Today is the third and final day of our first round of workshops for Epimythium. We begin the day with 64 pages of revisions from playwright Daniel McCoy. (I should note here that the full script is only around 84 pages long.)
After shuffling the new pages into place in their scripts, the actors pick up following one of the many plots in this sprawling story, that of a crippled old woman who has come to Marie’s abbey looking for a miracle. The old woman’s faith is incredibly strong, and it challenges Marie to examine her own. For Marie, faith is a persistent daily question that remains parallel but distinct from her duties as the Abbess of Shaftsbury and custodian of the Shrine to St. Edward.
We move on to one of Marie’s stories that the play returns to again and again. It tells of a maiden in a tower, married to a cruel and jealous old man. When she sings a song of hope and adventure, it summons a prince from a magical kingdom. The prince takes the shape of a hawk and visits the maiden time and again in her tower. Predictably, their love does not go smoothly. More surprisingly, the story links back to Marie’s life in some unexpected ways.
The fables and poems featured in Epimythium are Daniel’s reinterpretations of the works of the real Marie de France. While the play doesn’t change the content of these stories, it does play with how these stories are told. What’s the best way to tell this story to connect to a modern audience? Or to connect to the story of Marie? From illuminated text in the middle ages to video games in the 21st century, there’s no storytelling opportunity that’s not on the table.
Much of the evening is spent on the last dozen or so pages of the script. I won’t give anything away here, but I will say that things have changed a lot for Marie by the end of the play. There are surprising reunions and bittersweet separations, and Marie is left with an opportunity to redefine who she is. She has the opportunity, at long last, to write her own story.
An epimythium is a short epilogue, a lesson or a moral. Marie de France included one in most of her fables, but not all. Perhaps, in those instances, she didn’t want to give her readers an easy answer. Or perhaps she didn’t want to give her stories an ending, preferring to let them continue in our imaginations.
For now, we take a break for the next two weeks. Daniel will continue working on the script, and then we begin another round of workshops and rehearsals, culminating in a public reading on August 24th. We hope you’ll join us to hear the latest version of the play, and to celebrate Marie and the eternal power of storytelling.
FREE STAGED READING
August 24, 2014 @ 4PM
Charlestown Working Theater
442 Bunker Hill St., Charlestown, MA