Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Gruel 101

The following is an excerpt from a play I wrote in 2002, called The Last Murder at the Renaissance Faire. The play was written as the last of a trilogy of plays which can only be described as shameless pandering to audience demands, in other words, Givin' 'Em What They Want. We noticed the popularity of murder mysteries, parodies of local news, and medieval story lines and costumes. So we made something that had all three. We presented, using a cast of thousands, lavish costumes, and original music, what we billed as a Renaissance Murder Mystery. The series was received enthusiastically by our audience. Of course, people got killed -- but you gotta expect that in the Renaissance, it wasn't safe like nowadays. But, fortunately, with the aid of one of the great minds of the Milwaukee Renaissance, Leonardo Devinski, the mystery of who was doing the killing was always solved by the end of the play.

Although it takes place in the Renaissance (on the 3rd day of the Renaissance, to be exact), many of the characters bear an uncanny resemblance to people we meet in our modern world.

In this scene, the crowd of gullible and useless peasants gathers to gawk at a show staged as a part of a local entrepreneur's spectacular entertainment for the masses - Taff Vision - Where Weather Cometh First!

Taff (offstage voice)
Next – a Moment with Lady Martha. (lute theme)

How to feed thy men-slaves to keep them strong, and yet subservient. Today’s Moment with Lady Martha – Gruel 101.

Clyde (wanders into Martha's space, oblivious to the audience)
Thou art truly a comely lady. Wouldst that I could work for thee in thy mansion!

Meanest thou that?

(Clyde nods, Martha gestures, two of Martha's men attach manacles to Clyde, drag Clyde off the stage. As the struggle subsides offstage, Martha’s men bring out, on cue a bowl, with a cloth covering it, plastic insects, box of wheat, a wooden spoon, and a small plate.)

Canst always use another slave.
(imperiously shouting) For truly can I devise chores for a thousand men. . . (thunderclap sfx)

(regains composure, lute theme) But back to gruel. After a hard day of toil, there’s nothing like partially warmed gruel to settle a man into his place. Wholesome gruel hath its secrets. Verily do I always start out with the remaining gruel from yesterday. It addeth a mellow flavor. Check for spoilage . . . (Lifts cloth, sniffs, grimaces, shrugs.)

Good enough for the menservants. We stir the mixture gently, and blend in some more grain, but not too much. The good thing about gruel is that it multiplieth -- shouldst thou have guests, or another slave be added unto thee -- a little water canst thou add. Voila! More gruel!

Verily hath there always been some lively debate about the insects in the wheat. Some would let them be – truly they do add a zesty crunch to the batch. However, I usually pick out the larger ones, especially the beetles. (picks large beetle out of batter) These can be dipped in ordinary candle wax to make adorable scarab ornaments! And gristle -- a bit of gristle goeth a long way, hesitate not to experiment – thy servants are verily grateful for the variety. My gruel do I usually serve with a tiny sprig of rosemary, just for color.

Gruel – ‘tis a Good Thing.

Thanks for listening. Your comments are welcome. For up-to-the-minute thoughts, come on over to I'm @dimbulb52

1 comment:

SugarCain said...

"Hesitate not to experiment" shall be the order of the day.