Fine and Performing Arts


About THE WRONG SIDE OF EDEN (a new play by Kelly Knox)

a radical approach to theater



First of all, let me stress that The Wrong Side of Eden is not an updated version of the story of the Fall of Man in the Garden of Eden. It is a “radical approach to theater” as promised by the subtitle of the (self) published edition of the play.

I would argue that the best way to experience how the play is ‘radical’ (‘from the root’) can only truly be experienced in its performance. But I will try to show at least one part of the complicated equation here, for those of you who are patient enough to read on and then to reflect about the how this show is different from other theater you have seen. The words presented here are only the beginning….

The idea for The Wrong Side of Eden came to me as I was writing a textbook for a college acting class; I had finished much of the manuscript in various phases and had decided on the title: Acting-Out Theater History: The Origins of Theater in Ritual, Myth and the Improvised Performance. I was re-reading Aristotle looking for pertinent quotes for the chapters and stumbled on this: “To consider whether tragedy is fully developed by now in all its various species or not, and to criticize it both in itself and in relation to the stage, that is another question. At any rate it originated in improvisation—both tragedy itself and comedy. The one came from the prelude to the dithyramb and the other from the prelude to the phallic songs which still survive as institutions in many cities” (Aristotle, Poetics 1449 a. 1). From that point on, the idea of the play took over; I started re-writing the book.

I started writing the story of “Jack and the Beanstalk”–then all hell broke loose….

[From SCENE ONE:]

(JACK and the PEDDLER enter from opposite sides of the stage, and proceed on strong diagonals DC.)

PEDDLER
Hey…Jack….

JACK
…who –me?

PEDDLER
….yeah—you…. You see anyone else?

JACK
…no…

PROLOGUE (VO)

(Voice over; like a golf announcer. JACK and the PEDDLER look puzzled…)

Now, at this point, not much is happening; but, anything could happen. At this point, the players need to decide where the scene is going to go… In order to do this we can either ask a series of “what if” questions; we can stipulate that something is going to interrupt the apparent stasis of the scene; or we can simply let the scene go forward…

PEDDLER
…so Jack
(puts his arm around him)
where ya headed?

JACK
…I’m going to the market…why?

PEDDLER
Why?—I should be asking you that—Why Jack? Why are you going to market?

JACK
…why?—why to sell my mother’s cow of course—

(defiantly)

and my name’s not Jack…

PEDDLER
–of course—of course—you look like a Jack to me, Jack…. My mistake…. —Off to market to sell the family cow… eh? Well that’s just fine…. –Mind if I tag along with you for a bit—

JACK
Well, I don’t know… my mother says—

PEDDLER
–and your mother seems like a wise woman too! –just so happens I too am on my way to market….

JACK
…Oh? Wait a minute—weren’t you going that way…

PEDDLER
– very sensible woman your mother… sending you off to market to sell the family cow….say that’s a nice hat you have there Jack—where did you get that hat?

JACK
my hat?—

PEDDLER
– sure…

JACK
–it was my father’s hat—

PEDDLER
–your father gave you that hat, did he?

JACK
…well no, my mother gave it to me…

PEDDLER
–well that’s fine—just fine…and your father—how’s he feel about that—you’re mother giving you his hat?

JACK
–okay, I guess—he’s dead—

Odd people kept cropping-up (as it were) and before I knew it, poor Jack was beaten, stripped naked and left for dead; a young girl found him they fell in love… . Long story short–all hell broke through again–this time Jack was seduced by the Queen of the Underworld–strapped to a gurney and hauled away–The young girl Jenny had to find him–in order to do so she must [like Innana--the Babylonian queen of Heaven] confront a series of seven gates—at which each of her seven garments are removed–she faced the Great, Sexy Queen of the Dead (Ereshkigal)– naked and was cut into seven pieces–the girl, not the queen–The scene changed again– and Her father (the Sky God, Ea) [Where did he come from?--from another part of the story --of course!!] intervened and both Jack and Jenny (the young girl) were restored to life–they sang a duet about “A Land of Once Upon A Nevermind”–and before I could write “happily ever—after” they were thrown into chaos once again–and landed smack dab in the middle of the Garden Of Eden! Here the old Queen of the underworld was now the beguiling snake who seduced Eve–who then –well you get the idea….

