration he has comes from your satisfaction in how he has performed musically. It comforts him greatly when you are satisfied. Not one of us would have an objection to sharing the stage with you. From my perspective, I would greatly enjoy having Lena on stage with me, since I already have ideas of how I want to incorporate you into the performance. Give me, give us, the commitment as our Maenads so we can start to put this all together.”

“Oh, I'll do it!” Anna exclaimed. “I want to be a part of this!”

Ernst loudly stated, “You've always wanted to be on stage with me, Kosima. You should do this. I will enjoy it!”

The first, and biggest, hurdle was overrun. All of the women agreed and we began discussing other aspects with my growing suggestions. I pulled out my computer and showed some of the pictures and visual images I had already considered. We would need tailors or seamstresses to measure each woman and create the faux deer skin dresses, since we all agreed real deer skin would bring loud objection from the animal rights folks. We would need toga robes and each measured for those. Josef expressed the desire to wear shoes as a necessity for his percussion. It was readily agreed. We would need four to eight male chorus members with their togas, and a woodwind ensemble with togas also. I already had a theater in mind in Basel, Switzerland. Any work permits would have to be produced. I knew where I could get those. I would compile a song lineup and try to have it completed the next day. We would need a sound engineer, two or three to run lights as needed, a producer for visual media on the backdrop, and a large screen for such backdrop. We had our work cut out for us in only the next few days, because we would need to start putting it all together and rehearse. Still, I was extremely satisfied. What I considered the largest hurdle was behind us. I wanted all the women in our little group up on stage with us because their inclusion would make the performance astonishing.

Before we all left, before any could express a promise, besides what I promised I would accomplish in the very tasks confronting us, I wanted to convey some aspect of the performance I imagined. “Let me give you an example of what I want our performance, our theater, to appear and sound like. You heard me say how we would start with my introduction as Apollo and Bruno as Dionysus and the first song begins. I want to start, as I am conceiving it now, with Hot N' Cold, and-”

“I love that song,” Bruno interrupted. “We all do. We still do it.”

I smiled widely at Bruno. “So, you remember we traded halves of the first two lines, Bruno?” I saw him nod emphatically. “Here's what we change in our performance, putting all of our other actors and singers to work on the stage. I still sing those halves by myself. Everyone, all the band with mikes, all the Maenads and male chorus, all sing the last halves and the last half line, 'another day.' Again, I sing the chorus alone until 'hot and cold,' when all join in again, and for every time that line is sung, all join in together. We create the duality we are establishing with this performance right from the beginning. Hot and cold, a duality of life. Life cannot be only hot, only cold. Life is a duality. I sing the next verse alone and the chorus, except for 'hot and cold.' Then comes the bridge. Here's where the Maenads and the male chorus act. First, they stab each other in the back, over and over, for the first two lines. Then, on the last, with the 'fall into your grave,' they all fall over and lie motionless. None of them move. They are still and dead. Dionysus is the representation, in Greek mythology, of reincarnation, renewal, so, all remain immobile sprawled out over the stage wherever they have fallen until Dionysus, Bruno, begins his guitar solo. Suddenly, they all stand and are alive again. This is what I want to accomplish, that we stage every song, using both its lyrics and its musical renditions to create a story which can be understood by spectators watching, listening, feeling closely. I want this to be an intimacy of surrender for all who experience it, because we will record the entire performance, and this is how I hope you all will be compensated. We will all share in it equally and forever...And I don't care about perfection. Maybe some of the women as Maenads forget they have to fall down dead in our first song. So what? All I ask you to do is if you realize you messed up, you forgot to fall dead, stay standing and dancing, like it's exactly what we intended. If you mess up continue to twirl and swirl and dance. Do it and no one will ever know. Stick to that as your ultimate fall back and you will still create the performance, the attitude and feeling we want to convey. Dance, throw your arms up and move around like you are under a spell. That's what I want to convey throughout the entire show.”

“You only thought of this last night?” Bruno asked.

“Most of it, yes. Now you know why I wanted the women, the ladies, the girls, included and involved in the entire production. Without them, Bruno, all of this would be pointless, lacking in definition. The women define this theater, this duality of presentation. Life is a duality, yes, and it was always defined, from the beginning, male, female. Duality. Without the female, we cannot possibly present a theater of duality convincingly, and the Greeks, as you may recall, never allowed females on stage, which allows us to do something never been done before anywhere! All I want the women to understand is that, as huge as your roles are in appearance, none of you should be nervous about your actual performance. Remember your fall back should you notice all the others doing something else. As long as you continue to swirl and twirl and dance you're fine. You will be perfect. Don't even worry about your lines, your lyrics. There will be enough of you at any time to deliver them. Keep this burden off your back. Everyone will cover for everyone else. In fact, it may be even better when things are not followed exactly. It will seem more chaotic, tragic, when it isn't all so obviously scripted.”

- Just Desserts, Segment Thirty-OneGo Home” by Gregory R. Schussele, © 2021

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