Victorian Cut-Out Theatre
When I was in high school, I had the pleasure of being in a murder mystery, senior year. The piece was called The Butler Did It, which seems to be a common piece performed at high schools and community theatres. It is a send-up of Ten Little Indians (which…ahem, was performed under two titles), and includes every mystery archetype from Sherlock Holmes to Sam Spade all gathered together in a mansion for a night of mirth and…MURDER. I remember having a blast in that play, despite having broken my jaw in the middle of rehearsals. I healed and am told that my clinched teeth performance of “Chandler Marlowe” was perfect for the Humphrey Bogart analogue.
This episode, perhaps more than any other, may rely on literary knowledge as well as a familiarity with Downton Abbey. I'm hoping that anyone who has seen PBS will get it, but I could be wrong...This could also be my subconscious attempt to alienate as much of my audience as possible until I distill my viewers down to five people who really "get me". *Shudder* I hope not.
The process leading up to the completion of this episode was tough. I had struggled with several “forced” ideas having to do with the holidays (once you've done The Krampus, where can you go?), until I finally decided to just let go and do what I wanted. What I wanted to do, as it turns out, was work in the milieu of H.P. Lovecraft. I’ve wanted to do a Lovecraftian story for some time now (and will likely do more) but didn’t have a clear idea on how I would do it. I did know that I wanted there to be cults, as I’ve always liked the idea of secret societies. And if you have cults, you have to have ancient deities. So I guess I used the “if you give a mouse a cookie…” method of story creation on this one, or maybe that’s the ways it’s always been…
When I was in first grade, we learned about the pilgrims by way of working with needle and thread, churning butter, grinding corn meal and listening to stories read to us by our teacher. Looking back, this was probably a great deal more exciting than what kids do now. We had worksheets too, but these activities had a way of lighting our imaginations and were meant to give us a taste of what pilgrim life was like. All of these activities lead up to a "thanksgiving feast", where we were to partake in the fruit of our toils. Much to our surprise, everything we ate tasted like shit. At the time, I assumed it was because we were all awful cooks, but perhaps the more likely scenario is that the modern conveniences allotted to us now, i.e. salt and pepper, make things taste good.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the spiritualist movement came to the fore. Spiritualism popularized the idea that one could contact the dead. Fascinated with bridging the gap to the "great beyond", many attended seances in hopes that they could contact a lost relative.
The NEW Victorian Cut-Out Theatre episode features one of my favorite bits of historical esoterica, The Turk. In my youth, I studied the art of magic.