It all makes perfect sense when you see it! A little music, a little screaming–it’ s a comedy!

The Cowpers’ Play
Courtesy of Gerard NeCastro (2007) From Stage to Page, http://machias.edu/faculty/necastro/drama/york/play_05.html, accessed 5 December, 2011. (Used with permission.)

Satanas incipit dicens.
001 For woo my witte es in a were
002 That moffes me mykill in my mynde;
003 The Godhede that I sawe so cleere,
004 And parsayued that he shuld take kynde
005 Of a degree
006 That he had wrought, and I dedyned
007 þat aungell kynde shuld it noyot be;
008 And we wer faire and bright,
009 þerfore me thoght that he
010 The kynde of vs tane myght,
011 And therat dedeyned me.
012 The kynde of man he thoght to take
013 And theratt hadde I grete envye,
014 But he has made to hym a make,
015 And harde to her I wol me hye
016 That redy way,
017 That purpose proue to putte it by,
018 And fande to pike fro hym that pray.
019 My trauayle were wele sette
020 Myght Y hym so betraye,
021 His likyng for to lette,
022 And sone I schalle assaye.
023 In a worme liknes wille Y wende,
024 And founde to feyne a lowde lesynge.
025 Eue, Eue.

026 Eva. What es thare?

027 Satanas. I, a frende.
028 And for thy gude es the comynge
029 I hydir sought.
030 Of all the fruyt that ye se hynge
031 In paradise, why ete yoe noght?

032 Eua. We may of tham ilkane
033 Take al that vs goode thought,
034 Save a tree outt is tane,
035 Wolde do harme to neyghe it ought.

036 Satanas. And why that tree, that wolde I witte,
037 Any more than all othir by?

038 Eua. For oure lord God forbeedis vs itt,
039 The frute therof, Adam nor I
040 To neghe it nere;
041 And yf we dide we both shuld dye,
042 He saide, and sese our solace sere.

043 Satanas. Yha, Eue, to me take tente;
044 Take hede and thou shalte here
045 What that the matere mente
046 He moved on that manere.
047 To ete therof he you defende
048 I knawe it wele, this was his skylle:
049 Bycause he wolde non othir kende
050 Thes grete vertues that longes thertill.
051 For will thou see,
052 Who etis the frute of goode and ille
053 Shalle haue knowyng as wele as hee.

[From Scene 9: pp 85-87 The Wrong Side of Eden a play by Kelly Knox]

Satanas incipit dicens.

SATAN (Played by the same Actress who plays JANE)

My brains are wracked and my body pained,
With stifling thoughts my might is drained;
That God could be so petty and contrite
That he could make a creature just to spite
Me, from the purple dirt and dust of his decree!
It is I whom He made first and now am shamed;
It is I among His Heaven’s Angel hosts,
Whom He made fair and sure and bright;
It is I who am among them all, the uppermost;
I who am stricken, cursed and cruelly cast down thus
From golden frame, to Godforsaken flames and fust;
I will not bow and scrape nor stoop to serve and smile
Before this heap of bones and gore, pus and guile!
Not for one damned moment of his bloody little while!
But God has made another fleshly-peckish trifle here,
One whom He and Adam/Mutt hold dear.
She is perfect, pure and pink, she may be the pawn I seek;
From her sweet mouth, the words I speak
Can make mischief strong and Adam weak!
My little works and words are just the thing
Both to shed some light and to some darkness bring
That I will end his pleasure in all of this
With just the simple promise of eternal bliss
With Serpent’s tongue and Wisdom’s eye
Will I trace and tempt his fragrant little miss!
Lady Eve?!

