Encores & Curtain Calls: We all rise, we all fall
“Every man builds his world in his own image. He has the power to choose, but no power to escape the necessity of choice” — Ayn Rand
A trio of beguilingly crafted puppets, choreographed to an archive of eclectic songs and a new underscore, will enact nothing less than the three temptations of Christ in “Three in the Wilderness,” a new mystery play by Paul Dedell and Finn Campman
Exploring the infinitely promising but equally risky realm of choice and its glorious consequences, the production features the puppet choreography of Campman, Helen Schmidt and Kirk Murphy, the singing of Tony Barrand and Zara Bode, the fiddling of Kathy Andrews, the percussion of Stefan Amidon and music by Dedell.
Performances are Thursday and Friday, April 10 and 11, at 7 p.m. and Saturday, April 12, at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m., at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, 16 Bradlee Ave., Brattleboro, Vt. For more information, www.stmichaelvt.com; 802-348-7735.
Below is a recent talk with Dedell:
JM: Once again, it looks as if you’re on with your spiritual quest to awaken humanity!
PD: Well, you know, this is the next Wing Productions event. It first actually originated with Susan’s (Paul’s wife Susan Dedell’s) idea. For a long time she was talking about the idea in the Mystery Play tradition with Tony Barron, who’s a really well known ballad singer — a traditional music singer — who we’ve known for a long time ... he has such a wonderful, beautiful voice and there’s such a rich wealth of potential music to draw from that could bring light to a mystery play. And, also, I think there’s also something of an association there with the origins of the Mystery Play being medieval or traditional, as well.
JM: For the uninitiated, what is the technical definition of a Mystery Play?
PD: The mystery plays originated in the Middle Ages. They started off dramatizing stories from the bible — both old and new testaments — so that the people would be able to become involved with the stories of the Bible and that they would be in their own vernacular.
JM: Ordinary mortals.
PD: Ordinary mortals ... and what happened is that they grew in great popularity and whole towns and cities would get involved and each guild in those towns would take on one of the stories, dramatizing and recreating them whatever way they so chose; and then these whole-village celebrations, where people would go from place to place in the cities, or else the plays would be mounted in mobile carts that would do likewise.
JM: For the record, would you define what a guild was in those times?
PD: An artisan’s craft: a butcher, a baker ...
JM: So, a network of artisans?
PD: Yes. So then, they became very popular and during one of the reformations, they were shut down because they were getting too popular and a little too wild. People started writing new forms of theater.
JM: Were they being shut down because they were becoming heretical due to the inclusion of secular elements in a previously sacred medium?
PD: Yes and you know the Protestants were, in a way, much more restrictive than the Catholic Church ever was in these realms.
JM: That’s so funny because, while not brought up on the Bible, I read it, so to speak, “with new eyes” and in Genesis the only definition we are given of God, as far as I can discover, is that He is the Ultimate Creator, right?
PD: Correct, correct, yes ...
JM: And then, when we — humanity — come along, the only thing we know about ourselves is that we are created in His image ...
PD: That’s correct.
JM: ... so that we are creators likewise. The ultimate irony seems to me to be that religion becomes spooked when our native divinity begins to move out into its own dimension of new creation as if divinity had suddenly stopped after the first emergence of life, when in fact I feel quite certain its actual “game plan” is for us to be infinitely creative, as it is.
PD: I agree and it seems like every time there’s that realm creativity that happens constantly, that only the form of man-made religious rules causes those kind of things clash.
PD: And that’s what happened with the mystery plays.
JM: And is the libretto your own?
PD: Well, I wrote the libretto primarily, but when we first started talking doing a Mystery Play, Susan suggested I write it to the three temptations of Christ in the wilderness.
JM: The last time we spoke I’d asked you if you counted yourself a nominal Christian, to which you readily agreed you did ...
JM: And from all I’ve gleaned from the ancillary reverberations, Susan does as well.
PD: Very much so, yes.
JM: And there’s this underlying, if silent, intensity about the mission she’s on ...
PD: Well, this mission of Wing Productions is to create or bring events that share and celebrate the sacred on lots of levels, not just purely Christian. Because we’re both in very much the same place, the overlap with religion and the realm of spirit in our world in human history is immense. There is a constancy across all the realms of tradition that we’re trying to tap into, it’s that stream or river of spirit that we’re interested in, not the theological takes on things.
JM: So then to make that metaphysical metaphor in our day and world, the three temptations would play out for you exactly how?
PD: The way we’re playing them out is through the idea of bringing puppets into the mix. So we connected with a colleague and dear friend who has created these three beautiful puppets, one of which is Jesus, one of which is the Tempter or the Devil, and the third one who we call the Fool, who is the one who has to deal with the choices that are made in the face of temptation.
JM: And the Fool, I would imagine, is the personification of Everyman, all of us.
PD: Exactly and he must grapple with those choices — usually in a very humorous manner — and we recognize those choices through the sequence of music that happens. And we sing these sometimes various traditional songs, sometimes old country song, which all reflect in some ways this journey we’re on, a very human journey, where every moment we’re making choices. And there’s no judgment here, we all have these struggles, we all have these challenges, we all have this wonder, we all rise, we all slip, we all fall.
JM: Yes, the simile I’ve always used, as a musician, is that no one can really achieve mastery of the keyboard or the fretboard, or anything else, for that matter, without first experiencing a constant, almost endless stream of what people call “mistakes” ... without them, you haven’t got a musician worthy of the name.
PD: Yeah, right, exactly, and then the “bad choices” inform the “good choices,” one is even loathe to even use those qualifying words.
An author and composer, columnist Joseph Marcello of Northfield focuses on music and theater. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.