Saturday, July 21, 2012

It was a brilliant battle!

At Escondido, well at all of the libraries in San Diego, the average age of a daytime audience is usually pre-K, so I was a little concerned about performing Les Voyages Fantastique. It's a thirty-five minute story with lots of kookie things going on and a climactic battle of four men versus an army of ten thousand sabre-wielding infantry, five thousand musketeers, two-thousand mounted cavaliers, hundred of mahouts on the backs of great war elephants, generals in their silken tents, and the Sultan of Zalidan himself, standing atop a great white war elephant, his scimitar flashing in the air.
This is the kind of thing that can easily get out of hand. Telling the tale of a battle in graphic detail is fun, but it involves great quantities of violence, gore and death. I had many months ago decided that a bloody battle is not the sort of thing for this story, and perhaps something I should avoid in general. I wanted this to be a heroic escapade, told in lots of thrilling vignettes speeding at the audience like a machine gun, but my fear was that a pre-K audience would be overwhelmed.
Like the GI Joe cartoon from the eighties, wherein if a helicopter was blown up you always saw parachutes, so was my battle against the Sultan - sabres were shot from hands, elephants spun about by their trunks and thrown like bowling balls scattered men, unharmed, in all directions, and musket balls caught speeding through the air before any chance of an injury. It was a brilliant battle. I, of  course was armed with a sabre in each hand, and took on as many men as were willing to face me - because it was only sporting to give them the advantage of numbers.
All in all, it was a fantasy story, and the battle was a fantasy battle. I have a bad habit of wanting to explain everything. But, with this story I learned that, in a fantasy, you don't need to explain everything, things just are the way they are (Yes it's a pirate ship suspended from balloons. No, I don't know how many hot air balloons would actually be required to lift a pirate ship. But, I do know that the hot breath of a hundred elephants won't actually lift a hot-air balloon - it just paints a cool picture). And, it's more fun to narrate the clashing of sabres than to describe a man being hacked apart with a battle ax.
The audience turned out to be older than I expected, about 6 through 10, plus parents, and I gave them the best delivery of my life, keeping them on the edge of their seats the whole time. I was incredibly pleased with myself. And, although the battle was furiously delivered, it was fun, funny and exciting - it wasn't a real war in all it's bloody detail, it was a heroic escapade, the kind of adventure that stirs the soul of a young boy.

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