A Comedy for the End of Days
A Play with Songs (2012)
by Ron Hannah

Duration: Aprox 2 hours
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     After twice attending a local production of a very funny musical called "The Drowsy Chaperone", and witnessing the potential of amateur theatrics (it helps to know the cast and musicians), I was inspired to write a theatre piece of my own. Choosing a theme however was difficult - there are so many things to make fun of! Realizing, in 2012, that many people were worried about that looming date in December, I decided finally to write about the nonsense that happens with depressing regularity concerning the end of the world. I was then left with the problem of how to present such a subject in a humourous and human fashion, not sound preachy, and not come down heavily on one side or the other - either of those last two would kill my story. It took me a lot longer than I had anticipated, but I think in the end I succeeded. The buttons you see below will allow you to hear the sprightly Overture (a fairly convincing computerized version) at your leisure, and if it interests you there are more further down the page.





     The action concerns a pair of educated men and former close friends; one a scientist, very linear and pragmatic, the other having left the sciences to seek spiritual wisdom, frequently uprooting his family to study with the monks in Cambodia, or something equally outrageous. This time he has become convinced that the Mayan

  

  

  
Calendar is correct in predicting the end on December 21, 2012. He has sold the family home and possessions, given away the money, and moved into a cave. The play opens with Michael, the son of the scientist, waiting outside the cave for the family (and their daughter, Christy) to emerge. Michael and Christy would like to be together openly, and in fact are lovers, but they must meet in secret. Their problem is how to get their respective fathers to start talking again and to accept their union. The propitious arrival of a medieval Pope and a Mayan priest along the trail that runs outside the cave gives the young people an idea: they will fake a wedding ceremony, forcing the two older men to face one another and their own biases. The monks and accolytes who accompany these two strange characters also gave me the chance to write some nice choral sections as well. NOTE TO SINGERS: If you are interested in performing any of these characters, at left you may download a .pdf file giving their vocal ranges. Some of them are quite wide, but I am the composer and I am quite willing to accommodate to the needs of a good performer.

     The fanciful Pope/priest are vital to the story, as well as an excuse for some funny dialogue as they argue. The Pope is Sylvester II, a real historical personage. It was he who introduced Arabic numbers into Europe around the year 1000 (Y1K, which was also an end-of-the-world year). The Mayan priest I call Fourteen Frog. He is fictional, and says he served the god of solar eclipses, thus being able to provide the two gentlemen with information on the famous Calendar. "Hmph," he says when questioned about the end of the Long Count, "I'm here for the party." I lived myself in Guatemala for over a year while I wrote my Mayan opera, "The Weapons of the Weak". I took it upon myself to learn something of the research into the glyphs left by those people, and came to realize that the end of the Long Count, Dec. 21/12, means simply the beginning of the next Long Count, as is demonstrated by the fact that (I write this in 2013) we're still here.

     As has been pointed out to me, I am both of the older men, and their conflict exists within me too (and isn't it best to write about what you know?) I studied Chemistry at university before I studied music, thus I am familiar with linear, scientific thinking. I stand in admiration of its accomplishments, yet I am also aware of its limitations. There are too many happenings, too many unexplained and seemingly unexplainable things out there, and physics itself has reached a point at which its quantum practitioners are starting to sound remarkably "spiritual", or at least are saying things that sound utterly beyond anything that makes sense in our poor experience. My play ends with a surprise, if shaky, reconciliation between the two men, and the young people being able at last to be themselves - but it offers no conclusive answers to the great questions. How could it? There is much merit to both a right- and a left- brain approach to life's mysteries. Instead I hope it presents those approaches in a lively, informative and entertaining manner, with good musical numbers as well!







     The three buttons embedded in the text above will take you to purely instrumental numbers from the play, which I have just rendered into a computerized "orchestral" form with my new Logic Pro software. I will not put the vocal numbers here until I have had them sung and recorded by real humans, since the computerized human voices don't sound very convincing, though the instruments are mostly not too bad, and of course you can't make out the words (actually, at the time of writing, one of the songs has been performed, but sadly the recording quality is poor). If you are a singer and want to hear the computerized songs (and even learn them), please let me know - they are available. To obtain the full score and parts, please contact me or visit the Canadian Music Centre. The CMC is currently not accepting non-human renditions of music, so if you want to hear the remaining mp3 files please send me an email (below).

The Orchestra is as follows:
Flute (doubling piccolo)               Oboe            French horn
Soprano saxophone (doubling Bb clarinet)         Trumpet
Alto saxophone (doubling Bb clarinet)             Bass trombone
Tenor saxophone (doubling Bb clarinet)             Percussion
Baritone saxophone (doubling bass clarinet)             Electronic keyboard
Double bass (doubling electric bass guitar)


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