EVE (Played by the same actress who plays JENNY)
ooh…and what are you? …Have you a name?

SATAN
Alas, not yet—but I am a friend—and to
Your comfort I’ll attend; for I was sent to look for you…
And here you are—at my journey’s end!
Why look at all these splendid trees!
So thick with fruit the branches bend—
Please say you’ve sampled all of them!?

EVE
…of all the best and ripest we’ve taken some….
From all these trees except for one…
It’s fruit is death to taste or touch…

SATAN
Is death a thing that we should fear?
I’ve seen the oceans deep and wide,
And traveled much on land beside,
I’ve known all wonders far and near,
I’ve never heard of death my dear….

EVE
No, my –friend, the Lord was clear
The man and I should not venture near
If I eat the fruit borne of that tree,
Then God would surely punish me…

SATAN
Sweet, sweet girl, be not afraid,
About the things the old boy said;
I’m sure he says a lot of things—
But never all the things he means;
None of us means the things we say—
Everyone knows he’s just that way!
When he says to eat the fruit of all the trees
He means all the fruits –and even these;
And when he says there’s danger here—
He means to say you should take care.
Would he ever deny you this?
I hear it tastes like eternal bliss!

So, this sample represents the basic contrast between the Cowpers’ play (as it was performed in York and the surrounding region in the 14th Century) and my transliteration; I began by playing with the sounds of the Middle English (which is closer no doubt to what is spoken in the North today—than say in London) which is a polyglot of Germanic languages—until after 1066; I played too, with the way theater developed after it was made legal again by the Church (of Rome) in the 10th Century. Once the plays got kicked out of the Choir lofts and into the public square, a class of professional actors began to train itself to the difficult task of transforming the doctrines of the Church, the stories from the Bible, into presentations which eventually turned into skits and then plays for mass consumption.

A dozen or so stock, chthonic characters emerged—character types—and the actors playing the character types carried with them in their heads a set of standard ‘speeches’, ‘songs’, ‘Latin and foreign language’ phrases—as well as a basic ability to juggle, play an instrument, dance or perform acrobatics—and if need be, in some cases turn a “trick” or two. The structure of my play—and the potential for improvisation depends on the nature and abilities of the actors I find to play the parts.

The Wrong Side of Eden is fully scripted in eleven scenes—there is a musical score (by a professional composer/musician) we have a director (me) but no place to hold auditions, rehearsals or the performances—yet. As we (pompous for ‘I’) cast the show, we will know how the modifications can be made—where the actors can improvise and how the show can be staged to maximum advantage—and the most entertainment for one’s proverbial buck!

For the most part, the script is ‘set’—125 pages or so—and I estimate that we will need to cut about 12 pages of dialogue over all to keep the show taut.

There you have the Cliff’s Notes version of the approach to this play—and to my sense of theater— at least for this play! The interruptions during the play—the intrusions by the ‘real world’ into the illusory world of the play—by the director, the chorus, the prologue and so forth, are a nod to the impossibility of ‘mystery, miracle and moral’ plays today….and a direct reference to the structure and content of the Greek plays—not to mention the Greek audience (who might have gotten into a fist fight over the diction in a play—even though the penalty for doing so was death or banishment…) You ask if others are excited about the show? There are so few others who know about the show right now—because I am keeping it somewhat secret—that I would say no. Although I say I am keeping it somewhat secret—the script is available at Amazon.com—I have formed a small group to do the promotional video—the music of course—and some of the other details of preproduction –but even with all I am telling you—no one has the ‘whole picture’ of what I am doing—except for me. This way—if one part falls away, or is ‘stolen’ by someone else—it doesn’t adversely affect the entire project…because it is only one piece.

Why do I believe that you should invest in The Other Side of Eden? Why should you contribute to the PARADOX project at all? The short answer to this question is because both are Unique. We believe that our outreach efforts are unique as well. We are looking to find the little red button on the back of the collective unconscious hard drive—the one that says DO NOT PUSH –and we are asking “what if we do?”