The April Impavide Blog

Jurgen the Pawnbroker and Other Plays shown on my publications page contains four plays. Two of the plays (Diabolus ex Machina and A Priest, a Rabbi and a Horse . . .) were featured in Thespiana 2016 (several references on Google) at the Cottonwood Center for the Arts in Colorado Springs in February. These are now posted on youtube:

1. Diabolus ex Machina (about one hour)

2. A Priest, a Rabbi and a Horse . . . (about 12 minutes)        


Several comments:

  • These are play “readings,” not full-blown treatments with sets, costumes and the like. The actors, dressed in black, are seated in front of music stands not so much “reading” but “performing” their lines. But it is interesting how little you miss from a full-blown version if the actors are good enough (and they are, in this case). With just a little imagination you will be right in the play.
  • I don’t sound like me—that is, the old me. I suffer with dysphonia, caused by the bowing of one of my vocal folds. At the end of May a plastic wedge will be inserted into my throat (thyroplasty) to correct this. Hope it works. I am tired of sounding like Mickey Mouse.
  • There is more than a bit of background noise caused by the heating/air-conditioning system that makes the actors hard to hear/understand at times. If anyone is interested, I can post the written version of these plays at a later time.
  • Lighting (and sound) is not ideal. Our video recording engineer, John Gaudio (J. Gaudio Company, Denver, CO) did a masterful job given the circumstances of the venue. We hope to do better next time.
  • A suggestion: A Priest . . . is shorter and the recording came out a bit better. I suggest you start there (plus you postpone my Mickey Mouse intro).
  • We had only three empty seats in the two performances and we had a lot of fun besides, so look for a new-and-improved Thespiana 2017 next February.

Coming up: The book of plays is about to get expanded into a second volume. I have written two more plays since publication and I have two more bouncing around in my head. Something Like a Star is a short play about a group of advanced-placement high-schoolers dissecting the Robert Frost poem, Choose Something Like a Star. I believe it will both enlighten and amuse you. Come Here Often is about a guardian angel and a devil struggling to influence the behavior of the niece of a Catholic cardinal with surprising results.

Stay tuned.

Chuck Cabell

April, 2016

2 Thoughts that lead to me to write my book

It couldn’t be happening to me, I thought; but it was.

Despite many years of Catholic education (8 years of parochial grammar school; 4 years of high school; 1 year of college) and many more years of faithful attendance at weekly (and at times even daily) mass. I found myself in church one Sunday wondering why I was there. Really, why was I there? I was finally facing up to the facts that: 1) I had serious doubts about many aspects of the religion I had embraced for the first 61 years of my life; and 2) that I had to deal with those doubts before I could go on.

The cowardly way out would have been to just keep going through the motions, continuing to allow the rituals of the Church to act as a substitute for real thought. Stand up, kneel down, recite the Our Father and Hail Mary, perform the programmed sequence of the Mass, sing Hymn 234, participate in the sacraments. But I suddenly couldn’t do that anymore. My brain was now engaged and I couldn’t turn it off.

The lazy way out (for me, at least) would have been to slide into agnosticism. To give up, citing the excuse that mans’ poor brains cannot cope with the immensity of the Almighty. Tempting, but I did not want to give up without a fight.

The problem was that the major questions of life–Where do we come from? Why are we here? Where are we going?—were still nagging me. So, poor brain or not, I decided to start with a fresh piece of paper and try to answer these questions for myself. Oh, I looked at traditional sources (Old Testament; New Testament; other Church and non-Church writings) but with a very critical eye. I did not set out to write a book, but only to write down for myself in a hyper-logical step-by-step sequence what I could believe. It turned into a book, A Fresh Look at God, when I learned that I was not alone. Many people were dealing with the same issues.

But who am I anyway and why should you read my book? I am not a trained theologian and I claim to have no special relationship with any sort of deity. Nor am I trying to sell some sort of New-Age religion intended to make me very rich. I wrote the book for me and it has set me free. If you have gotten this far in my summary, it may be because you are experiencing some of the same doubts about your own long-held beliefs. Reading my book may give you some fresh ideas of your own. Some of my readers have said that my little book gave them “permission” to think along different lines and they were grateful for that.

“Where do we come from? Why are we here? Where are we going?” I now believe I know and have expressed rather explicitly. If you read my book, perhaps you will agree with me. Or perhaps not; but if I have laid out my ideas well enough you will know where, how and why we differ. That, I believe, should be worth something.

Jurgen the Pawnbroker, and Other Plays

0211160825amdThe following concerns the backstory to the writing of each of my plays in the compilation Jurgen the Pawnbroker & Other Plays.


Jurgen, the Pawnbroker
I fell in love with the book, Jurgen, a Comedy of Justice, written by James Branch Cabell (a distant cousin), when I was still in my twenties. I had noticed it in my father’s library while I was growing up but paid absolutely no attention to it. Then my younger brother, Benjamin, took it with him to the University of Virginia Law School to pad his dorm-room shelves while he was getting his JD. I spent a couple of days with him there in Charlottesville. Bored for something to do while he attended class I started the book and found I couldn’t put it down. Not having finished it when it was time to leave, I snuck it into my suitcase. It has been in my library ever since. Possession being…etc.

Cabell was a great favorite of writers such as Mark Twain, Sinclair Lewis, H.L. Mencken, William Faulkner, Robert Heinlein and James Thurber. But he might have remained relatively obscure until the Comstock Society tried to have Jurgen banned because of “obscenity” and instead made it famous. Depending on how one counts it, Jurgen is the third and most famous book in an 18-volume set of books making up The Biography of Miguel. The Biography is “a mix of fantasies, historical romances, social satires, verse, plays, and essays. Cabell considered it a single work” (Wikipedia). I believe the set holds its own with any of its rivals like Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, the Harry Potter series and even, in some ways, Wagner’s Ring of the Niebelungen.

I have read and enjoyed many of the volumes in the Biography, but Jurgen is the one that has haunted me to the point that I felt the need to adapt it into play form. If I had the talent, I would try to turn it into an opera. It is a comedy, but like any great comedy it has great depth as well.

Jurgen feels that he has been unjustly cheated out of happiness, ending up a pawnbroker instead of a duke or cardinal and married to a plain and shrewish wife instead of to his beloved Dorothy. He has the opportunity for a do-over by way of a retrospective journey through mystical medieval regions filled with strange people, beautiful women and magical creatures.

A Priest, a Rabbi and a Horse
Did you ever try to tell a joke and you kept getting interrupted? You probably were able to shrug it off. Not everyone can. See what happens when Vito tries to tell a joke to three friends during dinner at a fancy restaurant.

Diabolus ex Machina
It has long been known that authors are not always in control of their characters, who often go off on wild tangents completely unpredictably. This was true when authors wielded scratchy quill pens and it may be even truer in this day of the computer, as children’s-story author Silvy Grayson and his wife, Sybil, find out.

Euthanasia (mercy killing) has become a hot topic lately as several states have passed laws making physician-assisted suicide legal. New laws sometimes have unintended consequences, however, with interesting complications for all parties concerned. This is especially true for brothers Bryce and Neville Bennington who take over a funeral parlor in Portland, Oregon after the death of their father.

I hope those of you who read my plays and/or hear them performed will enjoy them.